One of the neat things about spending so much time doing field work in the same place is that I’m really in tune with a lot of my sites. For example: Wire Fence field is an old-field site belonging to the Queen’s University Biological Station and I have collected data on different projects there since 2009. When I walk into Wire Fence today, some things have changed since 2009. For example, when I first started in that site, there were two main grasses that dominated there, Poa pratensis or Kentucky blue grass and Phleum pratense or Timothy grass. They were pretty evenly distributed across the field. Most of the perennial wildflowers present were distributed widely across the field as well, but without doubt every year there would be a big patch of Dianthus armeria, or Deptford pink southeast of the trees in the middle of the field, and nowhere else. Lotus corniculata thrived in the most Southern parts of the field and Oxalis corniculata or creeping wood sorrel was always hiding in the far west corner. If you can imagine it’s almost like each species is a neighbourhood within a city, and each year when you visit that city it’s like nothing has changed, you go to the westside, you know what you’ll find. Head up North and it’s the same old thing. But, like any city, while lots of things remain the same, there are often subtle (or not-so-subtle) changes. In 2009 there was a small patch of Bromus Inermis or Smooth Brome grass growing on the east side of the trees in the middle of the field- there was maybe 100 individual plants there. Since Smooth Brome is a pretty agressive invader, each year the abundance and distribution of Smooth Brome throughout the field increases. Today, while Timothy and Kentucky blue grass are still very dominant, Smooth Brome has taken over almost the entire east side of the field and appears to have displaced the native grasses in the densest patches. Milkweed (Asclepsias syriaca) was always dominant on the North side of the field, and this year it’s the South side. Thistles used to only be found on the North side and in very high abundance and now they’re spread out all over the field, but not as densely as they were before.
Another field site I used to visit was the Bee field, another QUBS property. In 2009 there was one individual of a very invasive plant called Dog strangling vine (Cynanchum rossicum) right in the middle of the field. We told the QUBS manager at the time about this and he came and dug it up and got rid of it. From that day until summer 2012 I never saw that plant again. When I started my field season last year, I noticed a whole bank of dog strangling vine by Clear Lake Rd. along Opinicon Road. It certainly wasn’t there the year before. For those of you familiar with the Opincion Road area, you probably noticed that this year, much of the East side of Opinicon road side is densely covered in this species and it’s probably going to get worse. In fact, even in Kingston the roadsides leading into Lemoine point are littered with this species too! (On a brief side note: I’m really interested in getting the public involved with and aware of this issue so if you’re also concerned about this or just want to get involved shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can chat!)
One other neat thing I’ve seen out in the field is old field succession. In 2009 Wire Fence field was entirely dominated by herbaceous species. You’d be hard-pressed to find anything woody in that field. Now it is slowly becoming filled with white ash saplings the occasional birch sapling and tonnes of blackberry and raspberry bushes, all species typical of mid-successional habitats. If the field isn’t bush-hogged soon, it will most certainly end up as a shrubland site and eventually overtime become young woodland and then a mature forest. It’s an amazing transformation and I’m lucky I’ve spent enough time to notice it happening. Changes, invasions, and transformations like these and rarely observable in person unless, like me, you spend countless hours poking around the same site!