Northern Bobwhite

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click photo for attribution

Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) are ground-dwelling birds native to the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean. When you visit Adkins Arboretum, you will hear the sound of summer, and that sound is the call of the Northern Bobwhite.

Unfortunately, this song is not always heard as it once was because of declining populations due to lack of habitat. These special birds live in open pine forests, grasslands, and overgrown fields.

When I was a little girl, more than fifty years ago, I visited my aunt’s cottage in Southern Maryland in the middle of a beautiful pine forest. Not only did I hear many quail songs, but I would see an entire family with the mother, father, and babies all walking in a straight line across my path of fallen pine needles.

I hope you get a chance to hear the sounds of summer before summer has passed.

by Robyn Affron
Visitor Services Coordinator
Maryland Master Naturalist

The High Line: a ‘slow park’

WalkRain

The High Line is 1.5 miles of lush urban park on an elevated walkway on the lower East Side of New York City. Rebuilding an abandoned railroad track that snakes above 20 city blocks, architects, artists, and horticulturists have worked together over the past 13 years to design an experience that stirs the soul and excites the senses.

Tracks4

Smoke bush in rain

Thirty-five weather-resistant folks enjoyed a cold, rainy day in the park on June 2. The elements of architecture subtly suggest a change of pace: wider steps leading from street level to the elevated walkway, a sundeck with rows of chaises longues, plenty of benches, and off-the-path overlooks and lush niches combine to encourage a slower pace and a time of relaxed enjoyment.

New section opened

While identifying countless plants can be a fun exercise, that there were no plant I.D. tags gave me permission to just take it in and appreciate the whole spectacle from the right side of my brain! We learned in advance about the creation and execution of the park while watching a film on the bus, including that the High Line is designed to please, educate and stimulate the public through all the seasons.

Milkweed

Magnolia

Hudson and sumac

We were in awe of the different elements of art and design that create an amazing array of color and texture: woodlands, grasslands, preserved wild areas, a bog, native plants, birds and wildlife, site-specific sculptures, lawns, and wildflower fields.

FunFountain

The High Line leads organically from one region to the next. The appearance and disappearance of the original railroad tracks and wood ties create a sense of continual movement and continuity as the path winds its way over a bustling and rapidly developing part of the city.

Big leaf magnolia (1)

Allegheny serviceberry

Achillea

The old meatpacking district now supports high-end businesses, great restaurants, museums, and galleries that made our six hours in the city a big adventure.

Suggestion: Go there!

Here are a few resources to whet your appetite:

by Anna Harding
Arboretum docent naturalist, Maryland Master Naturalist

A snake by any other name…

It never fails. Just as I’m about to regale students with the wonders of the wetland, a chaperone will sidle up to me and whisper, “Don’t want to alarm the kids, but there’s a water moccasin in the cattails.” The kids inevitably overhear, and pandemonium ensues.

In actuality, the range of the venomous water moccasin—a.k.a. cottonmouth—extends from Florida to southern Virginia, leaving Adkins Arboretum well in the clear. The snake seen sunning itself in our wetland is actually a harmless northern water snake.

water moccasin - photo by Trisha Shears

water moccasin – photo by Trisha Shears

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northern water snake – photo by Patrick Coin

These snakes are important to the balance of the wetland ecosystem, feeding on the many frogs, tadpoles, minnows, crayfish, and other small birds and mammals that call the wetland home. Northern water snakes, in turn, provide a tasty meal for raccoons, foxes, snapping turtles, and other snakes.

While northern water snakes are not poisonous, all snakes bite, and the northern water snake will do so repeatedly if pushed, poked, prodded, pinched, or otherwise manhandled. So admire this sleek, serpentine beauty from the safety of the wetland boardwalk. Late spring and early summer days are prime basking times at the Arboretum, for reptiles and humans alike.

by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator

Young life

youth program mastheadWhile leading a class of homeschoolers along the Arboretum’s woodland paths, I spied two black snakes twisted in an amorous embrace. “Oh look!” I said, waving my hand toward the stream bank, “The snakes are hugging!” A small eight-year-old appeared at my elbow. “Miss Jenny, are they hugging, or are they mating?” she asked.

Plant and animal life cycles are an integral part of environmental education, and there’s never a better time to teach life cycles than spring, when the animal world expands with new life. A recent evening walk afforded me an awesome example of animal young in the form of a mother opossum ambling along with a row of tiny balls clinging to her back. Those balls, it turned out, were baby opossums.

Opossums (or possums, as those of us with a Southern leaning call them) are marsupials, and leave the pouch when they are between 70 and 125 days old. Contrary to popular belief, adult opossums do not hang by their tails to sleep (their tails are not strong enough to support their weight.) Baby opossums may hang from their tails, but only for brief periods of time.

While you are unlikely to spy opossums at the Arboretum during visiting hours, you are certain to encounter tadpoles in the wetland, bluebirds guarding their nests, and monarch caterpillars among the milkweed. You might also chance upon another sight for sore eyes: scores of enthusiastic children delighting in nature during a spring environmental education program.

by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator

Tour Talbot’s native gardens this Saturday

Adkins Arboretum’s third annual garden tour, “Celebrating Natives,” is a different kind of garden tour, one that focuses on sustainable approaches to Eastern Shore gardening. The Talbot County Senior Center at Brookletts Place is the hub of this self-guided driving tour of outstanding gardens in and around Easton, St. Michaels, Bozman, and Tilghman. Taking place Saturday, May 9 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the tour not only highlights the beauty of the gardens but emphasizes their importance in a biodiverse landscape. 

“Celebrating Natives” features eight unique gardens, each demonstrating varying commitments to native plantings and uses of sustainable practices such as rain barrels and composting. The gardens range from a small quarter-acre space that began as a blank slate, to a multi-acre waterfront property showcasing a living shoreline and thriving native trees, to a garden slowly transitioning from exotic plants to natives. Peruse the photos below for glimpses of these beautiful and inspiring gardens. 

The first garden tour of its kind on the Eastern Shore, “Celebrating Natives” exemplifies the Arboretum’s mission of teaching about and showing by example the importance of using native plants in restoring balance to the ecosystem and fostering community relationships. Native plants are those that grew and thrived on the Eastern Shore before the introduction of European settlers. Because these plants have adapted naturally to the region’s ecology of climate, insects, and wildlife, they are a better choice than non-native plants.

Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 on the day of the tour. Click here to order your advance ticket today!

Brookletts magnolia seed

photos by Barbara McClinton

Brookletts path and groundcover Brookletts rocks downspout Brookletts rooftop OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Cario 3 Cario backyard Cario shed IMG_0201 IMG_0215 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA McClinton 8 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Tiernan-Clarke 2 Tiernan-Clarke columbine Tiernan-Clarke front door honeysuckle Waldrip 5 Waldrip 7 Waldrip bird house