Monday, May 16, 2011

Taking Time

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

A tiny bird sings incessantly from the highest branch of the tree beyond my window—a blue-gray gnatcatcher…that seemingly miniature mockingbird, with his wispy, whistle-y song. Oh, how he teased me to watch him weeks ago, playing his tiny kazoo, as I fussed with preparations for my trip to New River—a week of nature camp for grown-ups, as I’ve come to think of it.
He’s still at it today, though I’ve taken the time as he’s warned I should.
I’ve taken the time to watch nature.

blue-gray gnatcatcher's nest

Last year, afternoons were spent there watching a wee bird as she repeatedly brought small flakes of lichen to shingle her nest just feet from the Meadow House door. By mid-week, early morning wake-ups had left me with a sleep debt, but how can one nap while such business is going on?

I watched her each day, my choice only to sleep or engage with nature.
I chose wisely, and slept wonderfully upon my return.

Pennywort gentian, Obolaria virginica

This year, I spent afternoons in search of wee wildflowers—pennywort gentians just inches tall growing in the shade of mighty trees above them. And as I stooped low to marvel at the sweet, white blooms dotting the brown, leafy bank behind the Meadow House, I found an even tinier spider stepping from flower to flower, dragging his silken cord.
From one to the next he rappelled, his entire world smaller than my palm.

Again, I think I chose wisely.
For how can one sleep while such business is going on?

tiny spider
(for scale, the flowers are only 1/2 an inch long!

Pennywort gentian with tiny spider

Pennywort gentian, Obolaria virginica, is a small flowering plant native to southeastern North America. The only member of the genus Obolaria, it is so named from the Greek “obolos,” meaning small coin, in reference to its thick, rounded, coin-like leaves.
Varying from shades of brownish-green to dark purple, the leaves of Pennywort gentian contain little of the chlorophyll that many plants use to produce energy from sunlight through photosynthesis. Yet, these small plants are able to thrive in the shade beneath a densely leaved canopy. How?
Pennywort gentian is a mycotroph ( Gr., myco=fungus + troph=feed or grow)—a plant which gains nutrients needed for growth from the fungi in the soil layer beneath it. The fungi, in turn, have derived their nutrients from the roots of a host —a woody, photosynthetic plant (tree) towering above. In essence, the mycorrhizal (Gr., myco=fungus + rhiz=root) fungi in the soil act as the intermediary, passing carbohydrates from the tree roots to the small pennyworts covering the hillside. The woody plants gain, as well. Soil inhabited by mycorrhizal fungi is able to hold more water and minerals needed by the trees for healthy growth.

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Mary said...

Blue-gray gnatcatcher little head so sweet.

I think you are writing your best, Nina. :)

Susan Gets Native said...

Oh, come on. That spider is too small to be real. :)
And you have mycotrophic plants in your YARD?? I've seen them in the woods...but oh. Nina has them in her yard. :)
I will have to just settle for my yellow slime mold. Would like some mycotrophs, though....

I still can't believe the size of the spider.

nina at Nature Remains. said...

Thanks, Mary. I have only to start flipping back through photos to relive the experience all over again.

Sorry, Susan. I've gotten you all confused with my time sequences. I am home now. These mycotrophs were in WV. (but they could have been in my back yard)
Cool tiny guy, eh?

Julie Zickefoose said...

Your photos as beautifully composed as the scene itself. Yes, how could one sleep when the gnatcatcher labors so beautifully just overhead? I've spent a lovely morning wallering in trout lilies and Dutchmen's breeches, thinking about little elves running pantsless around the woods!

Beautiful stuff, Nina. Thank you!
I'm enjoying the format where you have a little flight of fancy, then ground it in terra-cotta print full of great information.

Guy said...

Hi Nina

I have never seen a gnatcatcher so to see one on the nest, what a wonder. The spider was a perfect complement to the tiny gentain, again thru your photos you capture worlds within worlds. What a great post.

Thanks Guy

Emily Brisse said...

I love the gnatcatcher photo series. You have such a wonderful way of seeing the world.

eileeninmd said...

Lovely series of photos and a great post. I love the cute Blue-gray gnatcatcher.