Day 1 – Wildflowers!

The mighty LASSes (Ladies Adventure and Social Society) and a few of their lassies set for themselves a rugged challenge for Memorial Day weekend 2009:  to hike the section of the North Country Trail / Finger Lakes Trail that goes through Allegany State Park.

002-Ready to hit the trail

This hike would be shorter in distance than the last, but more rugged and stretched over more days – 4 days, 3 nights.

Due to a sleeping bag that went missing, we got a later start than we had hoped and had to hit the first steep mile in the heat of late morning.  I nearly passed out!  But a nibble on a PowerBar and a few sips of water and I managed to make the top of the hill.  Lunch at the top of the hill provided many miracles to reward us…

…including this beetle:
Gorgeous Insect

…and a view of a Hairy Woodpecker that kept going in and out of a hole that looked far to small for her to fit:
Hairy Woodpecker Babies Inside!

The theme for day one, though, had to be Wildflowers.  I’ll list some, but I’m sure I’ll have forgotten many:

  • CPolygala (Gay Wings)anada Mayflower
  • Foam Flower
  • Dwarf Ginseng
  • Several kinds of violets including Canada Violet (the tall white ones with the purple on the back)
  • Mayapples
  • Fringed Polygala (a.k.a. Gay Wings)
  • White Baneberry
  • Blue Phlox
  • Wild Geranium
  • SCanada Violetsweet Cicely
  • Star Flower
  • Miterwort
  • Golden Saxafrage
  • Painted Trillium
  • White Trillium
  • Red Trillium
  • Yellow Clintonia
  • Solomon’s Seal
  • False Solomon’s Seal
  • Bird’s Eye Speedwell
  • Rosybells

Stunning” seems too mild a word to describe the flowers we saw.  MiterwortNot only were individual specimens large and healthy, but so were populations of them.  Some species, for example, were found in huge patches.  There was one rocky spring-fed area we crossed that had Miterwort intermixed with Jewelweed leaves cascading down the slope.

We were pretty beat by the end of the first day.  But a splash in the creek, a good dinner, a couple of Advil, an amazing night of sleep and I felt like a new woman.

Click –> Day 2

Warning: Gruesome News

I started monitoring nestboxes several years ago and it has been a great way to learn about birds.  You would think after doing this for a few years, you would have figured everything out…  But this year there are  a couple of things that are kind of throwing me for a loop.  For example, have any of you been experiencing and troubles with Tree Swallows this year?

Tree Swallow FatalityIt is not uncommon to find dead adult Tree Swallows in boxes, especially in early spring.  Tree Swallows depend on insects for food and if there is a hard frost or long periods of cold, rainy weather when they return to their nesting sites, they could die from starvation.  Every year I sadly remove one or two dead Tree Swallows from the boxes in early spring.

The picture at right was taken in mid April in 2007.  Still, by May 1st, we had nests with eggs.  In the picture below, I was showing a group of students the Tree Swallow nest in the backyard.

Checking the Tree Swallow BoxAnd by May 30th, we had babies.Tree Swallow Babies

 Things went similarly last year.  This year, 2009, is a different story.  So far this year, I have not seen a single scrap of nest material from Tree Swallows in any of my boxes.  Chickadees, House Wrens, and Eastern Bluebirds are all well on their way to families… indeed, a box of chickadees hatched this week.

Last week I found 4 dead adult Tree Swallows in the boxes at Audubon.

If anyone has information about something weird happening with Tree Swallows, please let me know!

Bells in the Woods – Part II

While searching for the perfect shot of Yellow Mandarin, I found these leaves that looked similar:

Rose Mandarin

But wait a minute!  Is that a PINK flower underneath?

Rose Mandarin

Indeed!  Another new flower for me:  Rosybells or Rose Twisted Stalk or Rose Mandarin.  Again, Latin names seem to be changing.  My Newcomb’s calls it Streptopus roseus.  The USDA plant database calls it Streptopus lanceolatus.  Threatened, endangered, or of special concern in several states, the plant database doesn’t even recognize its presence in New York.

Rose Mandarin

Peterson’s Guide to Edible Wild Plants suggests that young shoots make a nice addition to salads; the red berries that will appear later in summer, while mildly cathartic, make a “pleasant nibble.”  But I could never bring myself to eat a plant that is endangered!

Bells in the Woods – Part I

I had half an hour between appointments and while it was a tad breezy, the light was perfect.  I headed to College Park to see if any new spring flowers had popped open.

Yellow Mandarin

Yellow Mandarin is also known as Fairy Bells.  The Latin name I found in the most places was Disporum lanuginosum which is most likely what your flower field guide will list.  The USDA also lists Streptopus lanuginosus and Prosartes lanuginosa with the latter being the preferred name.  How’s that for confusing?  At any rate, they all seem to agree that Yellow Mandarin is in the Lily family.

Yellow Mandarin

The yellow-green bell-like flowers dangle beneath the leaves and would be easy to miss if you weren’t looking for them.  In late summer, if all goes well, you’ll see bright orange-red berries where the flowers used to be.

Yellow Mandarin

I could find no reference to this berry being edible by either humans or animals.  Strange… Usually you can find someplace that will tell you who eats it!

Yellow Mandarin   Yellow Mandarin Range Map from eFloras

More bells tomorrow…


There is a large patch of Yellow Clintonia at Jamestown Community College’s “College Park” – also known as the 100-acre lot.  Well, there was… Until a big old tree snapped off and fell on it.

Tree Crashed Down on my Yellow Clintonia

There are a few plants that didn’t get squished and I’ll keep watching them.  They are still sporting tight little buds.  I found them in bloom May 27th in 2007:

Yellow Clintonia - Closeup

So many things are happening early this spring that I thought I should keep an eye on them if I want to try pictures again this year!  But no… still buds.

While investigating the fallen tree, I happened to find a rather large patch of Wild Sarsaparilla – also still buds:

Wild Sarsaparilla

I think that’s my first time finding this plant anywhere… which is embarassing, since Newcomb’s calls it “very common.”

Bird Banding

Catbird Gets a Band - May 17th, 2008On Saturday, the bird banding team processed 14 birds.  Most were receiving new bands, but there were several recaptures.  Most notable was a Gray Catbird that had been banded here on May 19th, 2007… it was listed as being “after second year” then… so this was an old bird!

In the last few weeks, I’ve had several people ask me why we band birds.  Determining life spans is only one of the many uses of bird banding data.  For more information on how banding data are used, visit the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center website by clicking here.

For me, the most exciting part about bird banding is the way people respond.  According to his mother, this young man was very reluctant to go along to the bird banding demonstration:

Robin Gets a Band

It only took seeing one bird come out of the net and get a bracelet before he was hooked.  His family stayed right through to the end and that boy was eager to go on every net check, delighted each time it was his turn to release a bird.

Robin's Release

Actually, it wasn’t his turn to release this one.  But after watching the American Robin nip at Emily’s hands during processing, none of the other kids were too eager to let it go!  Emily gently dumped the Robin onto sleeve-covered hands.

And it’s not just the kids who delight in seeing the birds up close:

Ovenbird's Photo Opp

Over 60 people visited the banding station on this lovely Saturday morning, including Sarah’s Little Explorers class:

Little Explorers Visit Bird Banding Station

Bird Banding demonstrations repeat at Audubon on May 16th and 23rd, 7am-11am.  Come on down!

Always Something New…

I don’t get around much…  I hike the same old woods over and over… and over.  Still, I manage to find something new to learn about all the time.

Yesterday I took the dog to College Park for a brisk walk.  OK, not that brisk… I did put on my rubber boots so I could check out flowers in the muck.  And I did have my camera, even though it was late and the sun was going down…

And, as I’m trying to walk briskly, there on the side of the trail is a tiny shrub with dangling trumpet-like flowers.  What?  Not Wild Oats.  Not Solomon’s Seal.  Not Trout Lily.  A creamy, white dangling trumpet-shaped flower on a small shrub with woody stems.  WHAT?

American Fly Honeysuckle

Despite poor light and a novice’s understanding of my new little point and shoot, I snapped a whole bunch of pictures hoping to have enough information to key it out in my Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide.  When I got home, strangely enough, the book practically opened itself to the page:

American Fly Honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis) is a shrub of cool woodlands.  It is recommended by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center as a native alternative to planting the alien invasive honeysuckles Lonicera maackii (Amur honeysuckle), Lonicera morrowii (Morrow’s honeysuckle), Lonicera tatarica (Tatarian honeysuckle), and Lonicera xylosteum (Dwarf honeysuckle).

By the looks of these flowers, I’d say I’m a few days too late!  But they were in good enough shape for a positive ID:American Fly Honeysuckle

JCC American Fly Honeysuckle    JCC American Fly Honeysuckle

Sad, isn’t it, that I can readily identify the non-native varieties which have become so common…

North Side of the Creek

I visited College Park on May 1st and saw nearly 30 species of wildflowers on the south side of the creek.  (Click here for that post.)  I returned Sunday, May 3rd to visit the north side.  I knew I would add at least one species to the list because I remembered a rather sizable patch of Yellow Clintonia.  I found it, but only buds so far:

JCC-Yellow Clintonia2    JCC-Yellow Clintonia1
I’ll have to get over there this week to catch the blooming (of this AND others that are still in bud)!

I have been seeing leaves all over the place, but I also saw my first of the year Wild Geraniums:

JCC-Wild Geranium2      JCC-Wild Geranium4

Toothwort in bloom, and tight round buds on May Apples…

JCC-Toothwort      JCC-May Apple bud