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)

a snail and another life bird

4.12.24 ~ North Carolina Botanical Garden

It was a windy day for a walk but off we went. The very first thing we saw was a snail crossing a side entrance path at the botanical garden. A slow moving creature is so easy to photograph, even if it was partly in its own shadow. And then a little patch of windflowers, how fitting for this windy day.

wood anemone aka windflower
lily of the valley
maiden pink
‘white lady banks’ rose
Manchurian lilac
mountain witch-alder
wild blue phlox
cobweb on a sweet shrub (aka Carolina allspice)
Coastal Plain Habitat boardwalk in April

I keep wondering if this is the same hermit thrush I keep seeing in this same spot, ever since January.

hermit thrush
ladybug
yellow-rumped warbler
tufted titmouse

On our way back to the parking lot we passed by the Children’s Wonder Garden and I spotted another life bird! And this one isn’t found in Connecticut, so I had to pencil it into my Birding in Connecticut book, like I did with the Carolina chickadee. I may have to get a different book to keep my life list in.

Brown-headed Nuthatch, #90

When the squeaky sound of a rubber ducky drifts down out of the canopy in a southern pine forest, be on the lookout for Brown-headed Nuthatches. These tiny blue-gray songbirds climb up, down, and around pine trunks and branches with the deftness of a rock climber. They cling to bark with their strong feet rather than leaning on their tails like a woodpecker. Brown-headed Nuthatches are social birds that travel in noisy family groups. Sometimes, offspring from previous years help their parents raise young.
~ All About Birds website

Well, we didn’t hear this cute little nuthatch or see him climbing up or down a pine trunk. Nor was he with a noisy family group. He was perched on the back side of the bee hotel, all by himself, feathers getting fluffed up in the wind. Finding him was a treat after a prior frustration.

Earlier on our walk we picked up the call of a white-eyed vireo on our Merlin app. We looked and looked in the trees where the call was coming from but couldn’t see anything. Tim finally resorted to taking random pictures of the tree with his cell phone, hoping to see a bird in one of them when he put them up on his monitor at home. Well, he did see a blurry blob that had the right coloring… But we can’t count it as a life bird — yet — because we didn’t actually see it!

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!

what happens next

Piping Plover by Mike Morel/USFWS
piping plover by Mike Morel, Puerto Rico

The details don’t matter – they belong to all of us – and loss, after all, is mostly a story about what happens next. What’s next for me, it seems, is the story of realizing that if there are answers at all, they might not be found in the broadest expanses. I find myself mostly lowering my habitual gaze-out-to-sea and settling down to rummage in these greenish-brown, often stinking, bug-infested wrack lines, the likes of which I must have skirted or stepped over thousands of times in my younger-me rush to get to the water. Sometimes I notice what lies tangled within them: the moon snail with its grotesque foot, trash turned into sea glass, driftwood, egg cases, jellyfish. And sometimes I notice what’s gone. Not just my grandiose quest, but also the vanished tangible.
~ Barbara Hurd
(Walking the Wrack Line: On Tidal Shifts & What Remains)