Smith Mountain Lake Mystery Writer

Contemplations from a quiet cove on Smith Mountain Lake.

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Location: United States

I'm a Southern gal who loves life, my husband and our family (which, to date, includes 13 grandchildren). I enjoy being with friends and family. But I also like being alone and thinking up plots for future books. I've published two novels, both mysteries, and I'm working on my third. For more about my books, visit me at If you ever hear me say, "I'm bored," please get me to the ER immediately! Paddling my kayak and snapping pictures of the critters I see relaxes me. Beach music has the opposite effect--when I hear those old "doo-wops" I want to dance.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Birds of Prey at State Park

On Sunday, February 1, my friend Carol and I attended the Smith Mountain Lake State Park program entitled "Raptors of Virginia." The program lasted one short hour; I could have stayed at least two more.

Master Falconer Robb Herbst treated us to a great Power Point presentation on birds of prey. As his teenage daughter Aviane brought a live barn owl into the room, Mr. Herbst gave us camera nuts permission to snap as many photos as we wished. Never before had I seen the incredible beauty of a "plain" old barn owl, much less been privileged to photograph one. I was in heaven! And my snapping finger stayed busy. I learned that barn owls are monogamous ~ I like that! ~ and are thought to mate for life ~ I like that, too!

Aviane holding a barn owl.

While Aviane walked around the room with her owl, her younger brother Wolfie brought in a kestrel, sometimes called a sparrow hawk. The kestrel is the smallest North American falcon and the most common. My finger couldn't stop; it just kept clicking away on my camera.

Wolfie holding a kestrel

The last bird of prey to enter the room was a magnificent red-tailed hawk perched on Robb Herbst's arm. He (the hawk) wasn't bothered at all by cameras flashing. Neither was Herbst. I was fascinated by this incredible bird.

Herbst's red-tailed hawk, a male.

While in my kayak a few months ago I snapped about 50 pictures of a red-tailed hawk dining on a snake on the lake's shore. Herbst's hawk had a large bill with yellow. Mine had the large bill, but no yellow. Maybe mine was a female.

Master Falconer Robb Herbst is Director of Education for Friends of Philpott, Inc. For more information on Friends of Philpott and Philpott Lake, go to

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