Monday, July 11, 2005

Home Again, Home Again...ppfffffttttttt

Image hosted by

I returned from Washington, D.C. last night. The trip was a good one. It featured a baseball game - Mets and Nationals - and a trip to the National Botanic Garden, but the highlight was a leisurely hike in Prince William Park. In the course of the hike, we came upon many different species of plant and animal, but an eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina), a young beaver (Castor canadensis) and a pair of yellow-billed cuckoos (Coccyzus americanus) particularly excited me. The box turtle was male - the plastron depression and red eye coloration communicate as much - and the yellow of his skin was so startling that I was able to spot him in the forest shadows. He was about ten feet off the trail, ambling by a small birch tree. I reverted to little-boy-mode and scrambled over some downed limbs to photograph and observe the handsome fellow. He was very cooperative (see below).

Image hosted by

Though I kept my eyes open for copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix), one of my favorite North American snake species, I didn't see any. More disappointing still, I found no snakes and few amphibians, even near stream banks. I rolled quite a few fallen trunks in my search, taking care to return them to their original position, but found little of note save some curious insects. I didn't have my insect field guide with me and I wouldn't be surprised if many of the species are absent from the book anyway. One day, perhaps, a truly comprehensive insect field guide will be available.

Frustratingly, I was unable to fight off a familiar sinking feeling on the train ride back to New York. Whenever I escape to rural areas, I find my spirit buoyed. I must extricate myself from the Tri-State area or risk early onset madness. Whereas I once imagined living in New York City until my late thirties, I no longer have much interest in doing so. I do want my art career to be stable before I flee to New England (or wherever I end up), but I don't think I can put in many more years here. This is not to say that I don't appreciate the city, with its spectacular electricity and intellectual energy...I just don't much appreciate living here.

Photo credit: both images, Hungry Hyaena, 2005


Devo said...

I agree, electricity IS spectacular. Electrons zooming about, making lights shiny and making TVs talk to me. Magical, I tells ya!

I'm glad you got to see a beaver. They're fun.

AS for your observation on the lack of amphibians and reptiles... isn't that a pretty clear indication that the ecosystem you were observing is in a bleak state? From what I remember from my environmental education classes, amphibians are sort of like nature's version of the canary in the mine shaft...

Hungry Hyaena said...

You are correct; amphibians are considered the first, best alert to environmental ills. In this case, though, I think the ecosystem is relatively healthy, though not pristine. It is, after all, surrounded by the ugly suburban sprawl that is NOVA, or Northern Virginia.

Reptiles, howver, are not the proverbial canary. In many cases, they actually thrive in disturbed environments. Many reptile species have actually been increasing in number as of late, though habitat destruction continues to take its toll.

paddalumpakins said...

Yeah, New York is great for a year or two, when everything you do is's weird how the charm of always having something exciting to do wears off. I never thought it would. And of course, if you are really interested in oh, I don't know, nature, there just isn't enough here. And the soho apple store isn't cool enough to make up for that shit.