Finally, after many years of gathering images, I have put together the first in a series of books from my Montana adventures. This is a coffee table book of beautiful scenes and abstracts of the winter landscape. Montana winters are often brutally cold with high winds and deep snow, all of which depends on your location. Some spots in Montana get little bits of snow while others get feet! And, I just love getting out there to capture it all.
To get your own personal copy, contact me via email.
There will be 2-3 more books in this series that depict other seasons, so stay tuned for future updates.
It’s been raining buckets due to the recent run of spring storms. Times like this you can find critters trying to find a dry spot or get to higher ground. And wouldn’t you know it, this fine day heading out the driveway to run an errand, there sits a box turtle meandering her way across the drive and up the hill. What a wonderful sight and thanks to an Outreach Program I just finished up on Radical Reptiles, I know this little critter is a female box turtle. She has brown eyes, the guys have red to orange eyes. And, yes I had to pick her up and see that she has a flat belly. Fellas have a dimple or slight curve underneath just below their hinge. Who knew such a stormy day would turn out to be so bright! You go girl!
It’s late February and I was hiking at Crowders Mountain State Park. Not much was happening on the wildflower front but then I came upon this huge area filled with trout lilies (Erythronium americanum). I’d never seen these flowers before and they were putting on quite a show. They are only a few inches tall but have these distinctive leaves that make them easy to identify.
These tiny treasures are named after the brook or brown trout since their leaves resemble the brown and/or gray mottled colors seen on these fish. They are one of the first flowers to emerge in spring so they tell us spring isn’t far away. The leaves on the trees haven’t even leafed out yet so they can soak up the sun on the forest floor. Truly a special sighting on a warm winter afternoon.
I know what you’re thinking, I’ve lost my mind. Well, maybe, but after a naturalist workshop about Spiders, I have a renewed appreciation for these little creatures. I’m not sure I want to hang out with them or have them crawling on me, but when observed on my terms, they’re really interesting.
There are several types of webs that one should know about that often play a role in the spider name.
- orb web – concentric rings connected by spokes like you see in the photo of the Spiny Orbweaver designed to capture flying insects.
- cobweb – just random silk-like strands that have no pattern
- Filmy sheet web – these are your domes and funnels designed to catch crawling insects
Take this Spiny-backed Orb Weaver (Gasteracantha cancriformis); would you even guess this was a spider? They create an orb shaped web and wait for their prey to fly by and get caught in the web just like when we walk through one on a hike in the woods.
Check out this Triangulate orbweaver (Verrucosa arenata). It’s so colorful with the bright yellow “arrowhead” shaped pattern on its back which is why it’s also called the Arrowhead orbweaver. Continue reading
In Montana, you can reach the top of the mountain and the rewards are many. At 9,000+ feet in altitude, tiny alpine flowers manage to put on a show unlike anything you’ll see at lower elevations. Ok, that might be an exaggeration but it’s still mesmerizing to witness.
Magnificent View from Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness Area
Indian Paintbrush coupled with Meadow Buttercups, it’s a color show that changes with each switchback up the mountain.
Indian Paintbrush and Meadow Buttercup
A day trip to Devil’s Fork State Park made for a nice start into spring. A few of the rare Oconee Bell flowers were still in bloom and a few loons could be seen on the lake. The sun was shining and a light cool breeze kept reminding me that it’s spring not summer; something we don’t get often in the southeast anymore.
Winter is a time when the birds could use some help with food resources. But, it’s important to practice some good housekeeping techniques too so that your birds stay healthy. There are so many types of feeders available these days that you could spend unlimited amounts of dollars on just feeders, never mind the bird seed. But, pick a couple different ones and see what works for your habitat.
One of my favorites is the large squirrel proof feeder that holds 5 lbs of seed. Just about every bird species I know love black oil sunflower seed and this feeder works great since you don’t typically have to fill it every single day.
Female Cardinal and Rose-breasted Grosbeak Fussing over Feeder Rights
Freshwater mussels are not high on the “cute” list of wildlife, but they play an important role in our ecosystem nonetheless. They are what’s termed indicator species which means they help indicate sources of clean water. They live in our freshwater streams and tributaries and filter the water as they feed. If the water becomes too polluted or toxic, they die which is happening more and more each year. Plus, as our population grows, development expands into areas resulting in habitat loss for the mussels since we have this need to move or reroute anything in the way. We also have an invasive species, the Asiatic mussel, which reproduces at a much more aggressive rate and overruns the mussel habitat. Therefore, our native mussels have become an endangered species on the brink of extinction.
Our folks in the Department of Natural Resources (both South Carolina and North Carolina) have been hard at work in restoring the freshwater mussel. Just recently, the SCDNR made the news when they successfully propagated 131 adult Carolina Heelsplitters with a known population in Lancaster County, SC. These mussels are tagged so they can be studied to determine their success.
The mussel propagation process is quite complex Continue reading
Months ago, I planned what’s becoming an annual trip to the SC upstate for fall color. And such a trip would not be complete without a boat ride with Lake Jocassee Boat Tours. While the vista views seemed less than brilliant, once you were up close and personal, the colors just popped! From the neon yellow walnut trees, golden brown magnolias, bright red sourwood, yellow maples, and sweet gum; well it’s just endless.
Lake Jocassee Boat Tour
Each year for the past 4 years, great effort has been put into action by the SC Master Naturalist program (an extension of Clemson University) to provide a weekend of learning for those of us in the program. This year I was able to clear my calendar so I could attend and it was really fun. We were on Seabrook Island in the South Carolina Lowcountry in early October, a perfect time to be there. Despite the historic flooding that had just occurred one week earlier, things dried out enough for us to continue albeit we were a bit worried. Some roads were flooded out and rains did continue throughout the conference weekend but all in all it was a success.
The highlight of the event for myself was an all day trip out to the Ace Basin with Dr. Al Segars. This is an incredible estuary, actually one of the largest at 350,000 acres along the Atlantic Coast. It is home to thousands of shorebirds and mammals, and its natural beauty is breathtaking. ACE actually comes from the 3 rivers that flow into the estuary: Ashepoo, Combahee (pronounced comebee), and the Edisto.
View of the ACE Basin from Bennett’s Point
Back in the 1800’s, thousands of acres of old-growth hardwood forests were cleared Continue reading