Tag Archives: Croatan

Scenes of the Croatan Forest

Recently I made a couple of short ventures into the Croatan Forest with a desire to shoot something of the landscape nature. Now landscapes in a forest can be a little tricky but it was a challenge I wanted to try. Perhaps I cheated a little by choosing the shoreline along the Neuse River for one of the shots… but it’s my self assignment so I can change the rules if I want to (right?). Below are a couple of the resulting shots. I may give it another go sometime in the near future.


A view inside the forest.

Where the Croatan Forest meets the Neuse River.

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It Just Wouldn’t be Spring Without…

It just wouldn’t be spring without a least one post with photos of wildflowers! Seriously, “April showers… Spring flowers” and such. It’s a tradition! So not wanting to condemn myself to some bad ju-ju by not enjoying a little bit of spring flora photography, and assuming that carnivorous plants just don’t count as “flowers,” here is my offering for the rites of spring. A single Daisy and a couple wild Magnolias. Just be forewarned, this post doesn’t mean I won’t post more wild flower images sometime in the future!


A roadside daisy.

A wild magnolia bloom in the Croatan National Forest.

Wild magnolia bloom.

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Mammals Aren’t the Only Meat Eaters in the Croatan Forest!

Coastal North Carolina is a magical place in so many different ways. One of those is the presence of carnivorous plants. For example, found only within a 100 miles of Wilmingtion, NC, the Venus Fly Trap is one of the more interesting indigenous plants found on the coastal plain. But the Venus Fly Trap isn’t the only carnivorous plant found in eastern North Carolina. Others include Bladder Wart, a variety of Pitcher Plants as well as Sundew plants. I tend to be very tight lipped about where I find these plants as they are somewhat rare and there can be a problem with poaching. Below are a couple shots of a Venus Fly Trap and a Sundew taken somewhere in the Croatan National Forest.


Native to North Carolina the Venus Flytrap is an endangered plant well worth protecting.

Venus Flytrap.

The Sundew plant is another kind of carnivoruos plant found in North Carolina

Posted in Carnivorous Plants, General Photography, Macro Photography, Natural History in the Carolinas, Nature Photography Also tagged , , , , , |

A Tale of Two Wheels

A few weeks ago I purchased a used bicycle. Several years ago, when I lived on the beach, I rode a bike almost daily. It was always a fun experience. I also saw it as a useful tool for exploring several of the forest service roads around the Croatan National Forest where motorized traffic is not allowed. And, to be honest, a little exercise wouldn’t hurt either. So I started watching Craigs List, local classified ads and checking area consignment stores in search of a bike.

The bike I settled on was a Trek 7200 Multitrack. A hybrid bicycle, it is a cross between a road bike and a mountain bike. It’s narrow tires certainly aren’t suitable for hard-core trail riding. However it’s fine for putzing around forest roads and some of the easier sections of the Neusiok Trail. That’s exactly the kind of cycling I had in mind.

The day after I bought it I headed over to the Neuse River Recreation area (Flanners Beach) between Havelock and New Bern. The recreation area has a nice paved bike path that circles the campgroung, with a gravel loop that runs back into the forest. It seemed perfect for a trial ride on my newly acquired bicyle. The first lap around the perimeter was uneventful. I took the longest leg of the paved path, plus the loop through the woods to maximize distance. There is a section of the “natural surface” portion of the trail that drops down into a swamp, crossing over a wooden boardwalk. That boardwalk took some serious damage during last year’s hurricante Irene and has not been restored to original condition. Simply put it wasn’t something a novice rider wanted to cross on a bike. So I walked the bike across that section. For my second lap I decided I avoid that bridge by reversing my course and heading up the other side of the “natural” path, making a loop back rather than dropping down into the swamp. On that lap I managed to catch a limb between the rear derailer and wheel, breaking the derailer hanger. First trip and I had the pleasure of walking my “new” bike out! Ah well.

I did a little checking around and found a bike shop that would be open on a Sunday, loaded my bike and headed down highway 24 towards Cape Cartert. The employee working that day assured me there’d be no problem fixing the bike and that I’d hear from the mechanic in a couple of days. Instead I got a phone call from the same employee telling me they didn’t handle that brand and wouldn’t be able to fix it. Fair enough I thought. The first day I’d have to go retrieve it would be Wednesday. As I was enroute to pick-up the bike I get a phone call on my cell phone. It was the bike mechanic. “No problem Mr. Decker,” he said, “I’ll order the part and get it fixed for you.” I headed back home. The very next afternoon I come home to find a message on my answering machine from the shop telling me they couldn’t fix it. If I wanted to get a part off the internet or at a dealer and bring it to them they’d be glad to do the service but they couldn’t get the part. Really! A simple Google search of “Trek Multitrack 7200 rear derailer hanger” results in hundreds of choices. You could order them for anything from $10 to $40 with no problem. The bike shop couldn’t do this themself? Talk about poor customer service! My next opporunity to pick-up my bike was Saturday. I picked it up, head to Jacksonville to visit the dealer down there, bought a hanger and fixed it myself. Easy, peasy. Now I’m not going to mention the name of that bike shop, located on highway 24, in Cape Carteret (wink, wink). That would just be too crass. But I will say they’ll never see a dime of my money after a run-around like that. Heck, when I picked it up the owner was working and he didn’t even offer as little as an apology!

Since repairing my bike I’ve explored a few trails and forest roads. As I suspected it makes a great tool for quick exploration to find areas with potential for nature photography. It’s also a great deal of fun. When I’m just looking for a little exercise rather than exploration, my favorite ride is to hop on the Neusiok Trail where it crosses Alligator Tram Road (a forest service road). I head towards the trail-head at the Newport River. That stretch of trail is perfect for a hybrid bike with most of it being gravel surface and/or hard pack. It’s fairly flat and relatively dry. A round trip works out to be about 7.4 miles (per the bike computer). There are options to return via Mill Creek Road and/or Old Winberry Road if one doesn’t want to do an out and back route. It’s good exercise, a great way to get out into nature and one heck of a lot of fun.

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Oak Toad: Anaxyrus Quercicus

I paid a visit to one of the area’s pine savanna areas yesterday morning. I wanted to look around and see if any of the various wild orchids that grow there had appeared yet. While I didn’t find any orchids I was lucky enough to notice a couple of Oak Toads. These are considered the smallest toad in North America mesuring .75 to 1.3 inches in length. A carnivore, they primarily eat insects. Endemic to the southeastern United States, they are found from southeastern Virgina to Florida and west to the Mississippi river. Below are a couple photos of these interesting little toads.

The Oak Toad, Anaxyrus quercicus.

A common toad found in the southeastern Unitied States.

Posted in General Photography, Macro Photography, Natural History in the Carolinas, Nature Photography, Wildlife Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , |

Daisy Time!

There’s something about Dasies. They make me smile. Sorry but they just do. I was glad to find a few of these lovely little flowers in bloom this afternoon. A simple white and yellow flower I find it interesting to try to find interesting and unique compositions for these little bloom. Below are a few from this afternoons attempt.


Dasies are starting to bloom along the Crystal Coast.

Daisy, a simple yet elegant litte wildflower.

It can be a challenge to find a unique composition of such a common flower.

A wild daisy.

A daisy.

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When All Else Fails Get Creative

Yesterday didn’t go well as far as shooting days go. I forgot to set my alarm and over slept, so ended up blowing off the morning and running errands such as getting groceries and other necessities. For the afternoon I decide to head out on a section of the Neusiok Trail to see if I could find some interesting subjects. To be it was more a scouting trip than a trip where I had high expectations of getting some decent shots, but you never know. The hike was mostly uneventful without a lot of good opportunities to be found. I did, however, notice this plant with really large leaves and interesting patterns and textures in the leaf. I decided to try a few shots using my macro lens. Flat, natural lighting really wasn’t getting me the results I wanted so I decided to try backlighting it with the little LCD light panel I keep in my photo backpack. Sure enough the backlighting gave me the kind of results I had in mind. Depending on the distance I held the light away from the leaf, or the position under it, I’d get slightly different results. Below are my favorites of the leaf.

A backlit leafe makes and intersting abstract when shot with a macro lens.

Sometimes a little thinking and some creativity will result in a good image when nothing else is presenting its self.

Macro photography doesn't need to be restricted to pretty flowers.  The Croatan National Forest is full of excellent subjects.

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Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium atlanticum)

While out exploring last weekend I came across a small patch of Blue-eyed Grass. A native wild flower of the Carolinas this pretty little flower is a member of the Iris family. I find the combintaion of the blue-violet petals and yellow center quite striking. Here are a couple photos of this lovely little perennial. (There are several different “blue-eyed grasses” so hopefully I identified this one correctly!).

Blue-eyed Grass growing in the Croatan National Forest.

Blue-eyed grass.

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From Fire Springs Life

I made a visit to a pine savanna in the Croatan National Forest. A couple weeks prior to my visit there had been a control burn in the area. It was interesting to see the lush green of new growth springing up from the charred, burnt ground. There’s a special shade to the green of new grasses and ferns… bright… vivid. The grasses, herbs, trees and carnivorous plants of the savanna are dependent upon fire. Without fire shurbs would take over the forest floor. Trees not usually found on the savanna would invade, closing the canopy and robbing the forest floor of life giving sunlight. Even the seeds of the Long Leaf Pine are dependent upon fire to help them start new life. Like the fabled Phoenix these plants rise up from the ashes of the burnt forest floor. The following are a few of my photos from the morning.

Like Africa, North America was once home to vast savanna areas.

A young fren lies atop a charred log on the pine savanna.

A fresh fern and a burnt log.

The Venus Flytrap is an exotic plant native to the pine savanna of eastern North Carolina. Flytraps only occur naturally with a 100 mile radius of Wilmington, North Carolina

A Venus Flytrap rises up from the ashes much like the fabled Phoenix.

Posted in Carnivorous Plants, General Photography, Landscape Photography, Macro Photography, Natural History in the Carolinas, Nature Photography Also tagged , , , , , , |

Neusiok Trail Report

I paid a visit to the Neusiok Trail a couple days ago. Starting at the trailhead at the Pine Cliff Recreation Area, I hiked to the Copperhead Landing camping shelter and back. That’s roughly a 7 mile round trip. I was thrilled to see tha the Forest Service and volunteers such as the Carteret County Wildlife Club had done a wonderful job of clearing the trail from downed trees, rerouting the trail where needed and replacing missing blazes. The Neusiok Trail has been restored to one of the primier outdoor opportunities along the crystal coast.

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