Clifton Institute dragonfly/damselfly count 2024

Quite hot and muggy.

We started early and only surveyed for about 4 hours, skipping Silver Lake this time. Much of the Pickerelweed at our “secret” pond at the Farm Brewery had been cut back, so the damsels just weren’t there. Our newbies got good looks at some of the common species, so that’s a win. I recorded observations of Calico Pennant (Celithemis elisa) and Banded Pennant (C. fasicata), as well as a couple of butterflies and plants. I’m gradually, unintentionally, building up an interesting plant list for Leopold’s Preserve. Maybe I should be more intentional about that.

Clifton Institute bioblitz June 2024 (Rappahannock)

And one more trip report and I’m caught up until the weekend.

Clifton Institute is holding two bioblitzes on sponsor properties this summer. For the site visit on 15 June, we’re building on an established iNaturalist project. I was briefly on the leaderboard.

In the meadow leading up to the house, I found a Coral Hairstreak (Satyrium titus). Tiniest critter spotted turned out to be a White-margined Burrower Bug (Sehirus cinctus). On an adjoining property (friendly neighbors), a gneiss outcrop hosts a dryland specialty, Round-leaved Fameflower (Phemeranthus teretifolius), very cool.

After dark at the lights we had several species of sphinx moth. I am still getting the hang of photographing under the UV conditions, but I did snap a pic of a handsome Virginia Creeper Sphinx (Darapsa myron). And the iNat community taught me that a Large Maple Spanworm Moth (Prochoerodes lineola) is not the same as a Juniper Geometer Moth (Patalene olyzonaria), seen on last year’s bioblitz.

Most of the birds remained out of sight, but I got some reasonable audio recordings.

The Borrowers were following me around in the field on this trip. The wrist strap on my point-and-shoot came undone and disappeared, and the glass element worked itself out of my loupe for the last time and dropped to the forest floor. I think I even heard it drop and I looked back, but clear glass is kinda invisible.

Road trip 2024: Maryland

And finally, a short stop at Finzel Swamp Preserve in Garrett County, Maryland. Maybe I was visiting at the wrong time of year, but I was not impressed. As a Nature Conservancy preserve, trail maps of this place are hard to come by and the trail is not blazed at all. I walked about a half mile in—maybe I covered the ground I should have? At the pond, the rough trail forks, with the path to the left wrapping around the pond and that to the left into a big muddy spot.

Oh, I just found a map. Yes, I covered everything. There are some audio notes as well; if I return, I’ll use them to locate the protected larches on the property.

I did turn up a mystery spreadwing. Maybe a teneral?

Road trip 2024: Pennsylvania

the bird's eye viewwindow detailTurning toward home, I paused for two days in the Laurel Highlands of western Pennsylvania to take in four houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright: the bucket-list Fallingwater, two homes in Polymath Park, and Kentuck Knob.

outsideThe super surprise of the Kentuck Knob visit was the suite of sculptures and land art on the grounds, headlined by Andy Goldsworthy’s Room (date?).

openingThe openings are a bit of a squeeze.

insideway outKentuck Knob is currently inhabited; the residents are Brits (cozy with Margaret Thatcher [hmm]), and so much of the art is by British artists.

Road trip 2024: Michigan

The primary objective of this road trip was two visits to nesting grounds of Kirtland’s Warbler (Setophaga kirtlandii), on tours led by Brant Georgia for the Michigan state bird alliance, to see this lifer bird. Success!

young jacksmaturing jacksBrant explained that, as ground nesters, KIWAs are not dependent on youngish Jack Pines (Pinus banksiana) for food, but rather for the thicket of branches at the base of the stem, providing cover from predators. Blueberries also like to join the thicket party, and these fruits do provide warbler food. At left, you can see planted jacks (along with Red Pines for the loggers) that are about the right size for the birds (heard briefly here); at right, an older stand that reforested itself after an unintentional fire. We spotted our quarry at this location.

With some cropping, I also concocted a nice observation of Nashville Warbler (Leiothlypis ruficapilla)

The bracken fern in this part of Michigan reminds me of Maine; the sandy soil (we’re on a glacial outwash) suggests the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

quick stopI had an unscheduled afternoon, so I scooted over to Traverse City to visit The Dennos Museum Center, with its wonderful collection of Inuit art (three cheers for motel literature racks!), a delightful piece of cherry-raspberry pie at Grand Traverse Pie Company, and a quick stop at Grand Traverse Light.

Road trip 2024: Ohio

Continuing chronologically, next up was a trip to the northern end of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, about which more presently. I did an overnight in Port Clinton, Ohio, followed by a walk at Magee Marsh Wildlife area, after all the crowds of birds and people had passed through.

i got some decent images of a friendly Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia). June is apparently the month for huge hatches of Hexagenia mayflies in this part of Ohio, up on Lake Erie. Utter carnage in the motel parking lot. A Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) snacked on the critters at Magee Marsh.

no, I can't fix your cameraGotta stop for the lighthouses.

Rappahannock County dragonfly/damselfly count 2024

So many field trips, such a backlog of trip reports I have! I’ll start with the first annual Rappahannock County dragonfly/damselfly count on 8 June, organized by Bert Harris and the Clifton Institute. Big thanks to Nik and the team at The Farm at Sunnyside for hosting one of our stops. My best photo is a Unicorn Clubtail (Arigomphus villosipes) obelisking.

This was also the trip in which I learned that wading streams with lots of small boulders covered in algae is not my forte. I took a tumble into the Rush River and gave a spiffy new camera a slight dunking. I let it dry, and here’s hoping that it will bounce back.

At the park: 148

We’re almost done with nest boxes for the year, but not quite.

We checked 4 boxes with open activity. Box #61 hatched, 7 out of 10 eggs fledged. Box #6 does indeed have a second clutch, which we expect to hatch in early July. Box #5, the snake-predated box, showed no egg or shell remnants, which is what we expected.

I will check box #6 solo in early July: it’s a quick hop off the boardwalk….

Thanks for a good season! I’ll send summary reports once we have all the data.

Limberlost Trail loop

Ken Rosenthal of Reston’s Walker Nature Center led a birding walk on the Limberlost Trail loop in Shenandoah National Park. Most of the birds remained high-high in the canopy, so most of our observations were heard not seen. We did hear Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius) often, and got got some fleeting looks from below. American Redstarts (Setophaga ruticilla) were also common.

On the botany front, we found a few mountain-Piedmont specialties: American False-hellebore (Veratrum viride), Fly-poison (Amianthium muscitoxicum), and (probably-maybe) Dolls’-eyes (Actaea pachypoda). Ken also pointed out a Panorpa scorpionfly and a Half-wing Moth (Phigalia titea) caterpillar. We’re pretty sure that we turned up an Appalachian Azure (Celastrina neglectamajor).

This trip counts for Master Naturalist continuing ed hours, so there’s that bonus.

At the park: 147

My report from Sunday:

Well, things got a little weird. We had four successful clutches hatch (three Wood Duck, one Hooded Merganser), plus we cleaned out box #2 from the hatching on 18 April.

We have what may turn out to be a second WODU clutch in box #6. We found one Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) egg in box #60; we didn’t dig around much to see what became of the WODU nest in that box. And box #5 turned into the gentle reminder to look inside the box before putting your mitts inside: I found a Ratsnake (iNat consensus is that it’s in the Eastern/Gray complex). As in the case of box #60, I was not able to determine the disposition of the WODU nest.

So, we have four boxes that I want to check on 2 June: boxes #6, #1, #5, and #61 (#61 is due to hatch by then). We don’t need a full crew, but any that can join are welcome…. Please let me know whether you can do a quick day on the 2nd.

Then, depending on what we find, I think that we will have two or three boxes to check in July. Details forthcoming….

Merci beaucoup!

Some links: 101

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

American Shakespeare Center presents Will’s popular romantic mixup comedy in “Renaissance Style:” a limited rehearsal period, a charismatic repertory cast of only ten, no traditional director, and (per the program note) “a unique mashup of tradition and ‘DIY’ aesthetic.” The reduced size cast means that the lovers double as mechanicals and fairies, to very good effect. There are (the now de rigueur) acknowledgements that some of the rhymes no longer work, and some other modern schtick. More fun are the ad libs with the onstage audience, as well as a very funny bit in which an imaginary bolt kills a train whistle hoot owl that would otherwise disturb Titania’s nap.

Joe Mucciolo’s Puck is quite corporeal, receiving pantomime kicks and blows from Ronan Melomo’s Oberon every time he messes up. The three-way fight among Puck, Demetrius, and Lysander makes good use of the Blackfriars’ upstage doors. Annabelle Rollison’s “Bottom’s dream” monologue is a marvel.

The test of a good Dream is a rollicking Pyramus and Thisby (Shakespeare’s 11:00 number), and the team delivers with fresh bits, from an enormous pair of falsies for Sarah Fallon’s Flute’s would-be ethereal Thisby, to a live dog for Moonshine, to Natasia Lucia Reinhardt’s approach to Wall. Rather than the conventional peace sign chink, she leaves another opening for P and T to converse—let’s just say that Wall enjoys the kiss more than either Pyramus or Thisby.

  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by William Shakespeare, American Shakespeare Center, Blackfriars Playhouse, Staunton, Va.

Blackfriars has made some accommodations to audience comfort since my last visit, with permanent seat backs and cushions.

West Virginia road trip

Yesterday, S. and I made a pilgrimage to Dolly Sods Wilderness in order to give a proper, final goodbye to Ann (thunderstorm whisperer) and Leta (her mom’s biggest fan).

We overnighted at The Greenbrier, not really close to the wilderness area but at least in the same state. A short climb on a bit of the Raven Rock Trail (once I got out of the golf course) did turn up two wildflowers new to me, Eastern Gray Beardtongue (Penstemon canescens) growing on the exposed rock of a road cut, and Tall Blue Wild Indigo (Baptisia australis).

On the move, up and over the ridges of West Virginia, then on to Jordan Run Road, and finally climbing the 7 miles of potholes and washboard of Forest Service Road 19. (S. was a great sport about all the various driving conditions on this trip. And she doesn’t mind I-81.) We reached our destination, the Dolly Sods Picnic Area and had a snack. Winds were surprisingly light, and the immediate area was more or less sheltered. I read from Graham Swift’s Last Orders and S. from Emily Dickinson. A Dreamy Duskywing (Erynnis icelus) nectared in the drifts of bluets; Black-throated Green Warblers and Wood Thrushes and Red-eyed Vireos and American Goldfinches sang. I took a very short walk on the Rohrbaugh Plains Trail.

a place to come back toAs the trail entered a forest of spruce with rhododendron understory, I returned a smidge of Leta’s and Ann’s remains to the ecosystem.

I found more new plants in bloom: Wood Anemone (Anemone quinquefolia), Wild Bleeding Heart (Dicentra eximia), and Canada Mayflower (Mainanthemum canadense).

And the birds continued their songs.

Mason and Bailey: 8

A modestly successful meeting of the Mason & Bailey Club, again at Huntley Meadows Park but this time with more moderate temperatures. We have added theater buddy L and husband J to the crew. We found a bit of Eastern Yellow Stargrass at my reliable Hieracium venosum spot, and a wee snail tentatively ID’d as genus Mesodon.

It was a good herp day: mucho Snapping Turtles, a Black Ratsnake coiled up at the tower, Northern Watersnakes, Ribbonsnakes, unidentifiable larvae in the water, a likely Red-eared Slider. On these outings, I find that I’m too busy overexplaining to take many pictures or reasonable field notes.