Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. The swamp is a 112,000 acre refuge straddling the Virginia - North Carolina border. While there are several access points including great paddling access from the east, we decided to try Jericho Ditch. All of the trails are along old drainage ditches for the swamp and are in long straight lines. We have only been to Jericho Ditch twice before, both for guided bird walks. Our main purpose was to bird and try to catch some of the spring migrants before the woods leaved out and you couldn't see anything any more. That's been the problem in the past, the woods are so dense that as soon as the leaves come out you can't see more than a few feet into them. So you can hear a lot of birds but seeing them is difficult. And our bird call skill just isn't up to it. And while we are at least a month earlier than we have been past years, there was still enough growth to give the birds plenty of cover. We heard much more than we saw. Nonetheless, there was a nice list of birds that we could either identify by sound (like the Red-wing Blackbirds and Prairie Warbler) or did manage to get a glimpse of (like the Common Yellowthroat and Wood Duck).
After a few hours the birds became quiet so we turned back to get our camera. There were quite a few things in bloom that we wanted to capture. Almost back to the car we starting hearing an unusual bird song from close by. After a few minutes of inspection we finally saw a rather nondescript song bird with a bit of yellow wash on the sides, an olive green back and either spectacles or an eye-ring. It wouldn't stay still and in the open long enough to get a good look at the head. It finally dropped down in the brush and stopped singing before we could agree on an identification. It would have to remain a nice song without a name for the singer.
After taking a water break and getting our camera gear we headed back down the ditch trail. I stopped early on for a tree in bud while my wife continued on down for a few blooms she had seen. As I was stowing my gear I heard that song again. This time the bird popped out into a leafless tree close by. I grabbed my binoculars and got a descent view. I could see a strong yellow line leading back to the eye. Quickly changing lens for my telephoto, I managed a few diagnostic shots. And when it stayed out in the open singing, I hurried back to get my tripod and managed a few better shots. It was still far off (do I need an even longer lens???) but they are descent shots.
|Fleabane (Erigeron sp?)|
While photographing the azeleas, my wife pointed out the butterfly attractor. We had been seeing a lot of butterflies since starting our walk back to get our camera in the morning. There were dozens of Pearl Crescents, Tiger Swallowtails, Zebra Swallowtails, Palamedes Swallowtails, Little Azures and dozens of even smaller ones we didn't identify. I eventually had at least 10 Zebra Swallowtails on the little pile (see my wife's blog to find out what the pile was).
Our eventual goal was to make it back to a Luna Moth we had seen right before turning back earlier. It was still hanging on a little stick out over the drainage canal. Again, the shadows in the background really helped the photography.
All in all, it was a great day out. Perhaps not as many birds as we might have hoped for but wonderful nature and some fabulous photography opportunities.