Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ms. Muscovy

Ms. Muscovy is the only duck here who flies much. The Indian Runners can't be bothered, Ms. Mallard prefers to waddle, and Mr. Muscovy is too heavy to get off the ground (unless Jasmine is chasing him).

Lately she has learned that on the rim of the dog pen (that serves as their nighttime predator protection), she'll be away from the drakes' loving attentions, yet remain part of the flock. Being part of the flock is pretty important to ducks.

The roof of the workshop is Ms. Muscovy's other favorite place to land.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


I've read that they're supposed to shrivel in winter, to prevent damage when it freezes. But this seems a little extreme.

Opuntia humifusa, Eastern prickly pear cactus.

It's the only cactus that's native here. I remember being really surprised the first time I ever saw one growing out in a field.

It likes poor soil - dry and rocky suits it just fine. So where it grows in our backyard is probably not a good place for flowerbeds.

When the previous owner scraped out a road and put down chert on part of the property, this cactus sprang up in sunny areas along the edges. The healthiest plants are growing in a small area that was apparently cut over as a turn-around for the trucks. Wild hyacinth (Camassia scilloides) flourishes there in the spring.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Bird tunnels

I'm not sure how these curious little tunnels form. I don't know if birds actually make them. But they sure know how to put them to good use.

We've seen wrens hopping along the paths, jumping up every now and then to grab a bug from the underside of the lip.

These are along the edge of an old logging road on our property. I've only seen them at the higher altitudes, where the ground is rockier.

If you know any more about how they're made, I'd love to hear it.


I'd planned that this post would describe a local political rally from the weekend, when we had not one, but two, presidential contenders in Birmingham. I'd have shown you lots of pictures, and related every little thrill. But I got sick, and can only relate how thrilling it was to watch it all on tv.

I have to say thanks to WBRC6, our local Fox channel, for showing both live. You can see the raw video of either appearance (Huckabee or Obama) by clicking on that link.

Too bad they don't show that huge honking anchor desk that they dragged all the way down to Bartow Arena for the reporters to sit behind.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Wild beauty

Isn't he gorgeous?

There must have been condensation on the camera lens, or fog, or a bit of both. I doctored it, but this is the best I could do.

Here's the original:

Ghost bobcat!

I apologize if you're getting sick of the game cam pictures. I haven't found time to take anything new myself, between the cold weather, frenzied soapmaking, and the RAIN. Not a great amount, but we've had a couple of long-slow-all-day rains. I wish we'd get a few more, we really need them.

FC asked earlier whether the camera went through a lot of batteries. Not really, usually. When it's cold like it has been lately -- it's been getting down into the low twenties or teens more often than normal this year -- the battery life is shorter. We always use Duracell batteries. That Energizer bunny is cute, but he ain't got nothing on Duracell when it comes to game cam battery longevity.


Submitted to the Friday Ark.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

That explains it

We've never had much of a raccoon problem here. I suspected that the coyotes were taking care of that for us.

At first, this picture made me wonder if coyotes carried nesting material! But when I zoomed in and brightened it, and increased the contrast, I saw a little striped tail sticking out of the coyote's jaws. (Click on the picture to enlarge.)

Now, if only I could get them interested in armadillos...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

R.I.P. Geckie

She was a good gecko.

I think her poor vision contributed to her not eating very well, especially lately. Or possibly something else was wrong. Leopard geckos can live to 25 years in captivity, and she was only eight, if the guy we bought her from was telling the truth. (She was supposed to be two when we bought her.)

She always went through periods of not eating, but would always snap out of it and make a comeback. But not this time. She died yesterday.

In this picture she was shedding her skin. Look how fat her tail was! (They store excess fat there.)

I think we're going to have to move her cage. Out of habit, I keep glancing down every time I pass it, expecting to see her. I didn't cry when we first found her dead, but that dang empty cage gets me every time.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Game cam bucks

Hubby moved the camera to an area where we'd spotted a buck rub. It worked!

I think he's leaving a scented "keep out" message for other bucks.

We mainly get does on the game cam, so I forget how powerfully built the bucks are.

We'd gotten this shot just before moving the camera. At first I thought it was the same buck, but after examining the zoomed-in views, I think the first one is actually a 6-point (as opposed to the second 4-pointer).

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Dried hydrangea

Dried Oak-leaf hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia.

It's the official state wildflower of Alabama. I'm not sure why we have official state plants, animals, and so forth. I'm almost positive that we don't really need an official state barbeque championship, or an official state horseshoe tournament.

Our state quilt is kind of pretty, though.


I had planned to be showing you scenes of our snow men, beautiful flakes falling, etc. We'd been practically promised 1 - 4 inches by daybreak. But we got skunked. Again.

(That's 2.5 - 10 cm of snow. That we didn't get.)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Fire in the woods

British Soldiers (Cladonia cristatella), my favorite lichen.

Two very small salamanders. Either Southern Red-backed (Plethodon serratus), Southern Zigzag (Plethodon ventralis), or Webster’s (Plethodon websteri).

According to Salamanders in Alabama, they're "easily confused".

These tiny... things... were growing on a limb rotting on the ground. I can't even tell if they are a type of mushroom, slime mold, lichen, or what. Possibly an immature version of Peniophora rufa...?

The whole line there was about the width of a blade of grass. I could definitely use a macro lens. And of course that portable DNA analyzer that they are being so slow to invent.

An easy one, finally: Truckus plasticus.

And there's always this:

The muscovy duck who thinks he's my boyfriend.

He follows me into the woods, if I'm moving slowly enough.

I'll be hunkered down, minding my own business, trying to take a photo of something low to the ground, when I hear a coarse hissing from behind.

That's my cue to stand up fast, unless I'm in the mood to be nibbled, stabbed, and pinched by a duck.

I'm not sure how he carries bread crumbs, but he's always there waiting when we get back home.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

In a graveyard

I dragged my mother and great aunt all over northwest Georgia last week, searching for ancestors.

The wall around this graveyard was built in the 1880s.

I like old graveyards in general, but finding people you're related to makes it even more interesting.

I don't think Elmina's family could write. So the carver inscribed the tombstone as they must have pronounced it: Elminer.

It seems in pretty good shape for something that's been out in the weather for over 100 years.

There's her husband, Berry. I'm a little surprised that they chose such a different style of headstone for him.


P.S. Title of this post is my favorite Rufus Wainwright song. (Click the "preview" button at that link and you can hear a snippet.)

You get some really interesting images when you search Google Images for the phrase in a graveyard.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

First game camera of 2008

No matter which way we point the game cam, we always seem to capture mostly... southbound views of northbound animals.

Well maybe not mostly, but well over half, definitely.

I'm not sure why it happens that way.

This seems like a different bobcat, don't you think? (The first one looks heavier.)

At least two other blogger friends have told me they got game cameras for Christmas, so I'm anxiously awaiting their first pictures.


Our game camera is a Cuddeback Expert 3.0. We bought it from Boss Buck. Neither of them gave us anything for free, which is a crying shame, really, considering how much free publicity I've doled out.

I wasn't wild about Boss Buck's skimpy degree of packaging protection. But the camera got here in good condition anyway.

Wayne got the "No Flash" version of this camera, but I'm not sure that he's entirely pleased with it. I believe I remember him saying that he'd get the regular (flash) version if he had it to do over again.

If you're considering buying one, definitely check out the Cuddeback gallery to see which pictures you like best. Many videos are there too, but we've never been able to get the video function to work to our satisfaction.

Friday, January 04, 2008

More fun with fungi

Fungi are one of the more frustrating things to try to identify. I thought bugs were bad, but at least BugGuide is pretty dang inclusive. No such comprehensive reference exists for mushrooms, so far as I know.

You'd think this sweet little cup-type would be easy to identify. I was thinking, well it looks like a bird's nest fungus, only without the "eggs". But I can't seem to find any reference to anything like that, not to one that isn't "densely hairy" anyway. Maybe its hairs are all repressed, what with the drought...?

Sometimes it helps to just google what something looks like. (The top search term that finds this blog has been "yellow fuzzy caterpillar" for over 2 years now.)

But trying to find "yellow sandwich fungus" didn't do me much good.

I do believe it's the same fungus as this one, which he calls Stacka hydnum (which you'd think would be the scientific name, but isn't). But other pictures of Climacodon septentrionalis (the real scientific name) look completely different to me.

Then there's this black stuff.

If you look at this site, you'd be pretty convinced that it's Diatrype stigma, common tarcrust.

But if you went by this image, or this one, you might not.

And is this even the same black stuff? It seemed thin and crusty, whereas the others were thicker and sort of... puffed.

I do think, after looking at several images for common tarcrust, that it's what I've been seeing when it seems like there are several old burned branches in an area with no other signs of fire.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Deep south deep freeze

Well, at least the wind's not blowing.

7.9°F (-13.4°C) is not the norm here, but I guess the temperature gods wanted to remind us that we're really still in zone 7, despite the updated hardiness map.

We are in a valley, so it's usually a bit colder here. The local tv station is saying that it's 16°F; (-9°C) in Birmingham.

This is the display for the fancy weather observation system we got for Christmas. I cropped out the bottom of the picture -- it also shows the atmospheric pressure.


I could swear that it reached -12°F (-24°C) when I was a kid, but nobody else seems to remember this. We lived a little further north at the time, in Gadsden. According to this site, the lowest recorded temperature in Alabama was -27°, on January 30, 1966 in New Market. Now, that location is practically in Tennessee, but that could be the weather event I'm recalling.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


I had a feeling that the rain last week would make a few fungi shout for joy. I think these are oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus).

But I'm not sure enough to try to eat them.

Even though there are so many.

And they look so tasty.


Everything I know about mushrooms is from books. The only one I'd be confident enough to eat would be a morel. And I never seem to find more than one of those at a time, so I just leave them and hope they'll make more.

People in Europe gather wild mushrooms all the time, but I've never had anyone here (in the south) tell me that they do.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year

This was the image on my sister's Christmas card this year, but I think he makes a good New Year's Koi too, don't you? (It seems like he's swimming in confetti.)

I was impressed that my 4th grade niece had colored such a pretty carp. Then I found out that she'd actually drawn it! She said they'd had something to copy from, but it isn't traced.

I think we've got a budding artist in the family.