Friday, January 17, 2014

A Walk in the Woods - Chipp-A-Waters Park

It feels like it has been weeks since I set foot outside for more than a few minutes.  This morning I was able to get out for about 2 hours.  I went to Chipp-A-Waters Park here in Mt. Pleasant to take a walk along the trails.  There was only one set of human footprints in the new snow covering the trail (but lots of animal tracks) and I did not see another person during the time that I spent there.

Because the opportunity to take this short trip was unexpected, I was not dressed properly for wandering through deep snow so I stayed on the trail most of the time.

Open water near the canoe landing at Chipp-A-Waters Park
The Chippewa River is mostly frozen over right now.  There are only a few locations where a faster current has kept ice from forming.  Because most of the river (and all the standing water) is covered with ice there are very few waterfowl in the area right now.  There is however at least one Great Blue Heron still hanging around. I found its tracks on the ice near one of the few patches of open water.

Great Blue Heron tracks on the ice

The view downstream from the canoe landing - there is one more small stretch of open water along the left bank.
Although there are spots where the river has not frozen over the ice that covers most of the river is thick enough to support the weight of most animals including White-tailed Deer. While there was evidence of many species of animals, the animals themselves were more difficult to locate.

White-tailed Deer tracks crossing the river with Great Blue Heron Tracks at lower right.
The trail at Chipp-A-Waters Park winds through a floodplain forest following the curves of the river before crossing over a pedestrian bridge and into an area of upland hardwood forest (American Beech, Sugar Maple, and Red Oak).  There the trail forms a loop taking you back across the same bridge.

Looking upstream from the pedestrian bridge

Snow through the trees

American Beech leaves will often cling to the tree until Spring

White Oak leaf

A cluster of American Beech trunks
Back on the west bank of the river, the trail continues along passing through more floodplain forest.  Then the trail rises up, crossing one old river levee and following the top of another before ending at a boardwalk and observation deck that overlooks an old river oxbow.

Fertile fronds from Cinnamon Ferns poke through the snow

Small mammals left trails in the snow

Heading back down the boardwalk and through the woods
I did now see much wildlife on my walk.  I saw eight species of birds, but only managed to get a decent photo of this Red-Bellied Woodpecker.  I also saw one Fox Squirrel from a distance. 

Red-bellied Woodpecker

White-tailed Deer tracks on the shoreline and crossing the ice
One nice thing about walks in the winter is that the lack of leaves allows you to see plants with a whole different perspective.  Often fruit can be found much easier in the winter than when there are leaves on the trees.  One species that looks much different in the winter is the Eastern Poison Ivy.  Stay away from these berries, they are just as capable of causing an allergic reaction as the leaves are.

Poison Ivy berries
Overall, despite some cold toes and fingertips it was nice to get out of the office and into the woods for a short time.

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