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

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Autumn's Other Colors

Golden Sunset?

Cerulean Skies?






Cold front approaching this evening. Strong winds. Lightning. Temperature fell almost twenty degrees in 30 minutes. Put a damper on the photo shoot; but we could use the rain...

Friday, September 28, 2012

September Skies and Golden Spires, Showy Rattlebox

The lovely golden spires of the Showy Rattlebox spark spontaneous smiles. Radiant against a picture-perfect September sky, this showy legume more than lives up to its name.

Few would suspect that this ubiquitous roadside diva was once a stranger to our land, and that her performance here, though aesthetically appealing, spells doom for the native plants she upstages.

This transplant from India and Malaysia grows larger and lives longer in its more tropical homelands, but its striking beauty is undiminished by its smaller stature.

It has adapted well to our warm, sandy locale, and appears to have settled in for the long run.

As is so often the case, a closer inspection of the showy flowers reveals another critter hoping to capitalize on their appeal to the nectar seekers. 

Bon appetit, crab spider!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

False Foxglove, Blue Skies and Cloudless Sulphurs

More golden flora of the Carolina autumn - Fernleaf Yellow False Foxglove.

Cloudless Sulphur's unusually long proboscis allows it to nectar at flowers typically reserved for hummingbirds. Fernleaf False Foxglove fits that bill.

Flourishing on the forest margin, semi-parasitic on the roots of oak trees, and judging by the abundance of Sulphurs swarming about, perfect partner for these golden girls of the autumn airways.


Flutter by, butterfly.

Brief break in the southward sojourn...

Deep draughts, essential elixir.

Share the joy of the journey.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fall Colors - Yellow Crownbeard, Painted Lady et al.

Carolina autumn brings brilliant blue skies and golden petals all around. Today, Yellow Crownbeard stretches forth to mingle with her nectar drinking minions.



Golden petals reflect golden rays and nectar lovers flock to the fountain.

Painted Lady pauses for a nip of nectar, cavorting casually 'cross autumn's canvas.

Does Skipper sense winter's impending embrace? Flitting from crown to crown, she makes the most of today's golden bounty.


Buckeye's ragged raiment slows but little the persistent pursuit of nourishment.

Beautiful Lady, brilliant blossoms.  Someone's watching...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Yesterday. Two More Days,Two Golden Hours, Carolina Summer...

 5:39 p.m. Leaving the office. I've been seen.

5:55 p.m. In the yard, leaving for Jay's soccer game. Oops, now they've seen me too.

 6:49 p.m. The stadium's filling up. This guy's not full yet, but he looks like guano.

 6:59 p.m. Kickoff's been delayed by a few minutes. Just enough time for a snack!

 7:02 p.m. We're officially behind schedule, but this fellow doesn't seem to mind.

 7:03 p.m. Sundown is minutes away. Don't block my rays!

7:42 p.m. The beautiful game, Southern style. The blog can wait 'til tomorrow!