Wednesday, February 29, 2012


I almost always take pictures of wild animals, and this time is no exception. The cat you see here sitting on the tractor is feral. I see her out there very often. She seems to like my yard. I don't know her name so I think I'll call her Spot.

The reason she was sitting on the tractor is because she was up there watching my dog Isabella. She wasn't afraid of Isabella. As a matter of fact she often likes to tease her because Isabella is trapped on a chain and can't get loose to terrorize Spot.

Spot will move in close while Isabella tries to get at her. Spot is a smart one because she knows Isabella can't reach her. And I always watch to make sure there is no trouble. This time Spot seemed to want to have her picture taken.

After she was done on the tractor she came closer. She moved over to one of the piles of junk I'm planning to clean up. My dad loved his junk, and so does Spot. Spot seemed to be fascinated with my camera for some reason. She stood there staring at me for about ten minutes until she finally lost interest.

She finally moved on to somewhere else, and my attention moved elsewhere too. I'll probably feature her again one day. There's also another cat that looks like the cat version of Isabella. She's black like her, and even has a white tipped tail just like Isabella's.

Later today I'm planning on getting caught back up with my blog stuff. I keep falling behind lately. It seems like there's always too much to do around here right now. Hopefully things will slow down soon. See you in the comments section.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Monday, February 27, 2012

A White World

Today I bring you five pictures of what it looked like right after most of our snow fell last week. Things have changed again since then. There is still plenty of snow on the ground, and there are still chunks of snow and ice falling from the trees. But a lot of it is melting away.

I think I'll try to leave most of the talking for the pictures. I really like them. I'm still trying to catch up to the internet though, so I'll try to keep my talk short.

The picture above is in the very back of my property. That's where the creek is, and most of the trees.

The shrubs here were very nice to look at with all that snow covering them. But everything else was white too, so they were hard to see in the pictures. It's all still pretty.

This one above is a closeup of those tangled shrubs. I just thought it would be a nice unique picture.

This one above is another shot at the end of the road. The road is totally clear now, and they actually tore off some of the pavement with the snow plow. The pavement was thin there at the end of the road anyway.

This last one is one of my favorites, but I guess they all are. That's why I chose these five. I don't know the purpose of the little structure on the left. I never got chance to ask my dad. It's not a part of an old fence. There is a fence behind it. I think it adds something to the picture though.

So I think that'll do it for me today. This is what it looked like that day it snowed. The snow turned the whole world white. Maybe the most beautiful snowstorm I've ever seen.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Next Day

It was raining when I woke up this morning. By noon the rain had turned into snow. I went outside as soon as I noticed the snow so I could take these pictures. It had quickly turned into the biggest snow we've had here this winter. It only took a short time for everything to be covered in white.

There was slush sticking to and covering everything. The snow immediately stuck to that slush and made every surface big and small as white as I've ever seen. While I was out there the wind was whipping up so strong that I could feel it right through my coat.

The wind was coming down from the north, and when I faced that way I had to shield my face. You can see above that Isabella is turning her head to avoid the wind and snow. This was one day that she wasn't interested in playing in the snow. She just wanted to go back inside.

Above is what I saw when I turned to the north. It's probably hard to see here, but the snow was blowing in my face and into the camera lens. On normal days I can see to the other end of town, but not this time.

When I decided it was time to go back inside, I looked over and saw Isabella hiding by the side of the house to shield herself from the wind. She was having a rough time so she was happy to get to go back inside. She came running when she saw me head for the door, and we both quickly ran back in.
After a few hours I went back outside to find everything extremely white. The snow was deeper than at any other time this winter. I got many more pictures, and they are absolutely beautiful. I don't want to inflict them on you all at once so I'll post them in the next post or two.

The wind was still blowing hard, and the snow was weighing down everything, including the power lines. My power went out three times before everything settled down. Oh, and a big branch fell off the tree right above my house. I went out later and dragged it off the side of the house.

I planned on showing you blue skies and more birds, but this snowstorm is much more interesting right now. the other stuff can wait until after I show you why winter can be a very beautiful sight. You're gonna love it.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Beautiful Day

It was a wonderful spring day yesterday where I live. But isn't it still winter? Yup! It was warm enough that I went out onto my back porch, no jacket and no shoes, and I sat there and watched nature in action. Isabella had a wonderful time as we sat there watching the birds.

This little bird in particular caught my eye. From my spot on the porch it looked and acted a bit like a nuthatch, but there was something different about it. The colors were all off. I knew I had never seen one of these birds before as I sat there watching it search all over my big tree. It even checked under the bark in its examination of the tree.

I found out later that my new bird is a brown creeper! I've known of these little birds for a long time, but this is the first I've ever seen. I knew I'd see some new things here in Iowa! But the best thing was really the day itself. This was the best day of the winter so far, and I wish days like this could continue all the way to spring.

One other random thing I'd like to mention is that I got my good keyboard back. When my computer was messed up it effected my keyboard so it wouldn't work right, so I had to use USB keyboard that I found in the garage. I hated that one because it kept forgetting to capitalize when I wanted it to. I kept having to go back and fix it. Now my good one is back and things are much easier.

Temperatures around here are supposed to begin dropping again until the middle of next week, so winter will be coming back for me. After that they'll go back up into the 50s, and it looks like spring will be here. I hope it's true.

I'm writing this very late at night and I'm very tired, so I think I'm going to finish for now. I'll see you in the comments section.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Best In Awhile

A bird finally got close enough for me to get a few good pictures. In fact, these are the best pictures I've had in awhile. What you are seeing here is a European Starling. You can see these birds at many places here in the United States even though they aren't native to this country. Not many of us originated here.

I was lucky with these pictures. This one bird decided to fly in close where I didn't have to extend the zoom on my camera too much. They usually stay just at the limits of my camera's zoom so the pictures look awful. There's a tree they like there for some reason.

It doesn't help me that whenever I go out all the nearby birds flee the scene. I used to think the reason for their flight was my always big and sometimes obnoxious dog, but I'm not so sure anymore. I watched the other morning while she barked like crazy at some birds just beyond her chain, but then when I came out they all flew away. I guess they just hate me. Boohoo!

Maybe I'm in the wrong part of the country from the friendlier birds. What I should do is get a good car and drive around until I find some friendlier birds, and search for car hire usa might be just the place to look for that slick automobile. Can you imagine a weirdo in a giant white rat suit chasing down birds in a car?

I could do that or I could just continue my search at home. It seemed to work okay this time. I think these pictures turned out okay. As the weather warms up I think my luck will get even better. I guarantee that winter will be over in less than a month. I said it and I'll stick by my word!

And why? Because baseball teams report for spring training this week! That's always my first sign of spring. Even though I moved a few states away I still cheer for the Detroit Tigers. I'm sure your favorite team is good too, but this is mine.

I'm sure you've noticed that I haven't been posting quite as much lately. For some reason I've just been having a little trouble keeping up with everything. Part of the reason for that is my past computer problems. I'm still in the process of reinstalling all of my software. And I'm also trying to make my computer a little more secure from these problems.

What I've been doing is backing up some of my most important data to the cloud(internet). This way if I have any more problems I'll first configure my new programs to get those files that are floating there waiting. I hope it all makes things easier next time. There's always a next time.

Anyway, I'm not sure of the other reasons why I've been falling behind lately. I'm having fun, but I keep getting busy with other things too, so it sometimes gets hard to keep up. If only we had more hours in a day. Maybe I'll find out who to call about getting that done. Anyone know any better ideas?

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Um, Snow Monkeys

I'm back! Did you miss me? ...Wait a minute! Didn't I say that last week? Why, yes I did! But this time you might have actually noticed my absence. So what happened this time? It was the computer again! This is why I had such trouble figuring out the problem before. The computer kept crashing and the monitor wasn't working right.

When the monitor finally went all the way I hoped the problem was solved, but I still had my doubts. I never believed the monitor could cause the crashing, but I also never thought the monitor was the problem until it died on me. It turned out to be two problems at the same time that seemed like the same one.

I also don't have most of my other computer equipment with me so I was very hesitant to mess with anything, so I was hoping I could keep the computer limping along until I could get my stuff here. But unfortunately the computer finally quit cooperating at all. It began crashing every time I tried to use it, so I had no choice but to reinstall the whole operating system. And it worked! The computer finally seems okay, so now I can show you a snow monkey! Get ready...

And here he is, in chair number 2, your dream gorilla! Not bad for a snow monkey, right? Don't ask what's in chair number 1 or 3. You really don't want to know! This guy here was really the most presentable of the three. You'd get night terrors if you were to see even one of the other two. I'm not so sure how you'll fare with this snowy dude in the dark parts of your memory.

Just think how I feel. I had to see those three weirdos sitting on stools in the middle of my street when I went out the door. They were really the ones Isabella was chasing. You should have heard the howl that came out of her when she saw this guy!

If that wasn't enough, the neighborhood children all came down to hoot and holler at the big strange looking snow monkey. I swear, after all of this I need a vacation! There's nothing better than all inclusive holidays at a time like this! You'd do well to follow me there while you're at it. All of those kids laughing at the silly monkey will drive you to it.

Eephus there in the middle is the handsome devil of the bunch. And Simon is the merry mischief maker. They always have something to say when there's a bit of strangeness in town. Those little rascals!

For some odd reason Isabella will have nothing to do with them. I always thought she liked children, but she always runs and hides whenever this bunch of bananas comes around. I usually find her a bit later whimpering under my bed. Strange.

Maybe Isabella needs a vacation too. I guess everyone needs to get away from that many rambunctious kids every once in a while. I guess it would help if their parents wouldn't send them down here ready for dinner with their knives and forks. I don't understand what they think I'll feed them.

I'll be back tomorrow with... something.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Snow Post With... Snow

It snowed again! I've been checking the weather every day, so I knew there would be a small amount of snow coming. but when I opened the door yesterday morning I was shocked to find a couple of inches of this year's unusual white stuff.

I've gotten used to not having any snow on the ground, so I can't say this was a welcome event. The first thing that came to my mind though was to go out and get a few pictures. As you can see, they already had the road plowed before I even went out. That's pretty good for a small town like this one. They might not have gotten it done this fast in Detroit, if at all.

I guess the snow is a good thing because it keeps me inside a little more. My foot has been aching because I've been on it too much, so I think I need to rest it a bit right now. It didn't help that I was running up and down the street in the snow. Can you guess why I was doing that?

I had a big slobbery crazy dog named Isabella chasing me! That chain makes it look like she can't go anywhere, but she can actually go quite a long way. It allows her to run along the whole block before she reaches the end. And even then it has some give so that she doesn't get jerked to a halt.

Can you tell that I had to edit these pictures a bit to get them to come out right? My snow pictures always come out dark. it was actually a very bright day. I had to shield my eyes when I first looked out at the snow because it was too bright. And Isabella always looks like a shadow in these pictures before I adjust them.

Next time I'll come back and show you some amazingly fun and unique creatures I found looking down at me from the trees. Is that an exaggeration or did I really find snow monkeys?  I guess you'll have to come back and read my next post to find out.

Snow monkeys.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Watching Hawks

I got a good surprise when I got up in the morning to let the dog outside. For some reason Isabella wanted to go out the back door, which is unusual for her because she has more room to run in the front. When I opened the back door I heard the sound of birds everywhere.

Then as I looked up into the sky I saw a big bird flying right towards one of the closer trees. It was definitely a hawk! I quickly ran to get my camera, hoping I could get back out here before it flew away. I've seen hawks out here before, but only at times I couldn't get to my camera.

When I got back outside I looked to the tree it was in only to see it flying away. I missed another opportunity. But wait! There was another one in that tree. This one flew in the other direction to another nearby tree! I hobbled closer to that tree as fast as I could.

The hawk was waiting in plain sight as I began taking my pictures. The whole time I clicked the button on the camera I was hoping at least a couple of these pictures came out okay. It seems like my photography skills have somewhat diminished since I got here. I keep questioning myself and my camera, but maybe it's just that I'm a little out of practice.

As it turned out I got two good pictures, with the hawk in four of them. Two were blurry, but that's to be expected. The two good ones were a little dark, but I brightened them up a bit. This little outing was a good success. Even thought there are a lot of them around here, it's not often that I get pictures of a hawk.

I've been encouraged the past few days by a few projects I've been planning. Some of them are blog related, and some of them are not. I hope this positive attitude can stick around. It was cold for a couple of days so I lit the wood stove back up. But my new infrared heater is working very well.

I'll be back soon with some more good bird sightings, but if you need something good to read in the meantime go over to Nature Center Magazine to check out the excellent Latest News headlines. I've been hooked on them ever since we added that feature.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Woodpecker Watch Training

So now that I've finally visited another nature park the question arises, did I get to see any wildlife on my little trip? And the answer to that is, I actually did! That is if you count a few small birds at the beginning of my little hike up the giant hill.

And I even got a couple of pictures! This downy woodpecker was the only bird I was able to get on camera. Isabella wasn't cooperating at all with this because she was much too eager to begin climbing those stairs that I showed you yesterday. So she kept yanking at her leash, ruining any good bird picture opportunities.

Of course, Isabella is just a dog with her own little doggy needs and feelings. But I am the human in this relationship, and it's my responsibility to teach Isabella the proper etiquette while we are out and I'm trying to take pictures. So I used this trip to help her learn to be patient and let me take my pictures.

A few weeks ago I taught Isabella to stay in one spot when she was commanded to do so. I began thinking that this would be very useful for our current situation. So whenever I wanted to take a picture I just told her to stay, and she performed like a champ. Problem solved.

The best thing about this little trip where Isabella was able to repeatedly show her trick to me was that she actually came home behaving much more obediently towards me. That's a very big step for a dog who routinely likes to ignore me whenever I try to give her a command.

Soon I will be able to take her for walks and my pictures of little woodpeckers will be nice and clear, instead of the blurry stuff like this last one. Maybe one day I'll be able to teach her the trick I use to lure deer in close. Probably not.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Going To The Top

I left you yesterday just as Isabella and I were entering the nature park, so I just had to show you what we did there. This park is very different from my nature parks back in Michigan. The parks there were very flat. This one is almost all hills.

Almost all of our path consisted of walking up these stairs. There were some other things, but I'll save them for another time. As you should be able to see in the first picture, Isabella was eager to get going all the way to the top.

One thing to remember is that I was foolish enough to go all the way up these stairs with a broken foot! My foot was actually feeling a lot better that day, but it's aching a bit today. I guess I know what to blame for that. Isabella? The hill? Me!

Did those stairs look like a long stretch in the first picture? This is farther up the hill from that part! And I left out several other stretches of stairs that were inbetween these pictures, and just as many after this! This is a very big hill. These hills are the same size as what we think of the size of mountains. Mountains are made out of mostly rock, while hills are dirt. They can still be of similar sizes though.

Wow, I'm tired! Let's take a little break.

I'm currently working on a new story for Rat Tales. This one is going to be a fairy tale! That's kind of different from what I've been writing. But if you think about it, fairy tales can also be very dark, so maybe this is perfect for me. This one was inspired by a dream I had. Many of my stories come from dreams, but not all. You should pop over and take a look at y current story. It's my best one yet, very emotional. I'm telling you there will be a movie from this one some day.

Okay, I'm rested. Let's get moving back up the hill.

This took quite a while for us to get all the way up here! The view isn't very good because the Sun is just to the left of this scene, and it is drowning out all of the light from everything below. The side of the hill in front of us now is a drastic drop, but there are trees directly in front of us on the steep hillside.

In the distance we can see part of Sioux City and probably part of Nebraska. I'll bring you a much better view of everything when I can get to a different place when they reopen the roads in Stone Park.

For now Isabella and I have to make the journey all the way back down the hill. You'd think that would be easier, but that's what really made my foot begin to ache. It was foolish to do this, but I sure enjoyed it, and Isabella enjoyed it even more.

Nature Center Magazine - Have you seen the latest nature news? You'll have to come on over if you love nature at all!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Frost On The Trees

In the morning while I was getting ready to leave the house to go get my replacement computer monitor I looked out the door and saw the trees all covered in frost. I was in a hurry but I knew I had to stop and get at least these few pictures.

I wanted to get some that were a little closer, but I just didn't have time. The place I went to get my monitor was about thirty miles away. I went all the way there seeing a whole countryside of white frost covered trees. I kept thinking I wished I had my camera with me, but I wanted to get my problem solved quickly.

I passed by three nature parks that I haven't been visiting because I've been so busy. I looked longingly at their entryways as I drove by. I kept thinking how visiting a nature park would be a great way to relieve some of the anxiety that losing my monitor had caused, but I also didn't want to go without taking Isabella along.

I finally got all the way to the little shop I was looking for in the middle of the city. After testing my old monitor, and finding out it was indeed bad, I got my new monitor and drove all the way back home. By this time the frost was coming off the trees like snowflakes.

Once I got home I realized that in my haste I didn't get them to give me the power cord that went along with it. I should have known better. I even neglected to test it to make sure it worked! So after a phone call I had to turn around and go all the way back. This time I decided to load Isabella into the truck to go along with me. I decided we would stop at a nature park after all.

So after already traveling 60 miles we were on our way again. I got all the way back to the store, and this time had them check the monitor. The little store had no way to check this one, so I decided to pick another one. After running across two bad ones, we finally found a working monitor! That's the one I'm using now.

I got back out to the truck and told the anxious Isabella that we were finally on our way to the nature park. She wasn't happy that she couldn't get out quite yet, but that's the way it had to be. I wasn't going to let her out in the middle of the city.

So I got back into the truck and drove towards home. The highway leading out of town was the direction home and the road that leads to the nature park. The best thing is that this particular park is only a few miles outside of the city, so we got there pretty quickly once we got past the edge of town.

Soon we were both getting out of the truck. Isabella was happy to finally be able to stretch her legs. She immediately watered the grass when she got there. We were going to make this hectic day of monitor hunting into something good. Off we went into the nature park.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Did You Miss Me?

You probably didn't even know I was gone, but I sure did. It seems that my computer problems are continuing. I told you awhile back that I was having some computer problems. I also said that I didn't solve them. One problem is that all of my tools are still back in Michigan.

The other is that this one has been a stumper. I ordered a video card on the internet to try to solve the problem, but after getting it I discovered that wasn't what was wrong. While experimenting with it my monitor shut off and never came back on. The monitor acting up was most of the original problem, so that may be it now. the sad part for me is that my monitor was a wonderful 22" flat screen. So I ran out as soon as I could and bought an emergency monitor that is a 15" CRT monitor. I miss that big screen right now.

So now I have my computer back and I'm back online, but I'm limping along. The other thing I want to talk about is what I hinted at Friday about what I would heat my house with. I joked that it would involve squirrels, but of course that's mostly false. In a way it's true because pictures of squirrels actually paid for my new heating method.

The picture above is what you call an infrared heater. You may have seen them advertised recently. Mine is a LifeSmart LS-PP1500-6. I use it now in conjunction with my house furnace, and this has been working well. For a little device it sure puts out a lot of heat.

These little heaters heat in a very different way than traditional heaters. They also supposedly take very little energy to operate. These heaters, unlike other heaters, heat objects and not the air. I can hold my hand up next to this heater and not feel much heat coming out, but it heats the house nicely.

Even with all of my problems, I've gotten some very good pictures in the past few days. I'll be bringing some of them to you in the near future, but I had to get this one out first. Sometimes writing about little problems and their solutions can help let them pass along behind me. And now tomorrow willl hopefully be a better day full of good nature.

Oh! The picture at the top is one of my neighborhood feral cats. He likes to strut past Isabella on her chain whenever he can. She can't catch him, but my camera can.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Eurasian Collared-Dove

I'm back, with a new discovery! I bet after I told you yesterday that I broke my foot you thought I wouldn't be bringing you anything new anytime soon. I can still go outside to look for animals with my camera though.

The one thing I can't do right now is haul firewood around. I'm limited to very small easy work. I should have limited myself to light activity before anyway, and now I'm suffering for ignoring what the pain in my head told me. But I'm glad I can still take pictures.

So what do I have for you? I'm pretty sure what I have for you today is a Eurasian Collared-Dove. Of course, I always say that I'm never sure. I could be mistaken. So you can follow the link to see for yourself. this is the only bird that I found that matches everything. Even the sounds are the same.

These birds are considered to be an invasive species in the United States, and they are spreading rapidly. They are hanging around my town in great numbers right now. They arrived soon after I did when the weather began to cool off. I originally thought I was seeing mourning doves, but they never looked quite right.

I also think these doves have been keeping most of the other kinds of birds away. I've been saying for weeks that I couldn't find any other birds, but I kept hearing these doves everywhere. The smaller birds are there, but they keep their distance.

I began thinking these birds might be pigeons, but they didn't look like the normal pigeons I've seen before, so I did my internet search. The Eurasian Collared-Dove is the only match I've found. They are known to hang around small towns in farming areas just like mine.

I hope these doves aren't chasing away the other birds. They do seem to be rather animated though. They don't stay on the same perch for long. They'll give their cooing calls and then later a couple of obnoxious sounding squawks before they're flying to their next perching spot.

I'll show you some more about these birds in future posts. I knew I'd find something new here if I kept looking! Since I showed you my wood stove already, Monday I'll show you my new method of heating my house if I have it ready on time. This new one takes no work. I'll still use the wood stove too, but I have to limit my work and I'm running low on wood anyway.

Let me give you a hint of what I'll do now to heat my house. It involves squirrels... Just kidding!

Nature Center Magazine - Remember to come over and read the most exciting nature news you'll ever find!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

My Left Foot

I had so much to do so I got up early. I knew if I got up with the birds I'd be able to get some good pictures. Part of my problem lately has been that I've only been going out when nothing much is going on. My solution has been to start the day earlier. And that's just what I did!

After getting some good bird pictures, which I'll share in a few future posts, it was time for me to go find an ATM machine. The nearest one is in the closest town north of me. I needed money to pay my utility bill. I pay that in our small town hall building here in town. It's easiest just to pay it right there in cash every month. All I ave to do is walk a couple of blocks up the street, but that's after I drive to the next town to get the cash.

As soon as I got back home from all of that my neighbor called me to ask if I wanted to go with him down the highway to cut up a fallen tree for firewood. Firewood burns fast, and we're both almost out now, so off we went!

the plan was that he would cut up the tree with the chainsaw while I piled the wood into the back of the truck. Getting a truckload of firewood isn't usually hard work, but there are still too many times that I feel severe effects from my car accident. This day turned out to be one of those that I should not have worked very hard.

As soon as I began carrying the wood to the truck I began sweating and getting dizzy. My head began to throb just a bit. That's usual stuff on some days. Most times like this I just go back inside to wait for a better day, but this time we had to finish because we were away from home. I mentioned the problem, but I said I could continue. The solution I had was just to make sure I took plenty of breaks between short trips.

On one of my last trips back to the truck the dizziness got me. I was almost on the ground before I even knew I was falling. My face plowed right into the ground. I only was able to get one arm out to block my fall, but it wasn't in time. My arm hurt after I hit the ground, and I was hoping I didn't break it. I'm happy to tell you that my arm is fine. But unfortunately I didn't escape injury.

I began to notice that my foot was hurting a little bit. By the time we got back home my foot was throbbing with pain. I thought maybe it was just a cramp in my toes or something. After discussing our plans for the firewood a bit we went our separate ways. I went back into my house and immediately took off my boots to ease the pain.

I thought the foot cramp would ease up, but it only got worse. That's when I noticed that my foot at the base of my toes was turning black. Yup, I broke my foot. Once the swelling went down a little it doesn't hurt much anymore unless I try to put my weight on it. So I'm going to have to stay off my feet for a short time.

It's funny that there isn't a lot of pain, but the injury sure is making me tired. that's why I didn't have a new post yesterday. I was just too tired to do much of anything. Now I'm bored, but still a little tired. The good thing is that I have a few good pictures to share from right before I broke my foot.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!