Archive for March, 2016

The “Bridge to Nowhere”

March 30, 2016

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages — it’s time for another exciting episode of “Where’s Waldo?” Please comment if you think you know my location.

The Backstory

While photowalking unexplored areas at Huntley Meadows Park on 16 March 2016, I passed a familiar place I’ve visited many times in the past.

The "Bridge to Nowhere," located along an informal trail at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, er, shadows!

The "Bridge to Nowhere," located along an informal trail at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Editor’s Note: The location of the “Bridge to Nowhere” will be revealed in a follow-up post.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

New suspension bridge over Accotink Creek

March 28, 2016

Accotink Creek flows through Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, a 1,200 acre preserve located at Army Garrison Fort Belvoir, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. The following gallery features a few photos of the new suspension bridge over the stream, taken during a photowalk on 23 March 2016.

The new suspension bridge over Accotink Creek, Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The new bridge, designed and engineered by Western Wood Structures, retains much of the character of the old bridge. The attention to detail is extraordinary!

The new suspension bridge over Accotink Creek, Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Looking ahead (above) and behind (below) along the deck of the new suspension bridge. The deck of the new bridge is rock solid, with none of the discomforting up-down/side-to-side motion of the old bridge!

The new suspension bridge over Accotink Creek, Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Those who know me well know the next photo frustrates me because part of the bridge is clipped on the left edge of the photo. I did everything I could to get the entire bridge span in the frame, including standing in the creek and moving downstream as far as I could without water spilling into my knee-high rubber boots. Although the zoom lens of my Panasonic DMC-FZ150 was set for its maximum wide angle of 4.5mm (25mm, 35mm equivalent), the field of view isn’t wide enough for this shot. Same problem with the Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera and Fujinon XF18-55mm (27mm-82.5mm, 35mm equivalent) zoom lens in my backpack — my Panasonic digital camera is capable of shooting slightly wider angle photos than the Fujifilm camera/lens combo. I’ll bring my Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera and 16-35mm wide-angle zoom lens next time I visit the bridge.

The new suspension bridge over Accotink Creek, Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The last photo was taken on 08 May 2014, when the new bridge was under construction. Now you can see the reason I took a one-year (or so) hiatus from visiting Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge.

The new suspension bridge over Accotink Creek, Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA (under construction).

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Ribbonsnake eating a frog

March 26, 2016

The following time-series of photos, shot on 16 March 2016 during a photowalk along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park, shows a Common Ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus) eating a Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus).

Although the amphibian looks similar to Pickerel Frog (Lithobates palustris), I tentatively identified the species as Southern Leopard Frog based upon one of two field markers that were visible: distinct dorsolateral folds that extend the full length of the body (shown); a distinct white spot in the center of the tympanum (not shown). Sincere thanks to Alonso Abugattas — Natural Resources Manager, Arlington County Parks, Virginia — for verifying my identification.

A Common Ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is eating a Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus).

As shown in the first photo, the snake had a fatal grip on the frog by the time I spotted the pair.

A Common Ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is eating a Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus).

Notice the small green bubble, located on the frog’s dorsal posterior, that is visible in the second and third photos. I consulted the experts of the Virginia Herpetological Society for help in identifying the bubble.

The general consensus is the cloaca (a bag through which reproductive- and waste products leave the body) is inverted and protruded through the anus due to the internal pressure the snake is putting on the body cavity. If the frog were a female in reproductive condition, it could also be either eggs (unlikely due to color) or jelly being forced out, again due to pressure. Source Credit: John, Virginia Herpetological Society.

Just as I thought — the snake was actually squeezing the guts out of the frog!

A Common Ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is eating a Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus).

A Common Ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is eating a Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus).

A Common Ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is eating a Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus).

A Common Ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is eating a Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus).

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Amplexus gone wild!

March 24, 2016

A mass of mating Eastern American Toads (Anaxyrus americanus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. It's difficult to tell whether there are pairs of males and females in amplexus within the group of toads.

A mass of mating Eastern American Toads (Anaxyrus americanus) was spotted in a vernal pool during a photowalk along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park on 11 March 2016. It’s difficult to tell whether there are pairs of males and females in amplexus within the group of toads.

A mass of mating Eastern American Toads (Anaxyrus americanus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. It's difficult to tell whether there are pairs of males and females in amplexus within the group of toads.

It’s like the toads were playing either rugby (the pile of toads reminds me of a scrum) or “Twister.”

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Amplexus

March 22, 2016

Amplexus is the nexus between male and female frogs and toads that results in fertilization of eggs. Many mating pairs of Eastern American Toads (Anaxyrus americanus) were observed in amplexus in a vernal pool located along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park on 11 March 2016.

The first photo shows a mating pair in amplexus plus another male interloper.

A mating pair of Eastern American Toads (Anaxyrus americanus) plus another male interloper spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. The mating pair is in amplexus.

And action! The following photo — my favorite in the set — shows another mating pair in amplexus plus an aggressive male interloper. Notice the strings of toad eggs in the water.

A mating pair of Eastern American Toads (Anaxyrus americanus) plus another male interloper spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. The mating pair is in amplexus. Notice the long strings of toad eggs in the water.

Look closely at the full-size version of the preceding photo. Notice the nictitating membrane covering the eyes of all three toads — a translucent third eyelid that protects the eyes of toads when they are underwater. Looking at the other three photos, can you tell which toads’ eyes are (or were) below water?

The next photo shows a mating pair in amplexus. Notice the long strings of toad eggs in the water.

A mating pair of Eastern American Toads (Anaxyrus americanus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is in amplexus. Notice the long strings of toad eggs in the water.

The last photo shows another mating pair in amplexus.

A mating pair of Eastern American Toads (Anaxyrus americanus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is in amplexus.

Answer Key: Photo 1) The male interloper is under water. Photo 2) All three toads are under water. Photo 3) Both toads are under water. Photo 4) Both toads are above water.

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Eastern American Toads (mating pair)

March 20, 2016

A mating pair of Eastern American Toads (Anaxyrus americanus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is in amplexus. Notice the long strings of toad eggs in the water.

Many mating pairs of Eastern American Toads (Anaxyrus americanus) were spotted in a vernal pool during a photowalk along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park on 11 March 2016. This pair is shown in amplexus, in which the male (top) holds onto the female (bottom): the female lays eggs in the water; the male fertilizes the eggs, externally from the female.

Notice the black-and-white strings of toad eggs in the water.

The eggs are laid in long spiral gelatinous strings and each egg is 1/25 to 1/16 inch in diameter. The eggs, 4000 to 8000 in number, are laid in two strings, and hatch in 3 to 12 days. Source Credit: eastern American toad (Anaxyrus americanus americanus), Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

“Air bag” deployed

March 18, 2016

An Eastern American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, calling (trilling) for females.

Many Eastern American Toads (Anaxyrus americanus) were spotted in a vernal pool during a photowalk along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park on 11 March 2016.

It’s mating season for toads in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States of America. The mating process begins when male toads, such as the one shown above, go to a body of water and begin calling females.

Look closely at the full-size version of the photo. Notice the waves radiating outward from the toad’s air bag, technically called a “dewlap.” Sound is a wave phenomenon caused by vibrations in a medium such as air and water. Light is a wave phenomenon too (as well as a particle phenomenon). Who knew still photos could capture both light and sound waves?

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Answer key, Raiders of the Lost Park

March 16, 2016

In Raiders of the Lost Park, a.k.a., “The Wall” — the last post in my photoblog — readers were challenged to guess the location in Huntley Meadows Park where the following photograph was taken.

Building ruins as viewed from an unknown location at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

11 March 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Building ruins

After shooting the preceding photograph, I used the Apple “Compass” app (free) for iPhone to determine my exact location. Tech Tip: Capture an image of the iPhone screen by pressing the “Home” and “Power” buttons simultaneously.

Next, open Google Maps in a Web browser; click on the button labeled “Earth” (lower-left corner of window). Enter the following text string (refer to the “Compass” app screen capture, shown above) in the field labeled “Search Google Maps”: 38 46 3 N 77 7 1 W. Press the “return” key; the following satellite image/map should appear.

Pretty cool, huh? Well, now you know my exact location when I photographed the “The Wall.” Notice the “Compass” app also shows I was facing south-southwest when the photo was taken. In other words, I was standing where the red pin appears on the map, facing toward the bottom, a little left of center (relative to the map).

Hiking Directions: From the parking lot at the head-end of the Hike-Bike Trail, walk uphill along S. Kings Hwy. Stop at at the BEGINNING of the guard rail. Look to the right (about 1:30 to 2 o’clock) and you can see the building ruins. Walk a straight line path between the beginning of the guard rail and the ruins; there are fewer thorny vines along this route than I encountered/suffered by following the directions given to me!

Tech Tip: Some of my fellow WordPress bloggers may be wondering, “How did you embed an interactive Google Map in this post?” WordPress “Support” is your friend: Support / Google Maps / Embedding a Google Map.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Raiders of the Lost Park

March 14, 2016

It’s time for another exciting episode of “Where’s Waldo?” In this case, “Where’s Walldo?” Please comment if you think you know my location.

The Backstory

While photowalking unexplored areas at Huntley Meadows Park on 11 March 2016, I visited an interesting place that a friend discovered recently. The directions to this location that I was given were a little sketchy, but hey, I found it because I am nothing if not persistent!

Building ruins as viewed from an unknown location at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The first two photos show building ruins as seen from an unknown location at Huntley Meadows Park, viewed from “outside” and “inside” the walls. The reinforced concrete walls are more than a foot thick!

Building ruins as viewed from an unknown location at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The last photo shows signage located near the building ruins. “FCPA” stands for Fairfax County Park Authority.

Signage near building ruins in an unknown location at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

By the way, I’m fairly certain the sign should say “Metal detecting and relic hunting are illegal in the park.” Bad grammar should be illegal too!

Editor’s Notes: The location of “The Wall” will be revealed in a follow-up post. My friend (who prefers to remain nameless) is not eligible to enter the contest since he told me about the place where these photos were taken.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Brumation termination

March 12, 2016

A few days of record-setting temperatures appear to have terminated brumation for at least one species of snake at Huntley Meadows Park: several Eastern Gartersnakes (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) were spotted during a photowalk along the Hike-Bike Trail on 09 March 2016.

An Eastern Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

I heard this one before I saw it. In my experience, snakes slithering through leaf litter make a sound that is clearly distinct from leaves rustling in the wind.

An Eastern Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

When the snake saw me, it froze and remained motionless for several minutes — a survival strategy sometimes used by snakes when they feel threatened. I estimate the snake is 2.5 – 3.0 feet in length.

An Eastern Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Related Resource: Brumation break, by Walter Sanford.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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