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.

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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

Camping at Chippokes Plantation State Park

Chippokes Plantation is one of the nicest campgrounds I’ve ever been to. The campsites aren’t on top of each other and the bathroom is conveniently located. There’s so much to do! (be sure to read my earlier post) Brian and I had a great time checking out The Chippokes Farm and Forestry Museum and we got to meet a cute little pot-bellied pig  with so much personality! His name was Taz and he was the sweetest little guy! We spent two nights at the campground and met wonderful camp hosts, Doug and Cathy, very nice folks and very helpful! I will definitely visit this campground again.

Eastern Bluebird after an early morning shower

Our first night went kind of fast, we didn’t get out of the house till late but we managed to get to the park before it got dark. We set our tent up and built a campfire. It was a beautiful night the stars were out and we were relaxing around the fire with s’mores yum! The next morning I work up early – this was our first camping trip of 2010, so of course I was overly excited! It rained a little in the morning, but the sun shined through and pushed out the clouds. I didn’t want to wake Brian up so I took a quick walk through the campground to check out the birds.

Chipping Sparrow foraging in a campsite

Bald Eagle soaring high over the campground

On the way back to the campsite I got to see a few smaller butterflies. I was very fortunate for them to land and let me take their picture.

Horace's Duskywing Skipper Butterfly basking in the sun

Eastern Tailed-blue having a short rest on a clover leaf

A very curious Silver-spotted Skipper

I walked back to the campsite after watching the little butterflies flutter around. We made a bowl of cereal and discussed what we were going to do first. We walked to the beach and the visitor center. Lots of Zebra Swallowtails fluttered by on our way down the shady road. when we got to the visitor center we looked through the binoculars and checked out the James River. I spotted a Blue Heron who was on the hunt.

Blue Heron hunting

After leaving the beach & visitor center we went and looked at all the farm and forestry exhibits, we headed over to the plantation house. I don’t think i could ever get tired of walking through the garden – It’s such a beautiful place!

Five-lined Skink basking in the sun on the plantation house

Close your eyes, make a wish...& BLOW!

On our way to the car, I stopped to look at the beautiful bluebells again…to my surprise there was a tiny white crab spider! I think they are the most interesting looking spiders.

White Crab Spider guarding a set of Bluebells

I really didn’t want to leave Chippokes… but on our last day we decided to get up early, get on the ferry ride it over to Jamestown and ride the entire colonial parkway to Yorktown. Once we got on the ferry we were literally 10 ft from an osprey in the middle of constructing a nest, and once we got to the other side of the James river I could see inside an Osprey’s nest from the top deck of the ferry. It was so awesome!

Osprey building a new nest

Osprey Mom from the top deck of the ferry

Yorktown Battlefield National Park has a lot to see as well, but we only drove through this time. I got to see a Mute Swan very briefly. They are so graceful to watch glide through the water.

Beautiful Mute Swan

Brian’s Mom Sibyl and Her Husband Norris Live in Yorktown. It would have been silly for us not to have stopped by and at least say hello for a bit while we were in the area. We chatted, caught up on what everyone was doing and Sibyl told me they had Canada geese babies at their little pond in front of their neighborhood. It was so sweet to see them!

Momma Canada Goose and Goslings

Chippokes Plantation State Park

A beautiful sunny spring day! It got to be 80 degrees, and we took a ride to check out Hogg Island State Wildlife Refuge. The trip to Hogg Island was about an hour from our house. Once we got to the Refuge we soon found out that Dominion power had a plant right in front of the refuge and apparently you can get back there. Chippokes Plantation State Park was right down the street and Brian had never been to the park before. Chippokes is absolutely beautiful and not to mention one of the oldest working farms in the United States. The State Park currently has bike trails, hiking trails, horse trails, a picnic area, beach on the James River, camping, and colonial style cabins. The plantation has several historical exhibits and also The Chippokes Farm and Forestry Museum. We wanted to see everything today, but there was so much to see! We decided we would come camping sometime this month to see everything…. I can’t wait! Spring has just started and all of the trees and flowers were blooming!

Osprey nesting at Chippokes Plantation State Park

We started with a walk on the beach. Its not your typical ocean sand, but the beach does have sand and lots of shells! We picked up a few scallop shells, WOW! they were huge! The beach has trees and plenty of shade to sit and relax on those hot days….

After walking on the beach we headed towards the plantation house to walk though the garden. Oh how wonderful it was to see  all of the wildflowers blooming!

Also in the Plantation’s Garden there were tons of butterflies! BUT because I’m sill learning my camera, I missed out on alot of opportunities… not being prepared – o well! Some of the butterflies we saw today include a Pearl Crescent on the beach, tons of Cabbage Whites, Clouded Sulphurs, Blues and lots of different Swallowtails.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail

Honey Bee

Honey Bee

Viceroy Butterfly

My favorite butterfly! Did you know The Monarch, Queen, and Viceroy butterflies all have similar color patterns to keep predators from eating any of the three species? This is an excellent example of “Mullerian mimicry” because these species have toxic chemicals making them undesirable to predators because of the bad taste and horrible stomach pains that follows eating one. The Viceroy is found throughout most of North America, from Southern Canada into Northern Mexico and from the east to west coasts. You usually can find them in floodplains, canals, riversides, marshes, meadows, wood edges, lakeshores, deltas, and roadside ditches.. Just about anywhere!!  Unfortunately it is listed as endangered within the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys of British Columbia, Canada.

Butterfly Friends

In winter months I sure do miss seeing all the beautiful butterflies fluttering about on all the fresh wild flowers. I miss chasing them just to get their picture almost as if I were the nature paparazzi. It was always fun to get a butterfly used to you, and then sneak your finger in for them to catch a ride. My favorite time was down in Waterlily, NC. We keep a permanent camper on the sound. and there’s a little area down by the dock where you can ALWAYS find butterflies. This day, there was an interesting little Red Admiral. He was a little worn, but had so much personality! He followed me everywhere, watching what I was doing. Finally he landed…and said hello ;)

Good Afternoon Lady!

"Oh this is a nice shirt Crystal! By the way, you smell pretty!"

"Has anyone ever told you, you have the most beautiful eyes?"

Ta Ta!

“Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”  – Nathaniel Hawthorne

Ever since last year when I decided to start doing photography, I’ve managed to capture 12 different butterflies on my finger…and get a picture of it too! I love butterflies. They make me so happy! :) hopefully this post brings a little bit of happiness your way!