Monday, May 11, 2009

I Hate Snakes

I love my Indiana Jones hat. I love wearing it on intrepid adventures, nature trails, and bird walks.

Magee Marsh located at Oak Harbor, Ohio, is famous for unusual finds during spring warbler migration season. As of May 8, 2009, I was happy to see four "lifers" (birds seen for the first time that I can now proudly add to my life list of observed birds): Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Nashville Warbler, and Least Bittern. As for photographic evidence, forget about it. My camera's only good for landscapes. And, as luck would have it ... snakes!

Something else I have in common with Indiana Jones besides the hat. I hate snakes! Now this little guy happened to be contentedly sunning himself along the boardwalk trail, close enough to reach out and touch. (Perish the thought!) Turns out I had encountered a "species of concern" called the Eastern Fox Snake.

The Eastern Fox Snake, Latin name "Elaphe Vulpina Gloydi," is relatively tame. Hence the concern is that its population is thinning, though it remains at this point an unprotected species.

As the Eastern Fox Snake slithers off into the sunset, here are a few websites for more information:

This adventure demonstrates yet another instance of going off in search of one thing and finding something completely unexpected. Sure keeps life interesting!

Questions for Readers: What's the most interesting non-bird that you've come across during a bird walk? And what's your most exciting or memorable life bird?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Flowering Dogwood in a Blue Clear Sky

My first trip down to the Hocking Hills this spring was stormy and gothic as you've seen before. My beloved redbud trees were in bloom, but looking like pale ghostly laughter amid scraggly bare brown branches all around.

I asked the innkeeper to send me an e-mail to let me know when the trees were just starting to turn spring green, so that I could plan to get up at 4:30 a.m. the next morning, jump in the car, and make a one-day whirlwind trip back down there. Well, the day I received the e-mail was just gorgeous, but by the time I would have traveled to the Hocking Hills at least half the day would have been gone. Couldn't go the next day due to a business-related phone call. Got rained out the day after that, at least according to the weather radar at my favorite weather website, Weather Underground.

As each precious day went by, I knew it was less and less likely to achieve the perfect combination of redbud trees blooming together with flowering dogwood trees together with just the right amount of spring green new leaves on the hillside trees. But anyways, I started out Saturday morning, and in my previous blog entry you can see plenty of clouds ... or weird Photoshopped skies to mask the clouds ... along with the spring green and red barns.

Then suddenly, out of a blue clear sky, emerged the one safe parking lot to pull off in and take pictures from on Thompson Ridge Road in Laurelville, Ohio. Now Thompson Ridge is a beautiful stretch of a scenic route. Only trouble is it's narrow, winding, steep in places, and doesn't have much of a safe shoulder alongside to stop anywhere even when the beauty gets real tempting.

But the one gravel parking lot was enough. And it provided access to the flowering dogwood against the sky. The redbud blossoms were long gone, had long since leafed out as the flowers camouflaged themselves by turning like chameleons into the common spring green. But the dogwood was a more than worthy consolation prize.

What the Hocking Hills have taught me over the years is that you never go down the same road twice. If you try to go back looking for that perfect spot where everything came together last time for an especially-pleasing photo, what you'll find are memories of an ideal moment in the past alongside of a jarring present that doesn't quite compare because it's not the same. So the alternatives are to travel different roads, or travel familiar roads as if they're new.

Because life can still hold wondrous surprises and God-given gifts if you remain open for them. Like in Forrest Gump's world, life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get ... and unexpected hoped-for events can seem to come "out of the blue clear sky." Fascinatingly enough, while driving this past Saturday through the Hocking Hills, I heard a radio advertisement with a local actor pretending to be Forrest Gump. I like to think this fits a theme in my life, as is also apparent from this earlier blog entry:

Anyways, I went out hoping for redbud, came up instead with dogwood, and was not disappointed.

Question for Readers: Have you ever embarked on a quest looking for one thing, and found something else, a surprise maybe, just as good or even better?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Red Barns and Spring Green

I made this first sky black the better to accent the colors and textures of new growth and well-tended farm buildings and fences. This pretty little barn surprises me with its beauty every time I see it coming up just around the bend of a winding road meandering through the hills. Photo taken at Laurelville in Hocking County, Ohio.

This particular hill at Ratcliffburg in Vinton County always reminds me of a gumdrop.

A grandeur of sky hovers over the hills of Vinton County, Ohio. The sky has been dramatized in Photoshop so I can better communicate how looking at the clouds made me feel.

I call this guy “Big Red.” Almost looks like a face with one eye patched, a loose nose, and a wide gaping mouth. Photo taken on Big Pine Road at Laurelville.

A quilt barn with matching wooly quilt sheep. The evergreen design on the side of the barn lets you know you’ve arrived at the Weaver Christmas Tree Farm. Photo taken at Creola in Vinton County.