Friday, March 29, 2013

Sociable Smokey

One of the neighborhood cats I haven't posted about yet is Smokey.  He is really a stray that my neighbors have pretty much taken in.  He spends a lot of time in their house and takes naps in front of their bedroom window, but he truly is a 'neighborhood' cat because he loves attention from anyone and everyone.  He loves to get on top of cars and then climb on your shoulders.  I've taken many a trip to the dumpster and either run into Smokey on the way or he will follow me there and then given him a ride back on my shoulders.  One of his quirks is that he will follow the mailperson on their route around the mobile home park.  Our regular mailperson is a lady who loves that Smokey follows her and talks to him the whole way around.

The thing about Smokey is you would never know that he is so friendly because his expression is so glum and seems as though he's giving you a dirty look!


We think that he and my cat Tanya are brother and sister.  He and Tanya and Tanya's mother all look pretty much alike except that Tanya and her mother don't have such a severe expression on their face.


I try not to encourage Smokey to hang around my house too much because as much as he loves hanging out with people, he doesn't always get along with my regular stray cats that I feed.  Maybe because another cat Sammy that also hangs out at my neighbors' house gets into fights with Smokey all the time.  However, it's usually Sammy that starts the trouble as he likes to jump on other cats from behind when they aren't aware he is there which I think, understandably, has made Smokey rather distrustful of other cats.   Smokey is a real character, as is my Tanya.  You can read more about Tanya here.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Another Sign of Spring

I caught a glimpse of a woodchuck a couple of times in the past week or two when I took the garbage to the dumpster down the street, but hadn't seen MY woodchucks that regularly show up and live under my shed.  But tonight when I went to feed the outside cats, I saw a woodchuck in my backyard.  Since there isn't a whole lot to eat out there yet, I took a couple of leaves of kale and a few peanuts and put them by the hole under my shed where the woodchuck had disappeared.  Guess this woodchuck doesn't care for kale because when it came back out it took a nibble but after a few minutes it took off for my neighbor's shed.  I also might have spooked it when I returned with my camera, plus Van Gogh was chasing away the gray cat the neighbors call 'the grandmother'.  (She probably is a grandmother, but she is also Tanya's mother.)  Anyway, it was good to see the woodchuck.  Maybe spring IS on the way.  Still haven't seen any robins though.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Where's Spring???

I just checked my post that I put up exactly one year ago today (Bursting Blossoms) - the temperatures were in the 70s!!!!  The forsythia and daffodils were in bloom along with many other flowering bushes and trees.  This year??  Not so much.  There's still snow on the ground.

 I haven't even put away the snow shovel yet.

The temperature...

Taken around noon today

the star magnolia...

the forsythia.

But there are hopeful signs like some 50 degree temperatures forecast for next week.  And buds on the star magnolia...

and buds on the forsythia and japonica.

There are even a few brave souls like my neighbor's pussy willow that's out...

and my neighbor's viola is blooming.

The signs of spring are around if you look closely, but we are definitely behind last year.  Spring can't get here soon enough for me!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Native American Wisdom

A link to this wonderful short film was on my Facebook page from the Supporting South Dakota Reservations Page.  I watched and fell in love with this film because this is exactly how I feel about nature, the environment, and what we are doing to Mother Earth.  I urge you to watch it and think about what it says.  This incredible short film shares an Indigenous Native American Prophecy that links all of life and the future of our planet.   I urge you to watch it full screen (last button on the right at the bottom of the video) - the photography is great!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

St. Patrick's Day Cheer

Source:  Neatoshop

There once was an old man of Esser,
Whose knowledge grew lesser and lesser,
It at last grew so small
He knew nothing at all,
And now he's a college professor.
Source:  Cosmic Tool
A macho young swimmer named Dwyer,
Really liked playing with fire.
One night in the dark
He swam with a shark,
And his voice is now two octaves higher.
Source:  Wikipedia
An accident really uncanny
Occurred to my elderly granny.
She sat down in a chair,
While her false teeth lay there.
And bit herself right in the fanny.
(All limericks from Irish Buskers website!)
All the illustrations are examples of Celtic knots.  Sometimes called "Irish knots" or "Mystic knots," Celtic knots are patterns of lines with no visible beginning and no apparent end.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!!  I'm observing the wearin' of the green.  Are you?  Have a great day!
Click here for some Irish music - The Dubliners and Seven Drunken Nights.
And click here for The Dubliners and Whiskey in the Jar.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Kamouflaged Katydids

I have to confess that I stole the idea for this post from Facebook.  Saw a similar photo on my page from another site and thought it was worth investigating.

This is a lichen katydid - a master of disguise as it looks just like the lichen that it hides among...

Source:  Project Noah

usually a species of beard lichen.

Source:  Wikipedia

It is so well camouflaged even its eyes are striped!

Source:  Project Noah

There are over 6,000 species of katydids, most living in more tropical climates, and many use camouflage or mimicry to hide themselves in their surroundings.  They are also called bush-crickets or long-horned grasshoppers which is one way you can distinguish them from grasshoppers - their long antennae which may be longer than their body.  Bush-cricket is probably a more apt name as katydids are more closely related to crickets than grasshoppers.  Like crickets, katydids can produce sound by rubbing their wings together.  Many katydid species are herbivores eating strictly leaves, bark, seeds and flowers, but others prey on other insects which is the case of the lichen katydid surprising other bugs that are attracted to the lichen.

Here are a few pictures of some other species of katydids.

Barbitistes obtusus (male)   Source:  Wikipedia

Porphyromma speciosa   Source:  Wikipedia

Platycleis affinis, female   Source:  Wikipedia

To see a video, click here.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Meet Lester

I just got back from a trip to Portland, OR where I went to the Portland Aquarium with my niece and her two boys.  We saw lots of wonderful fish, crabs, lobster, octopus, and rays - things you would expect to see in an aquarium - but I also had an unexpected surprise and met a guy who was very impressive.  His name is Lester and could very well sing the song, 'It's not easy being green" along with Kermit the frog.

Everybody pretty much did a double-take when they saw him and he was so cool and calm and collected that people asked, 'Is he real?"  Yes, Lester was definitely real and while I pet him he closed his eyes and seemed to enjoy it - like he was getting a massage. 

Lester is a green iguana.  That seems pretty obvious - that he is green, that is.  Actually green iguanas aren't always green; bright green is more normal for juveniles, although in El Salvador juveniles are more commonly bright blue.  Green or common iguanas usually change color as they get older, and can also change color due to stress, illness, or as a mechanism to absorb or reflect sunlight.  Their color also depends on their country of origin and can range from blue to red and orange.  You can read more about that here.  Green iguanas are popular as pets, but require careful care, including being housed at specific temperatures, and are not for first-time pet owners. 

Green iguanas are native to Central and northern South America as well as the Caribbean.  They are primarily herbivores and eat leaves, flowers and fruit, with an occasional insect and require a 2 to 1 ratio of calcium to phosphorus. 

The row of spines on his back helps protect him from predators, although they are not particularly sharp. If close to water, he can dive in and try to swim away.  Like some other lizards, he can lash out with his tail or if grabbed by the tail, he can allow it to break and regenerate a new one.  He can use his claws to fight as well, but normally uses them to grasp branches as he climbs.

I really enjoyed the aquarium, but certainly didn't expect to meet a cool guy like Lester.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Bizarre Baobabs

Baobab trees are native to Africa, the Arabian peninsula, and Asia (one species), and Australia (one species), but there are six species that are endemic to Madagascar.  They can grow to be 100 feet tall with trunks that can reach over 100 feet in diameter.  These trees may be thousands of years old, but it's hard to tell.  You can't count the growth rings because they don't have any.  If you really want to know how old a tree is, you have to use radiocarbon dating.  Why the huge trunk?  Baobabs store water there - up to 32,000 gallons - so they can survive in very dry areas. 

This species native to Madagascar looks like a redwood with a crewcut and is the largest of the six species in Madagascar, as well as the best known!

Grandidier's Baobab   Source: Wikipedia

It has flowers said to smell like bitter watermelon and they are not pollinated by insects. Instead small nocturnal animals like lemurs are the culprits as they stick their faces into the flowers to lick the nectar.

The African species is found continent wide and is more likely to occur in the dry savannahs or shrublands. 

Adansonia digitata   Source: Wikipedia

Baobabs are also known as the monkey-bread tree because of its odd-looking fruit that resembles a coconut.

Source:  Wikipedia

It may look strange, but it is very nutritious - high in calcium, vitamin C and antioxidants.  This species' flower smells like carrion and is pollinated mainly by fruit bats.

Source:  Wikipedia

The Australian species is locally known just as the boab.  One famous tree, the Derby Prison Tree, has a hollow trunk and was supposedly used as a prison lockup when transporting prisoners.

The Derby boab, Western Australia   Source: Wikipedia

The Suarez Baobab in Madagascar is an endangered species.

Source:  Wikipedia

If you ever get to Limpopo, South Africa you really need to visit the The Big Baobab Pub which is built inside a baobab tree that is 72 feet high with a trunk of 154 feet in circumference.  Located on Sunland Farm, the hollow tree trunk contains a bar and a wine cellar.  The tree itself is estimated to be 6000 years old!  For more information and a 360 degree view inside the tree, click here.