31 Mar 2007

Flowering Trees

The spectacular spring show continues. More flowering trees from my neighbourhood.

Flowering Dogwood

Cherry Blossoms
I took this picture a few days back. Now the flowers have turned a pretty shade of pink.

I think this is a peach tree. I’m not very sure. Whatever it is, the flowers are very pretty.

The Eastern Redbud Tree

28 Mar 2007

Saturday Walk - 24th March

This Saturday's walk was in a green little paradise in the middle of
the city called McMullen & Lower McAlpine Creek Greenway.

The greenway walking track in parts is next to a swamp and there are boardwalks to walk on. We started at a moderate pace, watching birds, deer, squirrels and plenty of spring wildflowers. Since we left home late evening and did not have enough daylight to walk the entire four miles and back, we did two miles and turned back to reach the lot.

Eastern White-tailed deer

A Mallard looks for lunch

We have plans to go there again and enjoy an evening of jogging in the midst of the pleasant greenery.

Update: I went here again on the following Wednesday with T. We did the entire trail (till the end and back) which is a total of 8 miles in two hours. This time I saw two Tortoises along with everything I saw the previous time. This time my only complaint was that it was too hot even though the walking path was shaded with trees. The migraine I got after I got home is another story.

March Sunrise

Colours of day dawn bright and say goodbye to the night. (Hey, that rhymes!)
My house faces east and everyday I get to see a beautiful sunrise through the windows. I think this it is my favorite time of the day.

26 Mar 2007

Going Green

It feels like we have bypassed spring and landed smack-dab in the middle of summer. Just a few days of pleasant weather after winter and the temperatures have begun to soar. This weekend has been hot, hot, hot. The perfect time to prepare my containers for sowing seeds for my tiny herb and vegetable garden.
I spent a productive afternoon today pottering about getting dirt under my fingernails (literally!). This activity reminded me of the fruits of last year’s labour and I thought I would post some pictures taken then.

This parsley plant has been with me from last April and has survived with minimum care.

I grew tomatoes last year and was rewarded with a few juicy fruits, even though they did not get all the sunlight they needed. Absolutely loved biting into garden fresh tomatoes with the juice dripping down my hand and chin!

I grew many herbs like thyme, rosemary, basil, dill, mint, and methi. The rosemary is still around like a silent companion to the parsley.

This year in addition to this, I plan to grow some chillies. Watching the seeds sprout and put forth their tiny green faces fills me with inexplicable happiness!

24 Mar 2007

Simple Pleasures

A cup of homemade yogurt!
I enjoy the sight of well-set yogurt; enjoy tilting the container to see how firm it is. Most of all, I derive great pleasure in eating at least two servings a day!

22 Mar 2007

Flower Fest - N for Narrow-leaved Sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius)

Narrow-leaved Sunflowers are wildflowers native to the United States and belong to the family Asteraceae. The small plant has many stems branching out, the leaves narrow and dark green. They are often found growing wild in swamps, ditches and moist areas. Because of these reasons, they get the common names Narrow-leaved Sunflower and Swamp Sunflower.
The flowers are yellow, bright and appear in fall and early summer.

I found these flowers while hiking (am I beginning to sound like a broken record, yet?) last October.

This is my entry for N at Flower Fest.
Flower Fest - The A - Z of Flowers

Tags: Flower Fest

20 Mar 2007

Rare plants in Forty Acre Rock Preserve

My husband and I both like to hike a lot. Many Saturday mornings are spent hiking in various state parks and forests close to our home.

Last Saturday’s hike was in a place called Forty Acre Rock, a National Natural Landmark in the Piedmont region of South Carolina. The forty Acre Rock is a huge granite rock and reaching it involves hiking through thick woods, past a small waterfall and a cave. The big rock has indentations on its surface, which collect water in late winter and early spring. The pools thus formed are a haven for some rare specialized plant species, many of which are endangered.

Some pictures of the rare plant species:

The pool of water formed on the rock surface, with plants growing in it.

Diamorpha Smallii (Elf Orpine) a succulent plant from the family crassulaceae

The green plant with the tiny white flowers is called Amphianthus pusillus, which is listed as a threatened plant.
Found only in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, they are also called Snorklewort, Pool Sprite and Little Amphianthus.
It has a small life cycle, usually around a month.

Another picture of the Elf Orpine and Pool Sprite

These pools dry up in summer and the seeds spring up again the following year when water collects in the depressions.

Reference: USDA Plant Database

18 Mar 2007

Sights of Spring

A few sights of spring from today's wanderings:

17 Mar 2007

McDowell Nature Preserve - March 12, 2007

We picked McDowell Nature Preserve as our Saturday morning hiking destination this time, only that it was afternoon by the time we set off on the trek.

This preserve is the oldest in Mecklenburg County and is not very far from our place. It was a short drive and we set off on the Shady Hallow Trail. The days are beginning to get warmer and spring is in the air. As a result, we got to see some early spring wildflowers that are just coming up. I saw Bloodroot, Round-lobed hepatica, Bluets, Muscari and Starchikweed on the side of the trails. Very soon, I'm sure their numbers will increase and I'm looking forward to making another trip to photograph the flowers.

The trek itself was an easy one; the trail went up and down and in places bordered around Lake Wiley. The water of the lake was a muddy brown and was dotted with people in boats and canoes. The park seemed like a popular family picnic area too as we saw many people enjoying their barbecue lunches.

It was a pretty day and we enjoyed wandering on the trails shaded with the tall trees of the preserve. Will definitely make a trip there again when we are in a mood to do some quick hiking without spending too much time driving to get to our destination.

14 Mar 2007

Mammoth Cave National Park - Part 2

As we were returning from ‘caving’ at MCNP, it started snowing. At first, it was very light and the tiny flakes were being blown in all directions by the strong wind. It took us some time to realize that it was snow. We decided to have lunch at the cafĂ© inside the park (bad food but the only place for food) As we ate, we watched the snow dance around from the windows.

We decided to go for a small walk/hike and chose a trail from the maps provided. We bundled up really well and set off. By now, the snow had increased slightly and was hitting us in the face but not in an unpleasant way. It was fun watching V who was experiencing her first snowfall. We took the trail leading to the River Styx and saw it emerging from below the cave into the open. After a small photo session, we set off further into the Kentucky forest and saw the Echo Springs River.

River Styx emerging from the cave

Soon it was time now to head back. After a quick snack of apples, we started climbing uphill. As we were nearing our destination, we were rewarded with the view of two Eastern White-tailed deer grazing. They just gave us sufficient time to take a hurried photo before bounding off into the forest.

Eastern White-tailed deer

Overall, the walk was a relaxed one, and we enjoyed the atmosphere the small snowfall had created.

12 Mar 2007

Flower Fest - M for Muscari Armeniacum

I went on a hike yesterday and found these growing wild on the hillside. The tiny plant looked familiar to me; I remembered seeing it in my field guide but did not know the name. I came home, looked it up and it turned out to be Muscari Armeniacum commonly called Grape Hyacinth. Just in time to make it to M at Flower Fest!

Muscari Armeniacum is one of the early spring flowers from the Hyacinthcea family. The green spikes shoot up from the ground and produce clusters of bright blue flowers which look like bells. The pretty flowers have a lovely fragrance and I know they attract bees because I saw some buzzing around the flowers.

I also just learnt that the Keukenhof Garden in Holland has long winding paths planted with these flowers, which is known as the Blue River. Every year, this is one of the most photographed scenes in this park.

This is my second entry for the letter M at
Flower Fest - The A - Z of Flowers

Tags: Flower Fest

Mammoth Cave National Park - Part 1

My idea of Mammoth Caves, before I saw the actual thing, was of huge, well-lit giant sized caves that you could just walk in and explore on your own. It turned out to be so different, when I finally got to see it, that I mentally laughed at the image I had created in my head.

The drive from Alpharetta, GA to the Mammoth Caves, KY took us five and half hours and we arrived tired but eager to see the caves. I expected this national park to be like the Grand Canyon where the actual attraction is just a small stroll away from the parking lot and you can just walk around and see the sights. But this was not to be. We soon learned from the visitor center that we had to ride a bus to reach the caves and take a tour, with a park official, to see them. We bought tickets for the New Entrance Tour leaving at 11.45 the next morning.

We walked around a bit in the park, saw the Historic Entrance to the caves, had dinner, went to our small neat little hotel rooms, and called it a day!

Entrance to the caves

The next day dawned cloudy and cold and we set off with a busload of kids to see the caves. The entrance to the cave looked like a tiny room with a heavy metal door. Say, if I had just dropped out of the sky near the door, I would never have guessed that it led to a completely new world below. The interior of the cave was damp, gloomy and dimly lit by artificial lights. The steep, narrow steps took us deep down into the bowels of the cave. At places, the stairway was so narrow that both sides of your body and head could touch the walls of the cave. And a peep over the railing in some places showed deep wells. Needless to say, I have never seen, heard of, or experienced anything like this.

Narrow passageways in the caves

In the middle of the trip, the officials, after due warning, turned off the lights inside the cave. The kind of darkness that enveloped us was awe-inspiring. Now I know what they mean by complete darkness. The eyes don’t adjust to the darkness no matter how long you stay there. It is for this reason that the cave bats and fish in the underground river are eye-less. The group tried to stay quiet to experience what complete silence felt like, but it was a lost cause with so many young restless kids with us.

It was fascinating to see the cave decorations or speleothems (stalactites and stalagmites, as they are popularly known), in the Frozen Niagara section of the caves. These wet formations come in various shapes and sizes and take millions of years to form!

Wet formations inside the caves

It was only after the tour I realized that a whole new world existed beneath the ridges and mounds and tall trees on which we were walking and that thought kept me captivated for a long time.

10 Mar 2007

Flower Fest - M for Morning Glory

bud and flower growing in the woods of South Carolina

Morning Glory flowers, bloom in the morning, allow pollinating insects to enjoy them and by afternoon call it a day! If wildflowers had jobs to do, this one would be an easy one I think.

Morning Glory is a fast growing trailing plant with heart shaped leaves and trumpet shaped flowers. They are native to tropical America and belong to the genus Ipomoea. They are popular in gardens and are grown to cover fences and compound walls. The twining vines can be troublesome if left unchecked, but the flowers are always a delight when in bloom.

This is my entry for
Flower Fest - The A - Z of Flowers

Tags: Flower Fest

9 Mar 2007

Bee buried in a pretty pink Camellia.

Native to Asia, this evergreen plant is prized for its flowers!

6 Mar 2007

Eastern Bluebird

Bluebird under a blue sky!

1 Mar 2007

Walk Among The Giants - Congaree National Park, Feb 3, 2007

On the road leading up to the National Park, we saw many birds on the side of the road and I knew this hike was going to be an exciting one for me. I was certain about finding some birds in this thick forest and maybe see a few new species of birds (for me). Although we picked CNP as our Saturday morning hiking destination, I will remember it as my bird-walking trip!

CNP is a designated forest area and is recognized as a sanctuary for birds, animals and insects. The Congaree River and its tributaries periodically flood the forest, so some parts of the trail have boardwalks to walk on. The trees found here are among the tallest in eastern US and are nicknamed the redwoods of the east!

We did the Weston Lake loop trail there, which took us about 3 hours to complete at a moderate walking pace. We saw plenty of Woodpeckers, some Ruby Crowned Kinglets and an assortment of other tiny birds. None gave us a good opportunity to photograph them well though!

Although it was a forest, it had a different feel to it. The boardwalks, little benches on them and the murky waters of the swamp and the extremely tall trees gave us a totally different but enjoyable forest experience.