1-21 May 2009

Installment #435---
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It's been a while since we posted a nature quiz, so this week in honor of Spring 2009 we've taken a number of "Mayflower" photos. Not the ship that brought the Pilgrims, of course, nor the botanical Mayflower, Epigaea repens (below right)--also known as Trailing Arbutus and the official state flower of Massachusetts. Instead we offer a sampling of flora we've seen blooming here at Hilton Pond Center or in central West Virginia. (For part of the period we were up in Fayette County again to do more banding after the New River Birding & Nature Festival described last week.)

So here's the deal. Below you'll find a number of photos of flowers. Some are herbaceous, some are produced by vines or shrubs or trees; all photos are of "Mayflowers," i.e., they were taken 1-21 May 2009. Minor hints are provided for each blossom, including whether the plant was found around Hilton Pond or in the Mountain State. Some IDs will be easy; others may cause a little head-scratching. Following the photos is a blank form you can cut and paste into your e-mail program. Fill in the form with the correct identification and e-mail your answers to INFO. The person who gets the most correct and complete IDs (common name, plus genus & species if you know them) wins a spiffy new Operation RubyThroat T-shirt (left) in the appropriate size. In case of a tie, a blind drawing will determine the winner. (Special consideration will be given to anyone who gets the "Bonus Flower.") Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, 27 May 2009. No wild and crazy guesses, please, and don't assume all the flowers are native. Correct answers and the winner's name will be posted in the next installment. Happy Mayflowering!

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

FLOWER #1: Fallow farmland--and a grassy roadside near Hilton Pond Center--is often carpeted with these elegant blue blossoms. We've also seen varieties that are purple, pink, or white. The plant often disappears after a field is two years into natural succession.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

FLOWER #2: Leathery green leaves with parallel veins might help you identify this plant before it blooms, but once the pink blossom erupts there's no mistaking this wildflower. Although the photo was taken at the New River Birding & Nature Center in West Virginia, we've seen this plant in such odd places as a drainage ditch within the city limits of Rock Hill SC.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

FLOWER #3: A dangling cluster of flowers like these--growing on a woody deciduous vine at Hilton Pond Center--could be produced only by one family. The hard part is figuring out the species.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

FLOWER #4: Produced on a tall understory tree with foot-long deciduous leaves, this large white flower in West Virginia's Fayette County reminds of us its southern relative.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

FLOWER #5: Although two-inch-wide blossoms of this deciduous shrub can be found at Hilton Pond Center in early April, this photo was taken in May in the West Virginia mountains. The five stamens and single pistil are especially long.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

FLOWER #6: This nondescript cluster of MALE flowers emerges from a woody twig on a tree with shiny green oval-shaped deciduous leaves. The species is especially common in somewhat moist habitats across the eastern U.S.; here at Hilton Pond it was growing not far from the water's edge.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

FLOWER #7: Despite its attractive deep red color, this two-inch wide blossom in Hilton Pond's Goldenrod Meadow probably isn't one you'd be wanting to wear as a corsage or boutonniere at your next formal dance. Ouch!

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

FLOWER #8: We couldn't have a Mayflower quiz without at least one example of what the botanists frustratingly call a DYC ("damned yellow composite.") This cluster of flowers was atop a two-foot-tall stalk in an open meadow at Hilton Pond Center.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

FLOWER #9: Although this photo focuses on a single white quarter-inch flower, the deciduous shrub bearing it usually makes blossoms in drooping clusters (see out-of-focus cluster in the background at upper left). Growing slowly at Hilton Pond Center.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

FLOWER #10: Fruit from the easily overlooked 3/8" flowers on this green-stemmed shrub seemingly burst from their pods when ripe. The plant is common in shady spots around Hilton Pond Center but often gets browsed by White-tailed Deer.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center
Bonus flower photo courtesy Jim Casada

BONUS FLOWER: This flower was growing abundantly in a remote location (Bone Valley Creek) within Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Its somewhat rounded leaves are relatively thick and succulent. The site is likely an old homestead, long since taken over by nature.


Fill in common name, then genus & species, as follows:
Example #1: Trumpet Creeper, Campsis radicans

Flower #1:
Flower #2:
Flower #3:
Flower #4:
Flower #5:
Flower #6:
Flower #7:
Flower #8:
Flower #9:
Flower #10:
Bonus Flower:

Cut and paste the completed form (above) into your e-mail client and send with your name and city/state to INFO. Include "Mayflower Quiz 2009" in the SUBJECT line. Entries must arrive by 11:59 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, 27 May 2009. No wild and crazy guesses, please, and don't assume all plants are native species.

Comments or questions about this week's installment?
Please send an E-mail message to INFO.

Be sure to scroll down for an account of all
birds banded or recaptured during the period,
plus other nature notes of interest.

Thanks to the following fine folks for recent gifts in support of Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History and/or Operation RubyThroat: The Hummingbird Project. Your tax-deductible contributions allow us to continue writing, photographing, and sharing "This Week at Hilton Pond." (Please see Support if you'd like to make a gift of your own. You can also contribute by ordering an Operation RubyThroat T-shirt.)

  • Habitat And Wildlife Keepers (HAWK), Matthews NC (presentation fee)
  • Kershaw County (SC) Master Gardeners (Guided Field Trip fee)
  • Kristin Hart, photographer (Guided Field Trip fee)
  • York County Wildlife 4-H Club (Guided Field Trip fee)
  • Several anonymous donors (who made on-line purchases through

"This Week at Hilton Pond" is written & photographed
by Bill Hilton Jr., executive director of
Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History.

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1-21 May 2009

Carolina Chickadee--7
Eastern Phoebe--4
Black-throated Blue Warbler--2 *
Common Yellowthroat--1 *
American Goldfinch--7
Chipping Sparrow--2
Prothonotary Warbler--1
Pine Warbler--1
Indigo Bunting--1
Red-eyed Vireo--1
Northern Cardinal--7
Eastern Tufted Titmouse--1
House Finch--13
Orchard Oriole--1 *
Carolina Wren--1
Red-bellied Woodpecker--1 *
Mourning Dove--2

* = New species for 2009

17 species
53 individuals

28 species
975 individuals

(since 28 June 1982, during which time 170 species have been observed on or over the property)
124 species
52,857 individuals

(with original banding date, sex, and current age)

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (1)
09/02/08--2nd year male

Eastern Phoebe (1)
05/02/08--after 2nd year male

Chipping Sparrow (2)
04/21/08--after 2nd year male
04/21/08--after 2nd year male (2 birds banded same date)

American Goldfinch (1)
04/27/07--4th year male

Carolina Chickadee (1)
06/29/05--5th year male

Northern Cardinal (4)
11/23/02--after 7th year
07/23/07--3rd year female
09/03/08--2nd year male
11/03/08--2nd year male

Eastern Towhee (1)
07/27/05--5th year female

Eastern Tufted Titmouse (2)
09/16/07--after 2nd year male
10/05/08--2nd year male

Carolina Wren (2)
06/27/08--2nd year male
07/03/08--2nd year female

House Finch (2)
06/18/07--3rd year male
08/07/08--2nd year female

Red-bellied Woodpecker (2)
12/09/07--3rd year female
03/17/08--3rd year male

Mourning Dove (1)
12/20/07--aftre 2nd year male

--The seven Carolina Chickadees banded this week were all nestlings from a bluebird box near the entry drive to Hilton Pond Center. They fledged the day after banding. How two parent chickadees can successfully feed seven fully grown nestlings is beyond us.

--Although May is almost gone, we've yet to capture a new Ruby-throated Hummingbird this year at the Center, and we've observed only one previously banded male coming to our feeders; we finally re-trapped him on 21 May. (The first female of the season also showed up that day.) Ever optimistic, however, we refuse to despair; 2008 was our best-ever year of banding RTHU--after catching only two unbanded ones through the first of June.

--We caught a typically fastidious female Eastern Phoebe on 21 May with mud-caked bill and feet--a sure sign she was building a mossy nest nearby. A well-developed brood patch further implied it might be her second nesting endeavor of 2009 for this flycatcher.

--The bird of the week was undoubtedly a female Prothonotary Warbler (above) mist netted on 21 May--only the 16th of its kind in 27 years at the Center. More significantly, she had an active brood patch indicating she has a nest very close to Hilton Pond. The cavity-nesting species breeds commonly in the Carolinas Coastal Plain but there are only two SC Piedmont nesting records, neither from York County.

--Other new females with brood batches captured this week at Hilton Pond Center were an Orchard Oriole, Eastern Phoebe, Chipping Sparrow, Pine Warbler, Eastern Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Mourning Dove, and three Northern Cardinals--plus a previously banded House Finch and Eastern Towhee. Even without finding their nests, we're certain these birds are breeding locally.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

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Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is a non-profit research & education organization in York, South Carolina USA; phone (803) 684-5852. Directed by Bill Hilton Jr., aka The Piedmont Naturalist, it is the parent organization for Operation RubyThroat. Contents of this Web site--including all articles and photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with the express written permission of Hilton Pond Center. All rights reserved worldwide. To obtain permission for use or for further assistance on accessing this Web site, contact the Webmaster.

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