Fall takes flight

There are, in case you haven’t noticed from previous posts, LOTS of birds in the Lowcountry.  Which birds changes a bit with the seasons, although there are plenty of year round residents.  The last couple of months have rewarded our watching with a familiar resident, but in a new location. Bald eagles have moved to the pond at the elementary school. October is the beginning of nesting season here, so we were delighted to find they have taken up residence where we can look for them every week.

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The pond is prime territory, open flight paths, but plenty of trees for roosting and nesting, and a gator free pond stocked with an abundance of fish.  By next month the eagles should be laying, and by early spring there will be nestlings to captivate the careful observer.

Snipe may be the stuff of stories and campfire pranks, but here they are among our oddball seasonal shore birds.  Wilson’s snipe are hard to spot, they are so well suited to the area, but fun to find strolling through a local ditch or in your yard.

Snipe-One

After another successful breeding season here in the Lowcountry,  our woodstork population continues to make a comeback from endangered to threatened.  They are ungainly to look at, but amazing in flight or roosting in groups in the trees.

Wood Storks

When you don’t happen to see wood storks feeding in

As fall cools into winter, we are thankful for the return of our seasonal birds. Another year of survival, another hope we can reduce climate change and protect these animals for our children and generations to come.

Welcome home.

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There are waves…and then…

…there are WAVES.

Now I, personally, find huge waves fascinating. The power, the sound, the way they break.

Then again, I also enjoy following tornadoes and I love thunderstorms.  Maybe it’s just me.

Today a friend up on the North Coast, specifically Lake Erie, posted pictures of the waves there.  I remember the waves. That lake scares the fur off me in a way the ocean never has. It is one freakin’ scary body of water, but I DO love the waves.  Since she reminded me… here are a few pictures to show you what I mean.

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photos by Dave Sanford…amazing aren’t they?

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Just one dang freaky lake, especially when winter storms get it churning.

The waves on my ocean are just as powerful and evocative…but somehow, even when they are raging, they delight me.

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You just gotta love it.

I do.

Fabulous Friday

Another amazing day. It began early with a beautiful sunrise above the marsh, and melted into a lovely autumn day. At the school pond a flock of white ibis stalked along the water’s edge, periodically dipping their curved bills into the shallow grasses to feed.

Adult

We saw another group strolling along the side of the road at the county park this afternoon, enjoying the warm sunshine as much as we were.

Because it is Friday…and I am typing away at my current fantasy as part of NaNoWriMo with my writing group…I also spent some time staring at the ocean, exploring our local waterways, marshes and islands. So much to appreciate here. And such fertile ground for my wild imagination.

I was a bit surprised to find that harbor seals sometimes visit us even this far south! Didn’t really expect that, but they are such delightful creatures, I am thrilled with the remote possibility of seeing one down here someday; even though they frequent Long Island where some family lives, so I see them there.  A harbor seal pup in Duck. Harbor seals are one of several seal species turning up along the Outer Banks in recent years, according to Coastal Review Online.

Of course, my story veered away from the possible to other realms…sea lions in particular, since there are none on our North Atlantic coast.  Imagine the possibilities with such a gorgeous creature.  Image result for Australian bull sea lion

I do adore fantasies on Fridays…

Wandering into November

A new month and the end of this crazy year draws nearer.  The marsh grass has faded to brown, and cooler water temperatures add a deeper blue to our usually greenish water.

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At the pond at the elementary school, waiting to pick up the littles, I saw a great blue heron stalking along the shore before it lifted in a low, lazy flight to the trees on the far bank.

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Alligators laze in the sun, soaking up the last, lingering warmth of summer.

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New birds have come to call, enjoying our still gentle temperatures and sunshine. Kinglets chatter. Golden crowned flitter through the wax myrtles and ruby crowned scurry amongst palmetto fronds.

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The kids and I have an abundance of park days coming in these short but pleasant days of November. Welcome back. Let’s have fun.

The life blood of a blue planet

As fires ravage the west coast…we pray for rain. In India, Africa, and Asia droughts and lack of rain parch the lands, and wells and reservoirs are going dry.

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Our aquifers are being depleted at alarming, no…terrifying! rates. And while the recharge (refill) rates vary…most of the large aquifers now being drained to sustain farming, mining, and industry, and support cities in arid western states…need centuries to recharge. 21 of the 37 largest aquifers on our tiny blue planet are being drained at unsustainable rates. Considering that they are the sole source of life sustaining fresh water for hundreds of millions of humans, that we have stressed them beyond the tipping point…where our demand exceeds their ability to be renewed…there is no time to spare in resolving this.

And there is no outcry. The problem perhaps is that “the problem” can’t be seen. It isn’t as easily evident as dried up reservoirs and forests burning due to drought. Big businesses demand their “right” to use as much water as required for their stockholders to continue to make huge profits. When the water is gone…what then?

Water stuck closer to home for me this week. A family not far from where I live have hit some hard times…it happens in these uncertain days more than ever before.  A big family, an unexpected baby girl eight years after the youngest of the five boys, and not enough money to keep the water turned on. That happens in poor neighborhoods all across America. Not expected in middle class suburbia, is it?  People surprised and saddened me with their lack of compassion. The family tries to hide their problem because other children make fun of their boys. I stopped over today and got a car load of big containers and jugs which I refilled at my house and returned to them under the cover of night…when judgmental eyes might not see. A routine thing, three or four times a week. Not noteworthy in any regard save that a simple act of kindness as a neighbor should need to be hidden.

They have worked out a payment arrangement with the water company…another few weeks and their water will be restored…but how sad people turn away from need, instead of reaching out to one another.

Water shouldn’t be beyond the reach of everyone in this country. In a perfect world, where humans cared more about other living beings and less about possessions, would we not, each and every one, strive for the best for all and not only for ourselves?

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Such a small, fragile world made all the more remarkable for the blessing of abundant water. If a few jugs of water makes such a difference, imagine the loss when the source of that precious water is gone.

We have to find a better way, world. While we still can.

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Marsh Memories

Driving over the Cosgrove tonight and the tide was out and the wonderful scent of pluff mud and coastal marsh swept through the car.  Every year when my grandma came to see us she would tell me how she disliked that smell. To her it smelled like ~something died~ to me it smells like the renewal of life.

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These coastal marshes teem with life. Small crustaceans, crabs, shrimp, fish, wading birds, plants, trees, and the teeming abundance of the waters.  The health of the marsh is a good indicator of the health of adjacent ecosystems.

photo by Bob Hider

Driving or strolling the boardwalks along the edges of these wetlands is an unending source of joy, appreciation, and inspiration.

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Pluff mud and Lowcountry marsh….smells like home.

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April foolishness

A gorgeous day in the Lowcountry…mid 80s, clear blue skies and bright sunshine. Wisteria is coming back from the frosts that killed its first flush a couple of weeks ago, camellias and azaleas are offering a scant but determined final bloom and all around my neighborhood there are pinks, reds, corals, and soft purples rejoicing in Spring’s renewal. We have all the windows open every day and night and the fresh air is such a joy after the claustrophobic chill of winter.

The dogs spend a lot more time outdoors.  I spend more free time at the first wave of farm markets.  Last week’s excitement was over asparagus.  This week I am giddy over the prospect of first crop green (spring) garlic (as farmers thin their fields) and sugar snap peas.

Spring’s bounty in Asparagus, leek, and green garlic soup

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The bluebirds are nesting in the backyard. I love watching them skim across the open flight path between the azaleas on one side, the shrubbery on the other, over the ancient wisteria to their little houses along the back fence.  As we are contemplating the possibility of moving from this lovely old house to a smaller place the one thing I should truly miss the most is this yard.  Most people miss their homes…apparently for me home is the outdoors, not the in.

Which means I probably should not be surprised at little environmental themes that seem to be continually popping up in my writing. Who knew dragons had such an important environmental niche to fill?  (okay, so that doesn’t really surprise me as they would be an apex predator and as such a linchpen in their cycle…. I just hadn’t really given it much consideration till they showed up)  Glad they did.