anticipation

4.19.24 ~ North Carolina Botanical Garden

The folks at the botanical garden are very excited because one of the American Columbos they planted 19 years ago is looking like it might flower this year! This flowering stalk (above), also known as yellow gentian, is about 2 feet tall and it could grow to between 3 and 8 feet tall.

After spending 19 years in our Mountain Habitat as an unassuming rosette of leaves near the ground, one of our American columbos is about to put out a spectacular flowering stalk for the first and only time. Then, after reproducing, it will die.
~ NC Botanical Garden Facebook page

will it flower???
a rosette of America columbo leaves on the ground ~
apparently this one not going to be flowering this year

We also enjoyed the presence of other plants and trees, already blooming…

fringe tree blossoms
northern sundial lupine
sandhills bluestar
wild azalea
white-throated sparrow

A nice, quiet and cloudy late morning in the garden. We were a couple of hours later than usual and there seemed to be fewer birds out and about.

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!

down in the sandhills

4.8.24 ~ Sandhills Horticultural Gardens
Pinehurst, North Carolina

By coincidence, exactly six years ago on this day, my sister-in-law and I visited this lovely horticultural garden near her home. (spring blossoms) We had a great time exploring it again. It was quite different than my local botanical garden. There were lots of huge, vividly colored rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias, and very few identification signs.

We found these in the Hackley Woodland Garden:

a busy bee

We walked the boardwalk in the Desmond Native Wetland Trail, a little nature conservancy and bird sanctuary. It was filled with birdsong and lots of new greenery. Looking up for birds I spotted the only thing blooming in there, a wild azalea. So delicate and pretty:

wild azalea

The Margaret H. Ambrose Japanese Garden was calm and peaceful. We paused a lot, reflecting…

And we finally took a quick peek at the formal Sir Walter Raleigh Garden:

It’s interesting how each garden had a very different mood to it. There were ten other gardens there we didn’t have time to see. I think a lot about the differences between preserved natural land conservancies and cultivated gardens. Each have their value and place in the world.

In the afternoon the four of us took Dan & Fran’s dog Biscuit for a walk in their neighborhood and enjoyed watching the solar eclipse with our special eclipse glasses. They seemed pretty flimsy but worked very well. I had also obtained a special filter for the camera lens. Tim had to hold it in front of the lens while I tried to find the sun without getting it in my eyes. When I fiddled with the zoom it would get fuzzy and we didn’t have a lot of time to figure out what worked best! It was very awkward but we managed to get a few shots.

near the beginning

I almost forgot to check the ground for crescent shadows…

crescent shadows
at or near the 78% peak we got in our area

We went back to the house to enjoy a meal and then I took one last peek outside to see the last of the eclipse from the porch. The moon was near the top of the sun and some long leaf pine needles way up in the trees got into the picture, too.

near the end

Truly a day to remember!

hunting for cinnamon fern

4.2.24 ~ ‘old blush’ rose arbor
North Carolina Botanical Garden

It was spring vacation week so we had a chance to take Katherine with us on one of our walks at the botanical garden. Like her grandmother, she was enchanted by the rose arbor. And we finally saw tadpoles in the frog pond!

And of course we saw lots of flowers…

lobed tickseed
Florida flame azalea
Virginia spiderwort
bogbean
wild geranium (with tiny ant)
great white trillium

Katherine knows a lot about cinnamon ferns and she located some starting to come up in the Mountain Habitat (above). And then, in the Coastal Plain Habitat (below) she spotted some more that were taller and starting to unfurl. My granddaughter informed me that, among other things, cinnamon fern is the oldest species of fern on earth. (70 million years!)

learning about cinnamon ferns from Katherine
(photo by Tim)

Of course there were some birds to enjoy and a couple even paused for a photo or two…

Mr. & Mrs. Cardinal
he was feeding her but I couldn’t capture it!
northern cardinal
white-throated sparrow

What a blessing it was to share a beautiful day with our granddaughter, to share our interests with her and to have her share hers with us.

bluets in the woods

3.31.24 ~ Bolin Forest

On the last day of March the temperature got up into 80s and the sunshine was abundant. It was the perfect setting for my first walk of the year without wearing even a jacket. Two friends came by and the three of us headed down to the neighborhood creek for a little adventure.

Two days earlier Tim & I had explored a bit and found a few bluets making a tentative appearance. What a difference two days made! There were bluets everywhere, clump after clump at every turn on the path. And the leaves on the trees were starting to leaf out in earnest.

As we wandered up the path following the creek we soon encountered a challenge, a steep bank on one side of the path and the swiftly flowing creek on the other. And the narrow path became a stretch of jagged rocks. There was a discussion about how or if we should continue and then, one friend took the lead and proceeded, saying, “we can do this!” And so we followed, hugging the hill, practically crawling, grabbing saplings and roots for support.

When we finally got past the steep bank and had a flat place to stand my adrenaline was pumping and I was shaking like a leaf. But I turned around, and took a picture (above) of the route we had taken. We had started down near where that tree is lying across the water so some of the “path” we took was behind the curve…

Our reward was a chance to walk around on some flat land and enjoy seeing more spring flowers. We saw some stairs leading up to a neighborhood and decided that would be our way home, and we saw a little bridge over the creek, too. So we crossed over and walked some more. There are so many paths in this forest!

looking up Bolin Creek before we crossed over it
dwarf crested iris
native, only 4-9 inches tall
bluets are called Quaker ladies down south here
mini rapids in the creek

There were birds singing everywhere, but they were hard to spot. I probably wouldn’t have included the following blurry pictures but I had to share my newest life bird! Although I’ve heard phoebes calling before it was a delight to actually see one!

Eastern Phoebe, #89

One of our most familiar eastern flycatchers, the Eastern Phoebe’s raspy “phoebe” call is a frequent sound around yards and farms in spring and summer. These brown-and-white songbirds sit upright and wag their tails from prominent, low perches. They typically place their mud-and-grass nests in protected nooks on bridges, barns, and houses, which adds to the species’ familiarity to humans. Hardy birds, Eastern Phoebes winter farther north than most other flycatchers and are one of the earliest returning migrants in spring.
~ All About Birds website

downy woodpecker

Retracing our steps to the bridge I was able to get a nice picture of it (above) from a little bank elevation. After crossing the bridge we climbed the stairs up to the road and walked home through the neighborhood. Tired and thirsty, but feeling wonderful!

the intelligence of a place

3.30.24 ~ ‘old blush’ rose
North Carolina Botanical Garden

It’s always a pleasure to be greeted by the roses dangling from their arbor each time we visit the botanical garden. It never gets old! Like sunrises and sunsets, I suppose. A steady presence. But we were on a new mission this day to locate a Virginia dwarf trillium, another tiny ephemeral we heard was blooming. Along the way we saw…

Spanish lavender
hermit thrush

This (below) was the only undamaged dwarf trillium we could find, surrounded by other kinds of plants. We had torrential rains for a couple of days and I think they did a number on the tiny trilliums. But I’m grateful we got a chance to see this one. It is much smaller than all the other regular size trilliums we’ve been seeing this spring.

Virginia dwarf trillium
spreading Jacob’s ladder
white-throated sparrow

Only by living for many moons in one region, my peripheral senses tracking seasonal changes in the local plants while the scents of the soil steadily seep in through my pores — only over time can the intelligence of a place lay claim upon my person. Slowly, as the seasonal round repeats itself again and again, the lilt and melody of the local songbirds becomes an expectation within my ears, and so the mind I’ve carried within me settles into the wider mind that enfolds me.
~ David Abram
(Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology)

yellow trillium (?)
twisted trillium
pine warbler
sweet shrub aka Carolina allspice
great white trillium (?)
tufted titmouse
red chokeberry
squirrel going out on a limb to reach maple seeds
what a mess he made discarding the “helicopters”
carpenter bee
(thanks to Eliza for the identification)

As we were making our way back to the parking lot this giant bee (above) was hovering over the walkway, blocking our path. Well, if it was just going to stay there I might as well get a picture of it. I don’t know if these creatures are unique to this area but sometimes they hover outside our windows and crash into them repeatedly. It sounds like someone is throwing pebbles at the window.

So we’ve lived here for ten moons I think, not very many so far, but our senses are slowly getting familiar with the seasonal changes.

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!

the great surge of life

3.20.24 ~ hermit thrush, North Carolina Botanical Garden

I lack roots, I cannot fly on my own wings, and I do not burrow into the earth. But I am a part of something vastly bigger than myself. I am a part of the enduring force, of life itself. And the great surge of life occurs every springtime. It is this that I am made aware of now.
~ Hal Borland
(Hal Borland’s Book of Days)

fragrant sumac

Another favorite walk in the botanical garden, savoring every possible moment of this memorable spring flowering. Longtime locals have been telling us that this spring has come earlier here than it has in previous years. The last rose I found on this bush (below) was in November and this one in March is the first rose since then.

first ‘old blush’ rose of the season
Venus flytraps poking up from the soil
wild blue phlox
Carolina wren
white trout lily
 limestone bittercress aka purple cress
‘finch’s golden’ deciduous holly

I’m planning to get a once a month picture from this spot (below) on the boardwalk. The areas on either side here were part of a subscribed burn sometime after we found the seedbox plant in January.

Coastal Plain Habitat boardwalk in March
3.20.24 ~ Courtyard Gardens
Spring Equinox (8 seasons series)

Spring has returned — and now the earth is
like a child who has learned her poems by heart.
So many, so many … and for all her hard
and lengthy studies now she takes the prize.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
(Sonnets to Orpheus)

eastern redbud cauliflory

Cauliflory is a botanical term referring to plants that flower and fruit from their main stems or woody trunks, rather than from new growth and shoots. It is rare in temperate regions but common in tropical forests.
~ Wikipedia

Learning something new every day… I’m trying to remember the word cauliflory by thinking of cauliflower. (I’m still having trouble remembering the word marcescence even after using it countless time on this blog…) This wonderful botanical garden is never the same twice.

early spring in the arboretum

3.17.24 ~ pineland phlox
Coker Arboretum, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

This post is my contribution to Karma’s Signs of Spring Photo Hunt. I don’t have a prime lens, but the photos, except for the birds, were taken at about the same focal length with my zoom lens. (There was a lot of squatting involved to get the pictures.) Visit Karma’s post here if you’d like to participate.

stinking hellebore

It was spring break at UNC and we learned that we could easily find a parking space on campus when the students are out of town. And that meant we could finally visit the lovely Coker Arboretum, 5 wooded acres in the middle of a college campus. I came home with more than 300 photographs! What follows is a small sample of the birds and blooms we saw. Some of the plants were from other parts of the world.

Alabama snow-wreath
magnolia
spring starflower (South America)
Chinese redbud (China)
spring snowflake (Europe)
golden ragwort
Japanese camellia
spike winter-hazel (Japan)
hermit thrush
white-throated sparrow
‘hino-degeri’ azalea
‘snow’ azalea
Carolina wren
American robin
Spanish bluebell (Iberian Peninsula)
flowering quince
Carolina silverbell
cut-leaf lilac

I was especially attracted to the tiny South American spring starflowers which carpeted some of the garden plots. Something about those little purple lines on the petals. And the European spring snowflakes captivated me. They were a little bigger than our snowdrops. When I got home I learned they were native to southern Europe, all the way east to Ukraine, so I wondered if any of my ancestors had them in their gardens to welcome spring over there.