Sunday, September 30, 2012

Weymouth Woods - An Epic of Sandhills Biodiversity

The front has passed, and the skies are clear. The boys need a break from homework; nature beckons. Raven Rock or Weymouth Woods? We flip a coin, then make the 25 minute drive to the Sandhills Nature Preserve in Southern Pines. Dad forgot his camera, but fortunately the boys had their iPhones...

Pine Barrens of the Carolina Sandhills, where a tiny remnant of the ecosystem which once dominated the American Southeast has been preserved for just such an excursion as this...

A mystical place of silent splendor; silence broken only by the occasional call and reverberating hammer of the pileated woodpecker...

The boys lag behind, iPhones in hand.  Later, they share glimpses of life beneath the royal long-leaf pines. Enjoy.

Bluer than blue...

Pine Barrens Gentian (Gentiana autumnalis)

To be, or not to be? Not a bee, in this case, but a nectar lover, nonetheless. Hoverfly.

Maryland Goldenaster, glamming it up in a patch of sunlight on the forest floor.

Gulf Fritillary, Lepidoptera luminary.

Breathtaking in flight. Kind enough to alight for a picture or two.

Purple Gerardia. Figurative food for our eyes, literal food for the very hungry caterpillar (buckeye butterfly larva).
Gerardia pedicularia. Fernleaf False Foxglove.You two Gerardias know each other? 

Silver or Florida Argiope. Her web is the trap, False Foxglove is the lure. Happy hunting...

All that white in the background?


Sand racer, fastest lizard alive! Hunter was faster. Turns out it's technically a six lined racerunner, and had this one been more than a few weeks old, Hunter might have had a bit more trouble catching up.

Hunter's dad was quicker than this eastern fence lizard dad; here it tolerates a quick peek at its iridescent blue flanks and throat.

Mycology, anyone? Mushrooms, no doubt, but beyond that we've not much clue..

Grizzled Grasshopper? Immature or flightless adult?

Looks like even more homework to do.

A patch of young trees with spots on their leaves? A fungus, insect damage, or some dread disease?

We're glad that the woods sent us home with such questions as these.

Our brief little walk on the wild side afforded plenty of cool encounters with familiar and not-so-familiar wildlife. Immersion in such a pool of bio-diversity is humbling and inspiring.

For now we're homeward bound with field guides on our minds...

As we wrap up our trek, a backward glance yields a glimpse of the future...

On behalf of the Jay and Hunter, a hearty thanks to those who protect and maintain NC's state parks and natural areas...

Today's photos courtesy of Jay Randolph

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