Exploring Cumberland Knob

BRDC Cumberland Knob field trip, May 26th, 2010
Front row (L-R): Eric Pratt, Jacob Pratt, Ben Pratt, Molly Widener, Filson Williams, Krista Shaw
Middle row (L-R): Matthew Rose, Abigail Williams, Cassidy Williams, Claire Gleason, India Williams, Alli Worrell
Back row (L-R): Michael Rose, Bill Perkins, Dr. Bob Perkins, Scott Jackson-Ricketts, Jason Shaw

Coordinating with Lisa Shaw, Southwest Virginia Home Educators Administrator, BRDC conducted a field trip at Cumberland Knob from 9AM until noon. Fifteen kids strong, with several parents, broke into two groups and hit the trail. Guiding for BRDC were Robert Perkins and Scott Jackson-Ricketts. Bob brought his brother Bill along, who helped keep an eye on the scramble into the woods.
Cumberland knob has a 2½ mile loop trail, and though we did not traverse it entirely, one group headed uphill and one down, with paying attention to all that was seen or heard on the agenda.

Hardly a log or rock went unturned, (and all were replaced), as we searched for hiding creatures, various forms of fungi, any evidence of former or current inhabitants, various seed pods, and such. We compared ground cover in opened-up areas to full canopy, stages of rotting logs, the visible differences based on slope orientation, and habitat in general. There were opportunities to discover the basics of camouflage, mimicry, and other techniques of survival.

It was noted that not long after nine, birdsong began to drop off in volume and intensity on the edges around the big field. But the deeper we went into the woods, the more we heard, causing us to wonder if the woodland birds were more active later in the day…perhaps because the morning light was just finding its way into some of the denser parts.

I assigned one young person in each group to be the keeper of the list. Following are those documents:

Claire Gleason recorded the birds seen for Bob’s group:

  • brown thrasher
  • red-eyed vireo
  • American robin
  • blue jay
  • wood thrush
  • blue-gray gnatcatcher
  • white-breasted nuthatch
  • American crow
  • pileated woodpecker
  • scarlet tanager
  • black vulture
  • blue-headed vireo

Bob added (though all were not seen or heard by the entire group):

  • oven bird
  • cedar waxwing
  • great-crested flycatcher
  • tufted titmouse,

    ...as well as these butterflies:

  • Eastern tiger swallowtail
  • cabbage white
  • red-spotted purple
  • silver-spotted skipper
Scott’s team assigned Michael Rose who recorded the following in order of appearance:

  • red-eyed vireo
  • turkey vulture
  • black vulture
  • wood thrush
  • brown thrasher
  • white-breasted nuthatch
  • blue bird
  • chickadee
  • ovenbird
  • sapsucker*
  • scarlet tanager
  • black & white warbler
  • American robin
  • Northern cardinal
  • red-bellied woodpecker
  • red-spotted purple butterfly

*I don’t recall this, but we did discuss the evidence of the sap wells

And Scott adds:

  • American toad
  • slug
  • brown-hooded cockroach
  • flat-backed millipede (everywhere along the trail)
  • bold jumping spider
  • some kind of woodland grasshopper
  • robber fly that mimicked a bee or wasp
  • wood boring beetle of some kind
  • mouse or vole (I did not see it)
  • monarch or viceroy butterfly
The grand finale was Terry Gleason’s copperhead find. Though our group had already assembled at the picnic tables to begin our sketches and field notes, when alerted to this news we all ran back into the woods. The evidence of the impression this snake had on the crowd is self-evident.
Sunning itself about 20 feet off the path on the fat end of a fallen tree, it seemed quite unaware of us, thus providing everyone the opportunity to get a long studied look.

As we prepared to disperse a little after noon, we agreed to plan a fall butterfly and insect foray for the home schoolers. When the date and place are finalized, we will let everyone know. Many many thanks go to Lisa Shaw for helping BRDC put this together, as well as Bob and Bill for the guiding efforts. And finally, a big round of applause go to Claire and Michael for keeping the lists.

-Scott Jackson-Ricketts