The Nature of Dreams, or, Dreams about Nature

My dreams lately have been beyond vivid (which is their usual style). They have been vivid, persistent, disturbing (unusual for me), and nature-focused.

Last week, right after my mother died (I think … it’s possible it was right before) I dreamed I had mushrooms growing out of my body. I noticed raised patches on my legs first, like small skin lesions, then on my torso, and as I discovered them, they grew. Then I noticed a very large one, without the stem, above my right breast. They were pretty at first but also disturbing, especially the speed with which they spread. I couldn’t understand how it happened so fast, and I was wondering how to remove them without damaging my skin.

underside of Amanita flavoconia mushroom (Kezar Lake, Aug 2014)
underside of Amanita flavoconia mushroom (Kezar Lake, Aug 2014)

Of course, I googled it. Dreaming of fungi or mushrooms growing from the body has many meanings, surprisingly, since it seems like such a specific symbol:

  • “When there is a fungus on the skin or protruding from it, there is emotional distress or physical distress, or your body is literally trying to fight off an infection.”
  • “To see fungus in your dream represents negative emotions that are expanding and growing in your unconscious. You need to find a productive way to express them before it grows out of control.”
  • “Mushroom – soon you will do something that will surprise everyone around.”
  • “Represent a short-term positive eroticism.”
  • “To see mushrooms in your dreams, denotes unhealthy desires, and unwise haste in amassing wealth, as it may vanish in law suits and vain pleasures.”
  • “See mushrooms in a dream – to long life and good fortune.”
  • “Mushrooms can grow anywhere, on anything, in any condition and in any climate. If the mushrooms in your dream appeared by surprise, or were given as a gift, this may indicate some exciting changes in your near future. If your psyche is alerting you to some changes, you might want to keep in mind that change also requires us to be versatile. If you are uprooted you can easily plant yourself somewhere else. Mushrooms can also represent our soul in this way and may mean that someone is ready to expose their soul to you or adversely you may be ready to share that part of yourself with someone else. In the way that that mushroom represents a soul, it also represents longevity and rebirth.”

Additionally, we talk quite a bit about fungus in my permaculture group, as mycorrhizal fungi networks are key to soil and plant health in a complicated, complex way that amounts to: fungi is necessary for most plant growth.

maybe Hypholoma capnoides (conifer tuft) fungi in moss (Kezar Lake, Oct 2014)
maybe Hypholoma capnoides (conifer tuft) fungi in moss (Kezar Lake, Oct 2014)

And this year, I have been obsessively focused on fungi every time I’m outside, taking hundreds of photos of them. Though I don’t eat them, I am enchanted by their beauty and variety.

So, who knows?

This morning, I awoke from an involved dream in which I was teaching my first adult ed class on insects. Unfortunately, I knew very little about insects (even less than in waking life) and apparently had not researched the topic or made a class syllabus. Some of the class members knew much more, including a man who raised roses and spent a large part of the class — which was a field trip, outdoors, to find insects — talking about aphids and how to control them. Some in the class grew yellow or pink roses, while others didn’t grow roses; all were obviously disappointed that I didn’t lead the class better. One man left within 15 mins of our field trip beginning. I was carrying an insect reference book and trying to keep up with what others were saying and what I was supposed to be teaching. I thought we might check under rocks and logs for some insects, but then I doubted I could identify them or say much about them beyond an ID.

greenaphidsonaweed2Oct2013I’m not even sure what to google for this dream. It was about teaching, badly, or generally being prepared and not knowing what one is expected to know, but the insect and aphid aspects also seems important to me. I do spend a lot of time in waking life trying to get various insects identified from photos (via books and online expert sources),  though less at this time of year than in spring and summer. I don’t grow roses but have consistently had small yellow aphids on asclepias (milkweed) plants.

“Bugs” obviously connote feeling bugged, annoyed, but this dream didn’t feature a bug per se … more the absence of bugs. Instead, we merely talked about them, and particularly about aphids  — “If you dream a lot of aphids, in the near future you will meet on your way a dishonest person, which at first will seem honest and trustworthy” and “Aphid teaches the importance of nourishment; spiritual, emotional and physical. Are your basic needs being met? Is it time to jumpstart your metabolism?” for two interpretations. And I think at one point I told those who were there to hear about butterflies that we would talk about them but that other insects (and I was unsure in the dream, but not in waking life, if a butterfly was even an insect, which shows how little I knew) would also be discussed.

Connecting the two dreams, perhaps, I found this interpretation of “aphid,” which seems like it could apply equally well to fungi, which uses waste products to facilitate growth and which is resourceful in an ever-changing environment:

“Part of Aphid’s medicine is about self-empowerment. You have all that is needed within and it’s time to seek and find. She demonstrates resourcefulness, riding the winds of change and making the absolute best of the situation. Use what is considered a “waste product” to your sweetest advantage.”

Not sure where that leaves me, though. Except instead of visions of sugarplums dancing in my head, there are fungi and aphids up there. Ho ho ho.

Living in Transition

I could have sworn I had posted something about the idea of “home” in all the years I’ve been blogging, but if I have, I can’t find it now.

deer were here, 28 Jan 2012I was prompted to think about it again this time by my friend Lynn’s class this fall on “a sense of place,” and by another friend, Caroline’s, post recently titled Staying Put, in which she writes, inspired by Wendell Berry: “We can’t love a place until we know it, and we can’t know a place until we are willing to open ourselves to its mystery, its intricacies and complexities, its willingness to invite us into conversation.”

Like Caroline, who calls herself a “former nomad,” I have never stayed put. Many of my friends (including Lynn) have lived in the same house or the same town for 20, 30, 40, 50 years. I think my imagination is pretty well-developed, but I have trouble envisioning what this would be like: to not consider every box that comes into the my piece of sky, 22 July 2012house for its packing potential, to not browse house listings (daily), to know how to get places, to not need to find new grocery stores and hair stylists, to never walk into a new library or church for the first time. To never have to make a complete set of new, local friends. To not feel the delicious, displaced, lonely, and anticipatory burden and freedom of living in someone else’s house and tending someone else’s garden.

I’ve lived in 24 places in 50 years, in 18 towns, in 6 states. I’ve spent another combined (estimated) two years in one- and two-week vacations across the U.S. (focus on Jekyll Island, Rehoboth and Myrtle beaches, New York City), and in the UK, Spain, the Caribbean; and another year or so of summers on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, most summer weekends for six years on a lake in central Virginia, a cumulative month in San Francisco with a friend’s dying sister; and another 6 months perhaps on the train, travelling coast to coast several times, to New Orleans 5 or 6 times. I’ve spent some time in every U.S. state except Hawaii, Alaska, South and North Dakota, and Michigan.

I’ve lived in my latest state, town, neighbourhood, house and yard for exactly three years now. For the first two-and-a-half years, I felt like a tourist in this town. In fact, the Marti Jones song, “Tourist Town,” came to mind often as I walked and drove through town: “I’m tempted to hide away / I’m tempted to hide in a tourist town.” I felt hidden in plain view, recogising almost no one and unrecognised by almost all.

hummingbird in penstemon, 23 June 2012And I realised that I liked it, most of the time. A few palm trees, sand, the sound of seagulls, and some ocean would have improved the experience, but on the whole, I appreciated feeling anonymous, invisible, unknown by my fellow townmates. I also appreciate being known (or at least recognised) now. Both states feel deeply healing, in their owns ways.

The social theorist Michel Foucault’s idea of a heterotopia is extremely appealing to me; he speaks of heterotopias as “‘counter-sites,’ places positioned on the … outside of all places … irrelevant to the practical functioning of everyday life.” They might be reserved for “people undergoing transitional crises: adolescents, menstruating women, pregnant women, the dying.”  They can also be places of deviation, where “individuals whose behavior is deviant in relation to the required mean or norm are placed”:  prisons, retirement homes (idleness is a deviation in our society), psychiatric hospitals.

But they don’t have to be places of abnormal deviation and crisis. They can be cemeteries, gardens, theatres, cinemas, museums, libraries, fairgrounds, festivals, ships … In fact, they can be tourist towns, which remove people from their normal daily lives and which usually exist outside of time and flourish for only for part of the year and then close down.

Some places — gardens, museums, cinemas and theatres, e.g. — juxtapose many shade garden etc, 2 July 2012places or scenes in one place. They may even contain mini-heterotopias and places of transition within them, like a bridge, an archway, movement from a sunlit meadow to a dark forest or from a gallery to an open rotunda. Some, like museums and libraries, constitute “a place of all times that is itself outside of time and inaccessible to its ravages,” while others (fairgrounds, vacation villages) are “absolutely temporal.”

As described by John Doyle at Ktismatics:  “Heterotopias open onto heterochronies —  disjunctures from the evenly spaced and empty continuum of time. Theater time passes differently from the time that surrounds the theater. The cemetery is a juxtaposition of the end of time and eternity. Museums and libraries accumulate past time in a place outside of time. Resort towns exist only at certain times of the year. Entering into a heterotopia often requires a rite of passage: enlistment in the army, arrest and conviction, death, travel. The ship is the heterotopia par excellence” because it is “a place without a place, that exists by itself, that is closed in on itself and at the same time is given over to the infinity of the sea.”

monarch caterpillar on asclepias, 6 Aug 2012I’m starting to wonder whether my true “home” isn’t perhaps a heterotopia, or some sort of liminal space* I am continually passing through. A wholly unnecessary space, “irrelevant to the practical functioning of everyday life.”

A tourist town, a dis-placed place. No-home. A place removed from ordinary time. A kind of folly.

It’s where I, perversely perhaps, seem to feel most at home. Not “home” in the sense of feeling rooted and attached but rather in the sense of feeling relaxed, satisfyingly connected, most myself, engaged in discovering and exploring the new and mysterious (as Caroline put it, “willing to open ourselves to its mystery, its intricacies and complexities”). I feel paradoxically at home as an unrooted, uprooted stranger passing through a strange and passing land.

I seem to prefer being neither here nor there. Even as I mhosta shoots, 3 May 2012ake each new place “my own” — no matter the USDA hardiness zone, no matter which birds sing in the trees, no matter whether I am in the midst of the most-craved ocean and marsh, or of mountains, lakes, rivers, swamps, meadows, prairie, forests, desert, or tundra — I am aware of the illusion of terra firma, of an everlasting place, this eden.

I think, through practice and perhaps by nature, I have become skilled at inhabiting places in such a way that they feel real to me — real like the smell of fried food and popcorn on the boardwalk, the shriek of gulls fighting over a clam shell, the glare of the high summer sun beating on sand, the warm taste of coconut and pineapple in pretty drinks with umbrellas, the overlay of pop music and oldies coming from every other beach blanket — even as I know that this place too will shutter up when the season is over (though the gulls will remain).

Rehoboth boardwalk at night, 12 Aug 2011

* From Wikipedia: In anthropology, liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning ‘a threshold’) is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete. During a ritual’s liminal stage, participants ‘stand at the threshold’ between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way, which the ritual establishes.”

The Bog

We like to visit the Philbrick-Cricenti Bog (PDF of trail guide) in New London, NH, when we can. So far, that was last October (twice) and this June and mid-July. We hope to get there again in August and September this year and earlier in the spring next year. (Skip to slideshow below if you like)

The Philbrick-Cricenti bog is a kettle hole bog, created when stranded chunks of glacier melted, leaving ponds in holes in the ground. A bog has no inlets or outlets; this distinguishes it from a fen, which is also a peatland but which is fed by groundwater, so its acidity is lower than a bog.  A bog’s acidity is around 4.0 pH.

There are several excellent resources online about this bog in particular:

  • Jack Share’s blog, Written in Stone, offers two excellent postings of his visit to the Philbrick-Cricenti Bog in May 2011 (Part I, Part II). If you’re thinking of visiting, check out these postings first. The first one provides a wealth of information about bogs, followed by extremely well-captioned photos of his visit, focusing on ferns, the sphagnum moss, the bog boardwalk, and the depth of the bog. The second one continues the visit, with pictures of pitcher plants, sundew, rhodora, cotton grass, etc.
  • The New Hampshire Division of Forests and Lands also has a good page on this bog: Visiting New Hampshire’s Biodiversity: Philbrick-Cricenti Bog . At least in my browser, hovering the mouse over the images doesn’t pop up a caption, but you can see what the pictures are by right-clicking your mouse on top of each photo, then clicking View Image Info. The “Associated Text” identifies the subject matter of the photo. It’s cumbersome, but I’ve used this method to identify plants in my photos.
  • The New London Conservation Commission offers several pages of captioned photos:

The slideshow is arranged from October (9 Oct. and 16 Oct, 2011) to June (10 June 2012) to July (19 July 2012, when we went with a group and a white-throated sparrow sang the whole time). When we visit again, I’ll add more pics to round out the year.

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Ovens Mouth East Preserve Walk

The Boothbay Region Land Trust does a great job of acquiring, managing, and communicating information about their many trails in the area.

On Tuesday, 29 May, we walked on trails in the Ovens Mouth East Preserve in Boothbay.  It’s the easier of the two Ovens Mouth trail systems; Ovens Mouth West is said to be ‘difficult,’ and as the day was rainy and the trails muddy, we opted for the less steep and rigorous path. Ours was slippery enough.

What we enjoyed most on this trail was watching the tidal waters swirling around and flowing apace. And we were happy to finish up before the rain started again! (You can see the fog and mist coming in in the later photos.)

Enjoy the slideshow!

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Penny Lake Preserve Walk

(Click photos for larger views)

The Boothbay Region Land Trust does a great job of acquiring, managing, and communicating information about their many trails in the area.

Last week, on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday we walked on trails in the Penny Lake Preserve, abutting our motel. The waterway starts at the motel, and there are trails that begin just beyond the Carousel Music Theatre building. We saw a muskrat in this little creek. There’s also a beaver lodge here.

creek near motel, PLP, 28 May 2012

I’m standing on a bridge to take the shot above, and the shot below is taken looking the other way off the bridge:

lily pads in flower, PLP, 28 May 2012

Some cardinals seemed to have a nest in the low thicket near the creek, judging by their regular presence there.

The Penny Lake trails offer wonderful and varied walks. There is one very accessible trail through the property, which is partly wooded, partly bog and lake, and partly meadow, as well as several other narrower trails to explore. Below, the central trail is the accessible one, leading to the lake, and the grassy one to the left also goes to the lake, through the meadow and woods.

two paths diverge in a meadow, PLP, 29 May 2012

The bird life is great! We went at the not-auspicious birding hour of about 11 a.m. on Monday and still saw cedar waxwings, phoebes catching bugs, sparrows, a yellow warbler, a hawk, red-wing blackbirds, and others; and we listened to a loud chorus of large green frogs in the lake (more of a pond, really).

Eastern phoebe, PLP, 28 May 2012 Cedar waxwing, PLP, 28 May 2012 frog, PLP, 31 May 2012

On later visits, we enjoyed watching the phoebes, flocks of cedar waxwings, a great blue heron, mallards, and either beaver or muskrat or both swimming in the pond. Both rodents are said to inhabit the preserve’s waterways. There is a beaver lodge near the lake, as well as one in the creek abutting the motel, and we are almost certain we watched a muskrat swimming near the motel — it had a tail and was fairly small. (I didn’t have my camera that evening.) The next evening, we saw what may have been beavers in the marshy area near the lake … we couldn’t see any tail and one of these was a larger animal. (They were too far away to take photos of but we got good looks through the binoculars.)

Great blue heron in flight, PLP, 29 May 2012I startled the great blue heron two nights in a row and couldn’t get a good shot of it.

Some other flora, fauna, and scenery:

hawthorn in bloom, PLP, 28 May 2012
hawthorn in bloom

path with spruces, PLP, 28 May 2012
path with spruces

blue jay, PLP, 28 May 2012
blue jay

wooded path, PLP, 28 May 2012
wooded path

Clintonia flower, PLP, 28 May 2012
Clintonia in flower

Dragonfly against water, PLP, 28 May 2012
dragonfly against water
Wild Sarsparilla, PLP, 28 May 2012
Wild Sarsaparilla
Bunchberry, PLP, 28 May 2012
Two Lady's Slippers, PLP, 28 May 2012
Two Lady’s Slippers
Canada mayflower, PLP, 28 May 2012
Canada mayflower
bridge into woods, PLP, 31 May 2012
Bridge into woods
morning, PLP, 29 May 2012
Marsh/lake in morning
bench in meadow, PLP, 28 May 2012
bench in meadow
Pickerel, PLP, 29 May 2012
Pickerel in lake
Dandelion, PLP, 31 May 2012
Dandelion in meadow

School House Pond Preserve Walk

The Boothbay Region Land Trust does a great job of acquiring, managing, and communicating information about their many trails in the area.

Sunday, we walked the trails of the School House Pond Preserve, at the north end of Barters Island. School House Pond is apparently what the locals called the small cranberry bog that’s in the middle of the trail system.

We walked the white loop, and the yellow loop, and in between we got a little lost on the multi-use trail, part of which is made up of boulders and ledge (easy to walk on, but not easy, I would imagine, to use a wheelchair or stroller on).  We were on the trails for about an hour and a half, again going slowly to take photos.

The focus on this walk was pink Lady’s Slippers. They were everywhere we turned. Lady’s Slippers bloom only from mid- or late-May to early- or mid-June, and these trails hold a bounty of the wild orchids.

Enjoy the slideshow!

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Lobster Cove Meadow Preserve Walk

The Boothbay Region Land Trust does a great job of acquiring, managing, and communicating information about their many trails in the area.

Saturday, we walked on trails in the Lobster Cove Meadow Preserve, right in Boothbay Harbor. Before we got on the trail, an abutter, out in her yard gardening, told us she’d picked up a lot of ticks on the trails the day before, so we sprayed liberally with OFF before heading in. The entrance to the trail system is a little hard to discern — it starts on private property, with a residence to the right — but we spotted the BRLT sign on a tree on the left and made our way henceforth.

baby snake on trail, LCMP, 26 May 2012

A few hundred yards from the entrance, we almost stepped on this small garter snake in the middle of the trail. Near the end of the walk, we saw a larger snake, just off the trail.

star flower, LCMP, 26 May 2012

Lots of star flowers (Trientalis borealis) all along the trail, too.

view of LCMP meadow, 26 May 2012

And lots of views of the pond from the trails.

pathway, LCMP, 26 May 2012

Even though the walking paths are also open to ATVs, we didn’t see or hear any, and, as you can see, some of the paths were pretty narrow.

pond, LCMP, 26 May 2012

This is the pond at the apex of the trails.

meadow view, LCMP, 26 May 2012

A view of the lobster cove meadow. There’s milkweed here, so summer should find the meadow radiant with monarchs and other milkweed feeders.

sign about bullets, LCMP, 26 May 2012

On the way out, we checked the kiosk and noticed this scary sign about how well bullets can travel.

In all, we probably spent about an hour here, but we stopped often to take photos.

For us, the most striking thing about this walk was that it sounded like part of the woods were a rookery. First we thought perhaps woodpeckers, then kingfishers, then blue jays … something with a harsh rattle call, and with dozens of them echoing and bouncing off the trees. We could hear it all around us, but we couldn’t see the birds.

Jekyll Island Travelogue: 27 April 2012

(Part of a retrospective travelogue, day by day, with photos. It began here. PDF orientation map here. Click all images for larger views.)

27 April, Friday

Alas, our last full day in the Golden Isles. And it was gorgeous, sunny and warm. We had no strict plans but a few things we wanted to do, if possible.

The first thing we did, around 9a, was bike up to Clam Creek — via Captain Wylly Rd. and Riverview:

Riverview bike path, JI, 27 April 2012

… to check for oyster catchers near low tide. But answer came there none … (“And this was scarcely odd / because they’d eaten every one” — except we were looking for the eaters, not the eaten.) So, no oyster catchers once again. Someday, I will see one!

We walked on Driftwood Beach for a bit, watching a horseshoe crab drag itself up the beach (video here). We pondered taking it back down to the ocean, and even called Tidelands to see if that’s what should be done (but got the answering machine). In the end, we left it to its own devices.

horseshoe crab on the move, north beach, JI, 27 April 2012
horseshoe crab on the move

A group of horseback riders came along, kicking through the surf, but otherwise, we were the only people on the beach.

horseriders on Driftwood Beach, JI, 27 April 2012

As usual, there was quite a litter of jellyfish on the beach.

large dead jellyfish, north beach, JI, 27 April 2012
large dead jellyfish

seagull and jellyfish, north beach, JI, 27 April 2012
seagull and jellyfish

We rode back along the paved pathway through Clam Creek marsh, bidding it a fond adieu.

Clam Creek bike path, JI, 27 April 2012
Clam Creek bike path

Back to the condo and the car, and on to the causeway to the mainland, for our last trip to St. Simon’s Island, for lunch at Barbara Jean’s. On the way, we saw both bald eagles on the power line poles at Thompson Bridge, and lots of egrets along the causeway.

lunch outside at Barbara Jean's, SSI, 27 April 2012We got to Barbara Jean’s around noon and had to wait only about 10 minutes for an outside table (and there are only 4 of them, but people unaccountably seem to prefer to eat indoors!). Bliss. Spouse got the crabcake platter with some sides (french fries and green beans) and I got the veggie platter … green beans, broccoli-rice casserole, white cheddar cheese grits, and a salad. And lots of unsweet tea and their delicious breads. We took our time.

Fortified, we walked a bit downtown, bought a small gift for our dog-sitter from Island Dog Pet Supplies in the Pier Village shops, and then headed back to Jekyll for our remaining few hours, first stopping at the high marsh along the causeway again, arriving around 2:30.

At the marsh, we spotted 2 whimbrels (with the downward arching bill) and possibly two willets (or sandpipers — we didn’t see them fly) on the edge of the pond. Those were the first whimbrels we’d seen.

whimbrel at causeway high marsh, JI, 27 April 2012

There were many Great Southern White butterflies flicking among the prickly pear flowers, along with Gulf Fritillaries and dragonflies of all types. Spotted some red-winged blackbirds in the trees ringing the marsh and grasses.

prickly pear blooms, causeway high marsh, JI, 27 April 2012
prickly pear blooms

Walking back along the hammock path we were so fortunate to see a painted bunting just scooting into a small tree beside the path! In the wild! I couldn’t get a good shot but it’s definitive.

painted bunting, causeway high marsh, JI, 27 April 2012

Also saw a common yellowthroat, a warbler with an olive back and striped chest (ovenbird?), and another with a black-and-white back and a light chest and underside. Someone who knows warblers might have identified a lot more. The wooded hammock area seemed busy with small birds.

The bikes had to be back by 4:30, so we reluctantly headed back to the condo, got on the bikes, and rode them for the last time, back to the rental place, then strolled back to the condo along the beach. Always beautiful.

pelican in flight, mid-beach, JI, 27 April 2012
pelican in flight

JI mid-beach, 27 April 2012

sanderling, mid-beach, JI, 27 April 2012

Chose SeaJays (outside on the deck, of course) for our last Jekyll dinner. More crab balls, some salads and croissant sandwiches. Strolled down to the marina again,

marina from SeaJays, JI, 27 April 2012
marina from SeaJays

then drove over to St. Andrews Picnic Area to bid it farewell.

St. Andrews near sunset, JI, 27 April 2012 St. Andrew's dunes near sunset, JI, 27 April 2012 St. Andrew's beach near sunset, JI, 27 April 2012

There were a surprising quantity of warblers here this evening! We saw common yellowthroats, ovenbirds, and others we couldn’t ID because a. we don’t know warblers well and b. they wouldn’t sit still. Also enjoyed watching a great egret hunting for its dinner.

great egret hunting, south beach, JI, 27 April 2012 great egret hunting, south beach, JI, 27 April 2012 great egret hunting, south beach, JI, 27 April 2012

Drove once more to Clam Creek

Clam Creek pier near sunset, JI, 27 April 2012
Clam Creek pier near sunset

and then back to the condo to pack and relax before hitting the road for our 10-hour drive the next day.

Animal count:

Deer: 3
Birds: painted bunting (IN THE WILD – causeway marsh); two whimbrels (causeway marsh pond); common yellowthroats (causeway marsh and St. Andrews Picnic Area); a black-and-white warbler (causeway); an ovenbird (possibly at causeway marsh, definitely at St. A’s); lots of other warblers we couldn’t identify (St. Andrews Picnic Area, evening); two bald eagles (on power line posts near causeway); 2 sandpipers or willets (not sure); several flocks of sanderlings; many great egrets in various places, and possibly some snowy egrets; countless brown pelicans, terns, gulls, cardinals, grackles, mockingbirds, vultures, and red-winged blackbirds.
Crabs and sea animals: a live horseshoe crab dragging itself along the beach (see video); lots of plumed worms; little crabs; many dead jellyfish.
Insects: lots of Great Southern white butterflies, dragonflies, and Gulf fritillaries.

Jekyll Island Travelogue: 26 April 2012

(Part of a retrospective travelogue, day by day, with photos. It began here. PDF orientation map here. Click all images for larger views.)

26 April, Thursday

Another early start on day six, up by 6:15 to meet artist and birder Lydia Thompson (and her friend, Priscilla), by 8a for a bird ramble.

We started our ramble up near Clam Creek, in a couple of places where the trees aren’t too tall and we could actually see the many warblers that were here today due to a “fall out,” which Lydia explained is what happens when there is wind and weather in the upper atmosphere and the warblers come down for a bit to rest. So there were a lot of warblers around, including many common yellowthroats, yellow-throated warblers (not the same as common yellowthroats!), prairie warblers, a palm warbler, black-and-white warblers, and lots of northern parulas. Lydia and Priscilla saw a few I didn’t see, including a Cape May warbler. Also saw a kingfisher on the way in.

Unfortunately, I was so busy learning to use binoculars, and warblers are so small and fast, that I didn’t get any photos of our amazing warbler morning. That’s why I’ve linked (above) to Cornell’s photos and info about the birds.

We went from there to the campground bird-feeding area, where we were treated to very blue indigo buntings and a blue grosbeak, both species I had never seen before, as well as an orchard oriole, another first for me. Also saw ruby-throated hummingbirds, cardinals, a blue-gray gnatcatcher, a brown-headed nuthatch, a tufted titmouse, cowbirds, an ovenbird, and house finches.

indigo bunting at campground, JI, 26 April 2012
indigo bunting

brown-headed nuthatch at campground,JI, 26 April 2012
brown-headed nuthatch

orchard oriole at campground, JI, 26 April 2012
orchard oriole

blue grosbeak at campground, JI, 26 April 2012
blue grosbeak

male cardinal at campground, JI, 26 April 2012
male cardinal

female cardinal at campground, JI, 26 April 2012
female cardinal

Then it was on to the rookery, where we used Lydia’s spotting scope to get amazing views of the spoonbills, yellow-crowned night herons, great egrets, cormorants and anhingas, among others.

roseate spoonbill through spotting scope, rookery, JI, 26 April 2012
roseate spoonbill through spotting scope

yellow-crowned night heron through spotting scope, rookery, JI, 26 April 2012
yellow-crowned night heron through spotting scope

As we were leaving, a pileated woodpecker landed on the ground right in front of us,

pileated woodpecker, rookery, JI, 26 April 2012

and then as we continued walking out, Lydia spotted a grasshopper sparrow near the base of a palmetto — this is apparently a rare find and we all got a good look at it in the spotting scope.

In all, Lydia and Priscilla saw about 60 or so birds, including 11 warblers; we saw fewer birds but more than enough to make my head spin!

From there, we all went to lunch at Fins (menu in PDF), another Jekyll restaurant we hadn’t been to before; in previous years, it was called Blackbeard’s but we;d never eaten there because it smelled musty inside and didn’t have outdoor seating; reincarnated as Fins, it has outdoor (almost beachfront) seating and some good food and service, with no musty smell indoors. I had jerk fish tacos with mango and cabbage for lunch — tasty.

By the time we finished eating and rested up a bit at the condo, it was around 3 in the afternoon. T and I decided to ride our bikes to the soccer fields and south end beach to see if we could spot an oyster catcher in the high tide. We passed two Eastern newt efts (I think) on the bike path … Got a pretty good shot of one of them:

Eastern newt eft, S Riverview bike path, JI, 26 April 2012

We were about 2 hours too late for the tide, but still enjoyed the ride, the beach walk, and the sandpipers, terns, gulls, sanderlings, skimmers and pelicans on the beach, and the large pod of dolphins (at least 12 of them) just off shore in St. Andrew Sound, toward Cumberland Island.

brown pelicans in surf, south dunes beach, JI, 26 April 2012
brown pelicans in surf

sanderlings and tern, south dunes beach, JI, 26 April 2012
sanderlings and tern

willet, south dunes beach, JI, 26 April 2012

On our bike ride back to the condo, we stopped at the South Dunes Picnic area to look in the ponds for alligators. Found one! A small one, who after watching us for a bit, swam over to our side. We decided to head out then.

alligator, South Dunes Picnic Area, JI, 26 April 2012

Dinner tonight was at the (very crowded!) Rah Bar again, this time listening to live music by “Backbeat Boulevard.” (Short video of “Ain’t No Sunshine”)

Backbeat Boulevard at Rah Bar, JI, 26 April 2012
crowd watching Backbeat Boulevard at Rah Bar

More peel and eat shrimp, more red potatoes, more Amber Bock beer, and a few sunset at Rah Bar, JI, 26 April 2012half-ears of corn. We got there near sunset (which was around 8:10 or so) and so it was another late night for us, especially after a stop at the Dairy Queen for a twist cone. Raccoons like the Dairy Queen, too!, but I couldn’t get a photo.


Animal count:

Deer: 2
Racoons: 3 (on Riverview, at the Visitors Center trash can, at Dairy Queen)
Dolphins: 12+ off the south end
Newts: 2 Eastern (efts? on S. Beachview bike path)
Alligators: 1 (small, at South Dunes Picnic Area pond)
Turtles: 1 (pond)
Birds: Indigo buntings, kingfisher, Cape May warbler, Yellow-throated warblers, Prairie warblers, Palm warbler, Black-and-white warblers, Northern Waterthrush, Common Yellowthroats, Northern Parulas, Grasshopper Sparrow (apparently sort of rare here), Blue Grosbeak, Orchard Oriole, Cowbird, House Finches, Tufted Titmouse, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Snowy Egrets, Brown Pelicans, Yellow-crowned night herons, bluebird, Black-crowned night heron, Roseate Spoonbills, black and turkey vultures, cardinals, red-winged blackbirds, anhingas, cormorants, Spotted Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Forster’s Tern, Royal Tern, Mourning Doves, Ring-billed Gulls, Laughing Gulls, Red-bellied woodpecker, Pileated woodpecker, crows, boat-tailed grackles, sanderlings, skimmers, 2 blue herons, Carolina chickadees, Carolina Wren.
Crabs and sea animals: lots more dead jellyfish, ghost crabs, plumed worms, etc.
Dogs and cats: 1 Bernese Mountain dog on the beach; 3 pit bulls; several cats.

Jekyll Island Travelogue: 25 April 2012

(Part of a retrospective travelogue, day by day, with photos. It began here. PDF orientation map here. Click all images for larger views.)

25 April, Wednesday

Day five began early for us, up at 7 to meet friends Pat and Jerry at the north end at 9. We left the condo around 8:30 because we biked.

After happy hellos, we started by walking along “Driftwood” Beach. Actually, most of the tree trunks and limbs there aren’t driftwood but are trees that have died and fallen as their soil is eroded by the natural ocean movement around a barrier island, which carries land from north to south, accelerated for Jekyll by deep dredging between Jekyll and St. Simon’s Island to allow huge cargo ships to pass.

As we walked, Pat picked up litter, and we took time to look at the dead jellyfish, the dead sea turtle (which was called into the Georgia Sea Turtle center for pick-up), horseshoe crab molts and carcasses, “Swiss Family Robinson”-reminiscent shelters created by massive upturned tree root systems, and other evidence of life and death on the beach and its margins.

boneyard beach forms, JI, 25 April 2012 T and Jerry on north beach, JI, 25 April 2012

horseshoe crab shell, north beach, JI, 25 April 2012
horseshoe crab shell

large dead fish, north beach, JI, 25 April 2012
large dead fish

dead sea turtle, north beach,  JI, 25 April 2012
dead sea turtle

great egret, north beach, JI, 25 April 2012
great egret

From there, we walked back along the long and paved Clam Creek pathway to the car, looking along the way at marsh/wharf and fiddler crabs, periwinkle snails on the grasses, a 6-lined racerunner skink and baby skink, various animal paths through the marsh, and so on.

A short drive later and we were at the campground bird-feeding area, where I saw painted buntings, male and female, at the feeders, for the first time! Ever in my life! Also some house finches, which always surprise me with their colourful reddish purple look.  And cardinals and a bluebird.

male painted bunting, campground bird area, 25 April 2012
male painted bunting

female painted bunting, campground bird area, 25 April 2012
female painted bunting

Then, after we got our breath back, it was off to lunch at The Sand Bar and Grill at Oceanside Inn and Suites on Beachview, a casual restaurant we hadn’t been to before. Two of us had reubens, one had a burger, and I think I had corn fritters (very very excellent) and sides of broccoli and sugar snap peas. And lots of (unsweet) iced tea. Mmmm.

Fortified, we headed off to the high marsh along the Causeway — via the alligator pond (because you can’t visit too often, really). The marsh is a special place that Pat had visited before and wanted to show us. We finally, after almost 20 years of visiting the island, found out that the weird white thing we can see from the causeway is part of the St. Simon’s Island airport navigation system and not something aliens left behind when they visited. We walked out to it (hello, video surveillance cameras!) after checking out the marsh, the high marsh, JI causeway, 25 April 2012hammock and the pathway with prickly pear blooming abundantly alongside it and so many Great Southern White butterflies flitting about.

(This is when my 2nd  batch of camera batteries died, so we had to revisit the area later in the week.)

Pat and Jerry had another special place in store for us, where more alligators hang out, so we happily went there and saw another gator, some very large turtles (snappers?), a school of blue gills, a little blue heron, and a scarlet locust tree, which was beautifully in bloom.

alligator at new pond, JI, 25 April 2012
alligator at new pond

blue gills in new pond, JI, 25 April 2012
blue gills in new pond

scarlet locust bloom, JI, 25 April 2012
scarlet locust bloom

little blue heron, JI, 25 April 2012
little blue heron

By 3pm, we were back to our bikes and on our way home, with two new scarves Pat had made — a purpley one and a black-and-white one — in my knapsack. Thanks, Pat! (She also made a colourful Cinco de Mayo scarf for our dog, which I wore to a Cinco de Mayo party over the weekend :-))

After we rested a bit at home, and, more importantly, recharged some of the camera batteries, we drove back out to the new alligator pond and took some pics, then headed to the Glory Boardwalk at the Soccer Complex

Glory Boardwalk, JI, 25 April 2012
Glory Boardwalk

and walked on the beach to the Jekyll Point corner, enjoying the shore birds and the lovely beach.

South dunes beach, JI, 25 April 2012
South dunes beach

Wilson's Plover, South Dunes Beach, JI, 25 April 2012
Wilson’s Plover, South Dunes Beach

brown pelican, gills, skimmers, South Dunes Beach, JI, 25 April 2012
brown pelican, gills, skimmers

south dunes, JI, 25 April 2012
south dunes

Laughing gulls and royal terns, South Dunes Beach, JI, 25 April 2012
Laughing gulls and royal tern, South Dunes Beach

South Dunes Beach, JI, 25 April 2012
South Dunes Beach

Then, on our way to dinner at Gnat’s Landing on St. Simon’s Island, we stopped again at the Causeway marsh, and again, my camera batteries died! I got a few pics there but another trip was in the cards.

JI Causeway hammock, 25 April 2012

prickly pear bloom, JI Causeway, 25 April 2012
prickly pear bloom

grass stand on JI Causeway hammock, 25 April 2012
grass stand on JI Causeway hammock

Dinner at Gnat’s Landing in Redfern Village, one of our favourite places for outside ambiance and food, was the most disappointing thing about our vacation. We ordered grilled fish (wahoo and mahi) and both were as dry as shoe leather when delivered to the table. They were recooked, and though slightly better the second time around, were still dry and tasted like fish that had been re-frozen; that is, they were tasteless. How could the chefs not notice this? The cheese grits were good, as usual, and the crab balls, but we’re wondering if we will be visiting Gnat’s again on future visits. Catch 228, also at Redfern, was much better. But, there is the Gnat’s Landing bulldog to take into consideration (painted to match the old VW van that’s usually parked in front of Gnat’s Landing) …

Gnat's Landing bulldog, SSI, 25 April 2012


Animal count:

Deer: 2
Raccoon: 1 (marsh)
Alligators: 3
Skinks: two six-lined racerunner skinks (adult and juvenile, in marsh)
Turtles: one dead sea turtle; 3 large pond turtles
Birds: 2 painted buntings (male and female); 4 house finches; some cardinals; 2 small blue herons; great egrets; several brown pelicans; many royal terns, skimmers, laughing gulls, a Wilson’s plover, other plovers, sanderlings, and other shore birds; a blue jay; many grackles; and the usual mockingbird, red-winged blackbirds.
Crabs and sea animals: many dead jellyfish; many marsh, wharf and fiddler crabs; many periwinkle snails
Insects: lots of Great Southern White butterflies and red dragonflies
Plants: scarlet locust tree; many prickly pears in flower, sea oxeye daisy