Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Spring Outings

My wife, little girl, and I went for a picnic and walk at a nearby city park on Monday. After a very cool and windy picnic we walked the trails at the north end of the lake and on our way back to the car we spotted a Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) near the waters edge.

While we were out I took a few ‘experimental” pictures using the cameras macro feature, and later using my binoculars as a telephoto lens.

The first photo is of one of our first spring wildflowers called Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria). I love the unique shape of these flowers that lend them quite well to their name.

This next photo is of the Gooseberry (Ribes missouriense). Later on in the summer the berries of this plant will form and turn from a “watermelon” green to a deep burgandy to purple. The darker they become the sweeter they are. The best ones appear almost black.

The third plant photo I took is of Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica). The leaves of this plant are edible this time of year, but as the plant matures they develop tiny hairs that cause a burning sensation when the come in contact with your skin. The nettles grow in a dense stand usually in distubed areas. You can see some of the dried stalks from last years plants. I collected some of these stalks and took them home. Later on I am going to make some cordage out of the thin skin that is found on the dried stalks.

Near where we spotted the Prothonotary Warbler we spotted some Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta) sunning them selves on a log. They we about 4o yards away, which is far out of range for our camera’s puny lens. To get this picture I focused on the turtles with my Nikon Monarch 8x42 binoculars then I lined the eyepiece up with the lens of the camera. A poor man’s telephoto lens!

Yesterday while I was leading a hike with some local 1st graders we spotted a Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata) below on the trail near the nature center I work at. Last night when my little girl couldn't sleep my wife and I hiked her up on the ridge to the west of my house. We sat there watching the sun set, the Eastern Towhees (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) forage, and the male Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater) display, a Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) swooped just over our heads.

A great couple of days in my opinion.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Backyard Visitor

We have been having a visitor to our discarded table scraps fairly frequently this winter and spring. The Virginia opossum(Didelphis virginiana) is unlike any other North American mammal. For starters it is a marsupial; meaning that the female carries the young in a pouch on her stomach. Other unique features of the opossum are, it has more teeth than any other land mammal in North America, it has a prehensile tail, the females have two vaginas, and the males have a bifurcated penis. Amazing little creatures.

Opossums are typically nocturnal; however we see them around our place during the day fairly regularly. My theory is that with limited diurnal predators (I never see or hear any signs of coyotes here) the Opossums come out during the day to avoid our many nocturnal avian predators. If anyone else has any other theories I would love to hear them.

I would like to thank my wife and daughter for taking the picture. They informed me that she is named Ms. Kinky Tail (she has a kink in her tail).

Wax Stove Field Test

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, time gets away from me sometimes.

It is a BEAUTIFUL spring day here in the Loess Hills. Clear blue skys, and temps in the low 60's. I decided to go out and check the trails for any downed timber today. It was a perfect day for a hike. When I stopped for lunch I boiled up some tea using my DIY wax stove, and it worked really well. I boiled half a quart of water in about 8 minutes. I think if I had a windscreen of some sort that I would have shaved a couple of minutes off the boil time.

While I waiting for my water to boil I called three turkeys in using a stir stick (from a cup of coffee). I also spotted a breeding pair of Coopers hawks making their way north. On my way back to my office I spotted a small flock of Fox sparrows. All in all it was about as close to a perfect day at work as one could hope for.