Getting back to nature

Published 1:05 pm Saturday, January 3, 2015

Tiger swallowtail (state butterfly) on coastal azalea in Sussex County. Flowers, insects and many other aspects of nature will be studied. -- COURTESY

Tiger swallowtail (state butterfly) on coastal azalea in Sussex County. Flowers, insects and many other aspects of nature will be studied. — COURTESY

If broadening horizons is a personal goal for the new year, then the Historic Southside Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalist could be a place to start.

The area organization announces a new set of classes that begins on Jan. 20 and continues through early May, with all sessions taking place on Tuesdays from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Isle of Wight Extension office.

As in past courses, Master Naturalists, Isle of Wight Extension staff and area specialists will be the teachers. There’s a $100 fee that covers costs and materials for the classes and field trips, but there’s no additional charge for the instruction.

Subjects of study will include birds, botany, climate, ecology, forestry, geology, mammals, weather and wetlands. There will be an exam and project. There will be visits to the Blackwater Ecological Preserve, Chippokes Plantation in Surry, the Great Dismal Swamp in Suffolkl and the Piney Grove Nature Conservancy in Waverly.

Asked about goals for the year, chapter president Geoff Payne said, “It’s everything.”

“There are many, many ongoing projects. Some individually and some in groups,” Payne continued. “We just struck up an association with the Airfield 4-H Center in Wakefield. We’re there working with them to put in an interpretive trail to be listed at a state bird and wildlife trails.

“We’ve been clearing some areas to make them more accessible and building viewing platforms.”

If the organization can get the International Paper’s permission, there’s work to be done on a tract of land the company owns near Carrsville Highway. The chapter is working on getting that land revamped and possibly making it into a hiking trail.

The survey continues on salamanders as they remain what Payne called “important environmental indicators.”

Membership in the chapter is at 50 now, but the class is limited to 25 people.

“Each year we do fill up,” Payne said.

To register or for more information, contact the Isle of Wight Cooperative Extension Office, 17100 Monument Circle, Suite B, Isle of Wight, at 365-6262 from 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Additional details can be found at or


Jan. 20 – Meet and Greet; Feb. 3 – Basic Ecology and Risk Management; Feb. 17 – Botany and Entomology; March 3 – Ornithology and VMN Computer System; March 17 – Geology; March 31 – Ichthyology; and Herpetology; April 7 – Wetlands and Estuarine; April 21 – Forestry and Mammalogy; May 5 – Weather and Teach/Interpretation


March 14 – Dismal Swamp, Suffolk; March 28 – Chippokes Plantation, Surry (Geology); April 11 – Piney Grove Preserve; and April 25 – Blackwater Ecological Preserve