Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Because I Was Looking, I Saw. . .

a lot of really cool stuff happening in nature - from my backyard to Bear Lake, here are a few of the highlights:

  • A toad has taken up residence on or near our front porch. He (or she) appears to be your basic Bufo terrestris, about four inches nose to hind end, and getting plumper every night by feeding on the various bugs attracted by our porch light. We have not named our toad friend yet, so write in if you have toad moniker suggestions.

  • I have landscaped with wildlife in mind. I have even certified my yard as a Backyard Habitat. I'm used to birds at the feeder and anoles and geckos all around the house. But still, occasionally something catches me off guard and makes me so glad for my landscaping; a few days ago I spotted a mockingbird chasing a blue jay all around my crabapple tree. Then I saw why: the blue jay's beak was clamped around a ripe, red, crabapple the size of a fat blueberry. There are still hundreds of crabapples left on the tree, so I'm hoping to catch their Tom & Jerry act again!

  • Speaking of mockingbirds . . . they sure have moxie! While Abbey played at the playground next to our library this Monday night, I spotted a red shouldered hawk that came to rest in a bare tree across the street. I told Abbey and we edged closer to get a good look at the large, impressive raptor. And it was impressive, standing there still as a statue while a mockingbird hopped all around it, harassing its every last feather. This hawk could have made an appetizer out of the mockingbird, but still the smaller bird came to within inches. And the smaller bird achieved its goal - the unruffled but annoyed hawk took wing a minute or so later. I knew mockingbirds were protective and territorial, but this one seems either downright heroic or downright stupid. (Probably a little of both - when you come right down to it, all survival on the planet requires a little of both.)

  • Buckeye butterflies are everywhere! All over the woodland trail at Bear Lake, all over my zinnias, just all over. They are gorgeous! My identification books mention them massing at this time of year; not migrating like monarchs, but definitely moving southward. This is definitely a check mark in the "pro" column for living in the south.

  • We did get to see a bald eagle at Bear Lake. We haven't seen one on every visit, so it's special. This time, the great bird took off from a branch in a nearby pine snag so forcefully that the branch came tumbling down with a loud crack and rumbling clatter. The eagle flew over our heads while we were distracted with the noise. I caught it out of the corner of my eye and was able to alert Brian and Abbey before it turned to catch an air current and sailed back in front of us. A moment of pure natural magic, all the better for having seen it with my two best fellow explorers.
And we saw it because we were out there . . . just having fun and . . . looking.

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