Marshes are not high on most people’s list of “Places To Visit.” In fact, most folk avoid them like the plague. The sight of acres of cordgrass is enough to make one itch. In speaking of itching, gnats and biting flies can be too thick to see through. They don’t call them wetlands for nothing. The ground is little more than mud mixed with quicksand. It takes a rather peculiar person to willingly spend time in such places.
Well, I must be among the strangest of people. I look for marshes to explore and capture images of. From the freshwater stretches of tidal rivers to the numerous creeks that feed The Bay, marshes is where I find the most bird action and great landscape subjects. These unique places are very accessible and can provide plenty of solitude for those willing to venture into them.
Yes, bugs are a reality in a marsh. But, chances are you are going to use bug spray or some other sort of repelling device at a backyard barbecue. Use the same stuff and you’ll be fine. For those hiking the Chickahominy Wildlife Management Area down to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge/False Cape State Park, cottonmouths are another concern in the spring and summer. Don’t be afraid. But, use your head; stay on the trails and if you see a snake you cannot readily identify, don’t go near it.
Dress according to the season. Lightweight long sleeves add extra protection against biting bugs in warmer months. Waterproof
Approach the shorelines slowly and look all around you. Herons may have a tendency to fly away quickly making a very loud and annoying call of distress. Look down as you walk. Fiddler crabs are often scurrying back in their holes when a person is approaching. They don’t know the difference between us and birds that may find them delicious. Where possible, wade or paddle to cover more ground.
I took a quick trip to the New Point Comfort Natural Area Preserve in Mathews recently. I got there just before sunrise to try to get some sunrise color on the cordgrass and maybe some egrets. Because I had arrived early and made little noise, about a half-dozen clapper rails came out to feed along the observation pier where I was standing. I am sure they saw me. But, they didn’t see me as a major threat and went about their business. Nature is at it’s best in early silence.
To learn more about these unique places, please click the links from this article in the Virginia State Parks Blog.