The Oasis in the Concrete Desert

I have spoken before of the retaining ponds here in Eastern North Carolina, which are required to be built whenever a developer is going to place a large amount of concrete (a parking lot for instance) in a place which a) used to be a swamp many moons ago, and b) is prone to sudden downpours.  Indeed the photograph of the bird at the top of this Blog was taken at such a retaining pond in Myrtle Beach.

Last week I went to Lowes to pick up some bird food and other things and as I was leaving the parking lot I drove past the retaining pond (one of two) and spotted this:

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Mom and Pop Canada Geese were proudly escorting their brood from the pond, no doubt giving them a valuable lesson of what roads and cars can do before taking them back.  As is my wont I stopped and held up traffic for a while so I could take the picture with my phone and watch them make it back to the pond where they slid effortlessly into the water followed by their chicks.

On a similar note I went to the Farmers Market at Jacksonville Commons on Thursday and as I was wandering around the various stalls I noticed a collection of orange hazard cones arranged around something in the gravel pathway.  One of the vendors explained that a Killdeer had made its nest in the gravel (which they do) and she had laid an egg.  In an attempt to keep gawkers away and protect the egg from people stomping on it the staff of the Commons had cordoned her off and had also included a dish full of water for her as the heat was incredible.

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Now to be honest I think that perhaps a bird who would lay an egg in such a highly trafficked place is not the brightest crayon in the box, and would humbly suggest that she perhaps take up some other pastime such as knitting rather than breeding, but perhaps with the help of her human caretakers she will be able to raise her chick.    Who knows, perhaps she did the same last year and was so taken with the assistance given to her that she decided to try it again.

Babies

As I was tending my flower beds last fall I noticed that a Praying Mantis had laid two egg cases on one of the Froggy Band pieces of yard art I have in the bird bath bed.

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As I was watering the beds during the recent dry spell I noticed that there had been a hatching.

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They were scurrying all over the solar lights and already taking up the famous praying pose.

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Others were hiding under the rim of the lights and striking the same pose.   When I watched them I was amazed that even though they were probably only hours old they were already just miniature versions of the adults.  I shall look forward to seeing them grow up when they will do a stellar job of ridding me of pests.

Mother Nature’s Sense of Humour

I enjoy observing and photographing almost all of the things in my garden but I have to admit that I take particular joy in capturing on film some of Mother Nature’s little oddities, those particularly strange and almost surreal creatures that makes one wonder what came into her mind during the creation process.  The Ebony Jewel Wing, a type of damsel fly, always makes my heart skip a beat whenever I observe it dancing through the air.

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It’s jet black wings and stunning electric blue body are amazing to behold and thankfully it is somewhat easy to photograph.  If it feels threatened where it rests it will flit a short distance and land on a leaf.  Luckily thanks to the color of its wings it is easy to follow to its next resting place.  Once it feels comfortable it will spread its wings a couple of times and flash its brilliant body for a moment.  The speed of the wing spreading is however tricky to predict and I have yet to get a half way decent shot of it.  I think this could be considered my best so far.

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Another of my favorite oddities is the Golden Tortoise Beetle many of which are currently feeding on the Morning Glory vines that seed themselves in my garden every year.   These are much more difficult to photograph as not only are they very small (about the size of a Lady Bug) but they are notoriously shy, feeding on the undersides of the Morning Glory leaves and they will think nothing of dropping to the ground should they be spotted.  Luckily this one cooperated recently.

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From a distance they look for all the world like a drop of liquid gold resting on the leaves, and it is not until you get close to them, (if they let you) that you notice the absolute complexity of their tiny bodies.  They are a joy to watch, and I always smile when I see my Morning Glory leaves being turned into doilies knowing that it means I will more than likely be seeing them.

This last one just makes me giggle.  Every time I see it.  The Tussock Moth Caterpillar.

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I have this scenario in my head where Mother Nature and her helpers are having a relaxing evening after a day of hard work creating and they are sampling some of their recent recreational plants.     It goes something like this.

Helper:  Oh damn boss, we were supposed to create that caterpillar today and we totally forgot, you want to go ahead and do it now or wait until tomorrow?

Mother Nature:  No lets do it now, okay make it fuzzy, that’s a given,  (inhales and coughs) now, I know give it four tufts of hair on the back, that’ll look cool.

Second Helper:  How about we give it horns!  It’ll look cool with horns!

Mother Nature:  Yes (laughing uncontrollably)  I know, I know, give it a horn on its butt too!

Helper:  And a bright red head!  How about a bright red head?

Second Helper: And cat whiskers, it’s a caterpillar after all gotta have cat whiskers.

Mother Nature:  And make it black and yellow stripes, and more fuzz and make the tufts of hair yellow and put a couple of red spots on its butt for good measure!.  (Laughs herself into unconsciousness)

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I should imagine she woke up the next morning with a very thick head and said “What was I thinking?”

Weed of The Week – Violets

I have never understood the almost visceral hatred that some people have of violets.  They were my Grandmother’s favorite flower and I have always adored them.  It amazes me that the same people who will dig them up and discard them when they pop up in their lawn (or worse spray them with weedkiller) will happily go to the garden center and pay big bucks for their more gaudy cousins the Pansies.  SONY DSC

Whenever it is time for my husband to mow the lawn I go out early that morning with my trowel and rescue the violets and other natives that I like to move out of the way of his mower.  To be honest, I really don’t have to do that because they think nothing of having a haircut every two weeks and seem to thrive.  Nevertheless I dutifully dig them up and place them in a bed in a shady spot where they can do without the haircut and bloom.   They begin to bloom early in the Spring with their delightful deep purple flowers and also quickly form neat little colonies that no only brighten a shady spot with their heart shaped leaves but also serve as an excellent ground cover crowding out any weeds that I don’t like.  Another bonus is that Violets are the host plant for some of the Lepidoptera butterflies (Fritillaries).

So the next time you see Violets popping up in your lawn, don’t curse at them and reach for the weed killer, do yourself and the Violets a favor, grab your trowel and find a shady spot for them.  You’ll be glad you did.

Flossie Learns a Life Lesson

This morning I let the puppies into the garden and instead of running across the patio and into the garden they stopped short at the edge of the patio.    I walked down to see what had stopped them and I saw this

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I ran back into the house to grab my camera when I heard a yelp and Flossie came tearing into the house as if the Devil himself was chasing her. I went outside with the camera and saw that Skeeter was not going to make the same mistake that Flossie obviously had.

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I got Skeeter back into the house and checked on Flossie and she seemed to be fine albeit a little spooked.  As the morning wore on it became apparent that the turtle had done a number on Flossie’s jowl.

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If the swelling hasn’t gone down by tomorrow afternoon I shall take her to the Vets but I am pretty sure that her pride hurts more than the boo boo.  One thing is for sure, it will be a cold day in hell before she messes with a Snapping Turtle again.