An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

June 6, 2010

Precious Gifts

Saturday I headed to Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge in the northeastern corner of North Carolina. The refuge and the adjacent community of Knotts Island are attached to Virginia, but separated from the rest of North Carolina by the waters of Currituck Sound. In total over 8000 acres of mostly salt and brackish water marsh, plus forested areas are protected. Mackay is a popular stop in winter for many species of migratory waterfowl and the humans who like to view them, but in early June it is also full of life.

Lone Pine

Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans)

Campsis radicans

Yellowbelly Slider (Trachemys scipta)

Trachemys scipta - Yellowbelly Slider 2

Starrush Whitetop (Rhynchospora colorata)

Rhynchospora colorata - Starrush Whitetop_edited-1

Clapper Rail Chicks (Rallus longirostris)

Clapper RaIL Chicks - Rallus longirostris

Virginia Rose (Rosa virginiana)

Rosa virginiana

Layered Wetland

Seashore False Bindweed (Calystegia soldanella)

Calystegia soldanella


Places like this were once thought of as wastelands - only good for dumps, filling in or draining. We now know that they are extremely productive, multi-layered, extraordinarily complex ecosystems. Plants here position themselves through natural selection according to how much water and how much salt they can withstand. By their very nature wetlands act as giant sponges, offering protection from flooding, as well as filtering what flows from the land. These characteristics and this complexity make places like this a precious gift - irreplaceable if destroyed. Which is why the current disaster in the Gulf is so horrible, and decades after the flow from the pipe is finally stopped, this tragedy will not be over. Until we no longer choose to organize our economy around petroleum, drilling anywhere remotely near something so precious must be done with the fullest measure of caution and safety, no matter the cost. Anything less should not only be criminal, it should be considered immoral.

(full set here)


  1. It is a beautiful site Les. I sure hope it is not affected by the oil and that we can clean up soon.

  2. Great photos and sad but true commentary.

  3. Beautiful pics of a serene and important place, Les.

  4. Great set, Les. Regarding commentary, all I can say is "Amen!"

  5. Excellent commentary and photos, God created this world to take care of itself . Could you have gotten any closer to the turtle , or did he want to be a star ?

  6. Your photographs are absolutely gorgeous! I like the turtle. And the rose with the insect in it. And all the rest.... :)

  7. Wow, pictures of Clapper Rail chicks. I've never even actually seen one. Fantastic close-up of the slider too. I usually can't get any closer than 50 yards to the ones in our slough. They're quite skittish.

    I agree with your commentary. And I get so thoroughly sick of the false argument of fish vs people or pelicans vs people.

  8. les, wonderful photos~i do hope that we Americans finally own our responsibility to the earth and all its creatures. gail

  9. Concur with the turtle comment. Is it a red-eared slider? Gorgeous shot.

    The BP situation. I support the corporate death penalty. Immediately.

  10. Wonderful photos. Makes me want to visit your part of the country.

  11. Tina,
    I am sure this area will be safe, other threats exist, but not the spill.

    Thanks for coming by.

    Thanks for your comments.

    I second your Amen.

    Interesting little icon on your comment. You are welcome for the tour.

    I did not realize it until afterwards, but I believe I interupted her egg laying so she stayed fairly still, plus I had the dogs with me.

    Thank you for the kind comments.

    Sweet Bay,
    The Clapper Rails are usually very shy, but I found myself between the adults and the chicks and neither knew what to do.

    I hope you are right and soon.

    I looked the turtle up on an NC site and think it is just a Yellowbelly. I agree with your criminal justice.

    Please visit, we could use the tourist dollars.


  12. These pictures are exceptional! I'd call them not pictures, but images. What a place!

  13. the worst part about the oil is that it's still gushing. who knows where it will reach? there are predictions that it will hit the coast of sc by july. the devastation is already inconceivable, completely heartbreaking. your pictures are beautiful. if there is any upside to this tragedy maybe it is that we will all notice anew, or in some cases for the first time, the "precious gifts" and vow to protect them.

  14. Very bittersweet to see your wonderful photos. What a ghastly situation we've got ourselves into.

  15. Well said! I’m beyond miserable about the oil tragedy. Wetlands like the one you depict so beautifully here are precious. I love the expression on the turtle especially. I smiled over your “rant” label, but it sounds more like music to my ears.

  16. "Beyond miserable" just about sums it up.

    What a wonderful and varied post.
    Let's hope that this area at least will stay safe.
    Oh, will we ever learn...

    I appreciate the picture of the Rosa virginiana as Species roses have captured my imagination at the minute. I wish more bloggers would post about their local native roses ( and let me know about it). Our two main English ones are lovely too, R. canina and R. arvensis. But you have so many.

    Your reflection photo's are always beautiful.

  17. Tatyana,
    You may call them what you will and thank you.

    I love the turtle pic too.

    I heard a commentary on NPR about how past events likes this have prompted changes in how things are. Let's hope this happens.

    Yes, no one to blame but ourselves.

    Glad I could play your tune.

    I know little about native roses, and had to look this one up to get its name. Though I did not know its species, I knew it as familiar.


  18. Les, beautiful images, extraordinary place. Look at the clarity of the water - great photos of the landscape.

    We are outraged by what has occurred in the Gulf, the effect upon the wildlife, people, their livelihoods, industries..., and further cannot believe nothing has been done to correct (no remedy) and a government that is nearly unresponsive, except of course to take action to "kick a$$" - wow, now that's a solution. What incompetents they all are. (Sorry if I offend, but you opened the door.)

    Interesting for me is this video a friend just sent me.

  19. You are so right about having to reorganize our economy. What is happening now is such a tragedy. Love your photos and your blog.