Coopers hawks are back!

Coopers Hawk

Coopers Hawk - photo credit:

Visitors to Stadium Woods will be thrilled to see two large birds of prey building a new nest in the area directly behind the stadium, and making plenty of noise as they do. This is the second year in a row the woods have hosted a pair of these hawks. It is hard to know how far they migrate each year, but they seem to find our small forest. Piles of pigeon feathers give us a pretty good idea of what they are eating. Other recent sightings in the woods include phoebes, who migrate here from as far away as Mexico. The peak of songbird migration from Central and South America will take place in late April/early May.

Spicebush flowers - photo credit:

Spicebush flowers - photo credit:

Two unique plants are in bloom now as well. Spicebush, a shrub that grows at the south end of stadium woods, has responded to last year’s removal of invasive shrubs and vines, and is bearing thousands of yellow blossoms. It is a relative of sassafras and makes a nice tea. The fruits are eaten by wood thrush in the fall, and it is a host to spicebush butterfly larvae. Bloodroot, a native poppy, is in bloom next to tree # 101, a tree recently aged at over 350 years.This tree and the spring wildflower are in the direct footprint of the proposed indoor football practice field.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria_canadensis)

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria_canadensis) - photo credit:

Four beautiful new signs have been installed by the local chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists, the local bird club and the native plant society.

Unfortunately, visitors to Stadium Woods will also notice wooden posts marking the corners of the proposed building.  This is despite the fact that the woods are still designated as an environmental “no build” area in Virginia Tech’s long range plan, amended as recently as 2009. Who is in charge here, the University or the Athletic Department?


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About jeff

Jeff Kirwan is Emeritus Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Forestry at Virginia Tech, where he coordinates the Virginia big tree program and leads a statewide environmental education program for 4-H and K-12 youth. He is co-author of Remarkable Trees of Virginia, a book highlighting the Commonwealth's most historic and beloved trees. Jeff is a member of the Nause-Waiwash Band of Indians on his native eastern shore of Maryland. He and his wife, Judy, live in Blacksburg.

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One Response to “Coopers hawks are back!”

  1. Kara Dodson March 21, 2012 at 7:43 am # Reply

    Great post Jeff! I’ve seen spicebush popping up everywhere and am happy to know spring has arrived.

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