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Photo by Kathy Thornton

Thursday, January 6

Register for 2022 Programs

A new year means a new slate of programs for all ages! Of special note are preschool and homeschool programs.


The eight-week Acorn Academy Nature Preschool spring session runs Tuesdays, March 22–May 10. Children ages 3–5 will learn about foxes, bunnies, flowers, and more, all while gaining socialization skills and exploring the wonders of the great outdoors. Nature preschool is free for Caroline County residents! The series fills quickly—click here to register.


Science classes for homeschool students also run Tuesdays from March 22 to May 10. Hooray for Herps! invites students ages 6–8 to explore the bizarre and fascinating world of reptiles and amphibians, while Weather Chasers, for students ages 10–12, examines the differences between weather and climate and how weather is measured, predicted, and an indicator of planet conditions.


Click here to explore the program and events calendar.

Photo by Kellen McCluskey

Feedback Needed!

Last fall, the Arboretum debuted the Indigenous Peoples' Perspective Project, a collaboration with the Washington College Food Initiative that explores the importance of more than 20 native plants to the food, craftwork, and medicinal traditions of indigenous peoples of the Chesapeake region. Through a story map, family activities, a video series, and information about the featured native plants, the project seeks to encourage a paradigm shift from land as capital to land as sacred teacher, healer, and sustainer.


We would greatly value your thoughts about the project! Click here to view the resources and to access an evaluation form. If you've already explored the resources, you can access the evaluation form here. Thank you!

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American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana). Photo by Shane Brill.

New Resources for Native Gardening

Gardens designed with native plants can serve many purposes. In pollinator gardens, they provide nectar and pollen, nesting sites, and water sources for a variety of pollinators throughout the seasons. Rain gardens can slow and filter runoff, keep water on your property and thus reduce the need for irrigation, and be used in places where other plants are unable to thrive. While the ecological and sustainability benefits of choosing native plants often take center stage, their ornamental beauty cannot be overlooked.


Through color, shape, and texture, native plants can shine in beautiful gardens of any style—from formal to wild. The Arboretum recently partnered with Schoolhouse Farmhouse Studio to create a series of videos that highlight these elements. View the first, Color, by clicking below.

Out with the Old and in with the New

At the end of the year, some birders like to reflect on the best bird or the best birding experience of the year. I will do that in this column and outline 2022 birding events at Adkins.


I had two birds compete for my best bird. Number two was the Ovenbird sitting on a branch at Adkins at the intersection of the Upland Walk and River Birch Allee. We found this bird three different times during my spring migration bird walks. The Ovenbird jumped around on the branch as it scolded us. We must have been close to the nest for that kind of memorable performance. I can still take you to that exact spot and point out the branch.

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Ovenbird (not the one I saw). Photo courtesy of Flickr user Tom Murray.

My best bird of 2021 was the diminutive Winter Wren. I have seen this bird many times in my birding career, but I had never heard it sing. On Christmas Eve it was 50 degrees, and I was sitting outside by a fire at dusk, enjoying the birds as they settling down for the night. Many White-throated Sparrows were singing their clear, whistled song: "Poor Sam Peabody Peabody Peabody." Then I heard a bright bubbling long (sometimes over 10 seconds) song. Hearing something totally unexpected made me wonder: "Did I really hear what I thought I heard? Please sing again!" And it did...a Winter Wren. Listen to the song here. The song is usually heard in the spring, but not around here. They breed in the more northern parts of the U.S. and into Canada. The Winter Wren is not much bigger than a ping pong ball that just happens to have a stubby, perky tail and a short, sharp bill.

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Winter Wren. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Fyn Kynd.

On May 8, I was competing in the New Jersey Audubon World Series of Birding with the Momlets Plus One team. I am the Plus One. It was late afternoon, and I was by myself. I had stopped by a farmer's small pond close to Adkins hoping for a shorebird or two. I set up my spotting scope and started scanning. I saw a Lesser Yellowlegs, Greater Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover, Solitary Sandpiper, Dunlin, and Black-bellied Plover. A veritable cornucopia of shorebirds! While taking in the spectacle, I heard Horned Larks and Eastern Meadlowlarks singing. To top it off, an Eastern Screech-Owl began calling. A truly magical moment of birding.


Upcoming Events


I have three birding events coming up at Adkins:


  • The Great Backyard Bird Count is sponsored by Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Birds Canada, and the Audubon Society. Now in its 25th year, it is a four-day worldwide event to identify and count the birds. Last year, birders reported 6,539 species on more than 300,000 checklists. Join me in the Adkins parking lot on Friday, February 18 at 8 a.m. Please email me if you plan to come.

  • To get ready for the spring arrival of warblers, vireos, sparrows, thrushes, tanagers, and more at Adkins, I will conduct three days of indoor classes at the Arboretum on March 9, 16, and 23, starting at 10 a.m. You can register here.


  • Practice what you learned in the class and attend the Arboretum's spring migration bird walks. The walks will begin on Saturday, April 2 and continue every Saturday. We will meet in the Adkins parking lot at 8 a.m. During May, the walks will switch to Fridays. Register for one walk or all.


Please let me know if you had any good birds or bird stories from last year. I would love to include some of them in my column. May the new year bring you new birds and lots of forest bathing at Adkins.


Please contact me at wlsngang@verizon.net with any questions.


Jeobirdy Answer: During the freezing temperatures of winter, this may be the most important thing you can provide for the birds.


Jeobirdy Question: What is fresh water?


Jeobirdy Answer: This warbler is the one warbler that typically spends the winter at Adkins.


Jeobirdy Question: What is the Yellow-rumped Warbler? Approximately ten Yellow-rumps have been spending time near the entrance to the Visitor's Center bridge.


by Jim Wilson

Birder/Arboretum volunteer

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Butterbutt (Yellow-rumped Warbler). Photo courtesy of Flickr user Len Blumin.

Nature Notes

I was not expecting to see earthworms on my early-January walk, but warm temperatures and a night of rain brought them to the surface. We noticed their trails first—hundreds of wiggly lines criss-crossing the sandy baseball diamond. The worms themselves were numerous and exceptionally long. Covered in sandy dirt, they squirmed blindly under the gray sky. Clouds are a worm’s best friend; sunshine is anathema for creatures who need to stay moist.


My daughter—reared on several years of Kratt’s Creatures and Wonder Pets—rushed to the earthworms’ rescue. I am not sure they needed to be rescued, but she felt strongly that the nearby grass would provide better habitat. A good ten minutes were spent transferring worms from sand to soil. We took pictures to record their record length.


In normal winter weather, many earthworms stay in their burrows, coiled in slime-covered balls. They’ll slumber beneath the frostline until the mercury climbs, when they emerge unscathed. Other, more feckless, worms lay their eggs in cocoons beneath the soil, then settle themselves in the leaf litter to perish with the cold. Continuity is ensured either way, and that’s a good thing: worms are vital for soil health. Their burrows enable air and water to circulate underground, and their excrement—called casts--increases soil fertility and structure.


As we bent our heads over a particularly fine specimen, I took a moment to expound on worm anatomy. The tail of the worm is narrower than its head, which has no eyes or nose. The worm’s clitellum—a larger bump in the otherwise slim body of a worm—is closer to the head and serves an important function in reproduction. (Worm reproduction is a slimy, mucousy affair. I will spare you the details.) Worms are lightly etched with horizontal segments, which in turn are covered in setae—tiny, bristly hairs that facilitate movement.


The number of worms in the baseball diamond seemed disproportionate to its size, but I have read that an average-sized farm can have more worms beneath the soil than a large city has people. This is a fact worth musing on. We may feel as if we are rulers of the earth, but when we take the time to look up, down, and all around, it quickly becomes evident that we are just cogs in a much larger wheel.


by Jenny Houghton

Assistant Director