Thursday, May 31, 2012

Silly Shenanigans 7

Decided it was time for yet another Silly Shenanigans post from my favorite LOL Cats and Dogs website.  Enjoy!

Have a great day!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Cattail Swamp

On my way to work I pass a couple little areas I call cattail swamp.  Of course, it's not really a swamp, but there are cattails - perfect habitat for red-winged blackbirds.  And I have seen them there several times.  Naturally when I stopped to take a few pictures there weren't any.  But I did hear a gluging noise several times - frogs definitely like this little area too.  I've also seen ducks enjoying a dip.  An interesting little mini-ecosystem.

Only the male red-winged blackbird actually has red on his wings, and the 'epaulet' on his shoulder includes a small stripe of yellow.

Source:  Wikipedia

As with so many bird species, the female gets short-changed when it comes to the color department.

Source:  Wikipedia

Red-winged blackbirds' main diet is seeds, but also eats fruit, insects and even frogs and snails. (The frog I heard better keep an eye out!)  They live in North and Central America, wintering in the southern U.S. and Central America.  Click here to hear their song.

To my complete surprise, I spotted a red-winged blackbird eating the suet I have on my patio one spring a few years ago, but haven't seen any since.  They would certainly be welcome should they decide to make a return visit.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cagey Coyotes

I really enjoy my drive to work because I never know what I'm going to see.  I've encountered hawks, herons, Canadian geese, and wild turkeys on my commute through mainly residential neighborhoods.  Wednesday morning I had yet another surprise - a coyote sighting.  It was right before I turn onto a major highway.  I saw a coyote by the side of the road and it had just picked up something in its mouth.  Don't know if it was a mouse or rodent it had chased and killed or whether it was something in the road that was already dead.  But I got a clear view of it right before it turned around and went back into the trees.

Coyotes along with raccoons are one of the most adaptable species when it comes to surviving well in urban areas.  As wolves are driven out by human populations, the coyotes move in.  Researchers estimate that there are up to 2,000 coyotes living in the greater Chicago area and have determined that 'city' coyotes actually live longer than their wilder counterparts probably because their natural enemies aren't around!  More diurnal in less populated areas, urban coyotes are mostly nocturnal.  While small mammals such as mice, rabbits, squirrels, prairie dogs and birds are their natural prey, urban coyotes add cats and small dogs to the menu.  Even in more remote areas, fruit and vegetables are also part of their diet.  Coyotes will also eat carrion, but prefer fresh meat - who wouldn't!  Coyotes will also hunt sheep, goats, and cattle, if available. Coyote packs can also bring down larger prey such as deer and pack hunting is usually more prevalent in winter when other food is scarcer.  When hunting smaller prey, coyotes hunt alone.

Photo by Rebecca Richardson  Source:  Wikipedia

Coyotes have also been known to hunt cooperatively with badgers.  Badgers are good at digging burrows and getting at prey that is underground, while the coyote can run down faster prey that the badger isn't able to catch.  With this tag team hunting style, prey has little chance of escaping.

While it takes wolves two years to become fully grown, coyotes are adults and sexually mature in just one.  There is usually only one lactating female in a wolf pack, coyotes are a little more tolerant.  The average coyote litter size is six, but can be up to nineteen!

Source:  Wikipedia

Coyotes are very vocal and their communication consists of howls, yips, barks, whines and growls.  A long howl lets other members of the pack know where it is, short barks warn of danger.

Known as a 'trickster' in Native American lore, they are often featured in stories because of their cleverness.  Indeed, they are very good observational learners and their adaptability has increased their range from open prairies and deserts to every state in the union, as well as Canada and Central America.

 Photo by Michael S. Quinton  Source:  National Geographic

For a  video clip, click here.

Even though coyotes are becoming a 'pest' species, seeing one is still a thrill.  I wish I'd had a little bit longer look.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Two Critter Night

Saturday I was at the kitchen sink looking out the window at my neighbor's back porch and saw what I thought was a cat at the food dish.  They keep cat food out for their cat Tigger.  I thought it was the stray cat we call Tabby, but it looked a little bigger.  Then the 'cat' lifted its head. I grabbed my camera and eased myself out the door.

The first raccoon pictures of the season!  I knew the raccoons were around because of reports from the neighbors, plus every morning the outside water dish would be really dirty (explanation below).  But this was the first time this year I'd actually seen one.

As you can see by the long evening shadows, it was about 7:30 and right before dusk.  At first she wasn't too sure about coming over to my house, but I stayed as still as I could and she decided everything was okay.  I don't deliberately feed the raccoons, but at this time of evening there was still a little cat food left on MY patio as well.  She kept her eyes on me as she ate, but then got more comfortable with my presence as time went on.  The stray cats were still around and the cats and raccoons get along just fine.  Then the raccoon decided I wasn't going to bother her and she got downright silly, lying down and playing with the water dish dangling her paws in the water.  Raccoons find their food with their paws.  The more moist the pads on their feet the softer they are, the softer they are the more sensitive they are, so feeling for their food is easier.  Raccoons don't actually wash their food, they wash their paws.

Then I noticed out of the corner of my eye that the woodchuck had come around the corner of the front yard.

The woodchuck finally saw me and ran around my neighbor's house.  But then he came back, walking right by the raccoon and the cat.  Well, actually he checked the cat out first.

In the meantime, the raccoon decided she had had enough water and food and as usual headed for my tree, her favorite after dinner spot, to wait until dark.

A very nice visit indeed.

UPDATE:  Another visit Wednesday night even earlier - around 6:00.  Just had to include THIS photo of kitty Van Gogh in the chair and the raccoon under it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


The last two times I've had the oil changed in my car, there has been a little pile of foam pieces on top of my engine.  The first time I saw it I thought it was weird, but wasn't too concerned.  A fluke?  I had my oil changed a week or so ago and there it was again.  Somebody had built a cozy little nest.  They supposedly cleaned all the nest building material up.  Tonight when I looked there was one piece of foam and a few sunflower seed shells.  I don't recall seeing the sunflower seeds when my oil was changed.

Then I noticed that there were a few holes in the lining of the hood of the car - the source of the foam no doubt.

So who is responsible for this enterprise?

I can't believe it's a mouse with all the cats at my house - both inside and out.  My friends in NJ had a packrat build a nest in their car and chewed through a belt that had to be replaced at their cabin out in Colorado.  AND got in their cabin.  It did quite a bit of damage and it was not a happy ending.  Most packrats do live in the Western U.S. and there are a few species here in the east, but they live in a forest environment.  My friends would probably think it serves me right if I had my own packrat since I kept commenting about how cute they are!

One species of packrat, bushy tailed woodrat  Source:  Wikipedia

A squirrel?  Who knows.  'Tis a puzzlement!  If you have any ideas, let me know.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Fabulous Fillies

I watched the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago Saturday.  I really have mixed feelings about horse racing, (that will be a different post some day)  however, I can't deny that horse racing is exciting, especially when a filly is running against the boys.  It doesn't happen often, but when it does it's Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs all over again.  There's just something so satisfying when the ladies win!  Here's a salute to some super fillies that not only ran against the boys, but won.

There have been thirty-nine fillies compete in the Kentucky Derby since the first running in 1875.  And only three fillies have ever won - Regret (in 1915), Genuine Risk (in 1980) and Winning Colors (in 1988).

Regret  Source:  Wikipedia

Genuine Risk  Photo by Barbara D. Livingston  Source:  Blood Horse

You can click on Genuine Risk's name under her picture to see her win.  And Winning Colors with a wire-to-wire win in the Kentucky Derby (click here to see a video) also won the Santa Anita Derby by 7 1/2 lengths. 

Winning Colors winning  Photo CDI   Source:  Blood Horse

There have been five fillies to win the Preakness Stakes, Nellie Morse (1924), Rhine Maiden (1915), Whimsical (1906), and Flocarline (1903), but Rachel Alexandra was the first horse (male or female) to win in 2009 from the 13th post.  She won two other Grade 1 races against the boys - the Haskell and the Woodward Stakes and was the 2009 Horse of the Year.  Prior to winning the Preakness, Rachel Alexandra won the Kentucky Oaks (the Kentucky Derby for the ladies) by 20 lengths and ran the last eighth of a mile in 12 seconds!

Rachel Alexandra winning the Woodward  Source:  Wikpedia

Rachel Alexandra was the first filly to win the Woodward, but not the last.  In 2011 Havre de Grace also beat the boys in the Woodward and was the third filly in a row to garner Horse of the Year honors.

Havre de Grace  Photo by Barbara D. Livingston  Source:  Daily Racing Form

Three fillies have also won the Belmont Stakes - Ruthless in 1867, Tanya in 1905, and Rags to Riches in 2007.  Rags to Riches beat Preakness and Breeder's Cup Classic winner and 2007 and 2008 Horse of the Year Curlin.  See the two or them duel it out by clicking here.

I mentioned that there were three fillies in a row named Horse of the Year - Rachel Alexandra in 2009, Havre de Grace in 2011, and the fabulous Zenyatta in 2010.  She didn't win any of the Triple Crown Races, but she did win the Breeder's Cup Classic coming from dead last to beat Kentucky Derby winner Mine that Bird and Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird.  That girl has a kick!  She was undefeated in 19 races and would have retired undefeated if she hadn't tried to win the Breeders' Cup Classic a second time and lost by a head.  She is also the only horse to have won both the Classic and the Ladies' Classic.

Zenyatta  Source:  Wikipedia

To see Zenyatta's Breeders' Cup Classic win, click here.  Twice Zenyatta came in second to AP Female Athlete of the Year voting, beaten out by Serena Williams and Lindsay Vonn.

Both Zenyatta and Rachel Alexander have now retired and both have given birth to a colt.  Rachel Alexander was bred to Curlin and Zenyatta to Preakness winner Bernardini.

Zenyatta with Baby Z  Source:  Zenyatta's website

Rachel Alexandra and Baby R  Photo: Stonestreet Farm  Source:  Blood Horse

Such pressure on the little guys to live up to both mom and dad!!  Only time will tell if they can deliver such Great Expectations.  Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta never ran against each other - something very much anticipated in the racing world - but maybe their kids will continue the rivalry.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

STILL Wishing for Wisteria

In my last wisteria post (Wishing for Wisteria) I explained how the wisteria I planted several years ago has never bloomed.  And it still hasn't!  Here's what somebody's wisteria looks like this time of year.  I pass this beautiful little arbor over a driveway on my way to work.

This isn't the first time that I've wished there was smell-o-vision on the internet where you could click on a button and get the scent along with the pictures.  Now do you see why I really want wisteria in my yard?  Yeah, well, take a look at MY wisteria.

NOTHING!  Not a sign of life except one little stem where the leaves are starting come out.  So at least I know I haven't killed the entire vine.

Then I have a few little places where it looks like something's TRYING to grow?

Maybe.  I'll let you know if anything develops!  The quest goes on.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Funny Ferns

We've had quite a bit of rain the last week and more is predicted for this week, which we need and is making my garden really come alive.  The columbine is in bloom;  I have all colors.  Sometimes it's not easy to take their pictures because they tend to bow their heads.  The white flowers are almost transluscent with just a hint of color.

But a few times I propped a bloom on another bud so you could see the inside of the flower.

And the ferns are really popping too.  I have ferns that I didn't plant - they just showed up and I've been calling them oak leaf ferns.  I love the way they 'unfurl'...

until they're all grown up.

Well, turns out the REAL oak leaf fern is only found in Southeast Asia and it looks like this.

Source:  Wikipedia

Or maybe it looks like this.

Source:  Wikipedia

Turns out there are a couple of species that are referred to as an oak leaf ferns - they just don't look like MY fern.

I also have painted ferns...

And, (I think) ostrich ferns, also known as shuttlecock ferns.  Right now they're just 'fiddleheads' and look more like alien beings.

Doesn't the one on the extreme right in this photo look like E.T.??

You can see the sweet woodruff in the background.  The lemon balm and Jacob's ladder are also up.

The garden is really coming along.