Say Ahhhh

You just have to love baby rat snakes.  They are tiny and totally fierce.  They can also be hard to see.  As I stepped out of the office door today I nearly stepped on this little fellow.  He sort of blended into the gravel of the walkway.

Of course I picked him up.  How could I not?  He was just so darned cute.  He did not find me cute, however.  He immediately went on the defensive and showed me all his teeth (tiny though they were).

I admired him for a bit before putting him down.  Too few snakes make it to adulthood -- they are so very vulnerable at this stage.  Everything wants to eat them.  I hope this little fellow makes it through.

He has moxie ;)


Look Out Below

Late this afternoon as I was walking the boardwalk at work, I came across an interesting sight.

It was an apparent bear scat, complete with black gum berries and seeds.  The weird thing was that it was a giant splat.  Hmmm, could it be that bears don't do it in the woods, but rather in the trees??

I looked up.  Way, way up...

So could that be the culprit?  Time to zoom in.

Yep, there, about 80 or 90 feet up, was a black bear.  He was happily munching out on black gum berries.  Guess he couldn't be bothered to climb down the tree to answer nature's call.  Instead, he just let fly from above. 

Let this be a reminder to one and all -- take the time to look up now and then.  And wear a hat.


Hanging In There

We were lucky, Irene battered us for a long time, but she didn't break us -- at least not here in the swamp. She certainly pounded the stuffing out of several nearby locations though. No damage to our house, just the minor inconvenience of no power for five days and no phone for three. Like I said, we were very, very lucky.
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Waiting for Irene

Just a quick update on things in NE NC...

The fire in the swamp continues to burn but firefighters are being pulled out because of an approaching hurricane.  The good news is that we are expecting 8 to 12 inches of rain with this system.  The bad news is the wind over the area is expected to be 65 mph, sustained.

We have secured everything that can be secured and emergency provisions are in place.  Now we wait to see if Irene is going to behave herself.  At the very least we expect torrential rains and wide-spread power outages.  I'll be back when I can to share photos and let you know how we fared.  Meanwhile, if you, too, are in the path of this storm, please stay safe!


Still Burning

Waiting for word.

The fire continues to burn but it's creeping now instead of roaring. We have been reinforcing lines and clearing ditch banks so large pumps can be installed to pump water from one area to another in an attempt to saturate the peat in front of the fire. In some areas the fire is burning under the roads, creating access problems. A mild-mannered tropical system would be quite welcome about now.


Deja Vu All Over Again

You hope for rain and you get lightning...I guess that's the way it is sometimes. We're fighting fire again in the swamp. It started pretty close to the same place a fire started in 2008, but this one, at only a week old, is already larger than that one -- and the '08 fire burned for four months.


Catching Up

Lest you think I have fallen off the edge of the earth (or more likely, into the swamp), I figured I'd better blow the dust off this blog and at least post a few pictures.

It has been hazy, hot, and humid with very little rain this summer. I have touched paddle to water only once or twice and have done next to no hiking on my days off. The end result is that I have very few pictures to share. Most of my time outdoors at work has been leading groups -- not the best circumstances under which to take photos! Strolls about the yard have offered up a few things to share, however, so here you go...

Seems the hummers have finally located us here at the "new" house. We aren't getting the numbers we got at the old house, but we've seen a steady increase over the past three summers here. To date this season we have fed 65 pounds of sugar.

Given the dryness of the spring and summer, frogs have been hard to find. This Cope's Gray Treefrog put in an appearance after one of our infrequent showers. Here at the house, the gray treefrogs are the predominant species.

Male velvet ants are abundant this year but I don't think they're having much luck getting lucky. Normally we see loads of females and just a few males. This year the opposite has been true.

Pest insects have been present in large numbers. Stink bugs, leaf-footed bugs, squash borers, and Japanese beetles have all been making themselves at home in the garden. The good thing is that wheelbugs are present, too. It's nice to have allies in the war against garden pests ;)

We have several hazelnut trees on our property. We have no idea how they got here, but we are doing our best to make them happy. Of course, we have to fight the squirrels for the nuts when they get ripe. The crop looks okay this year so far...

That's about all I have to share right now. If it's summer where you are, take care and stay cool.


If Only She Could Talk

It's been so dry here that box turtles have been hard to come by. I found this old girl on the highway one morning after one of the very few showers we've had. She looked familiar, and it could be that I have photographed her before. I need to go through all my box turtle pictures to be sure.

Wouldn't it be interesting to hear her life story? If only box turtles could talk...

After I took her picture multiple times I let her go where I found her - moved to the side of the road in the direction she was headed, of course ;) Live long(er) and prosper.


Monday's Paddle

We headed out onto the pond Monday morning to get a little paddling done before the heat of the day set in.  It was beautiful -- the swamp roses were blooming everywhere, lending a delicate fragrance to the breeze.  The trees provided ample shade from a blazing sun and there was life everywhere we looked.  What more do you need?
Under the trees the very air seemed green.

Many of the stumps hosted swamp rose in full bloom.
In turn, the rose bushes played host to an assortment of critters.

 Black Saddlebags dragonfly

Hmm...how'd that get in there? ;)
The requisite green treefrog.

There are some unusual looking trees out on the pond.  I have written before about the effects of the mistletoe on the growth of tree branches.  The mistletoe that grew on this tupelo gum gave it a decidedly unicorn-like appearance.
Okay, so what if it is a pencil-necked, mule-faced unicorn?

While paddling out on the pond you have to be prepared for youngsters trying to hitch a ride.
I have absolutely no idea which species of damselfly this is.  Identifying teneral (newly emerged) odonates is a bit beyond my abilities.

And there are plenty of teneral odonates out there.  Just about anywhere you look you can find a shed from a naiad.  Here we found the exuviae of a dragonfly naiad as well as that of a spider.  There's a lot of growing going on out there.
Speaking of spiders, this one found a spot of shade in the top of a mushroom growing on the side of a dead tree out on the pond.

We found a number of bird nests while we were out paddling.  I opted not to photograph them because I didn't want to stress out the parent birds.  Instead, I will offer up this iridescent feather.

When the temperature crept up into the 90s, we decided to call it a morning and head in.  We're not as into basking in the blazing sun as this yellowbelly slider.


Denizens of the Yard

A quick turn about the yard this weekend revealed some critters that call our property home, too.

Under the stoop on the shady side of the yard we discovered a very well fed toad...

An eastern kingbird was sitting atop a pine, keeping an eye on the garden.  He eats an amazing number of insects!

Number 33 was on patrol along the path we keep mowed.  She is a beauty of a young box turtle.  We hope she spends many happy years with us here.

Out on the carport we spied a young praying mantis on the prowl.  We have had a bumper crop of mantids this year.

Cruising the edge of the yard, in a section of the property we maintain in an old field succession state, we noticed several spangled skimmers keeping an eye on things.  This one is a male.

I love the variety of life just outside my door.


A Battle Ensues

This time of year there is a war going on in our yard. It's a fight over who is going to get the blueberries...
We have a good stand of a variety of bushes, with the berries ripening at different times to prolong the harvest. Fresh blueberries at breakfast is one of the delights of the season.

It seems, though, that we aren't the only ones with a taste for the little nuggets.  A certain summer tanager has his sights set on them, too.  He discovered them last year and the long intervening winter did not cause him to forget them.  He is downright brazen about snatching the berries.  He'll sit on the adjacent grape vine, announce his intentions with a chatter, and dive right under the bird-netting to snag a berry.  Then it's back to the grape vine to nom it down.

The evidence of his crime...

That bird needs to go eat a bee and leave our blueberries alone.


A Few Pond Shots

A few shots of the pond taken yesterday afternoon...

I first laid eyes on this place the spring of 1978. Little did I know that I was peering into my future. Such a beautiful place and so full of wonder for those who take the time to explore.

Swamp rose, Rosa palustris

Blueberries growing on a stump out in the pond.