The Barefoot Photographer®

a photography blog

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Panola Mountain State Conservation Park

Last Wednesday, I (along with my daughter and a photo club friend) visited Panola Mountain State Park. Since we have no current plans for photo club field shoots, I have been thinking about what is next, what is not too far away, and what is worthy of a visit.

Panola Mountain is a nice place. It is located on State Route 155, very close to (next to, in fact) Little Mountain Golf Course. A long time ago, when I played golf, my husband and I would play the Little Mountain course occasionally. We lived close to it. The address for Panola Mountain is Stockbridge, but it is close to the Rockdale County line, Arabia Mountain State Park, and Lithonia.
The park is pretty to drive into. You wind along a short drive to the parking area near the visitor's center. Inside there is the usual gift shop area. (My daughter was pleased to see this – and yes, a stuffed animal of some sort had to come home with her.) But also inside is a nice display of rocks and minerals found in the area along with stuffed birds and small mammals, and a nice, little hands-on area for the younger kids. Oh, and a "live" section featuring a snake too.
There is also a stuffed golden eagle (near a display of owls). On this golden eagle is also a permit to have it.&nbs p; It is against the law to possess certain types of wildlife "souvenirs." It seems that this eagle was killed – hit by a vehicle while it was eating roadkill. To be able to see one – even if it is not alive – so close – it is amazing. The bird is huge!
Outside of the nature center there appears to be a small area with a manmade pond and butterfly garden. This time of year the only things to notice there were the beautiful azalea blooms and a turtle poking its head from the pond. You have a choice of trails – self guided. One is ¾ of a mile (the yellow trail) and takes you around the mountain trail and the other is 1 ¼ mile (the orange trail) – this is called the "watershed trail." Last Wednesday, we took the mountain trail. To make sure you stay on your trail, you have to watch for the color swatches on trees or the trail itself.
The dogwoods were very pretty and the other trees were starting to get their leaves. There were many of a certain small tree or shrub. This tree had a very interesting cluster of red, tubular blooms on the top of a spread of leaves. I have looked this plant up in my field guide. It is a Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia). There were a small group of yellow daisies blooming on the granite outcrop. They were near one of the overlooks. I could see a couple different butterflies flying around them – one I spotted was a hummingbird moth.
There were many butterflies in the forest area. This time of year the butterflies are all "new" – so bright in color and no tears or missing parts of wings. We saw several Tiger Swallowtails, a couple Pipevine Swallowtails and maybe one (or two) Zebra Swallowtails fly very near us and right over our heads as we hiked the trail. The nature center has a marvelous display of butterflies and insects (dead and on pins but still very interesting). Another interesting feature was the different types of moss found along the trail. Oh, and of course the rocks! From one of the overlooks – way off in the distance – you can see Stone Mountain.
A field guide is a handy tool for the nature photographer. Many times I will see something that is pretty but I have no clue what it is. If you are in a park, you can sometimes have a ranger help you out. Once I had a 'volunteer flower' (to some it would have been a weed) grow and bloom in my yard. I did not know what it was. I could not find it in my field guide. I emailed a photo to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and they identified it for me. I have collected a variety of field guides. It starte d when my daughter was very into butterflies and bugs. We bought some guides to be able to identify the bugs she caught.
My favorite field guide (of all that we have) is the National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Southeastern States. This gives you a little bit (actually a lot) about a lot of things: trees, plants, flowers, fish, mammals, insects, marine invertebrates, birds, etc. It even gives you information on the weather, parks and preserves, and the night sky. We have other more specific field guides – one on just insects, or shells, or rocks and minerals, etc. I bought a nice field guide for wildflowers and use it often. What I look for in a field guide is good color photos of the objects. Sometimes that is the only thing you have – the picture or the object itself –to use to identify it.
Here is the link to Panola Mountain Park if you are interested in visiting: Here is a link to the listing of Audubon Society field guides, you can find them in most book stores or order from any online source. I order a lot from Barnes & Noble since I have one of their frequent buyer cards:

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