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Friday, April 17, 2015

It's Almost Always about the Little Things

Today started a bit gray, but progressed to warm and clear. I got some minor work done on my car, and thought I was going to take a 3-mile walk while that was being done. But the work stretched to two hours, and the walk stretched to 4.5 miles. So... I just barely made it on time to the place where I could get my little trailer weighed, so I can get it a Michigan license. Talk about a fast refresher course in hooking it up! But I got 'er dun!

But that's not what this blog post is about. I'll show you trailer pictures, probably tomorrow. I'm working on curtains.

What seemed important today is that it's not "sometimes the little things," but rather the little things are simply huge. They can make or break whole time periods, projects, whatever.

My little goodies that made the day for me:

First violets of the year.


First picture of a 13-lined ground squirrel. I'd love to show you a picture of one doing something besides standing upright in the grass. But if they know you are watching, it's about all they do except move like greased lightning if they think you are approaching.

13-lined ground squirrel

And... the first glass of iced tea. It was hot enough that I wanted it. Of course, I could drink this all winter. But I don't. It just doesn't work for me until the weather gets hot. Then I like it strong with lots of ice.

iced tea

Cut my hair, ready for warm weather. Off to work in about an hour. Hopefully tomorrow won't be a total zombie Saturday, because I have lots to do.

See Look Who Woke Up
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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Evening Wanderings of the Bag Lady

Good thing Chuck says he likes going on my walks with me (virtually speaking- he lives over 100 miles away), because I tend to look rather marginal. I leave the house pretty much ok, but almost always return with a bag full of bottles and cans.

bag lady

I did walk later than usual today. After work I did errands and came home and ate. The morning's gray and rain gave way to a nice mild evening, so I decided to take a different road loop that would get me the full five miles today. It's not a loop I usually walk, so I saw different things. I think I need to walk it more often because there are several interesting wetland areas.

However, the first novelty was a very wooly sheep who was quite curious about me. I think she needs shearing soon!


Sharing the same space with her were several good-looking chickens.


One of the things I love most about spring is watching the trees begin to color up before the leaves appear. Weeping willows turn yellow. This one looks great behind last year's corn stubble and contrasting with the pines.

willow tree

And here's another miniature world waiting to be explored. Are the islands inhabitable, or are they the dangerous places with the brown plains between the better spaces?


Best of all, passing one of the wetlands, I saw three ducks. Too far to see what kind, but sometimes if I can get a picture an ID is possible later on the computer. One of the ducks was by itself, and I caught a shot of it, and then they all took off with an amazing cacophony of squealings and squawkings. If I were a good birder, I would have known right then what they were. As it was, I only knew they weren't any of the ducks that quack! (And for language lovers, squeal, squawk and quack is an interesting collection of words, don't you think?)

Sure enough, as soon as I opened the picture, I realized I'd learned this duck before. This is a female wood duck. Sure wish I'd gotten a picture of the other two. But, even so, it's the best picture I've gotten of a female, and it's a good reason to walk that loop again. You can see the blue patch on her side and the rows of spots below that. And now I'll remember what they sound like!

wood duck

Getting in shape! Thanks for coming along.

See A Ducky Solution
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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Warm Weather and Wildlife

Worked all morning and most of the afternoon between the two jobs, but then I had time to take a nice walk. Went 4.75 miles. Thought it was going to be 5, but the last loop I can tack on my road route is more like an extra quarter mile instead of a half. I'll have to walk around that loop twice.

It was 68 degrees with a light breeze and it felt SO good. The critters are loving the fresh greens brought about by the weekend rain and this sun. Not a lot of green yet, but enough. There were squirrels everywhere! Here's a common gray squirrel that held still for me. Squirrels always look worried.

gray squirrel

The best was three rabbits together on a lawn. I got decent pictures of two of them. This one is searching for just the right snack to satisfy the craving for spring greens.

cottontail rabbit

When he decided I was too close, of course he showed me his tail and left, which is why they are called cottontail rabbits.

cottontail rabbit

His playmate just sat quietly beneath a still-gray bush. I enhanced the contrast a little, but you can tell that it would be nearly invisible in this location.

cottontail rabbit

I also saw my first thirteen-lined ground squirrel of the year, but couldn't get a picture. I did get pictures of a lot of very colorful things that hold still nicely. Thought hard about which to feature, but today, the wildlife wins, even if it's very common.

See Fur, Feather, Spikes and Storms
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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Catching the Blues

No, I'm not sad, but I am really tired with non-stop duties since this morning. Out working today... many shades of blue. Big Star Lake was intense, then Lake Michigan so pale you can't tell water from sky. Bass Lake was something in between. Have I mentioned that I love blue?

Big Star Lake

Lake Michigan

Bass Lake

Bedtime for me.

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Monday, April 13, 2015

The Not So Quality Part of Yesterday

There was one part of yesterday that was sad, but I'm going to turn it into a learning opportunity. The warm sun called out the snakes as well as my turtle. I saw three different ones, and all were dead in the road where they had just been trying to take the chill off their bones. Literally. Snakes are cold-blooded. Two were garter snakes and not so good to look at. The other one wasn't.

This is a blue racer. Very much alive. Picture taken several years ago.

blue racer

This is not a baby blue racer. Picture taken yesterday. Looks alive, but it's not. Also, you might think I'm nuts to point out that it's not a blue racer. It looks very different.

blue racer

However... Baby blue racers don't look anything at all like adults. Really small ones like they've been covered with those little checkerboard Italian tiles like you see in ethnic restaurant floors. I know this for a fact because once long ago some little boy brought a blue racer in the house where it got loose. Turns out it was a pregnant mama, and she had a whole swarm of little blue racers under the piano. Blue racers are ovoviviperous, which means they don't lay eggs, but the young are born live.

At the time, I never thought to take pictures of the wonderful mass of worm size babies. Perhaps I didn't have any film. It was back in those days. Remember them?

Anyway, between the checkerboard stage and the adult stage there is a phase that looks a lot like this small snake. I wanted this to be a blue racer to show you, but I didn't want it to be a blue racer because they are becoming quite rare. I really hate seeing them killed in the road.

So the good news is- this is NOT a blue racer, but it took me all evening to figure that out. You might wonder why it took so long. Well, when you are trying to learn something without someone who really knows how to point out the things to look for, it can take a while. Now that I have it figured out it seems quite simple.

This is a baby Northern Water Snake, Nerodia sipedon. And it doesn't look much like the adult of that species either.

I have some decent pictures of adult Northern Water Snakes, but I'm out of time to hunt them up tonight. And the best pictures I ever took of them were with my very first digital camera that saved pictures to a floppy disk. And the disk got corrupted. That's really sad. Lin, you need to cover your ears, because they were of one of these snakes eating a frog.

And unless you are a frog or some other small critter, these snakes are not dangerous, although they will try to bite if you pick them up, like any snake. However, they are not poisonous.

Anyway, the adults are much darker and the bands fade and become barely visible. They may approach pure black in color. Each scale has a little keel that breaks up the light so they look much duller than many snakes.

Back to the one I found yesterday. After I realized it was dead, I had the chance to look at it really carefully, and take several pictures. Good thing I did. Here's the key feature that cinches the identification as a Northern Water Snake. See the pattern on its belly?

blue racer

Those little half moons on each side of the center line are definitive. Even the adults have them. They may range in color from light rusty, through brown, to black.

So now you know.

See A Visit from Mr. Blue
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