Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Year of the Rat

Lots of unusual urban wildlife was on display last weekend in New York City for the Lunar New Year celebrations in Manhattan's Chinatown. 
There were lions.
And dragons.
But mainly there were rats! 
Lots of rats.
Rats everywhere.
These stuffed golden rats with lucky red money envelopes won my best-rats-of-the-day award. Click to enlarge.
More golden rats on sticks.
The rat is the first in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese Zodiac. I hear it got to be first by riding an ox to the contest and jumping off just at the last minute and rushing over the finish line. That put the ox in second place, so 2021 will be the Year of the Ox and we'll be seeing lots of them this time next year.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

More Winter Flowers

A bunch of purple crocuses pushed their heads up in my neighborhood this week. Nice to see them! I agree with Gertrude S. Wister, who once said: "The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size." 
And I agree with Anne Bradstreet, who said: "If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant." Click on the photos to enlarge.
And I totally agree with Kathleen Norris, who said: "There seems to be so much more winter than we need this year." But doesn't that seem true by this time every year?

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Winter Flowers

Snowdrops are blooming! As if on cue, they're in time for Candlemas, a Christian feast that falls on February second. They have long been associated with the holiday, especially in their native Europe, so much so that one of their common names is Candlemas bells.    Click to enlarge.
In one of many folk stories about snowdrops, the spirits of Spring and Winter were fighting because Winter would not release the Earth from her hold. During an ensuing battle, Spring lost a drop of blood from which a snowdrop grew. Spring won. In flower language snowdrops symbolize hope, rebirth, and a promising future.
There are more signs of imminent spring than snowdrops out there. Here are some other spring bulbs reaching up. AND this morning the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil emerged during a snow shower and failed to see his shadow, thus predicting that winter will wrap up soon. This is quite the Sunday: Candlemas, Groundhog's Day, the Superbowl, and the cool palindromic date 02.02.2020. 

Sunday, January 26, 2020

A Warm Day in January

It was 57F around here on Friday and I went for a walk in the South Jersey pine barrens. One of the first things I saw was this sign on the dam works machinery at Atsion Lake.       No need to tell me to keep out of there.
Then there was this abandoned cabin near the lake. Looks like a setting for a scary movie, right? I cam almost hear ominous background music rising.
There are lots of abandoned buildings scattered around the pines with lots of ghost house windows to look into. Click on the photos to enlarge.

Here are the remains of the furnace of an old mill. One of the things I like about the pine barrens are the hints it offers of untold stories, unfinished, and forgotten.
And even on winter days there's lovely nature all around like this old sycamore tree in its winter grandeur.
It rained all day on Saturday. I was inside with photos and time on my hands and I ended up photo-shopping the tree picture into this lacy sky-filled kaleidoscopic image.
It rained ALL day, so I made tiles out of that to produce this geometric image with pretty blue sky background with interlaced tree branch finger filigree. 
I also took a picture of an eddy of foam that was floating on this pine barrens creek. 
Then cut and copied and pasted and flipped it into this pretty lace doily.
It makes an interesting tiled image, too, right?
It was not very birdy out on Friday, but the turkey vultures were well represented and willing to pose for portraits. The reliable abundance of vultures adds to the unique atmosphere of the pine barrens. 

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Longer Days

Winter persists here with snow squalls, gray skies, and biting winds. But here's an encouraging sign that easier seasons are coming. Remember the winter solstice on December 21, 2019? On that day the sun set in Philadelphia at 4:38 pm. Today's sunset will be at 5:04. We've picked up 26 minutes of day length in 30 days. Click on the photo to enlarge the little group of house sparrows in the snow.
I'll take another sunset reading 30 days from now. Before you know it we will be nestling into warm sand at the beach like this gull.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Wishing For Butterflies

Maybe it's the unreasonably warm January day. It was 67F in Philadelphia today. Maybe it's the accumulation of gray days so far this winter. Something is making me wish I could take my camera and go out stalking butterflies. Of course there are none. They're dormant or gone, so I'm settling for looking at pictures. This is the cabbage white, Pieris rapae.     Click to enlarge.
An American snout, Libytheana carinenta.
An American lady, Vanessa virginiensis.
A variegated fritillary, Euptoieta claudia.
A monarch, Danaus plexippus.

Carl Sagan once said: "We are like butterflies who flitter for a day and think it is forever."

I miss the moths, too.
The rosy maple moth,  Dryocampa rubicunda,
The yellow-collared scape moth, Cisseps fulvicollis.

.... and the caterpillars. 

Stinging rose moth caterpillar, Parasa indetermina.
Io moth caterpillar, Automeris io.
And the gregarious milkweed tussock moth caterpillars,
Euchaetes egle. Just another few months and they'll all be back.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Creature of the Year Award

Competition was stiff for the 2019 Urban Wildlife Guide Creature of the Year Award. Congratulations to this adorable Eastern Screech Owl, wildlife ambassador at Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge in Medford, New Jersey, and Creature of the Year! Click on the photo to enlarge. Click here to visit Cedar Run's webpage. Click here to visit my blog about the Eastern Screech Owl.
In the event that the owl is unable to fulfill the duties of Creature of the Year, the first runner up, this lovely yellow stinging rose caterpillar, will step in. Congratulations! Click here for my 2019 blog about the stinging rose caterpillar.
 Happy New Year and good wishes to all for a wonderful 2020.