Monday, April 30, 2012

Distinctive Dogs

Did you know that there are 11 states that have official state dogs?  I was looking at a slide show on the internet about it the other day.  The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is the state dog of Maryland - not too surprising.

Source:  Wikipedia

It makes sense that the Alaskan Malamute is the state dog of Alaska.

Source:  Wikipedia

The Boston Terrier is the state dog of Massachusetts - a pretty obvious choice.

Source:  Wikipedia

All dogs that are fairly common and ones I'd heard of, but there were some surprises.  Ever heard of a Plott Hound?  It's the state dog of North Carolina, certainly not a well known breed - I don't recall ever seeing one at any of the big dog shows I've watched on TV.

Source:  Wikipedia

The Plott family brought Hanoverian hounds with them when they emigrated from Germany and settled in North Carolina.  They bred their own dogs and they were used for hunting boar and bears.  It's a scent hound that eventually became known by the Plott family name - the Plott's hounds.  They were recognized by the AKC in 2006.

Not to be outdone South Carolina also chose a state dog.  Meet the Boykin Spaniel.

Source:  Wikipedia

Never heard of that one either?  It kind of looks like a small Irish setter with short curly hair.  This dog was bred to hunt wild turkeys and ducks in South Carolina swamp land and, yes, it involved a man named Boykin who trained hunting dogs.  The foundation dog for all Boykins was actually a stray who had a natural hunting ability.

And Texas voted the Blue Lacy or Lacy as their state dog.  Yeah, never heard of that one either.

Source:  Wikipedia

And even though it's called a BLUE Lacey it can also be red or tri-colored.  They have also been used for hunting boar, but is versatile - a great herding dog as well.  Again, named after the Lacy brothers who moved to Texas with their dogs who were part English sheepdog, wolf and greyhound.

And last, but not least, did you know that there is a breed of sled dog that was developed in New England?  The Chinook.

Source:  Dog Breed Info

And school children in New Hampshire decided it would make a great state dog.  This dog is a cross between a husky and mastiff-type dog and instead of being named after a human, Chinook was the name of the first such dog bred by Arthur Walden of Wonalancet, New Hampshire.

Hope you enjoyed your dog history lesson!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Seahorse, Of Course


O under the ocean waves
I gallop the seaweed lanes,
I jump the coral reef,
And all with no saddle or reins.

I haven't a flowing mane,
I've only this horsy face,
But under the ocean waves
I'm king of the steeplechase.

By Blake Morrison

 Barbour's seahorse   Source:  Wikipedia

Spiny seahorse  Source:  Wikipedia

 Lined seahorse   Photo by Matt Sullivan  Source:  Wikipedia

To see a video and learn more about seahorses, click here, here, and here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Crumbling Coral II

You can't talk about coral (see previous post) and not talk about the Great Barrier Reef - the largest reef and island system in the world encompassing 133,000 square miles.  Fittingly enough it is located (where else?) in the Coral Sea off Queensland, Australia, is considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world and is a World Heritage site.

Source:  Wikipedia

The reef system is actually not one reef but made up of over 2500 reefs containing over 400 species of coral.

 Flynn Reef  Source:  Wikipedia

It is inhabited at various times of the year (some species only come to breed) by 30 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises, including the humpback whale...

Source:  Wikipedia

dugongs (similar to manatees)...

Source:  Wikipedia

over 1,500 species of fish, including coral trout...

Source:  Wikipedia

and bluestripe snapper..

Source:  Wikipedia

seventeen species of sea snakes, such as olive sea snakes..

Source:  Wikipedia

six species of sea turtles, including endangered green sea turtles...

Source:  Wikipedia

fifteen species of seagrass...

Source:  Wikipedia

over 120 species of stingrays, sharks, skates and chimeras, including the thorntail stingray...

Source:  Wikipedia

almost 5,000 species of mollusc including the textile cone snail...

Source:  Wikipedia

forty-nine species of pipefish, like the pygmy pipefish...

Source:  Wikipedia

and nine species of seahorses, including the tiger snout seahorse which is endemic to Australia.

Source:  Wikipedia

Along with the sea creatures there over 200 species of birds that are connected with the reef and accompanying islands such as the white-bellied sea eagle.

Source:  Wikipedia

Coral reefs are truly a keystone species for an entire ecosystem.  And the Great Barrier Reef is just as susceptible to environmental threats and climate change as coral the world over.  To see more of the GBR, click here.  For ways to help protect the GBR, click here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Crumbling Coral

The corals around the world are in trouble.  Fifteen years ago over 15 percent of the world's coral died off, and the situation has gotten worse, not better.  Recently a report came out predicting that 56 species of coral found in U.S. waters may become extinct by 2100 due to warming temperatures and increasing acidity.  Coral are under stress due to warming seas, blast fishing, overfishing, agricultural runoff and ocean waters absorbing more and more carbon dioxide.  Eighty percent of corals in Southeast Asia are endangered.  50% of all coral may be gone by 2030.  A grim picture.

Coral reefs are a treasure trove of biodiversity.  Losing coral cannot help but affect the fish, mollusks, sponges and crustaceans that inhabit the reefs.  Coral provides both food and shelter to 25% of all marine creatures.

Source:  Wikipedia

Coral is a colony of small animals called polyps with tentacles and central mouth location - sort of like tiny octopus but they are actually more closely related to sea anemones.  They secrete calcium carbonate which creates the "house" or skeleton where they live.  Polyps can eat plankton or even small fish using their tentacles that have stinging cells, but most get the majority of their nutrition from the algae that live inside the polyps.  When under stress the polyps eject the algae and eventually die.

Source:  Wikipedia

There are many different types of coral - pillar coral...

Source:  Wikipedia

brain coral...

Source:  Wikipedia

staghorn coral...

Source:  Wikipedia

and sea fans.

Source:  Wikipedia

People are supposed to be smarter than animals, but animals aren't the ones destroying the planet they live on.  To learn more and see a video, click here.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Saturday Sundries

Saturday was about 72 degrees, sunshine with a light breeze blowing - absolutely gorgeous.  I spent the morning and early afternoon putting fresh sheets on the bed, washing my 'winter' quilt, and running errands.  After I had brought in all the packages from the car, I stood on the porch talking to the outside kitties and enjoying the warmth.  I had seen the woodchuck, or perhaps I should say A woodchuck, many times already but whenever it saw me it would run under the shed.  This time it actually came toward me and munched on a few seeds that had fallen from the bird feeder as a I stood very still.  I moved just slightly and it took off for the shed again.  Our first encounter!  I went in and got a carrot and a few peanuts and put them out on the patio between me and the shed - closer to the shed side - and waited to see what happened.  The woodchuck was peering around the corner of the house and saw what I did.  I went back to stand on the porch and the woodchuck approached cautiously.  It found the carrot and peanuts and sat and ate while I stood on the porch.  It ate quite a bit but then must have heard something because suddenly he was off to the shed.  Back inside to get my camera and when I went in the backyard it peeked out from under the shed.  So here are the first woodchuck photos of the season.

Last year I had woodchucks that would take carrots out of my hand, so we'll see what happens this year.

The blossoms on my mystery tree/bush are in full bloom.

They really are very pretty and almost look like apple blossoms.  (Didn't notice any apples or any other fruit growing on it last year!)  They don't really have much scent.  It's going to need some pruning because it's not in the center of the yard and much too close to my neighbor's house.  If I keep trimming it back maybe it will stay small.  I hate to get rid of it completely even though it did start growing right in the middle of my rosemary.

I also tried to take a picture of two big bumblebees in a standoff, but once I got the photo off my camera, I couldn't even see the bumblebees!  FAIL!  Guess you'll just have to take my word for it!

Then I spent a couple of minutes trying to get a starling to take a few pieces of cat food out of my hand.  Yeah, that was a fail too although the starling did consider it.

So all in all it was a pretty good Saturday, especially since I got my taxes done on Friday afternoon.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Treebeard's Travails

I pass these trees on my way to and from work; they inspired me.

Whether Ent or Huorn or Treant
Perhaps even he no longer remembers
Which is why the willow weeps
With fading memories of Isengard
Yet proudly shows his battle scars
To the moon and drifting stars.

But his cousins graciously decline
To fall prey to his melancholy
They dance upon a gentle breeze
And hope to lightly charm him
With their beauty and quiet grace
To put a smile upon his face.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

New England Nuances

New Englanders like to think they are unique with their many covered bridges, and Vermont and New Hampshire have the most covered bridges per square mile, but Pennsylvania actually has more covered bridges than any other state.  (Of course, Pennsylvania is much bigger than either New Hampshire or Vermont.)  Most covered bridges from the 1800s were made of wood as that was the most readily available material.  And a covered bridge, which protects the bridge's underpinnings, lasted three or four times longer than a noncovered bridge. 

Source:  Wikipedia

Their historic value is not due to their age, but their construction and most covered bridges have a truss design utilizing one or more triangular units.  Simple King's post (with a central vertical supporting post) or Queen's post (two central vertical supporting posts) are common in earlier New England bridges but other truss designs were used later.

Example of a truss bridge  Source:  Wikipedia

The longest covered bridge in New Hampshire which spans the Connecticut River is a lattice truss design.

Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge   Source:  Wikipedia

Most covered bridges are on the National Register of Historic Places.  But no matter the construction or age, covered bridges are just plain picturesque and real crowd pleasers.  Tourists come to see the covered bridges along with the fall foliage in New England. From these photos maybe you can see why.

Chamberlin Mill, Lyndon, VT  Source:  Wikipedia

Columbia bridge between Columbia, NH and Lemington, VT
Source:  Wikipedia

Mill Bridge, Belvedere, VT  Source:  Wikipedia

Stark Bridge, Stark, NH   Source:  Wikipedia

Swift River bridge, Conway, NH  Source:  Wikipedia

Upper Cox Brook bridge, Northfield, VT  Source:  Wikipedia

You can click on any of the Wikipedia links to learn more.

Friday, April 6, 2012

More Spring Blossoms

Some of the smaller trees are starting to show some green leaves and more flowering trees are in bloom even though we still have some cold nights.  This time the flowers are from MY yard!  We have a lot of grape hyacinths this year.

The japonica is sporting oodles of blooms.

The periwinkle is growing like crazy.

The creeping phlox are starting to come out.

This tree or bush just started growing in my yard and I have no idea what it is.  Any ideas? But it's got pretty pink blooms just starting to come out.

And I have tons of little wild violets again this year.

Along with my violas they are one of my favorite things in the garden.

And my next-door neighbor just started up the lawnmower!