Campground Wildlife

Those of you who live in the country will make fun of my enthusiasm here, but it’s been ages since I’ve lived in the middle of nature, and each time I spot an animal I haven’t seen in a while I get all excited and rub my hands together.


Tracy’s had his eyes to the ground and up to the sky in a more focused way than I have, and he restarted his birding life-list at the beginning of retirement. My mom used to keep hers scribbled on the inside back cover of her Peterson’s Field Guide—the same edition Tracy sticks in his pocket for walks—but he keeps his list on a super-handy app.

After growing up to the soundtrack of my mom pointing out these very same birds to me and me being mostly uninterested, I think the birder in me is finally awakening.

So, the photo up at the top of this entry is of Tracy watching an osprey on the lake (below right, from Wikipedia). We’ve seen it a few more times since that initial spotting so maybe it lives here.

Another resident is a broad-winged hawk who hunts in the field in front of the Airstream (above right, ditto with source). We’d been hearing him for days before Tracy found him in the binoculars. Tracy said something like,

There he is, and he has something in his talons. It’s a snake! And there it goes: he swallowed it in a split second.

This is big drama for us.

We’ve also seen and heard pileated woodpeckers, bluebirds, warblers, and many more that Tracy’s been enjoying identifying.


Tracy spotted this baby turtle in the road that survived the perilous crossing as residents drive to and from worksites in the county and the campground crew drives all around this place.

Our exciting critter news is that we have a neighbor reptile on our campsite, or I should say we’re encroaching on its home turf. We call it Banjo’s pet lizard because it keeps her occupied; she keeps us entertained trying to rouse it out.

It lives in a tree stump right within the circumference of Banjo’s line she’s attached to and made the mistake of coming out one day while we were all watching.

It’s not the common type I grew up with in these woods; it’s longer, about 4 or 5 inches. But man is Banjo fascinated by this one. She will sniff around that stump for a half hour hoping it’ll come out again. I’m thinking the lizard is way smarter than that.

I’m also hoping that Banjo is smarter when we come across snakes.

Here she is sacked out in the sun, but with her half-asleep eye on the stump.

And here she is (apparently the wildlife we see the most is Banjo) with her head buried in the soft floor of the woods, trying to root out some poor small critter.

When we’re out walking she keeps her eyes on the horizon for movement and her nose up in the air to get the smell of what’s around, but her favorite hunting style is to pounce on small critters burrowing in the ground. She looks like a fox when she does it.

So far the only one she’s successfully grabbed is a vole—we’re hoping she’s slower than most. Lord knows I was a party to needless animal death all those years I walked the woods with Jack the Groundhog Destroyer.


This is even more exciting stuff than the lizard, to all three of us 🙂

We’ve been seeing evidence of a beaver on the lake ever since we discovered we could walk along a narrow deer trail on the far side, but there’s no clear lodge, and the tree limbs don’t look recently cut. We were wrong!

Here’s an unexciting screen cap of video I took of the beaver coming in to the lodge one morning before it spotted Banj and me and went under.

Ever since then, Banj and I have been watching diligently: Banjo the lodge (which is silly, but she must be able to smell the beaver down there) and me the surface of the water in case the beaver is out and about in the early morning.

I want to get over there at sunset to watch for it too, but the best time will be on the water once we get the kayaks out. Something to look forward to!

Banjo in her lumberjack coat watching for the beaver. Happy dog.

Okay, you guys keep up the self-care and watching out for others. I miss everyone.


21 thoughts to “Campground Wildlife”

    1. I can’t believe you don’t think some turtles are cute as buttons! I used to abscond with baby turtles as a kid and feed them earthworms. Especially baby box turtles are adorable.

  1. Wildlife I like! How far out in the “wilderness” are you really? Where is this camp map-vice? You may have mentioned it in your earlier bloggs, but I haven’t had the time to read them all through yet.
    Love -Li

    1. I’m in central Virginia, between Richmond and Charlottesville (where we met up for that bookfair).

      1. I’ve found you Shelly! That Google Earth is quite amazing. I searched for Lake Ruth Ann and then the road came up and of course the lake, too. I can se a lot of RV’s and scan through the campground and around the lake. I guess these maps are not up to date like once a week or something, so I couldn’t see your FireFly campwagon or site, and even so, I guess you are well protected from above by the trees.
        Love -Li

        1. Okay, now you got me into peering through Google Street View at this place. It looks like the aerial image is from last summer, but oddly there are few RVs here compared to what I had been expecting during non-pandemic times. Looks like they were constructing the bandstand at the top of the field and still planting grass. It’s so strange that it’s less full last summer than right now. Maybe it was an unusual time – maybe they’d closed it for construction of the bandstand? So weird! There were zero campers on our little loop then whereas we’re #5 right now.

    1. Thanks so much, Mark! If you’re on Instagram, there’s a beaver video update there this morning (@thisporch). Banjo is very interested the beaver.

  2. Are you going out at all for hikes? This may be of interest to you. C and I used to go there when we lived in Lake Monticello. Lots of trails and not many people. the dog park is probably closed.

    1. Also, we got take-out lunch from none other than Crescent Inn a few days ago. I think nothing has changed. 🙂

      1. …brave souls…The Crescent also used to have 5-6 calendars on the wall. Least Heat Moon talks about the importance of this in Blue Highways but I can’t remember if it’s a positive or negative for overall rural restaurant ratings.

  3. Hi, Shelly. I really enjoy your blog, and I especially loved your description of all the wildlife. All my friends make fun of me all the time because I love nature and all the critters in it, be it birds, squirrels, rabbits, frogs, lizards, ants. Larry and I one day last summer followed a trail of ants carrying eggs from under a shrub at the far end of the house across the yard and winding down the edge of the woods to a dead stump almost at the end of the driveway circle, depositing their precious cargo in a small opening and, I assumed, returning for another load (the trail ran both ways).

    Speaking of lizards, Sassy had no greater joy than watching and trying to catch lizards during the 11 years she was with us.
    She would sit on the deck for a solid hour watching the spot where she saw one disappear. God, how I miss her.

    1. It’s funny – when Banjo is out on a walk and super-alert, with her head up high so she can smell the air in all directions, every single time I think of Jack and how happy he was out trotting his long legs in a field. I miss him at the same time I’m finding joy in Banjo being happy outside. Those extra-special dogs live in our hearts a really long time, don’t they.

  4. I see someone mentioned William Least Heat Moon”s Blue Highways. I used his book in the classroom. I especially enjoyed his description of crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway west of Stanardsville and riding down Rt 33 along the mountain stream and into our little town.
    You would like many of his quotes from BH–Google him.

    1. I just mentioned this to Tracy, and he thinks he owns it. YAY, thanks Carole and Li for the recommendation.