Thursday, September 18, 2008

A 'Carolina' Perfect Day

If a sensory dictionary existed and you could look up and feel a perfect Carolina day....... today would be there :)

We finally had a break from the unusually high heat and humidity that's been with us for most of September. Yesterday was actually cloudy and in the mid 70's. That was a shock! And today... well, it's why soooo many people choose to live in the Carolinas :)

For me, it was nature journaling day, and off to Oldfield we went, arriving at the Duck Pond just before 10 a.m. I was in heaven. Almost every kind of wading bird was along the far shore: Woodstorks, White Ibis, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Tri-colored Herons, juvi Little Blue Herons, a juvi Black-crowned Night Heron. Not to mention Anhingas, an Osprey and a Great Blue Heron nearby along the banks of the Okatie River.

What to draw first? A Great Egret caught my attention. It appeared to have just caught a fish and was having a bit of a time getting it down the hatch. The bird would arch its neck then pick a foot up and scratch its throat. I watched the egret for a long time through my bins. Sure wished I had brought my scope. I like viewing my subject through the scope and sketching it at the same time. I managed to do it with the bins but 'twas a bit awkward. Two hours pasted but, it felt like 5 minutes. Luckily I was able to take lots of photographs.

Love Bugs were everywhere! Rob and I noticed a few on Monday when we golfed, but yesterday and today there were thousands. Oh goodie. Extra work now washing the dead ones off of our cars. Their body chemistry corrodes auto paint! Not to mention if you sit on them you can not get the stain out of your clothing..... I'm on my third try at getting their stain out of my golf shorts.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The time of the long shadows...

The romance of late summer evenings has arrived in the low country. Even though our day time highs are in the 90's, the early evenings cool right down. No haze remains from the heat and the warm yellow light of the setting sun is absolutely beautiful. It's the time of the long shadows.

This was my parents favorite time of evening. After the cows were milked and chores finished, we'd sometimes take a country road ride to the Dresser Hill Dairy Farm. It was a good size farm who's owners decided it would be a great spot to have a homemade ice cream stand. Folks from Dudley, Charlton, Southbridge, and other nearby rural areas would flock in. The ice cream was top shelf and the lines were long.

Now I too, hold this time of year and time of day close to my heart. Rob and I will take the dogs for their golf cart ride in a little bit. I will smile as I gaze upon the long shadows and will continue down my memory lane's journey :) Good evening!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Boardwalk Sights

Great night on the boardwalk. It's been so quite of late, barely a song bird! But, tonight... actually around 7:30 p.m, we made our way along the boardwalk and saw a doe with her fawn! The fawn had remnants of it's white spots and the light hair around it's eyes, just like Mom. A green heron flew to a nearby tree while the deer and I were conversing. I'm still smiling :)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Learning Html • Beauty Berry

This is a test to see if I might have figured out how to place images wherever I want them. Yeeha! Can the girl do it?? I need to peak at Preview now and see......

Not enough body copy yet, all the type is still above the image. So, I'm adding more body copy below the Html code to see where it will go - perhaps it will be to the side of the image where I want it, but when I peak at Preview will it be below the image? Let's see.....

Woohoo!!!!!!!!!!!!! Success :) This is one happy camper!

Oh, by the by - Beauty Berry berries are starting to appear :)
Don't you just love their color?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ode to a Wildflower

At long last, I've finished my journal page devoted to the Passion Flower, aka Maypops!  I wish everyone could view this flower in real time.  I've never seen such an, for a lack of a better term..... architectural wonder!

When we moved here, I purchased a SC wildflower guide book. I perused through to see what goodies I might find in my neck of the low country.  Maypops made the top of my list to see.

 If not for a brief glance to my right as I was leaving my favorite Oldfield trail, I may have surely missed it!  

There I was, out of time to frolic, and my 'quest flower' is right beside me. God!  So, in good 'Johnson' fashion (my family is noted for having their own time clock) I threw my schedule to the wind, grabbed onto the serendipitous moment and took as many photographs as I could :)

The flowers only last for three days!  Two days later, I took Rob over to show him this gem of the wildflower world..........  Not a bloom in sight!  Three times I tried to have him see them.  Oh well, I did get one more view.  I slipped in a quick visit to the trail and lucked out :)  This time I saw green fruit, which was large and round.  My wildflower book by Richard D. Porcher and Douglas A Rayner says that the fruit is edible raw but, even better when made into jelly.  Yum!

The flowers will bloom May through September (thus the Maypops name?) and the fruit will yellow when ripe (June through October).  The common name; passion-flower comes from the resemblance of the floral parts to the story of Christ's Passion.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Recent Low Country Observations

Well, life's been a tad crazy, busy lately!  September starts the fall season for my nature journaling workshops and local outdoor art festivals.  I've paintings to create, workshops to promote, teaching materials to gather and commission jobs to finish.  This leaves little time to draw in my journal, scan journal pages and post to the blog.  Usually, I will have one sleepless night every now and then and I get tons of work done.  Why hasn't this happened lately?? 

Time for nature observations has been narrowed down catching all I can while walking the dogs. Thank goodness we have dogs!!  There's no ignoring the great outdoors when you have them - no matter the weather!  Just one more reason to love them :)

The neighborhood Red-shouldered hawks have started to call again.  Haven't seen them yet, though.  The trees in the my neighborhood's wetland are starting to change color - seems early for the south.  Mocking birds are back to singing.  We have one that loves to sit on our neighbors roof and rattle off every birdsong melody known.  Then it will fly straight up about 10 feet, then back down and continue on with it's song.  I do love them.

The other day there was a family of crows harassing something.  I'm thinking hawk or owl. What a racket!  I was grilling dinner and the sound was tremendous.  There had to be at least twenty crows.  Then I saw a man walking down the sidewalk between my house and the woods where the crows were whooping it up.  Surely he would look in their direction........  Not! 
That always amazes me.  People have such blinders on.  Wake up!  Look around!  Amazing things are happening!  Sigh......

 A friend sent me a link to Planet Earth the Secret. Have a look.  I wish all peoples could see this.  Enjoy!  Peace to you and yours!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Common Nighthawks

For a few weeks before we left for NY, we had four Nighthawks entertain us during our evening dog walks. Best of all, we didn't have to leave our neighborhood to see them.  

The first evening was too dark to make a positive ID, and they were flying quite high.  Their flight was swift. Tern?

The second night, they were low enough to see their brown coloring and detect the white bar on their wings. That's no tern!  Then, there was the frog like sound, but it was coming from the sky! Wow, could it be that we're finally seeing a bird from the Goatsucker family?

Yes..... It's a Nighthawk!  Noting the white wing bar was a great field mark.  All these years of hearing and never seeing Whip-poor-wills and Chuck-will's-widows (say that 5 times fast) we, at last, got to see a relative!  I was thrilled :)  

I've only seen one Nighthawk, one time, since we've been back. They are one of the first to migrate.  I'm wondering if these birds were taking a mini break from their voyage south to bulk up on Bluffton's insects.   I say, "Thank you for spending time with us, for your entertaining dog fight flight, and for keeping our insect population in check! Safe travels!"

Saturday, August 30, 2008

NY Clouds & Colors

Wow! What a difference in weather from SC to NY!  No humidity and very cool to us... Daytimes in the high 60's with a lake breeze, nights in the low 50's. Needless to say, come bedtime, we slept with the windows open and the comforter on :)  And, much to my delight, groups of Canada geese would fly over and land on the lake. There's nothing finer than being lulled to sleep by the sounds of geese :)

On Sunday, August 10th, I had the opportunity to do some cloud studies, in my journal, as we sat on the pontoon boat. One of our favorite things to do is watch the day go by while we lounge on the boat - even if it's docked!  My sketches sometimes suffer from the rocking of the boat but, to me, it's all part of the charm :)

There were times, our first week there, that I was wishing I had packed my turtlenecks.  We'd get wild lake winds during the day and thunderstorms every evening.

Our second week was much more temperate and no rain to speak of. One warm day, the locals were complaining about the humidity. Rob and I just smiled.  For humidity, it was really bush league!

I loved being back among the rolling hills and farmland that surround Conesus Lake.  The landscape colors were outstanding. Trees in the wetlands were already sporting red leaves and the fields of corn were a wonderful shade of yellow ochre. The August clouds and scenery colors had October written all over them.  I truly love the SC low country but, I think my heart will always belong to the rolling hills of the northeast.

We managed to play one round of golf with our lake friends. The Island Oaks course at Lima Country Club can be challenging. Lots of hills, trees and water. I was more interested in enjoying the views. Yup, not a good day on the links for me.....  Didn't even get to see any wildlife!  Sigh....

All in all, a good visit to NY. Enjoyed Rob's side of the family and our dear friends.  Grizz and Dudley enjoyed time on the boat. I'd carry Grizz down the dock, then let her have her freedom once on the pontoon boat. Even blind, she stills loves to be on the boat.  That did our hearts good! 

Friday, August 8, 2008

Escaping August Heat

Finger Lakes here we come!  August is the perfect time to head north as it's been a tad toasty in the low country lately.

We're heading back to our old stomping grounds on Conesus Lake.  It's the very last Finger Lake, located about 45 minutes south of Rochester, NY.  Rob's folks have a summer place there. 

The weather has not been real great in western NY this year.  When my in-laws complain, you know it's bad.  They are die-hard Rochesterians
and will never admit to any foul weather.  However, anyone who has spent any time in that part of NY knows that foul weather and gray skies occur more times than not.

One of the many things I like about nature journaling is capturing the same location over and over.  Here are some of the many faces of the same view.

The dogs will be happy to sit on the pontoon boat once again.  Things will be very different for Grizz though, now that she's blind. It will surely be a gut ache for Rob and me as she loved to stand on the dock and look into the water to watch the fish or lay on the boat and just gaze out over the lake.  

We've remembered to pack long pants and sweats.  I'm being real optimistic by not including a turtleneck :)

I'll be posting again in a couple of weeks.  I hope to be able to finish up my July wildflower finds while enjoying the view from the pontoon boat.  Ahhhhhh, vacations.  Got to love them :)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Pave Paradise, Put up a Parking Lot

Joni Mitchell had it so right, so long ago.  And, on it continues.

I've had the environmental blues of late.  My wildflower journal entries have spurred the worry of loss.  The low country is growing so fast.  People are flocking here.  Developers are going to great lengths to take every inch of unspoiled land to build 'neighborhood' retail shopping and housing.  What's so bad about purchasing resale homes and traveling 5 miles for groceries?  We even have powers to be in Columbia (2 hours away) granting excessive dock permits before local county approval of river front property development.  This situation stinks of foul play. When is the 'greasing the palms' going to stop?  

I had a dream last night.  I was in a strange town, very lost, and on foot.  I came upon this wonderful old tree that was growing between the sidewalk and street.  It's gerth unbelievable for the space it was alloted.  The sidewalk side of the tree was decaying but still, somewhere deep inside, the tree had the strength to keep on.  I walked around to the street side of the tree and the bark was smooth.  I felt invited to hug this wonderful being.  As I did, the tree came alive and and wrapped two lower branches around me.  The trunk felt soft against my body - I was really wrapped up in it's 'body' hug.  Wonderful!

I am my father's daughter when it comes to dreams - he was noted for very creative dreams. Well, I say creative.  Rob, however, raises an eye brow.  My book of dream interpretations says dreaming of trees is a good omen.  I hope it means that I can somehow make a difference in protecting this fragile, one-of-a-kind area of the country.

Wildflower Finds IV

Pretty in pink :)  

The Common marsh-pink has striking center coloration.  You really need to get up close to see it though. The Rose purslan flower is the most wonderful shade of magenta.  They catch your eye even though the flower is quite small and close to the ground.

Another pink flower in bloom, in my neighborhood, is the Awned meadow-beauty, Rhexia aristosa Britton.  If I have time, I'll include it along with another butterfly pea 'Spurred butterfly pea' Centrosema virginianum (Linnaeus) Benth. 

Perhaps one of these days, I'll get to create the page on my 'lifer' wildflower I saw way back in the first few weeks of July! But, I'm not complaining - commission jobs are paying the bills :)  So many wildflowers, so little time. . . .

I feel so blessed by all the beauty that surrounds me, but so sad about the low country's fate. Development is out of control........ I'll save this issue for another posting. 

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wildflower Finds III

Back to purple :)  These morning glories were so lovely I decided to create a journal page just for them.

Gil Nelson's book 'Atlantic Coastal Plain Wildflowers helped me make the correct ID.  I wrote his comments along the outer edge of the illustration.  Thanks, Gil!

'The name sagittata means "arrow shaped" in reference to the outline of the leaves.  This combination of deeply sagittata leaves and rose-purple flowers is an excellent field ID character.'

Wild Flowers Finds II

For most of July, all the wildflowers I found were purple or pink.  I found this most curious.

Mother Nature must have been reading my thoughts as I then found these brightly colored specimens.

I should know to trust Mother's sense of color :) 

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wildflower Finds I

These days, my wanderings are highlighted with wildflower finds. Most seem to be purple!  I've two more journal pages to create for this series. One flower was a 'lifer' for me.  I found it on my way back from drawing the Marsh Fern.  Luckily I had my camera with me as I my schedule didn't allow drawing it in real time.  I hope my interpretation will do this wonderful specimen justice!  Say tuned.........

Monday, July 14, 2008

Marsh Fern

It is my quest, this summer, to learn the ferns common to the low country. I studied them while enrolled in the SC Master Naturalist program but, there was so much I was studying, that I didn't have the time to let each one's characteristics shine in my mind.

The only way I know to do this is to spend time in the field, observing and drawing. I can let my pencil dance along the paper as my eye traces the outline of each Pinna and Pinnule, (ah yes, there's the vocabulary to learn too...). It's a great way to get lost in time. Two hours flew by while I drew and painted the marsh fern. Then, once in the studio, research began concerning the Leafroller Moth. My naturalist friend, Marvin Bouknight, first answered my question about what critter folded over the tops of the ferns. I had to laugh when he said the 'Leafroller' Moth. I like it when science doesn't complicate things. The latin names are confusing enough! He said that it was a diminutive moth. I guess so! And, once I saw a picture of one on the internet (a great research tool) I realized I saw one of these moths last year! I love it when I can tie things together :)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Nature Journaling From Afar

Let's face it, the majority of mankind lives in suburbia and the chances of observing intimate wildlife dramas are few and far between. But ahhhhhhh, there is a solution.... Webcam's! You can watch to your hearts delight and cause no stress to the animal you're viewing.

On March 8th, I checked out Palmetto Electric's webcam of an Osprey nest that is located on one of their towers (click title to connect to webcam). I became a webcam junkie! The images were incredible. I designated a part of my current nature journal to cover the nesting and hopefully birth of this Osprey family. I was chewing up pages with my observations. I became real good at capturing 5 second poses. Luckily, the Palmetto Electric webcam operator would capture some still images of the birds and post these to the website. How wonderful to have all this at the tips of my fingers! Who says you have to be outside to make journal entries! :)

I visited these magnificent birds first thing in the a.m and many times during the day until nightfall. I became worried about getting my work done as the Ospreys kept calling me to check them out. Kind of like the dark chocolate candy in the refrigerator......

It was fascinating to to watch the interplay between the male and female. Then, there were the times when the roosting parent would get in a defensive pose.... Eagle flying over? As I look back on my notes, I find many question marks. Bird behavior befuddleties (is that a word?)

This year's nesting story has a sad ending as, after the 3rd egg was laid, the birds stopped roosting on the nest. They covered the eggs with lots of nesting material and visited the often but, would not commit to laying on the eggs. ??????? Bbb!

Hopefully, next year will make for a happier ending. I better make sure to have all my new paintings, for spring shows, done early as I know I'll get nothing done should 2009's brood hatch!!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Loblolly Bay

When visiting Honey Horn Plantation last week, I noticed a pretty flowering tree. It was labeled Loblolly Bay Gordonia lasianthus. The name stuck with me as I only associated the name 'Loblolly' with pine trees. It's a native tree. One, I decided, that would be great to find in the wild.

As I entered my neighborhood the other day, I glanced to the left in time to see a large specimen in bloom! I turned around and parked off to the side. The branches were low enough to the ground that I could cut a small sample to paint from.

I've noticed this tree from time to time. It suffered damage during construction of our neighborhood gate. The trunk had been compromised about 15' up from the ground and the top of the tree bends unnaturally over. And now, despite mans carelessness, it blooms in full glory. This tree has won my heart forever!

I only stepped off the curbing for a minute to get the cutting.  I stood on pine straw between some landscape grass plantings and by the time I made it home (only a mile away), I could tell that the chiggers had attacked! 3 bites! I put a diluted bleach mixture on each bite (always mixed and on hand). I was 66% successful but, the bite on my Achillies tendon is a mess! I hate these little bugs!!!

Please click the image to able to read my notes.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Summer Solstice

We had the opportunity to spend a few hours of the summer solstice under a magnificent Live Oak tree (Quercus virginiana) on the Fiddler Crab Cove Boardwalk at the Coastal Discovery Museum's Honey Horn Plantation.

I couldn't resist trying to capture the massive trunk and lower limbs. You can just picture children draped on the the branches as they while away the long, hot summer days.

Two squirrels chattered away, chasing each other up and down the limbs. Several Tufted Titmice and Carolina Chickadees paid a visit. I was faced away from the marsh as I created this painting so I probably missed many a wading bird. Sigh.........

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Close Encounter

I saw my first Swallow-tailed Kite two summers ago. It was way up in the sky and of course, flying away from me. The tail was unmistakable, though. The S-t Kite's wings are long and slender, making it's job in nature (snatching large insects from the air and small lizards from trees) effortless.

But finally, a close encounter! This bird is amazing to watch. It swoops, banks and dives pretty much without a beat of its wings. The tail however, is quite busy! What a joy to finally get a good look at one. We pulled the golf cart over to watch the show. Even the dogs followed it's flight! I understand that they drink by skimming the surface of the water - I'd love to see that! (click on image for larger view)

I had no idea it was so big. When comparing it's size with other raptors, I discovered it's larger than a Red-tailed hawk by a couple of inches in both length and wingspan! L 22", WS 51", Weight 15 oz. But, the Red-tailed Hawk weighs 2.4 lbs.!

Good thing the R-t Hawk's job is different as it's weight and bulky wings would make for starvation and probably some crashes if it had to swoop, bank and dive in the air to catch it's prey. That's why we see them perched on telephone poles and trees, scanning the ground for meaty critters. Hmmmmmm, meaty critters - definitely why it weighs more than the Swallow-tailed Kite! Not many calories in insects and small lizards :)

I love form and function in nature..... for everything there is a reason.