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!
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.
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)
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.
Our first winter holidays in North Carolina were amazing! Our walks were few and far between, though, due to all the other activities. Time to get back on track and back to the blogosphere.
Look back on Time, with kindly Eyes — He doubtless did his best — How softly sinks the trembling Sun In Human Nature’s West — ~ Emily Dickinson (The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1251)
I think if I’m going to photograph more birds we will have to visit more gardens than forests. The trees seem to be so much taller down here and my zoom lens just doesn’t reach those high perches to capture the winged creatures that well. But I’m including this bluebird picture anyway to remind me how nice it was to see and hear a few of them, way overhead, that day. 🙂
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)
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.
If you had told me a year ago when I was writing my lastWalktober post in Connecticut that a year later I would be writing my next one from a new home far away in North Carolina….. I would not have thought it even remotely possible. But here I am!
This is my contribution to Walktober, this year being hosted by Dawn over at her Change Is Hard blog. See Dawn’s warm invitation to participate here: Walktober 2023.
It turns out that 750 acres of woodlands, with numerous trails, belonging to the University of North Carolina, is only about a mile away from our home, as the crow flies. For this, our first visit, we wound up on the deeply shaded Occoneechee Loop. It had plenty of uneven terrain for Tim so it wound up being our longest walk so far this fall.
My camera kept telling me that I needed a flash so I decided to focus on finding pockets of sunlight for my pictures. It wasn’t long before I was feeling more relaxed and mindful, noticing the individual trees and the little things. This forest bath was having a delightfully positive effect on me.
On such October days as this, we look about us as though in some new and magic land. The mystical draws close behind the luminous veil. We see the things about us and sense larger meanings just beyond our grasp. ~ Edwin Way Teale (Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)
We’re looking forward to our next walk in this wonderful forest. It will be nice to see how it changes with at least three of the seasons, as I know hot and humid summertime walks here will be few and far between.
At last, walking weather arrived Friday morning! We decided to try Bolin Creek Trail. It was a pleasant enough walk, but it was paved, which is hard on Tim’s back and hip. He needs uneven terrain to walk at all comfortably. And there were many joggers out and lots of people. There were cars zooming by on the road on the other side of the creek. It didn’t feel at all like a walk in the woods!
Still, we were delighted to be out getting some fresh air and moving our bodies for an hour. I doubt this will become one of our favorite walks but it was nice to get more familiar with what we have for options in our vicinity.
Hurricane Florence must have been a doozy back in 2018. Apparently Bolin Creek floods quite frequently but I haven’t been able to find out how high it was during that storm. I was standing on stairs leading up to the road to get the next three pictures. The tunnel goes under another road.
There were some interesting tree roots along the mostly shaded creek.
Like Gold Park in Hillsborough that we visited a month ago, this trail had an urban feel to it. I think we’re going to have to venture farther from home to find some more woodsy walks to explore. I’m getting excited and hopeful about the possibilities.
Resuming our walks! When we arrived at Moore Woodlands the birds were singing and it sounded like spring. It was 44°F/7°C and cloudy on this warm-for-January day. As we started walking around the meadow a song sparrow came down to the bushes and started singing for us. This made my whole day!
It is not enough to weep for our lost landscapes; we have to put our hands in the earth to make ourselves whole again. Even a wounded world is feeding us. Even a wounded world holds us, giving us moments of wonder and joy. I choose joy over despair. Not because I have my head in the sand, but because joy is what the earth gives me daily and I must return the gift. ~ Robin Wall Kimmerer (Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge & The Teachings of Plants)
In the woods we found a great many eastern red cedar trees that must have come down in a storm. Where they fell across the trail they had been cut and moved off to the side. It was interesting seeing the redness of the freshly cut wood.
We also saw a lot of English ivy growing on the ground and climbing some of the trees. I did some research when I got home and learned that the ivy is invasive and greatly weakens the trees they climb, making them more likely to fall during strong winds. It looks like the Avalonia Land Conservancy has been working to remove the ivy from this patch of woodland. We also saw quite a few eastern white pine saplings.
It also looks like the land conservancy is starting to identify the trees with little tags! I’d like to get more familiar with our local trees and welcome this new aid. This was a lovely first walk for the new year. 🙂