The McDougal Lake
The McDougal Lake Trail offers an easy walk along the shore of McDougal Lake, and through a mixed forest of white birch and balsam fir, with scattered pines and spruces. About halfway through the hike the trail passes briefly through a forest swamp. The charred remains of old growth pines along the trail are a testimony to past forest fires. Delicate wildflowers stand out boldly on the trailside or hide bashfully in the forest undergrowth. Small animals move about on the forest floor or through the canopy of trees. Walking quietly and slowly and stopping frequently to look and listen brings the world of the forest into sharper focus.
The trail starts out along the shore of McDougal Lake. Here you will find a conveniently placed bench looking out over the lake and up and down the shoreline. Viewers of wildlife know that animal activity is usually greater along the borders between two different types of habitats such as water and forest, or open field and forest. Before turning your back on the lake and going deeper into the forest, spend some time sitting quietly on the bench and see what presents itself.
An increased amount of plant and animal activity also exists in habitats that have a more natural diversity. A forest community with a wider age spread among its trees exhibits increased diversity: from young seedlings just poking their thin stems out of the leaf litter, to towering giants that have seen centuries pass, to dead snags that slowly drop decaying branches and will themselves one day fall crashing to the ground where they will rot and return nutrients to the soil. All of these add a richness to the forest. Like the way many different colored threads add to the richness of a tapestry, so to do the different ages of plants and animals add to the richness of the community. A study of the role of tree snags to breeding birds in northern Country found that dead or partly dead trees over three feet tall did more to increase the variety of breeding bird populations in a forest than did the living trees and shrubs. Snags located in areas of shrubs and trees resulted in new bird species over areas of shrubs and trees that lacked snags.
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