Friday, July 15, 2016

A Hike to Bald Knob Area Preserve in Rocky Mount

Recently 15 hardy souls hiked up to the summit of Bald Knob Natural Area Preserve in Rocky Mount. The high temperatures, high humidity and highly likelihood of storms moving in, could not lessen our high hopes of seeing the bloom of the rare Piedmont Fameflower (Phemeranthus piedmontanus). This species is found in only a handful of locations worldwide, and the landscape on which it grows is unique itself. Classified as ‘Piedmont mafic barren’, the exposed rocks are little affected by weather, and the scant soils that result from the weathering process have unique chemical compositions.

Our group, comprised of BRFAL Master Naturalists, Natural Heritage Stewards of DCR, an Ecology and Earth Science teacher as well as other local trail stewards. We enjoyed a view overlooking Rocky Mount and Grassy Hill in the distance, while waiting for the Fameflower to bloom. Although there were vast numbers of plants, they did not seem to get the memo that they were supposed to bloom at midday, so we were lucky to see only a few actually blooming.

Other species that we spotted were the Day Flower, Coral Berry, Prickly Pear, Primrose, Boneset and Black Moss (Grimmia sp) to name but a few.
Because this site has been recently been purchased by DCR (with funding from Land & Water Conservation Fund and  Virginia Land Conservation Foundation) and is now under protection of development, plans in the works to maintain, manage and preserve the existing barrens, woods, grasslands and water resources. We (BRFAL) hope to provide some assistance in these endeavors.

Piedmont Fameflower (not blooming) with a few Prickly Pear

Overlooking Grassy Hill and Rocky Mount
from the summit of Bald Knob Natural Area Preserve

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Everyone is welcome at a picnic

Yet another great article by Charlotte Hubbard:

Over the 4th of July weekend, we were joined by an elegantly slender, bright green reptile who quietly watched us from the rafters of the picnic shelter. The rough green snake (Opheodrys aestivus) made an appropriately dainty appearance, though she stretched almost 30 inches in length. We would not have noticed her had my husband not looked up as the rain began to tap against the shelter’s tin roof.

I call our little visitor she as females tend to be larger, and June through July is egg laying time for this species. Maybe she was looking for a cozy location for her dozen or so eggs. The rough green snake moves slowly and deliberately through the vines and bushes stalking its invertebrate and small amphibian prey, often mimicking the movement of branches swaying in the breeze. This behavior helps the rough green snake become totally one with its surroundings and enables it to be a stealthier predator.

She danced her slow and elegant dance for us as we stood quietly looking up at this vibrant visitor. I was filled with curiosity, wanting to find out all about this beautiful creature. There is plenty to know: great climber, shy and easily stressed, social enough to share nests with other females, one of the few snakes to feast on insects with only an occasional tree frog ( But also there is lots of information out there about how to buy these beautiful reptiles in the pet trade. Unfortunately, this gentle creature is often collected for sale and suffers much stress and mortality in the process.

This encounter with our picnic guest left me wondering how I can promote curiosity about and commitment to our unexpected visitors. How can we as humans move away from an attitude of ownership toward one of stewardship?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

One of our own receives honor from Smith Mountain Lake Association

Dr. Don Kelso has been an active and respected member of the Blue Ridge Foothills and Lakes chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists since the chapter’s founding in 2008.  Amongst many contributions, Don has been a leader in the Save Our Streams (SOS) project.  Don was awarded the Melvin S. Johnston award at the annual SMLA Town Hall meeting by SMLA President, Mr. Pete Lewis.  The following are Pete’s words about Don:

“At SMLA's Annual Town Hall Meeting, this year on March 29th, I had the distinct
pleasure of presenting Don Kelso with our prestigious Melvin S. Johnston
Award. He has been a tireless advocate of SML water quality for many
years. He became involved with Save Our Streams in 2008 and since 2009
has been the main SOS trainer. His never-ending enthusiasm, high energy,
and patience in addressing and teaching about water quality issues are echoed
by those he works with.

Don also developed the protocol that is now used to summarize yearly SOS
data from the VA SOS database. This enables us to look at water quality
trends in the streams we monitor.
He is an active member of the SMLA Lake Council, providing thoughtful and
valuable input on key watershed issues addressed by SMLA.”

Don has been very active in the Blue Ridge, Foothills and Lakes Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists.  He not only provides training to new budding Master Naturalists, he leads field trips as well as leading projects such as the Gills Creek mapping project in the Booker T. Washington National Monument.  He inspires other Master Naturalists to excel. 

Dr. Don is a truly remarkable individual who gives of himself continually – he is very deserving of the Melvin Johnston award.

                    Don Kelso received the Melvin S, Johnson Award from SMLA President, Pete Lewis

Monday, May 9, 2016

Bob Pohlad and Carolyn Thomas Receive Awards

Check out page 29 with Bob Pohlad and Carolyn Thomas receiving an award!!