Archive forMay, 2014

Memorial Day weekend kayaking


Deer encounter

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World Turtle Day

Today is World Turtle Day, which I admit I only knew because I follow The Wildlife Center of Virginia on twitter and they’ve been talking about it for the last two days. But knowing that it was I was delighted to run into a box turtle crossing my path as soon as I got to Occoquan Bay NWR this morning!

Then, whoa, a few minutes later another turtle ambled up!

But my favorite was the painted turtle that slowly approached me down the closed portion of the trail where the eagle nest is:

He was awesome!

Unfortunately, eaglets (who were the reason I was at the eagle nest) apparently don’t celebrate World Turtle Day as they were nowhere to be seen this morning, but the abundance of turtles made up for it!

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Great Falls

In a way, the peaceful nature of this long exposure of Great Falls belies the violence with which it was frothing two days after torrential downpours two weeks ago. A portion of its trails were closed due to flooding; in fact I had originally tried to hike in from Riverbend only to be met with a closed trail so I had to drive to Great Falls (honestly, I was trying to see the Conn Island eaglets that day and not the falls, but I couldn’t get within view of their nest from either park due to the floods and had to settle for the falls!).

Just a bit south is Mather Gorge. I don’t think I have ever seen Mather Gorge without kayakers in it and that day was no exception, although I thought they were cray-zeee. There are actually kayakers in this picture; you just can’t see them because they were twirling so quickly and it’s another long exposure. 🙂

In looking at my photo gallery I’ve just noticed that I apparently go to Riverbend and/or Great Falls every Friday after work! And I may have planned to go there today if we hadn’t had even MORE torrential rain last night. Many of our streets were closed this morning due to flooding, so I’m sure there’s no hope the trail between Riverbend and Great Falls is open. I’m sure the trails everywhere that ARE open are a muddy mess. Boo. Anyway, about those Conn Island eaglets. I couldn’t get to them two weeks ago and I’m sure I can’t get to them today, but I got to them last Friday and they were safe and sound…and turning black in color from their infant gray! (FACT: It will be four or five years until their head is “bald”, which is another word for white, at which time they will finally be considered adults.) Can you see the baby in this picture? He’s partially blocked by a branch but he’s just to the right of the eagle that is sitting in the nest, whose head you can just see.

I’m hitting the farmers market for the first time this year tomorrow morning so let’s hope I’m inspired to get a food post up here soon!! I have missed doing serious cooking!


American Legion Bridge

The Capital Beltway’s American Legion Bridge, heading into Maryland from Virginia over the Potomac River. A bridge that is far more interesting from below than above, and as you can see, it’s not that interesting below. But I love that Potomac River! And I’d rather be under the Capital Beltway than on it!

Question time! I made a recipe last night that called for 1 (though I used two!) chile en adobo so (as usual) I have most of a can left over. What is your favorite way to use chiles en adobo?

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Light painting

I took a light painting class last night, which was a lot of fun. I have loved messing around with long exposures since I first learned how to use a SLR in the 9th grade or so, when I’d take “ghost” pictures. I still take a lot of long exposures; most of the pictures I take of water, including those I’ve posted over the last couple of weeks, are long exposures taken through a 9-stop neutral density filter, which I do to make the water “flow”. Light painting was something I knew I’d be really into, so I’d probably have signed up for the class anyway, but when I saw it was taking place at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, I jumped at the chance to run around that place after dark (I’ve also shown up for Meadowlark’s biannual “photographer’s days” when they let you in before sunrise – Meadowlark is at its most awesome outside their normal operating hours!). And last night was the PERFECT night to be set loose there after dark: it rained quite heavily during the lecture part of the class (which took place in the old log cabin that is usually all locked up!), then stopped before we went out to photograph, leaving behind a thick and delightful fog, the full moon obscured by moving clouds. Even when I was standing around waiting for others to take their pictures, I was happy just to take in the beautiful atmosphere. I’m ALL ABOUT getting more into light painting…now I just need to find a buddy who finds it as fun as I do so I don’t have to go gallivanting around by myself in the middle of the night.

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Baby raccoon

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Pimmit Run

Beginning of last night’s hike:

End of last night’s hike:


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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