Archive for February, 2014

Script Lichen

Eagle Mountain

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Buffy found plenty to keep herself busy on our hike along the creek on Eagle Mountain this morning.

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After “oohing” and “aahing” over the water and ice,

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I turned my attention to the lichens.

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The word miniscule was putting it mildly.

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 Pencil lines would be slightly wider than the lichen’s “lines.”

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 It grew on several  ironwood trees (Carpinus caroliniana) growing along the creek.

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 I was finally able to identify these online as a “script lichen”  (Graphis scripta).

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Looked Impossible

For some reason I have problems learning and  retaining information about clouds.

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My truck insisted we stop at Ingram Hill on the way home from town. Obviously, I’m glad it did.

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These clouds gradually drifted in from the west.

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How could there be long wispy ones, with ladder-like ones above?

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Their appearance completely changed by the time we got home (1 1/4 miles away).

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I don’t even know enough to even make a guess about what I saw, and I didn’t find anything resembling them in a weather field guide.

Any information about them would be appreciated.

A Two-Encounter Outing … Then More

The ice on the driveway finally melted enough I could get out safely.

So, what did Buffy and I do? We headed for a short outing at Stone Face.

“Is that a turkey?” was my repeating thought when I saw something dark in a big corn field. When I see turkeys in that field, there’s usually 15-20 of them.

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As I got closer, I could tell it was a raccoon. I stopped the truck, left the motor running, opened the door and took pictures.

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It kept feeding, totally unaware of me. The cold wind had me slowly in and out of the truck. The raccoon didn’t see me until I put the truck in reverse and backed toward a place where I could turn around. It took off at high speed toward the woods “way back yonder.”

 The final road to Stone Face was shaded and too icy to drive. I backed up to turn around again. As I approached the road where I planned to turn right, the road going up a small incline …. I saw an animal crossing the road. At first glance it looked similar to the partial albino otter I had in the yard last year. I got the truck stopped. The animal — a dingy blond, bushy tail, and its underside all black (not the tail) ….. a skunk! It disappeared into the thick of things before I could get a picture. Its fur was bushy, longish, backlit by the sun, and looked poofed by the wind.

I wish you could see the mental picture I filed in my memory of the encounter!

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This brought up another raccoon memory from way back when. Luckily, I made it out in one piece. I was standing/drawing in the woods, not far from a gravel road. Then I heard movement behind me … 4 young raccoons, walking in a straight line right towards me. Behind them came the mother, who was rooting around for food. None had spotted me. I moved, not wanting the adult to get too close.

She made an alarm noise. The young darted up the nearest young trees. She ran into the tall grasses. The young had no fear of me and were quite curious. They stayed where they were. She called to them. They stayed put. She kept calling, and they finally ran over to  her.

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Two days ago, Buffy and I went on the drive above. We made the same trip today. It was nice to have most of the ice melted. Cloudy weather’s no reason to stay home, especially after so much ice confinement.

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We headed for Stone Face again, this time on the highway and  then through the corn fields on a blacktop road. Geese flew all around. Large flocks were coming our direction from the north and east. They practically blackened the fields in places, and their honking increased.

We’ve had a lack of sunshine for a few days. I do apologize for the quality of all these pictures. I took them from a stopped truck. That it was still running, didn’t help much.

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And then …. and then… 37 “white pillows” off in a cornfield … swans. I was then on more ice than I wanted to be. I made one stop after another trying to get the best view.

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The road was mostly ice because of being shaded by woods along the south side of it. I eased up to turn around on the Stone Face road, and ended up going on up to the creek. Temperature was below freezing, and no sunlight left most of the ground in the woods with more slippery ice than uncovered leaves. Needless to say, we didn’t stay long.

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And then … on the way home … wild turkeys fed in a corn field. There were 20-30 of them. I didn’t count. They were scattered out and not close to the road.

Now you see why we make this drive often. It provides a short outing when I feel the need for one. Buffy’s always willing too.

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Both my sons automatically call me when they see something they know I’d want to see. This morning it was bald eagles. I immediately suited up and was out the door. My first thought (which I’m sure came from them), “Put the petal to the metal.” I stayed within the speed limit. Keith said there were two in the field and one circling to land.

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One eagle was fine with me. The morning was overcast, and the eagle was a ways out in the field. I never shut the engine off in a situation like this, because it usually alerts the subject to my presence and shortens the encounter. I eased the truck up when the eagle was bent over feeding.

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Oh my, what a good 4 days in terms of wildlife. The only thing I missed was a coyote (which I rarely see anyway).

There’s my excuse for another loop drive!

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Ended up I didn’t make another loop drive. This morning Buffy and I were on our way home from an outing, when I heard a distinctive bird call — sandhill cranes!

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They flew in a large formation and were gone in no time. Then behind me, came more calling. Another group headed our way. With their distance and height, I couldn’t see if they were on the camera display or not. I just aimed, tried to focus and took as many pictures as I could.

Now, yes, I’m sure this time …  this is the end of this blog!

The Wind and Trees

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The wind plays in the trees.

The trees play in the wind.

The wind gusted to 40. I could hear all the fun while watching the limbs sway and bounce.

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I could hear and feel all the excitement of this weather, like in a children’s picture book I have, titled “Dancing the Breeze,” by George Shannon (published 1991). The father takes his young daughter out, and they dance with the wind among  the flowers.

Even though today was mostly cloudy and so windy, it still had such an excited feel to it … I must have been playing too, trying to capture movement in pictures (which didn’t work).

A Cloudy Day Short Hike

It may not have been a bright sunny day (early in February). At least it was near freezing, and a light snow began falling. Buffy and I just had to get out before the next weather possibility.

A pretty day doesn’t have to be bright and sunny.

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This grassy expanse, on my rural property, is a sandstone barrens. There’s another barrens on the other side of the ravine. Little bluestem grass is the dominate plant.

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Last night’s heavy rain increased

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the flow in the creek.

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It didn’t look like anybody was at home.

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Sandstone outcroppings occur commonly along the ravine.

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I call this outcrop “my rock.” It has a natural seat (top left) where I sit and enjoy the view.

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View to the left (north).

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View in the front (east) and

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 view to the right (south).

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The little bluestem grew taller last summer than I’ve ever seen it before. The stalks grew to my height and even more. I’ve seen it less than 3 feet during severe drought years.

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Mini snow cones for sale?

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We passed five deer feeding near the road on our way home.

A Farewell To Ice

The temperature actually rose to 45 degrees this afternoon. We even had a heavy rain around noon, which included lightning and thunder twice.

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Buffy and I just got in from a celebratory walk around the backyard. I talked kindly to the ice, paid homage to it because there had to be a reason for it. I just didn’t know what.

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The ice stared back at me in several pictures.

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Ice only remained in the north side of the house, barn, trees and our shrub border.

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Some ice sheets remained above the ground and leaves.

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This ice “spirit” didn’t look too happy to be melting.

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It looked to me like every tiny “circle” had originally be a ball of sleet. The storm that resulted in this was from hours of sleeting and occasional freezing rain.

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Water was under the melting ice and pooled on the top too.

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I had the impression that the ice melting from the top released teeny air bubbles from what had been sleet pellets,

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where they congregated in groups.

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Maybe this one was excited to melt and be off to the next rain, ice or snow event.

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The head of an ice snake was all the ice that remained in the puddle by the side door.

The clouds cleared by suppertime. The wind lessened. The sun disappeared behind a pale darkening  sunset.

… two weeks to the day after the sleet/freezing rain storm.

Surviving Arctic-like Winters

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The red-spotted purple butterfly overwinters as a 3rd instar caterpillar.

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Will the caterpillars survive the one Arctic blast after another that we’re having this winter?

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I went out this afternoon to check where I knew four red-spotted caterpillars were hibernating.  A predator had chewed into the side of each hibernaculum and gotten every  caterpillar.

Then I remembered the overwintering adult butterflies in our area —

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mourning cloak,

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eastern comma,

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and question mark,

  They spend the winter in places like under loose bark. One cold winter I watched a golden crowned kinglet flitting around in a cedar tree. It came out with a question mark butterfly. I remember hearing and watching it knocking the butterfly on a limb to break its wings off.

Butterflies and moths overwinter in different stages of their metamorphosis — egg, caterpillar, chrysalis/pupa and adult. It will be interesting to see population numbers next summer.

Anyway, I wonder if there is a limit to how cold they can tolerate?