First time in Prince William Forest Park

May 2, 2010

Sunday afternoon I headed into a different venue – Prince William Forest Park near Quantico. Temperatures were in the 90s with clear bright skies. I will touch on a general overview of this national park in a later post, but I’ll go ahead and recap my first time on its trails now.

In many ways, the South Valley Trail reminds me of route along parts of the Appalachian Trail. For my first outing, I parked at parking area A and walked about a mile along the South Fork of Quantico Creek to the Scenic Drive (see map here) before turning around.

The day could be summed up by a few words – heat, lizards, toads and bugs.

All along the trail were brightly colored flying beetles like the one below.

As I watched them scoot along the trail, I couldn’t figure out what they were up to. One interaction between the bugs was caught by my camera. Below, a beetle turns toward another and pounces. At first I thought this could be a mating moment, until I saw the aggressor thrown to the ground.

Elsewhere along the path were more beetles of different species and a variety of ants. I noticed the density of ants building until they were covering a section of the path. Nearby, I found out why.

They had found and were feasting on a dead mouse. I was going to post the photo here, but for our more sensitive viewers, I’ll just say you can click here if you want to see it. (It’s really not that bad)

In other parks I’ve visited, rustling usually can be attributed to squirrels or birds. That wasn’t the case on this trip. Instead, a decent presence of toads and skinks were the culprits.

The first skink that I noticed was a decent size of maybe 5 or 6 inches in length and he scurried to a tree as I walked past. If he hadn’t, I would have never noticed him.

I need to learn more about lizards, but I know some were blue-tailed skinks. The one above, however, was brown all over with the reddish color near his face. I don’t know that species off the top of my head. (UPDATE: Above is a male Broad-headed Skink, Eumeces laticeps)

The American toads (Bufo americanus) seemed to enjoy the heat. They were out every so often in the fallen leaves off the trail just sitting in the sun.

Overall, a very nice introduction to the park, but I know there is much more to explore. With my shiny new annual pass, I’ve got no reason not to come back.

Safety note – If you plan to do any hiking from this point forward, make sure you bring plenty of water and stay hydrated.

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7 Responses to “First time in Prince William Forest Park”

  1. Caroline Says:

    Hey, the skink is a broad-headed skink, I find them in First Landing park sometimes. They can get pretty big.

  2. Renee Says:

    All of my early camping experiences were in Prince William Forest Park. Be prepared to feel like you are in a war zone with the artillery they sometimes shoot off all night at Quantico!

    Great shots. You will probably see snakes there, too. I picked up a baby snake there once when I was really little and said, “Look mom, a brown worm with stripes!”

  3. Renee Says:

    P.S. Those beetles could be fighting, or it could still be part of the mating ritual. Sometimes the female bugs maim or kill the males after mating. (Though both of those are about the same color and size so they may both be males.) Very nice captures!

  4. Evan Dyson Says:

    Caroline – Thanks much for the ID

    Renee – Cool story! It did look like good habitat for snakes. And with all the frogs and lizards I saw, I figured they’d be out there too. I’ll keep an eye out next time.


  5. […] 4, 2010 Sunday evening after checking out Prince William Forest Park, I made a run on Huntley Meadows Park. My first find just resulted in […]


  6. […] for the next book, but I’d like to try out some more venues in the future. I also need to get back to Prince William Forest Park soon. If you have a favorite observation area, feel free to leave it in the comments and I’ll […]


  7. […] my outing had ended there, I would have been satisfied. Lizards are something I had only seen on a few rare occasions in […]


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