Today I walked south along Jericho Ditch in the Great Dismal Swamp. It was beautiful. The road into the parking lot which I know as Jericho Ditch Lane was quite birdy. I'm not sure why I never park at the lot and walk back along that road, but maybe I will. A Barred Owl flew across the road directly in front of my car. Two Louisiana Waterthrushes sang loudly near the road and many Common Yellowthroats were singing as well. With absolutely no wind, I could hear forever including many Hermit Thrushes singing, chupping, and whining along the path. Ruby-crowned Kinglets were in full song and Gray Catbirds seem to have increased in number.
During the walk, after reaching the dogleg in the road, I spotted a Black Bear ahead of me walking south. At one point he stopped and scratched a tree, then hoisted himself up onto the tree, thought better of it and thudded back down to the ground. He then turned and began walking north toward me. With the little bit of wind coming from the south he didn't pick up my scent. So the distance between us kept narrowing. Finally I stopped and clapped my hands. He raised up and gave me a good going over but still didn't leave the road. So I yelled and raised my hands. Reluctantly he turned and splashed off into the underbrush. I continued to hear him breaking branches and splashing as he wandered away.
At the same time I saw the bear, a raccoon was running around beyond the bear with a large bird flying over him and landing from time to time. I identified the bird as a Red-shouldered Hawk and I came to the conclusion that there were two predators and one prey species. I think the hawk won the confrontation and took whatever the raccoon had or wanted and left. After the bear left the roadway, the raccoon came barreling down the road toward me totally oblivious of my standing there, again probably because he couldn't pick up the scent. When he got too close for my comfort, I clapped and he stopped, stood up, looked at me, bolted in the opposite direction, and plunged into the ditch and splashed away. Apparently I have animal magnetism!
After I turned around, I met Larry Haugh from VT who had hoped to meet me earlier, but had gotten a later start than planned. He heard a Black-throated Green Warbler call, but I missed it. The bird didn't call again. This would be the Wayne's race of that species, a local breeder and early arriver. We were in an area with a few remaining Atlantic White Cedars, a favorite habitat component, and an area where we've had them before. Further along on the way back to the parking lot we ran into David Hughes and a friend of his talking to Candie and Vic Delnore on their bicycles. David had earlier heard an anemic song from a Prairie Warbler, a bird we hadn't heard earlier and in fact didn't hear as we walked back. The only butterflies we saw were a few Spring Azures, a couple Zebra Swallowtails, and one Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. I'm planning to go to the swamp next Wednesday, April 7. I'll leave the Washington Ditch parking lot at 7am. Join me if you wish. No reservation necessary.
After visiting the swamp this morning, Larry Haugh and I went to Craney Island to check out the newly available open policy on Fridays that began today. From the west end of the south cross dike looking southeast we saw the American Avocet that had already been entered into the birding log by an earlier group. In addition there was a large group of Northern Shovelers and Green-winged Teal. We did not see the two Blue-winged Teal reported by the earlier group. A large mixed group of Sanderlings and Dunlin flew in and out of the impoundments. A few Greater Yellowlegs were seen. Outside the impoundments there were Buffleheads, Lesser Scaup, and Ruddy Ducks on the river. Fenton Day and Andrew Baldelli had earlier seen a group of about 25 Least Sandpipers along the north road, but they had left by the time Larry and I arrived. A group of Royal Terns was fishing in the James River and a couple of dozen Northern Gannets were plunge diving there as well. The complete ebird list is appended.
It's great to have Craney Island available to birders again.