White Deer Twins on the Riverwalk

White Deer Twins on the Riverwalk
These rare white deer twins were born this summer and have found a safe home at Dan Daniel Park and on the Riverwalk
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My name is David Hoffman. I teach English and journalism at Averett University, but I have two side interests - writing and photography. I also enjoy walking daily with my English setter, Sadie, and my wife, Elizabeth, on the Danville, Virginia, Riverwalk. As a novice to studying nature, I am fascinated by the slightest facets of the great outdoors, but most of my pictures are of birds - I don't know a lot about them, but I am learning more and enjoying taking pictures of them daily. I also take pictures of plants, other animals, and insects. All pictures posted for each day were taken on the day of my blog entry.

Leave a comment if you have the time or e-mail me at dhoffman@averett.edu


Monday, September 3, 2012

"What is this bug?" I asked. In mid-August I took a picture of this thinking it was a bee. However, when I got home and downloaded my photos, I looked closely and realized it didn't have a stinger, like most bees. I asked a colleague at Averett if she knew what it is. She said that that is a "bee moth" or a "humming-bird moth." Whatever it is, it is very pretty. Each day on the Riverwalk I see something I have never seen before. This is just on of those unique creatures I have seen while observing the beauty of nature.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bluebird Houses

(May 21, 2011) This has been a week when bluebird houses have come into my mind as a result of three distinct events. One event took place in our yard and the other two were moments I experienced on the Riverwalk.

In the picture above there is a swallow in a bird house on the Riverwalk (Bluebird House #22). This bird house was the scene of an invasion this week. On Thursday afternoon, I had parked in the public works department parking lot and was walking with Sadie near that box located 50 yards or so from the bridge going across the small creek near the restroom.

As Sadie, our English setter, and I approached the birdhouse, I noticed something sticking out of it. I thought that a bird's tail was sticking out; as I approached closer, I realized that it was not a bird's tail and thought that someone had put a stick in the opening. When I got even closer, I noticed that the "stick" had eyes; a small black snake was in the house and, I assume, the eggs or small swallows were no longer there.

I had my camera with me but forgot to put the memory card back into the camera after downloading pictures the day before, so I was carrying an expensive paperweight that was useless to me. The small snake looked at us for a few minutes and then retreated back into the box (#22). I was saddened by this, but when I mentioned it to my daughter, Christy, she said, "Well, snakes have to eat, too." That is the reality of the Riverwalk. There is new life and death everyday on the trail.

A second event occurred this morning on the Riverwalk. As I approached the dam below Dan Daniel Park, I noticed that the bluebird house there wasn't there anymore. The pole was there, but the house was missing. Perched on top of the pole was a single swallow wondering, I assume, what had happened to his house. It is possible that those who look after the birdhouses may have taken it down for some reason; however, if someone had stolen the house, that person faces a fine up to $10,000 and jail time. I hope it was the former.

A third event happened at our house this week. Elizabeth, my wife, had taken Sadie out and they walked near the bluebird house we have in our yard. It is the time of year when there are either eggs or babies in the houses. As Elizabeth and Sadie got near the birdhouse, they were swooped down upon by a squadron of angry bluebirds. Sadie, the bird dog, cowered and Elizabeth took Sadie into the house. I thought about the embarrassment of what could have happened with the headlines reading "Bird Dog and Owner Pecked to Death by BLUE BIRDS" How embarrassing would that be?

We went out to the Riverwalk this morning and plan another walk this afternoon - the weather is beautiful with sunny skies and temps in the low 80s. It has been and will be another good day on the Riverwalk.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


(October 3, 2010) It has been over two weeks since I last posted, but I have been on the Riverwalk everyday with Sadie and seeing many unusual things. Because of the heavy teaching load I am doing this semester, I haven't had time to take my camera, so we have been doing our 2-5 miles everyday, and I have been recording mental images of all I see. Here are a few of those mental images.

The season has changed from summer to fall since I last posted here. The warm mornings, the extreme heat of the afternoons and the hot evenings have given way to the very cool mornings, the pleasant afternoons, and the chilly evenings on the Riverwalk. Sadie has been enjoying the cooler weather as she runs and runs through the foliage along the side of the trail.

Here's a fish story: A few weeks ago a couple of ladies asked me if I had talked to the fisherman fishing at the dam near Dan Daniel Park. I told I hadn't, and they said that he had had a very interesting thing happen the day before. He was fishing at the same spot, reeled in a 8-10 inch fish, and before he could get it off the hook, a great blue heron swooped down and took the fish off the hook. The man, they said, couldn't believe what he had seen, so that morning he had brought a camera in hopes of repeating the event.

During the past few weeks, I have been walking at Angler's Park most mornings and evenings. I sometimes head towards Dan Daniel Park, but will often just walk around the large field. There I have seen a large number (a dozen or more) of crows in the trees as I walk in the mornings. An occasional flock of geese and ducks flies over in the mornings, but few land at Angler's Park - until the rains came during this past week. The marsh had nearly dried up, but now there is once again life both seen and heard. The frogs sound their chorus after the rains but are rarely seen except when one ventures across the path heading to the open field. Sadie tip toes over the small hopping objects, sniffs them, they remain still, and I pull her away, not totally for the safety of the small frogs but for Sadie's benefit since when she has had a frog in her mouth, she suffers after wards for about 10-15 minutes as her mouth foams from whatever toxin the frogs use for defense. She has never killed a frog because she quickly spits out any frog that she gets into her mouth.

Recently, I have seen some beautiful woolly worms along the trail - pure white, brown with black stripes, and red ones. The butterflies are less plentiful now, but a couple of days ago I was near the bridge at the marsh in Angler's Park and saw several dozen tiny (less than a half inch wing span) swallowtail or monarch butterflies. They were fluttering around some tiny daisies growing alongside the marsh. No camera, but it was a beautiful moment in the morning sun.

This morning I ventured forth, again, without my camera. As we made a final circle around the large field at Angler's Park (the trail to Dan Daniel Park is closed because of flooding), I saw a spider web like I had never seen before; it glistened in the morning sun. It was in the shape of a sunflower with the designer/spider sitting right in the middle. The artistry amazed me. I walked back to the car and decided to drop Sadie off at home and go back with my camera. I walked across the bridge at the marsh and tried to find the beautiful web, but the sun was now at a different height in the sky. The web, I discovered, was further away from the bridge than I had recalled. I found it, took some pictures and headed back across the bridge.

I will try to spend more time taking pictures on the Riverwalk as we continue our daily walks. It was another good, but muddy, day on the Riverewalk.

Monday, September 13, 2010


(SEPTEMBER 13, 2010) The best times to take pictures of nature are during the first hour the sun comes up and during the hour before the sun goes down. That's, pretty much, a given based upon experience. However, what do we miss from the time after the sun goes down until the sun comes up in the morning?

That idea came to mind yesterday (Sunday) morning when Sadie and I returned home from the park at about 8:00. As I turned into the driveway, I saw 8-10 wild turkeys in our back yard. Sadie saw them, too. When they saw my Jeep, they wobbled into the woods. Once in the house, Sadie ran from window to window to see if she could see these strange looking birds. She didn't. They were long gone into the dense woods.

Sunday evening I decided to take Sadie to Angler's Park and let her run on a long leash. We were out there about 45 minutes and decided to head back to the car. I heard the buzzing of a small golf cart and saw a police officer driving towards the parking lot. He drove over to us and started talking. Sadie enjoyed the kindness of this officer as he rubbed her head.

As we talked, I mentioned some of the things I had seen on the Riverwalk over the years, and the officer mentioned that during his 5 years, on the police force, he has spent some time in the park after dark and saw animals that are nocturnal. He had seen red foxes, bobcats, coyotes, and a herd of deer numbering as many as 50 in the large field at Angler's Park. He said that he had also heard reports of bears traveling through (black bears) but hadn't seen any himself. He said that the bears tend to travel near water and that it is just a matter of time that some who venture along the trail will see one. He affirmed, what I learned this summer at Grandfather Mountain, that they will not attack unless threatened or if their cubs are threatened. I hope they don't take a dog barking as a threat because I know Sadie could not refrain from doing so if she saw one.

It is something to think about. What animals can be found in the park at dark? I don't think I'll be venturing down there to see any time soon - especially with my dog, Sadie.

Though I haven't entered new pictures or essays during the past couple of weeks, it has been a good two weeks on the Riverwalk. Life is at work there in the form of humans and nature. It's a good place to be - in the daylight, anyway.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


(AUGUST 22, 2010) INS didn't come to the Riverwalk this morning looking for illegal immigrants, but there were plenty of background checks going on.

In the nearly 200 pictures taken this morning, I checked each one to see what the background would be since I have had more than one photo ruined because a tree was going out of a bird's back or a pole in the background looked like it was impaling the main subject. See the picture of Sadie and how the background fence looks like it is coming out of Sadie's head making her look like a merry-go-round animal.

However, there are times when the background over-shadows the main subject. For example, this morning the sky was beautiful. I took a picture of a small bird on a wire and captured some of the morning sky in the background. The silhouette of the bird is nice against the sky, but the sky becomes a picture within itself.

Woolly worms were out in plentiful numbers this morning. I saw two white woolly worms and a green one. The white ones were on green leaves, moving slowly around. The green contrast with the white worm helped to provide the contrast, but it also showed the worm in its natural setting.

The green woolly worm was on a fence post. The texture of the wood provided an interesting picture within itself. The green worm, with black dots on its back, moved slowly along the board.

Upon first getting to the trail this morning, I saw a heron sitting on a dam in front of the Brantley Steam plant. The bird was perched on a dry part of the dam with a large wall behind it. The wall was concrete with some white stripes. The reflection of the wall in the river provided an interesting photo in itself.

A goose in the foliage, a flower among the brush, and a tiger swallow tail butterfly sitting on a group of flowers all provide their own unique backgrounds. As a photographer, it is just as important to look at what in front as well as what is behind.

OK . . . here comes a little philosophy. Life, itself, is kind of like that. We can see what's in front of us, but we carry a background that is either attractive in itself or not so attractive. We cannot erase our own backgrounds, our histories, but, thanks to Photoshop, many a photo wrecked by a crummy background has been saved. Just thought I'd toss that in.

It was another beautiful day on the Riverwalk.

Saturday, August 21, 2010



Last week I read that dragonflies and damselflies are the "raptors" of the insect world. That is they prey on other insects.

After having taken a number of photographs of these beautiful insects, I could not believe it. The dragonflies and damselflies flit around and have vibrant coloring ranging from brown to red to blue. I could not believe that they preyed upon other insects - until this morning.

I was near the Public Works department when I saw a beautiful swallow tail butterfly flying overhead. As I looked closer at the butterfly, I realized that it was not flying on its own power. There was a dragonfly carrying the butterfly - to breakfast, I assumed.

OBSERVATION #2: As we walk on the Riverwalk, other walkers will often stop to watch Sadie as she points at insects, and they will comment about how pretty she is. They will stay for several minutes as she gently moves toward the insect she has spotted. There are comments like, "She sure is pretty," "She is poetry in motion," "She is very graceful," or "She knows what she is doing."

This morning, as we were walking along in the grass, a new comment was heard. A man said, "That's a fine animal there."

To me that was a much stronger comment than the others since she was "fine" among ALL animals, not just dogs. It would be like someone looking at my Jeep Liberty and say, "That's a fine Jeep there." That doesn't usually happen. They just say, "That sure is cute." Sheesh!



That thought came to mind as we wandered past some flowers that had a very pleasant fragrance. It reminded me of my prom, for some reason. I thought that the sweet smell from the flowers must have been a perfume that I had whiffed that night, perhaps worn by my date.

As I continued thinking about the smell, I realized that the aroma reminded me of the prom because that "sweet smell" at the prom was ME. I was wearing Jade East, and, for some reason, those flowers smelled like that to me.


On our way back to the car, I saw two young girls (perhaps 6 and 8) running among the geese on the shore. They started across the path as Sadie and I approached. I noticed an adult woman (their mother, I assumed) and another little girl, perhaps 12 or so, sitting on a bench. The littlest girl came towards Sadie and asked if she was friendly. I drew Sadie towards me, held her close and told the girl that Sadie was friendly, and the little girl came over and petted Sadie. The second little girl came over as the mother watched from the bench along with the other little girl.

The two littlest girls said that they had 3 dogs at home. One of the dogs is named, "Hot Rod," and the middle girl said that she had come up with that name. Her mother corrected her and said that the girl's father had come up with the name. As I was leaving, the two had gotten into a fairly head on argument about who had named the dog "Hot Rod." They were cute little girls enjoying an outing in the woods with their mother, and Sadie and I had indirectly caused a rift between the mother and child. Oh, well.


Someone had stopped to watch Sadie stalk, jump and miss a small butterfly. The woman commented that she surely has the bird dog instinct even when she is using that instinct to pursue bugs.

In response, I quoted my wife, Elizabeth, and said, "Yep. My wife says that if it flies it dies." I then added. "However, whenever it flies, 99 times out of 100 it doesn't die because Sadie doesn't have a very good record of success."


This evening I took Sadie to Angler's Park for a walk around the large field. It was near dark, and I noticed little white ghost like creatures crawling around on some weeds in the marsh. The marsh was crawling with dozens of little white woolly worms. They glowed in the twilight of the evening.

It was a good day on the Riverwalk.

Friday, August 20, 2010


(AUGUST 20, 2010) It was cool this morning compared to recent mornings, though the humidity did start to kick in as we completed our walk.

The sky was overcast with threats of rain.

Yesterday, I didn't take an umbrella, and a friend, who had carried his, asked, "Where's your umbrella? It's going to rain."

I said, as I looked at his umbrella, "Oh, ye of little faith. I have faith that it will not rain today."

Yesterday, I was wrong and he was right.

Today, as we passed each other again, he wasn't carrying an umbrella, and he said, "I know it is not going to rain today."

I asked, "How do you know that?"

He said, as he looked to heaven, "I just know." He was right again.

The Riverwalk looked as bleak as if it were the dead of winter instead of summer, except for the foliage all around. However, when there seemed to be little life in the woods, all of a sudden, a burst of colors would spring forth from the dark woods. Yellow flowers, pink flowers, blue flowers, red flowers, white flowers, butterflies, spiders, and other bright and colorful treats awaited me as I rounded every corner in this otherwise dark and dreary world.

One can become depressed and uninspired with such gloominess, but I looked for the little gifts of color and saw the life that was bursting forth on this day. Those bursts brought joy, and when there weren't the colors of nature, I looked at Sadie, and her face burst forth in pure radiance against the dark background.

I recognized how this morning was like the DEAD of winter with the darkness and dreariness, and then I started thinking about how at times of death of a friend, family member or acquaintance, there is the sadness that accompanies this loss. BUT, like on a dark day on the Riverwalk, there are those splashes of color on such days when those who are still living talk about the one who has died, and there is laughter and joy and radiance against the dark background of the day.

What lessons I have learned on the Riverwalk. I have accepted death in nature along the trail as I occasionally see dead birds or insects or other animals, and I have also enjoyed the rich beauty of that little portion of the natural world.

It was another good morning on the Riverwalk.