Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Happy Day of the Dead/All Saint's Day

There's a bed and breakfast in the little town of Old Mission that decks out its lawn every year starting at the beginning of October. 

There are skeletons in covered wagons.

There are ghosts dancing in circles and skeletons taking naps in hammocks.

Ghostly drivers and skeleton riders in carraiges. 

It seemed a fitting Dia de lost Muertos / Feast of All Saints celebration. 

"...and I want to be one, too!"  So, will that song be haunting you all day now? If so, my work here is done. :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Dedicated Dad

This summer seemed like a particularly good one for the cardinal couple that frequented my back yard. 

This youngster is from their third brood. You can tell it's still a baby because it still has a brown bill, even though it's as big as the adults.

Dad looks a bit worse for wear, missing a few feathers around his head.  I don't know - do cardinals tear their feathers out with frustration with their young?

They can be pretty demanding, after all!

But, he seems to be up for the challenge - especially with a little help from the sunflower feeder! 

The cardinals do a great job of working together and I enjoy watching their cooperative parenting.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Going a Little Buggy!

Sometimes, it's the little things that capture my attention. A flash of movement or an unusual shape will catch my eye and I try for a closer look.

This American Pelecinid Wasp appears fierce, but that nasty looking stinger is used primarily to insert eggs into unsuspecting grubs, thereby helping to control beetle populations. 

This Bronze Copper butterfly is pretty unassuming and well camouflagd. 

Well, at least it is until it opens its wings and displays its brilliant colors.

It's pretty hard to miss at that point, even though it's small. 

I feel fortunate to be able to explore the world with Baloo every day!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

South until Spring

On a recent rainy day, I spent some time hidden away with my camera to try and capture a few pictures of the last hummingbirds of the season. 

This female would perch in the hydrangea and swoop in to drink a little 'hummer sauce'. 

Then, alighting on the wire that holds the feeder, guard the precious food source from all interlopers. 

If she got chased off, she would simply hide in the hydrangea until the coast was clear again and return to her vigil.

She didn't even bother to take shelter when it started pouring. 

She just hunkered down and defended her territory (you can see the streaks from the raindrops in the background).

There were four feeders in different parts of the yard, but it never seems to matter - they like to fight over them, anyway. (Note the male marauder coming in from the left to threaten the stronghold.)

They've all flown south until the spring migration begins again. I'll miss the chattering and jousting matches (I think they look like tiny airborne jousters with their long, lance-like beaks!) and their aerial acrobatics - they have such expressive tails that fan out and seem to reflect their feisty moods as well as guide their flight. See you guys in when you return in the spring!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Strange Sumac

I noticed something peculiar about a few of the sumac growing along the hiking trail.

Usually the drupes of the sumac are tightly clustered and turn rich red, like the ones in the photo above.

Here is a plant with the strange kind of drupe I found.

It's light in color with pinks and greens and instead of the dark red, round, tightly clustered berries of the normal plants. It almost looks like a great mass of writhing of worms or something (it's not - don't get squeamish on me). Does anybody out there know what's going on with these plants? I've tried to look it up to find some answers, but have been unsuccessful.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Four Musketeers

These four Tom turkeys were taking measured strides in a line across the field as Baloo and I came out of the woods and spotted them.

I've seen wild turkeys working together like this before to flush unwary grasshoppers out of the weeds for snacking. The smart turkey version of beating the bushes, I guess.

They were curious, if somewhat wary about a person and dog invading their hunting ground. 

Handsome fellows, no? 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Spinning Gold into ... Gold

The goldenrod is blooming all over the peninsula, but there's a huge field of it on one of our favorite afternoon walking trails.

The air is heavy with perfume and pollen.

Honey bees are clearly taking full advantage of the warm, sunny days to gather in as much pollen as they can to spin into golden treasure for the winter ahead.

There were frequently three or four bees on the same flower and the field was positively humming with activity. Seriously, it was. The air was filled with a constant drone of bees in flight.

Honey bees weren't the only ones gathering in the bounty. Hornets, bumble bees, beetles, and butterflies also flew from blossom to blossom.

They didn't seem to be bothered by our presence and I was able to get quite close with the camera, since they were so intent on their harvesting labors.

Of course, I love getting a shot like this. It really is pure luck (and maybe just a touch of patience), since my camera isn't fast enough to capture the image of a flying bee or bird - they're usually long gone before the shutter clicks!

So, the golden honeybees were gathering golden pollen from goldenrod blossoms to make golden honey - all on a golden afternoon. :)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Chicken of the Woods

Baloo had to go back to the vet for an eye problem and we took the opportunity to hike a different area, since we were already in the vicinity. There's a large, wooded tract of land with a network of walking trails that we almost always get lost in, since there are so many unmarked and poorly marked paths. It's hard to get very lost, but sometimes it can be a challenge to come out in the same place where we went in - at least on the first try!

We tempted fate by taking a route we hadn't attempted before and were rewarded by the discovery of this beauty along our way.

We sliced off just enough to bring home for our scrambled eggs - well maybe just my scrambled eggs, but Baloo does get to have a sample after I'm finished, if he's good. :) 

On our morning walk today, I noticed that someone had harvested a whole bunch of this mushroom from a tree near a local restaurant we frequently pass. I wonder if it's going to appear in the chef's special tonight!

Friday, September 23, 2016

A Not so Very Wild Ride

Look carefully at the first picture in this post. Yes, there are some pretty flowers, but that's not why it's here.

When stepping off the porch to take Baloo for a walk, I discovered someone far better than a garden gnome had taken up residence in the yard. Since this first sighting, I have seen this critter in other spots around the house. Baloo is interested in taking a sniff, but isn't allowed to disturb our lodger for all kinds of reasons.

Can you see it now? It's an American toad - and a magnificently large one, too. It blends in so very well with the mulch and dirt that it's really difficult to see. If you look for the lighter (somewhat warty) patch just below the hydrangea shadow in the top picture, you'll see where it is.

The ride might not be terribly wild around here, but Mr. (or Ms.) Toad is very welcome at our house.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Adventures in Canning

My sister and her husband showed up at my house with a bunch of Stanley prune-plums.

We spent the evening poking holes in the plums, making the lightest possible syrup and then putting everything into jars and processing them.

We ended up with fourteen quarts! It's so much fun to listen to the jars seal as they cool - they make little musical tings. The happy sound of success!

I was, therefore, inspired to continue with the canning adventures! While my sister and brother-in-law were off visiting folks in Ohio, I took a table full of red haven peaches...

...and turned them into ten quarts of peach halves. I tossed them in a little lime juice along the way, which gives them a fresh peachy flavor with just a hint of lime tang (one jar failed to seal, so I got to taste the final product). I also put up a batch of pint jars and a couple batches of peach jam.

It will be such a delightful treat to have a taste of summer while snowstorms blow around us!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Little Less Colorful

After the last fairly colorful post, I thought I would share some of the subtler discoveries from our recent wanderings. 

First up is a flower that has no chlorophyll, so it's sort of a pale and ghostly bloom on the forest floor.

I always called it Indian Pipe as I was growing up, but it is also known as the ghost flower or corpse flower. It is a parasitic plant that depends on fungus feeding on trees to survive, since it lacks the chlorophyll that would allow it to generate its own energy. Sort of a parasite's parasite, I guess. They're really quite delicate and pretty, even though 'corpse flower' doesn't sound very appealing.

I believe this is a young chipping sparrow. The babies can be a little hard to tell apart at this stage, but I'm cheating, since I watched a pair of chipping sparrows nest in this area earlier in the season.

It seemed to be as interested in us as we were in it. But, we had to go home and get things done, so we moved on.

Baloo lodged his formal protest about having to go back indoors. It was a beautiful day to be outside!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Morning Loop

Taking one of our typical morning loops the other day, Baloo and I enjoyed the visual (and for him in particular, the olfactory) stimulation along the way. 

We almost always pass one of the vineyards in the neighborhood as we walk. The grapes are ripening and looked so luscious in the morning sun, almost appearing to glow from within. 

They have begun putting netting over the vines now, so the birds don't eat all the grapes before they're ready to harvest for wine.

Then, as Baloo was investigating a chipmunk burrow, I noticed this interesting plant. It looks like a holly bush, but it has blue berries!

Since I belong to the ranks of the terminally curious, I did some research and discovered that it is an Oregon grape or grape-holly, depending on the source. It was fascinating to learn that while it is not a native to this area, it is a well known and respected medicinal plant in the Pacific northwest, using both the berries and woody stems and roots for different purposes.

And then, the sun illuminated these beautiful lilies!

It was an absolute riot of vibrant color! The picture doesn't come close to doing the effect justice, but it's the best image I was able to capture. 

I'm so happy Baloo takes me out to experience the world every day! It's a joy to watch the seasons change. I'm not sure I'm quite ready for winter yet, though....