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Wild Animals

ANIMALS - We find Virginia deer stocked by the State Game Commission; myriad's of cottontail rabbits; the famous Virginia opossum; the gamey nocturnal raccoon; the tunneling, burrowing fur-bearing muskrat; the ferocious weasel; the predatory red fox, whose bark can be heard nightly; the gray squirrels and flying squirrels; the highly prized otter; and the valuable mink. Also tortoises and black snakes are often seen crossing the thoroughfares.


BIRDS
 - Of the game birds, there is the ring-neck pheasant, and large coveys of bobwhite quail, both varieties stocked by the Virginia Game Commission; flocks of exquisite wild turkeys, so tame that they no longer take to their wings or scurry to cover at the sight of a vehicle but merely view the passerby with curiosity; also the woodcock, largely nocturnal in habits.

Of the song birds, there is that renowned singer, the mocking bird; that most cherished of native birds, the joyous robin; the house wren with its familiar rich bubbling song of charm; and the wood thrush whose flute-like tones rise in the evening from the woodland depths. No sooner have the shadows lengthened when the characteristic notes of the whip-o-will resound through the forest glades. So plaintive its cry and so mysterious its comings and goings that the minds of the superstitious hereabouts its notes are associated with the misfortune such as a death in the house near which it persistently calls.

Of the common birds, we hear the harsh squeaks of the tiny sprites, the ruby-throated humming bird; the interesting woodpecker; the brilliant cardinal; the purple marten, largest and most beautiful of the swallow tribe and an inveterate insect eater; that harbinger of spring, the bluebird; the ubiquitous English sparrow; the ant-eating flicker; and the exotic Baltimore oriole in its tasteful dress of black and orange. Less pleasing are the so-called "vermin" of which there is no scarcity, the crow, the owl and the hawk. There are birds that haunt the beaches and margins of the creeks such as the noble eagle, the sportive kingfisher, the delicate sandpiper, the blue sage heron, the fish hawk and the graceful crane.
In season the York is visited by many species of migratory birds including the luscious mallard; its first cousin, the black duck; the scaup (blue-bill or raft duck), which decoys so prettily; the small "individual" size bufflehead; and the golden eye which, during flight, makes a whistling noise with its wings. Very cold weather brings into the river the Canada wild goose and its friend, the brant.

FISHES - The York River abounds in succulent bivalves such as large well-flavored oysters and clams, and at low water manoes (butterfish) can be found in profusion. Two area of natural rock exist within the Mine Depot limits upon which the oyster organism or seed readily adheres and lives. These natural oyster beds were formerly part of the public oyster grounds of the State of Virginia. Other portions of the underwater bottoms were formerly State leased planting grounds and contain enough shell for natural propagation.

On these hard bottoms abreast the Depot the angler, with hand-line, finds the trout, croker, spot, hogfish, catfish and perch. For those who favor rod-and-reel and game fish, the Ordnance pier after dark in the fall furnishes fine angling for striped bass (rock), running in size from one to eighteen pounds. The fyke and pound fisherman gather in their nets the flounder, the roe herring, the bluefish, the sturgeon, the shad, the sheepshead, and snapping turtle to say nothing of the smaller varieties ordinarily caught by hand line. Snaring the jumping mullet at night with gill nets is an art and by the natives a much anticipated sport.

These waters fairly teem with large meaty hard-shell crabs which are caught by the dozen with individual lines and by the barrels' full with trot-lines and likewise there is a copious supply of that epicurean delight, the soft crab.
For the fresh-water angler, Bracken's Pond has been stocked with bass and pickerel by the Federal Bureau of Fisheries.

FLORA - The forests abound with evergreens such as cedar, holly, kochia, pines, long and short-leaf spruce; several varieties of oaks furnish excellent timber such as the pin, the white and red oaks. There are the nut trees such as hickory, chestnut, chinquapin, black walnut, pecan; also the sweet mulberry and perilous persimmon; such beautiful shade trees as the sycamore, the locust, plain and silver-leaf poplar; various varieties of fruit trees as apple, pear, damson, and cherry.
At springtime, the woods are a riot of color with the dogwood, the wild plum, and the bountiful Scotch broom, with its long slender branches, small leaves and exuberant golden flowers, for which this locality is justly famous*. Later blooms the crown of victory-laurel, the beak-like columbine, the pink judas, the perfect althea, the yellow Rose of Sharon, and the gaudy crepe myrtle. The early summer huckleberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries tempt the palate with overflowing quantities.

To guard against the danger of fire due to the use of firearms or of the presence of persons in wooded areas, the shooting, hunting and trapping or the mole station of birds and wild animals on the lands of the Mine Depot was prohibited by order of the Secretary of the Navy in 1921. Birds and animals indigenous to the country this multiply according to natural laws and, thanks to the protection, are now expanding beyond the Depot limits to gladden the heart of the countryside sportsman.

 

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