Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Red House Presbyterian Church, Semora, North Carolina

As TB and I are not fond of fighting the Christmas shopping crowds over the holiday weekend, we decided to go down to Salisbury to take pictures of the historic train depot, grist mill and other historic sites in the area since the day was absolutely perfect for snapshots.

I got to TB's house and realized that I had left my book on historic architecture and maps back at my house 45 minutes away. We agreed it wouldn't make much sense to backtrack north to my house when Salisbury was south of TB and so we decided to just drive the backroads and see what we could see.

We ended up in Semora, an unincorporated village of about 1200 near the Virginia border (so much for not going back to my house; Semora is north of Greensboro). We found this beautiful little Greek Revival church back in the woods and so drove up the driveway to take pictures.

This is Red House Presbyterian Church. According to information that I found on the Internet, this congregation has been in existence since 1755. This is the fourth church building on this site - a 1913 Classical Revival reconstruction of the second church building that was built in 1806. It was named Red House for the red painted inn that sat just down the road from the church.

It is a tiny jewel of a church building in the back country of North Carolina. The typical country church is generally a wood framed building. I can't think of any churches we've driven by that could compete with this beautiful structure.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Stunning Sunday Skies

Although this reminds me of a sky that you might see up in the mountains, I actually took this snapshot out the side door of my office building. It actually is looking over the retention pond which wasn't included in the shot due to the fact that there is a huge galvanized pipe in the middle of the pond. It funnels all the rainwater off the parking lot so  all the nasty stuff you find in the lot doesn't end up in our city reservoirs. Despite the fact that it is nicely landscaped, it doesn't attract any of my fellow coworkers to its banks. Wonder why.

I took this with the little camera that I keep in my purse for snapshots just like this. The only drawback to going out the side door is that I have to walk back around this huge building to go in the front door as the building is secured and you need a badge to get in the front lobby, and then get into your work area and even get into the restrooms.

I'm doing this in tandem with Anyes over at Far Away in the Sunshine. I bet she find a nicer place to take pictures than a retention pond.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wild Turkey

While I was walking around the flight cages where the Sun Conure, the Javan Pond Heron and other birds were kept, I was followed by this very large, somewhat familiar looking bird. He kept looking for food near my feet, but fortunately wasn't aggressive as the East African Crowned Crane since I had no food for him.

One of the keepers came by bearing food for some of the little birds and I asked her what type of bird that was (figuring it was some rare Eurasian exotic), she stopped and told me it was a male Wild Turkey. She explained that a couple of years ago, this male turkey and his mate showed up at the park as young poults and have stayed ever since. The female disappeared this past spring and the keeper thought that probably she was killed by coyotes who live in the area as these turkeys aren't kept caged or in enclosures as are the breeding waterfowl.

I'm sorry for the bad shot, but I could never catch him with his head up as he was too interested in finding food. So, I found this photo on the Internet:

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends both near and far! I will be back on Sunday with another stunning sky photo.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


To be fair, not all the birds at the Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park are waterfowl.

For example, there is the Sun Conure, a small parrot native to South America.

Sylvan Heights breeds them as they have become very rare in their native habitat due to large numbers having been caught for the pet trade. However, they don't make very good pets due to the fact that require more time and attention than most pet owners are willing to give.

This is an African Gray Parrot which is also part of Sylvan Heights breeding program. The park is also trying to educate people that these also do not make good pets for most. In fact, they have become practically decimated in the wild due to trapping for the pet trade.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunset Sunday

Today is Sunset Sunday which I do with Anyes over at Far Away in the Sunshine. I have to now time these photos for the weekend since with the end of daylight savings time, the sun now sets at 5 pm. So yesterday it was a fast race up the road to my favorite open field to catch the sunset and the clouds at just the right moment.

It looks as though we will have rain for Thanksgiving, but the hope is without the severe storms that came through last week. Unfortunately those storms spawned tornadoes just south of Greensboro which destroyed 65 houses. We will keep our fingers crossed that it will just be a typical November rain.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

More Beautiful Birds

These next three pictures were taken either through fencing or the bars of a cage, so they aren't quite as focused as the earlier ones were.

This is an Eurasian Eagle Owl which was hatched at the park in 2009 along with two of his nest mates. It is the second largest owl in the world and just slightly smaller than our golden eagle. Since they are nocturnal, I think they were slightly annoyed by our clambering outside their flight cage trying to get a good shot through the bars.

This is a Javan Pond Heron from Southeast Asia. Again a slightly difficult shot through the bars of its cage. These are not considered endangered in their local habitats, but Sylvan Heights breeds them for zoos and nature centers here in the US.

This is an East African Crowned Crane. It was by itself in a large pen with many warning signs about not getting to close as it would attack. It ran up and down the fencing, I guess trying to get to us to peck us to death or something. It is considered threatened in its native habitat of the African Savannah south of the Sahara.

Friday, November 18, 2011

More Ducks Today!

And some more beautiful waterfowl from Sylvan Heights:

Black-necked Stilt, a fairly common shorebird. It is found on the western coast of the United States all the way down to Central America.

Greater Scaup, a marine duck. It spends the summer in the Arctic and the winters in the coastal bays of Central Europe and the Great Lakes of the US. It can gather in groups or rafts as large as 50,000 to forage on the open waters of the ocean.

A Common Shelduck which is native to the UK and western Europe. Sometimes they are found nesting in rabbit burrows, tree holes or haystacks. There have been flocks as large as 100,000 spotted on the Wadden Sea area of the Netherlands.

And even more birds tomorrow!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Sun Will Come Out . . . Tomorrow

I couldn't write a post last night and upload photos. We were under a tornado watch all evening and some extremely severe thunderstorms did erupt around my house. I just unplugged everything and read.

The rain continues today, but it looks like just rain. Parts to the south of Greensboro were hit by tornadoes which fortunately never came through our area.

Photos of ducks and geese (oh my!) tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park, Scotland Neck, NC

Hawaiian Goose
But the real reason we came to eastern North Carolina was to visit Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park just outside of Scotland Neck. Here is the largest waterfowl breeding facility in the world and it is open to the public. There are more than 1,500 ducks, geese, cranes, and various other birds, most of whom are endangered or near endangered status.

The park is set up so that you can get close up to most of these birds within their enclosures.  I had a terrific time taking tons of snapshots although I was extremely impressed by the dedicated photographer who came with his DSLR and $10,000 zoom lens (although the question was why did he need such an extreme zoom lens when you could get within inches of the ducks and geese).

Here are some of the birds we saw:

A Muscovy Duck which is native to Nicaragua. Along with the Mallard considered one of the wild ancestors of the domestic duck.

This little Scarlet Ibis strolled down the path in front of us, coming so near that I nearly stepped on it. Since all the chicks are hand raised at the park, they have no fear of the visitors who come through. I did find out that if you get too close to some of the geese and don't have any food for them, you are liable to get a strong nip (looking at you, Hawaiian Goose).

Above is the Great Curassow which is considered threatened in its native South America habitat. Again, since it was hand-raised here at the park, he would follow us around the enclosure and let us get up close as we wanted to without taking off.

More pictures tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cotton Press, Tarboro, North Carolina

I didn't do a very good job photographing this very interesting structure in Tarboro. I read about it in Catherine Bishir's volume on Eastern North Carolina historic architecture and so set out to find it and take some snapshots. This is a cotton press and one of only three still remaining in the United States (the other two are in South Carolina and Louisiana).

However I was lucky enough to find photos that were taken by the National Park Service in the 1940's which shows the cotton press as it sat on The Commons in Tarboro without this shed sheltering it.

It was originally built in the late 18th century on a plantation outside of Tarboro to press fruit for wine and apples for cider, but by 1840 it was turned into a press for cotton after it was ginned so that it could be assembled into bales. Four mules or oxen were hitched to the two long booms to provide the turning power.

You can see clearly the two booms at the top of the press and the large screw in the middle that compacted the cotton into bales. The whole structure stands almost 25 feet tall.

This is also the time of year that cotton is picked in the fields in eastern North Carolina by huge harvesters. You won't see field labor picking cotton anymore. The sides of the roads we drove on this past weekend was full of cotton bolls that had fallen out of the trucks (known as boll buggies) that follow behind these harvesters. I should have had the presence of mind to photograph  them but didn't think of it until too late.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Calvary Episcopal Church, Tarboro, North Carolina

TB and I traveled to the eastern part of North Carolina this weekend to visit historic Tarboro, the ninth oldest incorporated city in the state. The town of 13,000 has more than 300 historic buildings with 45 city blocks.

We spent the most time in the churchyard of Calvary Episcopal Church, a two acre graveyard and arboretum. The parish itself was organized in 1749, but the current building was built over a period of a decade, 1859 to 1868 due to construction being interrupted for the Civil War.

The churchyard was designed by Dr. Joseph Cheshire who was the rector for the church from 1842 until 1889. Originally the churchyard held just a cedar tree and a rose bush, but Dr. Cheshire filled it in with plants he dug from road sides and seeds and plants that were sent to him by missionaries from all corners of the world. The result is a stunning arboretum of rare plants including a Cork Oak that Dr. Cheshire grew from an acorn that was sent to him from a friend in Spain.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Stunning Sunday Skies

Sorry about the lack of photos and posts this week. I blame it on inertia and the fact we've gone back to standard time which means if I don't take photos on the weekend or at lunchtime during the week, then I don't take any photos.

But Sundays are sacrosanct since I do this in conjunction with Anyes over at Far Away in the Sunshine. Today's snapshot was taken down at Holden Beach this past February. TB and I went down for a long weekend and photo opportunities only to have three days of rain and fog. However the morning we left to come back to Greensboro, the rain finally stopped and I got this sunrise shot right on the beach.

I'm traveling this weekend, so I'm crossing my fingers that there will be lots of snapshots and things to blog about this coming week.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Bottle Chapel at Airlie Gardens, Wilmington, NC


"Minnie Evans was the gatekeeper of Wilmington’s historic Airlie Gardens from 1949 to 1974, and is considered one of America’s most important visionary artists. Evans’s take on color, mysticism, and symmetry made her garden-infused art unique. 'It was therefore an inspired decision,' Airlie Gardens Guild member Fred Wharton writes, 'to create the Minnie Evans Memorial Sculpture Garden—a garden within the garden, in the very place where she worked as a gatekeeper, where she experienced her visions, and where she created her art.'
 "Local Wilmington artists got together after Minnie’s death to create this - a seventeen-foot-high, seven-sided chapel sculpted from thousands of glass bottles, cement, and metal armature designed by artist Virginia Wright-Frierson. To create a fitting memorial inspired the symbolism and elaborate designs found in Evans’s work, Wright-Frierson assembled a team of North Carolinians to interpret the artist’s themes in various media. The Bottle Chapel Artists were Virginia Wright-Frierson, Designer & Lead Artist; Karen Crouch, Dumay Gorham, Brooks Koff, Hiroshi Sueyoshi, Barbara Sullivan, Tejuola Turner, Michael van Hout."
-Fred Wharton, author of The Bottle Chapel at Airlie Gardens
 I had not heard of Minnie Evans prior to our trip to Airlie Gardens, but this bottle chapel was breath-taking and the highlight of my visit to the garden.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Stunning Sunday Sunset

I can always count on finding a super sunset down at the marina at Lake Brandt especially when the weather is changing and and there are interesting cloud formations over the water.

I'm doing these sunset photos in conjunction with Anyes over at Far Away in the Sunshine. Go and see what she saw for a sunset there in British Columbia, Canada. I have a feeling these types of days will be few and far between as we get closer and closer to winter. This week's gray weather certainly didn't lend itself to any good snapshots. I'll have to dig deeper in my archives to find something interesting I'm afraid.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Chilean Flamingo

I'm rummaging through old photos to see what I have interesting to post as recent day trips have come up pretty dry. I mean, do you really want to see a pond full of water hyacinth and trees without any pretty leaves? The only good snapshot out of the entire day at the Pee Dee was that of the gravel road through the forest.

I took this last year at the North Carolina Zoo when I decided to go on a day trip during one of the coldest days of the winter. My thought was cold meant very few sightseers, not realizing cold meant few animals out on display. So over to the aviary which was inside, full of birds, and heated.

Except that the Chilean flamingo above thrives in this type of cold weather and so stays outside year round. They can survive at heights of over 14,000 feet in the wilds of the Bolivia Altiplano region as part of a group of flamingos, Chilean, Andean and James, known as the volcano flamingos.

In fact, I had no idea that flamingos existed anywhere outside of the hot climates of the Caribbean and Africa until I found this interesting article about the volcano flamingos at Cornell University's All About Birds website.