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I’m Back

Hello everyone!

It’s been a while, but with the semester finally over, I now have plenty of time to keep my blog updated. I’ll admit my pictures won’t be as good (I really need a new camera) but I will try to post them when I can!

That being said, let’s talk about something more interesting than poor excuses for not updating

Spring is really and truly finally here. It just happens to be a month late. Instead of April showers we are getting May showers, but that shouldn’t really affect the budding springtime plants. Many of the birds are back, filling my backyard with song. It’s really quite pretty.

So how can you get birds into your backyard? Well, one fairly easy method you can do would be to buy a bird feeder. If you have a specific type of bird you want to attract you have to have the right kind of feed. Humming birds for instance like to eat nectar, so regular bird seed won’t do for them. Also, if you decide to get a bird feeder, you have to make sure you keep it full. Some birds may come to rely on your ‘free food’ and if your feeder is empty the birds could suffer.

Other additions you can add to your backyard are birdbaths and birdhouses. Again, birds can be picky about their homes so if you have a specific bird in mind you should do a little research on the types of places they like to live. Birdbaths don’t have to be anything fancy either. They are pretty much just pools of water for the birds to drink and bathe in. Theoretically rain water will keep the bath full for you, but it doesn’t hurt to check and put some water in it now and again. Also, if it starts to look gross you should go ahead and change it.

Happy bird watching!

Hiking in the Woods

Walking is possibly one of the oldest methods of transportation. It’s a great way to get from point A to point B, and for lots of good reasons. For one thing, it’s a lot cheaper than any other method. There’s no gasoline consumption, there are no parking fees, and most enjoyably, there is no traffic. Also, there are mostly no limits as to where you can go by walking, like in the woods or forest.

While walking through a forest, there are plenty of interesting things to see, you just have to pay attention. Tons of plants and animals call the forest their home. There is fungus that grows out of tree stumps that look like shelves, and even fungus that glows in the dark. You can also see some very pretty birds, such as the indigo bunting or even a scarlet tanager. If you listen closely you can hear the musical call of the wood thrushes or a woodpecker drilling holes into trees. These are all things you can see while hiking through the woods.

If you have some free time today, make sure to get outside and walk around a little. Take in everything you see and hear. It’s a great way to relax and you may even see or hear something you’ve never noticed before.

[As a side note, sorry to everyone for not posting very many photos recently! I just haven't had time to take/edit/publish any photos recently, but I aim to fix that really soon! Until then, here's a neat site to see some photos of things in WV and a word cloud of a West Virginia Conservation Action Plan]

Wordle: Untitled

Spring is Here to Stay!

Early spring is always such a confusing time. Winter seems to cling on, with desperate, icy claws that make weather less than enjoyable. Not so this year however. Considering how mild the winter was on the East Coast this year, spring seems to have started much earlier than usual, and now there is no doubt that winter is nothing more than memory.

Anyone with allergies to pollen can affirm this for you. I know I can. Luckily there are some ways to beat these seasonal allergies so you can get outside and not totally suffer with a stuffy nose and watery, itchy eyes.

  •  See an Allergist-An allergist will be able to tell you exactly what it is you are allergic too. He or she will also be able to tell you the best kinds of medication to take and may even know of a few natural, more holistic remedies as well. Seeking professional help when it comes to your health is always a good idea.
  • Medication-This is probably one of the most effective ways to beat allergies. Allergy medicine with decongestants will clear that blocked nose right up as well as fight off the other ailments allergies offer. Most of the medications for allergies are also over the counter, but there is a limit to how much you can buy with decongestant so use it wisely.
  •  Pineapples-Pineapples actually have an interesting enzyme in them called bromelain that is known to fight off sinusitis, bronchitis, and other respiratory illnesses. While it might not be as effective as over the counter medication, it will certainly be cheaper.
  • Drink lots of Water/Green Tea- As anyone with allergies can tell you, your nose will run a lot and your eyes will water a lot. You will lose a surprising amount of water this way throughout the day (or even longer). Keeping your body well hydrated will keep all of your body systems working smoothly. Green tea is packed full of antioxidants including some that act similar to an antihistamine.

It never hurts to carry around a pack of tissues or a handkerchief either. It is much better to blow your nose and get the junk out of your system than to sniffle and bring the junk deeper into your sinuses. Another way beat allergies is to simply avoid areas that are likely to have high pollination, such as open fields of flowers. Remember, an allergist can give you the best advice to handle your allergies and I strongly recommend seeing one before deciding on any method of treating your allergies. You don’t want to stay inside and miss the spring, so beat those allergies and get out there!

The weather in the mountain state has been fairly odd this year. The seasons have changed much like they would in a Monty Python sketch. Our winter was much more like spring and even now, these first few days of spring have felt more like summer. Despite these weird weather patterns, mother nature know’s it’s spring-time. Which brings us to….

 The Top 3 Wildflowers in West Virginia

3. Ironweed

Ironweed is a fairly tall, and very hardy flower. It’s purple flowers are very pretty and ironweed is known to attract butterflies.

2. Rhododendron 

The rhododendron is the state flower for West Virginia, and it’s easy to see why.

1. Spotted Jewelweed

The spotted jewelweed is a pretty neat little flower. Also known as a ‘touch-me-not’ because of its delicate seed pods, this plant can be used to ease the itching of stinging nettle.

All images obtained from the public domain.


West Virginia really is a unique place to live. It’s elevation and geographical location allows it to be the home for many different plants and animals. Birding in particular is a lot of in West Virginia. Getting up in the early morning, feeling that fresh mountain air on your face and listening to the birds sing is a really great way to start any day. If you are going to go birding in West Virginia, there are some birds that you definitely must see. After doing a little birding myself, these are my five favorite birds in West Virginia.

5. Great Blue Heron:

This bird is really pretty cool looking. It can have a wingspan of up to seven feet, which makes this a really big bird. Seeing something so big fly is really amazing to see, and so I’ve ranked the Great Blue Heron at number five. (Image by Gentry George, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

4. Indigo Bunting:

This bird is really very pretty. In summer, finding an Indigo Bunting in West Virginia is very easy to do. (Image by Barnes Dr Thomas G, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).

3. Belted Kingfisher:

These birds can easily be seen and heard anywhere near a river or stream. These birds can be good indicators of how healthy a stream is because they feed on mostly small fish and other aquatic creatures. (Image by C. Schlawe, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

2. Scarlet Tanager:

This is a bird that can’t be missed. It’s very distinctive crimson color is easily seen when it flies. (Image From Steve Maslowski, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).

1. Red-Tailed Hawk:

The red-tailed hawk is a really cool bird to see. It is an amazing predator and its call has been used in many movies. Often times this bird’s call (or its cousin’s call, the call of the red-shouldered hawk) is used instead of a bald eagle’s call, since the bald eagle’s call doesn’t sound very good. (Image from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).

All images came from public-domain-image.com or Wikipedia.com and were found in the public domain.

Have you ever been out, exploring the woods or a hiking trail and saw something that you didn’t know what it was? When out in the woods, we can be bombarded with new trees, flowers, and animals that are new to us. To fill that curiosity, one of the best things you can do is look it up in a field guide.

Now there is another problem, ‘Which field guide should I get?’ The type of field guide to get really depends on what you want to look up, and how experienced you are with working with a field guide. If you want to identify wildflowers on your monring walks, a good field is the Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, but it can be a little technical and difficult to use.

For a simpler, and still very good field guide, I would recomend using a Peterson’s field guide. The cool thing about the Peterson’s guides is that they have a ton of different categories. They also use color in their pictures which can really help when it comes to identifying something. I have a lot of experience with their ‘Birds’ field guide and I have found it to be very helpful.

When buying a field guide, make sure you buy for the right region. If you are going to do some exploring on the East Coast, you won’t want to be stuck with a guide that identifies West Coast plants or animals. When you have the right guide, practice using it as often as you can. You can practice with plants or animals you already know to make sure you’re doing the steps right. After some practice, go and try it out!

What are some of your favorite field guides and why?

West Virginia is a great place to take a photo. There’s a reason it’s called ‘Wild, Wonderful, West Virginia.’ I decided to use a map to show some of the places in West Virginia I’ve been to and found to be really great spots for photography. Dolly Sods is probably one of my favorite places in West Virginia. In some areas, all of the trees have branches facing one direction because of the constant wind. In the early summer, there are plenty of different types of berries to pick and eat (but make sure you are absolutely sure before you eat something in the wild!).

Two reasons West Virginia is known to be ‘wild and wonderful’ are the amount of natural beauty in the state and the amount of wildlife that calls West Virginia home. There are plenty of fields and wide, rolling hills. There are plenty of forests and parks, as well as rivers, streams, and waterfalls, all of which are teeming with life. From mighty oak trees and smallest wildflower orchids to black bears and white tailed deer, West Virginia is full of wonderful things to see and experience.

Here’s my map of some of the best places in West Virginia:

Shooting In Manual

While it does take some practice, shooting in the manual settings of your camera will be really beneficial for you. Finding the right settings in manual can be tricky at first, but don’t be disheartened if your photos turn out poorly at first. This is one of those cases where hard work, effort, and plenty of experimentation will really pay off and allow you to take very high quality pictures.

So what is it about manual settings that makes it so premium for photo taking? I think first it’s best to explain what the auto setting does. In auto, the camera will take care of adjusting the settings of your camera. It will determine a shutter speed as well as determine what the aperture is. For the most part, you can take some really great photos in this setting; the problem is, it can limit you to where you can take your pictures and how well they turn out.

Manual setting lets you adjust both of these to meet your lighting needs. If there is very little low light, you can manually slow down your shutter speed or widen your aperture. Adjusting these two settings to your needs can allow you take photos better than on the auto setting. Sometimes you may need a certain shutter speed and with manual you can adjust only the aperture, and vice-versa. In the auto function, you don’t have this freedom.

Like I said before, getting the right settings is a matter of playing with your camera’s settings and seeing what works. There will be plenty of failures and mistakes at first, but before you know it you will be able to put your camera right into those settings without a second thought.

Tilt Shift Photography

In honor of the light-heartedness of Mardi Gras, I thought I’d discuss and share something that is a lot of fun and looks really neat. There is a type of editing that can be done that will make your pictures look like photos of miniature toy models. It’s called tilt shift photography, and it really is a lot of fun.

The most important part of tilt shift photography is to make sure you get the right picture. I have found that the best angle is to be high up, shooting down. You don’t really want an aerial view, but somewhere close to that could work. I have also found that photos of buildings (or anything with really bright colors) works really well too. The bright colors in a photo will look even brighter (and more toy-like) when you increase the saturation, which makes the subject of your photo look more like a miniature model.

Here are a few photos that I tried out using tilt shift photography. Some of it seemed to work pretty well, and others didn’t come out quite right. It’s best to just play around and see what looks good to you.

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It’s also important to have fun with editing and to play around to see what works for you. Here’s a “How-to Guide” for editing your own photos for tilt-shift photography.

Some Winter Fun

I really do enjoy the winter months. I love to snowboard, and the snow is fun to play with. You have an epic snowball battle, or even make some really neat snowmen or ice sculptures. I also love the way the snow makes the world look. To me, snow in its stark whiteness, just makes the world look clean and pure. Visually, I love the way snow looks on a pine tree. All that white with a hint of green reminds me of spring. The green of the pine needles are just waiting to break free of winter’s icy grip, much the way the first blades of grass sometimes pop up through the melting snow.

 

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