Garden Blog #4 Guest Post by Nic Cormier 8/3/10

Planting continues in the new garden, and around the Museum. The Irises have been planted in the small bed beneath the welcome bulletin board along the path that leads to the Museum. We also obtained some Coreopsis (Tickseed) plants, planted at the entrance to the keyhole pathway, and Garden Phlox which I planted near the Cosmos and Penstemon. The new Red Bee Balm had been getting munched by the local woodchuck so Allison and I dug a small trench around the flowers and drove wooden stakes in along the trench. We then buried the bottom of the chicken wire in the trench and used carpenter staples to secure it to the stakes. This seems to be holding up fine for now but the next step would be to acquire some large rocks to place around the fence to prevent the woodchuck from being able to dig at all. Brian Valentine will be donating more Red Bee Balm to replace that which the woodchuck ate.

Erin found me an old bird house in Bob’s workshop a couple of weeks ago to use in the garden. So far all I’ve had time to do is to sand it down and clean it up a bit. The idea is to make it not only look nice but to make it sound enough to have soil and plants on its roof. To do this I will cut some pieces of wood to make a border around the roof about two or three inches high that will hold soil. In this border I will cut holes near the base so all excess water will drain out. Once that is all set we will erect it in the garden with squirrel shields and put the soil on it and plant some small plants like Thyme in the soil.

Right now there isn’t a whole lot else going on. The Cosmos are still flowering along with the Thistle, Marigolds, Garden Phlox, Pink Penstemon, Blue Lobelia, Dwarf Solomon’s Seal, Pink Turtlehead, Purple Coneflower and Dianthus (in the more shaded and weedy spots).

7/17/10 Garden Journal #3

Guest Post by Nic Cormier, Education Intern

Last week we got a responses to our post that we had put on the Front Porch Forum asking if anyone had any flowers or plant donations for our gardens. Ms. Janet Labelle, who lives just down the road from the museum, invited us to her home to see if there were any plants she had that we wanted. By the end of the visit, she had kindly donated Pink Penstemon, Wild Columbine, Hazelnut/Filbert crosses, and Bee Balm. That same day Mr. Bill Mayville donated some red and purple Bee Balm and planted them himself. This week Bill also brought us old slabs of rock, which had been a foundation to a house, for our rock paths and keyhole garden. Erin’s neighbors, the Zimmerman’s, recently cut down and chipped a few old trees in their yard. They said we can go anytime and take as much as we need for mulch, which we have been using steadily for the past few days. Thanks to all for the donations.

We still have a bucket of Irises brought to us by Rick that have yet to be planted. A few Trumpet Vines need a trellis before they can be planted near the viewing window, and a couple of Stonecrops that will be going in near the rock wall in the feeding yard. We are currently working on creating a keyhole garden with a stone walk-way for a fun element to the garden as well as a walk-way to a compost pile and another to the sewage pipe, both of which will be rock pathways. In the center of the keyhole we plan to erect either a bird bath that we make or a bird house with a roof that holds soil and can be planted with a short flowering plant.

Some plants that are still on the wish-list are Spicebush, Coreopsis, Turtlehead, Cardinal Flower, Winterberry Holly and Butterfly Bush, but we would also take almost anything that is donated.

On rainy days I have been working on the signage and guide that will be used. It is exciting seeing the whole project come together from thoughts to paper to reality.

A beginner’s notes from the Annual Butterfly Walk

post by Kir Talmage, Museum Program Coordinator

I’ve just come back from the Annual VES Butterfly Walk.  Thank you so much to Bryan Pfeiffer, Trish Hanson and many others for sharing their knowledge! We had about 35 guests or so on the walk, ranging from young kids to grandparents, new explorers to professional (and retired) entomologists.  I’m a new explorer, practically a rank beginner with bugs.  I love it.

You’ll no doubt get much more by coming on a walk, going outside, and paging through field guides. I went out with my  just my notebook and camera, though. So, from my notes:

Grandfather and grandchild exploring for butterflies
Grandfather and grandchild exploring for butterflies on today's VES Butterfly Walk

About observing tools: Water nets and butterfly nets are not the same. A butterfly net (for field insects, etc.) is longer, cone-shaped, and of a very fine soft mesh. The longer shape (compared a vaguely trapezoidal water net) allows one to “flip” the net closed, so the insect won’t escape while you are examining it. That’s less of an issue with a water net; water beetles and dragonfly nymphs aren’t so likely to fly off.

About Butterflies: Lepidoptera — the order that contains butterflies — means “scale(d) wing”, for the thousands of tiny, often iridescent scales that cover the wings.  We found a clouded sulphur female (Colias philodice). One way (of  several) to tell this was a female was because she had spots in the dark margin of her upper wing.

Canada Darner (Aeshna canadensis) on child's hand
Canada Darner (Aeshna canadensis) on child's hand. This one is an "old lady" -- about a month or so!

About Dragonflies and Damselflies: When identifying them, look at where the color is on which segments of the abdomen — look very closely! Also look at the profile of the claspers at the end of the abdomen. The different shapes (hook, c-clamp, straight, knobby, etc.) helped in identification.

About Daddy-long-legs:  I had never noticed how the mouth parts fold so neatly, making such a even oval profile of their bodies. Lovely.

Here’s a cool online resource I just found too, for comparing multiple pictures of butterflies (and others): http://www.discoverlife.org/20/q?guide=Butterflies What are your favorite online resources for Insects and Arachnids?

Young Entomologist
Young Entomologist on the VES Annual Butterfly Walk

7/3/10 Garden Journal #2

Guest post by Nic Cormier, Education Intern

Until last week the garden bordering the lawn had not been worked in almost five years. A few previously planted perennials managed to keep a foothold among the abundant “weeds”.  Additional native flowers, sometimes considered weeds, were also uncovered. We plan to open it back up and bring some order to the garden once more. The goal is to make a garden that attracts birds and butterflies, using primarily native plants. We want this to be an educational tool for visitors as well, who will see what we have done/are doing and hopefully feel inspired and empowered to do something similar in their backyard.

Last week we took some time and cleaned out plants that we didn’t want in a ten foot by five foot section. We left the plants we liked and knew were beneficial to wildlife. Interspersed within these we planted Marigolds, Astilbe, Bleeding Heart, Foxglove, Snapdragons, Cosmos, Dwarf Spirea, Salvia spp. and Black-eyed Susan. We also released a Coneflower, Black-eyed Susan, Sweet William, Mystery Plant (see picture) and Hemp Nettle. The plants that we put in (minus the Black-eyed Susan) were all donated from Pleasant Mount Farm. (Thank you Heidi!)

We also drew up plans for future gardens, and now we are looking for some plants that may be donated or sold at discount.  (The Museum is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization, for contact info see www.birdsofvermont.org)

Here is a list of what were looking for:

Chokeberry- Aronia ssp.

Spicebush- Lindera benzoin

Columbine- Aquilegia ssp.

Butterfly Bush- Buddleia ssp.

Swamp Milkweed- Asclepias incarnata

Turtlehead- Chelone glabra

Fireweed- Epilobium angustifolium

Cardinal Flower- Lobelia cardinalis

Bee Balm – Monarda ssp.

We would greatly appreciate any and all donations and/or inquiries into places where we could get them. As stated before we are trying to make the garden as native as we can but we will not say no to non-native species, unless they are invasive.

Below is our mystery plant. Do you know what it is?

6/15/10 Garden Journal

Guest Post by Nic Cormier, Education Intern

Last weekend, Erin and I took a walk around the gardens talking about what should be done with what and where. While we were in the more open section we noticed some interesting flowers that neither of us had seen before. They are round and some of them are multicolored, red, red/pink or pink/white. The unopened blossoms look very much like green Sea Anemone’s (spiky and round). There are also 2 other flowers we don’t quite know what they are, both are growing in mostly shaded areas and are about 2 to 3 feet in height. The first has leaves that resemble the Rosaceae family, like Sumac or Mountain-ash and at the top of the stem is a cluster of small pink/white flowers. The second is about the same size but has small pinkish flowers all up the stalk, the flower petals are pulled back like a Lilly and the anthers are long and black.

So far things we know we have are Bladder Campion, Snapdragons, Petunias, Thistles, White-Cedar, Christmas Fern, Sensitive Fern, either Ladies Fern or something like it, Wild Geraniums, Spotted Jewelweed, Blu Flag Iris, Yellow Iris, Bleeding Hearts, Forget-me-nots, Wild Bergamot and cultivated Bee-balm, Lasy’s Mantle, Lilacs, an ornamental Willow, Raspberries, Sedums, Dame’s Rocket, Lupines, Goldenrod, Milkweed, Oxeye Daisy, Chives, Wild Strawberris, Skunk Currant, Tall Buttercup, Creeping Buttercup, Self-heal, Ground Ivy, and of course Dandelions.

There are plenty more that we have not I.D.’d yet but were working on it. Our main goal is to have a Bird and Butterfly Garden of Native New England/Vermont plants and through this blog we can instruct people of the species benefited by the plants and hopefully get some feedback on what others have learned so please, we encourage all voices and opinions on this subject!

Sunday morning walk

[As posted to VTBIRD mailing list by Erin Talmage]
We started with a soggy morning walk and ended at the Museum’s viewing
window drinking bird-friendly coffee and eating local baked goods.

Our species list for the entire morning:

Great crested Flycatcher
Cedar Waxwing
American Goldfinch
Phoebe
Oriole
Song Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
American Robin
Wood Duck
Black and White Warbler
Grackle
Blue Jay
Yellow bellied Sapsucker
Evening Grosbeak
Brown-headed Cowbird
Mourning Dove
Hairy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Wild Turkey
Dark-eyed Junco
Indigo Bunting

Join us on June 13th, June 20th, and/or June 27th  for another bird walk.
(We always end our walks with coffee and goodies!)

For more details and a complete schedule of events see
www.birdsofvermont.org

Early Morning Bird Walk

Shirley Johnson and Alison Wagner have been leading the Early Morning Birds Walks this spring. (Haven’t been on one yet? Come on Sundays at 7:00 a.m.; we will be doing these through June).  They post the birds the group observes on a white board here at the museum, and report some of the highlights to us over coffee.

Last week, Alison lead a group despite the snowy weather. Yes, they were successful, observing some dozen or so species.

Blackburnian Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler (carved by Bob Spear). One of the species identified on today's Early Morning Bird Walk.

Today, Shirley reported hearing two barred owls having a “party”, cackling and laughing back and forth to each other. She also said they’d heard a Louisiana Waterthrush, and compared the sounds of that species as recorded by the iFlyer and the Birding by Ear CDs.

Come along on our next trip! See http://www. birdsofvermont.org/ events.php for the schedule. There’s no fee, and coffee is provided.

Through the Window: April birds and more

This was a seriously happenin’ month! Birds, mammals, amphibians. And yes, they were all seen through the windows of the museum. As always, these are roughly in the order we saw them.

Mourning Dove with nest, egg
Mourning Dove with nest, egg; carved by Robert N. Spear, Jr.
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Black-capped chickadee
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Red-winged blackbird (female, April 3)
  • Mourning Dove
  • Ruffed Grouse (April 1)
  • American Goldfinch
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Evening Grosbeak (April 3)
  • Eastern Phoebe (FOY, April 3)
  • Sapsucker (April 3, FOY)
  • Song Sparrow (April 6, FOY)
  • Chipping Sparrow (FOY, April 7)
  • Kestrel (April 6)
  • Northern Flicker (April 6)
  • Common Grackle
  • Brown-headed Cowbird (FOY, April 10)
  • White-throated Sparrow (FOY, April 13)
  • American Robin (April 29)

For amphibians, we noted a wood frog on April 1 and a spotted salamander April 11. Wood frog eggs were noted in our little pond (the one near the viewing window) on April 3 and April 6).

We observed chipmunk, red squirrel, gray squirrel, a woodchuck (a.k.a. groundhog, on April 3) and, in a lucky moment, a bobcat on April 16.

The birds were recorded in our eBird record as well.

March Through the Window

We’ve seen these through the window in March, sometimes while passing by, and sometimes while directly observing for Feeder Watch. The ones we didn’t see last month are in bold.

  • American Crow
  • Wild Turkeys (20 on 3/16; 2 displaying Toms)
  • Blue Jays
  • Chickadees, Black-capped
  • Purple Finch
  • Evening Grosbeak
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Mourning Dove
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • White-Breasted Nuthatch
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Fox Sparrow 3/26
  • Common Grackle 3/28
  • Red-winged Blackbird 3/20
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Song Sparrow 3/23
  • Ruffed Grouse 3/25
  • Northern Cardinal 3/28
  • Red Squirrel
  • Gray Squirrel
  • Eastern Chipmunk

Signs of Spring

People have been noting on Twitter and on the radio various signs of spring. We like to look for changing bird plumage, ourselves.

The bright yellow shoulder feathers on the goldfinch are a sign of spring
Gold Signs of Spring

Sometimes there are just hints to start…

 

In our exhibits, the nesting birds are carved and painted in their breeding plumage; the wetland diorama birds are not. Come by and compare what you’ve seen to the carvings, and learn what to look for! We’re open by appointment until April 30th, then open for regular hours.