13 January 2008

Whites Ferry


This afternoon I went back to the C&O Canal, this time to the Whites Ferry area south of the Monocacy Aqueduct. Whites Ferry is a small car-carrying flat-bottomed boat that goes back and forth between Maryland and Virginia covering a rather short distance across the Potomac River along a cable. In the picture below you can see the ferry's cable behind it.


After watching the ferry for a few minutes, I took a 4-mile hike on the C&O Canal. Sections of the canal around there still contain water, but not deep enough for the boats that were once pulled by mules treading on the towpath alongside the canal.


The remains of what appeared to have been a yellow and black bird were next to the towpath. It looked like a lucky predator had dined on the unlucky bird. I have no idea what species the bird may have been.


At one location there were lots of osage oranges on the ground in the woods along the towpath and also in the canal.


According to this article, the osage orange's original native range was rather small, covering parts of western Arkansas, southern Oklahoma and eastern Texas. But the tree was introduced to many places in the U.S. as a hedge plant. It is interesting that a plant can do so well in places so far north of its original home.



Neil said...

Your hapless bird is likely Colaptes auratus auratus the yellow-shafted race of the Northern Flicker.

We've got osage oranges out here in CA too. Some friends of mine recently harvested and cooked some, thinking they were breadfruit. When I told them they were cooking a fruit laced with DEET analog, they were disappointed.

John said...

I agree with Neil's suggestion of Northern Flicker. There are some sample feathers here.

I didn't know that White's Ferry was still operative. When I looked at the map, I assumed it was a historical name left over from a defunct ferry.


John, thanks for the link to the feather atlas.

Roger B. said...

I was interested to read about the osage orange - I'd never heard of it before.

Dave Coulter said...

Hey....I'm pretty fond of those osage orange trees myself!

Neil said...

The "original range" may be misleading. In Ghosts of Evolution Connie Barlow posits that Osage Orange may be among the suite of large-fruited (and often spiny) plants co-adapted to the Pleistocene megafauna. The restricted range in historical times may have been a function of the extinction of its animal dispersal agents. I Don't know if it's true, but it's a great story!