Nature Scavenger Hunt

Presenting our Nature Scavenger Hunt! Take this opportunity to learn about the nature around you and what The Nature Foundation does. We’re excited to have you play along, adults and children alike. We will drop two clues a week for four weeks. You have a chance to win a prize for each clue and there’s a grand prize if you complete the entire scavenger hunt.
You’ll need to like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram or be signed up for our emails to get the clues. Send your answers to specialevents@tnfw.org or post them in the comments on Facebook and Instagram.
At Wintergreen, we’re surrounded by nature everywhere we look. We have spectacular views, rock formations, and stunning wildflowers just starting to bloom. Let’s go outside and see what we can find. HINT – some clues can be found on the trails The Nature Foundation maintains!

 

 

Scavenger Hunt Clue #1

 

Our first clue drop. Take a picture of a Wintergreen trailhead. This could be a picture of your favorite trail, a trail you’ve seen but haven’t gotten a chance to do yet or a trail you’ve always wondered about. Do you have any questions about one of these trails? Did you know The Nature Foundation maintains more than 30 miles of hiking trails at Wintergreen? Email your answer to specialevents@tnfw.org or post them on Facebook.

 

 

Scavenger Hunt Clue #2

 

Our second clue drop. Send us a picture, drawing, poem or just a sentence of one thing you’ve seen while hiking one of Wintergreen’s trails. We take our searching seriously around here; Liz Fravel searched high and low for one her favorites. Let us know if you need help identifying something you saw. We’d love to help you learn all about the nature that surrounds us here at Wintergreen. Email your answer to specialevents@tnfw.orgor post them on Facebook. Share this post with your neighbors and friends so they can play too.

Bad Yet Beautiful

by Josh Palumbo, Forest Management Coordinator

I welcome you to The Nature Foundation at Wintergreen’s attempt to bring some nature and knowledge into your home. The Nine Minute Naturalist borrows from NPR’s lovely 90-Second Naturalist podcast. Since we all have a bit more time on our hands, the goal is to take something that is happening out in our environment and stimulate your brain for roughly nine minutes. Don’t let something as “minor” as a quarantine to keep you from learning. I hope you enjoy!


It really is hard to dislike that which is beautiful. The exquisite trillium, the eye-popping bluebird and the stunning brook trout all hold a special place in my mind due to their beauty. A new invasive has made in-roads into Virginia over the past couple years that is certainly beautiful but will not hold that special place in my mind. The spotted lanternfly is quite gorgeous but is bad news for so many. This edition of the Nine Minute Naturalist will go into depth on the newest invasive force our environment will face.

 

Spotted lanternfly

 

The spotted lanternfly is a plant hopper insect native to China, Bangladesh and Vietnam. It was first found in the U.S. in Berks County, Pennsylvania. It was discovered in 2014 but is believed to have arrived via egg masses attached to a stone shipment in 2012. Despite a quick quarantine for the surrounding area, the invasive bug has spread to New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Ohio, Maryland and of course Virginia. They are not dynamic flyers but are adapt at hitchhiking their way around the east coast. Each egg mass is about one inch long, mud colored and can hold 30-50 eggs. They can stick to almost any solid surface and are the reason for the spread of this invasive. This pest found its way into Clarke County Virginia in 2018. The first spotted lanternfly was found in a train depot, having hitchhiked from the northeast. We went from 1 square mile of infestation in 2018 to 60 square miles in 2020.

 

Spotted lanternfly egg mass

 

The attractiveness of this pest makes it quite easy to identify. The adults are approximately 1 inch long and ½ inch wide at rest. The forewing is gray with black spots of varying sizes and the hind wings have patches of red and black with a white band. The abdomen is yellow with black bands. The early stages (1-3 instar) are black with white spots. The last immature stage is characterized by the development of red patches in addition to the black color with white spots. They are quite visually striking but you won’t be seduced by their beauty for long.

 

Spotted lanternfly: early stages

 

The spotted lanternfly is a serious threat to farmers. It shows a strong preference for grapevines, fruit trees such as peach, apple and cherry and hops. They also show an affinity for maple, birch, black walnut and willow. This pest uses its piercing-sucking mouthpart to feed on the sap from over 70 different species. As it feeds, it extracts honeydew which attracts bees, wasps and other insects as well as promotes the growth of sooty mold, which covers the plant, the forest floor, furniture, cars or anything else below the feeding insects. There is a unique link between the insect and another non-native, tree of heaven. Both species are native to China and have been reunited in the United States. Tree of heaven is the preferred host of spotted lanternfly and is commonly found near all the primary travel corridors.

The impact of this new invasive to the Wintergreen environment will be different from our last invasive, the emerald ash borer. Emerald ash borer is hardly seen but brings quick death to just ash trees. The spotted lanternfly attacks a wide variety of species but doesn’t tend to kill a tree outright. This species tends to be a stressor that can certainly bring about weakening for healthy trees and death for failing trees. The biggest impact we will have if this insect establishes at Wintergreen is from a nuisance level. These pests reproduce in volume and become a disgusting annoyance at the landowner level. Reports from Pennsylvania indicate the sudden increase in volume of bugs is very detrimental to enjoying your outdoor living space. Cars, patios and plants quickly get covered in honeydew and sooty mold making them loathsome to homeowners.

It may be a while before Wintergreen becomes home to the spotted lanternfly but there are couple things you can do. First, be diligent to know what to look for and alert me of any potential sightings (forestmanage@tnfw.org). The other precaution would be to remove their favorite host tree of heaven. If you have any on your property, it is a good idea to make them disappear over the next couple years. Eliminating one non-native so you don’t encourage another non-native is a win/win for our environment.

Spring Melodies

by Josh Palumbo, Forest Management Coordinator

I welcome you to The Nature Foundation at Wintergreen’s attempt to bring some nature and knowledge into your home. The Nine Minute Naturalist borrows from NPR’s lovely 90-Second Naturalist podcast. Since we all have a bit more time on our hands, the goal is to take something that is happening out in our environment and stimulate your brain for roughly nine minutes. Don’t let something as “minor” as a quarantine to keep you from learning. I hope you enjoy!


The noises of nature rise precipitously as we enter the spring season. At Wintergreen, our rise in acoustics can be largely attributed to our frog population. Our woods, streams and ponds are loaded with these noisy amphibians that give such character to the Wintergreen woods in spring. This edition of the Nine Minute Naturalist will delve into the species responsible for the cacophony of calls we hear during our spring rebirth.  

The sound of some animals is synonymous with a season. The spring peeper is just that animal. They declare the end of winter with a shrill high pitch note that can reach 100 decibels. Once joined by hundreds of their friends, this sound makes the idea of a “peaceful” woodland obsolete. They are among the first animals to call and breed each spring. They tend to be found in moist woodland areas adjacent to wetlands. At Wintergreen, a great place to listen to this onslaught of noise is along the golf course and the numerous ponds adjacent to woodlands. These small woodland ponds are ideal breeding habitat for spring peepers and tend to be loaded with them from March to June. Here is a link to their distinctive sounds.

 

Spring peeper

 

Another common frog that will provide ample auditory evidence of their presence is the gray treefrog. The gray treefrog begins its calling in April at Wintergreen. The distinctive short fluty trill call is memorable and can be heard starting at dusk and continuing for a few hours each evening. This boreal species seeks habitat containing trees and a water source. They remain near the forest floor when young but ascend to the canopy with age. Eggs are laid in the water. Gray treefrogs can change their skin color based on time of day and surrounding temperature. The skin becomes lighter at night and darker during the day. Here is a link to their lovely call.

The pickerel frog is not quite as common as the spring peeper or gray tree frog but the unique call makes it an easy one to pinpoint in the midst of many other sounds. The garbled, throaty song of the pickerel frog starts in April and lasts until early June. They are usually found in Wintergreen’s cool, clean streams but will lay their eggs in any temporary pond. They can be identified by their chocolate brown spots in two rows between the folds in their back. They have a look-a-like, the leopard frog, that will have irregular brown spots. Careful if you choose to pick one up as they produce a toxic skin secretion that is irritating to humans. Here is a link to their throaty call.

 

Pickerel frog

 

The American bullfrog is common at Wintergreen, especially at our lower elevations. They emit a deep bellow that sounds like “jug-a-rum”. This amphibian is almost exclusively aquatic and can be found at any of our ponds at Wintergreen. They are extremely territorial and use their call to announce their presence to rivals and for mates. They are the largest frogs in North America, growing up to 8 inches and 1.5 pounds. Here is a call you may find familiar.

The spring is the time to familiarize yourself with the calls of these amphibians that make Wintergreen home. We have entered the season where your peace and quiet will not exist and instead replaced with a mismatch of melodies that make our environment unique. The time is now to find your favorite location to learn about Wintergreen frogs.