Thursday, December 31, 2009

The North American Woodcock

I took this picture of a dying North American Woodcock last Wednesday. At the same time the CIA spy who has been assigned to spy on me spied me making the picture. Thanks Julia!! Of all the spies from all of the different agencies whose task it is to keep up with me, you're my fave..
On this particular day last week I was doing the rounds and while rolling down 3rd Street for College I noticed a brown ball on the left hand side of the road. Curiosity drew me near and when I looked down I was surprised to see a medium sized brown, tan and black bird with an extra long beak. He was just sitting there 18" from the on coming autos racing for their 4 million. Within a minute I discovered that he was hurt and bleeding from a small puncture in his chest. I petted him with the back of my hand. He shook a bit and tried to flap his wings but they only moved weakly in flailing fashion. This was one of the most unique looking birds that I have ever seen in the Uptoon area and I felt compelled to get it out of the road. It was going to die from whatever injuries it had but I did not want it to happen under the wheel of an auto viper.
Straddling my bike I leaned over and scooped the wounded bird around his wings and body in my mitten covered left hand. He felt hallow and warm in the transfer as he looked up at me with a wide open sun lit eye. I rode with him in my mitt down 3rd for the park behind the Grant Thorton building where I knew I could find him a safe from car place in the sun. Within seconds I could feel his warm blood on my pointer and middle fingers. Through the fleece mitt and onto my skin, the bird's blood was slippery and at that point still alive. I found him a spot being warmed by the sun and set him down on the ground. At that point I was literally late for work so I said, "So long" and moved on.
An hour later after finishing my jobs I retrieved my camera and rode back to the park hoping that the bird would be okay and had gone on with his bird life. Deep down I knew that would not be the case. When I got to the spot he was holding on with a bit of light in his eyes and shallow breathing. I began to make his portrait and through the lens his life expired on the third shutter.
Later that day after struggling to ID the unique bird that I had found in the Jar I contacted Botzie who knows more about birds than anyone I know. From my description he suggested that it may be a North American Woodcock but that he would have to see the body to be sure. Ironically enough he was near the park when I called hours after I had left it and he made his way there. Within 15 minutes my phone rang, "Bingo!", he said, "It's a North American Woodcock and a fine specimen indeed." Botzie had only seen one other Woodcock in his entire life and he seemed impressed that he was looking at another one even though it was no longer alive. This bird is a rare sight to begin with considering it is a shore line ground bird that lives mainly in coastal forests. The Woodcock's beak is flexible for navigating small holes in search of earthworms, their fooding of choice.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Day in Pictures

On Christmas Eve Ms. Arcen requested that I do not take any pictures the following morning. She unknowingly described this emotional transfer that she was about to have related to her belief in the spirit of Santa Clause. Her beauty infinite as she reaches for the same Teddy Bear that has been bringing her warmth and safety since she was a baby while at the same time stepping forward into this world becoming a small adult with flecks of maturity showing apparent like the gray in my head. Growing up is like being torn in two directions and she is feeling that so much so that I can see it physically as if it were real. I promised I would not B-Log about the morning together by the tree in front of the fire, a promise I will keep. I do love her and consider her the most beautiful thing I have ever observed from which all my perceptions are based.

It rained here in the Piedmont all Christmas Day, over 2 inches, perhaps closer to 3 here at the estate. Take a walk with me out through the back. Lets start with a reflective self portrait. When it is gray outside I usually like to shoot in Monochrome not for the dramatic effect but because the absence of color starts with the subject. If it is cloudy and dark there is no sense in my mind to try and bring color out of a colorless scene. Notice the huge piece of broccoli on the right hand side rising into the sky.
As I walked through the water
I noticed that there was plenty.
In all directions water was either standing or flowing.
14 Steps total through the deep, only to find much more as far as I could see.
The flow was coming from across a plain which is now a dozen back yards from left to right.
Reverse angle from above image. These look like images that I have seen made along the coast lines of places around the world. BE ADVISED: THESE PHOTOGRAPHS WERE MADE 200 MILES FROM THE CLOSEST OCEAN.
Pan right. 2-6 inches of water for 10 hours constantly moving across the landscape down towards the Loch at Dooley.
Pan left.
A drop, one of many.
The fence line at my good neighbor's property. They have been out of the country for a few weeks now. I took some pictures to show them how high the water was against their two story garage and work shop.
How high is the water Momma?
Under the huge Magnolia looking back.
All this rain and running water across the surface in all directions is making me wonder if I should be planning to build a water born escape vehicle.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Snow Line Mtn Hike: The Story

My original plan was to drive from Charlotte to the top of Roseboro Rd. at the closed(due to winter conditions) Blue Ridge Parkway and then hike with the Zoo-Zoo north towards Grandfather Mountain. It has been awhile since I left the bike out of the plan and replaced that void with the dog and my boots. Once I turned into Wilson Creek the snow line started so I stopped, then easily shifted the 19 year old car into 4wd. Across the bridge on the snow covered dirt track of Edgemont Rd. all the way to Roseboro. Maybe 2 miles after I turned left onto Roseboro I crossed a narrow bridge and the fire road began to climb. I had ridden and drove this road many times before over the years but I have never seen it so locked in winter's grasp. On the second major switch back left pitching up the car started to bog down into the snow and crusty ice. I gave it more throttle, all four were spinning, sinking and sliding us down and left into the belly of the turn. Stop, back off before you slide all the way down and get stuck until April. I jumped out and looked at the awkward spot the truck was in. The only chance I had was to put it in reverse, gas it and hope for the best. Once I was backed out then I could do a two point turn and head back down. Unfortunately retreat was my only option because what I saw up ahead from where I was already stuck was even worse. It worked and I was able to get down the mountain back to Edgemont in a short span of time. I turned left on Edgemont and had a winter drive up to 221 a mile or so below the Parkway. The country side was brilliantly covered in snow and the folks who live in Edgemont proper seemed to be out of power but not fire wood.

The light indicates 4wd is functioning and the hubs are locked. I parked off the side of 221 and geared up for the walking part of the trip. Zoo and I headed alone North on the closed Parkway. The surface was amazing. There was 2-17 inches of snow covered in around about 2 inches of ice. The air temp at the start of our hike was in the high twenties. Upward towards the Linn Cove Viaduct every step seemed to count.
Zoo was having a blast being in her element.
Her Natural color pattern seemed to blend in quite well with the winter surroundings.
We trudged on and up. Well okay, I trudged, Zoo skated on the ice and broke through in some of the softer spots.
There were trees down laden with ice.

Once we crossed the first bridge before the Viaduct actually started Zoo and I found a little spur trail on the left. I noticed it because above that left hand tree line there was a rock pillar that rose maybe 2oo feet above us and looked accessible. I wanted to get up there because it looked like the view of Grandfather would be amazing. Up the little spur was difficult. There were heavy ice covered limbs blocking more than half the way up to the Linn Cove Trail. It was only about 15 meters up but it was steep, slippery and blocked with debris. Once we got to the trail with the rock out crop still ahead and above us I decided to go left first, it just felt right. After about 20 minute of moving debris and going forward the trail sharply began to descend. We were walking away from the rocks. Mein(German for My) Volk(Russian for Wolf) and I turned around and made it back to the spot we came in at and then headed up the trail to the right. Check out her camo.
Now we were headed in the right direction but the trail was just as difficult to move on.
Every turn we made there was more heavy limbs covered in ice blocking our passage. After about 40 minutes in this direction and not getting up high enough I decided to head back down to the Parkway and go north onto the Viaduct. In these tunnels the noise was strange when ever the wind picked up. Like wind chimes but mountain forest creepy. I would listen to the cacophony and then all of a sudden several limbs within 20 meters would snap loudly on top of the under noise. Every time the snapping sounded like it was being caused by a large animal that was running away from or towards us.
The sky was azure.
Look at this little piece of ice nestled in the Rhodo leaves.
Back on the closed road Volk and I walked to a spot where we found a marker indicating that we were at 4,535ft. Several hundred meters further on I found a spot in the sun to set up the tripod and start messing with the camera. We snacked on Clementines, dog treats and water from the pack. The wind blew and I could feel the density of the mountain.
I should have these turned around but I do not. This is a 200mm shot at F25 of the rock nodule seen below in the top left center at about 45mm.
We stayed at this spot for about 30 minutes enjoying the view and talking without saying anything about life as a human and a dog. Volk and I bonded, quality time quietly sharing minutes in a winter pastoral setting with no other humans around. Zoo loved burying her face in the crusty ice then sinking her head down into the snow like an arctic ostrich.
The hike down and out gave us different view of Grandfather. Way up there in the center you can see the swinging bridge that we were on as father and son years ago. The only way to access that bridge on this day would be straight up from here because the park was obviously closed.
I decided not to back track the series of fire roads to get home, instead I took 221 to Blowing Rock for the 321 and south. The problem was 221 was sketchy the whole entire way. At one point the US Forestry Service had us stopped while they cleaned the mess.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Destination: Snow Line

Via 6 hours total drive time and 4 hours of physical body challenge on foot with husky. I am sore in strange places and am late for the first day back after four off. I almost died in the UN Montero on the fire road named Roseboro in a left hand big switch back when the snow was so deep and crusted with ice that I became stuck in a bad spot leaning hard to the inside and down. I had to think really hard on the best mechanical way out and fortunately that planned worked. Roseboro to the parkway was impassible by my 4wd car so I turned around and made it to the parkway via Edgemont, another fire road that seemed in slightly better condition. Fear. I leave you with imagery and maybe tomorrow I will have a better detailed report from the field above the Blue Ridge Parkway.