Sky Meadows State Park

Virginia state parks are still open for day use! A staffer directed me to a spot in the overflow parking area at 10:30 on a pleasant, gusty Saturday morning.

I made a loop with the North and South Ridge Trails, about 3 miles in 3:15. That 700-foot (or so) climb just gets harder every year, but I can still do it, a few minutes at a time. Not too busy on the trails, mostly couples and small groups.

Among the butterflies, Eastern Tailed-blues were out, along with a few Zebra Swallowtails. A quick glimpse of an anglewing. Trees had not leafed out, so there were some spring ephemerals: Spring Beauty on the warmer, lower slopes; Bloodroot at higher elevations; a bit of Early Saxifrage; Cut-leaved Toothwort was fairly common; Rue Anemone always confuses me the first time I see it for the year.

Field Sparrows and Eastern Meadowlarks singing in the pastures.

I may have missed it the last time I was in the park: the American Chestnut Foundation has a baby orchard planted along the Boston Mill Road.

At the park (not): 109

This week’s message to my team:

I believe that all the team has received word from Halley that volunteer activities at the Park remain suspended. Quite disappointing, but necessary.

I hope, but don’t expect, that the siege will be lifted and that we can get at least one work day in at the end of the season, maybe mid-May or later.

’til then, as a thin compensation, I’ll offer a couple of YouTubes: Wood Ducks hanging out and 23 (!) ducklings exiting a box.

Stay safe, thanks for your patience, and wash your hands!

At the park: 108

From this week’s report:

No new nests started this week. We’re watching box #5, which has a full clutch of eggs but no evidence of incubation. Chris rescued my stick, which went for an extended swim in the new pool by the observation tower.

We plan to work again next week, 22 March. We will keep an ear out for guidance from the Park.

At the park: 107

First week of nest box monitoring. From my report:

box 5Earlier and earlier! We have eggs in three of our boxes already: 12 Hooded Merganser eggs in #5 (on the remains of last year’s songbird nest), 13 Hooded Merganser eggs in #7, and 4 Wood Duck eggs in #1 — all subject to recheck and confirmation.

We did not fill boxes #68, #60, and #13 with chips, in anticipation of their replacement. Box #13 is the priority for replacement: the term of art applied was “hot mess.”

Bonus bird sighting was a flock of 500+ Common Grackles (Quiscalus quiscula) moving across lower Barnyard Run.

iced-over easyProtip: your walking stick serves double duty as an icebreaker.

A mystery: 20

The ball opened with a country-dance, in which Mr Rivenhall, in honour bound, stood up with his cousin. He performed his part with propriety, she hers with grace; and Miss Wraxton, watching from a route-chair at one side of the room, smiled graciously upon them both.

—Georgette Heyer, The Grand Sophy, chap. 9

Hey, internet! Any idea what makes it specifically a route-chair? Foldability/portability? Does it look like a ballroom chair? A director’s chair? A campaign chair?

Heyer decoded

‘You won’t mind if I shake the fidgets out of his legs!’ Sophy called. ‘He is itching for a gallop!’

With that, she wheeled Salamanca about, and let him have his head down the stretch of tan that lay beside the carriage-road.

—Georgette Heyer, The Grand Sophy, chap. 5

My old print Oxford doesn’t have anything for tan in this context, but Webster II has

6. A path or track covered with tanbark, as a circus ring.

And for tanbark,

1. Any bark rich in tannin, bruised or cut into small pieces, and used in tanning. Spent tanbark is used for circus rings, race tracks, etc.

the tannin-depleted bark still holding onto some of its chemistry, and thus slow to degrade.

Which perhaps explains why so many parks feature a Tanbark Trail.

Bloomsday

Middle-aged literature professor Robert returns to Dublin to explore a what-might-have-been romance: a chance encounter with a superstitious guide to a walking tour of the city of James Joyce’s Ulysses comes to an abrupt, unsatisfying end. The slippery nature of time, particularly as experienced by Cait, the tour guide, engenders a dialogue between past and present.

When the focus is on young Robbie (Josh Adams) and Caithleen (Danielle Scott), the energy picks up, especially in the key scene in Sweny’s.

But playwright Dietz makes Robert a teacher of literature for no particular reason, unless it is so that Robert can commit the apostasy of bashing the novel for the benefit of audience members who regret never having read the book.

  • Bloomsday, by Steven Dietz, directed by Kasi Campbell, Washington Stage Guild, Washington