Meadowside Park and Nature Center

Another Saturday, another field trip: this time for class, at Meadowside Park and Nature Center in Montgomery County, led by Jane Huff. Meadowside is one of the “green fingers” of the country, following the valley of the North Branch of Rock Creek. From my end of town, the best way to get there is via the distinctly off-the-beaten-track Avery Road, connecting to the lateral Muncaster Mill Road. The park is a nice size, and offers both upland and riverine habitat.

I saw two new butterflies, a Red-banded Hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops) that classmate Tom found, and several Zabulon Skippers (Poanes zabulon), the first of which I found. The group may also have found a Peck’s Skipper, but I didn’t get a good look for myself.

thicketunforgettableWe walked down to the pond, passing an interesting stand of Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) (probably clonal) and a drift of Forget-Me-Nots (Myosotis sp.). (We didn’t linger to key them out between the native and introduced species.)

creeperAt the reconstructed cabin site, there is a garden plot. We found this Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) caterpillar there, munching on some Common Rue (Ruta graveolens). The black-white-yellow coloration suggests a Danaus butterfly like a Monarch, but the swallowtail lacks “horns” and the colors are spots, not stripes.

We saw lots of crane flies (Tipulidae), including one pair intent on making more crane flies. Dr. Huff turned over a far-gone rotting log to reveal an Eastern Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi). We saw lots of recent windthrow: 100-foot tall Tuliptrees snapped off two-thirds of the way up. Dr. Huff suggested an association between waxwings and junipers that I would like to follow up on.

gallingSome nice galls on the leaves of a Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica).

green dragonBest bird of the trip was a House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) hanging out around the martin house near the pond. Best plant of the trip was Green Dragon (Arisaema dracontium), a Jack-in-the-Pulpit congener found in one clump next to the creek. Its field marks are the long orange extension of the spadix, and the 5 to 15 leaflets.