Gleanings of the Week Ending September 28, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Marriott Aims For 33% Reduction in Plastic Waste | CleanTechnica – Marriott will do this by 2020. They will do away with the tiny tubes of shampoo, conditioned and other toiletries, replacing then with larger bottles affixed to the walls. It’s a step in the right direction and we all need to be looking for these steps that are ‘easy.’ We also need vendors to do their part and transition away from plastic packaging. Remember that plastic is relatively recent; there are still people alive that remember a time without it! But we need new solutions rather than just going back to pre-plastic days….it will take focus and creativity…and a demand from all of us – to rid ourselves of the negative aspects of plastic.

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: Endemic Birds – National Geographic Society Newsroom – Beautiful birds.

Dam Removal Complete on Maryland's Patapasco River - News | Planetizen – Some close-to-home news. I had been tracking these dam removals over the past few years and hearing reports about preparation and results at the annual Maryland Water Monitoring Council conference.

Harmful Algal Blooms (Red Tide) – Information and maps about algal blooms. I looked at the Chesapeake Bay part of the site.

Ghost Crabs Use Teeth in Their Stomachs to Ward Off Predators | Smart News | Smithsonian – This article reminded me of the ghost crab we saw on Two Mile Beach near Cape May, New Jersey last May. We must have been far enough away to not be too threatening; the crab did not make any noise at all.

Drinking tea improves brain health, study suggests -- ScienceDaily – I like to drink tea…and it gets even better with studies like this. The opposite it true for soft drinks…even the diet ones. Those I need to reduce or stop drinking completely.

Can We Turn Down the Temperature on Urban Heat Islands? - Yale E360 – Work to gather more detailed information about the heat islands within cities. The extra details help clarify strategies of how to reduce them. Some of the ideas I had heard before…others – like varying building heights – I had not.

Topography could save sensitive saguaros as climate changes -- ScienceDaily – We haven’t been back to Tucson since my daughter finished her graduate work at University of Arizona; but I always browse articles about the place. This research was done at U of A…and I was glad that the iconic saguaros might adapt to climate change – at least on Tumamoc Hill.

A Field Guide to The Feral Parrots of the US – Cool Green Science – Wow – there are a lot more of them than I realized.

Neurotoxin lead sometimes added to turmeric for brighter color -- ScienceDaily – Very scary. Are we sure they don’t export the tainted turmeric?

Saturday Hike – Part II

We started down from the Howard County Conservancy’s Belmont Carriage House shortly after 10 AM with 21 hikers. I wanted to make good time for the downhill part of the hike to the Patapsco River in the Avalon area of the state park. I didn’t stop for any pictures. Until we got down to the river.

The water was cloudy with silt and the gravel bars that used to be in the center (where tiger swallowtail butterflies liked to puddle in the summer) were gone. The high volume of rainfall has swept them way. The shallows don’t look so shallow any more.

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I noticed a stand of young sycamores as we started back. I wondered if they were planted or had just come up from seeds. There are not many truly large trees along the river because of the violence of the floods.

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The paths were muddy and sometimes slippery with wet leaves. The rain from the night before was still running off. There were two downed trees across the trail at one point…the leaves on one still looked fresh – like it might have fallen the night before. It was easy enough to go under them rather than over.

We’d had enough dry days that there were some noticeable shelf fungi but none of the brightly colored ‘new’ ones that appear after several days of rain.

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There was a light coating of leaves on the forest floor but a lot of green too.

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We knew were past the half way point going back when we came to the Morning Choice Trail.

There were more signs of trees that had fallen recently. I zoomed in on part of this one when I saw a funnel spider web that looked a lot like an owl!

We came out through the stand of big leaf magnolias and into the trail beside a hay field and thne were within sight of the carriage house shortly after noon. I had my 12,000 steps for the day!

HoLLIE – Week 7

The Week 7 of HoLLIE (Howard County Legacy Leadership Institute for the Environment) class focused on County Government (Office of Community Sustainability, Department of Planning and Zoning, and Department of Public Works) and the Saving the Places We Love (Ned Tillman) followed by a hike in Patapsco Valley State Park.

Some memorable factoids about the county:

  • 20% of the land is in conservation or agricultural easements (that means the land must stay – forever – in compliance with the easement specifications)
  • The methane generated by the landfill is captured rather than flared (as much as possible)
  • Elementary school students are consistently better at getting their food waste into compost bins than middle or high schoolers
  • The composting facility is patterned after successful facilities in California; the build of the second of three phases will start in October. They are at capacity now with the part of the county (residences and schools) currently enrolled.

In the afternoon the hike to Patapsco Valley State Park was similar to the hike made several years ago with my Master Naturalist Class (blog post here back in April 2015). We hiked the short hill to Cascade Falls and looked at cracks in rocks – some that determined the path of the stream that continues down to the river.

We crossed the swinging bridge and walked to where the trail is blocked off for the removal of Bloede’s Dam.

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The state is taking out dams on this part of the Patapsco that no longer serve any purpose (the basins for all of them are full of sediment); after the removal, fish and eels should be able to move upstream and reestablish their natural life cycles.

The challenge with this dam is the rerouting of the sewer line (see the big pipe that goes through the dam parallel to the path….that’s a sewer pipe!) while the same is removed.

There is a lot of history in the area as well. As we walked the path to the dam we saw an arch built in 1869 (ran on top) and there was a sign for the mill where Patapsco Superlative flour was made until 1905.

As we walked back – we noticed a heron in the river. It looked scruffy – like it was not quite dry from it’s last plunge to catch a fish. We saw blue birds and cardinals too.

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The tress along the river are not large. Storms that bring heavy rains are particularly damaging in this stretch of the river. In Hurricane Agnes (1972) the river was 40 feet above normal. It’s hard to imagine that any of the trees planted by the CCC in the 1930s survived.

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Next week is the last class and I am already trying to think about what changes this course has prompted. Some I’ve started already because it is an easy progression from something I already do. The more substantial changes I have started thinking about are more complex and there are more choices involved.

Previous HoLLIE posts: Week 1, Week 2, week 3, week 4, week 5, week 6

Hiking to the Patapsco

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Last Saturday, I led a group from Belmont Manor and Historic Park to the Avalon area of Patapsco Valley State Park. It was a beautiful day for a hike – sunny and not too hot. I didn’t take any pictures going downhill since I needed to be in the front. I did stop to check some spicebush (understory trees) for caterpillars since I am more aware of spicebush swallowtail caterpillar behavior from the Brookside Gardens’ Wings of Fancy caterpillar house (see my post about them here) while we made a short stop to allow the group to come together.

Once we got down near the river, a volunteer ranger met us to provide some park history. One stop was concrete Avalon Dam and I took a picture of it through the tangle of vegetation trees. The river bypasses the dam now! Looking down I noticed some self-fungus and very green moss among the accumulating leaves.

We stopped at the sign about Elkridge Landing. There is some controversy about exactly where the Landing was but it probably was not exactly where the sign I located. Another bit of history: the sign was made as an Eagle Scout project; it was very nice at the beginning - but has not weathered well. Maintenance in the park is always a challenge.

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This is a wall that remains near what was the mill race in colonial times for the Avalon Nail and Iron Works – mended many times. It could be used for a geology talk as easily as for history.

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While we were in the park we saw an ambulance come by with flashing lights and then leave again – lights still flashing. We heard that a hiker had gotten bitten by something. Later we learned the bit was from a copperhead and was on the ankle. It was a warm enough day that many people were in hiking sandals and shorts….scary that there was at least one snake not that far from where were hiking.

We started our hike back up the trail and noted the shelter along the trail that we hadn’t noticed on the way down because we stayed on the fire road rather than taking the trail.

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The trail through the forest was up hill but shady and scenic.

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I stopped to enjoy the stand of bigleaf magnolia. I didn’t hike to see them in the spring this year…maybe something to plan to do in 2018. That’s when they would be blooming.

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The path is at the edge of the meadow for some distance and took pictures of a spider and meadow plants going to seed.

The hike was over 4 miles --- a good prelude-to-fall hike.