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!