Saturday, June 27, 2020

Annual 2020 Virginia Herpetological Society count of Amphibians and Reptiles

Turtle from Ivy Creek
Today my husband and I participated in the Virginia Herpetological Society annual count. Because of the coronavirus, the normal group teams were not organized and citizens were asked to sign up to count amphibians and reptiles for one day.

Fowler's Toad from our pool
We began our day by rescuing an American Toad and Fowler's Toad from our swimming pool. I also saw a baby toad nearby. Waking early to drive a few miles to Ivy Creek Natural Area to take a short hike down to the reservoir area. We were delighted to see several types of turtles and a lovely blue Heron as we made our way through the forest.

In the very back most remote area of Ivy Creek
After getting lost and accidentally hiking the entire length of Ivy Creek Natural Area, we finally arrived home several hours later exhausted, thirsty, and hungry. We were totally unprepared for a long hike, thinking we knew the trails we had hiked many times. Only 1/2 bottle water, no food, no sunscreen. At least we were deep in the shaded woods and had brought homemade insect repellent and hats!

Anthony said this was the money shot. The Great Blue Heron
But all ended well as we heard and saw many more creatures than expected. We didn't find any snakes, which is what I anticipated. I've only seen one painted turtle at our house in 10 years so were so was thrilled to see so many and different types of turtles, some massive.

Can you find the turtle?
We will end the day listening for frog calls from our deck as we have a pond located in our backyard at the bottom of our hill on Forsythia Hill. This time of year we heard the Gray Tree Frog around our house and hope to hear pond frogs or toads tonight.

Little Hackberry Emperior Butterfly (thanks Terri K for id)
We were fortunate to take a Toad and Frog class at Ivy Creek Natural Area many years ago which helps us identify. I go to the Virginia Herpetological Society website often to try and look up something I've heard or seen. It's a great site with calls and many photos to help you identify. Today so far we've identified 10 species.

~Rebecca

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Plants and Birds at Ivy Creek Nature Center in the Spring

When moving into our house from out of town, we had no idea that a nature center was just a few miles down the road! Over the last 10 years we have watched Ivy Creek Nature Center add programs and develop its property (in a good way). Over the years they have restored a massive barn that is used for educational programs while also preserving the history of the property. They also have added a monster bird feeding station which entices so much wildlife. They have been broading the native plant area and now have a Butterfly Garden. Plants have begun to fill in and mature, giving a pretty show throughout the growing season.

Annual plant sale normally attracts tons of buyers
Various local groups meet year round in the Education Center and the annual native plant sale is housed in the barn. Unfortunately, the coronavirus has put a halt to meetings and lectures. The plant sale hosted by Jefferson Chapter of the Native Plant Society has been postponed to the Fall due to the coronavirus.

Sweet male bluebird on top of a feeding pole
Last week we strolled around the bird feeding area and native plant beds. It was so nice to sit on a bench and watch the numerous birds. Cardinals, White-throated Sparrows, a few woodpecker species, bluebirds and other birds flew in and out. Squirrels and rabbits were also hopping around trying to get dropped food.

As you walk past the bird feeding station toward the Education Center, pathways are loaded with established native spring ephemerals, trees, and shrubs. If you continue to follow the path toward the open field to the right of the barn, you will find the more recently planted Butterfly Garden. Most plants are uncommon as native plants are not as widely sold by most nurseries but over the last several years there has been a mind change to plant natives to revive and attract wildlife. More nurseries are offering native plants and a relatively new nursery has opened in our neck of the woods, Hummingbird Hill Native Plant Nursery. It's located 20 miles from downtown Charlottesville in Free Union.

I feel the need to acquire some Golden Ragwort!
We usually walk the trails at Ivy Creek but it was my birthday and I wanted to take a quick drive over to monitor the Spring bloom of the plants. I actually found it quite relaxing to just sit and watch the birds and research the native plants using the provided identification guide. I realized it's a great spot for someone with a disability that can't hike or walk a long distances. One day I'm going to take a picnic as there are limitless great spots.

Go visit and consider making a donation online as funds must be diminishing now due to the stoppage of most programs.

~Rebecca




Saturday, April 18, 2020

Historic Garden Week in Virginia - 2020 Coronavirus edition - Visit the Gardens ONLINE!

2015 tour in Richmond at Tuckahoe Plantation
If you have followed my writing over the years, you will know that I blog about the amazing annual garden tour that takes place throughout the state of Virginia. This week long tour is organized by the Garden Club of Virginia, an organization that is celebrating their centennial this year!

2012 Garden Week, a lovely home in Ashland
I always pre-select the city that I will visit based on the detailed description in the Historic Garden Week of Virginia tour book. You can still dowload them online and you might be able to snag one in your area if you are lucky to find a distribution location up and running. It's a Spring publication that describes historic and private gardens that are scheduled to be on the tour.

Flower cart 2014 Garden Week in Lexington
Due to the coronavirus the week long tour has been cancelled but I just received notice that the event organizers will be hosting week long Facebook and Instagram video presentations beginning today, April 18, 2020 through April 25, 2020. They will periodically post videos on their sites throughout the day. Some history, flower arranging, gardens, and a little preview of gardens to come during the hopefully - back on again 2021 tour.


It's a very popular event and people travel even from outside our state to celebrate Spring in Virginia. A lot of planning goes into preparing homes and gardens for the thousands of visitors. It's quite sad the event has been cancelled but it's nice to know we can catch a glimpse online. You may be able to see posts on Instagram even if you don't have an account. Click on the links above and give it a try.

I've reposted a few of my favorite photos from past tours. Enjoy!

~Rebecca

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