Spring Sightings

by | Mar 30, 2017 | Camp |

One of our first signs of Spring: the crocus blooming!

Last week we welcomed the Spring Equinox in hopes of warmer weather, but it wasn’t just us humans that began stirring after the mark of the new season. At both our Belmont and Mt. Pleasant locations, Conservancy staff members have seen some new faces around the grounds, giving us a peek into what the spring and summer seasons have in store for us.

Some of the wildlife we’ve been encountering are excitingly new and unique! Recently, our Davis Branch stream at Mt. Pleasant has undergone a restoration to return the stream back to its old self- before early agriculture and massive flooding events effected the composition and banks of the stream bed. The restoration was carefully crafted to invite wildlife into the area and with its recent completion, we are already seeing some exciting new faces!

Our Land Manager, Tabby Fique, spotted this snapping turtle peeking out above the surface of the water. She has been with the Conservancy 10 years and said this was her first time seeing a snapper in our portion of the Davis Branch stream!

Peeking snapping turtle.

Many campers may remember visiting the Conservancy’s apiary (a collection of bee hives) at Mt. Pleasant during their time at camp. Our beekeeper, Devon Kosisky, has also worked at the Conservancy in previous years. He spends his free time maintaining the hives and harvesting their honey. For him, Spring means his hives are waking up to take advantage of the newly bloomed dandelions, crocus flowers and daffodils. He also refreshes any uninhabited hives by “installing” a package of bees. He orders these bees from a supplier who ships them through the mail. When they are received and the weather is right, Devon pours the bees, like coffee beans, into the hive. The bees begin investigating their new hive and it only takes a few minutes to make themselves at home. Several worker bees will begin fanning out a scent that communicates to the others that this is their new home.

              Newly installed bee hive!                                                                                              Worker bee “fanning” out the homing signal.

Our Belmont location has many similar habitats as Mt. Pleasant, but also has some unique and varying features that give us some different wildlife encounters. A pond in front of the Manor House has proved to be a great fishing spot for Great Blue Heron in the past, but recently we spotted a juvenile bald eagle perching in the tree along its edge, attempting to take advantage of the private fishing hole. This eagle’s brown and white mottled coloration on his head and back is an indicator that it is a juvenile between 1-4 years old. We’re hoping it will make our little corner of the Patapsco Valley its permanent home!

Perching in the high branches of a tree overlooking the pond.                                              Taking flight into the Patapsco Valley State Park.

On our way back from watching our eagle friend at the pond, one of the Conservancy staff members stopped abruptly in the grass- she had nearly stepped on this toad! Barely visible, this Eastern American Toad was attempting to bury itself in the dirt and grass and was doing a great job of camouflaging itself! These amphibians are common in Maryland and with the warmer weather, are waking up from their brumation (a reptile’s version of hibernation). Keep an eye out in your yard for these toads!

                                                                                      Eastern American Toad hiding in the grass

Have you had any interesting spring wildlife encounters on our grounds or even in your own backyard? Let us know what you’ve been seeing by leaving a comment below!

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