August 11, 2020 [LINK / comment]
Recent (non-bird) nature photos
When I summarized my bird outings in July in yesterday's blog post, I mentioned a few other nature observations, so I thought I should share some of those other photos. Rather than simply listing them one by one, I thought it would be more fun to present them in an interactive fashion. I was especially pleased with the Pipevine Swallowtail photo (at the top left below), but I have had a few other good recent photos which you can see on my Butterflies photo gallery page, newly updated. (For the time being, that page still includes moths.) The Black Bear is the third such animal I have seen this year, and each time I managed to get a pretty good photo -- scrupulously observing social distancing rules, of course! It reminds me that I should present some kind of lifetime chronology of bear sightings.
Click on the links below to see those photos (and others) in a larger size. Roll over to restore the montage.
Pipevine Swallowtail, on North Mtn., July 19. Black Bear, on Rose River trail (SNP), July 20.
Jack In The Pulpit, Red-spotted Eft , Mushrooms, on
at Hightop Mountain (SNP), June 8. at Hearthstone Lake, May 17. Braley Pond trail, August 8.
Skink, at Sawmill Ridge overlook (SNP), June 1.
Mourning Cloak, at Hightop Mtn. (SNP), June 8. || Box Turtle, on Rt. 614 in Highland Co., June 27.
Eastern Fence Lizard, at Coles Run Res., July 1. || Mushrooms, on Wildcat Ridge trail (SNP), Aug. 1.
(NOTE: "SNP" = Shenandoah National Park.)
I have updated my Mushrooms photo gallery page with the two montages shown above, plus another less-dazzling montage I did of fungi that I saw on the Falls Hollow trail on June 20. I have been remiss in trying to identify the many mushrooms I have photographed in recent years, so hopefully I'll get to that task in the next few months. Finally, I intend to update and beef up my Nature photo galleries in general, including the separate pages for Mammals and Reptiles, perhaps separating amphibians from the latter page, and maybe adding a new page for trees as well. The Flowers page is the most outdated of all.
Note that all of the above nature photos are the same size, 600 x 450 pixels, with the Jack In The Pulpit being the only vertically-oriented photo. In contrast, the standard size of my bird photos is 480 x 360 pixels. The smaller size reflects the (mostly) smaller size of the photographic subjects and the fact that it is difficult to get high-quality images of fast-moving birds except under ideal lighting conditions. If I get a better camera in the coming months, I may start presenting bird photos in the larger size.
July 28, 2020 [LINK / comment]
Photo gallery additions: 2011
After returning from my most recent trip to Peru (!) three years ago, I created a new system for cataloguing my immense volume of online photographs, to make it easier to find old photos. Since then, I have periodically added new pages, going back year by year, and I have just done so for my 2011 photos. This was prompted by trying to locate the photo I had taken of the Robert E. Lee statue in the Virginia state capitol building, during a field trip to Richmond I led for CVCC students in February 2011. (The statue was recently removed at the behest of the Democratic leaders of the Virginia General Assembly.)
Robert E. Lee statue, in the Virginia state capitol building, Richmond (Feb. 22)
Jacqueline and I went on many nature outings during the year, wanting to get the most value from the Shenandoah National Park annual pass that we had purchased. The Nikon D40 digital SLR camera I was using at the time didn't have a telescopic zoom lens, so I didn't get many good bird photos until I bought my Canon PowerShot camera in January 2013. I did get some good nature shots, however, including this Black Bear, which was only about 25 feet away at the time (we were inside our car):
Black Bear, along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park (June 8)
The day after seeing a Washington Nationals baseball game with my friend Dave Givens on the Fourth of July (they beat the Cubs 5-4), I took the time to visit the Washington National Cathedral.
National Cathedral exterior, south side (Washington, July 5)
In early August I drove out to the Midwest, to visit my family in South Dakota and Kansas. Along the way, I stopped to take some photos in downtown Indianapolis, which I had never visited before. Of course, we went bird watching and sightseeing in various locations in South Dakota. I also saw baseball games in Sioux Falls, Kansas City, and toured Busch Stadium (III), home of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Indiana State Capitol (Aug. 5)
Sioux Falls Stadium, home of the Canaries (Aug. 13)
Kansas City skyline, fog (Aug. 17)
Back in Virginia, I took Jacqueline to Natural Bridge for the first time in several years. We enjoyed learning about history at the Indian village nearby, and visited a butterfly "zoo."
Natural Bridge, in Rockbridge County (Aug. 20)
In September, Jacqueline and I went to a Washington Nationals baseball game (they lost to the Marlins, 3-0), and on the way, we visited Arlington National Cemetery, where I saw John F. Kennedy's grave for the first time.
John F. Kennedy grave, Arlington National Cemetery (Sept. 16)
In October Jacqueline and I saw one of my favorite rock groups, Kansas. I had seen them once before, at the Capital Centre east of Washington, DC in the early 1980s. This time we were fortunate to get seats in the second row, and after the show, we got autographs from the band members. As recounted in my October 10, 2011 blog post, "Kansas totally rocks!"
Kansas in concert at James Madison University (Oct. 7)
July 16, 2020 [LINK / comment]
Spring and summer excursions
Well, it has been nearly a year (August 6, 2019) since my last blog post about travel, so let's get started. In reviewing the scenic photos I have taken over the past year, I am surprised at the evident lack of travel: there are no entries at all for the last four months of 2019, and only one photo for the first two months of this year. No doubt this reflected being busy with a new teaching job.
Ironically, it was when the covid-10 pandemic broke out in mid-March that I started to get around with more frequency. The pandemic forced me to abandon a hoped-for trip out west to visit my siblings this summer, so Jacqueline and I have been limited to a few day trips. On March 20 we drove up to the Harrisonburg area, the main purpose of which was to locate and photograph the Federal court house to show in my political science classes. (I had previously taken photos of such court houses in Charlottesville, Richmond, and Lynchburg.) To my surprise, I learned that the Federal court house in Harrisonburg also serves as the U.S. Post Office building. On our way up there, we stopped at the Cove Creek Arboretum in Bridgewater, hoping to see birds. No luck in that regard, but we did see a large mammal near the creek that I later determined was a Muskrat!
United States Post Office and Court House in Harrisonburg, on March 20.
On April 19 we went hiking and bird watching in the Ramseys Draft area, but the main highlight of the day was on our way home when Jacqueline spotted a Black Bear along the hillside. Good eye! So I did a U-turn, and got in position for a quick photograph of the bear, which was foraging on some of the few green plants that were available in the early spring.
Black Bear, obviously hungry, near Ramseys Draft on April 19.
During the latter part of May, after school was over, I got very busy with birding in the great outdoors. During one such trip in the mountains of northwestern Augusta County on May 17, Penny Warren led us to a place where she had seen some Yellow Lady Slippers, and that made for a nice photo opportunity.
Yellow Lady Slipper, west of Elkhorn Lake on May 17.
On both June 1 and 8, Jacqueline and I drove up to the Shenandoah National Park. The first time was just leisure viewing, but the second time was a strenuous hike to the top of Hightop Mountain, which provided great views with beautiful blue skies. The restrictions on business and personal activities due to the coronavirus has resulted in a sharp drop in motor vehicle emissions, giving us some of the best outdoor views in many years. Typically, the Shenandoah Valley is blanketed by a faint haze even on "clear" days, thanks largely to all the traffic Interstate 81.
View from near the summit of Hightop Mountain in Shenandoah National Park, on June 8. In the distance you can see the southern terminus of Massanutten "Mountain," which is actually a very long ridge.
On June 24 we drove up to the Washington area to visit with family members, and I persuaded them to visit downtown D.C., where there had been major protests involved with the "Black Lives Matter" movement. It was a very nice day, and I got lots of good photos of iconic buildings in Our Nation's Capital, some of which I will use for classes this fall. As I described in a blog post on July 1, we spent a while observing the protesters on "Black Lives Matter Plaza," as the portion of 16th Street NW just north of the White House and Lafayette Square has been renamed. Fortunately, there was no violence that day, and we felt safe.
The Botanical Gardens, and the U.S. Capitol beyond, in Washington on June 24.
Three days later, on June 27, I went on a solo birding expedition to the top of Reddish Knob, at the northern tip of Augusta County. Rather than the usual route via Briery Branch Road, however, I took a long indirect approach via eastern Highland County and going into Pendleton County, West Virginia. For the first time I visited the tiny town of Sugar Grove, and also took a look at the nearby Sugar Grove Navy communications center, which closed several years ago. It served as a crucial nexus during the Cold War, and it is eerie to see all those buildings and houses for military personnel devoid of any human presence.
The checkpoint at the Sugar Grove communication facility (between the town and the Navy base a couple miles to the north), on June 27.
Finally, Jacqueline and I drove to Richmond on July 9. Once again, I was curious about the "Black Lives Matter" protests, and wanted to see the one remaining monument on Monument Avenue: General Robert E. Lee. But first I wanted to visit some of the battlefields in the Richmond area for the first time. There was a military campaign in the spring of 1862, leading up to the "Seven Days Battle," culminating in the Battle of Cold Harbor northeast of Richmond. Two years later, following the Battles of Wilderness and Spotsylvania, the Union Army approached Richmond for a second time, and basically laid siege to the Confederate capital city (and nearby Petersburg) for ten months: June 1864 to April 1865. I thought Jacqueline would enjoy touring some of the historic plantation houses along the James River southeast of Richmond, but the three closest ones were all closed, so we gave up. We spent the afternoon in the Petersburg area, about 20 miles south of Richmond, eating at Captain Tom's seafood restaurant in Colonial Heights, looking at armored vehicles on display at Fort Lee (which will probably be renamed eventually), and touring the Petersburg battlefield. Then late in the day we spent an hour or so in Richmond itself, seeing the now-vacant monument pedestals that have been defaced by graffiti. The Lee equestrian statue is the "ground zero" of the protest movement, and no police were seen in that vicinity. I will post photos of all that in a separate blog about politics.
Gaines Mill battlefield, on July 9. The above photos, along with many others, can be seen on my Chronological (2020) photo gallery page.