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The mission of Great Mountain Forest is to be a leader in forest stewardship. We practice sustainable forest management, promote biodiversity and resilience to climate change, support education and research, and welcome all who love the woods.
In this issue:
Battle Beetles
A Tradition Forged in Fire
Smile For the Camera
Wildflower Highlights
Treats of the Forest
Sightings of the Month
A Partridge in a Pear Tree?

Battle Beetles

A familiar face was in Great Mountain Forest this month as Dr. Carole Cheah from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station returned with more insect soldiers in the fight against hemlock woolly adelgid. To refresh your memory from the August 2021 issue, hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) is a small invasive insect that originally came from Asia. Scientists believe that it was America’s interest in Asian gardens that sparked the spread of the pest. They have tracked the origin to an infected Japanese hemlock that was brought over to the US in the 1950’s.

When the HWA are in the juvenile stage they move about and spread before spending the rest of their life on the same tree. They feed on the stored starches within the tree which, in turn, disrupts the flow of nutrients and eventually kills the beloved tree.

Great Mountain Forest is a particular hotspot for hemlocks as 40% of GMF is made up of them. Some of the hemlocks even reach over 350 years old. It is vital that we protect these trees as they offer important food and nesting sights for warblers and other birds.

However, GMF is putting its best foot forward to help our lovely hemlocks and maintain the diversity that we pride ourselves on. Since 2017, GMF has released several colonies (100 beetles per colony) into our forest. This year Dr. Carole Cheah brought over 3,000 ladybeetles (Sasajiscymnus Tsugae) and with help from the GMF team, placed the colonies in several areas throughout the forest.

Almost immediately we could see the beetles gravitate towards the white egg masses and, given time, those amazing little beetles should work from tree to tree and feast on those pesky invasives from Spring until Fall. They join the 200,000 other ladybeetles that have been released in Connecticut to date.

We would like to thank Dr. Carole Cheah and Tree-Savers for supplying and moving the beetles, which we are confident will have immense effects on the survivability of our hemlocks! We would also like thank the board members of the AKC fund for providing the resources needed to fund the purchase of the beetles.

Fire fighters learn inside Yale Camp's classrooms
The importance of physical fitness cannot be overstated.
The Kubota ready for action
A Tradition Forged in Fire

It was the return of a long standing tradition at Great Mountain Forest. The Connecticut Wildlands Forest Fire crew set up at the Yale Camp to host one of their training courses.

However, this is far from the first time that something like this has happened at Great Mountain Forest. Let us take a journey back to 1951 when a fire raged through the 6,000 acres of Great Mountain Forest, leaving firefighters scrambling as news crews flocked to the area. Except, this wasn't actually a real fire.

The fire was actually a four-day simulation training and in 1951 it was the first in the region. The training was sponsored by the Northeastern Forest Fire Protection Commission, a 7 state compact made after the Maine and New Hampshire fires of 1947. Over that dry summer, a quarter of a million acres of forest burned which quickly showed the need for formal fire training in New England.

Every year since then (excluding pandemic years) forest fire trainings have been hosted here. According to Helene Hochholzer, Forest Protection Officer for CT DEEP, this year, around 25 people from various Northeastern states took classes such as fire behavior, fire shelter, topography, fire fuels ,and Wildland urban interface. The course was filled with lessons, physical tests, and training exercises. The fire fighters left with a certificate good for five years and are one step closer to being ready to go out into the field.

What happens once the they finally pass all the courses and are fully certified? Some might never encounter a forest fire and will have to come back to get recertified. Some might be sent to fight forest fires out west. Last year, 58 fire fighter journeyed to battle the raging wildfires. Finally, some might stay and fight the forest fires that affect Connecticut, which equates to an average of 500 acres a year.

No matter what their future holds, every fire fighter was soaking in each moment and learning the ins and outs of an ever-changing industry. As one of the instructors, Fire Control Officer Chris Renshaw said, "You can never learn too much about something that can kill you."
Smile For the Camera!!
The trail cameras are back up at GMF! They give us an accurate reading on animal populations in the forest. Without them, we would not know nearly as much about our moose populations. In upcoming issues we will be showing some of the animals that were kind enough to "say cheese" when passing our hidden cameras!

We hope to add to to last year's species list which included black-throated green warblers, black bears, white-tailed deer, bobcats, coyotes, and moose.
Wildflower Highlights!
Eastern red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)
is perennial that blooms red and yellow in a downward facing flower. It's nectar vital for bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies.
Mountain laurel ( Kalmia latifolia) is a species of flower plant that is found on the eastern side of the country from Florida to Maine. It holds a unique status as a deciduous evergreen. It is also the state flower of Connecticut!
Treats of the Forest
Have you ever been curious about some of the edible plants that grow in the area? Look no further than wood sorrel! Wood sorrel (genus Oxalis) is a type of flowering weed that grows in many types of conditions and locations in Great Mountain Forest.

It is recognized by it three heart-shaped leaves and yellow flower that make it look like a clover. All parts of the plant is edible in small sizes and will leave a lemony flavor on the tongue of those who try it. It can be used for teas, salads, or soups and can be consumed both raw and cooked.

Be sure to look out for this amazing plant but use extreme caution when eating anything found in the wild as there are extreme risks associated with trying to identify and consume woodland plants and fungus.
Photo: Wild Food UK and Gardening Know H
Sightings of the Month
Two-lined Salamander
Chicken of the Woods
A Partridge in a Pear Tree?
A picture of the Grouse taken at GMF by Jody Bronson
(Photo: eBird)

For more information about the spectacular ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) please visit some of the following websites:

At first, the sound might bring a sense of panic to a hiker. A repeated thumping sound emanates from the understory, and it can be a bit unsettling the first time you hear it. However, it is nothing to be fearful of. It is ruffed grouse partaking in one of the most famous and recognizable spring and mating season displays.
Ruffed grouse are an incredible species native to Connecticut and are the only grouse species in the country that are regularly seen in the nutmeg state.

When Connecticut started abandoning farms, the ruffed grouse thrived in the young growth forests that started to take the farm’s place. However, the forests have since matured which decreases the amount of suitable land for the grouse and that famous wing beating has slowly started to fade from the Connecticut soundscape.

Great Mountain Forest actively manages our land which means that we make cuts to cultivate areas with high stem density and mixed-age forest which provides ample acreage for the ruffed grouse populations to exist and hopefully rebound to something like their former numbers.

Be sure to listen out for the amazing wing beat and if you are lucky, you might be able to see this incredible bird.
Forest Notices

Welcome to the forest!

GMF is a place of peaceful co-existence for everyone

  • Keep your dog on a leash and if you pack it in--pack it out.

  • Sign in at kiosks at the East and West Gates.

  • Watch for inclement weather notices on social media and our website.

Stand with the Trees!
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GMF is critical to the environmental and economic sustainability of the region as well as an important contributor to research and education about climate change and environmental health. Help us support the forest as a vital natural resource and a place for those who love the woods.
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