Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Hays Preserve, Part 2

Continuing down the trail I notice there are several cleared areas close to the water. Stepping into one of them I set up the camera on my new monopod and just wait. Wait to be ignored, to be forgotten by the birds and creatures. Wait to become one with my surroundings. Eye to the camera I slowly turn around in a circle to see what's here. Well now. Someone is looking back at me. This most curious mockingbird stared at me for a long time, no doubt wondering what the heck I am. Finally, he hopped down to the ground, caught a worm and flew away to enjoy his lunch in privacy.

I could hear a plethora of bird calls in the woods but none were visible. I did see a lot of red headed woodpeckers, a tufted titmouse and the bold mockingbird, but the songbirds flitted around in the dense underbrush and high in the tree canopy not willing to be seen or photographed. That's okay. What has drawn me even more closely is the water, and the trees and their reflections in it.

This piece of branch in the beautiful water creates a bright aqua wake in the current.
This captured my attention for the longest time.

Another bridge over another stream.

Above is a simple shot to give you a sense of place. The walkway in the distance is coming off the footbridge that spans the waterway. Fields like the one shown make up one side of the trail, leading far away into forests and hills. The waterway makes up the other side. Hawks soared above the fields high, high in the sky. Birds were hopping about in the field foraging for food, which was in abundance. There were several huge stumps and logs and branches placed out into the field acting as shelter and a food source.

Again, the water and branches.

I'm drawn to the water. Probably because I miss the lake so much.

It was somewhere around here that I heard a familiar voice. Looking back onto the trail I see a familiar face! Someone I worked with long ago was hiking the trail with his son. We enjoyed catching up and vowed to stay in touch better via Facebook. Turns out we were both "friends" but neither of us spend a lot of time networking socially. We both like actual face time better, but I digress. He tells me that a wooded spot ahead on the trail is a good one for birding. They go on their way and so do I.

I immediately see why this wooded spot is great for birding - there is a LOT of food here for them. Above is the native possumhaw holly, ilex decidua. In its natural state it serves as a small understory tree, much like a redbud or dogwood. Berries are bunched up and abundant, but since they live in dappled shade the berries are loosely arranged on each branch.

Compare the above shot to the ilex decidua growing in my front yard. This possumhaw holly, which is deciduous, gets an abundance of sunshine. The berries are so thick each winter that its branches bow toward the ground. Yes, I get LOTS of birds on this small tree!

And here is the native beautyberry. Everyone knows beautyberry! Bright purple clusters of berries that are irresistible to birds! Looking these up this morning I discover that the American beautyberry (callicarpa americana) has been found to be a natural insect repellent. It has also been found to be repellent to mosquitoes and ticks. (Wikipedia) I'm planting some of these in my backyard, you'd better believe it. They also cause the dreaded purple poop problem, just so you know.

The birds are still chittering about in the underbrush and flitting about in the treetops so I'll just watch the water. My shoulders are relaxing and my body feels more refreshed breathing in deeply the clean air.

This would be a good spot to practice yoga.



Wait. I see something moving across the way. Was that a wing flap? Something is sticking its head up. A mallard! There are two, I think. Time to change locations and see what I can see. Stay tuned.

End note: I found this website this morning that has a nifty neat-o river map with a slide show of photos from a canoe/kayak trip. If my hips could take it I would very much like to do that!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Hays Preserve, Part 1

Saturday morning. The sun is up, the sky is blue, predicted temperatures in the 50's. Today's quest - Hays Nature Preserve. When exploring a preserve that is new to me I love going solo. There's no timetable except my own, which usually involves sitting quietly in a place and letting the area come back alive after my first disturbing it. For me, that's the best way to get a sense of place and see what's living there.

Driving into the preserve I was greeted by the above sign. Hey. This says it all to me. I'm a rabid fan of dead snags and trees so this philosophy gels with my own. I'm at home here already.

Hays Nature Preserve, formally called J.D. and Annie S. Hays Nature Preserve is actually a city park. The link will take you to the City of Huntsville's website about this preserve and the city's future plans for it and their Goldsmith-Shiffman Wildlife Sanctuary. At this site you can download trail maps and get directions to the park. As well, you can read the city's philosophy and plans for these two parks. Although this is a city park, one can join the Preserve. Preserves need all the help they can get so I aim to pitch in and do my part. Oh, while Googling to find out more about Hays Preserve I found another Alabama blogger who had written a nice piece about it within an Alabama blog called Flashpoint. Authored by "Reactionary," also known as Jay Hightower, his post introduced the human element to Hays Preserve, highlighting the work that's been done and that needs to continue. Check it out if you're interested.

After parking in a nicely accommodating parking lot, I ambled over a lovely footbridge that spanned the Flint River tributary above Cherokee Landing. It was here I lingered and shot photo after photo of the spectacular water beneath me. The current was swift, but what grabbed me straight away was the color of the water. By the time I arrived the sun was high in the sky, the light was flat and bright. By the time I left in mid-afternoon the water was even more beautiful, as you'll see in future posts.

I headed for Flint Trail. This paved pathway is marked for foot traffic and bikes and is a gentle introduction to Hays Preserve. The path is flat and of a reasonable length which makes it perfect for a zen-like stroll, a little biking with the family or for a nice power walk in the sunshine. It rambles alongside the stream bed, and offers a few cleared areas from which one can view the waters that gently go by.

I'm struck by the reflections. Bare trees in jewel-toned waters.

Just soak this in for a minute. I'll wait.


Dancing sycamore branches.

Finally I left the bridge. The water is mesmerizing but there's so much to explore. Leaving the footbridge I follow the path which opens to sunlight and fields, clearly where crops feed birds and wildlife. I could see small birds foraging in the scrubby leftovers far away nestled in a sea of green. The sun is bright and warm, which feels so nice after our wet, cold and wild winter season. I turn east and saunter down the pathway.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Now that Life is beginning to turn back to "normal," whatever that is (!), the ole camera has been dusted off and actually being used again. (Hubby is doing very well now - thank you all for your kind comments, thoughts and prayers - it worked!) This weekend promises to be lovely and I intend to take a road trip and do some shooting. In the meantime, all my blogging buddies have inspired me to peek outside into my own backyard to see what's flying around.

To my surprise, I've an abundance of white crowned sparrows. A yellow-shafted flicker visited, and a hawk was high above in a nearby tree. I spied a nuthatch clambering up a tree, and a downy woodpecker clambering down another. Tons of house finches and robins, a cardinal couple and a sweet little chickadee. I need my friend Eve to come walk with me and identify the gazillion songbird calls that I hear but cannot ID - she's a master of auditory identification. This cute little mockingbird landed on the patio and posed for about 10 minutes, completely unaware of Baylee on the other side of the glass and me with my camera and zoom lens.

This sweetie was so close that I got some good shots of him. However, I'm hating the nasty patio background that desperately needs power washing. Thankfully, I can hide the ugliness of my patio with a gentle texture applied as a layer then softened, followed by masking off some of the layer from atop the bird. This improves this photo immensely by my way of thinking and adds a dreamy quality. Playing with textures has saved my sanity of late and I owe it all to a genius by the name of Jerry Jones.

Recently I've discovered and been inspired by Jerry, who sits blissfully within his Shadowhouse Creations joyfully creating masterpieces. His FREE textures have opened up a new world for me, and they can do the same for you. Jerry's textures are diverse and stunning, rich and various. The colors are amazing. How does he DO what he DOES? I dunno, but I'll be eternally grateful for his talents that he so generously shares. In today's dog-eat-dog world Jerry Jones is a refreshing departure from "business as usual." Jerry is gracious and humble - this post might even embarrass him - a simple Thank You suffices as payment to Jerry. We all know that comments feed our blogging souls, and when someone gives so much of himself it's the very least we can do. Link from this post by clicking on Shadowhouse Creations or from my blog roll. Tell Jerry I sent ya.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Project - Light Tent

My new light tent

I've been wanting a light tent but after doing a little research it became apparent that finding a reasonably priced light tent was out of the question. Then, I stumbled on a Do It Yourself project posted on the Internet. Vowing to save $100 I printed out the instructions and went shopping. The article with instructions can be found here. Full credit goes to Jeffrey Bail at the Digital Photography School's forums. Simply link above to read the full article, with photos!, and a complete list of instructions. I found it easy to do - and I'm not the crafty/buildy sort at all!

Above is the finished product complete with object to be photographed. Said object is my new friend, a stuffed American White Pelican whom I have named Sumner. Sumner because he has that tuft of white hair on top of his head that's all sticky-up, just like Sting! Sting's growing-up name was Gorden Sumner...hence...but I digress. Sumner has been patiently awaiting his introduction to my blogging friends but his mom - that would be me - kept forgetting to purchase one thing or another thus delaying his debut.

The box was a nearly square 16"x18" Home Depot Box. Supplies included Bristol board, one large piece of cold-pressed watercolor paper (only because no one had larger sheets of Bristol board), masking tape and a clamp light. I also purchased a 100 watt Eco-friendly DAYLIGHT bulb to use, but think I need to go back for either more lighting or a higher watt bulb. I bought a box cutter only because I didn't have one but most folks have them lying around.

The clamp light is currently clamped onto the chandelier hanging over the dining table but somewhere in this house I have a light stand. It's just a matter of finding it, but in the meantime this will suffice. It's totally light and portable and was easy-peasy to do! Even for ME!

This is the first photo. Sumner's a little dark, which of course can be brightened in Photoshop. But I wanted you to see the first photo straight out of the camera. Oh, I did crop it because you could see the sides, but that's 'cause Sumner's a big boy.

This box is great for people who want to photograph products for their website (greeting cards, framed photos, whatever) and for folks who want to photograph wares to sell on E-bay. It was certainly cost effective. I'm happy with the results and wanted to share with you all. Do check out the link if you're interested. Again - it's here.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

There hasn't been time or opportunity of late to go outdoors to play and shoot. This shot was taken weeks ago and is underexposed, but I like it. Heron and gull perching on floating brambling wood in the middle of a still, calm slew somewhere within Wheeler Wildlife Refuge. The day was darkly overcast and still with the occasional misty shower. Quiet and still and slow through thoughtful, respectful solitude brings reward.

I wish for you all heartfelt Valentine's Days. Be with the people you love and enjoy the day.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Hubby's being released sometime today. Why does it take so long to check someone out of the hospital? One friend suggests it's their abacus that causes the delay. Regardless, I'm more than ready for this little episode to be over. That said, it's time for a little rant - some bad, some good.

#1 RANT: Parking token machines. The bank doesn't make dollar bills crisp enough for the freakin' parking token machines. There ya are standing with a bag of clothes to take home and wash, your purse, books for reading - standing in line with a gazillion people similarly loaded down - and the stupid machine won't take your stupid money. You try dollar bill after dollar bill after dollar bill...then finally cuss loudly and stomp out the door, putting the $2 charge on your freakin' credit card....when THAT machine decided to take it. I wasn't the only one cussin,' believe you me.

2. People in HUGE pickup trucks and SUVs who park on the end rows making it nearly impossible to see what's coming up the ramp, around the corner.

3. People driving up the parking garage ramp going 2 miles an hour or less. Hell, I could'a walked from my HOUSE and gotten on the 3rd floor faster. Guess they were having trouble seein' around those huge honkin' pickup trucks and SUVs.

4. Parking in one county, walking a mile to the garage elevators only to go down to the ground level, walk to the next county to the public elevators then go up again. Crazy, crazy, crazy. One would think I'd'a lost some weight, but no.

5. The hardest chairs in the world to sit in for hours and hours and hours watching someone sleep.

But there was good stuff....

1. The bestest friends and an awesome family, including the teenager who went above and beyond to help me. Definitely showing some maturity, I must say.

2. The bestest ever hospital staff, ER staff and ambulance paramedics. Friendly, always there, took time to explain things, always always always answered the call within 5 minutes or less, amazing people.

2. Starbucks Coffee.

3. Firestone, who helped me for free when I had a car problem during this hospital gig.

I'm still waiting for the COME 'N GET ME call but wanted to post that our little hospital episode is over. FYI - hubby had pneumonia. Not fun, lemme tell ya. However, he's on the mend and is looking forward to sleeping in his own bed tonight!

Monday, February 8, 2010


Sorry I've not been posting of late. Hubby is in the hospital and I've been spending my time there with him. Hopefully, he'll be sent home soon! Please enjoy a little poster I put together sporting words by my favorite ecology chick, Rachel Carson.

I'll be back soon!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Thinkin' Sunny!

Sorry I've not posted of late but I'm embroiled in some projects that are taking up my blogging time. Soon, I'll talk about it but for now I thought I would post something "Springy!"

I'm sorta itchin' to plant some flowers in our city yard as there isn't much here to attract butterflies - another passion of mine. What would I do without my Dallas Red Lantana and my Old Fashioned Asters? Can I possibly live without walking through a cloud of butterflies every day? Photographing them has become an impulsive joy.

Which flowering plants have proven successful for you in attracting butterflies and bees? And, do you know of any shade loving plants that also attract these wonderful creatures?

Also, I'm trying to ID this particular sulphur and think it MAY be a female Cloudless Sulphur. It's important. Anyone?

Monday, February 1, 2010


"There is a privacy about it
which no other season gives you.
In spring, summer and fall people sort of
have an open season on each other;
only in the winter,
in the country,
can you have longer, quiet stretches
when you can savor belonging to yourself."

-Ruth Stout



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