Pondering Water Cycles on the Northwest Branch Trail

[Ed. Note: This is the latest essay from Michael Petrizzo, an Eye On Sligo Creek summer intern, photographer and environmental science major at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. We’ve asked him to go for walks in the woods to share what he sees.] During this long quarantine, I decided to go on a hike on the Northwest Branch Trail off of Colesville road. It was a sunny day and a perfect time to enjoy the fresh air. I began at the Burnt Mills West Special Park and ventured up into the woods. I did not hike the entire eight or nine miles through the woods toward University Boulevard, but I did end my hike after spotting a great blue heron above the stream. There were a couple of others venturing on this trail, and one gentleman pointed out the bird to me. I was fortunate to witness the bird moving around so I could capture different postures as it stood on a long branch over the stream.

The Northwest Branch is another major water system that eventually makes its way towards the Anacostia River and later the Chesapeake Bay. This one image captures the movement of water in one specific location. It is constantly moving around and being cycled. The water cycle (which can be described in detail on this NASA site), is an important event that is greatly affected by climate change. As temperature increases, more water is able to evaporate and be stored in the atmosphere. This leads to more rainstorms which lead to floods.

On another note, you might not know that water is not actually a renewable resource. A renewable resource is one that is able to be replenished in order to replace the portion depleted. A renewable resource is able to replenish in about the lifespan of a human. Water is therefore valuable, so we must be fully conscious about what we are putting into our local waterways. Large numbers of people walk through these trails throughout the year and can clearly notice trash here and there. Being fully conscious does not just mean being aware of trash ending up in our waterways. To be fully conscious of our waterways means we are aware and respond to this problem. We don’t want our water to be cycled and flow with trash.

This is a fern plant that I found growing out of a crack in a rock. The undersides of these plants have little dots called sporangia. Once fully matured, the spores are released and can grow into a new fern plant. This is different from other plants which require pollen to fertilize the embryo in order to grow a new plant.

This is an American beech tree I found along the trail. It caught my attention because up close you begin to notice almost like hair-like structures. According to The Natural Web, the hair-like structures are an adaptation to become less appealing for insects and other animals to consume. Plants all over are developing over long periods of time different adaptations to be able to survive against other plants and animals. This process is called natural selection; nature’s way of picking the strongest and more durable species to survive. 

Towards the end of my hike along the Northwest Branch Trail, I saw an individual looking up into the trees at what I later saw to be a great blue heron. I was able to take this photo as it was moving around the branch it was on. There is always an eye of nature watching from above, don’t overlook it or you might miss it!

See more of Eye On Sligo Creek intern Michael Petrizzo’s work on Instagram at @mtp.photo, and more EOSC photos on Instagram at eye_on_sligo_creek.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here