Sunday, February 22, 2009

New River State Park, Alleghany Access, Mouth of Wilson, Va.

Yesterday, February 21, Mica Paluzzi and I spent four morning hours hiking and birding along the New River. Mica and I have shared several years of outdoor adventures, starting when he was ten. As we entered the park I suggested to him that on this visit we would make some quiet time, moments just sitting and paying attention to whatever shows up.
As we neared the river our first surprise came in the form of two pair of common mergansers, not that common in spite of the name. Taking a nice walk along the river for a couple of hours, we found much evidence of beaver activity, not something either of us had before noticed. We made an attempt to locate a viable site for a beaver dam, but the only possibility, though unlikely, was a feeder stream at the big bend in the river. As this was across the river from us, we had no way to further investigate.
Around 11:00 we returned to the spot where we had seen the now vanished mergansers. Directly above that spot, thanks to their raucous grumblings, we found the ravens' relocated nest. As I have mentioned in a previous post, this rock face has been a dedicated raven home for who knows how long. Last February, Mica and I observed three ravens attending one nest. And so it was yesterday, with one sitting on the nest and the two others gathering and sharing food, as well as holding guard. I continue to think this quite interesting.
So, Mica and I were being very quiet, sitting on a bench, when a new noise interrupted our reverie. First we heard a crashing of brush, coming from the opposite side of the river, and just below the ravens. Then a piping/barking noise and a splash directed our attention to a pair of northern river otters in great spirit of play. At first it almost appeared as if they were in battle, then I considered they might be mating, but the fluidity of their motion and humorous antics made clear they were playing. And play they did, for us for over a half an hour.

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