The cold rain continues to drizzle on a late November morning as I search for a muse on the Kanawha River. The rain collects on the twigs and swells into large drops the drip rhythmically to the ground. Somewhere in the background I can hear the laughter of a wood-hen but the shy bird stays well away from anything that signals a human is near. A big red squirrel clings deftly to the side of a large oak. He occasionally pokes his head out from the back of the tree in way that makes me think he’s playing peek-a-boo. I turned my attention to the stump on the edge of the river and noticed the smaller tree that had sprouted from it. When I was a child there were no trees in this spot except for a few. The shore was kept clear so that you could admire the falls and hydroelectric dam. But the river was eroding the land to the point that there would be no park today. Large trucks came and heavy equipment was used to place large rocks and new sand on the banks in an effort to save the park but the river was relentless and the artificial shore was wasted away. Eventually it was decided to let nature take its course and the sandbar willows came. They put down roots that bound the rocks together and created pockets that trapped the sand and leaves along with the driftwood deposited by the floods. The sandy mix came to life with symbiotes and became soil. Soon there was more than just the willows. There’s honeysuckle bushes and vines. In the Spring violets are found all through the park. This is where I found the Spicebush Swallowtail feeding on Cardnial flowers over the summer.
God has created a complex world with checks and balances that heal the land. Everything has cycles and patterns of succession as described in the Book of Ecclesiastes ( and Turn! Turn! Turn! by the Byrds ). When we learn to work within the systems of nature instead of against them the land flourishes and there is a bounty. But when we think that we know better and try to force nature to our will there will be failure and loss.
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I have to admit that I never met a lizard that I didn’t like. Of course that might all change if I ever run into a Gila monster or a Komodo Dragon. Here in the Appalachian Mountains they don’t get much larger than this little guy in tonight’s feature image. The Five Lined Skink. The largest one I’ve seen was one about six inches long but in the eyes of a little kid with a vivid imagination it was a living dinosaur! I was never able to catch one but I always wanted to make a pet out of one so I could teach him to play Godzilla with my toy soldiers. In those days home movies were still shot on film but I had visions of setting up the scene shooting my own monster movie. It was during this endeavor that I learned about the trick tail. I was hunting for a big one that I had seen out by the barn. I was cautiously lifting up old wood an pieces of bark with a stick in case of a snake when I found him. My hands moved like lightning and I caught him! However the lizard had a surprise in store for me and the blue tail broke off in my hand. I looked down and saw the empty tail wiggling in my hand and started crying because I had broken my lizard. My kind and loving grandfather explained that it lets go of its tail on purpose and that the tail grows back. (Of course as a child I thought it grow back instantly like magic). At one point there was one with a forked tail living close to the house. It’s tail had not completely detached and the new one grew in next to the old one.
As an adult I smile and even speak to the little lizards on my property. I try to save some space for them on and around my property and in return they help keep the insect population in check. It seems that I got my pet lizards by simply leaving them alone and letting them do their thing.
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Tonight’s Feature Image is titled “Guardian On The Bridge” because he lived on the wooden foot bridge of my former home. Prints are available for purchase by contacting me on Facebook or by using the Contact Form on my website.
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Gently gliding on the warm breeze she sails through my field of vision and softly lights on the sweet clover. She is something special. Her distinct stripes and long “tail” identify her as the Zebra Swallowtail butterfly. While she feeds on the nectar of flowers her young feed exclusively on the pawpaw tree. Once a favored fruit in the Appalachian Mountains the pawpaw (AKA pond Apple or custard apple ) is almost found only in the wild. Because the fruit has almost no shelf life commercial growers found no use for it. As a result it was not cultivated and is not nearly as abundant as it was even just fifty years ago. Because the the tree is so important to the butterfly their numbers have also declined. But on the old homesteads found on edge of civilization the pawpaw still grows and even thrives in a few places and so does the Zebra Swallowtail butterfly. If you see one during the breeding season then you can be sure that a pawpaw patch is nearby. If you’re an adventurous connoisseur of natural foods or vantage crops then it’s worth trying to find the pawpaw in season and give it a try.
Hello Friends and thank you for your support of my page! If you have enjoyed the photos or the writings please let me know by commenting and sharing my work on your social media. I also want to invite you to Follow Lloyds Lens Photography on Facebook.
Prints of the Feature Image are available for purchase by contacting me either through Facebook or via the Contact Form on my website. Simply mention the title of the post and let me know what size print that you would like.
The clean smell of the rain hangs in the air as I pull into the little parking lot. Just crossing the threshold of foot bridge transports me to another world. A primal place with gigantic trees and a thick mat of ferns where the small things live. A tree frog drones out it’s high pitched song calling for his love.
Tread carefully on the muddy pathway to the base of the falls. The trail shows that someone who passed through earlier left their mark on the pathway. A mark that leads to an unexpected bath in the knee deep stream below. Near the base of the falls large flat rocks catch only a fraction of an inch of the water flowing through the mountains. Butterflies play in the air as the cascade fills this natural cathedral with a light mist. Small fish dart around in the highly oxygenated water. Most of the small stones are blown out by the force of the water but the ones caught in crevices are smooth and clean. I could really spend all day here just breathing in the charged air.
But there’s a set of sad eyes and wagging tail who needs to be walked soon. As so, fully refreshed from the rich environment beneath Cathedral Falls I began to pick my path back to my big blue truck and head home.
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I just wanted give you a quick update on my quest for the eagles of the Kanawha River. This image was taken a couple of weeks ago near the Glen Ferris Inn in West Virginia. The bird was spotted over Kanawha Falls. I was out with my camera on the way home from my day job. I decided that I had time for a few quick shots of falls and kayaks when flash of white caught my attention. The largest lens I had with me was my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30. Knowing that the local eagles are dark in color and only the head is white I was fairly certain that it wasn’t an eagle but this was still a big bird and it was moving fast. Fighting to keep my hands from trembling with excitement I engaged the burst mode. This bird is really fast! I kinda felt like an old west gun fighter as I tried desperately to keep him in frame and in focus. (This is not a time for manual mode) The whole encounter was only about 30 seconds as this bird’s aerobatic maneuvers kept me shifting focus out of pure reflex! First he skimmed the water towards the falls only pulling up at the last second. I lost sight of him as he banked in front of the trees and disappeared behind the inn. I started to scan the falls with my camera hoping that he would come back for a second run over the falls. That didn’t happen. Instead he pops up from behind the inn directly overhead of me. I raised my camera one more time bending over backwards and trying to focus. I almost fell over backwards. I spun around while zooming in and out and praying for that little beep from the camera body to let me know that I have a lock on the focus. Finally I get the beep and green square in the viewfinder just as the raptor performs a figure 8 maneuver that would leave any jet fighter in pieces on the ground. As the bird dives and skims parallel to the falls this time I managed to get one usable image. This was an osprey! Only about half the size of the eagle but still a very special bird. I now have a second goal to catch a high quality image the osprey.
On a side note, the existence of bald eagle has been challenged. As proof that both birds are in fact inhabiting the area I’m sharing this photo of a juvenile bald eagle. The image is too grainy to sell as art but it’s the best I could get without a longer lens. It’s only a matter of time before I can either stalk in close enough for a clear image or afford an equipment upgrade. Both eagle and the osprey were taken with the same camera.
Something stalks the neighborhood in my mountains. Slowly and silently it creeps along the banks of the rivers and streams. It sharp eyes detect the slightest movement just below the water’s surface. It strikes like lightning and it’s prey has little chance of escaping the razor sharp beak.
The Great Blue Herons are one of my favorite birds. I have never seen a native species that reminded me more of a dinosaur. The one pictured here was close to three feet tall. The long serpentine neck, wide wingspan and habit of trailing it’s lags as it flies really makes one think that they’ve crossed into the distant past. This one also seems to have a sense of humor. It likes to lurk around just below the bridges in my neighborhood and spring up out of creek when you least expect it. If I didn’t know better I’d swear it laughs as it flies away. I haven’t been able to spot the nest yet but I do occasionally hear it’s grunting calls coming from the thick bush. They’re truly one of the more amazing sights in my wild wonderful West Virginia and hope you get to see one if you’re ever traveling close to the water. And, if you happen to hear a snicker it’s probably the one that likes to startle me.
The hot summer sun slowly sinks into the West and I can feel the coolness of the night sweep across the Lake. On the other shore near the sunset I can hear the doors of cars shutting as the engines pur to life and the swimmers make their way home. The smell of food cooked over an open flame lingers in the air. Small birds begin to skim across the water catching insects. The bird songs soon give way to the chirping of crickets and the occasional sound of a treefrog close to the shore. Deeper into the woods the hair raising cry of a screech owl rings out as he challenges his rivals for territory. Soon the evening star raises over the mountains signaling an end to the day. The headlights of my big blue truck come to life when I use the remote to unlock the door. It’s time to ease back up the gravel road and go process the images of the day.