“The lovely flowers embarrass me.
They make me regret I am not a bee…”
At the Marilyn and Fred Ellis Preserve on Shaw Island, spring arrived with growth, song, color, fragrance, and motion. From chorus frogs and catkins to fawn lilies and fledglings, the sanctuary has been radiant with energy and beauty over the last few months.
In the deep forest, owls, woodpeckers, thrushes and nuthatches have established territories and settled in to raise their young. Kingfishers, eagles, and herons forage along the shoreline, while river otter kits explore grassy headlands and pocket beaches. At the pond, hooded mergansers, wood ducks, and Canada geese tend their broods under a sky teaming with swallows, dragonflies, and nighthawks.
As spring becomes summer, the urgent pace of activity mellows. Blossoms mature to seed, chicks fledge, fruits ripen, and spots on tawny fawns begin to fade. There is a moment for a collective deep breath before the imperative of the next season takes hold, but there is no rest.
For the Preservation Trust’s stewardship staff and volunteers, tasks at the preserve have a seasonal flow as well. Guided by a carefully considered management plan and informed by the preserve’s unique ecology, our work aims to protect, enhance, and share the land under our care.
By installing a fence to exclude deer, an area of struggling native wildflowers that would otherwise be heavily browsed is rebounding. Along a drainage at the edge of an old pasture, dozens of native deciduous trees and shrubs of 8 different species have been planted and fenced. This is the first phase of a larger restoration project that will mature into a diverse corridor of forage and cover for wildlife.
Within the yard of the historic Tharald Homestead, languishing garden beds are being renewed and repurposed as pollinator havens—oases of abundant nectar, pollen, and nest sites. By providing an area free of pesticides, disturbance, and night lighting, we hope to sustain a rich variety of invertebrates while inspiring visitors to take steps to benefit pollinators at home.
We are thrilled to be in the final stages of completing a loop trail at the preserve that will open this summer. At just under two miles, the meandering path will lead walkers along sedge meadows, through old-growth groves, beside rocky outcrops and farm fields, and into forests with stories to tell. Along the way are opportunities to overlook Parks Bay and Tharald Pond.
Stay tuned for updates on the loop trail opening while you enjoy these images of pollinators in the homestead garden. Summer blessings.
–Ruthie Dougherty, Ellis Preserve Curator