Friday, April 15, 2022

OUR WALK AT OCCOQUAN BAY NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE

 We are happy to enlarge our walking areas, each within a not-so-long car ride from home. Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge is one we discovered last year, and we were happy to add it to our favorites list, where we go for exercise in their beautiful surroundings.  Marvelous places in any season, always changing and always something new that keeps feeding our love of nature.

The weather was starting to warm up.  The sky had lots of clouds and we were glad we went early, as rain was forecast.Our intention was to walk to the pond.Our short cut was still a bit of a trek.  When we arrived two other gentlemen, both with tripod and camera, were the only other people around.  One had been sitting on the steps leading to a small dock. 
The other was in long grass in a field, looking toward the trees and pointing his camera in the direction of the many bird calls.  I am not sure if he got any photos, and we didn't want to disturb either of them, they were so focused.  
Gregg left to take photos in another direction.  I took a seat under a sheltered picnic area, and watched them from the shadows. The two men seemed to know each other but left separately.  A short while later Gregg joined me. He took a photo of the windmill right next to the picnic tables. I thought to take a shot of it but the moment passed and I was glad Gregg took this one.The photo (above) with the beautiful reflection of the clouds that day, was also taken by Gregg.  You can just about make out a round circle resting on top of the water, not too far from shore.  Here is a closer look.  We think it is some kind of filter system where several turtles like to rest.  There weren't as many as the last time we were here.  The photos with the inserts are what he took, and I put the close-up circles into the photo, because I had time to play with my Paint Shop Pro for an hour.On the other side we saw a duck and we stared, and we stared and we stared, ever hopeful that he was going to be joined by his companions.  It took us a few minutes to realize it was a decoy.  There were no other birds on the lake.
There were Turkey Vultures flying overhead. If you click here you can read interesting facts about them.  They are not everyone's cup of tea but they do look magnificent in flight.  Their scientific name is Cathartes Aura, which means in Latin "cleansing breeze".  Researchers have determined that they can travel up to 200 miles in a day.  Also, their average height is 2-1/2 feet tall with a 6 foot wingspan and yet as big as they are, they only weigh about 3 pounds.  Here you will also read how they are considered nature's clean-up crew. This last site is the Wildlife Rescue League.
American Robins always seem to be present.  Normally I see them hopping around on the ground, but Gregg found this one high in a tree.  I have mentioned this before but they are unrelated to the European Robin, and ours are actually part of the thrush family.  Early colonial settlers named them American Robin because of its resemblance to the smaller European Robin they were familiar with.  You can read a lot more at the above website.
Later I spotted a Downy Woodpecker.  It was nice to see one other than at my feeders out back.  I couldn't get a closer shot as Gregg had the camera with the zoom, but I wanted to practice with the zoom on my phone.  It worked pretty well considering.  
Just in case I haven't mentioned it before, Downy Woodpeckers are our smallest and most commonly seen woodpecker, up to 7 inches long.  They aren't as skittish around people and can be seen in people's backyards at bird feeders, especially if peanut butter is part of their meal.  An old blogging friend told me once though, to be careful feeding peanut butter to birds, as it could be a choking hazzard.  Have you heard this?  She mentioned about mixing it really well with other ingredients, like seeds and nuts.  I have never made my own suet cakes and have had it in my head to do just that.  But I will have to look around and find a really healthy one.
You can just about see the little splash of red on the back of his head, (enlarging the photos help) which tells me that he is a male.  There is a lot of interesting information at this website, where I found the following.  

"Legend has it the red patch of the male bird inspired legends with many Native American Tribes across the United States, from being a fire detective to bearer of a warrior's badge of courage.  This bird has been a symbol of bravery and hard work.

Special feathers around their nostrils keep them from breathing in wood chips.

Their brain is protected from shock by a pad of spongy elastic material between their bill and their skull.

Woodpeckers may hammer on a tree as much as 10 times in a minute.

Downy woodpeckers create nest hole openings that are hidden by fungus or lichens, which resembles green spongy moss."

A lot more interesting information can be read at the link above.
Searching online, the closest I came to identifying the flower below was the Common serviceberry (botanical name Amelanchier arborea), and are native to Eastern North America, according to The Spruce website, found here.  There is a very nice illustration of the different types.  
Below is photo from a different tree on the same trail but is also a Common serviceberry.  My plant app (PictureThis) came up with the name, and then I did an online search to compare.  Their berries are an important food source to birds, when other types of fruit are not yet ripe.
My next picture you may have seen in yesterday's post.  The bud is still opening and soon it will be more easily identifiable as the Flowering Dogwood.  There is a good website at this link giving more information.  Its botanical name is Cornus florida, and common names are American boxwood, Flowering cornel and Virginian dogwood.  It may grow from 15 to 25 feet tall, and is native from southeastern Canada to eastern North America to eastern Mexico. The genus name comes from the Latin word for horn, cornu, most likely in reference to the tree’s hard, dense wood. 
We are coming to the end of our walk and the skies have been the most beautiful blue with lots of puffy clouds, but we knew that rain was on the way.  When we were driving home it started to sprinkle but it was a gentle rain and didn't last that long.  By the time we got home it had stopped.
We have seen many Ukrainian flags hanging outside people's homes, in our neighborhood, in other neighborhoods as we drove to Occoquan.  They were everywhere, and we saw them along country roads on our way home.
Still praying that peace comes to them very soon.  

Thank you for visiting, and I hope your day is a happy one.



32 comments:

  1. I never, ever would have guessed that this is a Dogwood! I love the gorgeous photo of the clouds reflected in the pond. I have done the same thing as you! Stared and stared at a bird, till I realized it was not real!

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    1. It took me by surprise also Ginny :) I am so used to see them in full on bloom. I'm glad to have a decoy-staring companion, lol!

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  2. didn't know that about robins, the sky was lovely

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    1. Thank you Linda, we were very lucky that day, both with the Robin and with the sky :)

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  3. Lovely shots from a lovely day. Sadly we have no vultures. Their clean up capacity would come in very handy some times.

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    1. Thanks Linda :) I remember being surprised when I first found out about them, and we felt fortunate to have such a beautiful sky that day.

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  4. So many beautiful photos today. Love the clouds in the water. Interesting on the area where all the turtles were.

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    1. Thank you Ann, I am happy you liked them :) It is an interesting area. I look forward to going back sometime.

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  5. Denise,with all your talk of birds this post was stupendous!! And your phone zoom did a great job on the Downy. You and I are truly of kindred spirits...all things nature. (Had to laugh about the decoy).

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    1. Thanks bunches Anni :) I've always thought of us as kindred spirits and I had a good laugh at myself over the decoy. Good to not to take ourselves too seriously at times.

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  6. i think our great big woodpeckers can do 10 times per 2 seconds. they are loud. i heard one yesterday pecking on the tin part of the neighbors roof..i like the zoom on the photo, very good and shows what you could see with your camera.. I wish bob liked to walk and take photos. he gets bored with me stopping to snap, but that was when he used to walk with me..

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    1. They are amazing aren't they? So loud! Now that tin roof must have been quite a noise. I am very happy with my new phone's camera. The technology is getting better and better. Goodness knows what it will be like by the time this one stops working. It could be a while :)

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  7. Hello,
    Wonderful outing and beautiful photos. I am looking forward to see the turtles.
    Take care, enjoy your day and happy Easter weekend!

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    1. Thanks Eileen, the turtles are fun to observe. I wish you the same :) Happy Easter!

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  8. Love the sky shots! I have only seen the red woodpeckers here.

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    1. Hi Angie and thank you :) I wonder if you are talking about the red-headed woodpeckers. I have only seen those in pictures.

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  9. This is beautiful! Those skies are spectacular and such wonderful birds. Happy Easter weekend.

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    1. Happy you think so Jeanie and thank you :) Happy Easter weekend to you also!

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  10. You are so fortunate to be able to walk in such beautiful environments. I need a walker now due to my arthritis. Thanks for the delightful pictures, Denise.

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    1. You are very welcome Gigi :) I was sorry to learn of your arthritis Gigi. I am beginning to think I need to take walking sticks out with me. I have noticed a lot of people my age with them.

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  11. The woodpecker particularly appeals to me.

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  12. I do like the photograph of the clouds reflected in the pond.
    You had such a nice walk.

    All the best Jan

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    1. Thank you Jan, I liked them a lot also. It was a lovely walk. All the best to you too :)

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  13. Hello Denise
    Excellent theme and description with good photos.
    Happy Easter to you and your family.

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    1. Hello Cuco, thank you very much and I wish you and I hope you and your family had a Very Happy Easter :)

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