Flip Flop Season

Sookie does stately, beautiful, and sometimes adorable. Rarely does Soo Soo Kitty bust out stinking cute roly poly kittenness.img_7236

I’ve seen her possessively cuddle my shoes before, but the flip flop was getting an extra aggressive treatment. I started brushing her as I took pictures, and she went wild. Thankfully, she likes being brushed because of all the cats, she needs it the most.

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Finally, when I tried to take the shoe away from her, I got a firm bite as a “No.” No skin was broken but it was a strong hold that said, “Mine.”

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Little Adventures: Hanging out in a bog

Even the smallest adventure can make me feel just a little less lazy unlike this morning’s squirrel.

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I was up and out the door to discover new-to-me stuff before the squirrel got out of his sunspot.

What I’ve discovered is that despite my lack of green pigmentation, I might be part ogre. (Not everyone reading this is surprised.) Using Shrek as the base model for ogre-ness, I qualify in a lot of ways. I am frequently loudly farty and burpy. Surliness is my go to emotion for Ev.Er.Y.Thing. I am often misunderstood and regretful of the aforementioned surliness which then leads to self-hating surliness. It’s an ugly surly circle.

I like living by myself. Waffles are acceptable food. Donkeys are okay-ish. People stress me out, and I think it’s possible that my weirdo neighbors could form an angry torch-bearing mob.

The final piece: I was completely blissed out hanging out in a bog this morning.(Yes, I know Shrek lives in a swamp which is different from a bog, but are you really going to nit pick with an ogre?)

Today’s adventure took me to the Cedar Bog Nature Preserve in Urbana, Ohio.

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Boardwalk paths roughly a mile long wind through a decidedly wet and slightly less wet sedge meadow area of the preserve. I knew it was love when I entered the tree line and saw muddy paw prints running for several yards along the boards. It turned out that paw prints were the norm through out the walk.

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One of my favorite types of walks is when the environment is so shady that you don’t notice the heat. It was in the 90’s today, but inside the trees, that wasn’t as noticeable although bug spray would have been advisable.

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This is what Skunk Cabbage turns into! Who knew!

The bog is not for fast walking or loud voices. I was certain that there were hundreds of creatures around me at all times if I just looked hard enough. It was like those visual puzzles that if you stare at it long enough, the image will suddenly become clear.

Like picking out this snake on a fallen tree from all the other elements around it.

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Fortunately, (or unfortunately because it would have been interesting from a distance.) it was not one of the local rattlers.

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I will absolutely stay on the boardwalk.

The attendee at the nature center kindly talked me through the things I might see on my walk, but basically told me I had picked a poor window of time to show up. All the glorious spring blooms were done and it would be a couple of weeks before the orchids started blooming. However I did get to see the Southern Blue Flag Iris and some Columbine that were still blooming.

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Southern Blue Flag Iris

Thanks to a friend who is a frequent bog visitor, I also got to see a Sundew which is a carnivorous plant! I had to look up some images to figure out exactly what I was looking for in the sedge meadow and this photo required laying on the boardwalk much to the amusement of the family that found me there. I think the little kids were hoping I had something more impressive than minuscule alien-looking plants.

IMG_6305I might have impressed them more with my frog find and my skink.

 

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The bog was absolutely alive with sound and movement. I kept catching the scurrying blue tail ends of skinks as they darted off the boardwalk. Finally though, I found one who was a supermodel.

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This skink was significantly longer and rounder than the ones I had come across during most of my walk. It also looked like it’s tail may have been nipped off halfway down. Once it emerged from the leaves, it let me get really close and posed for several pictures. I could see the flutter of breathing under its iridescent bronze skin. The Internet thinks that it’s a Broad Headed Skink, Ohio’s largest lizard.

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So close! This is not cropped. 

I would go back. It was quiet. It had the smell that I associate with the national parks out West: pine and cedar. It felt healthy and magical. I was happy to be there.

Eagle Update: Fuzzy Gray Heads

Last Friday after school, I decided to go check in with the local eagles. As a colleague had suggested, leaf buds were coming out promising to obscure future views to the nest.

When I arrived, one adult was on the nest, one was down the river a few trees. At the right side of the nest I could just see movement. Binoculars confirmed two fuzzy gray heads bopping around waiting for dinner.

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Shortly after I got there, the parent on the tree took off and made huge, graceful swoops over the parking lot and the empty lot across the road, flying out of sight presumably to pick up a to-go order.

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The parking lot dwellers went into a frenzy of battery and lens changes for their massive cameras. This is my version of penis envy:”Did you see the size of the lens on that guy? Rowr!” They were really excited because one of the eagles had unsuccessfully tried to take down a Canada goose earlier in the day within their camera range.

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Fish, it’s what’s for dinner. Mostly I know it was a fish because the giant camera people were getting pictures of the fish’s nose hair (if that was a thing) and squealing about it. I just listened intently and documented what I could with my average sized camera.

Hey, baby, it’s not the size. It’s how you use it. (FYI, perverts, this is a lie.)

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With dinner served, the fuzzy gray heads were back demanding food and attention. I felt like a celebrity seeking paparazzo.

 

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How Cool Was My Day?!

Every time I visit MomBert, I’m jealous of her bird population. Yes, as this blog testifies I have a decent level of avian traffic in my yard. However MomBert has the high traffic patterns and the variety!

She has blue jays! Blue jays are a fairly common bird, but they don’t visit my yard much. I’ll hear them in the neighborhood, and see them across the street, but they rarely stop by.

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She gets lots of titmouses, nuthatches, and woodpeckers who like her wooded back yard border. Again, common birds, but my population seems to be darling chickadees, juncos, sparrows, and finches.

Even her doves seem fancier than mine. Look at the blue eye shadow on this one. It was blending into the rocks so well that it startled me.

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One of her favorite visitors is this towhee who won’t pose because it constantly hops and scratches at everything looking for food.

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So, yea, I was a bit jelly of her birds, her deer herd, and her foxen when I left to go look for sexy salamanders.

But…

I HAVE BALD EAGLES!!

Well, they’re not in my yard where smaller raptors have landed, but they were only a 10 minute drive away.

A week ago, a friend posted her visit to view the eagles. They have created a huge nest at a relatively easy viewing spot on the Scioto River. I was determined to make this part of my weekend activities.

The birds and nest are so big that I easily spotted their silhouettes as I drove by the first time. One turn around later, I was playing Frogger to join other people staring across the river.

I could hear the eagles vocalizing from across the river. These were high pitched chirping cries. For some reason my brain wanted manly, majestic roars. I have no idea why. Maybe it’s because they’re so big.DSCF2619a

Conversation with the other birdwatchers revealed that both birds were on the nest because a predator had been in the area. Allegedly there were three eaglets to guard in the nest, and we were all standing in the parking lot of a stranger’s home, a river access point or a small business. No one was sure.

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When it comes to nature, I am always torn between the “be in the moment” dictum and the act of documentation. I’m compelled to document because what I’m seeing is strange, beautiful, unusual, and is usually filling me with a sense of amazement that I get to see and document this thing! I feel like I was in the moment as I happily watched eagles through my lens. Part of being compelled to document, is being compelled to share because I want other people to understand how cool and interesting the natural world can be. I don’t know if the world would be a little nicer if we were all just a smidgen more in-tune with the plants and animals around us. Dirty hippie rant over.

While I watched, one of the birds left the nest and took a soaring path down the river to land in another big tree. “He just had to get out of the house for a minute, “said the guy standing beside me. I walked back to my car smiling, excited to closely exam my photos, and urge my friends to visit the spot. For once this week, it felt like real spring with the sun shining as I drove towards home, and a bald eagle circled above me on his way back to the nest.

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Updated: I went back the next day. The little lady was home alone, and nestled in. After a while she stood and BOOM! in swooped Big Daddy! He had an unidentified something clutched in his talons. I might have been screaming, “It’s Daddy!” Oh, issues. He dropped off his delivery and then removed himself to another tree.

I did some more screaming when I found out that I actually got this photo.

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Salamanders Doin’ It

Even though I live in Ohio where it snows every other day and is 70 degrees the next for no real reason, there is a local arboretum with a cypress swamp in it.

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To my mind, cypress swamps involve Southern climates, dangling moss, and large reptiles. However the Dawes Arboretum maintains a small corner of swamp in their vast acreage of otherwise expected rolling hills, wildflower meadows, forests, and lakes. (It’s beautiful and free admission though donations are nice.)

According to the signs I read on a previous visit, spring was when at least three types of salamanders exited the local woods, shimmied into the cypress swamp, put on some Barry White, and got busy with other salamanders.

If I didn’t get to see MomBert’s foxen during this weekend’s visit then by God I wanted to see salamanders doin’ it! I deserve that!

(MomBert has a foxen who has been coming to her garden for naps. Whole other story! Also The Bloggess uses “foxen” and I’m an English teacher so it’s a word. Suck it, grammar and usage.)

Unfortunately, all I got to see was the proverbial happy ending. The salamander wet spot if you will.

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Green eggs and salamander walks of shame.

The startled employee at the visitor’s center confirmed that the salamanders had done it. In fact, the tentative doing it date was actually on the arboretum’s calendar for February!  These critters need very specific conditions to really get in the mood. Uggghh! Had I known!

I was expecting a free love salamander orgy, but just got egg masses. Once I identified the first mass, I could suddenly see that they were all over the place. Do not bring a black light to this swamp!

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My visit then became more of a photography challenge . Distance from the boardwalk, breezes across the water, and reflections made things tough. My camera wanted to focus on the reflections of the trees more than anything else which made for some cool, but “what the hell am I looking at?” types of photos. Also, I was trying my damnedest not to tip over into the muck or drop my phone, camera, or keys into it. Success!

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I think the idea is NOT to have your camera or phone in the picture, but then…too fascinated by my own reflection.

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And I didn’t even fall in.

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Satan is Just Santa Spelled Wrong

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According to my cats, Satan is just Santa spelled wrong or vice versa. If it involves costumes, they certainly lean towards the Satanic interpretation. Costumes at this time of year means Christmas card photo shoot!

This year I was lucky enough to find a Santa beard. I looked last year, convinced that Maury desperately needed a white beard, but was only able to find him a moustache. Worth the $8 at Target.

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Who wore it best?

Acquiring the beard, was definitely the signal to drag out costumes. I rarely put up a Christmas tree (Someone has to put that shit away later!), but it’s nothing to drag out the costume bag.

There was the typical forest of trees wandering around the kitchen in festive capes.

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Sookie, as usual, declined to be involved and went into hiding. I basically dropped a costume on her then pulled it off before she panicked.

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Olivia Wigglebothum explored the beard situation. She already has the meowstache.

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Birdie was uncharacteristically annoyed by her costume options and I let her smack them around after pictures.

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Miles, ever patient and accepting, gave me the winning shot. Because of his facial expression though, I used lyrics from “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” as text on the card. The Grinch’s dog Max was always one of my favorites with his giant reindeer antler attire.

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You’re a rotter, Mr. Grinch!
You’re the king of sinful sots!