Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fern Driveway, Milkweed, and Native Bees

It's a rainy cool Wednesday so thought I'd post some photos from the last two weeks.

Christmas Ferns November 6, 2009

Once the leaves fall, the Christmas Fern (Polystichm acrostichoides) is more noticeable since it stays green all winter (perhaps accounting for its common name).

This slope along our driveway used to be red clay before the ferns colonized it. I try to keep it in ferns by pulling out the multi-flora rose.

Common Milkweed November 6, 2009

There seems to be more milkweed along our road this year, all the better for the monarchs. Maybe it has something to do with the state budget cuts--less mowing. I wish they wouldn't spray or mow the roadsides--maybe just cut the tree saplings every few years. The insects would appreciate that.

The pods open up in October and were still opening up this week.

Carpenter Bee November 16, 2009

The temperature was in the 70s for several days so bees were still out. The only blooms I noticed were on this heather shrub (usually blooming in late February). Sweat and carpenter bees were seen on the tiny flowers. The carpenter bee does hibernate in the winter so he or she must have been trying to warm up before crawling back into their hole (probably in our house's siding).

I won't probably be getting out too much until after Thanksgiving--it's the deer firearms season. I read this morning that a Ferrum College student was killed by a hunter only one mile from campus. I wear blaze orange anywhere outside (unless I'm in town). While most hunters are responsible, it only takes one reckless person to create a tragedy.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wren Visit and Relentless Storm

Yesterday, the rains started in the afternoon. By 9:30 p.m., our power went out and it did not come back on until 11 p.m. It rained steadily all night--this morning the gauge registered 2 inches of rain. The power continued to come off and on all day and evening. Two trees fell on our driveway--luckily small enough that I could carry them to the side.

We are not even on the map for this storm. It's mostly east in Virginia Beach and Richmond which will get as much as 12 inches of rain. The remnants of Hurricane Ida combined with another storm from the west to create a churning storm that is supposed to last until Saturday. This is not good.

Carolina Wren November 1, 2009

Yet, the birds still manage to get to the bird feeders. And The Carolina Wrens visit me on the front porch, fussing at me through the window while I type on my computer. She does this every day but I am not sure what she is trying tell me.

Carolina Wren October 27 , 2009

A pair sleep at night in the clay birdhouse on the south side of the front porch while another pair stay a tolerable distance away on the north side in an A-frame birdhouse. During the summer, they usually raise their young in the houses.

I will especially enjoy the company of the wrens during this storm.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Peggy O's Memorial Bench

Last summer, a noted naturalist and birder, Peggy Spiegel Opengari, passed away. In her honor, the New River Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists has installed a bench at Pearisburg Library. The chapter also donated money to The Nature Conservancy as Peggy requested in her will.

Peggy was a well-known birder and founding organizer of the Mountain Lake Birding Festival. She was very active with the local bird club, conducting many of the field trips with her husband. She was also involved at the state level (Virginia Society of Ornithology).

Peggy Spiegel Opengari Memorial Bench

Peggy took her grandchildren often to the Pearisburg Library so it was fitting that a bench would be placed there. Debbie, fellow Virginia Master Naturalist, and I are conducting Peggy Spiegel Opengari Nature Journal Workshops for children every summer as well--also supported by the master naturalist chapter.

Close up of Plaque on Bench

I met Peggy for the first time 5 years ago when I wanted to go beyond identifying birds at the feeder. I went on the New River Bird Club's website and saw they were having a field trip at Pandapas Pond. I just showed up there and Peggy made me feel like a friend right away. I remember learning to identify the yellow-bellied sapsucker. When I arrived home later that day, I spotted the bird right away in our woods. I know I will never be the birder that Peggy was (I don't even have a life list!) but I was inspired by Peggy's enthusiasm for birdwatching.

When I installed the plaque the other day, a woman with her two children asked me what I was doing. I told her about Peggy. The woman thought it was a nice bench in a good place (right outside the entrance). She said she must have been a special lady and I said she was.

Through the bench and the nature journal workshops, I hope Peggy's legacy will live on.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Red-Tailed Hawk Sighting--Sample Post

Red-Tailed Hawk October 23, 2009

I posted this photo last night as part of my presentation to the New River Bird Club. Now, the back story.....

For several days in late October, a pair of red-tailed hawks have been in our driveway (1/3 mile through a wooded hollow). That's not unusual but I never get a photo because a hawk quickly flies away. This time the hawk did not--he just flew up into a tree and so I was able to get this shot. I think the hawks were on some dead animal but I am not sure what since I didn't see it.

Notes on Posting Photos

Blogger allows quick posting of photos but the resolution is low. So, I clicked on the "Edit Html" tab to find the size: "width: 320px; height: 213px;" Then, I multiplied times 1.3 to get a 416 x 277 resolution and pasted those numbers over the original ones. Once published, a reader also can click on the photo to see the larger resolution (this one is 1687 x 1124 pixels). They have to click back to get to the post (ought to open up in a new window!).

I also feel it is important to post the date your photograph was taken. I know when I see great photos on other blogs, I want to know the story behind them--when and where found, situation, date--maybe even the weather if relevant. That to me is the essence of a nature journal or blog.

Someone came up to me last night and cautioned about indicating the location of rare flowers, butterflies and birds in case someone might be inspired to collect them. I agree. I don't think most bloggers I read post that detailed information. Nevertheless, his caution is worth noting.

Welcome New Bloggers!

I hope some of you who saw my presentation last night might be encouraged to start your own nature blogs. You can get inspired by clicking on some of the blogs in my blog roll. In a few moment's time, you can travel all over exploring nature through the eyes and voice of some very interesting people!