This story has a happy ending…hopefully

Five minutes after depositing my beagle in the backyard, I stepped out to…a bunny apocalypse. One tiny rabbit wilted in the beagle’s mouth, and four more were scattered through the grass. The shallow scrape of a nest lay empty.

Silently cursing the rabbit who, year after doomed year, returned to rear her young in my dog-infested backyard, I acted quickly. The guilty-eyed beagle, already having dropped his bunny, was unceremoniously booted inside. Donning gloves, I carefully scooped up each of the stunned bunnies (including the soggy one) and inserted them back in their nest.

Step two of the Great Rabbit Rescue was to construct a bunny fortress. This consisted of a roomy wicker basket tipped upside-down with an opening large enough for a grown rabbit to enter but not large enough for the beagle. The basket was secured over the nest with tent stakes and the opening concealed with clumps of grass and clover.

I don’t know for sure if the mother rabbit will return to nurse her young. I don’t even know if I did the right thing in handling the bunnies. As an environmental educator, I am constantly urging my students not to interfere with nature and to leave young or injured animals alone. This is almost always the best solution. But sometimes in life we have to go with our gut, relying on a combination of heart and head to make decisions.

In this case, my heart won out. Hopefully, the bunnies will, too.

by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator

Nature is everywhere

I often end my environmental education programs by asking students to share something spring16 029they’ve learned during their time at the Arboretum. Recently, a second grader answered: “That nature is everywhere, even inside.” Her response left me a little perplexed. Until this morning, that is, when my daughter shouted for me to look out the kitchen window. Tucked in the branches of a leafy bush, serenely bobbing up and down in the wind, sat a mother cardinal in her nest.

We’ve spent the day watching her, and she’s spent the day watching us, seemingly as interested in our doings as we are in hers. Perhaps the antics of my four children have her worrying about impending motherhood. Or perhaps she’s keeping a wary eye on the one-eyed cat who is no friend to birds.

Whatever the case, her presence is a good reminder that nature is everywhere, inside and out. Through all seasons, in rain and sun, light and darkness, nature is a constant in our lives, so much so that it often becomes the “background noise” that we tune out. Why not take a few moments each day to tune back in? Lie in the grass and admire the canopy of a backyard tree. Listen to the rich hum of bumblebees on your front porch. Admire the invincibility of pollen as it blankets your windowsill. Open your eyes like a second grader, and be prepared to be amazed.

For more wonderful ways to live a “nature-rich life,” check out Richard Louv’s new book, Vitamin N, which will soon be on sale in the Arboretum’s gift shop.

by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator

Nature is happening—don’t miss it!

Nature is happening at the Arboretum in May! Bluebird boxes are full of nests, eggs, babies, and fledglings, and a few boxes have cute, tiny chickadees. It’s good to see these fledglings, considering how cool our spring temperatures have been.

Birders have seen field sparrows, woodpeckers, turkey, Scarlet Tanagers, and Indigo Buntings. Our hummingbirds have returned to the feeder behind the Visitor’s Center. In the wetland, turtles are swimming, or basking in the few days of sun we have seen. Frogs are croaking, ducks are quacking, and birds are singing! In bloom now are viburnum, hearts a’ bursting, pinxterbloom azalea, black cherry, Solomon’s seal, may apple, and cranesbill geranium.

spring blog

Clockwise from left: Tuckahoe State Park’s new Multi-Use Trail; pinxterbloom azalea; a mallard in the Arboretum wetland. Photos by Robyn Affron and Kellen McCluskey.

With the opening of Tuckahoe’s Multi-Use Trail, there’s now more trail than ever for your walking or biking enjoyment. And, for you gardeners, the Nursery is open Friday and Saturday, 10-4. Hope to see you on the trails!

Robyn Affron
Visitor Services and Volunteer Coordinator

More to do in May!

Mark your calendar and grab your sunglasses—there are a lot of festivals lined up for the cbmmend of May, and the sun has to come out eventually! On May 22, visit the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum for their Community Block Party. The museum will transform into festival grounds with several performances, free boat rides, live music, regional foods, and Chesapeake-related family activities. The Chestertown Tea Party Festival runs May 27-29  with lots of food, games, family-friendly entertainment, reenactments, vendors, and even a homemade raft race! Finish off the weekend at the Ridgely Strawberry Festival on May 29 with fun for the whole family—with games, live entertainment, crafts, exhibits, and the Strawberry Chase 5k!

Join the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center for their third guided kayak trip of the month! On May 22, grab a paddle and your camera, as you are likely to encounter wading birds, waterfowl, otters, muskrats, turtles, and other marshy critters. Registration is only $10-15 per person. Tuckahoe State Park will also host an evening guided canoe trip on May 29. Join the park staff for an educational and entertaining paddle up the Tuckahoe Creek.

Now is a great time to get involved in your community garden! Lots of seedlings to plant and weeds to pull! Interested in learning more? On May 20, the Denton Community Garden will host their 2nd Annual Garden Gala featuring seasonal cuisine, a sampling of local wines and brews, live entertainment, and children’s activities.

kidFor the little ones who show a penchant for gardening or just like being outside, the Queen Anne’s County Master Gardeners and Kent Island Garden Club are hosting Summer Gardening for Young Gardeners. On May 25 at the Kent Island Branch Library, enjoy stories and activities to get your garden green!

And for the adults, Mt. Cuba Center is offering a class on Native Shrubs for Home Gardens starting May 26. Join instructor Duncan Himmelman and learn about more than 20 species of garden shrubs and how to incorporate them into your landscape. If you are a Master Gardener or Master Naturalist, don’t miss the 18th Annual Training Conference on May 26! Registration includes a keynote presentation with Sara Via, a plenary presentation with Claudia West, and many other presentations and exhibits.

by Kathy Thornton
Arboretum volunteer and Master Naturalist in Training

Youthful enthusiasm


Photo credit: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos

The boys in my environmental education classes are instantly attracted to worms. The

girls, on the other hand, need about five minutes to overcome the assumption that they are supposed to find worms icky and gross. After that, peer pressure kicks in, and they’re off on a dare. Young children love sensory experiences, and pink earthworms, with their slimy, wiggly bodies, provide just that. Add a shimmery puddle or crumbly garden soil, and you’ve got a match made in heaven.

On a recent trip to the Arboretum’s Funshine Garden, a group of kindergartners took their sense of critter adventure one step further. Not only were they clamoring to be the first to pull out long, gleaming earthworms from beneath tree stump stools, but they were actually fighting over handfuls of fat, naked grubs. I watched with a mingled sense of admiration and revulsion.

Admiration won out. Nature is full of the beautiful and the grotesque, and sometimes it takes the youngest naturalists to remind us that both are worthy of wonder.

by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator