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.
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!
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.
It was so good being near the ocean again, even if just for a few hours. More vacation pictures coming soon…
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!
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
More blossoms to enjoy in the Lenten rose patch:
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.
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…
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
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!
Every day the North Carolina Botanical Garden Facebook page adds a post about something currently happening or growing in their gardens. Recently they posted a picture of a square seed capsule with the following information:
This funky plant grows in wet areas like ditches and freshwater tidal marshes. Its small yellow flowers drop their petals quickly, sometimes after just a single day, but we get to enjoy the beautiful seed capsules through the fall and winter. You’ll find seedbox alongside the goldenrods and ferns in our Coastal Plain Habitat.
So I decided we would hunt for this interesting looking seed capsule. We had no idea what size it would be but we headed for the Coastal Plain Habitat and searched and searched with no luck.
We then looked for identification signs for goldenrods and ferns, found some and located what looked like a promising patch of dried up vegetation near them.
Then Tim googled seedbox and found out that these seed capsules were very small, about 1/8 in. cubed. So my eyes kept inspecting the area ever more thoroughly…
We did see lots of pretty dry plants…
And then, at last, I found some!!! In the picture below the seedbox capsules are tangled up with another kind of plant.
Tim used his walking stick to move one stem of the capsules away and turned them so we could see the tops of them. Cute little cubes. I imagine there is a seed in each box. Seedbox! So tiny! (picture below) Our persistence paid off and I doubt we would ever have noticed these little gems if we weren’t looking for them.
After that bit of excitement a hermit thrush flew by us and landed in the bushes. It stayed put for quite a while and I thoroughly enjoyed the photo op.
The botanical garden also has a bird blind with bird feeders in the Children’s Wonder Garden so we walked over there, spotting some cardinals and lovely trees along the way.
And lo and behold, there on the feeder was a new life bird for me, a Carolina Chickadee!!! I couldn’t zoom in fast enough before it left but I was happy to spot one. 🙂
John James Audubon named this bird while he was in South Carolina. The curious, intelligent Carolina Chickadee looks very much like a Black-capped Chickadee, with a black cap, black bib, gray wings and back, and whitish underside. Carolina and Black-capped chickadees hybridize in the area where their ranges overlap, but the two species probably diverged more than 2.5 million years ago. ~ All About Birds website
A Carolina wren kept us amused for quite a while with his antics on the feeder.
There was much to see in the winter garden, many delights for the eyes. It was only 32°F (0°C) when we left the house so I had put on my thermal leggings and wool hat from Norway and managed not to get too cold.
The hunt for seedbox was good stimulation, exercising our brains along with our bodies.
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!
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.
Please bear with me as I post more photo memories to take with me when we move! Harkness Memorial State Park is one of my favorite places, year-round for the waterbirds and in the summer for the flower gardens. On this walk we were immediately greeted by a sweetly singing song sparrow, who flew from branch to branch, teasing me. But I did get a few pictures of him!
American Black Duck Anas rubripes: Common coastal migrant and wintering species. In summer, an uncommon breeding species in freshwater and brackish habitats, especially coastal marshes; inland nesting occurs in freshwater marshes, densely forested swamps, and beaver ponds, mainly in central and western Connecticut. ~ Frank Gallo (Birding in Connecticut)
The American Black Duck hides in plain sight in shallow wetlands of eastern North America. They often flock with the ubiquitous Mallard, where they look quite similar to female Mallards. But take a second look through a group of brown ducks to notice the dark chocolate-brown flanks, pale grayish face, and olive-yellow bill of an American Black Duck. Numbers of this shy but common duck declined sharply in the mid-twentieth century. Hunting restrictions have helped to stabilize their numbers, although habitat loss remains a problem. ~ All About Birds webpage
Today was a beautiful, calm, spring day. No wind! A woman was there trying to fly a kite, which is possible there more often than not, but she had to give up. The temperature was 52°F (11°C) so I had my first walk of the year with no thermal leggings, wearing my spring hoodie. 🙂 I am going to miss living by the sea very much.
After three weeks of not walking so I could concentrate efforts on my project, we decided to take a little break on the day before Thanksgiving. In order to avoid holiday traffic we took a peaceful morning meander close to home, down at the beach. Little did I realize we would encounter a new life bird! I guessed it was a sandpiper but couldn’t figure out which kind… The good folks at the What’s This Bird? group helped me out.
There were about eight of them and the sun was behind them, of course, so the pictures aren’t that great. I disobeyed the “keep off the rocks” signs to get a little closer. (That was a first for me!)
Purple Sandpiper Calidris maritima: Uncommon to fairly common (May) coastal migrant, and winter visitor to rocky shores, breakwaters, and jetties. ~ Frank Gallo (Birding in Connecticut)
A pot-bellied shorebird with a long, drooping bill, the Purple Sandpiper is a hardy species that specializes on rocky, wave-battered coastlines. These subdued, gray-and-white sandpipers nimbly explore seaweed-covered rocks as they search for mussels, crustaceans, and flies, flashing bright orange on the legs and bill. The common name refers to a seldom-seen purple sheen on some of the wing feathers. Purple Sandpipers breed on arctic tundra; they spend winters on North Atlantic shores, farther north than any other shorebird. ~ All About Birds webpage
It was a wonderful break, and then we had a good Thanksgiving, and now, back to work on my project!
Every once in a while a hurricane churning away out in the Atlantic sends some big waves as far as Napatree Point, so we went there to see what Hurricane Earl might be sending our way. The waves weren’t so big after all, about 3′ according to a surfing website. (In 2020 Hurricane Teddy sent 6.5′ waves!) But we still had a good time at this wonderful beach on Saturday, enjoying the September sunshine and sea air.
After walking part way down the beach on the Atlantic side of the Napatree Point peninsula, we crossed over the dune on the indicated path to enjoy beach roses and the views. Rhode Island is still in an extreme drought. Ours is still severe, in spite of the recent rains.
Tim spotted a bird on one of the ropes marking off the path. A new life bird for me!
Yellow Warbler Setophaga petechia: Common widespread migratory breeder April to September in brushy thickets of river-edge forest, wetland edges, moist power-line cut segments, and open woodland. ~ Frank Gallo (Birding in Connecticut)
These pictures were taken with the zoom lens and were the best I could do at a distance. The warbler did seem to love flitting about on the brushy beach rose thickets.
North America has more than 50 species of warblers, but few combine brilliant color and easy viewing quite like the Yellow Warbler. In summer, the buttery yellow males sing their sweet whistled song from willows, wet thickets, and roadsides across almost all of North America. The females and immatures aren’t as bright, and lack the male’s rich chestnut streaking, but their overall warm yellow tones, unmarked faces, and prominent black eyes help pick them out. ~ All About Birds webpage
The beach on the bay side of the dune is a little different from the one on the ocean side. Little Narragansett Bay is a small estuary and serves as a harbor for the village of Watch Hill.
We walked for over an hour and felt very refreshed. There is nothing quite like the sounds of crickets and of waves crashing, the smells of salt air and beach roses, the sighting of a new bird and the feel of sunlight warming the skin!