Cohort VII Field Tripping

Cohort VII (aka Cohort Zoom) has now completed the indoor portion of our required 40 training hours and the final exam, but the field hours have been hard to come by due to pandemic safety concerns. Now, thanks to our intrepid leader, Peggy Plass, we are finally logging some outdoor hours. Our first field trip of 2021 was incorporated as part of the HMN Warblers & Wildflowers event in early May. Various cohort members attended walks at the different locations. The highlight, other than the fantastic wildflowers and birds, was getting to see some of our classmates without zoom rectangles around their heads and bookshelves in the background. (Click HERE for photos from this event/ trip.)

Our second outing was a hike in Shenandoah National Park on May 12. Jerry Hopkins, Cohort I, led us, including Peggy, on a leisurely 3 mile plus hike down the Rose River from Fisher’s Gap, then up the Hogcamp Branch to Dark Hollow Falls and back to the gap. In addition to sighting some beautiful birds and wildflowers, Jerry filled our brains with many geological, hydrological, and historical facts of the area.

Then five days later, Kathy Byers, Cohort IV, with John Bauman, Cohort VI, led us on a bird walk in Hillandale Park, Harrisonburg. In addition to one or more of us observing 29 species, Kathy passed on much valuable information on best birding practices, binocular tips and bird identification hints. Although the recent resident Eastern Screech-Owl (Red Phase) eluded us, the highlight may have been the spot where we saw Blackburnian Warblers and watched Downy Woodpeckers bring spiders and other nutrition to their young.

To complete our May run of field trips, five of us joined Peggy for a trip to Deep Run Ponds Natural Area Preserve on May 28. Our two plus hour trek through the forest was led by Steve Gaines, Restoration Forester, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Although the trip was under threat of postponement due to rain, for the most part it was simply just cloudy, with the sun even peeking out occasionally. What better weather could we ask for in our search for vernal pools. On the way to Pond No. 5, Steve filled our heads with many facts and tips on tree identification, from American Chestnut to Virginia Pine (2 needles, forming a “V” for Virginia). Although dry a week ago according to Steve, Pond No. 5 was now partially filled with murky water, making it impossible to find any egg masses or other life. Pond No. 6, home of the rare Virginia Sneezeweed, was dry, and no Sneezeweed in bloom to tickle our senses. To return to our cars, Steve led us through a field which was a mecca for ticks and invasive plants. Our biggest surprise there was flushing a Wild Turkey while trying to chase down the smothering Mile-a-minute weed (we did ultimately catch up to it).

Thank you Steve for a fabulous outing and to Peggy for the great series of May field trips.

– Art Fovargue, Cohort VII

Photos by Art.

Photo at top above is from the birding field trip at Hillandale Park on May 17 led by Kathy Byers.

Click on any image below to see the full image and get a slide show of the photos.