I caught a tender moment yesterday just outside the Education Building.
At Ivy Creek, we are deeply committed to the process of experiential learning that happens when people are together in person with an expert. We hope to be able to safely offer guided tours and programs to you in the future. It is who we are and what we love. In the meantime, we are feeling creative and are adding a series of virtual tours to our repertoire of ways to share information with you. These virtual tours are a tool for the times and we are excited about them. The latest tour focuses on ICNA's magical pollinator garden and will "walk" you through a handful of the plants that you can find there. Download the free app and walk the tour on your own at Ivy Creek or "walk" it from home. This is the first in a series of tours that we call Plants of the Ivy Creek Natural Area and that share knowledge from some of our learned naturalists. You can find all the audio tours for Ivy Creek at this link. To access the Pollinator Garden tour, click on Plants of the Ivy Creek Natural Area.
I was recently talking with a friend about dragonfly larvae so I had dragonflies on my mind as I walked the red/brown trail today. I don't know a great deal about these beautiful creatures but I find them captivating. They spend the majority of their lives in water as nymphs (up to four years) and only a brief time as adult dragonflies (up to six months). They are voracious predators in both stages. This dragonfly decided to stop and pose for me along the field. I always have to use a guide to identify dragonflies and this one had me perplexed. The body seems very much to be a female common whitetail but the wings are for the male of the species (which has a very distinctive white abdomen). This led to an enjoyable journey to discover that there is an immature stage of the male's development when they have the body markings of a female but the wings are distinctively male. So I believe this is an immature male common whitetail dragonfly. I stand ready to be corrected and learn from my mistakes if there is an expert out there who has a more accurate identification. Either way, I hope this dragonfly is making the most of it's brief moment in the sun.
Dan Nissen found this female box turtle laying her eggs in the Quiet Area a few days ago. She is excavating a shallow nest with her hind legs and will lay between 3-8 eggs which will hopefully hatch sometime later this summer or early fall. Sometimes the hatchlings will overwinter still in the nest. Just another reminder to us all to remember the life that is trying to survive under our feet. This turtle had a guardian angel in Dan who was able to alert the wonderful CATS volunteers mulching the trees in the area (THANK YOU!!) and not only were the eggs protected from being stepped on but got a little extra layer of mulch protection. It takes a village!
Visitors to Ivy Creek will find new interpretations in our kiosk as of yesterday. These panels are a first step towards a formal interpretation which we hope to begin after determination is made on the application for Historic Register for River View Farm. We are excited to take this small step forward and to share the stories in these panels with visitors to Ivy Creek. My heartfelt thanks go out to the dedicated board members who became a construction crew in order to turn a vision in my head into a reality. Most particularly, thank you to Keith Woodard for not only donating the structure to ICNA but to spearheading the nuts and bolts of the physical installation of the panels. Please stop by and have a look.
Before it was a natural area, the land that is now Ivy Creek was a farm. An original 58 acres was purchased by Hugh Carr in 1870 and expanded by him and his family over time. The Carr/Greer family was part of the larger Union Ridge community and played influential roles locally in the areas of education and agriculture. Greer Elementary School is named for Hugh Carr's daughter Mary Carr Greer in recognition of her efforts as an educator. Mary's husband, Conly Greer, was the first African American extension agent for Albemarle County and built a demonstration barn in the 1930s that Ivy Creek still uses today. Normally this barn would be open for portions of the weekend for visitors to learn about the contributions of this family and their importance in local history. We are sorry that we are not able to do this at the moment but look forward to when we can reopen that space.
In the meantime, for more information on the Carr/Greer family, please visit the River View Farm section of the Ivy Creek website. To watch the shaping of River View Farm over time, visit the storymapping section of our website.
Ivy Creek is blessed to have many talented people willing to be generous with their time and knowledge on our behalf. Mike Scott's Butterfly Walks have been a popular summer program over the years at Ivy Creek and I know it is sad for many of us to miss this year's June walk. In honor of them, here is a lovely photograph from Diana Foster of two Silvery Checkerspots mating on a wingstem plant at ICNA. Now is a good time to have your eye out for butterflies and, if you want some help with identifying them, please feel free to use this guide that Mike created for us to share.
A few days ago I shared a picture of a monarch caterpillar on a milkweed plant. Yesterday I was in the Butterfly Garden and found a milkweed in bloom doing it's job of attracting several pollinators at once. Clearly this plant deserves its place in the garden. To learn more about the milkweed plant, listen to Bess Murray's description at the Natural History Audio page on our website. We have a collection of Bess's 5 minute audios about a variety of subjects available there. After you listen about milkweed, you can listen about caterpillars, or hear why it is so important to protect our wild spaces while you learn about the early days of the ICNA fields. These audios are a precious re-visiting for those of us who remember them from the 1990s. But they are a timeless treasure for anyone.
I was walking early Friday morning on the school trail and had the luck to find a family of deer who didn't mind me being nearby. And one who was quite willing to pose for me.
The school trail is the one trail (other than portions of the paved trail) where we have labelled plants along the way for you. This trail has over 30 trees that are identified along the walk which makes it an ideal walk if you want to learn about trees, test your current knowledge and/or engage children along the way. You can find a downloadable list of the trees on our website with some information about each one. You can let children watch for the labels or look for the individual tree and try to notice the different bark, leaves, flowers or nuts that might be evident. You can also make your own scavenger hunts for along the walk. Ivy Creek used to be a farm and there are several places along the school trail where evidence of this is obvious. How many can you find?
The school trail, like most of our trails, winds in and out of several habitats that you can talk about with children. You pass through the south field on the way to the trailhead then head into the woods. There are portions of the trail that take you past and over a stream. And you end up near the barn where there is edge habitat.
It is also, as I found yesterday morning, pleasant just to walk with no intention but to see what you will find on or near the trail.
Bob Gore has once again gifted us with a treasure. This time he has caught, on video, the young pileated woodpeckers being fed. You can see them here. Thank you Bob for generously sharing your talents with us.