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! 🐸

hermit thrush, yellow-rumped warbler

12.1.23 ~ Mason Farm Biological Reserve
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

It was a dreary first day of winter when Tim and I drove over the ford crossing Morgan Creek and discovered an amazing biological reserve, chock full of birds! They were a challenge to photograph but I did manage to capture two new life birds.

Hermit Thrush, #78

An unassuming bird with a lovely, melancholy song, the Hermit Thrush lurks in the understories of far northern forests in summer and is a frequent winter companion across much of southern North America. It forages on the forest floor by rummaging through leaf litter or seizing insects with its bill. The Hermit Thrush has a rich brown upper body and smudged spots on the breast, with a reddish tail that sets it apart from similar species in its genus.
~ All About Birds website

Yellow-rumped Warbler, #79

Yellow-rumped Warblers are impressive in the sheer numbers with which they flood the continent each fall. Shrubs and trees fill with the streaky brown-and-yellow birds and their distinctive, sharp chips. Though the color palette is subdued all winter, you owe it to yourself to seek these birds out on their spring migration or on their breeding grounds. Spring molt brings a transformation, leaving them a dazzling mix of bright yellow, charcoal gray and black, and bold white.
~ All About Birds website

The reserve is a short 12-minute drive from our house. I like the no dogs allowed rule! Although, the possibility of another kind of canine encounter seems to exist. A friendly birder we met along the way pointed out some coyote scat sitting on the trail.

wholesome browns and primeval grays
celestial blue
vivacious green
snowy white

I love the few homely colors of Nature at this season, — her strong wholesome browns, her sober and primeval grays, her celestial blue, her vivacious green, her pure, cold, snowy white.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, December 4, 1856)

Our walk was long and wonderful, in spite of the damp, raw air and gathering clouds. There were so many bird calls and of course, many squirrels busy with their nuts and chasing each other up and down the trees. The trail we were on had mostly deciduous trees, leading us to believe it will be a good place for seeing fall colors next year.

Before visiting we are advised to check a water level gage, available online. If the gage reads less than 4.5 feet “it is usually safe to cross” with the car. It made me nervous crossing the low-water bridge, or ford. But it will be worth getting used to it to have a chance to keep exploring this huge property. “Mason Farm serves as a wildlife corridor between Chapel Hill and the Cape Fear River Basin.” So much to learn about our new home!

roses by the sea

5.22.23 ~ Napatree Point

Only about 20 miles east of us the sea changes from the gentler waters of Long Island Sound to the open Atlantic Ocean with its bigger waves.

One last walk on the dunes and beach at Napatree Point…

first glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean
we came to smell the beach roses and breathe in the salty air
Napatree Point, a 1.5 mile long curved peninsula
between the Atlantic Ocean and Little Narragansett Bay
beach roses nestled into a dip in the dune
Watch Hill Light
we came to hear the waves crashing

It was a very hazy day, the smoke particles in the air came all the way from the wildfires in Alberta, Canada. Sometimes the camera captured some blue in the sky and others times the sky came out very gray.

we came to hike across the dune trails

We heard this male yellow warbler sweetly singing before we finally spotted him flitting around the thickets on the dune, in the same area we saw a female back in September. It’s amazing to think that this little songbird spent the winter in Central America and has arrived here to breed.

“sweet sweet sweet I’m so sweet”

As we were walking along a robin came wandering down the dune path towards us. He would take a few steps, pause, look around, and then take a few more. We stood still and he kept coming closer, and closer and closer. After he checked us out, he turned around and started retracing his steps in the same manner. Curious little fellow.

American robin
beach pea
(thanks to Eliza for the identification)
harbor scene ~ I love that house!

When we got back to the parking lot these two herring gulls were having a spirited encounter. The one on the right kept making a long call and the one on the left kept jumping down into the water and bringing up globs of seaweed. The first one ignored the seaweed and kept repeating his long call.

we came to say a fond farewell

crossing over the dune

9.10.22 ~ Napatree Point Conservation Area

Every once in a while a hurricane churning away out in the Atlantic sends some big waves as far as Napatree Point, so we went there to see what Hurricane Earl might be sending our way. The waves weren’t so big after all, about 3′ according to a surfing website. (In 2020 Hurricane Teddy sent 6.5′ waves!) But we still had a good time at this wonderful beach on Saturday, enjoying the September sunshine and sea air.

driftwood #1
driftwood #2 (made me think of a hippopotamus)
driftwood #3
driftwood #4

After walking part way down the beach on the Atlantic side of the Napatree Point peninsula, we crossed over the dune on the indicated path to enjoy beach roses and the views. Rhode Island is still in an extreme drought. Ours is still severe, in spite of the recent rains.

beach rose hip
beach rose
more beach roses to bloom
a very busy bee

Tim spotted a bird on one of the ropes marking off the path. A new life bird for me!

Yellow Warbler, #74

Yellow Warbler Setophaga petechia: Common widespread migratory breeder April to September in brushy thickets of river-edge forest, wetland edges, moist power-line cut segments, and open woodland.
~ Frank Gallo
(Birding in Connecticut)

These pictures were taken with the zoom lens and were the best I could do at a distance. The warbler did seem to love flitting about on the brushy beach rose thickets.

North America has more than 50 species of warblers, but few combine brilliant color and easy viewing quite like the Yellow Warbler. In summer, the buttery yellow males sing their sweet whistled song from willows, wet thickets, and roadsides across almost all of North America. The females and immatures aren’t as bright, and lack the male’s rich chestnut streaking, but their overall warm yellow tones, unmarked faces, and prominent black eyes help pick them out.
~ All About Birds webpage

looking from the dune and across Little Narragansett Bay
to the village of Watch Hill, Rhode Island
white beach rose in the shadows
looking back at the dune from the bay side of the peninsula

The beach on the bay side of the dune is a little different from the one on the ocean side. Little Narragansett Bay is a small estuary and serves as a harbor for the village of Watch Hill.

driftwood #5
things the tide left behind
heading out for a sail
eastern juniper (?) and dune grass

We walked for over an hour and felt very refreshed. There is nothing quite like the sounds of crickets and of waves crashing, the smells of salt air and beach roses, the sighting of a new bird and the feel of sunlight warming the skin!

on the morning of the month’s first day

4.30.22 ~ tulips in my garden

But May is a month to be enjoyed, not coldly discussed, and enthusiasm should thrill to the very finger-tips of every one who, on the morning of the month’s first day, hears the thrush, grosbeak, oriole, and a host of warblers as they great the rising sun. And rest assured, dear startled reader, that unless you are astir before the sun is fairly above the horizon you will never know what bird-music really is. It is not alone the mingled voices of a dozen sweet songsters; for the melody needs the dewy dawn, the half-opened flowers, the odor-laden breeze that is languid from very sweetness, and a canopy of misty, rosy-tinted cloud, to blend them to a harmonious whole, and so faintly foreshadow what a perfected world may be.
~ Charles Conrad Abbott
(Days Out of Doors)