Lord Delaware North End: Not Yet Independence Day

A couple of years ago, photographer Andrew Jackson and I hoped to get the first photo of a juvenile osprey making its maiden flight from the nest behind the Visitor’s Center at York River State Park.  Despite the coaxing of the adult bird, junior would not budge.  Two days  later, I noticed the nest was empty. It must have made that first flight sometime after we left the park.

Today, I was hoping that one of the two offspring of Joachim and Anna would make that first daring attempt.  As was two years ago, neither bird would budge.  One of them did rise up and get a little elevation from the nest.  But, after two or three attempts, the bird sat back down.  The other young osprey didn’t even try.

Time to Soar (C) John Gresham

Time to Soar (C) John Gresham

The elder and the aspirant (C) John Gresham

The elder and the aspirant (C) John Gresham

I am expecting the juveniles to leave the nest soon to start fishing for themselves.  Atlantic croaker and other fish are sill plentiful.  But, in mid September, they will be gone.  If the osprey get their fishing skills down pat now, it will be that much easier for them as they head down south later.

First Flight Series:  all photos (C) John Gresham

First Flight Series: all photos (C) John Gresham

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I was really expecting them to make use of the winds from hurricane Arthur to help them in flying.  While watching the juveniles, there were about 3 or 4 mature osprey taking advantage of the breeze and soaring effortlessly along the river.  Water clarity was not good with the winds shifting from north to west.  So, I didn’t see any birds with fish in their talons.

Heron on the shoreline (C) John Gresham

Heron on the shoreline (C) John Gresham

Other than the osprey, I did observe a great blue heron feeding on the other side of the bridge along a small stretch of sand.  Red-winged blackbirds were dominant throughout the marsh.  The trash level is still as bad as ever.  But, the blackberries are ripening well with a flavor that reminds me of my childhood.

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Lord Delaware North End: Between Storms and Trash

I had every intention to kayak today.  But, my Pungo 140 has a broken seat strap.  Plus scattered showers were forecast for the whole day.  So, I figured I’d get a good viewing in on my favorite Osprey family; Joachim, Anna, and baby Mary.  I got to the North End about 8 am with the top of the incoming tide.  It seemed that Mary was feeding as all three on the nest.  Joachim, I supposed, left the nest not long after I got out of the car.  He later took his usual post at the old fish house dock.  As I was crossing the bridge heading back to West Point, (I think) he was sitting there near a light fixture on the bridge.  Mary is indeed big enough to sit in the nest alone as Anna flew away a couple of times for a short while.

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Watchful mother (C) John Gresham

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River lilies (C) John Gresham

Watchful Mother

Crabber heads out (C) John Gresham

There were five tractor trailer trucks on the old road with two trailers parked as well.  While there were no fishermen on my side of the river, there were about a half dozen on the other end.  The pollution is frustrating.  This side of the river offers nice views of the town, especially if there are a few clouds for a colorful sunset.  I like to fish as much as the next guy.  But, I think people who come here ought to take their trash with them.  I have nothing against a person making an honest paycheck.  But, it would be good if truckers were more careful about any leakages of their truck’s fluids.

Do they have to pollute?  (C) John Gresham

Do they have to pollute? (C) John Gresham

Typical litter (C) John Gresham

Typical litter (C) John Gresham

Someone had contacted me about setting a date for a volunteer clean-up of the area.  I have slightly grander intentions for the North End.  I want to see it become a park.  Yeah, let the tractor trailer drivers still have a place to park and anglers try their luck.  But, I would like to see a group of people who care maintain the area, especially between the plastic barrier and the river.  I wouldn’t mind joining forces with those who are beautifying and maintaining the West Point side of the old bridge, Glass Island, and the nature trail (might I add that Glass Island looks like a dump.  It is sad that someone tries to make it look half-way descent during Clean the Bay Days while others jack it back up again).  Perhaps there is a town park friends of group or something.  If we get some volunteers who want to make the place nice, we could really have a natural area that we could all enjoy.

Unknown bird (C) John Gresham

Unknown bird (C) John Gresham

Big claw on a little crab (C) John Gresham

Big claw on a little crab (C) John Gresham

Aside from all that, I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t see the Diamondback Terrapins today.  A large Eastern Snapping Turtle did show its self.  Also, a loud little songbird (shame on me for not looking it up) was around as well.  A few Red-winged Blackbirds sang in the marshes and Fiddler Crabs scurried about the rip-rap.  If the weather is fine later this evening, I may go back for a sunset shot or two.

Lord Delaware North End: Reasons To Be Hopeful

The litter problem on the King & Queen side of the old Lord Delaware Bridge is quite sad.  Oil and other fluids wasted from the commercial trailer trucks is bad in it’s own right.  The old litter doesn’t get any attention.  And with fish biting along the upper York and lower Mattaponi and Pamunkey, the trash will get even worse.  I had hoped that some organization (and Lord knows the Mattaponi & Pamunkey Rivers Association does a heck of a job every year) would have stepped up to the task on  Clean The Bay Day.  Alas, the area was not touched by any group nor individual.  I will try to recruit a few people who just might care about the place.  If need be, I will devote some clean up time by myself.

From the bridge (c) John Gresham

From the bridge (c) John Gresham

Angry Baby Bird (c) John Gresham

Angry Baby Bird (c) John Gresham

And yet, there is reason to be hopeful about this neglected piece of shoreline.  peeking into the nest from below, I saw another head besides Joachim and Anna.  Yes, they have a chick (of course I am calling her Mary).  Joachim did fly off for a while and returned to the nest with a fish.  I got a couple of shots into the nest from the bridge.  I got some good images from the old road as well.  Aside from the osprey, great blue heron could be seen at a distance feeding along the shoreline at low tide.  Red-winged blackbirds were active as usual.

Lily on a trash pile (c) John Gresham

Lily on a trash pile (c) John Gresham

Diamondback Terrapin (c) John Gresham

Diamondback Terrapin (c) John Gresham

Aside from the somewhat dull perennial wildflowers, a bed of day-lilies were in bloom on the old road bed at the river’s edge.  Empty beer and Gatorade bottles are no match for the splendor of nature’s beauty.  Yet, we humans could do more to enhance the flowers simply by cleaning up after ourselves.  The blackberries are ripening.  I had a flashback to my childhood as I carefully picked the sweet-tart treats from their thorny canes.  I intend to return soon to see if I can get a pint of them.  Few deserts are better than a blackberry cobbler.

To top off my day of treasure among the trash was the sighting of diamondback terrapins.  I counted 3 males or juvenile females.  This is truly a good sign as this species has issues with polluted water, crab pots, and poachers.  The health of the York seems to be on an upswing as there was oyster harvesting this past winter around Croaker for the first time in years.  Perhaps recreational crabbers are being more cautious to use by-catch reduction devices on theri pots.  Very few people my age and younger care to try eating turtle meat.  So, it was good to see these guys (or girls) swimming in the Mattaponi.

 

York Up River: After the Storm

I was planning to head down to the library to go online and perhaps get some things done for the Brotherhood.  Maybe I’d go on Facebook and check out what a few friends are up to.  After dinner, we got a tornado warning.  My practice is to move with my wife to the bedroom hallway and close the bedroom doors.  After waiting for a half hour, the warning was lifted and the sun started to reappear.  By habit, my Pentax was in the trunk along with my tripod, just in case I need to create an image or two.  Being limited to a borrowed laptop, I would need to see something very impressive and make sure I get it right in the camera.  I don’t have Photoshop to save my butt.  Shooting RAW is no longer an option.

Cloud on the Upper York (C) John Gresham

Cloud on the Upper York
(C) John Gresham

Driving down Chelsea, I saw a weak rainbow.  I was hoping I could get down to Glass Island to get, at least, a half way descent image of the thing.  Chasing rainbows is a challenge for photographers.  Sure enough, I got to the landing and missed it.  The clouds above the river still were worthy of a capture as they floated just beyond the pier.  With the gnats eating me and less than an hour before the library closed (hey, the town of West Point used to close about 5:30 pm), I made haste from the island.

I posted one of the three shots that I took on my Facebook page.  It didn’t look bad.  But, I do need to practice my landscapes again.  I had been so busy shooting for work that I have forgotten the simple joy of creating images for myself.  Without quality editing software on my own computer, I need to be better skilled in composition and knowledge of my camera.  A friend from my old FFA days posted some pics he took during the storm.  Dude is a professional and takes the kind of shots that makes your jaw hit the floor.

Strut (C) John Gresham

Strut (C) John Gresham

Leaving the library, I couldn’t help but to notice the colors on the clouds at twilight.  I hoped to hit 1st Street to see if I could create something worthwhile.  I had help from a Great Blue Heron that was nice enough to pose for me as I was rapidly losing light and had to use shutter speeds slower than I like for birds.  The colors on the clouds were about as good as I could have asked for.  As I was shooting, a young lady was getting an evening run in as a couple walked by chatting about something or other.  Someone living across the street asked me if I got any pictures of the bird and how she thinks it was the same one that had been on her boat.  Leaving 1st turning on Main, I drove past the kids I heard playing in the distance.  It was a pretty evening in my little town.

Lord Delaware North End: Feeding on the Mattaponi

Dining Post

Dining Post

Friday, April 4th, 4:30 pm

It was a high tide with winds coming from the west.  Just as I suspected, the osprey are using the old power line post to feed on.  There is also a dead pine tree near the entrance to Rt. 33 where I spooked one.  Nothing is changing color as far as the marsh grasses are concerned.  The trees and blackberry bushes do have leaves coming in.  I counted about 15 cormorants on the pilings.  From where I stand at the bottom of the nesting platform, the nest doesn’t seem too large.   Driving on the bridge, I an only catch a glimpse of it and see that it is of descent size.  No eggs yet, I belive.

Marsh Dining Room

Marsh Dining Room

 

After Dinner Flight

After Dinner Flight

Lord Delaware North: Old Trash, Parking, and Wild Birds

3/20  9:55 AM  Hard SW wind  Low tide

Three cars are parked behind the “Road Closed” sign, No tractor-trailer trucks.

Today, I wanted to get more of an idea of the overall surroundings of the nest.  Surveying the plant life, on the embankments, wax myrtle and groundsel were the most dominant marsh plants.  Blackberry and honeysuckle were also abundant, especially from the first sign to the river’s edge.  So, it will be interesting to see what song birds will be present to feed on them.  There are also loblolly pines present with a thicket of them and red cedars near the entrance to Rt. 33.  I spooked one osprey out of a tree, which makes me wonder if that is where they feed away from the nest.  There are some red-bud and wild cherry trees present as well.  As for marsh grasses, there is a type of phragmites that is dominant which shows the amount of fresh water in this part of the York River Estuary area.  There are stands of tall marsh cord grass  and short cord grass as well.

Stream flowing into the River

Stream flowing into the River

 

There are two streams of water to note.  One on the left side entering the abandoned road is under the bridge its self.  This stream is featured on Google Maps and is not the result of road run-off, although I am sure some storm water does contribute to it.  The other on the right appears, at first, to be just a ditch.  I suspect there is a source spring of some sort.  This stream does have some life in it as I have seen minnows swim there.  Of concern are some orange patches in the mud.  I am curious if this is some sort of pollution.  This stream flows into the Mattaponi a few yards from the old seafood house.

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One piece of good news about the litter is that it all appears to be old.  Thus, when I clean it up the first time, maintaining it may not be that difficult.

Joachim and Anna were still collecting branches for the nest with an incident of mock mating.  One other osprey was seen flying overhead as well as the one I scared off from the pine/cedar thicket.  Nine lesser scaup were swimming and three double crested cormorants were on the old pilings.  This is really not the prettiest place in the world for viewing wildlife.  With the trash and near-by traffic noise, it is a wonder that anything wants to fly or swim around here.  But, perhaps because so few people come to this side of the river that the birds find a somewhat peaceful place to reside and spend time.  Thus, I will spend time with them.

They are still flirting right now.

They are still flirting right now.

American Oystercatcher: Pursuit of an Oddball Bird

On a Port Isobel wave

On a Port Isobel wave

I can’t forget the first time I saw one.  In 2007, I was kayak fishing around Rigby Island  on the White’s Creek side.  It’s body was a slightly bit chunky.  The striking colors of the brown and white body was offset with its black head and orange bill and eyes.   While I was devoted to saving croaker from drowning that day, I hoped that I would see this bird again when photography was the only thing on my agenda.

 The American oystercatcher is one of the most attractive birds along the Atlantic coast and Chesapeake Bay.  It is a member of the sandpiper family and , hence the name, has a reputation for feeding on mollusk.  Unlike it’s dunlin and sanderling relatives, I have never seen more than 3 or 4 oystercatchers at one time.  The Eastern Shore is the best place in the state to see them in large numbers.  But, I have come to enjoy tracking them on this side of the bay.

  The Bethel Beach Natural Area Preserve is a good place to look for the bird as is Rigby Island (no trespassing, view from your kayak). DameronMarsh and Hughlett’s Point are good locations for them too.  Low tides are best for finding oystercatchers as they have more area to roam and feed.  I have my best luck in evenings, mornings, and before storms.  Stalk very cautiously if you shoot with anything less than a 400mm lens.  Use a monopod for added stability; a tripod if possible.