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
CLICK the large photo above to go to my web site.
CLICK the image of the DAILY photos to enlarge the pictures.
CLICK the photos to the right to go to the blog for that particular day.
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


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.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


(AUGUST 19, 2010) During the last two days, Sadie and I had to work our morning walks in between summer rains.

At Angler's Park yesterday morning, the only birds we saw were some Canada geese standing in the newly replenished marsh that had visible water from the recent rains. The marsh had gone almost bone dry, but they have been resurrected. As we were walking back to the car, we heard the honking, the flapping of wings, and finally, saw a flock of geese flying over head and over the river on that dark and gloomy morning.

Today we walked from Dan Daniel Park toward the train station. Early in the walk, I saw a heron standing in the water near the dam at the Brantley Steam Plant. It stood there as Elizabeth held Sadie while I could get a closer shot. After taking a few photos, the bird flew down stream. Within 30 seconds we heard a flapping, looked up, and saw a heron flying over our heads at about 20 feet. The smaller bird landed in the dark woods, something I had never seen before. As Elizabeth walked on with Sadie, I followed the heron into the woods, and took some shots of it as it walked toward the water. Though it was dark in the woods, I got some interesting pictures of this bird.

As we approached the Public Works Department, I looked up and saw a group of young mourning doves perched on several power lines. As I took the pictures, something startled them, and they all flew off together.

In addition to the birds,today we did see another critter on the Riverwalk. There, right at our feet, was a box turtle. Sadie wanted to get at it; Elizabeth held her back for her own benefit. As we left the turtle alone, it eventually came out of its shell and moved slowly . . . oh, so slowly to the water.

It was rainy, but we had two very good days on the Riverwalk.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


(AUGUST 17, 2010) Because I got a later start than usual (I got to the Riverwalk at about 7:15), I didn't take my camera because I knew it would take us longer to walk the 3-4 miles we usually walk, and the morning heat would be oppressive for Sadie wearing her fur coat. Several people asked me why I didn't have my camera, and I responded that I had taken over 300 pictures yesterday and didn't want to have more pictures to work with. That was kind of a white lie. The reason I didn't bring the camera was really all about Sadie.

I've often asked myself why I go to the Riverwalk each morning. Is it because of: A) I enjoy the natural world and being a part of it for an hour or so? B) I enjoy taking pictures? or C) I enjoy being there with Sadie? Actually, all answers are correct, but if I had to choose one answer it would be "C" because it is all about Sadie.

Over the 4+ years we have been walking on the Riverwalk, we have had many interesting events happen that would not have happened had it not been for Sadie. She tends to draw attention, especially when she is pointing, and bikers, walkers, and joggers are constantly commenting on what a pretty dog she is. There are other comments as well, such as:

Does she hunt?
Is she like a bird dog?
Is she that dog that was on that magazine a few years ago (Showcase, July, 2008, to be exact)?
Is she friendly?
How old is she?
Did you teach her to pose like that?

As for that last question, that was raised by a friend who was on his bicycle and stopped to admire Sadie as she was honed in on . . . a butterfly. She was doing her "stealth" moves and moving slowly toward the small insect. She had her tail up, her nose pointed, and was raising each leg, very gently, as she crept toward the butterfly. My friend said, "That's amazing the way she moves. Did you teach her how to do that?"

I said, "Yep. Got down on my hands and knees and showed her how to hunt."

He said, "I'll give you $20 if you will demonstrate."

I said, "I'll do it for $40 and your willingness to help me get up. My pride is worth at least $40."

We laughed and watched as Sadie got within a few inches of the butterfly and, as in 99 cases out of 100, the butterfly flew away, unharmed.

As for the question, "Is she a bird dog?", my response now is, "Yep, but she's really a BUG dog." And, recently someone asked, "Is she LIKE a bird dog?", I responded, "She's not LIKE a bird dog - she is a bird dog." (Perhaps a little snooty?)

I've had people stop to watch Sadie as she poses in her pointing stance. Some have stayed for 4-5 minutes just saying over and over again, "That's amazing. That's simply amazing."

within the past few weeks, someone walked by as Sadie was stalking and asked, "Is she pointing at a snake?" I said, "Naw. Just a bug." Someone asked, just today, "Is she pointing at a bird?" I said, "Naw. Just a bug." Though it's less dramatic than a snake or a bird, it's the truth. Sadie stalks bug - AND frogs.

However, when it comes to frogs, she still hasn't learned that a frog in the mouth is worth 10-15 minutes of foaming mouth. The first time she DIDN'T learn this was a few years ago when she saw a small frog on our driveway and, when the frog jumped," she attacked it and put it in her mouth. The frog emitted some distasteful substance, Sadie dropped the frog, the frog hopped away, and Sadie foamed at the mouth for 15 minutes. I still have to keep her away from frogs or watch her foam for 15 minutes.

A final story. A couple years ago, Sadie had come upon a group of small butterflies. There were 4 or 5 of them, and Sadie started stalking one. She did her "stealth" attack (poetry in motion - very slow motion), and after about 5 minutes had come within about a foot of the small insect. While she was in her point - paw up, nose pointing, and tail straight out - another butterfly landed on her tail. The butterfly stayed there until the butterfly Sadie was stalking flew away (about 2 minutes later). I took a picture which can be seen below.

It was another good morning on the Riverwalk.

Monday, August 16, 2010


(AUGUST 16, 2010) This was a great morning for taking pictures - bugs and flowers. Birds are hiding in the trees and the ducks and geese occasionally do something photogenic, but not on a regular basis.

Shortly after we had started our walk, I noticed about 12 feet over my head was a beautiful tiger swallowtail butterfly, caught up in a spider web. It was frantically trying to get loose, but I was too far below it to help out.

As I was taking pictures of this frustrated beauty, a fellow walker came by and asked what I was taking pictures of. I pointed out the butterfly and said, "Well, I guess it will be food for a spider."

We continued talking and the fellow walker walked over to some debris near where the butterfly was floundering around trying to free itself. He picked up a large branch, walked over to where the butterfly was, threw the stick into the air, and the butterfly was free. It flew off. I stood there in amazement and thinking to myself, "Why hadn't I thought of that?"

Well, I guess there were two reasons. I have been in nature enough now to realize that there is life and death along the river. I guess I must have just decided that this butterfly was just a victim of nature. The second reason was just a simple one - I just didn't think about it. I regret either reason for not coming to the assistance of an animal in peril.

As we walked further, I started noticing that the insects were busily working, doing what they do - hanging around flowers and moving from flower to flower. Sadie noticed, too. She was quite taken by the small butterflies as they moved from flower to flower. She often startled small damselflies as they flittered around and landed on leaves and plants. She stayed away from the bees as they buzzed around the flowers.

As I looked closely at the insects moving about, I became quite interested in their movements. The bees and butterflies climbed all over the flowering plants, the damselflies landed on leaves and flowers, moving away whenever frightened by Sadie and then returning to the same plant, and the dragonflies as they landed on everything from the side of a concrete building to the side of a fencepost to a leaf.

Near our car on the way back, I heard a loud chirping sound. So did Sadie. She had stopped, pointed and pounced upon something before I even saw what was making the noise. It was a cicada about an inch and a half long, and it was now in Sadie's mouth. It was chirping louder, and the sound was echoing out of Sadie's mouth. She had he teeth clinched tightly, and I yelled, "SADIE. DROP IT. DROP IT, SADIE."

She did, and the cicada lay there on the ground shining under the sun. I got the picture below - the cicada in the shadow of my English setter. After we had moved on, I noticed that the cicada was moving on also.

It was another good morning on the Riverwalk.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


(AUGUST 14, 15, 2010) WHAT IS UNDER 50?


* The number of Republican U.S. Senators presently , in Washington
* The number of people Sadie and I see on the Riverwalk every morning
* The number of miles I walk every week
* The number of pictures I took on our walk each day on Saturday and Sunday

All of these are true. The main reason for this entry, however, relates to the last answer.

A few months ago, I mentioned to a friend that I took from 300-600 pictures everyday on the Riverwalk. I then said that out of those 300-600 pictures, "I would get, maybe, 8-10 that were pretty good, and, maybe, a couple that would be extraordinary."

My friend replied. "Out of that many pictures taken, you're bound to get some that are good. Even a blind person could take that many pictures and get some good ones."

I told him that he was probably right.

Back in the days of negative film photography, each shot was made as perfect as possible since the cost of film was, well, costly. Also, with a camera that would hold, at the most, 36 shots, it was important to conserve the film for that really great shot. It was frustrating to see a great shot and be out of film. I have a memory card that holds nearly 6000 pictures, so I just have to make sure the battery in my camera remains charged.

Now, with digital photography, I have enjoyed the luxury of taking a half dozen shots of one subject, thinking that, perhaps, one may be a good shot. I have become spoiled, so I decided that this weekend I would limit myself to no more than 50 shots each day on the Riverwalk. That is what I did, and I posted the best shots above.

On Saturday morning I took 46 pictures; on Sunday morning I took 49. It was difficult to NOT click away as I saw a beautiful great blue heron standing near the shore, but I refrained from shooting 3 shots a second to shooting . . . pausing . . . shooting . . . pausing and then shooting one last shot.

The pictures I got each of the last two mornings were not the best shots I've taken, but some were fairly good. Of course, I still have the advantage of seeing my pictures the morning that they were taken. I didn't have to send them off to be processed and printed and wait for a week or so for them to come back. Even then, I may not have any pictures I liked.

I recall back in the summer of 1980, we were traveling through the mid-west. I ended up taking over 10 rolls of film (36 shots per roll), and out of those rolls were only two really good shots - one was a seal swimming underwater at the Cincinnati Zoo and the second one was a mountain goat that had fallen asleep on a faux mountain at the same zoo; the second shot won a blue ribbon in a local photo contest that year, and I still have the print hanging on my wall.

I think that I will go back to taking many shots tomorrow on the Riverwalk. It was a good experiment, but it surely encumbered my style. Had I been using film, the pictures would have equaled at least 3 rolls, and the cost would have been around $20 just to see what I had; with digital, the cost was nothing.

It was another two good mornings on the Riverwalk.

Friday, August 13, 2010


(AUGUST 13, 2010) Friday the 13th. Elizabeth pointed that out to me on the walk this morning. However, the day did not start out to be unlucky, nor has it proven so during the rest of the day.

It was a pleasant, cooler morning than the mornings earlier this week. We shortened our walk to two miles since Sadie had been having some stomach problems, but we did enjoy the cool air and all of nature around us. I'll take Sadie out this evening to Angler's Park for another couple of miles if she feels up to it.

A lady walker this morning said that "The leaves are beginning to change, now."

I responded, "Thank goodness fall is near and the heat of summer will pass."

Then I started looking around to see the change in the leaves' color. They are still green, but I did see an occasional leaf that had fallen and some of the fallen leaves were red.

In addition to the falling of the leaves indicating cooler weather, it also indicates that the song birds will be easier to see when the foliage thins. During this time of year, a person can either hear the birds singing but not see them, or if the birds are seen, they have embedded themselves into the dark foliage so that only their shadows may be visible.

This morning as we got into the dark woods, I saw a few robins "hop, hop, hopping along." I took some pictures. In the darkness of the woods and the morning, there was only a faint sight of the orange breast of the robins as they moving along in the ground foliage.

Once out of the woods, I looked to the air and water for the birds that could be seen there. The river was running fast and high since there must have been rain in the mountains. Therefore, the bird life ON the river was not there. Usually I could see a heron or some Canada geese on the river below Dan Daniel Park. There weren't there this morning. The river was too rapid for the heron to stand near the dam to catch fish or for the geese to gather in the river to eat.

However, shortly out of the dark woods I saw a crow take flight. Against the morning gray sky, the birds make an interesting silhouette. In the foliage near the river, Sadie's attention was attracted by something. Usually, it doesn't take much for her to be distracted, so I assumed it was a bug of some type. As I looked on the ground in front of her about 20 feet away, there was a mourning dove, looking at us. These birds don't seem to be as nervous as some others, so the bird stood there and just looked as Sadie got closer and I took some pictures. When Sadie was within 5 feet, the dove flew off.

The day was filled with birds in the tree or grass with fairly poor lighting or birds in the sky or on a wire. However, there was one saving grace of the morning. Through the clouds the sun made an interesting contrast to the dove on the wire. The dove seemed to be ready to feather its nest as it sat on the wire with the gray sky and the bright sun in the background.

It was another good day on the Riverwalk.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


(AUGUST 11, 2010) Each day on the Riverwalk there are life and death stories. The food chain on the river keeps the larger animals alive while the smaller animals are constantly alert to the dangers of the predators. This is one of those stories . . .

Sadie and I got out to the Riverwalk at about 6:45 this morning. The dark woods were dark, the brown river was brown and the great blue heron was . . . great and blue. Not much different from other mornings as I thought, which I do every morning, "I wonder if I'll have anything to write about today?" So far, for over 120 mornings, something has prompted a story idea.

This morning, I started noticing patterns in nature (the "S" shape of the heron's neck, the serpentine vines growing along the fences, and the star shape of a beautiful pink flower just to name a few). I began consciously taking pictures of patterns in nature.

Other possible ideas came to mind as we walked our 3 miles. However, it was on the way back that I met another walker, and we started a conversation. During the conversations I have on the Riverwalk, Sadie entertains herself with her stalking of whatever may move in the length of her leash. She will stalk, point, and, sometimes, attack.

We had stopped by a honeysuckle bush that had small flowers now. I was taking a picture of some moths and butterflies and bees as the individual stopped to talk. Among the small flowers there were two very beautiful tiger swallowtail butterflies darting among the sweetness of the honeysuckle. Right after our conversation ended, one of the swallowtails flew right over Sadie's head, and Sadie took a leap in the air. It was in the reach of Sadie strong jaws, but she just missed it.

She followed the butterfly until it landed on a low branch of the honeysuckle. She stood there, lifted her front paw, pointed and lurched forward, grabbing the beautiful creature between her teeth.

I let out a primordal cry of "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

It was too late. The beautiful creature was struggling its last moments as Sadie pulled at its wings and finally let it be as it fluttered its last flutter.

I was sad that this beautiful creature had fallen to my predator dog, and was a little upset at Sadie but more upset with myself for allowing Sadie to carry out this killing.

We passed one more beautiful butterfly on a lower branch of a bush before we got back to the car, and I kept Sadie at least several yards away from the beauty as she pointed at it.

As we left the park, I thought about the cruelty I had just witnessed as Sadie had taken down the beautiful butterfly. I was getting a little angry at Sadie for doing what she does.

I exited the ramp onto the expressway and found myself fussing at Sadie. The car got up to 60 mph and my fussing became louder. At 65 I looked back in my rear view mirror and saw Sadie looking at me. As I glanced back at the road, I saw, just ahead of the car, coming in my direction, fluttering along in an up and down path, a beautiful tiger swallowtail butterfly just the size of the one Sadie had taken down in the park.

SMACK!!! Right into the windshield.

I thought, "Karma," and drove silently home.

Monday, August 9, 2010


(AUGUST 9, 2010) This morning we had to rush our walk because someone was coming to our house to put in some blinds "between 8 and 9." I decided to go to Angler's Park so I could be within sight of my car and could end the walk quickly if I saw that I was running behind.

As we went into the park, two deer ran across the road about 50 yards ahead of us and disappeared into the marsh. I had driven only a few yards more when a much larger deer ran in front of me, following the other two into the marsh. I pulled over into a rocky parking lot and got out with my camera. As can be seen by the photo to the left, I was too late.


I decided to leave the car in the rocky parking lot, so I went back to get Sadie out of the back. We crossed the wooden bridge, and I noticed that the marsh was full of cattails. These "hot dogs on long sticks" were everywhere I looked. It was 6:20 in the morning, and there wasn't much else to see in the marsh. Unlike deer, that disappear into the marsh, the cattails just stood there and let me snap away.

When I returned home, I discovered that cattails go by some other names in American English. They are also called "punks" and "corndog grass." In England they are called "bulrush," "bullrush," and "reedmace." The red-winged blackbird calls them "home." This is where they sit in the spring and summer and build their nests


As we came to the part of the path that leads up river toward Dan Daniel Park, I noticed a shimmering thread hanging about eye level. Attached to the end of the thread was an inchworm. This is not actually a worm but a caterpillar that will eventually turn into a small moth. I often see these small creatures hanging on their threads along the Riverwalk. This morning, in the quietness of Angler's Park, the little guy seemed to be hanging there waiting for me to photograph him.

WTH* (What the Heck?)

As we walked by the marsh, I notice some very pretty flowers - purple, blue, yellow, and I also noticed that one purple flower seemed to explode out of the a thistle and had some white cottony fluff coming out from where it exploded.

While walking near the marsh, on the other side nearer to the river, I had passed some flowers and saw cottony fluff clinging to the leaves of some of the marsh plants. I ignored these little fluff balls thinking that they had come from these purple flowers or were just goose down hanging there.

As we were returning to the car, I saw a yellow flower and stopped to take a picture. It was near one of the white cottony fluff balls. All of a sudden the fluff ball started to move. My reaction was WTH*? (*What the Heck?). As I looked closer, the white fluff didn't move again immediately, but as I stood there, I could see a little head coming out of the white "cotton."

I realized that this was a small woolly worm. Checking it out at home, I discovered it was a woolly bear, a small caterpillar that will eventually become a moth. This little fluff ball seems to want to confuse a potential predator into believing that it is either a part of the flower or a piece of goose down. Or, perhaps, I am the only one fooled by this, though nature is wonderful in protecting its littlest creatures.

On the way back to the car, we were still fairly alone in the park. As we crossed the road to the rocky parking lot, Sadie started prancing and looking like she had seen a deer or other wildlife. As I got within 30 yards of the car, I pushed the unlock button to open the back window. When it went up, Sadie jumped like a frightened dog. She hadn't recognized the car because it was parked at a different place, and when we got there, she started sniffing it. She finally accepted it as ours and jumped into the back.

It was another good morning on the Riverwalk at Angler's Park.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


(AUGUST 7, 2010) Yesterday I took over 400 photographs while on the river. Some of them were shown, in part, in the photo selected for yesterday's entry, EYES on the Riverwalk. However, one shot was especially nice with near perfect lighting and near perfect colors. The crispness of the red damselfly image makes for a very pleasant photograph.

Sadie and I did get to the Riverwalk this morning, starting at Angler's Park and walking toward Dan Daniel Park. I didn't take my camera since it was later in the morning, and I knew that if I took my camera we would likely be an hour or more longer, and the sun was beginning to already heat the air.

While on the trail, I kept thinking of this one photograph I took yesterday. The photo required little cropping and absolutely no manipulation with Photo Shop (light and color were near perfect). I decided that I would write about that photo today.

I have 1000s of photos of damselflies taken over the past two years (most of them have been taken this summer). There are photos of blue one, red ones, yellow ones, brown ones and green ones. I've heard there are some purple ones, too, but I've never seen one of those. Yesterday's beauty was a red one (more of a maroon one as the photograph depicts the insect's true colors).

As Sadie walks near the brush growing up along the river, she often disperses a number of damselflies into the air as they fly away from her nearness. She will still point at them if they attract her attention, but she is more interested in the smaller butterflies. This one damselfly was perched above her reaches while she was pointing at a small butterfly. I snapped away at the damselfly, taking about a dozen shots of it. All of the shots were identical - all near perfect.

It is rare that I take a "near perfect" picture. There is some focusing error or something wrong with the lighting. However, I DO take sometimes as many as 600 pictures a day on the Riverwalk.

I told someone, once, that by "taking 300-600 photographs each day, there are bound to be three or four that are pretty good." The person responded, "Even if a blind person were given the camera, he could get a few good shots out of that many photographs." It's always nice to have someone around to keep me humble.

It was another good day, not as "near perfect" as the photograph, but a good day on the Riverwalk.

Friday, August 6, 2010


(AUGUST 6, 2010) This morning, as Sadie and I walked on the Riverwalk, I noticed the creatures of the woods - the birds, the insects, and Sadie. I was especially taken by the eyes of those birds and insects I saw.

The Bible says that the "eyes are the window of the soul." I wasn't quite sure what that means, but I guess I was trying to understand the souls of those creatures I saw this morning.

Most of the insect eyes are fairly complex with the damselfly moving its eyes around on its head, the bumblebee staring with its brownish oval eyes, the butterfly with round black dots for eyes, the fly with its colorful orange eyes, and wasps with dark black oval eyes. What did those eyes say about the souls of those insects? I still don't know what it means, but as you look at the pictures above, image what those eyes may tell you about an insect.

The water fowl (ducks and geese) have eyes that are more similar to human eyes except these birds have round eyes. The similarity comes with the black pupil of the bird surrounded by another color (a brownish orange). The expressions in the eyes don't seem to change according to the mood of the bird - from just chillin' on a summer morning to fear as the sojourner and his dog approach.

The songbirds have eyes that are more akin to the insects in that they don't have a pupil surrounded by color. The eyes of the songbirds, however, seem softer than the insect eyes. If I were to try to judge the soul of the songbirds based upon their eyes, I would have to say that they have a sense of peace within their souls.

And, of course, Sadie's eyes. She uses them (and her other senses) constantly as we walk on the Riverwalk. She is searching for a butterfly to point at or some strange bug to sniff. Her eyes are even more like humans. With her smiling eyes, her soul must be rich in joy and peace.

There was a sad event to this pleasant day. This afternoon my neighbor called me over to look at a hummingbird that was at her feeder. The small bird wasn't moving and had its long bill in the sugar water of the hummingbird feeder. My neighbor held the small bird in her hands, and the bird didn't move except for looking up with some sad eyes. Perhaps the tiny bird had starved or fallen out of the nest too soon. I'm sure that the soul of this small weak bird is now flying around somewhere.

I wonder, if humans become angels (some religions believe that), can birds become angels too? If so, I guess that cuts down on the cost of wings, since the birds (and most insects) would bring their own.

MY eyes are tired now as I finish this entry. It was, however, another good morning on the Riverwalk.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


(AUGUST 5, 2010) How low can you go?

This morning on the Riverwalk I went pretty low to scan the ground cover and the woods for lichens and mushrooms. They were, to my surprise, EVERYWHERE. Especially after the rain we have had over the past few days, the mushrooms were plentiful and the lichens were there where they have been for months and years.

First of all, all I know about lichens is what I learned from a couple of naturalist at Grandfather Mountain last week. I learned that lichens are found on trees and rocks and take a long time to grow. They are healthy for nature's plan in that these part fungi and part algae compounds adhere to the tree or rock, die, and provide a nurturing substance allowing moss to grow which eventually results in grasses and plants growing where the lichens had been.

The naturalists at Grandfather Mountain pointed out a large rock where much of the lichens had been removed as the result of hikers seeing the rock, deciding it is a good "climbing rock," and, as the result, their constant climbing on the rock removed the lichens

OK. That's about all I know, but I now have greater respect for these substances on trees and rocks which, until I was briefly educated last week, thought that they were just algae on rocks or broken bark on trees.

Now I know of a microscopic life that goes on in the park daily. I just hope that Sadie doesn't sense movement in the lichens on a tree and decide to point at it until it moves again. The naturalist said that it sometimes taken lichens a year to grow an inch. That would be a long wait for Sadie.

Mushrooms. I've often wondered what is the difference between a mushroom and a toadstool. Again, the naturalists at Grandfather Mountain helped me out with a brief comment. Basically, their difference hasn't been definitively determined. Traditionally, the name toadstool was given to mushrooms that were poisonous.

Mushrooms just seem to pop up overnight after a rain. They are a fungus that develop from a microscopic spore, and the rest is far beyond my simple grasp of the reproductive system of the mushroom. Regardless, there were plenty of mushrooms out today.

I don't know a lot about lichens and mushrooms and toadstools, but I guess you could say that today I have done some "ground" work on the subject. Each day there is more to learn, and each day there are new things to see on the Riverwalk.

It was another good day on the Riverwalk.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


(AUGUST 4, 2010) The smell of summer rain greeted us as we began our walk this morning. In the tree canopied sections of the Riverwalk we got drops of water as the slight breeze blew the limbs of the trees causing the water to shake down on us. Otherwise, we dodged the bullet of rain, again, yet some walkers spoke of having encountered rain on other part of the trail.

There were signs, however. The water gathered in the turned up leaves on the tree, the water dripping from the tips of leaves, the puddles in the middle of the trail, and the dampness of the grass indicated a recent rain.

The water provided an oasis for the insects As the smaller butterflies landed on the damp leaves to enjoy a cool drink, a large number of damselflies flitted around from leaf to leaf landing in the middle near the drops there or balancing precariously on the tip of the plant.

As we started the walk, the air was slightly humid with a nice breeze. As we proceeded, the sun came out and the morning turned more humid and hotter. But, when the sun came out, so did the larger butterflies and more insects.

Sadie spent her time pointing at the smaller butterflies as they landed on small leaves and flowers, resting and sipping the water, while I craned my neck and took pictures of larger butterflies cavorting in the woods near the river. Of course, had Sadie not stopped to point at the smaller butterflies, I would have missed seeing the larger one.

I would have also missed seeing new and fresh blooms of flowers that seem to have burst forth overnight with the wonderful rain. There were the yellow daisies and other flowers of blue, purple, and white. The woods, this morning, seemed to be a medley of colors with the dominant color being, of course, green.

On the bridge near the Public Works department, we stopped to watch the geese and ducks as they swam underneath the bridge and some as they stood on the banks of the river drinking the water or eating vegetation along the shore.

As we stood there, a walker we see daily stopped and started talking about the beauty of the river.

He asked me, "Did you know this river is nearly 200 million years old? That's a very long time. I think of 100 years as being old, but 200 million years."

I affirmed that I hadn't known that, and then he went on to inform me that there were Native Americans along the shores of the Dan River 8000 years ago and were there until the settlers came in from Europe. He had just read this information on a historical board located towards Angler's Park. It is amazing when one thinks of the age of this river and its history.

As we neared the end of our walk, we saw one other thing that was truly amazing. Sadie pulled on the leash toward a chirping sound in the grass. I recognized the sound of a cicada, and Sadie pulled the leash towards movement on the ground. I walked closer and saw a very strange object. It was a very large bee riding a larger insect. When I saw the bee, I pulled Sadie away and put her leash around a fence post nearby. I went over and started snapping pictures. I realized that I was watching a very large bee (perhaps a hornet) killing a cicada while riding its back. I took several pictures; Sadie sat patiently next to the fence. I finished, gave her a biscuit, and we went on to our car.

It was a most interesting morning on the Riverwalk.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


(AUGUST 3, 2010) The American novelist Alice Walker wrote: "“In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they're still beautiful.”

There is a great deal of truth in that quotation. It doesn't take a person long, while wandering around in the outdoors, to see both the perfections and imperfections in nature. Over the years of walking on the Riverwalk, I have seen the graceful geese coming in for a landing in the water, and I have also seen geese crash land. This summer on the Chesapeake Bay, I watched as the pelicans didn't land gracefully on the water but just simply dropped into the water.

Though the geese on land look awkward as they waddle along, they seem to be perfect in their waddling until I see a straggler limping along on one foot. Even the timing of the baby animals seems to go against perfection. A number of months ago some goslings were surprised to see us coming around the corner one morning and ran to catch up to the adults, stumbling all over themselves as Sadie and I watched in amusement.

The great blue heron, while standing near the shore, seems like a stately bird in its perfect plumage, but I have seen the great bird spread its wings as it stands on an island in the river, and its body looks so small and frail. The bird in flight is not as graceful either, yet at times it, as Walker says, its flight is both perfect and not perfect.

This morning I made special note of the flowers in the woods. As I looked closely, I saw the beautiful yellow daisies in the dark woods. There were some perfect specimen of bright yellow flowers and there were many more of these flowers whose blooms had been damaged, and they looked less than pristine.

Even Sadie, when she gets out into nature and into her element among the birds and wildlife, stumbles occasionally as she walks through the woods or runs in the field. When she gets into her setter stance and points at whatever interests her at the moment, she is like perfection in motion. However, when the butterfly flies away and she loses it, she looks up at me as if to ask, "What did I do wrong?"

As a sojourner to nature, I find myself looking closely at the perfections and imperfections of what I see around me. Perhaps, by seeing the imperfections of nature, I can see, more closely, my own personal imperfections.

It was another good day on the Riverwalk.

Monday, August 2, 2010


(AUGUST 2, 2010) This morning was pleasant on the Riverwalk since the temperature was comfortable and there was still a little dampness in the air from the recent rains. Some walkers were carrying their umbrellas; I trusted the forecast of the Weather Channel.

As we went into the woods, we saw a small heron in the water surrounded by a group of Canada geese enjoying the quietness of the morning. On the way out, I took some pictures of the heron and geese before the heron must have felt a little disturbed by my intrusion and flew down river for more solitude.


In the dark woods of the morning, the yellow daisies burst forth with their powerful color. They seemed to float in the darkness of the deep woods. There were also some purple and blue flowers that lent color to an otherwise colorless day.

Sadie located a number of butterflies to stalk. One small one was especially colorful in the green grass. I shot away as Sadie approached closer and closer. The butterfuly escaped to continue making the woods more beautiful.


Some ugly insects were out today. There was an brown beetle type bug crouched, up-side down under the top plank of a wooden fence. It looked at me with its beady eyes as I took several pictures of it. Sadie didn't see the beast, but would have likely given it some competition in a stare-down.

As we were leaving the dark woods, Sadie became attracted to a small butterfly. As I looked closely at a sign post, I noted a brown insect hanging on to the side. As I got closer, I saw that it had pinchers and was, like the other bug, ugly.


In the woods near the train trellis was an interesting bug that was plain brown but had antennae with bright red tips. This bug was neither ugly nor pretty, but it was, well, pretty ugly.

Also, near the brown bug with red tipped antennae, there was an interesting spider in its web. It climbed up the web as Sadie walked underneath it, causing movement in the web. As it got to a set place, it spread its leg down and look, somewhat, like a squid. It wasn't that ugly nor was it pretty but, like the brown bug, pretty ugly.

It was another interesting morning on the Riverwalk.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


(AUGUST 1, 2010) I learned something new this week that I have actually known for a long time. I don't know one plant or flower from another.

While at Grandfather Mountain last week, we went on a nature hike with two park naturalists. Along the way they pointed out various flora. All I saw was green plants. It's a part of my education where there is definitely a lacking.

A couple of years ago I thought that all small birds were sparrows. I knew the robin, the cardinal, the blue jay, and the blue bird, but everything else that was a small bird was a sparrow. My education there has picked up, but there is still a lot I don't know about birds.

This morning Sadie and went to Angler's Park. There was a constant mist as we walked, but the temperature was a pleasant 64 degrees when we got there at 7:00. We walked three laps around the ball field, so we got in our 3 plus miles. I took my camera and snapped some pictures on the first lap, and then returning the camera to the car to keep it dry.

I did hear the red-winged blackbird, but didn't see it. I heard a crow in the woods, but didn't see it. I did, however, see some bright flowers this morning. As I said, I don't know much about flowers but I did see some white ones, some purple ones , some blue ones, some pink ones and some yellow ones on this dark misty cloudy morning.

When I realize how much I don't know about nature, I often think of James Thurber's essay, "University Days" in which he describes his difficulty in seeing anything in a microscope. When he does finally see something, he draws it, and the instructor informs him that he has drawn his eye which was reflected in the microscope. Often, when I see a plant or flower, I see only something of beauty - something I can't identify, but something of beauty.

Notwithstanding the fact that I don't know the names of the flowers I saw, I did enjoy my morning at Angler's Park as we had the park to ourselves because it was a bit damp for most people. Heck, even the ducks and geese weren't out this morning. We had our little bit of nature to ourselves, and the cool temperature made it glorious.

It was another good morning on the Riverwalk.