Spring at Callaway Gardens

Our latest wandering took us on a short trip that was full of excitement. Our first stop was F. D. Roosevelt State Park, Georgia’s largest state park, in Pine Mountain. It was the perfect place for us to use as home base for exploring both Callaway Gardens and F.D.R.’s Little White House in Warm Springs.

After driving in the rain on the winding road through the park we arrived at the Visitor’s Center to check in just after a tornado warning had been lifted. Everything was fine in the campground and we set up camp just before another rain shower began.

“Connecting man and nature in a way that benefits both.” – Callaway Gardens Mission

With the sun shining the next morning we drove about 15 minutes from our campsite to Callaway Gardens.  Located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Callaway Gardens opened in 1952. Today, there are many different gardens to explore, a lodge, golf course, swimming beach, and even a zip-line adventure.

Our tour of the gardens began with a stop at the Pioneer Log Cabin. From there we strolled along the Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Trail with many Georgia native plants.  The Flowering Dogwoods and many other wildflowers displayed their brilliant spring colors.

Pioneer Log Cabin at Callaway Gardens
Pioneer Log Cabin at Callaway Gardens
Flowering Dogwood on Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail
Flowering Dogwood on Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail at Callaway Gardens
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail at Callaway Gardens
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail at Callaway Gardens
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail at Callaway Gardens
Azalea at Callaway Gardens
Azalea at Callaway Gardens
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail at Callaway Gardens
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail at Callaway Gardens

Next we walked on the trails to the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center for a look at some tropical butterflies. Butterflies of all sizes, shapes and colors fed on the colorful blossoms and sailed by our heads as they flew from flower to flower.

Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens
Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens
Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens
Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens
Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens
Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens

We learned about some of Georgia’s birds of prey at the Discovery Center. As our guide gave a very informative presentation, two different species of owl and a red tailed hawk flew over our heads during the program.

Juniper the Great Horned Owl at Birds of Prey program
Juniper the Great Horned Owl at Birds of Prey program
Barred Owl Birds of Prey demonstration at Callaway Gardens
Willow the Barred Owl Birds of Prey demonstration at Callaway Gardens
Red Tailed Hawk Callaway Gardens Birds of Prey Show
Red Tailed Hawk Callaway Gardens Birds of Prey Show

We must have just missed the Azaleas at their peak because most of the Azaleas on the Overlook Azalea trail had finished blooming. The Flowering Dogwoods and other trees added color to the landscape.

20170404Callaway-Gardens-Azalea-Trail
Callaway Gardens Azalea Trail
20170404Callaway-Gardens-Flowering-Dogwood
Flowering Dogwoods were in bloom at Callaway Gardens
Eastern Redbud Callaway Gardens
Eastern Redbud at Callaway Gardens
Callaway Gardens Overlook Azalea Trail
Callaway Gardens Overlook Azalea Trail

Our visit to Callaway Gardens included only a few of the many gardens there. It is a wonderful family destination and bicycles are a popular way to get around the park. There are several restaurants to choose from or you can have a picnic in one of the picnic areas.

December Caterpillars in Coastal Georgia

I’ve been so busy lately with Thanksgiving, cleaning up after Hurricane Matthew, and getting ready for Christmas I haven’t had much time to look at my butterfly garden.

With all our Christmas packages and cards in the mail, I could finally catch my breath this morning so I went out to our porch to enjoy my second cup of tea. As soon as I sat down I saw a Monarch butterfly flitting around our milkweed. I abandoned my tea, grabbed my camera and rushed downstairs to get a picture. The butterfly took off but when I began to examine the milkweed I was excited to find several caterpillars munching away on the leaves.

Monarch Caterpillar on Milkweed - December 15, 2016
Monarch Caterpillar on Milkweed – December 15, 2016
Monarch Caterpillar on Milkweed - December 15, 2016
Monarch Caterpillar on Milkweed – December 15, 2016

Backyard Wildlife

I never know what I might see when I walk out my back door.

One day a juvenile horned owl stopped to search for a tasty morsel in the marsh.

Juvenile Horned Owl
Juvenile Horned Owl

Another day this diamond back terrapin took a wrong turn into our back yard.

Diamondback Terrapin
Diamondback Terrapin

The ruby throated hummingbirds come by for a drink every day.

Hummingbird on feeder
Hummingbird on feeder

It’s been a constant battle keeping the aphids off my milkweed but I have had an occasional Monarch stop by.

Monarch on Milkweed
Monarch on Milkweed

I spotted my first caterpillar of the summer on August 24!

Monarch Caterpillar August 2016
Monarch Caterpillar August 2016

All the butterflies love the Mexican Sunflowers I planted this year.

Black Swallowtail Butterfly
Black Swallowtail Butterfly
Black Swallowtail Butterfly
Black Swallowtail Butterfly
Gulf Fritillary on Mexican Sunflower
Gulf Fritillary on Mexican Sunflower

And the bees love it, too.

Bee on Mexican Sunflower
Bee on Mexican Sunflower

Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch

Last summer as I was browsing through some blogs I stumbled upon a post on Winged Beauty Butterflies that mentioned Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch, a butterfly habitat in Eatonton, Georgia. The next time we were visiting near there I stopped by the habitat and fell in love with it. I posted about my first visit to the habitat at Wandering in the Briar Patch.

My latest visit to the habitat was this past weekend in July, 2016. While I was wandering through the garden I had the pleasure of meeting Virginia Linch, the woman with the vision to create this magnificent butterfly habitat. Her enthusiasm was contagious as she gave me a tour and introduced me to many of the native Georgia nectar plants that I wasn’t familiar with. She also knew where to look for caterpillars and showed me some so tiny I would have never seen them if she hadn’t pointed them out.

The blooms were vibrant throughout the garden.

Mexican Sunflower
Mexican Sunflower
Blooms in the Briar Patch
Blooms in the Briar Patch
Bee on Black Eyed Susan
Bee on Black Eyed Susan

I could see swallowtails, monarchs and other butterflies landing on the blooms but none would stay around long enough for me to get a picture. A Viceroy landed on the ground in front of me and paid no attention to me at all.

Viceroy in the Briar Patch
Viceroy in the Briar Patch

This Gulf Fritillary wasn’t shy.

Gulf Fritillary
Gulf Fritillary

I would never have spotted this Giant Swallowtail caterpillar if Virginia hadn’t pointed it out to me.

Giant Swallowtail Caterpillar
Giant Swallowtail Caterpillar

You can see how small it is compared to Virginia’s hand.

Giant Swallowtail Caterpillar
Giant Swallowtail Caterpillar

There are benches for resting and even a new porch for sitting.

Porch sitting in the Briar Patch
Porch sitting in the Briar Patch

Thank you Virginia for giving me a tour and for all of your hard work!

Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch is Certified Monarch Way Station No. 9045 and is also an official site for geo-caching.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

Big gator beside the canal next to the road

On St. Patrick’s Day we left Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center in White Springs, Florida and drove about 50 miles to another park named after the famous composer. At the end of the road 17 miles from the nearest highway, Stephen C. Foster State Park in Fargo, Georgia is located in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge .

This is one of our favorite Georgia state parks and one we have returned to over and over through the years. There is just something I love about being surrounded by nature miles away from civilization.

The Okefenokee Swamp is one of North America’s most unspoiled natural wilderness areas. According to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge web page, “the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge has 353,981 acres of National Wilderness Area within the refuge boundaries.  In addition, the refuge is a Wetland of International Importance (RAMSAR Convention – 1971) because it is one of the world’s largest intact freshwater ecosystems.”

Indians who once lived in the area called it Okefenokee which roughly translated means “Land of Trembling Water.” The headwaters of the Suwanee River is located in the Okefenokee Swamp.

Going out in a boat is a great way to see the swamp but there is also plenty to see from land. All the photos in this post were taken as we walked around the campground, marina and on the Trembling Earth Nature Trail which starts at the marina. One section of the trail is a boardwalk through the swamp. This huge gator was sunning on a log beside the boardwalk.

Giant gator beside the boardwalk trail
Giant gator beside the boardwalk trail

The only man made waterway in the park is this canal which leads to the open water of the Okefenokee Swamp.

Canal leading into the Okefenokee Swamp
Canal leading into the Okefenokee Swamp

The canal runs beside the road and alligators are frequently seen sunning themselves on the bank or chilling in the water.

Alligator among the lily pads
Alligator among the lily pads

One of the other campers told me about baby alligators beside the road so off we went in search of baby gators.

Baby gator in the canal beside the road. Do you see the one in the water?
Baby gator in the canal beside the road. Do you see the one in the water?
Baby Gator on Lilly Pad
Baby Gator on Lilly Pad

Besides alligators, many other animals make their home in the Okefenokee.

White Tail Deer at dusk
White Tail Deer at dusk
Wild Turkey
Wild Turkey
Ibis in the swamp
Ibis in the swamp
Egret in the swamp
Egret in the swamp
Butterfly beside the trail
Butterfly beside the trail
Turtle swimming in the marina
Turtle swimming in the marina

Coming up in my next post – a ranger guided boat tour into the Okefenokee.