Swoope Almanac May 2014

Male Tree Swallow on guard near his nest.

A male Tree Swallow on guard near his nest.  The males arrive in early March here in Swoope.  Females arrived this year on May 16th.

May fills my senses as I walk our “river field”.  Life’s energy surges this time of year.   The avian migration is at its peak.  All the birds that want to be here have arrived except for the Dickcissels.  They will arrive when the peonies and day lilies open.

The cool nights and warm days have forced the orchardgrass and bluegrass in our pastures and hayfields to head out.  The hay should be in the barn you know.  The cows munch.  Their bodies are slick with spring.  The calves are muscular and quick with their mother’s milk smudged on their heads.

Orachardgrass heading out.

Orachardgrass seed heads emerging or “heading out”.  This is best stage to cut it for hay but often the worst time to cure it because of the weather.

My boots and jeans are wet from dew all the way up to my knees.

There is not a moment without bird song.  It used to torment me not knowing who was singing but now I know.  Robins, Cardinals, Warbling Vireos, Yellow Warblers, Bobolinks, Grasshopper Sparrows, Meadowlarks, Red Wing Blackbirds and Orioles all singing at one time.  The avian symphony plays constantly this time of year.

A female Northern Bob White. We released 20 in October 2013.

A female Northern Bob White. We released 20 in October 2013.  Click on this image to see a video of Cobble Hill Quail where we bought these pen raised birds.

I walk along the bottom of a steep wooded slope in search of the Quail we released last fall.  I heard them the other day singing their “Hoy-ee” song.   I see a male nervously walking under the thorny Hawthorn trees and over further two females.  They made it through the long, cold, wet winter.  Mate my friends.  Beat the odds and give us renewed hope.  It was ten years ago that I last saw a covey here in this very place.

Wild Cherry and Black Willow trees are in full bloom.  False Indigo Bush and River Birch are budding out.  I walk to the river’s edge where the cattle used to cross.  It is amazing how quickly Mother nature can heal eroding stream banks once the cattle are removed.  She planted a Sycamore tree right in the middle of the North side of the crossing.  It grew much faster than the ones we planted.  Its roots anchor the soil and its leaves provide food for insects that live in the water.

Wild Cherry in full bloom. This is one of the most valuable trees in the East for not only its wood but for wildlife as well.

Wild Cherry in full bloom. This is one of the most valuable trees in the East for not only its wood but for wildlife as well.

This is where the cows used to cross the river. The Sycamore in the foreground was planted by mother nature.

This is where the cows used to cross the river. The Sycamore in the foreground was planted by mother nature.

The river is swollen and milk-chocolate brown gurgling past the Sycamore.  It carries the wealth from farms upstream.  What was the most productive soil on a farm upstream clogs the gills of the Mayflies and smothers the eggs of the trout that would be here.  This sediment and all that is attached to it are what separate us from a healthy river and a restored Chesapeake Bay.

I lament that I have not done more…and walk on.

Blue Bird babies await food from their parents.

Blue Bird babies await food from their parents.

A flash of blue flies past that lifts my heart, it’s an Indigo Bunting nesting in the shrubs we planted.  Female Tree Swallows have arrived.  I see her carry small white feathers to line her nest as her mate sits on the fence ever vigil to protect her and the nest.

I check one of the Blue Bird boxes for eggs.  They’ve already hatched.

The surge of life’s energy is at its peak during the month of May here in Swoope.

Black Willow in full bloom. This is an excellent native riparian tree.

Black Willow in full bloom. This is an excellent native riparian tree.


  1. Hello Bobby,

    Thank you for the update from Swoope – always informative, always motivating.

  2. Great post; a true steward of the land.

  3. Robin Boylan says:

    Beautiful Bobby. Thanks for taking the time to look and feel and share, And give yourself some credit for helping the healing of the watershed.

  4. There’s a realism to your description of your walk, Bobby.
    My only disagreement would be that you have nothing to “lament”
    — you have surely done more in behalf of our forlorn-but-struggling
    little Middle River than most of us, and we’re grateful.

    Thanks for the post. It’s reassuring to know the neighbors care.


    • Bobby Whitescarver says:

      Michael, thanks and thanks for letting me know you heard a quail calling in your CREP area. This is wonderful news!

  5. Jim Snyder says:

    Very nice Bobby. I felt like I was walking next to you reading your words. May is certainly my favorite month also.

  6. Sundaram Periyasamy says:

    Some very exciting pictures you’ve taken for us to enjoy professor! Up here in Northern Virginia, there isn’t as much wildlife, so I’ve been trying to enjoy what we do have. The tree swallow is very pretty, i’ve never seen one of those before. Also, I finally realized why keeping cattle out of streams is so important in the big picture. On another note, how long does this beautiful time of the year last, where everything is so lively? Do you think just the month of May or the month of June too. I just love this time of year, that’s why i’m asking! OHH and also about the blue birds..do they turn into blue jays or are they two different species completely??! Very excited to here back from you and also this is kinda of late, but i’d like to be added to your mailing list. Thank you!

    • Bobby Whitescarver says:

      Sunny, thanks for your post on the blog. The great migration is winding up, it will end when the Dickcissels arrive in the next week or two. The birds are already busy building nests and raising their young. Just about all plants are busy trying to make seeds. It’s the great “surge of spring”; or the surge of life. Blue Birds do not turn into Blue Jays, they remain Blue Birds and both species are year-round residents. Thanks for your interest and I have added you to the eblast list.

  7. Rich Shockey says:


    We had another great visit to the Stroud Center on May 6th. On of the comments that Bern Sweeney made in discussing our water quality problems was about changing our mind set and raising awareness. Your walk and great pictures helps in changing the mind set and will motivate others to action. Keep up your great work!!!!!!!!!


    • Bobby Whitescarver says:

      Thanks Rich for commenting and for all the work you do also for the streams. Looking forward to visiting Stroud next month.

  8. George Patterson says:

    Thanks Bobby for the picturesque words! I closed my eyes and heard the stream and birds…beautiful! You’re an inspiration…keep up the good works. Next time you’re up we should walk around Cool Spring and the river…

  9. Beautifully written and informative, Bobby! Thank you for sharing.

  10. Anne Nielsen says:

    Oh yes, Bobby! Even from new new apartment in H’burg, I am lucky to be able to track the surge of life during May also, with that remnant band of trees next to Purcell Park and abundant water there, many migrants stop in, and some even found my bird feeder! I especially enjoy the warblers, though identification is increasingly difficult with my declining eyesight…so I’m stepping up the skill of translating bird calls. Glory! All the males are competing for mates, and announcing their own particular charms. I love hearing the female Carolina wren responding to her mate’s call.

    What is the night sky like in Swope? I’m reading Paul Bogard’s book, “The End of Night” and newly aware what all our blasts of electric light are doing to the natural cycles of many species whose circadian rhythms are disturbed, and the colossal losses of birds and bats who are attracted, confused, crash and die. Much is being done to prevent light pollution in Belgium and France, but there’s little awareness of it here. Add it to the list! Cheers, Anne

  11. Wonderfully evocative piece, Bobby, complimented by outstanding images. Cheers!

  12. Bernice Eubank and Roger Canfield says:

    I am grateful to you for taking me on your walk. I am here in Highland County enjoying nesting orioles, bald eagles, ramps, morels and herons that take me to the ethers in their way. Down to Earth in my country kitchen this afternoon to make a rhubarb pie, though that’s somehow heavenly as well. But come with Jeanne to walk with us sometime.
    Thank you for all that you are to every one of us. Bernice

    • Bobby Whitescarver says:

      You are such a dear Bernice. Thank you for your beautiful post and for your kind words. We must get together soon.


  13. Hello Bobby,
    I sure miss working in your farm to enjoy the beautiful native wildlife that you (with the help of others) have created. Great motivation for my future resource management projects!! Have a great day and keep spreading the good land management practices, together we can change the fauna and flora to natives that used to live here.

    • Bobby Whitescarver says:

      Thanks for posting Al, and for your work here at Meadowview and the farm. It really does work!

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