What a Beautiful Day!

Today was spectacular! The weather was perfect, and everything about the day warbled spring!

I started the day heading over to pick my mother up for breakfast.  On the way over (less than half a mile, by the way), my daughter and I managed to rescue two animals from being hit by a car.  Granted it was my car, but that’s beside the point.  Before we even got out of the neighborhood, we happened upon a mama bird giving her baby a flying lesson.  Unfortunately, Junior ended up sitting in the middle of the road. My daughter hopped out and got the little fluff-ball out of the road while mama bird watched and squawked a bit nervously.  Then, on my mother’s dirt road, I had to hit the brakes, because there sat a turtle basking in the sun.  My daughter hopped out again and gingerly picked that little guy up and put him on the side of the road out of the way too.  Then it was off to breakfast!

After breakfast, my daughter headed off to work, and Mama decided she wanted to go for a walk (as neither of us really wanted to go home and cut grass).  My feet weren’t quite dressed for the adventure, so we headed back to my house for shoes, water, and of course, my camera.  Then we headed off to Turner Lake Park to walk some trails and photograph whatever caught my fancy.  Boy were there some things to photograph today!

Turtles ruled the pond today!  There were more turtles there today than I have ever seen!  On this log alone, there were 19!

May 02, 2018Turner Lake34.jpg There were at least three different species as far as I could tell, and they were everywhere. I took more photos of turtles on this one day than I have taken in all my years of photography put together.  It was fantastic!

Along the trails, Mama and I talked and talked, and I spotted some small butterflies, a frog, some flowers, some insects…the usual stuff.

As we headed out of the woods and back around the lake, I happened to spot a Great Blue Heron across the water.  I watched him for a bit and took quite a number of photos.  Mama had a bit of trouble seeing him from that distance because he blended in to his environment so well.

As we made our way back toward the car, we stopped by where the geese hang out.  They are pretty used to people hanging about, so they went about their business of preening and napping.  And of course, I sat and watched and photographed.

A couple of squirrels wanted in on the photo shoot too, so I took pictures of their cute little selves.

As we walked away from the geese, however, we saw a very unfortunate little casualty.  A big brown bat was flopping around on the shore.  He seemed very injured and not very interested having anything bother him in what I believe were his final moments.  It was quite sad.  He was quite beautiful.

Then I saw the Great Blue Heron fly over to our side of the pond, so I was able to get a few great shots of him up close.

Then, we headed over to the dock to see the ducks.  There were a few of these guys hanging about.

As we walked out on the dock, I noticed quite a commotion going on in the trees near the water’s edge.  Some birds were having quite a fit over something.  Curious, I headed over to take a look.  I watched them fussing about and carrying on for a bit, and then I noticed what all of the commotion was about.  It appeared that a black racer had invaded the little bluebird couple’s humble abode.  I assume he made a meal out of their future offspring…very sad and unfortunate, but I suppose it is the “circle of life”.  I’ve never really photographed a snake before, so I seized the opportunity born from this unfortunate event.  I was able to get fairly close as he was in a tree and not likely to be able to get at me (though I think he was more afraid of me than the other way around).

We spent about three hours out there at the lake, and we thought we were done with our little adventure.  But just as soon as I turned down the drive to take Mama back home, I had to stop again.  There on the side of that little dirt road sat two little bunny rabbits.  My daughter grabbed the camera from the back of the car, and I was able to get a couple of good shots before they hopped away.

What an amazingly beautiful day!

 

 

At Victor’s Pond

One of my favorite places to visit as a child was Victor’s Pond. Now, it really isn’t named that. In fact, it doesn’t even have a name. It is a pond on my daddy’s uncle’s property. His 40 acres was right next door to our 17, so the walk over was a short quarter-mile hike down the dirt road. We didn’t get to go very often when we were young, because we could only go if Daddy went with us and if there weren’t any activities going on at the pond that day. Therefore, the infrequency of the hikes made them all the more special.

One of my fondest memories is walking over there with my Daddy, and nearly every time we went, I would find a little plastic army man, cowboy, or indian. When I was very young, I often wondered if a fairy or friendly ghost was leaving them for me. As I got older, I wondered if these little toys belonged to Victor’s son and if he had lost them while playing. Daddy always let me keep them, and as an adult, I wondered if perhaps he had hidden them in his pocket and dropped them for me to find. I never asked him about it, so it will always remain a mystery.

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Apart from that little adventure, nothing brought more joy than seeing the roof of that little red cabin appear over the hill. Then I knew that beautiful pond was almost in sight. That little red cabin is still a beautiful and welcome sight.

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As I came up on it on this particular day, I took a few photos to remind me of that childhood joy. But I get ahead of myself…

Before you reach the cabin, there is a small holding pond (or overflow pond…I’m not sure which). When I was little, we were always followed over by a passel of dogs. I remember when Black Boy and Butterball, our Rottweiler mixes, were still alive, the first thing they would do was dive into the water. They would swim and swim. Sometimes all you would see was their noses above the water. I often wished I could jump out and swim with them, especially on those hot summer days, but I didn’t know how to swim back then. On this trip, I took a few photos of that still, quiet water. Only memories remain of my long-ago canine friends.

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After passing that holding pond, the little red cabin comes into plain view. When I was young, the little yard leading down to the pond was always well manicured and fresh annuals were always planted and in bloom. Whenever Victor and his wife, Charlotte, were there, she would always be weeding and pruning her prize blooms. It was always fun to sit and talk with them a bit. Now there are no blooms. Victor has passed on, and Charlotte doesn’t get out there much anymore. You can still see where the blooms would be planted amidst the planters and garden trinkets.

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On this particular afternoon, the pond was alive as usual with various little insects. There were dozens of dragonflies flitting about, and I watched them dart here and there a bit. I managed a few photos of these amazing creatures in flight, and they never cease to mesmerize me as they balance atop water grasses and the twigs of logs near the shore.

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Aside from the dragon flies, I also discovered a few spiders and water bugs.

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I ventured around the pond and admired the beautiful water and shoreline. There are a few more trees fallen over into the pond these days.

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When I was young, the pond was fairly clear of logs and such, and Victor had a little green row boat by the cabin that Daddy would take us out in on rare occasion. The boat isn’t there anymore, and the fallen trees dot the shoreline. I waited patiently hoping to see a turtle crawl up on one of the logs. But alas, the one I did see decided it was best to stay in the water.

Later in the day, towards evening, my husband and I decided to take my niece and our dog, Dixie, out to see the pond. They both had a blast, running and playing and making memories of their own.

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My niece and husband decided to do a little photography of their own while Dixie ran about.

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Dixie never braved jumping into the water, though she seemed to want to. My niece ran around everywhere, and she discovered a few bones on the opposite shore. One set, I’m sure, belonged to one of the water birds that frequent the area…perhaps an egret or a great blue heron. We would often hear those birds call out in the early mornings and late evenings as they settled near the water.

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She also found a little mammal skull which, much to her delight and her mother’s chagrin, she decided to take home with her (Aunt Athenia lets her do these things).

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This little trip on this mid-summer day was full of memories of the past and the still-present beauty of today. And I can honestly say, Victor’s Pond is still one of my favorite places to visit.

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The Joys of Autumn…and Butterfly and Moth Collecting

Autumn is a beautiful time of the year. The leaves change colors, the air gets cooler, and all the colorful harvest time vegetables grace our senses. One of my favorite things about fall, however, are the swarms of butterflies that visit my butterfly bushes in the backyard. Today, after the rain storm, the bushes were teaming with life, and I found yet another butterfly I haven’t photographed and identified yet.

Years ago, I remember seeing a butterfly collection. It was a board with dead butterflies pinned to it. I found that quite horrific, as I love these beautiful creatures. I lamented over this terrible thing while my father listened one evening. I’m not sure he found it quite as horrific as I did, but he loved these creatures too. He had a lovely butterfly coloring book that he worked on from time to time. Now, when I say coloring book, I don’t mean a children’s coloring book but one of those nice ones with the waxy pages that you color with color pencils. He had carefully colored in some of the species he had looked up and colored them with accuracy. I’m not sure what happened to that old book, but I have taken up the butterfly quest. I, however, have chosen to collect butterflies and moths in photograph. So far, I have collected 22 different butterflies and moths.

There’s not much story behind the collection other than what I have told in previous posts, so I’ll just share my butterflies and moths and their names with you.

American Lady

American Lady (4) American Lady Butterfly American Lady-1

Bumblebee Sphinx Moth

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Cabbage White

Cabbage White-3

Cloudywing Skipper

Dun Skipper-1

Common Buckeye

Common Buckeye Common BuckeyeCommon Buckeye

Dun Skipper

Dun Skipper (2) Dun Skipper

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

watermarked edits-33 watermarked edits-21 watermarked edits-2Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (30)

Fiery Skipper

Fiery Skipper (1) Fiery Skipper-2 Fiery Skipper-3

Great Spangled Fritillary

Great Spangled Fritillary Great Spangled Fritillary Great Spangled Fritillary

Gulf Fritillary

Gulf Fritillary (1) Gulf Fritillary (5) Gulf Fritillary-2 Gulf Fritillary sipping nectar

Long Tailed Skipper

Long Tailed Skipper-3 Long Tailed Skipper-6 Long Tailed Skipper-8 Long Tailed Skipper-9 Long Tailed Skipper-17

Monarch

Monarch Butterfly Monarch-4 Monarch-6

Pearl Crescent

Pearl Crescent Pearl Crescent Pearl Crescent

Red Admiral

Red Admiral-4 Red Admiral-6 Red Admiral-9 Red Admiral-11 Red Admiral-13 Red Admiral-15

Red Banded Hairstreak

Red-banded Hairstreak Red-banded Hairstreak

Red Spotted Purple

Eastside Trail-18 Eastside Trail-22Red Spotted Purple (22) Red Spotted Purple (23) Red Spotted Purple Butterfly Wing

Regal Moth (Royal Walnut Moth)

Regal Moth (face and legs) Regal Moth (Royal Walnut Moth) Regal Moth (side view)

Silver Spotted Skipper

Silver Spotted Skipper (1) Silver Spotted Skipper (5) Silver Spotted Skipper (6) Silver Spotted Skipper (8) Silver Spotted Skipper (10)

Spicebush Swallowtail

Spicebush Swallowtail in Flight Spicebush Swallowtail Spicebush Swallowtail Spicebush Swallowtail Spicebush Swallowtail Spicebush Swallowtail

Spring Azures

Spring Azures (they are purple on top when they are flitting about) Spring Azure

Zabulon Skipper

Zabulon Skipper Having Dinner Fiery Skipper Fiery Skipper Fiery Skipper

And here are a few caterpillars:

Luna Moth Caterpillar

Luna Moth Caterpillar's face You can see all the fuzzies on this guy in this pic

Sycamore Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Sycamore Tussock Moth Caterpillar Sycamore Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Fort Yargo (Part 2: Critters and a Few Other Things)

Welcome to Part 2 of my Fort Yargo hiking adventure! If you haven’t read Part 1, go back and read that now.

Did you finish Part 1? Very good…now on to Part 2, the really exciting stuff…

Sometime between noon and one, my husband and I stopped for some really yucky organic meal shakes and water. I noticed the webbing of some tent caterpillars and strolled over for a look. As I was examining the nest looking for signs of the inhabitants, my husband pointed out another web near the water on the other side of the bench. Being a bit nearsighted, it took me a minute to find what he was pointing to. As he was verbally directing me to the wonder, he held our bouncing furry companion at bay so that she would not inadvertently destroy said wonder with a swish of her tail. Eventually I too discovered the web and was both amazed and disturbed by the scene that I found…

Writing Spider with prey

It seems that a lovely Writing Spider was also enjoying her lunch…or perhaps storing the rest of it away for later. Either way, her feast of dragonfly was rudely interrupted by a crazy photographer lady (that would be me). As I maneuvered my way around the web to the other side to get a better vantage point (and being careful not to lose my balance and fall into the lake), I heard my husband shout, “It’s coming after you!”

And indeed she was! Apparently I had jostled the web a bit, and this beauty decided she was about to catch some dinner! Alas, her hopes were dashed when she viewed the size of her new prey. Rather than give up, however, she perched herself delicately on her strings of silk ready to be my model. And who could ask for a more terrifyingly beautiful model.

Her lovely black and gold body shone brightly in the sunlight.

Writing spider (top view)

With her head of silver fur and her many dark black eyes, she was both captivating and unnerving.

Writing Spider (head close-up)

Even more unnerving were the fangs she sported underneath these beady black eyes. But aside from the fangs, the underside of her body was fascinating. I captured a very detailed shot of her thorax where her eight long legs connect to her large shiny exoskeleton. And what the photos capture that the naked eye rarely sees (mostly because you aren’t going to dare to get close enough to view it) are the spiky hairs all over the spider’s body.

Writing Spider (close-up of thorax and fangs) Writing Spider (underside view close-up)

This lovely orb spider had woven her beautiful web next to the lake with the tell-tale zig-zag which is the signature feature of the writing spider. When we were young, my cousin and I were of the understanding that a writing spider could actually write. We offered many a paper with words on it to our writing friends one summer. Now that I’m older, I know that unless they are named Charlotte, they can’t really write anything other than z’s, but it made for a fun summer nonetheless. On this particular occasion, however, I was lucky enough to capture a photo of this lovely lady extruding silk from her spinneret to weave her web.

Writing Spider (abdomen close-up with spinnerette extruding silk)

These amazing creatures are both beautiful and frightening, and I feel privileged to have been allowed the chance to photograph one at such close range without conflict.

Writing Spider (side view with lake in the background) Writing Spider (underside view close-up)

The next little critter I happened upon was a nervous little tufted titmouse. He lit on a branch just long enough for me to snap a slightly blurred photo.

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Then there were the butterflies flitting about the edge of the lake drinking in the nectar of wildflowers. The most beautiful of the two that I captured, and the one I got the best photos of, was the Common Buckeye.

Common Buckeye Common Buckeye Common Buckeye

And the other little guy was a Red-banded Hairstreak. The pictures of him were not quite so clear, but they turned out okay.

Red-banded Hairstreak Red-banded Hairstreak

I also got a few scenic photos, two of which I displayed as the feature image for the posts. The rest of them I will show you now.

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Our hiking trip was cut a little short due to my sister needing a last minute babysitter, so we kicked it into high gear to get ourselves out of the woods and back to the car. This unfortunately proved to be a mistake as I tripped over an exposed tree root and went sailing across the path. No permanent harm done, though, just a bruised up knee and some minor scrapes.

When we arrived home, our hurry was for naught, as my mother returned home just in time to babysit. But the evening was not wasted. My husband went into the backyard and found a baby fence lizard which apparently had no problem sitting peacefully on his hand. He was also rather fond of the camera, so I got quite a few close-ups of this little guy.

Baby Fence Lizard Baby Fence Lizard Baby Fence Lizard Baby Fence Lizard Baby Fence Lizard Baby Fence Lizard Baby Fence Lizard Baby Fence Lizard

And I shall end my tale with a couple of rather good photos of my hiking companions…

Dixie Fort Yargo (watermarked)-72

Small Wonders

A few mornings ago, I was sitting on the front porch having coffee, hoping to have a quiet morning watching the birds and squirrels fight over the bird food in the feeders. Unfortunately, it was the same morning my neighbor decided to do some work in the garage. Believing the morning to be ruined by the noise (as it would scare all of the animals away), I headed indoors to put my coffee cup away. Then, as I passed the backdoor, a yellow flutter caught my eye. My camera was right next to me on the chair, and the morning was not ruined after all.

So, what was that yellow flutter? Why, none other than an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Those are common you say? Well, yes. But three of those beauties feeding on my Black Knight butterfly bush…well, that’s just enough to make my morning. What better to photograph than that lovely yellow against a purple backdrop.

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They flitted about for quite a while, allowing me to get some very good shots. I got close enough to get pictures of them feeding from the flowers, dipping their long tongues into each little bud, draining it of nectar.

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There markings were beautiful, though two of them looked a little battle-worn.

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One of them even landed on a flower right in front of me. They were simply amazing to watch.

Returning to the front porch to finish my reading and coffee, I noticed a tufted titmouse and his mate. Camera still in hand, I attempted to capture these beauties, but alas, they were too quick. Since my camera was at the ready, I decided to zoom in on what I thought was a bird nest in the bushes.  A bird nest it was not. In fact, it was a chipmunk. He was sitting still as could be…now whether that was from fright or an attempt to wait me out to get to the bird feeders, I don’t know. But sit there he did, for quite a long time. I got several pictures of this silly little chipmunk, and I began to be concerned that he was hurt (perhaps dropped there by some unfortunate owl who lost his supper). But a little movement of the branches, and he proved to be more than alright. Away he scurried missing out on a birdseed brunch, not before I got several good photos of his cute little self, however.

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Before this little cutie ran off, I called my daughter out to see him. She was amazed at how still he sat. After he ran off, she decided to join me on the porch. As I had my camera out, she decided to ask me if I had taken my water photos for a weekly photo challenge. I explained that I had not, so she pointed out that there were water drops on the blades of oat where the birdseed had dropped and sprouted. Obviously, she has a keen eye, because I never even noticed the water. So off to get my macro filters I went. And the results were satisfactory…

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Later in the day, as she was finishing up her schoolwork, we headed out to the patio. My camera was still close at hand, and I took a couple of shots of some water drops on some jars on the posts (poor lonely jars that were meant to hold herbs that, alas, were never planted).

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Then, as we headed inside before the little biting bugs bled us dry, I noticed something zipping around the butterfly bush. It was my little friend, the bumblebee sphinx moth. Now this little fairy is quick and hard to capture on camera, but capture him I did. A few of the pictures turned out good, though most of them were quite blurry as he flitted from flower to flower drinking nectar.

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And so, a day I thought would be dull, turned out to be a day filled with small wonders that brought a smile to my face and joy to my heart.