I’m Not Dead Yet (See? I’m writing a blog.)

I found this little orange fruit growing on a tree nearby. (Not a great picture – my camera broke and I had to scan it. :-() I was convinced it was a tiny nectarine at first, but not enough to eat it and find out. Plus, I don’t think too many people grow nectarines in MN. After a lot of scouring the web, I began to suspect it was an apricot tree. Weird, since the little fruit was absolutely not fuzzy. But, it had an apricot-like pit, it smelled like an apricot, and, it tasted like a rather unripe one. Yes, I finally worked up the courage to try it. Hasn’t killed me yet. Probably not a super smart idea, though. Anyway, I’ll have to watch and see if they really do turn into real-looking apricots in a couple of weeks. On that note, I’m going to be heading to the east coast soon, so you probably won’t hear too much from me. But maybe when I return I can write a post on great white sharks. If they don’t eat me first.

Gossamer

I found all of these cool, mostly-decayed leaves lying on the ground.  I don’t know if they were only in that spot, or if I’ve just never noticed them before, but they caught my eye and I thought they were really beautiful, like gossamer, even though they’re decomposing.  I’m pretty sure they’re created when leaves fall and start to decay, but since the leafy part decomposes faster than the veins, you get this cool leaf-skeleton. Voila!

Feathers

I found this red-tailed hawk’s feather yesterday when I was sweeping the sidewalk. Pretty cool, eh? I guess there’s a new visitor in our neighborhood. I haven’t seen any red-tails around, though. Earlier this spring there was a Coopers hawk hanging out, and though I haven’t seen him in a while, I s’pose it could have been his. It’s hard to tell with just a single feather. I also found a blue jay feather right near it. I don’t know that they were related, but if they were, it was probably a red-tail — I don’t think a coopers is big enough to go after a jay. 

Hey!

This rather ugly critter was so weird-looking I wondered if it wasn’t some sort of duck-goose hybrid – an ugly guckling?

Looking up from a Metro station in Washington, D.C. 

The jellyfish at the National Zoo are amazing. You can actually see electricity coursing through them.

This orangutan made me sad. She looked right at me, and her eyes were so human – she doesn’t belong in a cage.

Coming out of Mammoth Caves. Located in Kentucky, it’s already the largest cave in the world, and only a tiny fraction of it has been discovered.

Magnolias

I’m Back, and better than ever!

This last month I was on vacation all over America. Here are a few pictures:

Surprise!

Just when all the nests and baby birds and new young things were starting to lose my interest, I learned something amazing: a pair of bald eagles are raising chicks right down the street! There’s a tall pine tree in someone’s backyard, and the eagles have built a huge nest (5 or 6 feet across) up in the highest crook. I got some pictures, but it’s so many feet in the air they’re pretty fuzzy. A little point-and-shoot zoom lens can only be asked to do so much. 😉

Anyway, I’ve spent a couple of days watching the birds, and they are just amazing. (I am wildly jealous of whoever’s got them in their yard!) There are two huge eagles and (presumably) a nest full of chicks. Generally, one eagle sits on a branch and stands guard, while its mate is out hunting. Sooner or later, the other eagle will fly into the nest, and then the guard takes off seconds later to go hunt/fish/stretch its wings/etc. It’s incredible to watch. Last night I got to see the parent tearing up whatever it caught (probably fish) and feeding it to the chicks.

The yard has become a sort of neighborhood camp ground. People are always there trying to catch some action. It’s amazing how after so many years of worrying about these great birds and trying to save them from extinction, they’re raising their offspring in our backyards.

More to come….

 

Neon Leaves

One of the first trees to change its leaves from bright, lively green, to deep oranges & reds, during the fall the sumac bush is one of the most eye-catching plants around. It has red, fuzzy berries, & though it is technically a tree, it grows low to the ground & appears more like a bush. It must be more sensitive to light & air changes in the autumn than most trees; not only is the difference between the bright neon colors on the top leaves & the lighter colors on the bottom leaves obvious, but in some places, where the leaves overlap, the parts of one leaf which are sheltered by another one haven’t yet turned green.

Northern Flicker!

A few days ago I saw a large bird in my yard. It was pecking at something in the dirt along the edge of my sidewalk. It turned out to be a northern flicker! I’ve never seen one in this area before, although there are downy woodpeckers (& pileated woodpeckers once in a while). This is the first time I’ve ever seen one in MN!

Back From Massachusetts!

I’ve been in MA the past couple of weeks, & I spent a lot of time at the ocean. There was a little salt water pond there, pretty  shallow, but full of animals. A family of swans lived there, & they were used to people, so I could get pretty close to them. The family was made up of 2 parents & there 4 adolescents (half-grown swans that are almost as big as adults, but have not grown their white adult feathers & are mottled brown). The swans made this almost inaudible whistling sound, much different from the honking sound they sometimes make. The parents had such interesting ways of communicating with their offspring: they would hiss whenever they wanted them to gather together, & hiss & spread their wings when they were going somewhere dangerous; the swans nearly always swam in a big clump, searching for seaweed & other edible things.

The Smokies!

I was camping in the smoky mountains a few nights ago. It’s full of white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, & even black bears! It was hot – somewhere over 100°.  I didn’t see any bears, but there were plenty of white-tailed deer. They were quite used to people, & in the morning there were always a few of them hanging around the campsite. I got to see a few of them at really close ranges – maybe 8 feet away. It stunned me how they can survive in the wild when they are SO noisy. They tramp through the woods making a huge racket, but they must be able to move quietly when they want to or how would they survive?

The Smokies

Squirrel Munchies

The squirrels love to sit in the grass in my yard & nibble away at fallen Elm tree branches. They strip the twigs of all their leaves, until nothing but a few veins of the leaves are left uneaten. The freshest ones they like the best, & hesitate to run if someone approaches, they are so intent on eating. It seems like in the summer they are less worried about their food supply, & seem more relaxed & less frantic in their search for things to eat. I’m sure this is because food is much more abundant. 

Squirrels eat almost anything, & are eaten by many predators too. They have a unique adaptation that helps to survive, however: if a predator grabs a squirrel by the tail, the squirrel’s tail will snap off, & the squirrel will run away. I’ve found squirrel tails lying on the sidewalk around my house several times, but with 

'this is the Elm leaf'

no trace of a dead squirrel nearby. After a while, the squirrel’s tail grows back, although it remains stumpy aft- 

'this is what the twig looks like after the squirrels have nibbled it'

erwards. 

Robins call gutter ‘home’

A pair of robins recently decided that a good place to raise their family would be on top of my rain-gutter. It’s actually kind of convenient because I can see right into the nest from my balcony. It’s a big nest, about 4-6 inches wide, & it’s woven really tightly. It’s amazing how birds can weave nests that well with only a beak to do it. They made a huge, messy nest first, & then one day when I looked at it they had knocked the whole thing to the ground, except the bottom few twigs. Then they built it up again much neater & tighter, but the bottom of it is still sticking out in every direction. The robins sit on the eggs most of the time, & sometimes they don’t fly away when I go outside to look at them. I am expecting to see chicks soon. Yay! (-:   (Click the tiny pic to see it close up. Sometimes the photo blows up really huge before it becomes easy to see.)