Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Difficult Thing

I love trying to learn difficult things.

Like photographing damselflies.

Difficult doesn't begin to express how hard it is to photograph tiny damselflies without a serious DSLR and macro lens.

Today, I succeeded, not once but several times with two different damselflies: the Citrine Forktail and the Slender Bluet.

Imagine something smaller than straight pin hanging onto a leaf or flower or stem in gusty wind and semi-darkness and me, chigger-bitten and itchy, hunkered down in sand or mud, and . . . well . . . you get the picture (pun intended).

A little success just fuels my desire to keep trying.  As Scarlett O'Hara said, "Tomorrow is another day."

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Three-Shower, Three-New-Species Day

A shower upon waking.  A shower after Lake Cheston.  A third shower after a walk with my friend Greg after work.  Is a three-shower day worthy of celebration?  Probably not.

But a Three-New-Species Day is a whole other thing.

The Lilypad Forktail thrives at Lake Dimmick, where Greg and I walked.  The orange immature female, the blue mature male, and the powdery blue mature female all sunned on the snotgrass.

I also spotted what I think is a Blue-ringed Dancer, a species I've never even read about before.  (I didn't know we had them in the area.)

Finally, I watched a female dragonfly oviposit in the strangest manner I've observed: she hovered inches above the water, abdomen curved in the shape of an apostrophe, and then sort of shook her abdomen down to release her eggs.  I couldn't get as close as I'd like, but close enough to capture her image.  A quick search through Dragonflies and Damselflies of Georgia and the Southeast suggests that she is a Double-ringed Pennant.


Correction: Bugguide tells me the next-to-last photo, which I thought was a Blue-ringed Dancer, is just another Lilypad Forktail.  Two new species, not three.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bird School

Each morning, Mr & Mrs Bluebird -- of Birdbox-on-the-Dam, Lake Cheston, Sewanee -- instruct their four offspring in the fine arts & sciences of Aerial Acrobatics, Camouflage, Food Acquisition, Threat Recognition, Escape Readiness, Scouting Poses, and countless other duties assumed by Resident Bluebirds of the Domain.

And I get to watch because I arrive early just after First Flutter.

This morning, two juveniles deserved special instruction, including mild reprimanding (Mr Bluebird fluttered down to thrash one fledgling several times to force him to fly to a safer, more shadowed branch) and an exemplary example of helicopter-parenting (
Full bridge exposure, O Best Beloved, may not be wise).

As for Charm School?  These birds have already earned A Levels!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Think It and They Will Come

Before bed night before last, I reviewing last year's photos to note the first time I saw the Swift Setwing.  August of last year.  What a long time to wait.  Then yesterday morning, as I approached the dam bridge, I glanced through the rail and there it was: a Swift Setwing!
Last night, I wondered when I had last seen a Great Blue Skimmer and the tiny Blue-fronted Damselfly.  And there they were today, as if waiting for me.

Think it and they will come!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

They Grow More Than Flowers

An overnight sojourn at the Hall house in Bell Buckle: their company, the balm I have long needed.  I'll let their garden speak, and you shall hear their deeply nurturing kindness.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Each One Save One

Sprawled across the trestle bridge, I heard the dog trot up behind me, sniff, and move on.

"I'm sorry," the owner said.  "I hope she didn't spoil your shot."

"Oh, no.  Look!"  I pointed to the female Blue Dasher.  "I just rescued her from the spider web."

"I saved a bumblebee yesterday," the dog owner said.

We laughed and smiled at one another, knowing that we were members of the "each one save one" society.

Today, I defeated survival of the fittest for one teneral dragonfly, and I was happy.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Flora

A blogging friend's Freebie Friday has inspired me.  Beginning today, Friday means flora.  It's summer-becoming now, with blossoms that celebrate sky and sun.
Hot columbine.
Cool blue grass.
Allium and red maple.
 A chorus of color to sing in the weekend.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Happy Accidents

My Daily Snap features what Ken Macrorie calls "happy accidents" in his book Writing to Be Read.  This blog's header quotes that book: "Most of us go through each day looking for what we saw yesterday and we find it, to our half-realized disappointment.  But people who daily expect to encounter fabulous realities run smack into them again and again.  They keep their minds open for their eyes."

This morning, and every morning for several months now, I opened my mind by strolling around Lake Cheston, where everything serves as feast for my eyes. 
Today, I rounded the bend to the trestle bridge and suddenly thought about Brenda, my deceased sister-in-law, who died accidentally when she fell from a deck opening onto her favorite view.  The last thing she saw was a sweeping vista of mountains in fall regalia topped by blue sky.  The last thing she heard was birdsong.  The last air she breathed was cool and clean.
And then I thought If I die right now, here, I will be happy because I live in paradise

My coming to Sewanee -- a fallen Episcopalian among Episcopal church-goers -- has been one of the happiest accidents of my life.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


it's just about the color, an old friend, an obsession.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Early morning fog at Lake Cheston: magic.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Order and Chaos

Odd couple of web-weavers -- Oscar, the slob on the left, and Felix, the neat-freak center.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


When the Spangled Skimmers fly, silver sparks flare on the tips of their wings.  They like to hold steady, in mid-air, their wings beating, and I swear you can hear patriotic music.
Female Spangled Skimmer
Immature Male Spangled Skimmer
Male Spangled Skimmer

Let the fireworks begin!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Speed and Lack of It

I used to speed everywhere, like this Northern Watersnake, essing its way along the shore of Lake Cheston.

But I was not so graceful.  Ever.  Even as a child.

Once, in my speed, I slammed my bedroom door and broke the full-length mirror hanging on it.  This was when I was a child.  A small one.

Now, even though I sometimes work up to 50 hours a week -- all part-time -- I speed nowhere.  My day begins when I wake and ends when I'm tired.  Between bedtime hours, I work just as diligently as ever, though much of it on my own schedule, and I play at learning what I can through what my camera teaches.

Meandering suits me well.  Think of me not as a watersnake, but as a betta fish, content to hang out and take my time.

Friday, May 18, 2012

So Many Things Left to Say

This time last year, I might have written to Charley about the snapping turtle lying in her dug-out nest by the side of the path

or about the female Eastern Pondhawk I found circling in the water and helped to shore

or about the owl floating across the trail ahead of me or about the snail dragging along the dirt and gravel, taking part of it with him

or about the spectacular Orange Sulphur basking in water droplets sprayed by the garden sprinkler.

But I can't write Charley now. 

He died on October 10, 2011. 

I still find myself pulled up short by his absence, by my longing to hear his voice and laugh at his dirty jokes, by my desire to choose photos to print at the neighboring CVS, to write a few words in celebration of the things we loved in this world.

Today was one of those days. 

I saw such beauty, and he would have seen it, too.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Trompe l'Oeil

A rumor has been afoot in Sewanee for several weeks that baby copperheads have been slinking about under the dam bridge.  Today, two friends put that rumor to rest with a visual confirmation that the snakes are young North American Watersnakes, no doubt produced by the big mama I saw and photographed almost a month ago.  The thing is that the snakes might look like copperheads or rattlers, as the big one did to me, when glimpsed briefly.  Note, however, that there is no pointed head although the markings disguise her as poisonous.

Disguise is a fascinating phenomenon in the natural world.  Bee flies, for instance, only look like bees and thus fool predators.  Antennae-like flags on the back of Tailed Blue butterfly wings fool predators into taking a bite of the presumptive head.  Red-spotted Purple butterflies look like Pipevine Swallowtails, which taste bitter to their potential predators.

And then there's camouflage, which quite likely is accidental.  This morning, on my way back to the car, I decided to look once more into the lovely little cabbage head plants by the dam to see if I might spy another of the mysterious damseflies I photographed yesterday.  Suddenly, in the way I used to see animals in Weekly Reader puzzles, the Eastern Pondhawk teneral appeared, and then only at home did I see the exuvia.
Oh, the close looking.  How rewarding it can be.  And how beautiful are nature's fool-the-eye treasures.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Second Sight

I don't remember seeing well, but surely I must have seen before I was prescribed glasses in ninth grade. Had I always seen everyone and everything as blurs, melting into one another?
Thanks to cataract surgery in my right eye just about fourteen months ago, I am enjoying second sight. I use my glasses to drive and walk around outside; otherwise, I manage without. After my left eye is corrected (this summer, I hope), I should be able to see what I am photographing without sliding my glasses down my nose or simply pointing and shooting, hoping to get something.
Second sight is far better than the first. Being without makes being with so much more than merely seeing.

Monday, May 14, 2012

And Still Another!

Meet the Citrine Forktail, identified by the folks who run as "the lovely little Ischnura hastata."  Lovely, indeed.  And little, indeed.  Giff Beaton tells me the two females I snapped today -- one immature and one mature -- measure about .08-1.1 inch.  No wonder I had so much trouble photographing the little buggers!  Especially the immature damselfly, who was more than a bit nervous about the big thing in red (me) leaning in on her.
I have lost count of the species of damselfly and dragonfly.  Tomorrow, I shall have to take a serious inventory!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Saturday, May 12, 2012


I first heard this slang expression a bit more than a decade ago when I spent three and a half weeks in Oxford, studying on an English Speaking-Union scholarship at Exeter.  The two young graduates who were our shepherds loved saying "Brilliant!" at every opportunity and did so with such enthusiasm that, had I not spoken English, I would have understood its meaning anyway.

Today, my quick jaunt to Lake Cheston was "Brilliant!" in all the right ways.  The weather -- cool and gray -- let me to think all would be quiet, and at first it was.  Then I saw many Violent Dancers, followed by a mating pair of Lancet Clubtails, followed by my first Spangled Skimmer of the season, followed by my first Double Bluet of the season.  By the time I saw the male Calico Skimmer clinging to white clover, I was exhausted, my eyes spinning with marvels everywhere.
A Blue Corporal waited for me on the roof of my car, as if to say, "Brilliant!"  And it was.

Friday, May 11, 2012

In Another Lifetime

Would that I were 
the poet who named them: 
Cabbage White, 
Clouded Sulphur,

Thursday, May 10, 2012

To the Woman Across the Lake Shouting into Her Cell Phone:

please quit.


We are trying to enjoy quiet time in the sun.

Thank you.