Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Changes - for the better?

Sometimes the reality of incremental changes can strike you in a very perceptible way. Today I birded the entire stream corridor of Pheasant Branch Conservancy in hopes of finding a Barred Owl. Along the way I explored some areas I haven't visited in a while, including the new trail system that fragments the decayed woodland where a Barred Owl pair used to nest. I monitored the pair for several years and finding them was always a highlight of my visits to the conservancy. It wasn't always easy to get that far back into the woods as there were no developed trails and it could get a bit swampy at times, but I always managed to find the right spot and enjoyed watching the owls.

I could find them without leaves...

And with leaves...

But today I wasn't able to find them at all, and here's what the same area looks like now:

I included myself (6'2") in the picture for scale to show the width of this boardwalk. It's 10 feet wide and in some places they clear-cut another 10 to 15 feet on each side of it, creating a 20 to 25 foot wide swath through the woods. You had to be a boardwalk because the woodland was classified as a veritable wetland, and goodness knows we all need easy access through wet woodlands.

And down a little further...this thing is just huge:

How about another example? The overlook parking area used to be a grand place, especially as the sun lowered in the sky. Brilliant rays of light would filter through leaves and speckle the hillside. Here's what it looked like on such a day over a decade ago:

But at some point, the tree in the center had to be cut down for what must have been a good reason, I guess. Some very useful interpretive nature kiosks were installed but all the trees on the other side of Pheasant Branch Road had to be taken out for a housing development. They erected a sign to let everyone know this is an entrance into the conservancy. And here's how it looks today:

I know it's hard to tell but take my word on it that these two pictures were taken a decade apart from the exact same spot, facing in the same direction. If you look closely on the left you can actually see the same evergreen tree. Sure, there are lighting and seasonal differences in these photographs...but I sincerely doubt it would matter.

From my main website page:

"Here is a community, said to be the richest and most enlightened in America, which yet allows its finest scenes of natural beauty to be destroyed one by one, regardless of the fact that the great city of the future which is to fill this land would certainly prize every such scene exceedingly, and would gladly help to pay the cost of preserving them today."

-- Harvard Professor Charles Eliot (1891)

All images © 2006 Mike McDowell

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