Thursday, June 25, 2009

Nature Notes: Alien Invader

NEWSFLASH: Reports of an alien invasion are pouring in today from northern Indiana.

Residents there woke up to find their fields and gardens sprouting millions of aggressive and fast-growing space plants, possibly seeded overnight during a meteor shower. The plants are visibly growing and are multiplying out of control.

In the last few hours green, snakelike creatures have begun to emerge ...

Wild Garlic 2

Nah. It's just wild garlic. It only looks like something out of science fiction.

The bulblet head here is only about three quarters of an inch across, but it's fully packed with baby garlics that will hit the ground running. Well anyway, they would have if I hadn't pulled it up.

I love the energy of the new growth here, coiling like springs and bursting through the papery skin. I regretted having to kill it, but there are plenty more where this one came from.

One of these days, I swear, I am going to make a weed garden.

Willd Garlic 3

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Voyage of the Pond Yacht

Sure, it looks like a banged-up, leaky little paddle boat. But it's really a transport ship to another world.

When we discovered this thing abandoned at the back edge of the pond, the guys laughingly christened it "the pond yacht" and the name stuck. Hubby dragged it into the pole barn for the winter. For weeks now he's been lavishing time, epoxy, and paint on it. He even built a little dock for it.

Given that most of the pond is about two feet deep, I didn't see a lot of future in the project. Shows what I know.

A few last adjustments to the paddles last Sunday, and it was launch time.

Boarding was tense. The boat wasn't attached to the dock, and I'm not as quick as I used to be. I wouldn't have thought I could still do a split, but the idea of submerged snapping turtles directly under one's derriere is highly motivating.

There's nothing like changing your point of view for opening up your perceptions. Move just a few feet in a new direction and voila. New things to see.

For instance, this forest of water plants I'd never paid attention to before.

It's a native plant called water-dragon, or lizard's-tail for its curled flower spike. Photos of it online show arching white plumes of flowers, which I assume these green curls will become.

It contains medicinal alkaloids, which Native Americans used to treat inflammations. It provides shelter to aquatic life and when it decays it becomes part of the food chain.

Hiding among the water dragons are big green frogs, invisible from the shore. It looks like more are on the way, too, given the number of legged tadpoles in the vicinity.

The green stuff on the water is duckweed, tiny floating plants. It's pretty in small quantities, but we'll have to start straining it out or it will take over the whole pond.

I must say I was pleasantly surprised at how much there was to see out there in our pond, and at how easily the intrepid little paddle boat handled in very shallow water. Now all we need is a better name for her.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What Bird Is This?

Anybody recognize this one?

It's smaller than a robin and bigger than a sparrow, and it's very shy. It has made a beautiful nest of fresh green moss way up in the eaves of the second floor of the house. She flies off the nest every time I look up at it.

The closest I've come in bird guides is a Kingbird, but those look more grey than brown. Guesses? Anyone?

*Update 6/21/09: Michelle successfully identified this as an eastern phoebe, mossy nest and all. Thanks, Michelle, and thanks everyone for your help!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Nature Notes: The Ones That Got Away

painted turtle

I found this painted turtle just outside the gate of the Corn Fort. It's probably a female looking for a place to lay eggs. I thought I had some better shots of her, but they turned out blurry. In the time it took to go inside, load up the photos, and get back out there she had made a clean gettaway. Those must be racing stripes on her neck and arms.

An awful lot of good shots get past me because I'm too slow or my camera won't zoom far enough. This week alone, I missed photographing a red fox that trotted through the yard and down the path to the pond, a woodchuck sitting on my deck railing, a heron rising up in flight from the swamp, and another fawn. Dang. (There was another snapping turtle out in the front yard, too, but I'm kinda done with those.)

We see so much wildlife here, but we only get a fleeting look before they move on. It makes me wonder what I'm missing when I'm not watching, you know?

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Nature Notes: Leaves of Grass

Here's the Nature Notes entry I had in mind before the incident in the previous post.

We've let the grasses grow long in most of the property, but we had no idea it could get so tall. My son here is 5 foot 4, and it towers over him.

Could this be the stuff that once populated the tallgrass prairie?

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Who's Been S*itting in MY Chair?

Sometimes you have to go looking for nature. Sometimes it comes looking for you.

I stepped out on the front porch this morning to do my weekly thing for Nature Notes and discovered my deck chair had been the victim of a drive-by sh*tting. I spared you the large-size photo with the graphic details.

The birdbath next to the railing had been knocked over, too, so I'd bet dollars to donuts that DNA evidence would point to the South Swamp Raccoon Gang.

My younger son thought this was hilarious. This afternoon I'm making him scrub up the mess. We'll see how funny it is then.

(Yes, the chair is tied to the railing. Otherwise, it catches the wind and goes juddering down the whole length of the porch like a thing possessed.)

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