Native Plant Profile...Alternate-leaf Dogwood
This native plant can be considered a shrub or small tree
that can reach to 30 feet. Commonly found on rich moist soils in woodlands,
woodland edges, stream banks. Tolerates sun or shade and a wide variety of soil
types. It exhibits slow to moderate growth. Known for being disease resistant.
provides use for at least 64 species of wildlife, 43 that are birds.
Other Names: Pagoda
Dogwood, Blue Dogwood, Green Osier, and Pigeon Berry. The name Pigeon Berry was
given to the tree due to the fact that its berry was a favorite of the now
extinct Passenger Pigeon
Greenish white, 4-petal flowers bloom in May – June. Purple to blue-black drupes
(berries) 1/3” on red stems ripen from July to September
Alternate-leaf Dogwood provides food for:
Grouse, Bobwhite Quail, Ring-necked Pheasant, Common Flicker, Pileated,
Redheaded and Downy Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Eastern Kingbird,
Great-crested Flycatcher, Tree Swallow, Common Crow, Mockingbird, Gray Catbird,
Brown Thrasher, American Robin, Wood, Hermit, Swainson’s and Gray-cheeked
Thrush, Veery, Eastern Bluebird, Cedar Waxwing. Red-eyed and White-eyed Vireos,
Scarlet Tanager, Cardinal, Evening Grosbeak, Purple Finch, Pine Grosbeak,
White-throated and Song Sparrow, Black Bear, Beaver, Cottontail Rabbit, Raccoon,
Striped Skunk, Gray Squirrel, Fox Squirrel, Eastern Chipmunk, White-footed
Mouse, Allegheny Wood Rat, White-tailed Deer, and Spring Azure Butterfly
Alternate-leaf Dogwood provides shelter for:
Ruffed grouse, Eastern Kingbird, American Robin, Wood, Hermit and Gray-cheeked
Thrush, Veery, Cedar Waxwing, Red-eyed Vireo, Scarlet Tanager, Purple Finch
Alternate-leaf Dogwood provides nesting sites for: Eastern
Kingbird, American Robin, Wood Thrush, Cedar Waxwing, Red-eyed Vireo, Scarlet
Stunning specimen as either a shrub or
tree. Needs no pruning. Has a fibrous root system. One of the earliest trees to
change color in the fall to maroon foliage. Cultivar often found at commercial
nurseries is Argentina
Wildlife: American Vultures
Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus) and
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
Vultures are interesting and essential birds that help
keep our ecosystem clean. Two species are found in the Eastern U.S.: Black
Vulture (Coragyps atratus), pictured on the left, and Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura),
pictured below on the right. Both species
are common in their range and the range continues to expand northward.
These species of vulture are scavengers that feed on
fresh carrion. The birds tend to eat dead herbivores consuming the carrion
of carnivores if there is a food shortage. American Vultures can locate food
by sight and smell, with the Turkey Vulture having the more acute sense of
smell. Black Vultures rely mostly on their vision to locate food.
Contrary to myth neither species of bird circle over
dying animals. Instead the birds soar for hours on thermals of warm air to
conserve energy in flight. They will glide until reaching the altitude they
need for observation of food. In flight Black Vultures flap their wings more
than Turkey Vultures. To identify the species in flight note that Black
Vultures have a wing span less than 5’ with a short tail and a distinct
white patch restricted to the outer wings. Often the feet are sticking out
beyond the tail. Turkey Vultures are nearly eagle sized in flight with a 6’
wingspread. They soar with wings in a slight V shape. Their tail is long.
The head of a Turkey Vulture is small, bare and red
with the immature gray looking and being similar to the black head of the
Black Vulture. With no feathers on their heads this enables the birds to get
into all sorts of dead animals and stay disease- free. After eating Vultures
will perch in full sun getting the rays to bake off animal matter.
Vultures have blunt claws not the sharp talons of
hawks. Their feet are considered weak as compared to raptors, with elevated
hind toes to aid in walking The birds cannot carry their food off but can
stand on it. Often Vultures have difficulty taking off the ground after
consuming a meal, hopping around until gaining flight.
Black Vultures are more aggressive than Turkey Vultures
and are known for stealing food sources from them. Both species are highly
social, with the birds roosting in trees of groups of 10 or more. Vultures are also known for playful activity in flight and on the roost.
Neither vulture species makes much of a vocalization as
they lack voice boxes. Black Vultures can hiss or grunt. Turkey Vultures
will grunt and hiss while eating, or at the nest.
Vultures do not make much of a nest. Black Vultures
will lay 2 white-gray green eggs on the ground, under rocks, in a log, or
cave. Turkey Vultures also produce 2 eggs yearly, which are white, marbled
with dark brown in a crevice, tree cavity or hollow log. Both species
produce one brood per season, with incubation averaging 38 days, with the
peak nesting time from April to May. Vultures fledge their young in
approximately 70 days. The young are fed entirely on regurgitated food by
both parents. If threatened the young will vomit on any intruder. The young
will stay with the parents in social groups for years.
Both Federal and state laws protect Black and Turkey
Vultures. Vultures are often called Buzzards. This is not a correct term. It
is thought that early English settlers used this term to describe all
soaring, hawk-like species. Vultures will occasionally consume vegetable
matter, as they are known to enjoy eating pumpkins.
Backyard Hawk Watching
Fall is the best time to watch the spectacular hawk
migrations. A diversity of raptors including eagles, falcons, and ospreys
join hawks for this seasonal flight to their winter homes. Regionally, the
mid-Atlantic raptor migrations are reliably one of the most thrilling
wildlife watching spectacles to experience in the fall. It’s not
surprising that the science of hawk watching originated in the Eastern
Hawk watching months run from September to November.
September skies belong to Broad-winged Hawks, Bald Eagles and Ospreys.
October brings Sharp-shinned, Cooper’s and Red-shouldered hawks,
Northern Harriers, and Northern Goshawks. You might even spot Golden
Eagles, Rough-legged Hawks, American Kestrals, Merlins and Peregrine
Falcons. Red-tailed Hawks claim the skies as their highways in November.
Other wildlife that you can observe migrating include ravens, loons and
Most of the mid-Atlantic region’s well-known hotspots
occur near Maryland, in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and West Virginia. These
spots are located either on the coast or along mountain ridges. Maryland
has both. You may be fortunate enough to have your backyard in these
areas, although most locations in the state will provide some hawk
The best hawk times range from September 15 to
October 30. Early October has the most diversity. The most commonly seen
hawks in Maryland include Broad- winged Hawks, American Kestrels,
Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks, Other birds seen on a regular basis
include Turkey Vultures, Red-shouldered and Red- tailed hawks, Ospreys,
Northern Harriers, Bald and Golden eagles, Peregrine Falcons and Merlin’s.
Gear to have with you for hawk watching include
binoculars or spotting scopes and field guides. Be sure to dress warmly
since you may be standing for long periods of time in cold weather.
Weather can make or break hawk watching. The best flights occur with the
arrival of a cold front and northwest winds. Rainy and windless days are
Leaf Litter Has
It is autumn, the leaves are dropping, and
it’s time to rake them up. For many this is an opportunity to add them to
their compost pile. For some who have a wooded lot you may decide to go
natural and not rake but allow them to become leaf litter.
Leaf litter is a type of plant litter also
called leaf mold or tree litter. The litter not only consists of leaves, but
bark and twigs that have dropped to the ground. This organic matter serves
as habitat for native rodents, shrews, and salamanders and may also be used
by woodland songbirds to make nests. Leaf litter can be considered the
"layer A", the first layer of the soil.
As the leaf litter decomposes, it becomes
humus. Leaf litter and humus slow down rainfall run- off reducing erosion.
Humus is brown or black and can be partially or wholly decayed vegetable or
animal matter. This is considered the "layer B" of soil or the duff layer.
It provides the nutrients for plants and increases the ability of soil to
hold water. You can determine if soil has a lot of humus in it if it appears
rich and dark. This dark color helps warm up the soil in the spring.
If you have a compost pile the leaf litter
you add to it will become humus. If possible chop or shred the leaves before
adding them. You may also add leaf mold (semi-composted leaves), wood chips
and bark. As they eat and reproduce, the bacteria and fungi found on the
surface of organic matter decompose this material to create humus. To
encourage this process in your compost pile, turn or stir the pile on a
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Photograph of Alternate-leaf Dogwood Tree, courtesy of Steven J. Baskauf, Ph.D., Bioimages,
Photograph of Alternate-leaf Dogwood Leaf & Flower, courtesy of
John Sieler, VA Tech
Photograph of Two Black vultures on a tree branch, courtesy of
Missouri Dept. of Conservation.
Photograph of Two Turkey vultures standing on lawn courtesy of
National Park Service.
Photograph of Black vulture in flight courtesy of Marshall Iliff,
USGS, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Identification Center.
Photograph of Turkey vulture in flight courtesy of A. Wilson,
USGS, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center Bird Identification Center.
Photograph of Sparrow Hawk courtesy of Dave Menke, US Fish
& Wildlife Service.
Photograph of Coopers Hawk courtesy of Fermi National
Accelerator Laboratory, Office of Science, US Dept. of Energy.
Photograph of garden path made with leaf litter courtesy of
Moosey's Country Garden - www.mooseyscountrygarden.com/beth-chatto-gardens/beth-chatto-gardens-autumn.html
Photograph of Person's hands holding up sample of leaf litter
humus courtesy of USDA Forest Service.
Here is a listing of phone numbers, web sites and organizations that you might find helpful or interesting in your search for ideas to manage your wild acres.
DNR Online... Inspired by nature!
Project FeederWatch is a winter-long survey of birds that visit feeders at
backyards, nature centers, community areas, and other locales in North
America. FeederWatchers periodically count the highest numbers of each
species they see at their feeders from November through early April.
FeederWatch helps scientists track broadscale movements of winter bird
populations and long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance. Project
FeederWatch is operated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in partnership
with the National Audubon Society, Bird Studies Canada, and Canadian
Nature Federation. http://birds.cornell.edu/pfw
National Wildlife Federation - Details on their backyard habitat program www.nwf.org or call them at 1-800-822-9919.
Native plants - The Maryland Native Plant Society offers information dedicated to protecting, conserving and restoring Maryland's native plants and habitats, visit them at
Maryland Cooperative Extension offers home and garden information, tips publications, plant problems, Bay issues, and other links at
Their Home and Garden Information number is statewide and can be reached at
1-800-342-2507, and from outside Maryland at 1-410-531-1757.
Bioimages, a project of
Vanderbilt University, provides educational information to the public on
biologically related topics, as well as a source of biological images for
personal and non-commercial use.
Maryland's "Becoming an Outdoors - Woman Program
"- One of the topics covered in the three-day workshops is Backyard
For a free wildlife & native
plant newsletter, visit the WindStar Wildlife Institute at
and subscribe to the WindStar Wildlife Garden Weekly e-newsletter. You can
also visit this website to learn how you can become a certified wildlife habitat
For more information on butterflies - visit the North American Butterfly Association at
Warm season grasses and wild meadows for upland nesting birds visit Pheasants
Forever at www.pheasantsforever.org or e-mail:
We want to hear from you!
Letters, e-mail, photos, drawings. Let us know how
successful you are as you create wildlife habitat on
Write to Me!
Natural Resources Biologist II
Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service
MD Dept of Natural Resources
580 Taylor Ave., E-1
Annapolis MD 21401
Access For All
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Habichat, the newsletter for Wild Acres participants, is published by the Wildlife and Heritage Service, Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
The facilities and services of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources are available to all without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age, national origin, physical or mental disability. This document is available in alternative format upon request from a qualified individual with a disability.