Life history strategies on display!

This most recent BRDC visitor, a pipevine swallowtail caterpillar, gets its name from its obligate host plant, pipevine. The pipevine (or Dutchman’s pipe) is so named for its unusual lobed flowers that resemble Dutch smoking pipes. While the flowers’ shape makes them an unsuitable food source for adult pipevine swallowtail butterflies, the rest of the plant is essential for this butterfly’s life cycle.  

These reddish-black, orange-spotted larvae feed exclusively on plants within the genus Aristolochia, which contain aristolochia acid, a toxin that the larvae ingest, making them distasteful and poisonous to potential predators. This toxin remains in the caterpillar’s body throughout metamorphosis and adulthood as a defense mechanism. Even the eggs retain this toxin when they are oviposited on the leaves and stems of the pipevine plant, ready to hatch out the next, hungry generation.

Here at BRDC we can currently see three different instars of the pipevine swallowtail caterpillar around the property! 


44th Spring Mount Rogers Naturalist Rally


We couldn’t have asked for better weather for the 44th annual Mount Rogers Spring Naturalist Rally. It seems that more often than not this second weekend in May is nice and rainy, but with just a brief shower Friday evening during registration, the rest of this year’s weekend was warm with partly cloudy to sunny skies.  Friday night’s locally sourced dinner included Lasagna, garlic bread and a nice mix of spring greens and attracted a record crowd which made for a successful fundraiser for the Konnarock community center.

Long time Rally supporter, Allen Boynton, was the keynote speaker and shared his vast array of experiences through the trajectory of his wildlife biology careers with Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. The weekend included several new opportunities including a habitat enhancement project for an important gray’s lily population and the kick off of a long term monitoring project of the red spruce / northern hardwood ecotone on Whitetop Mountain.

As with all of the previous, the 44rd annual Spring Mount Rogers Naturalist Rally would not have been possible without the support of the wonderful guides and other volunteers.  Their hard work and dedication to sharing their knowledge combined with the incredible natural resources of the Mount Rogers area continued the tradition of exploring and celebrating our portion of the Blue Ridge.  

The Trout Population has Increased in Wilson Creek

The Trout Population has Increased in Wilson Creek

Last week was absolutely beautiful and we couldn't have had a better time on Wilson Creek in Grayson County as the 7th grade students of Independence Middle and Grayson Highlands Schools and the 5th grade students of Piney Creek Elementary School released their trout.

The Grayson Bald Eagles are Back!

 One of the pair headed back to the nest across the New River.

One of the pair headed back to the nest across the New River.

The Bald Eagles are back! The Grayson county Bald Eagle nest is active again this year! BRDC staff are happy to report that a pair of Bald Eagles have two nestlings along the New River in Grayson county. The nest site was discovered in 2015 and has been active every year since. Its remote location along the river limits the amount of potential human disturbance and with several juvenile eagles seen around the location over the years it seems that it has been a successful location. Bald Eagles have made a wonderful comeback over the past couple of decades with over 1,000 active nests in Virginia alone.  As a large raptor which specializes in eating fish, most of the known nests are adjacent to the Virginia coast and along the Chesapeake Bay. The Grayson county nest is one of only a handful that are known to be active within the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

The United States national emblem since 1782, the bald eagle was listed as endangered in 1967. This iconic bird was finally delisted in 2007, however, the species is still under protection through the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. These acts prohibit the "take, possession, sale, purchase, barter, etc of eagles dead or alive."

The photographs with this blog were taken from a distance with a powerful telephoto lens to avoid disturbing the pair and their chicks.

Bald Eagle.jpg
 Back on the nest with the two nestlings

Back on the nest with the two nestlings