Sunday, April 26, 2009

Liz Hartwell Mason Neck NWR April 25 2009

Liz Hartwell was a staunch environmentalist who set out to preserve the Mason Neck peninsula of Va (above Mount Vernon) and make it a sanctuary for bald eagles. In 1969, the Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge was created. The "Eagle Festival" took place on the 40th anniversary of this event at the adjacent Mason Neck State Park.

In addition to presentations by Reptiles Alive and the Raptor Conservancy of Va., I was looking forward to the trip to the Great Blue Heron Rookery--opened to the public once a year: today.

The Mason Neck State Park includes a small boat launch, canoes for rent, a shoreline and view onto Belmont Bay, flowers, birds, and a playground. It is one of my favorite state parks.

Pictures below shall almost all aspects of the park. Unfortunately, when I got to the rookery a little after 11am, most of the great blue herons had departed for a cooler location--temperatures were already in the unseasonable upper 80's. However, there was a real bonus on the way back: a pair of wood ducks in a pond by the road!

The Raptor Conservancy presented two eastern screech owls and a red tailed hawk as part of their outreach. Pictures of them are below.

Great Blue Heron above Belmont Bay

Many heron nests above the marsh

Great Blue Heron perched in a tree

Wood duck!

Reptiles Alive presents a bull snake.

A blue skank is now being displayed!

The Northern Va Astronomy Club was setting up for some evening star gazing.

Bluets by the road side.

An old stump by the water's edge.

A turtle sunning himself by the small boat put-in

Other turtles behind him.

A gorgeous tree in bloom.

Another small shrub in bloom.

A new butterfly (to me) enjoying the tree in bloom.

My favorite presentation by the Raptor Conservancy

An Eastern Screech Owl

A companion Eastern Screech Owl

Another view of the first owl

A nervous Red Tailed Hawk is presented to the crowd

Frontal view--note the talons!

Side view

Back view of the red tailed hawk

One more view

Monday, April 20, 2009

Horizon Team Hike to Marys Rock--A-Trail--April 17, 2009

The Horizon Software Development Team held its 2nd annual team building event: a 7.2 mile hike along the Appalachian Trail, from Pinnacle Picnic Ground to the top of Marys Rock, in the Shenandoah National Park.

The temperature was in the 60's for most of the hike; light wind except at Marys Rock, where the winds were stronger. We had the trail to ourselves, encountering as many as a half dozen hikers along the way. Saw many turkey vultures, a few black vultures, an American Redstart (warbler), some Cabbage White butterflies, along with some yellow and black swallowtails.

Total hiking time, including a lunch break on Mary's Rock, was five hours.

Note: at the bottom of the posting, there is a video of two athletic team members scrambling down the rocks at Mary's Rock.

Getting ready to depart Pinnacles Picnic Ground
Starting up the trail; the Pinnacle is ahead.
Taking a well deserved break

First challenging rock on the Pinnacle

Destination is Marys Rock, a "blip" on the peak in middle of picture.

An American Redstart stayed long enough to have its picture taken.

Byrd's Nest #3 Shelter, for A-Trail through hikers
The destination is in sight

Time for lunch on Marys Rock

Interesting plant growth in the crevices

I wonder how steep it is, over the side...

Very steep!

Magnificent view
Time to return

Departing Marys Rock

Interesting rock outcropping

Nice view

New Market Gap in the Massanutten Mountain, to the west.

One of many deer seen near the picnic ground

Rock scramble by Jim and Stephenie

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Occoquan Bay NWR Woodbridge, Va. March 22+23, 2009

I arrived at Occoquan Bay a little before noon--and observed the place just bursting with activity. I didn't know that osprey had already migrated up from way south--they were flying around, sitting in trees, and managing their nests. And, a hawk put on a performance for me, just 3 and then 10 feet away. I was so taken back by all of what I saw, I used the OB NWR bird list to identify all of the birds I saw. The appears below; the pictures follow.

I had so much fun that I took my wife down there Monday morning, just after sun rise. That is when we observed the snow geese flying overhead, plus the smaller hawk just outside the NRW's gate.

Seen at Occoquan Bay NWR
  • Snow Geese, flying in formation overhead.
  • Mallards
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Black-crowned Night-Heron (lurking in marsh grass; I startled it on foot)
  • Osprey, about a dozen and a half
  • Bald eagles (a pair flew right over my head)
  • Red Shouldered Hawk (put on a show for me)
  • Northern Flicker
  • Eastern Kingbird
  • Purple Martins (by their houses)
  • Chickadees
  • Carolina Wren
  • Eastern Bluebird--into their mating colors now
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Cedar Waxwings [in a cedar tree!]
  • Song Sparrow
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Great Blue Heron [spooked it twice in two days in the marsh along the Driving Tour]
  • American Black Ducks [towards Belmont Bay]
  • Numerous turtles sunning themselves
  • Eastern Phoebe
In-bound Snow Geese, in formation

Almost overhead

Directly Overhead

Snow Geese just past overhead

Snow Geese Outbound

Snow Geese departing the area

One of many Osprey on a nest

A pair of Osprey on a nest
Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Phoebe
Cedar Waxwings, just after they left a cedar tree
Mature adult bald eagle

Great Blue Heron in a tree

Cormorants in Belmont Bay

This hawk startled me--just 3' away on the ground
It flew up into a nearby tree and put on a show
I got one more shot, a closeup, before it finally flew away
White Throated Sparrow enjoying a treat

Unknown sparrow-like bird

Turtle by the marsh on Driving Trail
Two turtles swimming in the marsh
Many turtles sunning themselves just past the butteryfly garden
Northern Cardinal
Interesting remnant of wood at the edge of a field
Smaller hawk seen just outside the entrance of the NRW