by Melissa McMasters
One of the wonderful things about living in Memphis is that wintertime isn’t so harsh that we have to remain locked inside, huddled under blankets, unless we’re particularly tough. (Being outside in the summertime is, of course, another story!) Overton Park is proof of that–it’s often full of people running, walking their dogs, playing ultimate frisbee, or playing a round of golf throughout the winter. And even though the leaves have fallen off the trees and most of the wildlife is in hiding, winter provides an opportunity to see things in a new way. This is particularly true in the Old Forest, where the views open up and make it easier to spot things you might otherwise have missed.
I’m both a nature and a photography nerd (see also: my ::crickets:: project), so every now and then I’ll bring you a little glimpse into what I’m learning about in Overton Park. If you love to take photos in Overton Park and want to share, post a link in the comments section!
I love the way the bare trees reflect in Rainbow Lake (the Zoo Lights Ferris wheel added a little color too!).
This bird was enjoying the fruits of a persimmon tree near the lake.
I love this tree near the formal gardens because its disc-like seed pods make a lovely rustling noise (and it looks beautiful against the sky).
This mockingbird stopped singing long enough to cast a glance at me.
I was giddy when I woke up to snow the day after Christmas. I love seeing the park (and here, the formal gardens) blanketed in white. It offers a whole new perspective.
My favorite tree in the park (outside the Old Forest) is a deciduous holly along the golf course. You can’t miss its bright red berries in wintertime.
I love the uniqueness of this tree along the Old Forest Trail too.
The sweetgum seed pods looked like Sno-Caps scattered along the trail. (Yes, I can relate just about anything to movie candy.)
This white-throated sparrow almost blended entirely into the snowy backdrop. You can ID this bird not just by its white throat, but by the yellow patches just above its eyes.
Another mockingbird, perching in the deciduous holly by the East Parkway playground.
If you’re a fan of robins, you can’t miss them right now in the Old Forest. They’re everywhere.
Sadly, I failed to capture a single cardinal-in-the-snow shot, of which I’ve been covetous for years. They evidently have no use for me.
The day after the snow, the sun came out. A couple of hours after I took this photo, it had melted into a memory.
There’s always life in the Old Forest, even when it seems everything is dormant. Naomi (our Director of Operations and Capital Projects) and I went for a walk recently and noticed ants all over a tree. We leaned in closer and saw that there were tons of small holes (the three bright orange circles in this photo) that had been made by sapsucker birds in an effort to…well, suck the sap out of the trees. The ants were feasting on the leftovers.
You can even find plants on the forest floor if you look hard enough. This is Jacob’s ladder, which will bloom before too long with pretty lavender flowers. You can see by the alternating way the leaflets are arranged why it earned a nickname involving ladders.
This is an Italium arum plant, which is dormant in late summer but begins leafing out in the fall and winter, bringing a bit of cheer to an otherwise brown landscape.
There are also a few plants from the Mahonia genus of evergreen shrubs in the forest. This isn’t native to our area, but so far it hasn’t become invasive either.
This pattern in the bark of a tree reminded me of “Starry Nights.”
I call this one “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” You just never know what you’re going to encounter in the forest!
And finally, a little harbinger of spring in the dogwood buds. My favorite season is just a few weeks away…