8/8/21 Megarhyssa

It was just another day. Way too humid, mosquitos abundant, the forest already feeling like the Ohio river valley swamp jungle it becomes every summer. I was prowling around as usual off the trail, hand pulling invasive Garlic mustard and Stickseed. And then a large, slender insect caught my eye, its shiny wings glittering as it danced around a tall stump. Something long was dangling behind, and when it landed on the stump I realized it was a large ichneumon wasp of a species I’d never seen before.

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7/8/21 Reward

The blogger has been derelict in her blogging duties lately, due to the demands of work, and a little piece of land in the mountains of VA (more on that later). But yesterday’s surprise was too good not to share with you. Though invasive plant management in an urban forest is generally not a gratifying job, it has its moments. And I stumbled upon an unexpected reward while hunting down the invasive vine Porcelainberry at the edge of the forest.

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5/12/21 The Brancher

One evening last week I was fortunate to be there when a baby Barred owl emerged from its cozy nest cavity, deep in an old ash tree. For the owlet, it must be a liberating feeling to see the big world for the first time – but it’s also a time of danger. The parent owls must now be much more vigilant, since their big footed ball of fluff is in no way independent.

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4/29/21 Jack Season

The first bloom of tender spring ephemerals is winding down, but on brushy hillsides where few other wildflowers grow, one tough little plant is coming into its own.

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4/21 spring Journal

Trout lily with native bee, 3/30/21

As always, spring dashes by too fast while this blogger is occupied with such mundane but necessary tasks as cutting and spraying invasive plants. In order to keep posting, I will adopt for now a journal style to at least share with you a smidgeon of the amazing life of this tiny forest.

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3/28/21 Bee Party

The blogger apologizes for the dearth of blog posts lately, but she has been busy with the important work of wildflower revival. Which is of course one of the topics that makes this blog worth writing. The Spring beauty, Claytonia caroliniana wildflowers in the above image were settled into their new home last spring, moved from a place where they had much company to a site that was quite lacking in spring ephemerals.

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2/18/20 Winter Forest

Spicebush grove coated with ice.

It started with frozen rain, encasing every limb in a quarter inch of ice. In the Ohio River valley, such weather events rarely last more than a day or two before temperatures rise again. But this winter is different – more like the ones I remember from childhood, when ponds and streams froze over. Walking in the forest the past few days has been humbling; despite my many layers of warm clothing, I am nowhere near as hardy as the average chickadee.

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1/31 Big Red, Little Blue

As I’ve written many times, this forest is woodpecker heaven. The excavations woodpeckers carry out out on both living and dead trees benefit other cavity nesting birds, Grey squirrels, Flying squirrels, and more. But one species, the Pileated, is a true ecosystem engineer, dismantling entire stumps in its search for Carpenter ants.

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1/11 Made Visible

A thriving understory of Spicebush and native grasses, almost all planted within the last seven years.

Snow fell on the forest three nights ago, heavy wet flakes that snagged on every tiny twig. By morning the forest understory was traced in white, the intricate architecture of limbs revealed in a way it rarely is.

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1/2/21 Lickers and lurkers

Though the winter forest looks bare and uninviting to humans, it’s a haven for avian visitors from the north. Two in particular caught my attention this past week – but it’s doubtful I would noticed them had they not been vocalizing. Both Yellow-bellied sapsuckers and Winter wrens blend very well into their habitat, but also call or sing regularly in winter making them easy to find.

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