Wildlife Wednesday: Life Everywhere


There is always excitement in the air as families gather, greetings as each group arrives,  hugs all around, and plenty of stories to share.   Early summer carries that same vibe for me as all of the various creatures who share our garden make their seasonal debut.



This same turtle who visited on our patio earlier this week turned up again in the upper garden this morning.  She was laying her eggs near a rose of Sharon tree in a shaded and protected place.  I happened upon her while out watering, and greeted her warmly.

I always feel a bit honored when turtles choose to lay their eggs in our garden and hope to be out and about when the baby turtles emerge from the earth several weeks on.


August 2014


A Monarch fluttered past while I was watering this morning, too.  And I noticed our first hummingbirds on Monday.  The lizards have been active for several weeks already, sunning by the kitchen door and skittering under vines or through the grass with our approach.


A group of three Tiger Swallowtails enjoyed these Ligustrum flowers last Sunday.


Our garden is filled with birds and alive with squirrels.  The birdsong begins before dawn most days, and I often catch a cardinal perched outside our kitchen window, keeping watch over what is happening inside.  The birds love to nest in shrubs near the house, and we watch over their comings and goings as they watch over ours.

Our garden has filled with life: dragonflies, butterflies, bats at dusk and owls calling from the ravine.


Lizards love to hide under the vines and around the pots, where they find plenty to drink.


It’s not all good.  Squirrels and deer bring ticks.  Mayflies haunt our every mid-day move, mosquitoes angle for a bit of skin, and  the chiggers have also returned.  Deer are finding ways into the garden and munching despite our best efforts with deterrents.

I love the sweet surprise of a turquoise dragonfly hovering nearby, or a hummingbird buzzing in close in search of nectar.  We hear more creatures than we see, and know others are lurking in the shadows of the ravine.



Ours is a wild garden, made to supply the wild things’ needs for food and water, shelter and places to nest.  There are no poisons or traps, no noxious chemicals washing into the water or soil.  There is sanctuary and peace; most of the time…. 

(I’ll leave it to your imagination what happens when we happen to notice a deer grazing on a shrub….  But families are noisy and annoying, too, sometimes.)


August 2016


Every creature has its place in the web of life.  And especially us, who have the wisdom to protect and the power to destroy this fragile place that is our own home.



Woodland Gnome 2019


Butterflies on Asclepias syriaca along the Colonial Parkway (and below)


“There are in nature neither rewards nor punishments —

there are consequences.”

Robert G. Ingersoll



WPC: From Every Angle

August 29, 2015 turtle 005


Photography teaches the great life lesson to examine things from many different angles.


August 29, 2015 turtle 004


What we perceive from a single point of view rarely gives us enough information.  We need to not only look more closely, we often need to come at a thing from a different place, too.


August 29, 2015 turtle 002~

But of course it takes time; and it requires a certain flexibility of mind.

I began taking photos when I was given an old Brownie camera in the late 60s.  I was just starting grade school, and the camera went with me on a field trip to Maymont Park in Richmond.  I had great fun that spring day exploring the park with  my classmates, and taking photos to record it all.  That was probably my first real photo outing, and the little black and white photos were precious to me for a long time.


August 29, 2015 turtle 001


But in those days, children weren’t encouraged to take a lot of photos.  The pictures were expensive to develop, and kids aren’t always the best photographers.  A gift of film from my parents was a rare treat.

Eventually, I grew into better and better cameras with lots of lenses and filters, settings and gizmos.  Each shot was carefully planned.  But what I gained in technique, I often lost in spontaneity.


August 29, 2015 turtle 007


Most kids today have their own digital camera built into their phones.  Every kid can be a photographer, and there is no expense for film and processing to serve as an obstacle to exploring the world through photos.  Taking photos has become a part of daily life.

I wonder whether this freedom to photograph and explore with digital photography changes how today’s kids see their world?


August 29, 2015 turtle 008


I was thrilled to use my first digital camera.   A memory chip gives one the freedom to take photo after photo of an interesting subject without counting frames.  It allows us to explore a subject in depth; to probe, to experiment, to tell a story; and to simply play.


August 29, 2015 turtle 010


We can consider our world from every angle, and perhaps broaden our understanding in the process.


August 29, 2015 turtle 003~

Woodland Gnome 2015

For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Every Angle


Turtles of Virginia


… To Preserve This Beautiful Planet …

Late February, 2015


“I begin with nature today, which gives us so much, including the amazing opportunities for photography. Hence it must be our duty to preserve this beautiful  planet, in whatever small way we can in our own capacity.

This is the best gift we can give to our coming generations.”

Suyash Chopra

This morning, while looking at a series of photos Suyash recently published in black and white, I found this beautiful thought.  I resonate with Suyash’s understanding of photography as a sacred act, as a way to “preserve this beautiful planet, in whatever small way we can.”


April, 2014

April, 2014


Gardening allows me a very immediate and hands on opportunity to preserve the tiny bit of our planet’s ecosystem within our garden.  Planting for wildlife habitat, protecting the soil, increasing diversity, and using sustainable, organic practices all help to make this tiny garden lush, beautiful, and life sustaining for many species- including ourselves.


Female Tiger Swallowtail on Lantana.  Lantana is the most visited plant in our garden by both butterflies and hummingbirds.


But this is only a first effort.  Writing about it and sharing its beauty with others through photographs; nurturing friendships with other gardeners and building community, allows this harmonic to resonate around the planet. I am keenly interested in gardens from Portland Oregon and Conway Massachusetts to Queensland Australia; Greenville, South Carolina and Charlotte, North Carolina to Brussells, England, Puerto Rico and New Zealand.  Through reading about other gardener’s efforts, and seeing photos of their gardens in progress, I absorb their ideas, their passion, and their ecology.


October, 2014

October, 2014


Suyash invites us to enlarge the context of how we think about our own photography.  Reflecting on his words,  I’m reminded of photos, published nearly a century ago, documenting glaciers in our national parks.  Seeing those photos again, alongside current photos of the same topography, documents the profound changes to our planet in a tiny span of geologic time.


September, 2010

Oregon coast, September, 2010


Comparing my own photos taken on west coast beaches in 2010 with those taken this past fall demonstrates, with sickening clarity, the terrible loss of life along our coast.  Tidal pools filled to overflowing with starfish, sea urchins, mollusks and small fish in 2010 sit nearly empty today.


September 2014

Oregon coast, September 2014


While mussels and barnacles still thrive along these beaches, the starfish and sea urchins are nearly gone and the sea anemones reduced.  Our planet’s ocean harbors trash and toxic chemicals, petroleum, radioactivity, and acidity which turn great expanses of living ocean into watery desert.


September 2014

September 2014


Preserving the beauty of our quickly changing planet through our photographs, to share with later generations, somehow elevates photography from hobby to historic trust.  I had not really thought of my own photographs in quite this way until reading Suyash’s words today.


August 2014 Virginia

Virginia, August 2014


These photographs I take each day, recording our own garden and the changing of seasons in our greater community, serve a larger purpose.  They not only entertain, they document.  They share not only beauty, but also an aesthetic of beauty and vibrant organic life so important to our own well being.


College Creek, Virginia, August 2014

College Creek, Virginia, August 2014


As more of our planet sleeps under pavement and architecture, living soil buried beneath concrete and asphalt; those areas left to grow and support life shrink with each passing day.

Even in our own community we watch trees felled and marshes filled as developers try to turn a profit with new homes and commerce.  Where do animals go once their habitats are destroyed?  Who digs and moves the native plants?  The answers are all too clear, and too poignant to frame with words.


August 28, 2014 turtles 061


And so the photos we take today, the photos our parents and grandparents took decades ago; serve to document the beauty of nature which remains.


August 22, 2014 Parkway 031


And perhaps they will inspire someone to value and nurture organic, life filled beauty in their own tiny bit of the planet.  Perhaps they will spark a memory of when mankind truly did inhabit ‘the garden.’


August 19, 2014 lavender 019~

“The more clearly we can focus our attention

on the wonders and realities of the universe about us,

the less taste we shall have for destruction.”

Rachel Carson


November 18, 2014 moss 029


“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Woodland Gnome 2015

Find Beauty

Hibiscus seedpods open so the seeds may disperse.

Hibiscus seedpods open so the seeds may disperse.


We live surrounded by wonder, magic, and beauty. 

And yet how often do we find ourselves going through the day on “auto-pilot?”

The last rose of August, but the first of September...

The last rose of August, but the first of September…


Do you ever wonder where your day has gone?  Find yourself so wrapped up in the trivial details of living that you neglect to do the things most important to you?  Have difficulty beginning projects, accomplishing long-cherished goals, or keeping up with loved ones?


August 31-Sept. 1 garden 011

After a while, a kind of sluggish inertia sets in; an attitude of, “We’ll get through this” rather than a genuine joie de vivre.

When we feel this, there is a need to break through it to recapture the joy and magic life sometimes holds.


Wild, perennial Ageratum grows in our garden.

Wild, perennial Ageratum grows in our garden.


We live surrounded by miracles.  Our very existence is a miracle.  And remaining awake to the “catch your breath” excitement of life on this planet remains our challenge.


Spotting an Eastern Box turtle fills us with delight.

Spotting an Eastern Box turtle fills us with delight.

There are so many obstacles to keep us mired  in lethargy and boredom.

There is the stress inherent in daily life, the fears which come with each stage of life.  There is frustration, a sense of responsibility to others, and the commitments we have to fulfill at work and in our community.


August 26, 2014 garden 005

And we humans have found so many ingenious ways to “break out” of our everyday.

And many of them land us in hot water eventually…

August 27, 2014 Parkway 097


Just as there are seasons to the year, so there are seasons to our lives.  It can’t always be spring….

And so our challenge is to find beauty, no matter the season.


August 27, 2014 Parkway 073

Beauty helps us break through the malaise to touch the magical again.

It helps us find a different perspective from a wiser place, so we can re-order our thoughts and our priorities to keep ourselves moving towards our higher vision.


August 27, 2014 Parkway 081

Seeking out beauty, and letting it fill our minds and hearts re-news us.

Seeing beauty in another’s face re-freshes our connection with them.

Seeing the beauty in every season of our lives offers the energy and courage to continue moving forwards with joy and optimism.


Hibiscus, still in bloom

Hibiscus, still in bloom


“Walk in beauty,” the blessing of our native brothers and sisters, holds a key to our happiness during every stage our journey here on this magical Earth.


August 28, 2014 turtles 065

Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful;

for beauty is God’s handwriting

— a wayside sacrament.

Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky,

in every fair flower,

and thank God for it as a cup of blessing.


Ralph Waldo Emerson



Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome, 2014


August 28, 2014 turtles 070


“We live in a wonderful world that is full

of beauty, charm and adventure.

There is no end to the adventures that we can have

if only we seek them with our eyes open.”

Jawaharlal Nehru

Birthday Portraits: Snapping Turtles

August 28, 2014 turtles 006


We were in the midst of watering the garden yesterday morning when my partner spotted it, barely visible against the blacktopped street.

But my partner has a special knack for spotting anomalies,  and the tiny turtle, craning his neck around this way and that for a  complete view of his newly found world, caught his attention.

He called me over, and together we decided to lift the little one out of the street, back into the garden.

Barely more than an inch from one end of its sculpted grey shell to the other, this one had just arrived to the world of sunlight.

Once set down under the shrubs, he quickly disappeared into the dried leaves.


August 28, 2014 turtles 002

We both returned to our tasks, murmuring our appreciation for this little turtle and our good wishes for his survival.

But then tiny turtle reappeared, running across the mulch from one bed to the next.

Or was it another one?  This one was moving so fast it was hard to tell.


August 28, 2014 turtles 009

But when we spotted a third, and then a fourth; we realized that a nest of turtle eggs must have opened somewhere in the garden.  The search was on.

And it didn’t take long to spot a fifth turtle, just appeared near a small hole under our Hibiscus.


August 28, 2014 turtles 029

The hole wasn’t two inches across, nestled near the stems and well hidden in the mulch.

But careful observation soon revealed a tiny head, and two tiny eyes adjusting to sunlight for the first time.

August 28, 2014 turtles 010

Watering now on hold, I settled in near the hole, camera focused, hoping to photograph the moment when this little guy crawled out into the world.

But these creatures are smarter than you might expect. 

And he was very aware of the great human giants too near beside  his sipapu.  And cautiously, he waited. 

August 28, 2014 turtles 013

Too long, because soon another head popped up behind him.  There was obviously a que of turtles waiting below.

So Mr. Cautious dropped back into the hole, and Ms. Adventurous took his place at the opening; weighing her options.

August 28, 2014 turtles 016

I kept the camera focused and ready, taking birthday portraits from time to time, but waiting for the moment of emergence.

My partner suggested that I needed to back off.  My body suggested I not stay bent in position  too long.

And Ms. Adventurous suggested she had all day long to begin her journey.

We chatted.  We both encouraged her, and gave her lots of parental advice about staying in the garden, and hiding well, and how she would find plenty to eat here.

Listening attentively, she still waited.  And yet another head appeared.  My partner wandered away, and I moved back a ways further  from the hole, and slightly out of their line of sight.

August 28, 2014 turtles 025

A birth must not be rushed, and patience finally was rewarded as Ms. Courageous climbed the rest of the way up onto the soft mulch.

Her grey eyes took in her new, bright surroundings, and her gigantic human companion, before she took off running across the mulch.

August 28, 2014 turtles 026

Each turtle headed in a different direction, but all must have had some sense of the pond at the bottom of the hill, waiting for them.


August 28, 2014 turtles 028

I left the rest of the turtles in peace to emerge in their own time.

We kept encountering our tiny turtles throughout the day.  When we spotted them on the driveway later, we moved them to safer spots in the garden.

Found later on the driveway, my partner moved this turtle to the safety of a pot so I could take another photo.

Found later on the driveway, my partner moved this turtle to the safety of a pot so I could take another photo.

These are snapping turtles, Chelydra serpentina, common throughout Virginia.

We spot them from time to time in the garden and throughout the community.

Although their reputation is fierce, we must have uncommonly gentle ones here.

We’ve never encountered an aggressive one.


August 28, 2014 turtles 035

The baby turtles disappeared as suddenly and mysteriously as they appeared.

We hope they found their way down to the ravine and pond, where they can hunt and find shelter.  There are plenty of wild spaces for them to live and grow in safety.  As omnivores, there will be plenty for them to eat year round.

It will be at least a dozen years before these turtles reach maturity, and they may still inhabit the garden a century from now.  Turtles are extremely long lived, if they reach maturity, with very few predators.

We’ll have our eye out for them, now.

This Box Turtle was waiting for me in the lower garden when I arrived, later, to water.

This Box Turtle was waiting for me in the lower garden when I arrived, later, to water.


They can join the box turtles and the blue tailed skinks; the toads and tree frogs, as welcome denizens of our Forest Garden.


Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Toad, found laying her eggs in the garden yesterday morning.

Toad, found laying her eggs in the garden yesterday morning.

After Arthur

July 4, 2014 After Arthur 001

It was a long night with a Category II hurricane blowing up the coast.

From a tropical depression just a day or so ago, this storm quickly bulked up into a strong hurricane.

It came ashore across some of our favorite areas on the Outer Banks of North Carolina during the dark hours of early morning.

We watched the storm’s progress until nearly midnight, and then gave up and went to bed.


This great Blue Heron greeted us as we entered the Colonial Parkway after the storm had passed this morning.

This Great Blue Heron greeted us as we entered the Colonial Parkway, after the storm had passed this morning.


It grazed my beloved Topsail Island, and was headed to our special spots on Ocracoke and Hatteras as we watched the cast of the Weather Channel struggle against the strong wind and rain describing its progress in painful detail.

This “Arthur” was touching friends and family all across the Carolinas.  We hoped its touch would be as gentle as possible.

The Jamestown ferry navigated a very choppy James River on it route across to Surry County this morning.

The Jamestown ferry navigated a very choppy James River on it route across from Surry County this morning.

We knew that Route 12, where we’ve spent many happy hours driving through the wildlife refuge and photographing the shore birds, would be wrecked by morning.


July 4, 2014 After Arthur 028

We love the coast of North Carolina and Virgina. 

A hurricane on this special holiday weekend is the last thing we wanted to watch; and yet we watched the unfolding, hoping it would weaken and turn away from the coast.


July 4, 2014 After Arthur 053

I awakened a little before three AM to the sound of wind in the garden and rain on the roof.

I had to know the progress of the storm and the updated forecast.  So as quietly as possible, I headed back to the TV, pillow in hand.

Our local meteorologists were broadcasting the story all night long.

Their reporters stood in the weather giving updates, alongside crews from The Weather Channel and other networks.


The path to the beach was wet this morning.

The path to the beach was wet this morning.

At three I heard of a possible tornado on the Lynnhaven Inlet at Virginia Beach. 

The warnings were extending northwards.  I watched and worked my counted cross stitch for the next hour, until it was clear the storm had begun to move out to sea.

Then to the couch for a little sleep.


Though the sky is mostly clear, the wind has been with us all day.

Though the sky is mostly clear, the wind has been with us all day.  The sky was full of Eagles over the Colonial Parkway this morning.

I checked in again at five, and saw that somehow Jim Cantore was still standing in Buxton.

We had assumed that his producers were planning a Coast Guard rescue by helicopter, once that part of the island completely over-washed in the waves.

That would make really good TV, and could be re-played by the Weather Channel cast for years to come.

But, alas, he had found a steel and concrete structure and was braced against it, barely able to stand, ankle deep in sea water; but still giving live commentary as the storm rolled past.

An Osprey Eagle greeting the morning, after the storm had passed.

An Osprey Eagle greeting the morning, after the storm had passed.

By a quarter to six, the forecast track clearly showed the storm turning out to sea.

We were getting our much needed rain, and I still could  hear the wind blowing through the trees.  But the tornado warnings were gone.

I decided to get some more sleep.

The Canada geese had come together in large flocks along the banks of the river to ride out the storm.

The Canada geese had come together in large flocks along the banks of the river to ride out the storm.

By the time I awoke again a little after seven, it was light outside. A gorgeous morning here with light rain and cool, moist breezes greeted us.

July 4, 2014 After Arthur 086

We decided to head out to the Parkway to see what the morning held, and what the storm had left behind.

This beautiful Eastern Box Turtle was bravng the quiet morning on Jamestown Island.

This beautiful Eastern Box Turtle was braving the quiet morning on Jamestown Island.

A few branches had blown down, but we were so very fortunate to have no  real damage.

Our power was on, there was no flooding near us, and the trees in our community stood through the night.

And this snake was sunning himself along the road on the island.

And this snake was sunning himself along the road on the island.

We saw the outermost curved band of “Arthur” in the sky as we left our driveway.

The duck blind, in the shelter of Cypress trees, withstood the winds overnight.

The duck blind, in the shelter of Cypress trees, withstood the winds overnight.

It was a thin skim of clouds against the clearing morning sky.

Crabs live in our brackish marshes.  They didn't mind the storm at all.

Crabs live in our brackish marshes. They didn’t mind the storm at all.

The wind is still with us this afternoon. 

The storm continues moving north and east, towards another landfall in New England.

July 4, 2014 After Arthur 008

I hope all touched by the storm can pick up the pieces, clean up the mess, and move on from this.


This golden dragonfly lives in our garden.

This golden dragonfly lives in our garden.  We are glad to see he found shelter from the wind, and was out enjoying the sunshine by the time we returned home.

It is only the first  named storm of the tropical season. 

We’ll be watching our coastal waters from now until the end of November, hoping that all of the systems which form stay well out to sea, and far away from our beautiful coasts and our loved ones.


July 4, 2014 After Arthur 073

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

One Word Photo Challenge: Gold

One Word Photo Challenge:  Golden Turtle


June 26, 2014 garden 004


Our Eastern Box turtles have remained in the garden this week.

This one was enjoying the cool shade of our butterfly garden, and its mate was nearby in some tall grass.

I found them while watering, weeding  and trimming earlier today, a golden opportunity to enjoy the wild creatures who live here with us.


Bits of dirt from my weeding landed on this poor fellow's shell.  I heard him moving at my feet, and managed to  take his photo, and move out of the bed, without causing him any further disturbance.

Bits of dirt from my weeding landed on this poor fellow’s shell. I heard him moving at my feet, and managed to take his photo, and move out of the bed, without causing him any further disturbance.

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014


With appreciation  to Jennifer Nichole Wells for her One World Photo Challenge: Gold

Our Forest Garden- The Journey Continues

Please visit and follow Our Forest Garden- The Journey Continues to see all new posts since January 8, 2021.

A new site allows me to continue posting new content since after more than 1700 posts there is no more room on this site.  -WG

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 782 other followers
Follow Forest Garden on WordPress.com

Topics of Interest