Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Independence Day!

Stopping by briefly to wish everyone in America a Happy 4th. I am a tad bit under the weather so I won't linger. Just wanted to wish everyone a 'sparkly' holiday. ENJOY!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Yellow Water Lily

Such a beautiful bloom as I walked around the pond that housed several types of aquatic plants at Murfree Spring Wetlands a few weeks ago. No matter that I have photographed many a Water Lily. For some reason whenever I see another one I simply have to capture an image of it.

While these beautiful blooms are usually quite large, they also have such a delicate feel to them. And the fact that they are smack dab in the middle of a pond doesn't hurt either. The Independence Day weekend is almost upon us. Are you ready to get your red, white and blue on? Have you purchased the traditional firecrackers and sparklers, perhaps readied the grill for a nice thick juicy steak or a burger or hot dog? If not, better get busy. ENJOY!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Evin's Mill, Highland Rim

Nestled against the western tip of Tennesesee's Highland Rim situated at the base of the Cumberland Plateau sits Evin's Mill. The land the mill sits on today was purchased in 1824 and three separate families built mills on the land over the years. Finally, in 1937 Edgar Evins bought the property and two years later built Evin's Mill.

The mill doesn't operate today and sits on privately owned property with an inn situated across the creek accessible via the boardwalk. The Evin's family was politically prominent during the racially charged '60's. If you reside in the States you no doubt have heard of Edgar Evins and his tragic death.

The area around the mill is a typical country setting with a woods on three sides. The drive was only about forty minutes from my place and made for a nice Sunday afternoon. As I stood next to the pond, looking out at the mill to capture this image, the Common Pond Hawk Dragonfly buzzed around my feet.

The oppressive heat here in Tennessee has finally broken. We're now enjoying temperatures in the 70's and 80's with virtually no humidity and I, for one, am so very thankful to the Weather Gods. I hope you had a fantastic weekend and are looking forward to a wonderful week. ENJOY!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Beaches and Shores

It is a little known fact that I must have a lake, an ocean, a seashore, a riverbed, or if all else fails, just a pond nearby to make all things right in my world. Water is one of the many driving forces that nurtures my world. Add to that a forest or a woods or a grassy plain, or even a mountaintop overlook, and my world is so much more. The many elements that make up our world also enrich our lives in ways we never imagined.

Oftentimes, I view photographs such as those like Jean's from the quaint island of New Zealand, or Barb from the snow covered Rockies in Colorado, or Frank from 'across the pond' in England, or Steve from the windswept coasts in New England, and I wonder just what it would be like to live in one of those beautiful places.

Then I remember a thought shared years ago, that I am sharing my world and its many experiences, through the images I capture. And that makes 'your' world so much more. I gathered a few of my favorite images I have captured over the years to share with you today. Images such as these from the Eastern Shore of Virginia, the shores and the bays of Lake Michigan, and Nantucket Island off Cape Cod, to share with you today. ENJOY!

Linking to Skywatch Friday and Foodie Friday and Everything Else

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Waterfall, Roaring Fork River

Sitting half way back along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, tucked neatly out of most visitors' sight, you will find this quaint waterfall. The water rushes down around the boulders and rocks as it makes its way to other tributaries.

If you look closely, you will find it. If you listen closely, you will hear it. ENJOY!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Prairie Coneflowers, Couchville Cedar Glade State Natural Area

Today was not the best day to take a short hike at Couchville Cedar Glade State Natural Area near Hermitage. I did manage to hike about a half mile into the glade before the oppressive heat turned me back. This is a very small natural area east of Nashville and is one of the best examples of a real cedar glade left in middle Tennessee. A small parking lot sits right off the highway and a one mile loop trail takes you throughout the glade.

The many different native species of wildflowers that grow here, especially the rare 'Federally Endangered' Tennessee Coneflower, were amazing to see blooming in close proximity to one another. I counted at least six different species on my walk. On a much cooler day, this would be the perfect wildflower hike. With many different species to choose from, I decided to feature the Prairie Coneflower in this post. I took several images of the Tennessee Coneflower and some of the beautiful Queen Anne's Lace which I will post later. I also have several other wildflower species I captured images of that I can't readily identify. Did you happen to catch the fact that it is officially Summer. After my walk today, I believe it. Boy was it a scorcher out there. ENJOY!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Six and Sixty

On this very week six years ago, I began a journey. A journey that would take me to many places throughout the Eastern United States. Places I would capture through photographs carefully crafted in composition, and later cropped or lightened or darkened, and usually sharpened.

My journey has taken me to places such as Pictured Rocks and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashores. To Chincoteague, Assateague, Mustatatuck and Cross Creeks National Wildlife Refuges. To parks such as Acadia National Park, and the infamous and oftentimes visited, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. To the Midwest states of Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan. To the Mid-Atlantic states of Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland. To beautiful New England to visit Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine, with a day trip over to the gorgeous island of Nantucket. And least I forget, Tennessee, where I now reside.

Six years and many miles behind me in my rear view mirror. I hope you have enjoyed the journey just as much as I have enjoyed sharing it with you. With every image I have tried my best to also craft the story of how that image came to be or share a memory or a thought with only the slightest hope that I might inspire you in some small way. I promise there will be more photos to come as I hope to go for another six years.

Before I leave you today, allow me to share one more tiny piece of news. This week I also celebrated my 60th birthday on June 16th. Oh Boy! I have spent an entire lifetime defying the aging process. The one thing I have come to understand is that all one can really do is smile and soldier on. As I leave you now, I just want to thank all of you for your graciousness over the years and your wonderful heartfelt comments. I cherish each and every one. ENJOY!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Cross Creeks National Wildlife Refuge

As wildlife refuges go, Cross Creeks National Wildlife Refuge is simply that, a wildlife refuge comprised mostly of swamps and bottom land with Lily Pads and Lotus blooms scattered here and there. The 8,000 acres plus wildlife refuge is situated in northwest Tennessee just west of Clarksville, outside of the town of Dover.

The wildlife refuge runs parallel to the Cumberland River so while you drive the main refuge road and view the refuge on one side, in other parts of the refuge you will find the river on one side and the refuge on the other.

One nice thing about this refuge was how it offered photo ops other than the standard wading birds standing in a swamp. There was one large section of land just as you entered the refuge that was covered with blooming Lotus flowers. Unfortunately, I could not get close enough to take better images.

I did manage to capture this Great Blue Heron on the prowl for a meal standing knee deep in the middle of a cornfield. He looked to be on a serious mission so I moved on after clicking a few frames.

The temperatures here in Middle Tennessee, as the locals call it, have stayed in the low 90's for over a week now and do not appear as though they are going to change any time soon. UGH! All one can do is take cover in the air conditioning. I hope wherever you are, you find it cooler than what I am experiencing. Luckily, we have missed the heavy rainful brought on shore by Tropical Storm Bill. Most of that weather moved farther north before turning east. Back soon. ENJOY!

Linking to Our World Tuesday

Monday, June 15, 2015

Rushing Waters of Tremont

Few places compare to the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The grandeur of the mountains, the beauty of the moss covered boulders, the wildlife feeding alongside the road as you drive by.

It is a sweltering 95 degrees here in middle Tennessee with a heat index even higher. Yet, I can hear the sound of the water pouring over the moss covered rocks rushing down the river along Tremont Road as I look at this image. Happy Birthday to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which was officially established by Congress on this date in 1934. Back soon. ENJOY!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Black Bears, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

We are deep within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park today. What images come to mind when I say those words? Mountains, forests, rivers or perhaps fog, rain, smoke. Well, you would be right about all of those things. And then there is the wildlife. Elk, Deer, Fox and Black Bears just to name a few. On this particular trek the day my journey began, I was driving toward the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail when I spotted Black Bears alongside the road.

A female Black Bear, a mother no less, was feeding heartily next to the roadway while her two cubs were off in the brush a short distance away. This is almost the same place I had encountered a Black Bear off in the distance on another visit to the park a year or two before.

My camera was zipped safely away in my equipment bag. Darn! I reached back and unzipped the bag and pulled so as not to break anything on the camera. I got out of the car knowing the Bear was getting ready to head into the forest, but still kept the car between me and the Bears. You just never know. Keep in mind I have a 300mm lens on my camera so while it may seem I am right on top of the Bears, I am a safe enough distance away. If there is a safe enough distance away from such a powerful animal as the Black Bear. Keep in mind while photographing mother Bears that they will charge and fight should you get too close to their cubs. After a few minutes, the Bears had moved further into the forest and disappeared but I was glad to have seen them.

The following day having changed my plan of direction going into the park due to impending thunderstorms, I drove across the main road that eventually takes you to Cherokee, North Carolina. You pass Newfound Gap and the road to Clingman's Dome as you make your way up the side of the mountain and around the mountain and back down on the eastern side. As I reached the bottom of the mountain on the other side of the park, now in North Carolina, I encountered a group of cars. I knew full well it had to be a Bear sighting. This Bear was a large male Bear munching way off in the brush by himself. He spent some time in one area before moving away farther into the forest. You will notice as I cropped this image closely, this Bear is tagged. I hope it was not due to being a nuisance. If so, and he causes a nuisance by getting too close to humans, he could be put down. Let's hope the tag is for a study.

I enjoyed seeing the Black Bears and knew there were plentiful sightings from the alert posted on the park's website before I left home. Hope you are off to a good start to your weekend. Back soon. ENJOY!

Linking to Saturday's Critters

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Juvenile Wood Duck, Murfree Spring Wetlands

In spite of the 90 degree temperatures today, I took a few minutes to drive to Murfree Spring Wetlands this afternoon southeast of Nashville to check out the wildlife. The water level of the swamp was down quite a bit. I did not see as much wildlife this visit, but did see a juvenile Beaver take down a sapling and disappear into the water with the tiny branch. Unfortunately, all of the foliage kept me from getting any decent images.

On my second walk around the parameter of the wetland, I happened upon a juvenile female Wood Duck sitting on the railing. She sat for a while and called out repeatedly. My thought was perhaps for Mom and Dad, who were nowhere in sight.

The second time I happened upon the same juvenile Wood Duck she was sitting on the railing on the far side of the wetlands calling out again. After a few minutes, she flew off into the wetlands. The Wood Duck's sound as she was calling out seemed more like a 'peep' than a call. She kept looking all around her and calling. Although it was very hot today, the humidity wasn't very bad. With the official start of Summer just around the corner, I am praying for a mild one. Have a great week everyone. ENJOY!

Linking to Saturday Critters and Our World Tuesday and The Scoop

Friday, June 5, 2015

Mingus Mill, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Mingus Mill located on the far eastern side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in North Carolina is still an operating mill to this day. In the late 1790's, the metal turbine was considered a modern marvel compared to the old wooden waterwheels used up to date in the milling industry. The Mingus Family opened the mill in the 1790's and later built this structure for a mere $600. At that time the mill was surrounded by fields and crops.

Today, surrounded by the national park itself, the Mingus Mill is quaintly nestled in a grove of trees a short walk off the entrance on a winding path which crosses over a narrow creek called Mingus Creek. When you begin your walk back to the mill, the trail is actually the Mingus Creek Trail head with the mill itself about one tenth of a mile in. This trail is also part of the Mountains-to-the-Sea Trail which stretches 1,000 miles beginning at Clingman's Dome and ending at Jockey's Ridge at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. At this point on the path, this is when the mill begins to divert the water from the creek itself to the mill. I have photographed this site once before and decided to stop by during my recent visit to the park and attempt a new perspective to include the building. Hope you have great plans for the weekend. ENJOY!

Linking to Barn Collective

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Elk, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

At the Oconaluftee Visitor Center on the North Carolina side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there were no Elk to be seen which was the norm. As I made my way back through the park, I happened upon this lone Elk munching on the grasses in a field right off the road about two miles from the visitor center.

She is a sow and I don't think she gave birth to a calf this Spring as there was no evidence of one with her. I loved that she also did 'not' have a radio collar on which made for nicer images. As the group of cars that stopped to watch her graze began to grow, the Elk would look up every now and then. This was one of the looks she gave me as I sat across from her in the car at a good distance. It was a priceless look. When it started to rain, she looked up and all around her, and then abruptly turned and hightailed in the opposite direction and crossed the road heading for the treeline next to the river. It made one wonder what was going through her head at the time. If you look closely, you can see a few rain drops in the image. At least she posed for a few pics for me. ENJOY!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Waterfall, Middle Prong Trail Head

On a recent visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, off the main road on the west side of the park, past the Townsend exit, sits Tremont. I visit this area more often than I have in the past to photograph the water along the Middle Prong River. The paved road turns to gravel just past the Tremont Institute. Here the road follows the river all the way back until it dead ends. At this point you are at the Middle Prong Trail head. As you cross a metal bridge you are crossing Lynn Camp Prong. Here is the confluence of Lynn Camp Prong and Thunderhead Prong. The rush of the two prongs converging is pretty amazing.

Waterfall, Middle Prong Tail Head, Lynn Camp Prong,
Great Smoky Mountains National Park

There are three waterfalls situated along the Middle Prong Trail making this the most popular trail for waterfall photographers. On this particular day, I wanted to photograph the waterfall at the trail head itself. With a storm moving in, I could only capture a few perspectives. I especially like this perspective because of the contrast. The boulders seem dark and moody against the stark white water as it falls down the rocks. This was the wettest visit to the park I had ever encountered. However, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is expansive. So if it is raining at one end or side of the park, just drive to the other end or side and you just might find sunshine which I did several times. Back soon with a few more images from my trip. ENJOY!

Linking to Wow Us Wednesday

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Green Frog, Murfree Spring Wetlands

At Murfree Spring Wetlands I happened upon large and small birds, mammals, amphibians and a plethora of marshes, swamps and more pond weeds than I had ever seen in my lifetime. While reading up on Green Frogs, I discovered that pond weeds are also referred to as duck weeds.

Mid way into my first walk, half way back into the wetland, this Green Frog stuck his head up out of the water in a less saturated pond weed area. This little guy is in the perfect habitat what with all of the insects one can find hanging out in the wetland. I discovered upon reading about Green Frogs that this is gal, a female Green Frog. Females have a similar size tympanum, external hearing structure, just behind the eye. The tympanum actually transmits sounds to the inner ear. Males have a much larger tympanum which is the perfect distinguishing characteristic.

At the end of my wetland walk, I lingered to look over the boardwalk into the swamp and up popped another female Green Frog. This gal was almost totally camouflaged by heavy pond weeds. She sat on top of the water while I captured a few images of her.

I plan to venture back to Murfree Spring Wetland often in the near future in hopes of seeing the Beavers and River Otters that reside there. I encountered considerable evidence of the Beavers all along the first half of the boardwalk. Near the back of the wetland sat a very large Beaver lodge out in the swamp. Everyone have a fantastic weekend. Stay dry as there is quite a bit of rain forecast for the midwest, south and eastern United States. ENJOY!

Linking to Saturday Critters

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Eastern Phoebe

At Murfree Spring Wetlands I attempted to capture photos of the woodland birds flitting about on the dead branches spread throughout the swamps and marshes. This little bird is an Eastern Phoebe. One of the most familiar of the eastern flycatchers. Phoebes are quite hardy and have a stocky physique and are generally brown and white. If only he would have had a fly or gnat in his beak that would have made for a better image, but I will take what I can get.

Eastern Phoebes generally perch on low hanging branches or low in trees. They form mud-and-grass nests attached to bridges, barns and houses. I can honestly say I have never seen an Eastern Phoebe nest. Eastern Phoebes migrate north and are one of the first birds to migrate back to the south each year. This is a Life List Bird for me. ENJOY!

Since moving here to Tennessee I have encountered quite a few birds to add to my Life List.
The list is posted on this blog in the right column mid way down if you would like to see just what species of birds
I have encountered throughout my journeys. Thank you for stopping by my blog
and thank you for all of your wonderful comments. I read every single one and cherish all of them.

Since mid December I have at least 25 new followers to my blog from all over the globe. 
I want to thank each and every one of you for following my posts and if you haven't left me
a note or a comment, I hope you will soon. I love to hear your thoughts on my outings to capture
images of our beautiful planet. I translate any comments that aren't in English. 
So never fear, I'm reading your comments no matter the language. Thank you for following!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Yellow Crowned Night Heron

As I was about to end my walk around Murfree Spring Wetlands Sunday, I turned the corner toward the entrance and saw this beautiful creature standing in the middle of the large swamp. This is a Yellow Crowned Night Heron and a Life List bird for me. Isn't he gorgeous. I had never laid eyes on one before. Quite honestly, I didn't even know there was such a thing. The only thing I knew for certain was this was not a Black Crowned Night Heron.

It didn't take long for me to identify this bird as I knew it was some sort of crowned Heron. Yellow Crowned Night Herons are nocturnal birds that reside mainly in southern swamps and along southern coastlines. The yellow crown is their distinctive feature which is what they are named for although they do have yellow legs as well. These Herons are stockier than the Great Blue Heron, the Little Blue Heron or the Tri-Colored Heron.

A juvenile Yellow Crowned Night Heron has a longer neck and sports a grayer toned body. Actually, the juvenile doesn't really resemble the adult all that much when I looked them up online. I thought perhaps I would see a Black Crowned Night Heron at the wetlands as I had seen photos online that mentioned sightings, but no dice.

The entire time I photographed this Heron he was very intent stalking about in search of a snack. Finally, a lady with two young boys approached and off he flew. I knew he wouldn't stay long with young children chatting away. It has rained off and on since yesterday, but hopefully we won't have the drenching rain that Texas and Oklahoma are getting. Such tragedy in Texas from the floodwaters and on Memorial Day no less. My heart goes out to everyone there. Back soon with more images from my walk on the wild side. ENJOY!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Wood Ducks, Murfree Spring Wetlands

Murfree Spring Wetlands is a remarkable place to visit and to think that it is right in the middle of a large town is even more remarkable. I decided to visit here as it called for a shorter drive than the refuge I had planned on visiting.

The iridescent green and purple of the male Wood Duck are gorgeous, not to mention its red eyes, beautiful flare down its neck and multi colored bill. Both the male and the female share crested heads. This species is akin to the Asian Mandarin Duck.

The Wood Duck or Carolina Duck is a perching Duck known throughout North America. These Ducks prefer wooded habitats such as wooded swamps which is exactly what Murfree Spring Wetlands is known for. You can find the Wood Duck female's nest in wood boxes and tree cavities.

I tried to see if I could locate where this pair of Wood Ducks may have nested, but the swamp and its marshes were so dense it was difficult.

Another remarkable thing about these Ducks is that in the eastern and western United States 75% of Wood Ducks are permanent residents. Generally, the eastern Wood Ducks use the Atlantic Flyway while the western use the Pacific if they are not permanent, but are migratory.

I wanted to mark this Memorial Day by mentioning that I think often about those who gave their lives for our country,
as my Father did having suffered from PTSD, which ended his life at the young age of 52.
My heart goes out to those of you who are and those of you who have served for our country, 
living or dead, so America can be free. As I often see and hear 'Freedom is not Free'. God Bless America!

Linking to Saturday Critters

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Muskrats, Murfree Spring Wetlands

Today was the perfect day for an outing. The temperature was in the mid eighties with an abundance of sunshine peeking through the clouds and at times a nice breeze would blow through to cool things off. I decided to visit Murfree Spring Wetlands in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, southeast of Nashville. The wetland is situated next to the Discovery Center which is a children's venue accompanied by a museum. The wetlands is about 25 acres and is home to mammals, amphibians, birds, waterfowl and obviously thousands of insects. The definition of a wetland follows . . .

Wetlands are land areas that are saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally, 
such that it takes on the characteristics of a distinct ecosystem. Wetlands include swamps, marshes
and bogs. Wetlands vary widely because of  differences in soils, topography, climate, hydrology,
water chemistry, vegetation, and other factors. Wetlands are economic drivers because of 
their key role in fishing, hunting, agriculture and recreation. 

This being my first visit I was surprised to find a large Muskrat sitting on top of marsh weeds and grasses munching on pond weeds. Pond weeds are the tiny green weeds you see in the water all around the Muskrat. This Muskrat looked to be an adult and wasn't the least bit concerned at my presence nearby on the boardwalk. So I gingerly snapped a few images of him having a midday snack. After a few minutes and having gotten his fill, he disappeared into the water never to be seen again.

After my initial walk around the parameter of the wetland, I headed back to my car for a quick drink of water. The sun was coming down pretty good at times making for a warm walk. Back to the boardwalk for a second lap around, I just happened upon several smaller Muskrat feeding on pond weeds right inside the wetland entrance. Muskrats in residential environments can be a nuisance, but these little guys were in the perfect environment in the swamps and, needless to say, there was plenty of food to be had.

My visit was packed full of sightings of all types of species from mammals to waterfowl. Along the boardwalk I happened upon large Turtles basking in the sun covered in pond weeds, Eastern Pondhawk Dragonflies, Green Frogs and, of course, the Muskrats. The birds I encountered were the Yellow Crowned Night Heron, a pair of mated Wood Ducks, a Grackle, several Eastern Kingbirds, countless Robins, and the Red Winged Blackbird which are plentiful around swamps and marshes. There was a virtual plethora of wildlife to be seen and enjoyed. I hope your Memorial Day holiday has been enjoyable and I promise I will be back in a day or two with more images from my visit. We have rain on the horizon for tomorrow. Apparently that front that has caused major flooding and storms in Texas and Oklahoma is headed my way. Although I don't think we are supposed to get quite as much rain as the Midwest has gotten. ENJOY!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Memorial Day Weekend

As I sifted through my archives in search of an image to share with you today, I happened upon these beautiful Hydrangeas from last Summer blooming around the chamber offices in Saugatuck, Michigan. If there were a flower I could fall madly in love with and have an affair, it would be Hydrangeas. They bloom in various shapes and sizes and colors. Oftentimes, they are variegated which adds to their charm. Something about the Hydrangea screams 'Americana'.

Memorial Day weekend is approaching! Do you have great plans for the weekend? After all it is 'the official start of Summer'. Public pools around the nation officially open for the season. Teeny weeny bikinis are seen at every turn whether it be at the beach, the lake, the park or the pool. Inner tubes are hauled out of storage, pumped tight with air and ready to throw in the water for sun bathing. Is that the smell of sun tan lotion wafting through the air? Did somebody check the burgers and hot dogs on the grill? All of the ladies are rushing about preparing side dishes for the cookout. There's baked beans and old fashioned potato salad or perhaps you would prefer roast corn or fresh green beans. How about a big slice of baked Apple Pie and can I have a smidgen of fresh whipped cream. Or maybe a scoop of vanilla ice cream is more your speed. What is that popping and cracking sound. Ahhh, the neighborhood kids are shooting off firecrackers. What do you say we scare up some folks and play a game of softball or touch football. We could always just throw around the Frisbee. Maybe Dad will drag out the horseshoes for a tournment. Has anybody seen a movie at the drive in theater lately?

Whatever you decide to do on this long holiday weekend, I wish you loads of fun,
delicious food and great times with your family and friends. Be safe.