Thursday, December 31, 2009

Whitetail Lake: Wildflowers

The most surprising thing about our stop at Whitetail Lake in Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center was that several wildflowers were blooming. Admittedly, right at the edge of the east-facing parking lot where it was sunny for a good deal of the day.

Common dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) were blooming…

Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) buds were about to open...

Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) were blooming and developing seedpods. This is the first time I’ve seen Shepherd’s Purse in the wild.

At the edge of the woods a little distance from the parking lot, several plants of Elephant’s Foot - probably Elephantopus tomentosa - had bloomed, developed seeds, and dried. These plants were about 30-inches high; twice the height of any that grow at our place.

This may be an interesting place to visit in search of wildflowers during the year.

Click on an image to view a larger image

Identification resources:

- Southeastern Flora

- USDA Plants Database
- Shepherd's Purse
(Capsella bursa-pastoris)

Related posts:

- Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center: Whitetaill Lake

Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center: Whitetail Lake

Last Sunday we drove down to Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center (CEWC). It’s a relatively short drive from our place. We hop onto Georgia-11 and drive south through Monroe, Social Circle and Mansfield, The northern entrance to the park is just south of the Newton-Jasper county line; most of the park is in Jasper County.

CEWC is a multi-use area managed for hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, wildlife observation – particularly bird watching. It is a mixture of woods, managed pine forests, and pasture fields. Astronomy groups use the area where they can set up telescopes far from the bright skies around Atlanta and Athens. The ponds are breeding sites for many species of frogs.

It was mostly cloudy and quite windy when we arrived. We drove in through the northern entrance to Margery and Fox lakes. A couple of gulls were flying along the western shore of Margery Lake and there were some fishermen and horse riders but, otherwise, it was quiet. We figured that most of the birds were sheltering from the wind. We drove around towards Shepherd and Otter Lakes but the road was impassible after recent rains and 4-WD vehicles grinding up a short section of the road. The ruts looked really deep and muddy in one spot; we probably could have made it through with 4-WD but decided not to risk it.

We backtracked out to GA-11 and drove down to the southern entrance and decided to drive over to Whitehall Lake. This is a small, picturesque reservoir bordered by woods and a small opening onto a pasture field. The lake has a dock, a boat ramp and a picnic area. A trail runs along the west shore of the lake. Although it was cloudy, the sun would shine through periodically.

Looking across the lake to the northeast. The boat ramp was off to the right.

Looking east from the same point to the field to the east

I wandered along the trail to a point jutting out into the lake. Looking southeast, I could see more bales of hay 'shining' in the sun.
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- Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Zen: Trees In Afternoon Sunshine

The trees in the very beginning of my recent walk in the woods at Fort Yargo State Park had an almost magical atmosphere with the contrast of the sun on the tree trunks and the pine needle-covered path.
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Related post:

- A Walk In The Woods

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mount Redoubt: On Another Clear Day...

I check the Mount Redoubt webcams periodically but I’m usually either too early or too late and it's dark. This morning I saw a Tweet that the Aviation Color Code and the Alert Level on Mount Redoubt in Alaska had been increased this morning.

When I checked the Cook Inlet webcam again this afternoon, the view was crystal clear – a beautiful view.
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Related posts:

- Mount Redoubt: On A Clear Day

- Webcam: Alaska Volcano Observatory, Mount Redoubt, Alaska

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Grasshoppers: Melanoplus sp.

It’s interesting how little difference some sun and a couple of degrees in the air temperature can make.

On a recent walk on a fairly cold (45 F) day I saw only one grasshopper – no other insects at all. I think this is Melanoplus walshii.

A few days later, when the temperature was in the mid-50s F, I spooked several grasshoppers. Didn’t think I was going to get any photographs. But, at one point, noticed what I thought was grass sticking to my pants. When I looked down to brush it off, I found this grasshopper. It’s a Red-legged Grasshopper (Melanoplus femurrubrum).
Click on an image to view a larger image

Identification resource:
Bug Guide:
- Walsh's Short-wing Grasshopper (Melanoplus walshii)
- Red-legged Grasshopper (Melanoplus femurrubrum)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Walk In The Woods

The rain’s coming in again. Sixty inches so far this year – 10 inches above average - and some more to come.

But we’ve had a couple of really nice days this week. Sunny with highs in the mid-50s F. I wanted decided to go for a walk at the lake. I expected a short walk but found, when I got there, that not only was Picnic Area #2 closed but also the Boat Launch were I normally launch to row. The Georgia State Parks are facing budget challenges together with everyone else and closing some areas mid-week helps to save resources. So… I had to walk from Picnic Area #1.

I started at the dock by the beach (Segment 14) and headed west to the boat launch (Segment17). The path was pleasant both with a soft texture and color on a bed of pine needles.

Up hill…
And down hill across the bridge…

In the shade with glimpses of lake inlets...

And in the sun past the rowing dock down to the bridge at the boat launch at the far end. It was warm in the sun. And back again.
Click on an image to view a larger image.

Related posts:

- Marburg Creek Reservoir: Fort Yargo State Park

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mushroom: Gymnopus alkalivirens

Since it’s almost dark by the time I get home now, Thursday was the first opportunity to walk down to the creek since last weekend and before the rain – all 1.7 inches – forecast for yesterday. I was surprised to see a mushroom fruiting this late in December. I almost missed them. They were camouflaged well in the fallen leaves. Just a small patch of them - probably no more than a dozen - under the trees at the end of the house. I didn’t see any others along the path to the pool.

It looks like Gymnopus alkalivirens based on the description, reference photograph, and the fact that this is one of the few mushrooms that fruits this late in the year. This species was formerly Collybia alkalivirens, the Little Brown Collybia.

Click on an image to view a larger image

Identification resources:

- Mushroom Expert: Gymnopus alkalivirens

- Mushroom Observer: Gymnopus alkalivirens

- The Audobon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms. ISBN: 0-394-51992-2. Little Brown Collybia (Collybia alkalivirens). Plate 108. Page 753.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bufflehead Duck (Bucephala albeola)

I saw them first on Thanksgiving Day (November 27th), 2008. Two adult Bufflehead drakes (Bucephala albeola) swimming side by side as if ‘in formation’ in Segment 2 of the Marburg Creek Reservoir in Fort Yargo State Park. I was ‘past’ them at the point (Segment 2-3). It was windy. The wind was blowing from the southwest. To have any chance of getting good photos, I would have had to row back along Segments 15-16-17 against the wind to circle around to Segment 2 – in a hurry in order to be able to drift toward them to take photographs. It was unlikely that I would be successful.

So I made do with some distance photos and the excitement of being able to see them at all.

I went out again the following day (November 28th). Unlike Thanksgiving Day, it was cloudy. Although there was a slight breeze from the east, the water was calm. I had no expectations of seeing them again. However, when I turned onto Segment 4, they were swimming or, rather, drifting in the bay bounded by Segments, 4, 5, and 6. They were on the Segment 6 side of the bay and were drifting across the bay. By the time I reached Segment 6, they were in the middle and drifting towards the Segment 4 shore. I stopped opposite the, turned the boat and let the wind drift me towards them, taking photos repeatedly lest they should startle and fly away.

At first they were drifting side by side as if ‘in formation.’

They were very relaxed. Gradually they drifted out of the formation and around to where they were facing each other apparently unperturbed by my presence. In fact, at one point, one of them tucked his head down as if to sleep and I had to whistle to them to get him to raise his head.

They drifter further apart but still facing each other.

A close-up…

Finally, I drifted into their ‘no go’ zone and they decided it was time to extend the distance between us. They turned tail and paddled off to a safe distance. I could have repeated the drift but I had been drifting for approximately 30 minutes and had taken 60+ photos.

I don’t know how long they stayed on the lake. How long before Thanksgiving Day they had arrived and exactly when they left but they were gone by November 30th, the next date I was on the lake. This is the nature of transient visits to Fort Yargo State Park by migrating birds.

Click on an image to view a larger image

Identification and Range Resource:

- The Cornell Institute of Ornithology - All About Birds: Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)
- Sibley, AD. 2000. National Audobon Society The Sibley Guide to Birds. p. 101. Alfred A Knopf, New York. ISBN 0-679-45122-6

Related post:

- Marburg Creek Reservoir: Fort Yargo State Park
- Loose with a Camera…

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Zen: Pine Cone Rosette

When the pine cones fall off the trees, a few bracts remain attached to the branch. These form attractive pine rosettes that catch the late afternoon sun.
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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bess Beetle: Horned Passalus (Odontotaenius disjunctus)

This post was submitted to An Inordinate Fondness #2. Visit Birder's Lounge to learn more about beetles.

This Horned Passalus was making its way very slowly and gracefully over a fallen tree branch by the path just opposite the pool. The temperature was about 45 F which probably explains why it was moving so slowly. It had lost one antenna. When I picked it up to photograph the remaining antenna, it doggedly continued its steady pace across my hand. When I placed it back on the log, it simply moved on to the leaf litter as if nothing had happened.

The beetle…

The antenna…
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Identification resources:
- Bug Guide: Horned Passalus (Odontotaenius disjunctus) [Beetle] [Antenna]

Related posts:
- Woods in the Fall

Friday, December 4, 2009

Zen: Late Afternoon Sun On Tree Trunks

A cold weather front is coming through. First, 2.4 inches of rain. Then sunny but with winds of 10 to 20 mph from the northwest. In the late afternoon, the sunshine on these pine trunks gave an illusion of warmth.
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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Honey Mushroom (Armillaria mellea)

After recent rain, I found this beautiful cluster of mushrooms on the path on the ledge by the creek just past the pond. I almost missed them. I did miss them on the way down but saw them on the return walk. They were quite well camouflaged against the carpet of fallen leaves. I think they are Armillaria mellea. The caps were tan with scales that were concentrated at the center. I didn’t disturb them to determine if they had rings. The stems of individual mushrooms nearby had a ring and were hairy below the ring.

The cluster at an oblique angle from a distance…

The cluster at an oblique angle close up…

A close-up of the cluster from directly above…

Close-up of one of the mushrooms in the cluster…
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Identification resource:

- Mushroom Expert:
Armillaria mellea
- Flora and Faura of the Mid-Atlantic States: Mushrooms (Armillariella mellea)

Related post:
Woods In The Fall

Monday, November 30, 2009

Zen: Dew On Aster… And Hoverfly

Dew lingers on these asters. A hoverfly is just beginning its day.
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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Yurts At The Lake

The walk-in campround has undergone a transformation during the last six months. The point at Segment 7 used to be a walk-in campground for tent campers. Campers parked at a nearby parking lot and carried their gear into a campsite. The park has now replaced the tent camping with five ‘yurts’ that are reached along a graveled pathway from the parking lot. Each yurt is an insulated single room accommodation with electricity and a skylight and furnished with a couple of bunk beds, a futon, a small table and a couple of chairs. Each yurt has and entrance deck off a graveled area with a picnic table and BBQ grill. Each also has a deck that overlooks the water furnished with a couple of Adirondack chairs and a table. A great place to sit out.

Yurts photographed from across the lake (from Segment 13)

An individual yurt

Close up of the yurt

A yurt in fall color
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This post is not sponsored.

Information resources:
- Fort Yargo State Park: A model of a yurt is on display in the park office.
- Georgia State Parks: Fort Yargo State Park website

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fort Yargo State Park: Amanita sp. In The Open

This Amanita sp. fruited in late October through early November along Segment 10. In contrast to the other species that fruited in the woods, this species fruited in open areas. I also saw it in Gwinnett County in the open at the edge of woods but couldn’t stop to get a closer look.
Click on the image to view a larger image

Related posts:
- Mushroom: Yet Another Amanita sp.
- Mushroom: Another Amanita sp.
- Mushroom: Amanita sp.
- A Little Rain… Then Mushrooms

Friday, November 27, 2009

Enjoying The Great Outdoors

G came to us about 10 years ago. I had turned into the drive and stopped to pick up the mail. I thought I heard a mew but couldn’t locate where it was coming from. This happened a couple of days in a row. Apparently W and J also heard the mewing and after considerable poking around they found a young cat high up in a tree. It took a while but they managed to coax him down and brought him up to the house.

It was just a few days before Christmas. We had three cats at the time and really didn’t want a fourth. We decided, however, that it was unlikely he would be adopted from Animal Control so close to Christmas. We would keep him until after Christmas and then take him to Animal Control.
Since he’s still with us, it’s obvious that he weedled his way into our hearts in a very short period of time.

These photos were taken a week ago. When I came home from the lake he was sitting among some dead pine seedlings.
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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Woods In The Fall

The image for our place in Google maps is a year or two old, taken during the drought years. Our place is approximately one-half woods and one-half field. The brown line shows the pathway down through the woods to the creek and along the creek to the small pool W and J built for frogs to breed. The woods behind the house are primarily deciduous in contrast to the woods across the field with are dominated by pines.

The trees in the woods behind the house have now lost most of their leaves. The paths are covered with a carpet of leaves and the atmosphere was magical on a recent sunny afternoon.

A. Looking down the path to the creek. It doesn’t look too steep from this angle but looks are deceiving

B. Looking from the path at point B across the wide ledge above the creek (C)

D. On the path on the creek ledge looking in the direction of the pool

E. A little further along the path on the creek ledge looking in the direction of the pool

F. On the path looking up the hill. This does give a better idea of how steep the path is.
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Map: Google Maps

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fort Yargo State Park: Last Of The Fall Color

Most of the trees – even the oaks – have lost their leaves. Only this type, perhaps a birch, is still hanging on. Its leaves don’t turn yellow or red. The tips of leaves turn from green directly to brown – a most unusual and attractive change.

This day was cloudy but, occasionally, the sun would break through and catch the leaves.
Click on an image to view a larger image.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pear-shaped Puffballs (Morganella pyriformis)

These puffballs, Morganella pyriformis, grew on a tree stump in the woods behind the house – just off the pathway down to the creek - in October. I first spotted them on October 31st, 2009. Morganella pyriformis is the only puffball that grows on wood and, thus, is easily identified.

The tree stump with the puffballs…

A close up of some puffballs on the right hand side of the stump…

A macro shot that shows the fine ‘spines’ on the puffballs…

Formerly named Lycoperdon pyriforme, mycologists reassigned this puffball to its own genus, Morganella pyriformis., because of its unique characteristic of growing on wood as well as its unique taxonomic position based on molecular (DNA) testing.

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Identification resources:

- Michael Kuo ( Morganella pyriformis
- Pamela’s Mushrooms: Pear-shaped Puffball (Lycoperdon pyriforme)