Wednesday, July 29, 2009

An Owwwie!!

We came across this lovely owl standing in the middle of a narrow paved mountain road in West Virginia as we were heading home and winding our way down the steep side of the mountain. It stood there facing the other side of the pavement, feet firmly planted, not attempting to fly even as we approached, and giving no indication that it realized there was the danger of being hit by our car. I yelled for my husband to STOP, STOP as we came within feet of hitting the owl. Just as we got to the point of no return he/she flew into a nearby tree and I quickly took this marginally focused photo of the owl through the open window of the car. It was clearly saying something with its eyes.

I put my camera in my lap and and something caught my eye. I looked to the side of the road near where the owl had been standing. That is when I saw this little fellow shaking like the leaves on an aspen tree. He/she did not react as if knowing we were there. Both my husband and I sat in the car in panic but also with practical concern that another car might be wheeling down the winding road and not expect our stationary status.

After a few seconds the owl sitting in the green leaves turned to look at what must have been a very white and scary car monster beside him/her with one eye closed in pain or damage.

There was no safe place for me to exit the car as the ground dropped off rapidly down my side into the woods. The other side was the rocky wall into which the road had been cut. We had no gloves and I later thought about taking a jacket around the bird and easing it into the woods as we drove on, but I was also afraid that shoving it further down the hillside might injure it even more. Had we lived in the area we might have been able to call a rehabilitation number and make sure that the owl received help. I had absolutely no reception on my cell phone in the area and couldn't get reception for another hour down the mountain. It still bothers me to this day that we were not able to come up with an effective solution for all and I keep hoping that the owl that appeared to have been hit by a car was able to mend with time.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Squash That Thought

Shall we fry them, he said.
Shall we not, she replied.
But they are perfect now, he argued.
That is why not, she smiled.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Once There Were Bears (They Say)

(As a prelude to this post, just two weeks prior to our West Virginia trip we were driving in the mountains and we almost collided with a large black bear that was casually crossing the road in the middle of the morning. I have NEVER seen a black bear in all the years that I have lived here and believe me, I have looked constantly. I was too dumbfounded to get a photo although I had plenty of time. He casually climbed the hill on the other side of the highway and then galloped away once he was in the cover of the woods. We did come across a steaming pile of bear scat on the trail back that afternoon from our day hike in the area!)

There is a transcendental place in the mountains of West Virginia called Bear Town. Bears do not actually live there but they could have. It is a state park, 107 acres in size, and purchased by a mother toward the memory of a son lost in the war in Viet Nam. That makes the place even more special. The rocks are 'laid out' as if there were narrow streets at one time making it seem like a town of sorts. The surface of the rocks composed of Droop or Pottsville sandstone weathers in intriguing patterns and allows lots of colored plant and mineral growth. The ferns grow on top of these huge boulders like crazy army camouflage green haircuts on balding heads. Geologically this was once along an ancient sea. Many hemlock trees are now falling due to insect infestation and that adds to the feeling of passing giant bears stomping between the crevasses or ancient whales swimming by the whale size rocks. ( I did not re-size the photos as I usually do so they might make a nice screen saver.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cranberry Glade

For those in sweltering heat or confined to the house these days, here are a few more photos from my recent 3-day visit to West Virginia. After a summer of temperatures in the high 80's F, this visit to the 750 acres preserve at an elevation of 3400 feet was a cool mini-vacation. We almost had the whole glade to ourselves. They have made a boardwalk so that it is accessible to one and all. (Click on photos for a breath of fresh air.)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Water Ballet

I have season tickets to this show! Whirling and swirling the slim and finned water ballerinas are once again dancing dockside. They quietly arch in perfect unison to a choreographed dance that was designed by their ancestors centuries ago. It is a dance that has the practical elements for collecting food and avoiding death at the same time. They swirl and twirl and dive, then flash an occasional flirty silver side in the late afternoon sun. The crescendo in rhythm is reached as they turn and ripple the smooth surface of the water before they disappear from sight only to reappear seconds later at the other end of the dock beginning the corrida once again. This summer jazz ballet is natures' way of letting me know that all is well with the world. (As usual clicking on the photo will provide a closer view.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Mystical Meadow Magic

My three-day vacation in the mountains of West Virginia included time spent on the high meadows. This is the land where the wood nymphs, the flower fairies, the tree trolls and the moss magicians hang out and cast their spells and plan their celebrations and create mischief. The beauty of the place had me bewitched. There was plenty of addictive cool sweet air to breathe. We were there on a day that the mountain top captured a cloud and held it close around its shoulders almost hiding the well-mowed walking trail and certainly causing the wood sprites to giggle as we tried to find our way. (This meadow was actually created from land fill and gets mowed every few years to keep it as a meadow.)

There are thousands of high meadow flowers blooming and others yet to come before the fall and cold winter snows. The tiny pale silhouette in the distance in the photo below is my husband lost in the misty spell of the mountain top.

Even the weedy crown vetch was lovely up there. (Click on photos and you can be there.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


On the recent hiking trip in the mountains of West Virginia we were on a focused walk to the end of a short trail that would bring us to a rock outcropping providing a view of one of the valleys in Pocahontas County, the valley where Pearl S. Buck's birth home now stands. We almost missed the wild orchid in the photo below. It which was just to the side of the path and we could have raced by missing it in our determination to reach our destination. Wild orchids are rare in this area and struggle with habitat destruction as they are not the dominant plant in any area.

I tried hard to identify this one, and while I think I was close, my botanical knowledge (or lack thereof) has taught me that I should not try to identify either orchids or mushrooms! Any experts in this area are free to chime in.

These same orchids were growing throughout the woods near the trail, but only one was blooming. What a rare find! The (second orchid) blossom below was found in the sunnier area of the Cranberry Glades which is the largest bog area in West Virginia and a rare ecosystem giving us a little bit of Canada close to where I live. I think it is also an orchid, perhaps the "common" grass pink orchid. Certainly not common in my experience.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Just Pretend I Am Not Here

You can be busy going about your life while an unexpected miracle is taking place in the mud at your very feet. This was one of those miracles that has been happening for centuries before you were born and which make you feel insignificant in the grand scheme of earth's plan. I went out in the early morning to pick some herbs for a sauce I would be making later in the afternoon. My husband's basil in the vegetable garden is rich and full, but my basil in the small herb bed near the front door is stunted and struggling. As I went to check its growth, I found that it will struggle more as one of our box turtles was excavating just at the base of one set of rather crowded basil plants.

The turtle had moved the mulch to the sides and was using the back clawed feet to scoop balls of earth through the narrow neck of the excavation. She alternated her legs and her little rear end would sashay as if she was doing a dance. The excavation might have resembled the inside of an underground jar with a narrow neck.

I watched for a while as it continued to dig in the clay that I had tried to amend for an herb garden. The turtle would tuck her head if I moved too suddenly and was well-aware aware that I was standing only a few feet away. Realizing that I should give her some privacy, I decided to water my container plants instead.

I left her to her devices and returned two hours later to find her already covering the hole. I had almost missed the whole show. I was able to photograph one last egg (the blurry white orb seen in the photo above) just before it disappeared beneath the mulch that she carefully pulled over the top. When she left her make-shift nursery it was almost impossible to tell that the earth had been disturbed.

The basil will be at the end of its growth season at the 75 to 90 days time frame that the turtle eggs need to hatch. I have marked my calendar, but if land turtles are like sea turtles, the hatching can take place in the dark of night and I will only be left with shells.

Friday, July 10, 2009

My Fox

Riding my bike along a path in an historic park near my home brought me within site of the gray fox shown in the photos above. At first it looked like a large cat pondering something interesting in the ground at the edge of the cornfield. Then as my bike took me closer and before the animal noticed I was on a path that would cause us to meet, I stopped to photograph what I soon recognized as a wild fox.

My front bike wheel flipped to the side just as I snapped the last picture before the fox hurried into the shelter of the corn creating enough blur that the photo is foggy. A short time later and across another field we saw a fox in the distance, perhaps its' mate?

I have not seen for months my fox that I wrote about a long time ago when we first moved in to the new house. After the first winter living here I did see a dead fox along the highway a mile from the house and I am afraid that our gray fox met with one of those frightening hunks of metal on wheels.

I am hoping this fall that a new fellow ready to leave his family, takes up residence in my neck of the woods once again.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

The Fancy Feast

I think it is so nice when one dresses for dinner, don't you? These fancy feasters are even so formal as to be wearing tails!
And below begins the dancing after dinner.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Bird Operetta

This Carolina wren has built a nest in the tongue of the boat trailer. We are hoping her young fledge before our first hurricane warning! We have at least three wren nests in the front yard.

There is nothing quite so amazing as the full-throated song that comes from the little brown Carolina wren during the heat of the day. His/her call is so robust and yet so sweetly lovely that it makes one wonder where the amplifier is hidden in that small bird and who does the wonderful composing for such arias? What dreams does this bird dream that give them such a beautiful vision and such robust hope for the day?

They are the true operatic sopranos of the bird world. You hear his/her call and have to stop mid-pull in your weeding, or mid-inhale in your enjoyment of that pink rose, or just stop daydreaming and find that you are compelled to train your eyes toward the sound to see the amazing feathered music machine that is perched head back and beak open on that high branch of the poplar tree singing away to the sky.

When your eyes narrow and focus on the far limb you see that it is just a tiny brown bird with the cutest little uptail. Watching them sing, poke under the leaves of the geranium plant, seek out housing or build their nest is quite a show of energy and optimism. The world is their oyster and nothing can stop them. They are quick and perky and one might think their song would be simple and short. Every year they try to nest in the hanging canoe in the garage even though our work habits startle them on a regular basis. They are determined.

Two of these wren families have taken up raising a family in the unpainted house and the green birdhouse. My comment to the bluebirds is "You snooze, you lose."

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Osprey Dinner

I am never passe about the regal beauty of osprey. Their large eyes and sharp talons and elegant wing span capture my heart. These two were spending time catching dinner along the mouth of the river while we sat in the boat trying to catch some dinner of our own. Hubby was fishing (not catching) and I was reading my novel as I sat in the front of the canoe dipping an occasional paddle to reset the bow away from the shoreline. Clearly the successful fish hawk in the second photo did not want to share his bounty in any way.
(Click for enlarged photo.)