It was a dreary first day of winter when Tim and I drove over the ford crossing Morgan Creek and discovered an amazing biological reserve, chock full of birds! They were a challenge to photograph but I did manage to capture two new life birds.
An unassuming bird with a lovely, melancholy song, the Hermit Thrush lurks in the understories of far northern forests in summer and is a frequent winter companion across much of southern North America. It forages on the forest floor by rummaging through leaf litter or seizing insects with its bill. The Hermit Thrush has a rich brown upper body and smudged spots on the breast, with a reddish tail that sets it apart from similar species in its genus.
~ All About Birds website
Yellow-rumped Warblers are impressive in the sheer numbers with which they flood the continent each fall. Shrubs and trees fill with the streaky brown-and-yellow birds and their distinctive, sharp chips. Though the color palette is subdued all winter, you owe it to yourself to seek these birds out on their spring migration or on their breeding grounds. Spring molt brings a transformation, leaving them a dazzling mix of bright yellow, charcoal gray and black, and bold white.
~ All About Birds website
The reserve is a short 12-minute drive from our house. I like the no dogs allowed rule! Although, the possibility of another kind of canine encounter seems to exist. A friendly birder we met along the way pointed out some coyote scat sitting on the trail.
I love the few homely colors of Nature at this season, — her strong wholesome browns, her sober and primeval grays, her celestial blue, her vivacious green, her pure, cold, snowy white.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, December 4, 1856)
Our walk was long and wonderful, in spite of the damp, raw air and gathering clouds. There were so many bird calls and of course, many squirrels busy with their nuts and chasing each other up and down the trees. The trail we were on had mostly deciduous trees, leading us to believe it will be a good place for seeing fall colors next year.
Before visiting we are advised to check a water level gage, available online. If the gage reads less than 4.5 feet “it is usually safe to cross” with the car. It made me nervous crossing the low-water bridge, or ford. But it will be worth getting used to it to have a chance to keep exploring this huge property. “Mason Farm serves as a wildlife corridor between Chapel Hill and the Cape Fear River Basin.” So much to learn about our new home!
On a chilly Sunday morning my friend Susan came over so we could take a very local wander in the woodlands. Susan has been living in this area many years so she led the way. Down the hill from us, on the edge of the neighborhood, is Bolin Creek, which runs through Bolin Forest. It might become a go-to place for Tim and me when we don’t want to have to drive somewhere for a nice walk.
A very unique bark characteristic separating shortleaf pine from loblolly, longleaf, and other southern pine species. These are resin pockets, also described by various references as “spherical pitch pockets,” “small spots of resin,” and “volcanoes.”
~ N.C. Cooperative Extension website
Your thoughts don’t have words every day
They come a single time
Like signal esoteric sips
Of the communion Wine
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1476)
All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.
~ William Carlos Williams
Thanksgiving is the winding up of autumn. The leaves are off the trees, except here and there on a beech or an oak; there is nothing left on the boughs but a few nuts and empty bird’s nests. The earth looks desolate, and it will be a comfort to have the snow on the ground, and to hear the merry jingle of the sleigh-bells.
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes
We are now in a moderate drought and the weather people say that this has been the driest November here on record. I have nothing to compare it to, but am hoping the squirrels are finding enough to drink. On this lovely autumn day we took another trail in this forest, named Wormhole Spur.
It was one of those magical fall days when the leaves were drifting down in great numbers, floating through the air like snowflakes in a snow globe, almost sounding like raindrops when they landed. We’re thoroughly enjoying our autumn days, now that they’ve arrived.
When we got back to our car we found it surrounded by wonderful burnt orange leaves. Almost 10 years ago we bought what we thought would be our last new car. ~ 2014 Subaru Impreza ~ Since I wrote a post about that one and since we wound up getting this new car in October, I decided to post a picture of this one, too. It’s color name is celestite (a mineral), chosen because my sister is a geologist. 🙂
It was a gorgeous autumn day when Janet and her mom came to see us in our new digs. The visit included a late afternoon walk in the botanical garden where we encountered a new life bird for my list! My first life bird located in North Carolina.
It can be tricky to glimpse a Brown Thrasher in a tangled mass of shrubbery, and once you do you may wonder how such a boldly patterned, gangly bird could stay so hidden. Brown Thrashers wear a somewhat severe expression thanks to their heavy, slightly downcurved bill and staring yellow eyes, and they are the only thrasher species east of Texas. Brown Thrashers are exuberant singers, with one of the largest repertoires of any North American songbird.
~ All About Birds webpage
Autumn is still peaking here and there are still many touches of summer lingering. I’ve come to the conclusion that fall comes much later here and has a different feeling than New England’s, yet is very pretty in its own way. And it lasts a lot longer, with not all the trees changing at once, or so it seems to me.
Loblolly pine bark provides a nice contrast to golden autumn hues…
The challenge of life, as I see it, is to find the beauty where we are, in the circumstances we’re in, and to focus not on what’s missing, but on what we have. When we’re awake and present in the moment, not lost in the trance of storylines, we may find that the traffic jam, the office, the crowded shopping mall, the toilet, the temple and the forest are all equally holy, equally worthy of devotion (or loving attention). Everything is sacred.
~ Joan Tollifson
(Facebook, December 10, 2021)
Here’s to finding the beauty where we are and to finding new birds and to sharing experiences with friends.
When we came home from food shopping this morning there was a woolly bear on our sidewalk! I hurried inside to get my camera. When I returned I tried to give it a ride to a safer location and it responded by curling up into a little ball. Putting it on this leaf I went back inside to put away the groceries.
When I came back out it was on the move again, away from the leaf.
But then it circled back to reconsider its options, and I got a picture of those little eyes surveying the possibilities.
And finally it decided to return to the leaf. With a little luck it might find a good spot to overwinter here.
On the news I learned that North Carolina has had a Woolly Worm Festival in the town of Banner Elk over the third weekend of October ever since 1978. That’s also how I learned that they call them woolly worms down here. Growing up in New England, they were always woolly bears to me!
There is nothing that makes the seasons and the year so interesting as to watch and especially to keep record of the changes by which Nature marks the ebb and flow of the great ocean of sunshine which overspreads the earth.
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes