Mason and Bailey: 7

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).

Conway Robinson State Forest

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.

cropping outOnce 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).

At the park: 138

From this week’s report:

Box 62 - 19 March 2023

We’re seeing surprisingly low activity from our Hooded Mergansers so far: just two nests incubating, with three Wood Duck nests in various stages. Perhaps the go fast-go slow spring has reset their clocks. The Wood Duck hen in box #62 is trying to incubate 20 eggs.

There will be a Master Naturalist field trip at the park on Sunday morning, with parking at [oops – Ed.] and boardwalk space at a premium. So we will switch over to our fortnightly checks, with our next work day on 2 April. Enjoy the extra sleep time!

We didn’t find the loaner waders for M, so we adjusted routes accordingly. We met Chris King at the end of our day and mentioned the miscue on the waders….

Google Translate says that today’s TY in Welsh is “Diolch yn fawr iawn.”

At the park: 137

This week’s update:

Box 62 - 12 March 2023

Steady as she goes: Box #62 has a full or nearly full clutch, but is not being incubated yet. The hen on Box #4 did not flush, so we can figure that she’s incubating. Box #67 now has 6 eggs. We did some maintenance work on Boxes #7, #84, and #3.

Piedmont geology foray

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.

cropping outFirst 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°.

two piecesbreaks easilyThe siltstone fractures easily, but not cleanly.

at the fordWe then moved farther south, to Kelly’s Ford on the Rappahannock River. This site is part of the C. F. Phelps WMA.

broken into blocks, but how?darkerThe siltstone here has been metamorphosed into something much harder to break, and the stone is much darker.

beddingBedding 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.

Patuxent lichens foray

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).

lichens and stonesThe Hopkins Cemetery offers a big drift of Cladonia reindeer lichen in relatively undisturbed turf.

field work 1field work 2Lichenologists in action, checking out the Cladonia.

At the park: 136

The report from last Sunday:

Box 5 - 5 March 2023

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.

At the park: 135

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.

Great Backyard Bird Count 2023

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.

Woodend lichens foray

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.

Field trip and workshop resources in the DMV

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.

*I know these organizations only by referral/search, not by firsthand field trip experience.

My year in hikes and field trips, 2022

I’m chasing that next Trail Quest pin.

Another moderately successful season of monitoring nest boxes at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Va.