Wednesday, October 26, 2011

USS North Carolina, WWII Battleship, Wilmington NC

This is the Battleship USS North Carolina which has graced the Wilmington skyline for just over 50 years.  It was literally brought there with contributions from the school children of North Carolina after being scheduled for scrap.  

It was considered the "showboat" of the Navy fleet in its time and saw battle in the Pacific.

This is taken from the boardwalk in downtown Wilmington.  You need to take the bridge across the Cape Fear to do the tour.

Here are the rest of the troop, Ed, Ann and Warren.  Ed and Ann are my youngest daughter's inlaws and super nice people.  Ed was in the Navy during the Viet Nam era and just self-published a book on his experiences on Amazon (Ed's book).  

We were surprised at how long it took us to go through the whole ship (up and down many steps which were more like ladders than steps!).  Ed was on a much smaller battleship when he served and was amazed at how much space there was (look awfully small to me for 2000 men).  After seeing the mechanicals, I told Warren that is where he should have served if he had been in the service.  He said that is where he would have volunteered except for the requirement for four years rather than the two if you were drafted.  That was a surprise to me.

Ann is set up to shoot one of the anti-aircraft guns.

Ed and Warren posing in front of one of the BIG guns...

Will you look at the chain holding the second anchor.  Each link must weigh hundreds of pounds.

Warren thought I was going overboard at one point as I tripped over a rope and did a nosedive right to the edge.  I think my big butt would have kept me from going completely under....  I have been giving my dear husband far far too many scares lately -- poor man.

There were lots of birds to see from the ship as well -- pictures of which I posted yesterday!!  

All in all, a very nice day and a very nice visit with Ed and Ann.  We are lucky our youngest married into such a nice family!!

Some Miscellaneous Birds and Butterflies

Your standard garden variety Monarch but I thought particularly nice sitting on the Painted Daisy down at Ft. Fisher.

Like the above, a nice Gulf Fritillary which I have seen quite a few of lately.  This must be the north end of its range.

The Northern Mockingbirds may be the Florida state bird, but they are everywhere here.  This one wanted to pose for me.

A Semi-Palmated Plover that I saw on the mud flats by the USS North Carolina which we toured (more tomorrow).  Oops, my sister tells me I mis-identified -- it is a kildeer -- should have known!!

A particularly nice looking Great Egret from the USS North Carolina on the Cape Fear River.

Not a great picture, but with another one, enough to identify a beautiful Red Tailed Hawk being chased by a crow.  Hard to get this picture.

This was a oyster boat returning and he had a lot of friends following him!  This was taken on the Cape Fear River at Carolina Beach State Park.

Last but not least, I loved this image of the Great Egret against the background of Downtown Wilmington -- what a city of contrasts.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

More Arthur Newman, Golf Pro Set in Downtown Wilmington

These are from the day I met Colin Firth.  I was amazed at the amount of equipment that they had.  The entire street was filled with trucks and even two identical cars that they were using in the "shoot".  There were probably 50 crew members as well.

One of the Mercedes convertibles on the set.  The other one was being used for some driving scenes as it went up and down the side street several times.  I am looking forward to seeing this scene in the movie.

You can't even see the little house where they are shooting for all the reflectors they have set up.  It is a small cute house on the corner of the street.  Again, you can see all the crew and commotion.  I am not sure I will ever look at a movie the same way again!

Colin and Emily seem to be relaxing and chatting between scenes here.  That big light was used later on to simulate sunshine outside the house (while the action was going on inside).  She is really pretty and of course he is just gorgeous!  The weather was perfect this day although got a little cooler after the sun went down -- I was there a long time!!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Back to Usual - Sigh...

Well, other people have earthworms show up in their driveway after a heavy rain -- not me though.  I came out the other morning and these small snails (which looked like marine snails to me) were all over the street and driveway.  They didn't look like the ordinary land snails that I see in the garden so I took their picture and then tried to identify them.

Many hours of online searches and an email to my Audubon guy didn't get me any closer.  I sent the photos to Warren and in less than five minutes he had found it!!  I couldn't believe it!!

It is a Decollate snail and was imported to keep down the population of regular old brown garden snails and slugs which it likes to eat.  So it is invasive but not harmful.  It can only exist in the more temperate zones although it buries itself when the weather gets cold.  

While I was off trying to meet Colin, Warren was taking his regular beach walk and came upon this very unusual specimen.  It is the remains of a very old clam shell but the inside is just coated with  golden Calcite crystals.  Warren found several similar to his online for sale on Ebay and various other places.  It is quite heavy and looks like something you would buy in the store -- amazing find.  Usually you find them in fossil digs.  Irene must have whipped up some things from down below.

Warren talked to the ranger the next day and he was very excited about Warren's find and wanted to include it in their museum down at the park.  Warren thinks he may donate it.  People came back into the museum (who had been leaving) to see Warren's find.

This is another picture of the snail with his long extended grey body.  It looks like the tip at the other end is broken off but guess they rub them off. This one was on the street.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Colin and I

Needless to say, it doesn't get any better than this!  A grinning fool with Colin Firth and his arm around her!!

I had no intention of going to the shoot again in Wilmington yesterday but was up in the area (after going to two quilt shops ostensibly to get thread but really to check them out).  However, I knew it was the last day of shooting that I knew about so I went.  I could get very close and was taking some pictures.  Colin's assistant came over and told me that if I waited until the shoot was over, she would bring him over and introduce him if they had time but she didn't guarantee it as they had to go to another location.

I waited and waited and waited.  They were supposed to have been done by 5 as they had another location to go to.  At 7:15, they finally wrapped.  She had told me a couple of times along the way just to wait.  Anyway, she brought him over and I asked if I could take his picture and he suggested that we have it taken together and asked his assistant if she would take the picture which she did.  We fiddled a bit about where would be best, he put his arm around me and poof (swoon).  I look so goofy in the picture but with eye candy like him standing next to you, there is no way to look good anyway.

What a singularly lovely man.  He was heading out to another location and his assistant said they would be shooting all night there (and he had been at this location since early morning).  I can't believe the endurance and patience. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Finally......We Digress.....Colin Firth in Arthur Newman, Golf Pro

Well, thanks to getting my "heads up" on where they would be filming around Wilmington, I decided to see if they would be there as scheduled today (it rained pretty hard and they have rain days for outside scenes).  I must have timed it just right (they said anytime from 6 in the morning until 9 at night on the sheet I had.  I got there about 1:30 in the afternoon and they were obviously just filming the scene and it included Emily Blunt and Colin Firth.  I sat in my car across the street and aimed my camera out the back window!  I honestly felt like the paparazzi.  There was absolutely no one paying any attention to the filming.  Colin disappeared as soon as the scene was ended.  He was on his phone anytime he wasn't in the scene.

Emily and Colin talking with the crew in the foreground.  There is a Mercedes convertible that is also part of the scene.  This was shot on Market Street in Wilmington.  

You can see the overhead microphone and the guy with the camera down below.  There are soooo many people involved and so much equipment for even simple scenes, it is amazing.

Just like the movies, Scene X, Take X on his little digital sign.

Not quite a full smile here but unmistakable jawline and hairline.  These were the best I could do from such a distance!

The sun finally did come out.  Here you can see Colin discussing something with one of the crew or producer?

I must say that Colin in person looks nothing like the Colin on the screen.  I can understand why people don't recognize him on the street.  He is quite tall and very thin and still very attractive but different than his screen persona.  I can honestly say that I would not recognize him if I saw him walking down the street.  When I first started taking the pictures, I wasn't sure if it was even him!!  It definitely is though -- his walk is a giveaway.

So it looks like I won't meet him in person to say thanks so maybe a fan letter after all!!  Still one more day of filming in the streets (tomorrow).  Can't wait to see the film now!!

Duck Soup....

Got a big kick out of all the ducks hanging out together giving you a good view of all the mallard and black duck varieties -- left to right, Pekin (domestic white) duck, female mallard, an Indian running duck (domestic non-flying duck), an American Black Duck, a White Crested (domestic) duck and then a male mallard.  A few minutes later, an American Coot swam by as well.

These are the first of the American Coots on the scene!  There were three altogether today but in another couple of months there will be a huge flock on the lake.  You could tell the lake was being pumped out again.  It is either because of the algae bloom or a fear that the tropical system heading our way will cause flooding here again.

These were really far away but I think they are White Winged Scoters from the white patches on their face but I could be wrong here.

I think this is a female Blue Winged Teal but could be very wrong here.  In another picture, there is a distinctive light blue wing patch.  Hopefully I will get pictures closer as time goes on.  Let me know if I am really off base here!

There was one other duck which I think might be a Lesser Scaup from the shape of the head (and the fact I have seen lots of those here).  Last winter, I think I saw almost every domestic duck native to the area, even some of the more  unusual ones.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cloudless Sulphur - Yes, Another Butterfly Blog

Warren brought down our annual hibiscus plants when he came from home last week.  The elusive sulphurs LOVE hibiscus evidently as you could just about touch them and they lingered so long getting pollen, I thought they were dead!  So this enabled finally a closeup.  This is called a Cloudless Sulphur and is one of the most common butterflies down here.

They were still too fast for me to get them wing open as they don't sit with their wings open like many butterflies.  This was the best I managed.

Just two more shots!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Yellowbelly Sliders and Pied-Billed Grebes

Carolina Beach Lake just never disappoints me!  Each day I go down for my walk, there are different things to observe even though I am always sure there will be nothing!  Today was another beautiful day down here and as the weather is supposed to deteriorate tomorrow,  went for my walk a little earlier than usual.  I was very surprised to see these two Pied-Billed Grebes swimming and diving on the south side of the lake.  It's like the birds all know to have a different species each day and hopefully as winter comes closer, there will be more resident birds like the Coots.

Looking over to where the Great Egret was the other day, I thought I spotted some rather large turtles but they were pretty distant.  Sure enough, looks like there are three here, each at least a foot long if not longer so among the largest of their species.  I am assuming that these are the same kind that are in the following picture -- the Yellowbelly Slider which is not particular about its habitat!  

Still more turtles on one of the side ponds at Carolina Beach Lake.  You can see the yellow belly and the stripes on the neck.  As I got a little closer, they headed for the water!

This is another shot of the two grebes (yes, I am getting desperate!).

Yesterday, I walked down to my "secret beach" which clearly has seen the effects of Hurricane Irene and some of the other tropical systems that have dumped on us.  The steps down to the sand have been replaced -- there used to be about 3 steps which would sometimes be covered by sand -- now there are at least nine steps and you can see that the condos down there are really exposed.  I still love the exposed sandstone beach though and can't wait for the winter waterfowl to come and dig in the seaweed covered sandstone.

This is a closeup of the seaweed which looks like wonderful soft grass.

Later this week, I will continue my quest for Colin Firth.  Thanks to some industrious digging, I know where he might possibly be filming on Wednesday and Thursday  -- I know they are filming in these locations, just don't know whether Colin Firth is in these scenes. Now my old challenge motivation is kicking in!
(When working, bosses learned that if they framed a task as a challenge, I would get pretty persistent and almost always succeed despite the obstacles that were thrown in front of me.)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Birds and Butterflies but No Colin....

This is the beach at Ft. Fisher -- the very same one that Colin Firth was walking on the day before.  Today a wedding was taking place (last month we watched them doing an HBO show).  It is a wonderful beach that stretches for miles with no people.  This island (Pleasure Island) is spectacular in that there are two state parks bookending the two towns of Carolina Beach and Kure Beach.  The Cape Fear River is on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other.  It was a peninsula until the Army Corps of Engineers made a cut across in the 30's (Snow's Cut).  So it isn't a sand bar like the Outer Banks are and thus not as much a victim of the vicissitudes of nature.

This is a Gulf Fritillary which I had seen in Florida.  I had seen them flying around the house but finally got a picture down at Ft. Fisher.  They are certainly a beautiful bright butterfly.  This is the northernmost part of their range.

This is a  Buckeye (I am assuming a Common).  You can see the big round circles on the wings.

At the other end of the island is  Carolina Beach State Park which is a wonderful wildlife refuge filled with walking trails, a campground, picnic grounds and a marina.  Warren and I took the Flytrap walk (but didn't see any of the many carnivorous plants native to the area) and then went and sat on a bench by the river.  This Ruddy Turnstone was doing what he does best, turning stones for food!

The Ruddy Turnstone practically ran over my feet -- he seemed to have no fear at all.  I love their bright orange feet.  He did manage to get a crab while we were watching.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Arthur Newman, Golf Pro....

The title above is the name of the movie that Colin Firth (The King's Speech), Emily Blunt (Young Victoria) and Anne Heche (Men In Trees) are filming in and about Wilmington NC.  They are supposed to be around the area filming for the next month.  Unfortunately, I missed my very best opportunity to see Colin Firth in person yesterday.  He was in the water down at Ft. Fisher which is about a mile down the road from my house and where I had seen an HBO series being filmed about a month ago.    

Last night I knew (from the local newspaper) that they would be filming down the road in the other direction right next to Carolina Beach Lake where I go almost every day for a walk (when not at Ft. Fisher and my secret beach).  They were supposed to film from 8 pm to 5 am and had the main road closed for about four blocks.  They were doing a chase scene (with Emily Blunt and not Colin Firth - darn).  I took several shots of the setting up.  Considering I didn't use a flash and it was dark out, they aren't too bad.  When they were actually rehearsing and shooting scenes, we all had to back up quite a way down the street.  Before then, we were right there watching them set up cameras and lights.

The guy with the khaki pants and shirt is obviously a VIP as he was dishing out orders and I saw him in the newspaper pictures from the Ft. Fisher shoot.  It was fun to hang out for a couple of hours with the other locals and watch what was going on.  I stayed until 10 and watched the rehearsal of the "chase" scene with all the phony police cars.  They are filming again tonight so don't know whether I will go down again or not.  So far I haven't seen a picture of Colin Firth in the local newspapers either!

Couldn't resist taking a picture of this tree stump covered with mushrooms.  It always surprises me to see such a profusion down here as there is so much sunshine and I always think of mushrooms  in dank moist places (it is moist!).  This was at Carolina Beach Lake park.

This is a picture of the lake at night.