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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hurricanes, Earthquakes, Frogs, and Mallards: From the Bird & Nature Journal

I love writing about the nature that's just outside our window--both its peacefulness and its fury. And we've had plenty of both in the month of August! Just a few minutes of quiet time every day really adds up to lots of writing fodder.

Visit The Bird & Nature Journal for an introduction to the nature in Eastern Pennsylvania, a bird watching guide, and tips on identifying birds, as well as lots of links about nature.

Here is my latest sampler from that page. God bless!

Oops. Pardon Me. Hop, hop.August 29, 2011

Photo source: PA Herp Identification.
Cleaning away the debris from the storm today. (Unlike our neighbors, we have lost no trees or even branches. If you take a look at the picture of the cresting pond, below, you will see a majestic maple that's about 100 feet tall. Praise God it lost nothing! A few years ago, we had several trees heavily pruned to lighten the canopies.) A small pile of leaves and twigs were gathered around our statue of the Queen of Peace. I scooped it away with the broom, and....boing! Hop, hop. A huge frog jumped out. He must have been forced into the dry spot by Irene's swirling winds. I wish I could record his memories of the storm! Poor guy didn't have his land legs and hopped about sharp to the left. He navigated the entire perimeter of the porch's stone wall before he finally regained his composer and headed for the pachysandra. I identified him by visiting PA Herp Identification: Online Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of PA. He was a green frog, about 5 inches long. It was a delight to watch him use those long legs!

She's Here!
August 28, 2011

Our serene pond has turned into a raging river.
Here she comes, just walkin' down the street, singing.... Irene's winds are hallowing up a storm outside our windows, and right now I'm glad I took the time to tape them up. The boys spent the night in the library, since a large and ancient maple trees resides just outside their room. I don't trust those branches to hold on.We are watching Fox 29 Philadelphia and Channel 69 Lehigh Valley (our local channel) for up to date coverage, and we're grateful for all the information. Our pond, as you can see from the picture, has become a raging river. Water from the hill behind us is pouring into our basement, even bubbling up through the base of the stone foundation. Believe it or not, our 100+ year-old foundation was built to do this--water in, water out. The sump pump was installed years ago to help the process. I'm sure not a few farmers have had to bail out the basement before the days of these mechanical helpers; we just might be the newest addition to the club, if the power fails.

The storm is eery. It comes in wails. Then there is silence for about half an hour. I can hear only the crickets. The birds are silent. Then the storm returns, and Mother Nature directs a new symphony of wind and rain.

By early morning, Irene is going full strength, without those half-hour breaks. High winds. The trees are bending, and I can't believe nothing is breaking. The rain is heavy, but not as heavy as I've expected. However, it's certainly enough to cause serious flooding.

Thankfully, we have not lost power, but we've learned that we are one of few who have been blessed! Our neighbors just to the North and just to the South have been left without. However, the damage caused by floods and the wind and rain are minimal. We are so very grateful!

Getting Ready for Irene's Visit
August 24, 2011

Some of the flowers I picked before Irene flattens them for good. I tried to leave some behind, so the birds will have seed pods to enjoy during the winter. Usually, they have plenty to gleen from during the frosty months, but this year I'll need to make special note to buy extra bird seed.

I picked all the ripe tomatoes, as many herbs as I could cram into jars, vases, and pitchers, and all the flowers. I'm sure they will be flattened by the wind and rain.

Preparing for Hurricane Irene, a huge storm. We usually don't worry about hurricanes in this neck of the woods, but we are hearing that Irene will reach over New Jersey's borders with ease. That would be us. We have brought in all the yard items, secured all the outbuildings, bought food, water, batteries, collected our flashlights, set up buckets in the basement (in case we need to bail manually), taped picture frame windows, and set to praying. In the meantime, we just heard that Albany, NY, has experienced another earthquake, at 3.0. The east coast is having a great week. What a time to be a meteorologist! This is their week to make observations and put their hard-earned degrees to work!

Shaking It Up!
August 23, 2011

An earthquake in Eastern Pennsylvania? With its epicenter in Virginia, the little quake registered a 5.3.

Did my cats sense it coming? Hardly. I was sitting on the bed reading, with two of our cats lying next to me. The bed began to shake back and forth. Our felines just looked at me as if to say, "Say, just what are you doing, anyway?"

Well, Hello There!
August 21, 2011

I went outside to check the mail and heard the steady peep of a chick calling out to mama. It was coming from the ground. I looked about and found among the cleomes and tick seed a little beak and eyes surrounded by downy feathers. He was precious. I reached it to pick him up and he zipped away in the air. Yet to grow tail feathers, he was flying without direction and trying to land...somewhere, anywhere but in the pond. I didn't like that he was left out in the open, so I tried to direct him back to the cleomes and tick seed. But he didn't want to go, so I decided to pick him up and transport him. To my surprise, he hopped onto my finger. And he had no plans of going anywhere. He was perfectly content. After admiring him, I took him over to shrub. He hopped onto a branch and hopped about like he as king! This was an afternoon I thoroughly enjoyed. (I will have pics soon.)
All Grown Up
August 2, 2011

These mallards were hatched here. The trap in the background
was set by our neighbor, who is trying to catch the family of
muskrats, to no avail
It's fun to observe the brood of mallards that were hatched on our pond this year. They are now fully grown, but for a long while they still exhibited the habits of chicks. They insisted on flocking together when they swam--shoulder to shoulder-- and scooped into the water to eat. They were just too big for all that togetherness.
Over time, I noticed that they gave each other more room little by little. It was a gradual transition. They also exhibited more courage and were less likely to run to the safety of the water when cars drove by and when a bicyclist came along. They were conditioned as to what was safe and what wasn't. Curious people who wanted to take pictures were still not on that list.

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