On Saturday, March 25th, the current Headwaters Master Naturalist Training Class met at Buckhorn Inn for a scouting field trip of part of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Forest Trails Loop of the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail, which they are adopting as their class project.
We had a chance to look around Buckhorn Inn with the owner, and learn a little of its history over 200 years as a wayside inn, gambling hall and Civil War hospital. Lynn Cameron, of Friends of Shenandoah Mountain, spoke to us on their proposal for Scenic Area designation, embedded wilderness, and multiple use, supported by many diverse stakeholders. She highlighted Shenandoah Mountain as a world biodiversity hotspot, the largest roadless area east of the Mississippi, the only dark skies designated on the east coast. She also clarified that all the current management activities and access stay the same with scenic area designation, although mining and drilling would not be permitted. We carpooled west…
Our first site visit was Braley Pond, where we undertook a short Bioblitz, with each person assigned a particular aspect of interest, from mosses to raptors to people and amenities. We were also all tuned in to herpetofauna, as prompted by DGIF, for inclusion in the iNaturalist Virginia Wildlife Mapping Project. Rainbow trout had recently been stocked at Braley, so there were lots of happy anglers there, armed with powerbait. Braley Pond site was the first to be adopted, by new HMN Barbara Phillips.
We moved on to Ramsey’s Draft, where we split into three groups to honor the wilderness requirements of no more than 10 people in a group. Kate Guenther took a group on one trail to explore Bird Language. Lynn Cameron’s group was on a wildflower hunt (lots of hepatica blooming), and my group fished up macroinvertebrates (stonefly, hellgrammite, mayflies) while looking for brook trout, and attempting to “match the hatch” of caddisflies with a tied fly. No bait is allowed at Ramsey’s Draft for the native brook trout. Ramsey’s Draft has been adopted by Dave Wendelken.
Last stop, at the top of Shenandoah Mountain, Confederate Breastworks Trail, a jaunt on the trail, with a sound map, a toast of water pure to public lands and service, a little trash picked up, and return to Buckhorn. The observation bioblitz formed the background canvas for the first monitoring of the Forest Trails Loop of the Birding and Wildlife Trail, with six of the seven sites adopted through the class so far. And this trip was a delightful day of getting to know each other better!
Monitoring the Birding and Wildlife Trails (North River Loop, and now Forest Trails Loop), gives us an excellent opportunity to really get to know our public lands, to share the experience with others on regular monitoring trips, to get better at ID and using eBird and iNaturalist to contribute to citizen science online.
This is the assembly of life that took a billion years to evolve… Biodiversity is the key to the maintenance of the world as we know it… it is the property that makes resilience possible…it holds the world steady… it can be eroded away fragment by fragment. – E.O. Wilson
– Sandy Greene, Cohort I, March 2017
All photos by Deb Pugh, Cohort V
Photo at top is of Jan Worthy on the porch of Buckhorn Inn. Second photo above is of group gathered at Braley Pond.