by Harry Glasgow
On the last Sunday of every month, the Prince William Conservation Alliance sponsors a nature walk at the Merrimac Farm Wildlife Management Area in Nokesville. This morning, we walked this very beautiful remote property and tallied 38 species.
Of particular interest were Warblers. We found an abundance of Prairie Warblers, and what could almost be called a flock of Hooded Warblers along the area’s Cedar Run Trail, which provided the greatest concentration.
A Louisiana Waterthrush, one of the Hooded Warblers, and the Magnolia provided the best views, while the others were heard rather than seen.
White-eyed Vireos were very plentiful, as were Red-eyed Vireos, Barred owls, and even a few Wood Thrushes. It was a beautifully cool and bright morning for a walk deep in the woods. The full list is below the fold and the preliminary bird list for Merrimac Farm is online here. Read more…
This year’s annual Bluebell Festival at Merrimac Farm (and my first) on April 15, turned out to be a great experience even though the famous bluebells were past their peak due to the unseasonably warm weather. As such, there was a greater focus on wildlife and history.
Several hundred participants, including many families with children, arrived in a steady stream throughout the day. Once greeters mentioned that Alvin the albino corn snake was available for petting, the children made a direct beeline for his enclosure.
“I got to hold him. He’s cool!” said 7-year-old Jason. Dad nodded in agreement, but Mom wasn’t so enthusiastic. Read more…
Spring is here a little early and Prince William Conservation Alliance members kicked it off with another fun and productive volunteer work day at the Merrimac Farm landscape conservation project and the Stone House.
Last Saturday (3/10/2012), volunteers tore down the old fascia boards on the front porch of the house and put up new fascia. New rain gutters were also installed.
In the back in the conservation project, trenches were dug for the corrugated flex pipe that was laid to connect the two rain barrels that were set up; there will be a third rain barrel installed in the coming weeks. The water collected in the rain barrels will be used to water the plantings in the landscape project.
The native plants that were planted last October easily survived the mild winter. Serviceberry, coneflower, wild ginger and columbine are already sending out new green shoots. During the course of the work, a bald eagle was spotted conducting a flyover of the farm. Read more…
Together a team of nearly 30 volunteers recorded 81 species at the Nokesville Christmas Bird Count on December 26 2011 (species list below the fold). Previous counts ranged from 82 species in 2008 to 86 species in 2009.
Some species seen previous years were noticeably absent, including Red-breasted Nuthatches, Purple Finches, Horned Larks and Bobwhite. Sadly the Brewers Blackbirds, known to frequent a farm on Fleetwood, were nowhere in sight.
Highlights of the day include 12 bald eagles seen at the Prince William County landfill. The Bald Eagles were watching/hunting the 1000+ gulls, mostly ring-billed, foraging through uncovered trash. One Raven was also seen at the landfill, with 2 others at MCB Quantico and 2 in Fauquier County.
A Screech Owl was in Fauquier County along with Barred Owls, which were also seen at Merrimac Farm. Woodcock were seen at MCB Quantico and in Fauquier County. There were many Eastern Bluebirds, with an impressive flock of 50+ at the Rte 234 Wetland Mitigation Area. Read more…
Merrimac Farm a model for homeowners to emulate
In my last blog, I explained how going native – homeowners using native plants to replace some or all of their lawn – was beneficial to the environment, and listed a couple of web sites with ideas to help them get started.
Today’s focus is on a program right here in Prince William County that can provide homeowners with information, ideas, and hands-on experience in working with native plants.
Prince William Conservation Alliance has begun a conservation landscape project at Merrimac Farm, a 302-acre Wildlife Management Area located in Nokesville. It includes more than 100 acres of contiguous wetlands protected by 200 acres of hardwood forests and upland meadows, at the headwaters of the Occoquan Reservoir.
Yesterday (9/24), more than a dozen enthusiastic volunteers gathered for a work day to spread compost in preparation for the first planting day on October 15. Read more…
If you have seen a pale green, almost translucent insect with golden eyes, either flying around or perched on a leaf, it’s probably a Green Lacewing. These delicate creatures are harmless, but their larvae are voracious predators, devouring soft-bodied pests such as mealy bugs, scale, spider mites, caterpillars, whitefly, leafhoppers, pest eggs and aphids.
The female lays 200 or more eggs on a plant leaf and stem, each suspended on a hair-like stalk. After several days, the eggs hatch, and the larvae feed insatiably on insect pests. One lacewing larva can eat as many as 600 aphids during the 1 to 4 weeks before it pupates. After about 5 days in the pupal stage, an adult lacewing emerges. The Green Lacewing in this photo was found at Merrimac Farm.
You can help create an environment where lacewings thrive. A garden with flowers will attract adults, who survive primarily on nectar and pollen. Lacewings like high humidity, which is the norm for our Virginia summers. They also need a place to overwinter, under loose mulch, leaf litter or under rocks. As you can see, you don’t have to do much to provide the proper habitat for the Green Lacewing, and you will be amply rewarded with a natural solution to your insect pest problem.
Today I completed my second monthly “Four Hour Walk” which is like the popular photowalk, but I’m by myself instead of with a group of photographers and I’m in a wildlife management area, Merrimac Farm, instead of in a city or town. Hurricane Irene had passed through the area during the night, so I wasn’t sure if I would find any damage or flooding. Fortunately there was none of either.
My last Four Hour Walk was so much fun that I have decided to make it a monthly exercise. This second time turned out to be somewhat frustrating, but fun none the less. I had decided to take a four foot computer controlled camera slider along with three cameras, tripod, video monitor, and my regular bag of lenses and accessories. Dumb.
Walking through the woods with this much gear makes it all but impossible to get shots of birds and other animals during the fleeting seconds that they stay in range. I missed getting a shot of a beautiful Great Blue Heron as well as a small herd of white tail deer.
More frustrating was all the goldfinches. The area around the Stone House is known for always having a lot of songbirds around. (Can you imagine how great it will be when the Conservation Landscape Project is completed?) Today it must have been goldfinch day. With all of the thistles in full bloom, the birds were plentiful and active. So why is the only photo I have of them the poor image above? Read more…
I had to return to Merrimac Farm on Monday morning to re-shoot some video that I had made on Sunday morning that I wasn’t too happy with. As you probably know, it was another 90 degree plus day and I wasn’t as enthused as I normally am to go over to the refuge, but I didn’t want to delay the project, so I went.
I got there at about 10:00 and set up my gear. As with most nature/wildlife photography, there is a lot of waiting for something to happen. This is usually followed by a brief period of intense activity; followed by more waiting. As I waited for my subjects, I started to realize the weather wasn’t too bad. In fact it was a heck of a lot better sitting here in the woods than in my air conditioned office where I was supposed to be.
I had managed to set up in a small patch of shade and there was a breeze – light and occasional, but a breeze. It wasn’t really too bad at all. There was a nice stream of cotton candy like clouds floating by above and the air was full of the sounds of birds and insects all around me. (For some reason the song Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah kept popping into my head….) I started to think that maybe I should spend a little more time there than I had planned. Read more…
The sky was clear and temperatures were in the low 80′s for the end of the month wildlife survey at Merrimac Farm on Sunday, July 31. A half dozen people toured mostly upland habitats and we were interested to see that flowering plants are beginning to shift from summer to fall blooming species.
Purple-headed Sneezeweed, Blue Mist Flower, Rose Pinks, and Queen Anne’s Lace were plentiful and in full bloom. Several species of Goldenrod are about to light up fields and forest edges, and the Bonesets won’t be far behind.
We had an exciting start to the morning when we spotted a gang of Wild Turkeys along the road to the Stone House. We counted about 20, and close to half of these were babies. Over the course of the morning, we sighted 31 different birds and 15 species of butterflies… the full list is included below the fold.
Planning a visit to Merrimac Farm with friends or family? Before you go, check out our group photo site here to see what wildlife others have seen recently as well as our bird and butterfly lists for Merrimac Farm. Please join us for our next nature walk at Merrimac Farm on Sunday,August 28, beginning at 8:00 am. It’s a great way to learn more about this great natural area and local wildlife. Read more…