Friday, August 14, 2009

A Harassing hummingbird and a new life-list flower!

This morning I noticed some activity in the branches of the Black Gum tree behind our house. A small bird, possibly a Bluegray Gnatcatcher was being harassed by a male Ruby-throat Hummingbird! He dived at the other bird repeatedly even when it flew to another branch.
Later this afternoon I attached the camera to my spotting scope and waited on the patio for a hummingbird to come to the feeder. Finally, I heard a familiar "chittering" sound and soon saw a male hummer on the branch of a nearby tree. My spotting scope does not take as clear and sharp photos as I would like, but it beats spending several thousand dollars for an 800mm telephoto lens!

I went out to Freels Bend today to take some photos of the area for an upcoming AMSE outreach class. We teach our outdoor classes at the 200+ year-old cabin there. While I was out there I saw a male and female Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Red-tailed hawk and bluebirds in the trees. When I went into the field to look for signs of deer and rabbits, I noticed a small, puffy white flower. It was one I hadn't seen before. I looked it up when I got home and found out it is a Prairie Mimosa (Desmanthus illinoensis). The plant has a very unusual seedpod that looks like dry, twisted brown pea pods.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Jupiter's back!

This was a photo I'd been anxious to get since I got my spotting scope last December! By the time I got it, Jupiter was too low on the horizon to be able to get a photo of it. Now, although I had to wait until about 10:45 p.m., I had another chance. I tried taking photos with my 70 - 300mm telephoto lens last night, but they didn't come out very good. The spotting scope did a pretty good job with Jupiter, but Mars didn't come out so well. I'm anxious to try Venus soon.
It is possible to see all 4 of the Galilean moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. Last night when I looked at them, only 3 were visible and one was on the left side. Click on the photo to enlarge it to see the moons better.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Multitude of Mushrooms!

Kenny and I left sunny Oak Ridge to do some hiking at Frozen Head State Park, 25 miles north of here this afternoon. We noticed a band of clouds over the Cumberland Mountains as we were driving there but we didn't think much about them. We hadn't been in the parking lot more than 5 minutes when we heard thunder, the wind picked up and soon it began to rain... hard. We sat in the car and waited awhile to see if it would pass... it didn't. So, we turned around and headed back to Oak Ridge! Since we really wanted to get in some hiking, we went to Haw Ridge. That turned out to be a good choice. Due to the recent rains, there were multitudes of mushrooms of various sizes and colors. Our #1 favorite was definitely the red-capped ones (upper left)! We enjoyed seeing the different puffballs, including this trio of Gem-studded Puffballs (right).

We also saw a pretty peach-colored Coral Fungus (2nd left) and some bright yellow mushrooms growing on the forest floor.

I was glad I had my tripod when I came across the log that had this bright orange slime mold growing on it!

It wasn't all just fungi today, I did see a few wildflowers on the hike too. Groundnut (right) is a fairly common summer wildflower vine that grows on the edges of woodlands. Another flower that grew in the low, wet areas along the trails was Square-stemmed Monkeyflower (left).
So, despite a bad start today, our hike turned out to be very nice after all!