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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

From the Bird & Nature Journal: Several Wonderful Summertime Observations

Visit the Bird & Natural Journal for more joyful observations (and some not so joyful)
about God's amazing creation.

I believe I spotted a
large wood turtle.
photo source: PA Herp
July 4, 2011

Several Wonderful Summertime Observations

During the last several days, I've had the pleasure of making terrific observations, most of them during my morning cup of tea on my porch.

One day, I spotted a turtle, its shell about the size of a large dinner plate, making his way to the pond. He was moving rather quickly, and by the time I went into the mud room to slip on my boots and headed back to the pond, he was already at the edge of the water. His legs were hefty, but they moved fast, and when he slipped into the water he seemed content. He didn't look like a snapping turtle, as I had a good view of his head and I didn't see a beak type of mouth. It was a pleasure to watch him swim about for a while.

In other pond news, a pair of mallards has nested here, and mama has brought her brood of 8 ducklings into the main part of the pond, just often enough for us to get a good look at them. But in her natural and wild ways, when she saw people around she retreated her gang into the honey suckle and wild rose brambles that line the creek that feeds the pond. I've been tempted to search for her nest but I don't want to disturb them. I hope that they felt safe and welcome here to nest again next year.

Several yards from the pond, I spotted a large Eastern Cottontail, and she was about the size of a groundhog. Could she have been feasting on our bean plants? My husband and I agree that while groundhogs--who desimate our garden--should be eliminated (and by the sounds of things this morning, our neighbor agrees), the cottontails will be left alone. We'll simply make more efforts to stear them away from the garden. In an effort to keep some food safe and for ourselves, we grow all our lettuces and herbs close to the house in a high-traffic area. Still, the chipmunks have made this their turf and they scurry across the sidewalks and the porch in the early mornings and evenings. Our younger cats watch them from the window, while our elderly feline spots them from her favorite chair in the shade outside. Besides the little tunnels they produce, their activity seems to be harmless.

I mentioned the wild rose and honeysuckle. In the early mornings, when the sun is drying away the dew, the perfume of the two wild plants is intense and lovely. I rememer when I was a teenager, I bought honeysuckle perfume from Avon, and I remember just wanting to bathe in it! It still smells so lovely to me.

This year, I'm sorry to say, my giant zinnias are not doing well. After putting seeds down three times, I have merely a few plants that germinated, and that's disappointing. Last year, the zinnia bed was lush and bright, and it attracted Eastern Swallowtails (see photos below), as well as plenty of hummingbirds. I will miss them this year and treasure the few that have managed to pop up.

June 20, 2001

Oops. Sorry, Buddy, I almost stepped on you!

My kids find it amazing (and weird) that I will even talk to the snakes I see. It's bad enough that I talk to the cats, but to snakes? One day, I was collecting sticks after a storm, bending down and picking up several at a time. Oops. That one wasn't a stick! Then today, I was in one of our flowerbeds when I almost stepped right on another snake. Both of them were about a yard long. Thankfully, they are just garter snakes, which are harmless. Coming across them is not that unusual around here, and we're happy to see them since they consume large amounts of rodents. I can't help it, but when I spot one just next to my hand or foot, I blurt out, "Oops. Sorry, Buddy!" Then I stand there and watch it slither away. I'm always captivated by how they move and how their muscles work. So cool.

June 15, 2011
Common Mergansers: Excellent divers

Two mergansers were visiting again today. I sat by the pond to watch them swim. While they were warry of me, they didn't shy away, and I sat quietly. I was surprised to see that they are excellent divers. Compared to the mallards, who simply flip their backsides up to scoop up foods from under the water, the mergansers actually dive and swim under water for about four or five feet.

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