Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Not So Dismal Swamp

UPDATED 06/06/13
To First Landing State Park on Saturday despite torrential overnight rain that lasted until around 7 a.m.

Its only an hour away but we'd never visited before. The name First Landing derives from the fact that this is where the settlers of the Virginia Company actually landed in 1607 before heading out and finally setting up Jamestown the first permanent English settlement in North America. 

Its a huge place and we only had time to walk around a small part before we let Banished Jr. have his promised beach time in the afternoon.

We hiked a couple of miles around the Bald Cypress trail which is a real honest to goodness swamp complete with spanish moss bedecked trees. This is the very northernmost point in the USA where spanish moss can be found and its weird and wonderful stuff. This was the first time I'd seen it close up and I thought it looked more like a long dangly lichen. But its neither moss nor lichen but a flowering plant, a bromeliad. An epiphyte or 'air plant' it is without roots and absorbs it water and nutrients from the air. It has flowers, somewhere, but these are tiny and not easily visible.

We were fortunate in that its still pretty early in the year and that the spring has been cool until the last 2 weeks. This means very few mosquitoes yet... not none as I have 3  bites to show for the trip but I can imagine that this is something of a hellhole come high summer. Like everywhere else that the bug lover might want to be in summer around here some bugs make it pretty much a no go area. This must be alive with dragonflies in summer.  As it was we only saw a few Eastern Pond Hawks and  Blue dashers that we can see in the backyard any day.

There were a huge number of micromoths around and that would be an ID study in its self for another day.

The most interesting thing bug-wise was the large numbers of Palamedes Swallowtails. We see the occasional specimen of Papilio palamedes at Hoffler Creek or the Botanical Gardens in Norfolk but here they were everywhere. They seem to like the little sunny clearings amongst the trees and its always in the woods that I see them at Hoffler.

The picture of a Palamedes makes this Banished and Banished Jrs Bugs today. Jr took this one when the butterfly landed right in front of him and he got a better picture than I did today. Yay Banished Jr !
Indeed it was Jrs day all around. As we stood on an overlook deck over one of the swamp pools looking for dragon flies, turtles and whatever else might show up, Jr pipes up 'Theres a big turtle!' . Pointed, we followed and spotted a mossy log and a couple of bits of old wood. 'Noooooo Jr it not a turtle keep looking.' And Mrs B and I went back to scanning the distant reaches. Then again
 'Its a TURTLE!' 
'No its a rock'
'IT'S A TURTLE! And its looking at us'

And it was, it had stuck one of those bits of log forward and was looking around, a big mossy patiently waiting Snapping Turtle.

'I told you it was a turtle' he told us, over and over and over again,  all day

To paraphrase Laurie Anderson
"It's Jr.'s day,
It's Jr.'s day today"

There were lots of 5 Lined Skinks skittering through the duff and over the fallen trunks.

And a number of these Robberflies which need a more precise ID.
Looks to me, after some searching, like Laphria virginica

Wrong! It took a few days of expert consideration over at BugGuide but, and I quote,
"I think I can barely make out yellow scuttelar hairs, which would make this L. flavicollis."

After a couple of hours wander through the woods and swamps we tucked into our slap-up picnic lunch before heading across the road to the other area of the park, a 1 1/2 mile stretch of beach and dunes on the Chesapeake Bay shore.

Much paddling was done, though the water was cold as Scarborough in August.

But you don't see Pelicans at any time of year in Scarborough.

Oh and it didnt rain all day until we got into the Banishedmobile to head home.

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