Saturday, November 28, 2009
I enjoy walking the dog at night in the winter (when there's snow) because it's like walking in a perpetual twilight. Even in the areas where streetlights don't reach, it's never quite dark, thanks to the blanket of bright white that reflects even the tiniest bit of light. It's also enjoyable because now I can see the animal signs that only the dog and his powerful sniffer have been able to witness.
So, we all went to bed expecting to have to shovel our way out of our driveways in the morning, hoping the plows will have cleared the roads. Imagine our surprise to wake to green grass again (and powerful winds)!
What happened to the snow?!?!? Did the wind blow so hard it evaporated? It's not like it really warmed up overnight (it's only 33*F now). Maybe the borderline freezing temps changed some of the snowfall to rainfall, and it washed the snow away? It's a mystery.
I was all set to take the camera out and get photos of our lovely white forest and lawns, but the snow that remains is in tiny patches - hardly worth the bother - although the mountains are speckled white and looking rather nice, when the clouds part enough to see them.
Well, we still have all of winter ahead of us, and I'm sure we will all be sick of the snow before it's over. I guess we can wait a few more days.
Friday, November 27, 2009
New leaves for the hollyhocks.
Golden Marguerite with plenty of new growth.
I keep hoping it will snow soon. On the one hand, it's been awfully nice to not have the furnace really going (my house is about 58*F...depending on where you are, of course; some areas are likely closer to 48*F), but it is the end of November, and we should have snow. Despite the pervasive dampness in the air, actual moisture accumulation so far this month has been less than two inches.
Global warming? Considering that mild winters have been occuring with greater frequency lately, it sure seems like it.
Here are some interesting facts to consider (a la National Geographic Magazine, although I've seen them elsewhere, too):
* Most of the CO2 emissions that are responsible for climate change come from the burning of fossil fuels (no news there);
* Even if we maintained the CO2 levels we emit today (go no higher), we are releasing CO2 into the atmosphere nearly twice as fast as the planet can remove it (plants, soils, ocean, sediments and rocks);
* If we stopped emissions completely today (ha), it will still take centuries for plants and the oceans to absorb most our man-made CO2, and it will take millennia for the rest to be removed by rocks and sediment.
In other words, it looks like nothing we do now will stop this boulder from rolling down the mountain. We are going to have to change the way we live - not to fix things, but to live with the changes we have wrought. Some of us will come out okay, but much of the world will be facing potentially cataclysmic changes (no water, or too much water, for example).
Does this mean we shouldn't even bother to try to cut our emissions? Absolutely not. What we do now will not likely make noticeable changes in our own lifetimes. We MUST start to live today for those who will be around many generations from now. If we don't start living today for the future, there might not be a future for us.
This is one of the biggest problems I see with humanity today: so few of us see beyond our own immediate future. For some, this is understandable (those who live in poverty-stricken lands, where food and water are scarce). For others (mostly the Western world), it is a choice: we choose to be ignorant and selfish in our needs and wants.
For example, I meet people all the time who absolutely refuse to recycle. REFUSE! I just don't understand it. It's not like it costs anything to separate our trash into recyclables and genuine garbage. Sure, it can be a hassle sometimes, but it has so many benefits. And don't even get me started on composting!
I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but maybe some day this message will get around to everyone, and we will all see that our wants (not needs) are superfluous. It's a matter of learning the difference between "need" and "want", a difficult concept in our modern society where everything is so readily accessible to so many of us.
Alrighty - enough of my rant. Snow is in the forecast for tonight, and we are scrambling here at work to get out shovels, put up winter signs, and batten down the hatches just in case winter finally arrives. I've counted and catalogued our snowshoes, so we are ready. Bring it on!
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Anyway, many moons ago a group got together and wrote The Scat Rap, which a great song about scat, and one that kids love. I'm sharing it here with you all, just in case some other naturalists out there would like to add it to their bags of tricks. Enjoy.
(1988, Andy Bennett, Mary Keebler, Rodd Pemble, Doug Elliott, Billy Jonas)
It starts with an “s” and it ends with a “t”
It comes out of you and comes out of me
I know what you’re thinking, you can call it that
But let’s be scientific and call it scat.
You’re walking through the woods and your nose goes “ooooo”
Must be some critter’s scat’s near you
It may seem gross but it’s okay
They ain’t got no place to flush it away.
Down the trial something’s lying on the ground
Nature’s tootsie roll all long ad brown
Don’t wrinkle your nose, don’t lose your lunch
Break it apart, you might learn a bunch
Don’t use your fingers, use a stick
Keep it sanitary now that’s the trick
If you wanna find out what animals eat
Take a good look at what they excrete
Stuck in the scat are all kinds of clues
Parts of the food their bodies can’t use
Like bones and fur (2x)
Hard berries and seeds (2x)
Crawfish shells, ouch! (2x)
Grass fibers and weeds (2x)
Possum up in a ‘simmon tree
Eating all the ‘simmons he could see
Backed his butt into the weeds
His scat was nothing but ‘simmon seeds
Down by the creek on a hollow log
Scat full of berries and bones of a frog
Late last night he was out with the moon
Wading in the creek it was Mr. Raccoon
You’re driving your car by a woods or a field
Scat goes splat on your windshield
It’s full of seeds, all purple and white
You just got bombed by a bird in flight
Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold
Scat on the trail two minutes old
Two minutes old, is this a joke?
No, it’s still warm, look at it smoke
Cat scat, rat scat, bat scat, too
All god’s chillum do scat a lot, too
Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold
Scat in the woodlot nine days old
Nine days old, how can you tell?
Getting kinda dry and not much smell
Dog doo, frog doo, hog doo, too
All god’s chillum do a doodley do
Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold
Scat in a cave 1000 years old
1000 years old, could that be right?
Sure that’s no jive: petrified copralite
Mole scat, vole scat, bear scat more
There’s so darn many kinds of spoor
Sneaking through the woods be quiet now, shish!
Take a quiet step – something goes squish
Don’t put it in your mouth, it ain’t delish
Let’s put some in a Petri dish
Look through a microscope, what do you see?
Microscopic organisms 1, 2, 3
Bacillus, streptococcus, and E. coli
They eat scat and then they die
Don’t you worry, no need to cry
They ain’t that different from you and I
If you want to know who was out and around
Take a long hard look at the scat on the ground
It tells us what they eat, tells us who they are
That’s what we know about scat so far
Yes, those bullies were evening grosbeaks. They have been in the neighborhood for a few weeks now, but this is the first I've seen them at the feeders. They even chased the blue jays away - a real feat! If you look closely, you'll also see a brave chickadee and a timid goldfinch in the photo (and the blackbird, clinging to the blue feeder). The goldfinches finally gave up at this feeding station (even though the nyjer feeder was not being used by anyone else) and went to the nearby peanut feeder, where I was unable to photograph them (wrong angle, being so close to the house).
Despite their bullying nature, and their hoover-like feeding habits, I do like evening grosbeaks. They come into their full glorious colors by mid-winter and are such a joy to see at the feeders. Between them and the blue jays, it can be a very colorful sight. Now, if only I could entice our pair of cardinals to come to my feeders...
Although, now that I think of it, I haven't heard the cardinals in quite some time. I wonder if they've finally given up on Newcomb as simply too cold. HM. I thought we had gotten up to two pairs in town, but maybe they've moved on to greener pastures (or maybe our growing feral cat population took 'em out). I'll have to keep an eye and an ear peeled for them.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
First, the approach. "I see the nuts. I want the nuts. Gotta get the nuts."
Step Two: Assess the Situation
Step Three: Make sure there are no spies around to steal your technique:
Sometimes the rest of the family shows up. Things can get out of hand. Sharing is not in their vocabulary.
It's MINE! Go away and find your own peanut feeder!
Sometimes you cannot get a hold of a whole nut, and you have to work your way through the shell instead.
Keep trying. Whack-whack-whack!
Success!!! Swallow the nut whole and grab another.
The clean-up crew is always on hand to grab any nuts that fall on the ground.
Blue jays (Cyanonsitta cristata) are amazing birds. Members of the Corvid family, which includes crows and ravens, they are highly intelligent. You can see this in the way they assess situations, especially if food is involved.
Do blue jays migrate? This is actually a great question, to which the answer is yes, no, and sometimes. Studies have shown that young jays are more likely to migrate than adults, but sometimes adults do, too. In addition to this, a jay may migrate one year, but not the next, and then maybe the third year it will...or not. There is apparently no way to predict if or when jays will get the urge to see what's beyond the horizon.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
You can also find some more on You-Tube; I really liked the one with the mosquito and the honey.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Plus, the track was really really small. It could be a small fox, but that still didn't explain the fifth toe to my satisfaction. Might it be a mink, perhaps? Mink are near the water, and the size is about right (allowing for the wet sand to squish out, making the track look larger than the actual foot). But the shape isn't really mink-shape. I kept looking for other tracks, and I found two more, but they looked just like this one, so they were no help. Maybe there were other clues.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Before: that's Orion, rather small, at the bottom. The three stars stacked in a row are Orion's belt. The brightest on the left, that's Betelgeuse. It doesn't look too terribly red in this picture, but zoomed in it does.
After: doesn't even look like the same picture, does it? Can you still find Orion's belt, those three stars in a row? His dagger, the three others in a row, closer together, descending at an angle from left to right below the belt, really show up now. And where did all those trees come from?!? Y'know, I didn't even see all these stars last night, and I was standing there staring at them. The street lights (there are several at this spot) drowned them out.
Here are a couple more "Quick Fixed" shots. They're both the same view, but each was shot at a different ISO, which explains the difference in color and light. The first one shows the sky as I saw it. And I really like the second one - it looks like some of the photos from outerspace! The glow in that shot is from Long Lake.
This here is the Milkyway.
There she is, the Big Dipper, Ursa Major, the Quillwork Girl and her Seven Brothers. This was looking northward, towards Lake Placid. Now, from where I was standing, any glow from LP was hidden by the trees, and even when I have a clear line in that direction (as much as you can in Newcomb), the glow isn't really all that noticeable. Sure, you can make out LP, and Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake and Long Lake, but for the most part they are usually only faint, almost foggy, lights close to the horizon. Well...not to the camera. Why, you'd almost think there was a forest fire on the way!
Alrighty then. Tonight I will have all the time in the world. No chorus practice, no yoga class, no quilters' meetings. I'll feed everyone (dog, cat, boss's birds, me), walk the dog, and then load the camera and tripod into the car. And this time I think I will head out to the 8th fairway, away from all the lights (I didn't feel up to it last night). That should make the sky just a wee bit darker, and perhaps the stars will show up even better. Ooo - the fifth would be even better. Maybe I'll take a headlamp along...
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Now, the feeders at WBU are not cheap, but they do come with a lifetime guarantee, so if they break, or a raccoon eats them, they will replace them.
I always get carried away at WBU. Oops! Did I say "I"? UM...I meant, the person who had to replace the feeder out of a sense of guilt tends to get carried away in the WBU shop. Said person not only got a new feeder, but also a new feeder pole system, complete with bird finial and an extra hook for adding a suet feeder later in the season.
It didn't take long for the birds to come in for goodies:
However, our maintenance man was telling me this morning that he was out looking for them around 2 and 3 AM, and he didn't see anything.
Meanwhile, there is a rumor of a plane crashing on Santanoni Mt. last night (which is one of the High Peaks really close to Newcomb). Both Mr. Mike and I recall hearing a helicopter last night, so that might've been the search and rescue folks. I'm off to see what I can find out on-line.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Like the Perseids in August, this is an annual event. Some years these shows are spectacular, with the sky seeming to rain with stars, while other years you stand there scanning the sky and thinking "Okay...where are they...I'm waiting..."
Maybe by then I'll have figured out night-time photography with the new digital and I will get up (ha) and carry camera and tripod to the golf course (the only place where I can get a streetlight-free view) for some shots. Don't hold your breath, but hey, you never know.