Saturday, May 30, 2009

What Do You Want in a Blog?

When you are reading blogs, what are you looking for? I have never before "recommended" a blog, but there is one that I want you to check out. It has a little something for everyone.

Do you love dogs? This is S, a wonderful dog. More about him later.

How about a Lab Trifecta, S, R, and K?

K loves to romp and follow the trail biking.

Is it wildflowers and birds you seek? How are these examples?

Oh, you are more interested in wildlife in its natural environment? How about these?

Perhaps you are drawn to scenic mountains, the Rockies to be exact. You will find them here as well.

And if you have the adventuring spirit in your blood, this blog will take you climbing on trails you never imagined. KB has a bike for every kind of weather.

So whatever you want in a blog, like's in there.
All of these photographs were taken without permission from KB, whose blog is Romping and Rolling in the Rockies. I wanted you to have a glimpse of the blog and to encourage you to drop by. [KB, I do hope you don't mind.]
----------There is a commanding reason beyond the fact that it is a great blog. You see, S, the yellow lab in the first picture has terminal cancer. His time with KB, her husband and the other two labs is limited. I think it would be helpful for her to have comforting words from the blog world as she and her husband face this difficult journey with its impossibly difficult decisions. I have tears in my eyes as I write this. As you know, we have two Golden Retrievers and the thought of losing one is too hard to imagine. That is how KB feels right now, so I think she could use a little extra support.
If you are so inclined, visit KB's blog. I think you will be glad you did.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Fridays are Golden

Golden Retrievers with their heavy double coats do not tolerate heat very well. Surprising then, that they just love the sun. All day long they will "follow the sun" from window to window.

Lucy asks, "Mom, don't tell me you didn't bring my sunglasses!"

The girls especially love to lie in the sun on our deck. Not only can they soak up the rays, they can watch the birds and other animals as well.

These are views of Lucy on the deck, taken by hanging over the deck railing.

This is her very favorite spot to lie, her head resting on the lower rail and her feet hanging over the side.
The girls haven't seen a lot of sun this week. We have had rain on and off all week. We hosted a dinner party on Memorial Day for some of our neighbors. All three couples walked to our house. Just when it was time to leave, the heavens opened and it poured! We waited for the downpour to slack off, but it continued. So my husband drove our guests from our dry garage to their doorsteps.
----------Our county is one of only 14 counties still rated D0, meaning "abnormally dry." The remaining 86 counties have no drought designation at all. It is so refreshing to see the trees truly green and the forest so bright. And it uplifts the heart to see the water flowing so freely in the rivers and streams.
----------May, so full of promises, is almost over and June will bust out next week. The birds are so busy tending to their nests and we already have some fledglings. It is a wonderful time of year.
Have a wonderful weekend doing whatever pleases you. Stay safe and do something nice for those less fortunate.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Swallows in the Mist

We have had intermittent showers since Friday. With more than 6 inches of rain in 72 hours, we have some areas of flash flooding with the French Broad Basin swollen out of its banks. Our entire community is shrouded with dense fog or mist. Good for the flora, but not so good for photographs. I knew it was time for the Barn Swallows to nest, so I ventured out anyway, knowing the pictures wouldn't be all that great. Foggy pictures are better than no pictures.

Every year the swallows nest under a cabana built over one of our lakes. Every year the maintenance people place screens or other material to discourage the nest building. ( And every year the swallows build there anyway.

I have no idea why anyone would object to having these delightful birds around, especially given the number of insects they consume every year. But apparently some people don't like the idea of the birds flitting about so near their precious children in the swimming area. You figure.

I caught this guy bringing mud to work on his nest. He glared at me and I was happy he wasn't able to speak. I don't think he had very kind words. (Enlarge to see his expression.)

Inside, another bird is also bringing straw and mud. The nest looks almost complete. Note the screening this year. It's plasticized and superior to regular screen. Of course, not all the swallows are deterred.

The swallow packs the straw deeper into the nest.

Still a bit leery of my presence, the bird continues working with an occasional glance in my direction.

The swallow settles down inside the nest to pack the materials, or maybe to take a rest. These nests are hard work.

On the opposite side of the cabana, another swallow is carrying nesting materials as well.

He has chosen to build outside the cabana under the eaves.

I saw ten nests in various stages of construction. It was wonderful standing there in the mist with the swallows flitting around me as they did their work. After a while they became accustomed to my presence and some of them flew inches over my head on the way to their nests. It was a good time. Just me and the swallows.

Monday, May 25, 2009

So Proudly They Served

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.
Abraham Lincoln

WWII Memorial Washington, DC

Women's Memorial
Vietnam Memorial
Washington, DC

Korean War Memorial
Washington, DC

Three Soldiers
Vietnam Memorial
Washington, DC

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government : of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Abraham Lincoln
All photographs from US Government Websites.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Escarpment in Spring

Portions of the Southern Blue Ridge Escarpment are quite near our home. The dramatic drop from mountains to plateau creates dramatic scenery. Recent rains have shrouded the mountains in a foggy haze, but the sight is gorgeous just the same.

This is a view of Table Rock in South Carolina. Note that the shoreline of the reservoir indicates the normal water level. Last fall the water was several feet below the shore.

Giant rock formations scatter the mountain, overhanging into the gorge.
There are many shades of spring green as the various trees fully leaf.

This long-range view gives an idea of just how dramatic the elevation drop is. The land below is more than a thousand feet lower than the land on which I stood to take the photograph.
So much attention is paid to the mountains in autumn, and deservedly so. But I really love the greens that cover the mountains in spring.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Fridays are Golden

Many hiking trails ramble through our community. Some provide wonderful mountain views and others provide waterfalls and streams. Our favorite trail provides a wonderful walk in the woods. Because there is no "draw" ticket like a view or waterfall, the Okanowa Trail is not well traveled, making it perfect for letting the dogs run up and down the mountain. [The roads and trails in our community take their names from the Cherokee Nation. According to a key, okanowa means, "warm, or south."]

Here they sit...smiles all around, waiting for the "release" that will send them running.

Lucy grins for the camera.

Ellie is deciding which way she will run when she is free.

Ellie is a scent hound. She smells every little thing.

Lucy is a sight hound. She can see every bird or squirrel in the trees.

When Ellie gets too far ahead, she patiently waits for us to catch up.
Both dogs wait. Lucy is always a bit impatient.
Sometimes they run so hard they are forced to take a break. Once again, Lucy is a bit impatient.

The romp in the woods completed, the Golden Girls head back up the trail. It was a good day.
All of the photographs were taken by my husband.
The days are dwindling for trail runs. We have too many Copperheads to take to the trails in summer. We are fearful of having them bitten so far from the house. Fortunately we have trails and a creek on our property where the girls can run. Should one of them get a snakebite, we will be close to the Benadryl and rest, or medical attention if necessary.
  • Can you believe it is Memorial Day Weekend already? What happened to make the time pass so quickly? I hope it was because you were having some fun in your life!
Have a wonderful weekend. Remember those who have gone before you and those who will follow after you and cherish them all.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Fledgling is a Red Crossbill - One for the Record Books!

Sometimes when you look out, you just can't believe your good fortune. That's the way I was in early April when I saw a Red Crossbill at our feeders. First it was a mature male, then a first-year molting male, and finally a female. It was a rare sighting for our part of the country and we were delighted. Soon other Red Crossbills joined them and we expected to be treated to their presence for only a short while.

Most of the crossbills headed for parts unknown, but two males and two females stayed around. The local birders were excited with their presence since they were on the lookout for proof of a breeding pair of Red Crossbills in our area. We kept watching the crossbills to see how interested they were in one another. The male and female always came to the feeder at the same time. Good sign. When the female flew away the male always followed. Another good sign. We actually saw the male feeding the female. A REALLY good sign.

And on May 13, 2009 we saw proof positive that we indeed had a nesting pair of Red Crossbills. They brought two fledglings to our feeders.

Introducing Baby #1

And Baby #2

Baby #2 flew to the feeders since Mom had breakfast all ready.

Mom called down for Baby #1 to join the family meal.

Baby #1 refused to budge from the deck railing and looked at the rest of the family. The little bird simply didn't feel up to the short flight and landing on the feeder.

After a few minutes, Dad came to the rescue and flew down to feed little Baby #1.

The fledglings are very different from the parents. Their bills are sharply hooked, but not quite crossed. I would never have recognized them as Red Crossbills, but the behavior left no doubt.

I sent these photographs to our local birding expert who was even more excited than we were. She sent the photographs to a friend on the state records committee who sent them to the chair of the committee.

Red Crossbills are most commonly found in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, the upper Midwest, and Canada. They have been reported in the very highest elevations in the mountains of North Carolina and while it is assumed they are nesting, there are few definitive reports. The committee requested the elevation at our house.

I searched the Internet and the information from our community. I found the highest and lowest elevation in the community and began to estimate our altitude. I ran the answer by my husband who immediately asked, "Why not just take the GPS outside and check the altimeter?" Doh!!! (Don't you just HATE that dumb feeling? Especially in front of your husband?)

It's official. The maximum elevation on our property is 2,943 feet, lower than the lowest ever recorded for crossbill nesting in North Carolina. With an article in the local bi-weekly newspaper about our findings, we have our 15 minutes of fame in this little town. We keep watching the other pair. Wouldn't it be a hoot if they are nesting here as well?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Mysterious Fledgling, New Feeder, and Drought Status

As the title suggests, this post is a mixture of odds and ends. Actually, the first photograph is a taste of a post to come. I do not expect anyone to be able to identify this little brown bird. With no clear view of its head or tail feathers, it would be very difficult to guess what bird this is. Suffice it to say I will provide photographs of this fledgling and its sibling along with their parents on Wednesday.

This is a new hummingbird feeder I received on Mother's Day. Shaped rather like a Ferris Wheel, it looks lovely with the bright red cups. It's a work of art even if the hummingbirds don't use it. Obviously, the hummingbirds DO like it as well. This one perched the very afternoon I put it out.

The best news of all: As of last week, drought conditions no longer exist in any part of North Carolina. For the past two years and through much of this winter, our county was categorized as D4, exceptional drought, the worst possible category. Thanks to some welcome spring rains, we are listed as D0, abnormally dry. The yellow parts of the map indicate a D0 category and the white areas have no drought designation at all. After two consecutive years of drought, being "abnormally dry" feels pretty good. It is wonderful to see the rivers and streams once again flowing normally.
Map from the USDA Drought Monitor of North Carolina

This little map shows our county in red. We are in the south-western part of the state and our county borders Greenville County in South Carolina. The Eastern Continental Divide runs through our county and the French Broad River Basin forms here. We have mountains as high as 6,000 feet in elevation. In a "normal" year, we receive 70-80 inches of rain, the highest in the state and one of the highest in the eastern US. There are areas within our county designated as temperate rain forests.
With more than 250 named waterfalls, we are called the "Land of the Waterfalls." Or as locals used before the drought, "Land Where the Water Falls." With any luck, we can use that term again.
LATER ENTRY: I should probably have mentioned that while we are not in official drought category, we are several feet behind normal rainfall for the past two years. That means that the ground-water acquifers are still lower and the danger is not past. But we are delighted to have had this much rain so far. We still have a ways to go to make up for the severe nature of the drought.