My Favorite Nature Spot Is …
Someone asked me “What’s your favorite nature spot?” I thought about all the “tourist” or “celebrity” areas I’ve visited in the DelMarVa region – such as Blackwater Wildlife Refuge, Jug Bay, Patuxent Wildlife Refuge.
Yet my answer is: Any Place I Can Get To Every Day. [I list them below.]
Enjoying the changing of the seasons, noticing the life cycle, watching behavior, becoming familiar with flora and fauna is so much easier and satisfying when you can observe it on a regular basis.
For example, on a one mile stroll around the local park, I saw 42 bird species! An early morning hike at another local park was full of discovery (earlier blog post) and I encountered only one other person – having the forest to myself! Stopping every day to take a look at a pond along Route 40 feeds my curiosity on wetland habitats.
I developed this post when I realized I visit all of “my favorite spots” on a typical week-end!
- Mariner Point Park
- the pond across from Home Depot
- Anita C. Leight Estuary Center
- my neighborhood
- my own backyard
Mariner Point Park is 38 acres at the tip of a small peninsula jutting into the Gunpowder River. A one-mile walking loop goes through wooded areas of deciduous and evergreen trees. Yes, one day I saw 42 species of birds, aided by a local birding expert. The list included song birds, raptors, and waterfowl. The park is popular with people walking, many of whom feed the birds. So they practically fly up to you! This year, I’ve regularly seen bald eagles. I watch the trees, shrubs, and wildflowers grow, bloom, and hibernate for the winter. I watch the ebb and flow of the tide, and observe the impact of our local storms.
At the pond alongside Route 40, across from Home Depot in Edgewood, I’ve seen many of my “1sts”. Some of these include green heron, cedar waxwings in a sycamore tree in the highway median, wood ducks, a flock of egrets taking shelter in a stand of trees along the road, and many more. I can watch arrow arum grow in the spring, lotus and marsh mallows bloom during the summer, and purple loosestrife, an invasive, take hold.
Anita C. Leight Estuary Center encompasses 93 acres of forest around a fresh water tidal marsh. One can enjoy a solitary walk in a forest, listening to bird song, enjoying an abundance of mountain laurel in bloom, listening to trickling streams — all just a few dozen feet from Route 40. Then there’s the marsh itself. The Nature Center regularly holds leisurely pontoon rides through the marsh, led by local birding experts and naturalists who describe the ecology and point out the avian visitors. Regular sightings include bald eagles, osprey, great blue herons, swallows, terns, and all sorts of other waterfowl. What’s not to love ???
Yes, my neighborhood ranks as one of my favorite nature spots. I live in an urban/suburban development of townhomes, condominiums, and single family homes. It was built in the late ‘80s, when townhomes still had a bit of a yard. There are even swaths of trees separating the various sections of the development. Over these 20 years, the trees have grown up, the wooded areas are thick (we have no deer to chomp away at the understory!) and many families garden and hang birdfeeders. I can easily have 10 species of birds at my feeder in a day. I’ve seen 8 species of butterflies over a week-end. Though we have the typical urban rodents, we also have a fox! In the past few years, the county began naturalizing a run-off area in the middle of the development. Now we have bald cypress trees (how cool is that ?!); I regularly find butterflies and common wildflowers. This year, the county built a holding pond. Maybe I’ll even start seeing waterfowl, right down the street from my home.
My backyard is also one of my favorite spots to sit, listen, and observe the wildlife. Several years ago I ripped out the lawn. Both my front lawn and my back yard are now garden. I started with “whatever looks pretty”. Now that I know the value of native plants, I’m transforming when I can. My yard attracts just about the full spectrum of backyard birds, as well as a hawk, butterflies, and plenty of insects … I now have a mix of ornamentals, native plants, butterfly-attracting plants, my uber-rose bush, and colorful annuals. I’ve said that I love camping to be outdoors and wake with the bird chorus. I’ve come to be just as happy, cuddled with a warm cup of morning coffee, watching the sky change from dark blue to pink to orange as the sun rises over my deck, listening to the resident birds berate me until I fill the feeders.
Though I intended to write this blog to point out that nature can be found anywhere, I’ve come to favorite the nature I find just outside my door.