Wildflowerin’ gone bad

He who limps is still walking. ~Stanislaw J. Lec

I love wandering in the woods to find the first sleeping plants that awaken from the forest floor. It’s something of a rite of spring for me, despite the fact that I no longer have to suffer through a cold northern winter. Many of these spring ephemerals, as well as being beautiful, are important food sources for the first foraging butterflies and bees that emerge. Many are even downward-facing to better serve the insects that cruise the forest floor.

A couple weeks back we took an impromptu Friday evening walk to the nature trail at Stone Mountain Park; a friend had mentioned that it’s one of the best local places to see a few of my favorites. It’s an easy 3/4 mile trail that meanders beside a stream. It was lovely; the azaleas were blooming and as a bonus we saw our first Louisiana waterthrush of the season! Timage2here were many blooming mayapples – so hard to photograph nicely – and some pink lady slippers that I want to go back to check on. I found foamflower, I think, though it’s much taller than what I’m used to seeing in NJ. The common name comes from the delicate white flowers that look like foam. I love the extra long pistils on the flowers that rise above the white petals like little golden crowns. Books say that these flowers were often presented by Greeks as tokens of their love.

We also found green-and-gold which is another favorite. It blooms in shady woodland places. So pretty! I believe it’s in the aster family, so you know pollinators love it. We finished off our easy evening hike by deciding to head off the nature trail and into the forest proper. We didn’t gimage1et very far before we had to cross a wet area where the stream ran across a bunch of flat rocks. Despite being extra-super careful when crossing those slippery, moss-covered rocks, I managed to fall and twist up my leg. Bummer! Two weeks later and I finally worked up the courage to see a doctor today… the pain wasn’t going away and walking/sleeping/sitting haven’t gotten any easier. I have to go back for an MRI, but the chance is that I’ve torn a meniscus.

:-(

I’m studying up IMG_6814on knee anatomy (in between wildflower guides!) and hoping that rest and time and the brace the doctor gave me will fix it up. I welcome any suggestions for how to include/disguise this hideous-looking brace in my professional attire. I hope next time I’ll be more careful; wildflowers are a risky habit to have!

Ghosts of an ugly past

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The Gold Dust Twins have been hidden from view for more than 90 years on Auburn Avenue in d’town Atlanta, but a 2008 tornado and the recent demolition of an adjacent building have uncovered this hand-painted ghost sign from the early 1900’s when Sweet Auburn was a thriving African American business district.

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The Gold Dust twins were one of the earliest brand-driven trademarks in American advertising during the late 19th century that drew heavily on negative African American racial stereotypes. The twins were often comically depicted, along with a huge stack of dishes in a washtub, and the images appeared on product packaging, in print advertising, and full-color murals painted on buildings throughout the South.

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Despite what many consider to be one of the most racist ad campaigns in history, there is talk of what place, if any, this iconic piece of history has in the revitalization of the Sweet Auburn district.

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On its route up and down Auburn Avenue, the shiny new d’town streetcar passes the Gold Dust Twins and then this mural of Congressman John Lewis; I hope the incongruity of images sparks conversation among its riders.

How to: have hope

Least Tern scrape
American Oystercatcher caginess
Waiting to be found

Just as the sun steps over the horizon, head east. Drive with the sun in your eyes until you hit water. Do not think about yesterday’s losses. Do not linger too long over what might’ve been. Do not wonder what you should have done differently.

Climb over the seawall and greet the Oystercatchers on their way to the river. Tip-toe through the wrack and nod towards the grumpy fishermen. Get down on your hands and knees to see what gifts the tide has left you. Do not mind the tears; the sand and the wind in your eyes are a good excuse.

See the Least Terns overhead: the brazen, bustling air-defense system of this beach. Let your eyes map their petite features: the quick wings, the black cap, the downward-pointing yellow bill. Count them by the dozens. Admire the simplicity of their nest: in a pebbly depression of dry sand, eggs 1 to 4, from pale greenish to dull drab, spotted with clear brown and some lavender.

Reading the morning papers

Every day I make “rounds” to the 7 or so sites that I’m responsible for; ideally I get to the beach first thing in the morning while the news is still current. Oftentimes, like any busy person, I just scan the newspaper’s sections for stories I want to read further…

TRAVEL SECTION

This story was about a person and a dog breaking the rules. Dogs, even leashed and well-behaved ones, aren’t allowed on most ocean beaches during nesting season. I read this story just about every day on every beach I visit.

CRIME BLOTTER

The same old suspects here… crows, of course (I think!)

I’ve been watching a pair of Fish Crows at one site collecting nesting material for the past couple days… I was happy to connect the tracks I was seeing in the Rugosa Roses in the protected habitat to the Fish Crows flying past with sticks. The nearby nesting American Oystercatchers are not happy with this news, tho and chase them out of the neighborhood at every opportunity!

CLASSIFIEDS – SINGLES ADS

Headline news in Spring is all about who’s available and where, right? I’m hoping to see this scrape filled up with Piping Plover eggs before very long.

Click to enlarge and see plover tracks!

SOCIAL SCENE – WEDDINGS AND CELEBRATIONS

Weddings (and their associated baby announcements!) are the highlight of the daily social calendar published locally. All we beach-nesting bird people can talk about is who’s expecting and when.

: )

This killdeer couple will be happy parents in 22 – 28 days.

OBITUARIES

Death notices are published daily and should attempt to give significance and honor to the life lived. Many things that wash up dead each day are surrounded by mystery: a dead loon on the beach isn’t necessarily strange, but how it ended up more than 300 ft. from the ocean wasn’t mentioned in this headline.

FASHION AND STYLE

Celebrity Piping Plover “Dexter” is sporting the latest in endangered beach-nesting bird bling… color-coordinated bands!

:-)

(I think I made my boss’ day with this story plucked from the headline news!)

Stayed tuned…

*ALL PHOTOS IN THIS POST WERE TAKEN DURING THE OFFICIAL CONDUCT OF MY JOB TO MONITOR AND PROTECT BEACH-NESTING BIRDS, or, like a local fisherman has taken to calling it “as the official birdwatcher here”.

It’s a tough job, but…

My “office” for the day!
: )

It’s been a busy first couple of days here in NJ, but I’m loving it! I started off on Tuesday with a boss-led tour of the sites I’ll be responsible for and had some fun looking for American Oystercatcher nests.

My shoes, scalp and ears were full of sand at the end of the day!

I was rained out on Wednesday, but Thursday found me helping out (carrying and holding stuff) on a beach-nesting bird habitat survey and fixing fencing damaged in Wednesday’s stormy weather.

Today I was on my own for a couple of site visits and had the chance to spend a few hours at Sandy Hook counting Piping Plovers for a migration survey. It was a beautiful afternoon and I learned my first important lesson for field work – always have an extra pencil!

I was carrying so much stuff on the death march out the Fisherman’s Trail to the survey site and don’t yet have my scope sherpas (student interns) to help me. I lost track of my pencil three-quarters of the way through the census and had to use moon shells in various pockets to keep a tally of the birds I was seeing!

:-)

The camera’s virtue

“The virtue of the camera is not the power it has to transform the photographer into an artist, but the impulse it gives him to keep on looking.”
-Brooks Atkinson
Elf’s Orpine, a granite outcrop specialist
Rock moss and lichen
Fern unfurling into Spring
Rock moss and lichen, in a battle for dominance
Trailing Arbutus, a new find this year

Was has your camera helped you find lately?

: )

More signs of Spring!

Out with the cold, in with the woo. 
~E. Marshall, “Spring Thought”

A hike this afternoon at Arabia Mountain (my favorite local place!) led to a couple good finds. A very brave Jay scooped up this gelatinous mass of salamander eggs(?) from a vernal pool for me to poke and squirm at. There were lots of these (that I’m guessing might be Spotted Salamanders) and a couple of others that maybe are Blue Spotted Salamander eggs.

Very cool, kinda gross and entirely too squishy for my taste.

: )

The opposite end of the same vernal pool held lots of teeny-weeny frog tadpoles… could these be chorus frogs in my reflection?
I’m hoping Spring is making progress towards wherever you are…