Thursday, August 30, 2012

We Called Her Miss Kitty

I dubbed her Miss Kitty, perhaps not too original but I was actually honoring the saloon owner in the old Gunsmoke TV series who was always addressed as Miss Kitty by Festus.  (Am I dating myself?  Are you old enough to have any idea what I'm talking about?)  The Miss Kitty in the TV series was a feisty gal and so was her namesake.  Unfortunately, my Miss Kitty passed away on Tuesday.  She was part of the 'three musketeers' - three stray cats that hung around in my yard on a regular basis.

Miss Kitty had a quirky personality and if you tried to pet her she would hop away like she thought you were trying to grab her.  I could manage to get a few strokes in as long as she didn't see my hand coming in her direction.  She had been improving on that in the past few months.  She would also stick out a paw and try to grab your ankle once in a while.  While Romeo is the sweetie and Van Gogh is the shy one, of the three strays she definitely had the most personality.  Miss Kitty always had a sparkle in her eye.

Last week she wasn't acting like she felt very well and I didn't see her for a day or two.  When she returned she acted like she was moving carefully and I thought maybe she'd been hit by a car.  She gradually came around and seemed to be almost 100 percent again.  But I didn't see her at all on Monday and she wasn't around for breakfast Tuesday morning.  I mentioned to my neighbor that she was 'missing' again.  I walked right by my neighbor's yard and didn't see her.  Then my neighbor across the street knocked on my door Tuesday afternoon and said that Miss Kitty was found dead in my next door neighbor's yard.  It was a sad day indeed, but at least I know that in the last few years of her life she had all the food she needed and as much care as I could give her without actually bringing her inside to the disgruntlement of my own cats.  Miss Kitty, RIP.  You will be missed.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Torpid Turtles

August and September is the time when Rhode Islanders can occasionally see sea turtles in the waters off our coast as they migrate to nesting sites in warmer waters.  The most common sea turtle seen here is the leatherback.

Source:  Wikipedia

Leatherbacks are super turtles - the largest (6 to 7 feet long in total length) and the most hydrodynamic with its teardrop shape.  Using their powerful flippers, they are also the fastest swimming being clocked at over 20 miles an hour.  And they are the deepest divers among sea turtles able to reach depths of 4,200 feet with dives lasting up to 30 minutes or more.  Leatherbacks also have the widest distribution of all sea turtles from the Arctic to South Africa.  Their one weakness (as with all sea turtles) is that they are very susceptible to ocean trash because they feed almost exclusively on jellyfish and often mistake plastic bags or other plastic for jellyfish.

Loggerheads can also be seen this time of year - they also have a wide distribution, but are still considered endangered because of their low reproductive rate and loss of nesting areas.  They also often fall victim to fishing nets.

Source:  Wikipedia

Loggerheads have the most varied diet of any sea turtle, including clams and crabs (their powerful jaws are perfectly capable of opening shells), sea urchins, sand dollars, sponges, fish and plants.  Speaking of shells, the loggerhead is the largest hard shell turtle (leatherbacks have a hard skin shell hence its name).

An occasional green sea turtle can also be seen in shallow lagoons feeding on seagrass.

Source:  Wikipedia

It gets its name from the green fat that can be found beneath its shell.  It has a much flatter appearance than the leatherback or loggerhead.  While the average size of the green turtle is around 3 feet long, they can grow up to 5 feet and weigh almost 700 pounds.

If you are really lucky you can also spy a Kemp's Ridley sea turtle - the most endangered of all sea turtles.

Source:  Wikipedia

The Kemp's Ridley is a smaller sea turtle although it can weigh up to 100 pounds.  Its main diet is crayfish, shrimp, algae, seaweed and sea urchins.  It is only found on the US eastern coast and the Gulf of Mexico.

I was very privileged to watch a turtle laying eggs on a beach in Florida on a family vacation MANY, MANY years ago when I was a teenager.  I can't tell you what kind of turtle it was, but I still remember the thrill.

Click here for a video of a green turtle.  Click here for a video of a loggerhead.  Click here for a video about the conservation efforts for the Kemp's Ridley.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Stuff and Things

Not a lot going on here on these lazy summer days.  I know you're probably tired of "butterflies on my butterfly bush" pictures, but the last week there have been scads (not quite enough to call it a swarm) of Painted Ladies on my butterfly bushes.  Maybe they can tell there's a change in the air and September is closing in, but for whatever reason they are showing up early in the morning and staying around the entire day.  There are at least 20 or more that have been coming every day.  I really need a video camera to capture the scene because trying to get shots of many butterflies at one time is a challenge to say the least.  To capture many in one shot with their wings open so that you can actually tell where they are AND get them in focus is almost impossible.  They are constantly moving both on the flowers themselves and going from blossom to blossom.  Once in a while they all fly up in the air and then settle back down again.  Here are just a few shots that turned out not too bad.

I think there are six butterflies in the last picture.  This monarch had to "share" with so many Painted Ladies around.

There was also one I called Broken Wing because almost all of its hind wings were missing on both sides along with part of one fore wing, but it still managed to get around just fine.

The other day I also caught a very unwanted guest in one my shots.

And I had to include a photo of the one of the huge bumblebees that also are attracted to the blooms.  I love these big guys.

I also caught a photo of a spider just as another bug had flown into its web and got to watch it secure its prize.

And last but not least we had an unexpected surprise in the skies a few days ago as it flew overhead - the Hood blimp!

By the time I could grab my camera and capture it, it was almost too far away.   The Pawtucket "air show" was not quite as exciting as the one in Hewitt, eh Lynne?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Odd Okapis

An okapi looks like a cross between a deer and a zebra, but it is actually most closely related to the giraffe, as evidenced by a blue tongue which is long enough to clean the insides of its ears and flexible enough to strip leaves off trees!

Source:  Wikipedia

The okapi is a native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa, but statues of them have been found carved by the ancient Egyptians.  It is an herbivore, but also fulfills its mineral needs by eating clay as do many other animals and birds.  It prefers living in higher altitudes from 1600 to 3200 feet in the rainforests and has an oily coat to help repel water.  The above picture is somewhat deceptive.   While it doesn't have the longer neck and legs of a giraffe, it's no shrimp either.  It can be 5 to 6 feet high at the shoulder and weigh over 700 pounds.  But its height still enables it to eat leaves in the trees that others can't reach.

Source:  Wikipedia

Okapi are mainly solitary only coming together to breed.  They are found in many zoos but only about 10 to 20 thousand are left in the wild. The okapi is a true animal oddity.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Peculiar Penguins

Did you know that some of the rarest penguins in the world live in New Zealand?  And they nest in the forest?  The Fiordland Crested penguin is also one of the most unusual looking.  Its yellow crest definitely gives him a distinguished look.

Source:  Wikipedia

They grow to be about two feet tall and weigh around 8 to 10 pounds.  Their diet consists of squid, krill and small fish.  They live along the colder waters of New Zealand's southern coast and outlying islands including Stevens Island.  The current population is around 6,000 individuals or less and unfortunately dogs and cats are common predators.

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

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sweet Sleep

The Olympics were wonderful, but they are finally over.  Maybe now I can get some sleep!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

As The Dragon Flies

An Excerpt from 'The Dragonfly' by William Henry Davies

Now, when my roses are half buds, half flowers,
And loveliest, the king of flies has come -
It was a fleeting visit, all too brief;
In three short minutes he had seen them all,
And rested, too, upon an apple leaf.

There, his round shoulders humped with emeralds,
A gorgeous opal crown set on his head,
And all those shining honours to his breast -
'My garden is a lovely place,' thought I,
'But is it worthy of so fine a guest?'

This huge white dragonfly came to visit this morning.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Best Buddies

I've been a lazy bum lately because I've been enjoying the Olympics.  But I did take a couple of photos the other day when a storm came through.  It poured and I tried to get photos of the water just gushing out of the downspout and coming off the roof of the patio cover because the gutters just couldn't keep up.  But I needed a faster shutter speed and you couldn't really tell what was going on, so you just get to see the clouds before the storm.

I also took a couple of pictures of the outside stray kitties Romeo, Van Gogh and Miss Kitty all snuggled up together.  They really seem to be best buddies.

Back to the Olympics!