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! 🐸

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) ♫

hunting for seedbox

1.12.24 ~ North Carolina Botanical Garden

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.

red bay tree with several burls

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.

seedbox (ludwigia alternifolia)
aka square-pod water-primrose

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.

southern sugar maple leaves
northern cardinal
river birch bark
(reminds me of the one I had outside my kitchen window in Connecticut)
another northern cardinal

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. 🙂

Carolina Chickadee, #79

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.

deciduous holly

The hunt for seedbox was good stimulation, exercising our brains along with our bodies.

fading autumn

11.19.23 ~ Bolin Forest, Carrboro, North Carolina

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.

crossing Bolin Creek
looking up Bolin Creek
reflections
beech leaves and shortleaf pine (?) bark
little holes in the bark might be resin pockets

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

heavily shaded pine grove
eastern white pine (?)
marcescence with pine backdrop
leaf dam in Bolin Creek

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)

the winding up of autumn

image credit: Mouse23 at pixabay

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
(The Seasons)

Happy Thanksgiving!

moderate drought in the woods

11.17.23 ~ Carolina North Forest

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.

this small branch was catching falling leaves and pine needles
I’m very fond of rust colored leaves
burnished gold
crimson red
butterscotch
autumn sunlight
sunglasses on a tree???
fallen leaves resting on a mossy fallen tree
a passerby’s sense of humor?
2024 Toyota Corolla Hybrid

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. 🙂

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.

a splendid autumn hike

11.8.23 ~ Piedmont Nature Trails

For this wonderful long walk we went back to the Piedmont Nature Trails and took two different trails this time, part of Oak Hickory Trail which led us to part of Elephant Rock Trail. Of course, we were very curious about Elephant Rock. Much to our delight, we found ourselves in a mixed hardwood forest, which had an abundance of fall color, even if much of it was still green.

Oak Hickory Trail started with a very long stairway
“The [mixed hardwood] forest in this area contains no pines but is made up primarily of oaks, hickories, and maples with understory trees such as dogwood and sourwood. This sloping area has not been cut over in 100 years or more, and it apparently has never been cultivated as the low, flatter areas were.”
“This leaning white oak was split in 1954 during Hurricane Hazel but continued growing.”
close up of the split oak
the oak from another angle
first squirrel encounter
sometimes when they’re holding a nut they’ll stay still
so many trapped leaves
pretty hardwood forest
another squirrel
we’re learning to look up to see the brightest fall colors
Elephant Rock Trail had a few stairways, too
while I stopped to examine this little brown jug…
…Tim made it to the top of the stairs
rusty leaves
I found some red!!!
another squirrel
suspended
Elephant Rock on the banks of Morgan Creek — the color of the right edge of the rock kind of blends in with the color of the water
Tim stepped down in front of Elephant Rock to give some size perspective
some reindeer lichen and oak leaves hanging over Morgan Creek
Morgan Creek
little brown jug is also called heart-leaf ginger, Virginia ginger or wild ginger
we met elderly sisters Mabel & Molly
and had a nice chat with their guardian, Tom

Back in May 2009 one of the first wildlife shots I got was with my first little digital pocket camera — a red squirrel on Beech Forest Trail at Cape Cod National Seashore in Provincetown, Massachusetts. It was the picture that got me started loving nature photography. I keep it at the top of my sidebar as a reminder of that wonderful feeling.

Over the years, while living by the sea, I grew fond of gulls and see that I have 90 blog posts featuring pictures of them! At the moment there are only 25 posts with squirrels but I have a feeling that number will be increasing quickly. One of these days “gull” will likely disappear from the tag cloud in my sidebar and “squirrel” might appear in place of it. We’ll see.

Gulls or squirrels, they’re both fun to photograph!