Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Cascades Hike

We hiked the Cascades trail in Jefferson National Forest after Labor Day.  It was one of the first sunny days we have had all summer.

The 4-mile hike follows Little Stoney Creek.

Waterfalls seemed to be more plentiful along the trail.

Cardinal Flower Lobelia cardinalis    September 3, 2013

I was thrilled to see the Cardinal Flower bloom right next to the creek. 

Ferns covered the rocks.


 Mosses were emerald green from the plentiful rain this summer.

It seemed there were more small waterfalls along the trail than in years past, again because of all the rain.

After two miles, we approach the 60 foot waterfall.

The Cascades are a favorite of locals including these Virginia Tech students swimming near the falls.  

The two mile hike back to the parking lot is mostly downhill and flat so it goes quickly.  It's great to have such a nice trail only a few miles from our home.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Lost Post: Wood Thrush and Recent Canon Shots

I have two cameras--a canon SLR and a point and shoot.  I tend to grab the point and shoot more often than the SLR so the other day I was surprised to see what was on my Canon picture card.  The oldest shot was from May...

Wood Thrush    May 16, 2013

I remember walking down the driveway and seeing this wood thrush.  He or she kept circling me and landing on tree limbs.   I thought the thrush was trying to lead me away from the nest.   I photographed the bird several times but this shot was the best.  Only when I saw the photo on the computer did I see the nesting material.

 Wild Geranium   May, 2013

I also photographed one of my favorite native wildflowers, wild geranium, which fills our woods in May.

A close up of the flower shows lines radiating out.  I read that these lines are supposed to guide the insects, usually small native bees, to the center where the nectar is found.  I am not sure how scientists figured that out.

Here's a more recent photo...

Purple Coneflower with caterpillar   July 29, 2013

My coneflowers did better this year, maybe because of all the rain.  I don't know what this tiny caterpillar is but he stayed on this flower most of the day.   I have seen a lot of soldier beetles and crescent butterflies on the flowers but most of the butterflies were on my butterfly bush.

 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail   August, 2013

The butterfly bush grew well also.   On the very few sunny days in August, I counted over a dozen of butterflies, mostly swallowtails but also fritillary, red-spotted purple, eastern pipevine, skipper as well as honey bees and hummingbirds. 

Monarch Butterfly    July 30, 2013

 I spotted this monarch at the end of July--the only monarch I have seen this year in my backyard.  Now, I know why I let the milkweeds grow.   While the monarch butterfly feeds on many different wildflowers, the caterpillar only feeds on milkweeds.  Orange milkweed will probably look best in your garden but I have let the common milkweed grow as well 

Monarch Caterpillar   August 23, 2013

This caterpillar was found on the very same common milkweed plant about 3 weeks later.  He gorged on leaves for a couple of days, then disappeared, no doubt to make a chrysalis so that he can emerge as another butterfly.   For more information about monarchs,  go to the Monarch Butterfly Website .

My lessons from this post:
1. Plant more native wildflowers, especially milkweeds, to attract bees and butterflies.
2. Take my Canon with me more often on walks. It's not that heavy!