I took a trip down to nearby Huntley Meadows Park. This is the largest county park in Fairfax County, with 1,425 acres of "majestic forests, wildflower-speckled meadows and vast wetlands for some of the best wildlife watching in the Washington metropolitan area." I wanted to review the winners of the center's annual Photography Contest, including a photo of Kingbirds entered by a bird-watcher good friend.
A walk through the wooded trails and along the wetlands boardwalk yielded a surprising amount of interesting wildlife for a drab Saturday afternoon in winter. A King Rail was spotted munching in the cattails, with its tiger-stripe orange back and zebra striped belly. Others loafing around included abundant Canada geese, mallards, gulls, cardinals, chickadees, nuthatch, and crows. The more interesting included the downy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, and rare (in this area) red-headed woodpecker. My favorite sighting was the Eastern bluebird, standing out in a background without color.
With my tiny Canon Power Shot in hand, a few interesting photogenic features were found growing in the wood trails: lichen and fungus. The colorful lichen were growing in their symbiotic relationship with with algae and moss, as usual. However, there were a few areas where fungus instead seemed to be its mate. Lichen usually rely on the sugars produced by green algae, so with no algae or moss, I don't know what these little beasties were up to.
The same lichen on trees appeared to be two different colors - pale green and a pale greenish-blue. I wasn't sure if this was the same lichen in a different stage of growth, or a slightly different species. The lichen was so pervasive that the trees looked like a paintball game just finished.
The interesting fungi that were found resembled clamshells with the horizontal stripes, popcorn on the log, and bite-sized caramels on the fallen branch. I believe I was hungry that day, affecting the way I saw things. At least the birds didn't look like chocolate-covered marshmallow peeps.