Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cool Dragonfly

Let me start off by saying that the small size of these pictures on the blog don't do them justice. To see the true beauty of this dragonfly, click on the pictures to view them larger. Click them with your mouse wheel to open them in new tabs.

This dragonfly was waiting for me on the deer trail after I left the scene from my last post with the deer. I felt at that moment that it must be my lucky day. And it was. This dragonfly zoomed about the area until it finally landed on this twig to give me a golden opportunity for pictures.

The only problem was that the Sun and the clouds weren't always cooperating, but they soon gave me just the right amount of light to get the pictures I wanted of this beautiful creature. And I really mean it, clickety clickety!

As I was going through the dozens of pictures I took of this creature I began to get the strangest feeling that I recognized it. This was not just because it was a dragonfly. I knew I had seen dragonflies before. But this particular type looked very familiar.

Then it struck me! I knew where I had seen it! Sharkbytes recently featured this same type of dragonfly over on her blog. Go over and take a look. Comments are a good thing too. She says the name of her type of dragonfly is the Widow Skimmer, so I'm assuming that's what this one is too.

As I said before, the clouds were interfering with my photography attempts, but I still kept taking my pictures. This all shows that if you take enough pictures, a few of them just might turn out okay.

The light actually helped me because I was able to get pictures with different lighting that came out very differently from each other. I got everything from blur to shadow, but I'll just share some that were closer to the middle
The great thing about all of these pictures is that I originally went on this deer trail where I found this dragonfly to keep some distance between me and a group of people who arrived at the park at the same time as I did. They didn't know the secret of the deer trails, but I'll share it with you.

Deer trails, and places like them, are where the magic of nature really exists. As long as you respect them, they will share some of their magic with you.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

On The Deer Trail

It has been awhile since I've visited my old favorite place, Woodland Hills Nature Park. I love going back there because it's not very far from home, and it is a nice and quiet place to hike. Most people don't like this place because they can't take their animals, and it is more nature than park.

There aren't usually many animals to see at this place unless you know what you're doing. Almost everyone stays on the main paths, which are still kind of rough compared to most normal walking parks. But I look for the out of the way places. I look to explore the trails where no other humans go. I look for the deer trails.

Deer make their own trails that sometimes criss-cross the human trails. I immediately upon arriving on the human trail decided to move to the first deer trail I saw. And around the first bend I encountered exactly what I was looking for. This white-tailed deer was staring back at me as if it couldn't believe I was really there.

I made sure I chose the right body language to keep it there long enough to get several pictures to share with you. But then I had an even better idea. I should get a little bit of video. I haven't had an episode of Rat TV in a very long time.

The problem with the video is that the deer wanted to keep standing there staring at me. So I had to slightly shift the way I appeared to her so that she would decide it wasn't such a good idea to be there anymore. I did it because I knew you would want a little bit of an action video.  Of course I didn't want to scare her too much though. Let's watch the video.

The sounds you hear in the video are the freeway that is not too far from this park. The trees muffle most of that noise, but sometimes, like in a video, it can sound very loud. The animals are used to it by now though. And this park is a good enough size that they can hide from most humans pretty well.

I'm not going to share any blogging tips this time. As I  write this, I'm not sure if anyone cares about them yet. I'll still put them out there when I think of something cool. But nature is cool too. And I just went on this trip that I am extremely excited about. This deer wasn't the only thing I found. See ya!

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Sparrow And A Little More

I used to think of all birds as nothing but brown. Brown was boring. Brown birds were something I would never care much about. I thought this way because all of the birds I noticed looked brown. Those birds I saw were probably house sparrows.

But then as I began to be interested in nature I saw something remarkable. It was a flash of yellow in the air in front of me. That yellow turned out to be a bird called an American goldfinch. Ever since that moment birds were never boring for me anymore, not even those brown little sparrows.

And as I looked closer at those sparrows, I discovered something very strange. Sure they were brown, but that was not all. Those little house sparrows were actually very colorful for someone who took the time to actually pay attention. This male house sparrow in my pictures, with his rust colored eye streaks, is a perfect example.

Now for something totally different. My last post was purely about editing my blog. I mentioned then that I might talk a little more about this kind of thing in future posts. Maybe I'd give a few tips here and there. That's what I'm going to do here. I have a good tip for those of you who use Blogger.

Have you ever wanted to add a gadget to your blog that only you can see? The reason for that doesn't matter. It only matters that the gadget is for your eyes only. All you have to do is go into your blog Layout section and add a HTML/JavaScript gadget. Then in your gadget window where you add the code, you put this code in.

<span class="item-control blog-admin">Add Your Code Here</span>

This is kind of simple for those of you who have been adding HTML/JavaScript gadgets for a while now. All you have to do is replace the red letters with your own code that you want to hide, and then put the whole thing into your HTML/JavaScript gadget.

For anyone who wants some easier tips, just give me a suggestion on what you might want to know about. I'll try to give answers to your suggestions in future posts. And don't worry, the majority of my posts will still be about just nature. I just thought I'd sometimes share some of the interesting blogger tricks I've learned. I'd just spin this stuff off into another blog, but I've already got my hands full with three.

And back to nature. I believe this last picture shows the mate of the male house sparrow in the first two pictures. I actually saw this one first. It was wandering around pecking at the ground. Maybe it was eating some of the pebbles. I know some birds need them to help grind up their food, or something like that.

Oh yeah! I almost forgot! I found out the real name of the place I've been calling Berry Lake Park. That's the right name for the lake, but the park is called Long Park. That's it in the Location marker below. See ya next time!

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Blog Overhaul

I do many things here at The Everyday Adventurer. Most of them involve bringing you my experiences with nature. But there are also many more things I do behind the scenes that I'm proud of. One of my most recent projects has been updating The Everyday Adventurer.

You may not be able to see the changes I've made, but that's because all of the changes were beneath the surface. I originally created the look of The Everyday Adventurer a few years ago on top of the old blogger template system. This look was inspired by a Wordpress theme called Soulvision. You may have seen similar blogs out there. You may also notice that they're not exactly the same as mine. Those others are a template those people downloaded. I created and modified mine myself.

But in recent months I've decided that it was time to update my blog to the new Blogger system of doing things. The new Blogger with its Template Designer gives us tools that make it easier to modify our blog templates. On the old system I had to go in and edit the template of the blog. That is a very dangerous thing for most users. You can completely destroy your blog doing that.

On top of all that, when you modify your blog this way, it breaks many of the other easy Blogger features. Editing the template means that you are now stuck having to edit the template again and again even for simple additions that Blogger makes, like the Location feature I recently added. I had to add that in the template. Normal bloggers would only have to check a simple box and okay it. But there is a way out of these problems.

There is the new Template Designer. The picture above shows the Add CSS section of the Advanced section of the Template Designer. Instead of editing the blog template, you can go here to add simple CSS code to modify your blog. The Template Designer shows you your changes as you make them, and if you mess up too bad you can simply delete the CSS code that you already typed.

CSS code can be very powerful when you learn a little bit. I have designed all three of my websites, and I did it just like I'm describing here. I used simple CSS code and Bloggers other easy options to manipulate one of Bloggers new templates, and I turned it into The Everyday Adventurer.

Now I can modify the easy things as easily as anyone else. And my knowledge of CSS code gives me more power to change bigger things. This is all without having to ever edit the original template of the blog. The Everyday Adventurer now sits on top of Blogger's Awesome Inc. template. Anyone who's ever tried that one knows they are very different.

So try some experimentation of your own. You may be able to make something that you never dreamed of. Like I said, all three of my blogs are designed by me. Rat Tales is probably the closest to the original Blogger template, but it still looks very different. That one took very little work, so you can do it too. You should never again have to rely on anyone else for a cool blog design.

I know this was a very different post than my usual nature stuff. It's just another interest of mine, and I wanted to show it off. I hope some of you liked reading it. If any of you would like to read more things like this, maybe some tips to help you learn some of these things that I did, just give me some encouragement in the comments section. See ya next time with some good nature stuff.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Swamp Milkweed

What? No animals this time? No, not this time. Today I'm bringing you one of my favorite flowers. Milkweed! This particular plant is Swamp Milkweed. Usually the pink color and the long, thin shape of the leaves gives it away this time of year. The look of the pods, yes pods, gives it away later.

It was the pods that first helped me discover milkweed plants. I've known of those since I was a kid. I had no idea that they had flowers back then, and I didn't really care. My love of flowers has come only recently, so I still know very little about them.

But the milkweed flowers are something even a boy who runs very far from flowers can like. They have a secret that can only be appreciated if you look very closely at them. My next picture will show you a little bit.

These milkweed flowers have fangs! They look like aliens from outer space with those monstrous looking fangs to protect them! When I saw those fangs for the first time, the first word out of my mouth was, "Cool!"

But are they really fangs? No, not really. I doubt that they're really even sharp. I haven't tried touching them, so I don't know. It's not that I'm afraid. The reason is that I make it a rule for myself to touch nothing. It's for the protection of nature, not for myself.

I'm not sure how clearly you can see the fangs in this picture. I forgot to get a closeup, so this one is not very clear. Search for milkweed in my archives and you'll find some better pictures of these fangs, and also some really fun and goofy stories.

Milkweed is the plant where you can find Monarch butterflies and their caterpillars. I have never found any, but I have found several other kinds of interesting bugs. Always get a long close look when you find milkweed.

And finally, I added something new to some of my posts. Blogger offers a location feature that I never thought about in the past. After my last post it suddenly dawned on me that I could use that location feature to show the locations of the parks I visit.

So now you'll find the Location link below most of my posts. Click on it to find my featured park on Google maps. Any of you who live in the area can now go to these parks yourself. Google maps will even give you driving directions. And if you see a guy there in a giant rat suit, run as fast as you can!

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Barn Swallow At Berry Lake

What you are looking at is a barn swallow. At least I'm pretty sure that's what it is. These birds like to make their nests in the covered bridge that's not too far from where I took these pictures. I showed those nests to you a while back.

These birds usually zip around in the air so fast that there's no way I could ever get any pictures, but I was in luck this time and got these. This bird decided to walk around on the ground for awhile in a similar way as do American robins. It was not the only one.

This park seems to be full of these barn swallows for some reason. There is a large population of them near the bridge, but they can be found just about everywhere. There are also red-winged blackbirds around here, and house sparrows. This is along with all of the water birds that just love it at this place that is a huge shallow lake.

I've seen barn swallows before, but it wasn't too long ago that I had no idea what they were. I've also seen tree swallows, which look similar, but the lighter colors are usually white. Identifying birds isn't easy until you begin to get used to doing it. I've had to learn much of what I know in the past several years of writing this blog.

This last picture is very similar to the first, except now the bird's mouth is closed. I was able to almost walk right up to this bird. The birds at this place called Berry Lake seem more at ease around humans than any other place I've been to. Swallows are known for their aggressiveness. I'm glad these haven't been.

A couple of things before I go. Over at Rat Tales my newest episode of my "A Haunted Soul" series is out today. This series has been my most successful yet by far. My Rat Tales fiction blog seems to be finally off and running!

And at Nature Center Magazine, speaking of aggressive or angry birds, we have a video up today of a red-winged blackbird that keeps attacking people. This is a good one. It actually shows the bird crashing into these people's heads. The contents of this video all happened very recently right here in my state of Michigan.

See ya!

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Egret Caught Fishing

A few posts ago I brought you a Great Egret that flew away as I was taking its picture. Well, if you walk far enough, you can find anything. I was able to walk over to where this egret went, and I found something wonderful. I caught this egret while it was fishing!

It didn't get anything while I was there, but it tried well enough. I guess fishing is sometimes like taking pictures. Sometimes you get something good and sometimes you don't. The best thing is that you get to keep on trying until something good happens.

The next picture is this big bird caught right in the act! I actually don't remember any of this happening while I was taking the pictures. Any of you who have been reading for awhile know why. I guess I'm glad I got the pictures! I do remember seeing the bird there and taking the pictures though. I was amazed to find these on my camera.

Before I go on with my little story I want to pause for a minute with something I'm a little uncomfortable with simply because I've never done it before. I guess this is a bit of a commercial break. I was contacted by two different companies recently, and they each offered to send me products to try out all for free.

The first product is a very good pair of hiking shoes called Columbia Master of Faster Low Omni-Tech. My feet are kind of huge and a bit wide, and I've had trouble getting shoes that fit quite right in the past. I was almost sure that I'd have problems with these, but they are actually some of the best shoes I've had. My feet actually fit good in them!

The first thing I noticed was that these shes are the lightest shoes I've ever known. I usually get light shoes, but these are lighter than all of them. They were a little tight because I don't even know the size of my giant feet, but they are loosening up real nicely now. And they are very comfortable. I really like them a lot. So if you'd like to find out more about this brand of shoes then you can visit their website, where they have even much more than shoes: Columbia

The next product I was sent was coffee cup lids called XPress Lids. Oh, you may think that's nothing special, but these lids are actually very special. They sent me the lids, some cups, and some coffee to put in them. These lids actually enable you to brew coffee right in your cup! You can actually have normal coffee as easily as instant, and it tastes much better.

You put the grounds right in the cup, and the special lids act as a filter. it works really well, and I was able to even add cream and sweetener. I really liked this because I don't own a coffee maker, and I was really getting tired of instant coffee. If you want to find out more about this product you can go to their website: Xpress by SmartCup

What do you think? Did I do these two products justice? I really do like Columbia's shoes and the XPress lids are a really good invention too. I hope some of you check one or both out. They already sent me these for free, so I had no obligation to write about either one. I just really have enjoyed both. I've been offered other products before and since, but these were the only two I've ever felt were worth doing anything about.

But now back to my normal stuff. The picture above is the egret shaking itself off like a dog would do. I never thought a bird would do that. They look too fragile to even be able to do something like this. I'm pretty sure I remember that the bird got irritated with me soon after this and flew away again. no pictures of that though.

The trails at this park don't go very far, but there sure is a lot of water animals to see here. You don't even have to go on the trails to see most things. I like the trails though. Walking is just so relaxing for me. There's nothing better.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Monday, July 11, 2011

I Found A Chickadee

I was surprised when I found this black-capped chickadee flying around in front of me on the nature trail. I thought maybe they wouldn't be around this time of year. They are one of the few kinds of birds I saw here last winter, so I thought maybe they preferred the cold. I guess that was wrong.

The reason for my assumption is that I make a point of learning only what I need when I see an animal. That way I can remember more about all the animals I see as I go along. This way, even though I'm no encyclopedia on each animal, I remember at least a little bit about each one I encounter. And I know more and more as time goes on.

And now I know that these little chickadees stay around here all year. I also remember from encountering them on so many occasions what sound they make. I didn't consider myself good with bird sounds before, but I'm beginning to learn a few of them.

Anyway, I remember looking up high in a tree and seeing an odd sort of bird house. I wish I would have thought to get a picture of it. Maybe next time. It was three little fast moving birds that distracted me from it. They were not very far off the ground, and I was hoping they would slow down enough for me to get a picture.

They quickly flew across the trail in front of me, and one of them stopped on a close by branch. I quickly began taking my pictures. And before it flew away, this is what I got. Taking these pictures is so much fun!

And now to change the subject. Is anyone else geekily excited about the new beta Blogger? Just when I gave up waiting for it, it showed up when I turned on my browser. I use Firefox. I thought maybe I was on the wrong page for a second there. But now I've been happily exploring this fancy new interface. I have to say that writing a post has been much improved.

See ya soon!

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Why Did The Egret Cross The Road?

After leaving the scene with the egret that I showed you in my last post, I decided to finally get to what I had intended. The nature trails! I was just a bit surprised by the small amount of geese this time. One of you asked about that. Geese like to move on as much as they can, and this lake covers many areas outside this park, so their absence wasn't a total surprise.

Anyway, when I rounded the first corner I found another egret! It seems that it's time for the egrets at this park now. I actually got pretty close to this one because it needed to walk somewhere, and they apparently don't walk very fast. I still stayed politely back though.

So, why did the egret cross the road? That's simple. To get to the lake on the other side. This lake seems to be separated in several places by these trails, and a few bridges. I honestly thought when I first saw this place from the freeway that it was an old garbage dump, but I'm glad I found out I was wrong. Maybe they fixed a human wrong. That's a good sign.

So the egret got to the edge of the water, but I could still see it. I'm sure this bird didn't really like me being there, but I had to get my pictures. I assumed he was going to fly away, but there was some reason that he hesitated.

I tried to get a little bit of video of his exit, but he just didn't seem to want to go just yet. He didn't even move. So my video will have to remain for my eyes only because it would bore you to tears. And who's fault is that?

This mother swan and her cygnets were responsible for the caution of the egret. They were swimming right for him. It was a chance meeting, and the egret was being polite, even while he thought he was in danger. Eventually though, the egret finally decided that it was time to fly away. My video was turned off by then.

I decided that maybe it was also time for me to move on. There were more animals to see, and even I know better than to mess with a mother swan.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Scared Egret

It's amazing how nervous the bigger water birds can get when a human is around. When I got to this park I found this Great Egret standing there looking around nervously. As I moved closer to the bird it began to fidget. It obviously wanted to leave.

Now, I wasn't really as close as you might think. A small body of water separated the me from this big bird. I was now standing right up against a bench for people who didn't want to use the nature trails at the moment.

The bird knew I was watching it, but I did nothing to alleviate this bird's fears. I didn't use any of my techniques to calm it down. I only kept taking pictures. It was too late to calm this creature down anyway. It had already made up its mind.

Off it went! The Great Egret leaped into the air and began its flight for a hope for a better freedom than this. I only hoped my camera could keep up with it so I could get as many pictures as I could before it was gone.

The smaller birds in the background didn't seem to mind one bit. the geese weren't bothered by my presence. The seagulls had no problem with me. Only this egret didn't think I was so good. I wondered if I would ever see it again.

The egret flew across the bigger part of this small lake. It turned in the air, and was soon out of sight. I had no idea how far it actually flew. I hoped there would be more adventures as I began my walk on this now familiar trail.

Last time I was here, the geese were overrunning this place. I couldn't walk more than ten feet without getting hissed at by angry geese. Now there are only a few of these geese around, and they are keeping their distance. No more angry birds for me. Just one scared egret.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!