Sunday, May 22, 2011

Return to the Great Blue Herons

May 11. I'd walked an easy mile and a half yesterday to see how the plantar fasciitis would do, and it was not bad. I'd gone past the heron rookery on the James River in downtown Richmond, and seen lots of great blue herons out fishing to provide for their ravenous youngsters. So I decided to return today (May 11) with a camera. I also learned that a mile and half two days in a row was amazingly painful for my sore foot, and have taken it very easy since then, but that is another story. Here are some photos of the herons (and one egret) along the James, along with a northern water snake - the wild side of a big city. As I watched traffic zipping by in the distance over the I-95 bridge, I wondered how many of the drivers had an inkling what they were driving right by just up-river!

These little ducklings seemed to be frantically searching for mom:

Northern water snake sunning itself amid rubble:

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Paying My Respects

I got up yesterday at 4AM to catch the 5AM train to Washington, DC for a one day conference. It was ending at 3:30, and the training coming back wasn’t until 7PM, so I knew I would have about two and half hours to enjoy in our Capital. So I took my newly purchased New Balance shoes, a change of clothes, a book to read on the train, a windbreaker, and my camera all stuffed in a little day pack. But what should I do? I came up with four options, considering I am having a lot of pain from my plantar fasciitis and should not be on my feet a lot. In order of low to high stress on my feet, here were my choices:

1. Take the Metro to a place with a nice outdoor café, and nurse a beer or two as the world goes by, then head to Union Station.

2. Visit one of the many great museums within a half mile of my seminar site – American History was literally across the street from the Ronald Reagan building. Then catch the Metro to a café for a beer.

3. Take the Metro to Woodley, walk a half mile to the National Zoo, and spend a couple of hours walking slowly around the zoo before walking back to the Metro.

4. Oh, the heck with this inactivity stuff! Walk about seven miles seeing some of the great sites of our Capital City, even though it might cause me a lot of misery and pain later.

I think you can figure out what my choice was!

So, where to walk to? Well, I decided to walk to Arlington National Cemetery – you will see why later – and see some of the sights along the way. Yeah, I’m an idiot, and Mother Nature is now telling me to stay off my feet for a while, but my seven mile walk was enjoyable and well worth it. Here is what I saw during my time in Washington before catching the Metro to Union Station at 6:00. With Memorial Day later this month, I decided to concentrate on memorials and monuments to our country’s warriors.

The Washington Monument is always an impressive sight. I wonder what General Washington would say, by George?
The World War II Memorial is always impressive. When you are a kid watching war movies, it makes war look kind of adventuresome and fun. The good guys always win. When people die it looks painless and very quick. Even the wounded guys don’t look so bad – a little blood on their shirt, give ‘em a cigarette, and they are fine. I would guess that in reality, war is a pretty awful experience. The collective sacrifice of our World War II Vets is staggering, and this memorial attempts to pay tribute to them.Words of Admiral Nimitz on the WW II Memorial:My Stepdad, Stuart Silverman, was a World War II Vet, serving in New Guinea. He got to see this memorial three years before his death in 2008, and I will never forget how emotional it was for him, and for the rest of us present with him. He stood and saluted this part of the monument – saluting his long-gone comrades in arms – his body trembling with the stress of standing there as an elderly and infirm man.One of our “forgotten” wars is Korea. My godfather, Paul Edwards, was a soldier in this war.I walked past the Lincoln Memorial. What would our country be like had we never had the “Great Emancipator” or George Washington?The “Wall” at the Vietnam Memorial is always moving. There was a note and photos there at one spot addressed to a long gone father – maybe a father never known – that was really sad. My older brother spent a year in Vietnam in the US Army. He visited this place with a friend once, who asked what he felt when he saw the “Wall.” My brother said he replied, “Truthfully, I’m just glad my name isn’t up there.”This poignant statue honors the nurses during the Vietnam War. It is one of two monuments I can remember – the other being the Civil Rights Monument in Richmond – that features a woman (and an African-American woman):I walked over the Memorial Bridge to Arlington National Cemetery. On the way, I watched this boat cruise up-river towards Roosevelt Island, a memorial to Theodore Roosevelt. This island has wonderful hiking trails, and if I had a few more hours (and two good feet) I would have headed there next. Where would conservation be in this country had we never had TR?By now, I had walked about four miles, and even at a much slower pace than my normal walking speed, back of my left foot was hurting with every step. But by this time, I was determined to walk into Arlington National Cemetery, for the main reason I decided to do this: to pay respects to a former neighbor: Shane Adcock.

When we moved to Richmond, Shane was our 13 year old next door neighbor. He was the nicest kid, always polite, never in trouble. He was a boy scout and went on campouts with his dad and his troop. He used to hop over the fence and come visit my water garden that I put in our backyard – he even added a fish to it. He went off to college at Longwood, became involved in ROTC, and got his commission in the US Army when he graduated. Eventually, he became a captain in the Army, and got married. Shortly after his wedding, he was sent with his unit to Iraq, and a couple of months later – in October, 2006 – he died when a rocket propelled grenade slammed into his Humvee. I have no doubt that his family will mourn his death for the rest of their lives.

Shane is buried now at Arlington, and I wanted to visit his grave and tell him that he is not forgotten by his neighbor of long ago. A beautiful bluebird sang and displayed in the sun near Shane’s grave. It was sad to look at this young man’s grave, and the so many tombstones near him, young men (and probably some women) killed in their prime in 2005, 2006, 2007.After paying my respect to Shane’s memory, I had just enough time left to hoof it up to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers and catch the changing of the guard. I have seen this ceremony before but not for nearly 10 years, and it is always impressive to see the precision of the soldiers guarding the tomb. From there, I walked 15 minutes back to the Metro, got to Union Station, and caught the train home. According to my pedometer, I walked 20,000 steps that day. According to my left heel, the number was closer to 200,000.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Egret At Back Bay

Usually, when I spot an egret, it flies when I get within 100 - 150 meters. But this past Sunday, as I hiked six miles in Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, one sensed I was no threat and just kept on fishing as I passed within 75 feet. I got some rare photos of this majestic bird. On my hike, I also saw coots, redwing blackbirds, Canada geese, a great blue heron (which flew), some type of duck, a red-bellied woodpecker, and the noses of many large turtles sticking out of the water. I heard, but did not see, a clapper rail - despite spending a good 15 minutes trying to spot him in the thick marsh growth.

My path involved the nature trail near headquarters, then a couple of miles down the West Dike Trail, where I left the trail and entered a wooded area for a short walk to the bay. It was in this area that I found the young copperhead almost exactly a year ago. As I walked along the nature trail, I missed a raccoon my mere minutes, as shown by his still-wet footprints on the boards of the raised path:

Red-winged blackbirds are a common sight and sound here:

I took many photos of the egret as it fished and looked for breakfast. Here are a couple of them:

A few feet in elevation makes a huge difference in habitat here, as shown by this woodland just a hundred meters from expansive marshland: