Cooler day in the park

July 1, 2010

Thanks to lower temperatures and humidity, I had perfect outing conditions Wednesday in Huntley Meadows.

When I first scanned the boardwalk area, I noticed an abundance of frogs. Unlike past visits where they just sit still and bake in the sun, a number of them were slowing walking through the water. Although that seems minor, I guess it speaks to their preference for moderate temperatures.

It wasn’t until I reached a buttonwood tree that I saw something a little different.

The butterflies were out in high numbers bouncing from flower to flower. It was a nice surprise because it’s really been a long time since I’ve seen any concentration of them. After watching them for a short time, I scanned the woods near the observation tower and the farthest section of the boardwalk.

With minimal results in that area, I returned to the butterflies for a few more minutes.

Since this was to be a quick visit, I started scanning the main boardwalk loop and quickly found a snake. At first all I could see of the large watersnake was its tail. After a few minutes I also noticed a large bump in its midsection, indicating a recent meal. Its head was initially concealed. Slowly, as my shadow moved over its location, it became aware of me and started looking around.

After a quick glance, it moved off into the distance.

On the path to exit the boardwalk, I heard an abundance of munching noises and realized there were two culprits. One was a nearby muskrat, the other was an unseen beaver. If you’ve been following along, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve seen any beavers in the park.

As I sat and observed the muskrat, the beaver slid out from under the boardwalk and moved down a short channel. I quickly positioned myself in a better location as it changed its mind and returned toward me. Five feet out – it stopped cold.

For a solid thirty seconds or so, we just looked at each other. I always wonder with different animals how many are looking at me out of curiosity and how many view me as a threat.

As our staring contest came to an end, the beaver dove slowly and swam directly under me. I assume I was deemed harmless.

A little further down the path another beaver was also out, weaving through the reeds. Although it didn’t quite give me the one-on-one time that its friend did, I was still able to grab a few quick shots as it swam by.

My total time in the park was just over an hour.

In other news, the book is coming together very nicely. I’m just in the phase of shooting and refining and hoping for a little seasonal variation. Eventually, I plan to diversify the collection with some fall colors later this year.

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