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Friday, June 20, 2014

BirdFest 2014!

Learning how we study birds at the banding station
Earlier this month, over 200 people gathered at North Branch Nature Center to celebrate birds for our 3rd annual BirdFest. It all started at 7:00 a.m. with our early-morning bird walk. Participants scoured treetops and dense shrubs, spying dozens of colorful bird species as they busily built nests and searched for food. A pair of Black-billed Cuckoos inspired “ooo’s and aaah’s” as they perched out in the open for all to see. By 8:00 a.m., some of our early morning participants continued to enjoy the sights and sounds of birds while others made their way to the bird banding station to see avian research up close.

The bird banding station was busy with activity as a wide variety of species were captured and studied. Among the highlights was a Pine Warbler, a species that spends much of its time out of sight in treetops, and a first for us at the banding station! Other captures included chickadees, cardinals, a hummingbird, and a Magnolia Warbler!

Chip shows onlookers a Ruby-throated Hummingbird
just before release
The 9:30 a.m. bird walk with Paula Gills crossed paths with the banding station, where visitors continued to enjoy seeing birds up-close. And at the same time, a multitude of activities were beginning at BirdFest central. Kid’s tent; kestrel box building; live raptors; bird carving demo and workshop… all the action began just before 10:00 a.m.

By 11:00 a.m., early morning bird walk participants were enjoying talks about Bald Eagles and bird photography, while kids were excitedly roaming the area around the house as they explored, carved, built and discovered. By 1:15 p.m. the awards ceremony was underway for our drawing and photo contest participants. Over 50 species later, and seemingly in the blink of an eye, BirdFest was done!

Craig and the Red-tailed Hawk
Arts & crafts at the Kid's Tent
Remy carving some chickadees
Building Kestrel Boxes

Thanks so much to all of our presenters, including Allison from Birds of Vermont Museum for hosting the carving workshop, Remy Lary for a great carving demo, Craig from Outreach for Earth Stewardship for the always-popular live raptor show, John Buck and Tom Berriman for their great presentations, Paula Gills for leading the mid-morning bird walk, and everyone else who helped out in so many ways! And of course, thanks to our BirdFest sponsors for their support!

All photos by Eve Bernhard.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Wildflower Wednesday #4

Another Wednesday is upon us, so here is another wildflower update from NBNC. All these pictures were taken today!

Galium (also known as bedstraw) flowers are tiny, at less than 5mm. But there are thousands of them in the fields of NBNC. Later in the season, after the flowers are long gone, we sometimes find caterpillars of the Galium Sphinx Moth feeding on green leaves.

Orange Hawkweed is an attractive but non-native wildflower that can be found scattered throughout the fields at NBNC.

Cow Vetch (also sometimes called Purple Vetch) grows throughout the fields at NBNC. We see the Northern Amber Bumblebee (Bombus borealis) visiting the flowers occasionally. 

Yet another non-native species, Goat's Beard is just starting to open up in the fields.

Coming Attractions:

Milkweed is getting close to flowering... I look forward to it blooming every year... it is a pollinator-magnet!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Amphibian Monitoring: 2014 Season Wrap-up

Thousands of tadpoles and salamander larvae are now happily swimming about vernal pools thanks to the hard work of the dedicated Amphibian Monitoring Program (AMP) volunteers! Over 2 dozen volunteers spent 50 hours patrolling busy roads and helping amphibians get across safely. 

With the coldest March on record, Wood Frog migrations seemed delayed as the snow slowly melted in early April. But by the end of the month, things had warmed considerable and the cold winter had no effect on the timing of Spotted Salamander migration. The ‘big night’ in central Vermont occurred on Earth Day, April 22, and volunteers were out in force to help them as they migrated across roads. Vernal pool breeders continued to migrate for the next several weeks, and we even had volunteers out in early May crossing Spotted Salamanders in East Montpelier. 

Collectively, volunteers monitored 12 road crossings, documenting 10 species of amphibians. Over 500 individual amphibians were moved off the road, including an impressive 136 Spotted Salamanders! The rare Jefferson/Blue-spotted Salamander group was also documented at several locations. Five new crossing sites were located by volunteers in Randolph, Calais, Elmore, Wolcott, and Worcester. Additionally, 35 people attended the 3 trainings offered this year to learn more about amphibian migration and what they could do to help.

While our efforts for the Amphibian Monitoring Program have wrapped up for the year, there will still be amphibians active on roadways during rainy nights for the remainder of the ‘warm’ season. Continue to stay alert for animals on the road and feel free to report your sightings to the Vermont Reptile & Amphibian Atlas

Thanks to all of the AMP's volunteers and supporters for another productive year!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Wildflower Wednesday #3

Yes, it is Friday, but the wildflower photos were all taken on Wednesday, June 11, 2014! They're all still in bloom, along with many others here at North Branch Nature Center.

Dames Rocket is an attractive but invasive flower at NBNC that blooms along the trail near the community garden as well as other spots near the river. Although the blossoms are pretty, be wary about planting it in your home garden because it can easily spread and become out-of-control!

White Clover is one of the few common plants that you can find on a mowed lawn. It is not native, but doesn't seem invasive at NBNC. It can be found on the lawn as well as at the edges of the mowed paths through the field.

Yet another non-native plant, chickweed grows in the field at NBNC and can be recognized by it's distinctive eight white petals.

And rounding out the week is another non-native/invasive plants: Birdsfoot Trefoil.  You can find this species growing in fields, along roadsides, and in other open locations.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Sanctity of Mud: Trekkers Spring 2014

For some people, mud is a thing to be avoided... something that will leave stains on clothing and tracks on the carpet.  It is gross, smelly, and slimy.  When they come to a muddy section of trail they do their best to skirt to the outside and walk around it or maybe, if it is too large, they deem it not worth the risk, turn around and head back from whence they came.  What lies beyond the muddy sign of things remains a mystery left unexplored.  Better to leave it for the more courageous wanderer...

Trekkers in search of good spoon carving wood.

To those of such a persuasion, consider this: what wonders will go unknown if the only path followed is the one most tidy?  What lies just beyond that soupy bit of trail cannot always be seen by staying clean.  Sometimes baptism by mud is the only way to experience the best that this world has to offer.  

Mud may not be the only obstacle.  Sometimes you have to crawl through the brush and get your hands a little dirty.

Trekkers harvesting wild leeks

Maybe it takes a little sweat and determination...

Trekkers cutting wood for spoon carving

The best fires aren't always the quickest or easiest to build...

Building a Leave No Trace fire

Sometimes you have to risk getting a little smoke in your eyes...

Cooking flapjacks over the fire, topped with our homemade syrup!

The quickest way isn't always the best way to do something.  Patience often garners the greatest results...

Boiling sausage in sap then caramelizing over the flames

Of course all of this is easier in the company of like minded individuals...

So go ahead and splash on through those puddles, and push through those brambles.  Drink up all that this amazing world has to offer...

Drinking sap strait from the tree

And dive on in... the mud is fine!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Wildflower Wednesday #2

A new set of flowers for our second installment this spring... the buds of our first flower just burst open for the first time this morning:

Hawthorne trees are scattered throughout the riparian forest between the field and the river, and they are full of white blossoms that have literally just opened today. Their smell can only be described as..... "interesting". You'll have to come smell for yourself while the flowers are fresh!

Few flowers within the field are currently in bloom, but the Redosier Dogwood is still looking quite nice! The brilliant red bark of this small dogwood species makes it a very handsome native species.

Now for a wildflower we're not happy to have... Wild Chervil. This invasive species is currently one of our top priorities to eliminate from the property. It is particularly easy to spot while in bloom. To see how this species can take over, look to the side of I-89 between exits 11 and 12, and you will see miles of Wild Chervil run rampant. Learn more about Wild Chervil.

And our first featured flower of the season that isn't white: the Golden Alexanders. These beautiful flowers can be found at a few locations along the river. Can you spot the small fly visiting the flower in this picture?