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Treasures of Crow's Nest open for a day
Crow's Nest expert Hal Wiggins (left) shows visitors how to identify a leaf from a chinquapin oak. The natural area
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Perhaps because of the steep slopes, Crow's Nest was never timbered as extensively as most land in the region. Wiggins pointed out stands of mature oak forest and rare species such as the chinquapin oak--a tree that grows in calcareous soils that are rare in Virginia and the eastern United States.
"There are several unique ecological communities on Crow's Nest," Wiggins said. "It was never developed. It didn't become like everything else around us."
Paul Clarke, the district manager with the DCR natural heritage program, pointed out a number of invasive plant species, including tree of heaven, kudzu and Japanese honeysuckle. The DCR is working on plans to manage those species and ensure that the native wildlife will have a place to thrive.
"There are 60 to 65 species of Neotropical migratory birds that use Crow's Nest," Clarke said. "I'm impressed by that number. Birders I know go crazy over it."
Near the end of the hike, Clarke measured the circumference of a particularly large example of a shrub called devil's walking-stick. At 9 inches around, it was one of the largest any of the DCR officials had ever seen.
The nearly three-mile hike ended with the unveiling of a plaque dedicating the natural area preserve and a short recognition speech from Aquia Supervisor Paul Milde.
"We've made amazing progress," he said, acknowledging the support of Gov. Tim Kaine's outgoing administration. "We're not finished. There are several hundred acres more to preserve.
"Once again," Milde said, "we've made history at Crow's Nest."
Jonas Beals: 540/368-5036