Eastern Hognose Snake

In our first ten years here, we had only three sightings of these, and it wasn’t until the third sighting (in April 2016) that I had a camera with me. This snake announced its presence in an audible manner. I paused, looked around, and saw a patterned brown snake emerging from the vegetation where I had heard the rattling sound. From about 10 feet away, I strained my eyes to look at the tail. Then it puffed up its head, conjuring up a menacing cobra. Oh, relief: a Hognose Snake. I hollered to get Eric’s attention, and we enjoyed watching it for a few minutes. After its initial bluff didn’t scare us away, it shape-shifted its head to a triangular form, more reminiscent of the rattlesnake that I had initially feared. It even moved in a sidewinder fashion, a master impressionist. The one trick we didn’t get it to do was to play dead. The round pupil is absolute confirmation that this one was nonpoisonous. Certainly a really fascinating creature to have around, though they are predators of toads, and we like to have high populations of toads–which we’ve confirmed through observation to be predators of squash bugs.



A pretty wildflower of early spring. Bloom time ranges from approximately late March to mid-April, depending on weather and soil temperature. Occurs in patches in the wooded stream bottoms at Chert Hollow.

Putty Root


Putty Root is a type of orchid that is fairly common in the rich soil of our wooded stream bottoms. Unlike most plants that send out leaves in spring and are done with them in the fall, Putty Root sends up its leaves in the fall, and they remain until about the time the plants flower in the spring (May or June, usually when we’re too busy to take a walk in the woods and look for orchid flowers). In November 2014, we found some stalks with seedpods in an especially vigorous group of plants. Opening up a seedpod provides a view of the prolific quantity of tiny seeds.

Northern Fence Lizard

Northern Fence Lizards are common at Chert Hollow. This one was hanging out on the greenhouse screen:


This is a recently hatched lizard:


Central Newt


The Central Newt is a type of salamander that has aquatic larval and adult life stages as well as an intermediate terrestrial stage. It is the terrestrial stage, known as an eft, that we have encountered on several occasions at Chert Hollow. We once found an eft in the woods near ephemeral ponds. Somewhat more surprisingly to us, we’ve also twice encountered an eft while digging sweet potatoes in the main vegetable field (in 2012 & 2015).

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpeckers are year-round residents at Chert Hollow.


Our trail cam captured this one at the pond’s edge during the severe drought of 2012, when most other water sources had dried up.


Holes made by Pileated Woodpeckers are distinctively rectangular, and the wood fragments can be quite large, appropriate for our largest woodpecker.

Trumpeter Swan


Through 2013, we had never seen a swan at Chert Hollow, but that changed in the early months of 2014. Since then, during the winter months, it has become routine to see Trumpeter Swans fly over at low altitude. Their distinctive call alerts us to their presence, and we always welcome a chance to take a break from tree work, look up, and listen to both their call and their wing beats as they pass low overhead.

Snow Goose


Snow Geese migrate over Chert Hollow in late winter/early spring and in fall. Northbound migration routes seem to pass more directly over us than do southbound ones, as we consistently see the biggest numbers in spring.

Here are some our first-of-year observation dates for north-bound snows:

2007: February 22
2008: February 23
2009: February 17
2010: no data
2011: February 15
2012: January 27
2013: February 6
2014: January 20
2015: February 6
2016: February 1

Cecropia Moth


A stunning caterpillar, but not one that we encounter very often, this being only the second in nine years. This one was feeding on a domestic blueberry plant in mid-August 2015.

Chickweed Geometer


Observed early October 2015 near the main vegetable field.

As the name implies, the caterpillars can feed on chickweed. Hooray for anything that eats chickweed!