The Stroud Preserve, 26 April 2013


Accompanying me on my walk today was Susan Charkes. We had high hopes for more spring birds but our hopes didn’t produce anything new. As we were lamenting about the lack of birds we ran into Kelly Nunn, who was not lamenting about the lack of birds. She had quite a list of birds that we had not seen including Blue-winged Warbler, Baltimore Oriole and Orchard Oriole. Kelly did start about an hour earlier than we did but I still can’t help but think that I did something to offend the spring warbler. I seem to be little behind what is generally being reported.

The birds never did really pick up for us, but fortunately, springtime has other things to offer. While the photo above could reflect my grumpy disposition about the state of migration, it is actually a snapping turtle that I see frequently hauled out on a stream bank on the northwest side of the old farm pond. It usually on the side that is to squishy for me to walk on but today, it was on the opposite side, where I could take a nice portrait of it.

Susan and I worked our way around to the serpentine outcrop to look at the interesting plants in bloom there. Lyre-leaved rockcress (Arabis lyrata), large field mouse-eared chickweed (Cerastium velutinum var. velutinum),  and early saxifrage (Saxifraga virginiensis) are still the only native flowering plants that we could find. I was hoping that some of the grasses would have grown enough for me to identify yet. I did turn my attention to the little yellow violets that grow commonly around the preserve. I have concluded that violets are just plain evil.

Yes, evil. In plant identification circles, you often hear people talking about how difficult things like grasses, sedges and willows are to identify. Well, I think violets are worse. With the others they are difficult, but the taxonomy is pretty much agreed upon by the plant taxonomy gods above. Violets are surprisingly difficult and there is very little agreement on their taxonomy. I have a number of flora text available to me both printed and on the internet. None of them employ the same taxonomy for Violaceae. An this little yellow violet is a poster child that illustrates the problem.

Originally, I identified it as Viola hastata, which I recently realized is clearly incorrect. V. hastata simply does not occur in eastern Pennsylvania. But each time I tried to key it using Rhoads and Block I keep coming out to V. hastata. Looking at my general field guides to plants the one that seems to be the best fit is V. pensylvanica. Turning to another flora, Weakley’s Flora of Southern and Mid Atlantic States, it easily keyed out to V. pensylvanica. But this species is not listed at all in Rhoads and Block. Humm…

After several hours of trying to reconcile the differences I finally figured it all out. The little yellow violet that I see at the Stroud Preserve is Viola pubescens var. scabriuscula in Rhoads and Block. The key stresses the features of V. pubescens var. pubescens, which is where I went wrong. In Weakley, the little yellow violet is indeed V. pensyvanica. Both Rhoads and Block and Weakley give V. eriocarpon as a synonym. So, the common bond between the two authorities that I use is V. eriocarpon.

It seems so innocent. 

It seems so innocent. 

Make sense? To give you and ideal of just how bad it can be, here is Weakley’s full synonym text;

[= WV; = Viola pubescens Aiton var. scabriuscula Schweinitz ex Torrey – K, V, X; = V. eriocarpa (Nuttall) Schweinitz var. leiocarpa Fernald & Wiegand – RAB; < V. pubescens – C, GW, W; > V. pensylvanica Michaux var. pensylvanica – F; > V. pensylvanica var. leiocarpa (Fernald & Wiegand) Fernald – F; = V. eriocarpa – G, S; = V. eriocarpon (Nuttall)Schweinitz var. leiocarpon Fernald & Wiegand; > V. pubescens Aiton var. leiocarpon (Fernald & Wiegand) Seymour]

And birders think flycatchers are difficult. Please.

Start time: 8:50

End time: 1:00

Temp: 52-57°

Wind: 10 from the south

Skies: clear

Species Total: 53

  • Great Blue Heron – 1
  • Black Vulture – approximately 10
  • Turkey Vulture – approximately 20
  • Canada Goose – approximately 10
  • Mallard – 2
  • Northern Harrier – 1, immature or female
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk – 3, 2 immature, 1 adult
  • Cooper's Hawk – 1 adult
  • Red-tailed Hawk – 4
  • Mourning Dove – 4
  • Chimney Swift – approximately 100
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker – approximately 10
  • Downy Woodpecker – 4
  • Northern Flicker – 2
  • Eastern Phoebe – 4
  • White-eyed Vireo – 3, heard only
  • Warbling Vireo – 4
  • Blue Jay – approximately 40, mostly moving from west to east
  • American Crow – approximately 10
  • Fish Crow – 2, heard only
  • Tree Swallow – approximately 150
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow – approximately 30, collecting nesting material
  • Barn Swallow – approximately 20, many collecting nesting material from muddy area in bed of old farm pond.
  • Carolina Chickadee – approximately 10
  • Tufted Titmouse – approximately 10
  • White-breasted Nuthatch – approximately 5
  • Carolina Wren – approximately 10
  • House Wren – 2
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 1
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – approximately 25
  • Eastern Bluebird – approximately 20
  • American Robin – approximately 30
  • Northern Mockingbird – 1
  • Brown Thrasher – 1
  • European Starling – approximately 15
  • Yellow Warbler – approximately 10
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler – approximately 10
  • Palm Warbler – 4
  • Common Yellowthroat – approximately 10
  • Eastern Towhee – approximately 20
  • Chipping Sparrow – 1
  • Field Sparrow – approximately 10
  • Savannah Sparrow – 6, one was a distinctively different from the other Savannah Sparrows that I have seen at the preserve. This one seemed larger, and overall much deeper brown. The streaking on the beast was very well defined and the supercillium was very bold and a creamy yellow from front to back.
  • Song Sparrow – approximately 20
  • Swamp Sparrow – 1
  • White-throated Sparrow – approximately 10
  • Northern Cardinal – approximately 10
  • Red-winged Blackbird – approximately 50
  • Eastern Meadowlark – at least 2, the singing male at the corner of Creek and Strasburg Road still present. It can often be seen singing from the telephone wire just to the west of the intersection.
  • Common Grackle – 3
  • Brown-headed Cowbird – approximately 15
  • House Finch – 2, heard only
  • American Goldfinch – approximately