Alice Mohrman, Education Coordinator, Abbott’s Mill Nature Center
Meet at the historic Abbott’s Mill spillway to begin your stream adventure on the Boardwalk Trail! As the September light filters through the canopy, it highlights the clear water of Johnson’s Branch which skims effortlessly around branches scattered across the sandy bottom. A journey along the meandering boardwalk offers something for everyone. The raised trail is accessible for strollers, wheel chairs and walkers with benches for quiet contemplation and observing natural marvels.
The crisp notes, Teakettle-Tea-kettle-Teakettle clearly resonate across the wooded undergrowth as two male Carolina Wrens establish their presence. Nesting and feeding territories are actively defended year round by these wrens which use their scimitar-shaped bill to glean insects from crevices.
Look streamside for brilliant orange-red seeds nestled inside fuchsia pods in the native perennial shrub American Strawberry Bush, also known as “Hearts-a bustin”. Euonymus America thrives in moist soil and partial shade, has subtle green blooms in May and June and scarlet leaves in late Fall.
Closer to the ground, spy the remains of Ariseama triphyllum or Jack-in-the –pulpit: a heavy cluster of red berries bending on a steam. This harbinger of spring in the Calla Family is distinctive for the unusual hooded flower that grows on a separate stalk from the leaves. A native food source for birds and mammals, avoid touching the red fruit, leaves and roots which are considered poisonous.
Check out the shiny black-brown Whirligig Beetles (56 different species of the Family Gyrinidae) synchronizing their spinning on the water surface! They trap a bubble of air under their front wings which serves as an oxygen tank when the beetle dives underwater. According to A Guide to Freshwater Invertebrates of North America, adult whirligig beetles “emit defensive secretions that repel predators”. The author noted, after handling some species of beetles, the secretions had a “ripe apple” aroma.
Around the boardwalk bend, Common Spicebush, Lindera benzoin, is a slim deciduous native shrub dotted with numerous oval-shaped scarlet red berries, each individually attached to the twig by a stem. In early spring, the scented yellow flowers appear before the leaves. The berries are a valuable food source for wildlife, especially birds. Spicebush is a host plant for the large greenish, “clown-eyed”, caterpillar of the Spicebush Swallowtail which feeds on the leaves at night. Late season caterpillars will overwinter camouflaged in their brown, leaf-like, chrysalis.
Stop by Abbott’s Mill Nature Center for a walk through our beautiful woodlands and boardwalk trail right now. It will give you a good chance to step away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, and the ability to take a peek into the beauty of the natural areas near Milford.