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.

May 1, 2016

Barred Owls and Buttercups

     Yesterday I took my first paddle of the year. While I had opportunities to go earlier in the year, it was way too cool. When warmer temperatures did arrive I was under doctor's orders not to lift anything over 20 lbs until the end of April. Yesterday was not ideal with strong northeasterly winds, overcast skies, and with the threat of rain, but I would not be deterred. I headed inland and west to the Blackwater River, and put in at Joyner's Bridge near Walters. This river is lined with one of my favorite trees, bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), freshly leafed out in an impossible shade of green. Paddling among these giants connects me with something much older and much larger than myself. This genus has witnessed 100 million springs, when the first seedlings somehow manged to avoid trampling from creatures like Tyrannosaurus Rex, while Pterosaurs flew overhead. While I saw neither creature yesterday, their descendants were numerous. Ospreys, great blue herons, cardinals, crows, wrens, sparrows, yellow warblers, wood ducks, wild turkeys, and pileated woodpeckers were all present, but the greatest thrill was being able to approach a barred owl while smaller birds were trying to peck its head.
Taxodium distichum (5)

Taxodium distichum (6)

Taxodium distichum (1)

Taxodium distichum (7)

Taxodium distichum (2)

Bald Cypress with Yellow Warbler

Barred Owl

     Of course the cypress were not the only plants I noticed. Resurrection fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides) was full and fresh from recent rains.
Pleopeltis polypodioides (2)

     Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginicus)
Chionanthus virginicus (2)

     American Wisteria (Wisteria frutescens)
Wisteria frutescens

Viola affinis
Viola cucullata

Viola cucullata (2)

     As green as the river was, many of the nearby fields were equally as yellow, cloaked in a blanket of buttercups (Ranunculus species), and I couldn't help stopping for a quick trespass. This European invasive is toxic to cattle and horses, but it is also distasteful, and when there is enough good forage livestock avoid it.
Buttercups (Ranunculus) (7)

Buttercups (Ranunculus) (6)

Buttercups (Ranunculus) (2)

Buttercups (Ranunculus) (3)

Buttercups (Ranunculus) (4)


  1. Looks more like a Prothonotary Warbler to me.

  2. The photos look like a primeval forest -- I would not mind paddling through that scenery. A pair of barred owls moved into my neighborhood last year. We hear them at night, days, and see them occasionally. Strange, because according to experts, they should prefer other locations.

  3. Love the photos and an added bonus, I love owls.

  4. Nothing like a Sunday service at your favorite church :-), "an impossible shade of green" is a perfect description of the canopy.
    I love the Blue Marsh Violets that are hanging on to dear life... and those cows in the field: what a terrific contrast.

  5. What a lovely paddle. I still haven't had my first paddle but hope to paddle on one of our lakes where I've been hearing a loon call and where there might be an eagle nest.

  6. Just beautiful!! I really love those last couple of shots. :o)

  7. Wow, that's a lot of buttercups! Too bad they are invasive. Love the owl photo. The bald cypress woods are beautiful.

  8. Love how the Prothonotary warbler looks a little like he's photobombing the picture of the bald cypress. IME they are very bold and curious birds and will often come close to investigate. They usually nest down by the creek here.

    We don't have any wild bald cypress on our farm though. Those are beautiful.

  9. What a great post. The bald cypress are majestic, particularly accompanied by the warbler and the barred owl. The fringe tree is special. And then you just hammer home the beauty of the buttercups with your great photos...

  10. Gorgeous! Thanks for taking us along on your paddle. The owl was so cool, lucky you! I also like the farm scenes. These nature themed ones are my favorite posts.

  11. We can grow those trees up here but you don't see them in a natural habitat like you've visited. So impressive.