Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Spruce Ridge Tree Farm Trip

 The weather was almost warm (50s) and beautiful on Sunday, December 1.  So, I figured it was a good day to get my Christmas tree.   
 Spruce Ridge Tree Farm is only a few miles from my house.  Lots of other folks had the same idea.  From this photo, you can see how far you can walk to select a tree.   You can choose from over 10,000 trees. 

I found the perfect tree (6 feet tall and not too big in diameter).   I put a yellow bunting (center tree) on the fraser fir and went back up to get someone to cut it for me.   Plenty of folks cut their own but I was glad the owner's great nephew cut mine and dragged it up to my truck.

A couple of hours later, I had my perfect tree decorated.   I do not worry about it not lasting through New Year's since it is freshly cut and watered already.  Kookie, our dog, does not seem too interested until there are presents under the tree though.

I feel fortunate to live in an area where Christmas Tree farms are abundant.   These farms support local businesses and are a haven for wildlife, particularly birds. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Last of Fall

 The days are still warm, 50s and 60s, while night temperatures are dipping below freezing. 

The day after the World Series ended where my favorite team St. Louis Cardinals lost, this Northern Cardinal started pecking at my window.  He probably sees his reflection as a rival for his territory.  I enjoy getting a close up look at him and hearing his singing in the nearby tree.  But, it is starting to be annoying after more than a week.

I tried putting images of the barred owl on the doors but that only delayed him for a few hours. He pecked on the other open areas.   This morning, my husband put an outside roller shade up.   That kept him away from the sliding glass doors.  After about an hour, he pecked at the kitchen window.

The only solution is to get outside and walk!   There was still some fall color on November 1 when I photographed these golden American Beech trees in the background with Christmas ferns in front.

 The American Beech leaves on the small trees will turn brown and hang on until spring.

This morning, I put a blaze orange vest on Kookie so she won't get shot during deer hunting season which lasts through Thanksgiving week.    I am not sure she likes it but it makes me feel better. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Winter Coming?

Today, I saw my first White-Throated Sparrow, a sure sign of winter approaching.  The forecast for tomorrow night is for a hard freeze so the bird seems to know what he is doing.  I read that one comes first as a scout for the others so I expect to see a flock soon.

I thought I would post a few fall photos since it looks like the fall season is over already!

 I rotated this shot of orange butterfly plant but it always comes in the original rotation.  Anyway, I like this plant because it attracts all kinds of butterflies including monarchs and it's beautiful spring through fall.  I planted some of the seeds in another part of the yard but they seem to come up better when they plant themselves.

 On October 7, I photographed one of my favorite fall foliages, the dogwood trees.

 I like the way the veins show up yellow while the rest is a pretty red.

 Dogwoods are the first to turn in September and each tree seems to have its own timing for peak color.

 Another shot from October 7 shows how green the rest of the trees are.

Oak trees retain their leaves for a long time, even through early winter.   I photographed this oak to identify....a blackjack oak?   It isn't quite like the field guide and I can't find a big tree to look at the bark and acorns.  Does anyone have any ideas?

I guess we will fire up the woodstove for the first time this year.  And, I need to get into the garden and get the last of my October beans!

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!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Cape Charles, Virginia Trip

 Early this month, we made a quick trip to Cape Charles, Virginia which is on the Eastern Shore.  The town is full of beautiful Victorian houses like this one facing the bay.  

We brought our dog, Kookie, for a change since we usually put her in the kennel on our trips.  She was a little nervous the whole time but eventually calmed down.

 Of course, there is always an osprey around.

Cape Charles is near the Eastern Shore of the Virginia National Wildlife Refuge which we visited our last evening.  It was empty of people and birds but the peace and solitude was nice.  By now, the refuge should be filling with migratory birds. 

Above is a little video of my dog on her first reaction to the bay.  She is scared of the little waves even though this is the same dog who chased a 300 pound bear down our driveway!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Wildlife camera photos

 I changed the header photo to illustrate what our weather has been like this summer.  There have been few sunny days and mostly rain--tons of it.

My wildlife camera smapped photos of these deer early in June.   The doe...

and also the doe with her fawn on June 10.   I moved the camera because the last flood swamped it with water. 

I put the camera here along the upper road, hoping to catch a glimpse of the bear which our dog chased a couple of weeks ago right in this area.  Instead, I was glad to see the fawn and doe had not been eaten by the bear.   I believe it is the same one spotted in June, quite a bit larger ....

...and following the doe.

 I check my wildlife camera every week or so.  When I placed it on the waterfall, I spotted all kinds of wildlife--squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, pileated woodpeckers, blue jays, scarlet tanagers, etc.  But the most frequently photographed specimen was....

the Wood Thrush! Here is a cropped photo where the bird looked right into the camera.  I must have counted a dozen photos of the wood thrush getting a drink out of the waterfall.  I just noticed this week that the wood thrushes are quiet, perhaps they have already left our hollow to fly south for the winter.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

3.6 Inches of Rain in 30 minutes does some damage!

 Last evening, a severe thunderstorm dumped almost 3.6 inches of rain in about 30 minutes.  About an hour later, I saw there was a creek going down the driveway.
 In the valley across from our driveway, the creek was all over the pasture. 
This creek usually dries up in July but not this year.  It has been running all summer.

Our dog Kookie does not like rain but loves to walk in the puddles afterwards.

While our driveway was a mess, the woods just soaked up all the rain easily.   I heard wood thrushes just like usual.  So, I posted this video of one wood thrush I had recorded last week.  

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Utah Trip: Mountains to Desert

While getting supplies for camping in Moab, I mentioned to the clerk that we had 5 inches of rain in a week at our home in the Appalachian Mountains.  The clerk looked dejected when she said that they hadn't had that much so far this year.  Indeed, I read that Moab had 3 inches of rain by the end of June in 2013, double what they had last year. 


Our trip started off though in the Wasatch Mountains. I booked two nights at the Sundance Ski Resort, a place I always wanted to visit and it's somewhat affordable in the summer.  I have always been a fan of Redford and even saw him in person when I lived in Logan, Utah in the 1970s. 

 Most of the buildings are rustic but we were unable to go insidemany of the ones used for the Sundance Institute.  That was a disappointment but the restaurants, bar, art gallery, and shops were open.

 This wild turkey was grazing in front of our room and walked across the road when too many people were around.
 My favorite part of our stay here was the hike to Stewart's Falls, supposedly one of the many locations for the Redford film, Jeremiah Johnson.  At the time it was already Redford's land but he continued to  buy up land, keeping the ski resort, but also putting some of the land under conservation easement (guess I have something in common with Redford since we have a conservation easement as well).
The falls cascade down and are on the edge of Mt. Timpanogos Wilderness, an area we explored later by car that day and returned to at the end of our trip. 

Canyonlands and Moab

The 3-hour drive to Canyonlands was uneventful except for the terrible rest area (the worst outhouse I have other seen!).   We camped at theWillow Flat campground which did not fill up the whole time we were there.

 The ramada provided enough shade in the relentless heat, reaching upper 90s every afternoon.

Steve bought  a camping hammock and solar lights at the local outdoors store and both fit nicely on the ramada.   The evenings cooled down, one advantage of the high (5000 feet elevation) desert.

This overlook of the Green River was walking distance (1/4 mile) from our campsite. 

 This is the only couple photo of the trip, taken right across from the Canyonlands Visitor Center.

We did the short hike to the Upheaval Dome.  No one seems to know how the dome was formed but it reminded me of the one at Mt. Helens.

 We did the hike on Grand View Point, retracing the steps of Edward Abbey when he looked for a missing hiker as he wrote in his book Desert Solitaire.   The hiker was found dead by his brother under a juniper tree looking out at the grand view.  Abbey wrote that he thought it was great place to die. 

After two days of camping at Canyonlands, we went to Arches National Park where we saw hordes of visitors, including along this hike to Landscape Arch.  Part of the arch fell in the 90s so it looks like it won't be here much longer looking at how thin it is.   The hike was fine (about 2-1/2 miles because we had to park so far from the trailhead) until the last 1/4 mile when a sandstorm hit.   I had to protect my face and glasses from the sand (wishing I had one of those hankerchiefs they sold in the Visitor Center).  

On the way back to the car, this lizard? (about one foot long) scurried along the ground in the 95+ temperatures.  I couldn't identify this in any of my guides so I appreciate anyone who knows what it is.

When Edward Abbey was ranger here in the 1950s, his trailer was parked near Balanced Rock, photographed here.  That's when all the roads were dirt and there were few visitors, quite a contrast from today.

American Fork Canyon

After a night's stay in Moab at the Gonzo Inn, we headed back to the cool mountains above Sundance.  We camped at Timpooneke campground where it got down into the 40s at night.   We arrived there early on Thursday, June 20, a good thing since the campground filled up quickly.

 We hiked up to Scout Falls, just on the other side of Stewart's Falls in the Mount Timpanogos Wilderness area.  Of course, I forgot to put the battery back into my camera after getting it charged at the hotel!

 The next day, we drove out Rt. 114 in the Uinta National Forest, stopping here at the Deer Creek Overlook. 
 Our destination was the Cascade Springs, a unique geological area.  This photo shows where the water comes out of the ground from the surrounding mountains.

 The water then flows over limestone rocks, making many waterfalls.  We met a lady who said she visited as a child (and was now 57 years old).  She said it was exactly like she remembered with all the waterfalls and the board walks which protected the sensitive area.

I spotted this Yellow Warbler in one of the dead trees.  This area would be especially good for birders as would many of the mountain valleys.

Since we returned from Utah, we have received another 4 inches of rain.  I just wish we could ship it out to Utah!