Joy Ranch field trip

Today, BRDC brought six young people, one mom and one staff member to the Music Center, and/or Fisher's Peak along the Blue Ridge Parkway for a walk in the park.  Through our Avian Adventures Program we aimed to hear and find birds, who are winding down their typical territorial and breeding behavior, yet we managed to find indigo buntings, red-eyed vireo, field sparrows, a broad winged hawk and hooded warbler. 

Along the trail, which passed through the woods but also clung to the edges of a field, we paid attention to details of our wet summer.  Along with birds, we found several other interesting features, including this snail.

The evidence of birds and their actions on the landscape were illustrated by the combination of our continuing loss of the hemlocks through the wooly adelgid's impact, (, and our fungal and local woodpeckers' natural response through their exploitation of vegetable matter and insects that colonize a dying and dead tree.

From time to time, we paused to listen to the few birds that were still singing, and Eric Harrold (program director) offered informed descriptions of our surroundings and ecological connections.  He pointed out the

categories based upon public land use, from one extreme of 'look but don't touch' to the other of hunting and fishing.  The Blue Ridge Parkway is under the domain of our National Park Service, and differs from the State Parks and the Virginia Dept. of Conservation and Recreation, which employs Eric.   

As we began our return trek to the parking area, our view offered a comparison of wetlands easily distinguished from the drier field grasses surrounding them.

These ecologically important systems offer a special abundance of a different variety of species both plant and animal.  We marveled at the difference water makes, within such a relatively small area.

Here are two pictures of insects encountered along the way:

 The dragon-fly is the common white-tail, not sure about the beetles. 

And, finally, here is the crew!  Thanks to the Matthews Foundation and Joy Ranch for another fun morning of discovery.

Scott Jackson-Ricketts

President, BRDC