Thursday, December 24, 2009

Blooming on Christmas Eve!

Meg and I are sending
Seasons Greetings to everyone!
We hope everyone has a wonderful Holiday Season extending well into the New Year.
This Camellia sasanqua 'Kanjiro" is blooming in the back yard the 2 foot tall bush has two flowers on it. The bad news is that the deer have munched about half of my Camellia Japonica 'Debutante' and nibbled on two other camellias. I walked outside last night and heard them moving around in the back yard last night.

Above is an Helleborus foetidus that was given to me this fall! On the job where I'm building a new porch she has maybe 10 of these much closer to blooming than mine. I have been offered bavies and will get some.

Johnny Jump up from the edge of the back porch. This is planted under the eaves and has missed our recent snow. The snow is still melting here, but rain is expected tomorrow. In fact thunder storms are expected???

This maple tree can be seen from the kitchen window, the dark spot is sap. A tree that saps like this one damaged two years ago by a backhoe will attract insects. I did find some ants on the sap today, but at was only around 40 degrees outside. If we get warmer weather and the sap continues to flow we will see butterflies on it. This area has seen 2 butterflies about a month ago that might have been sapping, a Question Mark and Mourning Cloak. I'll let you know what develops.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Birds on the melt down

Today the snow and ice melted all day. Mid morning I was outside and the sound of water falling on the icy snow reminded me of being under a loud powerline that kind of sizzles.

I got out the big guns today! My monster Gitzo tripod with a Silk ball head and added a 1.4x converter to my 400mm lens. So the lens became an 560mm lens with the digital camera multiplying it became a 800mm lens.

Tried several places to shoot but the water falling from the trees placed me under the porch again. The light was better today than yesterday, I did get sun and clouds, it was much brighter.

These squirrel photos were taken through dirty glass. Stupid me cleaned the spider poop and such off the window after taking these photos using the 400mm lens and monopod. Just so you know Carol!

Northern Cardinal  male

The female Northern Cardinal

One of my favorites the Song Sparrow, these are full time residents here unlike the other 'winter' sparrows.

Carolina Chickadee and Dark-eyed Junco. Chickadees are very fast and hard to get the lens on them in time.

White-throated Sparrow their song is so sweet. I usually hear them before I see them in the fall when they arrive.

Tufted Titmouse

Red-bellied Woodpecker. These guys steal the show here! Our property is in the woods so we seldom get Blue Jays or Northern Mockingbirds.

Guess these pansies made it OK in the snow. Yesterday these were under the snow!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Paradise in ice.

Last night we got 2 1/2 inches of snow then it sleeted on top of that. This morning the snow became a half slush and half ice. Right now is is snowing very tiny flakes. I went out and took some photos.

I think this photo should be called Preacher! Just seems right to me. I waited a long time for that male Northern Cardinal to get brave enough to land on the feeder with me standing beside the porch 25 foot away. All of these bird photos were taken with my Canon 20D, 400mm f5.6 toy lens mounted on a mono pod.

Here the Cardinal landed on a bean pole close enough for a full frame photo!

Red-bellied Woodpecker bracing with its stiff tail feathers.

Tufted Titmouse

White-throated Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

Dark-eyed Junco

American Goldfinch

Our gravel road with 1 inch or so of slush on it. If it freezes solid we are stuck here. Notice it is all uphill about a 1/4 mile to get out.

Hellebore in the snow.

Camellia Sasanqua 'Tsumaorigasa' on ice!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My 15 minutes of fame!

Everyone should get their 15 minutes of fame! Guess 5 years ago I got lucky! Have you had your 15 minutes of fame yet? If not then you have something to look forward to don't you!

This was the rarest butterfly I have ever found! It is a Thick-tipped Greta (Greta morgane) I found it in  Bentsen State Park Wild Birding Center Headquarters gardens in Mission TX on December 08, 2004 just over five years ago!

You ask how rare is it? Well no butterfly in this family had been seen in the United States in over 100 years, this was a first US record. The range for this butterfly is usually 300 miles south of the US border in Mexico. It remained at the park for two and a half days before leaving.

One of these photos was in the local newspaper on the front page above the fold. Since is was such a great find the paper ran it again to cap the year of on the front page this time below the fold.

Also Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine ran this article:

Butterfly Fever

With butterfly-friendly flora popping up all over South Texas, rare beauties are becoming easier to find.
By Karen Hastings
When North Carolina photographer Randy Emmitt traveled to the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas last December to expand his rare butterfly portfolio, he never expected just how successful the trip would be.
Emmitt knew subtropical South Texas was the place to find uncommon butterfly species, but what he found was even better: a dainty beauty with transparent wings - a thick-tipped greta (Greta morgane) - that had never before been seen in the United States. "The day I found it, I was hanging out with the local butterfly folks. Everybody had just left, and I was heading to the car and taking a last look at the flowers."
The mystery clearwing was dancing along the golden eye daisies outside the World Birding Center headquarters at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park. Emmitt quickly grabbed his cell phone and, within minutes, a crowd of 10 local butterfliers had returned to share his find.
"Somebody said it was 100 years since any (clearwing) had been found in the United States," says Emmitt. "I didn't expect something so big and so beautiful to show up, and yet be so unique. It just happened to be my luck."
Luck indeed. Emmitt had wandered into a butterfly phenomenon that unfolded across the Lower Rio Grande Valley last fall: Six different U.S. record species were reported in 52 days in one county at the southern tip of Texas.

The full article can be found here.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Frozen day and scones

This morning I woke up and saw that the pond was frozen over! The first time this winter, it usually never stays frozen for very long. In the 12 years I have lived here only once was it frozen enough to walk on and that was at least 10 years ago.

It looks like the cats will have to get water inside as I found no open water outside today.

We were all out of baked goodies, the biscotti supply has dried up... Last night before going to bed I found a recipe for cranberry scones at Cameron's blog
Given we had all the ingredients and needed to use up the butter milk I made a batch of them. I used organic whole wheat flour instead of unbleached all-purpose flour which was called for in the recipe.

It has been 6-7 years since I attempted making scones and they ended up just ok back then. These came out great and almost as good as the scones Foster's Market sells for $2 each. Thanks Cameron!

Friday, December 11, 2009

An Excellent Christmas Gift!

It is the time for giving with Christmas coming soon! Do you have people that you never know what to get them? Well try giving a gift donation of Kiva. Kiva connects people through lending to alleviate poverty.

Meg and I were given a $25 Kiva gift two Christmases ago in 2007. We soon gave a few more $25 loans to third world entrepreneurs to help them put together businesses to lift them out of poverty. I later sent out invitations to other like minded friends, I looked today and one of my invitations has given out 19 micro loans of which 8 have been pay back in full. Once you are paid back in full you can loan your money to another entrepreneurs.

Here is how it works. They post people or groups of people with donation goals and with $25 micro loans from many people at a time they get the funds they need then pay it back usually with in a year.

Here are some facts about Kiva.

Kiva is 50 months old
They have raised $105,968,360
98% repayment rate
260,967 entrepreneurs have been funded.
605,437 Kiva users
173 countries represented.

So if you would like to give a gift of Kiva here is the link

Here are links to some of the people we have given micro  loans to
Kiganda D Group
Kawala 1c Group
Felicia Okunbor

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

100th Post Spider Azalea

Yes it is hard to believe my 100th posting on this blog.

I forgot to show you a plant I'd never seen before that we found in several masses at Sarah P Duke Gardens a few weeks ago. It is called Spider Azalea, Rhododendron macrosepalum 'Linearifolium.'

This azalea was in the garden along with the camellia plantings. The blooms are not showy like most of the other azaleas. The form of the entire plant makes this a cool plant if you ask me. Below is a poor photo of what the mature bush looks like.

Spider Azalea was introduced from Japan to the west back in 1980. I was kind of shocked when we found the tag displaying the plant name as an azalea, it never crossed my mind this could be an azalea.

I'll leave you with this photo of Dot the Wonder Dog and Grumpy the one-eyed cat. Dot is Meg's daughter's dog and Grumpy is my very affectionate cat. They met just a few years ago. Grumpy would sit where he could keep his one eye on both the dogs at all times. These days Grumpy rules the animal kingdom here.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Butterflies during winter!

So most people think butterflies are not seen during the winter. Well if you live in the northern part of the US you might not see any butterflies until spring. Here in the Southeastern US we have warm spells and the butterflies do come out.

The some of the Bush-footed Butterflies from the family Nymphalidae are a good bet to see during the winter. Below are some of the possibilities:

American Snout, Libytheana carinenta

The above American Snout is on a wild mustard which can be found blooming late into the fall or early winter season. Snouts migrate by the 10s of thousands in Texas in the fall.

Question Mark, Polygonia interrogationis

Question Marks can be confused with the closely related Eastern Comma, the above photo shows some field marks to look for. They like sap and rotten fruit.

Eastern Comma, Polygonia comma

Eastern Commas act pretty much like the Question Mark but are slightly smaller and tend to have the shorter tails on the wings. If your not sure which is which you can always call it an anglewing species.

Mourning Cloak,Nymphalis antiopa

Mourning Cloaks prefer colder weather. They can live 10 months, in fact they out live the last generation of Monarchs by a full 4 months! Sun lit woodland trails and dirt roads are good places to see these during warm spells in winter. Warm spells here are days that reach into the 60s at least.

American Lady, Vanessa virginiensis

American Ladies are more of an eastern US butterfly the Painted Lady is found all over the US. The eye-spots pointed out above show how to tell them apart. I saw one of these on Friday when it was 52 degrees outside. They might survive a mild winter and be seen on a warm winter day if you are lucky.

Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta

Red Admirals are very speedy fliers, if you watch carefully you can see the orange bands as it goes by.Many a year this butterfly has been the first of the year butterfly for me. I do recall it was the first butterfly I saw in the 21th century!

One last thing butterflies seen in the winter do not nectar on flowers because there usually are none. They can be see on dandelions so don't weed all of them out!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

New Blog Layout

We just made some big changes to the blog  design how does it look?

My Blog list might have dropped a few blogs. If you don't see your blog please let me know and I'll add it.

If you notice the new navigation bar below the header image you'll see my Butterflies of the Carolinas and Virginias Website. These images of a Gray Hairstreak came from the site.

Once you get to the butterflies site you will find these images like the one above. On the site if you were to mouse over the image above it would be replaced with the image below that shows pointers to help you to learn your butterflies more easily. Please give it a look and you can purchase the site on CD to give as a gift or for your own personal use offline.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Finally First Frost/Duke Gardens

Finally on December 01 we get a frost. Did not even expect it, both of us watched the weather last night. Meg had to scrape her windshield too.

I'm sitting here waiting for Chapel Hill inspections to tell me they have not lost my building permit application I submitted 3 weeks ago(normally 2 weeks is long to get a permit). Just heard from inspections I did not file for a zoning compliance permit hence the reason my building permit has not been processed.

I've got a 14 x 30 deck to tear down and replace and a 14 x 20 screen porch to build on it in the most lovely gardens. The good news is I'll be able to see all of her hellebores as they bloom and she'll be giving me some babies. The bad news is it is now winter and the days are short and if I'm lucky I can work a week out of every two weeks outside.

Our last zucchini plant covered in frost glowing in the morning light. I pulled the last two tiny zucchini this past Saturday. Done for I'm sure. We are expected to get 28 degrees on the weekend.

Leaves frozen to my windshield.

Glazed and all swirly the roof to my little car.

OK so now let me take you back to Sara P Duke Gardens. Here is the latest garden, not open yet so I'm not sure what it is. I posted this for Dave as I'm sure he would like the architectural details in the construction of this. It appears as if they have built this using 1 inch square pegs instead of nails.

This fence surrounds the entire garden and because of the slope the fence allows one a wonderful view of the gardens largest pond. I liked the way the fence steps down the hillside.

If you look closely at the photo above you will see that all the lumber is custom cut cedar(cedar sells for a lot here in the eastern US). This fence is likely 400 to 500 foot long in all. Actually in all of the gardens 55 acres and 5 miles of paths it is the only fence inside the gardens.

Peeking over the fence here is the main feature. They did a great job of blending this into the garden, I'm sure at great expense.

Above and below is the water lily exhibit, bad timing for the photos. I just wanted to show them to you. They have weddings here a lot. The day we visited they were having a small memorial service and burying ashes in the terrace gardens and a wedding inside the main building.

Here are just two of the bridges in the gardens. The bridge above was tucked away in a part of the gardens I'd never explored. The bridge below had a circular sitting area which I though was pretty cool. One of these days I'll do a post on just the bridges of Duke Gardens.

Here are two of the Encore Azaleas I found blooming in the garden last week.
Above is Autumn Twist and below might be Autumn Sangria. Both were huge masses about 4-5 foot tall. I still have a hard time with seeing azaleas blooming in the fall it just does not seem right.

A word about the Belize trip I was supposed to be going on tomorrow, postponed until the third week in January. I'm going with a photography buddy, meg is staying home with the dogs and cats.