Walking through Botanical Gardens

“I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.”

Sometimes its nice to take a day and relax. Norfolk Botanical Gardens is a beautiful place to go on a hot summer day.  They have over 30 themed gardens on 155 acres!  I love just going on walks and checking out all the beautiful flowers.

They have a wonderful Butterfly Garden! You can even find your way through a butterfly shaped maze made of flowers! I enjoyed all the flowers that were starting to bloom. They daisies were my favorite…Bright white petals and sunny happy yellow centers.

Variegated Fritillary

Variegated Fritillary

Variegated Fritillary

Long Dash Skipper

Long Dash Skipper

While watching this long dash flutter around from daisy to daisy, I noticed a spider jumping out from under the flowers trying to catch any insect that landed on his flower….I tapped on his flower to see if he would come up…

Bold Jumper Spider

We picked a beautiful bright sunny day! Walking through the gardens was so relaxing. After visiting the butterfly gardens we headed towards the Eagle nest where the famous eagle cam is located.

Eagle fledglings

I took this photo from the Nato Tower near the tropical garden.  The sun was behind the tree so it was very difficult to get a picture, but watching them through the binoculars was awesome! The little Eagles were flapping their wings anxious to leave the nest.  Under the tower I could hear a little chickadee. It was so cute! He looked as if he was bigger than his mom.

Chickadee Fledgling

There were lots of dragonflies buzzing about in all of the gardens. The dragonfly has been a symbol of happiness, new beginnings and change for many centuries in lots of different cultures.

Painted Skimmer

Blue Dasher

“Ladybug, Ladybug, fly away home….your house is on fire, and your children will burn. Except
little Nan, who sits in a pan, weaving gold laces as fast as she can!”

I’m sure you’re familiar with this cute saying… but do you know how the rhyme originated? In Medieval England, the farmers would set torches to the old hop vines after the harvest, to clear the fields for the next planting. The poem was a little warning to the aphid-eating Ladybugs, still crawling on the vines in search of aphids. The Ladybugs’ children (larvae) could get away from the flames, but the immobile pupae (Nan) remained fastened to the plants (laces) and couldn’t escape. Kinda morbid when you break it down…

Seven Spotted Lady Beetle

Seven spotted lady beetle

After having an amazing walk through the botanical gardens we headed towards sandbridge beach to watch the sunset. We had so much fun watching the ghost crabs(sand crabs) run around on the beach that we missed the sun going down!

Ghost Crab

Ghost Crab going into its home

When you come to Virginia Beach (NOT the Ocean Front, it’s touristy and they move the sand around everyday – there are many more beaches to visit) … You might notice the golfball-sized  holes scattered about…  Ghost Crabs burrow in the dry sand of the upper beach, or in the sand dunes. The burrows extend down 3-4 feet. It’s facinating to watch the clever little crabs build their homes…they bring up clawfuls of sand and tosses it 6-12 inches away from the burrow opening. Later on, the Ghost Crab tromps down the strewn-about sand, and, using its claws, smooths out the surface. The tunnel home is constructed with wet grains of sand so that it will not collapse. In the winter Ghost Crabs hibernate in their burrows, “holding their breath” for six weeks by storing oxygen in specialized sacs near their gills.

George Washington National Forest

Elizabeth Furnace recreation area, located in George Washington National Forest just north of Fort Valley, Virginia is the comfy and very awesome campground we stayed in this weekend… It was a 5 hour drive, but well worth it! The campground was packed but we ended up finding a spot that was mostly private. All of the campsites are pretty private and well spaced and come with a tent pad, a fire ring, and a picnic table. Brian and I arrived at the campsite a little late in the afternoon .. we set up our tent, took a short walk to make sure we got the best campsite..then did a little relaxing in the tent. We hung out for a little while  discussing what we would do the next day and eventually went to sleep. The next morning I woke up early as usual! and as I lay there, I could hear two chickadees calling to each other outside of our tent window. I Got  up.. quickly got dressed and went outside to check out the little bird couple. I sat outside at the picnic table for a little  and noticed the female kept flying towards our lamp-post….because I’m too short, I couldn’t see down inside of  the lamp-post so I put my camera down in the hole and tried to get an idea of what she was so worried about…Well, apparently she had a nest down in there! The little chickadees eventually understood that we meant no harm to them and started going down in the lamp post to tend to their eggs. It was such a cute couple to watch!

Ma & Pa Chickadee

Mama Chickadee at the campsite lamp-post where her eggs are hidden

Papa Chickadee standing guard while his mate tends to their eggs

very cleverly hidden chickadee eggs

We were so lucky to have several other chickadees visiting our campsite as well! I love these tiny little birds. Did you know, Carolina chickadees are able to lower their body temperatures to get into a state of hypothermia. They do this to keep energy during extremely cold winter. Chickadees find a place they can hide in and lower their body temperature and can stay in a state of hypothermia for up to fifteen hours!

We took a nature walk around the campground on our way down to the Shenandoah river. WOW! It was a hot day! We really couldn’t wait to get near the water where it was much cooler…. Along the way we spotted a couple different types of  Pretty wild flowers and  a few birds… The Baltimore Orioles were singing high in the tree tops and were very pretty! I also saw lots of little Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Eastern Phoebes.

Eastern Phoebe

Gray Catbird

Once we arrived to the very comfortable river edge, we cooled off and put our feet in. Brian brought his chair to relax in while I ran around looking for things to take pictures of : ) The water was flowing over the rocks and down into a big pool…oh my was it clear! We could see the fish swimming! The water is nothing like this in the area I’m from. It was very breathtaking…

fish swimming in the clear Shenandoah water. I counted 7, how about you?

Canada Darner (I believe) munchin on a leaf

We headed back to the campsite to unwind for the day. Brian cooked me an yummy dinner and built us an awesome fire. We had a beautiful day, and it was nice to relax with the stars above us and a nice warm cozy fire to sit by.

Cozy Campfire - of course we made s'mores!

The next morning we both woke up early. Brian and I wanted to drive the entire Skyline Drive, A beautiful 35 mph 105 mile windy but smooth drive along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park.There are 75 breath-taking overlooks!  We made breakfast before we set out on our journey, and got visited by a few tiny critters.

Eastern Tent Moth checkin whats for breakfast

Tiny Brown Jumper Spider

We quickly packed up and headed to Shenandoah National Park to drive down the scenic Sky Line. This drive has to be the most peaceful drive I’ve ever been on… The sights, the smells, the wildlife, It really just doesn’t get any better! We stopped at literally every other lookout and checked out “SkyLand“, a really neat resort area and its elevation is 3680 which is the highest point on Sky Line Drive! Driving down skyline we usually see tons of deer, but this time we only saw one…she was older and didn’t seem to mind the cars riding by. About half way down the skyline we came across a bear in a tree over the road! It was just sniffin’ around in a tree and looked a little confused. Brian and I agreed it looked younger, and didn’t want to wait around for mom to come around.

Black Bear sniffin around in a tree

When we finally arrived home, 11 hours later… We went to Chicks Beach on the Chesapeake Bay and watched a stunning sunset. It was a perfect ending to a fun-filled day from the mountains to the bay!

Sunset - Chicks Beach on Chesapeake Bay