Friday, December 29, 2006

Violets in December

(OK, to be perfectly honest, I don't know that these are violets, I'm just calling them that...) 

Saw these in the front yard today while I was tossing the tennis ball for our (tireless) Pomeranian, Cissy.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Sandhill Cranes

Every winter huge flocks of sandhill cranes migrate through, and some spend the winter in, Madison County in north Florida. We live very near one of the fields where they congregate. On Christmas morning hundreds of cranes, in several flocks, flew over or nearby our house, making quite a racket in the process (it was very cool). It was pouring rain at the time and so while we suspected they were in one of the fields just through the woods from our house, there was no way we were going to go in search of them.

And then this afternoon we could hear them calling again. So we tramped through the woods, getting snagged on all the briars and brambles as we made our way through the low thickets to the field.

We spotted a small group some distance away near one of the many bound bales of peanut vines that were scattered about. Too far to get a good picture, particularly at 4 pm on an extremely gray and overcast day. Then we saw these four, which were peculiarly apart from the other group.

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And then, either because we were spotted and scared them, or just because it was time to move on, the small group by the peanut bale took off. It had not been as small as we thought…

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Those dots on the right side are not lens flaws but more cranes in the distance.

They just kept coming and flying past us.

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This is just one frame—there were so many cranes that it would take at least two more frames to get them all in. And I wish I could include the sound portion of this display!

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I’m going to try to get closer to them another time, and preferably on a brighter day so that their colors show up better.

Earlier this week I was out walking with the camera and this hawk landed on the ground very near me.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Wildlife Around the Yard

It's a pretty day, the cold weather is letting up some, so I decided to take the camera out and 
wander around the yard to see what I could see.

This bird was eating out of the feeder we recently bought at Birdsong Nature Center, which
does a good job of confounding squirrels.

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The red-shouldered hawk that has shown up in this blog before was in a tree at the edge of the
front yard. Doesn't look like it really appreciates me scaring away potential meals... Kinda glaring at me...

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On my way back to the house, I saw this squirrel watching me.

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I like living in the country.
 

Friday, November 24, 2006

Birdsong Nature Center near Thomasville, Georgia

We decided to take a drive up to the Birdsong Nature Center today to look around.  It was a 
beautiful day for it, clear blue sky and warm sunshine. Birdsong is situated on over 500 acres
and offers 11 miles of trails. If you go, be sure to get a map; the trails are not well marked
and it would be easy to get lost! We decided to head out toward the Farm Pond, which a woman
in the office told us was the only pond on the property that currently has water in it.

The main pond was on the left when we reached it. This smaller pond was to the right.

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We had the place nearly to ourselves but did encounter a family near Farm Pond. They pointed
out a gator on the other side of the pond near the edge. We didn't have binoculars so
couldn't make it out.

Bushes with little white puffs on them were plentiful along the shoreline of the pond.

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The trail was wonderful--well-maintained and very scenic. This tree was showing off the fact
that there is some degree of fall color in south Georgia!

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We encountered several other trees showing off fall color. It's too bad the only color in fall down
here is yellow... but it's pretty!

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Soon we came to what the map identified as the "Listening Place." This is actually a wonderful little building. It is completely screened in and has many wicker chairs in it, as well as a fireplace and a camera tripod (!). The brochure for Birdsong indicates that this pavillion looks out on swampland that is home to alligators and otters and shorebirds, but, like the ponds, it was dry as far as the eye could see. But what a beautiful and peaceful view it offers. Here is how it looks as you approach from the trail.

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Shortly after we left there and continued on the trail, a large buck deer darted from our left and crossed the trail in front of us and ran into the woods to the right. This was the first time I have ever seen a deer with antlers in a natural setting, so that was pretty neat. I tried to get a picture but it was moving too fast and was behind trees by the time I got the camera up.

The property is loaded with bluebird nestboxes and the woman in the office told us that many bluebirds had been born there this year. I hoped to see one but no such luck. She said the best time is in April, when they are nesting and can be seen near the nestboxes.

Near the entrance is a white house which contains what they call the Bird Window. This is a wall-size window that looks out on a scenic backyard vista.

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There is a water "mister" (thing that creates mist) in the rocks, and a shallow pool below.  A large bluejay landed briefly on a branch but was gone before I could get a picture of it. I did capture this tufted titmouse nibbling some seed that they had poured onto a stump.

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(A less-than-ideal picture since it was taken through two panes of tinted glass.)

This is a great little nature center. Its sign by the road (Meridian) is very small--in fact we missed it and had to turn back. The Birdsong website is http://tfn.net/birdsong/index.htm. They have a cute little gift shop and in fact we purchased a birdfeeder there that might just work to thwart the squirrels that invade our present one.  They charge a somewhat hefty $5.00 per person admission to non-members, and yet a single membership is only $25 and comes with two free one-time guest passes.  My only suggestion to them would be to put more benches on the trails, since songbird-watching often involves long periods of sitting, and they have provided no accommodation for that.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Lake Frances in Madison, Florida

I recently got a new lens for the camera and I have been eager to try it out. No paddling trips planned in the next several days. I had to go to Madison, a small town near where I live, to get some heartworm preventative for my dog from the vet’s office and some coffee and salad mix from the Winn-Dixie, so I decided to take the camera and see if there were any ducks on Lake Frances. This is a very small lake right in the middle of town, completely surrounded by homes and businesses. Interestingly, though, I have seen wood ducks (males, no less!) on the lake. While it wouldn’t tell me how the lens will do on paddling trips, it could be a reasonable simulation of one. If, that is, there are still any ducks on the lake. I haven’t been there for a while.

I parked at the edge and started my walk around the lake. Here’s what it looks like.

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Notice the line of white birds on the railing of that dock area. Much to my amazement, those are all ibis—the largest bunch of them I have ever seen in one place! And on a lake with constant vehicle traffic circling it. Very strange indeed. I moved in for a closer look and to take a picture.

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I walked around the rest of the lake. There were some ducks in the middle that may have been female wood ducks. There were two cormorants as well. And this egret poking its neck out of the grass along the edge.

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I didn’t expect to get any pictures worth posting in here today—this was a nice surprise.

I like the lens, but with a possible caveat. It has the ability to go from wide-angle to zoom, which means not having to change lenses, but I sacrifice some zoom power. I’m withholding my final judgment on it until I can get it out on a river under the usual conditions.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Red-shouldered Hawk (Florida type)

This morning this hawk was surveying our yard and pond from a roost on top of my hanging chair frame.

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Monarch Festival, St. Marks NWR near Newport, FL

We took a drive over to the St. Marks NWR to meet up with some friends at the Monarch (butterfly) Festival. It was a beautiful day, sunny and cloudless, though quite breezy.

We started with the various displays and vendors near the visitors center. We bought a shrimp plant and cigar plant (both attract both butterflies and hummingbirds) from Purple Martin Nurseries, who were there selling plants.

We joined Wilma and Jim at the lighthouse down by the Gulf and walked along the path. This is the time that the monarch butterflies arrive there on their way to Mexico, and they were there in great numbers!

Several of the butterflies were tagged. I got this picture of one of the tagged ones:

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I enlarged the tag area to make it readable--

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They were all over the goldenrod and other flowering shrubs that line the path, which follows the Gulf shoreline.

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There weren't as many pelicans as I usually see there, though they could be seen out in the Gulf diving for food. A dolphin was also spotted playing in the waves (which were somewhat choppy fom the wind).

This great blue heron was looking chilly in the wind.

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The road that leads to the lighthouse has water on either side of it, either in pools or narrow channels. This egret was perched on a branch as we walked by.

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It was a great day.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Dude Ranch in Georgia and Fall Color in North Carolina

I have an overflow of photos from my recent paddling trip to North Carolina (the others are on the Paddle Tales blog).

The horses at the Southern Cross Guest Ranch are all very photogenic and seem happy to pose for you. This black and white beauty came right up to me as I was wandering around the pasture.

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They have several ducks and geese in a large pond in the pasture, which is some distance from the guest house and the owners' house. This Canada goose, though, is somewhat spoiled by getting handouts from the owner at his house, and was hanging out up there this morning.

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These horses made a nice pastoral scene as they grazed in amongst the trees.

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And the fall color!  I hit the timing just right.  Here are a few more pictures taken while paddling.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

My Dogs

 I was just sitting out in the yard reading with two of the dogs nearby and so I picked up the camera (I always have it with me out there just in case that red-shouldered hawk shows up!) and took a few photos of them.

Here's Cissy:

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And of course a profile view:

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And this is Gypsy, our oldest dog and most dear to us:

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And her noble profile:

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Butterflies on the Lantana

 More garden pictures!  I saw the butterflies gathered on the lantana so I grabbed the camera to get a few pictures of them.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Maclay Gardens, Tallahassee, Florida

I didn't actually intend this blog to be all gardens all the time... so far it's just worked out that way.

This was a Saturday trip to walk around the gardens (this is less than the ideal time, but we were there) and hike the Lake Trail.

Here's a fountain near the reflecting pool:

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And here is the reflecting pool.

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There are benches set here and there throughout the gardens.

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The brick walkways are very pretty, even with no flowering borders.

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A branch of this huge live oak tree extends well out over the walkway.

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We stopped at the pavilion that overlooks Lake Hall (this would have been a great paddling day on the lake, it was glassy smooth).

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And then on to the hike, during which I was without a camera. I can't wait to get back to the gardens in the spring, they must be fantastic!