I am currently preparing a rather large essay on my recent road trip, but here’s an entry in the style I suspected I would use this blog for.
I just got back from a short trip to the Arboretum at Penn State – not the new structure with cultivated gardens, but the reclaimed farm area surrounding a railroad track-cum-public trail. I’ve been there dozens upon dozens of times, and the entry point is no more than five minutes from my house.
Just before hopping on the trail, I noticed a few rather large Crows and a Grackle apparently annoyed at them. Shortly thereafter, Robins all fluffed up and pruning their feathers – very reddish bellies. A groundhog sat poised on top of a dirt mound that I wouldn’t have noticed if my binoculars hadn’t drifted upward.
Many Cardinals, many mewing Catbirds. One little brown bird which may have been an Ovenbird, but I can’t say definitely. Plenty of Grackles, at least one Mourning Dove, and amusing Mockingbirds testing their repertoire of mimicry. The usual, I suppose.
And then–! A flash of tangerine and black. An Oriole! My first. I’ve been wanting to see one. From a quick conclusion with my NWF Field Guide, a Baltimore Oriole – the neck around it very orange, the wings black with white wing bars, the head black. Josh Potter tells me we’re likely to see Orioles and Orchards around here at this time, so I suspect it’s a Baltimore.
I sat down to read a little bit of Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac – a beautiful book that I just purchased yesterday at Websters – and saw the Oriole flit across the trail a couple more times, but upon approaching, it entered the foliage and became invisible to me.
I decided to check one more spot before leaving, where I’ve seen a lot of activity before, and hoped to see a Blue Jay. No dice. Nothing, really – but I didn’t stay too long, and other joggers were running past me and distracting me somewhat. I had to work soon, so I decided to just leave. Fantastically, on the way out I saw two rabbits, a pair of Blue Jays, and one deer (no antlers) gnawing on some shoulder-high-plant matter. It seemed to notice me and did a slight jog towards the woods, but must not have been too afraid, as it launched back into a jolly gait before disappearing.
The wildflowers are blooming all around, and I saw many plants that require a trip with a proper field guide to identify. I am a little disappointed in the NWF’s new Wildflowers Field Guide – though their series has been excellent so far, and the book is indeed massive, I can’t help but feel that the sheer amount of plants make for photos too tiny to discern the features of. I plan on investing in a Newcomb’s, and possibly an Audobon’s, as soon as funds allow. I noticed several plants that were very distinctive, but lacked flowers at this time – one I would say has “Alligator” leaves in an alternating fashion, but completely connected around the stem, so much that water has pooled around it on every level. What an interesting micro-eco-system, I should think!
And the Garlic Mustard has turned gnarly and tough. I attempted to pull out some of it before my trip, but there is so much. Jewelweed, however, seems to be taking over at this point, and it is quite pleasant to look at.
I also noticed some plants with leaves well over a foot long and in some cases perhaps a foot wide (and even longer). I cannot say what it is, either, however.
All in all, an enriching early afternoon walk, and just the first of many to come in the midst of summer!