Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A detour around Southern Coastal States

In October, I took a drive across of the states of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. I headed south from Virginia in I-95 and close to Florence, North Carolina, got off the interstate and drove around the country roads. Abandoned farms with collapsing barns and rusting farming equipment were numerous and presented excellent photo opportunities and causing. I only wished that those broken down buildings with saddleback roofs could talk.
The towns are not in better shape, the only areas of activity are the crossroad roads at the center of town with sleepy traffic light (even them were slow in changing colors), with a couple of gas stations with signs advertising gasoline for exactly the same price; where is the competitive spirit?
Other businesses such as drugstores and barber shops were boarded up and for sale. Old tobacco warehouses are closed and crumbling down and usually one grocery store is open. One does not see much traffic or people walking in the streets. Where have all the people and industries gone? Not even Golden Arches!!!
Returning back to I-95 from the country roads, I continued on my way south towards Savannah, Georgia, where I first stopped at Fort Pulaski, in Tybee Island. It was completely built of bricks and offered no protection from the Army of Northern Aggression Parrot rifled cannons during the Civil War.
The Union forces took over the fort in April of 1862 in less than 7 hours
but Savannah remained in rebel hands until the end of the war. After visiting the fort , I headed to the city for the night.
I was in Savannah for the first time 30 years ago. The city lost its old run down looks and is now bursting with activity. The historical center of town had been gentrified with old houses restored to their former glories. One major difference in the architecture of Savannah when compared to that of Charleston, is that the original core of the former is dominated by row houses with no spaces in between, while detached
home separated by walls and gardens are predominant in the later.
Close to Savannah is Wormsloe Estate, famous for its Live Oak Avenue of more than 400 trees planted in the early 1890's. These avenues of oaks with the ubiquitous Spanish mosses are common throughout the south antebellum plantations, but this is the longest I have seen. The rest of this site is mostly ruins, the oldest one, the Tabby Ruins, dating back to the 1740's. What I found interesting was the walls left is that they were made of oyster shells mixed with lime, sand and water. The oyster shells came from the oysters eaten by the Indians, who threw them into piles called middens. This type of construction I have not seen in Virginia where wood was mostly used by the settlers in Jamestown.
While cruising around the city, I saw a sight familiar to astronauts in space, but in this case I did not need to get in a Soyuz rocket. I saw this huge compressed gas cylinder painted as the earth; continued to drive up the road but that image stayed with me...I have to return and photograph it. The steel planet was in the a yard of an abandoned house surrounded by a
brick wall. I peeked thru the rough iron gate and saw numerous feral cats all over the yard. Much to my surprise, the earth was not along, its faithful companion, the moon, was there too assuming the duty of a mail box. I was told that the tanks was built to store propane gas but the city in its wisdom prohibited its intended use due to safety concerns. Wonder who was the dreamer who created a planetary system out of an abandoned gas tank!
Stay tuned, I will follow with another blog going up the coast to Charleston,
South Carolina

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge

After several days of roaming across the Atlantic Coast southern states, I ended my travels in Chincoteague, Virginia in early November. Now I find myself with thousands of images and wonder: Do I like to travel or photography better? I still have 63 gigabytes of Alaska images that I have not even look at. Maybe photography is the instigator to travel.
I used to visit Chincoteague in the early 1970’s when I started photographing birds but it has changed somehow for the worst and slightly for the better. In the old days one was not limited inside the park to specific roads as today but the roads were not all asphalted and one was not allowed to get off the vehicles. The town outside the park was just limited to the area around the bridge leading to the mainland and consisted of two main streets and one place to stay. Today all roads are asphalted with multitude of hotels and businesses catering to the tourists.
In the summer the beach is crowded with bathers but at this time of the year, the beaches are only visited by the migrating shore birds and a few fishermen. I noticed that the wildlife is easier to approach as they seem habituated to the presence of humans without been shot at. So despite the economic development, I would say that the wildlife has not been adversely affected yet.
I was rewarded during this visit with two new species of mammals that I have never seen before; the river otter above and the grey squirrel below. There were a couple of otters and these worked the shores of the ditches on both sides of the road leading to Maddox Boulevard. One of the otters captured an eel and ate it in plain view.
I ran into a gray fox squirrel while walking in the Woodland Trail, I was surprised as to their larger size and grey color. I saw wooden boxes in the trees along the trail and though that they were there for wood ducks nests, later on I found out they were for the squirrels. I also learned that they are about 300 squirrels in the island and it is a threatened species better known as the DELMARVA fox squirrels.
Lots of migrant snow geese and other species spend the winter here; in the day I was there I saw an estimated 1200 geese in the ponds. What is unreal is that could approach these birds within 30 feet even though they are hunted as soon as they leave the boundaries of the park; is like if they know the difference between a shotgun and my telephoto lens. It is magnificent to listen to their calls while landing.
I ended the day with a White-tailed deer running across the Snow Goose Pool and started my 3 hours drive home.