At the park: 103

muddy and greenmystery in box 5From my report on last Sunday’s monitoring work:


Our birds continue to surprise. We observed evidence of hatch in 5 boxes, plus another box that (#3) was either hatched or predated. We found a new clutch in box #68; a bird in box #6, which has already hatched out; and birds still incubating in boxes #1 and #10. So we will do one more work day next Sunday, 9 June. This will be a quicker spot-check day, where we only check boxes where we believe there is still activity. But if you’ve got the morning free, please join us.

Both Kat and I took tumbles into the mud.

Kat reports milkweed (Asclepias sp.) in the woods near box #13/#80.

A songbird, otherwise unidentified, has moved into box #5. No eggs or adult seen; the side entrance to the nest is a little unusual.

Rock Creek project: 2

Today’s walk went off pretty darn well. Pulling into the parking lot, I feared that there would not be sufficient spaces for my guests, but the second lot at the Nature Center was quite open.

As people were arriving, I was watching a House Finch in a treetop when Tracie called out, “hey, isn’t that a turkey?” Later, I happened to mention our Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) sighting to the interpreter in the Nature Center, and she was impressed. She said that she hadn’t seen one in the park in her 2+ years there.

Several of the wildflowers that I had scouted along the stream bank had gone by. We had one little remnant patch of Solomon’s Plume (Maianthemum racemosum). But on the whole, a success. I got to introduce the group to a couple of my favorites, and the Bearcorn (Conopholis americana) patch along Ross Drive was well received (it was vigorously flowering two weeks ago).

My time management was good; we got around in 2:00. We were paced by Cosmo the dog. Alas, I did miss the turnout for Fort De Russy on the way back.

bridge stopNear the Fort De Russy site is a patch of what I’m pretty sure is Umbrella Magnolia (Magnolia tripetala). (Both it and M. macrophylla are on the park’s species checklist.)

The White Snake

Constellation brings in another joyfully theatrical piece, Mary Zimmerman’s adaptation of a Chinese folk tale—a tasty mix of beasts of fantasy, music, voice, dance, stage combat, and puppetry. Through many retellings, the core story concerns an educated White Snake (cool and regal Eunice Bae) who can take human form. White Snake falls in love with a mortal man, Xu Xian (Jacob Yeh); despite the cautions of the Buddhist abbot Fa Hai (a rather imposing Ryan Sellars), the two marry.

In some versions (not this one), Fa Hai is the voice of wisdom, helping Xu Xian to see through the world’s illusions; Xu Xian becomes a monk. Here, the retelling follows the love story between White Snake and Xu Xian, with particular emphasis on loving a person (or a snake) for what she is. Fa Hai becomes an evil antagonist, trapping Xu XIan in the monastery. This version also shows the influence of post-revolution China, with a subplot about corrupted magistrates.

Little details power the production, like the lorgnette held for White Snake while she attends to her studies, or the goofy bedroom slippers worn by Xu Xian’s layabout Sister.

Percussionist Tom Teasley is joined by Chao Tian to form Dong Xi (“East-West”), adding Chinese dulcimer to Teasley’s ocean harp and the other tricks in his bag.

There is strong, even deadly magic; there are journeys and rebirths. But there is also an endearing sitcom Darrin and Samantha vibe to Xu Xian and White Snake’s story. Perhaps it’s helped along by sidekick Green Snake (the inventive Momo Nakamura), likewise in human form and plucky servant to White Snake. Imagine Eve Arden transported to the East.

  • The White Snake, written and originally directed by Mary Zimmerman, directed by Allison Arkell Stockman, Constellation Theatre Company, Washington

Toast

Robert Silverman watches the crew clean up after a performance of True West.

This is the essence of it—there’s your craft, your technique and training, and the direction and the show’s design and all the elements that combine to make a play a play, and then there’s The Thing You Can’t Fake.

And yet… sewing ribbon for typewriter ribbon—gotta remember that. And the potted plant as its own periaktos is brilliant.

Eyes right

I attended a workshop focused on early detection of Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) (SLF) in Fairfax County. Speakers represented the Virginia Cooperative Extension, the Virginia Department of Forestry, and the Fairfax County Urban Forest Management Division.

Spotted Lanternfly is native to China, and has also been found in India, Vietnam, and Japan. Introduced in Korea in 2006, it is considered a pest in that country. The insect was first detected in the US in September 2014, in Berks Country, Pennsylvania, where it was likely imported as egg masses laid on landscaping stone. The first Virginia populations were detected in the Winchester area last year.

A hemipteran, L. delicatula is highly invasive and can expand its range rapidly; it can use at least 70 North American host species, although it has a particular association with Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima). A phloem feeder, the lanternfly sucks sap from its host plant, leading to wilting and reduced photosynthesis. Spotted Lanternfly also exudes honeydew, which promotes the growth of sooty mold, further impairing the health of its host plant.

Because its American hosts include species of grapes, hops, stone fruits, and Malus, the threat of significant economic losses looms.

Egg masses are laid on the roughened, brocaded bark of A. altissima, other tree species, and even weathered stone, concrete, and metal. Spotted Lanternfly undergoes incomplete metamorphosis, the eggs hatching into nymphs that go through several instars before transforming into winged adults. It is conjectured the lanternfly extracts and isolates toxins from its ailanthus host, and hence that the bright red coloration of its later instars and adults constitutes aposematic coloration. The adult, about an inch long, resembles a colorful black-brown-and-red moth.

In Virginia, first instar nymphs for this season were observed on 26 April 2019. If you see an egg mass, nymph, or adult that you suspect to be Spotted Lanternfly, please report it via https://ext.vt.edu/spotted-lanternfly.

But, wait, there’s more! Fairfax County foresters hope to monitor possible sites where SLF might first appear, and that means monitoring populations of A. altissima, itself a non-native invasive species. It turns out that our map of ailanthus patches in the county is incomplete, especially on private property. Therefore, please report any Fairfax County observations of Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) to the MAEDN (Mid-Atlantic Early Detection Network), either via its mobile app or the web site.

At the park: 103

From my most recent report:

Two boxes hatched (including 13 ducklings from little box #5) and one new nest is started. We have reports from the photography contingent that ducklings left box #6 on 15 April. Unfortunately, we had to give up on box #13, which accumulated a lot of eggs but no incubating hen. All told, we have observed eggs in 13 of out 16 boxes. We have 9 nests in progress that we will be checking on our next work day, on 12 May. We will check again on 26 May (Memorial Day weekend), and then in June just spot check anything that is still active.