a distinctive oak tree

2.19.24 ~ St. Marys, Georgia

As I step out and down the road I think how each individual human child will grow and be quite their very own being. And then I think how each oak tree also has its own individuality, its own essence in quite the same way, too. Each oak has a distinctiveness which may be seen, felt and known — as with my own children, as with every human that lives upon this earth.
~ James Canton
(The Oak Papers)

In front of our vacation cottage was an amazing oak tree, adorned with plants growing in its fork and Spanish moss hanging from its branches.

resurrection fern
3 yucca (?) plants growing in the oak’s fork

Every morning when we left and every evening when we returned to the cottage I paused and wondered at the energy coming from this tree. It seemed to have a self-sacrificing essence, nurturing so many other lives besides its own. And I thought of my own children and what wonderful adults they became with their very different personalities, interests and talents.

ancient maritime forest

2.19.24 ~ Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island, Georgia

It’s been so long since I’ve seen the ocean
I guess I should

~ Counting Crows
♫ (A Long December) ♫

It rained for the first two days of our three-day visit with our son and daughter-in-law in Georgia. But our spirits were not dampened and we packed a lot of fun in in spite of it. When the sun came out on day three we headed for the magical Driftwood Beach. The name of it doesn’t make a lot of sense because these ancient twisted tree trunks and branches are what remains of a maritime forest after years of erosion from the sea.

jellyfish
least sandpiper with shadow and reflection

Surprisingly, I only saw one gull there. But, the last thing I expected to see was a pair of woodpeckers! A new life bird for me!

Pileated Woodpecker, #82

The Pileated Woodpecker is one of the biggest, most striking forest birds on the continent. It’s nearly the size of a crow, black with bold white stripes down the neck and a flaming-red crest. Look (and listen) for Pileated Woodpeckers whacking at dead trees and fallen logs in search of their main prey, carpenter ants, leaving unique rectangular holes in the wood. The nest holes these birds make offer crucial shelter to many species including swifts, owls, ducks, bats, and pine martens.
~ All About Birds website

As we were leaving, walking towards the sun, I started to notice some of the shadows on the sand… and then an egret fishing in a little beach pond along the path back to the parking lot.

great egret

It was so good being near the ocean again, even if just for a few hours. More vacation pictures coming soon…

songbirds, blooms, some other things

2.14.24 ~ North Carolina Botanical Garden

There were lots of birds at the botanical garden feeders on Valentine’s Day, most of them flitting about too quickly to catch with my camera, but I got a few. And a new lifer!

house finch
(female) purple finch
Carolina chickadee
Pine Warbler, #81

I thought I’d never catch my elusive new life bird — this was the only good picture out of the bunch.

A bird true to its name, the Pine Warbler is common in many eastern pine forests and is rarely seen away from pines. These yellowish warblers are hard to spot as they move along high branches to prod clumps of needles with their sturdy bills. If you don’t see them, listen for their steady, musical trill, which sounds very like a Chipping Sparrow or Dark-eyed Junco, which are also common piney-woods sounds through much of the year.
~ All About Birds website

Coastal Plain Habitat boardwalk in February
sand post oak leaves
mountain laurel starting to bud
cypress knees
crested wood fern

More blossoms to enjoy in the Lenten rose patch:

my favorite
longleaf pine

We’ve been hearing frogs croaking for a couple of weeks but they always stop and hide before we get to their pond, no matter how quietly we approach. This time we did see a lot of their eggs in the water, though.

frog eggs under water
moss on the edge of the frog pond

One of these days we might actually see a frog! 🐸

they got snow!

2.13.23 ~ after the nor’easter in Connecticut

My sister estimates they got 9 inches of snow from Tuesday’s nor’easter, which left a winter wonderland behind it. I loved the pictures she sent me from the woods surrounding our childhood home.

eastern hemlock
the birds have found food here since the 1960s
the shed my father built more than 60 years ago
the wheelchair ramp my son and brother-in-law built for my father in the 2000s
(the house my parents built is barely visible behind it)

photos by Beverly

sightings on another gloomy day

2.9.24 ~ North Carolina Botanical Garden

When we arrived at the botanical garden on Friday, Tim needed to tie his shoe, which gave me a minute to look at the roof of the gazebo he was sitting under. It was full of reindeer lichen and all kinds of moss so I took a few pictures with my zoom lens. When I got home I noticed those tiny red dots on the lichen. (above picture) Apparently these are called lichen fruiting bodies (apothecia) which contain spores that are dispersed in the wind. Just a little biology lesson for the day…

bee hotel
(female) Purple Finch, #80

A quick stop by the bird feeders and there I found another life bird, this time a female Purple Finch!

The Purple Finch is the bird that Roger Tory Peterson famously described as a “sparrow dipped in raspberry juice.” For many of us, they’re irregular winter visitors to our feeders, although these chunky, big-beaked finches do breed in northern North America and the West Coast. Separating them from House Finches requires a careful look, but the reward is a delicately colored, cleaner version of that red finch. Look for them in forests, too, where you’re likely to hear their warbling song from the highest parts of the trees.
~ All About Birds website

Carolina rose hips

We listened for a long time to a Carolina wren singing its heart out in the branches above us…

If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment. If a shower drives us for shelter to the maple grove or the trailing branches of the pine, yet in their recesses with microscopic eye we discover some new wonder in the bark, or the leaves, or the fungi at our feet.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, September 23, 1838)

And finally, tucked away in a shady spot in the herb garden we found a patch of Lenten Roses blooming. They’re not actually roses, they are in the buttercup family. There are many varieties, flowers ranging in color from deep red to white and many shades in between.

It was a lovely surprise to find these flowers blooming so abundantly on a gloomy February morning!

when the sun comes out

2.6.24 ~ Parker Preserve, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

When the sun comes out the world brightens up, even the browns and grays in the winter woods. It was a very sunny morning the other day, but too cold for a walk. So we opted for an afternoon walk. Even then it was still cold, Tim wore a coat, and I was bundled up with hat and mittens, too.

We found a new place to walk, another property belonging to the North Carolina Botanical Garden, Parker Preserve. It connects to the Mason Farm Biological Reserve we had explored back in December. At the beginning of the trail is Parker Meadow, the site of the former home of Bill & Athena Parker.

American holly
coming soon!

The huge bench above is one of two sitting in the meadow, where a 19th century log cabin was destroyed by a fire in 1995. (I assume it was the home of Bill & Athena.) After noticing what we presume to be dozens of patches of daffodils about to bloom, we headed into the woods, following the Woodland Trail.

late winter shadows
marcescence highlighted
this leaf was probably stranded here all winter
moss with sporophytes

Off in the distance we saw a huge log, covered in moss with sporophytes sprouting out of it. I used maximum zoom but could only manage the fuzzy picture above. We have been warned repeatedly about copperhead snakes so I resisted every urge to go off the trail and wade though the leaves to get a closer look.

in the spotlight: a maple leaf surrounded by oak leaves
illuminated roots from a tree that fell long ago
I’m calling this a ghost stump
effulgence

The disadvantage to taking an afternoon walk is that the traffic on the way home is very congested and slow. We found ourselves sitting in the car for a very long time at a traffic light near the James Taylor Bridge. From the road this bridge is unremarkable, the only hint that a bridge is there is a small sign identifying it and a short cement wall with a low fence on either side of it. But it’s located a mile from JT’s childhood home and it goes over Morgan Creek, which he wrote about in one of his songs, Copperline. We’ve encountered Morgan Creek a couple of times on our walks. This is all of particular interest to me because James Taylor was my idol when I was a teen, and he was the first singer I ever went to see in concert. I had all his albums. It’s a small world.

Half a mile down to Morgan Creek
I’m leanin’ heavy on the end of the week
Hercules and a hognose snake
Down on Copperline
We were down on Copperline

~ James Taylor
♫ (Copperline) ♫

before and after photo hunt

before, autumn begins

I noticed how similar the shape of a cicada wing was to the shape of a maple seed. In this sculpture I decided to merge the two.
~ Sam Spiczka
(“Cicada Maple Seed” sculpture)

after, autumn ends

This is my selection for Karma’s Before & After Photo Hunt. The sculpture was taken down shortly after the second picture, much to my disappointment, as I thought it would be great for a four season series. But it will do well enough for this before-and-after autumn. Most of the leaves on this beautiful southern sugar maple have stayed on the tree for the winter, a good example of marcescence. It’s become my favorite tree in the North Carolina Botanical Garden.