This morning I decided to go on an adventure in a brand new woods (new to me, that is). Off I went to the Bent of the River Audubon sanctuary!
This place turned out to be basically wonderful. It had deep woods with delightful streams and pools, and wide meadows dotted with huge trees:
And a long trail following the river that gives the sanctuary its name:
The most amazing thing to me, though, was how obviously well cared-for this place is. I saw no trash at all on the whole 2+ miles of trails I walked. None. Every other park I go to around here always has at least the occasional (sometimes more than that) beer can, fishing line, cigarette butt, etc., so this seemed pretty crazy by comparison. I also didn't see any other people on the trails. I'm sure the fact that Bent of the River doesn't allow dogs, bikes, or fishing is related to all this. In any case, I loved it. Except for the well-groomed trails and occasional nesting box, this place really felt like it was more about nature than it was about people. I felt totally comfortable ambling along these trails (and not at all dorky with my binoculars and camera), and I was happy to pay the suggested $5 trail fee to get to hang out here.
And as for my actual woods walk, there was plenty to see! Now that the canopy has entirely leafed out, I heard a lot more birds than I saw, but that just meant I got to work on identifying by ear. (Normally I take pictures of things I don't recognize to figure out IDs later, and today I was doing a lot of sound recording for the same reason.)
Although the birds stayed out of camera range, several other creatures did come close. A few Little Wood Satyr butterflies were chasing each other through the woods and fields, and one let me creep up on it for a picture:
(I love those orange antennae.)
A dark fishfly (genus Nigronia) fluttered around on oversized wings:
And this Ebony Jewelwing damselfly was definitely jewel-like in the light-dappled forest:
At one point, I turned around to face where I had just been walking, and I was surprised to find that an Eastern Garter Snake had suddenly appeared a few feet away from me and directly in my path:
Sneaky snake! Oo, look at your pretty red and black tongue:
I looked away to check my camera's settings, and when I looked back up the snake had completely disappeared again. I think this snake might have some ninja skills.
I had been hoping to see Pink Lady's Slippers in bloom in these woods, but all I managed to find were several large flower-less plants:
Oh well, maybe these plants will have flowers next year.
The Mountain Laurel was just opening its fancy flowers:
These flowers are gorgeous, but I also really like the way these buds look before they open, like little shooting stars lighting up the woods:
Continuing the lighting theme, these (I think) Varnish Shelf Fungi (Ganoderma tsugae) were like weirdly-shaped lanterns:
In the fields, huge Cow Parsnip plants were opening their big flower-umbrellas a few feet above the ground:
It was definitely a good morning, and if I lived closer to this place it would become one of my frequent haunts. And really, any nature walk gets bonus awesome points when it ends with a field of horses: