May 10, 2012

On Saturday, April 21, the first naturalist-guided nature walk was conducted at Government Island, Stafford. The weather was cooperative and 50 participants joined naturalists Maria Cannata and Kristen Murphy, with help from Leslie Raterman. M.C. Moncure, from the Stafford Board of Tourism, took photos and handed out cold water at the end of the walk.

During the introduction to Austin Run, the group was treated to the appearance of a Northern water snake. The creek water was clear as a bell, allowing participants to view the snake, turtles, fish, and frogs. During the walk the naturalists pointed out both native and intrusive species. Many types of vines were encountered from lovely wild roses, to wild blackberries, and the wonders of the ever disagreeable poison ivy plant. Green brier, with its year-long prickers was evident, along with wild grape, honeysuckle, and Virginia Creeper. Spring wildflowers were still in bloom. Natives, such as Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Spring Beauties, and intrusive plants like mustard, pretty, but not welcome. As the participants strolled along the path, various types of trees were discussed. Some trees quite common, some invasive, such as the Tree of Heaven. Of particular interest was the one Devil's Walking Stick tree that has been found at Government Island.
Some of the history of Government Island was given, but that will be the topic of the walk scheduled for the third Saturday in June. The geology of the sandstone at the quarry site was explained with a brief explanation of the quarrying process.

Government Island has two types of forest, two creeks (Austin Run and Aquia Creek), marsh and swamp habitats and one ""gem" of the island, a small vernal pool. Each individual wetlands habitat was described and pointed out. Water plants were starting to emerge in the marsh, but none were yet flowering.
Some birds were observed and others were heard off in the trees. There will be a bird walk on the third Saturday in May when hopefully more of our feathered friends will be enjoyed.

Government Island is a unique, fascinating park located in a very accessible place. The Master Naturalists hope to introduce the public to this ever changing forest and wetlands environment. Through education comes an understanding of the need for conservation. We hope you will join us for our next walk, July 21 at 8AM. Separate, tailored walks can also be made available to groups. with prior arrangement. Contact the chapter to make arrangements.

See you on July 21!

May 7, 2012

2012 Master Naturalist Training

We will be offering Master Naturalist training beginning in August.  To become a Certified Master Naturalist, you must complete a 40 hour basic training class, 8 advanced training hours, and 40 volunteer hours.  In return, you will learn much about nature, conservation, and the environment.  In addition, you will meet many wonderful and dedicated people with similar interests.

More information about the planned training will be posted at a later date.  If you are interested, please contact our chapter.