Nature & Wildlife

The Tenderness of Motherhood….

Originally Published November 3, 2009

The tenderness of motherhood exists throughout the world we live and we humans, as well as our animal counterparts, seem to honor and exhibit that tenderness of motherhood in exemplary fashion. A tenderness that is exhibited whether it is…..

Motherhood 1On A Riverbank….

Motherhood 2In The Artic….

Motherhood 3On the African Serengeti….

Motherhood 4In the Oceans….

Motherhood 5In the Jungles of India

Or…..

Motherhood 6At a City Park Near You

The Demise of the Plains Buffalo

The Bison Trail - 1908 - 2

Certainly most all of us have either read or heard tales of the demise of the huge herds of Bison that were so predominate and plentiful in the early 1800’s. I recently realized that I was certainly educated with regard to the referenced demise but possessed little to no perspective on its magnitude. That all changed when by happenstance I ran across the photograph shown below.

The Bison Demise - 02

The Bison Demise - 03I found that photo personally to be a stark kick in the behind, a reality check if you will. I had seen numerous drawings and paintings in the past such as the one just to the left depicting in some manner the demise of the numerous buffalo herds but apparently none of them had any real sobering effect at the time. I suspect, at least for me, that many drawings and paintings depicting such events border on entertainment rather than journalistic documentation such as the above photo with a mountain of buffalo skulls and horns.

As history informs us, as the 19th century was nearing its end the Bison population had been all but decimated. With a growing population of upwards of some 30 – 60 million at the beginning of the 19th century, by the late 1880\’s there were as few as 1000 left and the Great Plains buffalo was at the edge of extinction. William Hornaday, a noted conservationist of the times, estimated the total population of Bison in 1889 to be 85 free ranging, 200 in the Yellowstone National Park federal herd, 550 at Great Slave Lake in Canada and 200 in zoos and private herds. By 1902 there were only 23 buffalo estimated to be in the Yellowstone National Park herd and 700 in private herds.

I ran across a couple of other additional journalistic photographs that further added to the stark realization of the human inflicted tragedy that befell our subject animal. One can only ponder at what our forefathers were thinking as they plundered these herds. On the other had, history has certainly taught us that when there is a great bounty, there is likewise an accompanying of great waste.

The Bison Demise - 01

The second of the two photographs is noted as being taken in Dodge City, Kansas in 1878 at the Rath & Wright Buffalo Hide Yard showing an estimated 40,000 buffalo hides stacked in one location in their hide yard. And let me note that a larger view of the subject photos can be seen by clicking on them…

Rath & Wright\'s Buffalo Hide Yard in 1878 showing 40,000 buffalo hides - Dodge City, Kansas

It would have probably under normal circumstances never even crossed my mind as to the history and demise of the Great Plains buffalo. After all, I had seen the film “Dances with the Wolves” where there was one traumatic scene showing the waste left by white hunters in their quest for hides. But in reality that scene did not even scratch the surface of that crime against nature when viewed in these few photographs.

In closing I should note that the current North America estimated Bison population including Canada herds, the Yellowstone National Park herd, zoos and private herds is inclusive of approximately 500,000 buffalo. It took less than 100 years to decimate a population of between 30 – 60 million buffalo and over 100 years to bring that population back to only a half-million. 🙁

Chimney Swifts & Childhood Memories….

Flying Chimney SwiftRecently while sitting on my patio and sipping on a cup of coffee I looked up into the sky above me and was quite startled at what I was seeing. Something that I realized in the moment I had not seen for many, many years. It was two unmistakably identifiable “Chimney Swifts” flying high above in the late spring sky. Their circling and unmistakable silhouettes brought back a flood of childhood memories. It also brought to light the fact that I had neither thought of nor missed their existence in my life for some sixty years. On this day however of making their re-acquaintance, they were there briefly, then gone and not seen since.

Back in the 40’s and 50’s on any given moment in the summertime you could look up in the southern skies of Arkansas and see varying numbers of the birds sailing the skies and pursuing their illusive insect prey. From early morn until late evening they were always there as their silhouettes peppered the summer skies.

Chimney swifts are probably not on anyone’s list of favorite birds. I can’t recall in recent memory ever seeing any report or wildlife documentary on television inclusive of any measure of information regarding the species. I suspect the bird’s lack of popularity is pretty much due to its overall secluded nature and nesting habits. After all, you will never, ever see one at your bird feeder or on a nearby tree branch bursting forth with beautiful song. They never land except to return to their roosts or nests which are almost always chimney type structures where they cling to the sides of the structure. They also congregate in these roosting areas much in the same manner as the familiar communal bat.

Chimney Swift In-Hand 02I have actually only ever seen one up close when a neighbor of ours back in my childhood days came over with one he had found outside in his driveway that had been hurt. Knowing that most people have never seen one up close and personal he brought it over for us all to take a gander. That would be my first and my last time to ever see one of the winged creatures up close and personal.

Chimney Swift RangeGiven my curiosity into my perceived disappearance of the Chimney Swift from my summer skies, it was only fitting that I do a little research on the subject. It was noted by one reputable source, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, that the species has suffered sharp declines in decades due to the disuse of chimneys across their summer breeding grounds. In 2010 it was noted that there threatened species category was elevated from “least concerned” to “near threatened”. Now that is nowhere near the ‘endangered’ category but nevertheless, does reflect significant decreases in the population. It was also noted in my research that large weather events such as hurricanes can have serious impacts on the populations living in their paths. The migration map noted on the left reflects the migration of these birds, the ‘blue’ shaded area in South America reflects their winter resident area while the ‘yellow’ shaded area in North America reflects their summer breeding grounds.

As I often these days find myself reflecting on the memories of days gone by, I could not forsake the memories of looking up and seeing these birds, always there in flight and simply a standard fixture to any summer day. So when I look up these days into that same old summer sky, I now ponder the stark realization that it too no longer reflects those remembered and cherished childhood days for those chimney swift silhouettes are no longer painted across my elderly sky.

Invasion of the Acorn Hoarders….

It just doesn’t seem possible to me, at least at the moment, to relate the latest disconcerting and aggravating episode of life’s trials put upon me in any sort of condensed version. So I must bear the toil of ascribing this latest trial to you in some detail as it winds its seemingly never ending path while you, should you even dare, must tag along and endure what will surely seem to be a journalistic maze.

It would seem critters of all sorts, sizes and family origins have perhaps been bewitched by the wicked Mother Nature of the East and set upon me to taunt, harass and just in general make life here in the neighborhood dark and miserable. It seems to have all begun summer before last….

Cardinal MessPerhaps you’ll might remember the persistent male Cardinal that spent the summer fighting the other male Cardinal he was seeing in my side view car mirror and making a mess of both my mirror and my car door (no pun intended). Well if you forgot note click on the photo just to the left or you can refresh your memory with all the gory details ‘here’.

I eventually resolved that critter crisis when this past September, unbeknownst to me, I was about to be besieged by yet more bewitched critters. It all started innocently enough with my clothes dryer. I went to dry some washed clothes one morning and when I turned on my dryer I heard quite a disconcerting rattling sound coming from the vicinity of my dryers vent hose. The sound only lasted for a couple of seconds and then everything sounded fine. Next time I did a wash and it was time to dry the clothes, same thing, a brief rattling sound coming from the dryer then everything was fine.

Well, if you’re like me disconcerting sounds from a clothes dryer tend to send up all sorts of red flags, the most serious of course is perhaps the potential fire danger from a malfunctioning dryer. So I finally called an appliance repair company who came out and after a brief examination could not find an issue but noted several acorns on my patio around the dryer vent and suggested that it might be some small critter using my vent hose as a place to hide his acorn stash and each time I turned on my dryer it would blow them out of the vent and on to my patio.

My dryer vent seemed too small for a squirrel to enter so I assumed it must be some sort of mouse or small rat. Then only a couple of nights later I had gotten up out of bed in the middle of the night to go tinkle and while standing there heard what sounded like gnawing just below where I was standing under the floor. That was very upsetting to me because I am almost fanatical about insuring that nothing can get inside my home’s crawl space from the outside. If the sound was indeed emanating from under the house whatever it was would have surely had to burrow from outside and then under the house foundation to get under the house.

Next morning after getting up I went outside and inspected the outside of the house near where I had heard the gnawing that night but saw no evidence at all of any burrowing or possible access for a critter to get under the house. But it is fall and there are lots of leaves everywhere, perhaps I could miss something. At any rate I broke out my stash of small mouse traps. That first day I set my first one on the patio along the side of the house near the opening to the dryer vent. Next morning, Walla….

P1020183a

Just to be sure there wasn’t more than one of those critters I set the mouse trap again but set this one on the other end of my patio near wear I had heard the gnawing and next morning, Walla….

P1020188a

After that second night I tallied up the score and I saw it as, Alan-2/Mice-0! And it is certainly worth noting that those results were confirmed as final. Just in case, I set a mouse trap under the house for a few days and caught nothing. Also there were no more rattling noises emanating from the dryer and that has remained so to date. So, problem resolved right? Wrong….

It was just like any other partially warm, sunny December day as I got in my car to head out for my weekly grocery shopping. As I was backing out of the drive I hit my windshield washer lever just to clean off my windshield a bit. “Uh oh, nothing but a whirring sound and no fluid coming out onto the windows. Well crap!” I thought to myself, “I’m out of washer fluid.” But that was okay because I knew I actually had a gallon or so in my storage room so I would just have to remember to refill the reservoir in the next day or two.

And so it was a few days later that I went out to take care of that little chore. After struggling to get the hood open on my Chrysler and getting one of those lovely blood spots I posted about a few days ago, I finally got the hood open. It was at that very moments that complete shock ensued when I got a look at what was under my hood. Every little crick and cranny under that hood had acorn shells piled in them, including bunches of them on top of the engine itself.

When I saw them in the little indentations and cubby holes on and around the engine it was a bit alarming. Fortunately my driving normally consists of little jaunts here or little jaunts there, but if I had driven the car long enough to really heat up that engine I’m not sure those things might not have caught fire. They looked like fresh kindling lying around everywhere but of course those literally on the engine themselves being the most disconcerting.

I inspected the compartment as best I could quite honestly expecting to find wires or hoses having been gnawed on or damaged. Fortunately there was no visible evidence of damage or of any sort of nest building, just tons of acorn shells. Oddly enough, there were no whole acorns at all, just bits and pieces of shells and the accompanying photographs will bear out.

So I got out my leaf blower and blew all the acorn remnants out from under my hood and when I finished things looked pretty normal to me. So I put up my leaf blower, closed the hood and got into the car to test the windshield washer just to make sure it was working again. Bad news! It still wasn’t working. I could hear the pump running but now washer coming out of the window sprayers.

As you can imagine I wasn’t happy about that outcome but I was happy about finding out about my acorn hoarders thus averting which may have caused a serious engine fire at some point. So for the moment that in itself might have been better in the short term that repairing the windshield washer.

But now my attention turned to my favorite little car, my Geo Metro which is parked right next to my Chrysler. I thought that surely it had also fallen victim to the critter hoarders. As expected, opening the hood on the Geo did in fact reveal the deeds of their apparent numerous visits. Yet more acorn shells tucked here and there once again in every crick and cranny. When I found this mess under the hood of my Chrysler I failed to get any photographs of the deed but that wasn’t the case this time. Below are photos of the Geo engine compartment and as usual, be sure to click on image to enlarge….

Geo Engine Compartment - 02

Geo Engine Compartment - 04
Geo Engine Compartment - 03

My detective work to date has not produced any real satisfying results as to the origin of the acorn shells. In trying to decide whether it was squirrels or rats I thought the ‘poop’ configuration might give me a solid clue. Well as luck would have it, the poop configuration for rats and squirrels is all but identical. And it is quite evident in the above photographs since there are definite ‘poop’ samples available for viewing.

As far as how my windshield washer malfunction plays into all this, well I went to my local auto repair station shortly thereafter and after opening my hood and searching out the washer hose path the service technician almost immediately found a small severed washer hose. He trimmed the two severed ends, slipped on a small length of shrink-tubing and I was back in business. And…. it only cost me $10.

So… obviously I will have to remain vigilant and be on the lookout for any further developments regarding this matter. I could put some hope in the possibility that the two rats/mice that I did send to their demise just might be the culprits behind this deed as well, time will tell I suppose. 🙁

The Week in Photography….

I don’t get in as much photography as I use to unfortunately. Goodness, even that statement implies I’m doing at least some but no, not really. If a subject is just begging to be captured in a photo, happens to fall into my lap so to speak and the camera is handy I may actually get up off my ass and try my luck at taking some measure of a photograph, but nothing like I use to do.

Last week while sitting on my patio a very large grasshopper made his appearance on one of my landscape timbers right in front of me. A rather handsome specimen I thought, assuming that you even like grasshoppers, so I begrudgingly got out of my chair to go get my camera with little hope the grasshopper would even be there when I returned. But alas, upon my return there he was and he seemed quite willing to strut his stuff for the camera….

Grasshopper 01(Click to Enlarge)

Grasshopper 02(Click to Enlarge)

Then this past weekend when supper time rolled around I declared it “chicken night”. I decided to cook up a small batch of my extra crispy, extra greasy, famous chicken wings. Not normally being one associated with the many food photographers that seem to inhabit our planet, I just could not help myself when I took a look at my famous chicken wings lying on that plate so off I went in pursuit of the camera. A few minutes later the photographic deed was done and then it was time to express my sincerest condolences to those chicken wings and put them out of their misery!

Big Bro’s Extra Crispy Chicken Wings(Click to Enlarge)

And there you have it, this week in photography as seen through the eyes of a very lazy photographer. Not impressed? Well, I’m not sure I am either but sometimes you just have to give it your best shot (no pun intended) and move on with some hope better times lie ahead. 🙂

My Resident Female…. Up close and personal!

I have been spending some time lately trying to improve my photographic skills when it comes to photographing hummingbirds. My recent posting showing a bit of jousting between a Ruby-Throated male and female at my feeder seemed sufficient enough to display the action but lacked the ‘pop’ I like to see in a photograph.

In pursuit of that goal here are a couple of photos I took a couple of days ago of the female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird who is the favorite of my summer visitors this year. Since I don’t have but a few regular visitors anyway, it is fairly easy to keep up with who’s who.

By the way, if you look at the enlarged versions of the photos you can actually see bits of pollen on top of her head apparently gathered from a recent visit to a flower, especially in the second one. Thought that was sort of cool….

Hummer 07(Click to Enlarge)

Hummer 08(Click to Enlarge)

And with regard to storms and falling trees….

I suppose that everyone who may live in storm prone areas and also has trees in their yards does at some point worry about one of them falling on their home during a high winds event. Could not help but notice in the newspaper recently a published photo which showed what one unfortunate local resident had to deal with when it came to fallen trees due to storms in their area….

Hot Springs Arkansas - Wind Storm & Trees

Now granted, when most of us think about a tree falling on our homes I doubt if many, if any, ever entertain the thought of six trees falling on their home!

A spring storm’s littlest victim….

Flegling Robin(Click for Enlarged View of Photo)

On this more or less dreary and dark morning with the threat of storms and rain I decided to have my morning coffee on the patio regardless. Noticed some movement along my nearby fence line and was quite surprised to find a young fledgling Robin. We have had several rounds of weather roll through the last couple of days so obviously the young one had been unwillingly routed from the nest. I immediately retrieved my camera for a quick photo or two.

But I was even more surprised to see a baby Robin at all quite honestly. I know it is early May but that seems too early to be seeing fledgling birds, whether in distress or otherwise. And the Robin wasn’t all that small to boot. Probably hatched in early April or so.

However, is as usually the case in these situations mom and pop were nearby offering a great deal of encouragement and of course their food catering services. Being in my yard, he was safe from any other larger critter getting him such as a dog or cat so one can only hope he stays safe until finally on the wing.

Those damn little Oak tree “thingys”….

Dear Diary….

Oak Tree Male Flower (Thingy)

Oak Tree Male Flower (Thingy)

I think if there are any truisms out there that are indeed “true”, the one inferring that we’re never too old to learn surely has to be up there somewhere among the top ones. As a classic example, I have spent my entire life referring to those tassel-looking things that fall off of oak trees every spring and cause a great deal of mess on my roof and driveway as “those oak tree thingys”. It is probably one of my life’s greatest educational failures that I have known no other terminology for those creations of nature than “thingys” but I, nor for that matter, anyone else in my circle of family and friends seemed any more enlightened on the subject. If they were, they chose not to share it with me and left me running a muck in this world emulating yet another one of those sometimes referred to ‘dumb Southerners’. 🙁

But as of very recently that has changed as I have once again taken to the Internet to see if I couldn’t come up with something more sophisticated in nature (no pun intended) to better define and describe those little “thingys”. I am happy to say it was a successful venture and I can now refer to those “thingys” which have been such a pain in the butt over the years in a much more appropriate manner.

As it turns out those things I call “thingys” are actually flowers. Yep… and they even have a gender. They’re ‘male’ flowers. The whole drooping, hanging “thingy” is made up of very tiny little male flowers which at a designated point in time release their yellow pollen in hopes of finding an oak tree’s female flower, a human’s nose, or better yet a nice, clean car. Seems it matters not which one!

Now the female flower is very, very tiny and is normally located where a leaf stem joins the twig or small branch from which it is attached. And if the female flower is pollinated, she will grow into a nice little acorn. The acorn as I already knew, falls from the tree and if not consumed by a tree rat, will quite possibly grow into another stately oak tree. That fact led me to the conclusion that all our oak trees must then be female oak trees. I’ve never really thought about trees having a gender before but I guess that’s all changed now! I guess when someone asks me what kind of tree this is or that is I’ll also have to tell them what sex it is!

Oak Tree Blooms 02Oak Tree Female Flower

I actually learned one other thing during this educational adventure, that being that “thingy” is actually a real word and not something just made up by us less fortunate who sometimes find themselves a bit short on the command of the English language.

My life among the trees….

Dear Diary…

I ask you, “What’s not to love about trees?” Pretty much nothing of course unless you live in the middle of suburbia and are trying to kid yourself that because of a few trees you’re living in the Sherwood Forest or even the Sequoia National Forest! All those neighborhood barking dogs should be enough to put that little fairy tale to rest. And those big and strong old oak trees that surround me are self-sustaining and independent when they are growing in the forest but when we humans set up housekeeping in among those same lovely trees they seem to suddenly become helpless. We are suddenly tasked with spending hour upon hour in the fall cleaning up their leaves. Those falling leaves don’t seem to even exist in the forest, only in our yards…

Leaves 02
Leaves 01

(Click on photos to Enlarge)

And while we are on the subject of leaves… in that top photo of the leaves, you see all those leaves across the street in my neighbor’s yard? Well fortunately he is one of my neighbors who does his best to clean up his leaves in a timely manner but leaves are really smart if you didn’t already know that. If he didn’t clean them up, the first wind to come along, a large number of those leaves would hitch a ride and blow across the street into my yard. If there’s anything leaves can’t stand it’s someone’s “in your face” clean, leafless yard” staring right back at them and taunting them.

And all those twigs and small branches that can litter the yard after a thunderstorm, you never see those in the woodlands and forests….

Storm Refuge(Click Photo to Enlarge)

And those winter snow and icing events, well let’s not even go there or I will have to start bitching about my neighbor’s tree that came crashing down three years ago from the weight of a snow event and damaged my fence which I, of course, had to pay for….

Snow Damage(Click Photo to Enlarge)

Then comes all those much larger tree limbs that seem to want to start prodding and poking at the house, seemingly coming from all directions. Many of my tree’s limbs seem to suffer from some sort of exhaustion affliction and want to lay down and rest on the roof of the house. It is at that time when I find out that living in among the trees can get very expensive. I have been living in my home surrounded by a forest of oak trees now for almost 17 years and have spent several thousand dollars over that time period both removing and trimming the trees in my own personal forest.

I just had more limbs attended to only about three weeks ago at a substantial cost which is reflected in the two photos below. I wasn’t very happy about it since it involved working on removing numerous ‘dead’ limbs from trees growing in my neighbor’s yard near our shared property line. They fall on my roof and they fall on my second little car which has to be parked in the open so I have been having to park it away from their trees. Just plain aggravating to live next to people who take no responsibility for their property.

Tree Trimming 02
Tree Trimming 01

(Click On Photos To Enlarge)

Well ‘Dear Diary’, don’t know about you but I feel much better now we have had this little talk. I so appreciate the fact that you never interrupt or take exception to what I say regarding my little rants, raves and otherwise meaningless observations. Thanks…