FIELD GUIDE TO EIGHT HABITATS

  • We are fortunate to have 8 habitats on the school property!
  • Every other day (weather permitting) we will visit the habitats and record your observations in a field journal.
    • Things to include: the date, weather, signs of spring, bird calls, insects, animal tracks or any other signs of animals, and types of plants.
    • By the end of the semester you will know over 50 kinds of animals and plants in the local habitats.
  • Other activities we will do include:
    • Making a floral display of native plants and a flower show competition.
    • Making tree bark rubbings of 3 trees in the woodland habitat and adding them to your journal.
    • A Biobliz competition to see which habitat has the most biodiversity.
    • Setting out track plates and examining tracks in the snow and mud to discover who is traveling through our grounds.
    • Capturing insects with a butterfly net and discovering which insects prefer certain kinds of plants

 

Description of the 8 Habitats

Swamp and Marsh: Moisture rules! Soggy plant roots must withstand saturation for extended periods of time. Dominant trees include red maple, pin oaks and speckled alders. Dominant herbaceous plants include skunk cabbage, cattail, reed grass, sensitive fern, lady fern and christmas fern. Skunk cabbage is the earliest plant to bloom. Is relative of the tropical Arum family which includes dumbcane. Both skunk cabbage and dumbcane contain calcium oxalate- a caustic chemical that burns the mouth and renders you speech-less. Pollinated by bees and flies at temperatures of only 2 degrees above zero. Flowers are kept warm at 72 degrees inside a young sprout that can melt through snow! News article If your quiet you'll hear red winged blackbirds or catch a glimpse of a painted turtle before it slips into the mud. At night you would hear the haunting cries of the barred owl.

Grassy Field: Temporary hair cuts and a sun tan! Grass and full sun are predominant. Look for deer and rabbit footprints -they are the dominant browsers. A common bird is the field sparrow, robin gray catbird but red tail hawks wait in the trees to catch them for dinner. If your lucky you might see a blue bird or an American goldfinch. Characteristic herbaceous plants are goldenrod, little bluestem grass, thistle, orchard grass, New England aster, Queen Anne's lace, and common mullein. Shrubs and trees are are gray and silky dogwood, quaking aspen, black cherry, eastern red cedar and smooth sumac. Complex wild flower-insect interrelationships exist. If you look closely on the flowers you should see host of spiders, bugs and even butterflies. Evergreens such as red cedar are the first tree to succeed in a maturing field. Soil made from dense, fibrous sod and is in symbiotic relationship with bacteria. Only poison welding goldenrod, aster and hawkweed can break through the matty layer. The poisonous compounds in the herbs are called phenols and are released when rain hits its decaying leaves. Fields are often the breeding ground for Eastern box turtles.

Oak-Hickory Forest: Shedding trees and disappearing "ephemeral" wildflowers! Squirrels bury acorns all fall. Forgotten acorns begin new oak saplings in the spring! Typical animals are blue jays, pine warblers, deer, squirrels and chipmunks. Look for signs of wild turkey, fox or deer. Dominant trees are american hornbeam, flowering dogwood, northern red oak, red maple, American beech, shagbark hickory, white pine, white ash, and witch-hazel. Wild grape entwines tree trunks. Canopy limits light. Only in gaps (tree blow downs and open sunlight) can sugar maple and yellow birch sprout. False solomon's seal, partidgeberry, winterberry, Virginia creeper, and poison ivy cover the ground. Many ground plants like trillum flower in early spring and then die back completely. Nutrients are stored in their roots for the next season. Soil contains lots of fungus which acts as a root hair extension for the trees to soak up water and nutrients.

Stream: Aquatic macroinvertebrates types indicate water quality! Common streamside plants are Eastern hemlock, sugar maple, American beech, hophornbeam, witch-hazel, and speckled alder. Herbs include wood-sorrel, foamflower, cardinal flower, meadow rue, jewelweed and sensitive ferns. A beautiful evergreen ground cover is Princess Pine, Lycopodium. Spores can be ignited as fireworks! Where streams ripple the water is more oxygenated. Cold aerated streams will have catfish and unique macroinvertibrates. Water in shallower exposed sections will be warmer. Warm shallow streams (would/should/could) have trout. Other typical species include stream salmanders, green frog, snapping turtle, eastern painted turtle, wood turtle and northern water snakes. Great blue herons, belted kingfishers, mallards and green herons will soar overhead.

Pond: Butt breathing turtles and frozen wood frogs! Turtles and frogs hibernate beneath the mud. They breathe through their skin or though mucous membranes lining their mouth. Turtles can also use blood-filled tissues in their anus to filter oxygen out of the muddy water. A pond has green plants called algae. They provide food for fish and marine invertebrates- tadpoles scrape the algae off of submerged plant stems. When the animals and plants die they fall to the pond floor. There they lie until torn apart by burrowing and grazing organisms that feed on them. Mudpuppies, hellbenders, and sirens creep along the bottom.

Beaver Dam: Instant wetland! Beaver have a goggle layer over their eyes, water proof fur, and webbed feet. Massive carpets of floating duckweed spread across the pond surface throughout the spring until it is fully covered in the soil. Duckweed holds the record as the smallest flowering plant. During the fall the plant makes extra starches and sinks to the pond bottom only to rise up again in the spring.

Shrub/Sapling Edge: Between two zones! Typical trees are gray dogwood, gray birch, paper birch, American basswood, quaking aspen and bigtooth aspen. Shrubs include hawthorne, downy serviceberries, smooth sumac, nanny-berry arrowwood, and multiflora rose. Common perennials are burdock, red raspberries, wild grape, poke weed, goldenrod, thistle, milkweed and mugswort. Birds are brown thrasher, warbler, eastern towhee, and if your lucky an American goldfinch or indigo bunting. Common animals are shunk, white tailed deer, squirrels and chipmunks. Check for signs of animals along stone walls.

Disturbed: Monoculture is dominant! Old apple orchards, mowed roadsides, and athletic fields. Common animals seen here include deer, mice and coyotes. Also robins, eastern kingbird, mourning doves and hawks are typical. In the grass you'll also find sedges, rushes and vines and invasive species. Typical plants along the edges of the monoculture are similar to Shrub/Sapling Edge.