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RVA Murals: Main & Rowland

Published on July 20, 2013 by
More info: http://photorva.com/rva-murals-main-rowland/

More info: http://photorva.com/rva-murals-main-rowland/

Miss-Sidewalk

 
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Monumental RVA: It Was the One Armed Man

Published on July 16, 2013 by

It’s about time PhotoRVA took another stroll down Monument Avenue.  Last time we had a little chit-chat about Mr. Jefferson Davis, so I thought we would move down the ranks a bit and explore the monument and life of Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson.

The evolution of a beard.

The evolution of a beard.

Jackson was born in 1824 either in the town of Clarksburg or Parkersburg (depending which burg you ask), both of which would be in the state West Virginia during the war that would make him famous, but was then still Virginia.  Whichever city he was born in, he eventually had to walk 18 miles through the mountain wilderness to live with his uncles at a large gristmill cleverly named Jackson’s Mill.  This was after: his sister died of typhoid, his father died of typhoid 20 days later, his mother died of complications in child birth, his older brother died of tuberculosis, and he was verbally abused by his stepfather.  To say that Jackson had a rough time is probably a bit of an understatement.  In 1842 Jackson was accepted into West Point, after basically teaching himself.  It’s interesting to note that Jackson seemed to believe that one of his arms was longer than the other, and would routinely hold up that arm to increase circulation.  (Foreshadowing!)

Prior to the War of Northern Aggression, Jackson proved himself during the Mexican War, especially at the Battle of Chapultepec Castle.  It was in Mexico that the young Jackson first met one Robert E. Lee, and a classic tale of southern bromance was born.  Jackson met Elinor Junkin, whos father was the president of Washington College (later Washington and Lee University) and moved into an addition of the president’s house which would later house Robert E. Lee when HE was president !  Spooky!   More tragedy followed Jackson, and his newborn child and wife died during labor.  He would later marry Mary Morrison, who was also the daughter of a college president!

Yadda, yadda, yadda… the Civil War started.  Jackson joined the Confederate Army and was put in charge of the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 27th, and 33rd Virginia Infantry regiments which would be eventually named the “Stonewall Brigade”.  It’s interesting to note that, in joining the rebels, Thomas had a break from his Union leaning sister… one of the few relatives that managed to survive.

It was at the First Battle of Bull Run, as Confederate forces collapsed under a heavy Union assault that Bri. General Barnard Elliott Bee, Jr. shouted to his troops, “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall.  Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer. Rally behind the Virginians!”  Bee was quickly killed, and the world is left to ponder whether it was a good thing or a bad thing to be compared to an immovable object by someone who was being shot at.  Either way, the nickname stuck and Jackson became Stonewall Jackson.

Yadda, yadda, yadda… Jackson performed many acts of daring do, and was the right hand of Robert E. Lee.  At the Battle of Chancellorsville Stonewall marched his men on a largely unguarded group of Federals and captured many without even having to fire.  As Jackson was returning with his men that night he was greeted by the cry of an 18th North Carolina Infantry regiment of, “Halt, who goes there?”  The question was quickly followed by a round of gunfire from the Rebels who had mistaken their leader’s party for Yankees.  Stonewall was hit three times by Confederate friendly fire and his left arm was shattered.

Fairfield Plantation House

If you think having an avenue of monuments dedicated to dead Confederates is bad, take a trip up towards Fredericksburg. For some reason his death place is called the Stonewall Jackson Shrine. Fun!

 

Neither Jackson, nor any piece of Jackson, is actually buried here.

Neither Jackson, nor any piece of Jackson, is actually buried here.

Jackson’s arm was amputated by one Dr. Hunter McGuire, thus ending Jackson’s concerns about one arm being longer than the other.  (Isn’t it ironic, dontcha think?)  Jackson was taken to Fairfield, the plantation home of Thomas C. Chandler.  Robert E. Lee is reported to have said, “He [Jackson] has lost his left arm, but I my right.”  Jackson eventually succumbed to pneumonia and died on May 10, 1863.  Most of his body was taken to the Governor’s Mansion in Richmond for public viewing.

This is the room where Jackson died.  He made sure to make the bed after.

This is the room where Jackson died. He made sure to make the bed after.

And so begins the strange story of the Arm of Stonewall Jackson.  Dr. McGuire just finished sawing off the arm and was about to toss it into the pile of arms and other assorted body parts that followed doc’s around in those days.  Reverend Lacy, a military chaplain, decided to snatch it up himself and sent it to nearby Ellwood Manor where it was buried in a private cemetery.  There are reports of Union Soldiers having dug it back up in 1864 and reburying it.  One might ask why anyone would dig up somebody’s arm and then bury it again, but that would involve questioning the whole burying of the arm to begin with…  There is also a legend that General Smedley Butler was performing exercises with the United States Marine Corps and refused to believe that Mr. Jackson’s arm was buried there.  He supposedly ordered his troops to dig by the concrete marker show here.  Sources indicate that the General was disarmed by finding this arm of the other General, and had the whole thing reburied.  There is no evidence that this actually happened, but it’s a fun story.  Now, the story about a one-armed man hitching a ride on Route 3 on a dark and stormy evening… that one’s TOTALLY true.

That's not weird at all.

That’s not weird at all.

This attraction was originally set up to show off historic Ellwood Manor and the park organizers seemed surprised with the number of people showing up to see the arm.  I mean, how many individually buried arms are there?

This attraction was originally set up to show off historic Ellwood Manor and the park organizers seemed surprised with the number of people showing up to see the arm. I mean, how many individually buried arms are there?

 

In Richmond, Stonewall is celebrated in his entirety with many of the famous losers… I mean leaders of the Confederacy.  His monument on Monument Avenue is located at the intersection of Boulevard (just Boulevard, no drive, street, etc.  Like Madonna, or Prince.) and Monument Avenue.  The sculpture was created by Frederick William Sievers and unveiled in October 11, 1919 and shows and intact Jackson atop his horse, “Little Sorrel”.  There is no monument that I know of depicting just his arm, but if you ever wanted to see the ACTUAL body of a Confederate hero, head on over to Lexington, Virginia and take a gander at the actual stuffed body of Little Sorrel.  There’s a road-trip worthy event if I have ever heard one!

Someone's on a high horse!

Someone’s on a high horse!

Profile

Little Sorrel’s eyes seem to follow you wherever you go…

It's actually a very detailed statue, though his beard seems remarkably well trimmed.

It’s actually a very detailed statue, though his beard seems remarkably well trimmed.

The final image of the Stonewall Jackson Monument is actually a compilation of many images (including my own) of the monument taken from various angles, at various times, and various lightings.  I find it to be an interesting composition.

Jackson from a bunch of angles.  What do you think of the affect of the effect?

Jackson from a bunch of angles. What do you think of the affect of the effect?

PS:  Another reason for the interest in Jackson has to do with our family’s newest addition.  Some of you may recall that we lost our beagle Walken (named after Christopher Walken) last year.  Well, we grew weary of being able to stay out until all hours and having our shoes remain intact, and so we adopted this gorgeous specimen from the Richmond Animal League.  He was found in Caroline County and, since Caroline is a girl’s name, we wanted to name him after a famous person from Caroline County.  Pretty much the only famous person to have a connection with Caroline County was good ol’ Stonewall, and so he is named Stonewall Jackson Kotula.  (We call him Jackson.)

Remarkably less beard...

Remarkably less beard…

PPS:  I couldn’t resist taking a photo from the south of a north bound horse.  I offer you a quick homage to an awesome cartoonist and operator of RVA Coffee Stain, Doug Orleski.  Take a look at his butts if you haven’t already.

My butt would be a little sorrel from sitting up there for almost 100 years, too!

My butt would be a little sorrel from sitting up there for almost 100 years, too!

So, Richmond…  What would you like to see next?  I’m always open to your suggestions!  Hit me up at nick@photorva.com or leave me a comment!  We can talk about dogs, daughters, coffee… you know, no big whoop!

 
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Tucka-what?: Tuckahoe Defined and a Trip to Tuckahoe Plantation

Published on June 25, 2013 by

All throughout the Richmond area you will hear the term “Tuckahoe”.  There’s the Tuckahoe YMCA, Tuckahoe Library, Tuckahoe Middle School, and Tuckahoe Village Shopping Center to name a few.  If you’re anything like me, you giggle a little bit each time.  At what is perhaps the epicenter of this strange word is Tuckahoe Plantation, the boyhood home of Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson may have built a school in Charlottesville, but  an RVA school built Jefferson.

Jefferson may have built a school in Charlottesville, but an RVA school built Jefferson.

So, what is a tuckahoe?  The first recorded mention of the word tuckahoe was from a one-handed former privateer (a privateer is someone who steals under the sanction of a government, kind of like an IRS worker) Captain Christopher Newport in 1612 to describe an edible plant or fungus used by the Native Americans.  Tuckahoe refers to the Arrow Arrum, which (according to this recipe) can kill you if improperly prepared by shredding your insides with thousands of microscopic needle shaped crystals.  Yay!

The term Tuckahoe was eventually used to describe Anglican, wealthy, aristocratic, slave-holding planters that lived in the low-lands of Virginia and North Carolina.  It was often used in contrast to the word cohee, which was used to describe Presbyterian, lower-class kind of folks who occupied the same low-lands.  Think of the Tuckahoes as the guys who go to The Commonwealth Club and the cohees as the ones going to RIR.  So it should surprise no one that it is Tuckahoe Plantation and not Cohee Plantation where are young Thomas Jefferson received the beginnings of his education.

The original house.

The original house.

The original (north) building was built in 1710 by Thomas Randolph, and the second (south) building was added in 1730 by his son William Randolph III giving the building it’s strange H-shape.  A word about the Randolph’s:  Thomas’ parents, William Randolph and Mary Isham have been referred to as the Adam and Eve of Virginia.  Their lineage includes such famous sons as John Marshall, Robert E. Lee, John Randolph, and Thomas Jefferson.   When William Randolph died in 1745 he named his cousin-in-law Peter Jefferson as the guardian of his four children.  So the Jefferson’s moved on up to Tuckahoe and lived there from 1745 – 1754.

Confused?  TL;DR  Thomas Jefferson moved from Charlottesville as a child and lived at Tuckahoe Plantation.

Several buildings exist on the property, including the old kitchen which is very cleverly labelled.

Several buildings exist on the property, including the old kitchen which is very cleverly labelled.

Inside the old kitchen is... well... kitchen stuff.

Inside the old kitchen is… well… kitchen stuff.

And of course there are graves!  I've been hanging around too many cemeteries!

And of course there are graves! I’ve been hanging around too many cemeteries!

 

Remember, this home is occupied.  Be respectful.

Remember, this home is occupied. Be respectful.

The building has been continuously privately owned and occupied.  You are free to walk the grounds, but you should check their website (http://www.tuckahoeplantation.com/) to make sure they are open as they host private events.  The inside of the house is available for tour upon private appointment.

If you go, beware the ferocious guard cat!

If you go, beware the ferocious guard cat!

But be on the look out for his food containers!

But be on the look out for his food containers!

 

 
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Some more time at the James River

Published on June 6, 2013 by

I promise to have an actual, well thought out article up soon.  Until then, enjoy my recent trip to the river and some of the wildlife that keeps me coming back.  (Though it might keep some people away!  You’ll know it when you see it.)

I am not good at identifying fish.

I am not good at identifying fish.

Mom and dad are watching these guys at lunch.

Mom and dad are watching these guys at lunch.

This baby Canada Goose really brings home the notion that these are just little dinosaurs.

This baby Canada Goose really brings home the notion that these are just little dinosaurs.

Yes, snakes live in the river.  This is a non-venomous eastern water snake (I think).  Round pupils are a good indicator that a snake is not venomous, though if you're close enough to see it's pupils...

Yes, snakes live in the river. This is a non-venomous eastern water snake (I think). Round pupils are a good indicator that a snake is not venomous, though if you’re close enough to see it’s pupils…

 

 
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A good lunch break…

Published on June 4, 2013 by
5 baby geese, 2 adults, and a heron.  A good lunch break!

5 baby geese, 2 adults, and a heron. A good lunch break!

 
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Video of the James

Published on May 10, 2013 by

And the video as promised! 17 seconds of, “I am NOT going in there!”

And of course someone was rescued from the river on the same day I took this. Come on, people…

 
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The Flooding of the James

Published on May 9, 2013 by

Some quick phone shots of the James in pretty big flood stage. This is at Pipeline and there should be some beach there! For reference, flood stage is 12 feet and we are currently cresting at 15. Video to follow.

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Where We Keep Our Dead: Hebrew Cemetery

Published on May 7, 2013 by

Hey, there everyone!  Sorry for the long pause in writing!  I am looking forward to getting back on track as the weather becomes increasingly warmer and the days last increasingly longer.  Huzzah to spring!  With that said, I’d like to share with you my latest exploration.  In this chapter I visit the burial grounds for the Churches of Peace and Love.

Hebrew Cemetery - Richmond, Virginia

Like… far out, man…

By Peace and Love, I mean Shalome and Ahabah.  If you haven’t figured it out yet, I visited the Hebrew Cemetery which is a dedicated Jewish burial ground for the congregations of Beth Shalome and Beth Ahabah,  House of Peace and House of Love in English.

First, a little personal background…  I look back on my Jewish childhood with some fondness.  I can still remember making dreidel cookies, decorating presents in blue and silver, and spouting out Yiddish epithets as I schmeared my bagel and complained about my mother.  The confusing thing (for everyone else, at least) was the fact that I was not Jewish.  In fact, the majority of the Hebrew that I knew was probably picked up from Mike Myers as Linda Richman.  You know, no big whoop.  So suffice it to say the customs and traditions of the Jewish people have a special place in my heart, though I could not tell you why.  (One day I’ll tell you about my year as an Amish Exchange Student.)

Hebrew Cemetery was founded in 1816 by the Common Council of the City of Richmond on top of Shockoe Hill.  The cemetery was specifically marked for Jewish burials and “subject to their rites and laws”.  The first burial was in 1817 and was one of the founding fathers of Kaal Kadosh Beth Shalome.  In 1843 Beth Ahabah was given equal rights to burial in the cemetery.  The 1-acre cemetery has since expanded to 8.4 acres of burial grounds and is a green space in the middle of a bad neighborhood across the street from Shockoe Hill Cemetery.

A robin seeks refuge.

A robin seeks refuge.

Perhaps my favorite part of visiting Hebrew Cemetery was seeing the rocks and stones placed on headstones.  I knew this was a Jewish custom, but had to remind myself as I wandered the granite garden.  The origins of this tradition are obscured by history, but my favorite explanation was that the stones are placed on the tombstones helps to hold the departed spirit down to Earth and protect it from demons and golems.  I even saw some headstones with bricks balanced on them.

Using stones to hold people down?  Reminds me of my Italian heritage!

Using stones to hold people down? Reminds me of my Italian heritage!

Of special interest is the Soldier’s Section which marks the graves of 30 Jewish Confederate Soldiers who died in or around Richmond during the War of Northern Aggression.  In 1866 the Hebrew Ladies’ Memorial Association commissioned the ornate wrought iron fence that is there today.  The fence is designed to look like Civil War muskets and sabers and was designed by Major William Barksdale Myers who is buried in Hollywood Cemetery.  (See, it ALL comes back to Hollywood Cemetery!)

The original designs had 30 individual tombstones and has since been replaced with 1 tombstone to rule them all...

The original designs had 30 individual tombstones and has since been replaced with 1 tombstone to rule them all…

Rifles and Sabers in Wrought Iron

Muskets and Sabers in Wrought Iron

In 1816 funds were raised to build a matahar house, used for burial preparation which has since been replaced by a Mortuary Chapel.

Shown here.

Shown here.

The cemetery is the oldest, continuously used Jewish cemetery in the South and is an important reminder of the influence the Jewish people have had on Richmond’s history.  The tombstones and monuments have inscriptions in Hebrew and many of them include Jewish icons such as the hands presented in the traditional blessing of the Kohanim, Jewish priests.

Also shown here!

Also shown here!

Interested in exploring the area?  It can be found at the intersection of Hospital and 4th Streets.  A couple “fun facts” about cemeteries in Richmond (from City Code):  It is illegal to enter a cemetery from anywhere but an open gate.  It is is illegal to visit a cemetery after sunset.  It is illegal to bring your dog to a cemetery.  And it is illegal to bring food or drink into a cemetery!

Hebrew Cemetery looks down on Bacon's Quarter Branch Valley

Hebrew Cemetery looks down on Bacon’s Quarter Branch Valley

These rustic tombstones are really quite interesting!

These rustic tombstones are really quite interesting!

So, Richmond?  Where would you like to see next?  I’m always open to your suggestions!  Hit me up at nick@photorva.com or leave me a comment!

 
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Where We Keep Our Dead: Shockoe Hill Cemetery

Published on March 29, 2013 by


Shockoe Hill Cemetery

It’s got to be tough to be Shockoe Hill Cemetery, always in the shadow of it’s more famous big brother Hollywood Cemetery.  Let’s see if we can shed some light on the situation with a little compare and contrast…

1.  Hollywood Cemetery is known for it’s beautiful stone work and carvings.

Shockoe Hill has that!

Shockoe Hill has that!

2.  Hollywood Cemetery is known for being the final resting place of many Union and Confederate Soliders.

Captain Binford here makes a point...

Captain Binford here makes a point…

As does Private Crittenden of the 1st Maryland Cavalry.

As does Private Crittenden of the 1st Maryland Cavalry.

And here’s a fascinating bit of history regarding Private Crittenden:  He had been captured by the Union and sentenced to execution by firing squad with Private James J. Hartigan.  According to a family newsletter: “”At noon Crittenden and Hartigan were set before a firing party of twenty-five and told to run for their lives. Hartigan ran and fell, pierced by many bullets. Crittenden stood with folded arms, facing his executioners. Again the order to fire was given, but not a trigger was pulled. The Union officer in command then addressed his men saying he would repeat the order once more; they were soldiers and must obey, and should any man fail to respect the command, he should suffer the penalty of death himself for disobedience.” During the harangue, Crittenden seated himself on a rock, calmly looking at the squad and awaiting his end. Then he rose. ‘Ready! Aim! Fire!’ rang out the third command. A line of leveled rifles greeted him as he rose and faced them. Down dropped twenty-four silent rifles, their owners unwilling to harm the quiet man before them. One alone of the twenty-five pressed a trigger. A single flash, a little smoke, a sharp report, and Churchill Crittenden’s life blood flowed for the cause he loved.”

Wow.  In addition, Shockoe Hill Cemetery is the final resting spot of some 220 Confederate Soldiers and some 577 Union soldiers as well as many more that were not recorded.  A figure only slightly less than the 18,000 or so buried in Hollywood.  (Ok, maybe more than slightly, but still significant.)

5.  (3, sir!) Hollywood Cemetery is known for its famous residents.

4th Chief Justice of the United States John Marshall

4th Chief Justice of the United States John Marshall

John “Silverheels” Marshall was also the longest service Chief Justice in US Supreme Court history and served as a Captain in the Continental Army.  He was friends with George Washington and survived the long winter in Valley Forge with him.

John and Louisa G. Allan

John and Louisa G. Allan – Adoptive parents to one Edgar Poe – They put the “Allan” in Edgar Allan Poe

 

First and last love of Edgar Allan Poe, and one of the best reasons he should be buried here.

First and last love of Edgar Allan Poe, and one of the best reasons he should be buried here.

First and Last Good Mayor of Richmond - Dr. William Foushee

First and Last Good Mayor of Richmond – Dr. William Foushee

And perhaps one of the most interesting people buried in Shockoe Hill Cemetery:

The traitor... er spy... Elizabeth L. Van Lew

The traitor… er spy… Elizabeth L. Van Lew

Ms. Van Lew ran a ring of spies during the Civil War.  She gained the trust of the CSA and was allowed to bring food, clothing, and other provisions to the Union POWs being held at nearby Libby Prison to arrange for escape.  Mary Bowser, a former slave that was freed by Van Lew, was one of her operatives and routinely gave reports from inside the White House of the Confederacy where she worked for CSA First Lady Varina Davis.  Van Lew was supposedly so good at her job that she was able to send freshly cut flowers, a copy of the Richmond paper, and ciphered messages hidden inside hollowed out eggs directly to Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant!

4.  Hollywood Cemetery is known for stunning views of the James.

Ok... Shockoe Hill Cemetery... not so much.

Ok… Shockoe Hill Cemetery… not so much.

Shockoe Hill Cemetery, located at the intersection of Hospital and N 2nd Street, has stunning views of the Shockoe Hill Low Income Housing Project.  Perhaps not as good of an area… but, the cemetery itself is an open and peaceful oasis… and there’s a Police Station right across the street!

All in all, Shockoe Hill Cemetery has a lot to offer and should not be overlooked by it’s bigger brother.  The surrounding area might not be as nice, but if you enjoy strolling with the dead it is a nice alternative and houses a lot of RVA history.

Next up, we will go across the street to Hebrew Cemetery!

 

 

 
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Heron Project 2013: Take Two

Published on March 7, 2013 by

Numbers have fluctuated from 14-24.  Herons seem to be keeping to the trees, at least during the afternoon hour.  They have expanded from the right side of the island to the left side as well.  There has been some evidence of courtship, which you will see below.  Clicking of bills, rubbing of necks… typical mating behaviors… just ask my wife.

Just a little necking!  They've got a thing that's called... heron love. (Que the strong bass line.)

Just a little necking! They’ve got a thing that’s called… heron love. (Que the strong bass line.)

Also present within the last week were a few osprey!  A sign of spring, even when it snows one day!  Osprey typically only eat fish, however I caught this guy bugging the herons (they didn’t seem to care) and also going after a group of seagulls!  Interesting behavior, and made for some Discovery Channel moments.

Exhibit A:  An osprey.  One of two seen today.  Tiny when compared to the other one.

Exhibit A: An osprey. One of two seen today. Tiny when compared to the other one.

Exhibit B:  Osprey with talons extended bugging the herons.  Herons do not seem to care.

Exhibit B: Osprey with talons extended bugging the herons. Herons do not seem to care.

Exhibit C:  Unable to get a rise from a heron, the osprey looks for more prey.

Exhibit C: Unable to get a rise from a heron, the osprey looks for more prey.

Exhibit 4:  A Flock of Seagulls.  There has been a huge number of gulls hanging out on the river over the winter.  They have not seen the osprey yet.

Exhibit 4: A Flock of Seagulls. There has been a huge number of gulls hanging out on the river over the winter. They have not seen the osprey yet.

Exhibit E:  Now they have!

Exhibit E: Now they have!

 

Exhibit F:  That's like... a lot of seagulls, dude!

Exhibit F: That’s like… a lot of seagulls, dude!

Meanwhile, there is still a proliferation of Canada Geese.  Hanging out, eating whatever they can find.  Dropping phosphorous and nitrogen right into the river...

Meanwhile, there is still a proliferation of Canada Geese. Hanging out, eating whatever they can find. Dropping phosphorous and nitrogen right into the river…

They poop, like... a lot.

They poop, like… a lot.

They do enjoy swimming in the James, though.

They do enjoy swimming in the James, though.

Or just hanging out.  Whatever.  Canada Goose, on the rocks barkeep!

Or just hanging out. Whatever. Canada Goose, on the rocks barkeep!

I also happened upon a couple mallards sleeping adorably.  Did you know that ducks can sleep with one eye open, resting only half of their brain at a time?  Seriously, check out this RadioLab episode if you haven’t already.

The females are the not colorful ones, but the spotting on this one was pretty gorgeous.

The females are the not colorful ones, but the spotting on this one was pretty gorgeous.

 

The males have the characteristic green head.  Pretty soon now these two will be doing more than sleeping.  Yay, spring!

The males have the characteristic green head. Pretty soon now these two will be doing more than sleeping. Yay, spring!

More to follow in the coming weeks as the heronry prepares for spring!  Don’t forget to set your watch ahead an hour this weekend!  Unless you’re a heron… they don’t have watches… or wrists for that matter.

 

 

 

 

 
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