Raptor Conservancy of Virginia fundraising

Hello; long time no blog. I know, I’m a terrible person. I’m actually preparing a post about our trip to Africa (spoiler: it was the greatest trip in the history of all trips), but in the meantime I feel obliged to pass along some information about a Raptor Conservancy of Virginia (where I volunteer) fundraiser that’s going on right now because we need money! Buy a spiffy RCV T-shirt with a picture of a great horned owl on it and support Virginia wildlife!

There is not much overlap between raptors in Virginia and Tanzania – they don’t even have hawks in Tanzania; instead they have a lot of eagles – but since I just got back from Tanzania a few days ago and it’s all I can think about, here are some Tanzanian raptors to enjoy in this post, with way more Tanzanian wildlife (and yes, food) coming up:


Brown snake eagle


Juvenile Verreaux’s eagle


Martial eagle


I need to figure out what this one is!


Black kite. There were swarms of these at Ngorongoro crater and our guide warned not to leave the vehicle unattended or they would swoop in and steal things. As we ate lunch in the car, we watched a lady eating outside right in front of our car. A kite saw her sandwich and looked hungrily at it. She hastily hid the sandwich behind her back. Think about that: she hid her sandwich BEHIND HER BACK from a BIRD. That was flying over her head. That could see the tempting sandwich just as easily BEHIND her as he could IN FRONT of her. And who did in fact snatch that sandwich right out of her hands, causing her to bleed. Which she kind of had coming….

That wasn’t the only blatant act of food theft we witnessed by wildlife, but the other involved a very devious monkey stealing food that WAS hidden better than that. 🙂

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Exploration with eagles

Only accessible via kayak, Featherstone National Wildlife Refuge – just across the bay from my beloved Occoquan Bay NWR – has long been on the list of places I MUST visit. In fact, I’ve been pestering Mark to buy a kayak for some time now, just so I could get to Featherstone. So when a Friends of the Potomac River Refuges board member organized a kayak trip out there just after a brand-new kayak rental company opened nearby, I was all over it. Mark and I were the only people to sign up, which is everyone else’s loss because the weather was GORGEOUS and there were bald eagles soaring over our heads the whole time, and basically the day was simply perfect. AND I got to explore a new refuge!

I was a bit nervous about taking a camera kayaking since we are beginner kayakers, but it didn’t me long to talk myself into taking my mirrorless camera, which is weather-sealed (and therefore can withstand some water falling on it) and it’s not going to Africa with me, so if I destroyed or lost it, I’d be upset, but it wouldn’t affect my Africa budget. I’m very glad I took it because although it sucks at taking pictures of moving objects far away and therefore I didn’t get any clear photos of soaring eagles, look what we saw up in a tree we paddled up under, sitting still and posing for me:

As we kept paddling around the tree, it soon become apparent that eagle wasn’t alone!

Eagles apparently don’t mind kayakers. They will usually fly away if you walk too close to one, but we paddled very close to this pair and they acted like we weren’t there.

My trip to Featherstone lived up to my hopes and then some, plus Mark enjoyed it too and now he wants to buy a kayak after all! Can this spring GET any better?!

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War and owls

For eight years, Mark and I have lived 10 miles from Manassas National Battlefield Park, where the two battles of Bull Run were fought in the American Civil War, and in fact we drive through it all the time on Lee Highway, but I’ve never visited it. I’m not interested in wars, and if I were to pick a war from American history, I’d be like Mark and choose the Revolutionary War, because a fight for independence is something I can get behind, whereas the Civil War just makes me sad. Moreover, I couldn’t grasp how a battlefield could possibly be anything but hot, overly bright, and buggy – from Lee Highway I can see people trudging along the grass under the glaring sun on hot summer days and I just picture them hot, sweaty, and bored. And really my perception isn’t all off because the vast majority of it does look like this, minus the interest of the trees on the right:

Then one day last week it was raining after work and, annoyed, I was procrastinating getting on the treadmill, which I hadn’t had to resort to using in days because the weather had been so gorgeous, by scouring the internet for new bluebell stands, when I came across people talking about some stone bridge on the battlefield. This interested me: water, old bridge, bluebells? I was deep in bluebell ecstasy at the time and committed to heading there straight after work the next day, when, lo, the gray clouds suddenly parted, the rain stopped, and the dazzling sun streamed into my eyes. Tomorrow, I asked myself? HECK NO! I grabbed my camera bag and was out the door two minutes later. And what do you know, but 20 feet from Lee Highway, I DID find bluebells by an old stone bridge!

It turns out that the area directly around Bull Run itself is wooded and the Stone Bridge Loop trail, though short, is actually pretty idyllic.

Especially when the bluebells are blooming.

If you followed Bull Run downstream a few miles (which you can’t actually do on foot), you’d end up in Bull Run Regional Park, my favorite place for bluebells.

I was so happy that night I was literally running through the trail – camera gear and all – trying to take it all in before the sun went down when the next thing I know, A BARRED OWL FLEW OVER MY HEAD!! I’ve only ever seen one owl in the wild before but I’m ALWAYS looking for them so I was beside myself with excitement…though slightly annoyed the longest lens I had with me was a 24-105mm, as I was expecting to take bluebells photos, not wildlife. But he did land on a tree and pose for me for several minutes and I went home totally elated.

Turns out the boring old battlefield DOES hold some interest for me!

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