Monday, May 27, 2013

Spring Break (part 4)

There were birds. Lots and lots of birds

On Thursday we got up early (early for vacation that is) and headed to Jekyll Island, GA. We had planned to be out the door at 7, but that didn't happen. We left by 8, which really wasn't too bad. We were a bit discouraged by the weather forecast, which was calling for thunderstorms both days of our trip.

It took about 3 hours to drive down from Charleston so we decided to go ahead and have lunch at Red Bug Motor Pizza. After we finished lunch, the weather started to look like it was going to hold up for us so we hit the beach, walking up and down the shore for a while. It was a little chilly, but nowhere near as windy as Sullivan's Island. The shore birds were... abundant.

Royal tern

Brown pelicans

Herring Gull (juvenile)

After an hour or so on the beach, the weather was holding out so we decided to head over to the wharf area to inquire about dolphin tours (they weren't running today) as well as walk around in the historic district. Apparently in the late 1800s and early 1900s Jekyll Island was an exclusive club for the very rich families (e.g. Rockefellers, Morgans, Pulitzers) of the US.

Spanish moss and the Jekyll Island Club in the background (now a hotel)

Pretty fountain

Crane Cottage

It started to sprinkle after a while, so we decided it would be a good time to head back to the car and see if we could get checked in to our room at Villas By the Sea. We were a little early, but our room was ready so they let us check in. There was a minor issue with our keycards (they didn't work) but it was resolved after a few minutes. We dropped our stuff off, and headed to the boardwalk by the hotel to watch the tide come in. The weather was looking better by then, so after watching the tides for a few more minutes we decided to go back to the hotel room and grab the cameras.

No swimming during high tide

We took some pictures of the waves crashing into the rocks, then we continued on to the driftwood beach.

After that, we headed back to our room to clean up and go to dinner. We had initially planned to go to the Courtyard at Crane, but found that they were full for the night. So instead we headed to Latitude 31. The food there was excellent, I'd definitely recommend it. During dinner it started to rain so we headed back to our room after that, hung out for a while then called it a night.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Buckley Wildlife Sanctuary

Goslings learning to forage (someday I'll learn to hold the camera level)
Sunday Erin and I headed to the Buckley Wildlife Sanctuary. We ended up driving there from Lexington since we had a few errands to run down there. It was a great drive, there were some very nice horse farms on the way. Erin was driving, but unfortunately my camera was packed away in the trunk so no pictures of rolling hills and fancy barns.

Once we arrived, we were greeted by the naturalist who runs the sanctuary. He gave us a quick rundown of the place, telling us about the trails, pavilion and bird blind. He also mentioned that he runs it by himself which I thought was very impressive. Of course, he also had to collect our entrance fees, which I think at $4 a head was not a bad deal at all.

We started off by heading to the pavilion, since he had mentioned there were goslings in that area. They were older but still fluffy and very cute. After that, we checked out the bird blind. It's a very nice blind, with a window unit air conditioner, one way glass windows and a port to put a camera through for easy pictures. There was a large array of bird feeders outside the window to attract wildlife.

American Goldfinch - from the blind

Chipmunk - from the blind

House Finch - from the blind
We didn't spend long in the blind, since we had arrived late and didn't have much time until the sanctuary closed. So we left the blind, and set off for the red trail, which was the longest at about 1.5 miles. The trail was fairly well maintained, though the grass was a little high in places so I'm definitely glad I was wearing long pants. I think I need to find something better for hiking than jeans though, because at 80 degrees and very humid it gets to be a little too hot at times. While we were hiking we saw a variety of wildlife, including a deer, an indigo bunting, a great crested flycatcher and this lizard. The only one of those I got even an acceptable picture of was the lizard.

Lizard trying to escape the camera
There was a half mile offshoot of the red trail (the yellow trail) that we took as well. We finished up our hike right at closing, perfect timing on our part.

On the way back home Erin saw a vulture perched on a fence post. She stopped and I got out of the car to take some pictures. I was a bit overeager, and spooked it. So I managed to get a picture of it in flight instead of perched, an opportunity I'd take any day.

Black vulture, running from the camera
A funny thing about the pictures I took of the black vulture flying away: I shot them in a burst, and in every single one the wings were in this position. I guess the wing beat of the black vulture (or at least this particular one) is right around 4.5/sec, which is the burst speed of my camera. Hopefully I can capture another one flying sometime to test my theory.

Finally we drove past some chickens in someone's yard, and I couldn't resist taking a couple pictures.


I would definitely like to go back to Buckley one day and spend a couple of hours in the early morning taking pictures from the blind. There were also other offshoots from the red trail that could be explored, as well as the other two marked trails to explore. It was also very quiet there, especially considering how close it is to Frankfort and I-64. We could not hear any cars while we were there. So overall I think this place rates pretty highly among the local parks, both for convenience and beauty.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Raven Run and McConnell Springs

Raven Run

It was very wet
This past Saturday Erin and I went to Raven Run, then McConnell Springs. We headed for Raven Run after lunch, and got there a few hours before closing. There were a surprising number of people there, but I guess it was actually a pretty nice day for hiking. It was a nice mild temperature and overcast. The hiking was... ugly. It was extremely muddy. I guess that shouldn't have been surprising since it rained most of the past week. I did spot a snail on the trail, and that was pretty much it for my pictures here.

Erin says it's cute
Well there was also this wildflower. It took us a while to figure out what it was, but we did it. Go us!

Fire pink


McConnell Springs

Next up was McConnell Springs, which turned out to be much more fruitful for photography and surprisingly, wildlife. It was also much less muddy, since their trails are either paved or mulched pretty well. It's a great place to visit, especially after a rain, and I'm always searching for a repeat of something I witnessed here a couple years ago that I'd love to get a picture of.

I was sad to see that part of the roof at the nature center had burned.

Burnt over the picnic area
 The blue hole was looking very blue. There is a path going through with one sided flooded due to heavy rain, and the blue hole is on the other side. The side-by-side below shows how blue it appears.

Left image - normal water, Right image - the blue hole
 The heavy rain had the boils really going. I took a brief video since pictures don't really do it justice.

Link to Video (I can't seem to embed it anymore)
The final sink was also flowing well. Erin and I have been to McConnell Springs 6 or 7 times, and this has definitely been the most active we've seen the water.
Lots of water
There are a lot of tent caterpillar webs around during this time of year in Kentucky. We happened to see a tent caterpillar.
Tent Caterpillar
They've done a lot of work over the years to build up a marshy area in the park. Which leads me to the prize of the day.

Great blue heron
There were also these birds that we watched zig-zag around the pond and splash into the water briefly. We're pretty sure they were chimney swifts. I didn't manage to get a picture of them hitting the water. Maybe someday...

Chimney swift (mostly certain)
While I was watching the chimney swifts, I happened to catch a glimpse of a larger bird flying into the trees. I didn't manage to get any particularly good shots of it. I would have cropped closer if I had. This one is blurry at full resolution, but pretty good at the standard upload size (2048 pixels wide).

Cooper's Hawk
And because I can't resist, another shot of the great blue heron.

Then came a really lucky moment. The heron started preening and looking restless, then decided to take flight. I wish I could say that the flight sequence were my best pictures of the day, but I got my camera caught on my jacket while I was lifting it. Hopefully next time I'll do a bit better. In the meantime, this is still a pretty good picture when it is downrezzed.
Great blue heron in flight
And finally as we were leaving, we managed to scare a groundhog and watched him quickly scamper for cover. I thought my opportunity was lost, but was saved by a cute bunny.
Bunny, grooming
And while I was taking a few pictures of the bunny, this fat little guy decided to pop back out.
So overall a very fruitful visit to the springs. We also saw a few other creatures... squirrels, which I've had a surprisingly difficult time getting a good picture of. Robins - they are plentiful around here, and I've got a ton of photos of them. Cardinals - they were singing loudly today, but I didn't get any pictures worth posting. I also think I caught a glimpse of a red-headed woodpecker, though it was too fleeting to know for certain. Definitely a great day, and I'm glad that even though we were exhausted after trekking through all the mud at Raven Run, we decided to go ahead and visit the springs.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Spring Break (part 3)


Next up was Wannamaker County Park. I spotted the lizard above while we were walking along the trail. There were trails around a windy pond and through some marshland. The first thing we saw while walking was a spider. I couldn't resist a close-up.

 We walked past the pond and into some marshland. I tried taking some pictures, but they didn't turn out worth posting. Then we started around the pond and saw a couple of turtles.

Tiny turtle

Not tiny turtle
After that we started walking through the more recreational area of the park. We saw a goose, and started wandering in its general direction. It suddenly decided to take off and flew right by us.

Goose in flight! 
And finally we saw this guy hanging out in the parking lot as were leaving. I was maybe 10 feet from it when taking this picture. He was much too brave for my liking.

Squirrel, looking all innocent, but I know it's plotting

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Spring Break (part 2)

We weren't the only people braving a chilly day to visit the beach!

Day 2 of spring break involved a trip to Sullivan's Island to visit the beach and then a visit to Wannamaker County Park. I'll work on the visit to the park next, but for now... the beach! Unfortunately it was a chilly, cloudy, drab day. And extremely windy. We got a late start, so when we got to Sullivan's Island we grabbed lunch first. We went to Taco Mamacita, which we discovered in Chattanooga. I really like their take on fusion tacos. We definitely recommend it if you get a chance to try it.

After lunch, we headed to the beach and then the sandblasting began. It was a good day to go to the beach if you needed exfoliation. On our walk to the beach we passed this beautiful house.

Beachfront property. I'm sure they have an ocean view from the upstairs deck
 Next is the lighthouse, one of the two major attractions on Sullivan's Island. The other is Fort Moultrie, which we went to a few years ago.

Sullivan's Island Lighthouse

A closer view

Laughing gull (and here began a strong interest in bird photography...)
 We did walk in the water a little, but it was too chilly to do much more than dip our toes in.

It was drab and windy, but it's still the beach!
And finally I couldn't resist making an animated gif to demonstrate just how windy it was. These 2 shots were about 1/4 second apart.