Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wheeler Lake Sunrise

The beach was, for me, a wonderful bonding and resting opportunity. However, we've been back a couple of weeks and I finally had the opportunity to visit my mom again at Wheeler Lake. We shared many a Sunny Beach Porch conversation in her white rocking chairs, sometimes with coffee and sometimes with wine.

From her porch we watched fat, bumbling June Bugs buzz from flower to flower, bumping and bonking into railings or siding. The Japanese Beetles have arrived. Smaller versions of June Bugs they are voracious and will denude crepe myrtles and roses and other plants. Her hummingbird feeders have been filled and we were delighted and amused by all manner of hummer activity. Butterflies aren't yet abundant. This weekend was stiflingly hot. Most times we were indoors. However, the morning of my departure I crept out while mom was still sleeping and watched the sun rise over the neighborhood before it got too hot. Just me and this mockingbird, my cup of coffee and the Canon.

There's not much to chat about this morning with you all but did want to share the little mockingbird photo. Today promises to be busy with lots of projects in the works. Hopefully, I'll have some news to share later and can post something of interest! In the meantime, please enjoy the little mockingbird sunrise!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Beach Birds

Mom and one chick giving the alarm call

From our sunset and wine deck I noticed a nest platform far away in the salt marsh that begged investigation. From far away I couldn't tell if the nesting bird was an osprey or a bald eagle. Even with my zoom lens the distance was too great so some sleuthing was mandatory. Finding a road through the salt marsh took investigation and a little skullduggery. As it turns out, the road through the salt marsh is unmarked and private, belonging to a neighborhood and its HOA. There's a keypad iron gate through one must drive, which curiously sits next to a trailer park and even appears to go into the trailer pack. There's a method to this madness for it took me the longest time to find said road. Finally, I deduced that was the ONLY road that could be THE road so I watched and waited for opportunity to present itself.

The only shot containing both chicks

And it did. One morning the gate stood open. I took this as an invitation to explore. The road looped through the salt marsh, past huge homes I would never want. Fields of wildflowers were scattered amid the salt marsh. Dragonflies were my escort and birds darted around me. The nest was, obviously, that of an osprey and two chicks - juveniles, by the look of them. Mom and chicks exhibited alarm calls as I came close to the nest, and mom in particular seemed ready to dive for my head at any moment. Not wanting to disturb them further I stopped moving, took lots of shots and then took my leave.

The evening deck overlooked a stand of gnarled, mostly dead live oaks, the snags of which offered perfect birding opportunities. I confess to not having captured every grackle that stopped by as they were ubiquitous in nature. There were lots of mourning doves as well, but this one caught my eye. A gold patch was clearly visible on the side of its neck. This was the only gold-patched mourning dove that I saw.

I've no clue if this is another species of dove or just an anomaly, or if there's always a gold patch like this on mourning doves and the light was hitting it just right. I'll leave that to you serious birders. (I, myself, am a birding novice and just enjoy whatever flies by!)

From my lazy vantage point, glass of wine in one hand and camera on the table in front of me I was in heaven just watching the world go by. Occasionally, as the situation demanded, I would pick up the camera and shoot something of interest before setting the Canon back on the table and having another sip. Life Was Good At The Beach. This bird had a beautiful song. At first sight and before its song began, and from a distance I thought this was a red winged blackbird. Then it began singing and I snapped a couple of shots before it flew away. I don't know what this is and apologize for the sloppy shots.

Any ideas what this beauty could be?

Touring Fort Fisher, south of Wilmington, we found Ibis in a tree. I'd forgotten all about Ibis and had to look them up upon returning home. It's been a long time since I'd been to the ocean, or where Ibis can be found. They are so pretty. The shot has been photoshopped so that you can see them - they were practically in silhouette due to the angle of the sun. Kayla took this shot.

Back in the salt marsh - same tour - this great egret was glowing in the morning sun.

This fella also wasn't thrilled when I got out of the car and slowly crept closer. Eventually, he took his leave, flying into the salt marsh.

Well, I HAD to get some shots of the red winged blackbird. It's mandatory. Love these birds.

Along with him singing loudly. It bears repeating - Life Was Good At The Beach.

After looping through a second time I came to a quick halt upon seeing this fella in a roadside tree. Branches are in the way, naturally, but this little green heron was my favorite of the day! This was the first shot which turned out to be the best shot. Taken from my car window, if I'd stopped and gotten out this guy would'a been history! LOVE the colors of this heron. I've seen them often but never gotten this close.

Kure Beach Pier, two brown pelicans stood about waiting for treats from the fishermen. Cannonball jellyfish were bobbing in the waves beneath them. They were docile and sweet and complete beggars! I love their Sting-Sticky-Up hair, and their colors were glorious.

So sweet, their expressions and personality.

Interestingly, we all noticed this trip the lack of shore birds along the ocean's edge. The occasional sandpiper would make an appearance, even a gull or two, but frankly...the majority of birds seen were grackles and red winged blackbirds. It wasn't until the end of our week that we began seeing pelicans flying along the shoreline, but sightings were few and their numbers were few as well.

Has this been noticed anywhere else, or is that common to North Topsail Beach? Few shorebirds? We used to vacation just south of Wilmington in the Brunswick Islands and shells were abundant as were all manner of shorebirds but here, north of Wilmington, wildlife and shells were scarce. The area was almost sterile - that's the word I came up with while pondering it one day. I'm not certain why or, again, if this is just common for this beach. It was disappointing to me as a nature geek. Still, I adored vacationing here and highly recommend it! We may have just hit it wrong migrationally speaking, or something.

North Carolina is an amazing state from the gorgeous Smokey Mountains to it's amazing beaches. As much as I love traveling abroad our own country offers such diversity for travelers.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Sense of Place

Shannon and Jessica walking toward our rental from the community dock that fronted the salt marsh. Ours was the first yellow building from the right. There were very few people in the area all week. Rentals stood empty and dark, roadways were lightly traveled, beaches were sparsely populated. PERFECT, in my book but clearly the current economic woes were showing.

From the community dock one could launch a kayak and travel all the way to the ocean. Kayla and Lance had a wonderful time. However, there was no formal "launch" and one had to physically lower one's self down to the kayak. Not possible for most of us and was even difficult for them. Still, what a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

Me, Jessica and Shannon would wait and watch, and bring them water when they were finished playing in the marsh.

Shannon enjoying the view, looking at wildlife and pondering.

Shannon spied these mussels attached to various plants in the shallow marsh. I'm assuming they're a mussel of some sort, anyway.

From our northern-most deck, where we spent the afternoons cooling down and sipping wine, sharing stories about our day. This deck overlooked a wide expanse of shrubs and weathered, wind blown live oaks. These snags attracted all manner of birds and dragonflies. The house beyond the oaks fronts the beach and was a landmark when we walked the shores. The architecture is typical for the area. The houses were amazing - most were brand new, huge and empty....and for sale or rent.

Sunset over the salt marsh.

Field of live oaks as seen from our second floor deck.

The southernmost deck is where we enjoyed morning coffee and solitude, reading and listening to the marsh birds, the call of grackles and hum of insects. This afternoon a storm was brewing. We had storms all around us the entire time but never had any rain. We were in a bowl of sunshine. There's that phrase again...but that's what we were in!

It was hot and humid, wreaking havoc with our cameras. Condensation was common and this was the usual first shot! Hope this gives you more of a sense of place. We really enjoyed the peace and beauty of this spot. However, being adventuresome we are already planning our NEXT family reunion elsewhere so we can explore another section of this awesome country of ours. Any suggestions? Next, I'll show you some birds & critters that I spied and captured - digitally, of course!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Beach Textures

Crushed shells

Most people look up while strolling the beaches, observing the ocean waves and all manner of beach goers, taking in the sights. A few of us odd ducks are stooped over, baggie in one hand and camera in the other, looking for treasures such as...

Rocks and water...

The sand man...

Water painting with shell and bubbles...

A crab's front door...

Ripples left in the sand overnight by roiling tides...

Sand paintings...

Footprints in the sunrise...

Iconic vacation symbolism...

A wave of foam...

Clam shell and seaweed...

Sand waves...

Pretty foam...

Patterns left by gentle currents...

Our two coffee cups ...

Visual treasures, all.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sunrise on the Beach

Sunrises are always beautiful regardless of where one is viewed. However, to me they seem more magical when there's water involved. Especially dynamic coastal waters with waves and foam, splashing and loud and salty with reflections of color and light that shifts with the rise and fall of the tide.

Jess and I rose at 5:15am and switched on the coffee maker which we'd set up the night before to save time. Sand colored coffee cups in one hand, cameras around our necks we struck off for the beach in the early morning gloom. Not another soul was stirring. The waking beach and ocean were grayed violet blue, the sky the color of a pale opal. A diminishing thunderhead to the east blocked the sunrise for the longest time.

The opposite direction demanded attention as a vase of blue pushed upward into the sky, water and sand reflecting the spectacle in symphony.

Jessica was spellbound, meditative. I left her alone to her thoughts as she stared eastward awaiting the sun's arrival.

The scattering, dark clouds began exhibiting pink-silver linings, a glorious announcement that things were about to change.

The sun breaks free of the clouds and the beach lights up... do the waves, water and foam.

We both stop walking and watch the show, committing the smells and sounds to memory.

As the waters dance...

...and create joyful beauty.

Soak it in.


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