Sunday, March 17, 2019

Winter's End

Crocus flowers are open in my neighborhood!

 "The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size."
                                                                                          Gertrude S. Wister 

Spring starts on Wednesday, March 20! 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

A Tree

I was minding my own business, taking a walk in the woods, and I saw this tree.
Here's a closer view. There's a letter A there, right? I'm pretty sure it grew naturally on this tree's flaky plate-like bark. The tree is in a swampy place and would have been difficult to get to, climb, and initial. So I'm just saying, hmm.
Is this just puzzling?
Or is it scary? Click to enlarge. Sorry about the lost hour of sleep.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

A Duck Walks Into A Bar

There are lots of cool ducks in the coastal waters of New Jersey and New York these days, like this gang of male northern shovelers, Anas clypeata, that I saw at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge this week. Click to enlarge.
Here are some canvasback ducks, Aythya valisineria,  with a a photo-bombing northern pintail, Anas acuta, star of last week's blog, heading left near the margin. These were at Forsythe last week, but I've been seeing canvasbacks in the Delaware River lately, too.

The ducks above are wild ducks of course, but they reminded me of this story that features their barnyard cousins. 
It's by Garrison Keillor, from Truckstop and Other Lake Wobegon Stories

“He takes a kitchen chair and sits in the yard and all the ducks come around. He holds up the cheese curls in one hand and caramel popcorn in the other and his audience looks up and he tells them a joke. He says: So one day a duck come into this bar and ordered a whiskey and a bump and the bartender was pretty surprised, he says, "You know we don't get many of you ducks in here." The duck says, "At these prices I'm not surprised.* And he tosses out the popcorn and they laugh. 'Wak wak wak wak wak. I was shot in the leg in the war.' Have a scar? 'No thanks, I don't smoke.”

And here's a portrait of a handsome male mallard duck,
Anas platyrhynchos.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Rabbits in Clover

I found a folder of photos I'd labeled "June" and put aside. One was the image above of neighborhood rabbits in a patch of clover. It started me thinking about how close we are to the end of winter (23 days to the vernal equinox) and seeing scenes like this again.      Click to enlarge.
Here's a quote from Watership Down by Richard Adams with advice for rabbits: 

"All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed."

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Synchronized Pintails

Northern pintail ducks, Anas acuta, breed in summer in Northern Eurasia, Alaska, and across Canada. They fly south to spend the winter along the east and west coasts of North America and across the southern half of the United States and into South America. Some pintails, like these two males, show up in winter at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in southern New Jersey. Click to enlarge.
Long-necked, long-tailed, brown-headed, beautiful pintail ducks.
They are dabbling ducks that feed by dipping their heads under the water, dabbling, rather than diving.
Sometimes they seem as coordinated in their movements as an Olympic synchronized swim team!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Lions! Pigs!

There were unusual urban wildlife sightings in Philadelphia today during a traditional Chinese celebration of lunar new year. It's the Year of the Pig!
There were lots of lions.

And lots of pigs.
Click to enlarge.
The lions stopped at stores and restaurants and danced to accompaniment of drums, cymbals, and firecrackers.
Here's a little one coming out of a store. 
Apparently lions can be attracted with lettuce.
You can dangle from a ladder.
Or do it like this.
Got one!
There were other unusual things out there today, too.
And so many firecrackers that the sidewalks were smoking.
It was a great celebration and a good time was had by all. Happy Year of the Pig!

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Witch Hazel

I was outside today in the relative warmth of this February thaw. I found witch hazel blooming here near Philadelphia! Yay!
Witch hazel is a shrub. Its stem-hugging clusters of flowers give welcome color to the gray winter landscape. Click to enlarge.
Each flower has four long slender petals that look to me like crumpled ribbons.
Strange and lovely, no?
They come in shades of yellow, too. Reassuring to see that nature is on track. Witch hazel in February. Daffodils before you know it.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Red-tailed Hawk

I pulled over to the side of a New Jersey road and stopped at this red-tailed hawk to take a picture from the passenger side window. It turned to watch me.
It was sitting on a wire surveying an open field, which is the red-tail's style of hunting. He kept his eye on me as I snapped another couple of shots.
Note the red tail from which the bird gets its common name. Click to enlarge.
It turned to check me with the other eye. Not wanting to be too disturbing, I drove away and left it to its hunting.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Tracks in the Snow

Something left these tracks in the snow near my house. Round prints over an inch across with five toes. Too big for squirrels. Not dogs or cats. What made them?
I searched the Internet and found pictures of opossum tracks like this, round with five toes like a sunburst. But what sent me back outside to look again were the descriptions of the opossum's rear tracks. "Like the footprint of a human infant" they said. "With opposable thumb like a human thumb" they said.
I found this. Click to enlarge. I've outlined what I think is a lone rear possum print at the edge of where the snow was melting into a puddle. Like a human infant footprint? Yep. Like a human thumb sticking out on the lower left? Yep.
I pronounce them opossum tracks and will be on the lookout for nocturnal visits. The handsome fellow above is an opossum ambassador I met this summer at a nature center event. I'm glad to have such an interesting creature in the neighborhood.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Wild Ponies

I'm sitting by the fire keeping warm on this cold snowy day, while looking through old photos. How about a couple of wild ponies from Assateague Island National Seashore?

Click on the photos to enlarge.

Terri Farley wrote: "Since humans first huddled around campfires, stories have been told of wild horses with wind in their manes, fire in their eyes and freedom in their hearts. Those horses eluded capture, and scorned the comforts of civilization"

And they don't seem to mind posing for the tourists.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Happy New Year!

 The 2018 Creature of the Year award goes to this great egret featured in my August 26th blog. Congratulations elegant egret! Click to enlarge. Click the date for the blog.
In the event that the egret is unable to fulfill its duties, these runner up squirrels from my Arpil 8th blog -- pictured here reacting to the announcement -- will step in. Happy New Year and good wishes to all for 2019.