Saturday, June 12, 2010

Cranberry Glades and a Porch Full of Bloggers

The 750 acre Cranberry Glades Botanical Area, located in the Monongahela National Forest, protects the largest area of bogs in West Virginia.  In the midst of these bogs, a magical boardwalk has been constructed to enable visitors like me to stroll through a portion of these bogs as easily as walking through a backyard garden.  Needless to say, curiosity about this habitat and its unique plants formed the highlight of this scenic trip.
Bogs are acidic wetlands more commonly found in the northern US and Canada.  These WV bogs are located 3400 ft. above sea level in a natural mountain bowl.  Historically they were influenced by the movement of glaciers 10,000 years ago.  While the glaciers didn't actually reach this area of West Virginia, many northern species of plants and animals migrated south and still remain here at there southern-most location.  One of these interesting plants is the carnivorous Purple Pitcher Plant pictured below.
The bog floor is covered with Sphagnum moss and beneath its surface, dead and decaying moss extends several feet, creating the sponginess that is characteristic of bogs.  The trail took us through open, tree-less areas as well as wooded areas where shallow-rooted Red Spruce, hemlock and yellow birch survive the wet conditions.  The same shallow root structure that aids their survival also makes the trees susceptible to winds.   Many fallen trees criss-cross open areas and in turn, nurse logs are formed to aid in the re-establishment of seedlings.

Marsh Marigold (above)
Bog Rosemary

I'm not sure what was more fun, the collection of unusual plants found in the bog, or the intimate moments with birds.  The first was a very vocal group of Ruby-crowned Kinglets (below), foraging and chattering at eye-level.  This was the first time I had heard this kind of kinglet interaction and I could have lingered for another hour just listening and watching.
A little further down the boardwalk we encountered this very cooperative Yellow-rumped Warbler (below).  While many birders seem to take this bird for granted, I counted seeing him at such close range among my satisfying warbler moments.  While he wasn't a new warbler for me, I more often see him in his duller (but still beautiful) fall plumage. To have this male catching insects and even singing at eye level was an exceptional treat.
And how many times do you get to see all three yellow patches visible in one pose?  (Don't miss the yellow spot on his head.)  An experience worth taking time to enjoy...

and time to sketch.

Below, a Skunk Cabbage in bloom...
and one of the few bog cranberries the birds and animals had not plucked!
Below, fellow blogger and bog explorer, Debbie Barnes, drops to her tummy on the boardwalk to get a close-up view of a violet.  There's actually a camera in those hands.
And at the very end of our tour, we enjoyed some good looks at an Eastern Comma butterfly near the parking area.  The name-sake comma marking is visible only when the butterfly's wings are closed.
As with each day at the New River Birding and Nature Festival, our day of exploring the glades was followed in the evening by a dinner gathering, presentation and a chance for everyone to compare their finds for the day.  And this particular day-end ritual had an extra perk, the arrival of blogger, writer, NPR commentator and artist, Julie Zickefoose, along with husband, Bill Thompson III, blogger and editor of Birder's Digest and the rest of their clan, Phoebe, Liam, and the infamous Chet Baker.  This was my first time to meet  them in person and it was great fun to enjoy their company and talents for the remainder of the festival.
Julie with Boston Terrier, Chet Baker

Our New River "Flock" of nature bloggers gathered on the porch for a photo opportunity.  Bill Thompson III was gracious enough to hold the camera.
Back, l to r:  Nina Harfman, Debbie Barnes, Murr Brewster, Kelly Little Orange, Julie Zickefoose, Phoebe Thompson, Front, l to r:  Vickie Henderson, Susan Kailholz-Williams, Sarah Stratton, Mary Moore Ferracci.

Links and Resources:
Cranberry Glades Nature Center
WV's New River Birding and Nature Festival
National Park Service, New River Gorge Website
Nina Harfman - Nature Remains
Debbie Barnes-DJB Photo Adventures
Murr Brewster-Murrmurrs
Kelly Little Orange-Kelly LittleOrangeGuy
Julie Zickefoose-Julie Zickefoose 
Susan Kailholz-Williams--Susan Gets Native
Sarah Stratton-Little Orange Guy
Mary Moore Ferracci- Mary's View
Bill Thompson, III- Bill of the Birds


  1. Have you ever had a bog cranberry preserved fresh in icing sugar? My mother used to make them and we had them as a threat at Christmas.

  2. Arija, that sounds yummy. And all the more delicious because its a warm memory.

  3. What a crew! Sure wish I could have been there!


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Your Uncapped Creativity...
"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action; and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. You must keep that channel open. It is not for you to determine how good it is, nor how valuable. Nor how it compares with other expressions. It is for you to keep it yours, clearly and directly." ----the great dancer, Martha Graham