Monday, April 28, 2008

Birds of Yucatan

In looking through the many pics from our five days on the Yucatan peninsula, I noticed a number of birds. So for a first collection of shots let's pick a few of those. Maybe Charlie, of 10,000 Birds, will help me know which species I have captured in pixels. [Thanks, Charlie, for IDing the birds for me in the comments. I have added Charlie's identifications in red.]

Carnival Invitation!

Speaking of Charlie: he will edit the May edition of Learning in the Great Outdoors (LIGO). If you have an outdoor post on your blog, submit it to Charlie for inclusion in the carnival. Unfortunately the webpage I set up as a home for LIGO has become somehow corrupted. I have been unable to update it for several weeks.

This [Brown Pelican] pelican posed for me on rocks near the Punta Cancun lighthouse.

These [Magnificent Frigatebirds] seem to have different destinations as they glide above the Fiestamericana Hotel. I think the lower one is male (red throat pouch) and the other female.

This [Social Flycatcher] flew among the trees around one of the huge water holes near Chichen Itza.

I am unsure which bird makes this interesting silhouette.

This [Osprey] perched atop the lifegaurd stand on the beach at Punta Cancun to eat the proceeds of a fishing expedition.

This beautiful [Tourquoise-browed Motmot] clings to vegetation hanging into a deep ancient sinkhole where Mayans obtained their water and where modern locals and tourists swim.

Another fellow I don't know. [Tropical Mockingbird] He reminds me of our mockingbirds.

This may be the same bird as the one just above. [Tropical Mockingbird]

These noisy brown and black [Great-tailed Grackles] were everywhere about our hotel with their oversized tail feathers. This guy was streching sleepily early Sunday morning. A local man, a worker at the hotel, told me the Mayan word for this bird is (phonetically spelled here) "peech".

Finally an anhinga or snake bird [Aninga or a Cormorant (can't quite tell)] swimming in the lagoon as Sheila flashes by in a speedboat. These strange birds swim about with only their necks and heads above water.

The Lap of Luxury

Thanks to Sheila's company and her hard work the past year (and before) we have just had a few days in paradise. No e-mail. No web browsing. No cell phone. White sand. Crystal-clear, turquoise waters. Savory food. Elegant accomodations. Luxuriant nature. Fascinating history.

We're back.

More later.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sunday Concert: Godfathers of Soul & Opera

The late, great Godfathers of Soul and Opera,
James Brown and Luciano Pavarotti,
once shared a stage and a song.
It's a Man's World.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Our "Watchable Wildlife Project" is one step closer to fruition thanks to a Boy Scout's Eagle Project and his fellow scouts and leaders who came Friday in in just a few hours constructed this beautiful bridge on our trail.

Ain't it grand!

From one of the most respected American foreign policy leaders of the last 50 years:

Based on my conversations with Senator Obama, reading his book and his speeches and seeing the kind of campaign he has run, I believe that he is our best choice to lead our nation. Senator Obama, as evidenced by his words and his deeds, recognizes that:

— We have developed a habit of avoiding the tough decisions and seemingly lost our ability to build consensus to tackle head-on our biggest challenges.

— Demonizing the opposition, oversimplifying the issues, and dumbing down the political debate prevent our country from coming together to make tough decisions and tackle our biggest challenges.

— Solving America’s problems will require difficult choices and sacrifices and leaders capable of considering new ideas from both political parties.

— On foreign policy and security policy, we must recognize that we are not limited to a choice between belligerency and isolation and that we must listen to lead successfully on the key issues facing America and the world.

— Our next president must also recognize that the battle against violent terrorists, while requiring a prudent use of military power, is also a long-term contest of psychology and ideas.
-Former Senator Sam Nunn

I have been convinced for some time that Barack Obama has the judgment and temperament to lead our nation's foriegn policy. Unfortunately his foriegn policy resume looks thin on paper. Sam Nunn's endorsement reinforces my confidence and, I think, will help many moderate and conservative Democrats as well as independents to trust Obama to live up to his inspiring rhetoric.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A New Pet?

My bloging friend SW Anderson at Oh!Pinion would have gotten a kick out of my morning.

As I stepped off my porch I was watching the mother cat slink under the house. There is hidden away under there, where we can't get to them, a new litter of kittens.

Suddenly I realized I was about to step on a kitten which jumped onto my leg.

Startled I jumped away. The doggone thing followed me. Except it wasn't a kitten.

It is a baby squirrel!! And it continued to follow me.

Then it bounced into the azaleas where I knew Mama Cat was now waiting.
So I grabbed a hoe to guard the little thing from certain death.
It ran up the hoe! I shook it off and moved away. It bounded after me. I jumped to one side. It ran after me. I ran across the gravel. It bounced toward me. I froze. It climbed onto my shoe and then up my leg!

I am the adoptive daddy of a squirrel.

My neighbor Welton saw the commotion and grabbed a camera to preserve for posterity the image of his crazy neighbor dancing with a squirrel. Then his wife Jeannie joined us with a some broken pieces of pecan.

The squirrel ate from her hand. Welton disappeared and came out with a glass lid of water for the critter to use to wash down the pecan he had stored in his cheeks.

What fun.
It ate from our hands. We petted it.

Unfortunately a tame squirrel in this neighborhood of a thousand cats may be doomed to a short life.

(Check a previous encounter with squirrels.)

I used my new Flip video camera to make a short movie of the little rascal chasing me around, eating pecans, and soaking up the love from his new friends.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Lavender Mountain / Armuchee Creek

April 21, 2008 Note: I have added scientific names. Thanks, Richard.

Richard Ware, my botanist friend, has said he wanted to check out the north face of Lavendar Mountain at Armuchee Creek to see what sort of flora might be there. Since I am on my Spring Break this week, I called him up and suggested we check it out today. So this afternoon we parked the Toyota on Scenic Rd. and walked down the old railroad bed toward the creek. The way was overgrown with trees and briars and vines.

We finally broke through on the bluff and looked out at the giant supports that once held the trestle.

There at the top of the bluff was this ...

Rattlesnake Fern Botrychium virginianum
And this...

Perfoliate Bellwort Uvularia perfoliata
And this...

Tall Rattlesnakeroot Prenanthes altissima

We didn't find the rich assortment of wildflowers we had hoped for. There were no trillium, Dutchman's breeches, or Virginia bluebells as far as we could tell.

But there was lots of mountain laurel -- no blooms yet, but what a show it will be.

Mountain Laurel Kalmia latifolia

Meanwhile the Wild Azalea will do nicely.

Piedmont Azalea Rhododendron canescens

Piedmont Azalea Rhododendron canescens

And the Wood Betony...

Wood Betony Pedicularis canadensis

The Foam flower was everywhere.

Foam Flower Tiarella cordifolia


Galax urceolata

Fighting our way upstream, trying to stay out of the water but constantly pushed toward it by the steep bluff, we made our way slowly up to the old metal bridge.

Northern Red Oak Quercus rubra

From the bridge we walked the mile and a half by road back to the Toyota.

Red Buckeye (hybrid?) Aesculus pavia?

Red Buckeye (hybrid?) Aesculus pavia?

Monday, April 14, 2008


Look it up.

Or read this piece by Dick Cavett.

I won't be as hard on General Petraeus for his chest full of hardware. Tradition and all that. But Dick Cavett is spot-on regarding the sesquipedalianism of Petraeus' and Crocker's language.

Politics aside, wouldn't Harry Truman's plain speaking be a blessing nowadays?

I have sometimes said that "comfort in his own skin" is an attribute of every great political leader. I wonder if "plain speaking" would not work as well as a universal discriptor of Clinton, Reagan, Lincoln, and now, Obama, and other effective leaders.

Or good preachers, for that matter.

The pontificating sesquipedalianists ... well, sometimes I suspect they are just desperately trying to obfuscate the unpleasant or to make nonsense or confusion or ignorance sound erudite.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Back to Pigeon Mountain

A year ago our friends Richard and Teresa Ware introduced us to the best wildflower walk in Georgia at Crockford-Pigeon Mountain Wildlife Management Area. Today Sheila and I returned to the "Pocket Trail" with my sister Joan, her husband Jim , and their grandchild Anna Grace. The place is just as magical as it was last year. We are a couple of weeks farther into spring so the show is a little different, but still gorgeous.

[April; 21, 2008 note: I have added several common and scientific names for plants. Thanks, Richard.]

I assigned the Nikon Coolpix to Aggie. I handled the Canon S3IS.

The air was a bit breezy and chilly as we walked toward the Shirley Miller Wildflower Walk. Aggie snapped the redbuds and dogwoods along the entrance path.

Eastern Redbud Cercis canadensis Photo by Anna Grace

The boardwalk has been greatly extended. Many other photographers were prowling and crouching along the boardwalk with tripods, long lens, and field guides. Soon we saw that the Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) were past their prime...

Photo by Anna Grace

But the Bent Trillium (Trillium flexipes) were right at their glorious prime...

Sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum) stands tall while...

Trailing Wakerobin (Trillium decumbens) hugs the ground...

I'll label the plants with my best guesses. Maybe Richard will correct my mistakes and fill us in on the ones I don't know.

This fern finds a space to root in stone crevices.

Bublet Fern Cystopteris bulbifera

Bladdernut Staphylea trifoliata

Canada Violet Viola canadensis

Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia)

Squaw Root (Conopholis americana)

Mitrewort of Bishop¹s Cap Mitella diphylla

Mitrewort of Bishop¹s Cap Mitella diphylla

Celandine Poppy Stylophorum diphyllum

Sweet Cicely (Osmorhiza claytoni)

Wild Geranium Geranium maculatum

White Baneberry (Actaea pachypoda)

Wild Hyacinth (Camassia scilloides)

Aggie with her grandparents.

Anna Grace at the falls.

Anna Grace "practically under the falls".

Photo by Anna Grace
Terrell & Sheila

Phacelia (Phacelia bipinnatifida)

Star Chickweed (Stellaria pubera)

Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

Wild Stonecrop (Sedum ternatum)

Jack-In-The-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)

Coming home I turned right at Hogjowl Road and followed it through the lush green farms of the valley between Lookout Mountain and Pigeon Mountain. Georgia should buy Mountain Cove Farms at the valley head for a state park! The Toyota climbed out of the valley by way of zigzag switchbacks up Lookout Mountain. and back to Summerville by way of Cloudland. What a beautiful drive.