We’ve spent a lot of time visiting parks this month as the weather shifted toward spring and warmer temperatures. There are miles of trails through state and city parks, national wildlife reserves, and beaches. We’ve visited a few markets and museums, yet at this time of year, the outdoors is the place to be. The azaleas and dogwoods hit their peak and are now turning from pink and white to leafy and green. There were a gorgeous couple of weeks where every tree bloomed.
Pleasure House Point was our first discovery, a park not far from our house with a trail that winds along a bit of Crab Creek and Pleasure House Creek, both of which open on the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. Another trail circles two small ponds. We see shore birds and land birds depending on which way we walk.
Even closer to where we live is First Landing State Park. On our first visit, we went into the park by car, and walked along the shore, doing a bit of beach combing (fishing weight and hook), and checking out the birds. We tried the northern entrance to First Landing, too, where we found the best place to see warblers yet. Raised walkways extend into the marsh, and there are excellent places to stop and listen for birds, then try to find them in the trees. We saw four different warblers on the afternoon of our visit, and we plan to go back.
We don’t even have to get in the car to visit First Landing, as our street dead ends at the park’s eastern edge. We walked west into the park along raised ridges that head across the park toward the water. The area was drained and logged in the early 20th century but is now overgrown with secondary forest. We didn’t see many birds, but the forest is beautiful, with cypress knees growing in the low spots, and extravagant fungi sprouting from fallen logs.
Next on our itinerary came Great Dismal Swamp. With a name like that, I knew we had to visit. We headed to the area recommended for bird watching, walking a section of Jericho Lane, and the brushy sides of the road were perfect warbler habitat. Several different species sang and hopped in front of us, along with kinglets and cedar waxwings. The sun was out, it was relatively warm, and not at all dismal.
We haven’t spent all our time in the swamp, though that’s often where the birds sing the loudest. We had another excellent day at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, south of Virginia Beach. There were fish shoaling offshore, because every bird in the neighborhood was out fishing. We watched a pelican gulping fish with its head in the water while ospreys crashed into the water and flew off with fish in their talons. Terns dove for fish from the sky while cormorants ducked under the surface to do their fishing. It was quite a show and we wondered whether it was always that busy a fishing area. We plan a return visit to drive a bit further down the narrow peninsula south of Virginia Beach that ends beyond Back Bay to False Cape State Park, though I’m not sure how we could see more birds than we have already.
On a sunny day, turtles perch on every log. They are canny things, plunking into the water just as I get my camera focused on them. Some are much larger than the aquarium turtles I’m used to. In ponds, the turtles paddle around, ignoring us.
Though some days have been chilly, I hesitate to complain because there are no bugs. I understand that this area cultivates a pretty thick cloud of mosquitoes once it warms up. I’m enjoying the outdoors at the perfect season.