Sunday, April 26, 2009

Return to MacKay Island N.W.R.

It's been two years since the last time I hiked the entire perimeter of MacKay Island N.W.R. So today I drove down with my two oldest daughters, Rachel and Sarah, to hike it again. Rachel had never been there. Sarah was with me the last time I went, so both were eager to get out and see the land and the inhabitants.

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Information about MacKay Island NWR: Click Here

Status of Living Things: Vegetation near the main entrance is still waiting to spring back to life, however, from the first stop-gate on the vegetation is bright green and teeming with life. Turtles were in high abundance along the main driving trail. Mostly adults or half-grown. No babies. We counted at least thirty along a 100 yard distance, sitting on branches or logs in the water. The only insects we saw today were butterflies, a few "ground bugs", and a slight population of gnats and mosquitoes. The dear fly abundance was pretty low. Almost absent. Birds we saw were Bald Eagles (we counted six), a few Egrets, a bunch of white Cranes, two Grey Heron, plenty of red-wing blackbirds, and one very angry Osprey guarding her nest (which we accidentally turned a corner and happened upon). She screeched and swooped a few times but we moved on quickly. Unlike warmer months, there were absolutely NO snakes, spiders, lizards or centipedes.

For the first time ever, we saw a full-grown deer, eating out in the wet marsh. This was along the North trail, just East of the mid-point trail, off to the North. It was maybe 300 yards out but clearly visible. No way we could approach it, or it us. Too much water in between

The Eagles were full-grown and all were in flight. None were perched or near their nests. They were all in a general area swarming in circles near the forest, which covers the middle section of the Reserve.

MacKay Island is part of Knott's Island, which is just at the edge of the North Carolina border with Virginia to the East.  From my house in Virginia Beach, it's about a 40 minute drive.  We hiked the outer of both the "MacKay Island Trail" and the "Live Oak Point Trail", which we call the "outer loop trail" which is roughly nine (9) miles in all, sort of.  We meander off the trail while at the point where Knapp's house was, so we add some distance to the trip.

The girls and I made the full perimeter in good time. Only stopping to take pictures in a few spots, and moving on. Thankfully I packed enough crap in my backpack to cover us the whole time and in the 90 degree heat. There was a good breeze around the North trail and the tip of the island (where Joseph Knapp's house once stood). The trip back along the South trail was a dead heat with no breeze and where we encountered the most gnats. All told, we had a great time and my girls thanked me for making the trip.
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