April 27, 2020

Pollinator Garden DIY!

Hi everyone,

It's been a wet past couple days, but I imagine that's perfect weather for observing those hydrophilic species. I tried yesterday to look for frogs and salamanders, but didn't have much luck. Still open to any recommendations for salamander searching.

Kev and I took the girls hiking on Saturday at Patapsco Valley State Park. We didn't think they would make the 6 mile Chevrolet Trail, so we tried shaving it down to 3 miles by cutting up the Quarry Trail. Ended up being just under 5 miles, but the girls were little troopers. I attached a link to the trail below. Minimal elevation, kid and dog friendly.

Just as we were entering the park, we heard a loud croaking from one of the trees. This is the second time we've heard this bird calling. The first time we heard it, Kev and I kept going back and forth between raven or crow. It was so much louder and throatier than an American crow. This time, we had an actual visual of the bird and I was able to catch a video of it calling and bouncing around on the branch. Based on the size, I was sure, definitely a raven. I might be geeking out about it more than it warrants, but it's my first raven sighting outside of captivity.

I've added some observations to my Fort Smallwood Park Project. My favorite it the eastern tailed blue I spent following around the park for a good 20 minutes. Eventually the butterfly tired from the chase and let me take my pictures.

We are now entering week 7 of quarantine. Kev and I aren't the type that does well staying in. I think we've done a good job compensating with exercise and hiking, but we're starting to get that Fixer Upper itch. Thankfully, we have found a project to fill that productivity void we've been feeling. We've decided, with the guidance and expertise of my mother, to build a pollinator garden in our backyard.

A couple of years ago, my mom got certified through Anne Arundel County's Watershed Stewards Academy. Since then, she has been implementing her knowledge and gardening skills all over her community to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay and support Maryland's native species. I'm very proud of her hard work and dedication to environmental conservation. I've included a link to the WSA website where you can read more about their work.

Anyways, our garden will be all natives. Once everything is planted, I would like to install a couple of pollinator rest stations (bee/bird baths, butterfly houses, humming bird feeders (without red dye)). I want to increase the presence of pollinators in our yard, so any tips or suggestions are greatly appreciated.

We're starting work today by fixing the fence behind the site of our garden. Wednesday, we plan to break ground. I'll be sure to keep you all updated on the progress of the installation. Maybe I will start a project just for my own backyard.

Talk to you next time!


Anne Arundel County Watershed Stewards Academy: http://aawsa.org/
Map of Hike: https://www.alltrails.com/explore/recording/recording-apr-25-02-21-pm-ef1e491

Posted on April 27, 2020 14:54 by ehall1994 ehall1994 | 2 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 13, 2020

Patapsco Valley State Park Chevrolet Trail Loop

Hi everyone, I hope you had a good Easter!

Not being able to celebrate with family had me a little down yesterday. Thankfully, Kev knew exactly how to cheer me up. It took some pushing, but he got my butt out of the house and drove us up to Ellicott City. We finally got to try out the Chevrolet Trail Loop!

We arrived a little after 2:30 and it took us about 3 hours to hike the 6 mile loop. The map said there was about 500 feet elevation gain, but the gradual grade made it a much easier hike than the McKeldin Switchback.

Similar to the Mckeldin Switchback, there was plenty of plant diversity to be observed. My favorite find of the day was my first morel. We found two on our hike, one right beside the trail. We were astonished it hadn't been picked or trampled. I'm not very good at identifying fungus, so please take a look and suggest IDs if you are familiar!

A few of my recordings are of the same species found on the other side of the river, but I figured dropping location pins would still be beneficial for the Maryland Biodiversity and the Patapsco Valley State Park Projects. I also added several new species to my collection. As I find new species to record, I'm surprised how much plant taxonomy I'm able to recall from my time at Frostburg. Makes me wish I knew about this app when I had to take Field Practicals.

There was a number of lilies and other plants that were just starting to come up. Kevin and I plan to return to the park in about two weeks to see if they've blossomed. Still waiting on those May apples to pop.

I've finally added some critters to my collection as well. Josey (our 10 month old border collie) met his first snake during our run at a local community park. We came across a nest of garter snakes investigating a small stream. One of the snakes, oblivious to his surroundings, almost slithered right over Kev's foot. However once the snake caught visual of Josey, he quickly disappeared into the leafy brush. Josey was disappointed the snakes did not want to play with him.

A much different scenario than our snake encounter yesterday on our hike. The size of the baby garter snakes paled in comparison to the huge rat snake we almost mistaken as a large stick. This time, the snake did not hurry to get away and hide. Instead, he turned to face us and began rattling it's tail to mimic the warning of a rattle snake. Enjoying his sun bathing, he had no intention of giving up his spot for a couple of tourists. I grabbed a couple of pictures for my observation and then Kev carefully escorted the snake off the trail. Normally we would of left him alone, but there was a number of mountain bikers and we didn't want him to get squished.

I've included a link to our recording of the hike on my AllTrails account. We're both looking forward to returning soon. Definitely want to get there much earlier next time to see some birds. Also would like to find some salamanders. If anyone has tips on where to look, please comment below!


Posted on April 13, 2020 13:52 by ehall1994 ehall1994 | 23 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 06, 2020

Patapsco Valley State Park Spring Flower Hike

Hi everyone! Hope you are holding up well as the quarantine continues. Last week was my first day "back to work". In Maryland we have transitioned to online learning, so teachers in Anne Arundel County spent the last week in training to use online resources and setting up their Google Classrooms. Thankfully my department had already been using Google Classrooms, so I feel very comfortable with the transition.

Since my last journal post, I decided to start taking more initiative using my iNaturalist account. I've started posting observations more regularly and contribute to identifications when feeling confident enough.

I've even gotten the kids involved. After learning about the Seek app, I downloaded it for both my stepdaughters to use. It served as a useful tool for a science lesson my oldest had to complete. I sent the girls each a picture of different flowers we found on our hike yesterday. I told them, the first to correctly identify their flowers wins a prize. Not sure what that prize is yet, but we'll figure it out. Feel free to make suggestions!

Our hike yesterday was at Patapsco Valley State Park. Our original plan was to hike the Chevrolet Trail Loop, a 6 mile trek with moderate elevation, on the east side of the Patapsco River. I was very excited to add a new trail recording to my AllTrails app. Upon arrival to the trail head, there was a number of cars parked and too many people in one location for our comfort. So much for social distancing...

Instead we decided to check out one of our favorites, the McKeldin Switchback Trail. A shorter hike, only 4 miles, located on the west side of the river just across from the Chevrolet Trail. I was very happy we went with plan B. On our hike I was able to add 15 new species to my collection! Spring beauties and a number of other wildflowers were in full bloom throughout the hike. Everyone else hiking was very respectful of each others' space and did a fantastic job navigating the trails safely. After getting home I uploaded my finds to the Patapsco Valley State Park project. We still have plans to explore the Chevrolet Trail, but on a day less crowded.

I've included a link below to check out my AllTrails profile. Unfortunately, I did not record our hike yesterday. However, previous recordings can be found under my history tab. You can also find maps to both trails mentioned earlier under my lists, PVSP (Patapsco Valley State Park).

Continue to stay safe and healthy.


Posted on April 06, 2020 15:12 by ehall1994 ehall1994 | 16 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 26, 2020

My First Journal Post

Hi, my name is Emily and I've been a member on iNaturalist for almost a year now. I learned about this great resource from a coworker who also shares an admiration for the outdoors. Initially after downloading the app I recorded a couple of observations, but then life got busy and I forgot I even had it for awhile.

Since we've been encouraged to practice social distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak, I rediscovered the app on my phone and decided it's a good time to take my observations a little more seriously. I've started my own project, Fort Smallwood Park Biodiversity 2020, in attempt to fill my time away from work with something I enjoy doing. Upon creating the project, I was very happy to see a number of observations already recorded from other members that fit the criteria for the project. I hope to see the collection build as more naturalists record their findings.

My boyfriend and I have ambitions to do more camping this year and I look forward to adding to my own personal collection. I'm still fairly new to the program, so any tips, tricks, suggestions are greatly appreciated.

As my boyfriend and I plan for our next camping trip, I would like to put together an area specific list of species that are at their population peaks during this time of year. Does anyone have suggestions on how to best collect and compile that data using this app? Again, any information is greatly appreciated.

Hope everyone is staying safe and healthy, and still enjoying the outdoors!


Posted on March 26, 2020 14:13 by ehall1994 ehall1994 | 2 comments | Leave a comment