Monday, October 31, 2011

A Drive in the Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge


A Sunday drive on a gravel road in the Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge about 90 miles south of Greensboro. Here, nearly ten thousand Canada geese overwinter along with various other waterfowl such as mallards, wood ducks, etc., along with the natives - white tailed deer, black bears, bobcats, foxes, and more.

We didn't see any of them. No geese on Beaver Pond, no white tailed deer alongside this gravel road. I did see a cardinal on a dead tree snag, but that was it. I think you have to be in the refuge really early in the morning, probably close to daybreak or stay a little after the sun goes down (the refuge is open an hour before dawn and closes an hour after sunset for those die hard naturalists).

But the trees are full of color this year, more so than the past couple of years. I was surprised as we have been in drought conditions all through the summer and generally that means less color in the leaves. Perhaps our late summer/early fall rains helped to counter that.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Stunning Sunday Skies


I went down to Lake Brandt Thursday evening to catch the cold front as it came in from the Midwest. This is the leading edge of the front that brought us cold rain on Friday and then went up the Atlantic seaboard to turn into a nor'easter, one of the earliest ever and dumping large amounts of snow in the Mid-Atlantic states and New England.

No snow here in Greensboro (that would have been a record), but with wind gusts over 30 mph and temperatures in the low 40's, it sure felt like winter and not just a month into fall. Indicators of this winter to come?

I'm doing these sky shots with Anyes over at Far Away in the Sunshine. I know she doesn't have to worry about nor'easters there.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Song Sparrow on the Patio



A short post as the weather is conspiring against my air card and my ability to upload photographs. We're getting that storm that dumped a foot of snow on Denver a few days ago; no snow, but rain and the temperature has dropped from 78F to the mid-40's. Winter is coming.

The feeders are out in the small garden and this song sparrow showed up on the patio to pick through the seeds spilled out of the feeder in the redbud tree. He is a ground feeder and because of his shading, sometimes the only way I know that I have sparrows in the garden is when the leaves start flying in the air as they scratch around. 

This sparrow is the largest of all of our native sparrows and has the largest number of subspecies - 52. I have no idea which subspecies this one is. Perhaps Melospiza melodia melodia  or Melospiza melodia atlantica or even Melospiza melodia euphonia. Who knows?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Butterflies at Airlie Gardens

Monarch Butterfly

A place to visit in Wilmington is Airlie Gardens, one of the sites of the annual Azalea Queen festival in the spring. However by the time I showed up the first week of October, pretty much everything had gone by and the workers were starting to put up Christmas decorations (That drives me crazy! Thanksgiving is first; in fact, Halloween is before both of those holidays).

But the Butterfly House was in full swing with lots of Monarchs and Gulf Fritillaries. It made it quite easy to take snapshots as I wasn't chasing them across poison ivy infested fields.

Gulf Fritillary

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Barn Quilts in Sparta, NC

And a look at the barn quilts that decorate some of the buildings in downtown Sparta -


This is called "Four Cubes and a Star" and it is on the side of the Alleghany Arts and Crafts Gallery. Quite psychedelic, isn't it?


And this is "Hawaiian Breadfruit" on the side of an antiques and pottery store. I'm told by Suzi Parron, who has written a book on barn quilts and has photographed many of these North Carolina barn quilts herself, that the owners of this shop had been to Hawaii for vacation and wanted something to remember their trip by. Hence this particuar pattern.

Sunset Sunday


I had to dig deep in my stash of photos to find a good sunset. The skies this week have been beautiful, but cloudless and I think clouds add so much to a photo, especially a sunset photo.

I took this at Lake Townsend exactly one year ago using the old bridge super-zoom camera, the Panasonic FZ5. Lake Townsend is the largest of our city water reservoirs, but  this year its water levels are down by many feet, leaving a huge swath of mud flats along the shore. However, the drop is not due to our summer drought (with 12 1/2 inches of rain over the past two months, we are finally out of that misery), but due to the city having to repair the dam at the eastern end of the lake and having to lower the lake levels in order to make that possible.

I'm doing this in conjunction with Anyes over at Far Away in the Sunshine. Go and take a look at what she saw.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Revoir à la Rose


The very last roses of the year. The Clotilde Soupert has been a phenomenal bloomer this fall.

But as you can see from the bud to the left of the large bloom, we've had very cold mornings; not quite a freeze but there has been a little frost some mornings.

So, it tells me that I need to start putting out the bird feeders for my little boreal migrators and there will soon be bird pictures to come.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

More Barn Quilts

And some more barn quilts that I photographed this past Saturday up in the mountains. I'll identify them if I can.


This is called Dutchman's Puzzle. It is on the workshop of Dan Abernathy who is a renown bird sculptor. He provided a bird Christmas tree ornament for the 2002 White House Christmas tree (only one craftsperson from each state is chosen) and his sculptures are in museums and private collections all over the country. There was a gallery/studio tour in Alleghany County Saturday, so I got two for the price of one.


While there are two barn quilts listed on this particular country road, this isn't one of them. No idea what the pattern name is.


Even if this wasn't listed on the brochure, the pattern is instantly recognizable as Log Cabin. I had to take this from a distance as the barn was at the far end of a large pasture. You can see that they also are a Christmas tree farm (just behind the barn).

I did a quick mental calculation as to how many barn quilts there are in western North Carolina (foothills and mountains). There are probably close to 1000! I promise not to turn this into all barn quilts all the time, but will look for them on future trips.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Barn Quilt on Shatley Springs Road, Crumpler, NC


The weather forecasters predicted a bright and sunny Saturday, so TB and I left early that morning to go up to the mountains and take pictures of the colorful leaves and any other interesting buildings and places we could find.

TB saw this barn quilt in her side view mirror as we were heading south on US Highway 221 towards West Jefferson. I would've never seen it unless I looked at the exact right moment in my rear view mirror.  Since I was taking as many barn quilt pictures that I could find on this trip, I made an U-turn and back to Shatley Springs Road to take this picture.

I can't tell you the name of this pattern as this particular quilt is not noted on the Ashe County website which currently only lists 30 barn quilts. However the Ashe County Arts Council states in their latest newsletter that there are now more than 150 barn quilts in this county alone. Wish they and neighboring Alleghany County would get their act together and update their respective websites. It's delightful to come upon them accidentally, but I prefer mapping out my road trip beforehand.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Stunning Sunday Skies


Another standing in the parking lot at work and shooting blindly up in the air with the small camera snapshot.

Our weather has changed rather dramatically from the heat of this past summer to the cool and crisp of fall. And with this change of weather, I watch all these storm fronts coming towards us from the Midwest with these stupendous clouds right before the sky turns grey and rains for days.

This weekend has been terrific, though, with bright blue skies and not a cloud in them, what we here refer to as "Carolina Blue" and what the University of North Carolina has co-opted for their school colors. But the Tuesday prior brought me all these glorious clouds and a stunning sky.

I'm doing this in conjunction with Anyes over at Far Away in the Sunshine. I bet her pictures are done a little more professionally. . .

Friday, October 14, 2011

Faison-William House, Faison, North Carolina


Just north of Magnolia is Faison, another town that grew up around the Wilmington-Weldon Railroad (which now through many and various mergers is CSX Transportation). Although it was originally settled by land grant in 1776, Faison's heydays were during the years of 1830 to the end of the nineteenth century.

Prior to the Civil War, many planters built large mansions in the town, earning it the sobriquet "The Acropolis of Society of Duplin County". One of those mansions is the one pictured above, the Faison-Williams House.

Today the house is nearly hidden from sight behind these huge magnolia trees. I drove up the driveway to get a better look at the house which looked neglected and abandoned (I figured I could leave long before the sheriff's deputies showed up to arrest me for trespassing).


What an odd sight. The front stairs had been repaired but there was an abandoned secretary's chair and contractor's light on the porch. The old brick piers holding up the porch have been replaced in places with concrete blocks (ugly). When you look through the front door and windows, the inside has been gutted to the studs and drywall lies piled on the floor. If you click on this link, it will take you to the North Carolina State University Digital Library and photos of the interior which were taken in 2005. Six years later, it still looks the same.

A little digging around the Internet brought just one comment on a genealogy site from the guy who bought it in 1999. In 2001 he wrote that he and his wife were renovating it and planning on turning it into a bed and breakfast. It looks as though they gave up on the renovation shortly after posting that comment.

And doing a little more digging to find the owner's name, it turns out that he ran for town commissioner twice and state senate once and was roundly defeated for all three races. Think people were upset by how he's left this once proud mansion to fall into ruin?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Old Store, Magnolia, NC


While I was trying to find another historic house in Magnolia, I ran across this boarded-up and abandoned store. It's not in my books, not on the Internet. I wonder what it's history is.

A close-up of its decorative embellishment in the gable of the roof.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Magnolia Academy, Magnolia, North Carolina

I've stopped driving the interstate highways as much as possible during my weekend day trips. For one, it is mind numbing to drive and see nothing but four (or six lanes) of asphalt mile after mile. Secondly, it takes me away from the small towns and villages where there is always something new to see.

Magnolia, North Carolina is one of those tiny villages with something unusual to see. It sits along US Highway 117 which parallels Interstate 40. And since I-40 siphons off all the traffic, it made for a pleasurable drive to Duplin County and through the towns that sprang up along the Wilmington-Weldon Railroad back in the 1840's.

Magnolia was once the largest town in the county and the center of North Carolina bulb producers and exporters back before the Civil War. Today it has around 900 people living here.



Above is a picture of Magnolia Academy which was built as a private school in 1858. When I saw a picture of it on Built Heritage North Carolina, it looked as though a strong wind would blow it down completely (if you click on the link above, it will take you to the interior photos of the academy).

But when I finally found it, it appeared that someone had moved in (see the window with the air conditioner in the picture below) and had done a little, not a whole lot, of renovation to the building.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunset Sunday


A last sunset on the Intercoastal Waterway at Holden Beach. This time I didn't hold up traffic to take it. There is a public dock under the ICW bridge where the locals gather to fish and trade tall fish tales. They were gracious enough to share the dock with me while I took sunset snapshots.

I was  so fortunate to have a week where every single day was sunny and warm. Great weather for a vacation!

I'm doing this in conjunction with Anyes over at Far Away in the Sunshine. Go see her beautiful sunset.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Birdwatching on the Masonboro Sound



This morning I drove up to Wrightsville Beach to take a birding tour of the intercoastal waters given by the Cape Fear Naturalist. The nice thing about going on vacation in October is that tour groups tend to be really small. In fact, this one was so small there was another tourist, the boat captain, the tour biologist and myself.

I wasn't sure that I could get anything decent in the way of a snapshot as the pontoon boat was rocking and rolling in the swells and wakes and I just have a bridge camera, not a DSLR with all the options and gadgets.

But a lot of the pictures turned out well. Here is a close up of the terns on the sandbar above:


The ones with the black heads are Caspian Terns and the ones with the wedge of gray are Royal Terns (along with a scattering of gulls).

And what happens when you get too close to a sandbar and set everyone off:


Brown Pelicans, Royal and Caspian Terns (in the air), Common Terns, Black Skimmers (the ones with black wings), and gulls of some type.

It was a terrific adventure and made me wish for Swarovski binoculars and a DSLR with a huge telephoto lens.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Commuting on the Southport Ferry


One thing you can say about the North Carolina Ferry system is that they are strictly utilitarian and cheap. It only costs $5 per car to take this from Southport to Fort Fisher. I imagine during the summer and high season for tourists, that this is generally packed with cars, not the handful you see here.

But there are always freeloaders who sneak on after the ferry has set sail:

Common Grackle

First Summer Herring Gull Juvenile


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Price's Creek Lighthouse


Yesterday I decided to take the ferry from Southport to Fort Fisher and the beaches at the very south part of Wilmington.

As the ferry pulled out of the dock, I turned and looked back and saw this small abandoned lighthouse. I took some snapshots and then went on to the other beaches in search of interesting photos and shells.

When I got back to the beach house last night, I did a little research and found out that this small lighthouse is called Price's Creek Lighthouse and was built in 1849 as one of eight paired lighthouses to guide boats down the Cape Fear River. This is actually the smaller of the pair as a taller light was built behind it. According to what I read on the Internet, ship's captains positioned their vessels so that the taller light appeared directly behind the shorter one. By doing this, their ships would be safely in the middle of the Cape Fear River.

Their heyday lasted until the end of the Civil War when they were abandoned to the weather and scavengers. This is the only one left and now lies inaccessible on private property.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Looking Down the Intercoastal Waterway.



Many years ago when my family first started coming to the North Carolina seashore (over 45 years now), the only bridges to the coastal islands over the Intercoastal Waterway where either drawbridges or swing bridges. I could remember many times during our summer excursions back to our cottage where we had to sit in idling traffic while the bridges had opened to allow boat traffic down the ICW. For some beaches like Sunset Beach, the only bridge connecting it to the mainland was not only a swing bridge, but a one-lane bridge meaning traffic had to wait for the other lane to clear.

Some years back, someone in state government finally got a clue that trying to evacuate these hugely populated islands for a hurricane was going to prove to be a nightmare situation with this little bridges and so they started building mammoth concrete bridges over the ICW to replace these now outmoded asphalt and wood ones.

This is the evening view from the bridge from the mainland to Holden Beach over the Intercoastal Waterway. It is not one of my better snapshots as I had to stop at the top of the bridge, roll down the car window and take a quick shot while I held up traffic behind me. But at least they were patient for that minute - no laying on of car horns and no sheriff involved.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Buckner Hill Plantation, Faison, NC


I know what you're thinking. I went to the beach for vacation, so where are the beach snapshots?

No beach for my Sunday travels - rather away from the beach in search of historic buildings that are too far from Greensboro for a day trip. In fact, I had this specific building on my list for quite a long time and now that I was within driving distance, off I went.

For those of you who saw The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood back in 2002, this house may look familiar. It portrayed Pecan Grove, the Walker family's home place in Louisiana. It is actually Buckner Hill Plantation outside of Faison, NC - many, many miles from Louisiana.

It is one of the largest plantation homes in North Carolina and was built by skilled slaves owned by Dr. Buckner Hill in the 1850's. The floor plan is that of a cruciform with twelve  foot wide halls bisecting both floors. When the weather becomes too hot for the family, the doors and windows are opened and the interior halls become interior porches. The large intersection of the hallways was also used by the original family members as a ballroom.

I saw the owner trimming his hedge out back, stopped and asked if I could come onto the property to take pictures of the front of the house. He's probably quite used to sightseers coming by and was very gracious and allowed me to drive up the driveway and take all the pictures I wanted. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Stunning Sunday Sky


I can't believe I have gone a whole week without posting, but sometimes life and work get in the way. I'll have lots and lots of posts this week as I am on vacation down at the beach. The weather forecast says every day will be sunny and warm, so lots of opportunities for snapshots.

Today's photo is of the sky after one of our thunderstorms from last week finally ended and the sun came out that morning.

I'm doing this with Anyes over at Far Away in the Sunshine. I may miss a week of blogging, but I won't miss a Sunday sky or sunset.