The Little Things

Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.

~Robert Brault

I just returned from two hot days down at Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. I am looking at some interpretive possibilities for the region as part of the NCLOW project to enhance ecotourism potential in northeastern North Carolina. Readers of this blog already know I think this area is one of the best places in our state (our entire region, really) to see and enjoy wildlife such as large flocks of wintering waterfowl and black bears. But, there is so much more to this refuge than just the charismatic mega-fauna that have made it increasingly well-known to birders and wildlife photographers.

Driving the Pungo Unit

I drove about 50 miles on refuge roads the past two days

Bayberry Loop trail

I hiked about 7 miles on existing trails and proposed trails like this one, already heavily used by black bears

While my purpose on this trip was something other than nature photography, I couldn’t resist taking a few images of some of the smaller things this spectacular natural area has to offer. In fact, that is something that many people may not appreciate about our public lands. Not only do they provide critical habitat for target species such as waterfowl, they are home to so many other species that can be observed and enjoyed in their natural haunts. All you need to do is just take the time to get out and explore.

Palamedes Swallowtail caterpillar on red bay

Palamedes swallowtail caterpillar on its host plant, red bay

Palamedes Swallowtail caterpillar on red bay 1

When disturbed, the larvae swell up their head region, resembling a snake

Palamedes Swallowtail caterpillar head on view closer

A close look at the false eye spots that look so real

Palomedes swallowtail on thistle

Palamedes swallowtails are probably the most abundant butterfly on the refuge. This one was photographed earlier this spring

Zebra swallowtails puddling

Zebra swallowtails puddling. They are abundant in forests surrounding Pungo Lake, where their host plant, pawpaw, is common.

Zebra swallowtails mating

Mating pair of zebra swallowtails

The plant diversity on the refuge is impressive with abundant wildflowers and unusual pocosin species such as loblolly bay, titi, gallberry, and even some carnivorous plants.

Meadow Beauty

Meadow beauty (Rhexia sp.) is common along the refuge roadsides

Swamp milkweed flowers

Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) blooming along refuge lands on Hwy 94 south of Columbia

Yellow pitcher plants along canal

Yellow pitcher plants, sundews, and bladderworts are some of the carnivorous species found on the refuge.

In summer, the skies on the refuge are abuzz with all sorts of insects, including many species of dragonflies and damselflies.

Blue Dasher

Blue dasher

Golden-winged skimmers?

Golden-winged skimmers

Halloween Pennant

Halloween pennants apparently love to ride the tips of plant stems in gusty winds

Eastern Pondhawk female vertical perch

Eastern pondhawk, female

But sometimes, the rulers of the sky fall prey to other predators…

Eastern Pondhawk in web

Eastern pondhawk caught in spider web

Argiope capturing Eastern Pondhawk 1

An argiope spider wrapping silk (note the silk strands coming out of the spinnerets at the tip of the abdomen) around a captured dragonfly

Argiope spider

A black and yellow argiope (Argiope aurantia). Also called the writing spider, zipper spider, and yellow garden spider.

Unid potter wasp gathering mud

A potter wasp gathering mud for its nest. Most of these stock their nest chambers with small caterpillars to feed their developing larvae.

Moving up the scale in size of wildlife observed were numerous birds (especially great blue herons, great egrets, and green herons) along with countless reptiles and amphibians. The most common frogs I saw and heard were southern leopard frogs, green frogs, bullfrogs, and southern cricket frogs. There are literally hundreds of turtles in the canals, mostly yellow-bellied sliders and painted turtles. I also saw several snakes while driving along the refuges’ many dirt and gravel roads. The most common was the black racer, but I was delighted to finally come across one of my favorites, a canebrake rattlesnake, late on my last afternoon.

Great Egret

Great egrets and great blue herons are feeding along the canals and in one of the large marsh impoundments.

YB Sliders on log

Yellow-bellied sliders basking on a log in a canal.

Canebrake rattlesnake

Canebrake rattlesnake coming out into the road

Canebrake rattlesnake head  low angle darker

Telephoto view of a canebrake

Canebrake rattlesnake tail against body

The snake finally had enough of me and my camera and turned back to hide in the roadside vegetation

The wildlife may be different this time of year, but it is no less fascinating. Photography opportunities are everywhere if you just slow down and look. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that there are still many signs of the larger creatures around every turn, and there is always the chance you may encounter one of the sign-makers.

Bear marked tree

Roadside tree marked by bears at a height of 6 to 7 feet above the ground

Black bear standing along Beart Rd

A well-fed bear gives me the once over on my last afternoon



8 thoughts on “The Little Things

  1. Oh, my golly, your photography is better than the real thing! I can see stuff I’d never see with my naked eye. Thanks for labeling them, too, those butterflies are amazing, along with the rest of your shots.

  2. End of summer can be challenging..but you found all the great critters, including those beautiful Zebra swallowtails! It reminds me to go check on the pawpaws over at Mason Farm.

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