Mission Statement

Bearing Witness to Local Natural History-- from the wildness of Indiana

Saturday, August 25, 2012

American Lotus: A Sacred Symbol of Beauty

American lotus, Nelumbo lutea, has been in bloom for a while now. It grows in a local wetland area and is a beautiful sight. This plant is prolific and has to be managed or it will over-take a wetland.

The plant's genus name, Nelumbo means "sacred bean. In many cultures the American lotus is sacred and a symbol of beauty.

It grows along the muddy shores of ponds, quiet streams, or rivers from the water's edge to a depths over 6 feet. The plant propagates from seed but also from rhizomes.

The crinkled leaf slowly opens during warm days and becomes a large pad with a depression in the center where the stem connects from underneath. The leaves are often a width of 1-2 feet. The leaves float on the surface or extend 1- 2 feet above the water.

Flower buds arise from the same root-stock as the leaves. The bud is large and egg- shaped, and encased in several layers of scales and sepals. In the center of each flower is a flat- topped, buttery colored receptacle. This is the pistil (the female parts), and clustered around it are dozens of yellow stamens (male). The flowers open in the morning and, at first, reveal only the female parts. This leads to cross-pollination because the insects that earlier visited older flowers with exposed stamens now crawl over the pistils of the young flowers.

 Each flower closes at night and lasts about 2 days. After the petals drop off, the center of the flower continues to grow and eventually reaches a diameter of about 3 inches. In this pod are about 20 holes, each containing a seed. The seedpods bend over and fall into the water where they will rot and release the seeds. In spring some of the seeds will begin to germinate, float to the surface, and drift ashore. Here, at the water's edge, a rhizome begins growing and a new plant begins its journey.

Beauty abounds in a pond or stream where the "Sacred Bean" grows-- a most definite symbol of beauty.

All Photos: © Joni L. James 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Green Heron

At another location here in Morgan County, I have been "working" a Green Heron. This wetland allows me to pull up and use my car as a blind. I just have to hope the heron will forage along the southwestern edge of the shallow pond.

I enjoy watching these shorter legged birds hunt. They crouch and then wait and wait and wait. When they move, they either move incredibly slowly or will run to where they see potential food. 

I admire the heron and egret family for their amazing patience and ability to stand in one position for a very l-o-n-g time.

A few Green Heron (Butorides virescens) photos to share:

All photos ©Joni L. James

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Winged Angels: Part III

This is Part III-- sharing another sampling of my photos from my divine experience with Great Egrets almost a week ago . . . and a juvenile Great Blue Heron. 

All photos © Joni L. James

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Winged Angels 42 Part II

As I work my way through the images I captured the other evening, I will post them to share. The images will continue to tell the story of the Winged Angels 42.

(Remember you can go to my Flickr photostream via the link on the right side of the page).

                                                                           ©Joni L. James

                                                                            ©Joni L. James

                                                                          ©Joni L. James

                                                                            ©Joni L. James

                                                                           ©Joni L. James

                                                                           ©Joni L. James

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Winged Angels 42

Imagine sitting among winged angels. That was my experience last night. 

After observing 42 Great Egrets for several days, I knew the time and exact site in the shallow lake to set up. I planned to photograph these beauties before they moved on. I know their patterns of feeding during the day and how they move as the sun drops lower in the sky. They typically feed at the ponds and then move to the shallow lake to forage until they gather at the back side for roosting. I had to set up at a south-southwest angle to keep them in the sweet light of the setting sun. 

                                                                         ©Joni L. James

 I loaded my photo vest with phone, notebook/pen, cushion, and clipped a five gallon bucket to the back. With my camera/200-500mm Tamron lens mounted to the tripod, and the hat blind strapped to the tripod leg, I headed out. I wore my NEOS boots (which are fabulous!) since I anticipated mud after the blessed heavy rains. After a long walk, I found my spot in the mud and made my nest. It was 6:15 pm.

                                                                              ©Joni L. James

My chair was the upside-down bucket with the hunting cushion. I splayed the legs of the tripod to the perfect arrangement for photographing and then put the blind over me and the equipment. I could not move or it would frighten the birds. So I waited and sat still.

Wood ducks flew in and out as well as several shorebirds. They were too far away for appropriate photos. About 6:45 pm, the first few egrets began flying into the lake. My heart raced as they began foraging within my view.

                                                                          ©Joni L. James

More and more began to fly into the pond as the sun made its way to the horizon. Excitement! What a satisfying feeling to have planned and set up properly so the birds would not recognize me as human and feel safe to be so close. 

                                                                          ©Joni L. James

Soon the area in front of me was filled with egrets.  The warm sunlight illuminated them against the rich green of the grasses. White birds are difficult to photograph in sunlight. I did not want to "blow out" the highlights yet underexposing could be tricky. I preferred shooting when their heads were turned to be bathed in light, but this did not always happen.

As the sun dipped below the dam, they took flight and wheeled above the lake to prepare for roosting through the night. Once they settled, I took a few more images then gingerly prepared to leave. I did not want to disturb them, but knew it was unavoidable. My body was cramped from sitting motionless for nearly three hours, but I slowly walked away.

                                                                            ©Joni L. James

What a satisfying evening. As they flew about and foraged on small fish, I was filled with  contentment. It was a privilege to be allowed into their world and to spend those hours together. Listening to their soft conversations with each other and watching their tussles for space, I was reminded again of how life plays out in all forms each day and night. We are a part of it. We share this space. As Henry Beston stated so eloquently in The Outermost House, "For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”

More to come.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Butter Light of Sunflowers

As I wrote in a previous post, a few plants are thriving in my "garden" during the drought. Today I share with you the buttery light of sunflowers as well as the interesting textures and fascinating growth of the reproductive parts. Bask in the beauty of sunflowers!

                                                                           ©Joni L. James

                                                                            ©Joni L. James

                                                                               ©Joni L. James
                                                                           ©Joni L. James
                                                                           ©Joni L. James
                                                                              ©Joni L. James

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Dickcissels: Grassland Treasures

Enjoy listening and watching this video footage of Dickcissels, grassland birds who inhabit your local countryside. Then read or reread my blog post "Speaking for Grassland Birds".
Video is shared from Music of Nature website (Lang Elliott) 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Plants As Metaphors--Don't Give Up

Ok . . . we are in an extreme drought and oppressive record heat. Until today, I have not had a substantial rain at my home that would really water my thirsty plants. Amazingly, there are several plants in one of my flower beds that are flourishing-- Sunflowers, Amaranthus, and Queen Anne's Lace. I don't know how. I gave up watering them 2 months ago, yet they are growing when everything else is fried. My grass is dead--  crispy dead, but Queen Anne's Lace is growing throughout.

So enjoy the photos below of these strong, persistent, and determined plants which won't give up. They are a metaphor for us . . . to be strong and know we can weather any storm. (No pun intended--although we haven't had many storms to weather . . .)

Unopened Sunflower                                     ©Joni L. James

Amaranthus species                                       ©Joni L. James
This flower fills my flower bed and I did not plant it (that I know of). I believe it is an Amaranthus species (maybe Amaranthus cruentus?) but if someone can confirm--please comment at the end of the post.

Queen Anne's Lace with Bee                          ©Joni L. James