Nature Notes - April 2015
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Brown-headed Nuthatch - Lynn Burnette
Bloodroot Flower
– Photo by Dennis Burnette


Spring Wildflower Walks

Celebrate the season by joining TGPAS member and naturalist Ann Walter-Fromson for five wildflower walks in April..
You’re welcome to join in for one or all of these walks. Bring your binoculars (we might see some migrating birds as well!), wildflower field guides, water, and a snack; wear sturdy walking shoes. Each trail walk will be out-and-back for a total of 2 to 3 miles. No pets, please.

The dates and locations for these wildflower walks are:

Wednesday, April 1 – Meet in the Whole Foods Parking lot near Friendly Avenue at 9:30 a.m. We’ll carpool from there to the Laurel Bluff Trail head on Church Street.

Wednesday, April 8 Meet in the Whole Foods Parking lot near Friendly Avenue at 9:30 a.m. We’ll carpool from there to the Townsend Trail head on Yanceyville Street.
Wednesday, April 15 – Meet in the Whole Foods Parking lot near Friendly Avenue at 9:30 a.m. We’ll carpool from there to Northeast Park off High Rock Road in Gibsonville.
Wednesday, April 22 – Meet in the Whole Foods Parking lot near Friendly Avenue at 9:30 a.m. We’ll carpool from there to the Richardson-Taylor Preserve on Plainfield Road.
Monarch Butterflies on Swamp Milkweed (top) and on Butterfly Milkweed (bottom) – Photos by Dennis Burnette

Going native:
Planting Milkweeds for Monarchs & Other Pollinators

You’ve probably noticed a rapid growth in interest in native plants lately. People are realizing that native species not only are good for birds and other creatures, many are well suited for our local soils and climate.
Want to go native with landscaping and garden plants? Milkweeds are a good place to start.
Milkweeds support a whole array of insects, which is a good thing for our environment... and the birds. You've probably heard that birds don't eat Monarch butterfly caterpillars on milkweeds, and that’s true. However, milkweeds are among the best native nectar sources for nectar-eating critters, including a whole host of native pollinators that lay eggs and have larvae on other nearby plants that can end up as bird food.
Consequently, in addition to the adult bugs and spiders that are found by birds on milkweeds, dozens (if not more) insects benefit from milkweed nectar and pollen. These include bees and other pollinators that are declining rapidly.
The two most popular native milkweeds for home gardens and landscapes are Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata, and Butterfly Milkweed, Aclepias tuberosa (or just "butterfly weed"). The seeds of these pretty plants often can be found in garden centers, and occasionally they even have the plants for sale. Garden centers may have tropical milkweed from Mexico, but it's usually killed by our cold winters. It’s best to stick with our native plants.

Swamp Milkweed has clusters of pink flowers on plants that get up to three feet tall. Despite its unfortunate name, it does well in typical rich garden soil as long as it's watered enough, especially during the driest parts of the summer. It doesn't mind getting its toes wet, though, so if you have a low place that gets damp a lot, this species would work there. It likes sun but can do so-so in dappled shade such as the edge of woods.

Butterfly Milkweed has clusters of orange flowers on plants that will grow to about two or two and a half feet tall. The conditions it likes are almost the opposite of the one above. In nature this milkweed grows best in sunny, dry native soil meadows. In a garden situation it's easy to over-water it and kill it, and it does just fine in our local clay soil.
Butterfly Milkweed needs moisture to get started, but once established, it does best in a border or other area that stays rather dry except from rain. It develops a deep taproot that's sensitive to disturbance, so put it where it's intended to stay. Moving it may kill it. Other than that, it's quite hardy.

You should be able to find these milkweed seeds in the garden centers around here, but if you don't, bring that up at the next Audubon meeting. We may be able to help you find some from members who collected them last year.
Stella Wear checks a nuthatch box
– Photo by Dennis Burnette

Checking for Nuthatches

Brown-headed Nuthatches  should be nesting now.  We hope that they have chosen to nest with you and you are enjoying the monitoring process. Here is a reminder of what to expect.

Expect egg laying until May.  Monitoring nests will be needed until mid-June. 

Please continue to report information to TGPAS! This is an important part of what you pledged when we gave you nest boxes or excluder plates. We want to know any and everything about your box (even “no activity” is information for us).  You may report to us as often as you like, but please report at least one time during this nesting period.  Report to Stella Wear

Register your boxes with Nestwatch if you have not.  We want to use our group site for all data reporting.  Here are brief instructions to get you started at
Sign in (located in upper right corner) using:  username:  TGPASociety; password:  bhnuthatch. A page called “your data” comes up.

Use the choice “add a new site.”  Follow steps to locate and describe your box location. There are some drop down instructions that help.

As an example, Stella entered the boxes at Southwest Park (SWPK001, SWPK002, SWPK003) and filled in the box description forms. 

After you save your entry, you are returned to “your data” page. Click on “nest site list” to see the boxes that have been registered.  This is how you will get to your box to enter data when you have something to report.
When you get your box registered, please let us know what you named it so we can follow along with group progress.
If you have trouble signing into the group site because you have a personal account already, uncheck the box that says “keep me signed in” then you will be allowed to go to another site.

If you registered your box last year, you may archive that one, rename it, and register it with the group site. If you need help with this, please contact Stella Wear.

 A help session on data reporting is planned. Please let us know if you are interested.

It is interesting to explore on NestWatch. There are some green tabs on the homepage that help you navigate through the site. For example, under the “learn” tab there are some “data entry tutorial videos” listed under “How to Nest Watch." They are helpful for all steps of the process.
Thanks again for your help with this project,

– Stella Wear and the TGPAS Nuthatch Committee

Email Addresses

(click name to send email)

Dennis Burnette
Sue Cole
Judy Hoag
Jack Jezorek
Margaret Kane
Lynn Moseley
Gregg Morris
Marie Poteat
Courtney Vass
Stella Wear
Tom Wear

Click here for our website
Click here for National Audubon website

Mole salamander (Ambystoma mabeei) with a vernal pool in the background - Photo by Jeff Beane

Triad Salamanders and Vernal Pools

What: Monthly Meeting
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, April 9 (refreshments at 6:45 p.m.)
Where: KCE Family Branch Library at Price Park, Greensboro
Courtney Anderson and Ashley LaVere, undergraduate students at UNCG

Our nature program focuses this month on a little-known group of amphibians, salamanders.

If any amphibian can be called cute, this is the group, but most of us see them so seldom that we know little about them. That’s a bit surprising when we learn that North Carolina is a world-class hotspot for this interesting group of animals.  Our state supports one of the greatest diversities of salamanders on Earth.
The Triad area hosts many different salamanders, from river-dwellers to those who spend most of their time underground.  They live under the fallen leaves, under the water’s surface, or even under the soil at our feet. Some are long, lithe, and brightly colored while others can be pudgy, squat, and completely camouflaged. Our speakers will explore the variety of species in our region and investigate one of the very fragile and very special habitats where they breed, the slowly drying spring rain puddles known as a vernal pools.

Our speakers for the program will be Courtney Anderson and Ashley LaVere who are undergraduate students at UNCG. They have been studying Environmental Biology and conducting a research project on mole salamanders and their breeding habitats in Guilford County. The speakers say: “In recent years, amphibians have begun to receive some of their much deserved recognition as important components of their ecosystems.  We hope to expand on this trend by shedding some light on an often unseen treasure of the Triad.”

Join us at 6:45 before the meeting for light refreshments and conversation.

Finding Salamanders on April 12

What: Second Sunday
Nature Walk
When: Sunday, April 12, Meet at 1:45 p.m. at KCE Family Branch Library in Price Park for carpooling
Where: Guilford College Woods

Two-lined salamander
- Photo by Dennis Burnette
As a follow up to our April program on salamanders, we’re going to look for the little critters the following weekend in Guilford College Woods on our Second Sunday Nature Walk on April 12 starting at 2:15 p.m.
As the name implies, Guilford College Woods is adjacent to the college. Guilford College Woods consists of more than 200 acres of hardwood and pine forests. A creek that is part of the Horsepen Creek watershed runs through the woods and provides habitat for several different species of stream salamanders.  Other, more terrestrial species of salamanders may be found in the surrounding forest. 
Searching for salamanders involves standing at the edge of the creek bed, turning over rocks, and looking carefully in the shallow water. If you have them, wear rubber boots or shoes that can get wet. Unlike birding, finding salamanders involves getting down on your hands and knees and actively searching in the stream and turning over logs on the forest floor. The more you work, the more you'll find!

You may meet us as usual for our Second Sunday Nature Walks in front of the Whole Foods Market in Friendly Shopping Center at 1:45. However, since Guilford College Woods is very near Price Park where we have our monthly meetings, you can go straight to Price Park and meet us at 2:15 in front of the KCE Family Branch Library.
This trip probably will involve walking about two miles or so. Depending on the condition of the trail, we may walk through Price Park to Guilford College Woods or drive to the campus and walk back to the creek. Once we leave the library, no facilities will be available so be sure to bring water to drink.

Join Us for the Cleanup & Trail Work Day at the Audubon Natural Area
Saturday, April 18, 9:30-11:30 a.m.

Attention all you litter pickers and trail workers out there. It’s time for Greensboro’s annual spring stream and street cleanup, The Great American Cleanup.

For TGPAS folks that means cleaning up trash from the Audubon Natural Area. We’ll “sweep” along Tankersley Drive and the parts of North Elm and Church streets that border the NA. And if “the creek don’t rise” we’ll also walk along the banks of North Buffalo Creek to “delitter” that part of the area.

We’ll provide gloves and trash bags from Greensboro Beautiful, which sponsors the yearly cleanup. Wear long pants and sturdy shoes, and if you are one of those intrepid litter pickers who want to wade in the creek, wear old tennis shoes or ones that can get wet and provide protection.
In addition to collecting litter we'll also do some light trail maintenance, using fallen limbs to line the trails and maybe cut back some invasive vines.After we are through we’ll go over to the trash drop-off site for pizza and drinks.
Please e-mail or call Jim Eldrett or Jack Jezorek for information. It’s a little bit of work and a lot of fun. The spring migration should be going full force, so we’ll likely see some good birds while tidying up the Natural Area. And there should be some nice wildflowers popping up there too. So please help to keep our Natural Area a pleasant place to visit. Thanks.
Jim Eldrett  336-609-0070
Jack Jezorek  336-272-6664
Birders listen to leader Dennis Burnette  – Photo by Lynn Burnette

Beginning Birder Walk Report

On Sunday afternoon, March 15, we held our rescheduled winter Beginning Birder Walk, and…wow! What a turn out! Twenty-five of us had a great time exploring parts of Price Park and learning more about birds. We were delighted that five of the participants were youngsters!
As planned, we met in front of the KCE Family Branch Library to get ourselves organized. Several experienced birders were on hand to help the beginners, including Dennis and Lynn Burnette, Barbara Hughes, Emily Tyler, and Stella and Tom Wear.
Our plan was to walk slowly, observe the library’s bird feeders, check for birds in the trees and flying over, and practice building our identification skills by watching common birds. That’s exactly what we did, using clues such as size, shape, markings, habitat, and behavior to help with our identifications.
Judging from the comments, it seems that just about everyone learned something that they hadn’t known, and we had a good time doing it.
If you’re sorry that you missed this one, you’ll have more opportunities. This is a joint effort between TGPAS and Piedmont Bird Club. Our groups have scheduled two more Beginning Birder Walks, a spring walk on Sunday afternoon, May 17, and a summer walk on Sunday afternoon, July 19. We hope that you’ll join us.

Looking for Birds at A&T Farm – Photo by Dennis Burnette 

Report: Field Trip to A&T Farm

On Saturday morning, March 7, a dozen birders enjoyed this year’s annual trip to the NC A&T State University experimental farm in Guilford County. This was a joint trip with the Piedmont Bird Club that was organized and ably led by Emily Tyler.
A&T Farm is one of the best sites in Guilford County for Wilson’s Snipes, often seen around the edges of the farm pond. On this trip we missed them there but found at least two at the swine research facility.
In addition to the snipe, another of our target species, American Pipit, was seen by many of the participants. Pipits are frustrating to get in the binoculars. A fast-moving flock made a brief appearance, circled around at some distance away, and then dropped out of sight into the grass before everyone got a chance to see them well. At least they did this several times, giving the group a few opportunities to spot them.
Scanning the ponds scattered around the farm yielded a good selection of waterfowl species including Canada Goose, Gadwall, Mallard, Northern Shoveler, Ring-necked Duck, Bufflehead, and Ruddy Duck. One of the pleasures of watching ducks at A&T Farm is that they are much closer and thus their details are easier to see than on the large lakes in Greensboro and High Point.
By the end of the morning, we had seen at least 42 species of birds, and everyone seemed to have a good time.

Birders at the Audubon Wildlife Overlook – Photo by Dennis Burnette

Second Sunday Nature Walk Report: Southwest Park

It was a beautiful day for a winter walk in the park, and at least a few folks were rewarded with a Winter Wren on our visit to Southwest Park for our March Second Sunday Nature Walk in the southern part of Guilford County.
On the way we stopped just outside the park to take a look at the nearby Great Blue Heron nesting area. Last spring we counted 27 active nests there, and we discovered that several pairs have started setting up housekeeping already this year. We counted about seven nests being repaired and occupied so far.
Southwest Park is where our chapter has constructed the Audubon Wildlife Overlook, a viewing platform that provides good views of a wetland, meadows and forest edge. While there, we heard several species of frogs beginning to sing their spring songs. We noted Spring Peepers and Southern Chorus Frogs, and possibly even an early American Bullfrog.
After birding from the overlook for a while, we walked one of the trails that led toward the Randleman Reservoir. The group got split up as some lagged behind to watch a pair of Killdeer that appeared to be nesting, which seems very early. Consequently, not everyone got to see the Winter Wren. Everyone seemed to have a good time, though.
Our Second Sunday Nature Walks occur throughout the year. We tend to go at a slow pace and pay attention to all of the interesting aspects of nature. They’re perfect for beginners and kids, as well as experienced folks. We hope you’ll join us on our April walk.
Earth Day Celebration April 18 – image from City of Greensboro

April 1 (Wed) Spring Wildflower Walk
April 8 (Wed) Spring Wildflower Walk

April 9 (Thur) Program: “Triad Salamanders and Vernal Ponds” Speaker: Courtney Anderson
April 12 (Sun) Second Sunday Nature Walk: Guilford College Woods – Searching for salamanders   
April 15 (Wed) Spring Wildflower Walk

April 18 (Sat) Great American Cleanup/Trail Maintenance – Audubon Natural Area, 9:30-11:30 a.m.
April 18 (Sat) Earth Day Celebration – KCE Family Branch Library, Price Park, 1-5 p.m.
April 22 (Wed) Spring Wildflower Walk

April 25 (Sat) Field Trip: Lawrence property with PBC – Morning walk, exact time TBD
May 2 (Sat) Spring Bird Count. Contact: Elizabeth Link 336-273-4672
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