Saturday, July 19, 2014

Turtle update

I posted  photos yesterday of the Kenilworth Aquatic Garden walk and thought something was missing this morning and checked my camera's memory card to confirm my suspicion, sure enough the huge turtle I saw on the edge of a lily pond sunning it's self was still there but not in my post. I downloaded it and decided to do an update because it was so big and had such long claws. I don't know what type of turtle this is anyone have an idea what it is?
It was as big as a dinner plate and the others were only bread plate sized out on the logs sunning. The big turtle gets it's day in the sun.

For you to compare here is the smaller painted turtle again:

Friday, July 18, 2014

Walking Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

A rare perfect July day to me says get out of the house and go soak up some nature, right now! Yesterday, I picked up my friend Meron for a day at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens to see the Lotus, waterlilies and native plants and creatures who inhabit the park which sits at the edge of the tidal Anacostia river. It's a huge marsh land with a farm for cultivating those delightful water flowers.

Meron enjoying the garden tour
We enjoyed all the wonders of nature in the ponds and around the edges. Frogs we croaking, Turtles were sunning and dragonfly and butterfly were all around us.

Turtles like those we used to get as children for an aquarium pet were much larger than any I ever raised but this is their natural habitat complete with muddy shells. Meron spotted some sort of snake from our safe perch up on the high boardwalk over the reeds, thank goodness.

Kenilworth also is a birder's paradise and I was challenged several times to identify some new ones we saw. The only one I got a good portrait of was what I now think was a familiy of northern rough-winged swallows.

Honestly it was hard to sort out this bird identity even with these photographs but without the bird guide book and the internet's great resources I wouldn't have known anything but that it was likely some kind of sparrow.
One I did know very well was the red winged blackbird and I  didn't get a great shot of any of them but this one and there were about 75 of them in the marsh but they got down in the reeds where we couldn't see them and the grasses were swaying back and forth making it quite difficult from our location. Might be worth a return trip with tripod and time to sit and wait to get a series of this beautiful black bird.

Canada geese were swimming in the marsh channels searching for grasses they like to eat and what I thought was a duck flying by turned out to be a favorite of mine the green heron who gave it's self away by landing on a log at the edge of the channel rather than on the water like a proper duck would do.

can you find two geese in this shot?

In the end the flowers drew me out on this beautiful day but the call of nature has a powerful draw all it's own. So here are the native and tropical waterlilies that are blooming now...

black berries for the birds

Our picture perfect visit lasted from 11 till 4 PM next time I will take along a picnic lunch and iced water. This weekend is the big festival of waterflowers at Kenilworth and I have to say it is a very special place. You can read about it in this week's Washington Post article here: Kenilworth water lilies thrive.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Walking Manassas Battlefield trail

Last Friday after Thursdays rains I took a long walk at Manassas National Battlefield park. It's always a great place to see nature and this summer it's nice and green. On my way home from a nice lunch with my pal Val in Upperville VA. the wait to pass over route 29 heading back reminded me I needed to get a hike in before I came back to the hot city.
I arrived parked and crossed the field to the wood trail to the back of Stonewall Jackson's equestrian memorial sculpture. As I entered the wooded areas the lush green grasses really looked amazing. The trees are green and the old dead trunks standing and fallen always attract my eye. 

The deer are everywhere but not always east to spot. I was lucky to be there alone this time of the afternoon before the joggers arrive to run the trails. I saw several deer in different spots along the way. They noticed me but usually did not flee which means I got to take pictures. 

 In this field which is surrounded by trees on all sides and the distant edge has a creek for a border one doe was munching on tall grasses. There is a white flower all over the field too fine to see in the landscape photos. Also dragon flies with black marked wings.

I saw lots of little birds but they move fast and have lots of leaves to hide behind. This one I managed to capture but I don't know what type of bird it is at only about 5 inches in length I can't even guess. Maybe it is some type of warbler is my best guess but it may not be mature enough to have adult markings. 
On the trail which is gray gravel much of the way for tractors to traverse I saw an pretty butterfly with black and blue and a little orange colored markings and a toad hopped by me almost unseen. I would not have seen it without it's movement it's so well camouflaged. 

A huge pasture was near the end of my walk and the big white clouds floating over the tall sandy colored grass reminded me of that long ago movie Out of Africa

 On the wooded edge of the fields I found this tall Jack in the pulpit seed pod forming with it's shiny green seeds.
All along the path I kept seeing Eastern blue birds flying down out of the trees to the ground and back up to the low branches. Each time I moved a muscle they would flee and hide. Finally on my way out I spotted a bunch of them and my chance came to capture one preening on a branch for a while. What a treat it was to watch and photograph that pretty little blue bird.  

Last of all I captured was this king bird who was chasing a mate and alighted on the very top of a tree to catch it's breath. It made a nice end to a lovely walk in the park.