Stuff and Nonsense: nature

Showing posts with label nature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nature. Show all posts


#WordlessWednesday: Monarch Butterfly

Monarch butterfly enjoying the last of the summer zinnias.


#WordlessWednesday: Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail enjoys a thistle somewhere in Eastern North Carolina


#WordlessWednesday: Birds

Titmouse & Red-bellied Woodpecker


#WordlessWednesday: Squirrel!

Gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) waiting for the coast to clear
before, no doubt, raiding a bird feeder


Turkey, Turkey

Small feathered dinosaur.

Have you every stroked a turkey? Last weekend Barnes Nature Center, part of the Environmental Learning Centers of Connecticut, hosted two turkeys from its sister center, Indian Rock Wildlife Preserve. The pair, a male (tom) and female (hen), had been raised together since hatching in May and seemed very at ease with the crowd of humans that had turned out to gawk at them.

And pet them. I'd never touched a turkey before and was, for some reason, astonished to discover how soft and satiny they felt. Even their raw-looking heads were soft -- like kidskin. And warm! Especially the dewlap/wattle.

Look at that display!

Don't know what a dewlap/wattle is? It's the fleshy growth under the turkey's neck. The fleshy bit that hangs over the beak is called the snood. The lumpy red bits around the base of the wattle/dewlap are called caruncles. How do I know all this? A young man was very eager to explain it all to me so that the next time I see wild turkeys in my backyard I'll know exactly what I'm looking at.

We were allowed to feed the turkeys and, being adults, we were allowed to feed them by hand instead of from a paper cup. I was completely chuffed to get both turkeys eating out of my hand at the same time. I felt like some kind of Turkey Whisperer. However, I am not going to try that with the turkeys that occasionally visit our backyard. "Local Woman Pecked To Death By Wild Turkeys" is not the headline I want to follow my death.

I have conclusively determined that turkeys like food.




Nature Guides to Your Backyard

A year or so ago, a friend moved to a more rural part of Connecticut and, ever since, has been very "What's this bird?" and "Do you know what this plant is?" and so I thought I'd talk about two of my favorite nature guides I use to identify "weird shit" I find in my yard or neighborhood, because we didn't all grow up in nature-knowledgeable families or do scouting.

Birds of Connecticut Field Guide is my go-to book for bird identification. I recommend it whenever I hear someone is looking for a good, local bird book and I've even bought copies to give as gifts. It's a small book, perfect for carrying in your handbag or coat pocket, with lots of full color photographs identifying 120 of the most common birds to live in or visit Connecticut. The book groups birds by color -- "birds that are mostly brown" for example. Skim through the section until you find a picture of the bird you're looking for. Every entry for every bird is accompanied by a little map of Connecticut, showing where you are likely to find that bird in the state as well as dietary information, descriptions of nesting habits, etc. But, really, it's the photos that make this book. I see a lot of "birds that are mostly brown" in my area and many are similar-looking, but the Birds of Connecticut Field Guide has made their individual identities clear to me.

Birds of Connecticut Field Guide by Stan Tekiela (Adventure Publications, 2000)

I love the National Audubon Society Regional Guide to New England because it handily identifies such a variety of things -- birds, trees, insects, etc -- that I am likely to encounter in my part of the country, removing a need for multiple guidebooks. The photos are very good and, plant-wise, I've never had a problem mapping what I see in the woods or yard to what is depicted in the book. The descriptions, while explanatory, are succinct so sometimes I do require supplementary information in the form of a library book or journal article. I don't usually carry this book with me when I go out -- it's a bit larger than the Birds of Connecticut Field Guide and does not fit so nicely in my coat pocket, but I tend to take a lot of photos with my cellphone of whatever looks interesting and the guide helps me identify the plants/trees/insects when I get home.

National Audubon Society Regional Guide to New England (Knopf, 1998)



Wordless Wednesday: Rainbow

The sky went a strange mustardy yellow-brown & the wind kicked up.
I thought for sure we were in for a monster storm, but then ... rainbow.


Wordless Wednesday: Green Apples

Green apples against a blue sky, with leaves limned in light.


Wordless Wednesday: Cranesbill

Cranesbill -- that's true geranium. The other plants we call "geraniums" are
actually pelargoniums ... because gardening isn't confusing enough, right?


Wordless Wednesday: Flutterby Friend

Blue Morpho butterfly (Morpho menelaus) getting all friendly.

Eventually, I stood up ... and walked around with it still clinging to my jeans.


Wordless Wednesday: Fallen Leaves

Autumn leaves scattered across the pavement like so much confetti


Wordless Wednesday: Autumn Woods

Amidst the russet and gold, I spy a splodge of (ever)green!


Wordless Wednesday: Salt Marsh

View of the salt marsh through the tall grasses at Rocky Neck State Park, Connecticut.


The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar

Martin Windrow, smitten with his sister-in-law's owl, chooses to adopt an owl, Wellington, of his own and keep it in his south London flat. Perhaps unsurprisingly, that doesn't go well and it comes as some relief to Windrow when Wellington escapes. There's also some guilt and sorrow at the loss, understandably, but none of that stops Windrow from optimistically adopting another owl some time later.

This time he does it "right" by adopting a very young owl who has been hand-reared by humans since hatching and so thinks humans are pretty okay. This owl is Mumble, the owl who liked so much to perch on the bust of Caesar (Germanicus not Augustus). Her story is charming. Funny. Sad. And a little ... disgusting.

Yes, The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar has "awwww" and "ewww" in equal measure. And even the "ewww" is oddly delightful. It's clear Windrow dearly loved Mumble and spent a good deal of time learning not just about her and her foibles, but all about owls in general. Throughout the book, Windrow interweaves the natural history of owls with his personal observations and day to day experiences with Mumble, and its fascinating stuff.

My only quibble with this book is a small but persnickety one. Simply put, the title is misleading -- there's no mention of Mumble sitting on the bust of Caesar until well toward the end of the book. Mumble isn't even shown sitting on Germanicus on any of the cover variants. Why this title, then? Unless it was to appeal more to the readers of the Windrow's military histories? Or maybe the title just gave Windrow a warm feeling and that's quite enough for anybody so stop being so critical, you horrible woman?

The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar: Living With A Tawny Owl by Martin Windrow (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014)