Thursday, April 17, 2014

Shutterbug Explorations: April 12, 2014

Saturday afternoon, 12 April 2014, in Wildwood Park, Radford, Virginia. Clyde Kessler writes:

It was a very warm afternoon in Wildwood Park. Conditions were fantastic for our first Blue Ridge Expeditions outing. We’re calling them Shutterbug Explorations in Wildwood . Nancy Kent and I were curious as to how many folks would show up, since there are so many events happening locally almost every weekend in spring and summer.


We were delighted when nine folks showed up. We talked a little while at the Outdoor Classroom, then we walked the trail on the west side of the park, and indulged in the wildflower show. Dutchman’s Breeches were in full bloom, carpeting the hillside from the edge of the trail up to a small cliff.

                                            Bloodroot also tried to steal the show.  

Other flowers that were in bloom or starting to bloom included: Spring Beauty, Large-flowered Bellwort, Trout Lily, Yellow Mandarin, and Coltsfoot. Spicebush was still in prime bloom.


We saw a few species of bees at the flowers, and we saw Carpenter Bees patrolling the area by the Outdoor Classroom.  We saw only a few species of butterflies: Cabbage White, Summer Azure, a Mourning Cloak that posed for us a while. It was found by Elizabeth when it was sunning on the side of a buckeye tree. Some of us briefly saw a species of Polygonia, either an Eastern Comma or a Question Mark.

Almost everyone that came on the hike had a camera or camera-phone. So we had lots of pictures of flowers. And we had some fine sketches of flowers too. Elizabeth's art explained the difference between Coltsfoot and Dandelions:

                                  Zora created her own version of a Wildwood scene as Dad watched:

Some of the group (Elizabeth and her twin brother Gardner) decided to indulge in a little rock hopping in Connelly’s Run.


It was such a fun time, I couldn’t believe how fast two hours went by, seemed like minutes. We’ll definitely try this again soon. Definitely, adds Nancy.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Year-round Resident of Wildwood

One of the loveliest residents of Wildwood is the Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis), a member of the Thrush family. In the spring, they like to nest in boxes at the Park Road entrance. In winter, they are easier to see in the trees and on power lines at the Wetland. However, they enjoy a wide range in the park.
One morning in late January, as I approached the north bridge, I caught sight of bright blue wings flitting over the creek. Because there were no leaves, I could easily see small birds perched on bare limbs. Off came my gloves and out came my camera. I aimed toward the trees and hoped for the best. (Remember that my small camera does not have a long range for birding.) At first, it was a game of hide-and-seek!


Then one small bird ventured into the open. A dusting of snow lingered on the ground as the small female posed for me.

                                            Soon I saw a male perched on another tree.

               He fluffed out his feathers and tucked down his beak to resist the cold wind.

A few days later, as I approached the Grand Staircase from the upper west trail, I saw several Bluebirds in the trees in the woods. They were too busy to stop for photos. However, as I watched and waited, one finally stopped to rest. I had to shoot toward the setting sun which isn't good for pictures. However, the images turned out okay!


                                       And the birdie even turned to face the camera!

A Winter Resident

While walking through Wildwood Park on a bright but cold day in January, I heard a flutter in the brush beside the bike path. As I s-l-o-w-l-y walked toward the flutter, I could see a bird hopping from limb to limb. Pulling my gloves off, I began snapping pictures.

I stood as still as I could. It was very cold, but I tried not to shiver inside my down coat. The bird hopped to a tangle of Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora) brambles and began to occasionally peck at the rose hips (berries or fruits) lingering on the thorny twigs.

I could see its white throat speckled with dark dots and decided that it probably was a Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus). Although my hands had begun to ache from the cold wind, I continued to squeeze a few more shots from my camera. Opportunities such a this do not come often for me and my camera.

I was very eager to return home and view the images on my computer. My small camera does not have a long range so I do not often get successful bird photos. I was very pleased to see that yes, I had gotten several clear pictures and that yes, I was correct with the identification of the bird's species.

This Hermit Thrush probably was spending the winter in Wildwood before flying off to mate and breed in states north of Virginia or perhaps in Canada. However, according to Radford's resident bird expert, it may go only as far as the higher elevations of the southern Appalachians to nearby Glen Alton in Giles County. In summer, it will feed on insects that it finds by scratching under dried leaves. However, it seemed content to find these berries on a cold day.

There is a feeling of satisfaction when all elements of a fine photo come together: light (just enough, but not too much to cause a glare), distance (a subject that allows me to get close enough), and steady hands - a simple and profound joy.