May Evening

May 27. 2014 Herons 039

“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.

May 27. 2014 Herons 037

“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

May 27. 2014 Herons 035

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.

May 27. 2014 Herons 036

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 .

May 27. 2014 Herons 051

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

May 27. 2014 Herons 050

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

May 27. 2014 Herons 048

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.

May 27. 2014 Herons 055

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.

May 27. 2014 Herons 061

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!

May 27. 2014 Herons 063

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

May 27. 2014 Herons 056

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.

May 27. 2014 Herons 066

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

May 27. 2014 Herons 068

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

May 27. 2014 Herons 064

Advertisements

Life on the River

March 31 birds 007

We stopped along the banks of the James River late this afternoon, and I wandered down to the beach to take photos of a flock of gulls gathered on the sand bar.

March 31 birds 006

Such a lovely day here with clear blue skies and sunshine.  There’s been wind all day, but it is the sort of warmish spring day which invites you to come outside, again and again, just to enjoy the beauty of it.

March 31 birds 004

The sky was full of playful eagles circling and enjoying their gift of flight in the limitless blue sky.

March 31 birds 009

From the beach I could see there was a large nest on top of the duck blind, a ways off shore. 

March 31 birds 018

A mated pair is living in the nest out in the river.  The female probably has eggs in the nest, and the male is caring for her.  As we watched, he swooped down out of the blue, returning to her and their nest.

March 31 birds 019

Life on the River, with clear skies and plentiful food.  A good life for this pair of eagles.

March 31 birds 020

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

March 31 birds 011

 

Tell the Tale of Change

Sea gulls fly inland during rough weather on the coast to find shelter along our creeks and marshes.

Sea gulls fly inland during rough weather on the coast to find shelter along our creeks and marshes.

When it gets blustery along the coast, the sea gulls come inland.  I’ve seen flocks of gulls in parking lots as far inland as Richmond ahead of very rough winter storms.  It has been windy and cold all day today in Williamsburg.  Our high in early afternoon topped out in the 40s, colder when you’re in the wind, but it’s been bright and sunny and beautiful.  We knew there would be gulls along the creeks and marshes of the Colonial Parkway.

The gulls crack clam shells by dropping them on the road from altitude, and then gather to feast on the meat inside.

The gulls crack clam shells by dropping them on the road from altitude, and then gather to feast on the meat inside.

We went at low tide.  It looked as though the gulls were standing on ice, but it’s not that cold yet. November 13, 2013 parkway 011 They were standing on the mud in a thin sheen of water, where they searched out what shell fish they could find in the muck.  With a tightly closed clam clenched in its beak, the gull would take flight and drop it onto the pavement, where it cracked.  We drove up to find a huddled group of gulls in the road feasting on their tasty clams.  And they weren’t anxious to leave their meal for us to pass.

Suddenly it’s cold, and all the creatures are reverting to winter ways.  The eagles along the Parkway have left their nests, young reared and hunting now for themselves.

A bald eagle soars over the river and marshes, watching for a meal.

A bald eagle soars over the river and marshes, watching for a meal.

We saw them only from a distance today, high in the clear blue sky.   We recognize them when the light flashes off of the adults’ white heads.  Otherwise, they are a tiny silhouette against the sky.  The young won’t grow their white feathers for several years yet, but they are learning the skills they’ll need to survive along the river.

The only geese we saw were flying at altitude across the marsh, probably heading south to someplace warmer.  The large families who lived along the Parkway all summer have disappeared.

Muskrats make "push ups" in the marsh to shelter their family for the winter.  They can eat the reeds and grasses from the inside during the worst weather.

Muskrats make “push ups” in the marsh to shelter their family for the winter. They can eat the reeds and grasses from the inside during the worst weather.

Muskrats have been busy building their winter dens in the marsh.  Called, “push ups”, they are formed by pushing up mud and vegetation to form a home about 3′ high.  The family of mother, father, and young stay warm inside, and find protection from predators and the weather.  These “push up” nests suddenly disappear by early summer, to be rebuilt in autumn.  Native Americans at one time used the size and timing of the “push ups” appearance to forecast the coming winter weather.

Deer were out along the Parkway in the midday sun, boldly grazing in the meadows.  They are so accustomed to the traffic that they barely lift their heads as we drive past.  November 13, 2013 parkway 039Sadly, we came home to find two more young ones had squeezed themselves tiny to sneak in through our fences and graze  in our garden while we were away.  They find it harder and harder to find food as summer vegetation disappears.

November 13, 2013 parkway 038

Bald cypress trees, tough and long lived here along the coast, turn brown and then lose their needles each autumn. A freshly camouflaged duck blind confirms this spot is valued by hunters.

Even the bald cypress trees have turned brown, and will soon lose their needles.  One of the only deciduous conifers, these beautiful, long lived trees love the wet ground along the banks of our marshes and creeks.  In fact, one of the tallest ever recorded bald cypress trees, at over 44m high, grows in our area.  The oldest know bald cypress tree is over 1600 years old, so these tough hardy trees merit our notice and respect.  They are native to the East Coast of the United States from Delaware south to Florida, and along the Gulf coast west to Texas, and as far north as Kentucky.  From Virginia Beach south they’re often covered in Spanish moss.  They grow among pines, live oak, and wax myrtle.

November 13, 2013 parkway 033As the brightly colored deciduous leaves surrender to November’s winds, and the hardwood trees stand nearly bare; the Hollies, Oaks, Pines, Magnolias, and Wax Myrtle shine.  Their glossy green leaves reflect the winter sun and keep the landscape bright and alive.

A young Magnolia tree grows in the shelter of the hardwood forest on Jamestown island.

A young Magnolia tree grows in the shelter of the hardwood forest on Jamestown Island.

I can only wonder what the first colonists must have thought watching their first few autumns on Jamestown Island.  They had never seen a towering Magnolia, vibrant and green against the autumn sky.  They had never before seen crimson Staghorn Sumac, crowned in berries, or the majestic Bald Cypress with their knobby “knees” poking above the high tide.  What a different landscape from what they had left behind in Britain.

The ferries run all day between Surry and Jamestown.

The ferries run all day between Surry and Jamestown.

The small songbirds found shelter out of sight today, probably roosting in the bamboo groves and evergreen shrubs.  We never even saw a red flash of cardinal darting along the road.  The James river  glittered as it does on any summer day in the bright sun.  The ferry kept up its trips from Jamestown to Surry, and the tour buses plied the Parkway full of  curious visitors.

Replicas of the ships used by the first group of colonists to come to Virginia in 1607 sit anchored at Jamestown Festival Park.

Replicas of the ships used by the first group of colonists to come to Virginia in 1607 sit anchored at Jamestown Festival Park.

We humans keep to our relentless routines as the seasons ebb and flow.

But the wild things tell the tale of change and transition, as they always do.

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 677 other followers

Follow Forest Garden on WordPress.com
Order Classic Caladiums

This Month’s Posts

Topics of Interest