June 30, 2007
I finally had some time this morning (enough of politics already!) to follow through on a commitment I had made last spring, helping with the invasive plant control project in the Shenandoah National Park. I joined other volunteers who were clearing garlic mustard plants from the edge of a wetland area near Big Meadows, where several endangered plants species are found. The park and the Blue Ridge in Virginia constitute one of the "Important Bird Area" that was designated by the Audubon Society. We were treated to constant visits by a large number of birds:
But the biggest surprise came in the afternoon, when the others were already gone and I was clearing the garlic mustard weeds on my own. I was hunched over, scouring the underbrush for the nasty intruders, and upon turning around I noticed a Black bear not 15 feet away from me! We startled each other, and both of us gave ground slowly. It was not full grown, so I figure it was probably two years old. The bear hung around, which was fortunate because a dozen or so hikers (mostly teenagers) was approaching along the trail, and I signaled to them to be quiet and hurry over to look. They did, and most of them got to see the bear before it wandered away, and they were very appreciative of that wildlife encounter. Unlike my last encounter two weeks ago, I had no video camera to record the event this time. Then, on my drive home, I saw two more adult bears foraging alongside Skyline Drive, and further along, a skinny bear cub (probably just a few months old) standing along the retaining wall. I stopped to look, and after I drove off I could see it crossing the road in my rear view mirror. That made four bears in one day, and I'm pretty sure that sets a record for me.
It's official: The Bald Eagle is no longer an endangered species. See audubon.org