A splendid time was had by Mason & Bailey Club Auxiliary participants in a joint field trip/going away get-together for yours truly, meeting on 18 March. We walked a loop from Peirce Mill to Pulpit Rock and paused for a snap by A.
In addition to the spring ephemerals that I had scouted earlier in the day, K found a sessile trillium about to bloom (either Trillium sessile or S. cuneatum—I’m in dialogue with some iNatters).
Nancy Vehrs led a walk at Conway Robinson State Forest, a new site for me. The 440 acres of woods are near Manassas National Battlefield Park, but not contiguous to it, and they will soon be boxed in by development on all four sides.
Once you walk north and cross through the zone where bedrock crops out, the flora really pops as you descend the slope to Little Bull Run. Round-leaved Hepatica (Hepatica americana) and Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) were easy to find. At the run, Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) were going to town.
The walk back up the hill was a bit of a puff, especially at the end of the day.
Bonus herp for the trip was a Dekay’s Brownsnake (Storeria dekayi).
We visited two Triassic Basin sites in Fauquier County, on a trip led by Clifton Institute staffers Andrew Eberly and Bridget Bradshaw. No pix of living things to post to iNat, so the pix are Flick embeds today!
At the Institute, Andrew gave a quick geology refresher. I have trouble remembering that felsic rocks are low in iron (that “fe” is for feldspar) and it’s the mafic rocks that are high in iron and magnesium.
First road stop was an outcrop of Newark Supergroup siltstone on the shore of Germantown Lake in C. M. Crockett Park. Andrew demonstrated that the dip of the outcrop is about 15°.
The siltstone fractures easily, but not cleanly.
We then moved farther south, to Kelly’s Ford on the Rappahannock River. This site is part of the C. F. Phelps WMA.
The siltstone here has been metamorphosed into something much harder to break, and the stone is much darker.
Bedding is clearer in this photo.
We didn’t stop for pix of the blooming Early Saxifrage and Cut-leaf Toothworth, but you are likely to see these in my iNaturalist feed soon.
And a second field trip with Natalie Howe, with Tom McCoy riding shotgun. We entered Patuxent Research Refuge’s North Tract (that sign for Bald Eagle Road is easy to miss), signed in (apparently the complicated waivers about unexploded ordnance are a thing of the past), and covered a good 100m, maybe 150m, on the Forest Trail—followed by a short drive to the Hopkins Cemetery enclave on the refuge.
We found a little something that I so wanted to turn into a myxomycete, but iNat’s AI suggests a fungus, Phleogena faginea.
It takes a little gumption to accept that your field ID of most lichens is only going to get you to genus. We looked at a Lecanora, many different Cladonias (and), a Pyxine (get the UV flashlight!), and a Canoparmelia. We were pretty confident that we had a bit of Graphis scripta, as well as Lepraria finkii and Flavoparmelia baltimorensis (most of these IDs are still pending confirmation on iNat).
The Hopkins Cemetery offers a big drift of Cladonia reindeer lichen in relatively undisturbed turf.
Lichenologists in action, checking out the Cladonia.
The report from last Sunday:
We have a clutch of eggs already incubating in box #5! As well, we have new Wood Duck eggs in two boxes, and evidence of roosting in three more boxes.
We added spring hook-and-eye closures (says safety gate hook & eye on the package) to three boxes. B. and crew will bring materials and tools for some upgrades to the boxes on the main wetland next Sunday. In particular, we lost the wingnut closing box #7, so we will rig up an alternate closure….
Danke schön! Remember that DST kicks in Sunday morning.
From this week’s report to/from the nest box team:
No surprises here: we already have merganser eggs in two of our boxes, #4 on the inflow and #5 on lower Barnyard Run. We chipped all of the boxes. #4 is now easily accessible — thank you!
However, access to the interior of box #84 is still a big problem.
I will pick up some spring hook-and-eye closures and we can fit them to boxes #60, #61, and others.
Working around the weather (as usual), as well as some other appointments, I visited the Glade and Lexington Estates Park at suboptimal times. But I came back with a combined species count of 21. The Great Blue Heron in the little skid of a pond in Lexington Estates was the biggest surprise. There seems to be more Leatherleaf Mahonia (Berberis bealei) along the Glade than in years past—or maybe I’m just better at spotting it. Nasty stuff.
Another lichens walk with Natalie Howe, this time as part of a five-week class, and this time back in the friendly confines of Nature Forward’s Woodend Sanctuary. I excelled at finding sticks with not-lichens, like this one with a big patch of Giraffe Spots (Peniophora albobadia). But I did meet two taxa of Physcia, including Physcia stellaris, a Parmotrema, and a shadow lichen, Phaeophyscia rubrophulchra.
We walked the new trail, so most of the rocks were newly-placed and hadn’t acquired the requisite patina of lichens.
The one downer about lichens workshops is that they tend to take place when nothing much else is going on, so it’s always freezing and windy.
In my newly copious unscheduled time, I’ve been working with Margaret Chatham on invasives removal at Fraser Preserve, at the tippy-top north end of the county. Last week and today we focused on turning Rosa multiflora stems into brush piles. The snow didn’t slow us down much, but my dogs did get a bit frosty.
Here’s a roundup, somewhat Northern Virginia-inflected, of some organizations that run field trips in the mid-Atlantic.
Nature Forward is our standard-bearer. Workshops and camps for kiddos and families, walks focused on birds/geology/botany/etc., CEU-credited courses in lichens/spring wildflowers/conservation history/etc., overseas travel—something for everyone at nearly every level of expertise. NF is also an important advocate for protection of natural areas in the DC metro.
Some outfits mostly interested in birds:
Are you ready for some botany?
Maybe something a little more niche is your interest.
Or you’re looking for something more fast-paced than the naturalist’s shuffle.
The Washington metro is a mosaic of publicly-accessible, natural areas under several different jurisdictions. Check out individual parks and recreational areas for scheduled workshops, camps, and events.
- Parks and trails managed by the National Park Service (in Maryland, the District, and Virginia) are more than just Rock Creek Park and Shenandoah National Park.
- The District’s Department of Parks and Recreation manages hundreds of parks.
- Outside DC, parks managed at the county level include those in Arlington County, Fairfax County (including Huntley Meadows Park, which the Mason & Bailey Club visited), and Montgomery County (including Rachel Carson Conservation Park, also visited by the Club).
- Prince George’s County parks fall under the regional Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC).
- The well-loved hike-bike-commute Washington and Old Dominion Trail is part of the regional Nova Parks.
- Zooming out again, consider state parks in Maryland and Virginia. Virginia has gamified visiting as many state parks as you can. I’m working on my 10-park badge.
- And don’t forget privately-held, but open to the public, sites like The Nature Conservancy’s Fraser Preserve and Stronghold’s Sugarloaf Mountain.
*I know these organizations only by referral/search, not by firsthand field trip experience.
I’m chasing that next Trail Quest pin.
- Walker Nature Center, Reston, Fairfax County, Va.
- Great Backyard Bird Count at the Glade and Lexington Estates Park
- Elklick Woodlands NAP with Nelson DeBarros in the rain
- Huntley Meadows Park for the Mason & Bailey Club
- Clifton Institute odonates count
- NABA Butterfly Count at the Clifton Institute
- Riverbend Park with the VNPS Potowmack Grass Bunch
- Bioblitz at a private residence with the Clifton Institute
- Clinch River State Park, Wise County, Va.
- Virginia Creeper Trail, Washington County, Va.
- Grayson Highlands State Park, Grayson County, Va.
- Bluff Mountain Preserve, Ashe County, N.C.
- Thoroughfare Road grassland, Prince William County, Va., led by Bert Harris
- Boundary Bridge for the Mason & Bailey Club
- First Landing State Park, Virginia Beach, Va.
- Great Dismal Swamp NWR
- Magothy Bay NAP, Northampton County, Va.
- Lichens workshop with Natalie Howe
- Seneca and Central Loudoun CBCs
Another moderately successful season of monitoring nest boxes at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Va.