One Word Photo Challenge: Aqua

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Aqua,

Where water filled sky meets sky filled water.

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Bluish-Greenish-Blue-

Constant color of life and living,

Cool, damp, new growth -giving…

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A color to sip in long, cool droughts.

Peaceful, Silent, Sustaining

Aqua.

*

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Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

With Appreciation to Jennifer Nichole Wells

For her One Word Photo Challenge:  Aqua

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In Search of Silver….

 

The exfoliating bark of this favorite Sycamore tree caught my eye along the way in search of silver...

The exfoliating bark of this favorite Sycamore tree caught my eye along the way in search of silver…

Jennifer issued her challenge for photos of silver a week ago tomorrow; yet I still hadn’t found any “silver” photos to craft a post.

It has been a topsy-turvy week; lots of travel, lots of drama.

 

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And very little time for the pleasant photo hunting we usually enjoy…

Begonia, "Sophie"

Begonia, “Sophie”

 

I was about to make do with the slim response of a shot of Begonia, “Sophie” with her silver marked leaves, but this morning was one where there was no time to post even this single photo.

 

Another crop of this B. "Sophie" photo.

Another crop of this B. “Sophie” photo.

 

And so after lunch, my partner suggested we take a bit of time to relax and head out on a drive.

Finally, an opportunity to search for “Silver.”

Granite shoring up the river's edge.  Do you see the spider's web?

Granite shoring up the river’s edge. Do you see the spider’s web?

 

Have you noticed that once you set your mind to search for something, it nearly always turns up?

We had just pulled over on the causeway between Sandy Bay and the James River when the beautiful Sycamore tree, Platanus occidentalis, caught me eye.

 

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Yes!  Silver bark!

 

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Not particularly metallic, perhaps, but a beautiful rich and shiny grey at the least.

I snapped a few photos, and as I worked around the tree, the glinting silver rocks shoring up the bank of the river caught my eye.

These huge chunks of granite certainly looked silvery in the early afternoon sun.

 

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Perhaps it is another of my oddities, but I find stone astoundingly beautiful.

I enjoy the color, texture, form, and antiquity of rock.

Especially when rock is host to vines or small trees, it always catches my attention.

 

Cypress trees growing in Sandy Bay, beside Jamestown Island.

Cypress trees growing in Sandy Bay, beside Jamestown Island.

 

And then, looking across the water, the sculptural forms of ancient and wind polished Cypress trees shone in the sun.

Silvery?  What do you think?  Close enough?

 

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Not yet stumps, these trees were green cloaked a season or so ago.

I’ve never figured out what makes these beautiful and long-lived trees die so suddenly, standing among those still living.

A mystery, but a beautiful one.

Bathtime?

Bath time?

So much life and living in the world today!

Birds and dragonflies; finally some butterflies; flowers blooming; berries ripening; wind blowing grasses and leaves.

We had plenty of company on the park roads today, too.

This little dragonfly waited patiently on the curb at one of our stops.  I wondered why he was still there as we left.  Do you see his torn wing?  Such a beautiful creature, and larger than a hummingbird.

This little dragonfly waited patiently on the curb at one of our stops. I wondered why he was still there as we left. Do you see his torn wing? Such a beautiful creature, and as large as a hummingbird.

With a rising tide, the crabs and turtles living in the marshes  lurked out of sight.

The Eagles must have sought shelter in the shade,  too, because they weren’t to be seen on their nests and favorite perches.

But we know they are just waiting for the cool of evening to fish for their dinner.

 

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We returned refreshed and relaxed.

And with a small cache of photos, now I can finally give you, “Silver.”

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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One Word Photo Challenge: Silver

 

 

The Geese

Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus, Opuntia humifusa, growing along the Colonial Parkway

Native Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus, Opuntia humifusa, growing along the Colonial Parkway

There is a spot along the Colonial Parkway, on the way back from Jamestown Island, where I’ve wanted to stop and take photos for several weeks now.

There is no designated parking area along this long stretch of open fields beside the James River, but there is a privately owned dairy farm on the opposite side of the road.

We always enjoy watching the herd of cows who pasture there.  The family also maintains a small herd of goats, who love to escape, and a few Llamas.

My interest in the field beside the river is, of course,  botanical.

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There is a large colony of Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus, Opuntia humifusa; native to hot, sunny, well drained areas along the East coast; growing in this field beside the river.

I mentioned to my partner how much I’d like to photograph these cactus in bloom.

With very light traffic so early in the morning, we pulled over  into a driveway by the dairy farm’s gate.

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Now the pasture is home not only to the cows, but also to a huge flock of Canada Geese.

They enjoy the low areas of the pasture which fill with water and the abundant supply of food.

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Yesterday morning the geese were feeding in the rich, wet grass beside the road.

When we stopped and I got out, and started walking back towards the field of cactus; the geese were not amused.

 

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In fact, the leader gave the signal to the flock, and they all turned and began the long journey from pasture to river…. on webbed foot.

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Every goose in the flock obeyed the command- in single file.

They reminded me of the Penguins who paraded around the London Zoo when I was a child.

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The geese  were visibly unhappy at my approach.

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But they were between me and the cactus we had stopped to photograph. 

One or two stood up to full height and spoke honks of caution, warning me to keep a safe distance as they passed.

A lone car approached along the Parkway, and stopped to watch the spectacle.

 

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Every goose in the flock eventually plodded along the long route from pasture  to beach.

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They milled about on the sand, watching out for one another, and finally launched into a flotilla paddling out into the current.

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As the last of the geese marched across the field, I followed.

I went all the way to the beach, following their progress,  taking photos of this  not yet explored area along the river’s bank.

 

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And yes, I managed a photo or two of the cactus along the way.

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But mostly, I was intrigued by this “up close and personal” visit with the deliberate and dignified community of geese.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

July 4, 2014 After Arthur 120

After Arthur

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It was a long night with a Category II hurricane blowing up the coast.

From a tropical depression just a day or so ago, this storm quickly bulked up into a strong hurricane.

It came ashore across some of our favorite areas on the Outer Banks of North Carolina during the dark hours of early morning.

We watched the storm’s progress until nearly midnight, and then gave up and went to bed.

 

This great Blue Heron greeted us as we entered the Colonial Parkway after the storm had passed this morning.

This Great Blue Heron greeted us as we entered the Colonial Parkway, after the storm had passed this morning.

 

It grazed my beloved Topsail Island, and was headed to our special spots on Ocracoke and Hatteras as we watched the cast of the Weather Channel struggle against the strong wind and rain describing its progress in painful detail.

This “Arthur” was touching friends and family all across the Carolinas.  We hoped its touch would be as gentle as possible.

The Jamestown ferry navigated a very choppy James River on it route across to Surry County this morning.

The Jamestown ferry navigated a very choppy James River on it route across from Surry County this morning.

We knew that Route 12, where we’ve spent many happy hours driving through the wildlife refuge and photographing the shore birds, would be wrecked by morning.

 

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We love the coast of North Carolina and Virgina. 

A hurricane on this special holiday weekend is the last thing we wanted to watch; and yet we watched the unfolding, hoping it would weaken and turn away from the coast.

 

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I awakened a little before three AM to the sound of wind in the garden and rain on the roof.

I had to know the progress of the storm and the updated forecast.  So as quietly as possible, I headed back to the TV, pillow in hand.

Our local meteorologists were broadcasting the story all night long.

Their reporters stood in the weather giving updates, alongside crews from The Weather Channel and other networks.

 

The path to the beach was wet this morning.

The path to the beach was wet this morning.

At three I heard of a possible tornado on the Lynnhaven Inlet at Virginia Beach. 

The warnings were extending northwards.  I watched and worked my counted cross stitch for the next hour, until it was clear the storm had begun to move out to sea.

Then to the couch for a little sleep.

 

Though the sky is mostly clear, the wind has been with us all day.

Though the sky is mostly clear, the wind has been with us all day.  The sky was full of Eagles over the Colonial Parkway this morning.

I checked in again at five, and saw that somehow Jim Cantore was still standing in Buxton.

We had assumed that his producers were planning a Coast Guard rescue by helicopter, once that part of the island completely over-washed in the waves.

That would make really good TV, and could be re-played by the Weather Channel cast for years to come.

But, alas, he had found a steel and concrete structure and was braced against it, barely able to stand, ankle deep in sea water; but still giving live commentary as the storm rolled past.

An Osprey Eagle greeting the morning, after the storm had passed.

An Osprey Eagle greeting the morning, after the storm had passed.

By a quarter to six, the forecast track clearly showed the storm turning out to sea.

We were getting our much needed rain, and I still could  hear the wind blowing through the trees.  But the tornado warnings were gone.

I decided to get some more sleep.

The Canada geese had come together in large flocks along the banks of the river to ride out the storm.

The Canada geese had come together in large flocks along the banks of the river to ride out the storm.

By the time I awoke again a little after seven, it was light outside. A gorgeous morning here with light rain and cool, moist breezes greeted us.

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We decided to head out to the Parkway to see what the morning held, and what the storm had left behind.

This beautiful Eastern Box Turtle was bravng the quiet morning on Jamestown Island.

This beautiful Eastern Box Turtle was braving the quiet morning on Jamestown Island.

A few branches had blown down, but we were so very fortunate to have no  real damage.

Our power was on, there was no flooding near us, and the trees in our community stood through the night.

And this snake was sunning himself along the road on the island.

And this snake was sunning himself along the road on the island.

We saw the outermost curved band of “Arthur” in the sky as we left our driveway.

The duck blind, in the shelter of Cypress trees, withstood the winds overnight.

The duck blind, in the shelter of Cypress trees, withstood the winds overnight.

It was a thin skim of clouds against the clearing morning sky.

Crabs live in our brackish marshes.  They didn't mind the storm at all.

Crabs live in our brackish marshes. They didn’t mind the storm at all.

The wind is still with us this afternoon. 

The storm continues moving north and east, towards another landfall in New England.

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I hope all touched by the storm can pick up the pieces, clean up the mess, and move on from this.

 

This golden dragonfly lives in our garden.

This golden dragonfly lives in our garden.  We are glad to see he found shelter from the wind, and was out enjoying the sunshine by the time we returned home.

It is only the first  named storm of the tropical season. 

We’ll be watching our coastal waters from now until the end of November, hoping that all of the systems which form stay well out to sea, and far away from our beautiful coasts and our loved ones.

 

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Family

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The Colonial Parkway was a popular place for families to gather this Father’s Day weekend.

We were so happy to find Osprey Eagle families in some of the many nests we watch.

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Most of the Osprey and Bald Eagle couples have little ones in their nests now, and so stay busy feeding them.

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This couple found a few minutes to relax and enjoy the river just before sunset yesterday evening.

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Since there is always work at hand which needs attention, and hungry mouths to feed,

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One must take one’s moments of sheer peace and relaxation where one can….

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Photos by Woodland Gnome, 2014

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May Evening

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“When despair for the world grows in me,

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be —

I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water,

and the great heron feeds.

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“I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought or grief.

I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light.

For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”

Wendell Berry

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We came out of the coolness of the house this evening as the clouds were gathering, sun setting, and temperatures dropping.

We first went to visit and photograph a friend’s garden, and then drove right past the road towards home heading for an evening drive along the Colonial Parkway.

Our friends' forest garden, full of Mountain Laurel and lush with trees and ivy.

Our friends’ forest garden, full of Mountain Laurel and lush with trees and ivy.

The water, marshes, wildflowers and great trees make this a soothing place.

Such a treasure of mostly undisturbed eco-system where the great birds find safe havens and abundant food for their young.

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After the first mile we spotted a Great Blue Heron wading in the marsh near where fishermen park and wander down to the bank of the creek with their coolers and poles.

No one was fishing tonight, so we pulled in , and I hiked back to where I could get a clear view of the heron through the trees .

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A peaceful and soothing evening, but you must know that the air was thick with Mayflies and heavy with the approaching rain.

Definitely not a place I wanted to linger, with flies landing on hand and camera as I searched for that angle with a clear view through the dense branches.

Flies still hovering, I slipped back into the cool safety of our car for a short ride to the parking lot

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We had already spotted two more herons on the opposite bank, and a Bald Eagle watching from a pine.

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Another hike down the path to the beach, but the breeze off the James River smelled fresh and kept the flies at a distance.

The beach was nearly deserted; the best time to find birds.

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After yesterday’s crowded lots and full beaches, we enjoyed the silence and emptiness of the park this evening.

Fellow photographers leap-frogged with us from spot to spot along the way to Jamestown Beach.

My partner has a good eye for spotting wild life, and often mentions turtles and ground hogs, rabbits and lizards- only a few of which I see.

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He spotted this next heron, and made a wide U-turn to head back to share it with me.

He simply said, “Have your camera ready.”

What a beautiful surprise when we pulled up, alone on the road, and close enough to take photos from the car’s open window!

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We watched the clouds grow heavier and closer against the water.  We could smell the coming rain.

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The geese were gathering into flocks for the night, the solitary herons looking for one more fish before their sharp eyes could no longer penetrate the shallows were they waited.

Ospreys, deep in meditation on the abundant beauty of it all, sat still as sculptures on their nests.

This early summer evening offered its gift of peacefulness, wrapped in thick, fragrant May ethers.

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The Mayflies gradually faded away; and as evening turned to shadows, we allowed ourselves another moment to contemplate the abundant beauty of it all.

“To stand at the edge of the sea,

to sense the ebb and flow of the tides,

to feel the breath of a mist moving over a great salt marsh,

To watch the flight of shore birds

that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents

for untold thousands of years,

to see the running of the old eels and the young shad to the sea,

is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal

as any Earthly life can be.”

Rachel Carson

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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One Word Photo Challenge: Black

March 23 2014 sunset 007

Darkness came first: The Void.
All the old stories tell us this.
The blackness of space, of ocean depths,
Of the inside of Earth and stone.

The Beginning

The compressed creative energy of the entire cosmos,
Not yet aware of itself;
Not yet expressed in expansion,
Differentiation, diffusion, dissolution….

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It all came from darkness.
Without darkness, how does one see the light?

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We all began in darkness,
Deep within the maternal depths of our mothers.

Darkness nurtures and protects.
Darkness envelopes and comforts,
It soothes us to rest;

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Cloaks us,
When we wish to disappear in the crowd.

Ebony, obsidian, schorl, onyx:
Black crystalline beauty.

From coal comes diamond,
Like tiny quartz crystals growing
In the darkness of a geode.

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Like suns and worlds growing and spinning
In the darkness of space.

Like pinpricks of light
Dancing behind closed eyelids.

october sunset CP 001
As light radiates, so black absorbs.
The conversation of energy
bantering back and forth as light and heat.

Bringing balance.
Giving life.

The pigments of all things
mixing back into inky blackness.

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The return.

Spent life composted back
Into the soil of potentiality.

Without black, crumbly Earth,
How does one grow a garden?

Or a life?

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Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome, 2014

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With Appreciation to Jennifer Nichole Wells

For hosting the Weekly One Word Photo Challenge

 

Purple

Blue

Red

WPC: Reflections

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Let us reflect upon reflections….

According to Miriam Webster’s Dictionary

: an image that is seen in a mirror or on a shiny surface

There was enough light in this moment, on this very overcast day, for the evergreen trees to reflect their beautiful living green onto the still water of the pond.

There was enough light in this moment, on this very overcast day, for the evergreen trees to reflect their beautiful living green onto the still water of the pond.

: something that shows the effect, existence, or character of something else

The whitecaps on the York river reflect what a windy morning we've had ahead of the next weather front.

The whitecaps on the York river reflect what a windy morning we’ve had ahead of the next weather front.

:  consideration of some subject matter, idea, or purpose

These waterways along the Colonial Parkway are protected by the Federal Government, and offer important habitat for migrating birds.

These waterways along the Colonial Parkway are protected , and offer important habitat for migrating birds.

:  a transformation of a figure in which each point is replaced by a point symmetric with respect to a line or plane

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:  a transformation that involves reflection in more than one axis of a rectangular coordinate system

March 23, 2014 parkway and flowers 088Bing Dictionary

: careful thought, especially the process of reconsidering previous actions, events, or decisions

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: something that clearly shows something

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The Free Dictionary

: Mental concentration; careful consideration.

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: implicit or explicit attribution of discredit or blame

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: Energy diverted back from the interface of two media. The reflection may be specular (i.e. direct) or diffuse according to the nature of the contact surfaces.

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Although our garden feels wintery again today, with another storm moving in, spring time is reflected in the details:  the wildflowers sprouting up in the grass, the unfolding buds, the unexpected jolts of bright color from daffodils and early Magnolia trees. 

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So often what we see simply fulfills whatever we expect to see. 

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The wise tell us that our environment is but a reflection of our own true nature.  

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The beauty around us simply a reflection of the eternal beauty within.

 

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All photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

Søren Kierkegaard

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections, The Ancient Eavesdropper

Wings

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

We went to the Parkway in search of birds today, and began to find them almost immediately. 

Our Great Blue Heron a moment before he took flight.

Our Great Blue Heron a moment before he took flight.

Wading, perching, flying, eating, swimming, resting; the birds have returned.

Another Great Blue Heron, a little farther down the Parkway, near the College Creek bridge.

Another Great Blue Heron, a little farther down the Parkway, near the College Creek bridge.

Everywhere we went we heard birdsong.  The little ones darted past us in quick flights from perch to perch.

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There were dozens of scarlet cardinals, with their brownish mates.  We saw bluebirds, starlings, clouds of red winged black birds, and dozens more who moved to fast to name.

A flock of Red Winged Blackbirds

A flock of Red Winged Blackbirds

Of course our Red-tailed Hawk was there surveying his marsh.

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Red-Tailed Hawk

And the Great Blue Herons fished in the shallows of College Creek.

Canada Geese gathered on the James, and on its muddy rain-soaked banks, looking for shelter.

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Canada Geese on the James River

Another grey day, with low sky and  chilly wind.  At least we were thawing out here today.  But the persistent damp and cold faded against the brilliant beauty of the wild birds returning to the park.

Duck's where the James empties into College Creek.

Ducks where the James empties into College Creek.

We noticed trees budding against the grey clouds.  There is a quickening; an impatience  to begin the season. 

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We felt it in the movement of the birds today, the beat of their wings and their lively chatter.

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So come along to the Colonial Parkway, in James City County, beside the James River.  Join us as we watch for wings.

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All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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We love this photo of the bank of College Creek, to the right of the Colonial Parkway bridge. Relax your eyes. Can you spot the “faces” in the side of the bank? Can you spot the “caves” along the shoreline? This is a favorite fishing spot during most of the season.   (click on any photo to enlarge it)

 

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Geese behind our friends’ home on College Creek

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