Soldiers Delight

For the holiday, I took a run up I-95 to Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area, northwest of Baltimore, for a nature stroll.

Stepping on to the trail at the visitors center, in a trice I lost the trail and wandered on to an interpretive trail still under development. The downed trees across the trail and the ticks that tried to hitch a ride on my legs should have been a clue. I had to double back and walk back on the verge of Deer Park Road, and I was caught in a passing rain shower, for my sins.

Choate Mine TrailI had better luck following the trails on the east side of Deer Park Road. Nevertheless, had I brought my hiking boots instead of my birding shoes, I would have been glad of the added support. Birdlife included lots of Field Sparrows and Eastern Towhees and a plus-sized Blue-gray Gnatcatcher; best sighting for the trip was a small group of Cedar Waxings (Bombycilla cedrorum). Heard a possible chat and Pine Warbler.

pink familySoldiers Delight is underlaid by serpentine rock, which yields thin soils short on nutrients and long on toxic metals like chromium, so the plant communities are distinctive, as well as the animals that depend on them. Most of the wildflowers will have to wait until my ID skills improve, but here I’m pretty sure that we are looking at Serpentine Chickweed, a subspecies of Cerastium arvense, found in one of the grassland areas.

downstreamIn the woods, I found a Little Wood-Satyr (Megisto cymela), described as abundant in my field guides but nevertheless new for me.