Monday, January 27, 2014

And Then There Were Nine (temporarily)!

Tuesday night last week the drive home from work was very slow because of a snowstorm that began in the afternoon and lasted through the next morning.  It is usually a 45 minute commute for me, but that night it took about an hour and 10 minutes.  I took all local highways and stayed off the Interstate.  For those who took the Interstates, it was a parking lot and there were tales of being stuck for hours moving at 5 or 10 miles an hour the entire way home or else not moving at all.  When I got to my house, there were a few inches of snow on the ground, and upon opening my car door and getting out, two of the stray cats came out from under my house expecting dinner.  Since there were forecasts for possibly a foot of snow and then bitter cold weather following the storm, I brought them both inside.

Both Romeo and Spot have been inside the house before - running in a few feet from the door, looking around, and when confronted by my crew of cats, making a break back outside.  The previous snowstorm I managed to bring in Romeo for the duration of the storm, but then let him back out again because we had a string of 40+ degree days afterward and the snow immediately disappeared.

This time, of course, Romeo issn't here by himself.  He has his buddy Spot to keep him company and lend him moral support when my cats give him the evil eye.  None of my cats have gone after either one of them, but Tanya lets no opportunity pass to hiss at them and tell them what she thinks of interlopers.

After bringing them in Tuesday night, we've had all days of temperatures only in the teens and 20s.  The first couple of days they pretty much hung out under my bed, but then they finally realized that they could lie ON TOP of the bed. I think they've got the hang of it now!

Saturday was the first day of above freezing weather so when Romeo started meowing and acting like he wanted to go outside, I opened the door and let him out.  I also wanted to impress upon him that he was free to come and go as he pleases, and that I hadn't kidnapped him! 

When Romeo went back outside after the first snowstorm, he was afraid to run the gauntlet of my cats that were in the living room where the front door is so I let him out the back door.  The only problem is that there are no steps at my back door and he had to jump a couple of feet to get outside.   Saturday was the same situation.  He was in and out several times and even though he went out the back door, he would come in the front door.  He's used to hanging out on my front porch.  The second or third time he tried to come in through the front door, two of my cats were right there blocking his way.  He backed out the front door and ran down the sidewalk.  I thought he'd just changed his mind so I shut the door.  A few seconds later I heard meowing and there he was wanting in at the back door.  Pretty smart kitty considering he'd only been out that door a couple of times.  And never before come IN that door.

Spot still hasn't been back outside.  Every time Romeo has gone out, Spot has lost his nerve and gone back under the bed.  He hasn't even seen an open door to walk out of.  After going in and out several times on Saturday, Romeo opted to spend the night outside.  He could still get under my house and there is a hole near the main water pipe that comes in where he can get between the floor and the sub-flooring and get next to the heating ducts and keep warm that way.  Not too luxurious but practical. Whether that's actually where he stayed is another question.

Romeo finally came back inside several times on Sunday because of much colder temperatures and with snow still on the ground not too many options of places to lie down outside. About 6:00 pm he decided that inside was a much better option and settled down for the night.  Today we're back to above freezing temperatures, but then go back in the deep freeze tomorrow before we finally hit a string of 30+ degree weather.  The one day when Romeo could have gone outside and been out all day until I came home, I couldn't get him to come to the door!  He was meowing and wanting out earlier, but I wanted to give him breakfast first. After he'd eaten (and used the litter box), he wasn't interested.

We reached our high of almost 50 degrees at 12:30 and the temps started heading back down again around 1:00.  Rain and wind were expected later this afternoon but never really developed.  Snow showers possible tonight  When I got home, Romeo was anxious for dinner but so far has not asked to be let outside. This story is still evolving.  Stay tuned!

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Real Sea Hawk

The Osprey

In foreign land of towering pines
And hammocks, mangrove-torn
A dark-filled night reluctantly
Bequeaths a pale dawn

Upon one battered cypress perched,
Amidst the morning haze,
Bright eyes stare out from part-cocked head
With piscicultural gaze.

Intently focussed on the brook,
That glides beneath the tree
Alive to every shadow’s sound
Yet never truly free.

For choicelessly these eyes are drawn,
As waters break below
And like a flash a head snaps back
And rippled muscles flow.

Within the slightest moment’s breath,
Two mighty wings released,
Two claws full-stretched, two legs reach out
The sinews, strained, unleashed.
Photo by Gareth Rasberry   Source: Wikipedia

The beaten air the only sound,
As time itself stands still
And, tracer-like, on charted course
The osprey meets its kill.

With consummate and practiced ease
The painless end begins
The single deadly blow is dealt
As sharpened claws sink in.

Then up away into the dawn
And time resumes its course
Two final beats – then disappeared
Is this magnetic force.

The cypress perch and well-filled brook
As silent witness stay
And as they settle – calm again
The sun declares the day.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Sunday Surprise

When I got out of the shower on Sunday morning, I had a surprise waiting.  I certainly didn't see it before I got in the shower, but since it was sitting directly across from the shower door, I noticed it immediately upon getting out.  Here are a couple of photos (the flash on my camera made the light weird and one photo makes my wall look orange and in the other my wall looks yellow.  In reality my wall is about the color of this blog post background).

Not sure if this is a cellar spider or a harvestman.  All spiders are arachnids, but not all arachnids are spiders.  The arachnid family includes ticks and mites.  The photo below shows a type of harvestmen and what my mother always called granddaddy longlegs.

Source:  Wikipedia

Harvestmen are arachnids, but not spiders.  The difference?   Harvestmen have fused body regions and single pair of eyes in the middle of their cephalothorax (spiders have an 'abdomen' that is separated from the cephalothorax by a constriction, as well as three to four pairs of eyes).  I cropped the photo really closely and think MY specimen is a cellar spider and not a harvestmen.  And, hopefully, it is now back in the 'cellar'.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

When Is An Ear Not An Ear?

When is an ear not an ear?  When it's a fungus that looks like an ear.

Source:  Wikipedia

Known as jelly ear (because of its gelatinous texture) or wood ear, this fungus grows the world over on both living and dead wood, but prefers elder trees and can grow up 4 or 5 inches in length.  It is most commonly found in autumn.

Source:  Wikipedia

Very weird looking, but some say very tasty as mushrooms go!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Super Sunfish

What's the heaviest bony fish in the world?  The ocean sunfish or mola mola can weigh over a ton and be almost as tall as it is long.  Its flattened body and small fins makes it look more like a fish without a tail.  Its name, sunfish, refers to its habit of lying on its side and sunbathing at the surface of the water, although in reality it spends more time in the depths of 600 feet or more.  Its other common names refers more to its looks, also known as the moonfish, and especially in German its name literally means the swimming head.  Mola is Latin for 'millstone'!

Sunfish are found in warmer waters in all the oceans in the world.  They have small fins and actually can't swim all that well.  It eats mainly jellyfish, along with squid, crustaceans, small fish and even eelgrass.  Their main predators are sharks, orcas and sea lions.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Patterns in the Snow

Yes, Virginia, we have snow.  Actually not as bad here as in other places, but still have to shovel it and yes, it's REALLY cold.  The wind is what's the problem and blowing and drifting snow makes it hard to determine exactly how much we got.  The official word is seven inches which may not sound like much, but in places you can still see dried plants and in others there is a foot and a half snow drift.

The snow brings out the birds that I don't otherwise normally see.  Like the juncos...

and the song sparrows...

(That's it on the left.  You can ALMOST tell what it is!)  and the white-throated sparrows (Didn't even try to take a photo of it).

Here are a few more pictures -- of the snow.  I like this one of the snow piled up on my neighbor's porch light.

The snow looks like a Dagwood sandwich.

In this case mother nature didn't throw the snow on my neighbor's house and make it stick to the side; my neighbor's snow blower did.

Know what this is?

These boots were made for walkin' (in snow that is).

And I had little waves of snow hanging off my roof.

The cold continues tonight and tomorrow and then temps in the 40s and rain!  The snow won't last long.