Nature Corner with Ranger Stan

Ranger Stan Osmolenski, our resident Bay Creek Naturalist, is excited to share updates on all things nature as Spring makes her much-anticipated arrival.

“We’re only just now headed into spring, but I along with our residents are already seeing the signs and feeling the excitement of the season,” says Stan.  “Bay Creek is full of ways to immerse yourself in the activities and renewal of spring. And we’re looking forward to an active season.”

Join the Club!
“The Stewardship Club is a great way to become involved in the nature of things here at Bay Creek, and the club continues to grow in popularity,” Stan explains. This year we’re organizing the club into four unique interest groups, which are open for all to take part in. The growth of the club and residents’ interest in nature is an exciting thing.

“We’re taking note of the various skills and interests of our members so we can do even more. Our residents are incredibly dedicated and energetic. By identifying various interest groups, we’ll be able to direct that energy. This is great for our homeowners and, of course, nature!”

“Our Birding and Nesting Box group will be monitoring all the bluebird boxes along the trails on the Preserve. Currently, we have 16 bluebird boxes, two wood duck boxes, and a single kestrel box that is currently home to a resident owl,” Stan laughs. “They’ll also be doing general birding  while traversing the trails and compiling information on what species they’re seeing and in what numbers they’re appearing.”

“A lot of this group’s work is focused on the bluebird boxes on the property. In our climate the eastern bluebird will brood sometimes three to four times a season.. After their chicks fledge, they go out and explore other spaces, though they still rely on their parents for food for some time. Once the fledglings have gone off on their own, our Birding team will make sure the boxes are cleaned and ready for the next bluebird family.”

Another Stewardship Club group is focused on Native Plantings. Last year Stan oversaw the planting of a thriving native wildflower area near Base Camp. This year, that area will be expanded to two or three more planting plots. The group will maintain these newly planted areas and ensure they’re thriving. These plots attract native wildlife and pollinators and offer many benefits beyond just their beauty.

The plantings will be a variety of natives, many quite showy and all beneficial to the Preserve. Stan and the group will be planting Lanceleaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata), Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca),Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), Virginia Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum), and Horsemint which is a type of bee balm (Mondarda punctata), along with several other species.

“We’ll be starting all these plants from seed. These are perennial plants that can self-seed going forward. As natives, they require less water and tending than other plantings, but they’ll still need maintenance to ensure they’re not crowded out by other more aggressive native and invasive plants,” says Stan. His work with native plantings and seeds occurs in other ways throughout the year, too. Perhaps the most anticipated is making ‘seed bombs’ during his kids’ nature programs— it’s a combo of soil, seeds, getting dirty and plenty of laughter!

Digging into nature preservation can take many forms. The Trail Maintenance group will be monitoring the Preserve trails and identifying any areas that need attention. “While large maintenance issues are handled by the Bay Creek maintenance staff, there are a lot of times when a vine, limb or small tree finds itself across a trail or overgrowing its bounds,” says Stan. “The trail group has a pretty neat mission…in fact, it’s a great hobby. They get out there in nature on our vast trail system to see if anything needs pruning. The Trail Maintenance team members enjoy getting exercise, often bringing their own clippers and helping out with a quick prune here and there.

The Stewardship Club Photography group will take photos of wildlife and the landscape. “We have seven photo points set up along the Preserve,” says Stan. “These are permanent posts set up where you place your phone in exactly the same spot and take a photo. Over time, these photos will offer us an amazing visual timeline of how the landscape is changing. It’s very much a citizen science thing,” he adds. “Photographers submit their photos via the Bay Creek app. On a property like Bay Creek with such an extensive history, it’s exciting to see and catalog changes in the landscape over the months and years. Many of these areas are dynamic habitats that can change quickly. Citizen science creates a record for the ages”.

The best thing about the Stewardship Club is there’s plenty of room for new neighbors to take part. No one need feel intimidated or ‘unqualified.’ Beginners are welcome and learning is always happening!

 

Nature Seen and Heard
“Bay Creek is special because anyone can enjoy nature here,” says Stan. “On the property now, we’re seeing holly in full bloom and dandelions popping up here and there across the Preserve.”

“We have a lot of freshwater habitats, which are pretty rare here on the Shore. In those environments, you’re going to see birds like the American Coot, the Bufflehead, Ring-necked Ducks, Redheads, Pied-billed Grebes, Black Ducks, Mallards, and Hooded Mergansers,” he explains. “We encourage residents to get out and see the rich variety of wildlife at Bay Creek.”

Stan offers these words of stewardship for those who explore: “Many of these species require very specific habitats and they don’t like disruption. So you’ll want to make sure you tread lightly around the pond and wetland areas”.

“Even more important to note, some of these bird species will leave permanently if they feel threatened. Luckily, our residents are largely nature lovers, too. It’s another thing that makes Bay Creek a really special place,” Stan says.

Sharing the Beauty
In February, Bay Creek hosted a two-part field trip for the 9th grade honors biology class of Norfolk Christian School, located across the Bay. “This was an ornithology project for a group of really great students. They came to Bay Creek to do some serious birding and that’s just what we did! We saw a great variety of birds over the two days, with some of our generous resident birders helping out,” says Stan.  Bay Creek enjoys hosting school groups and opening up its incredible natural environment and its ecosystems for learning. “It’s a true outdoor classroom”.

Coming Up:
As spring inches ever closer, Ranger Stan will offer a robust schedule of activities and events.  “We’ll be conducting a workshop on building nesting boxes. Participants can choose from three different varieties of bird box depending on where they want to install them and which species they’d like to attract. Each bird requires a different kind of box and we’ll be making boxes for birds, wood ducks, and owls.”

This season at Bay Creek will be one filled with all the joys and beauty this rare natural environment offers. Surrounded by the enormous beauty of the Bay, diverse habitats, and infinite places to discover and explore, there’s no better place to experience spring than Bay Creek. Ranger Stan invites residents, members, and guests to take a walk in the fresh spring air  and see the community come to life, one blossom and birdsong at a time.

3335 STONE ROAD
CAPE CHARLES, VA 23310
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