Forest Discoveries (Home school nature notebook)

Date: January 4, 1999

Monday, 2 pm, 8 Celcius, pale gray sky, sun peeking through cirro-stratus clouds

Peter took us on an adventurous walk through low bushy trails alongside the path between Swan Crescent and Teal Boulevard. Ravens sat starkly outlines along roof edges of homes bordering the bush.

As we walked through the bushes we could hear high tweeting calls of unseen birds in the branches high above us. Our footsteps stirred up pungent odors of decaying leaves and conifer needles. Low marshy spots were filled with spiky green plants introduced to this area some years ago, which have unfortunately flourished!

Huckleberry and salmonberry bushes are already in bud. We were surprised to see some huckleberry bushes, protected by the surrounding forest canopy, already in leaf. Tiny spiders, hanging from tree branches, curled up, then scurried up their long threads to safety if we brushed against them.

One tree, with bark characteristic of young fir, was streaked with pale bluish-white sap running down from where branches have been snapped off. The sap was thick and sticky, and where it had dried, the trunk had turned black. Our tree book identifies the tree as Grand Fir (Abies grandis), which usually grows with western red cedar and salal — as indeed it was situated here.

The forest floor under the high canopied areas was home to a variety of ferns, mosses and berry bushes. Most of the trees had some moss on their trunks. We took small samples of the ferns and mosses home to sketch and identify.

We made sketches of the needles, bark, and cones of Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) and Western redcedar (Thuja plicata). We also sketched various fungi, one of which we tentatively identified as oyster mushroom.

We took a close look at a fallen tree trunk. A tiny pale green moss or algae grew in scattered clumps on the sawn edge of the trunk (we really must get ourselves a good magnifying glass!). The trunk was rotting slowly, and in the rotted areas we saw decaying leaves and needles, and many small spider webs in the rotted-out cracks and crevices. Stirring up the decaying leaves caused small shiny black insects to scurry for cover. Various mosses and tiny new huckleberry bushes were making the old log their nursery home.

Wandering through our garden on the way home, we noticed new growth on the parsley, thyme, and green onions. Allyssum were in bloom (!) in the greenhouse, and snapdragon buds just ready to flower. Somebody forgot to tell them it is still winter! The rose bushes sported some shiny new reddish-green leaves, and even a few early rose-buds. The dusty miller looked beautiful.