Butterfly Walk at the Blue Ridge Center
Joe Coleman led our butterfly walk yesterday at the Blue Ridge Center and sent over this great write-up from the walk:
On Aug. 15, nine of us spent 3 hours searching for butterflies at the beautiful and diverse Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship (BRCES) in northwestern Loudoun County. BRCES (www.blueridgecenter.org) is one of my favorite spots in the county because it includes a wide variety of habitats, including extensive wetlands, rich upland oak-hickory forests that climb up the side of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Appalachian Trail, and extensive natural meadows along the powerline. It is located in the Between the Hills Valley, only a couple of miles from Harpers Ferry and the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers.
BRCES also includes large open fields where haying is rotated and Mountain View Farm, which is managed by Shawna DeWitt and Atilla Agoston. Atilla took some time away from farming to explain to us that all of their produce and flowers are grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides; and that their livestock grazes in the pastures, drink spring water, are not fed antibiotics, and never receive hormones.
He explained why they plant a lot of flowers in rows next to and among their crops. The flowers attract pests away from their crops and some of the herbs attract a number of the small bees and wasps that parasitize the caterpillars that that would devour a tomato plant in 24 hours.
All of this results, as shown in our Annual Butterfly Count, in BRCES being is one of the richest spots in the county for finding butterflies. We spent almost two hours yesterday morning on the farm and around the Visitor Center. Phil Daley assisted with the walk and Ray Smith, one of the participants, shared his extensive knowledge of the natural world with us.
After wrapping up at the farm we headed over to the Arnold Road trail, much of which is surrounded by heavy forest with a lush understory. While there were not nearly as many butterflies there, we did add several species that specialize in wooded habitats.
Between the two localities we found 22 species of butterflies, not a great day at BRCES, but certainly respectful. And if we had found the time to include the aptly named Butterfly Alley, the trail along the power cut, we would have surely added several more species.
We did find: Black Swallowtail Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Spicebush Swallowtail, Cabbage White, Clouded Sulphur, Orange Sulphur, Gray Hairstreak, Eastern-tailed Blue, Variegated Fritillary, Great Spangled Fritillary, Meadow Fritillary, Silvery Checkerspot, Pearl Crescent, Hackberry Emperor, Northern Pearly Eye, Monarch, Silver-spotted skipper, Least Skipper, Tawny-edged Skipper, Little Glassywing, Zabulon.
More information on Mountain View Farm at the Blue Ridge Center can be found here: www.blueridgecenter.org/farming/mvfarm.html