Sunday, April 27, 2014

622 miles closer to the perfect summer job

Today's sunset at the north end of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel
So I guess I finally have enough of my ducks in a row to tell you all about my plans for this summer...

I'm going home to NJ!

The perfect summer job landed in my lap... I'll be working for NJ Fish and Wildlife to monitor and protect beach-nesting birds.

Piping Plovers!

Least Terns!

American Oystercatchers!

Please don't anyone pinch me... I don't want to wake up if this is a dream!

: )

I set out early this morning with my bunny and my African violets and after 12+ hours in the car, we're all feeling pretty bedraggled.  I took the shortcut across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel to spend the night on the Delmarva Peninsula and will meet the ferry to Cape May in the morning. It's beautiful here (and there's still "sweet tea" available!) and I was treated to Brown Pelicans and frolicking dolphins this evening when I stopped at the scenic overlook on the bridge to stretch my legs. Plus, I can smell the sea again... But it's cold! I started the day with the AC running in the car and ended it with the heat blasting.

Some Piping Plovers and American Oystercatchers are already on eggs... I'm hoping to arrive on the beach with the Least Terns. I'm so excited! I can't wait to get started and share this adventure with you...

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Heggie's Rock

Heggie's Rock Preserve is owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy and is yet another example of a granite outcrop community, much like Arabia Mountain. I was curious to see it because it's said to be the most pristine of Georgia's flat rock outcrops.

So last Saturday, I went along on a special guided tour meant for "serious" photographers. I was concerned with not being "serious" enough, of course, but no one checked my credentials.

: )

Granite outcrops are difficult places for the plants that try to make a life there. The temperatures are extreme and there's not much soil. In fact, the plants arrange themselves into zones according to soil depth. The hot, dry conditions foster plant life that dramatically differs from that of the surrounding forest... many are perennials that grow very slowly; others are winter annuals that survive the desert-like summer months as seeds.

Many of the winter annuals have adaptations like whitish hairs to reflect sunlight and smallish leaves that reduce surface-area water loss; others, like the Elf's Orpine (pictured here and above) are succulents that store water in swollen leaves and stems.

This environment was a first for many in our small group of "serious" photographers; this lady earned innumerable points in my book for forgoing the tripod and getting down on her belly in the dirt to make her photos!

(Instant friend.)

Mosses and lichen dry out and darken (or turn silver like this one!) but immediately turn green with moisture. We tested this out with our water bottles; the response was almost immediate.

Unfortunately, there was no "serious" plant person in our group to tell me the name of this one.

There's something in the experience of an outcrop that's very difficult to convey in a photograph; a wide-angle view mutes the beauty somehow, but the color contrasts feel lost without the context of the whole expanse. I dunno... I love the contrasts of texture and color in this pic. That's enough, I guess!

Occasionally, there's a brighter view where the soil is deep enough to support it. Just ahead of the woody shrubs, the yellow blooms are Rabbit's Ear, I think.

The Elf's Orpine is the star of the show, of course. The environment here is very, very dry but the blooming things still manage to arrange themselves artfully among the lichen-covered rocks.

Pretty, no?

I'd really like to know what this stuff is... any guesses?

Another artful arrangement... especially interesting because you can "see" the soil depth based on the plants that are growing... the unnamed plant in the deepest part of the solution pool, leading to the Elf's Orpine blooming in the dry sand on the right, and the lichen covering the bare granite.


Pretty with pinecones.

: )

I love the weird moonscape of granite outcrops here in GA; I love how stark they are and I especially love how surprising the color and beauty can be when you get down on your belly to find it. I love The Nature Conservancy for putting this place behind a fence to protect it for all of us "serious" folks to enjoy.

Heggie's Rock is open to the public on a limited basis... check here.

Please go; it's beautiful!

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

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?

: )