Tuesday, May 15, 2018

New BRFAL Graduating Class!

Congratulations are in order for our new BRFAL graduating class.  Their graduation was feted on April 28 at Sontag Park near Rocky Mount.  Fifteen eager students completed a two-and-a-half month course focused on nature themes over eight weekday evenings and three Saturdays. As part of the course, 15 instructors presented materials on general ecology; herpetology; mammalogy; entomology; lake and stream ecology; ichthyology; plants and wildflowers; ornithology; dendrology and forest management; weather; and geology, soils, and geomorphology.  Lots of good food was provided and a good time was had by all.

2018 BRFAL Graduation Class

Back row, from left, Jennifer Helms, Karen Rasmussen, Bob Rasmussen, Geoff Orth (Training Coordinator), Steve Gardner, Becky Frauen, Terry Lovell

Front row, from left, Dorian Albano, Bob St. John, Marcia St. John, Shearer Rumsey, Larry Deal

Not pictured, Frances Lash, Lane Cook, Kathy Williams, Cathy Logue

Saturday, May 5, 2018


While casually looking over the pasture where my two donkeys reside and enjoying seeing the new spring growth on the trees and suddenly warm (hot) temperature of the season,  I noticed one of the donkeys mesmerized by something down by the stream. Even when I put on my boots and walked down to see what the attraction was, no amount of calling was going to distract this donkey from its focus. When I got close enough to see what ‘it’ was, I was shocked to find a huge snapping turtle, Chelydra serpentine. I ran back up the hill, lickity split to grab a camera and measuring stick.

Their genus name, Chelydra is derived from the Greek word cheyldra meaning,’ tortoise’. And its species name, serpentine is a Latin derivation of the word serpentis which means ‘snake’, which refers to the turtle’s long tail.

Snapping turtles are wide spread in North America, and can be found in just about any source of freshwater habitat. Their appetite consists largely of vegetation as well as crayfish, flies, toads, frogs, catfish as well as muskrats and just about anything else they can catch. They are measured by the length of their carapace, that hard dorsal shell which is in reality modified bony parts including the ribs. The average is 8-14 inches. Virginia’s record is 18 1/3inches. (By my estimation the one I found was 14-15 inches.)

On land, snapping turtles are often more irritable creatures. Usually we see females on their way to find a nesting site in which to lay her clutch of eggs. They are heavily pregnant (gravid) and on a mission, so don’t mess with them! When in the water, they are much less aggressive. If stepped on, they will probably just tuck in their head and leave you alone, pretending to be just another stepping stone.

This turtle I photographed, I assumed, did not want to become a centerfold model, so I kept my photography to a minimum. I was not going to test to see how much agility it could muster or how much chomping power it possessed. I just let it be.

Submitted by Kathy Scott, Certified VMN, Blue Ridge Foothills and Lakes Chapter
                                               Franklin County, Virginia

Monday, April 23, 2018

Earth Day 2018 at Franklin County High School

Franklin County High School celebrated Earth Day on Thursday, April 19, a few days early from actual Earth Day.  They did that so it would coincide with a school days.  Earth Day was used as a learning experience for the students.  Each student was armed with specific questions that they needed to find the answers to.

The Central Gym was set up with various nature related displays.  The BRFAL Chapter was invited to attend, and as usual, we excelled by manning 3 individual displays manned (actually mostly "womanned") by BRFAL chapter members.  Our displays instructed about Bald Knob Natural Area Preserve (which abuts the FCHS campus), Bluebird monitoring and the life cycle of monarch butterflies.  Thanks to Kathy Scott's photography, I will share a few pictures from our day.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

4H Riparian Buffer Garden Cleanup for Earth Day

What better way to celebrate Earth Day (April 22) than a clean-up of the Riparian Demonstration Buffer Garden (otherwise known as the 4H Buffer Garden)?  A small, but stalwart group of BRFAL Master Naturalists and Franklin Co. Master Gardeners spent several hours on the 20th pruning, raking and removal deadfall from the five beds that make up the garden.  The Demonstration Buffer Garden, located at the Skelton 4H Center next to Smith Mt. Lake (SML) in Wirtz, VA, was designed by Leslie Santapal in 2005.  Trees and shrubs were placed in 2006, followed by native grasses and perennial flowers in 2007.  The purpose of the garden is to inspire SML homeowners to utilize buffer strategies to reduce run-off into the lake—to “slow and filter the flow” while providing food and habitat to wildlife.  Nearly twelve years later, the trees (river birch, lacebark elm, red bud, dogwood and magnolia), shrubs (viburnum, grey owl juniper and inkberry holly) and native grasses are thriving—so much so, they shade out the perennial flowers and need a haircut!
(Words and pix by Beth Pautler)
Patricia Foster & Lee Borgman breaking their backs

Nelda Looking happy

Jean making progress