I know that many of you who love Ivy Creek are staying home these days and might be missing some of your favorite times of year here. Last week I posted a picture of some Mountain Laurel blooming on the blue trail and mentioned the glorious stands of it along the peninsula trail. Mountain Laurel in late May/early June along the peninsula trail is one of those experiences that one remembers year after year. Bob Gore has made a video for those of you who cannot make it out this year or to inspire those who have never seen it. You can find it here.
And for more about Mountain Laurel, please check out June's Walking With Bess audio tour from Dede Smith. You can find it here. You can use this walk out on the trail or at home and it features the narration of Bess Murray, one of Ivy Creek's early Directors and an inspiring naturalist.
There is a bench at Ivy Creek at the top of the North Field where it connects with the Blue Trail. In the winter you can sit on this bench and look out through the trees to the reservoir. In the summer it is a sweet spot to step out of the heat and into the shade for a respite. Yesterday was damp and cool so I didn't need the shade but I did step onto the Blue Trail to take this picture of the Mountain Laurel that is blooming now. Mountain Laurel is a shrub that likes acidic soil and is an indicator species for Oak-Hickory Forests. In addition to being beautiful, it provides good cover for wildlife. There is quite a lot of Mountain Laurel on the Peninsula Trail but if you only have a short walk in mind, here is one other place to find it.
Just a reminder, as the warm weather settles in and the restrictions around the state begin to loosen, to please continue maintaining a safe distance when on the trails of Ivy Creek.
A pair of Carolina Wrens have been taking advantage of the quiet, empty barn to do what seems to be some nesting. Carolina Wrens are perky little birds with upright tails and strong voices. They also seem not to be terribly shy of nesting near humans. Over the years I have found several nests on my front porches; in old wreaths and once directly over the front door.
The tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera, is often called a tulip poplar or yellow poplar. It is, in fact, a member of the magnolia family and not a poplar. It is another of the easy to identify trees that grow at Ivy Creek, particularly this time of year when it's unmistakable "tulip" flowers are blooming. But even without these showy flowers a tuliptree is recognizable by its tall, straight trunk and it's large leaves. Children love to see the shape of the leaves--which when turned upside down look remarkably like a person's shirt. Our beekeeper, Karen Hall, who has been maintaining the demonstration beehive at Ivy Creek for over 17 years, tells me that the flowers we are starting to see now are a major source of food for honeybees in Virginia. Honeybees are crucial to our food supplies so be thankful for those "poplars".
Barred owls are regular residents of Ivy Creek. I remember warm days in the fall when I would leave the door open to the Education Building and listen to them call from the woods. Their "who cooks for you" call was one of the first bird calls I learned to identify years ago and still makes me stop everytime I hear it. Bob Gore caught this Barred Owl parent taking a quick afternoon nap. Something I imagine home-schooling parents everywhere can relate to these days.
There are several stands of beech trees at Ivy Creek. If you walk along the orange trail or white trails and notice the openness of the forest around you, it is likely that you are walking through a beech forest. Beech forests are a "climax" forest (the stable phase of a forest's development when species are not routinely replaced by new species) here in the Piedmont, slowly replacing oak/hickory forests in this role in some places. Beech trees are easy to recognize. They, like oaks, hold their dead leaves through the winter and into spring. Their smooth, gray bark is irresisitable to some humans. If you find initials or an expression of love carved into the trunk of a tree, it is most likely a beech tree. Their cigar shaped leaf buds are just now opening and it is beautiful to watch. They unfold with the grace of a dancer.
I walk the trails at Ivy Creek every so often to check for downed limbs and/or other possible concerns. Lately this gives me time to reflect especially on the reports I read about the importance of exercise and fresh air for supporting our immune systems as well as the positive effect interacting with nature has on our nervous systems. Studies have shown that just spending a few moments looking at pictures of nature can improve a person's well being.
I did find a tree limb down across the green trail yesterday. I also found two yellow-rumped warblers dancing about in the beech trees and one was kind enough to pose for me. So on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day I hope that this small gesture will bring a smile, some relief to your stress and a moment of reflection on what we still have that continues to sustain us.
Stay safe everyone.
There have been so many beautiful days this spring offering some respite from the challenges and sorrow. Hopefully you are all finding some--whether by sitting near an open window, on a porch, or in a new vegetable garden. I want, again, to thank all who have come to use the trails at Ivy Creek for being careful and respectful of others.
Today was a day for dragonflies and turtles! I also saw a zebra swallowtail as I walked the Red Trail. And the black cohosh is up. This is a favorite of mine as I associate it with one of the first wild places that I ever came to know well. So I greet it as an old friend when I find it in the spring. This one was particularly beautiful against the bank of Martin's Branch.
We had planned to host a special program in April, coinciding with the spring opening of the ICNA Barn to visitors, called A Barn for All Seasons and led by Dan Kulund. In the future we still hope to be able to take visitors on a 2 hour tour of the barn with emphasis on how it would be utilized in the work of those at River View Farm in the time of Conly Greer. Dan's programs will provide specific focus on how the tasks of the farm/barn would reflect the rhythm of each season. While April's gathering is not possible, we do want to share this image of Dan at the barn (taken last year by board member Lorna Werntz) and this snippet of information from Dan.....
One of the first things you see when you visit the barn at Ivy Creek is the big green front door. A big door at the gable end is unique to Dutch-style barns - a gable being the upper triangular area of wall from the roof ridge to the eaves.
Early barn doors were swinging ones, but gusts of wind would damage the hinges. By the early 20th century, however, barns had sliding doors that hung from a rail like the doors of a freight train boxcar. Our barn door is a special combination of a swinging door set in one of two sliding doors. The swinging door lets us slip in-and-out of the barn quickly and easily without having to open the big sliding one.