Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Terrific Trees!

Last week, I helped teach the "Terrific Trees" 4-H summer camp. The workshop was based on the book Remarkable Trees of Virginia by Nancy Hugo and Jeff Kirwan. We wanted participants to appreciate great trees--big ones, old ones, historical trees, and just truly remarkable trees in Montgomery County.

Black Willow Virginia Tech Duck Pond July 21, 2009

The first tree we visited was in the book under campus trees since it is on the Virginia Tech campus. The Black Willow, unlike the Weeping Willow, is native to Virginia. The kids couldn't resist climbing up into the Black Willow. We learned that an extract from the bark is used to make aspirin.

Green Heron Virginia Tech Duck Pond July 21, 2009

While the children were doing measurements, I spotted this Green Heron ---only about 50 feet from where the tree was.

Bur Oak, Virginia Tech campus July 21, 2009

Not far away was another tree---a bur oak that grew near the Virginia Tech Massacre memorial on the Drill Field. This tree is remarkable for its huge crown spread. You can get an idea of the size of this tree by the cars that are parked next to it--they look like toys!

White Oak, Blacksburg, Virginia

The homeowner was happy to talk about the large white oak she has taken care of since she moved here in 1962. She said that the tree was her house's air conditioner. Both the Black Willow and this White Oak are in the Remarkable Trees book.

Red Maple Pilot, Virginia July 22, 2009

This red maple tree grew in a large rock on a farmer's land. His daughter nominated the tree for the Remarkable Tree database. I first demonstrated how to sketch the tree and the children followed suit. Their sketches were quite good.

American Chestnut Selu Preserve, Riner, Virginia

The final tree is remarkable for just being alive--it's a 15 feet tall American Chestnut. Researchers are trying to restore the American Chestnut which vanished as the major tree in American forests due to chestnut blight. This is the only tree that survived of the dozen or so seedlings that were planted.

I didn't post some of the photos of the other trees we visited but all were truly terrific! I hope the children will go on to appreciate how valuable trees are.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Baby Red-Eyed Vireo

I had this on Twitter but no one commented so I put it up here. Last week, I was up on our back pasture collecting old hay for mulch. I was driving our UTV (like an ATV but with cargo load). I heard a bird calling frantically. I stopped the vehicle and walked back, thinking I might see a snake or other predator. But, a Red-Eyed Vireo was trying to get me away from a nest I thought but I searched in nearby trees to no avail.

Finally I spotted this baby Vireo on the ground. As I edged closer, he looked at me but didn't seem too frightened. Hopefully, he was able to fly toward his mother who was in a nearby tree.

I don't know what it is about the Red-Eyed Vireos but I have seen many of them this year. When the field guide says they are common in wooded areas, they mean it.

Yesterday, I saw a baby Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher in a crevice of a landscape log (also popular with my cats for scratching). I watched the father frantically calling to the fledgling to fly to him. After awhile, the young bird did fly up into a dogwood tree. Then they both flew away to the safety of the woods, far from the cats.

At the feeders, I saw male purple finches feeding their young too. I see this pretty often as the fledglings make a lot of noise and so I check the feeder.

P.S. I took the advice from the previous comments on how to post this photo. it's still not as clear as the original photo.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Posting Question

Does anyone know the best way of posting photos to your blog? I downsize my photos to 1024 x 780 approximately so they load faster. Then, I edit the html to make the photos slightly larger than the 320 x 240 size Blogger automatically uses. Even at 480 x 360, the photos are not as sharp as when you click on them and get the full 1024 resolution. This is most apparent with vista views--large landscape. Yet, I have seen photos sharper on other blogs. Is it something I am doing or is it just Blogger?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Northwest Trip--Seattle, Cascades, and Mt. Rainier

Northern Cascades, Washington

One of our favorite destinations is Seattle, Washington. There are so many options for car camping. This year, we chose to do a loop from the Northern Cascades to Mt. Rainier. At the end of the week we spent a couple of days in Seattle.

The automatic sensor worked good on my new camera--it detected that it was low light and was still able to take a photo of our camp with my husband reading his Kindle in the tent while I watched the campfire. We camped on the eastern side of the Cascades in Klipchuck campground.

On our way back toward Mt. Rainier, we drank fruit smoothies right in the orchard next to the farm stand. The cherries seem to be the best from Washington this time of year so we ate them the whole time.

Pasque Flower July 8, 2009

Mt. Rainier is known for wildflowers---glacial lillies and the pasque flower bloom right below the snow fields. This insect which I think is a fly--not a bee--was the most common pollinator for the flowers on Mt. Rainier.

This view of Mt. Rainier was from the White River campground where we stayed one night. The river looks white from the glacial runoff.

The first night it rained but the fire kept me warm.

Sunrise Gift Shop at Mt. Rainier National Park

The next morning, we took the hike from the Sunrise Visitor Center, on the west side of Mt. Rainier National Park. This photo looks like it could have been taken in the Swiss Alps.

False Hellebore

I love the pleated leaves of the false hellebore plant.

The panoramic setting of my new camera works by stitching photos together. I am still playing with this function of the Sony Cybershot.

We always visit Pike Place Market while in Seattle and eat lunch on one of the piers nearby. This gull was right outside the restaurant window watching us eat. Afterward, I went outside and fed him and other gulls oyster crackers. No caution about feeding the wildlife here like in the parks!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Spicebush Swallowtail

My husband and I returned from a trip to Seattle recently (will post some wildflower photos soon!). Before I left, I bought a new camera--a Sony Cybershot DSC-HX1. I had grown tired of lugging around my heavy SLR with two extra lenses (telephoto and macro).

This was one of my first photos:

Spicebush Swallowtail July 2, 2009

This butterfly is very common--maybe because we have many spicebush shrubs around. I took this using the telephoto (has 20X zoom). When I tried to take a photo of a bird in the tree, the camera would not focus on the bird--kept getting a leaf in focus.

So, I will still be using my SLR for birds if they are in foliage. Otherwise, this new camera will be my primary camera. It takes video too although my Sony camcorder has more features.

This photo of Kookie was also taken with the telephoto from about 15 feet away.