The Conservation of Merrimac Farm
We hosted a tour of Merrimac Farm on June 23. About 25 people joined us, it was a beautiful day and, as usual, we had a great time. We walked from the upland forest, stopped to view the French family cemetery, skirted the edge of a nontidal wetland, traveled into the floodplain and then to Cedar Run.
Tour leaders shared information about the flora and fauna we observed on the way. Thanks to Jerry Sims with the Virginia Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries, Northern Virginia birders Jay Keller and Kevin Parker, and biologist Larry Underwood for sharing their knowledge about local wildlife!
Every visit to Merrimac Farm is a new experience. Although we didn't see a turkey in person, we knew they were close by when we found a wing feather on the ground. We did add a new bird to our list - the Prothonotary Warbler, which was flitting through the forested floodplain near Cedar Run. We've been building a bird list for Merrimac Farm this past spring and, with this new addition, the list is up to 108 species since April 14 2007. Click here to view the bird list, which includes a column listing the birds we saw on June 23 during the tour.
Not long after we started, we spotted a wheel bug in the vegetation along side the main road. This interesting insect, which has a cog-like wheel at the top of its thorax, is part of the Assassin Bug family.
We spotted a Fowlers Toad at the edge of the wetland and were lucky enough to catch it for a closer look. This toad, like the American Toad, has black edged dark spots on its back. However, unlike American Toads, the Fowlers Toad has three or more warts inside the spots. One young visitor, a four-year old nature fan from Haymarket, was especially delighted to hold the toad before gently returning it to the ground.
We saw several butterflies, including the Common Wood Nymph, Azure sp., Eastern-tailed Blue, Great Spangled Fritillary, Pearl Crescent and an unidentified skipper. We also saw several dragonflies, including a Lancet Clubtail and Widow Skimmers as well as several unidentified damselflies.
When we reached Cedar Run, we strolled along the bank and were treated to the sight of a beaver swimming under water down the side of the creek, then under the base of a tree overhanging the creek. Eileen Sheridan was quick with her camera and got this shot of the beaver under water...he's in there somewhere!
The weather is dry and spring wildflowers are now a memory, but we noticed a number of interesting flowers. We saw milkweed about to bloom in several locations. There's Joe Pye weed scattered through the floodplain area, which will be blooming at the end of the summer. Wildflowers in bloom during our tour included Queen Anne's Lace, Black-eyed Susan, Yarrow, Deptford Pink, Chicory, Skullcap and Daisy Fleabane.
Read the Potomac News article, Merrimac Grows Conservation, about the June 23 tour. We are all looking forward to touring Merrimac Farm again as the seasons change and hope you will be able to join us the next time! We'll post new dates on our events page, so check there or email us at alliance(at)pwconserve.org to add your name to our email notification list.