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
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.
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