Ducks, plus

tunnel
They were not too impressed with this tunnel, probably because it had lights inside.

Some of my grandsons spent a short weekend with me, and while Saturday was sunny, it was cold, and I figured Sunday would be a better day for adventure. We first drove to a nearby cemetery, known for its geese and ducks, only to have our enthusiasm dampened by a sign they pointed out to me: Please don’t feed the ducks.

I didn’t want to be a bad example, so I thought for a minute, then we drove on to Shelley Lake. Part of the Capital Area Greenway Trail System, Shelley Lake is bordered by two miles of paved walking trails and about 140 acres of forest. We could feed the ducks there.

It was crowded, but we squeezed into an open parking spot, and commenced hiking. Just as we reached the boardwalk, one pointed out the sign: Please don’t feed the ducks. A bit miffed, I muttered, Well, we’re gonna feed the ducks.

We started throwing bits of bread, which got the ducks honking and chasing each other, and that alerted the seagulls sunning themselves on the nearby sandbar. They flew over, and began circling and swooping. I tried to take pictures, but they were pretty fast.

So I snapped a few photos of this pair of waterbirds instead.

RSCN2106
Tried to identify these when I made it home; I believe they are cormorants.

Afterward, we began our walk. One of the boys located a green-headed mallard and his less-colorful mate, but they were too far away, and too hidden by brush to make a good picture.

One of the boys, happily making his own trail just off the pavement, saw more movement, and we got a glimpse of this amphibian:

frog or toad
This little toad was very well camouflaged.

We were surprised by a hawk – either a Cooper’s or a sharp-shinned – calling to his mate. They flew right over us, circled around, then flew away. We heard their calls again later, as we rounded back to the boardwalk.

We didn’t see any deer (they are abundant throughout the county), most likely because there were too many people, and dogs about. We took a short side trip so they could walk through the tunnel, but it was pretty well lit, and they informed me it wasn’t a scary place to walk.

By the time the walk was over, they were tired and hungry. We came home and ate, and I sent them home to Mom. I had a nice afternoon. I think they did, too.

gull at shelley
Yes, there are seagulls in Raleigh, NC. Lots of them.

Gotcha!

I lucked out when he flew right above me.
I lucked out when he flew right above me.

I’ve been trying and trying to get some decent bird photos. My camera is only a point-and-shoot, and while it has a zoom, it doesn’t magnify things much.

This colorful robin was perched up on top of the pole that holds my bird feeders. He got aggravated with my picture-taking (which did turn out awful), but then he flew above my head. Because he’s in shadow, it’s hard to see his red breast, but he was a handsome one.

Summer drops by for an early ‘hello’

the warning
The beginning of the afternoon storms. The nest where the branches meet was used by a family of robins last year.

It was a crazy weather day. One of those that meteorologists love, because it gives them an opportunity to talk about things like squall lines and tornadic winds and severe thunderstorms and large hail.

The warnings started yesterday. And, sure enough, by early morning the line of storms was thundering its way across the state, in a band that extended from South Carolina, through North Carolina, up into Virginia.

after the warning
The wind was whipping around quite a bit here. But, no rain.

I spent the morning at work, a few counties away. It poured at home while I was gone. By mid-afternoon, I was back, and ready to hunker down. It was quiet. The birds were singing. Had I asked them, they would have said, “What storm?” Eventually, it rained. And the warnings – thunderstorm warnings, tornado warnings, extreme threat alert warnings – starting pouring in.

in between
It finally rained, but unlike in surrounding towns which were not as fortunate, the storm was a mild one.

It rained for a while, then the weather stopped, and so did the warnings. They announced on TV we were in the clear. I went outside. It looked like the makings of a beautiful sunset. I stayed close to home, but starting shooting pictures again.

sunset - psych
The clear skies were short-lived.
in between light
I thought it was all over at this point.

I sat down at my computer, relieved it was over. Then it got really dark. I remember thinking, “I thought it was getting dark a lot later than 6:15.” Faint thunder, loud thunder – I moved away from the computer.

The storm didn’t last long, and the only damage here was a wet carpet where the rain blew in around the bedroom window frame. My backyard looks like a small pond, but thankfully, aside from the wind advisory that will last through the morning, we weathered this storm just fine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes it pays to look back

joynersunset7
When I looked behind me, I saw the beginning of a passable sunset.

February has to be the most impatient month. It’s not like January, which marches by all business-like while everyone’s making grand plans for the new year and putting everything in order.

Although the days are slightly longer, they’re also often colder, here in the southeastern U.S. The leaves have all fallen, except for those red oaks that stubbornly hang on throughout even the worst weather until the new spring leaves sprout and push them loose.

The second month of the year is ushered in with cute groundhog photos and wishes for an early spring. Next comes excitement for the upcoming lovers’ holiday – or dread – depending on your relationship status. Whatever you feel about Valentine’s Day, or Winter itself, February can be loaded with emotion.

I spent much of this past week looking back at my life – not a very bright thing to do in February – because it’s already kind of a grumpy, icy, colorless time of year. It was late in the day before I finally talked myself into that walk I’d been thinking of taking since this morning. Partway through, I peeked behind me, and found, if not the most colorful sunset, at least a pretty one.

joynersunset1
Joyner Farm in silhouette.

Dwelling on the past never does anyone much good. However, sometimes, it pays to take a quick peek over your shoulder.

joynersunset3
Joyner Farm, a slightly different perspective.

A Winter surprise

pieris 1
My temple bells are loaded with blooms this year.

Today is Friday, but it has that stay-at-home-and-hibernate feel, like a dreary Saturday, where all you want to do is pick up that good book you’ve already started and wrap up in a blanket by the fire.

Yesterday I drove into work, as a wintry-mix was forecast for both today and Monday. The day turned out better than I expected, leaving me to chores and relaxation today, as I prepare for the actual weekend.

I had in mind a few things to get done today, including cooking and baking (nice, plus it would warm the house), putting in some aerobic time at the gym (enjoyable, since I had my nose in a good book as I pedaled the miles away), and vacuuming and dishes (ugh).

When I took out the trash, noting with interest the crunchy, frozen earth we don’t see too often around here, a flash of white caught my eye.

pieris 2
It’s bloomin’ mid-February already!

It’s February, but that graceful cascade of blooms still caught me by surprise. Startled, I walked around to the front of the bush, where I saw dozens of tiny white bells standing out against the dark green foliage.

That particular flowerbed has already graced me with a tiny yellow crocus bloom – always my first sign of Spring. When the fragile yellow flowers fade limply onto the soil, they are replaced by pretty purple ones. But I hadn’t thought to look closely at my temple bells, until today.

It’s been so mild this year, it feels like Winter has only just started. And, it’s making up for lost time. My early flowers are already making a showing, though, so I can’t complain too much about Winter this year.

pieris 3
There are more blooms where these came from.