Tag Archives: O’Connor Nature Park

Photo Monitoring: Only time can tell

Blog post by Heather Herndon, Natural Areas Stewardship Technician
Blog post by Heather Herndon, Natural Areas Stewardship Technician

Whether it be over hours, days, or even years, we observe change over time in a variety of ways. Observations can be made in a changing landscape, how fast our kids grow up, the expansion of a town’s business district, etc. There may be old photos of a building when it was first built in the 1800s which we compare to how the same building may look today.  In my own experience, a photo has been taken on my first day of school in the same spot every year by my mother. She now has the photos in an album showing how much I have grown up since the first day of kindergarten to the first day of college. I have found that over the years my favorite color to wear all of those years has been pink… and the funny thing is, it still is today! Ha! In what ways have you seen or documented changes over time?

Recently, the Stewardship Crew has been busy conducting point photo monitoring in the parks around Oakland Township. Photo monitoring is using photos (just like my first day of school photos!) to document the changes of a specific area in our parks over time. We may want to see how our work is reducing the abundance of invasive Phragmites, or see how which a patch of autumn olive is expanding.

The materials needed to do these observations are pretty simple and easy for anyone to acquire: a camera with a tripod, a zebra board as a scale to measure growth, GPS or map with the locations of the photo points, a compass to face the correct direction, notebook to record information, and a identification card for the site being photographed. Expense for these materials is relatively low, making repeat photography a favorable monitoring tool for land managers. Some of the materials can be seen in the photos below.

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Setting up the camera and meter board for a photo

 

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Keeping all the data organized in a binder is helpful
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The equipment set up at one of our fantastic township parks!

Photo monitoring is a great tool to show the changes in a landscape over time – how different management strategies change an area, how fast invasive species can take over, or a prescribed burn affects the plant community. Check out some of the photos from our parks over the years!

Bear Creek Nature Park – Interpretive Node

Wow, the autumn olive and trees are filling in quickly! Better stick that on the list of things to do.

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 O’Connor Nature Park – Phragmites patch

We treated the Phragmites in 2014 and 2015. Looking a lot better!

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Paint Creek Heritage Area – Wet Prairie

Official photo monitoring began in 2011. The photos before 2011 were taken at approximately the same location as the photo monitoring point.

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Photos should be taken in the same place at specific intervals, whether it be once each season, once a year in summer, or once every five years, etc. Over time the changes in vegetation can be observed and assessed by land managers to help inform future management goals or changes in management practices. Only time can tell what changes in an area or what will stay the same.

This is a great activity for local residents interested in volunteering with Oakland Township Parks and Recreation to participate in. It is a great way to see the parks in a different light, go to places in the parks you may not have seen before, and maybe learn something new about the native flora and fauna! If you are interested in volunteering with us, comment below or call the Parks and Recreation office at 248-651-7810.

Photo Monitoring information for this post was used from the US Forest Service online guide to photo point monitoring.

Phragmites control in our parks

Last week was quiet on the blog. We were very busy doing stewardship work that can only happen during the late summer and early fall – treating Phragmites! This grass can rapidly invade wetlands, displacing all other species to create what we call a monoculture – habitat with only one plant species. This makes the wetland unsuitable habitat for wildlife.

One of the tools we use to track the success of our efforts is photo monitoring, which involves taking photos in the same place, at about the same time of year, for many years. In the photos below you’ll see our “zebra board” which has alternating 1 foot black and white stripes. This is the first year we’ve treated the Phragmites at O’Connor Nature Park, so you’ll see the dense stands in the pictures below. Phragmites can grow to be 15 feet tall!

Phragmites along Mead Rd. at O'Connor Nature Park.
Phragmites along Mead Rd. at O’Connor Nature Park. The Phragmites behind the zebra board is at least 10 feet tall. It is a huge grass, and walking in a dense stand of it can be a little intimidating!
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Another patch of Phragmites at O’Connor Nature Park.

It is fairly easy to treat patches of Phragmites when they are small. The best time to treat Phragmites is after it has started flowering, which is typically late summer or early fall. If the patch is in standing water at the time of treatment, you’ll probably need to get a permit from the Michigan DEQ. Check out the resources below to learn about how you can treat Phragmites on your property. The first is from the Oakland Phragmites Task Force and outlines the basic treatment methods and where to get the supplies you’ll need. The pamphlet also has instructions for ordering a small Phragmites treatment kit from the North Oakland Headwaters Land Conservancy. The second is from the Michigan DEQ and has lots of good info about identifying and treating Phragmites.

Links to brochures:

http://www.oaklandphragmitestaskforce.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/OPIS-smallscale-Tri-fold-FNL-lr.pdf

http://www.michigan.gov/documents/deq/deq-ogl-Guide-Phragmites_204659_7.pdf

Check out the Marsh Skullcap at O’Connor Nature Park

As Stewardship Manager, I need to know which plants are growing in our parks. This summer, I’m doing a botanical inventory of the flora (plants) at O’Connor Nature Park, on the corner of Mead and Rochester. This park is fairly small and has no trails for access, so here is a rare glimpse into the interior of the park!

The emergent marsh in the center of the park has a floating mat. Yup, it is just what it sounds like… a mat of sedges, cattail, and other plants floating on the water. When you gently bounce on it, the whole mat ripples. It is not safe to walk on the mat, so please don’t try!

The emergent marsh in the center of O'Connor Nature Park has a floating mat. I found two types of cattail (Typha latifolia and angustifolia), tussock sedge (Carex stricta), lake sedge (Carex lacustris), marsh fern (Thelypteris palustris), and a few other plants out on the mat.
The emergent marsh in the center of O’Connor Nature Park has a floating mat. I found two types of cattail (Typha latifolia and angustifolia), tussock sedge (Carex stricta), lake sedge (Carex lacustris), marsh fern (Thelypteris palustris), and a few other plants out on the mat.

There was a lot of green out in the middle of the marsh, so this splash of purple caught my eye.

Marsh skullcap (Scutellaria galericulata) on the floating mat at O'Connor Nature Park. It was very small and hidden among the other plants.
Marsh skullcap (Scutellaria galericulata) on the floating mat at O’Connor Nature Park. It was very small and hidden among the other plants.

I also found a huge mushroom growing at the base of a tree. Any idea what it is?

Mushroom at O'Connor Nature Park. The tree behind it is at least three feet in diameter, for scale.
Mushroom at O’Connor Nature Park. The tree behind it is at least three feet in diameter, for scale.

I also found some problems at O’Connor, primarily a growing infestation of Phragmites, or common reed (the scientific name is Phragmites australis). We plan to treat the Phragmites later this summer when in is flowering. If we don’t wait until it is flowering, the herbicides won’t be transported to the rhizomes of the plant, and the problem will be just as bad next year. In addition to the really obvious huge plants along Mead Road and Rochester Road, there are several small pockets of this tall grass scattered along the edge of the marsh in the middle of the park. If we don’t begin to control the Phragmites this year, it will be increasingly expensive and difficult to control in the future, and the damage to our native wetland plant communities will be greater.

Phragmites at O'Connor Nature Park.
Phragmites at O’Connor Nature Park.