Ecosystem Explorers Visit Muddy Creek Headwaters

Reflections by Naturalist & Walk Leader Andrea Higgins
Photos courtesy of HCT Volunteer Photographer Andrea Petitto

July 11, 2022

A beautiful July morning welcomed the HCT Ecosystem Explorers to Muddy Creek Headwaters Preserve. Brilliant blue skies, gentle breezes, singing birds, and buzzing insects greeted us for the start of our adventure. The ingredients for our fun Monday morning included children’s laughter and smiles, curious questions, reading, creating, strolling, and observing. What an amazing way to start the week!

Explorers and their caregivers sat in the shade on blankets to chat about ecosystems and habitats. We discussed the incredible diversity in the 17 acres of Muddy Creek Headwaters. The restored wildflower meadow is currently in bloom with butterfly weed, black-eyed susans, coreopsis, goldenrod, and more. Many species of animals, birds, and insects rely on each of the Preserve’s habitats, including the meadow, woodland/forest, and tidal creek/river.

I read Insect World Dragonflies by Mari Schuh, Darting Dragonflies by Robin Nelson and World of Insects: Dragonflies by Emily K. Green. Next, using the insect/butterfly net, I gently swept the wildflower meadow. Curious Explorers were in awe of the variety of insects we found to admire. We checked out ladybugs, small gray jumping spiders, bright green grasshoppers, and tiny pearl-white insects.

Our art creations were made out of items found in nature, including bark, lichen, sticks, leaves, flowers, acorns, ferns, grasses, and seed pods. Leaves made excellent wings for butterflies, ferns became trees in a forest, and lichen covered bark was transformed into an owl. We also had dragonfly creations made from leafy sticks and acorns for eyes, and even some turtles crafted from leaves. Art creations were glued onto sturdy paper for our creative Explorers to take home.

Next, we left the wildflower meadow and headed down the path into the woods. Magnifying lenses in hand, we enjoyed a walkabout to take a closer look at everything the forest had in store for us. We chatted about trees and bark, snags and dead trees, fungus and insects. Rolling over logs led to fun discoveries of pill bugs (aka roly-pollies), a terrestrial crustacean. Pill bugs consume decaying plant matter and play a role in decomposition. Continuing on, the Explorers examined more logs, insects, and soil while enjoying the chorus of birdsong. Friends also learned that the little holes in the tree bark were created by birds as they looked for tasty insect snacks.

We paused on a perfectly placed bench and took a moment to simply admire the beauty of the Preserve. Explorers and caregivers alike savored the views and the sounds of the creek, the marsh, and the bird life in and around the water. Our habitat hike continued, and we noticed the sweet flower of the stripped/spotted wintergreen. The wooded path opened up to the other side of the flowering meadow and each participant paused to watch swallows, butterflies, and dragonflies flitting and swooping about in and above the beautifully colored flowers of the meadow. 

Thank you Explorers. I admire your curiosity, creativity and wonder. It is a gift to be in your company.

I look forward to seeing you for more exploration, learning, and fun!

Miss Andrea