Monday, November 22, 2010


Saturday was beautiful and the NC Bears program was fun.  We went out on a nice hike following along Crooked Creek.  We talked about what bears eat and searched for those things as we walked.  Foods like acorns, berries, ants, grubs, honey, aquatic life, and even small mammals.  We were able to find many of the bear's food types on our walk, no honey though!

On the hike we also talked about how bears are using the northern counties such as Granville, Person, and Caswell as a corridor to travel west to east and east to west, with some of the bears traveling a slightly more southerly route through Durham County.  From the bears on Guess Rd several years ago, to the bear in Northgate Park neighborhood, to the bear sightings right here at West Point a couple of summers ago.  Bears are coming through the area and the majority of the time they are using stream and river basins as their travel path.   

North Carolina has a growing bear population and as that population grows their range will expand from the east and the west till it overlaps here in the piedmont.  We may never have a large bear population in this part of the state, but we should keep seeing more and more bears in the area.  Here is a link to black bear information relating to North Carolina.    There is a good map in here of the current bear range and it show how the bear range has expanded since the 70's in North Carolina. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

NC Bears...

Just a quick mention that coming up this Saturday, November 20, from 10am-noon we will be leading a program on bears in North Carolina.  The program will happen at West Point and we would love to see you out there.  Just a reminder that all programs at West Point meet at the Environmental Education Center.  Look for the blue and yellow signs.

Also, we have not forgotten about the other programs we led this past weekend, we are just getting our pictures together before we tell you more about what happened on those programs.  So much is going on right now.  As always you can click the Environmental Education Link on the right to see what programs we have coming up and where they meet. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Habitat Heroes

About 5 years ago Chris created a program called Habitat Heroes. It was designed to educate about invasive species, exoctic species and how to go native. He tried a few times to get interest in this project, but other projects trumped Habitat Heroes. Now, Habitat Heroes is revitalized with a new Cub Scout group: Pack 137.

Here are our Habitat Heroes after 2 hours of pulling Japanese Stilt Grass:

This group has committed to caring for a piece of land at West Point for 3 years. They hope to bring it back to its natural state:

Here is some general information about invasive and exoctic plants and how to go native.

What is a native plant?
Plants that were here in North America before European settlement.

What is an exotic plant? Also called non-native plants are those not orginally located in North America or in a specific region like North Carolina. In NC we have exotic plants from Asia or western Europe because these regions have similar climates and environmental conditions to those found in the states.

How did the exotic plants get here?
While some have ended up here accidentally, we brought many of them here ourselves. For example, Japanese Stilt grass was used as packing material around Porcelain when it was brought here by boat in the early 1900s. Did you know that Japanese Honeysuckle is not a native plant? You may enjoy the sweet drops of honey from the blooms, but just remember that planting that vine instead of a native vine like Jessamine, can be detrimental to native plants and wildlife.

Non-native plant:
Japanese Honeysuckle

Native plant and an alternative:
Carolina Jessamine

Invasive plants can be attractive to wildlife, but not good for them. Why?
Invasive plants can be attractive to wildlife, but they may not provide the best nutrition for them. Areas that are covered in one (like the picture above with our Habitat Heroes) or a few exotic plants can be harmful because habitats with low plant diversity are poor for wildlife.

GO NATIVE! What does that mean?
By planting native plant species into your landscape you will help take care of the wildlife by providing the best nourishment. Through careful planning you can plant a landscape that is beautiful, low maintenance and will be in harmony with the environment. \

As for Japanese Stilt Grass ... Here is a picture of it:

And here is an alternative native specie you can try:

Little Bluestem

AGAIN, Thank you PACK 137 for being HABITAT HEROES!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Programs Galore!

On Saturday morning (8) people joined us on a fall mushroom hunt. At the beginning of the hike we were joined by a curious fawn who watched us from only 100 feet away. It was an auspicious beginning for a weekend filled with programs!

We also saw this Red-backed salamander under a log:

And here are two other environmental educators showing the children two different mushrooms. If you look closesly you can see the red one and white one:

One of the environmental educators had her late uncles HUGE magniying glass for the kids to use. They really loved it!

Saturday afternoon, (4) cub scouts from Pack 137 became Habitat Heroes by removing Japanese Stilt Grass. They will do this 3 times a year for 3 years to ensure that they bring back a natural habitat for the flora and fauna. Keep your web brower stationed to us, to see pictures of our Habitat Heroes and to learn about non- native plants and how to go native.

Then on Saturday night (16) participants came out to Lake Michie to join us for the Starry Starry Night program. We had a clear night which allowed for some fun stories about the constellations. Also, Saturday was the beginning of the Leonids Meteor Shower which will last till November 20th but be at its peak on November 17th and 18th. We had quite the show of shooting stars. Through the telescope we were able to see the craters of the quarter moon and Jupiter with three of its moons.
DON'T FORGET: December 21st is the Winter Solstice and a Total Lunar Eclipse.

Sunday was another fun sunny day that started out with a historical program called the History of Spruce Pine Lodge and the surrounding area. We were joined by (4) people who had a chance to see where the old Bahama Road was located and why the town is called Bahama. You will have to join us another time when we offer this program to see the old road bed, but I will let you know here, how Bahama got its name. It was named after three prominent families that lived in the area: the (Ba)ll, (Ha)rris, and (Ma)gum. This became it's name in the late 1890's after the owners of the railroad didn't like the original name: Hunkadora.

The last program of the weekend ended with (12) people who came out to learn about Winter Life. On this hike we talked about winter tree identification, winter animal activity and played a few games.

Throughout the week, I will talk more about Habitat Heroes, History of Spruce Pine Lodge and Winter Life.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Busy weekend coming up...

This weekend is going to be a busy one.  We have a Fungus program and a constellation program on Saturday and a Winter Forest Hike and a program on the History of area around Spruce Pine Lodge up in Bahama.  We are excited about all of the programs, but especially so about the Spruce Pine Lodge program as this is the first history/nature program that we have done.  We will be looking at old roadbeds, footpaths, and other hidden manmade features that are scattered in the forest that tell us a story about what happened in the past.
Give us a call and come on out for one of these fun programs, you never know what we might see.  You can call us at 919-471-1623 opt 2.   Feel free to check the Environmental Education link on the right for more information. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

What did we see...

So the Moonlight Paddle came and the weather was not perfect.  But who needs perfect weather to have a fun program?  As I was driving up to Lake Michie it was overcast with some light drizzle on and off.  When I pulled in to open the gate this is the view of the sky over the lake.

Mostly cloudy, but maybe we would get to see some stars.  Unfortunately the weather kept a few people from showing up, but one adventurous group did come out and we had a great time.  Now let me mention at this moment that it was dark out as you can see by...

I took this picture in the middle of the lake; and even in this darkness we saw multiple beaver tail slaps, spooked some heron, and we even saw a baby raccoon on the shoreline.  I have to give credit to one of the group members as she was finding everything, with a little assistance from a flashlight.  Now even though it looks pitch black out, the overcast skies provided some  illumination due to the lights of Durham reflecting off the clouds.  All in all a fun program on a chilly night.  Hope to see you at our next program.  Check the link for Environmental Education Programs to see what we have coming up next. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Moonlight Paddle

Friday, November 5 we will be going out on a Moonlight Paddle, well it's not really going to be a moonlight paddle, hopefully more a starlight paddle.  The program will be at Lake Michie from 7-9pm.  There are only a few spaces left, so if you are interested in joining us call soon
919-471-1623 opt 2.  If you can't make it out tomorrow night we have other night canoe programs coming up.

The nighttime canoe programs give us a chance to look and listen for beaver, birds, and of course the night sky.  Lake Michie is beautiful this time of year as you can see from this fall paddle program we did.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Welcome to the natural world of Durham, NC

We are Chris Shepard and Jessica Finelt and we work for the City of Durham, Parks and Recreation Dept, at West Point on the Eno Park.  We have started this blog so people can learn about our adventures and programs that we share with the public.  We will be updating this blog with program stories and nature observation focusing on West Point park, but including other natural areas in Durham.  We look forward to sharing what we find in the natural world of beautiful Durham, NC.