Friday, October 16, 2020

Something Died?

The life in my woods is ever-changing.  Animals mate, new animals are born and old or young animals die.  The deer have been less visible on our peninsula since the new homeowners at the end of the road turned their 10 acres of woodland into a target practice area!  I am not worried about accidentally being shot as they are far away and shoot away from the road.  But I can hear the gunshots some days.  

It seems that a doe was injured (perhaps not by gunshot since they primarily target practice) in the ravine and died.  It is far enough away that we cannot smell her passing, but the local family of buzzards (vultures) has taken up residence in the back yard as they clean their bills, preen their feathers, and stare off into space will digesting their repast.

Up close and personal they really are dramatic birds!  Kind of creepy how you can see daylight through their nostrils when looking at them sideways.




One volunteered to be a roof decoration for Halloween!!



Wednesday, September 16, 2020

More Fun Surprises While Canoeing

The world is moving faster and faster in so many ways. Maybe I feel that way because I know that my time on this earth is closely limited. My activities will be reduced. My senses will not be as strong as they were. I am not bitter or angry about this. "It is what it is" to quote a famous dictator. 

My canoe trips will eventually be exchanged for car trips or shorter walks in the woods. Maybe I feel less worried about it all because my life has been filled with experiences and they have been repeated and repeated over seven decades. Thus time seems like a long series of expected changes that renew each day which is only a short 24 hours. 

With fall approaching and the early beautiful, cool weather we have been having here, I am hopeful for tree and leaf photos which I seem to collect with abundance every year. I must admit that the cycle of life, although often repeated, never gets old. 


Blessed with another beautiful day, we took a second canoe trip a few days after my prior post, this time to the higher part of the river which runs by our house. It is a long river and actually runs most of the length of the state. We had to load a canoe onto the top of the big car once again. It was a 25-minute drive and the only available restroom near our destination (the one at the gas station) was locked.  There was a portable potty used by the local fishermen at the canoe launch site. I used it because there was probably not going to be ANY area to get out of the canoe once we were on our way...high banks and mud beaches the whole way! I did not touch anything more than the door to the porta-potty and there WAS paper on the roll.  Then I got ready for about 4 hours of canoe paddling after not breathing inside the facility and later wiping my hands thoroughly with sanitizing wipes, and soon we were off in the quiet of the morning.


The fall flowers were in abundance and reminded me that native plants are so important to our environment as the connection for insects and animals. More important than the pretty exotics that everyone buys at the garden outlets and plants in their yards.











I saw a few bald eagles which surprised me because we were rather far up the river away from the more open water and the waters were brown and clouded by the recent rains. The eagles seemed healthy and full of food. 


Fall was just beginning to show her color as well, even though the day was warm.



Hubby is a "gunk-holer" which means no narrow side finger of water should go unexplored as we paddled up the main corridor even when fallen trees leave only a 2-foot passage into that tiny side finger of water. Most explorations brought us up shortly within a hundred feet or so to face a dead-end or a tangle of unpassable crossed trees. But persistent exploration does have its rewards and we did come across one lovely hidden pocket lake that must have had at least a dozen wood ducks cowering at the far side. I could not get pictures because they flew as soon as we got close enough for photos. My wish would be to be there early just before sunrise and see what wildlife hung out. 








In the photo above, we did make it around those fallen trees down another small exploration area!  Canoes are miraculously agile.

As we turned our canoe around to paddle back to the main river, I did get a few quick photos of this brown, round fellow in a tree.  He had seen us first and he checked us out before flying off to somewhere.  Flying so very silently.



Monday, September 07, 2020

Canoe Trip Part II...some really cool birds.

Canoeing is something we have always done but mostly in the cool of spring and the cool of fall and not in the middle of summer.  Our 2020 spring canoeing was halted by our Governor who wanted everyone at home and away from state and county parks and public boat ramps.  Now that fall is here and parks and other natural areas are open again we can put the canoe into the water, masks at the ready if needed, and just paddle about.  (Put your feet up, I took a lot of photos.)

The weather was warm and only hot in the sun.  We managed to move in and out of shade as we canoed.  No bugs, except a biting fly at lunch, but I sprayed my angles and he departed.


This is the second part of our trip last week.  After lunch on the broken floating dock where I pulled off my life jacket and was too stiff to even put it down until time to put it back on, we reloaded the canoe and headed into that inlet.  I posted in the last how we had startled an osprey.  I saw many ospreys and that lifted my heart because the ospreys from our nest at home have already started their migration.  They were unable to have survivable young this year and it made me sad to see them sit on the nest and stare out over the water when the summer months are usually very busy times for parent osprey.  I am keeping my fingers crossed for next year.


There is a fine white line in this photo which I noticed only after I cropped and zoomed in.  It might be a fishing line!  Osprey can seem more common because we see so many but they are protected.  


We moved further into the inlet and I could hear the kingfishers making a racket just around the corner, but first the flora.


The native trumpet vine is in full bloom providing our transient hummingbirds with food for their long flight south.  It gives an aura of tropical jungle to the scenery.


Too early for fall color change so this might be a broken branch?  Then we got closer and I heard the Kingfishers making a racket and was able to get my first chance at photographing these speedy birds!!  Note the white dot is on the bill and is not the eye.


There were two and they seemed to be busy displaying or arguing or something of that nature.  I was thrilled to get a dozen or more action shots...from a canoe...using a telephoto...of a moving object!  




They did not seem to be intimidated by our canoe even though we were about 40 feet away.  They just wanted to make noise and fly about.  We stayed for some time but finally, we turned the canoe around to explore most of the rest of the coastline thinking this was our naturalist highlight for the day.




Our next bird was a ringed plover turning over stones for any moving food he might capture on a pebble beach area.  He came from somewhere in the far north and was heading to South America, perhaps.


Rocky revetment alternated with pocket beaches as we paddled, some with dog walkers, but most were empty.  We quietly turned another corner and saw this intimidated fellow--a green heron. (Don't ask me why it is called green!)





And soon he was off and running!  Later along the shoreline, we saw several bald eagles, in-flight and resting looking for schools of fish.  



Well, that must be enough feathered beauty for this post.   It is time to get out of the canoe and load it back onto the top of the car and since you didn't have to paddle, maybe you can help with that part.   I will save the great heron in flight for another time.

Friday, September 04, 2020

Let Me Take You on a Five Hour Trip

A bit long of a post, so put your feet up.

Summer is finally releasing its grip on my area. The weather is in the 80s and not the 90s F.  So when Hubby suggested a trip to a park about 20 minutes from the house, I was amenable.  He had put the canoe on the top of the car weeks ago and every time we thought we might head out, the weather changed for the worst including storms with tornadoes followed by a hurricane or two.  Most of them bypassed our area, but we still had canceled our trip to be safe.

First a little history of the area where we canoed.  Families from Brittany in France immigrated to the area in the 1600's.  Their traditional language was Breton and therefore the Bay we canoed is called Breton Bay.  There are a few Breton Bays in America.  This one has a lovely long and protected coastline and a river before it spills into the ocean.  It was first "settled" by the Catholics followed by British settlers who purchased land for their first official settlement from the Yaocomico Native American tribe.  This area has a rich complicated history.

The day was calm, only slightly humid with the promise of hotter weather by mid-day.  We arrived at 9:00 in the morning and were able to quickly load our backpack with lunch, our two paddles, our small cooler with drinks, my camera bag, and our life jackets.  The canoe was not full.

My husband takes great pleasure in pulling that first stroke which "frees" us from the earth for most of the trip.  Weeks of rains had kept the growth green instead of that sage color that arrives in early fall.  So all the plant life was thick and abundant.


The curves of the shoreline made it easier to sneak up on birdlife.  They had finished raising their young and now seemed most intent on getting fat for winter.


There was an abundance of white perch of all sizes and lots of recently molted crabs hiding for safety.

We passed the time easily, hubby catching small perch for our crab traps and me looking for good photo opportunities.  In two hours we were ready to stretch our legs and eat our light lunch.  Up ahead was an empty beach with a nice floating dock that had broken loose in the storm and washed ashore...a perfect lunch table/chairs!  ( I will not describe in detail how hard it is to get out of a canoe after two hours when you are in your 70's.  Thank goodness no one was looking)





We are always thankful to have such a luxurious place to stop and listen to the quiet as we enjoyed our sandwiches and fruit.  Sometimes we beach comb or look for unusual native plants.  We are a most boring couple.  When we finished eating we noticed there was a small inlet behind the beach, and of course, perfect for us to explore with the canoe.


It was hard to accept that this area had been part of serious naval warfare against the British in the War of 1812 which pretty much crippled the tidal economy of oysters and crabs being harvested and sold.  The British "plundered" the area at that time.  It makes me realize that things here and now could be worse.


A lone osprey flew from his perch as we entered the inlet.  Most of the osprey are leaving this month and heading south, but I was able to see a least a half dozen on this trip. 

Well, I am sure you need to stretch your legs by now.  Next post I will share some fun birdlife that excited me as we enjoyed the second half of our paddle.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

The Little Things Always Count the Most

There are small natural happenings in my yard where I spend 30% of my time. I spend 50% indoors and the rest I am at the Postal SERVICE using their great talented services.  But I will share what is happening outside.  It is sometimes so beautiful it should be in the national news.


If you squint you can see autumn in the not-too-far distance and thus the orb-weaver spiders become more abundant in my garden.  I do not know what they eat earlier in the summer.  They can be small or quite large.  They can look intimidating, but if I weed near the web, they will scurry away and wait until I am done.  I read this fascinating fact about these spiders:  "Generally, towards evening, the spider will consume the old web, rest for approximately an hour, then spin a new web in the same general location. Thus, the webs of orb-weavers are generally free of the accumulation of detritus common to other species, such as black widow spiders."  I guess I am thankful I do not have to eat my house each day and build it anew.

I love the common name "orb-weaver."  It sounds like some ancient magical spirit who lives in the woods and creates fire-works worthy shows.


This is a fallen crepe myrtle blossom that was caught in the web of one of my spiders. There are sticky parts to the web and non-sticky lines of silk where the spider walks carefully. You must know how strong those sticky strings of web silk are if you catch them across your face or in your hair!

Another magical creature is the dragonfly.  What another perfect "common" name.  They dart and spin and glide, and while I do not have as many this year as last, I welcome them because they eat mosquitoes!  Go Dragon, go.



I planted native mountain mint a year ago and it has taken over, of course. The flowers are meek and small, but pollinators love it!!  I have seen many odd and unusual visitors...too many to post here.  You can stand beside this silver-gray mint and wave your arms gently above the plant and not a single wasp or bee or insect will rise up and declare war.  The wasps are busy collecting nectar to take back to their babies.



Can you see the assassin bug (wheel bug) on the right? He/she eats other bugs and I am wondering if it was waiting for that bee to make a mistake.  I did not see it when I was taking this photo.


And the bumblers are everywhere!!

It is nice to stop and recognize the perfection of the little things in life.

Friday, August 07, 2020

Sunflowing and Sunsetting

The world moves on. My sunflowers had to be staked after the Hurricane Isaias came over. The eye was overhead, but the storm had been reduced to a tropical storm and we got very little in the way of damage. The last is the greeting the night before the storm hit as the sun was setting.