Friday, April 30, 2010

The Michigan Staring Squirrel

High up in a tree in the big spring forest, I found this fox squirrel staring down at me. I was almost directly below him, but I was still very far away. I stood on the ground pointing my camera at him. And he laid up in the tree pointing his snoot at me. I was now in a staring match with a squirrel. But how did this situation come about?

It didn't start off this way at all, no. As I was walking up the path, all I saw in the tree was a lump laying across one of the high branches of a tall tree. When I looked closer, I could see that not only was it a lump, it was a very furry lump!

After quite a bit of consideration and confusion, I determined the lump was made of fur. And I also determined with my quick and brilliant brain that this obviously must be a squirrel laying up there on that branch. It's pretty easy; tree, branch, lump, fur. Sounds like a squirrel to me. All that was still needed was a little bit of movement.

The movement didn't seem to be happening just yet, so I decided to move around where the sun would give me a bit better angle. I'd be able to see exactly what was going on, and why this squirrel was just laying there on a small branch so high up in that tree. I mean, how is that any way for a fine upstanding squirrel to act?

As I moved in position for the sun to light my view, it hit me! No, not the squirrel! An idea! I knew what the squirrel was doing, and why it wasn't moving. I remembered seeing this kind of thing before. The squirrel was taking a nap on that small branch so high up in the tree. It was fast asleep!

I never thought very much about it before, but this actually shows even more incredible balance than I thought even squirrels had. I knew they were graceful acrobats, but I didn't have any idea that they were so good at it that they could literally do it in their sleep! As a matter of fact, this was only the first of four squirrel I would see this same day sleeping on small tree branches.

Of course, when the squirrel figured out that I was watching him, he began to wake up. He groggily changed his position to get a more advantageous position to stare right back at me. After all, he had to make sure I wasn't able to jump thirty feet or so up in the air to grab him.

And of course, I didn't try to jump thirty feet or so up in the air to grab him. I was fairly sure I wouldn't make it quite that high. So instead I decided to try an alternative. I took these pictures instead. Pictures are easier to share on the internet instead of a whole squirrel anyway.

And that's how I got into this staring match with this squirrel.

At Nature Center Magazine there is another Free Wallpaper for you today. For any of you who don't make your own, you might want to have a look.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I Got A Blue Jay!

I did it! I finally conquered my nemesis, the beautiful blue jay! Actually, I'm not so sure that conquered is the right word. It's more like the blue jays finally decided to grace me with their presence. I finally got it all right this time. And they cooperated, instead of just teasing me.

I was out in the meadow of my currently favorite, but smallest nature park on a very windy day. The odd thing about this event was that there were no other birds in the park because of the high winds. I probably shouldn't have even been out there because I watched another big tree fall. This one had me pretty nervous this time. That's when I decided to get out of the forest for at least a short time.

 It turned out to be kind of lucky because that's when I found this blue jay, and he wasn't alone! That's right! There were more than one blue jays!

I was walking back to the woods after trying for the longest time to wait out the wind. I was almost there when I saw the first blue jay on a branch in a small tree at the edge of the forest. I couldn't believe my luck! Now I only hoped it wouldn't fly away before I had the chance to get at least one decent shot.

I eneded up getting all four of these, and even more before it flew over to another section of the trees. I thought it was all over, but it flew right back after a few seconds! As I began taking more pictures, another blue jay flew right past me. I soon realized after the third one showed up that this was a small flock.

It seemed as if after all of my problems trying to get pictures of them, the blue jays decided that I was finally deserving enough to have their pictures. The lighting was coming from just the right direction this time. They were at a very good distance to get clear pictures. And they posed in every good way that I could want.

I was even able to get a couple of videos of them, but a combination of the blowing wind and my shaky hands ruined that part of it all. I guess the video is just not meant to be quite yet. Even so, the important thing is that I finally got my pictures!

Now onto my next challenge; I need to be given one million dollars, for doing absolutely nothing. That one should happen any second now. Any second now...

When the blue jays finally decided to fly out of my view for more than a few seconds, and the wind had died down enough to stir my bravery up, I decided to reenter the forest. Crossing through the forest trail was the only way to get back to my truck, so I had to do it. I would be walking right past the tree I watched fall.

It turned out to be an uneventful journey, and I was glad of that. Now, as I sit here at home, I want to ask all of you rich people out there to please send me that million I need for my goal. It's a pretty good goal, don't you agree?

Nature Center Magazine - Copas has his newest article up today about the states. This time he's featuring the great state of California! This one should interest many of you. California is a really good place for hikers and all nature lovers.

I'm finally able to read some of your blogs, but there are very many of them. It'll take me a day or two to catch up on all my favorites.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Spring Cardinal

Well, my luck with birds seems to be continuing. I really do have to give a lot of credit to the new camera for pictures like these. But to get the pictures I have for you today, I had to search patiently through the trees for the sounds I was hearing.

A problem I've had is that I have trouble telling one bird from another by the sounds they make. But I think I made a small breakthrough with this cardinal in the pictures. A cardinal actually has a very distinctive call if you listen closely, and I've been lucky enough to hear a great many of them lately. It always helps to have enough birds around making noise to be able to learn from.

After listening to the calls of this bird for several seconds, maybe even minutes, I began to realize it wasn't coming from just my everyday robins. This was a distinctly different sound, almost like a quickly up and down slide whistle. I guess you'd have to hear it to understand.

Anyway, it was different than a robin, okay? The important thing is that I think I'm finally beginning to hear and understand the different bird calls. It may not seem like much, but for me it's a huge breakthrough. Listening to a bird is really the only way to find them in the trees, and knowing which kind of bird you're looking for helps a lot.

I actually stood there taking more pictures than you'd believe. I've told you before that I've taken anywhere from 50 to 100 pictures of the same subject at a time. It was probably about the same here. I do it like that because a digital camera makes it easy to save that many, and I want to make sure I get at least one good picture out of that mess!

Trust me, it's not at all easy to get a picture of a bird. They don't really like to sit very still, especially when they notice you watching them!

People like to use the term "bird brain" to refer to a stupid person, but we are finding out more and more that some birds are very intelligent. I don't know how intelligent a cardinal would be, but I do know that this guy was watching me right back. He knew I was there, but I think he felt relatively safe at the top of the huge tree he was in.

He turned out to be confident enough to stay there until I left. I didn't leave because I was tired of him though. There happened to be a strange big bird flying by. I tried to get video of it, but there were too many branches in the way. When I turned back to the cardinal, it had decided to make an exit as well. There will be more cardinals one of these days.

Do you notice that the pictures above are a little dark? I like them that way this time, but I know how to brighten them up, and even improve them quite bit, thanks to Diane. Do you want to learn how to do this? Go to Nature Center Magazine today for Diane's nice lesson on beginner photo editing, and to learn who the mysterious Diane is. Some of you actually know her well.

Update: I've been a little absent from the web the last few days, but I'll try to visit some of your blogs later today.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Unfortunate Secret Of The Deer

I showed you this deer in yesterday's post, and I also revealed that I was going to reveal a terrible secret about it today. I waited until today because I it happened in two parts for me as well. I originally thought how beautiful it was when I found it there eating peacefully. Then when it began to move I discovered that this poor deer has a bad leg.

I don't know what happened to him, but one of his back legs is in bad shape. That might be why he's all alone. He looks really bad when he's moving around, and he's not going very fast. He seems to be having a lot of trouble walking, but he's getting where he wants to go just as readily as any other deer.

I am guessing that he was injured in some way, probably hit by a car. It looks like we're in the deep forest out here, and this is a huge forest network, but this forest is divided by a lot of roads. I've seen the same groups of deer from this forest in my backyard which is at one end of this huge forest. There are a few major highways in between. The streets are dangerous for suburban deer like this one.

This episode of Rat TV is not a fun one. Watch it at your own risk. If you're sensitive to sad sights like this, you may just want to skip it. The deer doesn't have any open wounds or anything like that, but the way he's walking doesn't look good at all. Even though this isn't fun to watch, it's still very much a part of nature and life.

On the positive side, he looks as if he's getting where he wants to go, and he isn't in any obvious pain. There are a lot of places for deer to hide out here, because like I said before, this is a very big forest. He also won't be jumping out very quickly in front of any cars now. They'll easily see him coming.

I left him alone there where he was because it's not my place to interfere. I've seen injured deer before, and there's not really anything I can do for them. I could try to contact someone, but I don't think they could do anything positive either. When I came back through this way the deer was nowhere in sight. The only thing to do is hope he can make his way as he is.

Nature Center Magazine - Emma has a new Nature Site Of The Week up. She is featuring a place called Stokes Birding Blog. I know she has been looking for one like that for awhile. I don't ever make suggestions to her, so this one is a new one for me. As always, she features the best of the internet. So you would do good to check it out.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Deer In The Woods

This deer is what I met in the forest after I walked up the stairs from the fishing platform by the lake. It was just standing there looking at me. As I always do when I meet any wild animal, I stopped where I was and didn't move. It put the deer at ease enough to resume what he was doing, eating the grass off of the forest floor.

I stop because I don't want to scare them. I learned awhile ago that if I stop where I am, and don't move towards them, the animals are less likely to run away. Alternatively, it's probably just as bad to run from an animal. If you run, the animal would be more inclined to chase you.

Any animal can be dangerous, even this gentle looking deer. So if you would rather not take the risk of encountering a dangerous animal, the best thing would be to make a lot of noise while you're alone. I don't live in a place where there are animals that would normally present a danger, so I always stay as quiet as I can. That's why I see so many animals like this deer.

My new camera has a special button on the back for recording video. I don't have to switch to a special video mode; all I have to do is push the record button, so it's quick and easy for me to get video now. So I have a new episode of Rat TV for you today featuring this deer.

Did you notice at the beginning of the post that I called the deer he? That's because he is a he. Take a look at the top of his head. That's the beginning of antlers. It's almost always male deer that have antlers. Females don't really need them. It can get pretty violent to be a male during mating season, so they need those antlers.

There's something else about this deer that I haven't revealed yet. That will have to wait until tomorrow. I have a terrible secret to tell you about what happened next. I don't know that you will want to see this, but I have another video coming tomorrow.

Nature Center Magazine - Monday is the day we bring you the Cool Nature Video. This week we are featuring another deer. This time we'll see what happens when a deer is provoked into violence. You may or may not like what you see. I found it kind of amusing. Go watch it and see why.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

First Flower Of The Year

Well. It's been a bit of a rough night for me. I'm writing this post very early in the morning because my power went out right as I was getting it together last night. I actually planned a late night on the web, reading some of your blogs, but that was rudely interrupted too. So now here I am, typing this in the wee hours of the morning.

And what do I have for you today? It's not my usual animal post. I really like the animals, that's why I feature them so often. But sometimes there's something else that I stumble upon that's every bit as good as being chased by half a dozen raccoons. Today it's this flower.

But what kind of flower is it? This is the part where I usually string you along for a bit and then reveal the identity of my new find, but this time I have to say that I really don't know what this flower is. I'm getting pretty good with animals, but plants are another story altogether. But don't worry, I still have a story for you.

You see, I found this flower in the strangest place, under odd circumstances. I was at the back end of a good sized nature trail, in the middle of the forest, under all of those trees, when I saw a pretty big animal. Yes, it's back to animals again! I never did get a good look at the animal, but when I rounded the corner to where it was, I found this flower instead.

This is the first flower I've seen in the wild this year. Notice I didn't say wildflower. That's because I don't think this is a wildflower. I don't know why, but it just looks too domestic to me. Of course, I could be wrong you know. Some of you may recognize this one easily, but as I said, I'm not good with plants yet. If you know what it is, I'd be grateful for a positive I.D. though.

Now the reason I don't think it's a wildflower is because I saw these same flowers later that evening growing near the benches at another nature park, as if they were planted there by someone. Yes, I sometimes go to more than one in the same day. I'm addicted!

But here it was, this flower was growing out in the middle of a dark forest, all by itself. How it got there, I don't know. There is one person I could ask, but I haven't seen her since then, so that isn't happening right now. For now, I just want to share this flower with you. I hope you like it, because I do. It's my first flower of the year!

As for the identity of the animal I saw, the answer to that will come another day.

And that's my story on this rainy early morning after I finally got my electricity back. It woke me up just in time!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Downy Woodpecker In Bare Trees

I became confused about this bird for a time. This is a downy woodpecker. I actually took this picture in March, right before the leaves began growing on the trees. That day there were chickadees all through these small trees. This woodpecker seemed to like their company.

But wait! What was it that confused me? Well, while checking a couple of bird guides, I found out that this downy woodpecker bears a striking resemblance to another woodpecker, the hairy woodpecker. Even though I never try to tell anyone that I'm a nature expert, I still don't like to be wrong about what I tell you. So I decided to wait to show you these pictures.

And how do I know the difference between the two now? After a lot of searching around I found out that, for one, the hairy woodpecker is quite a bit bigger than the sparrow sized downy woodpecker. The bird here is the size of a sparrow, a small bird. Also, this bird has the shorter beak of a downy woodpecker. A hairy woodpecker has a much longer beak. That's the real giveaway.

Another thing I realize about my recent success with bird pictures is that it may not last. These pictures somewhat illustrate why I've been able to get them. There are no leaves on these trees. The birds will be able to hide in among the leaves when the green comes all the way back.

The tree you see in the pictures is most likely much greener right now, so the birds have more places to hide today. I honestly hope my little theory doesn't prove to be absolutely true though, and so far it isn't. I'm still getting some excellent bird pictures, but since I don't just focus on birds here, I try not to overwhelm everyone with them. Plus I want to try to make sure I identify them right, like I did with this one.

One more thing I haven't shared with you yet about this little guy. Yes, I said guy! This woodpecker is definitely a male bird. How do I know? You can't check a bird in the same way you might with a dog. All you have to do with a dog is look underneath at the tail end. Oddly, it's the other end you check with downy woodpeckers.

Do you see that red patch on the back of his head? That's how you know this is a male. A female downy woodpecker doesn't have that red patch. If you can get even halfway close to one of these birds, you should watch for that flash of red. That's when you'll know.

And so ends my little lesson on downy woodpeckers. It's not at all complete, but it can give you a good start. It's probably impossible to give an adequate lesson on any animal in just one blog post, but you can do a web search to find out all you need. There are many good web nature guides out there.

See ya next time!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Why They Call Them Tree Squirrels

This post is so much more than just game results, but that is part of it. Today I'm sharing with you one of the strangest sights I see while I'm in the forest. The fox squirrel in my pictures today is demonstrating why they are called tree squirrels, but in the most extreme way!

I don't know what impression you get when you look at this top picture, but this squirrel is at the very top of some very tall trees, eating the new buds and leaves off of the branches. The branches around him look as if they could barely hold up a bird, but this squirrel is navigating them with the greatest of ease.

I've seen this happen before in this same exact spot, but I didn't have a camera I could zoom in so close. It may be different squirrels that I've seen doing this, but I like to imagine that it's the same squirrel every time. It's Flynn, the daredevil squirrel! Hero to all squirrels everywhere! The squirrel who valiantly poses for the pictures taken by those dangerous humans! Some squirrels even say that this audacious adventurer once rode on the back of an angry dog! They whisper his name in awe. Flynn, simply Flynn.

Okay, it's game results you wanted, and it's game results you're gonna get! Where was the squirrel hiding? I think you've all figured that one out by now, but I think it's still a good idea to point him out for you. What you see above is the original picture from yesterday's game, but with one small change. I have circled the exact place where Flynn the fantastic daredevil is located.

I have to be honest. I thought nobody would find the squirrel this time. But then to my total surprise, Ann, with the very first comment, Described exactly where it was! Tanya(allotments4you) pretended to be clueless, but I think she also got it right. Ginnymo, who I think is one of the best animal photographers ever, knew exactly what the squirrel was doing up there. And Harumi, who reminded me that I should also bring back the polls, also figured this one out. Others were close, but not quite there.

Congratulations to all of you who won. And I'll also say, "Curses, foiled again" as I shake my fist comically. If you all want a real treat, go and visit their blogs, and maybe even visit some of the other bloggers who played the game. You'll really make their day, and yours too.

Just to show you what this crazy squirrel was doing, lets zoom away just a bit. There he is right in the middle of the picture this time. The picture I used for the game was no accident. The reason I didn't center the squirrel in that picture is because I intended it for a game all along. My thoughts are of entertaining all of you even when I'm out on a hike!

Here he is in the same pose as he was in the game picture, but he's now close enough to see the hairs on his tail. The picture from the game is what I saw when I looked up into the trees. The camera really helped me out with this. The only thing that told me it was a squirrel up there was the way it was moving.

Just think of the maneuvering Flynn the fantastic fox squirrel had to do to get from the pose he is in above to the one in the first picture! Remember that when you dismiss your neighborhood squirrel as just an average everyday common squirrel. That squirrel is really a fascinating daredevil.

And we finally come to the last picture of Flynn. If you look closely, you can see him looking this way, as if he's checking to make sure he has an audience. We're watching you, Flynn. We know how great you are.

I'm glad I was finally able to share these scenes of what a squirrel can do. I don't know if we really stop and think about some of the amazing feats our animal friends are capable of. But all we have to do is take the time to watch. They'll amaze us every time.

Nature Center Magazine - There is a very special edition of our Free Wallpaper feature up today! Tanya from Allotments 4 you brings us a wonderful combination of photo and story. The story is probably even too good to be just part of the Free Wallpaper feature. They are both phenomenal! And whenever we have photo contributors, like Tanya, the photos are always excellent. You have to read this one!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Game - Find The Squirrel

I've been thinking for the past few days that there has been something missing here at The Everyday Adventurer. It finally occurred to me what it was. My Games! I haven't had a game here in quite awhile. It's been so long that many of you don't have any idea what I'm talking about, so I'll explain it to you.

There is a squirrel in the picture above. It's hidden very well. What you need to do is find the squirrel. If you click on the picture to make it larger, it might help a lot. When you think you have found the squirrel, do your best to describe its location in the comments section below. Even if someone else already has the same guess, go ahead and tell me where you think the squirrel is. Even a humorous wrong guess is fun. No prizes. This is just for fun.

I'll reveal the location of the squirrel in tomorrow's post. You won't want to miss it because you're not going to believe your eyes. I'm telling you this might be one of the strangest sights I've seen, but this squirrel does it routinely!

Nature Center Magazine - Copas is featuring the state of Arkansas today. His articles are some of the most interesting features of the site. Do yourself a favor and take a look.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

I guess my new found birding skill is still with me. I think the new camera deserves a lot of the credit for this one. I watched as this red-bellied woodpecker flew from tree to tree high up in the forest without ever imagining that I might be able to get a picture. This kind of thing is much easier now, so I got three of them.

I specifically picked a point and shoot camera, and not a DSLR, because I thought it would be quicker for animal photography. I don't have to change lenses or set many manual settings, although I can. All I have to do is zoom in and try to point the camera at my target. It's proving very convenient so far.

This is the very first red-bellied woodpecker I've ever seen, so it took me awhile to identify it. Most birds are still new to me, mainly because there are just so many different kinds. I was really never able to get pictures like this before, so I didn't attempt to do it very often.

This woodpecker was so far away that I could barely see it. I had to wait for any movements on the side of the trees. Usually a woodpecker would identify itself by its loud knocking on the side of the trees, but this one wasn't doing it enough for me to know this was the one. I just knew it was a bird and I wanted it.

As you can see by this last picture, this bird has a very red head. If you're wondering where it gets its name from, you might want to expand the first picture and take a closer look. It's not easy to see, but you can see the red on its belly in that one.

This is one of many birds I've been surprised to have gotten recently. There will be more to come as soon as I can organize everything. I'm not good at that part. I usually do all of this in a very chaotic way. I even write my posts at the very last minute. I guess it keeps everything I say natural that way.

On Nature Center Magazine today there is a news story that I wrote myself, even though all news goes under the magazine name. The story isn't something I usually like putting on there, because it's kind of a gruesome one. It's about an incident that happened in 2005 between a pack of black squirrels and a dog. It's a very interesting bit of news, but it's not pretty at all!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Confession For The Birds

I have two confessions I want to make today. The first one is that even though I have pictures of a few birds that I find much more exciting than these pictures of robins that I'm showing you today, I really like these pictures of the robins because they're some of my best. The second confession comes further down the post.

This robin above is one of my favorites not because I consider it to be the most beautiful that I've had, but because of the detail it shows. I have never been able to show you this much detail in a photo of a robin before. You can zoom right in and see individual feathers on this bird.

One reason for this is because when I was on the trail I suddenly looked up at a branch just above me to see this robin perched there. It was only five feet away from me. Somehow I had walked up on it without it noticing me. I guess I'm geting better at being quiet than I thought.

This is one of the many other shots I got of this robin as he stayed perched there oblivious to me presence. Honestly, it didn't take him long to realize I was there. Maybe he knew all along, but just didn't mind. I did notice that he subtly turned his back to me while I was getting my pictures. A sure sign that he had detected me.

I tried to move to a better angle for the sunlight, but it didn't work out well. Even though he stayed where he was, the sun just wasn't cooperating. I couldn't get a better angle than this. I guess these were just the pictures I was meant to have. I really like robins because they do let me get very close to them.

From close to far. The robin in this picture wasn't close up like the first one. As a matter of fact, it was very high up in a tree that I wasn't standing very close to anyway. All I could see with my eyes was a flash of red. I thought maybe I had a cardinal, but the other birds that had flown with this one were definitely robins. The camera proved this was too.

Now, why do you suppose I've been getting such good results out of my camera lately? I'll explain below.

The picture tells the tale. I got a new camera! As you can see, it's a Canon PowerShot SX20 IS with a 20x zoom. I researched for a very long time, and bought the very best point and shoot camera there was. The previous version of this camera is the same, except this one is a little higher in megapixels and it shoots high definition video. I don't use the hi-def, but you might notice my video quality has also improved.

By comparison, my old camera is a Canon PowerShot A590 IS with a 4x zoom. It's a very good camera, especially for a beginner, but I wanted to move on to the next step. My new one seems to focus right in on any animal I aim at. And I don't have too many problems with blurry shots like I was having before. I'm very happy with this camera.

Okay. Meanwhile over at Nature Center Magazine today, Emma is featuring another Nature Site Of The Week. She always features the best of nature on the internet, so go take a look at what Emma has to say about this newest site she focuses on. Who knows? One of these times she might find your site, and decide to write about it. She also takes recommendations if you know of a site that should be featured.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Shadowy Watcher

I have a shadowy tale to tell you today. Well, it's not exactly a tale, or tail. It's more like a shadowy face that I found staring down at me from a tree. It appeared to be an alien from another planet or maybe another plane of existence. It had big black eyes, long pointy ears, and what looked to be a shadowy aura that surrounded it.

There was not so much as a sound from this sinister watcher from elsewhere. It just silently stood there examining me as if I was the one who looked strange. I don't look strange at all! I mean, it's not as if little kids run away at the sight of me! Well, there was that one time...

I don't know what this mysterious creature wanted from me. Maybe it just wanted me to go away. Of course, I wasn't going anywhere yet. I had to take pictures of this strange little invader from elsewhere. If it was going to zap me into oblivion with its super advanced ray gun all of a sudden, then I wanted a record of this so somebody might know what happened.

It was about the time I took my last picture that the mysterious alien finally lost interest in me. It simply turned and began scanning another part of the forest. That's when it dawned on me! I knew exactly what this strange creature was!

Have you figured it out yet? Well if you don't know then I'm not going to tell you! Just kidding.

The creature was a simple little squirrel all along. What was once unidentified was now found out. Sometimes the mysterious becomes known if we simply take the time to observe and pay attention. Sometimes it takes some investigation, but most mysterious things become typical and well known after awhile.

Speaking of squirrels, over at Nature Center Magazine I have a new Cool Nature Video up today featuring a squirrel. This is not just any squirrel though. This is a drunk squirrel. Watch the video to find out how a squirrel could get drunk.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

My Blue Nemesis

I am getting closer to defeating a major nemesis of mine. I'm getting closer all the time. The one I speak of is a blue jay! You see, one of my first photography goals was to get a picture of a bird. Any bird. It took me a very long time to get to that point.

Since then I've done that, and with each goal met with my bird photography there have been greater goals that become a next step. I took pictures of birds in flight. I found new types of birds, and took photos of them all. It was amazing to find out the many varieties and colors of birds as I went on. But one well known bird eluded me.

It was the blue jay that did it! Oh, I saw the blue jays, of course. It wasn't that there weren't any around. There were plenty of them, and they always eluded me. If I was able to get a shot of one out in the open, the picture would turn out blurry. If the picture wasn't blurry, the blue jay would be only caught hiding behind a tree branch. Again, no good pictures!

Now you see my latest efforts. I am getting closer every day. The first picture almost had him, this terrible little beauty of a beast. He was lost in shadow that day. If I had been looking away from the sun he would have been mine. But the blue jay knew that, and in his devious little mind he stopped to torment me once again!

In this second picture, just above, I saw a flash of white in the trees across a good sized pond. I zoomed the camera in all the way towards him. I gave it my best, but it just wasn't quite good enough. I just wasn't close enough, and he still hid behind a tree branch. He once again knew I was there!

I think they are laughing at me, those monstrous little blue jays. But I know that I'll have the last laugh. I'll get you, my pretty!

Then I almost had the blue jay again. He would only stop for a few seconds at a time, leaving me no time to quite get my shot off. Still teasing. Still tormenting. But I know I'm getting closer. I know that it is only a matter of time before I will have my prize!

You cannot get away from me! Do you hear! I'm coming for you, little blue jay, with your little pointed head and glorious bluer feathers! I'll never stop til you are mine! I'll capture you on camera, and then you'll be mine forever!!!

Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering blue jay; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee.

This post was brought to you by The Mr. Nutz Facility for the Mentally Demented.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Fast Old Squirrel

I saw this squirrel sitting on a fallen branch while I was out on my routine hike and animal search. I thought maybe I found a common gray squirrel, which is not so common around here. But after looking closely at my pictures, I'm sure this is just one of my fox squirrel friends. The gray fur might mean that he's kind of old though.

He seemed to be preoccupied with an itchy paw while I hid behind a tree and got several bad pictures of him. The view I had wasn't very good with that tree on the left of the picture hiding him a little bit. I had to get a better position if I was going to get any good pictures at all. So I stepped just to my right and moved away from the tree that obscured my presence. I got this one picture before he saw me standing there.

That's when he decided to move! The squirrel that looked like a cranky old man who might not be very spry just a second ago, became a flash and a blur! No camera can catch him now. This old squirrel was gone as quickly as he appeared.

He may have been a fox squirrel like I see many times a day, but with all of his gray fur he was a unique little guy. I've even seen other fox squirrels with patches of gray fur, but none were quite like him. Even though he's gone, I'll still never forget this unique little squirrel. I hope I see him again one day.

Evening Update: The story doesn't end here! Take a look at the comments below for further questions and information about this squirrel.

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Pair Of Groundhogs

I have an extra long and extra good post for you today! On a day after it rained all night I had a feeling the groundhog would be back out. So I went out to the field where I always see him, and I got double the groundhogs for the price of one. That's right! There were two of them out there!

I know some of you wanted to see the groundhog's face a little better the last time I shared him with you, so I made sure I got that for you too, and maybe even a little bit more! I had to stretch the zoom on my camera to its limits, but I think I got some good stuff.

I made sure this post was going to cover everything this time. Not only did I get some good pictures of the groundhogs, I also have a new episode of Rat TV for you, and this one features both groundhogs! There's the one in the front, and then another one that decided to hang out in the back.

Watch them as they keep looking up just in case a predator might be approaching. These two are always really nervous, so I couldn't get very close to them. I couldn't risk even getting out of my truck, so there is some noise from the engine in the video. They were fine with that part, so I didn't dare shut it off.

Here's the lead groundhog eating grass while holding it with his front paw. Just like a human eating a snack! Grass is one of their favorite kinds of food. They are mostly herbivorous, but they sometimes like a good grub. Other rodents, such as squirrels, are more willing to eat smaller animals.

A fun little fact is that groundhogs are actually a type of squirrel. They are what is known as ground squirrels. They are in the family of Sciuridae, just like any tree squirrel that I've shown in the past, and will definitely be giving you a fresh look at soon. A groundhog's scientific name is Marmota Monax.

Finally, here is the second groundhog. She seems to want to hang back near the den. It looks like she can see me watching them, so I understand why she won't come closer. Groundhogs are normally solitary creatures, but right now is the heart of mating season for them.

Here is the lead groundhog rooting around in the grass while the other one looks out for any danger that might be about. I referred to the one in front as he, and the one in back as she, but I really have no idea which is which, and I have no desire to go over and ask them. I only talk this way to help give them personality.

While they would most likely run and hide if I were to approach, groundhogs are known for sometimes being aggressive fighters. They don't like to play around if they are threatened. They can and will defend themselves. I think that's enough for me to decide to stay away from them, especially these two big critters.

The last time I saw this chubby guy, he was running across the grass chasing something. I don't really know why he did it. Maybe he was just protecting his territory. He moves a lot faster than his chubby frame might indicate. As big as he is now, he will get about twice this fat by the time he's ready to hibernate for next winter. That's a lot of groundhog! He's quite a bit bigger than a house cat, weighing more than twice as much.

That's it for this look at my two local groundhogs. I enjoy watching them as much as I can, but there's always a new adventure for me. I wonder what I'll see next...

Today over at Nature Center Magazine, Rob will be featuring a new Free Wallpaper. Today's contributor of wallpaper is Jean from The Joy of Bird Watching and Living a Simple Life! Some of you may be fans of her blog, just like I am. Go take a look at her free wallpaper and tell her how much you like it. Then follow the links to visit Jean's wonderful blog.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Mourning Cloak Butterfly 2010

You may notice that I added 2010 to the title of this story about the mourning cloak butterfly in my pictures today. That's because I had a few very good pictures of another one slightly over a year ago. This was the only way I could think of to make a different title. I have a good story to go along with this one that's different from the one from a year ago anyway.

I actually took these pictures on the same day that I saw the tree fall in the forest. I had actually been watching three of these butterflies flying past me on the trail when that tree fell. I was marveling at seeing even another fun sight that day. They passed by, the tree fell, and I had begun to head out of the forest. But then one of them came back.

It landed on the trail right in front of me. My mind was still full of seeing that tree fall, but I remembered almost trying to project thoughts at the butterflies, wishing that one of them would land in front of me long enough for me to get a picture. When this one actually did it, I almost couldn't believe my eyes! I began to believe just a little bit that it must have really heard me! Maybe they were just waiting for the tree to be done causing its commotion.

I wasn't going to give up this gift that the butterfly was giving me.I began taking pictures of it at a furious pace! I took most of them as close as I could zoom the camera in to it while still being able to remain steady. I did my best to get a few other shots too, but I thought I had to act fast.

Well, I thought wrong. The butterfly didn't leave! It just stayed there in front of me. It seemed perfectly content to sit there in front of me. If an animal does that then it almost becomes a contest with me. I feel like I have to keep taking pictures. I can't be the first one to leave. I finally lifted my hand up and passed my shadow over this butterfly. That's when it flew away.

But then it came right back!

 20 seconds long.

This time I remembered to get a video! I wouldn't have thought of it before this, but the butterfly gave me plenty of time for the thought to ooze into my brain. So this episode of Rat TV was done with the intention of showing you the butterfly in action.

I was hoping it would move, but it wasn't exactly cooperating. So I waved my hand again and it finally took off into the air. It's hard to see it but I think I did a pretty good job of following the butterfly. You'll be able to see it flying if you watch closely. This was a fun video for me.

This was the first picture I took of the butterfly. I began taking them as soon as I saw it. I sometimes forget to not try to get all of them so close up. I'd say this is still good enough though. The funny thing is that when this one finally flew away, another one that I hadn't noticed before came off the side of a tree about ten feet away and flew by me in the direction this one had gone. It seemed as if that one had been perched there watching the whole event.

That's the story of how I found this early spring creature, the mourning cloak butterfly.

Today over at Nature Center Magazine, Copas has a new article up. Copas is writing about nature in each of our fifty states here in the United states, one by one. He shares a lot of good information about each one, and includes some very informative links so you can find out more. His subject for this week is Arizona. Please go take a look. I'm hoping that he'll stay on after he's done with all of the states; he really does a good job.