It’s a new year! Time to blog again…

This great blue heron came by our pond on January 2. A great New Year’s surprise!

April 2, 2021 was the last time I posted a blog entry in 2020 on either of my sites (the other one being my SketchWild nature sketching and drawing site). I found, like I’m sure many people had, that I’d run out of gas and things to say for the time being. I also didn’t do much, if any art. Also, after decades of being super careful, the rotator cuff area of my right shoulder started to act up and I didn’t want to aggravate it. A number of my colleagues over the years soldiered on and ended up having to have surgery. No thanks. But I find now that I can, if I’m careful and don’t overdo it, draw and paint. I’m also going to start a series of exercises to address each of the muscles involved.

Last spring we got vaccinated and will get “boosted” next week. Even so, we’re being sensible about going out and around. My mom was an RN who remembered the time when there were no vaccines and the suffering and pain people experienced as a result. I had a high school classmate who might been among the last kids to get polio and shortly before the vaccine was available. He survived but ended up with one leg shorter than the other and died young in his early 50s from polio-related heart problems. I got all the vaccines as they came along and am very glad my parents did that. It wasn’t a foolish political issue back then, it was a no-brainer. Most people alive today don’t remember pre-vaccine days. I follow the science and fact-based evidence and I know how important it is be be vaccinated against a variety of diseases, including COVID.

New hobby!

One of the fun things I did in the fall as the outdoor gardening season wound down was to try out some succulents. And as I’m sure often happens, it becomes the “potato chip problem”…can’t have just a few. They turn out to sometimes be picky little devils and I’ve lost some. But most are doing fine. I bought this commercial grade restaurant cart to keep them at least somewhat safe from earthquakes and also so I can easily move them around to catch the sun. It’s worked out really well! Now I want to start sketching them.

That’s it for this week. I’m back at the easel and have my sketching gear warmed up so there will be ART next Friday!

Tales From The Field: A Stroll Through Egan’s Creek Greenway, Fernandina Beach, Florida

trail
The starting point of my walk

Not all good tales come from exotic locales. You don’t have to have a passport to get to somewhere worthwhile. And good adventures don’t all have to be exciting, much less life-threatening. Just getting out into nature wherever you live or travel to can yield fun, amusing and interesting stories. I’m known for my adventures in Mongolia, but I love to get out in nature and animal watch wherever I am. For instance, last March I spent over a week exploring southern Georgia and also some of the northern Florida barrier islands like Amelia Island and the town of Fernandina Beach, Florida, which turns out to have a wonderful and clearly much-loved community amenity, Egan’s Creek Greenway, a park braided with trails that run right through the town. Kudos to the townspeople who had the will and vision to set aside this natural area. You can read more about my March 2016 trip here and here.

We live in a rural coastal county in northern California, where the biggest reptile one is likely to encounter are large but harmless gopher snakes or a watch-your-fingers-cause-they-bite Pacific giant salamander. So it was a bit of stopper to see this sign upon entering what is essentially a town park…

gater sign

map
I walked most of the way to the northern end and back.

It was late afternoon and the light was getting better minute by minute.

which trail

The trail split. I followed the one to the left, saving the one along the stream for the way back.

flower

It was March but a few wildflowers were already blooming.

plants

I really liked the three different textures of the grass, water plant, and trees.

bunnies

I saw a movement around twenty yards ahead. I had my long lens so was able to get some good photos of what I believe are marsh rabbits (Silvilagus palustris). I noticed that they stayed in the shade, which makes sense for a prey animal. They are similar in appearance and size to the brush rabbits we have here in Humboldt County.

turtles 1

Turtles! This was a big deal for me since I’d never seen any in the wild before other than sea turtles in Hawaii. They are yellow belly sliders (Trachemys scripta scripta).

turtles 2

These were to the right of the ones in the first photo, all catching some last rays before sundown.

trail 2

I had learned about this trail while chatting with my Airbnb host and this was my only chance to check it out. I couldn’t have come at a better time since the light was great and there was almost no one else around.

DSC_1160

I came upon a great egret in soft cool light.

egret 2

It took off and I got a good shot of it in flight.

log

After that sign at the trailhead, this log stopped me for an instant.

trail 4

I came to another open area adjacent to a deep water-filled depression where the trails went off in different directions, I was getting pretty close to being back to where I’d started. I happened to look down into the pond…

gator 1

And what do you know? An alligator! At least six feet long, also catching the last of the day’s sun.

gator 2

Can you spot the gator?

bunny

I walked on and a short time later came upon another grazing bunny who quickly hopped into the brush. I caught up to where I thought he’d gone and there he was, holding very still.

cardinal

A few minutes later I spotted this male cardinal. We don’t have these where I live so I always get a kick out of seeing them even though I know they’re quite common.

feron and turtles

A short distance more and I was out of the greenway into the open and here was a big pond with not only a great blue heron (we do have them here on the west coast, too), but  more turtles!

Red-tailed hawk 3

As I photographed the heron and turtles, I spotted something in the sky. It was a red-tailed hawk circling around. I took a lot of photos and finally got a few of the bird as it turned and caught the light.

What a day. But there was one more treat in store.

Palm warbler

As I walked back to the parking area I spotted a small bird hopping around in the chain link fence and managed to get this one photo. It’s a palm warbler, a new species for me.

The whole walk was at most three hours. I had nothing in mind, just to explore a new area and see what was there. What places are there where you live that you’ve never gotten around to exploring? We tend to take where we live for granted, but nature is ever-changing and no walk or hike will ever be exactly the same. If you’ve discovered a local gem where you live tell me about it in the comments!