Thursday, July 31, 2008

"Fishing Face"--does it exist?

While Gretchen and I were fishing on Saturday evening at Little Buffalo, Kat took over the camera--and embarrassment ensued.

First, we fished our little hearts out, but the fish were jumping around and taunting us.

You can't see them in this photo but trust me--they were jumping all over the place, eating every bug in sight but leaving our worms alone. Gretchen then switched to some shiny crazy lure, but did the fish pay attention?

See for yourself:

Now you DON'T see it.

Now you DO.

This crazy bullfrog (is it a bullfrog? I know, I need a amphibian guide!) wanted that little blue and silver lure more than anything! I guess he thought it was a dragonfly. Gretchen started playing with him, trying to lure him onto shore--but the crazy little guy chomped on it!

After some struggles getting the little hooks out of his mouth and leg, during which I sustained a little gash on my index finger,

the frog was free.
Here's Gretchen the Frog Master:Boy, Laura was right; all fishermen have the same goofy grin when they catch something--even when it's a big old frog.

And her frog:

That red you see on his leg is actually MY blood. Isn't he beautiful? I love that mottling on his undersides. We let him go (we are strictly catch-and-release!), and it was apparent that his recent adventure with us had not harmed him. He leaped about three feet into the water and was gone.

Now--for "fishing face." Kat took pictures of both Gretchen and I while we fished, and she claimed to have discovered something she calls "fishing face."

Here's her photographic evidence:

I tell ya, I just don't see it.

I don't know what she's talking about.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Life Luna! UPDATED with a lullerfly link

I was doodling around in the garden last evening, pulling some of the taller weeds and looking at my plants, when I came practically nose to nose with this:

Click for lunatically large!

I don't recall ever having seen a luna moth before, much less two of them! I tried to look at them from the other side to see if (and how) they were, well, you know--doin' it, but it was too hard to get back there with the corn plants in the way. I don't think these two were mating; they didn't really seem to be touching any of the--er--important parts. Still--what are these moths doing?

Let's look more closely at this amazing moth:

Click for mothmonstrous!

First, I noted that what I thought were just plain old wing eyespots are in fact small holes in the wing, surrounded by differently colored accent cells. Amazing! I suppose such tiny holes in such large wings do not affect flight.

Second, look at those beautiful antennae; they remind me of palm fronds in their complexity. What do moths use their antennae for? I don't really know. Anyone?

What amazing creatures these moths are, as beautiful as butterflies yet classed in the moth family. Here's another question for you lepidoptary-inclined folks out there: what is the difference between moths and butterflies? Is it the eating-nectar thing?

UPDATE: For some incredibly beautiful southern butterflies, check out Troy and Martha's Ramblings Around Texas.

Moving on to my sunflowers: Last year, I had a whole row of mammoth sunflower plants. This year, I just left whatever volunteers that came up. Here's the tallest sunflower plant:

It was pretty late in the evening, so pardon the dark. The flower should bloom within a week or so, I believe.
Here's the plant with its neighbor:
That red arrow indicates my height. I'm 5'1".

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mother Robin and Her Children

Not exactly Berthold Brecht, but much more exciting! It's Mama Robin, feeding her little brood!
Now this family is a different one from the last one I showed you. The courtyard at work appears to be quite popular with the nesting crowd. I believe we might even have a goldfinch nest! I'm trying not disturb anything, so it's slow going trying to find the nest. I hope I can, though--goldfinch babies must be so cute!

Back to Mama Robin. She saw me come out into the courtyard so she froze, mouth full of food:
I'm guessing that's either a really pink worm, or she's feeding them Twizzlers. You decide.
Here she is, with her little ones agape and awaiting some food:
I wish these were less obstructed by hemlock foliage, but I didn't want to get too close--so I'm on super-high zoom. Still, you can see two little babies and Mama above them.
Hee hee!

Camping Adventures-UPDATED!

We're back from camping at Little Buffalo State Park near Harrisburg. It was the only park where we could get a site that would accept dogs, as Domino (the official dog of my political blog) was coming along. Who knew that all the campgrounds would be so full? I guess everyone's too broke to go on a "real" vacation, so everyone in PA is camping.

We hiked, we played in the creek, we fished, we saw lots of birds (37 species, including a lifer!), and I made LOTS of fires. I mean LOTS. I had to make a fire every time we wanted to cook, and in between meals we left the site so it always had to be put out. That's a fire Friday night, three fires Saturday, and two fires on Sunday. I never thought I'd say this, being a bit of a pyro and all, but I'm TIRED of making fires!

Here are a few snapshots of what we did and saw:

Gretchen and I fishing:

Bass Master! Of course, the fish is maybe 5 inches long....

A Box Turtle (Thanks, John, for the ID):

A baby American Toad (thanks to Katdoc for the ID):

My best-ever look at an Eastern towhee:

Domino, Gretchen, Em, and me playing in the creek:

A red admiral, which is Julie Zickefoose's favorite butterfly:

There were swallowtails everywhere:

Eastern Kingbird--this isn't a great pic, but I had much better looks at him while gawking and forgetting to take pictures (thanks John and Katdoc on the positive ID):

UPDATED! Here's a second even worse photo, showing just a touch of white in the tail--per John's comment:

Eastern bluebird!

Kat and Gretchen decided we needed to hike the most difficult trail, despite my pleas that I would have a heart attack:

Cooling off and skipping rocks in the creek:

Somehow I made it to the summit, although I was almost a goner several times along the way!

There were a lot of ducks on the lake, but only one kind, it seemed:

Are these gadwalls? Sadly, no--per comments, they are just mallards with the drakes out of breeding plumage. Already in their travelling clothes for the fall migration! Gretchen insisted they were a commune of lesbian mallard hens, but they didn't have the purple patches. Turns out she was kinda right!

Whew--I'm exhausted just remembering it all. The nights were cool, but days sure were hot.

The rest of the photos will be presented as a special treat: Kat will be doing a guest post on our Saturday evening fishing trip! She says she's calling it "Fishing Face." I don't know what she's talking about.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Holy moly

Niki at work just called me over to her cubey window again, but this time it wasn't to see a beautiful Cooper's hawk.

No, this time I zipped over to her cubey and looked out the window, only to see a gigantic American crow

No, not THIS Starling:

THIS starling:
Wow. Niki said the little bird was a window-strike victim, only a few minutes ago. The crow appeared out of nowhere and started feasting on what was probably still a warm body (eewwww)!

Wish I could tell you that I had my camera, but I don't. However, I have to describe what happened.

I watched as the crow pecked and pecked at the neck and shoulder area of the bird. "Why is he doing that?" I asked myself.

Then the starling's head came off.

*gulp* That's why.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the crow then proceeded to eat the head! He pecked at its little skinny bird neck/spine and finally, after pretty much finishing all the --ahem-- meat off, the crow


Yes--you read that right: beak and all! He just picked up the skull and beak, tipped his head back, and down it went! Holy crap! Will he upchuck a little pellet later?

So I watched a while longer as the crow went back to the body and proceeded to peck at the open wound where the head used to be. A breast man, I guess. I'll say one thing for him: he didn't waste a morsel. He would pluck off some skin, kinda shake off the feathers, and then eat the skin.

Wow. I've never seen anything like that.

I need to go back and see if he'll eat (oh god) the feet too.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Looking to the skies

The skies around the Marsh House have been pretty nice lately, whether they're filled with storm clouds or something else. Here's a couple of things I've seen lately.

The last full moon, known to Native Americans as the Buck Moon:

They called it the buck moon because this is the time of year that male deer are growing their antlers; I read that in The Old Farmer's Almanac.

Does anyone else besides me see Marilyn Monroe's face in the full moon? Someday when I get PhotoShop, I'll layer her photograph over the full moon to show you what I mean. Until then -- anyone? anyone? anyone?

Yesterday afternoon, while I was watching Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets for about the fiftieth time, Emerson called me outside to view a rainbow. Here's the right side, which kinda had a faint double bow:

And this is the left side:

Note the light/dark contrast on either side of the rainbow. It seems like we get a lot of rainbows here in Central PA, and they usually occur in the early evening. Is that true everywhere?

This weekend we're all going camping--the family and Gretchen--so I'm totally pumped to build big roaring fires and go fishing and hiking. I hope it doesn't rain! I'll take lots of pictures so you can feel like you came along too.

The birder returns! UPDATED!

Foggy morning at Bald Eagle State Park

Well, I finished that big project at work, and I've got soooo much stuff saved up for you! It's been an action-packed last few days around the homefront, and I'll try to give you a little insight into the doings at the Marsh House.

First, on a sad note, I found this last Thursday evening:

Here's his head, with some little red feathers just coming in:

Poor little guy. I gave him a proper burial in the area of the backyard we call the graveyard--where we bury every dead animal we find around the house. Since moving out to the "the country," I've noticed that we find a lot of dead animals. Life is raw and rough out there; death is, however, usually quick.

UPDATE:I had thought the bird was a downy woodpecker, but my birding friend from work Hillel tells me it's probably a yellow-bellied sapsucker. Man, that would've been a new yardbird, too! Poor little guy.

Saturday morning, Gretchen and I did something I haven't done in years: went fishing! Now I know that some people will decry this activity as somehow going against my tender feelings for nature and animals. However, I just can't help myself; I love fishing! Even when nothing is biting, sitting by the gently stirring waters of a lake is good for the soul. And there's nothing quite like the feeling of a swimming lifeform at the other end of the line, tugging and fighting. PLUS--I have always caught and released; I don't eat them! Kat doesn't like it at all; she says I'm hurting their little lips--which may be true. But I can't help it! I love it!

We only caught perch and sunfish that day; here's Gretchen the mighty Perch Master with a typical catch of the day:

This is Gretchen's wonderfully gentle and sweet dog, Domino:
She was so good; she just loves Gretchen, so she doesn't run all over the place causing trouble. She sits and waits or wanders only a short distance away, preferring to keep her mom in sight at all times. Great dog!

We had a great time fishing, despite the heat. It was nice to get out there again and wet a worm.

In the post after this one (so it'll be above it, which is kinda technically before it, but -- whatever!), I'll give you a view of the skies over the Marsh House.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pardon the interruption... my posting, but I'm working on a huge project at work so I need to take a couple of days off from the bloggy world. I'll be back--with posts on a sad bird window-strike, a fishing trip, and an other-worldly photo session!--in a couple of days.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

New River, here we come! (next year)

For some time now, I'd been debating about whether I could manage another birding festival for the spring migration. Birding festivals ain't cheap, and I knew I couldn't do the fall migration this year because I'll be in Texas at my parents' 50th anniversary party. (I'm still hoping to get in a little birding time, as it's the same weekend as the Rio Grande Valley festival, but we'll be in San Antonio so I don't know what the birding will be like.)

I was thinking about Cape May in the spring, as I'd done the fall migration there last year. However, some members of the Flock started cheeping about going to a new place: New River Gorge in West Virginia. A bunch of emails, a couple of OCD planner-types, and some thorny algebraic calculations later, we've managed to figure out how a bunch of us can go to the festival!

You can find information on the festival here. The coolest part? Let me show you:

Yes indeed, Julie Zickefoose will be there! I had the birding experience of a lifetime last time I birded with Zick, and this time she'll be accompanied by hubby BT3, the darling children!, AND... CHET BAKER!

No, not THIS Chet Baker:

THIS Chet Baker:
Offisa Pupp!

Details to follow--but boy-oh-boy am I excited!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

For Dr Zaius

Bloggy hero Dr. Zaius has been asking for more Niblet photos, so I asked Niblet and he was kind enough to pose a little bit for me last night. He's apparently been taking dance lessons.

Thanks to my ballet class, I can now stand en pointe.

Not to mention how well I dance the cha-cha.

Keep your eyes on mah badonk-adonk-donk...

And who is his teacher? Surely not...