While wandering among the riverside rocks in the shade of the gnarled old sycamores, our lens found a number of subjects worth noting, and we thought we'd finish up our Rocky River series by sharing just a few.
This abandoned crayfish claw caught our eye near a stagnant pool well above the river's present course, but the wonderful contours and textures of the worn and fractured stone held our gaze.
Nature and her elements had created a number of potholes in the exposed rocks which now formed miniature pools high above the stream.
Farther still from the water's edge, the dappled shade of the forest margin provided a happy hunting ground for a living, breathing iridescent emerald, six spotted green tiger beetle, Cicindela sexguttata.
High on a flat smooth boulder, we discovered what appeared to be river otter scat, containing remnants of a great many crayfish, perhaps left in this prominent location as a territorial marker of sorts.
As we left the riverside and returned to the rural roadside from whence we came, we spotted several impressive stands of these Eurasian immigrants, nodding thistle, Carduus nutans.
The buds were strikingly beautiful in their own right, but the fully-opened blossoms seemed most attractive to the butterflies and bumble bees.
This female eastern tiger swallowtail, Papilio glaucus, was so absorbed in the thistle's sweet delights that she hardly heeded our approach.
The characteristic "nodding" posture from which this thistle derives its common name can be clearly seen in the background.
After leaving our friend the rough green snake down by the riverside, we were delighted to discover another of North Carolina's native snakes, and another rather reclusive one at that, mole kingsnake, Lampropeltis calligaster rhombomaculata.
These snakes prey on rodents and other snakes, and spend much of their time underground, so it was a real treat to see one up and about at midday.
This individual was quite docile and made no attempt to bite or make a display of aggression, even when the camera ventured quite close.
Mole kingsnake is the southeastern version of the prairie kingsnake, and bears a strong resemblance to the eastern corn snake, which has made several appearances on Hoot Owl Karma.
After obtaining several photographs of our new acquaintance, we loaded up and headed back to civilization, still wondering at the quality and variety of our Rocky River excursion in the heart of Chatham County. Thanks again to the Triangle Land Conservancy for their leadership in protecting and conserving sites such as this; both for the protection of the wildlife and for the education and enjoyment of families like ours.