Monday, July 31, 2017

Fun With Horses

I had an interesting encounter with these horses the other day. At first I thought they were like those friendly donkeys I found a few posts ago, but these horses were a bit different than that. I'm not sure they really liked me all that much.

The horses noticed me as soon as I got there. And they all looked right at me, just like the donkeys. But that's where the similarities ended.

These horses stayed huddled in this small group. They stared at me while the two in the front stamped their hooves and shook their heads at me. That didn't seem like they really wanted to make friends. That's okay. I only wanted pictures and a video anyway.

Oh. Did I say video? You can find it as part of the last video I did a few posts ago. Just the horses by themselves didn't seem very exciting for moving pictures, so I gave you that special video instead.

But these pictures are exactly what fun is all about because you get to see a bunch of horses all grouped up. And the ones lying down are just fine. While I was there, they were looking around as if they were on vacation.

So now you know what I do all day. I stand there annoying horses and other country critters with my camera. Maybe they wanted me to go away, but I was having fun fun fun. I'll talk to you later.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Looks Like Chicory, But Is It?

Okay, so I found this plant by the side of the road. I was taking pictures of wildflowers that day, so I took several of this one. I barely remember getting the pictures, and I'll tell you why that is something that happens to me.

Whenever I go out with the purpose of getting lots of pictures I forget everything else and I just concentrate on getting those pictures. Nothing else. The real purpose of going out is to enjoy nature, but I forget to do that at its fullest when I get locked in on taking nature pictures. And I go too fast. I always do it and I can't help it at all.

So I only remember taking a bunch of pictures. I don't remember what the specific subjects of my pictures were at the time. I only remember taking lots of pictures. There were just so many flowers out there that they all seemed to run together a bit. I need to slow down and think a bit more. But I've been trying for years. I still have lots of fun though anyway.

So I looked at all my pictures when I got home. I remember getting lots of good ones, and I vaguely remember examining this when I took the pictures. When I saw these specific pictures I thought, "Oh good, it's chicory."

But it looks kind of funny. The petals are thinner than any chicory I've seen before. The plant looks like chicory to me in the pictures. And I did examine the plant while I was out there, but I don't remember enough about it. So I'm just not sure.

I did do lots of searching on the internet and in a few plant guides, but I found nothing other than it might be chicory. I know one person who would have an answer for me right away, but she has become a hermit. So maybe I'll never find the answer. Such a shame.

So after telling you of my ignorance of nature once again, I have a confession to make. I only pretend to be so ignorant. If you dig around this blog and Nature Center Magazine for a bit, you'll see that I'm a terrible liar. I pretend to be a beginner because it's more fun that way for me and for you. While I'm not a super expert, you probably won't find many people with as much knowledge of nature and wildlife as I have.

So now you know my terrible secret. I'll deny all of this in my very next post. I'll be back to bumbling my way through an encounter with a skunk or an elm tree or something like that. It's all about having fun with nature. And I really am having a lot of fun. I'll talk to you later.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Giant Puffballs

I found something fun recently. You'll like it because it's unique enough to deserve its own post. This giant puffball plant was kind of a mystery to me when I took the picture. But I know a little more about it now.

This plant goes by many names, but the name I found first was Western Salsify. The scientific name for the plant is Tragopogon Dubius. Some people think of it as a giant dandelion. I read that it even starts out with a similar yellow flower that turns into these big puffballs.

This plant is considered an invasive plant in the United States since it originally comes from Europe and Asia. You can probably say that about a lot of plants. I still think it fits right in, and it looks unique enough to merit this little post from me. So I think it's just fine.

As always, I might have terribly misidentified this plant. I never claim to know much about plants except what I learn on the internet. And I usually learn as I go along. I will say though that I think I know more than most people about plants because I have actually gathered quite a lot of information over the years.

If you like, you can find more information on this plant by searching the internet. It's pretty easy, and fun too. I'm not trying to be an encyclopedia, which would be terrible. I'm just trying to spark your interest in nature. That is fun too. I'll talk to you later.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Friendly Donkeys

I encountered some friendly donkeys on one of my many everyday adventures recently. I routinely just drive through the countryside just to see what I might find. This time I found donkeys. Just going for a drive can be a pretty good adventure.

Donkeys may not seem unusual, but I don't see donkeys most of the time, so I made sure I stopped for a few pictures of them. What I usually see is either cows or horses. Any other kind of animal is a little different.

It was when I took this above picture that I noticed these donkeys were just as interested in me as I was in them. I didn't see it right away, but as I took my pictures I realized that they were all looking right at me. That's pretty different from the sheep that ran from me when I tried to get a few pictures.

The last time I tried to get pictures of cows they all kept turning their backs to me. I thought farm animals would be just fine with me getting out of my truck and taking a few pictures. But apparently not cows or sheep. I began to think they all hated me. I'm glad these donkeys are nice and friendly.

 Hey there, big fella.

This last one was kind of amusing. As I was taking pictures, I took a few of this white donkey. She was a little far away so I said, "Hey Whitey, come over here!" I guess the donkey heard me because she came walking right over towards me to the edge of the fence. I must have guessed her name.

I didn't stick around much longer. I just wanted to get a few pictures, not necessarily make new friends. But I guess I did make friends with them. They were certainly friendly donkeys. For that I'll remember them for a long time. I'll talk to you later.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Deer Creek Lake

I have an interesting place to show you because I know you like interesting places. The sign out front says this place is called Deer Creek Lake. Actually, that is the name of the nature preserve this little place is in. I'm not sure if this meager looking body of water qualifies as a lake. Maybe a creek.

So now after I just kind of insulted the place, what is it that is so interesting about it? Don't worry, I'm getting to it. What makes it so interesting is that I'm not sure anybody else goes here at all.

There is never a hint or a clue of anyone else visiting this place when I visit. The only things I've seen are signs of maintenance on the roads going into this very hidden nature area.

One of the interesting things about this place is the boat ramp going down into the area where the water is. The ramp is actually kind of far from the water. There is also a dock that sits high up on a hill. This all suggests that long ago this was indeed probably a lake with much more water than this.

I think at one time this might have been a popular fishing spot. Today it is mostly abandoned. In a way, that seems like kind of a shame. But I like it because I can come here and be all alone surrounded by nature.

This sign out near the main road is quite a distance away from the lake, or what's left of the lake. The road twists and turns and divides a few times so it can go to a few different places in the nature preserve. I visited those places too.

I've shown you this lake before in the past. But after looking at the old pictures from that, I think this post gives you a little better look. One of these times I'm going to have to get you some video and really show you around the lake. I've really been doing a lot of video experimentation recently. You're going to like the results of that. I'll talk to you later.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Ratty's Nature

My pictures today show the pond that had some ducks swimming around in it. I recently had a post featuring them. This pond isn't the star of my post this time. This time the best feature of today's post is the video at the bottom. You're really going to like it.

But first, let me tell you a little about the pond since I have these pictures here just waiting for their story to be told. I've told you I keep seeing water birds in this pond. Every time in fact. But that was then.

This weekend when I went to find some more birds there weren't any at all. I thought my luck would be bad that day, but I got plenty of other pictures and things to share with you from that adventure. And even without the birds, this pond is still pretty nice to look at.

But let's move on to the star attraction.

This video is my best episode of Rat TV by far. This isn't just a boring video of an animal or two just standing there for 30 seconds. You'll actually like this one a lot because I put a lot of work into it, and because it's good this time. This one is unlike any of my previous videos.

My video today features just some of the things I see in the countryside around where I live. I couldn't feature everything in such a short time, but I got a lot in. I'll always have future videos to show you my newest nature findings. I'll talk to you later.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Ducks In The Water

I saw some ducks recently in a swampy pond at Deer Creek nature area. You might think that's no big deal, but it really is to me. Let me tell you why.

For some reason, I don't see many ducks around here. There is a lot of water here, but none that water birds really like to visit very much, except this one place. So far every time I've visited this pond I've seen water birds of some sort. But nowhere else.

Until just recently I usually forget this place, but I'll be visiting very often from now on just so I can get some good bird pictures. These today are far from my best. Next time I'll have to try to get a little closer so I get some actually good pictures for you.

The one thing that I did find out was that these ducks aren't the usual kind I get. Usually, my ducks are the standard Mallards that I see a lot. These ducks are clearly not Mallards.

From what I can tell these appear to be Wood Ducks. You can't get a good look at them from my pictures, but the head of the mother seems to give away the identity.

I have a new episode of Rat TV for you today! You'll like this video of Ducks In The Water because I made it short enough to keep you happy. I'm extra pleased with this one because I used a new video editor on it. Lightworks is my new video editor. Once I learned a little about how to use it I'm very happy with how my first video turned out.

This video of the ducks was actually two videos that I took, and I needed to merge them into one. For awhile before this, I was just uploading my videos straight to Youtube. I've never been happy with that. Even though my videos aren't much, I still like to enhance them just a bit.

The picture above is a screenshot I took from the video. I added the picture in at the last moment. I used to get pictures like this years ago in an old piece of software I used to use for my videos. I wanted to see if I could do it again now. The good news is that I can now do it again. So now even if my other pictures don't satisfy me enough, I can still get some things from the videos.

I watched this family of ducks disappear into the weeds three times. At first, I thought they were two different groups, but after looking at the pictures they appeared too similar to be different ducks.

I once saw an Egret in this pond so I know other birds come here too. I didn't have my camera with me back then, but I'll be sure to have it every time from now on. And I think I'll visit this place again this weekend to see what's going on. Who knows what I might find. I'll talk to you later.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Wonderful Common Milkweed

This vicious looking fanged plant is much more gentle than it looks in this closeup. This is what is called Common Milkweed. I have always liked milkweed for the pods it grows later on. But I have come to like it even more for these flowers that look like fanged monsters.

What milkweed plants are really known for is their wonderful ability to attract butterflies. I have some pictures of that which I'll have to share with you one of these other times. But right now this plant alone is the best subject in the world because I like it so much all by itself.

It's difficult to see with all of the green everywhere in the picture, but if you look kind of closely you can see the milkweed plant growing right there in the middle of the picture among all of that grass.

All I have to do to see common milkweed around here is drive around an old dirt road in the country. It grows along the roadsides just about everywhere here. It seems to like the extra sunlight areas very much.

Her above you can see a good cluster of the flowers and buds. The Common milkweed is a pink color, but there are other kinds, with other colors. I'll show some of them to you another time. I like them too.

You can see these when you're driving along the road because of the big wide leaves. Every time I see those leaves from my truck I slow down to see if it's a good plant for some pictures. I don't always pick the prettiest plants. I pick the ones that capture my interest.

This last one was reaching out to the road for even more sun. It was just begging for me to stop and say hi. It was things like these plants being so plentiful that made it hard for me to adjust to nature around here.

Where I lived before nature was a rare thing. Now it is everywhere here. For a couple of years, I had trouble with the concept of so much nature around me. It was almost as if it was too much in my own mind. My brain kind of overloaded. It took me a little time to adjust to this different world of nature being an everyday thing.

Now I'm back to seeking out the true beauty of nature. It may not be the obvious beauty that you think of, but I share the things that make the natural world around us special. These are mostly the everyday things you can find yourself right out your back door if you look for them. I'll talk to you later.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Orange Daylily

I have some nice looking flowers for you today. I found them on one of my many morning walking adventures around town. Oh, you thought I was done with those walks now that I've returned to the nature parks? Not at all. I still do them as often as I can.Not every day. But most days.

These flowers have been growing in this place for many years now. I've been meaning to get pictures of them for a few years now myself. Their growing season has ended every other year before I ever got around to it. This year I've been right there to get my pictures. Kind of.

The two pictures above are what I was looking at every day whenever I'd see these orange daylilies from a distance. You probably agree that it is a beautiful sight. Right? So I intended to get some good pictures on my next early morning walk. I would come away with some excellent pictures for you. Or so I thought.

The picture above and the next two are what I found when I went to these flowers in the morning to get a few good closeup shots. They were all closed up! I quickly realized that these were the kind of flowers that close during the night. But I still wasn't right. As we shall see.

I have been reading that these flowers actually only last for twenty-four hours before they wither away. Each day a new flower grows in or near the old one's place. Which is why this one above looks so new.

These flowers are an invasive plant here from what I've read. They grow very easily and are difficult to get rid of. I don't know who, if anyone, planted these particular plants. The house near where they grow stood empty for many years. And it was empty when I moved here. The flowers were here then.

I had to come back later in the day to get the real pictures I wanted. It turned out to be a much more difficult task than I had anticipated. The sun was up high in the sky and shining down very brightly. I wanted to get close to the flowers to take my pictures, but I cast shadows over them whenever I did.

The brightness of the sun also blotted out the view screen on my camera. I couldn't see what I was taking pictures of. I had to shoot blindly at the flowers I wanted while trying to avoid shadows. When I looked at the pictures later it wasn't a good sight. Most of the pictures had bad shadows.

But in the end it all turned out well. I had just enough pictures to share all of these with you. I'm sure you like them because I took them just for you. But I like the little story of how I got them even more than the flowers because it was a memorable event for me. I'll talk to you later.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Scenes From Broken Kettle Grasslands

I have some good scenery from Broken Kettle Grasslands for you today because I think you'll like to see it. I like looking at it so I think you'll like it too. Even so, there's nothing like being there yourself. You should also find a good nature place near you to visit.

See that helicopter in the top right of the picture above? You might have to click on the picture to see it better. You may have already guessed that it's not really a helicopter. It's a really a dragonfly. There were lots of them flying around when I took this picture. Fun stuff.

Here's a zoomed out view of a soybean field with the Loess Hills in the background. The Loess Hills here don't look as impressive in my pictures as they do in real life. I can't figure out why that happens.

This place in my first two pictures isn't really part of Broken Kettle Grasslands. It's right on the edge of that place. But I take pictures here every time I pass. I just like the look of this particular place so much for some reason.

And finally, we get to Broken Kettle. You can see fence posts in the front. This fence is electrified, and it's there to keep the bison from getting out and roaming the highways. A car might not do very well in a fight with one of these huge animals.

I noticed the electric tower in the background after reviewing my pictures. It seems out of place in this place of nature at first, but it also makes the picture slightly more interesting. These towers hold up the power lines that supply electricity to the surrounding area.

This last one is from the top of the Loess Hills at Broken Kettle. The green in the distance is the tops of trees. A picture makes it difficult to see height in a picture for some reason, but these hills are very high up there.

If you want to see more scenery from Broken Kettle Grasslands I have several other posts that show similar scenes. Some are better and some are not. But I have them. But this is the end of what I have today. I'll talk to you later.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Big Country Wildflowers

Driving out in the country, I found these big clumps of wildflowers in many places by the side of the road. These are the ones I decided to stop and get pictures of. I don't know why I didn't stop for some of the others, some of which were better, but these are what I got this time. Some decisions don't always make sense.

I think I liked this picture because of the entranceway that was beside the flowers. While maybe none of my pictures are masterpieces, I do like the way this one looks. I sometimes think I don't have much of an eye for beauty, but I think I do get lucky with my pictures sometimes.

Maybe these supposed wildflowers are really just weeds, but they look like flowers to me. I'm not really sure who decides between flowers and weeds or even if there is a scientific method to determine the answer, but I've decided they're flowers. So there.

I found these wonderful flowers just by driving around out in the country. You can find lots of good things by doing that if you're lucky to live close enough to the country. Try it some time. If nothing else, you might get to see a few cows wandering a field. That's good too. I'll talk to you later.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Eastern Redcedar

What you see in my pictures are something my mother called cedar berries. She always thought this was probably wrong because she guessed this tree wasn't really a cedar tree. Well, the answer to whether she was wrong or not is yes and no.

As it turns out, after checking a recent field guide I found, I have come to the conclusion that the tree that grows these berries is called Eastern Redcedar. I have to say now that I notoriously often get plant identification wrong. But even if this isn't the right kind of tree, I know it is closely related.

Anyway, as to the yes and no answer, while this tree is called eastern redcedar, it isn't an actual cedar tree. It is really a juniper. And these supposed berries are actually a kind of cone rather than fruit, even though they really do resemble a berry inside and out. Birds love to eat them for that reason.

So I'm guessing that when my mother heard the name of cedar berries for these berry-like cones when she was a kid, it was maybe a common name for them at the time. Maybe it still is. It wasn't that name that was wrong, but the real name of the tree is kind of deceptive. So there's your answer.

And with all of that, I gave you a lesson on this tree and a little history lesson all in one. Even if my identification of the tree is horribly wrong, the story is still kind of interesting. At least it was to me.

These trees were growing around the pond I recently showed you. You can also see them in pictures in my last two posts. I don't usually find trees to be as interesting as this. But I also don't usually get this much information about any of them either.

I would love to tell the stories of many more trees, but I usually just don't know much about them. Maybe that will change now. The guide for trees I found is specific to Iowa so it probably wouldn't help most of you. But it sure did help me a lot. And it was easy to use.

And so we come to the end. I'll be back next time with some nature thing. It should have some pictures and a few words in there somewhere too. Maybe you'll think it's the best thing you've ever read because it's about your favorite thing. I'll talk to you later.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Showdown At Deer Creek

I had an encounter with a Red-Winged Blackbird at Deer Creek Wildlife Management Area the other day. Maybe you might really call it a showdown. This bird did not want me to be there at all. It did its best to warn me off, but it mostly didn't work. Mostly.

I wish my pictures could have captured the best of the drama, but I just wasn't quick enough.  I was actually distracted at the time because I was busy geocaching. I had to keep switching apps on the phone and I wasn't fast enough. Let me explain better.

This bird kept hovering right above my head and squawking at me. Whenever I would get the camera ready the bird would fly to the side and land on a tree nearby. I was a little frustrated by that, but I was even more distracted looking for the cache.

In the end, I came to the realization that the cache I was looking for was maybe very close to this blackbird's nest. So that was the end of my search. I knew when it was time to back down. I didn't want to cause this poor bird any more distress.

And looky here! I have another brand new episode of Rat TV for you today. It shows this red-winged blackbird desperately clinging to a treetop on this very windy day. It was up there because it didn't want to lose sight of this evil rat-suited invader that was lurking to near to its nest.

There really is a bird in the picture above. You just can't see him. Actually, you can see it if you look very closely. I could have cropped the photo to give you a better look, but I thought it looked better this way. I kind of like this picture.

None of my pictures of this bird today are very good. The bird never came out very well because the phone camera just wasn't up to the task. It's made for more close up pictures. I'll have to start bringing my big camera with me again. I like the feeling of freedom I get with the smaller camera, but the bigger one zooms in at things like birds so much better.

Now that I'm getting out more and taking more pictures I'm finding the need for the better zoom again. I knew it would happen eventually. So now maybe I'll get more animals to share with you. We'll see. Either way, I think I'll have some good stuff. I'll talk to you later.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Pond At Deer Creek

I found a beautiful place to visit the other day. It is a pond at the north end of a place called Deer Creek Wildlife Management Area. I guess this is a kind of nature park, but you would probably never know it was there unless you had the computer to help you.

Most nature parks are kind of set aside so you definitely know when you enter them, but not this place. It looks like the surrounding farmland, but there are no crops growing in the fields. It's all just mostly grassland and hills.

But then you find places like this pond. There is a small entrance to the pond with a path leading up to it. As soon as you get to the pond a wave of positive emotion hits you. At least it did for me. I felt totally at peace. I knew as I was standing there at the edge of that pond that I'd be back many more times.

Today I have another episode of Rat TV for you. It's a short video because I always keep my videos short so you don't get bored. You don't have to watch it, but you'll feel better if you do.

You will see and hear that it was a windy day when I was there. There were a few other sounds that are difficult to hear. But if you listen closely you will hear a clue about a future post that is coming soon.

I took many pictures of this pond with no name, but most of them came out too bright and washed out for some reason. It's the first time I've ever had this problem with my phone camera. You can see that even this picture above is a little brighter than the others.

Still, I wanted to show you more of this pond, but the video will have to be what represents it the best this time. As I said before, I will be back. And I'll get a few pictures from other directions when I do come back.

This sign is the only indication that you're entering a special place. If I remember right there's a bigger sign at the other end of the place. I'll show you that end sometime soon I think. Deer Creek must be named after an actual creek. I'll need to find that and get a few pictures too.

I almost didn't include the picture of the sign, but I remembered at the last minute that it belonged here. And I was supposed to have this post up yesterday, but with all of my recent activity, I'm still trying to find the time to write these posts. It does all work out in the end though, and here is the post. I'll talk to you later.