The Photography of D L Ennis, and more!


Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

Moon in the Treetops

Thank You to all of our readers, old and new, for making 2006 a wonderful year for the Blue Ridge Gazette! We hope you will continue to grace the BRG with your presence through 2007 and beyond!

I also want to thank the many fine writers and photographers, and there have been many, who have contributed to the BRG in the past year…thanks guys and gals!

May 2007 be the best year of your lives and may you have good health and happiness!!!

Happy New Year Everyone!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Mountain Mystery

What these guys are doing is tracking their dogs that are running through valley. The dogs are trained to chase bear and drive them to a location. They are in radio contact with other hunters who will try to make the kill. They try to pin the bear by trapping them in certain locations. Sometimes having the dogs run from both ends of the valley and forcing the bear to come toward the hunters. Some of these hunters are motivated to get the gall bladder of the bear that can sell for up to 10,000 dollars on the Asian market. Also cut off bear paws are in demand. Recently, there was a forest fire that was set in ten locations during bear hunting season, which would make a barrier and help control the run of the bear. Perhaps the arson was just coincidental that it happened during bear season. Perhaps not.

From The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries:

Richmond, VA -– At a joint press conference, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) and the National Park Service (NPS) announced the results of a multi-year, joint, undercover, investigation that has produced numerous wildlife violation charges and directly linked the communities surrounding Shenandoah National Park with the multi-million dollar international black market trade in American black bears and American ginseng plants. State and federal officials have become increasingly concerned about the commercialization and exploitation of natural resources and the results of this investigation confirm the existence of an active black market demand for products from the Virginia mountains. The extent of this international demand threatens the viability of the species involved. Additional investigative support was provided by the FBI, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the National Fish and Wildlife Forensic Laboratory, the United States Attorney’s Office, and the Rockingham County/Harrisonburg Virginia Commonwealth Attorney’s Office.
Image smoke from the 3000 acre forest fire.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Cloudy Days on the Blue Ridge Parkway

A cloudy day or a little sunshine have as great an influence on many constitutions as the most recent blessings or misfortunes.
--Joseph Addison

Who Stopped the Rain?

Who Stopped the Rain?It had been raining just a few minutes before I took this image from the Blue Ridge Parkway at the Arnold Valley Overlook…

Rain in the Distance

Rain in the DistanceStanding on the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Appalachians, looking west across the valley, you can see the rain falling on the eastern slopes of the Allegany Mountain Range…

First Day of Winter

First Day of WinterTaken on the James River, 12/21/06, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia from the Blue Ridge Parkway…

Storm Breaking-up

Storm Breaking-upTaken from the Blue Ridge Parkway, crossing the James River, shortly after the rain stopped and the clouds began to break-up…

Heaven in the Valley

Heaven in the ValleyIt appears that parts of the heavens have fallen into the valley…Taken on the Blue Ridge Parkway over looking Arnold Valley in Virginia.

December 21 on the James

December 21 on the JamesTaken on the first day of winter in the Blue Ridge Mountains…


ConsumedThe James River Valley has been consumed by clouds on this day, as seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia…

Cloudy Valley

Cloudy ValleyArnold Valley, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, after a morning rain…Taken from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Break in the Clouds

Break in the CloudsIt had been raining off and on all day, and in the late afternoon, we saw a break in the clouds…taken in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

Click any image to see a larger version…

If you would like to see more of my images of the Blue Ridge, click here


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Birds of the Mid-Atlantic #27: Great Horned Owl

Two weekends ago I was lucky enough to have great looks at three great horned owls in two different locations. Two involved flying birds, but one was a close-up, unobstructed view of an awake, perched owl. Owl sightings always leave an impression with me because such sightings are so unusual during the day and because owls' faces are so compelling.

Great Horned Owl / Photo by Carla Stanley (USFWS)

Unlike other birds, owls have forward-facing eyes and stereoscopic vision, which presumably gives them some advantage in low light conditions. That adaptation leaves them with very human-looking faces. As a result, owls may be the most easily anthropomorphized of bird families. They are also among the most mysterious of birds because of their nocturnal habits. Thus all sorts of magical traits - for good or ill - are associated with them.

In reality, there is very little magic involved in a great horned owl's habits. They are among the most adaptable of hunters, and will take game from the very small (mice , voles, and the like) to animals as large as raccoons and domestic cats. Depending on the location, great horned owls may take mammals, birds, or reptiles of many different species. They are habitat generalists, and can survive in suburban areas, though they prefer open woodland and meadows.

Winter is a good time to look for owls, whether great horned or other species. Fewer leaves on the trees means that there are fewer places for owls to hide, thus narrowing the search area to conifers and tangles of vines. Local owls start to set up their breeding territories as early as January. Great horned owls, in particular, are more vocal at this time of year than later in the spring or summer, and some pairs may already be on nest. An additional benefit is that many northern species will winter in the mid-latitudes, so if you want to see a long-eared or northern saw-whet owl, this is the time of year to look.

Great Horned Owl Chicks in Nest / Photo by USFWS

During the day, check for owls in stands of conifers, especially spruce and fir. Regular roosts will be marked by cakes of whitewash. Look for trees with obvious whitewash and check the upper branches carefully for owls. Since great horned owls use nests built and abandoned by other species, it is worth checking old hawk and squirrel nests for a nesting owl. Night owling can be aided by playing taped calls, though that may not be advisable (or legal) in all areas. Be sure to check local regulations and consider your own safety before looking for owls at night.

If you want to look for owls yourself, some of the following may be helpful:
If you are lucky enough to see an owl or find a nest site, take precautions to avoid disturbing the bird. Keep a respectful distance and avoid visiting the same spot repeatedly. Do not publish a nest location on internet sites or email lists. These guidelines should hold for all owl species, except perhaps for extreme rarities or for species that can be observed from a distance, like short-eared and snowy owls.

When I wrote my last post in this series in October, I did not think it would take six weeks for me to write another one. I do plan to keep this series going, and I have a few more installments planned for the coming weeks.

Crossposted at A DC Birding Blog.


Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas during the American Civil War

Image: Artist Thomas Nast's depiction of a mournful Christmas Eve in December of 1863.

This is one of Thomas Nast's depictions of a heartsick separated family's Christmas during the third year of the American Civil War. The woman looks longingly at the winter's moon while the lonely soldier gazes sadly at his family's picture.

This photograph originally published in Harper's Weekly, now courtesy of the Library of Congress.

According to historian Ronald Hutton, the current state of observance of Christmas is largely the result of a mid-Victorian revival of the holiday spearheaded by Charles Dickens. In A Christmas Carol, Hutton argues, Dickens sought to construct Christmas as a family-centered festival of generosity, in contrast to the community-based and church-centered observations, the observance of which had dwindled during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The holiday, remade as a family-centered rather than community-centered festival, carried its own set of contradictions: the practice of gift-giving created the possibility of commercialization, and the shift from community to familial focus further eroded the traditions of communal religious observance.

Historian Stephen Nissenbaum contends that the modern celebration in the United States was developed in New York State from existing Dutch traditions in order to re-focus the holiday from one where groups of young men went from house to house demanding alcohol and food into one that was focused on the happiness of children. He notes that there was deliberate effort to prevent the children from becoming greedy in response.

For a nation torn by civil war, Christmas in the 1860s was observed with conflicting emotions. Nineteenth-century Americans embraced Christmas with all the Victorian trappings that had moved the holiday from the private and religious realm to a public celebration. Christmas cards were in vogue, carol singing was common in public venues, and greenery festooned communities north and south. Christmas trees stood in places of honor in many homes, and a mirthful poem about the jolly old elf who delivered toys to well-behaved children captivated Americans on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.

But Christmas also made the heartache for lost loved ones more acute. As the Civil War dragged on, deprivation replaced bounteous repasts and familiar faces were missing from the family dinner table. Soldiers used to "bringing in the tree" and caroling in church were instead scavenging for firewood and singing drinking songs around the campfire. And so the holiday celebration most associated with family and home was a contradiction. It was a joyful, sad, religious, boisterous, and subdued event.

Christmas was an especially difficult time for soldiers and the families they left at home. . On the home front, many women and children widened their responsibilities and suffered hardships caused by the absence of their Husbands, Fathers and Sons.

It was not until Christmas 25 days afterwards (after the Battle of Franklin Nov. 30th 1864) that I was enabled to borrow a yoke of oxen, and spent the whole of that Christmas Day hauling seventeen dead horses from this yard. Moscow Carter "Carter House resident”-Speaking about Christmas Day 1864.

The Same year in Central Virginia, young William Nalle hurried to his grandmother's farm, which Union Cavalrymen were ransacking. Arriving, the boy witnessed "a spectacle I shall not shortly forget." All the stock and forage were snatched up by the Union troopers. Doors were ripped off during the greedy search for provisions and some of the troopers grabbed his grandmother's collar demanding money. Christmas had come to the barren Virginia countryside, one that young William and many others in the region would never forget.
Elisha Hunt Roads - "This is the birthday of our Savior, but we have paid very little attention to it in a religious way... It does not seem much like Sunday or Christmas, for the men are hauling logs to build huts. This is a work of necessity for the quarters we have been using are not warm enough.

Image Right: Thomas Nast's most famous image of Santa Claus was published in Harper's Weekly on January 1, 1881.
Most southern children endured meager living during the war, and Christmas only accentuated the hardship.

Three year old Robert Martin said he was "...tired of the war because Santa Clause forgot to come to the Shenandoah Valley."

Many southern children were told that "Santa was a Yankee" so Confederate pickets would not let Santa through.

By contrast though, many northern children still received gifts and treats because the northern economy actually flourished and expanded as the war dragged on.

One soldier described Christmas 1862 in the union Iron brigade: "…two men from company f provided a temporary diversion on Christmas Day. The two got into a fight that ended with one struck the other over the head with a musket bending the barrel so badly as to render it unserviceable.”

Many of the holiday customs we associate with Christmas today were familiar to 1840s celebrants. Christmas cards were popularized that decade and Christmas trees were a stylish addition to the parlor. By the 1850s, Americans were singing "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem," and "Away in a Manger" in public settings. In 1850 and 1860, Godey's Lady's Book featured Queen Victoria's tabletop Christmas tree, placed there by her German husband Prince Albert. Closer to home, in December, 1853, Robert E. Lee's daughter recorded in her diary that her father - then superintendent at West Point - possessed an evergreen tree decorated with dried and sugared fruit, popcorn, ribbon, spun glass ornaments, and silver foil.

Note: Christmas was declared a U.S. federal holiday in 1870.

Some Information for this article was taken from "We Were Marching on Christmas Day: A History and Chronicle of Christmas During the Civil War" by Kevin Rawlings.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Back Road Treasures II

I wanted to share with you some of the most recent treasures that I’ve found on the back roads of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Hope you enjoy them! Click any image to see a larger version of it…

Royal Crown Cola

Royal Crown ColaThis Royal Crown Cola sign is on an old country store (no longer in operation) on a back road in Rockbridge County, Virginia; in the Blue Ridge Mountains…

Seen Better Days

Seen Better DaysThis old barn sits well off the back road we were traveling; now surrounded by trees and collapsing from age. I can’t help but think about how proud and relieved the original owners may have been when it was new as well as how the barn was used…was it also a hiding and play place for children? Maybe, a place for the farmer who owned it, to take a brake and reflect on his life? I am quite intrigued by these old structures!

Farmhouse Reflections

Farmhouse ReflectionsAn old farmhouse reflects on the farm pond on a back road in Bedford County, Virginia; in the Blue Ridge Mountains…

Little Log Cabin

Little Log CabinA very small log cabin found on the back roads of Rockbridge County, Virginia in the Blue Ridge Mountains…

Red Barn by the Farm Pond

Red Barn by the Farm PondAn old red barn stands by the farm pond on a back road in Rockbridge County, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia…

In the Light

In the LightA whitetail deer cautiously watches me as I carefully try not to spook her. Taken on a back road in Bedford County, Virginia in the Blue Ridge Mountains…

Deer on the Rocks

Deer on the RocksThree does standing on road side boulders near the Blue Ridge Parkway; in Bedford County and the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia…


AbandonedA rusty red roof on an old abandoned farm house in Rockbridge County, Virginia, in the Blue Ridge Mountains…

The Old Red Barn

The Old Red BarnAn old barn still in use and filled with hay sits on the side of a back road in Rockbridge County, Virginia, in the Blue Ridge Mountains…

If you would like to see more of my images of the Blue Ridge, click here


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Arson in the George Washington National Forest

Image by D L Ennis: Fire can be seen, in this image, staying close to the ground at the top of this ridge. Click any image to see a larger version.

As of this morning a fire, set by arsonist, is still burning in the Peavine Gap area of the George Washington National Forest in Amherst County, Virginia. “…it's the product of arson, according to investigators in Amherst County. Hundreds of acres have already burned, and several fires continue as crews search for the best plan of attack.”

Image by D L Ennis: Ash falls like snow on a back road in the G. W. National Forest near the fire.

Several fires were reported Saturday night near Peavine Gap. According to WSET, in Lynchburg, Virginia: “Investigators say all the information they've gathered points to arson. For now, each is fire burning low to the ground and doesn't pose any real threat to private property.” As the crow flies the fire is less than a mile from my home in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Image by D L Ennis: Smoke fills the sky from the burning ridges around Peavine Gap.

Capt. Woody Lipps, U.S. Forest Service - "Eventually, for one reason or anther, there's going to be fire in the forest, always has been. If the fuel is removed a little at a time, you'll almost always have fires similar to this. If you have a great build-up of fuel, then you can have an extremely dangerous fire."

That's not to say things are already fully controlled. Captain Lipps points out weather could make these fires much worst in the coming days.

Image by D L Ennis: The Blue Ridge Parkway is closed near Otter Creek.

The Blue Ridge Parkway, is closed because of the fire, 1000 ft. north of the Otter Creek Campground on the Parkway.

Update 12/13/2006
This from WSET
Amherst Co., VA - That forest fire in Amherst County has doubled in size. Tuesday, firefighters took to the air to try to get an upper-hand on the battle. Investigators believe it started on Sunday night and that someone lit it on purpose. Now, they're working hard to get it under control.
The choppers dropped ping pong balls filled a chemical that starts fires, giving them helpful controlled burns. Fire officials believe the first flames started near Peavine Gap in the George Washington National Forest Sunday night. About 60 firefighters were working on it. And more are on the way. They tell us, right now, no homes or business are in danger. How long this fire will burn is still up in the air.
Donna Wilson, U.S. Forest Service - "It's really weather dependent. It could be a few days or a week or so. It just depends on how much rain we get if any."
I talked to a parkranger on the Blue Ridge Parkway yesterday evening and he says that the Parkway north of Otter Creek will be closed at least for the rest of this week. -DL

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Back Road Treasures I

Traveling the back roads you will find many treasures, historical and visual. Take the back roads and see what treasures lie in wait for you!

Frosty Morning Sunrise

Frosty Morning SunriseTaken on a back road in Amherst County, Virginia; in the Blue Ridge Mountains…

Arnold Valley Trestle

Arnold Valley TrestleOld trestle over the James River, in Arnold Valley, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia…


FoamhengeOff of rt.11 in Rockbridge County, Virginia, someone has built a replica of Stonehenge out of Styrofoam…hence the name, “Foamhenge.” It’s quite a sight to see in the Blue Ridge Mountains!

The Cedar, the Fence, and the Farm

The Cedar, the Fence, and the FarmTaken on a back road in Bedford County, Virginia; an old family farm…

Fill it Up Please

Fill it Up PleaseWhile riding the back roads in Arnold Valley, Rockbridge County in the Blue Ridge Mountains, we ran across this old country store where the owner is turning into a museum. This is one place he is working on outside the store using an antique gas pump and antique cars…it’s a wonderful place!

Grandpa—Sleeping it Off

Grandpa—Sleeping it OffWhile riding the back roads in Arnold Valley, Rockbridge County, Virginia in the Blue Ridge Mountains, we ran across this old country store where the owner is turning into a museum. This is one view of the inside of the store and Grandpa is really a wax figure…The corn liquor jug next to him is real, but I think it was empty. I wonder if Grandpa comes to life at night…

Glenn Falls

Glenn FallsTaken at Glenn Falls is in Augusta County, Virginia, in the Blue Ridge Mountains and is on private property, but we managed to get to it to take some pictures. The falls itself drops 25-30 feet into this beautiful natural pool after which the creek continues to the Tye River in Nelsen County.

Storm Moving In

Storm Moving InA front moving in on the farm while the sun peeks through the clouds in the east. Taken in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia...

A Portal through Time

A Portal through TimePeering through what’s left of an old (c.1700’s) chimney next to the James River, in Arnold Valley, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia…

A December Afternoon

A December AfternoonI love the skies this time of year…they are an ever changing palate. Taken on a back road in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Click any image to see a larger view!

If you would like to see more of my images click here

Christmas Bird Counts Coming Soon

Christmas is two weeks away, and that means one thing for birders - it is time for Christmas Bird Counts. The count season is due to begin this Thursday, December 14, 2006, to January 5, 2007.

Each count aims to record every individual bird heard or seen within a defined count circle. Count circles are divided into sectors, each of which is covered by a small team. Of course, results can vary a great deal from year to year, depending on the number of participants, time spent in the field, and the weather. However, the counts can present valuable data about bird population trends over a long period of time.

Christmas Bird Counts are the longest running "citizen science" project. The first took place in New York City and 24 other places in 1900. As the Audubon page explains:
Prior to the turn of the century, people engaged in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas "Side Hunt": They would choose sides and go afield with their guns; whoever brought in the biggest pile of feathered (and furred) quarry won. Conservation was in its beginning stages around the turn of the 20th century, and many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank Chapman, an early officer in the then budding Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition-a "Christmas Bird Census"-that would count birds in the holidays rather than hunt them. So began the Christmas Bird Count.
Since that time, CBCs have proliferated to cover almost all of North America and many places outside our continent.

To find a Christmas Bird Count near you, check the National Audubon Society directory.

Once CBCs are complete, there are a few midwinter counts in January and February. The most ambitious is one along the length of the C&O Canal.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Bear of the Blue Ridge

Image: Black Bear (Ursus americanus) courtesy of the National Park Service

With spring on its way bringing more people to our beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains to camp and hike, I thought that I would do a series on the black bear and how to camp and hike safely in black bear country.

This first segment is meant to familiarize you with the black bear; a little history, their look, range, and habits.

The North American black bear (Ursus americanus) is the best known and most widespread of North American bears. It is of medium size among bears, averaging 135 to 350 pounds, although individuals over 600 pounds have been found. Adult black bears, standing slightly over three feet at the shoulders, have a predominately black coat which is smooth and short haired, compared to the brown bears. However, there are also a number of well defined color variants: chocolate-brown, cinnamon and a silver gray tending to off-white. Smaller than their cousins, the black bear is an agile climber, even in adulthood. Black bears are alert creatures, with a sense of smell more highly developed than other large animals, with exceptional hearing but apparently only average eyesight.

The black bear originally inhabited the vast majority of our North American forest. Their numbers are estimated to have been about two million in the 1500's, but the black bear has been eliminated from many areas of the eastern, southeastern and central United States, and now, less than 200,000 are estimated to exist. Much of the range of the black bears is shared with the grizzly in parts of the northern Rockies, western Canada and Alaska. Although somewhat similar in coloration, in much of its habitat, the black bear does not have the noticeable front shoulder hump of the grizzly. The black bear has not been eliminated to the extent that the majestic grizzly bear has and is still found in a majority of the states, as well as all of the Canadian provinces and territories. It is a typical woodland animal and prefers forests with abundant undergrowth.

The black bear has become known to the public at large through the enormous popularity of US National Parks. As they are protected within the boundaries of the parks, some bears have lost their fear of man and will even go so far as to beg for handouts at the roadside. Other bears congregate around trash dumps or campsites and seize available food. Scarcity or abundance of natural food has much to do with black bear behavior. Not only will a black bear eat almost anything, it will gorge itself until its stomach can hold no more, sleep it off, and start the process over again.

Black bears are solitary animals that wander all their lives in search of food. The black bear's diet is similar to that of the brown bears, omnivores who will eat almost anything, but it is more markedly herbivorous. Depending on the season and the environment, vegetative matter makes up between 80% and 95% of its diet. During the spring (April-May) black bears feed mainly on grasses. Appearing to wander aimlessly, black bears are always in search of a more plentiful source of food or a mate during breeding season. In June they add insects, grubs and ants to their diet and in the fall the main source of foods are berries, mushrooms and acorns with supplemental carrion when available. Fall is a critical period as far as nutrition is concerned, in that sufficient reserves of fat must be built up for the winter. This is particularly important for those females which are going to be suckling young during the winter retreat.

Please, when you go into our forest and National Parks leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but photos and wonderful memories!

All of us here at the Blue Ridge Gazette appreciate all of our readers very much and we hope you continue to visit us and continue tell your friends…Thanks!

Technorati Tags:

Friday, December 01, 2006

Ruffed Grouse Society Flushes Up Two New Regional Directors

451 McCormick Road,
Coraopolis, PA 15108
(412) 262-4044
December 1, 2006
For Immediate Release
Ruffed Grouse Society Flushes Up Two New Regional Directors

Coraopolis, PA -- The Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) is pleased to announce that Wayne Roberts of Coplay, PA and Al Bowers of Oneonta, NY have joined the RGS team of Regional Directors.

Wayne comes to the RGS after serving just over five years as Regional Director for Ducks Unlimited in the Chicago Metropolitan Area. Wayne has also served as the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, and as the Community Relations Manager of Wildlands Conservancy based in Emaus, PA.

At RGS his region will include, Eastern PA, Connecticut, Georgia, New Jersey, Virginia as well as Strategic Events.

“This is a great opportunity for us, as my wife Katherine and I were looking to return to Pennsylvania. I look forward to my work here at RGS, and plan to be extremely active, both in our fundraising events and seeking out new chapters,” Roberts said.

Wayne now resides in Coplay, PA with his wife Katherine, son Christopher age 9, and daughter Rebecca age 7. He can be reached at (484) 553-7088, or by E-mail at

Al Bowers’ joins Team RGS as the Northeast Regional Director, serving Central and Eastern New York and New England.
Bowers comes to the Ruffed Grouse Society after a 33 year teaching career. An active outdoor enthusiast, who admittedly misses more grouse and woodcock then he harvests, Al has been a union leader, a football coach, and president of his area Little League. No stranger to fundraising dinners, Al has, during his tenure as Executive Director of the Conservation Alliance of New York, raised money for the “Venison Donation Program”, serving more than 100,000 meals to the needy over the past four years.

“I am looking forward to serving the Ruffed Grouse Society and the challenges of being a Regional Director in a part of the country that has such a rich heritage of grouse and woodcock hunting. I look forward to meeting each of the chapter officers, committee members and sponsors as well as pursuing the many ways possible to create and enhance grouse and woodcock habitat,” Bowers said.

Married for 34 years, he and his wife Nancy live in Oneonta, NY and have two adult sons -- Jarrod and Jason and one grandchild, Jackson Jason. Al can be reached at (607) 432-6398 or by E-mail at