Butterflies at Little Bennett Regional Park

on the lookoutTom Stock led a walk to several meadow-y and glade-y spots in Little Bennett Regional Park, most of them along Clarksburg Road. Sunny day, not beastly hot, a breeze from time to time.

I got some good looks at butterflies that I have seen before (some of them only once or twice), like Horace’s Duskywing (Erynnis horatius) and Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia) and Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus). No pics for the three lifers that I saw on the trip: Northern Broken-Dash (Wallengrenia egeremet), Dun Skipper (Euphyes vestris), and American Snout (Libytheana carinenta).

At the park: 103

muddy and greenmystery in box 5From my report on last Sunday’s monitoring work:


Our birds continue to surprise. We observed evidence of hatch in 5 boxes, plus another box that (#3) was either hatched or predated. We found a new clutch in box #68; a bird in box #6, which has already hatched out; and birds still incubating in boxes #1 and #10. So we will do one more work day next Sunday, 9 June. This will be a quicker spot-check day, where we only check boxes where we believe there is still activity. But if you’ve got the morning free, please join us.

Both Kat and I took tumbles into the mud.

Kat reports milkweed (Asclepias sp.) in the woods near box #13/#80.

A songbird, otherwise unidentified, has moved into box #5. No eggs or adult seen; the side entrance to the nest is a little unusual.

Rock Creek project: 2

Today’s walk went off pretty darn well. Pulling into the parking lot, I feared that there would not be sufficient spaces for my guests, but the second lot at the Nature Center was quite open.

As people were arriving, I was watching a House Finch in a treetop when Tracie called out, “hey, isn’t that a turkey?” Later, I happened to mention our Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) sighting to the interpreter in the Nature Center, and she was impressed. She said that she hadn’t seen one in the park in her 2+ years there.

Several of the wildflowers that I had scouted along the stream bank had gone by. We had one little remnant patch of Solomon’s Plume (Maianthemum racemosum). But on the whole, a success. I got to introduce the group to a couple of my favorites, and the Bearcorn (Conopholis americana) patch along Ross Drive was well received (it was vigorously flowering two weeks ago).

My time management was good; we got around in 2:00. We were paced by Cosmo the dog. Alas, I did miss the turnout for Fort De Russy on the way back.

bridge stopNear the Fort De Russy site is a patch of what I’m pretty sure is Umbrella Magnolia (Magnolia tripetala). (Both it and M. macrophylla are on the park’s species checklist.)

At the park: 103

From my most recent report:

Two boxes hatched (including 13 ducklings from little box #5) and one new nest is started. We have reports from the photography contingent that ducklings left box #6 on 15 April. Unfortunately, we had to give up on box #13, which accumulated a lot of eggs but no incubating hen. All told, we have observed eggs in 13 of out 16 boxes. We have 9 nests in progress that we will be checking on our next work day, on 12 May. We will check again on 26 May (Memorial Day weekend), and then in June just spot check anything that is still active.

At the park: 102

From my report on last week’s monitoring activity:

No new hatches, but we have 9 boxes with viable nests. I think that box #13 will not be incubated. It’s likely that at least 3 will hatch before our next work day, which will be next Sunday, 28 April, at the usual time.

Bonus wildlife sighting: Snapping Turtles making whoopee….

And the fantasy birding thing is a real thing. It has a writeup by Cornell.

At the park: 101

another tower surprise 2another tower surprise 1The area around the observation tower continues to surprise. Alonso Abugattas, co-leading a Fairfax Master Naturalists training walk, pointed out the mini grove of American Wild Plum (Prunus americana) in full bananas bloom, along the ramp up to the tower. In this patch is the county champion.

At the park: 100

From this week’s report to the team and Huntley Meadows Park staff:

The nest box season is hopping! Box #7 hatched out (we counted 16 eggs in it on 10 March). On social media, you may have seen the pix of photographers lined up to track activity in this box. We have 4 boxes incubating, 1 probable dump nest in #13 with 20 eggs, and a couple more clutches still a-building.

At box #1 (HOME, 11 eggs, incubating), I observed an evasion/distraction behavior that I have not seen before. As I approached the box, I heard the rustling of a bird, so I paused to make a note and move on. The bird then exited the box anyway, and plunged into the water about 3 feet away. As I foolishly watched the patch where she had splashed down, after a few seconds she resurfaced a good 10 yards away and scarpered away.

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were wheezing about, and Osprey were displaying and vocalizing over the parking lot.

We will meet again next Sunday, 14 April, and then meet every other week on 28 April and 12 May.

At the park: 99

From my most recent report:

We are up to 8 boxes with eggs, 4 Hooded Merganser and 4 Wood Duck — although it is doubtful that anything more will happen in box #2 (one egg for the past 3 Sundays). Two boxes are incubating.

Cameron spotted a Brown Creeper (Certhia americana); Kat reported a Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata); we saw tight little flower buds of Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica).

We have a few people who will be out next Sunday, so I’m calling that a Free Parking space and our next work day will be Sunday, 31 March.

At the park: 98

From this week’s report:

Repairs to box #7 look good, and box #4 looks good, according to Kat’s reports. We now have 4 nests started, 2 each Wood Duck (#6 and #2) and Hooded Merganser (#7 and #5). That’s pretty early for Wood Duck….

Equipment note: on the garden hose that we use for cleanup, the sprayer nozzle unit is stuck in the ON position.

At the park: 97

From my first report for the season from the nest box monitoring team at Huntley Meadows Park:

The birds are still too early for us! Kat reports 8 Hooded Merganser eggs in box #7. This is one of the boxes that needs some repairs; I will bring some tools and materials next week so that we can attempt a field repair while the box is in use.

Other than that, Sunday’s activity was the usual first-of-the-season chips and removal of wasp nests. You may have already noted this: the fence at the end of the berm, meant to discourage pedestrian traffic, has a significant breach (caused by four- and/or two-footed animals).

At the edge between forest and stream, I spotted a Golden-crowned Kinglet foraging quite close to the ground.

Water levels were VERY high. At the old beaver dam at the entrance to the main pond, water was cascading over it.

My materials and tools checklist for next week: drill and bits, pliers, screwdriver, filler foam, staple gun, duct tape.

high water