Michael's Rediscovery of Nature

Ramblings and observations of a former biologist and a lifelong naturalist, who has recently returned to his roots in east Texas. After a many years of working from coast to coast in an industry far removed from biology, it has been a pleasant change of geography, activity, and attitude. No stressful job decked out in a three piece suit. No city living. Instead there is a rediscovery of the woods, of something scurrying through the leaves, of the clear notes of a bird call, and of reliving the joy that I had when nature was a playground and a classroom.

Wasting My Time in the Woods - Not Ever

The weather forecast says rain for the rest of the week. Maybe up to 7 inches. Wow. I have a lot of work to do on the computer and around the RV so maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing. Besides, I enjoy rain and storms.

So I mentioned this to a friend, Steve Sutton who with his wife, Fabienne Devolter, own Lake O’ the Pines RV Motel and Marina. He pointed out that I should go out in the woods with my cameras that day since it would be the last chance I would get for at least a few days. I thought it was a good idea, but I was leaning towards getting to work. So I headed for my computer.  

About 15 minutes later, Steve dropped his Kawasaki Mule off in my driveway and said go to the woods. Well, I couldn’t argue with that. So, I packed my gear and headed out.

The woods that I am speaking of are along the shore of Lake O’ the Pines just across the highway from me. It is mostly Loblolly Pine with some hardwoods. There are ample shrubs and undergrowth so it is a fairly good location for birds and other wildlife. When it is drier, I walk there quite often.

Once I arrived, I parked and started walking around. Even though rain was not in the forecast for the day, it was quite cloudy. Actually, it might be better described as “gloomy”. Not the greatest of days for photography.

LoblollyPine 03 07 16 9After a few minutes of walking around, I hadn’t even seen an insect and was starting to think maybe this wasn’t a good idea. What a waste of time this seemed to be. For a moment, I contemplated just going back home and working as I had started to do. I wanted to play with the new camera and lens, but without targets, it was futile. I thought that I might just do some “intimate” nature photography – more like art photography with nature themes: leaves in patterns, patterns in the sand, close-ups of buds, etc, but, honestly, most of the time I consider that just above a waste of time. But then I thought that here I was in the middle of the woods and there had to be things to find. I am too much of a naturalist not to realize that there were so many organisms all around.  I just had to ferret them out. Patience. Remember what that is? Well, I forget sometimes.

So I shot a new Loblolly Pine growth from the growing end and a few other things that, frankly, were not that interesting.

Anolis 03 07 16Then I saw the Anolis lizard, Anolis carolinensis. A lot of locals call them chameleons but they are not. They do change their colors but it is temperature and state of excitement controlled.  When they are cold, they are darker.  Sometimes they are so dark brown they look black. But with warmth, they go from brown to yellowish to dark green to bright green.  One that is in the shade and somewhat warm can go from light brown to bright green if excited by another male in the area or if provoked by a potential predator.

Anyway, it was a younger lizard, a little cool since the air temp was about 70. He was a little evasive but it didn’t take much to get a few shots.

Pleased with finding a more suitable subject, I began walking about.

As I walked, a Grey Winged Grasshopper jumped and flew about ten feet away.  I approached slowly and managed to get about four feet away to take his picture.  He sparkled in the soft light.  Like many live subjects, if you move slowly; approach obliquely; and take your time, you will often be able to get within close camera range. 

GreyWingedGrasshopper 03 07 16 9

Before long I saw a little Northern Cloudywing butterfly, Thorybes pylades, who politely posed for me.  Then there was a little wolf spider (Family Lycosidae - too many genera for me to try to ID). Well, I think it is wolf spider but it could be a close relative.

ButterflySpider030716

I moved over to another spot a few hundred yards away. Just after I turned off the motor on the Mule, I heard the laughing call of a Pileated Woodpecker. He was too far away to see and it could have been a warning call as he flew away from the sound of the Mule.

Then I found a plant with beautiful little delicate flowers.  I don't know what it is but will add the correct name here when one of my plant loving friends fill me in.  (Note: It is an Elliott's Blueberry, Vaccinium elliottii.  Thank you, Sharon Miller Curry.  03-12-16). 

Flower2BNamed03 07 16

In a few seconds the first Carpenter Bee arrived.  He posed politely.

CarpenterBee030816

Walking about I found a turtle shell, probably a Trachemys scripta elegans. Then a dark dragonfly flew past. I stood still watching until he landed about twenty feet away. It was a little dark due to the clouds plus I was somewhat under the loose canopy of the trees so I knew it would be a bit of a challenge to take his picture.

I opened the tripod and stretched out the 200-500mm lens to 500, changed my ISO to 1600 and started playing. It was my first real attempt to use the big lens for such a small target. I made a few shots, moved up a few feet and took a few more.

BasketTailDragonFly 1 03 07 16

Then he shifted positions, giving me more of a side view and I got a couple more shots before he took off.  

I wish I could say that I knew exactly "who" he was but I had to look him up.  It is a Common Baskettail, Epitheca cynosura.  They actually are rather common but I did not know the name.  

BasketTailDragonFly03 07 16

After that I headed home to see what I managed to capture.

I also headed home with a reminder, that even though it looked like there was just nothing to “shoot”, there was. I just had to look a little closer. There always is something there.  Nature is full of little surprises and sometimes you have to look a little closer to find them. In a few weeks Spring will be here in all its glory and there will be a great looking “bug” or spider everywhere you look; birds will be all around; and flowers will be blooming. A two hour walk will result in many, many photographs. Despite all that, today was a success. Look at the photos I got even after it looked like I was just wasting my time.  Coming home with one photo that I really am proud of is a good day.  I came home with at least four.  Not bad for a dull day where nothing was to be found. 

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Comments

Kristi Mears Thomas on Friday, 11 March 2016 19:14
Thank you for the reminder!

I absolutely love this, and all of the photographs you managed on a gloomy day! Sometimes the best captures happen when you aren't even expecting them, and isn't that just the coolest? Great inspiration for all of us!

I absolutely love this, and all of the photographs you managed on a gloomy day! Sometimes the best captures happen when you aren't even expecting them, and isn't that just the coolest? Great inspiration for all of us!
Michael Mathews on Friday, 11 March 2016 19:45
Gloomy day photography. :-)

Thank you for your comments. The day was cloudy but the overcast really made for a great day to capture the color if you could use slow enough settings for the dim light. It made it fun. I knew if I kept poking around, I would find something. Nature is too rich to fail to produce something fun to see. On some days it is just more of a challenge. While I enjoy a good challenge, I would appreciate having so much to shoot that I had to stop and choose which one to photograph. :-) Ah, Spring is coming.

Thank you for your comments. The day was cloudy but the overcast really made for a great day to capture the color if you could use slow enough settings for the dim light. It made it fun. I knew if I kept poking around, I would find something. Nature is too rich to fail to produce something fun to see. On some days it is just more of a challenge. While I enjoy a good challenge, I would appreciate having so much to shoot that I had to stop and choose which one to photograph. :-) Ah, Spring is coming.
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