Saturday, April 26, 2014

Barren Beauty

It's still early spring here, but I found my way to an oak savanna the other day. Strange to think of a savanna in Wisconsin, but it is the proper term for a lightly forested grassland where oak are the dominant species. Anyway, my focus is not on the trees in this series, although they will always be my favorites. No, this series is on the grasslands. 

As I was saying, the season is slow to arrive this year. The grasses are still brown, the trees barely in bud, and the much of the area is on the mucky side, but that did not stop me. 

You miss so much when you drive past areas like this at highway speed. The delicate beauty of the spent seed head, the hoof prints of deer in the soft mud, and the silence of the earth as she starts to push toward the sun. You sense none of this from the road. 

So remember that the next time you pass through an area that seems barren. Pause to consider the vast array of vegetation that has taken root in that open area, and although they are hidden from your puny human eyes, countless creatures call this place home. Mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, spiders, and beetles--they all live their lives in harmony with the plants that make oak savannas unique. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Nothing but Wind

Photo by
 Prairies, taken for granted and even despised for their monotony, prairies are what much of the center of North America are meant to be, at least in this epoc.  Pre-European invasion, Wisconsin was a mix of primordial forest and open grassland. While much of the far north remains forest--second or even third growth forest--the southern swath has been converted to farmland.

Wisconsin's woods are vacation nirvana. Anyone who has been on Wisconsin northbound highways on a Friday afternoon can attest to that. Vehicle after vehicle is decorated with an out-of-state license plate. In the winter they are spiked with ski racks or pulling snowmobile trailers. In the summer they zoom up the highways with boats and campers. Everyone rushes to the northern woods, including me.

As a reader of Troll Tails, you have seen my appreciation of the wetlands surrounding my hometown, but there is more to this part of Wisconsin. Farmland has its charms, but here and there, landowners are allowing their land to return to the wild, and slowly the land begins to bloom. I think there's a story here, and I hope to share it with you this year.

Photo by Jim Brandenburg

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Tiny Blooms

I love trees. Gnarled and twisted oak trees, thin and wispy willows, tall and stately evergreens, and most of all, the maple. I love them all. If you have been following my blog, you already know this about me. But I want to be clear. 

Autumn is not the only season of glory for Wisconsin's forests. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Winter Berries

I have always wondered why some berries hang on through the winter, bright and shiny, and apparently ripe to eat. I'm not naive. I know that some berries are toxic, but for each plant species, a distribution system must exist. Why would a plant evolve a berry so toxic, no creature dare to eat it. 

Well, a little research, and I have the answer. Some plants produce berries that are toxic until they spend weeks frozen. In the spring, they will finally be safe to eat. Plants and animals evolve together. Somebody will eat them, eventually. Until then, these tiny, lop-sided balls of color are a welcome promise of the color to come. 

All of this makes perfect sense. In the spring, animals and birds are hungry and they need food. If you were a plant, wouldn't you save your berries for spring when there is almost no competition for consumption. 

Nature is wickedly clever. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

What is it?

I love nature. I have spent countless hours studying the world just outside my door, but this morning I recorded something I have never seen before. 

Instead of turning left to go to work, I turned right. The sun was just about to break the horizon, and the dawn was gorgeous. So I rushed into a parking lot, parked, and took up position on a curb. What follows is not the best photography, but that is not the point of this posting. I want to know ... WHAT IS THAT?

Watch the bright orange spot move across the ground toward me. 

I remember seeing something strange through the lens, but I was focusing on getting the settings right. I never got there because that spot kept freaking me out. It was as if a tiny sun was rushing me. This all happened in less than 3 minutes. 

Could it be alpenglow? I thought that only happened in the mountains, and it does not normally take the form of a spot. It does not seem to be a sun dog because they appear in the sky. I have no idea what that spot is. Can anybody help? 

I was using a 35mm prime lens with a polarizing filter in place. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I've been a bad, bad blogger

Have you ever faced a black hole? A place where all the pressures of life compile, and you are left gasping for air? Sure you have. We all have. But I have special responsibilities as a blogger. 

Troll Tails has followers from all over the world, and while I may have lost some of you, I hope a few of you have stuck with me. By June 2014, most of the pressures I currently face, will have run their course. I'll be back to blogging and tweeting and documenting my life with photos. 

I do have good news. Cairn: a dragon memoir is in the final stages of development. The  second installment of the Legends of the Aurora has been my refuge in a crazy world. Writing is my way of dealing with the world. It's my safety valve and my playground. In addition, the next installment of the Oton report from the Stoughton Press will be hitting the streets any day. If you aren't lucky enough to live in the area, watch for it here. 

Until then, hang with me as I breathe new life into this wild adventure. 

In the interim, check me out on twitter at RebeccaFerrellPorter@PorterLegends. If you see a little dragon, you will know you're in the right place.