Late July Events and Outreach

The last weekend of July was packed with BRDC activity. 

On Thursday, the 24th, Scott offered an aquatic survey for nearly 20 kids from the Mount Rogers Youth Services, a collaboration through the Grayson County 4-H led by Erin Farmer, and the Grayson County Recreation Department.  We gathered at the famous falls on Power House Road, just across and down the street from the Rec Park.  For ninety minutes the kids collected various stream critters, with one group of boys especially devoted to finding every crayfish possible. 

We looked at stone and mayflies under the microscopes, while others were catching minnows and several fly larvae species.  All of the critters were arrayed in the ice trays for further study and comparison.  Time allowing, we also discussed the amazing diversity of aquatic life and how that speaks to the relative health of the stream.

On Friday, Sarah Osborne, Brenda Bonk and Debbie Greif held down the BRDC fort at the Independence Farmers Market…offering a hands-on program based on trees and leaves…with fun crafts and lively discussions.

Meanwhile, Scott and Andrea Langston were setting up the BRDC/New River Land Trust booth at the 13th annual Floyd Fest for a commitment of three days on site serving the interests and energy of kids inside the ‘Children’s Universe’ zone.  This zone was unique in being set off from the hustle and bustle of the Floyd Fest, intentionally giving kids and their families a special place for specific kid events and activities.  Central to the zone was a stage set up to offer a variety of presentations, music, open mike, and other crowd pleasers.  Each of the three days, Andrea and I were responsible for a staged workshop oriented to outdoor education.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries booth was adjacent to ours.  JD Kleopfer, state herpetologist, shared his booth with Kimberly Terrell, hellbender specialist from the Smithsonian Institution. They specialized in live salamanders, a model of a hellbender, and a fantastic collection of turtle shells.  This was a nice fit for BRDC/NRLT as we had a live box turtle and a tank of aquatic animals for the kids to view…including a small bull frog.  Our combined booths were a big hit.

For our stage presentation on Friday, Andrea and I offered ‘art in nature’ with a focus on using field guides as inspiring model material for sketching.  We instructed the kids to either draw inside of a small circle for creating take-home buttons, or decorating post cards to be sent from and in celebration of the event. 

On Saturday our presentation centered around our aquatic tank, macro invertebrates, microscope use, and of course, the box turtle.  Kimberly was kind enough to join us on stage with her salamanders, and two of the kids, who had become our constant companions, brought recently caught earthworms for a hungry turtle demonstration.

Sunday’s stage presentation offered both owl pellet dissection and bird parts to handle and compare.  Wings, skulls and talons from a variety of mostly raptors were passed around, while other kids poked through animal remains details found within barn owl pellets.  This was a nice finale to a long weekend, well worth the time and effort.  Andrea and I estimated we served 200 kids over the 3 days, most of them between the ages of 3 and 13.  Many parents took appreciative notice of our work and promised to be ambassadors to our collective cause of connecting kids to their outdoor treasures.

Also on Saturday evening, at the Matthews State Forest, Dr. Robert Perkins conducted a ‘Moth Night’ survey on behalf of BRDC and the Blue Ridge Birders.  Following is his report:

For the 10 participants in Moth Night, the evening began with rain and a slow start. Beetles—lightning beetles of undetermined species, click beetles of undetermined species, at least one carrion beetle (Nicrophorus sp), several rove beetles of undetermined species, and a bunch of Cyclocephala borealis (a species of scarab beetle)—appeared first. Later a mayfly, a medium-sized stonefly, and several caddisflies joined the party. Moths were scarce. The final list included Nais Tiger (Apantesis nais), Tuliptree Silkmoth (Callosamia angulifera), Skiff Moth (Prolimacodes badia), Bent-line Gray (Iridopsis larvaria), Texas Mocis (Mocis texans), a Pyraustid of undetermined species, and a tiny micro in the Schreckensteinia genus.

Had more people signed up for Roald Kirby’s summer expedition, also on Saturday, BRDC would have led a field trip to the Channels.  Roald is hoping to reschedule. 

What all of this clearly exemplifies is the breadth of Blue Ridge Discovery Center’s educational outreach, and our currency within the Blue Ridge communities.  Please stay tuned as we move into the fall season and resume our work with school age kids and their sponsors.

Scott Jackson-Ricketts