Sunday, May 15, 2016

the wildlife of Chincoteague

Show me a wildlife refuge with about 34 miles of shoreline, and 14,000 acres, and you're not going to get me out of it all day.  Well, o.k., I emerged to drive fifteen minutes back to town to do the Sunday Skype with my parents and to eat a blackened tuna sandwich at Zack's Fish Shack, but that was it - otherwise, four separate trails, and a long walk down the shore.  Above, one of the many patches of saltwater marsh;

this was one of the big shocks - it looked as though they'd had a major fire, but no: acres of dead loblolly pine, decimated by the pine beetle.  It was quite shockingly ravaged.

Here's an Indigo Bunting!  I saw two of these, on two separate trails - extraordinarily bright; even more so than a blue bird;

more marshy shore, where I just sat and contemplated;

and there is a rarity!  Maybe not here, but this was an endangered species until last year.  You can just make out the ears and the facial silhouette.  It's a Delamarva Peninsula Fox Squirrel.  As squirrels go, it's huge - about 30" long (15" of which are fluffy tail), and a fairly pale grey.

And of course, wild ponies - descendants of Misty, I'm sure - in turn, descendants either of imported Spanish ponies belonging to the first settlers, or descendants of ponies who swam ashore from a shipwreck.  Since 1943 - when the refuge was formed - they've actually belonged to the Chincoteague Fire Department, who have permission to graze 150 of them on an area of salt marsh (so no, they're not really running around wild over the whole of Assateague Island).  Yes, those are houses behind - but there's a big inlet between, and that's where they swim over, annually, during the summer round-up (and that's a big money maker for the fire department, I'm sure).  These were a long way off - I was grateful for my telephoto lens).

I wasn't the only person wanting to get to the beach.

And here's the view from my deck, this evening. Not any wildlife visible here, but when it was almost dark I saw what looked very like a grey fox.

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