Wednesday, August 31

Reprise: Arachnids abound

Last year on my old blog, I wrote about the abundance of spiders on my back porch.

This year, I let them run rampant in an effort to rein in the population of insects calling my porch home.

I'd like to report a screaming success. That is, until I decided to have guests.

As I'm sure you're aware, most people are not too friendly to our eight-legged friends. These octolegarians  (my puns are getting worse, I can see...) are frequently seen as pests, rather than purveyors of a healthy ecosystem. Since most folks don't open two (let alone eight) arms to spiders, I decided I'd clean my porch in preparation for the birthday party I held for myself. I took down all the webs (sorry!) and scrubbed my porch.

But first, I captured a magnificent spider (watching as I desecrated the homes of his family *sob*). you can't see its web, but the spider itself is gorgeous.

Back-post 7/18/10: The Goose Family Reunion

I live in a proverbial wildlife preservation: behind my house, there is a pond, a creek, and some thick woods. All of this provides ample opportunity for regular wildlife experiences. Naturally (pun intended), I enjoy this quite a bit.

A family of geese showed up in my pond last year. Considering it was my first spring at this house, I was delighted and began noting their behavior. After awhile, some baby geese appeared. (So fluffy and cute! This picture was taken in May 2010.)

Their comings and goings in my yard were regulated by their need for my grass. Fortunately for them, my landlord is not always on top of the mowing, so they get to munch away at some healthy, long strands. I could always count on the geese--day or night, rain or shine, they'd be out there swimming, eating, wandering, and chasing each other.

Later in June, I noticed that the flock grew substantially. I affectionately refer to this population surge as The Goose Family Reunion.

The Goose Family Reunion continued throughout July. More geese grazing means they'll cover more ground... and quickly. I noticed them edging closer and closer to my porch. Once when I took my dog outside, she went the full length of her leash to chase them and they just stood there while she barked, as if to say, "Yeah, right. We're the real animals here, dog."

They just kept getting closer to my house. Inch by inch, they claimed my yard as theirs. Goose dropping soon coated my yard (a great image, I know).

One morning--July 18, 2010, to be exact--I woke to find that the geese were in the road in front of my house. (!) I had no idea what they intended to accomplish there, but I decided that I could not bear for one of them to get hit by a car (since people regularly go much faster than they ought to on my road). I went into the road to usher them back toward my yard.

Only after they reached my driveway did I think to grab my camera. Here are the photos I snapped after The Goose Family Reunion migrated to my driveway.

I got a mantis for my birthday

I threw a birthday* party for myself this year. It was a great idea! I don't think I'll do it every year, but I had a great time with some of my favorite people and eating some of my favorite food.

During the course of the evening, there were a few outbursts of laughter and shouts. In a party atmosphere, this is only natural. One outburst, however, was different than all the rest. This outburst was in response to an uninvited guest.

Yes, a praying mantis found its way onto my friend Nancy's face. She screamed (of course; who wouldn't!) and her boyfriend Clint quickly swooped in to remove said mantis from her visage.

Mantis on my house
I was so excited! I never saw one of these in real life. (My only reference point is Zorak in Space Ghost: Coast to Coast.)

Clint showed me where he put the mantis (on the side of my house; see left photo). We captured the little fella and then I delighted in its presence.

I got a praying mantis for my birthday!

*My birthday is August 13th, if you're wondering. Or if you want to send greetings. :)

Saturday, August 27

Sea lions at Fisherman's Wharf

Again in San Francisco, this time at the Bay... (seriously, this was the best vacation I've ever taken!)

We got to see sea lions at the Wharf! It was a joy to see them bark and swim around.

Crab burrowing in sand

When I visited San Francisco in July, I finally got to greet the Pacific Ocean. It was a cool, breezy day at Ocean Beach when a wave washed up a crab. I was quite excited and ran over to take a picture, but ended up taking a short video of it instead. The poor thing lost a claw! The little boy who saw me run over to the crab was quite vocal about his experiences with crabs.

(Sorry about the poor audio; it's not really important anyway, but the wind at the beach felt better than it sounds on this video.)

Back-post 9/27/10: cecropia moth caterpillar

While walking around after a picnic at Keystone State Park, I spotted this colorful caterpillar (who strikingly resembles the famous caterpillar in the children's book The Very Hungry Caterpillar) in the gravel path. I had no idea what kind of winged creature this could become, but I used a stick to move him from the middle of the path to the wooded area nearby.

Because I am not an entomologist, I consulted my favorite entomologist and nature-loving friends to determine what kind of caterpillar I had fallen in love with.

Evidently, this is a cecropia caterpillar. My entomologist friend told me that they cecropias are the largest moth in North America and that this poor guy probably got dislodged from its host plant. I was also informed that I was quite lucky to spot this fella. It made me smile for like a week, knowing that I had seen a really rare natural sight.

Back-post 4/10/11: dance of the American woodcock

Today my boyfriend and I took a ride around Linn Run State Park. It's a wonderful park. He was scoping out the terrain for a Jeep meet-up, but then we saw a strange little bird. My boyfriend pulled over so we could take a picture and then I took this video of his cute little waddle/walk/dance.

I was giggling quietly the whole time. This little American woodcock looked like it was moving to the beat of music we couldn't hear.

Monday, August 22

Back-post 5/15/11: attempted rescue

Brandon and Ethel napping
peacefully as I begin
my rescue attempt

Remember the fallen robin's nest?

I watched it to see if mama bird would return. When she didn't, I called the Wildlife Rescue Center to ask what to do. They said to bring in the birds.

I couldn't just let Brandon and Ethel starve.

I got a little box to put the nest in and, using my gardening gloves, carefully placed the nest in the box.

The box wasn't big enough for Brandon, though. As you can see in this second photo, he is attempting to escape while Ethel screeches in confusion.
Ethel shrieks while Brandon attempts to escape
(Note bird mess below where their nest was perched.)

At this point, I didn't really know what to do. I wasn't prepared to deal with a little bird flying (or trying to fly) at me. I knew they were almost fledglings (scraggly little downy feathers and no tail, huge feet), but Brandon was not about to let me put him in a box.

I went inside and tried to collect myself. I had to think about what to do next. When I looked out on the porch, here is what I saw:
"Oh, great," I thought. "He's called in back-up."Brandon, next to the box (clearly dedicated to his cause), an adult robin perched on the porch railing (presumably the mother), and another random bird facing the adult robin on the porch railing.

I put my rescue attempt on hold. I wanted to see how things would progress.

I waited (impatiently) inside, looking out the windows onto my porch every few minutes to monitor the situation. Eventually, Brandon moseyed his way across my porch.
Brandon hopping around on my porch

Then he jumped off the porch.

I shrieked and ran outside to look for him.

I found him, unharmed (thankfully), in the grass behind my house. He hopped away from me as I tried to take his photo.

Once I got a picture of him (clearly at this point I was just out to chronicle the entire ordeal), I scooped him up--still wearing my gardening gloves, mind you--and returned his wiggly little bird self to his nest so he could be with his sister.

Days later, both Ethel and Brandon left the nest. Sometimes I swear that Brandon stops by just to see how I'm doing.
Brandon, the escape artist

Back-post 5/11/11: hummingbird feeder

I always wanted to see if I could coerce a hummingbird to visit my porch. It seems that all it took was the right feeder, a lot of red ribbon, and some (boiled) sweetened water.

I had seen a few of these little guys fluttering around the feeder, but wasn't sure I'd be able to capture a photo. This one is taken through a screen and a window with my tiny little digital camera. Despite the layers of my house in the way, I was delighted with the picture!

And because I love it so much, here is the only other photo I got... I love that their wings are a total blur. I can only imagine how much energy they expend keeping themselves in the air, darting around the way they do.

Back-post, 5/14/11: fallen robin's nest

Meet Brandon and Ethel. They are the baby robins whose nest fell from its perch onto my porch. The nest was reused from a family of robins last year. When it fell, I had no idea what to do. I was very upset because only a week prior I had discovered two dead red-winged blackbirds in my mulch (they had run into one of my front porch windows). And a week before that one of the baby robins from this very nest had fallen/been pushed from the nest.

I was crestfallen to discover their nest upside down on my back porch one day after work. I called a friend who knows a lot about wildlife to ask what I ought to do. She suggested turning over the nest with cardboard and my gardening gloves.

I carefully slid a flattened box underneath the nest and righted it. Staring up at me were these two sweet babies, who I promptly named Brandon and Ethel. Brandon is the one with head peeking out in this photo.

Back-post, 6/8/11: starling in the cupboard

Today, we found a bird under my kitchen sink. What is a bird doing under my sink, you ask? I suspect he came in through a hole (formerly for a pipe?). After some investigation with a flashlight, we determined that the hole leads to the basement. How the bird got into the basement remains a mystery, but the bird was freed shortly after the filming of this video. We attempted to catch him in a box, but he was happy to just fly at my screen door until we opened it. Sadly, this was not captured on film (though I'll forever have the image in my head!).

In which I become a nature blogger

I've been tossing this idea around for awhile. Now, though, I'm sure it needs to become a reality. In recent months I've come through some difficult times (hence the lack of writing posted here) and one of the things keeping me on the level is a connection to the natural world. Without the birds in my yard, weeds in my mulch, or insects at the screen door, I might have lost a part of myself.

I'd like to include back-posts in order to accurately capture all the wonders I've encountered in the past few months. Those will appear shortly.

My blog won't be completely about nature, but I feel like it needs to have a greater presence in order to accurately reflect its role in my life.