sweet little ruby-crowned kinglet

3.12.24 ~ North Carolina Botanical Garden

On this botanical garden visit we were totally captivated by a new life bird. We couldn’t get over how tiny it was! How could any songbird possibly be smaller than a chickadee? I couldn’t stop taking pictures.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet, #88

A tiny bird seemingly overflowing with energy, the Ruby-crowned Kinglet forages almost frantically through lower branches of shrubs and trees. Its habit of constantly flicking its wings is a key identification clue. Smaller than a warbler or chickadee, this plain green-gray bird has a white eye ring and a white bar on the wing. Alas, the male’s brilliant ruby crown patch usually stays hidden—your best chance to see it is to find an excited male singing in spring or summer.
~ All About Birds website

Of course there were other things to notice on that beautifully sunny day.

the frog egg embryos are looking more and more like tadpoles
snails presumably climbing a rock
(we didn’t actually see them move)
Alabama snow-wreath (rare)
eastern redbud

Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own; and from morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy, that we can scarcely mark their progress.
~ Charles Dickens
(Nicholas Nickleby)

red-shouldered hawk
(might be the same one we saw five days earlier)
‘finch’s golden’ deciduous holly
wild columbine (aka eastern red columbine)

We enjoyed seeing all the redbud trees, promising spring, with their vibrant blossoms appearing to accent the gray landscape well before any leaves come out. So many delightful changes are in the offing. It will be fun noticing as many of them as possible!

sandhills pyxie-moss

1.28.24 ~ North Carolina Botanical Garden

It’s been a challenge getting outside with all the rain we’ve been getting lately. It was drizzling when we got to the botanical garden Sunday afternoon, even though the weather people had promised that the sun would be coming out. We decided to walk anyway.

Along the path we met a staffer named Lauren, who was out in the rain looking for salamanders. We fell into a nice conversation and when we told her about our hunt for seedbox a couple of weeks ago she suggested another plant for us to hunt down. A tiny pyxie-moss was flowering now. She showed us a picture of it on her cell phone, and gave us directions to its location. We found it!

By then it had stopped raining so I went back to the car and got my camera. What a treat to see this plant so rare and unique to the Carolinas!

A rare minute creeping subshrub of xeric areas in the Sandhills region of North Carolina. This is the smaller of our two species of pyxie-moss. Very range-restricted, the entire known range of this species is a handful of counties in North and South Carolina.
… The tiny succulent evergreen leaves are less than 5 mm long. … The flowers rarely set seed and the seeds rarely sprout.
~ Carolina Nature website

After enjoying our discovery we went on to explore more of the soggy gardens. There is always something different to see. It was still a damp, gray day.

pretty sure this is a longleaf pine

This resurrection fern was growing abundantly on one side of a tall tree stump. On the other side of the stump it was all mushrooms.

I couldn’t get around to the back of the stump for a full all-mushroom shot, but you can see where the ferns ended and the mushrooms began in the photo below.

I close my eyes and listen to the voices of the rain. … Every drip it seems is changed by its relationship with life, whether it encounters moss or maple or fir bark or my hair. And we think of it as simply rain, as if it were one thing, as if we understood it. I think that moss knows rain better than we do, and so do maples. Maybe there is no such thing as rain; there are only raindrops, each with its own story.
– Robin Wall Kimmerer
(Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge & The Teachings of Plants)

lichens on a fallen branch
‘lemon drop’ swamp azalea buds
‘Spain’ rosemary flowering
Atlantic ninebark (rose family) seed head
Ozark witch-hazel blooming
witch-hazel marcescence
winterberry aka black alder

And you know the light is fading all too soon
You’re just two umbrellas one late afternoon
You don’t know the next thing you will say
This is your favorite kind of day
It has no walls, the beauty of the rain
Is how it falls, how it falls, how it falls

~ Dar Williams
♫ (The Beauty of the Rain) ♫

Lauren had mentioned that rainy days are the best time to look for salamanders. On warm wet nights from January to March here in the Piedmont they emerge from their underground burrows and head for vernal pools to mate and lay eggs. A week after that artic blast it did get unseasonably warm. I wonder if she found any salamanders after we talked. We kept our eyes open but didn’t see any.

brown thrasher

11.14.23 ~ North Carolina Botanical Garden
‘Old Blush’ Rose

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.

Brown Thrasher, #77

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.

Narrowleaf Whitetop Sedge
a fly deftly avoiding the pitcher plant’s pitfall trap
an unopened pitcher plant
Oakleaf Hydrangea
“Octopus” by Mac McCusker
3rd Place ~ Sculpture in the Garden People’s Choice Awards
hemlock needles and cones with autumn color backdrop

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)

what could be more autumn-y than a mum?

Here’s to finding the beauty where we are and to finding new birds and to sharing experiences with friends.

little surprises

10.4.23 ~ Cabe Lands Trail, Eno River State Park
Durham, North Carolina

This trail was pretty much a seemingly endless straight line through the forest. But imagine my delight when I noticed a small patch of princess pines growing alongside the path. It’s good to know they live down here in these woods, too! It was like running into an old friend.

These tiny plants are usually less than 6 inches tall but they look like miniature pine trees. They were fairy forests in my mind when I was a child.

Wonder — is not precisely knowing
And not precisely knowing not —
A beautiful but bleak condition
He has not lived who has not felt —

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1347)

sun ray lighting up a fallen leaf in the princess pine forest
downy rattlesnake plantain

At first I thought I also had the good luck to stumble across a wintergreen but the above plant turned out to be a downy rattlesnake plantain. Apparently this orchid grows in New England, too, but this is the first one I’ve ever noticed.

There are 18 trails in Eno River State park, over 30 miles of them, so we have plenty of places to explore in the coming months.

winter comes to us

“Last Touch of Sun” by John Henry Twachtman

On this, the shortest day of all the 365, I wander over the covered paths of the garden hillside. I wade through the drifts along the swamp edge. I walk over the snow-covered ice among the catttails. The wind is gone. The day is still. The world is decorated with unmarred snow. This is winter with winter beauty everywhere. Autumn is finally, officially, gone. Like the evening of the day, the fall has been a time of ceaseless alteration. Cold, in the autumn, is overcoming the heat just as darkness, in the evening, is overcoming the light. All around, in recent months, there have been changes in a thousand forms. The days of easy warmth were passing, then past. Birds departed. Threadbare trees lost their final leaves. Nuts fell from the branches. Pumpkins and corn turned yellow in the fields. For animals and men alike, this was the time of harvest. The phantom summer, Indian summer, came and went. The chorus of the insects died away in nightly frosts. Goldenrod tarnished; grass clumps faded from green to yellow. Milkweed pods gaped open and their winged seeds took flight. The windrows of fallen leaves withered, lost their color, merged into one universal brown. Now they are buried beneath the new and seasonal beauty of the snow. Autumn, the evening of the year, is over; winter, the night of the year, has come.
~ Edwin Way Teale
(Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)

~ winter solstice ~
(4:47 pm eastern time zone)

a lonely, frightened acorn

“Oak grove. Autumn” by Isaac Levitan

Last night an acorn awakened when the forest was still.
Everything was off in its own dream world
And she was lonely, maybe frightened.
She was too shy to wake some company
For they’d ask why and she’d have no answer.
So she went to sleep again,
And fell off the old oak tree.
Having braved this alone she was free
And felt truly beautiful falling in love with the earth now holding her.

~ Barbara Chomiak, age 16

I haven’t been posting — or walking — much lately because I’ve been working on a big project, which I hope to finish by winter solstice. While sorting through things I discovered the above poem which I wrote almost 50 years ago! It captures the essence of that adolescent angst I remember so well. Anyhow, I may not be posting for a bit longer but will return as soon as possible.

how to take a walk

9.16.22 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum
waning gibbous moon
bee inspecting a hole in a trumpet vine blossom
blueberry life on the rocks
trumpet vine reaching for the moon
fallen leaf standing in water

We enjoyed a lovely long walk around the pond at the arboretum on Friday. I was in my sweatshirt and enjoying the fresh cool air. The trees are still green for the most part and we wondered what kind of fall color is in store for us in the wake of the drought. There were still some summer tints lingering side by side with hints of autumn hues.

half standing lily pad
pond in moderate drought
upside down

Few men know how to take a walk. The qualifications of a professor are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much. If a man tells me that he has an intense love of nature, I know, of course, that he has none. Good observers have the manners of trees and animals, their patient good sense, and if they add words, ’tis only when words are better than silence.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(The Later Lectures of Ralph Waldo Emerson: 1843-1871)

We also took a side path to the Glenn Dreyer Bog which was illuminated with spots of bright sunshine. The light near the equinoxes is amazing, as I often say.

Glenn Dreyer Bog
Glenn Dreyer Bog

The woods were full of gray catbird calls and we heard them rustling around in the tree branches. Occasionally we spotted one but they were diligently avoiding my camera. This was the summer of the catbird. Not only did we have one singing in our river birch outside our kitchen window, we saw them on almost every walk we took. Back in June, though, they were out in the open and more amenable to being photographed.

gray catbird
gray catbird
gray catbird
small fern and moss

How much of beauty — of color, as well as form — on which our eyes daily rest goes unperceived by us!
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, August 1, 1860)

river birch triplets

Today the humidity is creeping back with higher temperatures but it shouldn’t last for too many days. We plan to go see an outdoor Ibsen play, Peer Gynt, in the park tonight and will bring blankets to keep warm. This was supposed to happen in June but covid got the theater group and they had to postpone. We got our new bivalent booster shots last week but still plan to exercise caution as we try to move forward.

severe drought continues

8.9.22 ~ Thames River

On Tuesday we left early to vote in the Connecticut primary and then drove down to the pond by way of the road along the Thames River. Some of the river’s banks are covered with an unattractive cement ramp, but, I happened to notice a swamp rose mallow popping through it as we were driving by.

Fascinated, I asked Tim to stop the car so I could hop out and examine the wildflower up close. How could it be growing in such an inhospitable spot? It wasn’t that big yet, maybe 2 feet tall, and I wonder how high it might be able to grow there. (They can grow to 7 feet, and the flowers are 4-6 inches in diameter.)

As I was enjoying the close encounter I noticed another wildflower growing through another seam. I loved the shades of purple on its petals.


Back in the car and on to the pond. So sad to see even less water remaining in it. I’m surprised the shorebirds don’t do their fishing over at the beach but they must have their reasons for hanging out here still.

drought-stricken Beach Pond
lesser yellowlegs

Nature, like a loving mother, is ever trying to keep land and sea, mountain and valley, each in its place, to hush the angry winds and waves, balance the extremes of heat and cold, of rain and drought, that peace, harmony and beauty may reign supreme.
~ Elizabeth Cady Stanton
(Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Feminist as Thinker: A Reader in Documents & Essays)

great egrets strolling by
snowy egret with lesser yellowlegs behind him
snowy egret
great egrets mingling with snowy egrets
swamp rose mallow, this one growing by the pond

We’re supposed to get a break from the heat and humidity this weekend, which will be nice, but we also need some rain!

to stand by these shores

6.15.22 ~ great blue heron at Avery Pond

Assorted sightings from an early summer, sunny, beach walk… Enjoy!

path to the Eastern Point estuary beach
double-crested cormorants in the estuary
cultivated rose on the fence
song sparrow on sign
entrance to Eastern Point Beach
common grackle (?) with missing tail (?)
sailing way offshore
Avery Point, view across the water from Eastern Point
top of Avery Point Light seen over the hill

For some strange reason we didn’t see any gulls…


Good it is to stand by these shores
How beautiful life can seem!
Hear; what joy from birds’ throats pours,
see, how the grass verdant gleams!

Bees are humming, butterflies shimmering
lark-song pierces through the clouds,
and from bowls with nectar brimming
we drink our fill of summer flowers.

~ Gunnar Wennerberg
(The Magic of Fjords)


Then, two days later, in hazy conditions…

6.17.22 ~ female brown-headed cowbird near the fence
killdeer standing on one leg at Beach Pond
I couldn’t decide which killdeer picture I liked best…

Connecticut’s positivity rate dipped down to 7.6% but now it’s creeping back up again, 8.1% on Friday. Sigh…