Monday, March 29, 2010


My office was complete dismantled for several days so hubby could put in a new floor. The new floor is nice, I must admit. I also must admit that I nearly went crazy without my computer. Addicted? Seemingly. Determined not to whine, I hitched up my "big girl britches" to help him as best I could so that the task could be finished asap. During those times he didn't need an extra hand I would go outside (when it wasn't raining) and see how the viburnum was doing.

The couple of branches that have blooms are filling in nicely. The buds you saw a week or so ago are opening to reveal the most exquisite purple and chartreuse green. Bird Girl called this a Korean Spicebush, or viburnum carlesii. Thanks for the ID, Bird Girl (please check out her wonderful blog, My Bird Tales)

These colors!

Delicate as glass.

My Sunny Friend Eve and I shared a remarkable lunch and outing last week. Her photos look so much like mine that I need to find some different ones to post! While I sort them out please enjoy the viburnum. I'm SO GLAD to be back online!!! Happy Spring, all.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Well so oky doky according to my last post I was heading west to spend time with my mom and check out some preserves close to Florence and Muscle Shoals. I never got the chance to see the preserve dang it, but I had some pretty cool birding experiences! Sadly, my camera never left its case. It was just one of those trips.

Tuesday, after lunching with my road trip buddy Carroll we were driving to the lake and spied a huge "V" formation high overhead. "Look! The geese are flying north!" "Ummm....those don't look like geese to me - too fat and heavy." OMG....we were seeing a huge flock of about 60 American White Pelicans bucking some gusty headwinds heading north for the summer. By the time I found a shoulder and could pull off they were quite far away but we got to see them! Pelicans! Migrating in a "V"! It's a sight I'll never, ever forget. Thankfully, other photographers are more prepared and have good shots so please thank Martin Kopecky for the above image.

Wednesday, Carroll calls me with an excited voice. Alert! Alert! The red breasted mergansers are migrating back north! Naturally, I didn't get to her house in time. Please thank some person identified as Soenke for the above image so you'll know what they look like. Our photographer buddy Steve up in Glouster recently took some outstanding photos of them as well. Check him out by clicking here.

Thursday morning I was enjoying early coffee with my mom. The sun came out! It was so beautiful that morning! Through her living room window I began seeing large black birds lifting over the lake front homes, mine among them. The cormorants migration had begun! Without access to the water I could only watch as they skimmed the lake's surface like speeding bullets before lifting above the treeline and heading north. This went on for quite some time as this migration show consists of hundreds and hundreds of cormorants. From my vantage point the birds were quite small, and any photo would have been dark specks back lit by the sunrise. It was enough to simply enjoy nature's theater. Please thank Carolyn at Picasa for the above image for this is exactly what they look like skimming above and lifting from the water.

So........what to blog? Clearly, I'd experienced nothing of blogging interest - or that I had documented my very self. With everyone blogging about spring flowers it seemed it was time to check out our new (old) backyard to see what I've inherited.

Some sort of viburnum? It's a small tree that's been conked on the head by something so it's all broken off and rather ugly. Still...part of it is blooming these lovely things!

The sweetest smelling narcissus I've ever ... smelled! SOOOOOoooooooooo beautiful!

Sigh. My favorite springtime flower!

We have no grass. We have wildflowers, weeds, moss and fungi. Here's one of the wildflowers.

I hate privet but I have one. At least the blooms are pretty.

Another wildflower.

And another wildflower. I thought they were the same flower until loading the images on the computer. Clearly different, both beautiful. There's some vinca out there, too, but I don't like vinca either. Looks like I have some work to do! So that's my blog for today. Enjoy Spring!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Photo Shoot

I'm off on an adventure. Leaving shortly to head WEST to Wheeler Lake and wherever my feet take me to take photos, visit friends and spend time with my mom. Please enjoy this little piece I put together using one or more of Jerry Jone's textures - Shadowhouse Creations. If you haven't yet checked him out I encourage you to do so! I've had such fun playing around with his textures and tutorials. The man is genius! If you download his free textures please tell him Thank You! Peace and love.........

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Wheeler Wildlife Refuge, Finis

Transitioning from the Cypress Trail to Observation Building

I do apologize in advance for the number of photos in this post. I got carried away. They're not the best photos in the world but I had such fun taking them! Leaving the Atkeson Cypress Swamp I slogged through a boggy spot (thanks to recent rains) to check out the reed beds and grain fields before hiking the short trail to the Visitor Center's Observation Building. By the way, this is Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge.

Two Northern Shovelers are lazily negotiating a path through some cool looking reeds.

You must know how captivating these reeds are. Almost hypnotic in their appeal.

I confess such patterns in nature grab my attention. I forgot all about the Shovelers for a spell.

How pretty they look with the grain field in the background.

I just like this shot. Time to move on towards the Observation Building.

The Visitor's Center has a buffet all laid out for area songbirds and squirrels, who both flew and scurried off as I approached ... except this one lone, brave, cocky Tufted Titmouse.

American Coots, Northern Shovelers and Ring-Necked Ducks

One travels down a gravel pathway a short distance toward a building that's completely hidden by forest and planned growth. The last few yards I'm surrounded by a tall fence and bamboo, no doubt to keep noises down so as to not scare off the birds. Entering the building there are glassed walls that give you the perfect vantage point for bird watching. Off in the distance I see a gaggle of some small waterfowl. Upon later inspection (thanks to Photoshop) I see some Northern Shovelers, American Coots and ... Ring-necked Ducks. I thought they were Scaups until I got a close look at my images at home. Clearly, these are Ring-necked Ducks.

Male Wood Duck

Walking to the other side of the building I spy a pair of Wood Ducks. As many times as I've been here, all along the Refuge, I've never seen Wood Ducks up close and personal. These were paddling away from me, grazing among the reeds, but the light was so beautiful as were their colors.

Ring-Neck Ducks and the cool-o reeds

Juvenile male Mallard and a female Mallard - NOT!
I've learned these are Gadwalls! E-GADS! GAD-Zooks!
(Thanks birding buddy, Eve!)

A pair of Canada Geese

A lone female Red-Breasted Merganser paddle by while Mr. Northern Shoveler ducked down for a treat. I saw two female Red-Breasted Mergansers this morning - no males, and no other mergansers. I sorta felt sorry for them. Where were their little merganser buddies?

Back to the other side of the building where the light directionality made the water glow a rose color. There were my Wood Ducks again.

A pretty shot of more reed beds.

As I was leaving Mr. Wood Duck floated by to bid me adieu. As primitive as the Cypress Trail was, my visit with the waterfowl was peaceful and serene.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wheeler Wildlife Refuge, Pt. 1

Wood Duck Love!

Keep your fingers crossed that this, my third try to post a new entry, will "take." Blogger kinda went gonzo on me for some reason. This is the story I've been trying to tell you. Tuesday morning I had the honor of meeting the Supervisory Park Ranger of Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. She graciously agreed to meet with me to hear about a project that I hope will come to fruition. More about that later if everything works out. After our meeting I took time for myself and strolled around some of my favorite spots there.

See the little bird house?

The first leg of my trek was down the Atkeson Cypress Trail. It's a short 1/2 mile boardwalk adventure through a lowland filled with Bald Cypress. I love this little trail. There are seats built in for sitting and soaking in the peace, however it was just me visiting this day and there was peace aplenty. The day was cloudy with rain showers playing around the edges. The light was so soft and pretty, changing often with the breezes. This veiled light brought out the subtle colors of the lichens and tree bark, mosses and cypress knees. Powder gray skies created stark reflections upon the dark waters. This places feels primeval.

Every ripple in the water made me think a T-Rex was walking toward me!

My last visit here was with my road trip buddy, Carroll. The winds were stronger then and the trees were swaying and dancing. Those of you who read that particular post may remember my mentioning the singing trees. "Singing" as the winds made them rub together and a strange throaty sound filled the air, much as a cellist strums a bow across her instrument's strings. We'd stood there the longest time listening to the trees sing. I was hoping to hear that again today, but the winds were too light.

Hairy Knees

The water is low now and multiple bands of colors ring the bottoms of cypress trees marking the rise and fall of the seasons. Fallen cypress leaves rest like rust-colored feathers below the water, adding a reddish hue to the overall effects. Cypress trees have exquisite bark. Lightly shaggy, with colors of iron and rust that provide the backdrop to light teal lichens and bright green mosses.

Looks sorta like a lightning bolt!

"Bald cypress is a long-lived, deciduous wetland species that grows along rivers, streams and creeks as well as in swamps with slow moving water. It can live up to 600 years old. It is a legendary tree of the Deep South known for its "knees," moss-draped crown, and buttressed trunk. It occurs in the coastal plains along the Gulf and the Atlantic Ocean and north through the Mississippi River Valley."

The Boardwalk

"Bald cypress is a very important tree in the swampland ecosystem. It is valuable for wildlife food and cover. Canada geese migrating to the south feed on the seeds. Swamp rabbits and other birds, such as Florida cranes and ducks, also feed on bald cypress. White-tailed deer escape to the cover of bald cypress swamps during hunting season. Many animals find shelter in and around the base of large old-growth trees."

Knee with reflections

"Knees" are present in both pond cypress and bald cypress root systems when they are growing in water. Cypress "knees," or pneumatophores, are cone-shaped extensions of the root system protruding from the ground. Pneumatophores are thought to function as the trees' means of obtaining oxygen for the roots during flooded conditions. Bald cypress and pond cypress are "Trees with knees." (source)

Goodbye trees with skirts!

It's time to say goodbye to the cypress trees and start my short hike to the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge Observation Building. Next post, I'll show you what I found!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Hays Preserve, Finis

Today's missive is a gentle goodbye (and I'll return) to the Hays Preserve. From their website: "The Hays Nature Preserve and the Goldsmith Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary together form the City's largest and most undeveloped parklands. We have over 10 miles of trails that wind through bottomlands, swamps, and sloughs, suitable for hiking or mountain biking. Horses are also welcome on the northern trails. Come explore our hardwood forest, walk our fields, and discover our wetlands. Wildlife abounds with deer, rabbits, raccoons, and resident and migratory birds, in fact, this natural area is an important part of the North Alabama Birding Trail. Join us in our efforts to preserve this valuable asset for our children and learn something along the way."

In fact, upon arriving home after my all too brief visit I downloaded a wonderful map that outlined a myriad of hiking trails yet to be taken. You can download maps to the Hays Preserve and Goldsmith Shiffman Wildlife Sanctuary here if you're interested in visiting, which I highly recommend.

Reflections continue to mystify and captivate my attention. You'll see a lot here in my final piece about Hays Preserve. Because I am passionate about land preservation but own no clever quotes of my own I want to leave you all with wise words from some wise folks in between the pretty pictures.

"Let us a little permit Nature to take her own way;
she better understands her own affairs than we."

Michel de Montaigne, translated

"We never know the worth of water till the well is dry."

Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732

"We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us.
When we see land as a community to which we belong,
we may begin to use it with love and respect."

Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

"I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man
if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature
and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority."

Elwyn Brooks White, Essays of E.B. White, 1977

"When you defile the pleasant streams
And the wild bird's abiding place,
You massacre a million dreams
And cast your spittle in God's face."

~John Drinkwater

"When we heal the earth, we heal ourselves."

David Orr

"There is nothing in which the birds differ more from man
than the way in which they can build and yet leave a landscape as it was before."

Robert Lynd, The Blue Lion and Other Essays

Bat houses at Hays Preserve

From the Organization for Bat Conservation "Bats are extremely important. Yet due to years of unwarranted human fear and persecution, bats are in alarming decline. By putting up a bat house you are helping by giving them a home. You will also benefit from having fewer yard and garden pests, and will enjoy learning about bats and sharing your knowledge with friends and family.

As the primary predators of night-flying insects, bats play a vital role in maintaining the balance of nature. And, as consumers of vast numbers of pests, they rank among humanity’s most valuable allies. A single little brown bat can catch hundreds of mosquito-sized insects an hour, and a typical colony of big brown bats can protect local farmers from the costly attacks of 18 million root-worms

"It is imperative to maintain portions of the wilderness untouched
so that a tree will rot where it falls,
a waterfall will pour its curve without generating electricity,
a trumpeter swan may float on uncontaminated water -
and moderns may at least see what their ancestors knew
in their nerves and blood."

Bernand De Voto, Fortune, June 1947

"It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment."

Ansel Adams

"Take nothing but pictures.
Leave nothing but footprints.
Kill nothing but time."

~Motto of the Baltimore Grotto, a caving society

"Humankind has not woven the web of life.
We are but one thread within it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
All things are bound together.
All things connect."

Chief Seattle, 1855

That's it from Hays Preserve. These reflections were mesmerizing, and the sense of place there is peaceful, open and honest. Please make every effort to support Hays Preserve and the Goldsmith Shiffman Wildlife Sanctuary. Quotes come from Quote Garden.


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