Sunday, October 31, 2010

Zen: Halloween Ghosts

I guess Zen and Halloween ghosts appear somewhat oxymoronic but these are such sweet ghosts. Click on the image to see the looks on their faces – more surprised than scary. In these days of highly commercialized Halloween, I was really taken with this display. I think they are homemade – I hope so since that’s my assumption. The ghosts are made of simple white sheets with faces painted on them. The thing that really made it work for me is that the corners of the sheets are tied together to create the effect of ghosts holding hands in a circle. I guess it’s not supposed to be sweet, but it is.
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Friday, October 29, 2010

Fort Yargo State Park: Another Beautiful Morning

Fall color is progressing. Unfortunately the color this year at Fort Yargo State Park isn’t as good as in the last couple of years. Many trees are changing color but dropping leaves quickly. Some faithful trees are putting on their usual color display. One of the great things about Fall color here is that we have a range of colors that make each trip out interesting.

Another view of the bridge by the boat launch (segment 1). The tree to the left is now distinctly yellow-brown compared with last week when the tree, at the far left is just starting to change color. Hopefully all of the trees along this section of the lake will change color

The view from the dam (segment 5) looking back past the lake overflow tower to the beach (segment 14).

Looking towards the dock by the camping area (segment 7). More color than last week.

The observation deck off the Bird Berry Trail (segment 10a).

The lake shore south of the Fishing Area (at the far right). Most of the trees are pines; the accents are deciduous trees (segment 14

The lake shore just north of the bridge midway between the Fishing Area and Picnic Area #1 (segment 13).

A close up of the ‘yellow’ tree (
segment 13).

At the point just below Picnic Area #1 (Segment 13).

The group shelter at Picnic Area #2 (segment 15).

Packed up ready to leave. Not knowing when I’ll return. I noticed the lake level was about 6 inches lower than normal this morning. At the lake overflow, the tell-tale sound of water rushing out of the lake was clear. I check the park website when I got home. They are lowering the lake level by six feet between November and January for some bridge construction. Just when I was planning to spend the Fall and Winter on the lake to make up for not being able to get out over the Summer. Arrrrrrrrgh! But to tell the truth, I enjoyed walking the beach that was exposed last Winter and will enjoy walking it again.
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Related posts:
- First Fall Row

- Fort Yargo State Park: Early Fall Color

- Beautiful Fall Morning

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cotton Harvesting, Part 2

Continued from Part 1.

When the cotton picker was full, it was brought over to a trailer parked at the edge of the field. The picker parked beside the trailer at one end. The gate on the picker cleared the top of the trailer by at least a foot. The top of the trailer was 7 to 8 feet above the ground; this gives some idea of the height of the cotton picker. The basket gate was opened and the cotton fell out.

The workers in the trailer distributed the cotton evenly across the trailerand compacted in the trailer by the workers as they moved around but much was still loosely piled on top of the load.

The picker was then moved along the trailer and …

the process repeated. The workers were up to their waists in the cotton; it must have been hard work to move around in the cotton.

A fair amount of cotton had fallen off the trailer. Workers gathered this up and tossed it back in the trailer. A tractor with an attachment then moved around the trailer to compact the cotton. From this single picking run, it looked like two runs filled the trailer.

The trailer was then taken to a depot for shipment to a cotton gin. I’m not sure where this cotton was taken, possibly to the Bostwick Gin in Bostwick in Morgan County which is one of the few operational gins in North Georgia.

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Related posts:
- Cotton Harvesting, Part 1

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cotton Harvesting, Part 1

Although cotton was an important crop in Walton County in the past, little if any is grown in the county now. Cotton is, however, still grown in neighboring Oconee and Morgan counties. And judging by the fields, this year has been a good year. I usually don’t see the harvesting process but this year I lucked out.

A field of cotton in Oconee County; ready for harvesting. It’s not often that the fields look so white with cotton.

A close up of the cotton released from the bolls.

The cotton picker is an enormous machine; about 31-ft long and taller by the looks of it. The operator sits in a climate-controlled cab that protects him from the dust. This harvester, similar to this one, was setting out to pick a field. The solid side contains the mechanism to open the side to empty the container.

A view of the cotton picker from a different angle. The basket is visible. I couldn’t get a photograph of the machine head on. Unlike a wheat harvester that can swing around the field without having to worry about aligning with the rows, the operator of this harvester must line the picker so that the picking units travel along the rows to pick the cotton.

The picker traveled along the rows to the other end of the field where the operator repeated the alignment process before it returned to the starting end. The picker traveled relatively quickly. Fans carry the cotton up into the basket where augers compact it.

It’s easy to see which section of the field has been harvested, but…

Some cotton remains after harvesting.
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Information resources:
- The Story of Cotton

Related posts:
- Cotton Harvesting, Part 2

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Woodpeckers: Juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)? and Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)

The berries have ripened and a lot of birds are more visible than usual. I encountered these two birds in an open area along the trail south of the Fishing Area (segment 13) last week. They were up in trees – twenty to thirty feet above the ground and just about as far away.

Juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)?

This bird landed in this Flowering Dogwood tree and, before I could focus on it, it hopped over to a closer branch and grabbed a berry which it swallowed and hopped back over to where I photographed it. This all happened so quickly that I didn’t get a shot of it with the berry. At first I thought it was a small woodpecker but couldn’t see any color on its head or neck. Its feathers were brown; I couldn't see any distinctly black feathers. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Can anyone confirm or correct my identification?

Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)

No mistaking this woodpecker. Usually we just hear the rapid rat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat as the Pileated Woodpeckers dig into a trunk. Occasionally we see them, but not often. This bird landed here. Then..

It hopped down the branch to the leafy tips where it proceeded to eat berries. I got this one shot. You and see its head among the leaves in the middle of the image. It was amusing to watch it feeding. It was much to heavy for the twigs it was on and swayed wildly as it balanced and ate greedily.

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Identification resources:

- Sibley, DA. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) p. 311. In. National Audobon Society The Sibley Guide to Birds. Alfred A Knopf, New York.

- The Cornell Institute of Ornithology: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)

The Cornell Institute of Ornithology: Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)

Related post:
- Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

Beautiful Fall Morning

After a terribly hot Summer we are enjoying a beautiful Fall; how to mid 40s in the morning and mid to high 70s in the afternoon. I’ve made my first concession to the cooler weather; rowing in long pants and a sleeveless vest. It’s cool when I start out and borders on a little too warm when I get back in. The Fall color is developing so the views change every time I go out.

One of my favorite views. The bridge by the boat launch.

Some trees on the island (segment 16) are changing color.

Looking back towards the island again. I had to share the lake with three other boats this morning.

The dock just to the north of the camping area (segment 7). The slight smokiness in the upper right is from wood cooking fires. This is the cruelest section of the row. The smell of cooking bacon. Yum!

More trees changing color along the Bird Berry trail (segment 10a).

The nature center (segment 10).

Heading back down the lake from the nature center (segment 12).

A lone sentinel. This Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) was warming itself in the early morning sun.

More color (segment 13). The red tree in the center is a Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)

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Related posts:

- Fort Yargo State Park: Early Fall Color

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Zen: Fishing in the Early Morning

This fisherman was out on the lake at Fort Yargo State Park early in the morning. He had a really nice setup. His boat looked like a kayak at first but it’s open and has a broader beam. A small trolling motor on the stern let him move silently and effortlessly around the lake. With cables running from the rudder he could steer with his feet. Looks like he had a fish finder mounted in the bow too. Way to go!
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus)

Another butterfly working the wildflowers near the Southern Cloudywing at the Oconee Wildlife Management Area as a single Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus).

It was very active, flitting from flower to flower. It was quite a challenge to photograph it.

Click on the image to view a larger image

Identification resource:

- Butterflies and Moths of North America: Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus)

- Westcentral Georgia Butterflies by Michael Beohm: Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus)

Related posts:
- Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Southern Cloudywing (Thorybes bathyllus)

Another butterfly we spotted at the Oconee Wildlife Management Area. This Southern Cloudywing (Thorybes bathyllus) was sunning itself in the warmth of the late afternoon sun. Although it, along with all the other butterflies, was on the move in search of foot, it settled with its wings spread for about a minute or so before it moved on.

Click on the image to view a larger image

Identification resource:

- Butterflies and Moths of North America: Southern Cloudywing (Thorybes bathyllus)

- Westcentral Georgia Butterflies by Michael Beohm: Southern Cloudywing (Thorybes bathyllus)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Yesterday we took a field trip to the Oconee Wildlife Management Area is just to the east of Lake Oconee and covers land in Greene, Hancock and Putnam counties; most of the area is in Greene county. We drove the perimeter road running southwest from Liberty Church Road to the end of the WMA land.

Much of the area is open woodland with some pine forests developing in areas that had been clear-cut. At the moment Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) and Maryland Cottonaster (Chrysopsis mariana) are the most common wildflowers blooming along the roadside.

There was a lot of butterfly activity. Mostly Cloudless Sulphurs (Phoebis sennae), Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae), and numerous skippers. Then we noticed some butterflies that were a deeper orange and with a different wing profile from the Gulf Fritillary as well as the thicker black banding around the margins of the wings. Small groups or three or four were working the Goldenrod flowers but they were constantly on the move so that we couldn’t get photos. Then as we were driving out in the late afternoon, we found a couple sunning themselves with wings open to catch the warmth of the late afternoon sun. At the time first I thought it was a Viceroy (Limenitis archippus) but when I checked, I found it was a Monarch. This was a nice find since the Monarch isn’t resident in Georgia. It only passes through on migrations to or from Mexico and reported sightings are fewer in southeastern states than in other states.

Click on the image to view a larger image

Identification resource:
Butterflies and Moths of North America:
- Monarch (Danaus plexippus)
- Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)

Friday, October 15, 2010

European Hornet (Vespa crabro)

These are large hornets introduced from Europe. They’re about an inch long. It’s late in the season so they’re moving slowly. None has shown any sign of being aggressive. I’d seen several along the Rock Garden Trail (segment 12) during the last month but hadn’t been able to get a good photograph. So when I found one on the sap tree in the shade, I couldn’t resist coaxing it onto a twig and taking it into the sun to get some macro shots with better lighting.

Sitting on the sap tree.

A view from above.

A view from the side.

Again, from the side.

Head on.

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Identification resources:

- BugGuide: European Hornet (Vespa crabro)

- Hornets: Gentle Giants

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Turning Green While You Wait

I heard a scrambling at the base of a tree beside the trail south from the Fishing area (segment 13) and turned around expecting to see an Eastern Fence lizard (Sceloporus undulates) or a Five Lined Skink (Eumeces sp). Not a Green Anole. But there it was. This was the first time I’d ever seen a Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis) at Fort Yargo State Park.

In the early morning, the temperature was still cool and the anole was quite brown. It had crawled up into the sunlight on the tree trunk to catch some rays.

Within a minute, it started to turn green. I waited for several minutes in the hope that it would turn completely green but it was still to cool and it stayed the same color. So I had to move on.

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Identification resources:

- Savannah River Ecology Laboratory: Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Sap Tree

I don’t even know what kind of tree it was. But as I made my way from the parking lot down to the lake shore (segment 12) I noticed that a number of insects and butterflies gathered at the base of the tree. Only this tree among all the others along the bank.

There was a large black area at the base of the tree.

A closer view.

At first I thought a mushroom had ‘decomposed’ to leave a black patch which has been common in the woods this Fall. However, the tree appeared to be oozing sap and quite a diverse variety of creatures were puddling. A Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) and an Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma) stopped by for a few seconds but didn’t settle.

A Gemmed Satyr (Cyllopsis gemma)

Sharing the same space with an ant

At first I thought it was a cicada skeleton but a close look revealed it was a beetle. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if it was alive or not. It looks like it’s cemented in. And it was sharing space with an Eastern Yellowjacket.

The Eastern Yellowjacket (Vespula maculifrons) was dwarfed by a European Hornet (Vespa crabro).

And a closer view of the European Hornet. I’d seen a few of these along the trail over the last few weeks but they were twitchy and flew away as I approached. This one was posing.

I usually go down to the lakeshore by a different route. I’m not sure why I went this way on this day but this was a serendipitous find.

I checked the tree a week later
1. It's an oak.
2. The sap had stopped oozing.
3. The beetle had disappeared so I guess it was alive and not permanently 'glued' into the crevice.
Click on an image to view a larger image

Identification resources:

- Butterflies and Moths of North America: Gemmed Satyr (Cyllopsis gemma)

- BugGuide: Eastern Yellowjacket (Vespula maculifrons)

- BugGuide: European Hornet (Vespa crabro)