April 9, 2016: With a surprise snowstorm that hit five minutes after we arrived at the White House Farm, the hardy naturalists waited in their vehicles as ice pellets hit windshields and white-out conditions made the landscape look like the depths of winter. We had gathered to admire the spring ephemeral wildflowers and enjoy the forests waking up to a new season but had to wait a little longer until the skies cleared.
Carrie Blair led the group down Kauffmans Mill Road, stopping to see the poison hemlock growing with enthusiasm along the river bank and searching for signs of the beavers who made a path from the corn field to their den in the water last year. We also kept an eye out for the beautiful bald eagle that occasionally rests in the top of the sycamore trees, ready to swoop up a fish or mouse in the riparian area.
April is truly a transition month with flowers emerging and trees budding but the possibility of sudden snow and a return to winter conditions. It is a great time to be in the woods, taking advantage of the ability to see through the forest before the canopy closes.
Charles Layton, forester with Fairfax County, joined us for the walk, pointing out the “blonding” on the bark of ash trees growing next to the water. This occurs when woodpeckers bore into the trunks of ash trees, searching for the larvae of the emerald ash borer insect. The borers will eventually kill the ash tree by feeding on the inner bark, a problem that is having a significant negative impact to forests in Virginia and the entire eastern US.
We appreciate Carrie Blair sharing her tree expertise with us on naturalist strolls and look forward to having her come back to the farm again soon.