On the southwest bank of the beaver pond, ripe paw paws litter the trail.
Every few minutes another hand-sized fruit thunders to the ground. The sound startles a snapping turtle sunning on the bank and sends it diving for cover in the pond. It’s a big turtle, more than a foot in diameter.
In one of the paw paw trees, a squirrel carrying moss for a nest pauses to gaze at the photographer.
In the forest’s shady understory, fragrant, pearl-sized spice bush berries ripen to a rich red.
A dense growth of orange jewel weed atop the beaver dam attracts hummingbirds stopping for a meal on their journey south.
The green heron is still here, stretching as it scans the algae-cocvered pond for dinner.
In late afternoon, wood ducks gather near the cattail marsh, where the water is very shallow and thick grasses provide plenty of cover. Humans have difficulty accessing this area on foot but can observe it from the C&O Canal towpath, on the pond’s northeast bank. The wood duck population includes juveniles born at two different times of the year.
High in a tree draped with wild grape vines, a Red Bellied Woodpecker stretches to reach the dark purple fruit.
In another tree, a Carolina Wren swishes its tail in agitation as it monitors the movement of an intruder.
Acrobatic Carolina Chickadees dangle from stems and branches to get a daring closer look at a passerby.