Friday, April 29, 2011

A Timely Cormorant

This cormorant is back and so am I! The cormorant went away for the winter and is now back for the warm weather and the fish. I was back for the warm weather too, but I got a little tired. I still get exhausted at times, but I didn't quite expect it this time. And I didn't expect it to hit me so hard.

On top of all that, when I began visiting a few other blogs my computer had a massive crash so I had to reinstall everything. I keep my files in a different place, so only the operating system was affected. but that means reinstalling all programs too. A pain. I guess I can think of it as a bit of spring cleaning.

The cormorant is much more fun than all of that. I was a little surprised to see it sitting there so early this year, considering it's still kind of cold. I was glad to see it though. They're so fun to watch. And as long as there are only the two or three I usually see then they won't gobble up all the fish in the lake.

That perch he is sitting on is where these birds have liked to sit for the past three years. They love places like that. The first time I saw them they had a different place closer to the dam, but the stupid park workers pulled it out of the water. They're supposed to be trying to attract wild animals, not chase them away.

Just to change the subject and give everyone something interesting to think about, I was thinking about this late spring we've been having. I've been wondering if it really is as late as we think. Last year it came so much earlier, but so did Easter back then. This year Easter came about half a month later and so did the green and warmth. I checked.

So I've been wondering if it's maybe not the spring that's late, but maybe it's our linear calendar and way of thinking that's early. I think it's something to think about, and maybe it deserves some further investigation. What do you think?

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Monday, April 25, 2011

First Flower Of Spring

I found these flowers in the middle of the forest on the side of the footpath. How they got there, I don't know. But they were a very welcome sight. These are the first flowers of spring for me. I don't know what kind they are, and I don't need to. They have brought me such hope for spring now. I now know that spring is truly here.

I saw a few amazing things on this day, but this had to be the first to be shared. Flowers are always beautiful, but this one was the best sign of spring I've had so far this year. I could tell you a lie that I don't know how I saw it, being so tiny there on the side of the path, but it seemed to glow and call to me as I passed by. I could never have missed it.

The Sun seemed to shine down on this flower and reflect itself right back onto my eyes. It felt like a personal message to me to remember to be cheerful because spring is truly here. My favorite time of year is now upon us. It's time for happiness.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Peeping Red-Bellied Woodpecker

It's been a busy time for me lately. The good thing is that part of that time has been taken up watching animals and other related things. I told you a short while back that I saw the red-bellied woodpecker I was watching fly into its hole. Well, this time I have something even better!

Yup, that's him poking his head out! he seems to be clearing his nest out. And yes I say he. I believe it is a male because of the amount of red color on the top of his head. Females have red too, but they don't have as much toward the front.

For red-bellied woodpeckers, both males and females tend the nests. So there is a maybe female too, but for now we have a male. Maybe this male makes so much noise because he is trying to attract a female with his fancy new home. He makes a lot of noise, but I haven't been able to capture that yet.

I didn't even know I was getting some of these pictures of him until I got home! I was just blindly clicking away when I got them! That shows how active this little guy has been up there. Others were completely known to me though.

And now I have a brand new episode of Rat TV for you! It's not the best video ever made though, because none of mine ever are, but it shows this little woodpecker doing what he likes to do best. The beginning shows him spitting debris out of the nest. Much of the background sound is a large group of nearby frogs.

This piece of bark he is clinging to is actually not even attached to the tree where he is. It's attached somewhere below. In the video you can slightly see it swaying in the breeze. I wondered at the time why he wasn't pecking. He was just clinging there.

So there you have it! I think they call these birds red-bellied woodpeckers because red-headed is already taken. Their bellies can look a little pink at times, but red is not what I'd call them.

As I said above, I've been very busy. I just wrote the last episode of my fictional story of the boy and the demon over at my Rat Tales blog. I think this last episode is probably the best thing I've ever written so far. The story is best read from start to finish, but there is no harm reading any episode you want. The whole short story is really the longest single story I've ever written. I'm working my way up to my epic masterpiece about some mischievous squirrels. ;)

I'll be back soon with hopefully more time.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sneaky Black Squirrel

I see many squirrels while I'm out in the forest. This one black squirrel thought it was effectively hiding from me when I took this picture. I actually have about a dozen different pictures similar to this one, but this was the best.

the squirrel didn't realize that while he was hiding from me, I was doing a better job of hiding. There was a smaller tree in between us, and I snuck up behind that one to get my pictures. There happened to be a fork in the branches just high enough to rest my camera. I was free to get as many pictures as I wanted while the squirrel waited there.

So which is a better sneak, a squirrel or a Ratty? Obviously it's me! I won this time, but I don't always win. This time I was better at hiding than the squirrel. That made it a good day. Thank you for the picture little black forest ninja.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Touch Of Spring

It's finally coming! One year ago today the trees and bushes were sprouting green all over, but this year things are off to a much slower start. But today I found the beginnings of spring sprouting on a few trees. It's finally here!

I obviously wasted no time getting a few pictures of this green wonder. My terrible camera skills at this particular type of photography gave me only a few good pictures out of many, but at least I got those.

In a week or two the warm weather will finally be here for good, and winter will have released its terrible grip on us all. In a week or two there will be green plants everywhere, and the animals will all be out enjoying themselves. And in a week or two I'll have nothing left to complain about. Yeah right! I'll think of something.

Spring is the season of new life. It's my favorite time of year, and that's the reason why. The sights, the sounds, and the smells. Even the things you can touch feel better. What do you like about spring? What is your favorite reason to like it?

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature! You know you want it! Aahhh!!!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Male And Female Robins

What do we have here? It looks like we have something very good indeed! ...What? You don't believe me? Well let me tell you just what I've discovered! It's a picture of two American robins! ...Huh? You say that you've seen these birds many times before? Well, I agree, but let me explain.

What we really have here are a male and a female robin! Now, it is very difficult to tell the difference between the sexes of robins, but we can do that right here! That is what is so remarkable here. Take a look at the bird on the left. That is the male. Notice that his breast is a deeper red than the one on the right, the female.

A male robin does have more red on the breast than the female, which has a lot of white on the breast. Also notice that the male's head seems a bit darker. The male has more black feathers, especially on the head, than the female. You may also notice that the male, on the left, seems to be puffed up a bit more than the female. So now we know. Male is darker. Female is lighter. Cool, huh?

And this second picture is here for a few reasons. The first is that I've been doing a lot of posts with just one picture. One has been all that has been necessary. So this is to make up for that. Also I wanted to slow you a contrast. I enhanced the color of the first picture. It's much better that way.

Finally, this little robin is another male. He was looking on at the other two happily enjoying their time together. What do you think he was thinking while observing the others? Was he lonely? Was he happy to be away from them? Really, what do you think?

Nature Center Magazine - Nature waits for no one. Catch it while you can.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Hidden Blue Jay

I'm a little late with this one. I promised Friday to reveal to you what was lurking in the trees where the squirrel ran to. This whole confusion is the result of my still injured brain. I still am quite a bit absent minded at times, so you may have noticed that I've been a bit absent these past few days. But I still have the answer to what was lurking in the trees to show you.

Take a look at that blue figure in the center of the picture. It is a blue jay, and the squirrel lead me right to it! The blue jay thought I couldn't see it lurking around in there, but I saw it even more clearly than the camera did. and there was no escape for my new little friend!

He had to hop through the brambles, with no room to fly. It went so slow that I felt he too was trying to lead me somewhere. And when this blue jay finally made it out of the branches, he flew in the same direction that the squirrel had continued to run.

They both crossed the path in front of me in a flash! Was the blue jay trying to get revenge from the squirrel for leading me to him? Was he trying to return the evil favor? Animals can be strange.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Jumpy Squirrel

I found this squirrel peacefully relaxing in the sun. It had no idea that I was there when I began taking my pictures. Even though I only have one of the squirrel standing there, I must have taken ten. It stood. It wandered. It scratched itself inappropriately. It stood some more.

Then it saw me and leaped for its tree! This squirrel was quick as a flash, but my camera was that much quicker! I caught it in mid-air. That's one good thing about being able to stand back and push my finger down on a button. My finger beats the animals at least half the time.

The squirrel only climbed up a few feet on its tree. It obviously didn't want to be on that particular tree. but where did it really want to go? I'm sure I would find out shortly. And so will you.

With  that last thought, the squirrel leaped down from the tree once again and was off like a shot. It ran across the trail, and my camera followed. Think about that one for a moment; a camera chasing a squirrel.

And then the squirrel went airborne once again! It was headed for the forest and a perceived freedom. But really, how much real danger could there be from a guy in a rat suit holding a camera out in the middle of nowhere. Think about that one too.

The squirrel in it's hurry to flee inadvertently revealed something else to me. Something was lurking in the very trees that little squirrel ran into. You'll have to tune in tomorrow to find out just what it was. Will it be something exciting, like a Bigfoot? I doubt it.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Another Red-Bellied Woodpecker

It's amazing what you can find if you just look. After looking in the direction of another loud knocking sound of a tree I found this red-bellied woodpecker wandering around up there. I never expected to see so many different kinds of bird when I first started paying attention to them.

At first I was only struggling to get a picture of a bird; any picture, any bird. It was hard and they almost seemed to be teasing me. But then a few American robins slowed down enough for me to get a good look at them, and a few pictures to go along with it.

Now I've taken pictures of many different kinds of birds. The red-bellied woodpecker is the third kind of woodpecker I've seen now. It seems like once you find one then another one is waiting right behind that one to get its picture taken and to give you a good look at it.

When I found my first downy woodpecker I thought it was probably the only kind of woodpecker around. Then I began seeing more woodpeckers that looked like the downy, but bigger. I assumed they were more downy woodpeckers, but I later discovered that these were their bigger brother the hairy woodpecker.

In what I now consider my limited thoughts back then I figured they both existed  there because they looked so similar. It had to be because they are so closely related that they tolerated each other. Birds are so hard to find, so I assumed that was the end of my woodpecker experience. Little did I know.

Then last year I saw my first red-bellied woodpecker in another forest. Amazing! But that would never happen here in my smaller nature park. How could it? We already had the other two. But here comes the red-bellies in this place too!

Each kind of woodpecker has a different sound. This red-bellied woodpecker has an unmistakable deep whirring warble that once you hear one time you won't forget. And of course there is the rapid knocking sounds that accompany most woodpeckers. It sounds like heaven unless it's on the side of your house.

And then there is the other red-bellied woodpecker I've shown you recently. I told you I found its nesting spot. I even showed you the hole it made in the tree. Did I encounter this bird again? I will answer that question some time next week after a few other encounters with other critters I'll bring to you.

With the coming of spring comes many new adventures. Too many to tell. But I'll still try to bring you as many as I can. I may still skip a day here and there as my health determines, but I hope to bring you some amazing stuff. Let's see what tomorrow brings.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bad Bad Robin

While I was leaving the nature trail recently I felt something splat onto my shoulder. I looked over to see a dark gloppy wet spot. Bird crap. Yuck! Of course I didn't stop walking, for fear of another attack. After walking for about ten feet I looked up and back to see a robin sitting there proudly in the tree above me.

That jerk did it on purpose! Yup, I said jerk. It's not only humans that can be jerks. What are the odds that he could hit me so skillfully and it be only an accident? I think none. He did it on purpose. I thought about getting his picture, but after glaring at him for a few seconds I decided not to do it. He had already given me a little present anyway.

So the innocent creature in the photo above is not the malevolent monster that took a dump on me. That evil one shortly leaped into the air and flew around me in a circle and then right back to his branch. That's the proof I needed. It was a last slap in the face from that flying creep.

He did it on purpose. That evil jerk. He did it on purpose.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature! The face of nature holds a secret, and I'll never tell.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Closeup Great Blue Heron

Guess what happened while I was looking for ducks? I found this guy! There is a place where ducks like to hang out because no humans are around. It's the same hidden place I discovered and showed you last week. I always stop above there and look for the ducks. This time I found a Great Blue Heron!

I happened to be looking down there and daydreaming about going back down myself, but I saw that it was kind of flooded this time. I remembered reading that herons were in my area this time of year. Then it appeared as if by magic!

Now you may think by looking at the pictures that I'm pretty close to this big bird, but it's all camera tricks. I was actually so far away that I could barely see it with my own eyes. The camera was able to pick it up just fine though. I'm glad the camera has a long distance eye.

These are actually some of my best pictures of a heron I've ever had. I've gotten several pictures from sightings of these birds in the past, and the birds were even closer, but these new ones came out the best. Herons really blend in with their background very well.

 The odd thing was that while I was watching the heron it saw me up there watching it. These birds are obviously very shy creatures, at least around here, because it shouldn't have known I was there. I caught it looking at me nervously, and then it began wading away from me. I didn't know the water was that shallow there.

 Here above is a good illustration of how far away the bird truly was. Beyond those trees in that far body of water is where the bird is. You cannot see it unless you enlarge the picture. Even then it is only a white speck. That's what I saw. You'd think it would not have seen me at that distance and with the trees in the way.

 I was able to get a few more pictures from another place as the heron walked away from me. It couldn't escape so easily. Ha ha ha!  I even got a few ducks in one picture, but I don't have that one here because these are better.

I ended up deciding I had enough of these long distance pictures, so I moved on my way to my next destination. Seeing a bird like this always makes it a good day.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Surrounded By Thorns

The warm weather is here. The animals are here. But where is all the green? Last year at this time I saw green popping out all over on the plants, but it has yet to show here right now. I know it will come very soon, but it is hard to be patient.

I keep trying to will it to show up, but things come in their own time. We can anticipate all we want, but that will not make things happen sooner than they are supposed to. Someday soon it will be green all over and then I wonder if I will be completely satisfied.

Maybe I will anticipate something else that hasn't arrived yet, like a bright sunny day. Or maybe the temperature won't quite be warm enough. I will be slightly frustrated, but I'll then have to remind myself once more that it will come in its own time.

All good things seem to be surrounded by thorns. I guess that's what makes it worth it when we finally get what we want.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature! Watch part 2 of "A Murder Of Crows".

Friday, April 8, 2011

Red Belly

I finally found a mystery bird that I have been watching for for quite some time now. There is a main trail that leads in and out of my favorite nature park. And every time I get on this trail on my way out I hear this whirring chortle sound. I knew it was a bird, but not what kind it might be.

I didn't used to be very good with identifying bird calls until this year, but I never heard this one before anyway, so there was no luck with that. I knew I would have to see the bird. Luckily I kept hearing the bird so much that I was able to pinpoint the sound to one dead tree in the middle of the swamp to my right.

On this day the bird finally came out of hiding! The bird turned out to be a red-bellied woodpecker! You can follow that link for better pictures and more information about it. It's a bird site we'll be featuring on Nature Center Magazine very soon.

I have to tell you that I've been watching this tree for weeks in an effort to see this bird. It was just pure luck that I found it up there at the highest point. It was just a shame the day was so cloudy. The pictures would have turned out much better on a clear day.

Even so, I got a couple of decent pictures before the bird flew away to another tree. The woodpecker didn't count on my watchful eye though. I followed it to that other tree. I hoped to get more pictures, but that just didn't happen. I was still watching very closely though, because I knew that first tree was the bird's home.

Sure enough, it flew right back to that first tree, but it had a trick up its birdy little sleeve too. It didn't fly back where I could see it. But I am smarter than that bird brain. I still was able to follow it! The bird flew right into this hole in this last picture.

That's why I never found it before! This red-bellied woodpecker makes its home in a hole in the side of the dead tree I've been watching. Seeing that whole incident was just about one of the coolest things I have ever seen. I'm glad I was there at the right time. Lucky!

I told you a week or two ago that I would soon have more bird pictures than I knew what to do with, and now I already do! I didn't know it would happen so soon, but that is why I decided to try posting more often again. I'll try to keep it up for as long as I can. See ya next time, especially if you leave a comment.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bright Red

I'm on a roll! This is my fourth day in a row posting something. I almost feel like my old self as far as that goes. This cardinal is a bit of a trick though. I did something that I don't normally do with my pictures.

I doctored this one somewhat. Well, when I say "this one", I really mean these! Each picture you see here is a combination of two pictures. I did indeed get the pictures, but I thought they could be a little nicer for you.

The first thing I did was to brighten up the cardinals just a bit. I had to do it because the day I shot them was rather gloomy out, and full of dark clouds. That made it a bit hard to see these birds the way they were originally.

The next problem was that after brightening the pictures the sky background was bright white! That obviously also had to be fixed. So I went into my archives and found a good sky to go along with my newly brightened cardinals.

I then placed my good sky behind the first picture and then erased the bad sky right out. That left me with these pictures that I have here. I didn't do the best job ever of fixing them up, but they're much better than they began, and I now can share some presentable pictures of the cardinal I found.

And yes, I know that I do things like this on occasion. So this is not an isolated incident. I constantly experiment with many things. Many things. I watch nature very closely. I edit my own photos. I write fiction. I have written my own video games. I won't share those. I design my own blogs. I have even built over two dozen computers from the ground up.

That's enough of the bragging. I love bragging, even from someone else. It's fun. Go ahead and try. You'll see. It's called tooting your own horn. Even the smallest accomplishment is worthy of a bit of a blustering brag or two. And my comments section is so close and inviting that you can taste it.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Following A Nuthatch

The birds are coming out! This time of year is the beginning of me having an overwhelming amount photo opportunities with birds of all kinds. These sightings give me an unlimited amount of little adventures like the one with this white-breasted nuthatch.

Actually there were about three or four of these little birds running around the side of this tree. I had the luxury of picking one from the crowd to follow and then sticking with it. They all seemed to be chasing each other for some odd reason. Can you guess what that might be?

When I got to this part of the trail it seemed to be just full of life. There were birds singing from all directions. And some were flying quickly past me. Too fast for pictures. And then up ahead there was a chipmunk in the grass.

I tried to get pictures of the little chipmunk, but he quickly disappeared. I then saw movement to my right, and there all over the trees wer these little nuthatches. Usually they flee at the first sight of me, but they were much too occupied with each other to worry about some guy with a camera.

They did, after a few seconds, stop chasing each other in their mating frenzy to get down to the business of looking for food. Like I said before, I followed just one of the crowds. It was so much easier. But this gave me a wonderful chance to see what it was up to.

It seemed to be pecking at the tree almost like a woodpecker. It didn't make quite the same noise though. It wasn't very loud for one, but it did make a bit of noise. Just a very small tapping. I'm guessing it was looking for insects to eat.

The really cool thing about these little nuthatches is that they can run around a tree sideways and upside down. They stick to a tree just as well as any animal might. They can be fond in any position on a tree they like.

I finally lost track of this one because it was so quick. It was time for me to move on anyway. There were more birds for me to see elsewhere. Who knows what amazing thing I might see next. 

You may have noticed that I've been posting a lot more right now. This is almost back to my old schedule. I'll keep it up for as long as I can, but there is no guarantee. I'm not even sure I can be as entertaining as I used to be. I'm still a bit limited. We'll see what happens each day. See you next time.

There will be birds.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Nest

This is a new one to me. I've never seen a bird's nest like this one before. I once found a robin that was guarding her nest. I recently showed you a blue jay that was building a nest. I've seen squirrel's nests. But this one is different.

It was out there hanging by just the two sides. And it wasn't very high off the ground. There were not many other branches or thick brush to hide it at all. It seemed so vulnerable there all by itself. For one moment I wanted to pluck it from its place and examine it, and the next moment I wanted to protect it from that very act.

I wonder if this is a new nest or an old one. It isn't very big. I could hold it comfortably in one hand. I almost thought it was a hornets nest at first because of its small size. And the craftsmanship is just amazing. Could a human make something like this so easily?

It was hard not to feel bad and good at the same time while looking at it. It seemed like it couldn't stand even the smallest breeze, but yet there it is. And then the thought of the new life that could be resting in that little bowl made me feel so very happy.

The nest is in this last picture too. Right in the center. Click the picture if you'd like a better look. Backspace will bring you right back here. This nest is such a small thing, but it brought me a large new adventure. I'm glad I found it.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Crow Fly-by

The bird in this picture looks big, doesn't it? That's because it is a good sized bird. It was a crow that I was lucky enough to catch in mid-flight. I've been trying to get pictures of a crow for weeks now. They aren't easy because they're so smart.

Did you know that crows are now believed by many scientists to possibly be the second most intelligent creatures on the planet? They're only behind humans. That's right. Not even chimps or dolphins are as intelligent as these birds. Bird brains? That term now takes on a whole new meaning.

If you'd like to learn more about the intelligence of crows I have a new video up over at Nature Center Magazine that talks about it. This is part one of a six part full documentary about crows. Each part is about ten minutes long. It's maybe the best video we've had. Go take a look.

The crow in my picture is probably one of those smart ones too. Maybe they'll take over one of these days. They may be smart enough. Did you know they make their own tools? They are also excellent at problem solving, better than apes.

I spotted this crow when I first got to the park. I was standing beside my truck when I took this picture. I really love getting pictures right of the bat when I get to a place. Wouldn't you?

Okay, that's my story. I'm outta here!

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Where I've Never Been Before

Look past that fallen tree, down to the water of the lake in the background. That closer water is a creek that feeds the lake. It is down a steep drop off, and I have never been down there, until now!

I searched and searched until I found a good path to get down there. I have never seen another living persone down there at that place. Only ducks and geese. That only made me want to go down there even more.

So there I was, down the side. I was standing by the side of this creek, looking out at the lake and everything surrounding it. There were no ducks or geese here this time, but I was here. I found no human footprints anywhere.

Do you know what it feels like to set foot on a place where you know nobody ever goes. Even if you're not the first, you know you won't be bothered, and this is a real adventure. To go off the path can be a very good thing in the right conditions.

This picture is from the same spot. I'm just looking in the other direction. The creek goes up until I can't see it anymore. I thought about finding the source, but I decided that just being in this place was enough for today.

There will be another day when I travel up this creek to find where it comes from, and then there will be another great adventure. I can only imagine what wonders await me there. Maybe I'll find gold and treasure. Maybe I'll only find more trees and plants. Either is good.

After my daydreaming it was time to go back to civilization. I went back up the hill to deal with the people who come through here walking their dogs. What a mundane thought. But at least I was down there where no one had gone before. It was thrilling!

Yup, I'm an adventurer. I adventured. It may not change the world, but it certainly changed me just a little bit.

Nature Center Magazine - It's Nature Center Magazine's birthday! We are officially one year old today!