This image is from my fourth, but first “official” visit to Price Park, on January 30th, 2019. Although it was dark and getting darker, this was the first time that I walked extensively on the park’s trails, which begin (from where I was) directly in front of where this picture was taken. Through my walking and with the aid of a flashlight, I was able to read many of the helpful signs up along the trails which inform people of things like wildlife, history, plants, and trees at Price Park.
The particular area of the trail that I walked this day is a pine forest, which grows in succession from a bare field, then grassland, then grass shrub, and finally pine forest, after around 25 to 100 years of full growth. Since Price Park has more mature growth in other areas, such as an oak-hickory forest, which matures after 150 years of growth, I am assuming that this pine forest is in its later years of development, approximately 60-100 years old. The most common pine trees in this pine forest are Virginia Pine, which has short needles and small cones, each less than three inches, and Loblolly Pine, which has long needles and large cones, which maximize respectively at 9 and 6 inches. You can somewhat see in this picture what differentiates the rest of the tress from the pines, as the trees with no growth on them are not pines. I believe that from where I am standing, the oak-hickory and the pine forests are at an intersection.
Within this pine forest, as stated by a sign on the trail, are sharp-shinned hawks, raccoons (which I saw swimming in the creek on my first short visit to Price Park), gray foxes (I have seen these in the Guilford Woods, which due to the adjacency between the two spaces I am assuming have quite a bit in common), eastern box turtles, and opossums.
As I continued further down the trail, closer to where this photo was taken, I encountered another very informative sign, which confirmed my assumption that the reason for the mix of pine trees and bare trees was because I was in a Piedmont mixed forest. This means that this particular section of forestry is in transition between a pine forest and an oak-hickory forest. While most of the leaves were not on the trees at this time (and still aren’t), the most common species in this Piedmont mixed forest are tulip-tree, sweet-gum, Virginia pine, American beech, American hornbeam, and flowering dogwood. Like the pine forest, this area is rich in wildlife, and as it is more mature, there are many more forest creatures that live within it. Gray squirrels are common amongst trees that produce nuts (acorns, hickory, walnuts), as this is their primary source of food. Polyphemus moths are also present, because “in its first nine weeks of life the larva…eats 86,000 times its birth weight in oak, hickory or other leaves (sourced from a sign at Price Park)”. Chipmunks eat hazelnut shrub’s nuts, deer mice live inside of many of the trees’ small holes, cottontail rabbits live beneath fallen needs and brush, and American robins eat fruit that grows off of black cherry trees.
Of all of these 11 animals listed, I think I have only seen three at Price Park (raccoons, gray squirrels, and robins). Since it is still cold out, I am hopeful that as the weather gets warmer more of these animals will start to come out, and I am very much looking forward to my future animal encounters at Price Park.