three quick pics

6.21.24 ~ North Carolina Botanical Garden
Coastal Plain Habitat boardwalk in June

It was too hot for a walk but I had to get my summer picture for Karma’s “same location for all 4 seasons” photo hunt. And my coastal plain habitat boardwalk picture for June. I darted into the botanical garden, got them, and then took two quick pics on my way back out.

fewflower milkweed
Horace’s duskywing

These Fevered Days — to take them to the Forest
Where Waters cool around the mosses crawl —
And shade is all that devastates the stillness
Seems it sometimes this would be all —

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1467)

a midsummer day

6.20.24 ~ solstice sunrise in Bolin Forest

Living in a heavily wooded neighborhood I only get a peek through the trees to catch a sunrise. It happened at 6:00 am on the summer solstice here. Hours later, for solar noon I took my flower fairy out to the moss garden for a little photo shoot. There was a small patch of sunlight available to highlight the very short shadow she was casting.

1:17 pm, solar noon
shortest shadow of the year!

As I was photographing the fairy, mama deer brought her fawn by to check out the scene. It was so hot outside!

mama deer and her fawn

In the evening, for some reason, the dew point dropped and even though it was still hot, it became much less humid. Midsummer magic? We packed up the grandchildren and headed to the Piedmont Wildlife Center. None of us had been there before and they were having a summer solstice celebration. What a great time we had! We got a closer look at some of the birds and turtles in rehab.

Piedmont Wildlife Center
barred owl
red-shouldered or red-tailed (?) hawk

Katherine showed a lot of interest in the raptors and Finn was enchanted with the turtles.

box turtle
another box turtle

We were all delighted with Pumpkin, a sweet little opossum. She’s full grown but only about a third of the size of an average adult. She had a rough start in life. The kids asked all kinds of questions, like, does she eat ants? The answer was not usually, unless they happened to be on something else she was eating, kind of like pepper or another seasoning. And opossums only eat the ticks that are in their fur when they’re grooming themselves.

Pumpkin on her running wheel

We had a little walk through the woods and saw a few more birds and animals tucked inside their enclosures. Eventually we got to the solstice campfire where the kids could make their own s’mores. A man playing his guitar gently on the side added to the peaceful mood.

Finn roasted a marshmallow for me, too
Katherine displaying one of her perfectly roasted marshmallows

After a while we were invited to participate in a little solstice ritual: writing on a piece of paper what we wished to let go of from the old year and what we wanted to welcome into the next year. Then we burned our papers in the campfire. It was a meaningful way to pause and take stock of our intentions. I noticed Katherine took it very seriously while Finn, being four years younger, was naturally interested in other things.

a small painted rock along our path

The plan was to go to Maple View Farm next, for ice cream and to view the sunset. But, we finished our ice cream (sorbet for me) an hour before the sun was due to set, so we called it a day and headed home. It was wonderful celebrating the summer solstice for the first time with our grandchildren.

Maple View Farm
(an hour before solstice sunset)

joyful and without regret

3.29.24 ~ Bolin Forest ~ red-shouldered hawk

It seemed like a good day to take a walk in our neighborhood woods to see what it looks like early in the spring. Recent storms had left us with over two inches of rain so we thought the creek might be nice and full. As we walked down the path towards the creek a hawk kept calling out, flying to and from its nest. Other birds were singing, too.

pinecone and rue-anemone
Bolin Creek flowing fast
sunlit new beech leaves
yellow-rumped warbler

When I rise up
let me rise up joyful
like a bird.

When I fall
let me fall without regret
like a leaf.

~ Wendell Berry
(The Mad Farmer Poems)


old beech leaf, finally pushed off the tree and floating downstream
(the ending of marcescence)
loblolly pine growing on the creek bank
looking up Bolin Creek
looking down Bolin Creek
caught and suspended
a bluet poking through the moss
(my favorite childhood flower)
female downy woodpecker

Finding that little bluet made my day! I wonder if there will be more of them as the season progresses. I’m used to seeing them in small clumps. Now we’re starting to see a few bugs flying around. Pretty soon it will be time to get the bug repellent out of the closet and leave it out next to the camera!

dimpled trout lilies and other small spring things

3.3.24 ~ Piedmont Nature Trails
dimpled trout lily

On this Sunday morning my friend Susan and I set out to find dimple trout lilies at the botanical garden, only to find the gates would be closed until 1:00. No matter, we decided to saunter along the nearby nature trails for a couple of hours. And there turned out to be plenty of the tiny lilies in the woods. They are so tiny they barely poke through the leaves on the forest floor. They are native here in the Piedmont.

dimpled trout lily poking up through the fallen leaves

This post has way too many pictures but I couldn’t bring myself to cut out any more than I already did. The woods still looked like it was winter, unless one looked down and more closely at the leaf litter for tiny spring ephemerals.

Virginia spring beauty?
Meeting-of-the-Waters Creek
moss spores?
remembering to look up sometimes
a lone hemlock in the hardwood forest
eastern gray squirrel
tufted titmouse way up high
dimpled trout lily
rue-anemone
hepatica
little sweet Betsy (a trillium)
common blue violet
dandelion

The Dandelion’s pallid Tube
Astonishes the Grass —
And Winter instantly becomes
An infinite Alas —
The Tube uplifts a signal Bud
And then a shouting Flower —
The Proclamation of the Suns
That sepulture is o’er —

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1565)

When the botanical garden gates opened we went in and found more dimpled trout lilies and what looked like more kinds of trilliums coming up.

North Carolina Botanical Garden
more dimpled trout lilies
hepatica
bloodroot

What a wonderful time we had enjoying springtime’s opening act in this part of the world! I’m sure there will be many more flowers 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! 🐸

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) ♫

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.

gray day

12.13.23 ~ North Carolina Botanical Garden

It was a gray day for a walk.

Christmas fern resting on moss
“Cicada Maple Seed” sculpture by Sam Spiczka
squirrel peeking at me from under a holly bush
holly holiday colors

Surprise! A gray catbird in December! North Carolina must be one of the places they migrate to in the winter. I’ve never seen one in Connecticut after September or before May.

He begins early, and makes up his song as he goes.
~ Mary Oliver (Catbird)
His black cap gives him a jaunty look, for which
we humans have learned to tilt our caps, in envy.

~ Mary Oliver (Catbird)
oakleaf hydrangea

But it was a great day for a walk. A good break from busy, busy, busy…