Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy Ratty New Year

Happy New Year, everybody! I have to tell you, I don't really have much to say today, but I just felt like writing. Does that mean I'm feeling better? I don't know, but writing has to help. In my last post, I showed you a picture of my ghostly white arm. Take a very close look at the picture above. Look at those arms. That's me! And you thought it was just a costume.

Well, I do have one confession. I lied just a little bit. Yes, part of it really is a costume. Look closely at my face in the picture. I'm embarrassed to say it, but I disguised myself a bit. Alright, I'll just come out and say it. It's the eye patch, okay! I'm just wearing it because I think it makes me look cool. C'mon, everyone does some small thing like that, don't they?

Nature Center Magazine - Gloofhrtd goedfrig sedrik un tro wersd facvolm! And that's the bottom line, 'cause Ratty said so! (You figure it out!)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Birds, Snow, And Other Nonsense

The good news is that I was able to go on a little adventure on a nice clear day. The bad news is that I keep going out at the time of day when the animals are hiding. It's feels kind of strange when I've walked all the way to the back of a nature park and I haven't even heard a bird in the distance, much less seen something.

But then clear at the back of the park I had a small change of luck. I heard some very faint cheeping sounds coming from high in the trees. Then I saw some mysterious white bellied birds up there. I stood there with my camera, hoping for any kind of picture. But the bird I targeted flew away. There were more sounds, but I never found the birds.

The bird in the picture above is a black-capped chickadee. You can follow that link for more information about it. But as I said, I didn't get any pictures. This one is from almost a year ago. But I've never shown it here before, so I say that counts as brand new. How do you like it?

After the mysterious little white birds, there seemed to be nothing more but silence. I kept thinking that last year there would at least be the sounds of woodpeckers out here, but there was nothing on this day. Then as I entered the trail that leads out of the park, I heard a faint rapping sound high in the trees.

I hoped my luck would be better this time. But of course, different sounds, same situation. Actually, I never saw the woodpecker, but I know what kind it was. It was a downy woodpecker, like this one. There's another cool link for you. This is the kind that just loves this park.

Anyway, after standing there stupidly staring up at the treetops for about five minutes, I heard somebody coming with their dog. I knew there would be no finding my little woodpecker now, so I moved on my way towards the front of the park. Game over man. Game over.

The best picture of Ratty ever
Well this is no nature picture! Can you guess what white rat this arm belongs to? This is the result of the IV that was in my arm the other day. I just thought it might be amusing to show it. From the red marks to the yellow bruising around it, I think it maybe looks more gruesome than it really is. But look at the bright white skin around it. Look at it too long and you might go blind. And I bet you thought the picture I have of a white mouse wasn't really me.

My adventures aren't all nature related. I've been writing a serial horror story over at Rat Tales. The first episode is already up, and the full story is going to be a long one. I've been wanting to write this one for a long time now. I'm well on my way, and the second episode is coming along nicely. There's only one unexpected problem though.

I've wrapped myself up in the story so much that it's been giving me nightmares! I've put myself in the point of view of the main character so deeply that I feel some of his fear. I thought that was a bit of a crazy road to go down, so I decided to take a short break from that today. It's been fun to write this one though. It all made me a little too nervous, but I'm feeling muuch better now.

And finally, this is one of the pictures from my newest adventure. I would have shown more of them instead of the others above, but how many pictures of snow do any of us really want to see? Don't worry though, there was something else interesting, with pictures, that happened to me on this little adventure. That's a story for another day though.

Oh. Wait. What about this last picture? This is just the side of Carpenter Lake. I liked the look of the area this time as soon as I looked at it. And the picture seemed to capture it perfectly. Sometimes something you see very often can just look so beautiful if you look at it right.

I'll be back soon, soon, sooooon...

Nature Center Magazine - Gloobidy gliggl fllibbi gerf fgapugs ferbul nerj. Figure that one out.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Winter Chickadees

This photo was originally posted on Tuesday, March 30, 2010 in my post, "A Time Of Chickadees"
I felt energetic enough to go on another winter hike recently. Right away I encountered a small flock of black-capped chickadees. They turned out to be the only animals I saw that day. But, oh, what a wonderful feeling they gave me!

You see, these little chickadees have given me a great gift. It's the gift of knowledge. When I entered the edge of the forest, I heard familiar little peeping sounds in the trees. And for the very first time I immediately knew what kind of bird was making them! As expected, these tiny little birds with black caps showed themselves. And without conscious thought I knew that these were indeed black-capped chickadees! I am now becoming what I wanted ever since I began my adventures into the natural world!

I know I still have so very long to go before I may finally feel like some kind of expert, if that really ever does happen. I mean, does our learning ever really stop? I know mine never will. But I still feel a sense of accomplishment. I knew what I was hearing and seeing without having to go home and study.

These next two pictures, the one above and the one below, are the best of the bunch of the pictures I got on this recent adventure. They are bad, and I know it. But we can all see that they are indeed chickadees. It was a dark day, but my energy was good, so I went out.

The darkness of the day and my lack of practice turned out to be the downfall of my camera. I just couldn't quite get the camera to focus on the birds. I knew the whole time that I would not get good pictures, but I was still happy because I did have the opportunity. And that's all that matters to me right now. It was so fun!

There have been better days recently to go on a hike, and I've had the energy, but other obligations have stopped me from my favorite activity. Whether I feel good or bad right now, my health takes priority over everything else. So now I will give a promised health update, since many of you said you still wanted them, and because of some developments on my end.

My neurologist finally decided to speed things up a bit, and he sent me for an MRI on my brain. My regular doctor also insisted that I go. So yesterday was the day. When I got there, they had me lay on a table that was connected to a big machine and hooked me up to an IV. Once I was ready, they moved the table into the machine, for what seemed like an eternity but was really a half hour. I laid in there hearing all kinds of banging, whirring, vibrating, and many other loud machine noises.

Then they finally pulled me back out of there and it was all over. I won't know if they found anything until a few more days. This is just one of many trips to doctors I've had over the past week and a half. This has all kept me very busy, and I'm not finished at all. Next comes the memory test. I don't think I'll do very well on that one.

But back to the fun stuff. I'm going to try to go back out hiking in the next few days. Hopefully I can choose a time of day when more animals are out. I have the good kind of anticipation this time. I have also written another story over at Rat Tales. This is the beginning of a long serial that I've been wanting to write for a long time. I've had this one in my mind since before I was even an adult. I'm very excited about telling it. It's the one Rat Tales was always intended for.

I also hope to make my presence known in the blogging world in the next few days, until my next doctor's appointment. I'm happily anticipating reading some of your blog posts a little more thoroughly. One of my favorite pastimes that I have been missing more than you'll ever know.

One last thing for today. We have an extra special Nature Site Of The Week up at Nature Center Magazine today, Photography By Ginny. Ginny is one of my very favorite people in the blogging world, and her pictures are always the very best. It was her blog I was thinking of when I thought up the concept for Nature Site Of The Week. I'd like for each and every one of you to take a look at her blog and say hi.

Nature Center Magazine - This week we are featuring the blog that is the inspiration for Nature Site of The Week. We only waited this long so we could show it to the most readers possible.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Perching Mystery

All of my activity last week took more out of me than I hoped it would. It hit me about the time I published my last post. I became exhausted and dizzy so most activity had to stop for a few days. ...But I'm feeling muuuch better now.

So I'm back with a bit of a mystery. Take a close look at the bad pictures I have of this bird here. The first thing you might notice is the bright yellow belly. Then the darker back, which is either gray or maybe more possibly an olive color. The front of the neck appears to be white. That last part is very hard to see.

I found these pictures while browsing through my archives. I took them at the beginning of May last year with my old camera. I don't remember the event at all. I'm guessing that's because I must have thought at the time that this was an American Robin, which is very common around here. But after doing quite a bit of research over the last few weeks I suspect it is really a Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher, but I am far from sure. It's definitely not a robin.

I'm so interested in this bird because I have never seen a bird like this one before. Birds are some of the most interesting creatures because there is such a huge variety of them. Before I began really paying attention to them I thought there was only one kind of bird around here. Brown. You wouldn't believe my amazement when I saw my first American Goldfinch, which is bright yellow.

So now every time I find a new bird I am very excited. It's more fun to know the bird is new when I actually see it, but seeing the picture is pretty good too. I actually have stumbled across several very interesting pictures of birds in my archives. I only wish the quality could be just a bit better.

So, do any of you think you know what this bird might be? I already made my guess, but it could be way off. The one thing I am sure of is that this is the only one of its kind I am sure I've ever seen. So even if I never find the identity I am very excited to discover that I have seen another type of bird. What could be better than the discovery of something new?

Nature Center Magazine - This week begins the start of a series of some very good nature videos that I found. Today we feature some very special Reindeer that have a taste for magic mushrooms.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tracking An Adventure

It's been a good few days for me. I was able to go on a nice hike, and I've been more active here on the internet than I have been since my accident. Just this much has worn me out though, and I knew it would. But I feel good about it all. And now I've brought you something I promised in my last post!

So, what are these snowy pictures showing? What you are seeing above are a set of squirrel tracks. The thing I have the most fun with in the snow is tracking animals. Snow is the only thing that makes this easy. You wouldn't think it at first, but finding their tracks in the snow is just about as fun as actually finding the animals.

But why would this be? It's because the tracks show us in a very good way what the animal was actually doing. It's difficult to study an animal's activities so much when we encounter that animal, because they almost always run away and hide. Then we're stuck with only a fleeting glance. But the tracks tell us so much more!

For instance, this was the first real snowfall we've had here, and when I began my hike I knew from last winter's tracks that I would find squirrel tracks in this very spot. The squirrels always gather in this place where I took these pictures. But you wouldn't really know that in the summer because you wouldn't see them here much.

And squirrel tracks almost always start at the base of a tree and end at the base of another tree. That's of course if you follow them from start to finish. Not many people would follow the tracks of a squirrel, but I do it all the time. Of course there are other animals to track as well, and I will probably show you those as the winter rolls on, but for now it's the squirrels.

But wait! What do we have here? These are no squirrel tracks. These are much smaller. I've never seen anything quite like them before, but I believe they are the tracks of a chipmunk! They are very much like squirrel tracks, but much smaller.

This was something I never expected, but my hopes were high. I really thought all the chipmunks had gone underground by now. I have read that chipmunks don't hibernate, but they spend almost all of their winter months underground.

There is an interesting story about me finding these tracks. When I was taking pictures of the squirrel tracks I thought about the possibility of finding chipmunk tracks. I quickly thought to myself that it wasn't going to happen, but the thought just wouldn't leave me. And after just a little more walking, and in an area heavy with chipmunks, I came across these tracks. It was almost as if some instinct in me knew they would be there.

Now you may wonder if they are maybe really from a bird or some other creature. Well, take a very close look at the picture above. The tracks toward the top show front and back feet. Obviously a small mammal. Too small for much other but a chipmunk or maybe a  rat-like rodent. Very similar tracks, but I've only ever seen chipmunks here.

And besides, rat tracks are much bigger. Here's a fine example of rat(Ratty) tracks, in case you were wondering. You'd never mistake them for a chipmunk or any other animal. Well, they might be mistaken for a Bigfoot if not for the fact that this creature was wearing shoes. They're certainly big(gigantic) enough. For a picture of the elusive Ratticus Giganticus you can click on this link. Trust me, it's a strange sight indeed!

That's about it for today. I'll be back with another post as soon as I'm able. Even though it's been incredibly fun, all of this activity has taken a lot out of me. Plus, our temperature here has dropped drastically. I make it a rule not to go hiking when the temperature is under 15 degrees Fahrenheit. I could probably do it, but it's just a little too cold for comfort. Until next time, this is your Everyday Adventurer, signing off!

Nature Center Magazine - I have an article up on Nature Center Magazine today that talks about more snow fun. It's actually somewhat of an extension of this one. No rat pictures, but I have some rabbit tracks on it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Short Hike In The Snow

I gotta say, it's not an easy thing to get back to hiking when it's so cold outside. It seems like last year's cold was so much warmer than this year's cold, even though it was colder last year. And the days seem so much shorter this year too. I guess it was just the different perspective I've had lately.

But something changed my negative point of view to one that's a little more positive a few days ago. You see, I don't really own a good heavy coat. It's not that I can't afford one. It's my preference for something different. What I like more is to wear two jackets together. One by itself isn't good enough for the winter, but the two of them together are much better than any winter coat I've ever tried.

I don't even feel the cold with those two good jackets on. I had forgotten my second jacket until a few days ago, and I've been freezing! So I went and dug it out of the closet, and I've been okay ever since. And that's what gave me the courage to get myself back to my hiking trails, with only a few small problems.

We were lucky enough to have a few sunny days, and the weather warmed up above freezing, so that was good. The weather change happened because it snowed though. In fact, it was our first snow that really stuck to the ground so far this winter. I know some of you are already sick of the stuff.

One thing about snow or rain. When you see any precipitation, you know the temperature outside is probably going to change. That change is usually why we get it. This time the snow happened to be a prelude to a warm up. The next one we have coming is supposed to have an opposite effect. That won't be much fun.

I was happy to be out there finally. But I learned the last few times I've done any hiking, which I still have to keep short, that my now constant headache gets worse whenever I walk very far. This time was no exception at all. When I got home, I felt like my head was going to explode, but it was all worth it. You'd think that one of these doctors would figure out something.

Another problem was that because I'm not used to doing much, I ended up with a cold in my back. It feels like a backache, but also a coldness that goes right to the bone. So I was unable to go back out for our second sunny day. That's okay though because I got some interesting pictures that only winter and snow can provide.

This is what Carpenter Lake looks like in the winter. It looks kind of desolate at first glance, but it's heavenly when you get to go out there alone and just examine it for awhile. This is what it looked like the first time I ever saw it. It's a small lake that is smaller than even some ponds, and it's hidden inside a sometimes busy area, but they still found a way to make you feel all alone there. I appreciate that very much.

I'm glad this whole park is there. It's small for a nature park, but it's just right for me to get back to things. I can walk the whole park without messing myself up too much. And this time I didn't have to have anyone else along with me. I call that progress.

I'll be back in a few days to show you some interesting things I found there in the snow.

Nature Center Magazine - The videos are going to be getting extra interesting here. I found some really strange subjects, so they're going to get better each week!

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Hungry Goldfinch

I've had a lot of time to go through my archives lately, and I have found some surprising things. I really forgot I took these pictures back in May. There were just so many things to see back then that this exciting event was swept by the wayside. How could I have done that?

The bird in these pictures is called an American Goldfinch. They are maybe my very favorite type of bird because of their bright yellow color. The first time I ever saw one I was amazed by that bright color. I never knew that a bird could look like that outside of a tropical climate. I've learned a lot of things since that time long ago.

"But what is this bird doing," you may be asking yourself. Well, it's eating the seeds from what looks like possibly a dandelion. It may be some other type of plant because it is so tall, but I'm just not sure. I am sure that this little bird was a very hungry goldfinch.

The goldfinch was so hungry that I was able to get very many pictures while I observed him eating his meal. I have several identical pictures of each of these. He would dig into that plant and then pull out a mouthful each time. It really was fascinating to be able to watch him for so long.

Here you can see the seed stem in his mouth as he pulls it from the plant. One of the things I really like in these pictures is his tail. I don't think I've ever had this good of a look at a Goldfinch's tail before; probably not even when I first took these pictures. I was just so busy finding new conquests back then. Now I'm able to go back and look fondly upon all of it. There is so much!

I want to pause right here to mention that even though I still am not feeling well, I will not be talking about it anymore. This blog has always been intended to be a happy place to talk about nature and my everyday adventures. It was never intended to talk about me, and I am uncomfortable doing so. The nature stories are so much more fun anyway, so that's what my subject will be from here on out until I have something good to say about the other. So let's move on back to the goldfinches.

There were so many goldfinches that day. They really love that park. The one in this last picture is a female. You can easily tell them apart because the male has a black cap and mask, while the female does not. She is all yellow on her head.

They are both very beautiful, and also a fun subject on this cold winter day. I'll have some wintery pictures coming soon too, but these fun warm weather pictures help take the bite from the cold weather. Cold is something that I'm not quite as prepared for this year, but I'll be out there.

Nature Center Magazine - There have been a few changes at Nature Center Magazine, and there will be many more coming. We are always striving to become a valuable resource for all bloggers who are interested in nature.