Sunday, January 31, 2010

Three In One

Today this very tired everyday adventurer is going to feature another one of his favorite pictures from the past. This one is from the end of July last summer. I really enjoyed getting this one, and it was a huge accomplishment for me at the time. I actually got a decent picture of three robins in one picture at the same time.

I remember walking down toward the lake when I heard these birds singing in the tree. I stopped to look where the sound was coming from, and saw these three sitting up there ignoring me. I hurried to get the shot just right, but soon realized there was no need to rush. They stayed there for several pictures. Only this one came out right, so I'm glad I got as many as I did.

As I was taking my last shots these birds all flew away as one. In all I got one good picture, six very blurry pictures, and two pictures of an empty tree branch. I'd say that's pretty good numbers. Usually my shots of empty branches far outnumbers my pictures of actual birds. This time I was lucky enough to get three birds in one picture.

And finally, just to update anyone who wants to know; my much too busy days should be ending soon, so I hope to be back on my regular schedule here in the world of blogging. Right now I have just enough time to write a post, and that's it. I miss being able to visit other blogs long enough to comment, but I'll be back doing that very soon now. That's all from a very exhausted Ratty.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

My Favorite Kind Of Winter

This is a picture of of a typical winter where I live in Michigan. It looks kind of wet in the picture, doesn't it? You might also be wondering where the snow is. After all, I've been showing you pictures that are full of snow. Well, we do have snw sometimes, but we also have other times where the snow all melts away.

I know that in some places when it's winter and you get snow it stays there the whole time until spring arrives. Everywhere you look is white and wintery, and cold. In other places you never, or almost never, get any snow at all, and it stays warm throughout the year. But I sometimes think we get the best of both.

In my particular area of Michigan I think our lakes effect our weather greatly. It can be cold and snowy in the states south of us, but warm and pleasant here. I'm not sure it does that in any other place. Sure we sometimes have just as much, or even more snow than another place, but more often it's like this.

A typical winter in my local area means that we'll probably have snow, but after a while it all melts away and the temperature warms up, giving us all thoughts of spring. This can sometimes happen to us three or even four times in a winter. So even though we have snow, we also get periodic breaks from the harsh weather.

I think this gives us a good sampling of every kind of weather. In my opinion, that's the only way to be. I wouldn't want it to be warm and sunny all year long. That would seem monotonous to me. I also wouldn't want harsh weather all winter long. That wouldn't be very fun either. I think our weather here is just right.

I guess that's all my particular Goldilocks view of where I live. But I'm sure you have your own opinion of how things are supposed to be. So tell me, what is it you like about the weather where you live? What would your ideal winter be like? We all have our own personal opinion. I want to hear yours.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Just Ducky

I finally found something I've been looking for for several months! I took these pictures of this duck in September of last year. There was so much happening at the time, that I didn't have a chance to show these to you. Then I lost track of them. When I came back for them I forgot where they were.

But now after a lot of searching through my archives I've found them again. I wanted to share them because I thought this was such a pretty little duck. You have to click the pictures to see just how attractive this duck really is. Her coloring seems to blend just perfectly.

You might also notice how yellow her coloring is. She appears to be a female mallard, and she was swimming with a group of other mallard ducks, but she has such a unique color to her. I've never seen another with this color. Either she is a hybrid of some sort, or mallards come in more colors than I thought.

Most female mallards I've seen are mostly brown in color. Maybe the reason for her unique coloring is because she is very young. I'm not going to speculate much further than this, but I did check around a bit to see if I could find a match. I never found what I was looking for.

I think my favorite thing about this dick is her really beautiful orange and black bill. Seeing it up close is what drew me to this duck in the first place. I remember being mesmerized while looking at these pictures a couple of months ago.

The place I saw this duck was at the creek that the dam I showed you yesterday empties into. Water birds love it down there. I've seen all sorts of birds swimming or wading in that little stream at the base of the dam. Ducks are the only ones that stick around long enough for me to get any pictures though. The others fly away as soon as they see me.

That's mostly it for today. I just wanted to make sure I shared these pictures with you. She is such a unique duck. I hope I see her again when this flock comes back when the weather gets warm. Maybe she will look different by then. Brown like all the others. That's okay because I like them too.

One last unrelated thing. I've been very busy in the outside world lately. I haven't had much time for blogs or internet, but I've still been trying my best to keep up with everything. I've been reading blogs in the mornings because that's when I have the most time right now. But I'm never finished with all of my favorites when it's time for me to go. It will be a few more days before my time is free enough again, but I'll still try to keep caught up as much as possible. That's all.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Carpenter Lake Dam

What you see here is Carpenter Lake Dam. I've shown it to you a few times before, but I think it's been awhile since I've shared it. If you want to see some more about it, go ahead and type in the word "dam" in one of my search boxes. There's some good stuff there.

This side of the dam is the part of the nature park where not many people go. This is a little bit off the trail, and you have to walk down the side of a steep slope to get here. It's kind of easy to fall while trying to get to this place. But if you're careful, it is worth the trip. Get it? I said trip. Ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaah!!!

I know it wasn't that funny, but I feel it's my duty to be at least a little bit weird in everything I write. I think that qualifies. Don't you? Anyway, on to the real reason I've decided to revisit this dam today. I've brought you something that I've been wanting to do for quite some time. Can you guess what it is?

That's right! It's another episode of Rat TV! This time I'm bringing you a video of this dam in action. Flowing, falling water. Waterfalls are some of my favorite things, and this dam is the closest thing to a waterfall I've ever had the pleasure of seeing. I sometimes come here and just sit and watch it. This is why I wanted to share it with you.

That's what I wanted to do for today. I hope you all enjoyed this look at my favorite dam. I know I did. See you next time.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Resting Hawk

You might be wondering what this is in these tangled branches of this tree. This is a hawk. I happened to be in the middle of the forest, thinking there wasn't much animal activity, when all of a sudden this hawk flew onto this very high tree branch up the path from me.

He was so big that I was able to see him very clearly, even though he was so far away. This time I saw him better than the camera did. The only reason I'm even showing you this not so good photo is because I wanted you to be able to at least see something.

As soon as I saw this hawk land, the forest seemed to come alive! I heard all sorts of birds begin chirping and squawking. There was one kind in particular that sounded exactly like a squirrel. None of the other animals seemed to want to welcome this big bird into the forest. Imagine that!

None of this lasted for very long though. When I moved to get a little closer for a better shot, the hawk jumped into the air and flew off to my left. He quickly soared over the trees and was soon out of the forest. I hoped he would stop again, or at least circle back, but he was gone. I guess he was just stopping for a rest.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Mystery Of The Tracks

One time this winter when I was out on a normal everyday hike, I looked down at the lake like I usually do when I'm at that park. It's where I have my first chance to se it, so I always check down there to see what condition the lake's in. This time I saw something very interesting.

There were some kind of tracks that led mostly straight across the lake. At first I was only mildly curious, but as I got to thinking, I began to wonder what made the tracks. They weren't from a human or a dog. Those wouldn't necessarily go in such a straight line. But how could I find out from way up here?

The first thing I had to do was to get some pictures f the tracks. As you can see in the pictures, I didn't have the best view from where I was. I had to walk around and look at the tracks from several different angles. And when I got a halfway decent look at the tracks on the ice, they were so degraded that it was almost impossible to know what could have made them.

Obviously the frozen lake has provided a temporary winter bridge for any animal that wants to use it. I've seen squirrels on the ice, but they like to wander around a bit too. They're not really that interested in getting across, because they have their homes in the trees, so they don't travel much. So what other animal was out there?

I decided to find out where the tracks started on this side of the lake. I was in luck, because they led right up to the edge. I could see them better here, but I was still standing on a big hill, and they were still very degraded because of the recent warm weather.

There was still a chance I could find out. They had to go somewhere on land, so I continued to follow the pattern at the side of the lake. I was happy to find out that the relatively straight line they followed also continued right up the side of the hill.

I was able follow them with my eyes right up to the area where I was standing. For that whole reason, it was good that they followed such a straight path. It was still hard to tell from these old tracks, but I finally found one print on the ground in front of me. One good one that I needed.

It was a deer track! This is the animal that left the tracks. Deer like to travel. You can see the same deer from several different places that are miles apart. I'm sure I've seen the same deer in this park that I've also seen in my own backyard. It's at least a few miles drive. It's not unusual to see deer running across a busy street around here, because they go everywhere. So they leave plenty of tracks in the winter.

One fun thing about winter is that even if we don't get to see the animals as much as we would otherwise, we get to find out where they go. There is really no other good time to be able to do this. Sure, it can be done. I've seen traces of animals even in summer, but it's much easier in the snow.

So that's it. Deer made the tracks. I found out all by myself. I'm either a super detective, or it's all just easy right now. So that's it for today from Super Detective Ratty.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Nature And Nothing Else

What do we see when we look up in the sky? Is it bare branches on a gloomy winter's day? Maybe it's a fun pattern that the trees make as the branches come together. I think I see both. I also see signs of life. What do you see?

If you take a close look at these tree branches you'll see several small clumps of material throughout the trees. Some of those clumps are just old leaves that just haven't fallen for whatever reason. But others are nests for animals. There are bird's nests high in the trees. And some of the bigger nests closer to the trunks belong to squirrels.

I remember when I took this picture. I was standing in the very center of the forest. By sheer chance, I looked up to the sky. There I saw what looked to be a perfect pattern of the trees converging together, with an opening to the sky in the center. I thought of nothing else. I imagined no fantasy in my mind. It was only that natural beauty that dominated my thoughts.

As I sat in front of my computer looking at that picture, I thought of the wild patterns of massive lightning bolts, so on a whim I decided to produce a negative image of the same photo. There was no more reason than that.

That's what that picture inspires in me. It's a thought that doesn't make it as far as becoming words. It's just an indescribable feeling. Something deep down beneath all of my logic. I never really try to explain it to myself. I just do what the feeling says. No thoughts, just action.

Nature. Nothing else.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

It Won't Be Long Now...

I've been looking back at some of my photos from last year. No, they haven't been destroyed in my hard drive crash. All of my nature stuff is very safe. Anyway, I decided to remind myself what things looked like a year ago. Last year at this time there was much more snow on the ground than there is now, but it wasn't long before it would be melting fast.

This winter has been much milder here than it was last year. We had two or three huge snowstorms then that made it impossible to go out on those days. This year none of our snowfall has been very bad at all. There's no was anyone can predict the future, but last year's hard winter ended abruptly. Can this year be the same?

This is what it looked like in the my favorite park over this past year. This picture is from only my second trip through there.This was from February 27. The snow never really came back. That date is only a little over a month from now. Could it look like this soon this year. The weather forecast for today is warm and rainy. Rain washes away a lot of snow.

I have really enjoyed the winter this year. But for all of you who haven't, maybe it will look like this very soon. And then spring is just around the corner. I don't know about you, but I'm going to miss the winter. I don't want it to go quite yet. Give me just a little more time.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Future Is Wide Open

These tree branches have a coating of frost that was laid on them by a heavy winter morning fog. I always wanted to capture something like this on camera, but I had a lot of trouble getting even these. Sometimes even simple things are much harder than they seem.

Getting the camera to focus on this dark and gloomy day was just not very easy to do. In the end I didn't get exactly what I wanted, but I got these pictures, and I'm happy enough with that. Sometimes even when we are disappointed, we come out with something unexpectedly good.

These bare and frozen branches look so dark and empty right now, but they have so much potential to grow into something beautiful and green when spring arrives. And yes, I see hints of spring already even though we are still in the full grip of winter. Winter has to happen so we can refresh all that is around us, and it brings its own great adventures while it happens.

I just want to say that I'm back online after really being gone for much of the past few days. I didn't have to miss my daily posts, but I've had to miss almost everything else. I've had to completely take my computer apart and then reassemble it. Not only did my hard drive fail, but my system fan also failed a day later.

I was able to replace both the fan and the hard drive with much better versions. The new hard drive has about 1.5 terabytes of space. I'm now faced with a brand new drive that is bare of any space, but it has so much potential for plenty of files to come. And the computer is healthier than ever, so better things are very close.

Unfortunately, I've discovered that most of the files on my previous hard drive are probably unrecoverable, at least in any kind of working form. They weren't critical, but I treasured them greatly. But I now have this new drive with so much future potential. Just like a cold winter renews nature, my troubles with my computer have resulted in a new refreshed machine with a future that is wide open. Tomorrow is a new adventure.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Tracking A Problem

What you see here in the pictures are obviously animal tracks. They don't really look quite like they did when the animal left them there because the weather has been warm enough around here that the snow is melting. That can make it very hard to properly identify animal tracks because they have become distorted, so the sometimes don't look the same at all.

I'm having a similar problem with one of the hard drives on my computer. The files have become corrupt so I'm trying to recover them and find out what they are. Like the animal tracks above, I won't be able to recover them all. But with some detective work, I'll be able to get some of them back. I have the equipment now, but it will take some time.

But we'll mostly talk about these animal tracks for now. Did I find out what animal they belong to? Well, I can never be sure, but I think I have. They are about twice the size they originally were, and the left one is mostly unidentifiable by itself. But I'm sure these tracks belong to a squirrel. What else would they be here? And like I said before, I used a little detective work.

This track is about a foot behind the other two. There was a trail of these tracks, with the first set being the best I found. I followed the tracks from the base of one tree right up to the base of another tree. That's a very good sign of squirrels since they will travel through the trees as much as they can.

A lot of times you can tell squirrel tracks from rabbit tracks this way. They can both look very similar. If they lead up to a tree, and disappear, they are most likely squirrel tracks. You aren't going to find many rabbits in the top of a tree, but squirrels call those trees home. This information is not complete at all, but it might get you started in learning at least these tracks.

And now to end my post today, I just want to tell you all that I'm temporarily away from the internet. I'm busy trying to recover the files from the hard drive I mentioned above, and this is taking up almost all of my time right now. The files aren't critical, but I still value them greatly. So until I recover as much as I can, I'll be mostly away from the internet. I'll make an announcement here when I'm back. And those of you who routinely comment here will know because you'll see me in your blog's comment section.

Until then, a very busy everyday adventurer, signing off.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Black Squirrel Twilight Zone

This is not a cat with a fluffy tail.

I have an amazing story to tell you! It's about something I hinted at a few days ago, and I'm still having trouble believing what happened. I mentioned in my nonsense story about nature park computer problems that I saw a very large amount of black squirrels that day. That part was the complete truth! Let me explain exactly what happened.

I had been on my way back out of the nature park that fateful day when I saw my second gray squirrel in a week. This one was towards the front of the park where the black squirrels live. While I made my futile attempt to get a picture of him, I saw a black spot in a tree off in the distance near the entrance trail of the park.

When it became obvious that the gray squirrel was gone, I moved closer to maybe get a picture or two of the little black squirrel. As I got closer I realized that there was another black squirrel just below the first. Almost as soon as I saw the second one, a third one came into view on the same tree! I idly thought I had a great opportunity to get a picture with three black squirrels at the same time.

But before I even lifted my camera all hell broke loose!

Every black spot here is a black squirrel.

All of a sudden black squirrels boiled out of that tree by the dozens! There had to be at least thirty squirrels, but maybe much more. They seemed to be everywhere! It was all happening so fast that I didn't know what to do! They turned the tree black with their huge numbers as they all scurried down to the ground as one! They hit the ground running, and they scattered in every direction!

I have to tell you now, with so many of those squirrels running right for me, that this is the only time I have ever been truly afraid out there. I've had close encounters with many animals now, but I've never seen anything like this! It all happened so fast that I just dumbly stood there with my camera at my side. I was too confused to do anything else!

Squirrels were running across the path right in front of me, and I just stood there watching! When I began to come back to my senses, I thought about moving in closer, but with their sheer numbers I thought it might be unwise. They seemed completely unconcerned by my presence there. I finally remembered to attempt to put some of it on video.

This latest episode of Rat TV shows only a small amount of the black squirrels that were running around out there. These were about a half dozen of the squirrels that ran across the hiking path in front of me. They were running around in the trees and shrubs at the side of the path.

This is my longest video yet, but it's well worth it. Not only does it show why they are out there, but it also features the first ever appearance of my own voice! I initially didn't want that part in the video, but it shows my utter awe at seeing so many of these creatures. Then after that, there's the ridiculous sound of my breathing as the camera is being held up next to my face on that cold winter day. After all of that, you will be able to hear the chirping sounds of the squirrels.

These two squirrels are heavily featured in the video. You can tell from this one picture why they were all out there. It seems as if at least one of these two is in love. Can you guess which one? I think you might also be able to guess why by looking very closely at the hind end of the upper squirrel. That must be drawing that little fella like a magnet.

When this was all over with I noticed that the squirrels had run in every direction. They seemed to come out of that tree in an organized pattern, like a swat team, or maybe like clowns coming out of a small car. Some stayed close, while others ran off deep into the forest. One thing was certain though. They all seemed to be in one huge mating frenzy.

I really wish I could have caught that black mass of squirrels on camera, but I at least got this small sample. I'm still having trouble telling you what a strange and unique experience it all was. I watched some of these squirrels running off into the distance as if they were infiltrating the entire park. Some of them were still very close, but I knew it was time for me to leave. I really had the feeling that I had found my way into the middle of a strange horror movie, and I didn't think I really liked that at all.

Let me know your opinions on all of this. This is not just a cheap plea for comments. I really want to know what you think! I was left confused and shocked by the whole thing. I think that's it for this very strange story.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Downy Surprise

The little bird you see in these pictures is a downy woodpecker. This is another type of bird that seems to enjoy winter around here. I first discovered them when I found this nature park last year around this time. I have some better pictures of them that you can see here and here. The second link is the best.

It was actually late winter when I first saw them. Then all through spring I heard the fun little tapping sounds they make throughout the forest. Once summer arrived, the sounds of their tapping seemed to go away. I thought maybe it was because all of the other forest sounds were just a little bit louder than them. Sure I heard them every once in awhile, but very rarely.

It wasn't until late this fall that their little knocking noises came back to the forest, and they've continued all through the winter. Do you know what that means? It means that I've apparently found another little bird that loves winter. I couldn't have been more surprised.

We don't usually think of any animals actually liking the cold weather of wintertime. We see them out there in the cold and snow, and we think those poor little creatures must be freezing. But maybe they're just fine. Maybe this is just the temperature they like, and it's the way they like to live. Think of penguins or polar bears. They would hate warm weather.

Next time you see a squirrel digging in the snow, or a bird taking a snow bath, just remember that they're probably well equipped for this kind of weather, and they might even like it. There are also some animals that you won't see any other time of the year. So winter can actually be very interesting. There's much more life out there in the snow than we could ever believe.

One last unrelated thing today. After my post yesterday about fake computer problems in the park, I've actually developed some very serious real computer problems. My hard drive on my computer is failing fast. This is going to seriously limit my internet time until the new one I ordered comes in the mail at the end of the week or early next week. I'll do my best to get on here when I can, but I don't expect things to go well until I get the problem fixed. I guess that's what I get for faking a bad computer.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Computer Problems?

"Have I come to the wrong place?" That must be what you're asking yourself while looking at this picture at the top. Obviously it's not a picture of a squirrel or a robin or some other little creature of nature. In fact, it's not a nature picture at all! What's going on here!

Well, this is the maintenance crew of this nature preserve, and they're at the front entranceway. It seems there has been a problem with the park, and they've been working on it for a few days now. The main computer that powers the park is buried just to the left of those trucks, and they have to dig it up and fix a glitch in it.

I've been noticing some strangeness in this place for some time now, and it seems the computer is the cause of it all. The first problem was when the leaves all fell off the trees. Then the temperature began to drop throughout the park. It didn't seem to be too bad of a problem at first, but then the days became drastically shorter, and the lake froze over. They were hoping it would sort itself out but then a few days ago all hell broke loose!

For some odd reason it became difficult to get good photos of the animals, mostly the birds in flight. The deer disappeared completely, and all that was left of them were their tracks. Then the cloaking device on the black squirrels went down, and they were revealed for all the world to see.

If that's not enough, while I was in the forest yesterday morning, all of the animals seemed to have disappeared completely. I heard a few birds in the trees, but they seemed to be completely invisible. I'm really glad they were out there trying to fix things, but it just wasn't happening yet.

But after I was at the very back of the park, and making my way back out, I began to notice something. There was one lone squirrel running through the forest. It seems that they were making progress on the computer glitch. The weather has also been warming up a little bit, so they obviously have been getting that taken care of too. But all isn't fixed yet!

As I got to the front part of the forest I noticed something very strange going on. It seems that in their effort to restore the squirrel program they made a huge mistake. While they did get some of the squirrels back, it was almost all black squirrels! And not just a few!

It seems that they must have had to rebuild the squirrel program, and in the middle of their work they must have hit 300 instead of 30, because there were way too many black squirrels. And I have to tell you, when that many squirrels are created in one spot, they tend to go very crazy. When I saw all of those squirrels causing such a ruckus I had no idea what to do! I just stupidly stood there with my mouth hanging open!

That's my story. It may be strange, but it all happened... well, all of it except maybe the part with the computer. How would I know what they're working on up there? In fact, I don't really even care, so I just decided to make something up. My theory is better than reality anyway.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

The Twa Corbies

Sometimes when you try to get a good picture of a bird from a distance you have great success. That's just what happened with the photo I showed you yesterday. And then there are other times when things just don't work out so well, no matter how hard you try.

On the same day that I got a pretty decent picture of a robin from very far away I saw a flock of crows in the air above the forest. I happened to be standing at the edge of a meadow, and I heard their loud ugly calls before I ever saw them. They soon came flying from the north far over the treetops.

The problem was that they only came to the very edge of the trees. They were also moving very fast. I tried to chase them with the camera, but they were just too quick for me to catch up with. And anyone who has used a camera more than a few times knows that you'll never get a good shot while the camera is moving wildly about.

If they had only come from behind the treetops just a little bit more, I would have had them! They circled about three times right at the wrong edge of the trees, so I really didn't have a good opportunity to get anything good this time. I felt as if they were teasing me.

Crows are very intelligent birds, so it's very possible they were avoiding me in some way. I did finally get this last bad shot of this straggler. He circled back around my way twice more, but this time a little more out in the open. I guess he was trying to give me a charity shot. Or maybe he was just teasing me some more.

We don't always get the perfect pictures we want, but the experiences we get from trying are excellent. Watching those crows fly will be something I'll never forget; maybe because it was so frustrating trying to get at least one good photo, or maybe because it was such a wonderful experience getting to study crows so closely for the very first time.

Until Tomorrow...

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

At A Distance

Ooh, a short post for today! I just wanted to show you a picture of this robin I took the other day. It's a pretty good picture that doesn't look any more special than another. The robin appears to be in a small tree not too far from me, but that's not the case at all.

When I got to the park I didn't hear much going on, so I was listening for any little sound at all. I got to a section of the trail where I could see very clearly through the top of the trees. At that point I heard the very faint sounds of a bird singing. In a very high tree that was very far away was the source of that sound.

From my eyes it was a small dot that appeared to move just a little bit. The sound and the dot were one and the same. I pointed my camera at that dot, and I stretched the zoom its maximum. I have no idea how I got this photo to come out as good as it is, but here it is. Even though I've been looking at it as if it were very old, my little camera still has some life left in it.

This should be a lesson that your camera might just be able to do a little more than you think. Push it to its limits sometimes. You never know what you'll get out of it.

That's it from The Everyday Adventurer for another day!
(One additional note. I'll be absent from commenting and visiting your blogs until tomorrow. I'm having a rare visit from my dad right now, so I'll be kind of busy for awhile. I'll be back to my normal blogging self tomorrow.)

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Bug And The Flower

I've decided to bring you something from the past. I got these pictures in early fall last year. I honestly forgot I had them. I knew I had very many pictures of this plant, but I had no idea the bug was anywhere in my archives. That whole day's worth of photos have been lost to the past, and I had some good stuf from then.

Now I'm sure you're wondering by now what the identities are of the bug and the flower. Well, guess what! I can tell you about both of them. And I'm going to do that if you read along with the post, but first I'm going to drag this out a bit, just for my own devilish amusement. ...Okay, that's enough.

The flower is known as Jewelweed (impatiens capensis). It has become a favorite of mine since it was first introduced to me by WiseAcre quite some time ago. His blog is a very valuable source of information. The reason I like this plant is because of its other name, touch-me-not, which is because of a peculiar surprise it gives when you try to touch it. I won't tell you more about that just yet. That will come another day.

What I want to tell you about today is the identity of the bug. This bug seems to be an Aphid. Many of you have already heard of these tiny critters. If not, just follow the link I just gave you! They are small plant-eating insects. They are some of the most destructive insects in existence for cultivated plants.

A big coincidence is that I just saw a show on TV today that showed certain types of ants actually keep some aphids like we humans keep livestock. In other words, they're farm animals for ants. That's one of the strangest things I've ever heard. It's the first time I ever heard that any other animal besides humans did this.

 I mostly brought these pictures to you because I like the way the water droplets are hanging there on the plant in the first picture. The aphid and the jewelweed are somewhat of a bonus. I hope you like the whole package.

That's it for this unexpected post. This was almost a replacement for my normally scheduled post a few days ago. That one almost had to be delayed because the stunning new episode of Rat TV that it contains wasn't ready on YouTube yet. Everything worked out okay at the last minute, but I already wrote this post as a backup. Since I thought this one was still a fun enough post, I decided to bring it to you now. So here it is! I hope you like it!

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Through Squirrel Eyes

Friday, January 15, 2010

Very Agitated Squirrel

I told myself I was going to stop writing about squirrels for a little while, but how can I pass up an opportunity that almost literally jumped right out at me? It all started when I was walking along my nature trails just like any other day. Suddenly I heard the chatter of an angry squirrel off to my right.

I looked over to see this little guy you see in the picture above. It was chattering away and quickly shaking its tail at me. I've learned that when a squirrel does that it means that it is not at all happy. It was yelling at me to get out of its forest! Did I listen? Of course not! I began taking pictures, just like any other time.

As I was busy with this squirrel, I heard another angry sounding squirrel down the trail from me. I turned back to the left to see it leap onto a big tree and scurry up the trunk to a very high branch, where it proceeded to yell at me with even greater intensity. That's when I put the camera in video mode, so I could bring you this all new episode of Rat TV!

This video is a two parter. When I took the first part, the squirrel was climbing higher into the tree. You can hear a dog barking loudly in the distance. There is a scratchy chirping sound that is more difficult to hear. That is the squirrel yelling at me. The sound of the dog covers it at first.

After the first part of the video, I decided I had to move on. My path took me directly under that tree. I was glad the squirrel was too far up to decide to jump down on me, but I moved past that tree quickly anyway. When I got to the other side, I decided to get some more video, because the light was shining on things a little better from here. That's when it all happened!

As I began recording my video, the squirrel looked at me and came scurrying down the tree! I was sure that it had decided to come after me! It came all the way down the tree, only stopping a few times to look to see where I was. Luckily he decided to call off the fight as he touched the ground. You'll really want to watch this video, it tells the story even better!

I'll be back tomorrow, but I don't know if I can get anything much better than this, can I?

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The Road To Here

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Hungry Robin

A great thing about hiking as often as I do is that I see wildlife constantly. I don't really get too many animals that come close to my house, so I have to go out searching for them. Hiking helps me find them. I saw this American robin almost immediately when I got in the forest on my hiking trail.

I have also been discovering something about hiking in the winter that helps with my animal watching. Since the food is more scarce for them, the animals don't try to get away from me as quickly as they would in warmer weather. This gives me plenty of time to get as many pictures as I want of them. It also gives me extra time so I can add video to my collection.

Some of you were wondering what the robins were eating when I showed them to you in this post. I know a few of you also wondered whether they even ate things from trees. Robins are known for eating worms. Well, they also love berries. And in this episode of Rat TV you'll be able to see the robin from the pictures here trying to get a berry from this tree.

This is where the robin went when you saw him fly away in the video. You might have to expand the photo to see him. He's very close to the center of the picture. I guess he wanted a little more space between us once he got his berry. Unlike squirrels, robins must like to eat alone.

I guess that's enough for today. I'll be back tomorrow with something inspiring and fantastic, just like always.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I'm So Excited!

This only looks like the third post in a row about black squirrels, but it isn't at all! This is really about something I found while I was watching this black squirrel. Black squirrels are become routine for me right now, but what I have for you today is anything but routine. I'm so excited that I'll have to tell you the whole story!

The black squirrel here is just part of the story. There's so much more to tell you!

It all started in a place where I don't usually see any squirrels, but I hear them there all the time. It was in the back of a park, at the edge of a meadow where I usually watch for birds. Right after I gave up on seeing the birds that were making so much noise on this sunny winter day, I spotted a very dark shadow in a tree up ahead.

As I got closer, it turned out to be a black squirrel, who I'll name Opie(Opal). I was very surprised to see him back here because while I had seen squirrels in this part of the forest, I had never had a very good look at any of them. This time I was getting a very good look, and I was soon to discover that it was going to be even better still.

When I got closer I saw what appeared to be another squirrel peek out from behind the same tree. It was obviously after this black squirrel. But there was something odd about this second squirrel. Could it be? I had often thought I saw them back here through the trees and branches, but I had never gotten a very good look! This new squirrel was unlike any I had ever seen before!

As soon as the new squirrel saw me, it leaped away through the trees. I saw the tail, and it looked very different from any others I've seen. I thought it was striped at first, but I quickly realized I was mistaken. This squirrel was moving very quickly, but it popped up on a high branch just long enough for me to get a very good look at it. It was an Eastern Gray Squirrel!

It had light gray fur and an almost white belly. It was very close to the same size and shape of the black squirrel, which is logical because the grays and the blacks are brothers. Black squirrels are really black furred eastern gray squirrels. I failed to get any pictures of this gray squirrel, but I got a very good look at it. I'm sure I'll see one again because I've been getting small glimpses of them all along, not good enough for a positive identification though.

Now a few of you may have some questions by now. Why is this so exciting? Eastern gray squirrels are very common. In fact, they're the most common tree squirrel in North America. Here's my answer: They're not as common where I live. Here, fox squirrels are the most common squirrel. This is the first eastern gray squirrel I have ever seen! That's why I'm so excited.

But this opens a completely new question involving squirrels that I've seen!

This picture shows a squirrel that I saw last April. It is definitely a gray squirrel. Up until now, it is the only gray squirrel I've ever seen. But I said earlier in this post that I haven't ever seen an eastern gray squirrel before. The answer to that is that I don't think this is an eastern gray. I have always believed that this squirrel is a western gray squirrel. I urge you to read about my theory on this. There is a huge problem with my theory though!

There are no western grays where I live, only eastern grays! I live too far east of them. The old gray squirrel I saw and the new one both looked very different from each other. The new one looked exactly as I thought it should, but the old one was much too big to be an eastern gray squirrel. Western grays are much bigger than eastern grays, almost as big as fox squirrels.

The fur color on the new one was also much lighter than the old one. I still maintain that the old squirrel was not an eastern gray squirrel. They do look very similar, but there is a difference. My pictures of the older squirrel look a lot like the western grays I've seen on the internet, but not as much like the eastern grays. But this all leads me to some final questions!

How did western gray squirrel get here? Is it really a western gray squirrel? Is it a mutant? Is it just a really huge eastern gray squirrel? I wish I knew!

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

More Of The Black Squirrel

I think I may have gotten my best photo of a black squirrel, ever. This makes him look as cute as a little cartoon character. I always wondered when I was going to finally see a cute black squirrel. This is much better than the very sinister looking black squirrel I saw three months ago.

This is the same squirrel from yesterday's post. Now it's done eating it's acorn, and it's on its way up the tree. I was happy that it stopped long enough to prove to me that these little forest ninjas can be just as cute as any other squirrel. It's much better than looking like a sinister little vampire bat.

More Rat TV! He doesn't really move very much in this short video, but his tail is blowing in the wind. He moves his head just a little bit, but most of the movement is just the shaking camera. Still, a video helps nature come to life.

Here is the little black squirrel from when he first jumped back onto the tree. I wasn't prepared for him to do that, so my camera wasn't zoomed in very far yet.

This is when he must have heard me moving around from my hiding place, behind the tree. I suspect he already knew I was there anyway. I think that's why he kept stopping in one place for so long. It must have been his way of hiding. Maybe he thought he was too dark for me to se him if he didn't move.

I should have known when he looked in my direction that he was about to do something. Notice that in this picture the squirrel is a little blurry. That's actually a bit of motion blur because I caught him just as he was making his move to escape up the tree from the evil photographer.

Notice that he didn't squint before he moved.

And in the very next picture he was off and running! Up the tree he went! He thought he had gotten away, but I could still see him. I decided to play along since it was so clear that he had had enough of me, so I left him alone and moved along to my next adventure.

Since I dedicated two days on this little guy, I thought of giving him a name like I've done for other squirrels. But I don't really know what name I could give to one of these forest ninjas, black squirrels. I wonder if he feels left out. I guess I'll never know.

That's all folks!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Wintery Black Squirrel

I was entering the forest of a very snowy nature park when I looked off to my right and discovered a little black squirrel climbing up the side of a tree. As many of you already know, I try to never miss a chance to get a picture of a black squirrel, because they are so difficult to photograph.

Every time I try to get a picture of a black squirrel, they come out as just a black blur. It's because they are just so dark that the camera has trouble focusing on them. Well, I discovered something that can change all that. Winter! It seems that the gray and white color of winter makes these black squirrels much easier for the camera to see!

Since the squirrel was kind enough to stay around for awhile, and since I was hiding behind a tree, I had enough time to bring you an episode of Rat TV featuring him eating the acorn he was carrying up the tree with him. The video is a little shaky, partly because all of my videos are, and partly because of the wind.

I showed you a few pictures of another black squirrel eating an acorn in the snow a few days ago. I wished then that I had video of him, so I'm glad I was given this second chance. I hope to get many more. Maybe it will give me enough practice to learn to steady my hands a bit.

This picture above is what I saw when I first looked over at him. I discovered him hugging that tree, trying not to drop his acorn. I think he saw me watching him, but he didn't want to lose his food so he froze there in that spot. It wasn't too long before he was on the move again though.

I was glad that he didn't go very far. He climbed from the tree onto this little branch that was wound across it. It seems that all kinds of squirrels like to eat their food while they're perched on a tree or a branch. I've seen them jump from the ground onto a tree so they could eat. Maybe it's so they can get a high area where they can watch out for coyotes and photographers.

I have to say that winter this year has been pretty good for me so far. I still get to see animals. And sometimes I can show them to you in an even better way than I could when everything was green. That's it for today.