Raleigh Nature

August 7, 2014

Piedmont Prairies in Raleigh

Filed under: Gems & Surprises, green initiatives, Nature Lore, West Raleigh — Tags: , — raleighnaturalist @ 3:17 pm

Museum Field (1)

Fire, hurricanes, and Native American land management all created prairies, or tall grass meadows, across the area in prehistoric times. Almost no original prairies still exist, but Raleigh boasts two right down the road from each other off Blue Ridge Road. The best place to experience and learn about prairies is Prairie Ridge Ecostation, managed by The Museum of Natural Sciences on Reedy Creek Road. Below is the entrance map for this rich and complex facility, which covers 45 acres.

Prairie Ridge sign

 The top right shows the entrance and parking area, right next to the National Guard Armory. There are forest and prairie trails and at the bottom is a tributary of Reedy Creek, heading west to cross under Edwards Mill Road.  A large solar panel array provides power for a Frank Harmon-designed outdoor classroom built with green features. A residential center is in the works. There is a new Nature Play Space for young children with learning stations, a prairie maze, and logs and boulders for climbing.

Prairie Ridge

Trail heads at Prairie Ridge Ecostation

The highly diverse profusion of grasses, herbs and accompanying hordes of insects are riven with well-mowed paths to allow easy access. On each side, this mid-summer stroll revealed masses of seed heads, arching, competing green blades, and the occasional intrusion of pokeweed. Numerous butterflies, hunting spiders and other bugs roam the vegetation.

Prairie Trail

Zooming insects planed down onto the mowed surface every few seconds. Here is a grasshopper taking a short rest.

Prairie Ridge grasshopper

You can see clover enjoys the clear-cutting of the mower.

Prairie Ridge garden

Prairie Ridge flower garden on right, classroom building down slope on left. Note the black-eyed Susans on the roof of the garden shelter.

Fun fact: the Wet Lab, seen below, contains jarred biological specimens contained in over a hunded thousand gallons of alcohol. This huge collection, constantly growing as smaller facilities pass on their own holdings, was originally planned for downtown as part of the new science museum – but legislators decided that such a volatile stash needed a more remote location than across the street from them!

Wet Lab

Just a few hundred yards down the road is the campus of the NC Museum of Art, which maintains slopes of prairie meadows along with wooded trails and large lawns with outdoor sculptures. These prairie spaces are usually maintain by controlled burns, which reduce invading tree species and provide readily used nutrients. Mowing every two or three years works nearly as well.

Museum Field (1)

Museum slope

A slice of Piedmont prairie is no farther away then the nearest power line cut, where tall grasses are allowed to mature and flower but mowing is conducted every few years. To see something close to the original, visit the Horton Grove Preserve, managed by the Triangle Land Conservancy, which is part of the historical Stagville Plantation north of Durham. Another remnant of Piedmont praire is at Temple Flat Rock in Wake County, also managed by the TLC.

 

March 24, 2011

Help The Nature Conservancy Plant a Billion Trees!

Filed under: About & reflection, green initiatives, Nature Lore — Tags: — raleighnaturalist @ 3:57 pm

Help the Nature Conservancy plant 1 billion trees by clicking the link.
Donate to The Nature Conservancy
For every $1 donated, the Conservancy can plant 1 locally native tree.

The maple trees are showing their pre-greening blooms!

October 19, 2010

Plant a Tree!

Filed under: green initiatives, Nature Lore — Tags: — raleighnaturalist @ 1:17 am

male gingko on N. Person Street

Trees Across Raleigh is conducting a new planting this weekend: Saturday October 23rd on Clarke Avenue between Horne and Brook.

Here is the link to volunteer.

Trees Across Raleigh, as the subtext of my sidebar link proclaims, has planted over 8,000 trees in Raleigh so far.  Please support them.

Someday, when my health and work allow me to catch up this blog, I will have a page of record trees, many of which are on Raleigh roadsides.  Have you ever noticed the monstrous sycamore in front of Pullen Lake on Western Boulevard?  Or the gigantic box elder (for a box elder) on East Martin Street, or the large stand of magnficent magnolias at the very bottom of St. Mary’s Street?  I will show them to you eventually, plus tell you about the slow demise of a state record water oak in Kiwanis Park.  Just give me time!

sycamores on Capital Boulevard at Piegeon House Branch

 

mourning doves in Oakwood

June 24, 2010

Life, Art and Nature: Summer Solipsis

Filed under: About & reflection, green initiatives, Pecans & Mistletoe, Raleigh History, waterways — Tags: — raleighnaturalist @ 8:43 pm

Marty Baird's show at The Mahler documents experiences of NC waters.

     A personal post as I approach a new era of the blog: moving it toward my book, The Natural History of Raleigh, and recovering from the sabbatical of sorts imposed by other interests, my school year and most of all Meniere’s Disease, which is a non-lethal but incurable inner ear condition which has hampered all my work for the past year. As I have learned to manage my disease and its triggers, I have also become fully engrossed in work related to Raleigh Nature but not what I want on the blog: urban agriculture and the movement toward local sustainable farming in the area.  I’m posting about that work at Pecans and Mistletoe, a project blog which has taken on a life of his own.  Severely limited in screen time many days, I can always find relief from my tinnitus and relaxing pleasure in tending our garden, which we have converted to mixed herb, flower, and food crops.  And our new chickens have lifted the gardening into a whole new level.  It was a challenging school year, and now that summer is here I will try again to make more time for this blog.

     But speaking of Raleigh nature!  We have three wonderful art shows that feature a spectacular range of takes on the relationship between people and nature, and I thought I would kick off my Raleigh Nature comeback with an art column.  Marty Baird’s show at The Mahler is described on the website as

Paintings and drawings that document artist Marty Baird’s experience of the waters in several North Carolina Rivers and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  A percentage of sales during the exhibition will be donated to Triangle Land Conservancy, a non-profit that protects important stream corridors, wildlife habitat and natural areas in North Carolina.

Marty’s work in the show varies widely, but all the pieces display the action of gravity on liquids as they encounter the paper.  The piece at the top of the post is one of the most successful of her painted word lists, which evoke names for water and wetland features.  Much of the other work is literally water and gravity – deftly defined ink lines of water volumes, delicate featherings of outblown tributaries, patterns of action taken from flowing water.  The benefit to Triangle Land Conservancy will help protect stream corridors and riparian wildlife.  Be sure to check it out.

The current show at Block Gallery features imagined and photographed naturescapes.

Hannah Costner has done a great job taking over Sarah Blackmon’s gig curating The Block Gallery in the municipal building downtown.  The current show combines two completely different artists, whose work nevertheless makes a complete show that works well.  Anna Podris has shown her whimsical encaustics all over town, and I love them every time I see them.  Fantastic creatures and pure nature animate every one of her paintings.  As she says, each piece creates its own world.  Gene Furr’s nature photographs reflect his journalist background – superb documentation of natural scenes and animals with over-the-top spectacular settings, lighting and details.  This show continues Block Gallery’s stellar offerings of recent years, as well as its fine tradition of providing a venue for cutting edge video, dance, and music at its openings.

Luke Buchanan offers intriguing and nostalgic cityscapes at Rebus Works.

Nature is what you make of it and Luke Buchanan explores what people have made of Raleigh.  His show at Rebus Works by the Boylan Ave. Bridge are large, even powerful painterly treatments of classic Raleigh street scenes.  Everything from Cup-o-Joe’s to Hayes Barton comes to life in highly recognizable images which still yield to well used artistic license.  The postcard image above is actually from the related group of drawings at Stitch on Hargett Street, which has been the venue for several “sideshows” out of Rebus, but here gets a lion’s share of the show with a dozen really nice drawings (many already sold) with the same themes as above.  Luke’s work does what I want this blog to do : wake up and pay attention to the wonderful Raleigh around you.

I will never  have the time I’d like for this blog and it’s eventual book project, anyway not until I retire from teaching in 5 years.  I hope the book is out by then.  I’m still caught up in Black Mountain College and Ray Johnson work over at Raleigh Rambles, and I now have a new daily item: my page on Facebook. But I’m looking forward to posting a lot soon here – if it will cool off enough to get outside!!  Peace to all. Get outside – and if it’s too hot, then go see some art!

April 12, 2010

Pigeon House Re-Hab Project Helps Edna Metz Wells Park

A wonderful piece of graffiti has garnered some media attention for the stream restoration project along Smallwood Drive just below Cameron Village.  Cameron Village was the first shopping center in the Southeast, and when Willie York built it he diverted, ditched and straightened the headswaters of Pigeon House Branch, which gather between Cameron Village and the Raleigh Apartments.  The creek takes a straight shot right under Clarke Avenue into Edna Metz Wells Park, and after heavy rains the water, which gathers from a large section of the Oberlin Road ridge of Civil War fame, would roar through the tiny park, eroding and scouring and backwashing debris into the tributary water piped down from the glade along Forest Street above the park.  The City of Raleigh is working on a general rehabilitation plan for Pigeon House Branch, and the Smallwood project, which is pretty much finished, is part of that.  Apparently they are going to remove some invasive species before doing final plantings, both on Smallwood and in Edna Metz, in the fall.

From the main approach, the park looks beseiged..  But as you will see below, in the interior, all is well.  This spot is a real haven in Central Raleigh, and was a mainstay for my young children and me in the nineties.

 The Smallwood St. project involved using large boulders and some nice terraces to slow down and complicate the path of the water.

 

The media interest, started by a nice post from Goodnight, Raleigh, centers on a graffiti portrait of Edie Sedgewick, Andy Warhol’s muse, painted on the culvert where Pigeon House enters Edna Metz.  My picture of the scene is below.

Josh Shaffer called me and asked about the construction and Ena Metz, but never specifically mentioned the graffiti.  I’m pretty sure they won’t scrape it off as part of the re-hab project, but I can’t really say for sure.  Hope not.  It is indeed a nice harmless piece of art.  The figure says “De,” which is the word for power in Taoist philosophy.  I appreciate Josh’s feature of it and the park, as well as his kind words for my work.  And thanks as always to John Morris and his compadres over at another of Raleigh’s “splendid blogs!”

Goodnight ,Raleigh post on Edna Metz Wells Park

photo album of Edna Metz and Smallwood project

December 27, 2009

The Most Dangerous Species Grudgingly Groks Predators

Filed under: About & reflection, Exotica, green initiatives, Greenways & Parks, Nature Lore — Tags: , , — raleighnaturalist @ 9:40 pm

Wolf Face by Photos8

The wolf and bear are perfect bookends for a volume-sized summary of Ken Burns’ enormous film series about the national parks.  We came to this country and decimated the vibrant diverse native human population, mostly through disease, and then scoured the country for dangerous animals, paying bounties to cleanse the land of wicked ferocious predators.

When it came to the emerging national parks, it was no different.  Only until Alaska provided a landscape  huge and truly untamable did wildlife inside the parks begin to hold equal sway with the natural landscapes.  Many park officials recognized the vital role of wildlife all along, but wolves and bears were removed nonetheless.  Now we are slowly coming around to a national policy that recognizes the irreplacable contribution large predators make to an ecosystem.

The wolf –  free, wild and dangerous – is portrayed as the symbolic epitome of our estrangment with nature in the final segment of Ken Burn’s film on the national parks.  Wallace Stegner’s ideas frame the parks as a survival necessity – not just  for “the trumpeter swan and bison… but us.”  Stegner knew we needed “sanctuary from a world paved over with concrete by the raw engineering power of the 20th century.”  The ultimate sanctuary, in park terms, was Alaska, where park superintendent Adolf Murie championed the wolf as the crowning jewel of “a glimpse of the primeval.”  From Alaska came the research and experiences that brought about re-introduction of large predators into the continental U.S. parks.

Murie wrote a pro-coyote report concerning Yellowstone that almost got him fired – and did get him packed off to Alaska, where he helped establish the greatest U.S. nature preserves of all. In 1867 “Seward’s Folly” was derided as too remote to be valuable.   111 years later, Morris Udall and Jimmy Carter culminated Alaska preservation by signing off on 17 national monuments comprising 56 million acres (in Alaska communities, all hell broke loose about the feds stealing the state). The Alaska Coalition that facilitated the legislation represented the largest grassroots conservation effort in history.

Denali National Park in Alaska

The final segment of National Parks: America’s Best Idea folded an eclectic concoction of historical and policy facts around Alaska and our large mammals.  The crucial theme of preservation balanced against use is applied to various projects as well as the pure numbers.  By 1950, National Park visitors reached 32 million in number: by just the mid-50’s that number hit 62 million – 98% by car. These numbers would have crushed any system, eventually even Alaska, but for the strong atmosphere and policies created by National Park Service professionals, developing park policies based on scientific research from the emerging academic discipline of ecology. Aside from limiting roads and managing tourist hordes, one of the toughest policies to implement was the simple directive:  Don’t feed the bears!  Though wolves were extirpated from Yellowstone, the “cute” black bears were fed and habituated to tourists for years.  We can minimize our contact and effect, but we can’t really avoid interactions with wildlife, and interactions with dangerous predators require intense management.  The thorny problems inferent in the situation are not least of why Dayton Duncan emphasizes that “each generation must re-protect these lands.”

Burns and Duncan are stalwart in offering breathtaking proof of the value of such work.  They also did yeoman’s work in coverage of the National Park Service’s vast mission, which now includes hundreds of National Monuments and National Historic Sites.  This final segment also continued the thread of appealing human interest stories, from fish guiding Biscayne Bay to home movies of Echo Park.  But I was ready for the end, which came beautifully with the 1995 release of wolves into Yellowstone.  The elk are all the better off for it, and the creekside willows they eat are again thriving.  We can get it right sometimes in this great country, and the national parks are a great example.

All Raleigh Nature posts on the Ken Burns film

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Wildlife in Raleigh is regaining some small aspects of full-fledged wilderness with top-of-the-chain predators.  “Black bears are here to stay,”.  a NandO story just proclaimed.  “Coyote Pyrotechnics at RDU airport” was the title of the WRAL story relating that 2 regional jets carrying about 50 passengers each struck coyotes in a recent week.  Raleigh Eco News has thoroughly documented the establishment of coyotes in the Triangle.  Can we co-exist with coyotes? Probably so, because they are quite discreet. Can we, through the 21st century, co-exist with wolves, mountain lions, and bears of all kinds?  It remains to be seen.

coyote

The Daily Coyote

is an amazing record of human co-existence with a very personable “domesticated” coyote.  Very thought-provoking!

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