I returned to Naked Mountain after a three week absence spent visiting family and friends in New England. What a welcome I received! The small barren that is just a short walk from my house up a foot-tramped path is ablaze with masses of blooming Woodland Sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus) and Nodding Wild Onion (Alluim cernuum). What a show! Tucked in along the edges of the rock were a few dozen Fameflowers (Phemeranthus teretifolius). They were mostly already in fruit, but a few had pink buds that will open only on a sunny afternoon, and only for a few hours for exactly one day — that’s it until next year. Also blooming were a dozen or so Orange-grass, or Pineweed plants (Hypericum genitanoides).
This little barren is such a pleasure – just steps away and a continuing display of gorgeous Virginia native plants. The trees you see in the background are mixed Chestnut Oak (Quercus Montana) and (I think) Pignut Hickory (Carya glabra). The small tree that is growing right out of the rock is a Persimmon tree (Diospyros virginiana) and it is covered with fruit. Also plentiful, but hard to see in this photo are Fringetrees (Chionanthus virginicus). They put on quite a display in May, but I will wait until then to show this to you. The grasses include Poverty Oatgrass (Danthonia spicata) and other species that I have not yet identified. I also know nothing yet about the various mosses and lichens that are plentiful in this barren – more fun discovery work!
I checked on the bluebird box and, as expected, it was empty: The nestlings had fledged. I took the box down and cleaned it out, disposing of the nest. Under the nest I found hundred of tiny ants that probably made life pretty unpleasant for the little baby birds. That sort of insect infestation is a common occurrence in nest boxes. I scrubbed the bottom and sides of the box with a wire brush. Then I scrubbed it with a sponge dipped in mild bleach solution to disinfect. I let the box dry thoroughly in the sunshine and then remounted the box – all ready for another brood.
Last evening, while I was dining on my deck as the sun set, a little flock of bluebirds flew over my head. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was the little family that had its beginnings a few steps away in the nest box in the small barren where the sunflowers and nodding wild onion are now blooming….