Friday, August 18, 2017

Just a Turtle On A Log

I visited that pond where I see water birds from time to time. The birds haven't shown up in a while, but I found something just as good. I found a turtle on a log!

Oh, you think, "So what? It's just a turtle." But I don't see many turtles around here. I have seen other turtles in this pond, but these are the first pictures I have of one from here. Who knows? Maybe I'm the only person ever to get a picture of a turtle from this out of the way country pond.

So think about that for a second or two. Now you're not just seeing a picture of a random turtle. You're getting to see something only a few people in the whole world have ever seen. Maybe that makes you special in some way now. You are part of a rare few.

This idea is maybe the main thing I love about nature. It's the thought that I'm the only person to get to see the things I see. That's much better than sitting home watching a ball game or something just like everyone else. No. I want to explore the unknown. And that's what I do every time I'm out there.

Now, this turtle didn't know it was helping to make me unique in any way. It was just sitting there on that log enjoying the sun. I'd guess that it didn't even know I was there. If it did it would have dropped itself back into the water with a plop. That's what they usually do.

And I'll go back to this pond again. Maybe I'll see another turtle. I probably won't feel quite as special about it when I do. But maybe I'll see more than one. Or maybe I'll see something completely unexpected. That last part is why I go. I'll talk to you later.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Photographing Daisies

I found this field of daisies while I was out driving around the countryside. The sun was burning really bright that day so it was difficult to get any pictures. Sometimes you just want a few clouds to help you get better pictures.

Besides the bright sun, I decided to try and use my big camera to get some of these pictures. I have discovered that my phone camera is much better for close-ups than the big camera, so I take both from now on. The phone camera also does better with bad lighting, bright or dark.

If I had a big zoom on my phone, I'd probably just use it for everything. It has such a good camera that I prefer it over the big one for most things now. Most of my flower and plant pictures are now done with the phone because it's just so much better.

But I used the big camera for these daisies. You can see that it did a good job. That was only for these pictures that came into focus. I have tons of others that were unusable. Once you get the big camera to focus, the pictures actually come out great. But it is kind of a process to do that.

With the phone, all I have to do is point and shoot. It focuses right on whatever I point it at. And if I want to use special settings, it can do that too. And the view screen on the phone is bigger than on the big camera too.

I do have to say that my phone actually cost me more than the camera did. So that probably factors into the quality of the pictures. Not every phone will do. I use a Samsung Galaxy S7, which is one of the most expensive phones out there, and also one of the best cameras. But try any smart phone you might have. You might be surprised by the quality of the pictures.

So, what about the daisies? I found them by the side of a country road very near one of the many farms scattered throughout the area. I don't like to take too many pictures if I think people might be around, so I took what I could and left.

I find that it's usually easier to not have to deal with other people while I'm taking pictures. And it's usually an annoying complication to have to explain why I'm taking pictures to someone who isn't interested in them. Maybe I'm wrong, and maybe I'll never find out. I'm Grumpy Ratty, and I'll talk to you later.

Monday, August 14, 2017


I didn't know what it was when I first saw it. The plant was so small, and the sun was so bright, it was too hard to see what I was looking at. All I knew at the time was that I was seeing some kind of small orange flowers. And I hoped I'd get some presentable pictures.

These two pictures are the best I could do under the circumstances. And I never claimed that this blog was all about the pictures. I think I'm just an okay photographer who sometimes gets some great ones.

The important thing is that I try to share real life with you. That definitely includes the pictures that most people won't show. I'll share the great ones, and I'll share the terrible ones. These pictures today are okay. Not the best, but they have some beauty.

So after all of that talking, and you didn't figure it out from the title, you may be wondering just what it is that I'm showing you. This plant is called butterflyweed, sometimes known as orange milkweed. Yup, it's a kind of milkweed plant.

And since milkweed is one of my very favorite kinds of plant, I just had to share this with you. And you knew I wouldn't do it in a straight forward kind of scientific examining way. I'd give you something a little odd. This way you might remember this plant a tiny bit better. And everybody should know about milkweed. Did I tell you how much I love milkweed? I'll talk to you later.

Friday, August 11, 2017

These Are The Elk I Was Looking For

I could tell you that finding these Elk was a surprise, but I would be lying. Even though I do love to lie, I won't do it this time. I went to this place, called Hillview Recreation Area, just to see the Elk.

I was taking a little bit of a chance because they're not always out where you can see them. But I got lucky this time. That's not always the case. This time I was able to see this big male and a couple of females too.

Above is the first Elk I got to see. She was right up near the fence. There was another one near her, but I couldn't get a clear picture of her. I tried several times, but I had no luck.

You can see what this is in the picture above, right? I couldn't see it that clearly when I took the pictures. I thought it might be a male with antlers, but I also thought maybe I was seeing something else. I've been tricked before.

There was one time when I began furiously taking pictures of what I thought were antlers, but it turned out to be a strange looking feeding rack. This time I suspected the same, but I hoped I was wrong. I'm glad it was a real animal.

Here's that second female. I almost forgot about her. I guess I got a better picture of her than I thought.

You might have noticed that they're all behind a wire fence. That's the way it goes sometimes. I would normally try to fool you into thinking there is no fence, but the fence is unavoidable this time. I wouldn't out and out lie about it, but I just wouldn't mention it. It makes things more fun that way.

And if you look very closely, you can see that each one has a tag on its ear. So while these Elk may or may not be wild, they are confined to the area within the fence. They seem happy enough though.

So that's my Elk post. I'll talk to you later.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Flowers In My Backyard

I typically brag that the land around my house is overgrown with weeds. It's something that most people would consider strange. Why would I brag about something so negative? I can't help it. It's a trait that I get from my dad.

My dad would tell people that he could live without modern conveniences, like electricity, easier than anyone else. And he would go about proving it to everyone, including himself. There is still an outdoor wood stove attached to my house, and I use it every winter. It makes things a little more difficult, but it saves lots of money.

I like the land around me to look wilder than is normally accepted by lots of others because it gives me a sense of being more natural. I don't really care about a manicured lawn. That looks kind of sterile to me. I'd live in the middle of a forest if I could do it. But unlike my dad, I do appreciate modern conveniences like electricity and computers.

But this whole concept brings us to these phlox flowers. In all of the weeds, I found these flowers growing. Uncharacteristically, I was going to cut the weeds down and mow the area. But when I found the flowers I had to get a few pictures first.

So by the time you read this the flowers will be gone. I kind of had to do it because the weeds were getting a little too close to the house. I try to keep the area near the house straightened up just a bit. I still like it kind of wild though.

So, what would you do? Would you have cut down these flowers like I did? Or would you have left the weeds growing? I feel like I had to do it. There are still lots of weeds farther away from the house. But only in the places I don't need to go very much.

We'll see if the birds deposit seeds of flowers in some of the more overgrown areas now. That will be a little better. Then I won't have to get rid of them. It's a big area and I'll keep looking for interesting plants. Who knows what I might find? I'll talk to you later.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Cool White Wildflowers

I found some very cool looking wildflowers the other day. They're growing all over the sides of the roads at Broken Kettle Grasslands. I would also share the name of the flowers with you, but I can't identify them. I've looked everywhere and found nothing.

I always admit that I'm not the best at identifying flowers, but these have me particularly stumped. I tried really hard this time. And I am sure these should be easier than this. In the back of my mind, I seem to remember seeing these somewhere before, but I just can't remember anything more.

Oh well. I still have lots of pictures of them to share with you because I think they look so cool. They looked even cooler while I was out there seeing them myself. That's always the best way, but the pictures are good too.

The flowers look kind of big at first. But on the second glance, you'll see that it's the leaves that look so fancy. The flowers are actually very small. They are tiny and white with five petals. It was these fancy leaves that attracted me to them.

These plants stood kind of tall. They were about one to two feet in height.

I liked this one with the bug on it. I took several pictures of this plant because of this bug.

Not exactly related to the flowers is that I like the routine I've fallen into. I'm able to kind of patrol the nature areas near me and report on the current changes. I'm really getting to observe the small details of the natural world around me.

This is what I was able to do back when I was living in Michigan. I felt like I was part of the natural world, and it seemed to welcome me when I would visit. I'm beginning to get that feeling back. Now if I can start to be able to coax deer to come right up to me again, I know I'm on to something. I'll talk to you later.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Wild Bison Closeup

I had a strange feeling I should go over to Broken Kettle Grasslands and look around a bit. I've been going there a lot this summer, but I had a special feeling this time in the late afternoon. I didn't know what I'd find, but I thought it might be something special.

There is an area there where a lone bison has been hanging out for some reason. I shared pictures of that one with you before. So this time I slowed my truck down a bit to see if he was still there. Maybe I could get some better pictures of him. Yup, he was there.

But when I looked off to the distant hills in the background, I saw what I was really looking for. There was the whole herd on the top of the hills. It was easiest to see them at the top, but I saw them everywhere on the hill. Some were coming down too.

My newest episode of Rat TV features these bison that I saw this day. I made this one a little more entertaining, like the last one. I've decided that I'm going to produce many of my videos in this way from now on. I'll still share some raw video from time to time, but I think this new way is more fun for everyone.

On my second drive through on my way back through the road here I saw that the other bison had made their way down the hill. It looks like they had come all the way down to retrieve their lost friend. He had been gone from the herd for many days. Now they had come to take him home.

I'm not sure these wild bison are very used to humans, so I tried to stay as quiet as possible and tried not to disturb them. Even though they never really came very close to where I was standing, they were close enough for some decent pictures.

I haven't been back there since this visit, but I'll go back in a few days. Who knows? Maybe they're still there. Maybe the rest of the herd has even come down from the top of the hills. Or maybe they have returned to the wilder parts of the grasslands. I guess I'll find out then. I'll talk to you later.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Deer On The Side Of The Road

You wanna know something I really like? Small pictures in my blog posts before some smart person goes and clicks on them to see the bigger versions. My pictures today benefit greatly from this concept.

I took several pictures of this deer through my windshield as I was driving towards it on a country road. It looks like I was very close to the deer, but I was actually very far away. The deer only looked like a speck. I had to use the maximum zoom through a dirty windshield while in motion to get these pictures.

I wouldn't have even bothered, but I see so many deer and I get so few pictures. And the truck was moving very slowly at the time. That's why the deer stopped to look at me. It was wondering what I was doing driving so slowly. You can do that on a forgotten dirt road.

Most of the deer I see are near the busy highway right before it gets dark. That means there's no way to get any pictures. This was very different so I thought it was a rare chance to show everyone that there is indeed deer around here. Now I have absolute proof. Ha! I'll talk to you later.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Fun With Horses

I had an interesting encounter with these horses the other day. At first I thought they were like those friendly donkeys I found a few posts ago, but these horses were a bit different than that. I'm not sure they really liked me all that much.

The horses noticed me as soon as I got there. And they all looked right at me, just like the donkeys. But that's where the similarities ended.

These horses stayed huddled in this small group. They stared at me while the two in the front stamped their hooves and shook their heads at me. That didn't seem like they really wanted to make friends. That's okay. I only wanted pictures and a video anyway.

Oh. Did I say video? You can find it as part of the last video I did a few posts ago. Just the horses by themselves didn't seem very exciting for moving pictures, so I gave you that special video instead.

But these pictures are exactly what fun is all about because you get to see a bunch of horses all grouped up. And the ones lying down are just fine. While I was there, they were looking around as if they were on vacation.

So now you know what I do all day. I stand there annoying horses and other country critters with my camera. Maybe they wanted me to go away, but I was having fun fun fun. I'll talk to you later.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Looks Like Chicory, But Is It?

Okay, so I found this plant by the side of the road. I was taking pictures of wildflowers that day, so I took several of this one. I barely remember getting the pictures, and I'll tell you why that is something that happens to me.

Whenever I go out with the purpose of getting lots of pictures I forget everything else and I just concentrate on getting those pictures. Nothing else. The real purpose of going out is to enjoy nature, but I forget to do that at its fullest when I get locked in on taking nature pictures. And I go too fast. I always do it and I can't help it at all.

So I only remember taking a bunch of pictures. I don't remember what the specific subjects of my pictures were at the time. I only remember taking lots of pictures. There were just so many flowers out there that they all seemed to run together a bit. I need to slow down and think a bit more. But I've been trying for years. I still have lots of fun though anyway.

So I looked at all my pictures when I got home. I remember getting lots of good ones, and I vaguely remember examining this when I took the pictures. When I saw these specific pictures I thought, "Oh good, it's chicory."

But it looks kind of funny. The petals are thinner than any chicory I've seen before. The plant looks like chicory to me in the pictures. And I did examine the plant while I was out there, but I don't remember enough about it. So I'm just not sure.

I did do lots of searching on the internet and in a few plant guides, but I found nothing other than it might be chicory. I know one person who would have an answer for me right away, but she has become a hermit. So maybe I'll never find the answer. Such a shame.

So after telling you of my ignorance of nature once again, I have a confession to make. I only pretend to be so ignorant. If you dig around this blog and Nature Center Magazine for a bit, you'll see that I'm a terrible liar. I pretend to be a beginner because it's more fun that way for me and for you. While I'm not a super expert, you probably won't find many people with as much knowledge of nature and wildlife as I have.

So now you know my terrible secret. I'll deny all of this in my very next post. I'll be back to bumbling my way through an encounter with a skunk or an elm tree or something like that. It's all about having fun with nature. And I really am having a lot of fun. I'll talk to you later.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Giant Puffballs

I found something fun recently. You'll like it because it's unique enough to deserve its own post. This giant puffball plant was kind of a mystery to me when I took the picture. But I know a little more about it now.

This plant goes by many names, but the name I found first was Western Salsify. The scientific name for the plant is Tragopogon Dubius. Some people think of it as a giant dandelion. I read that it even starts out with a similar yellow flower that turns into these big puffballs.

This plant is considered an invasive plant in the United States since it originally comes from Europe and Asia. You can probably say that about a lot of plants. I still think it fits right in, and it looks unique enough to merit this little post from me. So I think it's just fine.

As always, I might have terribly misidentified this plant. I never claim to know much about plants except what I learn on the internet. And I usually learn as I go along. I will say though that I think I know more than most people about plants because I have actually gathered quite a lot of information over the years.

If you like, you can find more information on this plant by searching the internet. It's pretty easy, and fun too. I'm not trying to be an encyclopedia, which would be terrible. I'm just trying to spark your interest in nature. That is fun too. I'll talk to you later.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Friendly Donkeys

I encountered some friendly donkeys on one of my many everyday adventures recently. I routinely just drive through the countryside just to see what I might find. This time I found donkeys. Just going for a drive can be a pretty good adventure.

Donkeys may not seem unusual, but I don't see donkeys most of the time, so I made sure I stopped for a few pictures of them. What I usually see is either cows or horses. Any other kind of animal is a little different.

It was when I took this above picture that I noticed these donkeys were just as interested in me as I was in them. I didn't see it right away, but as I took my pictures I realized that they were all looking right at me. That's pretty different from the sheep that ran from me when I tried to get a few pictures.

The last time I tried to get pictures of cows they all kept turning their backs to me. I thought farm animals would be just fine with me getting out of my truck and taking a few pictures. But apparently not cows or sheep. I began to think they all hated me. I'm glad these donkeys are nice and friendly.

 Hey there, big fella.

This last one was kind of amusing. As I was taking pictures, I took a few of this white donkey. She was a little far away so I said, "Hey Whitey, come over here!" I guess the donkey heard me because she came walking right over towards me to the edge of the fence. I must have guessed her name.

I didn't stick around much longer. I just wanted to get a few pictures, not necessarily make new friends. But I guess I did make friends with them. They were certainly friendly donkeys. For that I'll remember them for a long time. I'll talk to you later.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Deer Creek Lake

I have an interesting place to show you because I know you like interesting places. The sign out front says this place is called Deer Creek Lake. Actually, that is the name of the nature preserve this little place is in. I'm not sure if this meager looking body of water qualifies as a lake. Maybe a creek.

So now after I just kind of insulted the place, what is it that is so interesting about it? Don't worry, I'm getting to it. What makes it so interesting is that I'm not sure anybody else goes here at all.

There is never a hint or a clue of anyone else visiting this place when I visit. The only things I've seen are signs of maintenance on the roads going into this very hidden nature area.

One of the interesting things about this place is the boat ramp going down into the area where the water is. The ramp is actually kind of far from the water. There is also a dock that sits high up on a hill. This all suggests that long ago this was indeed probably a lake with much more water than this.

I think at one time this might have been a popular fishing spot. Today it is mostly abandoned. In a way, that seems like kind of a shame. But I like it because I can come here and be all alone surrounded by nature.

This sign out near the main road is quite a distance away from the lake, or what's left of the lake. The road twists and turns and divides a few times so it can go to a few different places in the nature preserve. I visited those places too.

I've shown you this lake before in the past. But after looking at the old pictures from that, I think this post gives you a little better look. One of these times I'm going to have to get you some video and really show you around the lake. I've really been doing a lot of video experimentation recently. You're going to like the results of that. I'll talk to you later.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Ratty's Nature

My pictures today show the pond that had some ducks swimming around in it. I recently had a post featuring them. This pond isn't the star of my post this time. This time the best feature of today's post is the video at the bottom. You're really going to like it.

But first, let me tell you a little about the pond since I have these pictures here just waiting for their story to be told. I've told you I keep seeing water birds in this pond. Every time in fact. But that was then.

This weekend when I went to find some more birds there weren't any at all. I thought my luck would be bad that day, but I got plenty of other pictures and things to share with you from that adventure. And even without the birds, this pond is still pretty nice to look at.

But let's move on to the star attraction.

This video is my best episode of Rat TV by far. This isn't just a boring video of an animal or two just standing there for 30 seconds. You'll actually like this one a lot because I put a lot of work into it, and because it's good this time. This one is unlike any of my previous videos.

My video today features just some of the things I see in the countryside around where I live. I couldn't feature everything in such a short time, but I got a lot in. I'll always have future videos to show you my newest nature findings. I'll talk to you later.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Ducks In The Water

I saw some ducks recently in a swampy pond at Deer Creek nature area. You might think that's no big deal, but it really is to me. Let me tell you why.

For some reason, I don't see many ducks around here. There is a lot of water here, but none that water birds really like to visit very much, except this one place. So far every time I've visited this pond I've seen water birds of some sort. But nowhere else.

Until just recently I usually forget this place, but I'll be visiting very often from now on just so I can get some good bird pictures. These today are far from my best. Next time I'll have to try to get a little closer so I get some actually good pictures for you.

The one thing that I did find out was that these ducks aren't the usual kind I get. Usually, my ducks are the standard Mallards that I see a lot. These ducks are clearly not Mallards.

From what I can tell these appear to be Wood Ducks. You can't get a good look at them from my pictures, but the head of the mother seems to give away the identity.

I have a new episode of Rat TV for you today! You'll like this video of Ducks In The Water because I made it short enough to keep you happy. I'm extra pleased with this one because I used a new video editor on it. Lightworks is my new video editor. Once I learned a little about how to use it I'm very happy with how my first video turned out.

This video of the ducks was actually two videos that I took, and I needed to merge them into one. For awhile before this, I was just uploading my videos straight to Youtube. I've never been happy with that. Even though my videos aren't much, I still like to enhance them just a bit.

The picture above is a screenshot I took from the video. I added the picture in at the last moment. I used to get pictures like this years ago in an old piece of software I used to use for my videos. I wanted to see if I could do it again now. The good news is that I can now do it again. So now even if my other pictures don't satisfy me enough, I can still get some things from the videos.

I watched this family of ducks disappear into the weeds three times. At first, I thought they were two different groups, but after looking at the pictures they appeared too similar to be different ducks.

I once saw an Egret in this pond so I know other birds come here too. I didn't have my camera with me back then, but I'll be sure to have it every time from now on. And I think I'll visit this place again this weekend to see what's going on. Who knows what I might find. I'll talk to you later.