Nature

The Rapp for Aug. 21

Ella Schultz of Amissville in “The Tempest” at American Shakespeare Center’s summer-camp performances at Staunton’s Blackfriars Playhouse.

Our Fourth (Estate) Friday is cancelled, Tula’s hosts a tomato-themed dinner, tickets are going fast for this year’s Taste of Rappahannock, two local students spend their summer performing Shakespeare and more in this week’s Rapp column.
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Wild Ideas: Cool, damp weather brings ’shroom bloom 

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Aug. 21
This hemlock varnish shelf mushroom, photographed along the Limberlost trail in Shenandoah National Park in May, is big and bold, thus easy to identify.

Although you can find mushrooms pretty much year round in our area, especially in shady forests, spring and fall are the prime times for ’shrooming because of the usually cool, damp weather — especially as this summer has been cooler and damper than most.
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Spectra suspends pipeline

Flickr user rickz (www.flickr.com/photos/rickz/); licensed via Creative Commons

Spectra Energy says it has suspended work on the proposed natural gas pipeline that would run through Rappahannock County.
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Photo: Uh-oh

Photo by Larry Sherertz

Wild Ideas: Butterfly numbers fall dramatically from last year

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Aug. 14
Last year the Rappahannock butterfly count reported more silvery checkerspot butterflies than any other NABA butterfly count in 2013, but the numbers fell dramatically this year.

After a steady rise in the total number of butterflies recorded during four years of the Rappahannock butterfly count, breaking records for two species, numbers fell dramatically this year. One familiar species, in particular, accounts for much of the boom and bust.
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Editorial: Summertime, and the livin’ is dangerous

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Aug. 7
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Rappahannock County may not have deadly rockets, roadside bombs or Ebola virus, but we do have ticks. Already transmitters of Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, now comes word of a sometimes fatal food allergy.
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Park visitor spending down but still worth $72.4 million

A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 1.14 million visitors to Shenandoah National Park in 2013 spent $72.4 million in communities near the park, down from the park’s 2012 tally.
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Five ways, and funding, for forest owners to attract quail

Bobwhite quail populations have plummeted in recent years due to loss of appropriate habitat. Now, forest landowners who want to create good habitat have a new source of funds to support them.
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Leaving Candyland

Humans are attracted to sweetness–not just in food, but in media fare. The urge to avoid bitter realities and sweets that comfort makes us vulnerable to plenty of sticky disinformation, writes Liza Field, in this examination of bees, pesticides and PR.
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Wild Ideas: Celebrating the underappreciated moth

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Aug. 7
Specimens of female (top) and male (bottom) io moths. The large io moth spreads its wings when disturbed to reveal spots that look like owl eyes, likely an adaptation to ward off predators.

In settling down to enjoy Science Friday last week, Pam Owen was surprised to learn it was National Moth Week, which explored some of the reasons why moths are the Cinderallas of the lepidoptera world.
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Photo: Eyewitness: Devastated

Photo by L. Todd Spencer for the Virginian Pilot

Clark Hollow Ramblings: Critters in the garden

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July 31

When Richard Brady built the fence around his raised bed vegetable garden, the first thing he was thinking about was keeping out the deer. Lately, however, he’s been invaded by raccoons and rabbits.
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Wild Ideas: Some frogs are landlubbers

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July 31
A small pickerel frog enjoys the moisture and the insects it attracts near the outside water tap at the author’s house.

We often think of frogs as being aquatic creatures, but many spend some or most of their lives on land, returning to water only to breed. Among these is the pickerel frog, which often turns up in Pam Owen’s yard.
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Video: Camp time at Belle Meade

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July 30

Camp counselor Joshua Lyons of Banco made this video about Belle Meade School’s summer camp program.

Editorial: In Memoriam: Listening to the landscape

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July 24
Masestro Maazel conducts a production of TBA.

Eulogies have poured forth from around the world upon the death of Lorin Maazel the weekend before last. But for us in Rappahannock County, acquainted with the Maestro’s musical genius in ways uniquely ours, any attempted homage must express his love of the land here.
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Chester Gap column for July 24

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July 24

The CGVFD’s brush truck wins first place in the Front Royal Fireman’s Parade, tickets are still available for the department’s gun raffle, bird watching season is in full swing on the mountaintop and more in this week’s Chester Gap column.
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Wild Ideas: Let me describe the bird song I heard

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July 24
Since the wood thrush normally sings its hauntingly beautiful song high in the forest canopy, spotting it can be problematic, and describing the song is equally challenging.

When Pam Owen recently awoke to what seemed like an unusual variation on a wood thrush’s song, it led her to contemplate the vagaries of trying to describe and memorize bird vocalizations.
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Washington column for July 17

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July 17
Doug Baumgardner in his office in 2010.

Doug Baumgardener’s office closes its doors, area churches sponsor a community picnic, ORMN hold a butterfly count, Trinity offers a Food Pantry drop-off box, WVFR holds its monthly buffet breakfast and more in this week’s Washington column.
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Washington column for July 10

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July 10
Artist Jill Banks paints along Main Street.

Washington hosts 14 plein air artists, the WVFR hosts its monthly all-you-can-eat breakfast and the Fourth of July was another successful show in this week's Washington column.
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Wild Ideas: Summer wildflowers and their insect fans

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July 10
One of the many native pollinators of purple coneflowers is the color-coordinated perplexing bumblebee.

Now that summer is truly here, Pam Owen headed out to see what is blooming in the meadows and along the roadsides of Rappahannock. She found a number of brightly colored blossoms, and a variety of pollinators drawn to them.
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Photo: Double rainbow?

Photo by Molly Peterson

Photos: Officially open

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July 3
John Sullivan and crowd. Photo by Matt Wingfield.

Wild Ideas: The decline of the monarch

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July 3
An adult monarch on butterfly weed, in the milkweed genus. While monarch caterpillers will eat only milkweed, the adults feed on nectar and fruit from a variety of plants.

Pam Owen explores the complex life of the iconic monarch butterfly and the reasons for its 15-year population decline.
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Letter: We’ve all been down ‘This Road’ before

This song has been stuck in my head since the town hall meeting hosted by the Rappahannock News last week. I thought it might give some perspective about what seems to have drawn all of us, on all sides of the debate, to the county. I’d almost moved to Rappahannock County in the early...
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Wild Ideas: Life goes on

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June 26
A harvestman drags a struggling eight-spotted forester moth to a suitable dining spot.

Nature is amazing and endlessly fascinating, but not always pretty. Within it lie the forces of destruction as well as creation, as it constantly reminds us — and not always in subtle ways.
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Wild Ideas: Entertaining the indoor cat with cat TV

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June 19
Golda at rest, after a full schedule of cat TV, ball swatting and rug surfing.

Entertaining a cat can be not only cheap, but easy. All you need is aluminum foil, a throw rug or two and windows — or what Pam Owen thinks of as cat TV.
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The Rapp for June 12

The Gold Top County Ramblers at last year’s Castleton Festival.

Central Coffee hosts a Father’s Day bluegrass concert, RLEP hikes in memory of its former president, RappCats puts on a benefit flea market, SNP appreciates its neighbors with a fee-free day and the Democrats are seeking items for their annual yard sale in this week’s Rapp column.
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Wild Ideas: The sartorial splendor of the golden-backed snipe fly

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June 12
A female golden-backed snipe fly has markings that mimic a bee or wasp, a common adaptation among flies and some other insects to avoid predators. However, her short, straight antennae and single pair of wings blow her cover.

While many male songbirds can easily catch our eye this time of year, invertebrates emerging after winter are easier to overlook but can be just as wonderful. Pam Owen noticed the sartorial splendor of one insect, the golden-backed snipe fly, the last week in May.
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The Rapp for June 5

The Stone Hill Amphitheater is ready to rock this Saturday in Flint Hill.

John Henry offers an inaugural play in his stone amphitheater, the Inn opens its campus for a tour, Jeanne Drevas returns to Haley Fine Art, SNP teaches hikers to go “Beyond the Trailhead” and the Public House hosts a wine and craft beer tasting festival in this week’s Rapp column.
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Reading the roadside

Since I’m new to Rappahannock County, I keep an eye out for what there is to see and what used to be as I drive along U.S. 522, which is close as anything to the spine of this county.
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Wild Ideas: Harbingers of summer

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June 5
A handsome male eastern box turtle with bright-orange markings crosses the author’s driveway.

Pam Owen saw her first fireflies of the year on Memorial Day weekend, and they were hardly alone. The fireflies’ nightly displays are just one of the many harbingers of the upcoming summer season.
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The Rapp for May 29

“Virginia Farm House,” a 24-by-30-inch oil on canvas, is one of two Kevin Adams paintings headed to Burkina Faso courtesy of the state department.

Have a pint for the endangered P-horse, watch “Philomena” at the Theatre, get cooking with the Castleton Festival’s newest offerings, learn the history behind the “First Washington,” sample Grey Ghost and Narmada wineries’ newest award-winners and more in this week’s Rapp column.
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Please keep off this grass

Spread the word: Kentucky 31 tall fescue, one of the dominant pasture grasses in the U.S. is an invasive, fungus-infected grass that does more harm than good, writes Robert Whitescarver.
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Time to RSVP to Mother Earth’s invitation

It’s time to remember our manners and RSVP to nature’s invitation — letting it know we’ll be showing up to help undo our own damage, writes Liza Field.
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Wild Ideas: Small squirrels, shrinking habitat

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May 29
Although leaving out bird feeders can attract some very unwelcome visitors, a bit of seed left out here in Rappahannock can attract a common yet rarely seen nocturnal denizen of Virginia’s forests, the southern flying squirrel.

Learning about a species often starts on what seems to be a simple path toward a mundane life, only to become a much more complex journey into a world with fascinating interconnections. Pam Owen began such a journey recently when Larry Sherertz sent her some flying-squirrel photos.
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The Rapp for May 22

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Our Fourth (Estate) Friday resumes tomorrow at 9, the Castleton Festival’s artists need homes away from home, Sperryville gears up for its July 4 fireworks, Laurence Juber returns to the Theatre, Janet Davis’ Hill House opens its gardens and more in this week’s Rapp column.
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Editorial: I have traveled widely in Amissville

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With respectful apologies to Henry David Thoreau, I have appropriated what he famously said of his hometown in Massachusetts: “I have traveled widely in Concord.” Meaning that if you look closely enough at your surroundings, you’ll discover the whole universe in microcosm.
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Wild Ideas: Of turtles and dragonflies

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May 22
A boldly colored male box turtle explores the forest floor.

This week Pam Owen headed into the forest near her house, where she found a box turtle and dragonfly that led her to contemplate how different species perceive the world and how much we can learn by slowing down and just watching nature unfold.
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Good intentions lead to unfavorable outcomes for bears

Two healthy young Virginia black bears face a lifetime of confinement — or worse — because they are habituated to humans. These bears have lost their natural distrust of people, likely because they were illegally held when they were small cubs.
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Wild Ideas: The Sharks and Jets rumble on the deck

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May 15
Male red-breasted grosbeaks fend off a blue jay at a bird feeder during a pouring rain.

In an effort to build up her stock of bird photos, Pam Owen decided to put some seed out on her deck to lure a few birds into shooting range, only to be surprised at the variety and the intensity with which some tried to claim the banquet as their own.
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