Celebration!

Smaller Enchanter's Nightshade

Enchanter’s Nightshade

We’ve been trying to do it for years.  Something always distracts.  A different creek to explore.  Getting lost confused bewildered.  Starting too late to finish.  Too much snow.  My camera.

Today we finally accomplished our goal.  We were determined.  We set out early.  We refreshed our memory on how to REALLY use the compass and topographic map.  Not the pretend way:  “I think we’re right about here…  That’s cool.”  And most importantly, I left my camera at home!  (The pictures in this post were taken at other times.)

The thing is, the path we hiked used to be a road.  If you look it up on Google Maps, it will show as a road.  But I’m here to tell you:  It ain’t no road!  Not any more.  Some of the sluice pipes designed to divert water away from the road are still in place.  Others are tossed about, rusted, useless.  Some parts of the old road are clear, wide open, easy to walk.  Other parts are so densely covered you can barely fight your way through them.  Or they are completely impassible due to a beaver pond that must be circumnavigated.

100% DEET kept the bugs at bay.  A 12-inch sub and a tub full of watermelon and cantaloupe kept the hunger at bay.  And away we went paying attention to the wildflowers and the beauty and the signs of  wildlife along the way.  Lack of a camera, kept distraction at bay to a minimum.

Leaves from some of my favorite spring wildflowers remained – Foamflower, Trillium, Hepatica.  I even saw leaves of flowers I DIDN’T see blooming here before – Bloodroot – and made a mental note to come back next spring to watch for their blooms.  Midsummer flowers in the woods are not as plentiful, but you can find them if you pay attention.

Enchanter’s Nightshade takes advantage of tiny pockets of sunlight that filters down through the trees.  The tiny white flowers of this native plant have bits of pink if you take the time to look closely.

Enchanter's Nightshade

According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website, the genus name, Circaea, comes from the Greek enchantress Circe who “possessed magical powers and a knowledge of poisonous herbs; she could turn men into swine.”  (Source: http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=CIAL) Whether this species is magical or poisonous, I could not say.

Shinleaf in the Grass

Shinleaf

Also plentiful on the forest floor were Shinleaf (Pyrola elliptica or maybe it was P. americana… See: I should have brought my camera).  According to the Lady Bird Johnson website, “The Pyrolas yield a drug closely related to aspirin; the leaves have been used on bruises and wounds to reduce pain. Such a leaf plaster has been referred to as a shin plaster, which accounts for the common name of this plant.” (Source:  http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=PYEL)

Shinleaf Closeup

At the far end of the road, we emerged from the woods and in the open spot were all the sun-loving roadside flowers – Crown Vetch, Oxeye Daisy, Day Lilies and more.

Lolli scared up a turkey that turned to feign attack.  I wonder if she could be sitting a second clutch of eggs?  We were most impressed by signs of bear activity.  A large puddle in the middle of the road had recently been stirred up, the mud not yet settled.  The grass around the puddle was spattered with fresh mud from what must have been a delightful wallow!  There was a perfect bear track in the mud of the road, and the grasses and plants off the road were beaten down, showing the direction of the bear’s travel.  We couldn’t have missed him by more than an hour.  A few steps beyond the bathtub puddle was a patch of grass and plants that was completely beaten down.  We wondered if the bear had slept there, or even just rolled around.

It was a great day of hiking and exploring.  I want to go back and enter from the other end of the road – WITH my camera this time!

 

 

 

No, It’s Not

You’re driving along the road and marvel at the large patches of Queen Anne’s Lace.  Except… no.  It isn’t.

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It’s actually “Wild Chervil” (Anthriscus sylvestris). It’s also in the Parsley family, like Queen Anne’s Lace, but when you get up close, you can tell the difference! Read more about it by clicking here.

And then your head is turned by large patches of pale to deep fuscia pink and you are sure it is Wild Phlox. Except… no. It isn’t.

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It’s actually Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis), a member of the mustard family. I munched on a flower yesterday and it wasn’t half bad! Read more about it by clicking here.

Blacksnake Mountain Wildflowers

Could not wipe the smile off my face all day.  The wildflowers were riotous!  Thank you to Patty, Bonnie, Bob, and Lolli for being my hiking buddies.

These were all blooming:

  1. Painted Trillium
  2. White Trillium
  3. Red Trillium
  4. Spring Beauties
  5. Dwarf Ginseng
  6. Barren Strawberries
  7. Common Strawberries
  8. Foamflower
  9. Mayflower
  10. Toothwort
  11. Common Blue Violet
  12. Sweet White Violet
  13. Round-leafed Violet
  14. Yellow Violet
  15. Canada Violet
  16. Long-spurred Violet
  17. Kidney-leafed Buttercup
  18. Squirrel corn
  19. Yellow Mandarin
  20. Rosy Bells
  21. Jack-in-the-Pulpit
  22. Dandelion
  23. Speedwell
  24. Cuckoo Flower
  25. Common Mustard
  26. Solomon’s Seal
  27. False Solomon’s Seal
  28. Golden Ragwort
  29. Miterwort
  30. Polygala
  31. Wild Oats
  32. Wild Geranium
  33. Perfoliate Bellwort
  34. Cress (I don’t know what kind)
  35. Bugle
  36. Forget-me-not
  37. Wild Blueberries
  38. Blue-eyed Grass
  39. Bluets
  40. Broad-leafed Sedge
  41. Sarsaparilla (buds)
  42. Red Elder (buds)
  43. Hobblebush
  44. Pin Cherry
  45. Canada Mayflower
  46. English Daisies
  47. Swamp Buttercup

    In addition, there were these either already bloomed, or not yet blooming:

  48. Colt’s Foot
  49. False Hellebore
  50. Leeks
  51. Bedstraw
  52. Red Elder
  53. Herb Robert
  54. Virginia Waterleaf
  55. Wood Sorrel
  56. Indian Cucumber Root
  57. Trout Lily
  58. Partridge Berries
  59. Dutchman’s Breeches
  60. Hepatica
  61. Jewelweed
  62. Mayapple
  63. Yellow Clintonia
  64. Blue Cohosh
  65. Round-leafed orchid

And of course there were ferns!

  1. Interrupted
  2. Cinnamon
  3. Sensitive
  4. Christmas
  5. Lady
  6. Maidenhair
  7. And others I wasn’t sure about…

Pre-Mother’s Day Walk

Every year, Jamestown Audubon offers a Mother’s Day Walk at its Bentley Sanctuary off of Fluvanna Avenue near the Strunk Road exit of Route 86.  I like to go on the Saturday before to see what’s blooming, and try to capture some fresh shots that maybe we can use next year to advertise the walk.  Here’s what I got yesterday:

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The Blue Cohosh was challenging because it was rather breezy!

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Toothwort was valiantly competing with invasions of Garlic Mustard. I’m not sure I can say it is winning. But I did find several patches.

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Marsh Marigolds were definitely the brightest flowers in the forest!

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There were plenty of White Trillium – this one armed and dangerous with a Crab Spider waiting patiently for a would-be pollinator.

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Red Trillium were fewer in number than white.

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There were several large patches of Spring Beauties.

I also saw but didn’t photograph Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Solomon’s Seal (buds), Trout Lilies, Common Blue Violets, Yellow Violets, Garlic Mustard, Dandelions, Cuckoo Flower, and Speedwell. There were leaves of several other species that will bloom later including bellworts and False Hellebore. And of course there was a LOT of Skunk Cabbage!

I’ve been trying for years to get that magical fiddlehead picture. Here are some attempts:

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This one is kind of fun:
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Finally, a couple of fungi caught my eye for their texture:
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Happy Mother’s Day!  Take a hike!

Bird Banding 2014

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Emily Perlock works with two Penn State students who are learning to tell the age of a bird by looking at wing feathers.

And so our bird banding season is underway! Licensed bird banders Emily Perlock, Scott Stoleson, and Don Watts generously give their time, talents, and expertise to show visitors how scientists collect data on birds.

Throughout the season, Terry LeBaron and I will be taking pictures to be used at our September First Friday program.  In addition to giving highlights of the banding season, there will be a quiz and maybe even prizes!

I was only able to stay for a short while on Saturday.  Still, I was able to see lots of birds.  One of the most surprising things happened during the first net check:  fifteen Yellow-rumped Warblers all in the same net!  Over the years, the banders have rarely seen “butter butts” here at Audubon.  Veteran bander Scott Stoleson says this species can be tricky to age.  Penn State students Clay and Nathan got LOTS of practice!

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These are both Yellow-Rumped Warblers.

At this time of year – during the peak of migration, we are also apt to see a lot of birds that are just passing through on their way to breeding grounds further north.  Yellow-rumps have been known to breed here, but most don’t.  (Check out the range map at the Cornell Lab site by clicking here.)

Another migrant with similar bold yellow, white, and black is the White-Throated Sparrow. We caught several on Saturday.

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Click here to see the White-throated Sparrow range map on the Cornell website.

The Cornell site describes the Ruby-Crowned Kinglet as a “tiny bird seemingly overflowing with energy.”  We were delighted to catch a few of these on Saturday!

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Click here to see more information about Ruby-Crowned Kinglets.

Not all of the birds banded on Saturday were necessarily migrants. While some MAY have been passing through, these could well be sticking around to breed at Audubon:

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Swamp Sparrow, Song Sparrow

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Eastern Phoebe

I left banding early on Saturday to attend a bridal shower. I’m told there were many other wonderful birds in the mist nets. In addition, Don Watts and friends climbed up to one of our Screech Owl boxes and banded an owl! Wish I had been there for that!

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Double-crested Cormorant at the farm pond on Route 62.

Spring banding demonstrations continue for three more Saturdays. After that, Emily Perlock and her students will continue MAPS banding through the summer. Check Jamestown Audubon’s website for schedule information.

Bonus!  On the way home, I saw a bird at the farm pond along Route 62 between Audubon and Jamestown.  Turned out to be a Double-crested Cormorant!

River Walk

Because Jamestown Audubon is working on a project that involves taking people to the River Walk, I took my camera for a walk down there last Wednesday.

Holts Run Road… Again!

It’s new every time, because we hike it differently every time. This time, we went “backwards.” And by going backwards it was much easier to find the old Holts Run Road.

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We followed it to the beaver pond that is close to Crick’s Run.

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As we arrived, it started to snow. So pretty!

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These tracks confused us. I think they must be fisher… but I don’t know for sure. What do you think?