Monday, March 28, 2016

Turf War

Like so many lawns in the Mid-Atlantic, my back yard has become a war zone - albeit an aesthetically pleasing one.  Some previous occupant of my house planted spring bulbs years ago, and Kali and I continue to enjoy the vernal exuberance of grape hyacinths, daffodils, crocuses, and the delicate blue flowers picture above, chionodoxa or glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa siehei).
More recently, the extremely aggressive non-native buttercup lesser celandine (Ficaria verna) managed to get a foothold in the lawn.  Lesser celandine prefers moist riparian areas, but once it gets established, it will grow in just about any situation.  (Naive visitors used to ask me if they could dig up a few plants to add to their garden; I assented, but always warned the folks that the plant would take over anywhere it was planted.  I suspect that most people now recognize the plant's aggressiveness because I almost never get such requests any more.)

It will be interesting to see if one or the other of these plants will win this slow-motion combat.  I once asked Pennsylvania's premier botanist if celandine really does exclude other plants because it is only a obvious player on the ecological stage for about a month, after which it disappears until next spring.  The botanist assured me that celandine definitely excludes other plants.  Perhaps there's an unseen, subsurface front in this war as well. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Falconry at My Preserve

My preserve partners on programs with a nature center three miles away that focuses on children's environment education.  The nature center only has 10 wooded acres in the middle of suburbia, whereas I have 812 acres and a lot of diverse habitat.
A captivated crowd
Last Sunday afternoon, the nature center sponsored a falconry program in my grasslands.  The falconer brought his Northern Goshawk/Harris' Hawk hybrid (Accipiter gentilis x Parabuteo unicinctus) to my preserve for a flight demonstration and question period.  About thirty of the nature center's members enjoyed the show on the most springlike day of the year so far.  The sky was a cloudless blue and temperatures were in the upper 50s.
Preparing to take flight
Caught in mid-flight
The falconer routinely trains and flies his two raptors in my grassland, so his hawk was familiar with the surroundings.  The bird made two 10-minute flights and put on a good show.
Replacing the bird's hood after the first flight