- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Although we have lots of water at our farm in terms of springs, small streams and ponds, I enjoy going to the nearby New River to put in a canoe and get the feeling of being afloat. I was first introduced to the beauties of the river while accompanying my son on his open water training swims. Now swimming in such a place may not appeal to everyone, but it offers a challenging way to exercise without the boundaries of a pool. The river is a really interesting place for a naturalist since there are different habitats and species not found elsewhere. For example yellow throated warblers and Fowler's toads breed there, neither of which are found at our farm. The river is reputed to be the second oldest on the planet after the Nile and flows west to the Mississippi drainage. It is quite scenic due to the high cliffs on the eastern side perhaps associated with the Fries fault and a complex geology including nearby extinct volcanoes and a tectonic collision between Africa and N America about 250 million years ago.
There is the main river proper, which has been impounded in one area by the Byllesby Dam, and edges which are flood plain marshes/lagoons which are centers of activity for many animals. I noticed a beautiful swamp milkweed in bloom as well as numbers of monkey flowers, some of which were being visited by skipper butterflies. Some red spotted purple butterflies had a very different culinary interest in a patch of heron poop (note the whitish uric acid) where they were avidly sipping up remnants of the bird feces. This behavior (called puddling) is believed to be motivated by the desire to obtain sodium and amino acids which are lacking in a plant based diet. Note that these "black and blue" butterflies are a member of the mimicry group including the toxic pipevine swallowtail.
Dragonflies were commonly seen and this handsome male widow skimmer allowed me to get up close and personal. Painted turtles were basking on many exposed logs to raise their body temperatures. A great blue heron, wood ducks, and this green heron were feeding in shallow water.
I highly recommend purchasing a small, light canoe or kayak and launching it into your nearest river or lake and exploring the natural wonders to be found there. It truly offers a window into a myriad of natural wonders not to be experienced elsewhere.
Galax, VA and Englewood, FL