Nature Notes Index


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Back to working for a living, but brought the outside plants in and put winter air in my tires. <grin> Got very cold last night, doesn't seemed to have frosted though.


All night working on the webpage, morning too. By noon i was ready for a drive with the leaves starting to change here and there. Went south on the BRP to somewhere past graveyard fields. Saw at least a dozen monarch butterflies at different locations, all heading generally SW.


A lot of work lately, missing out on the fall color! <sigh> I did watch a blue-jay fly around with an acorn and find a spot on the ground where s/he could wedge it in and break it open with her beak.


A break from work found me on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Daktari and just sampling the fall color. The color seems to be unimpressive according to the tourists i talked to, but this year the colors seem to have taken turns. Last week the yellows, the Tulip Poplar, Birches, Hickory and some Sassafras - this week the trees representing the maroon group, the Maples, Oaks and Sumacs are dominant while the previous yellow has faded to brown. I guess the oranges will be next week. It makes the whole process seem like a parade... instead of everybody getting out and displaying en masse, the colors show themselves as a group. Probably if i could be out in it everyday, i'd notice "Hornbeam Pride Day" and "Sumac Sunday." Stuff like that.

The color also seems to be more concentrated in the shrubs and non-woody plants this year. Sumacs and Sassafras have been splendid, with a great variety on the same plant. The Rhododendrons are shedding the lower and less useful leaves, about every 10th leaf turning banana yellow before dropping. Also, i'm wondering if i just never noticed it before, but the non-woody plants are making quite a splash. Perhaps when we pay attention to the great vistas of Trix cereal in the bowl of mountains, we miss the hay-yellows of the False Solomon seal or the maroon pinwheel centers of Indian Cucumber Root, or the autumn spectrum of greenbriar.

Saw a Fire Pink blooming this late in the season near Pisgah mountain.

The big news was i found a clustered stand of Witch-Hazel, tucked among an Oak-Hickory area, already poking out its twisty flowers! Got rare (for me) pictures of leaves, flowers and seed capsules in single shots. I have a fondness for this little tree ever since i stumbled on one in the snows of midwinter, it blooming in a way that seemed crazy.


Ok, it's my fault. I went fungus-crazy. After these recent rains and the cooler weather, i sought out the mushrooms. I'll admit it. I had already gotten a few puffball pictures when i stopped off at an overlook, ambled down a narrow path and there, on a fallen tree was a fungal mass of a kind i hadn't seen before! In my ignorance i dreamed of Serpula zenii, an undiscovered fungi that they would name after me! And so close to the road too! It looked rather like dry rot, only less spongy, less hairy, more matted. I poked at it with a stick. I photographed it. There were no visible rhizomorphs. It seemed fibrous, caked and looked matted as if by rain. And then the epiphany... It wasn't a fungus at all, but probably a week ago, someone had ambled down this short path, done their business, and left a bunch of toilet paper on the fallen log they held while squatting. UCK! The rain had matted it into the kind of blobby mass that mycologist-wannabees examine and photograph! I didn't want to examine much further. Ok, ok. I'm not gonna stop snapping pictures of nature, but i'll just be a bit more cautious first.


Today was "Get some fall waterfall pictures" day, so went to Courthouse falls, Daniel Ridge falls, Chestnut Creek falls, and tried to get to Keisee falls, but started out too late. Rainy day, enjoying the solitude, full of myself, i was out on Chestnut Creek thinking, "Hey, Keisee creek is only over one cove... I'll just blaze my own trail..." Wrong! <sound of that quick double buzz of Jeopardy> Not only isn't there a trail to Keisee falls, but the area was completely drenched, each Rhododendron holding the maximum amount of water on the leaves so that when i touched the trunk, it poured down on me. Rhodos are hell to get thru anyway, their twisty gnarly trunks in the mist and fog of confusion coming down the mountain seemed like a watery purgatory of indecision of which way to go. Tried to make it far enough up the creek to get to the falls, but it was already getting late and i had that trek of about a mile back to the road (my car was about a mile from where i'd meet the road), so, dejected, sopping wet (my camera wouldn't even work), scarcely able to lift my legs over fallen tree trunks, slipping on the rocks of the creek, i made it back to Daktari and the (all praise to Allah) the heater. Good thing Julie didn't go with me, she'd never set foot in Daktari again.

Also, a bunch of hunters were out... either deer or bear, they didn't say. Each with their Highway Orange caps, walkie-talkies, rifles, and tracking devices for dog collars. I met a few stray hunting dogs in my meanderings and each time they took off running with their heads looking behind them, watching me. Seems an odd way to run. I put a few brightly blazed maple leaves in my hat to help 'see' me, for the hunters... probably wouldn't work. Anyway, it seems to me that it's the dogs that have all the fun in the whole hunting mess. They get to roam these beautiful woods after being well-fed, bark and holler and balefully howl their pleasure, scamper everywhichway, try to tree animals which they instinctively WANT to do anyway and - if they get lost - somebody comes and gets them. Maybe in my next life i'll get to be a hunting 'dawg'.


Started a terrarium so that i can observe local plants (and maybe a salamander or spider or whatever) in my home. Mostly moss and a few rattlesnake plantain with a small Christmas fern among the moist rocks. Letting it settle down and then we'll see how it evolves. Note: the plants were not gathered from the National Forest!


On the way home froma night of discussion and family at Diane's near midnight on a nearly full-moon night, the major stars blazed from the black sky and there, with his toe on the mountain-tops was Orion, balancing as if hopping from mountain to mountain. It was good to see my winter friend, and even better to see him skipping and hopping in the sky like a kid loosed from school.

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