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!

 

 

Providence Canyon State Park

Late this summer, I had the opportunity to visit another state park gem…Providence Canyon State Park. It is what we in Georgia refer to as the Little Grand Canyon. I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon, so I don’t know how close to the truth that description is; however, I did find the canyons here to be quite fascinating.

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The most striking feature about the canyon is how soft the walls are. There were many signs stating that climbing and repelling were prohibited, but I assumed the warnings were in place because the state did not wish to be responsible for anyone getting hurt. It was not until we reached the bottom of the canyon and I actually ran my fingers along one of the walls that I realized just how dangerous attempting to climb or repel on them might be. The walls felt as if they were made of pure sand. The sand glittered in the little rivulets of water flowing in the canyon valley and tumbled down the walls with as little as a butterfly landing.

I couldn’t imagine anyone attempting to climb the walls. It was more than obvious that the canyon was carved out from erosion. What was truly amazing was that the walls were even there…that they did not fall. Not only were they there, but people wandered about at the top along the rim trail. The fact that those massive walls were mostly sand and that we were walking and driving on the land above was astonishing! God’s world is truly amazing!

The day we visited the park was beautiful in that there were little to no clouds. As we gazed up at the canyon walls, we could take in the sight of the white and red colored walls against a beautiful deep blue sky. It was truly breathtaking. Of course, the heat was also breathtaking…quite literally. Within a couple of hours of exploring, we had consumed our water, my fair skin was burning, and we were drenched in sweat. Thankfully, I brought my tripod into the canyon to get some good shots, because my hands were shaking too much from heat and exertion to get any good clear shots hand-held.

The contrast of the blue sky made for some interesting black and white photos as well.

Another spectacular sight we were privileged to see on this particular day was swarms of butterflies everywhere. Not only were there the usual little swarms of sulphers, but there were also Common Buckeyes and Gulf Fritillaries. I had never seen quite so many of the two latter species in such great numbers in one place before, and their colors were bright and shimmering in the sunlight streaming into the canyon. It was like walking through a fairyland. I sat for quite some time trying to get some good photos of those busy little insects flitting from place to place. Out of the many shots I took, only a few came out clear. It was quite relaxing to just sit and watch them flit about, and every one that landed on the sandy walls sent a little stream of sand trickling down. It was a bit unnerving that such a tiny, lightweight creature could disturb the walls so. It made me wonder what happened when a rain storm came through.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to explore much on this warm day. I will be heading out there when the weather is cooler to do some more exploring soon I hope. But until then, I hope you enjoy the shots I was able to get from this expedition.

Ahhh…Spring!

Ahhh…Spring! The world is waking from its winter slumber. The trees and plants are budding and blooming,

the bees are busy gathering nectar and pollinating the flowers,

the butterflies are emerging,

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the birds are migrating and beginning their nests,

and the lizards are emerging from…from…well, from wherever it is they hide away during the winter.

Everything is new and alive and awake…including me. Well, maybe not new, but definitely alive and awake. My mind is awake with thoughts. My lungs are filled with spring air. The very essence of my being can feel the world around me waking up and coming to life.

So here I sit at one in the morning writing while everyone else is sleeping and dreaming sweet spring dreams. I feel the need to create, and this seems to be the least intrusive outlet of my creative urges, as it will allow my loved ones to continue to slumber.

Yet soon, in the daylight hours, I will be out photographing the waking world and sharing its joys and wonders with you, my faithful readers. But until then, I will leave you with a beautiful sunrise

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and a peaceful sunset

Pastoral Sunset

to enjoy until the ‘morrow.

Adventure in the Florida Keys (Day 7)

Well, the trip to the keys was over, and it was time to head back home. There was one last thing we wanted to do, however.  Just outside of Miami on the way into the Everglades, we stopped at Copper Town for an air-boat ride. The price wasn’t too bad, and we got a nature lesson before heading out on the boat. We were told some interesting facts about alligators and snakes, and a couple of these reptiles were passed around for us to pet.

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After the lesson, we headed across the street for our air-boat tour. If you ever decide to do this get some earplugs. The cotton they give you just doesn’t quite do the trick. Those boats are loud!

Now, I knew alligators were rather plentiful in the Everglades, but I didn’t realize just how plentiful. There are approximately 2.7 million alligators in the Everglades at the last population check (and that’s just the ones 5 feet or longer!).  So, needless to say, there were plenty of alligators to see on our boat trip.

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Aside from the alligators, I got a couple of photos of some native insects like dragonflies, butterflies, and the Eastern Lubber Grasshopper and one really pretty bird called a Purple Gallinule (and some very nice scenic photos as well).

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And that my friends was our last big adventure on the Florida Keys trip. I hope you have enjoyed the photos. Stay tuned for some local adventures coming soon.

Adventure in the Florida Keys (Day 3)

So, I’ve finally finished editing and sorting through the Day 3 photos, so now it’s time to write.

On Day 3 of the Florida Keys adventure, we spent the first part of the morning checking out the resort, as we still were recovering from the long ride. I walked out to the dock overlooking the water and noticed that there was a little lighthouse a couple of properties over.

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Later, after a little Google search, I found out that this little lighthouse was a restaurant.

Then I decided to check out the comfort-quality of the hammocks around the corner while my husband checked out the checkbook-quality of the on-site boat rentals. After frightening off the poor little iguanas with my approach, I found the hammocks to be quite comfortable. The one I chose was stretched between two palm trees, and the sky was perfectly blue.

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My husband and I decided to take pictures of each other across the boat launch.

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After a bit of loafing around and taking more iguana photos…

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…we decided it was as good a day as any to head out to Key West.  In order to get to Key West from Marathon, you have to cross the Seven Mile Bridge, so we did. When we arrived at the opposite end of the bridge, we decided to stop and walk back across on the walking bridge for a little bit. We saw many a fisherman, novice and expert, along the way.

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We stopped every now and again to watch the water for sea-life and photograph some boats and islands in the distance.

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Then it happened! I spotted a ray! Between the pointing and excitedly yelling “Look!” and trying to get my camera ready, I’m afraid my poor husband was confused…until he finally caught sight of it too.

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After spotting the first one, we soon realized there were several of these guys swimming about.  We watched them play and search for food, and I got several decent photos.

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The water is just so clear out there. It’s beautiful, and you can see so much.

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Finally, we moved on from watching the rays, and we encountered a school of long-nosed gar near one of the columns.

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Eventually, we realized that if we were going to make it out to Key West, we would have to mosey on along. The drive to Key West from Marathon takes approximately an hour. With the sight-seeing at the bridge, we finally made it to our destination by lunch. After walking around a bit in the ridiculous heat and humidity, we decided to stop and eat at the Southernmost Beach Cafe. Kudos to the bartender there. He makes a fabulous Mai Thai (I had two). It’s a mostly open air establishment, so the pigeons and gulls frequently decide to dine with the human guests.

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We had a wonderful lunch by the water and a wonderful view of everyone having fun on the beach and water…and even in the air.

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After lunch, we walked out on the dock for a better view of the area.

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We decided to forego the touristy Southernmost Beach Buoy with its long line in the heat. Instead, we decided to venture on to the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. Now, this destination was definitely on my list of must see places. I don’t think it would have made my husband’s list, but I asked him to come with me, and he gladly accepted the invitation. The moment we stepped in the door, I was in butterfly heaven. We spent quite some time in that hot, humid little greenhouse watching and photographing butterflies and birds, but here I didn’t mind the heat and humidity (though I did find the need to go in search of those refreshing air conditioning vents on occasion). We saw so many beautiful specimens here, so I’ll just share some photos now:

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After pulling me away from butterfly heaven, my husband wanted to go check out a dessert place that he had read about. Unfortunately, it was closed on this particular day, so we decided to head on back to the resort. On the way back, however, we decided to take another detour. As we were driving, I noticed a big white blimp-like balloon in the air.

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We were both curious, so my husband took a detour down Blimp Road to find it. We followed the road until we reached the ocean. There was an officer parked at the end of the street, so my husband decided to ask him about the curiosity in the sky while I took a few photos.

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Apparently, the blimp served as something like a giant windsock for low-flying aircraft. It worked together with the equipment on the island, and all of these things were, from the stories told to the officer anyway, things left over from the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis…radar, tracking, and such.

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He did tell us that we could wade into the water from the boat launch, however, and go for a swim. He said it was all public land out there. We weren’t quite prepared for swimming, but we did wade into the clear refreshing water a bit, though. It was just enough to cool off and make the rest of the day nice.

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After cooling off in the water, we hopped back in the car and decided to check out a little more of the island before heading back. We found that the residents out that way weren’t too keen on visitors with all of the NO TRESPASSING signs and BEWARE OF DOGS signs (too many tourists being disrespectful I suppose…or maybe theft problems…either way, can’t blame them).  I did manage to get a few pictures in a marshy-type area though.

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Eventually, we made our way back to the resort and headed for the tiki bar to watch the sunset. We found that sunset was somewhat of a daily celebration in the keys, and everyday at the tiki bar, they fired a cannon when the sun touched the water (well, a replica canon anyway with a 10-gauge shot). On this particular evening, the sunset was spectacular!

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And that was our adventure for our first full day in the Keys. Stay tuned for the rest!

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

watermarked edits-87 watermarked edits-80 watermarked edits-77

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