Brooks Bird Club of WV has a sortie each year for a week round about Memorial Day. This year they went to Panther Wildlife Management Area in McDowell County. This was an opportunity I jumped at because it is down in coal-county and it seemed best to go with a group who knew where to stay and where to visit. The facilities were very nice at the park as you can see below. We stayed in the group camp building where we ate and made plans for each day.
One the side of the building I found these old Dobson fly egg cases. They reminded me of the shell fossils I have found in the eastern panhandle.
We spent mornings on 10 mile bird runs, afternoons and evening on breeding block bird surveys. The Brooks Bird Club is in the middle of a 5 year survey to revised the breeding bird atlas of WV. We also recorded reptiles, amphibians, butterflies, moths, dragonflies and bees that we saw. Another large part of the observation was spent on plants in an attempt to record at least everything we saw blooming. It was like a mini bio blitz. Here are the highlights for me, not in any particular order.
There was a stream along all of the roads with steep mountains in each side and with a little imagination I could believe that if I stood in the stream with my arms outstretched I would be able to touch each side. At one location there was room for only a one lane road yet the traffic went both ways. Below are views of one of the mosses that I found on the dripping outcrops.
Apple moss (Bartramia pomiformis)
One evening back at the camp I found this Gray Petaltail dragonfly resting on the side of the tree. They are very docile and not easily frightened so I was able to get very close for the photo.
A new butterfly for me was Northern Cloudywing – Thorybes pylades. This one I had to catch and then release after identification.
One evening went down the road and briefly stopped at an area where a beaver had made a nice pond. You can see the view of the dam from the road. It was about 4-5 feet high and made a nice place to look for dragonflies.
A Tulip Tree Silk Moth flew in and I took this photo. It is a little blurry because it just wasn’t used to posing. Later another camper interested in insects and I returned to look for bees and dragonflies.
Fire Pink (Silene virginica) isin the Caryophilacea commonly called the pink family. There are two recognized varieties of fire pink. Most plants of this species are classified as Silene virginica virginica var. virginica, however and endemic subspecies occuers in West Virginia called Silene virginica var. roobusta and I believe that is what I have here.
On the way back we found this Snapping Turtle on the side of the road.
The leaves were out and the undergrowth was abundant so actually seeing birds was difficult. Most were just heard and I learned a new way to describe the call of a Swanson’s Warbler: “Sweet, sweet, SISTERSVILLE”. I will be sure to remember it because I grew up near Sistersville, WV. They seemed to prefer the mountain laurels for hiding
Tiger Swallowtails were every where and at time I felt like I was about to trip over them.
The ten mile trips to identify birds began early each morning and for me they were a good way to see the country side before it woke up. We stopped every half mile for a total of 20 stops and listened for 2 minutes.
One trip led us to a community that was raising roosters. You can imagine what the sound was like with each cock sitting atop its home crowing with all its might getting ready for the fight that night. Needless to say we didn’t stop in front of those houses to listen for birds, dogs were on guard and we just moved along, thank you.
Someone gave us the idea to drive up to the fire tower on the abandoned road. Of course we birded and botanized our way up from rut to rut. We had only two trucks so some up had to ride in the back.
The American Toad (Bufo americanus) is a common species in this area. One of the fun things to see an American Toad do is eat. It closes its eyes when it swallows and will readily take a mean worm from your hand it you hold still and the worm wiggles.
It was wonderful trip and I look forward to going on the sortie next year.
Be sure to visit Outdoor Wednesdays for other Outdoor adventures.