Friday, June 12, 2015

Mill Creek Hike with Seventh Graders!

Earlier this week, I and two other Virginia Master Naturalists along with Justine and Connor from the Virginia Outdoors Foundation led hikes for Narrows Middle School seventh graders in groups of two.  In total, 58 students trekked about 1/2 mile along Mill Creek up to the reservoir. 

Students were excited to see two Eastern Box Turtles on the trail.  This one immediately went into its shell when confronted with that many seventh graders.  We learned a little about how the turtle's population has dropped mainly due to habitat loss.

 We also spotted a deer and waited for him to cross the road. 

 At the top, we posed for a group photo.

 Students spotted rainbow and brook trout in the reservoir.

We did not spot any turtles or deer on the afternoon hike.  Instead, we saw more butterflies (Eastern Tiger Swallotail, Red-Spotted Purples, White Cabbage) including this Eastern Comma Polygonia comma butterfly.  The spiders had spun webs and that seemed to attract a lot off attention too.

 I was first to spot this face!

 Again, we posed for a photo.

On both hikes, Ralph, local Mill Creek enthusiast and caretaker, talked about the history of the dam. 

The lower two rows of stone were chiseled and laid without cement in 1776-1780.  The upper concrete row was added in 1895 to make the reservoir larger. The reservoir formerly was the source of Narrows' water supply. 

Ralph also helped with explaining all the trees on the hike.  These were:

Butternut (White Walnut) Juglans cinerea
American Basswood (Linden, Linn, Beetree)  Tilia americana
Sweet Birch (Black Birch, Cherry Birch)  Betula lenta
Yellow Buckeye (Sweet Buckeye) Aesculus flava 

Besides these trees, we saw sugar and red maples, red and white oaks including chestnut oaks, ash, and other trees.   Students learned that because we are located in the middle section of the Appalachians, we get both southern and northern species, resulting in great diversity.

I have lived in Giles County for 31 years and had never hiked on this nice trail in the western part of the county.  No more--I plan to hike to the first big waterfall, one of many waterfalls, about a mile further up on this trail.  

Here is a link to a page containing the map of the trail:

This link has directions to the Mill Creek Nature Park in Narrows, Virginia:

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Flowers in My Yard in May

May has flown by without a post but I still wanted to save these photos of my yard.  These two Rhododendron shrubs are taking over!  I cut them back on the other side to give my blueberry bushes more room.  Now, I had to cut back to let my native Dutchman Breeches grow.  But, I really enjoy the lovely flowers in May.

 Mayapple blossoms are already gone with apples now forming.  But this is one of my favorites.

The native wild geranium also has gone to seed.  I transplanted one plant years ago in my yard and now have hundreds of plants.  I always see lots of native bees on the flowers which is good.

 This purple columbine is not the native one but one I bought from a nursery.  It also has spawned many other columbine plants via seed, such as the white columbine that sprouted underneath the steps.

I like the white version so much so I wonder if I save this seed that I might get more white ones?

The biggest surprise is that I have bees again! Let me explain.  I went into the winter with one strong colony of bees which was still alive in early February but the colony froze during sub-zero temperatures in late February.  I did not mourn the loss as those bees were very aggressive. My husband and I decided we would wait until next year to buy more bees.

 I had placed a couple of empty hive boxes on our bottom deck and noticed a few bees going in there for several days in early May.  On May 7, a swarm of honey bees occupied the box.  It was easy to move them to my original "Princess" hive.  The bees are very gentle, much like the original Princess colony that swarmed two years ago.   Maybe they came back! 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Mayapples, Phlox, Bluebells and More....

Spring always happens so quickly that before I know it, I haven't posed the half of it!   This is just what I photographed on April 19:

 Large Flowered Trillium

The Large-Flowered Trillium was a little early, perhaps because this one was near the edge of our yard--not in the cove where most of them bloom on our land.


The Mayapple is one of my favorites and are just starting to bloom in the last day or two.  

 Wood Anemone
With Bloodroot and Toothwort finished, the Wood Anemone is a welcome sight.  The spring beauties also are still blooming, masses of them throughout the woods.

Redbud were in full bloom...

 Virginia Bluebells

After my walk in our woods, I decided to drive down to Walker Creek to enjoy the Bluebells. They seemed to be in full bloom.

I was disappointed to see so much trash on Rye Hollow Road along Walker Creek.  I wasn't able to clean it up during the community clean-up.  Back at the house, I emailed a friend and we were going to pick up the trash later during the week.

 This was how Walker Creek looked early on April 19.  Later in the afternoon, it started raining and raining.   I am not sure how much because I did not put my rain gauge out until 9 p.m.   On Monday morning, the gauge measured over an inch of rain.

 Walker Creek along Rye Hollow Rd.    April 20, 2015  2 p.m.

 By Monday afternoon, Walker Creek had flooded over Rye Hollow Road.  I was a little surprised but the ground was already saturated and creeks were running strong before this rainstorm.  

So, I went yesterday and saw that all the trash along the road was gone.  This is not good because the trash was picked up by the flood.  The trash then flowed into the New River and most of it, if not washed up on riverbanks, will end up in the Gulf of Mexico, all the way being a hazard for wildlife.    Next year, I will do my best to pick up the trash before the spring floods.

On Monday evening April 20, I attended a lecture by Jane Goodall at Hollins College in Roanoke, Virginia.   She made me realize that everyone can make a difference.  It does not have to be big but every little bit helps, like cleaning up a creek every year.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Bloodroot and Spicebush Wildflowers

 I noticed Bloodroot blooming for the first time on Wednesday, not an April Fool's joke (hate them anyway!). 

 Bloodroot    April 1, 2015

The flower usually appears before the leaves as in this photo.

 Sometimes the petals look a little different but I count 8 petals each time.

 Here's a specimen where the leaf is being to unfurl below.

 The toothwort are in full bloom having been out for almost a week.

 Spicebush   (Lindera benzoin)

This spicebush would be a lot showier in the yard but the swallowtail butterflies don't mind.  It is a host plant for them and other butterflies.  

 Bees find the spicebush blossoms too although the native bees are too fast for me to photograph.

Here's to spring, my favorite season.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Spring Beauty and Toothwort

Nothing says spring like the early spring wildflowers.  I went up into the woods this morning to collect wood to start a fire  I was delighted to see the first native wildflower:

 From a distance, you would not see the Spring Beauty at all.  The lance-shaped leaves and 5 petals are small.  After a week, the woods should be covered with them and you still will not notice them until you look down.

Next, I spotted the toothwort not far away, just beginning to bloom.

 It wasn't long before the flowers opened.

 A couple of hours later, toothwort was in full bloom and attracting native bees (too fast for me to take a photo).

Spring is really here but weather changes quickly.  As I write this, I hear thunder.  And, the weather forecaster is calling for much colder temperatures tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Signs of Spring

The snow finally melted and gave way to crocuses, glory-of-the-snow lillies, and daffodils.  I set out some violas but I don't think spring really arrives until the wildflowers bloom and trees leaf out.

 The woods look like spring will never arrive. The small American Beech tree retains its leaves all through winter, only dropping them when the new leaves unfurl.


Coltsfoot is always the first flower here in our mountains.   Coltsfoot was brought here by early settlers and so is not native.   The flowers come up long before the foliage.  I usually see these yellow flowers emerge in late February.  However, this year snow covered the ground until March 9 when these flowers were photographed. 

 I found this mushroom which was woody, not soft in texture like most mushrooms.  I have no idea what kind it is.
Unlike Coltsfoot, Golden Ragwort leaves are seen most of the winter.  The flowers will not appear until late April or May.

 Kookie and our new dog, little Molly, find the waterfall created by the snow runoff.  They love a warm spring day because they can get outside more.

Toothworts, true native wildflowers, are up with buds so the real Appalachian spring will arrive soon!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Winter Weary!

We have had snow on the ground since Valentine's Day.  I hadn't taken much in the way of photos--winter is not my favorite time of year but I decided I better get out and take a couple of photos before it melts.

 Castle Rock, Pembroke, VA
Last week, I photographed a few of my favorite places in Giles County.  This is Castle Rock on the New River in Pembroke.  At one point, ice covered the river but it is slowly melting.

 Pearis Mountain (on left)

This view of Pearis Mountain is from the top of Guinea Mountain near Eggleston.  On the right side of the photo, Peters Mountain (more than 15 miles away) shows the gas pipeline clearing that goes to Celanese Plant in Narrows.  That pipeline is only 12 inches in diameter.   Locals are fighting a proposed 42" fracked gas pipeline that will go a similar path but crosses 15 miles of the county.  None of the gas will benefit the county and be exported.  There are 5 similar pipelines proposed for the state.

Descending down from the top of Guinea Mountain, I stop to take a photo of our Rye Hollow with Walker Mountain in the background.

Finally, here is a photo of Walker Creek. 

A good sign---3 immature Red-Winged Blackbirds came to our feeder today--the first of many migrating birds I hope.

Stay warm!