Category: Education

A Woodcock Encounter

April 26, 2021 - By Scott Bachman, DOF Senior Area Forester, Blackwater team Now that it’s April I will declare that spring is officially here in southeastern Virginia! Earlier this month, I was traveling a back road in Southampton County when ahead I saw a line of small objects on the highway. As I got closer, I could see they were birds. The lead bird was larger than the four that followed. My first thought was... Read More

Field Notes: The Early Shrub Gets the Sun

March 31, 2021 - By Ellen Powell, DOF Conservation Education Coordinator With recent warm weather, Virginia’s woods are greening fast. After a dormant winter, plants gear up for photosynthesis again, using carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight to make food. You might be familiar with some early spring wildflowers that emerge on the forest floor, taking full advantage of the leafless canopy to gather some sun of their own before being shaded out by trees.... Read More

Field Notes: Spring Break for Salamanders

March 26, 2021 - By Ellen Powell, DOF Conservation Education Coordinator The woods are alive, with the sound of … frog calls? Yes, it must be spring in Virginia! Beginning in late winter, ponds, swamps, sloughs and vernal pools become concert halls for breeding choruses of frogs and toads, known collectively as anurans (nerd-word of the day). Joining them are the much quieter – but no less numerous – salamanders. These amphibians spend most... Read More

In Memory of Page Hutchinson

February 4, 2021 - The Virginia Department of Forestry is mourning the loss of Page Hutchinson, Virginia’s Project Learning Tree Coordinator and member of the DOF family, after she passed away unexpectedly this week. Page was a leader in the environmental education community. Beyond the work she did to build Virginia’s PLT program, Page worked with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the Virginia Master Naturalists, and the Virginia Association for Environmental Educators. In... Read More

Field Notes: Fruits of Fall

October 13, 2020 - By Ellen Powell, DOF Conservation Education Coordinator With the autumn foliage season getting underway, it’s easy to miss a key feature of Virginia’s fall landscape: fruits. First, a disclaimer: Don’t eat wild fruits unless you can identify them positively and know they are safe. Many can be eaten by wildlife, but are toxic or even deadly to humans. In wildlife circles, fleshy or squishy fruit eaten by critters is known... Read More

Field Notes: Milkweed Magic

September 18, 2020 - By Ellen Powell, DOF Conservation Education Coordinator For a plant with ‘weed’ in its title, milkweed is a pretty awesome plant. It contains toxins called cardiac glyphosides, which deter feeding by most insects and mammals. Despite this trait, a milkweed plant is a little universe unto itself. In fact, one study documented more than 450 species of insects visiting milkweed in a single midwestern field. You probably already know about... Read More

Field Notes: Hitchhiking Seeds

August 31, 2020 - By Ellen Powell, DOF Conservation Education Coordinator When you think of summer hitchhikers, you probably think of chiggers and ticks. Ick! But did you know that beggar-ticks and harvest lice might also grab a ride on your clothes? Don’t worry, these don’t carry diseases or make you itch. They are the harmless seeds of some of our native plants. Seeds that cling are adapted to travel to new locations on... Read More

Field Notes: Scouting for Trees

August 13, 2020 - An Isle of Wight County Boy Scout recently earned his Eagle rank by designing and installing a tree identification trail at Nike Park in Carrollton, Virginia. Sawyer Cook shared the following story about his project.

Field Notes: Fantastic Ferns

May 15, 2020 - By Ellen Powell, Conservation Educator Woodland walks in May are a study in fresh, vibrant green. Tree canopies have leafed out, shrubs and saplings fill the midstory, and underfoot, ferns and other ground covers sprawl across the leaf litter. Ferns are not flowering plants; their reproduction is altogether different. They have a unique two-phase life cycle. The sporophyte form is the plant we recognize as a fern. It releases spores, which... Read More

Field Notes: Sounds of Spring

April 10, 2020 - by Ellen Powell, conservation educator The flush of green suffusing our woodlands isn’t the only signal that spring is here. If a daily dawn chorus wakes you this month, it likely includes our state bird, the northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis). This species is a bit unusual, in that both males and females sing, providing a familiar soundtrack in woodland edges and thickets statewide. Learn more about cardinals and listen to... Read More