While the University of Virginia School of Law is know around the nation for its academic rigor and prestigious alumni, it also home to some of the University’s most beautiful naturescapes. Built in the 1970s, the main part of the Law School consists of a collection of brick buildings surrounded by a park like setting.
The buildings are arranged so that they have courtyards between them that provide students and professors frequent access to nature. These courtyards, such as the Troutman Sanders Terrace and the Spice Gardens, include tables and benches for students to eat lunch and study.
Surrounding the buildings and courtyards, is an abundance of open green space where students can take a break from the crowded libraries and stressful mock courtroom trials to play frisbee or relax underneath a tree.
For the winter days when it’s too cold to leave the library, nature views can also be seen from inside the buildings, allowing students to experience nature, and the serenity associated with it, at all times.
In addition to the nature found within the Law School, its campus is adjacent to The Park (at North Grounds), which includes soccer fields, baseball fields, and access to the Rivanna Trail. This gives students and professors places to play sports and take walks to recharge their minds and bodies during their lunch breaks.
The nature within the Law School’s campus provides an excellent way to incorporate nature into daily life at the University. It offers an important restorative place for the law students and professors to escape their stressful day.
Post by Liz Carpenter, Second-Year, Civil Engineering
Our lack of findings of bird mortality incidences around UVA buildings led us to research the overlap between birds commonly affected by building lights and the common species of birds found in Charlottesville. According to a featured article in the March 16th, 2014 edition of the Washington Post Magazine, scientists now know the top bird species that are most vulnerable to death by buildings because of the rescue and collection efforts of Lights Out programs across the U.S. (Houppert 2014). We listed the top 5 species nationwide, along with the top 7 species found specifically in Baltimore and DC, due to these cities’ proximity to our region that we are investigating. We compared these species to the Monticello Bird Club’s “A Birder’s Guide to Charlottesville, Virginia and Vicinity” to see whether or not these species were common in our area during the Spring season, since that is the season where our observations took place.
As our table shows, four of the eleven species we looked into are rare or uncommon in Charlottesville during the Spring (Klotz 2010). However, the majority of the species that are often found dead due to lights are indeed common to the Charlottesville area (Klotz 2010). This indicates that vulnerable species do exist in Charlottesville, so there must be another reason for our lack of findings. Now that we know which species are commonly found dead, we will look more into these specific species’ migratory habits to see whether that could be the reason that we have yet to find any around our buildings. It is possible and looks hopeful that Nau Hall and Campbell Hall actually do not pose a problem for migratory birds.
Presence in Charlottesville/Albemarle in the Spring
Most common birds found by Lights Out nationwide
Black-throated blue warbler
Most common birds found dead by Lights Out Baltimore and DC
Source: Houppert 2014
Colganazar, Kelly. White-throated Sparrow. Digital image. All About Birds. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2014.
Houppert, Karen. “Lights Out.” Washington Post Magazine 16 Mar. 2014: 20-25. Web.
Klotz, Ken. A Birder’s Guide to Charlottesville, Virginia and Vicinity. Charlottesville: Monticello Bird Club, 2010. Print.
My partner and I, Nikki Goncalves, used the bird call recording equipment to record bird night flight calls. Nikki lives on the 6th floor of an apartment building in Charlottesville, so on Wednesday, April 10th, we placed the machine on her balcony and recorded for a couple of hours starting at 1:00AM. We came back the next morning to retrieve the memory card and I listened to a few hours of the recording. Unfortunately, I did not hear a single bird sound. Through the entire recording, I heard a lot of static noises, which were probably a result of the wind and the machine itself. At first I was concerned that the machine was not working since I was not hearing any birds but then I started hearing unexpected noises created by humans. I heard music playing at random points, people talking, a car driving by and even a honk. 39 minutes into the recording, I was even able to make out the words in a conversation two boys were having. I am assuming these noises were a result of the people living in apartments that surround the balcony and also just the typical noises of a Charlottesville street. 15 minutes and 46 seconds into the video, I thought I may have heard a bird but it turned out to just be what sounded like a dog squealing.
After finishing the recording, I was concerned that I did not hear a single bird call, but even as I am sitting at my desk tonight I do not hear a chirp outside. After doing some research, I concluded that birds are more likely to migrate during the end of spring and the beginning of summer, and it is still the start of spring here. A “Birder’s Guide to Charlottesville,” written by the Monticello Bird Club, claims that the birds that do migrate over Charlottesville during the Spring migrate at the end of April and the beginning of May, in which 50 species can be seen. One bird specifically, the Warbler, is known to migrate over Charlottesville between April 15th-May 15th. Unfortunately my week of recording was the week prior to this period and thus I did not hear any Warblers. Hopefully the people in my group who are assigned to record during that period will record birdcalls!
Lastly, another factor that could have affected my results is global warming. We have had an extremely cold and long winter, and even during the beginning of spring there are random drops in temperature. This might affect or alter birds’ migration patterns and cause them to migrate later than expected. Because of this, I unfortunately did not hear bird sounds during my April 10th recording.
Bats are typically found living in relatively large colonies, so it is not a great challenge for them to find one another for mating. Typically, male and female bats remain segregated unless it is time for them to mate. Once female bats become pregnant, roughly 100 or so form a maternity colony which encompasses a sub-area of the entire bat colony. Breeding for bats occurs mostly during the spring when the temperature becomes warm. This is also the time of the year when bats are able to obtain the most food supplies. Although there is only one actual breeding season, female bats may deliver 1 to 3 litters during this time frame, birthing a single bat at a time. It may become a difficult struggle for bat mothers to properly care for their young. The mother must be able to fly and hunt for food while pregnant. In the meantime, the infant bat will drink milk from the mother’s body. Newly born bats do not yet have fully developed wings, but once they develop the bats leave their mothers and venture out on their own to look for their own food. The mother only spends time with her young between six weeks to four months of age.
Most bats are insectivorous (70%), most commonly flying and hunting down insects for food. In fact, the bat is the only true mammal that can really fly. In order to locate these insects, bats use echolocation. The bat releases a “feeding buzz” as it homes in on an insect. Bats may also feed on ground prey such as frogs, some reptiles, rodents, and even small birds. There are also less common fruit bats which eat things such as mangoes and drink the nectar of flowers. Bats are nocturnal creatures, therefore all of their food hunting occurs during the night time. There are almost 1000 bat species known to us, thus the varied eating habits of some of them include peculiar foods such as scorpions or even nectar from hummingbird feeders. There is even a species of bat, known as the long-eared desert palid bat, which has become immune to the venom of scorpion stings as an adaptation to this bizarre eating habit. Snakes, owls, and hawks are all known predators that bats need to look out for in the wild.
References & Works Cited:
Wilson, Don E. Bats in Question: The Smithsonian Answer Book. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Books, May 1997.
Allen, Glover Morrill. Bats: Biology, Behavior and Folklore. New York, Dover Publications, November 2004.
The South Lawn project, the University of Virginia’s largest addition to the Central Grounds area in recent history, highlighted the pivotal function of trees in the ecosystem that is the University of Virginia. Not only do trees provide an aesthetic benefit throughout the Grounds, they also serve the purpose of enhancing energy efficiency for surrounding buildings and creating an environment that fosters learning outside of the classroom. Like the rest of the University, the South Lawn area has a distinct past: during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the area was home to a community of African-Americans and was commonly referred to as the “Canada” neighborhood, according to University of Virginia landscape architect Mary Hughes. Many inhabitants of Canada had ties to the University as employees of the inhabitants of the academical village. One woman in particular, a freed slave by the name of Catherine “Kitty” Foster, purchased and owned a piece of land in Canada in 1833 and constructed a home on the property. Kitty’s home provided a place for University students at the time to store illicit substances such as alcohol and firearms, which were prohibited on Grounds at the time. Long after Kitty’s death, the thoughtfully planned garden around her home and nearby cemetery for the Canada community remained as markers of the land’s history.
From the inception of the planning and design process for the South Lawn project, the project provided a unique opportunity for University of Virginia landscape architects: rather than work around preexisting, historically significant trees, the landscape architects had the opportunity to incorporate new trees and landscape elements into the South Lawn project design because of the asphalt parking lot that existed in its place prior to the construction of Nau and Gibson Halls. Working in conjunction with the architects for the project, Mary Hughes and the rest of the UVA landscape architects developed a plan that honored the history of the site while adhering to native trees in a design that is both efficient and thoughtful. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a circle of White Oak trees was planted around what today is known as the Baptist Student Center. These trees lived healthy, long lives, but only two remained at the time that construction began on the South Lawn project. UVA’s arborists took extreme precaution in protecting and preserving the two remaining White Oak trees throughout the construction process and they emerged from the project unscathed. Ironically, lighting struck one of the trees just a week after the construction of the South Lawn was completed and today only one of the centennial White Oaks remains.
Today, the South Lawn Commons area features a constructed park atop the site of the thirty-three graves of the Canada cemetery, representing the lives of Kitty and the rest of the residents of Canada. This park showcases a grove of native Dogwoods around the previous cemetery site- serving as a memorial “frame” for the burials and paying tribute to the lives of those residents. The Dogwoods were chosen by Mary Hughes and the UVA landscape architects specifically to bloom as a simultaneous unit in the spring. However, the trees have struggled to flourish thus far and will be replanted this spring in the hopes that all of the trees will bloom at the same time next year.
In addition to these native Dogwoods, the South Lawn tree planting plans mainly featured a mix of native, mostly deciduous trees, with some evergreens as well. Trees were chosen in particular to create a shaded area on the south side of the South Lawn construction. While the landscape architects had the freedom to implement the trees that they thought would best fit the property in the long run, their decisions were not without constraints. With this project and all University of Virginia planting operations, the landscape architects faced the difficulty of dealing with University Grounds restrictions on that prohibit the planting of any type of tree within ten feet of a water line to prevent later complications with tree roots and water pipes. Furthermore, the south side of the South Lawn area features a large sunken cistern that captures storm water to prevent flooding downstream in the Valley Road community, which had previously been a significant problem. As a result, the cistern prevents any trees from being planted in this area.
The courtyard that exists in the South Lawn area between Nau and Gibson Halls is planted with deciduous Magnolias. This species was chosen intentionally to work with the design of the building- in particular, its significant height. These trees tend to be smaller than other Magnolias, which prevents the courtyard from becoming completely shaded and allows visitors to be able to see the striking architecture of Nau and Gibson Halls. The building wings provide a substantial amount of shade and shelter while the deciduous Magnolias create a pleasant environment in which visitors can study, converse, or simply enjoy the sunshine. The deciduous Magnolias bloom early in the season and represent the first sign of spring in a prominent location for students, faculty, and the like. Deciduous Magnolias sometimes struggle with freezes in the transition from Winter to Spring, but the building wings serve as a form of shelter for the trees and allow them to survive the late freezes that Virginia often experiences.
From inception to completion, the South Lawn project came to fruition through sustained dialogue between the landscape architects and the structural architects of the University. It is both representative of the history of the site and suited to accompany the twenty-first century design of Nau and Gibson Halls.
Our team has been researching FLAP’s (Fatal Light Awareness Program) initiatives and plans to contact them about what time of year they find the highest amount of dead birds in Toronto. Because our group has been unlucky in our findings so far, we are wondering if birds have not yet migrated through Charlottesville. As it is finally becoming warmer outside, we may start to see more species of birds moving to Charlottesville. We are going to ask FLAP if they have any data about what species of birds fly through the mid-Atlantic region at this time of year.
Additionally, our team came across a Dark Virginia Sky article about Light Pollution’s toll on migratory birds. Below is a satellite image of the highest rates of light pollution in the state of Virginia. We are curious if this map correlates with bird mortality rates in the cities and counties that have the most light pollution. The Dark Virginia Sky article also includes a Washington Post feature about Lights Out’s efforts to decrease the bird death toll in cities such as Baltimore and Washington, DC. The birds most commonly found by Lights Out organizations in the mid-Atlantic region are the white throated sparrow, the common yellowthroat, the ovenbird, and the gray catbird. We plan to attempt to get in contact with the Lights Out organizations in Baltimore and DC to see if their findings match up with Charlottesville’s species of birds with high mortality rates.
After months of trudging through surprise cold fronts and freak snowstorms, springtime at the University of Virginia is a relief. Students flock to the lawn to study and sunbathe, and I go outside to read under my favorite trees. Everyone has their favorite study spots, and one of mine is under a Loebner magnolia at Brown College on Monroe Hill. The tree blooms beautifully in the early spring, producing white flowers with hundreds of petals that fall gently whenever a breeze hits its branches.
I studied under the magnolia for two years before taking notice of a small plaque on the back of a nearby bench, dedicating the tree to Angela A. Qazi, a former resident of Brown College who died while she was a student at the University. It was then I began to take an interest in the trees planted around Monroe Hill, and by the beginning of my third year I was one of four students working on a Brown Residential College tree labeling project.
Before discussing the many unique and beautiful trees located on Monroe Hill, it is important to understand the area’s history. In 1788, James Monroe bought 800 acres on which he constructed his law office and house, land that belongs to the university today. Of course, the university was not founded until 1819, at which point Monroe had already sold the land and everything on it. Today, the hill on which the law office stands is known as Monroe Hill, part of Brown Residential College which was established in 1986. The Monroe Hill House—not to be mistaken with Monroe’s actual house which stands adjacent to the Hill House and law office—is the residence of Brown College’s principal and their family.
The landscape around Brown is similar to that of the Lawn, since both areas grew up together. Unlike other areas around Grounds where trees tend to be chosen from a select few species for landscaping purposes, and planted at the same time after the establishment of new buildings, people have been planting trees around Brown for over two hundred years, and almost every tree planted on Monroe Hill has a story.
When establishing the Brown Residential College tree labeling project, we had two goals in mind: 1) provide plaques on certain trees consisting of the tree’s common and scientific names in order to increase students’ knowledge of the species they see every day, and 2) learn each tree’s unique history. The first goal was quite simple with the assistance of Brown fellows John Sauer—master gardener for Carr’s Hill—Cathy Clary, and Sue Plaskon, who identified trees that have aesthetic, ecological, and historical value.
Two trees which deserve mentioning here are the Princess Tree and the Mulberry. The Princess Tree or Paulownia tomentosa is located directly adjacent to the law office on Monroe Hill, and is quite possibly older than the building itself. The Mulberry is also located on the Hill, and has a magnificent, gnarly root system that can be seen above ground.
The second goal—to learn the trees’ unique histories—was a bit more difficult, but our job was made easier by UVA’s memorial tree website. As it turns out, Monroe Hill is home to a number of officially designated trees and private commemorative trees, which partially explains the smorgasbord of species found in the area. The website contains information on when the tree was planted, the species, the individual it commemorates, and also provides a map showing the location of all the designated and commemorative trees on Grounds.
The trees located on and around Monroe Hill planted for outstanding members of our community include:
–Black Walnut for James Monroe
–Yoshino Cherry for Carl Trindle,
–Merrill Magnolia for Angela A. Qazi
–Sugar Maple for Thalia Vassilatos
–Red Horsechestnut for Laura Sue Sherman
–Amu Cork Tree for Paul G. Adams IV
As we continue to work on the tree labeling project, with the goal of labeling twenty more trees to add to the ten already labeled, we have learned more and more of the stories behind the trees around Brown. My personal favorite—which I learned only the other day as I toured the area looking at twenty new trees to be labeled with Cathy Clary—is the story of the “Wedding Tree” a fantastic Japanese Maple that was planted in secret by a former Brown president for his wife upon their marriage.
Although I am graduating this year, the tree labeling project is now supported by the Brown Residential College community, and will continue for years to come. We are currently working on adding a page to the Brown College website with information on all the labeled trees, providing a map so students can lead their own walking tours. The University of Virginia is one of the most beautiful universities in the United States, and it seems only fair that the trees that make it so beautiful are recognized by name and allowed to tell their stories.
The weather is getting better and that’s good news for us! Winter was extremely cold and lasted longer than our team anticipated, making it a less than ideal time to track animals. But now that it’s April and a little bit warmer, there has been a significant increase in animal presence on grounds, even during the night. This is very exciting because we finally caught one on camera!
It is hard to tell, but we believe it’s a fox. Foxes are nocturnal animals, and though they can be seen during the day, they typically hunt during the night. They’re more than capable of surviving in urban and suburban areas, so they should thrive in a college town like Charlottesville.
More specifically, red foxes, (Vulpes vulpes fulva) are the most common species in Virginia. The below map is from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. It highlights the counties and cities in which these foxes are known to live. As you can see, they’re all over the state.
Of course, they still only live in areas that suit their needs. The image was taken behind a residential building on Jefferson Park Avenue (marked by the red “x” on the map below). Though there is activity in this area, there is neither a lot of heavy road traffic nor heavy foot traffic, making it a safe area for the fox to live. This area also provides an opportunity to move around the neighborhood without crossing any dangerous roads and without encountering too many people. In this sense, it turned out that we made correct assumptions about moving the camera further away from central grounds to areas that offer more safety and resources for wild animals.
We have yet to see results on our other cameras. However, we are hopeful. Like stated before, we should see an increase in animal population with an increase in temperature. We are very excited to see what this spring will bring to grounds!
Looking toward the drama building from Campbell hall, you are greeted with quite a biophilic view of greenery. However, one aspect stands out refusing to go unnoticed: a giant white oak tree. The White Oak, measuring 16 feet around, is absolutely gorgeous and gives pause to all who look out Campbell hall’s glass windows and catch a glimpse of it. Jerry Brown, an experienced arborist at UVA, says that White Oaks are his favorite trees for many reasons including their strength in storms, resistance to pests, and overall beauty. While this tree has much to offer with its beauty, its history provides an even deeper layer of appreciation.
Before the recent construction took place to build the new drama building, the view from Campbell hall was different with more trees surrounding this white oak. However, with construction comes what seems like at least some inevitable destruction. Jerry Brown describes construction as the greatest threat to trees on grounds. These trees were not removed without some debate. Members of the Architecture School as well as some of the larger student body, joined together to try and come up with a plan for construction of the new building that would allow the trees to remain. They also tried to quantify the value of these trees based on ecosystem services and other factors. This effort was impressive, bringing together knowledge from a wide range of fields. Although construction of the drama building ended up meaning the destruction of some of these trees, many good things came from this experience. For one, the love of these trees brought students and faculty together to test their skills in support of their shared beloved trees. Its amazing how trees around grounds seem to instigate this communal feeling of love and connection that is worth fighting for. This feeling was seen again recently with the debate over the magnolias on the lawn.
In addition to bringing people together, this incident also leaves a lasting memory that only makes the remaining trees that much more valuable and cherished. While many architecture students who see this great White Oak today can remember these recent past events and appreciate the remaining tree more, in the future this history may be forgotten. Perhaps it would be a worthy use of time and resources to put a plaque out by the White Oak to commemorate the other trees that once were there and remind everyone who discovers this tree in the future of its deeper significance.
This story and White Oak and extremely unique, but they are also emblematic of many other trees around grounds. The White Oak is a champion tree, which the Royal Forestry Society defines as “individual trees which are exceptional examples of their species because of the enormous size, great age, rarity, or historical significance”. This White Oak clearly fits this definition, but it exemplifies that there are other champion trees around grounds that also deserve to be noted, respected, and appreciated.
To continue the Bird Team’s blog posts on different types of birds around the University of Virginia campus, I would like to discuss The Canadian goose who can be spotted by the Dell Pond.
While visiting the Dell Pond on April 7th, there were two of the Canadian geese swimming in the Dell Pond. Unfortunately I was not able to get a close up picture of the geese because they were swimming in the middle of the water. This picture above is a better quality picture and gives detail into what the birds look like from up close.
After looking into what kind of goose this could be, I realized that it looked like the Canadian goose because of the specific details on the body. This bird has a black head and neck, specifically a chinstrap, which distinguishes it from other types of geese. Accompanying the black head and neck are white patches along the sides of the bird’s face.
While watching these geese interact with one another, it was evident that they like to be in groups. The geese seemed very gentle while in the water, but are known to be somewhat aggressive if they are frightened, threatened or in some sort of danger. The birds did not seem to act aggressive towards people sitting around Dell Pond, which leads me to believe they only act this way if provoked.
The Canadian geese come from the Northern regions as migrants to places farther south. The species tends to fly from place to place in a V form and their species in general has grown significantly.
With the development of more and more hand made, man made ponds and bodies of waters, these geese tend to thrive off of the areas because there are rich sources of food and a comfortable environment for them to live. Also with the development of these man made bodies of water, their primary predators have been displaced and or out of their radar. This is another reason for their growth in population.
Their predators include foxes, coyotes, raccoons, crows, and other animals that have been pushed away from places like the Dell Pond because of the urban areas and people around. The predators usually feast on the eggs of the geese. Although the geese are very defensive against these animals due to their aggressive behavior when confronted, they still prefer to live in areas such as The Dell Pond because they feel safer.
The habitat of the Dell Pond is perfect for the geese because they are in an area away from main predators, for the most part, and it is a hand made and fresh water pond. The Canadian goose is sensitive to salinity, which the Dell Pond does not have.
THE CANADIAN GOOSE NOISES:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjIR5doazW4: This is a link to watch the goose on a normal day and the movements he makes. Also, this link includes the honking sound of the Canadian goose, as well.
Another link that provides all of the different honks, hisses, barks and cackles of these geese is provided below: