4 – Three Sisters

I retired from job at Audubon. Friday, June 12 was my last day.

Today, on my first official would-have-been-work-day of retirement, my daughter Emily, her dog Gretchen, and I started the Allegany 18 Challenge. This challenge put out by Allegany State Park is to hike and document all 18 of the original hiking trails. We started today with two short ones so we could see how Gretchen would do. Turns out, she’s a trooper and I think she’ll be fine, even on the longest of the trails.

Three Sisters is “hike #4” of the challenge, a 2.5-mile loop that starts very near the Quaker Administration Building.


We did the loop “clockwise.” When we got to this sign, we went straight (left).


This took us into a camping area which was a little confusing. We found a trail marker on a high on a tree leading us up a gated road. That road led to a mowed power line and no indication of where the trail picked up. Hmm… We found it eventually by going right and headed up the steep woodsy trail.

At the top of the hill we found the engraved number 4 where we took our obligatory selfie.


There weren’t many wildflowers in bloom. Lots of Virginia Waterleaf on the descent, but my picture didn’t turn out. ūüė¶

This Wood Sorrel turned out pretty good though:


There were areas on the descent that are obviously very wet in spring, but were dry on this almost summer day. It was a perfect first hike of The Allegany Challenge.


Stress Relieving Walk

I’ve been putting all my brain power into a big fundraiser for the Nature Center where I work. On Thursday afternoon, just an hour before we had to drive down to set everything up, I took a much needed nature break. Here’s some of what I saw.

Staghorn Sumac:
IMG_6973 Sumac
I love Staghorn Sumac. Much of it is more brilliantly colored than this one at this time of year, but I didn’t find any fiery ones on my walk. This deciduous shrub produces fuzzy red berries on the female plants which persist all winter and provide food for birds, and can be used to make tea. It spreads like crazy from the root system, so you often see big patches of the stuff that are tall in the middle and shorter as you move out from the center. Click here for lots more info from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Red Maple against a background of Red Pine:
IMG_6989 Maple and Pine
After checking the forest service website (which you can visit by clicking here), I’ve decided Red Maple is the Superlative Tree. Consider these quotes:

  • one of the most abundant and widespread trees in eastern North America
  • the greatest continuous range along the Atlantic Coast of any tree

I’m fond of Red Maple in all seasons. The spring “flowers” are very interesting.

The Red Pines in the background are not native to our area. They were planted when the Jamestown Audubon Society first got the property – a vast goldenrod field – in order to provide wildlife shelter. If you pay close attention to our Red Pines, you will notice they are always growing in straight lines! If that’s not a clue that they were planted by humans, I don’t know what is. Read more about Red Pines by clicking here.

White-tailed Doe:
IMG_7010 Doe
This little lady was nibbling away in one of our bird banding net lanes. I took several shots through the brush and while she noticed me, she did not seem concerned with my presence. So, in order to get a better shot, I sneaked down the “steps” and into the net lane with her. She let me snap the above shot, then turned up her tail:

IMG_7009 White Tail
White-tailed deer are very common in our region. And this is the season of the rut. The males’ antlers are quite impressive at this time of year. After mating they will shed them and I will search for the shed antlers and probably not find any, if past experience is any indicator… (sad face) Read more about White-tailed deer by clicking here.

Swamp Rose:
IMG_7011 Swamp Rose
I wish we could eliminate some of the non-native Multiflora Rose that grows like crazy at the Nature Center and replace it with native Swamp Rose. It’s a much prettier, if less prolific plant. Its blooms in spring are showy and pink, and in fall the hips are big and the leaves so colorful. You can learn more at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website by clicking here.

Some Leaves on the Surface of the Pond:
IMG_7015 Pond Surface
Those little round ones are Frogbit, an non-native that we discovered in our waterways at the Nature Center back in 2006. It has since spread to all the ponds. It makes really pretty little flowers, which is why it was brought here from Europe – to decorate backyard ponds. But it sure makes thick mats, which isn’t good for native wildlife… It doesn’t look bad in this photo, but boy can it grow fast! Read more about it by clicking here.

Even more Swamp Rose because it’s so pretty at this time of year:
IMG_7019 Swamp Rose

And the Big Sugar Maple; I just can’t resist a photo every time I pass it:
IMG_7028 Sugar Maple
This great, old sugar maple was on the property when Jamestown Audubon Society acquired it. It is a massive tree and I have a hard time walking past it without snapping a few photos. I worry about our sugar maples in this era of global climate change. You can read about sugar maples in general by clicking here. And you can read about the effects of climate change on sugar maples by clicking here.

The auction was a great success. Many thanks to all the volunteers, donors, guests, and to the venue staff for making it so much fun.

And many thanks to Mother Nature for the stress relieving break she gave me while in preparation for it all!


Akeley Swamp: (Butterflies and) Wildflowers!

Our first attempt to see butterflies at Akeley Swamp was a washout. ¬†We kinda knew it would be, which is why we didn’t bother with cameras. ¬†But the wildflowers were riotous and the potential was great, so we planned to return in a couple of days when the forecast was more promising.

My car thermometer read 47 degrees and the valley was full of mist.  I got there an hour before the other two.  I took a leisurely stroll up the trail and I photographed lots of flowers without the distraction of contrast-y sunshine.

More true confessions: ¬†I don’t hike much in summer because I don’t tolerate the heat well and the bugs absolutely love me. ¬†So, some of the flowers along this trail were strangers to me! ¬†I was delighted by the cool temperatures and the opportunity to learn them.


Wild Phlox

In spring, I have to tell folks all the time that Dame’s Rocket is not Wild Phlox. I explain that Dame’s Rocket is a 4-petaled flower and Phlox has five petals… But until visiting Akeley in summer, I hadn’t ever seen Phlox – at least not that I remember.


Wild Phlox

Some of the plants had sparser blooms. I’m still not sure if they are a different variety, or just a younger, less robust plant. ¬†It seems this variety had white blooms, while the other plants had pink.

IMG_5241-St Johnswort
This St John’s Wort was familiar to me. I see it all over the place, along roadsides, in fields. ¬†I know several other varieties, too, but didn’t find them at Akeley. ¬†But this one:


St John’s Wort

This taller, bolder St John’s Wort was completely new to me!



I puzzled for quite some time trying to figure this one out. Leaves kind of like clover. Blossoms like peas. Turns out, it’s alfalfa. ¬†Thanks to Kathleen for helping with that ID.

IMG_5222-Mystery Flower

Mystery Flower

I still don’t know what this one is. If you know, please tell me!
UPDATE: ¬†Duh! ¬†The Mystery Flower is Purple Loosestrife… I just didn’t recognize it with so few blossoms open. ¬†Thanks to the folks on Flickr in the ID Please group for helping me out. ¬†(https://www.flickr.com/photos/jenniferschlick/19572581449/)

There were also plenty of old friends:

IMG_5169-Tall Meadow Rue

Tall Meadow Rue

IMG_5132-Common Milkweed

Common Milkweed

IMG_5221-Swamp Milkweed

Swamp Milkweed


Queen Anne’s Lace (aka Wild Carrot)

IMG_5249-Purple Loosestrife

Purple Loosestrife



IMG_5237-Cardinal Flower

Cardinal Flower



My friends, Barbara Ann the Monarch Mama, and Jeff Zablow of wingedbeauty.com joined me as the fog was burning off and the insects were coming out. Of course, insects, unlike wildflowers, aren’t likely to sit still long enough for me to photograph… But I did get a couple:

IMG_5178-Ebony Jewelwing

Ebony Jewelwing (a damselfly, not a butterfly!)

I saw three or four species of butterflies. (Jeff saw many more – but then – he’s experienced!) This is the only one that posed long enough for me to get the camera set up and shoot:



Many thanks to friends who lure me away from desk to go exploring nature!


Jeff Zablow: scouting butterflies

Jeff will be the First Friday Lunch Bunch speaker at Jamestown Audubon in June 2016! He promises to take us on a Butterfly Walk after his indoor presentation.


Barb: the Monarch Mama

Akeley Swamp is a part of the Pennsylvania State Game lands. Be careful and wear blaze orange if you hike there during hunting season. It is also designated by Audubon Pennsylvania as an official IBA (Important Bird Area) because it is a stop over for water-loving birds during migration.

Learn more:


More Spring Wildflowers – JCC’s College Park

Thank you, Barbara, for making me “pay up” on my promise to take you on a wildflower walk. ¬†And thank you, Kathleen, for joining us. ¬†I think we made quite a (digital) haul! ¬†I’m listing only the stuff we saw blooming. ¬†There were also leaves of things that have already bloomed, and leaves of things that have not yet bloomed!

In no particular order:

  1. Dandelion
  2. Colt’s Foot
  3. Speedwell
  4. Ground Ivy
  5. Common Violet
  6. Another paler violet
  7. One of the Yellow violets
  8. Sweet White Violet
  9. Toothwort
  10. Cut-leaved Toothwort
  11. Wild Strawberry
  12. Myrtle
  13. Marsh Marigold
  14. Rosy Bells
  15. Solomon’s Seal (buds)
  16. False Solomon’s Seal (nearly open!)
  17. Wild Oats
  18. Squirrel Corn
  19. Dwarf Ginseng
  20. Goldthread
  21. Spring Beauty – Caroliniana
  22. Spring Beauty – Virginica
  23. Red Trillium, including a white one!
  24. White Trillium
  25. Wild Geranium
  26. Blue Cohosh
  27. Jack-in-the-Pulpit
  28. Foam Flower (just starting to break out of the buds)
  29. Trout Lily
  30. Barren Strawberry
  31. American Fly Honeysuckle
  32. Forget-Me-Not

Here are a few pictures:

I’m not sure of the species. It is paler than the Common Violet.
IMG_4413 - Pale Violet

IMG_4415 - Forget-Me-Not

Red Trillium
IMG_4447 - Red Trillium

The White Red Trillium
IMG_4464 - White Red Trillium

White Trillium
IMG_4467 - White Trillium

Wild Geranium
IMG_4473 - Wild Geranium

This doesn’t count because it was berries, not flowers, but we also saw Partridge Berries and Wintergreen.

IMG_4410 - Wintergreen

You can see a slideshow of all the pictures by clicking here. (Well, you can see some of the ones that turned out, anyway.)

Spring Wildflowers

Seems like forever since I crawled around on the forest floor taking wildflower pictures. ¬†Here’s what I saw on a quick 1/2 hour walk at Jamestown Community College’s “College Park” today:

Trailing Arbutus:
IMG_4340 Trailing Arbutus
(OK, actually, this was over at Roger Tory Peterson Institute.)

Cut-leaved Toothwort:
IMG_4341 Cut-leaved Toothwort_1

IMG_4344 Hepatica

Yellow Violet:
IMG_4347 Yellow Violet

Sessile-leaved Bellwort (aka Wild Oats):
IMG_4350 Wild Oats

Marsh Marigold:
IMG_4358 Marsh Marigold

I’ve never had poison ivy before. If I’m going to get it, it will be today. I had to remove some “twigs” from around the Marsh Marigold. It wasn’t until I was done with my photographs that i realized what it was…

Swamp Rose

At this time of year when the trees’ color is just a tiny bit past peak color, the edges of the ponds still hold some amazing color.


IMG_1932 IMG_1906

Not being much of a summer fan, I seem to have no photos of the blossoms.

UPDATE:  After reading this, my friend Kathleen sent me this picture of hers of Swamp Roses in summer:

(Thank’s Kathleen!)

The fruit is bristly:

Swamp Rose Hips

Swamp Rose (Rosa palustris):


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


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 РWITH 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.


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.


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:

IMG_9193  IMG_9198
The Blue Cohosh was challenging because it was rather breezy!

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.

Marsh Marigolds were definitely the brightest flowers in the forest!

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

Red Trillium were fewer in number than white.

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:

IMG_9223 IMG_9262

This one is kind of fun:

Finally, a couple of fungi caught my eye for their texture:
IMG_9217 IMG_9248


Happy Mother’s Day! ¬†Take a hike!