Friday, November 27, 2009

Fossils, Shells, Sea Glass, Sea Whip

Today was our last day at the beach. To celebrate our wonderful week I took my journal to the beach this afternoon and settled down to draw whatever I found around where I sat, or on the beach in front of me.

Sitting there I thought about how lucky I am to have access to this beach crowded with wildlife, not by people. Every morning I've seen deer tracks running right along the beach, and today I noticed that both deer and raccoon have a major highway located between the low dunes and the tidal creek that snakes around behind them. Also back there: Great Blue Heron tracks, Little Blue and other smaller bird tracks, and big rafts of brown sea oat stems washed in by high waves. In the cold wind I smelled the beach, the pluff mud of the creek, and wood smoke from somebody's fireplace. The surf was calm, and occasionally there would be a slight pause in wave action that offered up a remarkable silence not usually found on a beach. Dolphin rolled far out in the smooth water and pelicans cruised in single file right over me and the lone pelican that floated on the water. Sanderlings skittered around on the damp sand, dashing in and out of the smallest waves.

Tomorrow we head back to Middlewood. We'll pick up Daisy and Radu on the way, and as soon as we unpack I'll head right out into the woods. As wonderful as the beach is, it is always good to get back home.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bayberry, Glasswort, Sea Rocket, Sea Oats, etc.

Vacationing on Edisto in November is heavenly. There are very few people about, the beach at Jeremy Cay is empty, and so far, we're the only jon boat and/or kayaks in Frampton Creek. The roads have little traffic. Foggy mornings have given way to overcast days in the 60's with a cool breeze. We hope for sun by Thanksgiving, but really, the cloudy days are lovely, too. So who cares! The peace and beauty of this place is everything.

Using Google Earth I figured out that today I walked over seven miles on the beach. I found some good fossils and saw many birds, including Cormorants, Great Blues, Little Blues, Kingfishers, Egrets, Sanderlings, Willets, Great Black Backed Gulls, Laughing Gulls, Brown Pelicans, Sand Pipers, as well as Ruddy Turnstones, Piping Plovers, Hooded Mergansers... We also saw a dead Cormorant on Botany Bay Island. In the low lying ground behind the small dunes and Sea Oats (due to recent years' erosion) were large patches of Glasswort, vining Beach Pennywort, Sandwort, Sea Rocket, and Seaside Croton. Old turtle shells from this year's hatchlings littered the crusty sand. Along the water's edge I found Sea Urchins, starfish, sand dollars, Sea Whip, and a dead Red Drum that apparently had been on a line that got caught in seaweed. The whole mess had washed up in the recent rough surf.

What a wonderful day!

Sunday, November 15, 2009


It's a beautiful day today! Temps in the 70's, blue sky, bright colorful leaves still dangling on some maples, dogwoods, and hickories. My hike with the dogs took us all the way to the far end of the pipeline, to where a fence cuts diagonally across the field to mark a boundary. The gate there is still open from when they did some work on a pipe next to Lawson's Fork in late summer. Once we came around the corner from the lower pipeline, the dogs dashed off into the woods and toward the house that is way back in the woods. I waited and waited for them, wandering slowly along the pipeline while listening intently for the rattling leaves of their running. Nothing. In the end they didn't return to me, but returned to the house. A quick call on the cell phone gave me the answer I needed: yes, they'd made it home and were sleeping on the porch. I did the rest of the hike by myself, and was finally able to poke around in Meetinghouse Creek in peace, and pick up rocks without Daisy leaping around, jumping on me, and sniffing at each rock I pick up.

It was very peaceful!

2010 Jamboread Poster

Since last week was busy and gave me very little time to journal, I thought I'd post this painting to show you some of what I've been working on. Mr. Frog is next year's "poster child" for our library system's fabulous children's reading festival, Jamboread! If you have children in your life and live nearby, plan to come! It's always the first weekend in March.

I hope a journal post will come along this afternoon.... stay tuned!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Maple-leaf Viburnum

This is yesterday's post, but it could just as well be today's. With clear blue skies, leaves falling in the cool breeze, and fall crickets trilling here and there - both were perfect afternoons for a hike with the dogs and a little journaling.

The patch of small Maple-leaf Viburnums have been in our back woods from the time we built our house, twenty years ago. They don't seem any taller, wider, or thicker than when I first saw them but this might be because they grow in deep shade on the side of a dry hill. There is another large patch of these viburnums (possibly?) in the front woods that are twice (maybe even thrice) as large. They grow in a damper spot that gets a little more sun, but they have no fruit and have barely begun to change color... as I write this I wonder if perhaps they are another kind of Viburnum...hmm.

Anyway, when I first noticed this small cluster of trees it was about this time of year, and you couldn't miss the mass of pink leaves in deep shade. They glowed! and for a few years I thought they were just small maple trees. Then, somewhere along the way I read about viburnums and things began clicking - my eyes took in more. The flowers in the spring, for instance - Maple-leaf Viburnums have clusters of small white ones. After reading that I walked into the woods to look, and there they were. How could I ever have missed the flowers? And the tidy pairs of leaves.

Now I admire my Maple-leaf Viburnums every time I walk past them. Not only that, I've also learned to identify other viburnums, such as Arrow-wood, and Rusty Blackhaw. Who knows what will be next!

If you have any interest in shrubs, you might look for the fascinating book written by Donald Stokes in 1981, called The Natural History of Wild Shrubs and Vines (Eastern and Central NA), Illustrations by Deborah Prince Smith. My copy came from the Friends of the Library book sale, so I don't know if it's still available new, but used books are easy to come by these days.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Cranefly Orchid, Spotted Wintergreen, and more

Today was cloudy and damp, misty at times, windy, and chilly! When we headed out I was so surprised! I went back inside and checked the radar to see if the fine rain was going to turn into something worse. My peek at the radar/sat page made it look like it should be sunny here, and as I walked, I could indeed see blue skies and sun way out on the western horizon. The sun never made it to Middlewood, though, and the misty fog is still here as I type (4:30ish).

The dogs and I wandered down the pipeline. About halfway to Meetinghouse Creek we took a sharp right and climbed a bit of steep north-facing hill. I placed my sit-upon under a canopy of thinning bright red and deep yellow leaves that shivered in the wind. There were green plants all around me and I realized they were all small evergreens: slender Carolina Jessamine, Woodland Sedge, Spotted Wintergreen, American Holly, Moss, and the lovely purple-backed leaf of the Cranefly Orchid. My pen scritch-scratched as I drew, crows cawed loudly as they flapped overhead, the dogs panted as a result of an earlier deer-harassment run. The leaves clicked as they landed in the woods.

My fleece jacket and the scarf around my neck helped me stay warm on the hill for an hour or so. As soon as the chill set in, I packed up and headed back. Radu and Daisy ran ahead and led me through the colorful woods to home.