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.

Fort Yargo (watermarked)-69

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.

Fort Yargo (watermarked)-25 Fort Yargo (watermarked)-26 Fort Yargo (watermarked)-33 Fort Yargo (watermarked)-56 Fort Yargo (watermarked)-73 Fort Yargo (watermarked)-74Fort Yargo (watermarked)-67Fort Yargo (watermarked)-71

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

Fort Yargo (Part 1: Mushrooms)

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I set out on a hiking adventure. We headed out to Fort Yargo State Park in Winder, Georgia. With miles of lovely hiking trails, a beautiful lake, beaches, and dozens of picnic areas this park is a happening place to be on a warm late-summer day.

Now, I bet you’re expecting lots of lovely scenic photographs of this wonderful state park; however, I must disappoint you in this for what caught my attention on this particular day was…mushrooms. Lots and lots of mushrooms of different sizes, shapes, and colors dotted the sides of the trails and begged to become my models.

And become my models they did, along with a spider, a couple of butterflies, a few flowers, and a baby lizard (well, I actually found him at home, but he gets to make his appearance here as well). I did my best to identify these fungi, but alas, I am not as adept at describing fungi as I am at describing insects, so my research did not go as well as I would have liked. I did identify a few, however.

The most common mushroom adorning our trail was the Amanita cokeri, or Coker’s Amanita. I managed several lovely photographs of these stately, pimpled, albeit poisonous, fungi.

White Amonita White Amonita White Amonita White Amonita

My favorite photos, however, were of this Mama Amanita sheltering her baby.

White Amonita (with baby) White Amonita

Another favorite of mine was the red-capped Amanita Parcivolvata. It most closely resembles that typical toadstool known for its psychoactive qualities, the Amanita muscaria. This little guy, though, is quite poisonous, so I don’t recommend consuming him in any form. Unlike his toadstool cousin, this guy sports a concave cap with lovely distinctive gills on the underside. Under his quiet canopy of leaves, he made a perfect model.

Amonita Parcivolvata Amonita Parcivolvata

This next fuzzy little guy I almost passed over until my husband pointed him out. I wasn’t sure how interesting other people would think he was, and determining that I couldn’t just go around photographing every mushroom in the forest, I decided to pass him by. My husband, however, changed my mind when he noticed him too, and for that I am grateful. Not only did he make a good model, but he has a really cool name too. He is called The Old Man of the Woods.

.Old Man of the Woods Old Man of the Woods (monochrome)

Now, I’m not quite sure about the identification of this next guy, but from what I could find, he is known as a Tylopilus Felleus. He was first classified as a Boletus Felleus but was later transferred to Tylopilus because of his pink spores (that is if I have gotten his identification correct). He is also porous on the underside, unlike his gilled cousins that we have seen so far. He made quite a striking model.

Boletus felleus

This next monster of a mushroom was quite impressive. She sported a lovely pinkish flat top that was nearly twice the size of my husband’s hand, and probably was at least twice the size of mine. She was also hiding a baby under her porous cap while our brave firefighting minion, Dave, protected their forest home (and had his picture taken with the Monstrous Mommy Mushroom).

Fort Yargo (watermarked)-58 Fort Yargo (watermarked)-59 Dave is ready for some firefighting action Dave fights mushroom fires

This next little flock of fungus I identified as Turkeytail Fungus. It is quite a lovely shelf fungus that feeds on decaying trees on the forest floor.

Turkeytail Fungus Turkeytail Fungus

The rest of my lovely models haven’t been identified as of yet (and if you happen to know, feel free to leave a comment on this post…I’m a little obsessive about identifying my subjects).

Fort Yargo (watermarked)-70 Fort Yargo (watermarked)-68 Fort Yargo (watermarked)-64 Fort Yargo (watermarked)-63 Fort Yargo (watermarked)-62 Fort Yargo (watermarked)-55 Amonita Parcivolvata Fort Yargo (watermarked)-18 Fort Yargo (watermarked)-16 Fort Yargo (watermarked)-11 Fort Yargo (watermarked)-10 Fort Yargo (watermarked)-4 Fort Yargo (watermarked)-2 Fort Yargo (watermarked)-1

Now, keep in mind as you venture into our Georgia forests that most of our dear mushroom friends are quite poisonous, so it wouldn’t be wise to be adding them to your afternoon salad in the park.

And that, my friends, concludes our mushroom adventure.

But wait! There’s more! And trust me, you won’t want to miss this! (Warning: if you suffer from arachniphobia, you will not want to read tomorrow’s post.)