Spring and Birthdays, sort of
After a long, cold winter, I finally managed a couple of days outdoors hoping to catch a glimpse of the last of the visiting birds before they take flight and head back up north. The last time I was at Pea Island, the ponds were filled with sand from recent storms so this time I headed to the mainland, first to Lake Mattamuskeet, the largest natural lake in North Carolina, and then to a regular haunt, Alligator River.
Monday was raw and windy and a fellow artist and I headed to Mattamuskeet where I was cold slapped with the fact that the Snow Geese and Tundra Swan had already begun their return flights. But we did see herons in all their breeding plumage, hunkered down against the cold, end-of-winter winds, their heads disappearing into feather boas. One male was so dug in we got fairly close to him and he never flinched a feather. Shovelers zigzagged across the canals along with straight swimming nutria and bunches of duck-like birds called coots everywhere we looked. At this refuge there is a short boardwalk that winds through a cypress swamp with some of the largest "knees" I've ever seen and two fairy tale trees I must include in a painting one day. Years ago, the powers that be tried to pump the lake dry in an effort to create more farmland. Luckily that failed but the pump house still remains and at times is open to the public. I remember years ago, climbing the narrow stairwell in the tower to be rewarded with a magnificent view, but now the tower is closed off.
On Friday, I headed to Alligator River, my sketch bag holding my constant desire to spot a bear or two, but once again there were none to be seen. With all the rain we've had recently, the fields were flooded, leaving only a small, dry area that some ibis had found, chalk white against a sepia background. I'll admit to being a bit disappointed with the lack of critters, but when I returned home I found packages gracing my front steps since it was my birthday, sort of, being born on Leap Year, Feb. 29th. These thoughtful gifts more than made up for the lack of creatures at the refuge.
I received a packet of luminescent butterfly wings (collected from dead butterflies found on the ground), a loosely woven nest of either a catbird or mockingbird, the sweetest opossum finger puppet in honor of "Silver", two great books, A Field Guide to Getting Lost and Skulls: An Exploration of Alan Dudley's Curious Collection, and a pottery crow with a key and heart. And to top it all off, a huge box of my favorite spring flowers - tulips, in Wizard of Oz Technicolor. A birthday brimming with nature, who could ask for more?
"The great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been."