Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Winter Plumage

January is feather weather in these parts.

Nature at her most innovative and clever...

insulation, transportation, courtship and camouflage.


so simple,

so sublime.

From Chapel Hill to Mattamuskeet and back home to Sanford, 

January wears winter plumage.

Whether it's winter number one, 

or you've weathered a good many more;

perched neath skies of brightest blue, 

or foraging in beads of glittering cold,

our feathered friends beg us pause

to consider

the glorious gift that is winter...

And a splendid gift it is, 

wrapped in winter plumage.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Winter's Exuberant Song...

Winter, steamy and damp, proceeds unabated, 
even as Christmas moon wanes, 

and we wonder, 
in the warm and wet,
at the creatures wandering about.

Toad is a welcome visitor, 
though unexpected in late December,

and we chill for a while,
ruminating on the warmth and the wet and the weather;

reflecting together by the light of the moon,
before we go our separate ways.

Days pass.
Warm winter days, laden with rain, 
replenishing the ephemeral ponds and dry woodland streams,

yielding then to long December nights,
filled to overflowing with the frogs
and their exuberant song... 

Here's a sampling of last night's chorus...

Sounds a lot like spring,
here at the dawn of a new year in the heart of Carolina.

Thanks to Jay Randolph and our amphibian friends for the lovely recording.
Happy New Year!

Monday, December 7, 2015

December Morn...

Oak leaves clad in frost-fringed scarlet pose in the neighbor's thick fescue as though auditioning for the family Christmas card, on a brisk December morn...

Strangely silent, a solitary mockingbird pauses from its pear-picking,
absorbed in the day's first warm rays,

while northern cardinal, another aspiring star of the greeting card set,
blazes brightly from the nearby brush.

Young sweet gum, reluctant to relinquish its first full complement of well-formed leaves,
bears chilly witness to last night's revelry by little Jack Frost, 
only just departed,

mere minutes ahead of the morning sun, 
now stealing across the pond's still waters, 
relentlessly driving December's chill and damp before it.

Blue is the color of heaven, this bright December morn, 
reflected in the waters,

and framed by the snow-white branches of the mighty riparian sycamores 
and the darker boles of the towering sweet gums, 
bedecked as they are by a bevy of spiny bronze fruit and fuzzy green lichens and
brilliant five-pointed leaf-stars, 
rising high against the blue.

The trees whisper tales of fellow forest dwellers, 
out and about, or safely hidden, 
who can tell?

Few flowers are so indelicate as to flirt with the likes of Jack Frost, 
but this one, at least, 
has done, and lived to tell it! 

Crimson and green, it seems, 
are the colors of choice for the few tenacious leaves still holding fast to their woody stems, 
and lovely, thorny blackberry makes no exception.

Young sandhill crane, majestic flyer from the far, far north,
mysterious stranger,

serenely browsing among the remnants of autumn's corn; 
rare and seldom-seen visitor in these parts, 
casually crossing paths on a chilly and magical December morn.

Taking wing and heading upriver, 
disappearing anon in the distant blue of the heavens,
crane yields its place to a far less graceful flyer,
a furry mammalian forest-dweller,

familiar friend and neighbor, 
gray squirrel. 

Appearing not much bothered by its lack of grace, 
old bushy-tail wastes no time reaching just the intended spot, 
and quickly ducks out of sight.

A magical morning on the water...

Mockingbird, cardinal and crane,
sycamore, walnut and ash,
sweet gum stars and skies impossibly blue;

Shadows of an old truss bridge, ... and you.

Just a few of the wonders of a frosty December morn.

Monday, November 30, 2015

November, Unnoticed

 November arrives on the heels of All Hallow's Eve, but alas, we miss it.

The perennials in the bed out front reinforce our oblivion,
blithely donning the mask of Mays gone by,

while the oaks out back refuse to play "fall"; 
their lovely scales, brittle now and scarlet,
cling tenaciously to limbs another year longer.

The skies try to tell us,  
but the brilliant blues of chilly noons 
 pass over eyes downcast, 
focused on myriad mundane tasks,  

and as dusk steals round earlier and more briskly, 
our busy-ness bids us hurry indoors,
avoiding again November's thrall.

We venture south and east, 
to the very edge of the sea, 
and still October it seems, 
breezy, clear and bright.

November mornings make crunchy music at our feet, 
and yet we hurry on,

past delicate, nearly denuded vines,
barely clad in brilliant hues,

until, at long last, 
we pause to catch our breath
amidst November's bounty,

reflecting on the things that really matter,

and offer thanks...

for November.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Gulf Fritillaries' Delight - Emerald Isle

Life slows down on the Island in the fall. 
Traffic jams cease, even on the weekends, 
and the surf shop parking lot is virtually empty.

As a few bargain hunters venture inside to search for late season deals, 
we are drawn to the vacant lot next door, 
occupied by an army of golden asters,  
holding fast their sandy keep, 
despite an onslaught of ocean gusts,
hinting heavily of winter's chill. 

Dune camphorweed, Heterotheca subaxillaris, 
thriving still on the emerald isle, 
in spite of the imminent arrival of November.

Late season larder for the last of the lepidopterans,

gulf fritillaries galore, 

here on the island's leeward shore.

Mingled among the asters are other hardy sand-lovers, 
forb and graminoid alike.
Maypops and sandspurs, 
both right at home here in the dunes,

but passionflower claims the most credit for the fritillaries' abundance.

As host plant for the gulf fritillary, Agraulis vanillae, caterpillar, 
the myriad maypop vines explain why a dozen or more brilliant orange butterflies patrol this particular patch of golden asters in a late fall frenzy of nectaring.

Among the Southeast's most striking nectarers, 
this fritillary is not as frequent back home in the Sandhills, 

and our lens is quickly addicted to the remarkably beautiful pattern 
of silvery white underwing markings.

The sun, passing lower now in the autumn sky, 

flirts with flowers and flyers and photographers alike,

none of us in any hurry to part company just yet...