Monday, November 28, 2011

A Lonely Nuthatch

So, what kinds of things do I find out here so far from any urban area? For a fantastic everyday adventurer such as myself it's not always much different. This white-breasted nuthatch for instance. I've taken many pictures of these little guys when I was close to the city, and here they are again out in the country.

Does that mean there is really no change then? Of course it doesn't. What that means is that I was pretty good at finding nature in the city. The thing that is really different now is that I don't have to find nature. It comes right up to me.

This little nuthatch was actually in one of the big trees right out in front of my house. All I had to do was stand out there for a little while and the birds came right on over. I think for a bird a big tree is like heaven, and I have plenty of those around me.

So as I get settled here in the country have I found any drawbacks? Well, I first want to say that I do like this much better than the city, but yes, there are some negative points about being here. The main one is that I'm still much more alone than I think I would like.

I always liked being alone, but I also always knew that all I had to do was turn around and I would find plenty of people all around me. Now I can't say that. There just aren't many people around here. The people that I've met here are certainly much more friendly than rightfully suspicious city people, but I really don't know any of them very well yet.

I've never been much of a social person, so I take a little longer than most people to make friends. That can make things a bit more lonely for a person when there are so few choices and far fewer chances to make those choices.

And something I've learned from all this is that with nobody to talk to, a person begins to find less to talk about. The only other living being I see every day is my dog, and there isn't much in the way of conversation there. I talk to her, but she only answers back with a wagging tail and an enthusiastic manner.

So when I began this post I found myself with absolutely nothing to say. I had to sit here for a few moments to think of the words to get me started. Once it began though, the words began to flow. It's even been difficult for me to come up with ideas for new fiction over at Rat Tales. My current story has already been written, but future tales are hard to come by.

So after all of the episodes of "Fair" - which is an excellent story by the way - are posted, my next post there will be a little bit different. Instead of a story, I have a post full of philosophical ramblings. I like what I wrote, but it's a bit different than anything I've written there before. Maybe that can be a good thing.

So now that I'm coming to the end of my post here I find that my thoughts have flowed out better than I expected. I thought I would have a very short post, but it transformed itself into a long one. All of these words must have been wanting to burst out the whole time.

But as you all know, blogging still isn't quite the same as a real conversation. I still have to wait for your comments for a response to what I say. In a real conversation I would have been interrupted several times by now, so sometimes blogging is better.

But now I've come to the end and I've barely mentioned my little friend, the nuthatch. Poor little guy. At least he's featured in the pictures. I guess that's better than nothing, right?

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Children Of The Night

At night I hear sounds; strange sounds I've never heard before coming from out of the darkness all around me. When the darkness comes, it's time for me to go outside and walk my dog. I do this a few times every night. Why would I do this with such odd sounds floating to me from out of the night?

I do it because my poor dog has a bit of a weak bladder. She knows when she has to go, and she lets me know that it's time to go out. But when she has to go, she really has to go. So I get out her leash and go outside into the night, and into the midst of the sounds coming from the darkness.

"What kinds of sounds are they," you ask. Well, they are sounds I've never heard at night near my home before. To be more specific, some are the sounds of howling, and there are also other animalistic sounds. "Aaawww," is the shouted sounds I hear coming from the south.

So do I know what is making these strange sounds? Well, of course I do. Some of the howling sounds are being made by coyotes. There are coyotes in this area. Most farmers around here hate them very much, especially if the farmers have chickens. Coyotes will mostly stay away, but I don't really want to encounter them.

The other sounds that come from the south are actually quite a bit more ordinary. Those sounds are being made by cows. Most of us, at least us here in America, think of the sound cows make as, "moo", but they really sound like what I described above.

All of these sounds are very different from the sounds of the city that I'm used to. In the city I would hear the sounds of cars going by instead of cows mooing. Instead of the howling of coyotes, I would hear the occasional sound of gunfire. And now instead of seeing other houses all around, I see trees outnumbering the houses by quite a bit.

Now when I take my dog out for a walk late at night I very rarely see another person out there. I go out to the end of the road and look up at the stars. Even with the occasional sounds of animals in the air, the night is such a peaceful place to be.

"Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make." - Dracula

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Camouflaged Cardinal

This is a good time of year to get pictures of birds. The leaves are off the trees now and the birds are on the move. That means there are plenty of birds around, but not much to block our view of them. It's always like this in both late fall and early spring.

Keeping this in mind, I've been specifically going out and looking for birds. If you do it right, even having a dog with you won't upset the birds too much, and they'll fly over halfway close so you can get some good pictures.

I've been able to see all kinds of birds around me where I live now, maybe more than ever before. Today I bring you a female cardinal! I'll say that these aren't the best pictures ever of a bird, but they're my best pictures ever of a female cardinal.

The obvious difference between a male and female cardinal is that males are colored a brilliant red, while females are brown in color. For birds, males are usually the more colorful of the two. and this female happens to be very close in color to the tree she is perched in. It's almost like a kind of camouflage.

It wasn't easy at all to get these pictures because she looked almost like a part of the tree. The one thing that helped make this bird stand out was the movement. That's something any animal can never avoid. They all have to move at some point. And predators know that.

The predator with me was my dog, and she knew very well that there were birds all around us. She wanted very badly to chase them all, but she is already very patient and obedient. So my dog Isabella stayed very close to me, with only a few prompts by me.

I guess, in a way, I'm also a predator. I'm not trying to capture these birds in a conventional sense, but I am hunting them with the intention of capturing their images. Animals pick up on many of the things we humans are doing, better than we do.

Dogs may be the best at this. Isabella has begun to sense my intentions when we are out, so she doesn't tug on the leash much when I stop to take pictures. She even gets quieter than usual, understanding that this behavior is what I want from her.

Birds can sense that we are paying extra attention to them. They know that only a predator would do this. The birds were very cautious around us, and they were right to be that way. That behavior routinely saves their lives. They had nothing to fear from me, but the birds didn't know that.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Little Bridges

Bridges. They're some of my favorite things of all. I found some new bridges at Dunham Prairie Preserve, my new park for some relaxing short hikes. I was overjoyed to find them because while doing some internet research for nature parks I looked specifically for bridges.

One of my favorite kinds of bridges are those old hanging rope bridges they always show in the movies. You know, the ones where the people come to them and wonder if they're safe to cross. Inevitably they go across one by one, and usually at least one board breaks under someone. sometimes the whole bridge eventually collapses. The whole thing always fascinates me.

Well, these bridges aren't really the same kind as those, but they're the closest I've ever come to it. Not to say that these are at all dangerous, they just physically resemble them. And I love to cross every bridge I find. It just seems like such a wonderful adventure to do so.

The point is that a bridge is there to transport you from one place to another. On one side of the bridge you're in one place, and then when you cross that bridge you are magically transported to another. It's almost as if you're in another country or even another world. What wonders might there be on the other side of that bridge?

It's always fun to go to another place. A bridge can take you to that other place, or you could get there another way too. Have you ever considered another country? How about Portugal holidays? I always wondered what it might be like to travel to Portugal. I could imagine crossing a bridge to get there, or I could just pick up and go someday.

Any way you think about it, crossing a bridge can at least be a source of wonderful fantasies. I know I always savor the moment right before crossing any bridge I come upon. I'll stand there at the foot of the bridge looking across and wondering what marvels I might find on the other side.

And it's not just the other side that is special about a bridge. Crossing a bridge is also a special experience for me. The journey is one of the best parts of a trip. I love to get to about the middle of a bridge and look down at what the bridge crosses over. Sometimes it's a river, sometimes it's only a dry ravine, but I always like seeing it.

I'll be looking for more bridges while I'm on my new adventures here in Iowa. I hope I find some good ones. You should look for bridges too. They're always so much fun. Maybe you'll find a fantasy world on the other side.

(This post contains one paragraph that is for advertisement purposes. You'll know it when you see it. I did my best to make it relevant to the post so it wouldn't be jarring to you. I hope the post is still as enjoyable as always.)

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ratty's New Adventure

Today I thought I'd share just a little bit about my new life in rural Iowa. This has been a huge change for me because even though this is the area where my family comes from, I grew up in the middle of a big city. And this change has not been an easy one for me for other reasons as well.

What you see above is the area at the southern most point of my property.To the left of the picture, just on the other side of those trees is a deep ravine that makes me afraid every time I go near the edge. I'm not sure I could get out of there if I ever were to fall in. Youch!

Past the ravine is a huge cornfield. They just recently harvested all the corn, so the cornstalks are all gone now. You can see for miles through there once you get close enough to look through the trees. I'll share that view another time. For now we'll take a tour a little closer.

Before we go on I want to let you know that I have a small ad in this post. You'll know it when you see it. I'm trying these ads out for now. I'm very inexperienced in things like this, so I'm not sure how it will go yet. I've always been very wary of advertising on any of my sites, and my feelings haven't changed. I don't do this for money, and that will never be my motivation. I just wanted to let everyone know the ad was there so as not to be deceptive. Let's get back to the post!

What you see in the picture above is one of the small sheds on the property. I've never been inside this shed yet because all of the overgrown weeds. The weeded area was at one time my dad's garden, but he couldn't maintain it once he got sick. It's too late in the year for me to fixit up, so I'll have to see what I can do next spring.

This is the wood stove my dad built. It may seem crude to some of you, but this stove works better than any I've ever seen. And the stove itself is outside, so no smoke ever gets in the house, only heat. This is an old fashioned way of living, but this is the way my dad liked to live.

Keeping wood burning in the stove is a lot of work, but it's so much cheaper than any other way of heating a house. The ladder is there because I had to climb up and clean out the chimney a few times. Without my dad around, I'm having to learn about things like this as I go along. I can leave the ladder there because the outside of the stove building doesn't get hot.

The hardest part of all this work is that I can only work for about five or ten minutes at a time. The head injury I suffered only allows me that long before I begin to feel dizziness and pain. As long as I obey those rules I'm alright though.

This is the town I live in. What you see here in the picture above is pretty much it. The town is just big enough to have its own post office, but that may not last. Even our police force comes from the town up the road from us. My house is at the very south end of town, so I have plenty of room.

Since I'm so far away from most of my family, I'm not going to be able to do anything big for Thanksgiving this year, and I won't be traveling either. But if any of you choose to travel, you might want to consider cheap all inclusive holidays. It's sure nice to get away sometimes, especially if you are as alone as I am right now.

One idea that was offered to me for Thanksgiving was to go and serve dinner to the poor. I'm strongly considering doing this. It sounds like a good idea. The only problem for me is that I've been spending so much of my time alone that I'm a little nervous around a lot of people now. This makes the decision rough, so I'm going to have to really think about it.

The picture above shows you another view of the south end of my property. There will be a lot for me to clean up next spring. I'm going to try to clean things up without taking away the wild feeling of the place. My dad liked it this way, so I'll try to be faithful to what he wanted.

And finally we come towards the end of the post. This was a long one this time, wasn't it? The next one will be shorter, I'm sure. I hope this gave you just a little insight into what my life is like now. I know it was probably not as much as I could have shared, and it was kind of vague, but I've never been very good at giving information about myself. This is actually the most I've ever shown of a place I've lived.

I'll be back next time with some of the wildlife Isabella and I see when we go out here every day. I hope to begin posting more often now. Maybe these little ads will give me some added motivation. Time will tell. Talk to you next time.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Mysterious New Bird?

This is a story that I've been wanting to tell for over a month. This happened when I made my first visit to a nature park back then. But it was only a few days later that my dad died, so I put everything on hold for awhile. But now the story of my mysterious new bird can be told!

I had been out exploring the strange and different new trails of a place called the Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center. These trails are very unlike my old trails of Michigan. Where it was almost all flat land for me before, these new trails are almost all hills. I felt almost as if I was in another world!

So obviously I expected the wildlife to be different than what I had ever seen before. Oh, of course I expected the usual suspects. You know, birds and mammals, and a few reptiles and amphibians here and there. But I just wasn't sure of what form they might take.

So after many twists and turns, and up and down hills, I began to hear birds all around me. After some careful investigation I soon began to see these dark shadowy creatures all around me in the trees. Some of them even seemed as interested in me as I was of them.

It was strange that their calls didn't sound very odd to me. In fact, they seemed oddly familiar. The day was kind of gloomy, so all I was really seeing was shadows, and a few glimpses of dark feathers here and there. After maybe a few good pictures I was very excited to find out what these birds might be, but that would have to happen after I got back home.

Soon one of the birds flew down out of the trees and began poking around on the trail in front of me. I knew that behavior to be very familiar indeed. There were birds in Michigan that did that all the time. I was intrigued by the fact that these birds would also do that. I really wanted to know what kind of birds I was seeing!

Then after observing this bird for quite some time, an odd thought began to creep into my mind. No, it couldn't be. Well, maybe it could. After all, even though I am in a different state, I'm still in the same country. Both states are still close to the middle geographically.

So I decided that I should get a closer look at my new bird friend. I knew it! This was no mysterious and exotic bird at all! It was an American robin. These birds are some of the most common birds back in Michigan. And I have very many pictures and stories of them.

So my fantasies and impression, and maybe a little fear, of a new place fell a little short this time. It was fun while it lasted though. And in the end, finding out that this mystery bird was an ordinary robin actually made me feel a little bit more at home and in familiar territory.

All of this worried fantasy of a completely new place was just below my rational conscious mind. But our subconscious mind can have a powerful influence on us. I was thinking that I would have to learn too many things all over again. But this little robin taught me that my knowledge of nature would still be useful. Being in a new place is just more opportunity for adventure. Yes, there will be some new things. But the old familiar things will be here too. That makes me happy.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Waiting Hawk

My first wild animal in a new nature park! I said in my last post that I went to this new nature park without much expectation yet. All I really wanted to do was explore a bit and find my way around. Also having the dog with me was going to be a detriment to finding any new animals. But did that stop me?

No! While approaching the end of one of the many trails there I saw a huge bird leap from a nearby tree! The dog saw it at the same time as I did, and she was very excited. I tried to lift my camera to my face, but the dog kept pulling on the leash. This was going to be very difficult.

After I got Isabella calmed down, I spotted the bird at the top of another tree. I saw that the bird was a hawk, and it was just sitting there waiting. I couldn't believe how lucky I was that the bird had stopped close enough for me to actually get a picture or two.

This was only my first day at the new park and I had already gotten pictures of an exciting creature! This isn't the first hawk I've seen in this area, so I know I'll have more pictures of one of these majestic birds. It's just a matter of time.

I've seen many deer around here too. And I'm excited to find out if my deer calming techniques will work on them. I'm not sure how soon I'll get pictures of them, but I know I eventually will. I know there are many kinds of animals around here, so I'll have opportunities for many interesting creatures.

I wish I could get pictures at night. I walk Isabella every night. She has a bit of a weak bladder, so I have to do it. On one of my recent nighttime walks I heard the howls of coyotes going back and forth. And when I looked up into the night sky, I saw my very first shooting star! You don't get many opportunities for either of those in the city.

I'm slowly getting back to posting on the other two sites I'm involved with too. Emma and Copas have been keeping Nature Center Magazine going, and I now consider that site to be theirs as much as mine. You should take a look at some of their excellent articles.

I have a new story up on Rat Tales called "Fair". It's very different than anything I've ever done before. I have it categorized as horror, but it's maybe more of a dark fantasy story than horror. There are no ghosts or monsters in this story, but there are certainly some monstrous people. You may have met a few people that resemble some of the characters in this story.

Back to the hawk!

I tried to get a picture of this hawk taking off from the tree it was in, but the dog took that exact moment to pull on the leash again. Luckily I was able to get a few pictures of this big bird in flight. It was circling for quite some time, so I got to get a good look.

After a few minutes of watching the hawk, I decided that it was time to investigate some of the other trails. One of them went over the railroad tracks! I knew that might prove to be interesting. So I went on my way wondering what I might find next on my journey through this fascinating new park. Isabella seemed every bit as excited as I was.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Dunham Prairie Preserve

Even though I live in the middle of nature now, I still love the nature parks. So what would I be able to do? Surely there are no nature parks so far away from any big cities. Why would anyone need a nature park out in the country? Why not?

The real answer to all of this is that there are indeed nature parks here! In fact, there are even more nature parks here than there are where I lived before! And they are even closer to me than the others had been. They range from as small as the smallest to bigger than the biggest I visited before.

One of the closest nature parks, and maybe the smallest, is a place called Dunham Prairie Preserve. I'll probably be visiting this one more than any other for awhile. You probably guessed by the name of the place that some of this is prairie land. There are actually many features here, but we'll look at the rest another time.

The hiking sign in the picture above is what I first saw from the road when I found this park. I knew right away that this place was for me. Something I found out during my first trip here was that this place doesn't get a lot of visitors. I was the only one there. I like that.

As I walked the trails, I wondered what kind of animals I might find, or if I would find anything at all. With the dog along it might be difficult. But the intention of this trip wasn't really to find animals anyway. The reason I was here was to explore and discover.

I like the trail markers they have here. Huck Finn Hollow is one of many good names of places in this park. I'll be showing you many places like this in the days and months ahead. This post is just the beginning of my adventures at this park, and maybe the beginning of my new life.

I'm also getting back to Nature Center Magazine today with a new Cool Nature Video. I don't know if I'll be posting quite as much there at first, but I'll gradually get back to it. I also have a new story up over at Rat Tales. It's called "Fair". It'll be in five episodes. I've had this story in my head for many years. It's actually the one that inspired me to create Rat Tales.

I'm excited about a few of the things I'll be sharing in the next few posts here and my other two sites. I am also very busy here, but I'll be trying to post more often now. Blogging is actually helping me deal with the extra loneliness that I'm experiencing so far from everyone else I know. As long as you're reading, I know I'm not fully alone. So I'll be back soon! Same Rat time! Same Rat blog!

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Ladybug Invasion

Ladybugs. Some of of you call them ladybirds. Either way, I like 'em! I think most of us do. But why would any of us like this particular bug, even though the thought of bugs instinctively makes our skin crawl?

The only reason I can think of is that it is their cool polk-a-dot design that we love so much. Seriously, most of us even let these little critters crawl on us while thinking how wonderfully cute they are. Would you let a cockroach do that?

One day about five years ago while I was at work, a ladybug landed on my arm. I let it crawl around on me, and the little monster bit me! I quickly shook it off in total surprise that it would do that. It didn't really hurt that much. It was just the smallest pinch. But it still bit me.

I don't mean to scare anyone off of these wonderful little beatles, but I do have a strange little point to all this. When I was in Michigan I very rarely saw ladybugs, but here in Iowa I'm seeing them everywhere. They're all around my house here, inside and out!

I've always heard that ladybugs are a beneficial creature, but I don't really like to see any bugs crawling around in my cupboards. For now, I'm leaving them alone, even the ones inside the house. I'll have to do a little more research on them though.

I still like them though. But I've still accidentally killed a few of them. I've mistaken them for big flies. I've mistaken them for other bugs. I didn't mean to do it, and I felt bad afterwards, but I guess I'm a killer now. I feel bad because I killed bugs. Should I feel bad? Would killing a ladybug make you feel bad?

And that's it about the ladybugs, but I want to add some other thoughts to this post. I've always had a bit of a dark sense in my writing. I find that darkness somewhat humorous. But ever since my year old car accident my mood has darkened even further. It's a bit more than uncomfortable.

This extra darkness in me has crippled my writing with more than a bit of writer's block. The only thing I've really been able to write easily has been my horror stories over at Rat Tales, but even those are leaving me. I guess all I can do now is to keep trying and hope that it all comes back to me.

I feel like I'm whining by even mentioning this, but I also feel that it is important to write it down. Maybe the act of writing about it will help get it out of my system so I can get back to my old self. And maybe I can learn to use it somehow. Thoughts and feelings let us know we are alive, even dark ones. So I'll follow this darkness and see where it goes. And I'll sit here and feel bad because I accidentally killed a few ladybugs.

I'll repeat. Would killing a ladybug make you feel bad?

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Back To The Squirrels

A good thing about living in the country is that there are more wild animals up close. The squirrel in my pictures lives in a tree in my own backyard. I've been watching this little fella for several days, promising myself that I'd get some pictures of him. And now I have them!

The surprising thing about this was that my dog was standing out there looking at the squirrel too. I figured that she'd scare away any wildlife that came near, but I've still been seeing plenty. This squirrel knew we were there, but he didn't mid at all.

I've seen other creatures on the property here. While I was emptying a trailer full of wood I found a little green frog in the pile. I tossed the little critter out onto the ground so he wouldn't be hurt. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me.

The wood in the trailer was for the wood stove I use for heat. My dad built the stove so that none of the smoke could get in the house, but the heat comes in very nicely. It was an ingenious invention. My dad could build just about anything. He never realized just how intelligent he was.

My only problem is that I can't carry very much wood around at a time because my head is so messed up from the car accident I was in a year ago. I get dizzy and sick after only about five or ten minutes of any physical labor. That makes anything I try to do take a very long time. After all this time, I think I'll never recover from that accident. I'm just glad I have a nice quiet place to be right now.

Oh, back to the critters! I've also seen a few garter snakes on the property. I shoo them away whenever I see them. A lot of people would automatically kill any snake, but garter snakes are mostly harmless so I am as kind as I can be to them.

I think I'm going to have to learn about other snakes that live in the area. I'm not in Michigan anymore, and I've heard there are venomous snakes around here. I'll need to recognize those when I see them. I'd rather only see things like my little squirrel friend.

And there he goes! My little squirrel decided that he'd had enough of the extra attention we were giving him, so he went running down the tree to a more secluded place to scratch himself. And it's also time for me to go too. But don't worry, there will be no scratching involved.

Nature Center Magazine - Did you know that I do short posts on Nature Center Magazine too? They're a little different than the posts I write here, but they're still about nature, and they're just as fun!