Saturday, 16 July 2011

Raglan's Wood, July 2011

The headline act during my last visit to Raglan’s Wood had been a herd of White-tailed Deer that allowed me to pass within a few feet of them. The bird watching on that occasion had been very poor and Blogger had threatened to move my account from the ‘Birds’ section to ‘Outdoors General’ as a result.


This time the deer were gone, but there were more birds as well as some nice odonata and a big surprise. I entered the woods from Tyspring St. American Robins were very obvious with plenty of young birds still staying close to the adults. A Pileated Woodpecker was concentrating its attentions around the base of a tree and stayed low on each new trunk it visited. An Eastern Towhee called with its variable trill.


A Northern Cardinal was looking very shabby. I don’t believe it is just the rigours of raising a family that has caused him to let himself go like this. Perhaps he had had a narrow escape from a predator. A pair of Red-shouldered Hawks was attending their young one further along.
The path emerges onto a firebreak and there is a stream to the right. Grey Catbird, House Finch, American Goldfinch and an Eastern Phoebe were seen here, but I concentrated my attentions on a Variable Dancer, Argia fumipennis, that sat well for me.


The stream is easy to cross here and I continued through the back of the parking lots towards Tyson’s Pond. At the outfall from the pond I stopped to watch some Blue Dashers, Pachydiplex longipennis,chasing each other around. Just as I was about to leave, I noticed something curled up, sunning itself a few feet away. It was a Northern Watersnake.


This was the show-stopper for me today and I spent quite a while with it before moving on. I also found three shed skins in the vicinity which makes me think that they must be common around here. The Northern Watersnake is non-venomous, but can be aggressive and bite just the same. It also gives off a bad-smelling musk when provoked. It is quite similar to the dangerous Copperhead pit viper, so give it a wide berth to be on the safe side.


 The path took me back into the woods where Carolina Wrens scolded me as I passed and American crows mobbed something high in a tree.


The path leads out to a wet meadow with a concrete drain running through it and I indulged myself with the dragonflies and damsels as described in Ed Lam’s wonderful field guide. One individual held its wings at half mast causing me to think of it as a Lestes sp., but then threw me into confusion by closing them as any other zygo might. I tentatively considered Great Spreadwing Archilestes grandis after noting a pale thoracic stripe on another photo, but fell for the female Variable Dancer as a much safer bet.

Common Whitetails were indeed common in an outfall for the ditch that was filled with reeds and surrounded by rocks. Both sexes were easy to see well.


Back at Tyson’s pond the snake had moved on, but a tiny patch of reeds held half a dozen odes that kept me uncomfortably on my knees for a while.



Close to the edge, Eastern Amberwing, Perithemis tenera, shared the airspace with an Eastern Pondhawk, Erythemis simplicicollis while a large dark dragonfly eluded identification further from the bank.



The reeds held Familiar Bluet, Enallagma civile, which were lining up to be photographed and a damaged female Blue Dasher who had somehow lost one wing and crumpled another.


A Green Heron “squarked” as it came in to land, just along the bank. It wheeled suddenly when it saw me and eventually landed further up. It kept its eye on the skies rather than me, but I couldn’t see what it was watching for.


The journey home retraced my steps across the stream and through the woods. Downy Woodpeckers put in an appearance on the large trunks and a female Northern Cardinal looked out from her foragings, looking fresher-faced than the male from earlier.


Birds seen; 22

Green Heron 1, Turkey Vulture 1, Black Vulture 1, Red-shouldered Hawk 3, Mourning Dove 2, Chimney Swift 4, Red-bellied Woodpecker 1, Downy Woodpecker 2, Northern Flicker 2, Pileated Woodpecker 1, Eastern Wood-pewwee 1, Eastern Phoebe 2, Carolina Wren 2, Grey Catbird 2, American Robin 35, Tufted Titmouse 4, Blue Jay 2, American Crow 12, Common Starling 15, House Sparrow 6, House Finch 3, Northern Cardinal 2.

Odonata seen; 5

Variable Dancer Argia fumipennis 40, Familiar Bluet Enallagma civile 8, Eastern Amberwing Perithemis tenera 2, Blue Dasher Pachydiplex longipennis 6, Eastern Pondhawk Erythemis simplicicollis 1,
Reptiles seen; 1

Northern Watersnake 1.


Directions for Raglan’s Wood can be found from the previous post.

Other posts from this destination can be found at the links below;
http://redgannet.blogspot.com/2011/03/great-falls-park-virginia.html
http://redgannet.blogspot.com/2011/05/great-falls-park-virginia-april.html
http://redgannet.blogspot.com/2011/07/great-falls-park-july.html
http://redgannet.blogspot.com/2011/03/tysons-corner-virginia-iad.html

Visit the dedicated USA and Canada page for other posts from the region.