Category: Nature Wildlife

Rosemary, Rabbits and Rattlers

Clump of Rosemary at our Arizona house

This story starts with a large clump of Rosemary. It has apparently become the home of an Arizona Cottontail Rabbit – or I think that is so, since I have seen it (the rabbit) bolt from there on a number of occasions.

Arizona

A Cottontail Rabbit

It is a very handsome rabbit and except for it’s fondness for the leaves of my Torch Glow Bougainvillea, it isn’t what I’d call a pest.

Rosemary leaves

I would have thought the Rabbit would eat the rosemary leaves too, but if it is so inclined, it isn’t making much of dent in the rapidly spreading foliage!

Yesterday, a new dessert occupant appeared on our patio. At first, I thought it was another non-venomous gopher snake. We see them relatively frequently in our yard. However, when the snake finally decided to slither away, I realized that the pointed end of its 3 foot body was suspiciously rattler-like.

I have to admit that I was startled when The Car Guy pointed out that the snake had chosen to come within 15 feet of where I was quietly sitting and reading. It was only 8 feet away from where The Car Guy had been walking back and forth as he worked on a construction project.

The Rattlesnake (probably a Diamond Back) eventually headed into the clump of Rosemary. I don’t wish to think about whether a rattlesnake and a rabbit can enter into a relationship where the rabbit doesn’t become dinner.

The curious thing is, seeing a Rattlesnake on my patio made me want to pack up and head back to Alberta. It’s highly unlikely that there has never been a Rattlesnake on my patio before – it’s just that I’ve never seen one there before. That makes all the difference.

Today, there is NO rattlesnake on my patio, and I’ve ventured out into the yard to do all the spring gardening tasks that need to be done before we head for our Northern home. Of course, I’m extremely more cautious than I was a few days ago. I’m also hopeful that the snake will chow down on the wood (pack) rats that inhabit parts of our yard, then move over to the neighbour’s yard and never visit my patio again.

Question of the day – what would you do if you found a Rattlesnake on your patio? (I went inside and got my camera, of course…)

 

 

Half a World Away

When the Internet publicity began, I remember being struck by how much the world was not the way we thought it was, that there was infinite variation in how people viewed the world.
– Eric Schmidt –

The Belchen (35 Km south of Freiburg) is a mountain in the Black Forest of Germany. The Belchen Cableway takes you up to scenic viewpoints and hiking trails.

If you do a web search for The Belchen, you will find lots of photos of the scenery, but no photos of a bee and some thistles on the grassy slopes of the flanks of the mountain. You also won’t find very many moderately funny or interesting quotations about variations. Until now…

I’ve been getting a lot of science fiction scripts which contained variations on my Star Trek character and I’ve been turning them down. I strongly feel that the next role I do, I should not be wearing spandex.
– Marina Sirtis –

Creativity varies inversely with the number of cooks involved in the broth.
– Bernice Fitz-Gibbon –

Time rushes towards us with its hospital tray of infinitely varied narcotics, even while it is preparing us for its inevitably fatal operation.
– Tennessee Williams –

No patent medicine was ever put to wider and more varied use than the Fourteenth Amendment.
– William O. Douglas –

More varied than any landscape was the landscape in the sky, with islands of gold and silver, peninsulas of apricot and rose against a background of many shades of turquoise and azure.
– Cecil Beaton –

Country people do not behave as if they think life is short; they live on the principle that it is long, and savor variations of the kind best appreciated if most days are the same.
– Edward Hoagland –

How many vacation photos have you taken that could just as easily depict something in your neighbourhood or backyard?

This week’s WordPress.com Photo Challenge is Variations on a Theme.

Crabapple

If you have a Crabapple Tree in your yard, you know there can be such a thing as too many crabapples. If you offer your crabapples to the local wildlife –  deer, rabbits, squirrels, foxes, bears, raccoons or coyotes for instance –  you won’t ever have to deal with too many crabapples. You might end up with wild life problems, however…

I planted six Purple Spire Columnar Crabapple trees a few years ago. This year we harvested the three crabapples you see in this photo. Too many crabapples might not be a problem for some time.

Plant Profile
Common Name: Purple Spire Columnar Crabapple
Scientific Name: Malus x ‘Jefspire’
Hardiness: to Zone 3
Growth: Purple foliage; full sun; 10 to 20 feet tall (8 meters); 5-10 feet wide (2.5 meters); columnar form; slow growing
Blooms: Sparse pink flowers in spring.
Fruit: Flavorful but often very tart
Origin: A seedling from the controlled cross ‘Thunderchild’ and ‘Wijcik made by Dr. David Lane of the Summerland Research Station in British Columbia

If you plant crabapples, don’t count on harvesting Golden Delicious.
– Author Unknown –

Mountain Ash Berries

Sorbus genus

Mountain Ash Berries

The Mountain Ash tree is a member of the Sorbus genus. The fruit is not only safe for humans to eat, it is a favorite of many types of birds. Mountain ash berries hang on the tree well into the winter, making it a good source of cold-weather bird nutrition.

In Celtic and Norse folklore, the Mountain Ash was called a Rowan or Witchwood tree because it was believed they had magical properties.

frost

If you have read the Harry Potter books, you might remember that Rowan Wood was prized for making wands.

It is commonly stated that no dark witch or wizard ever owned a rowan wand, and I cannot recall a single instance where one of my own rowan wands has gone on to do evil in the world.
– Mr. Ollivander, Harry Potter books –

This site about Wand Woods was of particular interest to me because the Red House woods not only have a Mountain Ash tree, they have numerous other trees that are good for making wands: several apple trees, many aspen, dogwood, larch, pine, poplar, spruce and willow. If I was inclined to start a wand making business, I would have lots of wood to choose from.

Have you ever started writing a post and found you headed off in a direction that was entirely different than where you started going? So it was with this post, which was simply going to be about photo filters that blur, add textures or shift colours. I thought I’d add the Latin name for the Mountain Ash tree and before I knew it, I had found sites about the many uses for the berries and, of course, wand making… and witches.

Most people think witches are a coven of lesbians dancing naked in the forest celebrating the semen stolen from imprisoned hypnotized males, which they then use to inseminate one another using turkey basters in order to create a legion of demon babies. Well, that’s only part of it. We are also active in community outreach programs.
– Wigfield: The Can-Do Town That Just May Not, a satirical novel by comedians Amy Sedaris, Paul Dinello and Stephen Colbert –

In the Woods

Everything in the country, animate and inanimate, seems to whisper, be serene, be kind, be happy. We grow tolerant there unconsciously.
– Fanny Fern –

Alberta

Early fall in the wooded area near our house. Color levels adjusted, slight sharpening

The only people I am aware of who don’t have troubles are gathered in peaceful, little neighborhoods. There is never a care, never a moment of stress and never an obstacle to ruin a day. All is calm. All is serene. Most towns have at least one such worry-free zone. We call them cemeteries.
– Steve Goodier –

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Serene.

Leaves in the Fall – When the Smoke Cleared

Smoke from wildfires in British Columbia settled into Alberta for much of the summer – but it finally cleared late last week – when it snowed… Today was the first day that more normal early fall weather arrived.

It was a perfect day, one you wish you could bottle and save for winter. Layers of clouds piled up all the way to the snow capped mountains (which you can just see along the horizon if you imagine hard enough.)  Mixed green and gold foliage contrasted with the changing colours just beyond the fence line.

Wild raspberry leaves are turning colour – they stand out in sharp contract to the layers of greenery that haven’t yet responded to the frosty nights.

The spider web layer – fortunately clearly visible or I would have walked right into it!

What is the first thought that pops into your mind when you hear the word ‘Layered’?

This week’s WordPress.com Photo Challenge is Layered.

The Elemental Muskrat – Reshaping the Banks of Their Watery World

Muskrat swimming

Alberta water

One evening I watched some Muskrats ‘working like beavers’ at a friends farm. The muskrat is a largish rodent that looks like a stocky rat. It seems harmless enough, but has the ability to reshape the banks of any body of water it decides to call home. In this photo, you can see a cut in the bank where one of its underground dens has perhaps collapsed. If they dug bank burrows under the windmill on the other side of the dugout, it might eventually cause a big problem!

Alberta Water
Muskrats primarily eat a wide variety of plants. This pair were transporting sweet clover – doesn’t it almost looked like a bridal bouquet!?

I really was disappointed when I downloaded my muskrat photos and looked at them on my computer. The early evening light wasn’t optimal for capturing detail with a zoom lens. I fancied the photos up with a few filters, but all in all, I’d say they are good examples of what ELJAYGEE calls  Second Best Shots

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Elemental.

Post 582

White Butterflies Hiding in the Hay Field

There is a hay field across the road from us. I love taking photos when it is full of big round bales, especially when the hawks sit on them. This spring, the farmer planted new things in the field. I haven’t figured out what all the plants are yet, but the field is absolutely beautiful! For the past few days, it has attracted masses of white butterflies. I tried to get some photos of them…

but the butterflies moved too fast! I was very satisfied, though, that I had captured the layers of blue green, bright green, shades of pink/purple, and splashes of yellow.

If you do the best work you can, the reward is ultimately your self-satisfaction – the sense that you have done the best you can. And then there’s that piece of how others respond.
– Jerry Pinkney –

Does the positive response of others make you feel even more satisfied with your efforts?

This week’s WordPress.com Photo Challenge is Satisfaction.

Blue-Eyed Grass – Easily Overlooked

With tiny flowers only 1/4 inch (6mm) wide, that only open in the morning, it is easy to see why I’ve only found Blue-Eyed Grass in my Alberta yard on three occasions.

Alberta

Blue-Eyed Grass Flower

This time my transient wild flower popped up in a bed close to the garage. I just happened to pass the bed in the morning, when it was in full bloom. The flower closes tight in the afternoon, and that makes the plant almost invisible among the other grasses.

Alberta

Blue-Eyed Grass – closed flowers and beginning of seed formation

Alberta

Blue-Eyed Grass – seeds forming

Plant Profile
Common Name: Blue-Eyed Grass
Scientific Name: Sisyrinchium montanum
Native to: A perennial that grows in open meadows all across Canada; Midwestern and North Eastern U.S.A.
Growth: Loves full sun and medium to moist soil, but is drought tolerant, can grow in shady areas and is extremely resilient. Grows 10-50 cm tall.
Blooms: Purpley-blue star shaped flowers with yellow eyes; blooms from May to July.The flowers open early in the morning and close by midday
Comment: The grass like leaves are a reminder that this plant is a member of the Iris family.

This week’s WordPress.com Photo Challenge is Transient.

Grow Up, Snake!

Transient – a snake passing through the yard, my ‘fear’ of said snake, the snakes skin.

I have to say at the outset that I don’t really like snakes all that much. Not big snakes, for sure. (A snake always looks bigger than it really is, by the way.) So the first time I saw a ‘pretty big’ snake in my yard in Arizona, I was a bit ‘freaked’ out. It looked suspiciously like a Rattlesnake… Fortunately, our local Fire Department comes running when you call and ask for their Snake Removal assistance. I think they would rather deal with a snake than with a snake bite.

The snake turned out to be a Gopher (or Bull) Snake. From a safe distance, Gopher snakes and Rattlesnakes resemble each other – they have the same sort of markings and colors.

A stretched out Gopher Snake – about 3 ft (1 metre) long.

When I’d calmed down, and took a closer look, I saw how the Gopher Snake differed from a Rattlesnake.

round pupils

Gopher Snake head – no facial pit, and round pupils distinguish the gopher snake from the rattlesnake.

Both snakes can be a bit short-tempered. The Gopher Snake will rise to a striking position, flatten its head into a triangular shape, hiss loudly and shake its tail at intruders. The ruse works very well if the snake also happens to have it’s tail hidden in tall dry grass.

tapered tail

Gopher Snake – tapered tail, no rattles

After this particular snake had slithered off, The Car Guy discovered that it had left it’s skin behind. ‘Love the Skin You’re In’ only works for a month or so for a snake, then they discard it for a nice new one so that they can grow larger.

Here is the skin – each scale sparkled in the bright sunlight. Quite beautiful.

Snake Stories
Common Name: Gopher Snake or Bull Snake
Scientific Name: Pituophis
Description: The top of the snake is tan, cream, yellow, orange-brown, or pale gray, with a series of large dark brown or black blotches, with smaller dark spots on the sides. They can reach 9 feet (275 cm) in length, but 4 feet (120 cm) is more common.
Native to: from the Atlantic to Pacific oceans, as far north as southern Canada, and as far south as Veracruz and southern Sinaloa, Mexico, including Baja California.
Date Seen: April 28, 2017
Location: North of Fountain Hills, Arizona
Comments: This is a powerful constrictor that preys on a wide variety of animals including rats, mice, rabbits, lizards, birds, snakes, eggs, and insects. It hibernates during the cold months of late fall and winter.

Have you ever found a snake skin? Did you know that humans shed their entire outer layer of skin every 2-4 weeks at the rate of 0.001 – 0.003 ounces of skin flakes every hour?

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Transient.

Post 578

Striped Coralroot Orchid – On Going Unnoticed

I thought I had met most of the residents of my forest (north of Calgary, Alberta) – I’ve been tromping along it’s paths looking at plants and birds and bugs for 26 years! But in early June, I discovered a ‘new to me’ plant – a Striped Coralroot Orchid. I don’t know how long this tiny 13 cm (5 inch) plant has lived here – perhaps for years, or maybe it is a fairly new arrival!

Robert Frosts poem, On Going Unnoticed, exactly captured my thoughts as I looked down on the small clump of beautiful pinky-red flowers – they “… look up small from the forest’s feet“. If I hadn’t been walking in that area at the same moment that a small shaft of sunlight briefly illuminated the tiny plants, I would probably never have found them.

Alberta pink

Alberta pink

Alberta pink

Alberta pink macro

Plant Profile
Common Name: Striped Coralroot Orchid
Scientific Name: Corallorhiza striata
Native to: Found in shaded forests and wooded areas across southern Canada and the western and central United States
Growth: Coralroot is a member of the orchid family, with underground rhizomatous stems that resemble coral. It is a non-photosynthetic plant with leaves that are little more than scales on the stems. The Coralroot Orchid in my yard is almost 5 inches tall.
Blooms: It produces a mass of yellowish pink to red flowers, with several darker purple veins giving the appearance of stripes. In my yard, it bloomed in early June.
Comment: The plants get nourishment from dead leaf matter by being parasites of fungi in the soil.

I Don’t Want Your Squirrels

A Black Eastern Grey Squirrel – an introduced species.

Really – I don’t want your squirrels. They are your problem. If you don’t want them at your place, why do you think I want them at mine?

Do you think you are being humane by transporting them out to the country to release them? Well, you aren’t. You’ve just signed their death certificate, but you are too ‘sensitive’ to kill them yourself.
– You’ve removed the squirrel from a home range where it knew how to find food, water, shelter, and how to stay safe.
– You may have trapped a mother squirrel – her babies will be left behind to die.
– You’ve spread a non-native introduced animal into yet another habitat where it doesn’t belong.

In the past week you’ve brought me two squirrels- a brown Eastern Grey Squirrel and a black Eastern Grey Squirrel. The magpies were quick to spot them, and followed them around and harassed them. With major predators, like hawks, owls, weasels, fox and coyotes, the squirrels will not likely last long. That’s good news for life in my forest.

In a perfect world, someone would drop you off in my forest for a few days too. How long did you spend in the trap – was that terrifying? You would wander through the woods, naked, with no food or water, no roof over your head. The Coyote Pack would be close by…

I love mankind … it’s people I can’t stand!!
– Charles M. Schulz, The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 5: 1959-1960 –

Post 575

Cactus Spines – A ‘Don’t Touch Me’ World

Living in Arizona has taught me a few things about the Danger of Cactus Spines! While it is unlikely they would cause any serious reaction, the punctures can be painful!

When I go on a ‘Nature’ walk, I carry a pair of pliers to pull cactus spines out of the soles of my shoes. When I am working in my yard, I wear thick leather gloves, and I never back up without knowing which plant is poised and ready to attack my leg. Even plants in the succulent family can inflict damage – Agave leaves can have razor sharp edges or wicked spears on the tips.

Like a porcupine, some cactus readily shed their spines into your skin. Usually I can remove them with a pair of tweezers. Then it is a simple matter to wash off the blood, and apply an antiseptic of some sort.

If I had been attacked by a large number of very small ‘hairy’ spines, there are apparently several ‘bulk removal’ methods. The first is to spread a layer of white glue over the area, let it dry, then peel it off. The other way is to smooth a piece of sticky tape over the area, then peel it off. Apparently duct tape works well.

I bought a cactus. A week later it died. And I got depressed, because I thought, Damn. I am less nurturing than a desert.
– Demetri Martin –

This week’s WordPress.com Photo Challenge is Danger.

What is the most dangerous thing that grows in your ‘neck of the woods’?

Many Rocks and a Lot of Hardscape

Earththe substance of the land surface – in my part of Arizona it reminds me of the saying ‘Between a Rock and a Hard Place’! Landscaping strategies here include generous numbers of Rocks and plenty of gravel Hardscape.

Arizona

Big River

Our yard consists of a gravel mulch that covers soil that is a course reddish material with large sections of impenetrable caliche (soil particles that have been cemented together by calcium carbonate.)

Meandering from one end of the yard to the other is a stone feature I call ‘Big River’.

‘Big River’ is a make believe creek bed that only gets wet when it rains.

‘Big River’ begins in a spiral rock feature I call ‘The Maze’.

A large stone lizard slithers towards the patio and breaks the monotony of yet some more gravel (the maze area is in the distance.)

In contrast, Earth at our Alberta house is a rich black soil. A carpet of green grass (sometimes a blanket of dead yellow grass if we don’t get enough rain) circles flower beds and stone walkways.

The Arizona yard and the Alberta yard, though on different ends of a spectrum of what Earth has to offer, are in just two of the many ecosystems that the Earth’s surface can support.  What kind of land surface do you call home?

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Earth.

Post 571

Saguaro Cactus – Slow Growing Giants

Plant Profile
Common Name: Saguaro Cactus
Scientific Name: Carnegiea gigantea
Native to: Sonoran desert – limited to southern Arizona
Growth: all growth occurs at the tip of the cactus. The rate of growth is very slow.
Under natural conditions it may take 20 years to attain one foot in height. By age 50 it could be seven feet tall. By age 100 it could be 25 feet tall. It usually starts to grow arms between 50 to 100 years of age (average 70), and it may live for 200 years or more
Blooms: first blooms between 40 and 75 (average 55) years old.
Comment: Some saguaros have dozens of arms, while others never produce arms. Growth rate, size and number of arms are likely affected by the amount of moisture.

2 ft (61 cm) tall

Saguaro Cactus – 2 ft (61 cm) tall

Saguaro Cactus – low, mid and upper arms

Saguaro Cactus – more arms than you can count!

blooms

Saguaro Cactus buds and bloom

Superstition Mountains

Saguaro Cactus near the Superstition Mountains, Arizona

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