First Landing State Park, October 10

First Landing State Park is beginning to feel the onset of fall. The osprey are migrating, leaving egrets and herons in charge. Grasshoppers carry on as if winter will never come, but the butterflies know better. They’ve disappeared, along with most of the bees. (I did see something that might have been a bee, but it also might have been a fly that wanted me to think it was a bee.)

Despite these changes, summer hasn’t abandoned the park entirely. Mosquitoes still bite and squirrels still play. Crabs forage while frogs sing a frantic final chorus. Turtles patrol the shallow ponds, their backs mounded with mud so that they look like curiously mobile islands.

And the sun is still strong enough to burn if you stay out too long. Like I did today. But I have a good excuse for my over-long walk and uncomfortable sunburn. I was chasing a kingfisher…

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Green Tree Frog

I found a frog in the ginger lilies today. (I believe it was a green tree frog.) Frogs are unusual in the yard, so I was thrilled to find my second one of the summer. My delight faded to itchy frustration when I began trying for pictures.

The frog retreated into the ginger lilies, stem by stem. I crept in after it as far as I could, but the ginger lilies are hostile this time of year. They are head-high, densely packed, and teem with bugs that bite and sting.

Even so, I managed to follow the frog with my lens until it tired of the chase and settled on a leaf. Then I looked away for a second, to adjust the camera’s settings, and lost sight of my subject. I never found it again.

Sometimes the yard is an extension of Wonderland, complete with animals that disappear at will.



The embryo flexes
Twirling in its clotted pearl
Of egg, clouds of spawn
Spattered across the bog

The pollywog nursery lined
With moss and leaves
Mud and silt, secluded pools
For the immature throng

Of grazers, minnow sleek
In mottled skin with bristle
Gills neatly tucked away
The whole world is water

Mouths full and ears full
As bones push into buds
Sprouting these legs
In an awkward unbecoming

The road to exile, maturity
Is always a breaking
Of surface, an intersection
Of amnion, water, and air

No ribs, no muscles
For the breath, only gulp
And inefficient heart
Subject to chill, blood

Flecked and flickering
Supplemented by supple
Skin, a tenuous tension
Of absorption and loss

The sustained refrain, air
Vibrating in humid heat
All their hungry songs afloat
Thrilling through their empty throats

These photos were taken January 1, 2004 at the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, which was hosting a traveling exhibit called “Frogs: A Chorus of Colors”.