Station Q

Bay watch  •  Red Cedar •  Edge plants  (A5.98)

Have a seat on one of the black locust benches to enjoy views of Rock Island and Upper Narragansett Bay.  Notice that the string of islets south of Rock Island do not impede tidal movement of water in and out of South Cove. 

Birds of Rock Island.  Every year during May through August, two to three American Oystercatchers, and a few dozen Common Terns, land on the southern rocky islets that are part of the Rock Island archipelago.  There's always a lot of commotion, but it is not clear whether breeding success is ever achieved.  A few hatchlings and fledglings have been observed, but not independently flying young as yet.

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The huge male eastern red cedar in the middle of Audubon field is nearly as wide as it is tall due to prolific growth of stems that sprouted from the once truncated main stem.  It is the largest and probably oldest red cedar in the park, and it is very important in sheltering small birds throughout the year from temperature extremes as well as from predators.  Bird activity would have been even greater if it were a female since its full sun exposure would have promoted great fruit production.

Look at the shrubby vegetation along each side of Audubon Trail as it exits the woodland.  Did you see those plants growing in the woodland understory? 

Answer >

No, plants that grow at the margin of woodland have adapted to longer hours of direct sun, stronger winds and  greater temperature fluctuation.  The woodland understory is more shady, moist, and sheltered, and it is home to another set of plants.

If the edge species did not come from within the woods, how did they arrive?

Answer >

Herbaceous species like the common wormwood and various goldenrods, are dispersed by wind.  Shrubs, such as rambler rose and twice-leaved blackberry produce fruits attractive to birds and were probably deposited by birds that were resting on tree branches above where the shrubs are now growing.  The specimen of Adam's needle was probably dumped by a dissatisfied gardener.  All of these species can also grow through vegetative propagation by sending up new shoots from rhizomes or rootstock so they wouldn't even need to disperse seeds to occupy a large area.