Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Goslings and Turtles and Sunlight!

I went for a lovely ride along the C&O Canal today. It was sunny and warm, but not too warm. Just right for shorts and a short sleeved shirt. And since most folks work on Wednesdays, the towpath was not too crowded.

I started near Carderock, about 11 miles out from the Georgetown end of the path, and headed northwest away from the city. It wasn't a terribly long ride... probably about 15 or so miles in total. But it was a beautiful day, the path was clear, the bike felt great, and so did I.

Spring has definitely arrived here... in addition to the warm weather and sunshine (along with a generous helping of spring rains lately), the critters are coming out in force. Today seemed at first to be all about turtles... every log, every stump, every rock, seemed to have a turtle on it... and in many cases a cluster of them! Now and then I'd see or here the splash into the water as I drew near, but many times they were just too relaxed to care, I guess.

As I rode on, I discovered another wonderful marker of spring... goslings! Just past the Great Falls area I spotted a pair of geese on the path... and then realized they had a bunch of fuzzy little goslings with them. Such beautiful, awkward, funny little creatures they are. Time after time I slowed to ease my way past a new little family... and time after time was warned with hissing and head-bobbing from the adults to not get to close! It was a delight to see them all... from tiny little fellas that would easily fit in the palm of my hand to some that were quite a bit larger, due to hatching earlier, I guess. Most of the families consisted of a half dozen or so goslings, but I saw two pairs that only had one little one each. It was odd, because in both cases, the gosling was clearly a brand new little fella... so I have to wonder... did a bunch not hatch, or did a predator get to them very early on? Kinda sad to realize how many of the little ones I saw today probably won't make it to adulthood, but that's the way nature works.

Of course, not everyone was viewing the geese so appreciatively... I saw one cyclist frantically ringing his bell loudly as he zoomed through a flock, barely slowing, and muttering "stupid geese" as he went past. Me, I find them beautiful and wondrous to watch. But then, I've always been that way.

Another sign of spring took on a more human element... namely, the canal boat operated by the Park Service is up and running again. I don't know the details, but they have a crew in period costumes, a replica of an old canal boat, and a mule, and they take passengers a short way along the canal, through at least one of the lift locks. It's a fascinating little bit of living history that I haven't yet participated directly in, but I'd like to. Maybe this is my year to do that.

One last, slightly bizarre item... in the picture below, note the sign that warns of unsafe ice! Too funny!

More photos can be seen at:


John Pickett said...

I saw some goslings and their parents along the Mount Vernon Trail last week. Sadly goslings are considered snack food by snapping turtles. Once when touring the Virginia Living Museum with my kids we watched as a duck disappeared under the surface of the water, reappeared, then vanished for good.

kb said...

oh my!