- I’m done with WATCH shows for the year. No more driving until January!
Anderson, Heart of a Dog
“When L died, our teacher said, Every time you think of her, give something away, or, do something kind. And I said, Then I’d be giving things away non-stop. And he said, So?”
Category Archives: In the Field
Neil Fitzpatrick and Bill Yeaman led a walk to Rock Creek and the fish ladder established in 2007 to enable migratory river herring to swim around the man-made barrier of the dam at Peirce Mill. And our luck was great! Despite some muddy conditions in the stream, many Gizzard Shad (Dorosoma cepedianum) could be seen, working their way upstream. Alas, no acceptable photos acquired. (Note to future self: bring a longer lens and a little more patience.)
On our walk down the somewhat trippy Melvin Hazen Trail, the group spotted a single Louisiana Waterthrush (Seiurus motacilla).
From my report for last Sunday:
The birds appear to have hit the snooze button in response to the variable weather conditions. None of the nest has hatched out yet, while three new nests have started. Ever-popular box #62 is still incubating.
Unfortunately, it appears that the nest in box #67 has been abandoned. And the predator guard for box #60 was no match for a determined Common Raccoon (Procyon lotor), who consumed the eggs in the box. Box #60 is set rather low to the ground, on the bank of the channel; we should think about raising it or otherwise repositioning it.
We chased some paper wasps from box #67. I was cautious about seeing a wasp with yellow bands on the abdomen (as well as some wasps showing the more common all-black coloration), but it seems that several of the Polistes wasps in our area may show that feature, including the introduced P. dominula.
Cathy Stragar and Stephanie Mason led a walk Sunday down the C&O Canal towpath from Point of Rocks to Monocacy, rescheduled from a rainy February day, and it was worth the delay: enough sun, not too cool, calm winds. And surprisingly birdy: I had 29 species on my list, and I think that the group detected a couple more. Top birds were a resting Barred Owl (Strix varia), spotted while we went off trail to measure the circumference of a 90-year-old Silver Maple; swarms of clean white-and-black Ring-billed Gulls (Larus delawarensis) drifting over farm fields; and skeins of migrating Tundra Swans (Cygnus columbianus), extremely high in the sky, identifiable only by voice. We nearly ran the table on mid-Atlantic woodpeckers, missing only (as you might expect) the Red-headed.
TIL the broken and peeled twigs of Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) smell (to me) like stale bittersweet chocolate.
Monitoring of nest boxes for Wood Duck and Hooded Merganser has commenced at Huntley Meadows. We had planned to get started on 25 February, but we were rained out. From my first report:
As I expected, we already have nests started in the boxes. What I didn’t expect was that we have FIVE nests started, 4 Hooded Merganser and 1 Wood Duck. First out of the gate was the merg hen in box #67, already with 10 eggs.
Paul reported that box #13 may need some additional (unspecified) maintenance….
Interesting birds of the day included a Northern Harrier and one of our new regulars, Red-headed Woodpecker.
Sunday afternoon, I crossed over to the east side of the city to walk, bird, and botanize with Matt Salo in two parks in Cheverly, Md.: the Nature Park and the wilder bits of Cheverly-Euclid Neighborhood Park. The Nature Park, located at the highest point in Cheverly, is notable for populations of Chestnut Oak (Quercus montana) and Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia). This location might be home to the nearest patches of Mountain Laurel to the District line.
Cheverly’s bedrock is the Potomac Group from the lower Cretaceous, sand-gravel and silt-clay units. Nevertheless, I am surprised by the sometimes steep topography of this area. It doesn’t feel like we’re on the Coastal Plain at all.
The Euclid park doesn’t have organized trails, just deer trails and social trails. Matt and a group of volunteers are managing a clearing for native grasses and Liatris pilosa. We glimpsed a Bald Eagle in the air, and heard at last one Barred Owl.
On the Sunday after our brief snows, I made a very fast trip to the Glade. Only 15 species in 0:45, and a couple of expected species that didn’t show. But I got my RSHA.
Stephanie Mason and Cathy Stragar led a walk to two locations along the Prince George’s side of Jug Bay. Snow flurries as I arrived at the park; up in the woods, out of the wind, temperatures were tolerable. We focused on plants and animals that manage to make a living, a little photosynthesis, under cold winter conditions. We enjoyed lightly scratching the bark of thin-barked trees like American Beech and Carpinus caroliniana to see the green evidence of chlorophyll just underneath. We stopped for drifts of evergreen lycopodium nearly covering the forest floor, not shaded out now that the leaves are down. The fuzzy underside of the dead but moist leaf of a Mockernut Hickory is quite pleasantly velour-y.
Enh, I need to get out more.
- The Glade, Reston, Fairfax County, Virginia
- Sugarloaf Trail loop, Shenandoah National Park, Rappahannock County, Va.
- Sky Meadows State Park, Fauquier County, Va.
- New York Botanical Garden, Bronx County, New York
- Turkey Run Ridge, Prince William Forest Park, Prince William County, Va.
- Fort Circle Trail, Washington, D.C.
- Ice Mountain Preserve, Hampshire County, W. Va., led by Kevin Dodge, Shirley Gay, and Steve Kite
- Ferns with Carl and Jerry Taylor
- Blockhouse Point Conservation Park, Montgomery County, Md., led by Carole Bergmann
And several trips to my home park, Huntley Meadows Park.
On a drizzly Sunday morning, Carole Bergmann led a walk through Blockhouse Point Conservation Park. Fall colors were quite good, the Pawpaws getting ready to drop their leaves. This Sensitive Fern is packing it in for the season.
Fellow walker Tom was our fungi maven. At left, he ID’d this cespitose cluster of stipes as Pholiota squarrosoides. And for a second non-polypore fruiting from the trunk of a tree, he also called Hericium erinaceus, at right.
Carl and Jerry Taylor did a fern-intensive walk, bushwhacking up ravines from the C&O Canal towpath near Snyder’s Landing.
But the WOW moment was the look at, with hand lens assist, a few gametophytes (prothallus) of Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostochoides). The trick to seeing gametophytes is to find a nurse log or other suitable substrate, then look for tiny sporophytes just getting started (a few millimeters tall). At the base of the sporophyte, you might find the remnants of the gametophyte.
Kevin Dodge, Shirley Gay, and Steve Kite led a walk though Ice Mountain Preserve. The northwest face of the ridge is an immense talus slope, as the North River gradually eats away at the base of the mountain.
The trapped and released cold air provides growing conditions that are closer to boreal than mid-Atlantic. Most of the veg we saw was mostly gone by, but one Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) was still holding on.
Closer to the trailhead, we found a few examples of Cut-leaved Grape Fern (Botrychium dissectum).
For Labor Day, a 5-mile loop in 3:50 through Prince William Forest Park. More or less tracking the hike in PATC’s Hikes in the Washington Region, Part B. My edition is from 1993, so some crossings have been rerouted since then.
The only butterflies about were some Red-spotted Purples in the parking lot. Big patches of running cedar; the trails still somewhat wet after Saturday’s rains. Definitely folks on the trail, but not what you could call crowded: one large group of hikers, but mostly couple and trios. Lots of (generally leashed, well-behaved) dogs.
The High Meadows Trail (simply trail T-10 in the PATC guide) is a misnomer, as it traverses very beechy-hickory woods. Laurel hells along the South Fork of Quantico Creek. A muggy day, if not that warm: wind in the treetops, but rarely for me.
Many of the streams with heavily scoured banks, evidence of the hard use this land had been put to.
I stopped for lunch at a small stream crossing. As I munched, I found a single Indian Cucumber Root (Medeola virginiana) in fruit, if not yet ripe. I’d never seen the red creeping into the base of the upper leaves before.
A few snaps from my trip to the New York Botanical Garden on a very warm, generally sunny day. The place is huge! I budgeted a good chunk of time in the Native Plant Garden, site of the memorial to Elizabeth Gertrude Knight Britton. A couple of less common plants in flower were a mountain mint, Pycnathemum curvipes (left) (hmm, USDA PLANTS says that this not native to New York, but only to North Carolina and south) and Flowering Spurge (Euphorbia corollata) (right). Newcomb points out that the delicate white flower parts on the spurge are actually bracts, not petals.
In the less-tended bits of the grounds is the Thain Family Forest. An interpretive sign calls out the importance of citizen science, and just a few steps down the trail is a Picture Post.
On my way out to visit Charlie, I took a fairly easy double-loop hike in Sky Meadows State Park. I didn’t push very hard on the climb, taking the shortcut across on the Gap Run Trail, which proved to be very good for singing Wood Thrush. Acadian Flycatchers, a pair of Scarlet Tanagers, and several Indigo Buntings also were heard and seen.
The mostly sunny, sweaty summer day was also pretty good for butterflies, in particular a Zebra Swallowtail or two hanging out around its larval host plant, Common Pawpaw.
I followed the Snowden loop (I think this trail is new to me): some gentle climbing as the loop reaches the southern edge of the park property. This trail was much less busy than the ridge trails. At the second stream crossing (not much more than a trickle), I pulled out my camera to photograph an interesting orange and black guy (he didn’t stick around), but I did get a snap of what I’m pretty sure is a Tawny Emperor (Asterocampa clyton).
Best bird of the day was a Brown Thrasher checking out a ripening patch of (alas, abundant) Wineberry.
All told, about 3 miles in 3:00.
From my summary report to the team:
As for predation by the snakes, I wouldn’t move any of the boxes just on the evidence of this season. Last year it was boxes #1 and #3 where we had a problem; this year it was #7 and #62.
As for nest structures for Mallard and American Black Duck, let us know where you’ve placed them and we will try to work them into our monitoring routine. My references show that the nesting season for these birds extends later into the summer, so we would have the opportunity to extend our work season.
A pattern that I’ve noticed over the years is that the fledge-to-eggs ratio for Hooded Merganser is usually higher than that for Wood Duck. A couple of hypotheses:
(1) Since the mergs start laying eggs a little earlier than the woodies, perhaps they out-compete them and occupy the more favorable boxes for that year. (We don’t see that one species is particularly faithful to a box, and indeed since we see a few mixed clutches, a box may be considered favorable by both species.)
(2) We are more likely to see “dump” and “drop” nests for the woodies: boxes with 20+ eggs. And with these jumbo clutch sizes, it’s more difficult to incubate all the eggs sufficiently.