Thursday, May 5, 2016

Some West Virginia flora and fauna

As has been the case for nearly a dozen years, I'm spending early May down in southern West Virginia, leading field trips for the New River Birding & Nature Festival. Despite some rainy weather today, we're having a great time and seeing LOTS of interesting animals and plants amongst some of the most scenic habitats east of the Mississippi. Put this event on your calendar for next year.

A Swainson's Warbler peeks from a dense rhododendron "hell". Extensive snarls of Great Rhododendron, Rhododendron maximum, grow along mountain streams in this region, and the warblers are locally common. While Swainson's Warbler may be the least distinguished visually of our warblers, they have a wonderful whistled song that is reminiscent of a Louisiana Waterthrush. Because of its rarity, the Swainson's attracts many seekers. Only the Kirtland's Warbler is rarer amongst our eastern warblers.

I found a Brown Creeper nest a few days ago at Cranberry Glades high in the Monongahela National Forest. In this image, the animal is bringing nesting material to place behind the exfoliating bark of this dead yellow birch. The nest entrance is the v-shaped gap by the creeper's tail.

Our group today was pleased to find the Pink Lady's-slipper, Cypripedium acaule, beginning to flower. The high oak-carpeted ridges of Babcock State Park have plenty of these exotic-looking orchids.

An exceptionally showy specimen of Catawba Rosebay, Rhododendron catawbiense, warranted a photo. It was one of four native species of Rhododendron that we saw today.

More later.

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