Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pony Pasture Ramble

I had the day off yesterday and had hoped to go hiking if it was a nice day - which it was.  But, alas, I had to have electricians and plumbers over to do some work - hiking would have been a lot less expensive, trust me! - and by the time their work was done (and my wallet was on empty), it was 2:00PM.  So I decided that at the least, a short, local hike was in order.  So I headed back to the Pony Pasture, where I had walked at the end of the year.  This map will give you it's location, within city limits but on the South of the James and west of downtown:

This was not going to be a fast walk, I decided.  I wanted to go slowly and quietly, and see what wildlife I could spot.  So I walked slowly, with my binoculars and camera out.  While I didn't see anything spectacular, I did see some birds and other wildlife, all the more cool for being in a big city.  Among my sightings - and I shall leave a couple for mystery guests in later posts - turkey vulture, tufted titmouse, various gulls, double-crested cormorant, golden-crowned kinglet (I saw his cousin, the ruby-crowned kinglet there on my December hike), an elusive kingfisher, Canada goose, mallard ducks, bufflehead, painted turtles, and another kind of turtle.  I also heard some kind of frog calling.  I could not identify it, but I heard spring peepers in my neighborhood for the first time about a week ago, so spring is coming!

Here is a map of my walk.  I started and ended at the orange arrow and walked roughly clockwise, detouring and stopping often.  The orange circle shows where I back-tracked multiple times on both sides of a slough trying to get (unsuccessfully) of a shy kingfisher.  My total walk was about 3.5 miles.

Before I started on the pathways, I walked northwest along the river a bit trying to look for ducks.  Other than a few buffleheads, I didn't see any, but I did see these gulls - and many more - on rocks out in the rough and tumbling James River in the Pony Pasture Rapids:

The river was pretty violent from recent rains.

I thought that this huge vine was pretty amazing.  I wonder if it used to be wrap around a tree which has since died and rotted away?  It was as thick as a man's arm.

I liked the way that these turtles were enjoying getting some rays.  I think that they are painted turtles.

Although not as vast as in my Great Dismal Swamp hike last month, there were some swamps and other wetlands here at the Pony Pasture:

I saw many mallards and took a bunch of photos, but liked this one the best.  This drake seems to know that he is one handsome fellow.  I love the iridescent green of his head.

Near the end of my walk, I spotted a belted kingfisher along the slough.  Every time I got close enough for a photo, there were little branches in the way and my camera would focus on the branches and not the bird.  When I would move just a bit for a clearer view, he would fly up the slough, or back from whence I came.  I walked back and forth several times on both sides of the slough, trying to get his photo.  But the camera shy bird wouldn't cooperate.  I settled on capturing an image of this large male (note the long claws on the front feet) turtle sunning himself.  I do not know what it is - does anyone?  It is not a painted turtle.  Chicken turtle was my guess, but according to my field guide, they don't get this far north.

Whatever he was, I enjoyed seeing this animal and the others during my walk in the Pony Pasture segment of Richmond's James River Park System.  A mystery guest or two blog post will follow....

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