Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Trailing Arbutus

On my hike today I heard raucous crows in the woods, fussing up a storm. This usually means a hawk or owl is in their territory, so I hurriedly slipped and slid down the still-snowy hill, hoping to see what was happening, or at least get there in time to see what it might be. As I approached, the sudden scream of a Red-shouldered Hawk echoed from the crow-crowded spot. Over and over he shrieked, while the crows screeched and cawed and flew out from a pine tree and back again. Their mobbing was such a noisy affair... the hawk must be in that tree. As I crept closer, and at the same time held Daisy to keep her from racing ahead, the crows saw me and flew away, squawking. After a moment of silence, the hawk flew out from the pine, still screaming. He landed on a bare oak branch very close to me and kept screeching, over and over and over. What is he so excited about? Is he fussing at me? I wondered. I also longed for my camera. The bird was close now, and was perched at a great angle for photography. Through binoculars I watched him cry out continually from the branch. About two minutes later, he flew screaming back into the pine and then... out of the pine flew a huge, dark and silent Great Horned Owl. The noisy hawk was on his tail as they flew off into the treetops.

Thirty minutes later I found these small, evergreen plants (above) on the steep north-facing hill above Lawson's Fork. I poked around under the leaf litter and saw that they were trailing plants, and then I saw the flower buds so I knew it would be an early bloomer, but I still didn't know what it was. That means research! One of my favorite things about wandering the woods is finding something new, and then digging into my field guides to identify it. Turns out they are Trailing Arbutus plants that bloom in early March with spicy, scented flower heads in pink or white. I've heard about them, but never seen one.

On the way back home I came face to face with a deer antler wedged in a small tree.... probably exactly where the young deer stopped last spring to rub his antler, and then lost it and left it. A fun find.

Later, I looked up the Red-shouldered Hawk and found this fascinating mention of what I'd seen in the woods:

"Although the American Crow often mobs the Red-shouldered Hawk, sometimes the relationship is not so one-sided. They may chase each other and try to steal food from each other. They may also both attack a Great Horned Owl and join forces to chase the owl out of the hawk's territory."
(Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

What a day!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

White Ash & Tulip Poplar Seeds

I headed out around noon today, with only a two hour window to walk Daisy and draw in my journal. The shade felt cold, but on the sunny side of the pipeline it felt warm. In fact, by the time I'd hiked to my favorite winter-afternoon spot, I was hot and had to take my coat off.

After twenty years of hiking out here, I've found the best place to sit this time of year is on the far side of Meetinghouse Creek, where a steep hill facing south rises from the creek. You can settle there between noon and about four o'clock and receive full winter sun rays, the north wind is blocked, and radiant heat rises from the earth around you. It is heavenly on a cold day like today. The only problem... today the warm sun also awakened a few ants, who proceeded to come pester me. They weren't fire ants, but it is still disconcerting to feel one walking on your skin.

I drew small things I found on the ground around me. Daisy slept nearby.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Jamboread Poster

This is what I've been working on this week instead of journaling (I still hiked with Daisy, but no dilly-dallying)...I finished up my 10th poster for JAMBOREAD! - our county library system's reading festival for children. The image is my idea of what would happen to a book if a dragon read it.... but what book would a dragon want to read? I think this one. If you haven't read it, you should! Jamboread is the first weekend in March. Come see us!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Elephants Foot Seedheads

It's cold today! When Daisy and I headed out under heavy clouds, a breeze moved across the open field and tried to pull my scarf right off. Brrr! I pulled my scarf snug around my neck and lead Daisy to a low, protected spot by the bridge, where a patch of Elephant's Foot grows at the edge of the woods. It was mostly quiet while I sketched the dried stalks and seedheads, except for some crows cawing, a red-bellied woodpecker chirring while working a dead pine, and Lawson's Fork in the distance, rushing over shoals near the old iron bridge. I heard small raindrop splats on the leaf litter before I either saw or felt them.