Sunday, March 29, 2009

Better Blue Jay pics

I got these much better pics of some blue jays this morning, which make my original pics pale by comparison. It is really a work in progress as we now have more than 30 species of birds photographed, but we are always trying to improve our shots.

Better Great Blue Heron Pics

Debbie got some much better pics of a Great Blue Heron than I posted a few days ago. I just could not pass up the opportunity to show you these marvelous pics.

Evil afoot

While out walking the woods we came upon a few Devil's Walking Sticks (Aralia spinosa). Are there any questions as to why this plant goes by such a satanic name?

Good vs. Evil

In the very same woods where we found the Devil's walking sticks, we found many Jack-in-the-pulpits. Good versus evil. . . even among plants. Here is why the plant is called by this name.

Historical Canopy Pulpit or some were built up in lofts towering over the congregation.

Here is the pulpit with its canopy.
With the canopy lifted we can see Bro. Jack preaching from the pulpit.
This is a really interesting plant and one of my favorites. It looks like the carnivorous pitcher plant I would see up in the bogs of New Hampshire and we might be tempted to think that like a pitcher plant it tries to capture and devour insects. But instead the purple stripes are used to attract insects to pollinate the flower inside.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Playing with one of our bird pictures taken on Millwood. Be sure to click on the image for full effect.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

That time of year.

Red Buckeye blooming
Cypress on Millwood
I love the spring and all the flowering that is going on. It is a feast for my eyes, but a nightmare for my sinuses. Like alot of people, I have allergies that go into overdrive this time of year. As you look at the pic of our car, consider the fact that Alex just washed it the day before. The pollen in the air this time of year is stiffling. But I still love it. AAAAAchewwwww!

Field Trip

We got "honked" at when we were driving in the state park. Impatient birds!
This is the dam accross the Red River that makes lake Millwood

On Wednesday we had to take Candy to the vet (yeast infection of the ear) and noticed that the sky was clearing a bit. So we decided to head down to Lake Millwood (just outside of Hope, AR) to do some birdwatching. I have been on springbreak and the weather has been terrible, so any break in the cloud cover was a welcome sight. Fortunately, the weather cooperated and it did not begin to rain until we got home later that evening. We got to see many different birds and more (see following blog enteries).

Family sport

Junco spotted by Candy.
Candy sees the Junco
Candy looking for birds.
Debbie helping look for birds.

Birdwatching has always been a hobby of mine (lately an obsession), but I think it has become infectious. Debbie and even Candy are now getting into looking for birds. Here they are on an Audubon observation deck overlooking Millwood Lake. They help me spot and photograph all my birds as well as keep me company on the birdwatching trips.


Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)
We have two species of vultures here in Arkansas. I am trying to get good pics of both, but here is what I have so far. Note that both species do not have feathers on their head which is a good idea given that they are always sticking them down into nasty carcasses. You can always tell a turkey vulture by its red head vs. the black head of a black vulture.


Well, the great blue heron (Ardea herodias) pictures (as you can see) did not come out so great; I should have tried to get a little closer, but they are so skidish. Here are a few shots I got of some on the Red River below the Millwood Lake dam. By the way, my Grandma was a Heron so I guess I am 1/4 heron. The name "heron" comes from the Greek word, heros meaning "hero" but I am no hero.


Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)
Great Egret (Egretta alba)
We were fortunate to actually see three different species of egrets (family Ardeidae); however, the cattle egret pictures did not come out. I will have to catch them later; they will not be hard to find. Cattle egrets are everywhere now, in fact they have gone through the most rapid and widespread range extention of any bird in modern times. They started out in Spain and N. Africa, but have spread to nearly every part of the world. They did not cross the Atlantic until 1950 starting out in S. America but have made their way into N. America today. But I like the snowy egret with his curly tail feathers, short stature, and especially the black legs and big yellow feet.


While walking down a lakeside trail trying to get more pictures of waterfowl, I got a strong whiff of a foul odor; it smelled like a pig pen. I even commented to debbie, "do you smell that?" It really stunk so I knew something was different about this spot. Well, to our amazement I looked over into the water and here is what we saw. You can imagine our surprise and then our delayed reaction of fear having been walking along the bank where this guy may have been laying moments before. I guess he was around 4' but still, when you are not expecting to see an alligator, it can come as quite a shock.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Time sliding away

It doesn't seem like it was that many years ago when my neice was young enough to be playing on the slide herself. I turn around and now it is time for her daughter to be playing on one. She is a real beauty just like her mother.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Brody's Tree Blooms

This was Brody's tree (crab apple) in February; leafed-out but no flowers. Disappointing. Although, Brody seemed to like playing with the branches anyway. I miss him very much especially when I look out now and see how beautiful the tree looks with all of its flowers.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Nature Walk Discoveries

Three-lobed violets
Just a few of the things we saw today on our nature walk (see the following enteries for other neat finds).


See the gills (lamallae) on the bottom side of this mushroom. Each mushroom can produce millions spores. The spores can be down in depressions on the top of the mushroom caps. When it rains, a drop of water hits the depression loaded with spore and sends them out in every direction around the mushroom creating a ring of new mushrooms. In the middle ages, they use to call this phenomenon a "fairy ring."
Cup fungi also waiting for a drop of rain to splash out spores into the outside world.
Fungi are interesting organisms. I can't help but stop to admire them whenever I see them, whether in the backyard (two top pics) or in the woods (bottom two pics). Debbie and I spotted these cup fungi in the words today on our nature walk; while the gill fungi actually came up after a rain last summer.