New Hope Creek Biodiversity Survey 2021 - 2022
Field notes compiled for the New Hope Creek Biodiversity Survey.
June 9, 2022. Multi-taxa Survey.
Gary Perlmutter
08:30-11:00 Mt. Moriah Bottomlands behind Oak Valley shopping center at US 15-105 and Garrett Rd (Parcel 140106). Survey for birds, plants, fungi including lichens, and slime molds (myxomycetes); Stephen Hall, Henry Van T. Cotter, Gary Perlmutter & Meriel Goodwin. Weather: partly cloudy and humid; temperature 73°F and rising. Field conditions were wet from the previous night’s rain; mosquitos were abundant.

We visited the site as recommended by project bryologist Blanka Agureo for its high-quality vegetation. Crossing a patch of disturbed forest with an open understory of Japanese Stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) bordered by a braid of Mud Creek, we entered a very mature forest with a layered understory and shrub layer rich in thorny briar (Smilax) shrubs. Most interesting was the absence of plants associated with rich soils that are so common in New Hope Creek Bottomlands south of the 15-501 bridge, e.g., Asarum reflexum, and Viola eriocarpa. Likewise missing were two plant species that were targeted: Shellbark Hickory (Carya laciniosa) and White-nymph (Trepocarpus aethusae), both of which are associated with the same rich soils. This could be due to differences in soil chemistry, as we were in Mud Creek floodplain rather than that of New Hope Creek. Unlike New Hope, which has its headwaters in a major area of mafic soils rich in magnesium and iron, Mud Creek apparently does not. The forest has a Triassic Basin hydrology that was very similar to the New Hope Creek Bottomlands south of the bridge.

The results of the bird survey were a continuation of what has been been seeing all spring. Many of the Neotropical migrants that should have been present were missing, including species such as Hooded and Kentucky Warblers that are associated with the shrub and ground cover layers, both of which appeared to be well developed at this site.

About 30 lichen voucher specimens were collected during this visit. The lichen biota is similar to other areas surveyed in the project with a few species that represent additions to the checklist: Hyperphyscia syncolla, Lecanora strobilina, and Punctelia caseana, all of which have been recorded from Durham County. One interesting lichen is a yellow soraliate species that may represent a new record for the county or larger area.

Certain groups of non-lichenized fungi were also well represented. Jelly fungi (fully hydrated and obvious due to the overnight rain), polypores, and Xylarias were abundant whereas gilled mushrooms and boletes were not. Nine fungal species new to the checklist were found including three wood-decomposing Xylarias and two jelly fungi (a wood ear and yellow jellyspot). Of special note was finding the tiny ascomycete Pleonectria aurigera on exposed wood of a fallen ash (Fraxinus) branch.

For myxomycetes, the previous night's rains had unfortunately damaged or washed away any mature fruiting bodies normally present at this season in such a promising site. However, the downpour brought out a spectacular plasmodium, which when cultured, developed into one of the few large and highly visible slime molds, Fuligo septica.

May 16, 2022. Breeding Bird Survey
Steve Hall
08:26 – 11:24. Loop Trail, New Hope Bottomlands. Bird survey; Steve Hall. In upper 60s, clear and calm at the start; became overcast towards the end, with temperatures in the low 80s. Light shower in second half.

Thirty-five species of birds were recorded, the most noteworthy being Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea). This species was previously missing from our records although the mature bottomland forest and abundant pools provide the right habitat for this species. Several of the other Neotropical migrants have now shown up on the study site, including the following that were missing on previous visits: Yellow-throated Warbler, American Redstart, Scarlet Tanager, and Solitary Vireo. Not heard today but recorded during previous counts this spring (including by non-NCBP members) include Wood Thrush, Ovenbird, and Hooded Warbler. Still no evidence for Kentucky Warbler, which is now the highest priority bird species for this survey.

Most of these species were recorded based on their songs. Three, however, were detected by their tracks, including Barred Owl, Wild Turkey, and Great Blue Heron. Tracks of the Yellow-crowned Night Heron were searched for but not found. The tracks of this species are very similar to those of the Great Blue Heron (see Photo Gallery) but much smaller: about 4" in length compared to over 6" for the GBH. Heron squawks were also heard but not well enough to determine the species.

One other interesting observation was of a juvenile Eastern Rat Snake (=Black Rat Snake), that was knocked out of a tree by a gust of wind and fell on the ground right in front of me. Unharmed, it was able to disappear into the leaf litter before I was able to photograph it.
May 6, 2022. Lichen & Slime Mold Survey
Gary Perlmutter
08:00-10:00 Mt. Moriah Bottomlands across from Dick's Sporting Goods (Parcel 140148). Survey for lichens and slime molds (myxomycetes); Gary Perlmutter & Meriel Goodwin. Weather: overcast with intermittent light rain; temperature estimated in the upper 60's to low 70's.

Not much ground was covered as the ground was often muddy and bound by the curves of New Hope Creek. Nevertheless, it was rich in lichens with specimens representing ~30 spp collected for identification and voucher deposit in the UNC Chapel Hill Herbarium. Most specimens were collected off of living and dead trees, including ash (Fraxinus sp.) and musclewood (Carpinus caroliniana), which are the dominant tree species in this bottomland forest. Canopy lichens were also collected from fallen branches and twigs. Because of the flood regime of this forest, ground lichens were not seen. However, the most noteworthy find was a pin lichen (Calicium salacinum), a potentially rare or overlooked species (recorded from only 5 counties across the state) found growing on a decorticated log near the creek. This species is the first recorded in Durham County and the first from the Triangle in over 100 years!

Myxomycetes were far less abundant, largely found on rotting wood with one large specimen of Fuligo septica, the so-called "Dog vomit slime mold" because it looks can guess. The immature stage is a bright yellow plasmodium, which can be confused with the genus Physarum. Fuligo septica is very common this time of year in our area. More interesting was a Hemitrichia calyculata found on a small piece of totally sodden ash wood. Its early in the season for myxos so this was a nice addition to the New Hope list.

We also observed a crayfish chimney-like borrow entrance, confirming that we are in a floodplain.
May 6. 2022. Bird Survey
Steve Hall
7:37-9:38 Loop Trail, New Hope Bottomlands. Bird survey; Steve Hall. Completely overcast, calm, and with a brief shower during the visit. Temperature was in the upper 60s at the start and in the 70s at the end.

Neotropical migrants are still moving into or through the area, with Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Wood Thrush, Ovenbird, Black-throated Blue Warbler all newly detected since the count we made on Earth Day. Still no sign, however, of Hooded Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, American Redstart, Kentucky Warbler, or Prothonotary Warbler.

One spectacular find was a Yellow-crowned Night Heron, observed foraging in one of the many oxbow ponds that are scattered across the New Hope bottomlands (see Photo Gallery). This species is strongly associated with swamp forests and bottomland hardwoods but is rare as a nesting species in the Piedmont. Whether this species is actually a resident within the project area still needs to be determined, but the habitat there certainly makes this a possibility. If so, then it will be one of the hallmark discoveries of this survey.
April 22, 2022. Earth Day!
Steve Hall
8:00-12:30 Loop Trail, New Hope Bottomlands. Survey for birds and spring wildflowers; Steve Hall, Harry LeGrand, and Ed Harrison. Clear, calm, temperature was in the upper 50s when we started, in the 70s at the end.

Except for Claytonia, most of the early spring wildflowers have finished blooming. Yellow Violets (Viola eriocarpa), which were so prominent along the levee next to the creek, were all in fruit and the Yellow Trout Lilies (Erythronium americanum -- another dominant species in this area -- were nearly completely gone. One noteworthy species that has recently emerged and is now conspicuous is the White-Nymph (Trepocarpus aethusae). This species was only recently discovered in North Carolina by Rickie White and Milo Pyne, and this is still the only site where it has been found in the state. Although we didn't see any flowers yet, this species is now common along the levee, growing in the same rich alluvial soils as the Yellow Violets, Yellow Trout Lillies, Reflexed Wild-ginger (Asarum reflexum), all of which are indicators of nutrient-rich bottomlands. Unfortunately, we also observed an exotic invasive, Oriental False Hawksbeard (Youngia japonica), growing in the same sites. Earlier in the spring, Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna), was also observed along the creek. So far, neither of these species has become so abundant as to threaten the native flora, unlike the situation along the lower Roanoke, where exotic species are swamping out many of the rare herbaceous species that once made that site so botanically prominent.

Although spring migrants are moving through this area, very few were heard this morning. Of the 33 species we recorded, only 7 were spring migrants, including Northern Parula, Northern Waterthrush, Black-and-White Warbler, Summer Tanager, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Red-eyed Vireo, and White-eyed Vireo. We had hoped to record Prothonotary Warblers, which have already arrived nearby at the Mason Farm Biological Preserve, but we had no such luck. In general, the number of singing males seemed much reduced compared to surveys conducted in this area back in the 1990s. One noteworthy (but unsurprising) observation were the tracks of Barred Owls. This species, along with Red-shouldered Hawks, is still doing well in the New Hope Bottomlands, although observing its tracks (see Photo Gallery) is an infrequent event.