Monday, May 23, 2011

Blackberry blooms, birds and bees

I have a very large blackberry patch near my beeyard. Yesterday, they were in full bloom with all kinds of bees and butterflies on them. The bird bath is used by the bees for collecting water.

This honey bee flies toward a blackberry flower while a native bee flies above. The pollen is a light gray color.

The ubiquitous bumble bee seems to visit every kind of flower around, being a very important pollinator. I counted 8 different kinds of native bees and 3 types of butterflies foraging nectar on the blackberry blossoms. The flowers needed all the different pollinators since the blooms were washed off last night by a hard rain.

This giant swallowtail was warming up early in the morning on a blackberry leaf. Later in the day, he was foraging quickly on the flowers.

This Eyed Click Beetle posed for a photo before taking off. The beetle is quite large--at least 2 inches. He feeds on larvae in decaying wood of hardwood trees. I turned him over to see if I could hear him click (snap his muscles) as he righted himself but I didn't hear it. He just flew off.

On May 11, I taped this Carolina Wren singing. I think it was one of the fledglings from about 10 days earlier.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Whitetop Mountain: Morels and Eleanor Roosevelt at the Naturalist Rally

Morel Mushroom May 7, 2011

There it is--a morel mushroom! But I didn't find it. I was on a mushroom field trip led by Becky Rader at the Mount Rogers Naturalist Rally last weekend. The group found 7 morels--me nary a one. The morel season is gone by the end of April on my land but we found them on Whitetop Mountain (exact location I will not tell) because it is at high elevation. Becky gave me a good rule, "By the time Mayapples bloom, morels are gone."

Lichen May 7, 2011

I did find this lovely lichen. I couldn't find find what it is by searching online--does anyone have a clue?

Bigtooth Aspen May 7, 2011

I always think of aspens as a western tree, growing in large groves at high elevations in the Rockies. That's the quaking aspen but here in Virginia, we have the bigtooth aspen. The range map for this aspen shows an extensive area in the northeastern United States. Rather than seedlings, this tree reproduces mostly by sprouting by roots, colonizing disturbed areas, no doubt how this little tree ended up at the edge of the trail. We looked around and found a large tree about 25 feet away, only beginning to leaf out. The catkins and leaf buds are eaten by ruffed grouse while the rest of the tree is eaten by deer and beavers.

Whitetop Mountain May 7, 2011

Whitetop Mountain is the second highest peak in Virginia behind Mount Rogers which is 5,729 ft. elevation. In the photo above, you should see Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina. As we learned from Doug Ogle's speech on Friday night, Whitetop might have been higher than Mount Rogers at one time but it has been so developed over the years. Whitetop Mountiain is shown on the first surveyor's maps while Mt. Rogers was missing. I was most intrigued, though, when Doug talked about the great connection between Eleanor Roosevelt and Whitetop Mountain.

Eleanor Roosevelt and Whitetop Mountain

Eleanor Roosevelt was born and raised in New York. Her father, Elliott, was committed for alcoholism to a sanitorium near Abingdon, Virginia. Doug said that was a big mistake as the area is known for producing hard apple cider and moonshine. As a child, Eleanor visited her dad where he took her on horseback rides around the Whitetop Mountain area. Elliot died when Eleanor was only 10 but she attended the annual bluegrass music festival on Whitetop during the 1930s while she was first lady. Doug showed photos from newspaper articles about the festival, one with Eleanor Roosevelt next to the musicians. The festival was very popular with 16,000 cars parked at $1 a car (a huge sum during the Great Depression).

Note that this information was not found on the First Ladies Library website but only from Doug's speech and the wikipedia entry.

Doug Ogle pointing to Mt. Rogers from top of Whitetop Mountain

The telephone lines are in the process of being buried--a big improvement!

Mount Rogers from Whitetop Mountain
May 7 , 2007

This view of Mount Rogers is from the lower parking lot on Whitetop. The red spruce were in bloom which sent my allergies in high gear at this point. This was only my second trip to Whitetop (my first in 1981) because, like many, I visit Mount Rogers to see the rhododendron bloom in early June. If I do it again this year, I will be sure to stop by Whitetop on the way.

If you are planning on camping around here, note that the nearby Grindstone campground is closed indefinitely due to the tornado that hit it on April 27--the same system that hit Alabama so bad.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Spring Overload

Walker Mountain from our back pasture. April 21, 2011

It's been a great spring--minus the scary tornadoes.

Tiger Swallowtails
April 19, 2011

These tiger swallowtails and another black swallowtail were feasting on the mud left by a flood along Walker Creek.

Blue Phlox April 19, 2011

The blue phlox has already bloomed in our woods . . .

and the redbud trees...

. . . as well as the wild strawberries in the back pasture.

Box Turtle April 24, 2011

I found 3 large box turtles while hunting for morel mushrooms--not sure where they were going in the woods but I was glad to see so many of these turtles around.

Garden Spring Flowers

I've been torn between working in my garden and walking in the woods. Too bad everyone doesn't have that dilemma.

Pink Tulip after rain. April 28, 2011

I plant tulip bulbs every fall even though they seem to only last a few years. I can't remember when I planted these large pink tulips.

Columbine April 28, 2011

This native columbine "came up volunteer" (an old saying of my mom's when anything just came up in her garden without her planting it). The blooms were especially beautiful this spring with the creeping phlox I planted years ago. Of course, the woods are full of columbine--they seem to like the steep rocky slopes.

Shooting Star April 24, 2011

I planted this native shooting star several years ago. The delicate green leaves are at the base whirled around a single stalk of flowers. The flowers are quite small--you almost have to get right down to appreciate their beauty. Shooting Stars don't t grow on our land but I was able to buy a start from a native plant nurseryman. It blooms for only a few days, the light green foliage decays after a month or so. I was lucky I didn't plant anything there the first year or else it would be gone.

Lilac April 25, 2011

The lilac shrub was filled with blooms.

I also surround myself with lots of pansies from local greenhouses--they get their plants from local growers or else grow them right there in the greenhouse. The prices are usually good too.

Teapot Planter

At one greenhouse, I saw some violas in a teapot planter which gave me an idea to use my recently broken teapot. My husband glued it back together for me and I put some violas in it. I think it makes a better planter than teapot now.

Country Eggs

This has nothing to do with my post but wanted to show you the beautiful country eggs I've been buying from a friend. He supplies the local gourmet restaurant with eggs so they have to be good.

Carolina Wren April 23, 2011

I put up an old birdhouse on my garden shed. A pair of Carolina Wrens built a nest in early spring. She was disturbed every time I went inside the shed. But, now it's quiet with the last fledgling leaving on April 23. But, I saw a new pair checking out the birdhouses on the front porch so I hope to see more activity and I can watch them from my computer.

Spring happens so fast!