Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Beauty Of Spring

apple budsA few days ago I discovered how to use the manual focus on my camera. I began experimenting with a few spring plant closeups and I liked the results, so I decided to continue to do this whenever I can. I've even learned a few more tricks in the past couple of days. I'm still just beginning though.

On that first day the cluster of new leaves that I featured had a small touch of red in the middle. You could only see it if you looked very closely. The first picture showed it very well. I explained that day that we've had a lot of rain. The rain is what brought out all of this beauty of spring. Well, there's been more rain, and it's still working it's magic.

apple budsThe plants I'm showing you here today are the same plants I brought to you then. After only a few days the tiny little color of red has become something even bigger and more beautiful. That little bit of red in the leaves have become budding flowers.

These buds have now opened up to form full flowers even a few days after these pictures. I'm not quite able to bring them to you yet, because the wind has been much too strong to get any clear shots of them. This red color brightens up to pinkish white when they're in full flower.

I stood there for a good ten minutes trying to get pictures of these plants. Every time I thought I had a good chance, the wind would whip up and start blowing the branches on this tree all over the place. I even attempted to try a few other trees, because there are so mnay of them around here, butthe wind was having none of that.

apple budsI'll have to see if there's a way to deal with the wind in these situations. I haven't figured out how I'm going to do it yet though. While I was out there, I heard a loud crash come from the forest. It was the sound of a tree falling. I never heard that sound before, but it was unmistakable. I never found the fallen tree because there are so many in a forest, but I'm glad I wasn't close to it when it fell.

Out with the old, in with the new. One tree falls, and another sprouts new life. More trees will sprout up where the old one used to be. You can see this beauty of spring and new life in these pictures. New life is everywhere right now. Spring beauty brings great feelings with it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Gray Squirrel

Gray SquirrelI think I have found something very strange. Today's post features the Gray Squirrel. I took these pictures while I was hiking at my latest discovered nature preserve. They're from almost a month ago now, and they were almost left behind forever, but there is an important reason for presenting them to you now.

After doing some research on Black Squirrels, I discovered many interesting things. There are supposedly four types of squirrels in Michigan, where I live. There are Fox Squirrels, Red Squirrels, Flying Squirrels, and Gray Squirrels. Did you notice I didn't list Black Squirrels?

I've read that black squirrels are really gray squirrels, but with extra melanistic pigment in their fur. After doing a lot of research on the subject, I now believe this is true. But this isn't the mystery I'm here to discuss today. There is another...

Gray SquirrelI've known for quite awhile that there are actually two types of gray squirrel. There is the Eastern Gray Squirrel and the Western Gray Squirrel. The eastern version is the kind related to the black squirrel. They are a medium sized squirrel, the same size as the black ones. They are the kind that live here in Michigan. That's where the mystery comes in.

The squirrel in my pictures was just about the biggest squirrel I've ever seen. It was about as big as a very large fox squirrel, which are larger than most. Western gray squirrels are also the largest of all of these tree squirrels I have mentioned. The size seems to match very well.

A notable characteristic of the western version is that they have bigger ears than their eastern counterpart. Take a look at the ears on the squirrel in the first picture. Do they look a little large to you? Yeah, me too. Another characteristic of the western grays is their tails. Their tails are notable for the prominent light gray fringe around the edges. The first two pictures show this very well.

Gray SquirrelWestern Gray Squirrels are listed as a threatened species. They are also not supposed to exist anywhere east of the western United States as far as I know. Maybe I'm mistaken about this squirrel in my picture. I guess I must be, but it fits too well for me to completely dismiss the idea.

Maybe somebody brought it here. I don't know of any other way it could have gotten here. I'd like to add that the Eastern Grays share much of the same coloring as this one. They also have a similar tail fringe, but the fringe and the tail are neither one as prominent as that of the Western Grays.

Whatever the answer to all of this becomes, it's still a mystery to me. If any of you think you might have the answer, please let me know. This is very strange.

One last thing. This is unrelated to the story above. I brought these old pictures back for another reason also. I didn't want to talk quite yet about something disturbing that I recently saw. I feel I have to tell the story, but it will be on a subject that is horrific in nature. I don't even want to tell it, but I think it is necessary. I will post a warning at the top when the time comes.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Nesting Goose Update 2 - The Eggs

Canada Goose And Eggs
Well, here I am with another update of the nesting goose. I didn't intend to have another one so soon, but there has obviously been an interesting development from the nest. I only went over to see if she was safe after the thunderstorms we've been having. She kindly posed bashfully for the camera, and she let me have a good look at what was in her nest!

Before I go on, here's part one and two of my nesting goose watch for anyone who might be interested:

  1. Nesting Goose
  2. Nesting Goose Update

Now that that's done, we'll move ahead with the story. As you could tell from the title of this post, This has something to do with the eggs the goose is sitting on. That's right, I said eggs, not egg. That means there's more than one. But how many?

Well, I kept talking about only one egg before, but as some of us talked in the comments section, the possibility of maybe even two eggs came up. We were on the right track, but we hadn't pulled into the station on that one yet. Yes, there is more than one egg, but there is also more than two. This goose has laid seven eggs altogether!

Canada Goose Eggs
Here's a better look at the future geese of America. Go ahead, count 'em if you like. Like I said, there are a grand total of seven eggs altogether. That goose must have been really tired after laying all of these eggs! Of course, I don't know anything more about the typical number of eggs a Canada Goose would lay, but I guess it must be about seven.

Wait... I just now did a search on the number of eggs a Canada Goose will lay. The number is exactly seven! Remarkable! I guess this goose knows how to do it right. I learned that a goose will lay an egg every one and a half days until she gets to seven. Then she'll begin to sit on them until they hatch. Hatching time takes about twenty eight days.

So far it's been at least a week of sitting for our favorite goose, so maybe the next update will take a little longer. The reason she was up this time was because she was getting some much needed exercise, and a nice bath in the lake. She quickly went back to her eggs, and I soon decided it was time to leave her in peace. Hopefully, the next update will be as good as this one.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Lost Little Duck

I had an encounter the other night that wasn't in a typical nature setting, but it involved as much nature as anything there. This may be a sad little story, but only because I have no way of knowing the ending. Here goes.

I didn't really have anything to eat in the house, and it was getting late, so I had to resort to going to a fast food place. There had been thunderstorms off and on all day long, so it was very wet outside, and darker than usual when I pulled up to the speaker at the drive-thru.

As I was giving my order, I noticed a lone little female mallard duck wander through the parking lot right over to the front of my truck. It disappeared from my sight as it got right to the very front of the truck. I finished my order and watched for the duck, because I didn't want to run it over.

I still couldn't see it from inside the truck, so I got out to look for it, even though there was a line of cars behind me. I found the duck standing beside the curb in front of the truck, so I moved toward it to chase it away from danger. I was successful, as it waddled slowly over to the grassy area behind the building.

Everything seemed fine, so I got back in the truck to move on my way. As I pulled forward, I looked over to where the duck was. It was standing there looking towards the ground with a depressed look on it's face.

I don't know why the duck was there, or what became of it. It might have been fine. It didn't seem to be injured, but maybe lost. It might have just wanted a place to rest. Whatever the case was, I've felt bad about the situation ever since. That poor little lost duck.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

My Deer Friend

I want to tell you a story about how I snuck right up on a deer. I've gotten pretty close to these animals in the past, but not this close when there wasn't anything in between us. I could have actually reached out and touched this deer, and it might have let me. Well, on to the story!

I was hiking on my way out of my newest wandering spot, after seeing several wonderful sights. As I came to a fork in the trail, I saw a lone deer just off the trail. It was behind a couple of trees, grazing around the forest floor. It didn't notice me, so I used the cover of the biggest one of the trees to sneak right up close to it.

I noticed a long time ago that deer will stand behind trees, thinking that nobody can see them there. Usually they're completely right, but sometimes I'll just catch sight of one of them and their cover is blown. Even then, it works pretty well. Since it usually works for the deer, I figured I'd give it a try.

As I snuck up to this one, it would sometimes look up, sensing my presence. When this would happen, I just stopped and stood still until it went back to it's search for food. I remembered the time I made the deer mad at me, so I decided it was a good idea to stay near a tree for protection.

When I got close enough, I decided it was time to start taking a few pictures. This was the reason I got close to this animal in the first place. I knew I had to move from behind the tree a little bit now, and I hoped I'd get a few shots before the deer ran away. So I eased myself from behind the tree and began to take my pictures.

Of course as soon as I stepped out the deer saw me. When this happened I froze! I hoped it wouldn't run too quickly. To my amazement, it just stood there looking right at me. It didn't move at all! I must have surprised it so completely that it didn't know what to do. Well, I decided right then to keep taking pictures.

Just as this was happening, the deer turned it's head the other way. I looked in the same direction, and saw two women coming up the trail. The deer was nervous now, but it looked back at me as if I could protect it from them. It had decided I wasn't a threat, and I would keep the women away. I can't explain how I knew this except for the look it gave me.

I took another few steps towards it to test my theory, and it didn't move away! I was now off the trail standing very near my new friend. I had now completely forgotten my pictures. The two women stopped to watch the deer for a few seconds too. I stayed where I was because if the deer trusted me to protect it, I wasn't going to let it down.

Through all of this, the deer felt safe enough to go back to it's grazing. The women got enough of a look and eventually walked away. To their credit, they were smart enough to stay quiet while they were there, after I motioned it to them with a raised finger to my mouth. The deer was still there peacefully eating it's meal.

I had already checked to make sure it was alright. It was moving around without any indication of injury. It was just a case where I must have fooled it so thoroughly that it decided I must belong there. Maybe the fact that the women also frightened it while it was confused, led it to believe it would take a friend anywhere it could get one.

Whatever the case, when I decided the deer was okay, I turned and walked back onto the trail and away. I looked back when I was getting far away, and I noticed the deer now walking into the forest completely unconcerned. I then turned back to make my way out of the park.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Spring Plant Closeups

We've had a lot of rain over the past week, and as a result everything is becoming greener. Yesterday was a beautiful day, and today promises to be even better. I've already found some very beautiful plants, with more to come soon.

When I was out on the trails, I decided to start taking pictures of everything green that I came across. While I was doing this, I kept remembering my inability to get any good shots of some of the budding branches of the trees. The camera just wouldn't focus on them.

As I was making another attempt to get a few good shots, I stumbled upon the manual focus setting. I already knew it was there, but I never bothered to learn how to use it. When I discovered it this time, I began playing with it, and these are some of my results.

These first two pictures are from the same small tree. I think they are from the same buds on the branch, but I took so many pictures that I'm not entirely sure. Learning how to take these closeup pictures is a fun thing for me.

I've been seeing all of these cool closeup shots on other blogs, and I always notice how interesting a plant looks when you can get such a close view of it. I don't know if my camera can do it as well as others, but I never knew it could get as good as it does now.

I decided to give some extra pictures today, because they can tell this green spring story better than I can right now. The pictures tell a good story of how well spring is coming along now. It's getting better every day.

This branch appears to be the same type of plant as the others, but I took the picture at a completely different place. It was on the same day, so I was really busy on the trails. I was enjoying all of the new life I was seeing very much.

I like the rusty color on the edges of the leaves on this plant. I have no idea what any of these plants are, but I don't really mind right now. I'm just having fun observing the wonders of nature in action. I sometimes try to stay ignorant of the details just to keep my enjoyment innocent.

This wasn't much of a photography lesson or anything like that, but it just shows that if you keep going you will learn a lot of things on the way, if you're not afraid to experiment a little. Try out new things whenever you can.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Nesting Goose Update

I have escaped the evil underworld of broken computers, and I'm back to give you a little update on the future mother goose that I told you about a few days ago. I was actually visiting this goose yesterday before I came home to find my poor sick computer desperately needing a video transplant.

After reading a few of the comments, I realized that I never really made it clear where exactly this goose was, or if she was even in a safe place. Well, I can tell you that she picked a perfect place to make her nest.

She is right beside the dam at Carpenter Lake Nature Preserve. And nobody can touch her because she is behind the fence that keeps foolish people from falling in the water. From that spot she can see everything around her, and she and her hatchlings will be able to jump right in the water as soon as they're ready.

She never moves off of the nest when anyone comes near, but she does get very nervous. You can see the nervousness on her face if you look closely at these first two photos. I try not to bother her too much when I'm near her, but I'm going to keep watching her all through this,

Who knows? Maybe I'll get to see freshly hatched little geese! I've never seen one, so I do hope I'll get to see them swimming around in their first home. I wonder what they'll look like. I've kept myself from investigating the appearance of a gosling (baby goose), because I want to find out when I first see these.

In the picture she has feathers all around her mouth. I was told that she does this to use them as part of the nest. I'm sure that must be it, because the goose didn't seem to mind, and she was very alert, so I knew there weren't any problems with her.

Now you can see why nobody will ever bother her here. Is she in jail, or am I? It really must be a good place to have a nest, because she hasn't been disturbed yet. That makes me happy. Nobody wants to see harm come to an animal protecting her young.

I can't wait to see her and the little ones swimming around. Maybe it's the father that I keep seeing swimming around nearby. He's the only other one around, and he never leaves. Pretty soon they'll all be one big happy family. I'll try to keep you updated on new developments with this nesting goose.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Computer Problems

My computer problems from the other day have taken a turn for the worse, and my computer has been down all day long. The problem turned out to be a dying video card, and the computer would not accept the new one I bought. I've been working on it all day, and I finally fixed it at 11:00PM. Unfortunately, as a result, I have no new post ready, so Friday's post will be late, and there will be no Fiction Friday post this week. I do have some good stuff for later in the day though.

- Ratty

Male Downy Woodpecker

Male Downy WoodpeckerHere I am, The Everyday Adventurer, back from my dreadful journey in evil computer land. Even though I escaped back here to my natural surroundings, a few stray computer bugs followed me, and they seem to enjoy chewing on my leg. It might take me awhile to brush them all off.

I'm finally back to take you on a new journey through a forest full of natural wonders. Today we're going to look at a nice little animal that I see almost every time. It's not those attention begging geese, that will dance for a treat. It's not the frightened deer, that will turn to fight if you follow them too much. And it's definitely not those ill tempered little squirrels, that will become infuriated just because we're in their forest.

This time it's a Downy Woodpecker! But wait, you say we've seen these before. Well, I have to admit that you're definitely right. We have seen these once before, but don't be so quick to make a judgment. You only have part of the story. The rest is something special.

Male Downy WoodpeckerWhat could be so special about this particular woodpecker that wasn't about the other one? Well, they're both equally special. There is a major difference though. The other story saw the very first look at one of these noisy little birds. We have another first look here too.

This downy woodpecker happens to be a male bird. The other was a female. What's so special about that? There are males and females of every animal. The key to this is how we tell the difference. Take a look at a goose and see if you can tell the difference between the two. I can't Can you?

For these downy woodpeckers there is a nice easy way to find out whether you're looking at a male or a female. Take a look at the back of this bird's head. Have you guessed it yet? There is a deep red sideways stripe there. Any downy woodpecker that has that stripe is a male. The female does not have it.

Male Downy WoodpeckerSo next time you're in the forest, and you here a familiar rat-a-tat-tat sound coming from the trees, it's probably a woodpecker. These downy woodpeckers are one of the most common. If this is what you see, you can tell any person with you whether it's a male or a female.

After revealing this great knowledge of nature, you'll either come across as a nature genius, or you'll get mercilessly teased for being a nature geek. I have gotten both reactions. The praise is great, but even the teasing can be fun if you know how to take it well. Either way, you now have a small bit of information that you can share with others.

That's the end of our trip for today. Make sure you take your new found imagination home with you. It's a very valuable gift I have given you, and you can use it for many different things. Who knows what amazing adventures it could take you on?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Lost Journey

I was on a very different adventure yesterday. This one was not nearly as fun as my usual journeys. It was full of pain and disappointment, but then finally a ray of hope in my darkest hour. I thought I might be lost for a long time, but then because of my long time experience and navigational skills, I have now found my way back to civilization!

What kind of fantastic journey was this, you say? It wasn't what you might expect at all. Have I been just a little misleading? Only slightly! All of this has happened, but not in quite the way you might think. I have been down a dark path, and I'm not completely free of it yet.

Okay, I'll finally tell you what happened. When I got home yesterday, I noticed that my computer had crashed. I figured it wasn't a big problem, computers crash all the time, and they usually only need a reboot. Not this time.

When I restarted the computer, it seemed fine at first. But then I decided to run one simple program. It was Freecell. That's all, just a stupid little card game! The video screen immediately went blank! What was going on here?

I tried everything I could do to recover while still in Windows, but it wasn't happening. So I had no choice but to hit the dreaded reset button on the front of the computer. Since I was stupid enough to upgrade to Vista awhile ago, it took forever to go through everything. I went through this a few more times before I finally thought I needed to try something else.

I restarted again, but before the computer could get all the way to Windows, I did a few different things this time. I finally got to a screen that asked if I wanted to go into Safe Mode. Well of course I did! Unsafe Mode wasn't working, so what choice did I have? After what seemed like an eternity, the computer finally settled into Safe Mode, and at least it wasn't crashing here.

I won't bore you with any more of the little details, but I had to shut off most of Windows' features. That seemed to do the trick, because when I restarted the computer, it wasn't crashing anymore. I have access to some things, but others are still far away down the path.

At least I'm now out of the woods. I can now see the end of this awful trip into oblivion, and I feel as free as a bird. After some more investigation I should have everything solved. I'm glad I spend half my time as a computer geek. Without that, I would have been lost in a dark scary place forever.

Tomorrow I'll be back with something a little more about nature, but right now my mind can't get off this lost journey. Even so, I hope you enjoyed the pictures from today. The bird in the last one has been a fun mystery to me, that I have yet to solve. See you next time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Nesting Goose

Nesting GooseIt's time once again for a tour through nature, with your ever humble guide, Ratty, The Everyday Adventurer. It's time to take you to the magnificence of new Spring, and the wonders of life. I will show you the odd, the bizarre, the geese!

Today it's actually going to be one specific goose. The goose in these pictures is something I've never shown you before. This goose is, of course, sitting on a nest. Do you know why it's sitting on this nest?

If you guessed, for no reason at all, well, you're completely wrong! But if you guessed that the goose is sitting on an egg, then you are a winner! Give yourself a pat on the back. Go on, you know you deserve it. Hey! You didn't do it! I can see you, so do it now! Okay, that's better... some of you. I know who you others are! I'm magic!

Nesting GooseBut wait, how do I know there's an egg under there? See, I also know what you're thinking! Well, I don't know for sure. But as many of you know, I don't own a super fancy camera that can take long distance photos. As close as this goose looks is as close as this goose is.

I moved right up to it, and it was still determined not to move from that nest. I'll tell you right now that I do not recommend getting this close to a mother goose protecting here egg. She could quickly turn violent, and I've told you before that a goose can do some damage. Besides, why would you want to mess with the poor thing anyway?

I didn't linger around the goose for very long anyway. I got my pictures and then I moved away as quickly as I could. If you look closely at the new mother's face, there was definitely a look of concern. She didn't want me there, and I didn't try to disturb her.

Many people here in Michigan consider geese as pests. I understand their point, but I see them as a good example of the beauty of nature, especially a new mother goose such as this one. Just wait until her eggs hatch. Then we'll get a whole new adventure like we've never seen before!

Ahhhh. My old crazy self seems to be back. All is well.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Weather Vane Watch 4-20-09

English Weather VaneIt's time, once again, for another Weather Vane Watch! I haven't done one of these in quite a while now, so I've been thinking about it very much lately. I didn't want to do it unless it was in some way special and different from the others though. Well, I got lucky in two different ways with that.

This latest Weather Vane Watch was going to be quite a bit different than what you see here, but then my friend John over at English Wilderness was generous enough to send me more photos from across the ocean. A little over a month ago he also sent some very good pictures of Tattershall Castle and it's lightning rods. Visit John's site and tell him Ratty sent you. Seriously.

This time he gave us all the gift of pictures from the Royal Garrison Church. This place not only has a pretty good weather vane, it also has a lightning rod! Two for the price of one. That's a pretty good deal, if you ask me. Now from what I understand, this church is a pretty famous and historic landmark. That's not all.

English Weather VaneHere's some information about this great place, directly from John:

"The Royal Garrison Church on Penny Street, Portsmouth, originally called Domus Dei. The church was founded in 1212 by Bishop de Rupibus as a hospice for pilgrims. From the 1560's it was used as the garrison church. King Charles II married Catherine of Braganza there in 1662. The nave was destroyed by fire bombs on 10 January 1941, but the chancel was saved."

That's some very interesting information. This church obviously has a very long and rich history. I decided to do some research, and I found some even more interesting information and pictures of this place. I won't write it all out here, but I'll point you to three places if you want more. They're very interesting, so you should take a look.

The first link has very many interesting photos from in and around this church. You get almost a full tour of the place there, so I urge you to take a look.

The second link is from the English Heritage website. It has tourist information about the church, and more places on the main page.

The third link is from a site titled Memorials & Monuments In Portsmouth. This may be the best link of all, because it contains more information about this place than you could ever hope for. Visit all three links, you'll be glad you did.

Before you go, read the rest of my post. I'm telling you, this is a deluxe extravaganza!

Michigan Weather VaneSince I decided to take you all the way to England today, I figured it was only right that I brought you back as well. Being the wonderful guide that I am, I wouldn't leave you in the middle of a world tour. Of course I'd bring you back home, safe and sound.

As I was putting this post together, I decided to take a break and visit some of my favorite websites. Wouldn't you know it, when I began reading one of the first sites I routinely visit, I found something very interesting.

Over at a place that is geographically very close to me, called Michigan In Pictures, there is a good post about lightning rods, and there is a very nice mention of me! I've been a fan of this site since I started my blog, so this is a real treat for me. What a wonderful coincidence to see this just as I was preparing my latest Weather Vane Watch. Again, take a look and tell them Ratty sent you!

Michigan Weather VaneOkay, I guess you're wondering where this weather vane from the last two pictures is from. I decided to show you this one as a contrast between an English weather vane, and one you might find in an American city. This fancy weather vane is actually from the top of a building that is being used as the offices of a real estate company.

For all of you who are local to the area, this one is located on Orchard Lake Road, just north of Twelve Mile, in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Take a look around, you'll find it when you get there. And although I'm sure they're fine, I'm not advertising the real estate company here, just the weather vanes. Yes, this building has two!

You see that? I just took you on a whirlwind adventure across the ocean and then back again. You just got two everyday adventures, in two completely different places on Earth, from a very kind and modest tour guide, I might add. Where else are you gonna get that, and for free?

Michigan Weather VaneWow! This has been one of my longer posts, but it was definitely worth it for the valuable information this time. Every link was a gem. I hope you all agree. I'll try to bring you something equally as good, but different, in my next Weather Vane Watch.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mean Ravine

I mentioned something a little over a week ago, and I'm finally getting around to showing it to you. This is a viewing area that overlooks a ravine that runs through my newest nature preserve discovery. It took this long to show it to you because I've had a lot to show you. I always do, of course.

I don't know about you, but bridges, walkways, and any similar structures are some of my favorite things. I love having them around, especially if I find them out in the middle of nature somewhere. It's almost as if they're begging me to come and explore every inch of them. They're like my own personal playgrounds.

Wouldn't you want a playground of your own too? All you have to do is go out and look for them. They're not limited to only the forest or a nature preserve. I'll go find a bridge in the middle of the city just so I can walk across it. You think I'm kidding? Check the link!

This particular place is kind of small, but that's not important. The important thing is what you get to see when you're on it. I guess that goes for most of these places. The view from any bridge is always fun. Most of them are free, and what's better than that?

In this case, you get to look down into a ravine. It's not the biggest or highest up, but it's still a great view that you can see every day. If you want something spectacularly big, go to the Grand Canyon. You'll get to see it once in your life, if you're lucky. If you want something you can see often, but still very satisfying, go find yourself a place like this. You can see it whenever you want.

This picture probably illustrates what you see when you look down as well as any I have. It's pretty steep, but if you're careful, you might be able to climb down there. I prefer to stay up here. If you'd like though, go ahead and take a leap of faith. You might only break both of your legs.

On second thought, don't jump. It wouldn't be very fun for you, and I really don't want to know about something like that. It would probably be kind of messy anyway, so stay up here and enjoy the view. That's what's important anyway, isn't it?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Alice's Acorns

I had a couple of guests on my hike today. Alice made a typical Alice-like return, and Jack decided he wanted to come along too this time. I'll bet nobody that read about Jack thought he was real. He is, but the stories about him haven't been so far, because there has been nothing to tell yet.

Any time I have guests along on a hike, I have to alter the way I do things. For one thing, I know I won't be sneaking up on any animals when there is so much noise from other people. They don't do it on purpose, but they just don't know how to be as quiet as I do.

We did get to pass by the noisy frogs I've been hearing lately. Alice looked for the frogs and asked a few questions about them, while Jack seemed kind of uninterested. He was mostly putting on an act because he didn't want to seem uncool by liking nature too much. At least he came along, so that's a good start for him.

When we got to squirrel territory, I told them that the reason the squirrels liked it here was because there were plenty of acorns to eat. There were empty eaten acorns laying all over the place here, but we only saw a few squirrels. None of them came very close. We were just too easy for them to spot.

Alice began picking up the old acorn tops that she was finding along the way. It's the kind of thing a kid should do. She also had a pocket full of rocks from a few of her other adventures. Jack remained mostly silent throughout most of this, but he wasn't complaining. If you knew him, you'd know that's encouraging.

After awhile a man with two unleashed dogs came into the nature preserve. That pretty much killed the idea that we would see any wild animals today. The dogs came running up to us, and one of them made a small huffing sound at Alice, so I shooed it away.

The dog came back again in a few minutes, a little friendlier, so Alice tried to feed it an acorn top. The dog really wasn't interested. It mostly just wanted to greet it's new found friends. Even though dogs are my favorite animal, I didn't really appreciate it when it came back a third time soaking wet and shaking water on us.

After the man and his dogs finally left we made an attempt to find some wildlife, with no luck at all. We ended up slowly making our way back out of the park. Before we left, Alice asked if she could take a few pictures of her now beloved acorn tops. There they are at the top of this post.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Return Of Mr. Nutz

Fiction Friday

Fox SquirrelWell, it seems there has been a very strange turn of events in the squirrel war that we all thought was long over with. Mr. Nutz is back! And he is alive and well, mostly. It seems a dragon nipped the tip of his tail. There he is in these pictures, looking as healthy as ever.

The last we all saw of the very angry squirrel, Mr. Nutz, was when it appeared that he was swallowed whole by a surprisingly evil Florida dragon. I admitted my horrible wrongdoing back then, when I stole the dragon so I could murder the squirrels out of misguided revenge.

I think my mind was being controlled by that dragon. It was all his fault. Yeah, that's the ticket! It was all the fault of the dragon. He made me do it. You gotta believe me! I even tried to apologize, but it fell on deaf ears. Please, feel sorry for me! Anyway, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

Fox SquirrelIt seems the angry Mr, nutz has had quite an adventure since we last saw him. He told me the whole story, between threats of hunting me down and destroying my acorns. It seems the dragon only nipped his tail a little bit, but he got away and led what was left of his squirrel army to the other side of the world in an attempt to hide.

He claimed that they traveled all the way to The Philippines, where they hid out in a zoo for awhile. Then when they thought it might be safe, they made their way over to Malaysia. One of the black squirrels in the group was almost run down by a speeding motorist.

While there, Mr. Nutz said they saw another guy with a camera wandering around. He told me it reminded him of me, so they followed him home and destroyed his modem. They thought they had a measure of satisfaction from that, but I told them the guy was just fine now, so they failed again. This made Mr. Nutz pretty angry as I laughed when I told this to him.

He claimed revenge is coming for both men. I told him he's just a squirrel without a nut, because if he was going to do anything to them, he wouldn't have come back here. I began laughing again as he got more and more angry with me. It was pretty funny watching this little squirrel's tail shivering with rage.

Fox SquirrelWhen the squirrels finally came back, they decided to hide out in a few houses along the way, chewing up whatever they found. They did it all because they were trying to get revenge on as many humans as they could. These little creeps were rampaging their way all the way back to Michigan. Has anyone else seen evidence of their worldwide rampage?

Finally, an army of dolls, uh, I mean action figures decided to defend us all from this rampaging army of squirrels. I received a report late last night that they had taken out Mr. Nutz, and thwarted the march of the monstrous squirrels. It turned out that it was only one of Mr. Nutz' body guard lookalikes. He evaded death again.

Now Mr. Nutz is back, and threatening revenge on anyone standing in his way! He has become slightly crazed(nuts) by his ordeal with the dragon, and he vows to get us all back. I think he just lost his acorns, and he's no threat at all. Is anybody really worried about a squirrel anyway?

He finished telling me the story, as I continued laughing at his threats. With one last snarl of anger, he lunged at me and missed, as I quickly dodged out of the way. He hit the ground running and scampered off into the forest vowing to steal my nuts. Stupid squirrel. I'm not worried. Well I'm not. Really.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Little Red Squirrel

Do you have a favorite wild animal? I don't mean just a type of animal, like deer, squirrel, bluebird, or duck. I mean one specific animal that you have seen somewhere. A single animal that, in your mind, has become a familiar face and a friend. One that you can tell apart from others of it's species.

I think I have such an animal. It's this little red squirrel here. I've seen it many times on several different trips. I have worried over it's safety a few times, and I've caught it spying on me as was leaving. I haven't seen it in over a month, but I hope it's still in the same place, and I hope it's still alive.

I think of this little squirrel as my friend, although I'm not so sure the squirrel ever thought so kindly of me. It's okay, I still like him. This red squirrel has something in common with the black squirrel I showed you yesterday. It was the first red squirrel I ever got a picture of. In fact, it was the only one I've ever seen. Until now.

I was beginning to think maybe the red squirrels were very rare here. I never saw another one, so I figured I must be right. Then I started reading that they were supposedly quite common. I thought I'd believe it when I see it.

Well, now I see it. Maybe there aren't that many of them in the other place with my friend, but in the new place with the black squirrels, there are plenty of them. I have a picture here of another little red squirrel sitting on a tree branch.

I know it's not the best picture I've ever had on this blog, but it's evidence of more of these little guys. This place was literally crawling with squirrels. There were at least four different varieties right in the immediate area. I'll show you what I mean in a few days.

If you look closely, you can see in this last picture that this new red squirrel seems to be eating something. I don't know what his snack might be, but anyone who wants to can speculate on it. I guess the meal he's having is why he stopped long enough for the photo. Thank you, little red.

Even though I found a small tribe of red squirrels in a different place and time, my favorite animal is still my original red squirrel. He almost seems to recognize me when I visit. Maybe not, but I can at least pretend. He is my friend, after all. What's yours?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Black Squirrel

Black SquirrelI have breaking news from the forest! The war is over! Yesterday I finally got a decent picture of the elusive black squirrel. This has been one of my longest adventures, with many twists and turns. I was beginning to think I couldn't do it, but here it is.

I was able to sneak up on this sneaky little critter before it ran off into the forest, never to be seen again. It started out like any other encounter with a black squirrel, but I was able to use the cover of a few trees and a little stealth to sneak up on this nervous little guy.

I got a few good pictures and several bad ones. The squirrel noticed my presence as soon as I took the first shot. It quickly turned and ran away, but I still did what I needed to do. This is a great victory in my battle with the squirrels. Along the way, I learned some interesting information.

Black SquirrelBlack squirrels are rumored to have been brought to this area of lower Michigan from the Upper Peninsula of the state. There are similar odd stories of the origins of black squirrels in several parts of the country. I'm not sure how true any of these are, but I've seen these more than any other.

Another thing I read was that black squirrels are actually gray squirrels with an unusually large amount of dark pigmentation. This story goes that at one time the northern part of the United States was thickly forested, and supposedly the vast majority of squirrels were the black variety.

As Europeans came and cut down the forests, the squirrels dark color stood out to make them easy prey for human hunters and any other predator. The squirrels that were left naturally adapted to a lighter gray color. This one sounds logical, but I'm still not sure.

Another thing I read was that black squirrels were known to be plentiful in the city of Detroit, and it is one of their origins. There is a huge problem with this one for me. I grew up in Detroit, and I don't remember ever seeing a black squirrel there. There were the reddish brown fox squirrels, but not any of these. Maybe I'll never know the real story. Does anyone else have a story?

Black SquirrelOkay, this last photo is obviously kind of blurry. After this squirrel saw me, which happened very quickly, it ran chaotically away. The blur illustrates how fast it moved away, and how evasive these little critters can be.

Getting this close at all has been one of my greatest challenges so far. I never thought getting a picture of something that seems so common would have been such a difficult thing to do. In the end it all turned out okay though, because I got what I wanted, and now I can share it with the whole world. We all win!

Game over, man! Game over.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Nature's Railroad Station

Did you ever see something in the distance, and then want to get a closer look? At the end of my post yesterday, I showed you a far away structure, but I didn't know what it was. All I could do when I first saw it was to speculate as to what it might be.

The first thing that came to my mind was that it looked like railroad tracks. Railroad tracks seem to be coming up a lot for some reason. I'm not the only one thinking of them. I also heard there is a new nature preserve being built close to me, over the site of some old tracks. It seems that thoughts of railroads tracks and nature trails go hand in hand.

Well, as I got closer to the mysterious structure, I realized that my dream of seeing a tiny train with a leprechaun conductor was only that, just a dream. As logic took over my mind, I knew that there were no tracks anywhere within miles of this area, not even tiny ones.

This place does have the relaxed look of an old, country railroad station though, doesn't it? It's a wooden platform, with a nice little bench to relax on while you wait. You imagine you can almost feel the distant rumble of the next arriving train, as you listen to the peaceful sounds of the happy birds all around.

But wait, it's not really a train station is it? I can dream though, can't I? After all, that's what a nice, quiet place like this is for. Walking these trails begs for wandering feet, and wandering thoughts. Perfectly relaxing.

But what is this place really for? Well, of course I can tell you the answer to that. It's the crossroad to several other paths, and beginning of a viewing area for a huge area of wetlands. The wetlands features many animals, including raccoons, turtles, frogs, ducks, and many more animals and plant.

This place is another nice walkway. I love places like this. These walkways like this give us great feelings of peace. This one gives off an almost lonely feeling without it feeling bad at all. The walk to the end brings so much anticipation of what might be out there.

Would I really feel like I was all alone out here, when I get to the end? Would that feeling be a sad one, or would it bring joy and a feeling of harmony with nature? Of course, you already know the answer to these questions, don't you?

Ahhh, here at the end of the walkway, there is another bench to relax on, or you can go take a look at the information sign to find out what to look for out in the wetlands. These signs are scattered throughout this nature preserve, the same as at Carpenter Lake.

There are very similar signs at both parks. I wonder if they were designed by the same people. Whoever they were, they did a good job on both of these nature preserves. I hope they do the next in a similar way. Oh, wait! Stop! Enough of this rambling, you want to see what's on the other side of the railing. You want to see the wetlands, right? Here we go!

The payoff! This is what I saw when I stood at the edge of the railing. This huge wetland area is supposed to be home to all sorts of creatures. It might still be too early in the year for much activity yet, but I saw a few things.

There was some activity under the water, that I couldn't identify. Hopefully I'll figure it out when I go back. There we also a couple of ducks swimming around in the distance. I did get the pictures of them, but they were far away, and the shots were blurry. I've had pictures of ducks before anyway. Go look at them.

While this wasn't a railroad, it was still an interesting place that will only get better as the days go by. As time goes on here, maybe I'll finally get a picture of a turtle. I like turtles, and so should you. What will I see next? I don't have a clue.