Saturday, January 20, 2018

What's for Lunch?

"Lady of the Waters", John James Audobon called it, but now this beauty, over two feet tall,  has a much more mundane name: Tri-Colored Heron.  

We watched one fishing in the marsh at the entrance to Huntington Beach State Park.  

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What will 'today's catch' on the menu be? 

 A frog?  Snail?  Worm?  Lizard?


Today's catch is a nice fresh fish.  

Fried, grilled, or blackened?


Sushi style!

Flip it around head first, and down the craw it goes!

See those lumps in his neck?  That's the fish making its way down that long pipe to his stomach.  

A Willet saw the heron's success and dropped in to try his hand, er, beak, at getting some lunch himself.  We expected the much bigger heron to chase the smaller bird away, but here's what happened.

The heron ignored the little guy and the two were fishing away right next to each other when we left to get some lunch for ourselves at Capt. John's Seafood in Pawleys Island.  By the way, Capt. John's 'today's catch' was halibut and it was outstanding!  

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The January Beach

I have been so preoccupied with my new camera lens, all I want to do is get out and take pictures.  It helps that this is a fantastic time of year to find birds as they are generally the big ones and they are all out there fishing.  
This squadron of brown pelicans passed right over our heads.
We could see their eyes and feel their wingbeats, they were so close.

The January beach is just as busy as the summer beach.  It's only the humans that are mostly missing.  

This thing was new to me and I had no idea what it was when we came across it washed up in the surf.  It was bigger than three of my fists, cold, and firm but rubbery when poked.  The underside looked just like the top.  

We looked it up.  It's Sea Pork!  

"There is no creature more peculiar than that rubbery red, pink, or gray blob known as sea pork.  It is in fact a condominium of microscopic zooid animals living together in a leathery tunic of cellulose.  Less than 1/8 inch long, each zooid works with its neighbors to pump streams of water and decayed plants into its sock-like body."     -- from Tideland Treasures

The pork attaches itself to rocks at the bottom of the sea where it is dined upon by sharks, skates, and other big bottom-feeding fish. 

Often the only footprints on the beach belong to the shorebirds, forming delicate patterns too pretty to mess up.


Some of these tracks may belong to willets which are common year around.  They are the biggest "sandpipers" on the Carolina beach at 15 inches tall.  They have a unique call which you hear when they take off because you have intruded on their feeding while walking the beach.  "Bill Willy, Bill Willy," they scold as they wheel away toward an empty patch down the beach.  

Earlier in the week when we went for our cold and windy morning walk we encountered several groups of people with big spotting scopes, tripods, and long camera lenses walking purposefully up the beach.  In the paper the next day we found out they were whale watching!  About 30 miles north a pod of humpback whales had been seen migrating south to the Caribbean to calf and these folks were hoping they would pass by. They were skunked.  The pod has not been seen again.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Say Cheese!

I got a telephoto lens for Christmas, something I've wanted for years.  It's a refurbished Canon lens with a guarantee and cost less than a quarter of what a new one does.  

It came in the mail yesterday and we took it out for a spin this morning at Huntington Beach State Park.

It was windy and hard to hold the camera and I have a lot to learn, but I'll share  few of my first photos.

Brown pelicans and a herring gull

Pelican landing

Great blue heron, tri-colored heron, snowy egret hunkered down in the wind

Flock of hooded mergansers, great blue heron, brown pelican

As you can see, I have lots of room for learning and improvement. I'm so excited at all the new photography this lens will open to me.  

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Pinball Wizards

Pinball Wizard - "The Who"
"Ever since I was a young boy,
I've played the silver ball.
From Soho down to Brighton
I must have played them all.
But I ain't seen nothing like him
In any amusement hall
That deaf dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pin ball!"

Pinball --
popular during the 
Great Depression (7 balls for a penny), outlawed in many places by the 1940s as a time-waster and form of gambling, 
back on the scene in the '70s with modern updates and improvements, and run out of town again in the '80s
by video games like 
Pac-Man and Hopper.

In the 1940s and '50s, the old machines were said to be supporting the mafia in New York City and were confiscated, and smashed.
We visited some of the ones that survived in the Pinball Museum in Asheville, NC, where for a mere $15 entry fee you can play them all day!  

From the left : Cherry Bell, 1978; Nip It, the game Fonzie played at Al's Diner on "happy Days", 1972; Sky Kings, sky diving theme, 1972.

From the right: Humpty Dumpty, 1947, first machine to add flippers; Select-a-Card, 1950, ("Adults Only" because of its artwork); Yacht Club, 1953; Air Aces, 1975,first to use drop targets; Captain Fantastic, 1976.

Funland, 1968, carnival theme - "Step Right Up and Win a Prize".  Buccaneer, 1976.

There are over 75 playable machines in the Asheville Pinball museum and some older ones just to admire.  In the summer there is a line because they only let in 75 people at a time.  You can check in and go have an ice cream cone or coffee and they'll call you when it's your turn.  If you don't want to play, it's free to look around and admire the lights and artwork.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Cold Nose, Warm Heart

We are having a weather "event" today, an ice and snowstorm.  Pretty unusual for South Carolina.  Everything in town is closed and schools have already been cancelled for tomorrow, too.
Southerners have no experience driving on ice and snow and there are no snow plows or salt and sanding trucks to send out either.  The Sheriff's Department is begging people to stay off the roads as there are so many accidents.
The fountain outside our coffee shop was barely squeezing water out of the top yesterday.  I love the look on the alligator's face below in the pool. "Wouldja get a load of this?" he seems to be saying.

Bob the Border Collie had never seen snow before today.  She balked at stepping out in it, hugged the house to do her business and hurried right back in the door. 

It reminds me of Minnesota, school cancelled for students AND teachers, that luxurious feeling of a stolen day.  The bird feeders are busy with birds to watch.  I have a good book (The Land Breakers by John Ehle), knitting to finish, and plenty of tea.  

Too bad we ate all the Christmas cookies!

Monday, January 1, 2018

A New Year's Wish

Happy New Year!

We wish you health and happiness, love and laughter ...

Peace and Plenty, all year long.

Paul & Cynthia

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Last Gift of 2017

The cedar boughs and holly berries on the fireplace are dry and losing their color, but I'm not ready to let them go.  To replace them, this morning we drove a ways down Sandy Island Road, a wild, brushy area bordering the 9000 acres of Brookgreen Gardens, to a place where we could cut a few boughs.  As we neared the spot where the cedar grows, an animal ran for a short way down the road in front of us.  "Is it a dog, is it a ca--", we began, and then both exclaimed, "It's a bobcat!"  The short tail, the tufts of fur in the ears, the longer back legs, were clear in the seconds before it disappeared into the brush. 
I was so excited I wanted to cry.  All my life, in all the wild places I've hiked and camped, I've longed to see a bobcat.  I never thought I would.

What a last-minute gift from a year that has been so ecologically and politically disheartening and worrisome.

2017, my Year of the Bobcat.

(The photo isn't mine, it's borrowed from a South Carolina wildlife website.)