Discovering Nature at Willowsford – Report from the field
This past weekend, we held our first walk at Willowsford, a new development in Loudoun where the natural elements of this gorgeous land are being celebrated and appreciated!
Donna Quinn worked with managers at Willowsford to set up and promote this walk, not only to current residents of Willowsford but also others in and around Loudoun.
Donna’s report from the walk is below and you can see more photos from the day in our Discovering Willowsford Facebook Album:
Mark Hillis from Willowsford welcomed the families and explained we were from Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy. I talked a bit about Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and what we do and then Mona took stage and began the magical Monarch show.
Mona shared two Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillars and explained how caterpillars avoid being eaten. She released a Black Swallowtail and explained when you release a butterfly, you make a wish. After a brief overview of the Monarch life cycle and how to tag a butterfly, she enlisted the children in tagging and releasing 30 Monarchs. Everyone who wanted to hold and release a Monarch was able to, and a couple of children were able to release two. Mona was so good with the children and somehow had even the youngest children holding and releasing butterflies. Children and parents were enthralled. And we didn’t have a single casualty! There were many beautiful wishes rising up with the butterflies and it was a truly joyful experience for all.
Next, we headed off onto the Farm Loop as some of our young walkers were ready to move on. Robert managed to gather everyone together on the bridge and explained to our young naturalists we see more when we are quiet and stay together. These kids were good listeners and we did more or less stay together after that, as much as 30 people can stay together on a narrow trail.
Our birds included Turkey Vultures, Robins, Bluebirds, Eastern Phoebe, Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Eastern Towhee, Red-shouldered Hawk, Coopers Hawk, Wild Turkey, American Crow, starlings, Chimney Swifts and others.
We talked about the importance of leaving areas natural – dead trees, tall grass, native plants, etc. all provide habitat. Willowsford is rich in wildlife because they are providing homes and food for wildlife by leaving habitat natural. We also showed our young naturalists the hairy vines of poison ivy so they do not touch it. Mona taught families about nature’s remedy for poison ivy, jewel weed.
The Farm Loop is a little over a mile which was a good length. It is edge habitat for the most part and well suited for a walk of this nature. Birders were teased – we want to go back and take a better look. Robert spotted a Black-throated Green and Mary Ann thought she heard White-throated Sparrows which would have been the first of season for us. About 2/3 the group left at a halfway point which was nice for those who had very young children.
The weather was glorious, the children were delightful and everyone had a great time. I overheard heard a couple of the parents saying they would definitely sign up for future walks. It was a wonderful day and we can’t thank Willowsford enough for inviting us in. We look forward to leading more walks and exploring all the wildlife and habitats that Willowsford has to offer.