Great Dismal Swamp Birding Festival

Posted on 04/30/2023 in misc

Trip 31
Nights 101-102

You know you married the right person when she doesn’t blink at weekend camping plans that include getting up at 5 AM to go birding in a swamp. Camping season #4 with the Ascape has officially begun!

We started this season at Chippokes State Park, which was the closest campground (that I would stay in) to The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge on the VA/NC border. It poured rain all day Friday, but the forecast showed clearing around dinnertime, and the forecast was right. The 90-minute drive was wet, but we got to set up camp without getting rained on.

Normally, I try to reserve campsites far from the Group campsite. That was not possible this weekend. The Group site was about 200 feet from us, and it contained about 7 tents that each held 8 kids. I’m not exaggerating, not by much anyway. The kids were generally well-behaved, and the parents did a good job of getting them quiet around 8 PM each night. So I’m not complaining. However, the group of kids, and there were seriously 20+ of them, were loud. They turned the campground loop into their bike and scooter racecourse and just pedaled and ran and make an astonishing amount of noise, which is exactly what a group of kids should be doing on a blue sky Saturday afternoon. I assume the parents were all drinking, because I don’t know how they could survive that cacophony without alcohol!

As mentioned, we had a 5 AM wake-up call to go birding, so Saturday was an early day. The forecast was for clouds and gloom all day, without rain. Mother nature delivered blue skies and a perfect 68F spring day, after a slow start of gloom and clouds. We IDed 35 species, including 4 or 5 lifers, so that was a good start to the day! That afternoon, my Aunt that lives in the area joined us at the campground, and we grilled steaks for dinner. So all in all, an A+ day that ended early because we were up at 5 AM.

photo collage from the weekend

There was an original Cabin A in the campground, which is the spiritual predecessor to the Aliner Ascape. I never saw the owners around, though, so I didn’t get a chance to say hello.

Sunday, we woke up to rain, but got enough of a break to pack up and head home before the next wave of raindrops hit. So trip 1 of the 2023 season is in the books. Next up is a weekend a Powhatan State Park, where birding will likely be the primary activity again. Our big trips this year are back loaded on the calendar, in October and November.

In other news, I am the proud new owner of a Nikon CoolPix B600 camera, purchased mostly for bird photography. If photos of birds are going to bother you, unsubscribe from this website now because bird pictures are going to be a thing around here.

Notes: A couple of interesting things I learned talking to experts.

  1. The Monarch Butterfly didn't crash as bad as we all thought in 2020. The numbers rebounded to an extent that was mathematically impossible based on the butterfly count. They now think the Monarchs are adapting to climate change and habitat destruction by finding new places to roost for the winter. Places we haven't found yet.
  2. Opossums don't play dead voluntarily. It's a reflexive response to danger that causes them to faint. It's not a conscious action.
  3. Great Horned Owls are Apex predators. The only predator of a healthy Great Horned Owl is another Great Horned Owl.

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