Nature Corner with Ranger Stan, Bay Creek Preserve Ranger

Every season brings something different—and wonderful—to Bay Creek! As fall approaches, many summertime pleasures still remain—sunny end-of-summer beaches, warm, starry evenings with a hint of milder autumn breezes here and there. Before fall officially arrives, we talked with Bay Creek’s Preserve Ranger, Stan Osmolenski, to catch up on the summer’s activities and what’s coming for fall.

Summer has been a great time,” says Ranger Stan. “We had three full sessions of kids’ summer camp this year and everyone who took part loved it!” If you’re out exploring trails near Base Camp, you’ll see some of the ‘fun’ that was had. “During this week long day camp, we led the kids through the Preserve and harvested materials that we used to build our forts. They were pretty incredible—and the kids had plenty of time to design, build, and decorate them to make these forts great! The forts will stay on the Preserve until December, so if you’re out and about, you can come check them out,” Stan says. The Bay Creek camps were a huge success by every measure—children enjoyed exploring and learning about nature, building forts, and, of course, gathering around the campfire!

One of Bay Creek’s many attractors is that it offers nature and recreation across a spectrum of ages and abilities. Ranger Stan’s unique kayak outings for families have been very popular this summer and will certainly continue into the fall.

“We’ve been doing a lot of paddling events,” says Stan. “These outings have been a big success. We’ve explored a lot of the Old Plantation Creek and set out in many different directions. I typically take five people on a paddle, which we do weekly. Many folks are beginners, and some have never paddled before. We also have seasoned veterans who want to explore more of the creek with a guided tour. It’s beautiful out there and it’s just a lot of fun,” he adds.

In a pristine, natural setting like the Preserve, there’s something for everyone to enjoy and there are always new things to discover. Paddling excursions will continue through October.

“As fall approaches, we’re going to start doing more stewardship events, too,” explains Stan. “We’ll be doing planting events like we have in the past, where everyone is welcome to help plant an area with provided trees or shrubs. The Stewardship Club helped plant over 1,000 native trees and shrubs over the past three years and it has been a great success,” he adds. “Besides plantings, we’ll gather as a group and help with trail upkeep and care.”

October will also see the return of the popular ‘Lunch and Learn’ sessions. “These are educational events where we bring in a professional speaker to share their knowledge. We’ve hosted the Eastern Shore Virginia Master Gardeners’ president who talked about adding native plants into your home garden, and an ornithologist and research biologist who studies the birds of the barrier islands. There’s a lot of variety”.

One of the most exciting sights of autumn is the amazing bird migration that we get to witness here. The unique location of Bay Creek puts it in perfect position to see this incredible natural spectacle. “It’s a very busy time for birds starting in October. As soon as the weather starts getting a touch cooler at night, that’s when everything starts happening—the birds begin flying south. We’re a major stopping point on the eastern flyway. You’ll see many, many birds right here on the property. Bay Creek is positioned at the bottom of the peninsula, which acts like a funnel. It draws a lot of birds into this one specific location before they all have to cross the Chesapeake Bay. It’s a spectacular place to see birds.”

What are residents likely to see? “American kestrel, red tailed and red shouldered hawks, sharp- shinned and Coopers hawks, peregrine falcons… these are raptors, predatory birds that we don’t normally see,” Stan says. “You may also observe unusual songbirds, waterfowl and shorebirds as they fly over Bay Creek.”

Bay Creek also has many year-round winged residents who will start migrating, too, like osprey and brown pelicans that typically live here in summer. It’s also an active time for other birds like the kingfisher, which is a shorebird that you’ll see frequently this time of year. And, you may even see some snowy owls. They usually stay up north but if it’s been a boom year for hatchlings, and there are too many owls in one region, they’ll migrate south—even all the way to Virginia!” says Stan.

Ranger Stan is no stranger to owls as host to the twice-monthly Owl Prowl here at Bay Creek. “It’s a one-mile guided evening hike through the Preserve where we look for signs of owls,” explains Stan. From spotting feathers, nesting activity, and listening for their distinct, haunting hoots, residents can enjoy an unusual nighttime ‘prowl’ through prime owl habitat. “The Owl Prowl is always a lot of fun”.

Besides the adventure side of Bay Creek’s nature programming, Ranger Stan also focuses on issues like using native species in landscaping and maintaining wildlife-friendly habitats. This summer, the new wildflower garden at Base Camp thrived, and offered a great way to show just how lovely native plantings can be. “This winter,” says Stan, “we’ll be getting started on a ‘demonstration garden.’ Next spring, it will allow us to showcase native plants in an even bigger way. Eventually, we will work to have a garden demo area and a meadow demo area. We really want to encourage people to plant their homes with native landscaping,” says Stan. Planting native is a great idea—to benefit the ecosystem and for the sheer beauty of it.

Bay Creek’s Base Camp is the launching place for many an adventure and fall offers great opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. With its kayak rack, picnic areas, and multi-use trails, it’s no wonder it’s enjoyed by so many. Says Ranger Stan, who can almost always be found at Base Camp, “I enjoy helping people learn more about nature and the many trails and waterways and wildlife that we have here at Bay Creek. I encourage residents to take advantage of this great natural resource in every season.”

Ranger Stan can help make your next Bay Creek adventure a memorable one.
See you at Base Camp!

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