Flora of Rapidan Loop

A selection of four pictures showing some of the interesting colors seen while hiking the Rapidan Loop. I identified these as I wrote this post by comparing my pictures to the pictures found here.

1. Yellow blooms of Black-eyed Susan.
2. Pink petals of Purple-flowering Raspberry.
3. Vivid orange of Turk's-cap Lily.
4. Red fruits of some variety of raspberry. I wanted to make this the fruit of the Purple-flowering Raspberry that is in the second picture, but the leaves of the plant looked different (I have other photos that show this difference better than these photos). I bumbled around the web trying to identify the berry (or actually...not berry, but aggregate fruit), but I ran out of patience before I could make the ID. So for now, it is just a raspberry.

Black-eyed Susan
Purple-flowering Raspberry
Turk's-cap Lily

Snakes of Camp Hoover

You may remember me writing a few weeks back about the Rapidan Loop hike that I took in July. I have finally worked through the pictures that I took earlier in the summer and have "caught up" to the photos from the Rapidan hike. As mentioned in that earlier post, my friend Rich accompanied Tammy and I, and he also wrote about this hike. Even better, while we were enjoying the views from Hazeltop, he took a picture of me taking a picture. Then, when he got home he turned that photo of me into a banner for my blog. I liked it so much that I promptly incorporated it into my blog template.

The first third of this hike takes you down from Skyline Drive to Camp Hoover, where you can explore the history of the presidential retreat used by Herbert Hoover. A park ranger is resident in the camp, and he gives tours that describe the history of the camp, the various buildings that remain, and what they were used for. He also pointed out a couple of snakes that regularly sunned themselves on a rock in the camp.

Unfortunately, the snakes were halfway inside a shady crevice in the rock. We did not get great looks at the snakes. One was a Timber Rattlesnake, one of three poisonous snakes in Virginia, so we did not attempt to get very close.

In the first photo, you can barely see two snakes. The one of the left is a Northern Watersnake (the camp is right next to where Mill Prong and Laurel Prong come together to form the Rapidan River). The one on the far right is the Timber Rattlesnake. In the second picture, I was able to crop a photo to provide a closer view of the rattlesnake's head. He looks mean.

Camp Hoover Snakes
Timber Rattlesnake

The Zen of the Fly

While traipsing about my backyard, I came across this little fly sitting all alone at the very tip of a pointy green leaf. I snapped a couple of photos of him and his bulbous eyes and then moved on without much thought.

Last week, however, I was trolling through my photos and I found this one. It is not a great photo. My subject, the fly on the leaf, is not in excellent focus. But the more I looked at it, the more I liked it. Maybe it is the overall greenness of the picture, and the way the leaf fades into the blur of the background. Or maybe it is the way that fly is perched on the tip of that leaf. I even applied some anthropomorphic magic to the fly, and imagined him there, perched on that delicate edge, watching the world go by, just relaxed and taking it all in. Kind of like I would do if I had a nice "see for miles and miles" type view.

Anyway, I liked it enough to make it the background picture on my work PC's desktop. It helps me relax at work. Your mileage may vary.

Fly on Leaf


At some point in the middle of July, when it was too hot to hike on the weekends, I took a stroll through my backyard looking for bugs and flowers that would be good photographic fodder. I have a tiny backyard, with an interstate just beyond the fence, so any strolling does not take much time. Nonetheless, there are plenty of bugs if you look close enough. And even some flowers.

Here are some pictures of spiders that I took in my backyard in July. After spending about 30 minutes attempting to identify the spider in the first picture (and not succeeding), I gave up and am simply calling these three photos "striped spider with egg sack", "orange and black spider" and "close up on baby spiders".

Striped Spider with Egg Sack
Orange and Black Spider
Baby Spiders

Balancing Act

I have just about reached the end of the photos from my July visit to DGCA that I wanted to share here. I have noticed that my visits to DGCA in the warmer months tend to follow this pattern: walk the river trail to where the boardwalk used to be, turn around and return to my vehicle, and then drive further into the park to visit one or both of the marsh overlooks. That visit to the marsh overlooks is where I usually get my last pictures of the day, and there are always turtles. Yep, today is all about turtles.

The turtle that caught my eye is the one doing the stretch-my-arms-and-legs thing on the log. He is laying there on that log, all splayed out and relaxed in the hot sun. It looks to me like he has balanced the bottom of his shell on the log and is sitting there like a perfectly balanced seesaw. One sneeze and he would flip over backwards into the green muck.

Balancing Act
Balancing Act

Great Crested Flycatcher - Revisited

A couple posts back I shared a few pictures that I took of a Great Crested Flycatcher using my digiscoping rig, and commented on the results, my technique and my expectations. All in all, my jury is still out on digiscoping, but I am definitely going to be trying it some more. For example, next month Tammy and I are going to spend a week in and around Yellowstone National Park, and I expect that there will be more than a few chances to photograph far away wildlife in a setting that is controlled enough for me to digiscope.

The phrase "controlled enough" is key. I am not skilled enough with the digiscoping rig yet to be able to quickly point to a new, or just moved target, and then get it in focus. I still need a non-trivial amount of time to do that (relative to the time I need when I am simply using my camera with a telephoto lens).

As an example, here are a few more photos of the same Great Crested Flycatcher, but these were not digiscoped. Instead these were taken with my normal camera configuration: hand held Canon EOS 30D + Canon EF 100-400mm 4.5-5.6 L IS. I think the quality of these are better than those I obtained when digiscoping, but more importantly, I would never have even gotten these photos if I had been trying via digiscope. My chosen subject was way too active for me to keep up with it when using the scope.

Great Crested Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher

American Redstart

My recent trip to DGCA yielded yet another opportunity to photograph an American Redstart. This one was nearly eye-level, instead of being way up in a tree, and he was in foliage that was right next to the trail. As he moved through the foliage, I took several photos on a whim, not really confident that I would get anything worth sharing. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to find that this photo was fairly sharp, even if the bird is not presenting his best side and there is some greenery in the way.

American Redstart

Hackberry Emperor

After I finished walking the River Trail at DGCA and had gotten back to my pickup truck, I took off my Camelbak and laid it in the bed of the truck. When I came back around a moment later, a butterfly had landed on the pack and was giving it lots of attention. I had no idea what it was then, but the photo opportunity was excellent because the butterfly was hardly moving.

I did some searching this morning and have determined that this butterfly is a Hackberry Emperor. One of the interesting things I read was that this butterfly likes to "take sweat from humans", which probably explains why it was so interested in my pack.

Hackberry Emperor
Hackberry Emperor
Hackberry Emperor

Great Crested Flycatcher

In my previous post, I mentioned that while at DGCA I happened upon a pair of Great Crested Flycatchers tending to a nest. They would both be out searching for food at the same time, each returning to bring nestlings a nice juicy bug. Of course, that is an assumption. I only really saw one bird at a time, so maybe it was the same one each time.

The comings and goings of the flycatchers were good fodder for one of my purposes of this particular trip: practice digiscoping. So I set up my tripod, scope and camera, attached the remote shutter release, and then began trying to get a bird in scope long enough for me to get it in focus and take a few pictures.

The results are varied, with none of the pictures coming out excellent. A few were underexposed. Many were slightly overexposed. None had the bird in super sharp focus. As I hinted in the previous post, I am not sure if I need to change my technique or my expectations. Here are a couple of the photos that I felt were on the better end of the menagerie that I captured.

Great Crested Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher