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.

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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).
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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.
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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.

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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.

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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