Friday, June 29, 2007

Dry creek

Even though it rained (yay!) one whole inch (yay! yay!) the day before yesterday, the creek still looks like this... mostly rocks.

The ground was so dry that it sucked up all the excess water like a sponge. Nothing left over to trickle down into the creek. Fish, crawfish, snails, etc., survive only in places where the water pools.

One of the ponds is so low as to be practically non-existent. The Great Blue and Green Herons are constant visitors -- to them it's a treasure trove of little fish with nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. (And Red-shouldered hawks seem happy the creek is so low, since they seem to love crawfish dinners.)

The garden loved the rain. I can water and water and water with the hose, but it's just not the same as getting rain. The garden and I had been pretty miffed lately... it was getting on our last nerve to hear the thunder and see the many dark clouds, only to have it all pass by just out of reach. Day after day after day.

But now I have to go pull weeds, or rather, grass, before it gets too hot. Always trade-offs!


Alabama's governor has asked everyone to pray for rain. I had to roll my eyes. Call me cynical, but I don't see him asking people to pray for our dysfunctional state constitution. (Or to end poverty, stop the pedophiles, achieve world peace, etc.) So why pray for rain?

Those three words (pray for rain, not our dysfunctional constitution) always make me think of Guadalcanal Diary.

Don't call for love
Don't ask for gold
our daily bread
or no more pain
pray for rain

Thinking about Guadalcanal Diary always makes me feel better. Highly recommended for washing the bad taste of politicians out of your mouth.

Visit the Friday Ark for your weekly dose of crittery goodness.

And don't forget the fantastic latest edition of I and the Bird. (It's Frodo-licious!)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Baby barn swallows

Juvenile Barn swallow, Hirundo rustica

It's that time of year, when baby barn swallows are out of the nest and zooming around with the adults, catching bugs and generally having fun. Looks that way, anyhow.

It was a good year for them here. I counted 60 on the wires near the pond. I haven't figured out where they nest -- maybe in the neighbor's actual barn. But they definitely like to spend their days here after the babies have fledged.

At first I thought they were begging, but then realized it must have been the gular fluttering that Swamp Things told me about a while back.

Sadly, most of the Google searches concerning Barn swallows that the blog receives are along the lines of "how to get rid of barn swallows". I can't help but wonder why you'd want to! I guess they can be messy if they're nesting over your front door, but...

1) They're not going to be there that long. Eggs hatch in about 14 days and the young fledge about 3 weeks after that. When they're gone from the nest, you can tear it down and put a rubber snake in its place if you don't want them to return the next year.

2) They eat bugs! Lots and lots of bugs!

3) Watching them fly around, swooping and diving in search of insects, is a sure-fire natural blood pressure medicine.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Exit strategies

Last year I finally figured out that these were cicada exit holes. (I had mentally accused my husband... Derp.)

This was roughly the same spot where Jasmine discovered a digging armadillo at exactly 3:30 this morning. After the excitement was over, she was extremely messy but very proud of herself. Ick, but cleanup will have to wait til hubby gets home. The last time I tried washing her by myself (after the cow poop incident) it was... disagreeable.

But the extra-fun part was afterwards. We headed back to bed, only to find the bedroom door locked. Or actually, broken. A strict parakeet-protecting closed-door policy made me shut it on the way out.

Force of habit. I was still half asleep. Not my fault it decided to break, anyway. Sadly, the person who closed the door for no apparent reason usually gets the blame in these situations.

Luckily though, hubby excels at middle-of-the-night repairs.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Doctor Mower

Hubby's new toy mower (a.k.a. tax refund).

It's a DR mower, but he insists that it prefers to be called "Doctor Mower".

He calls this "the Rosetta Stone of Mower Instructions."



Thursday, June 21, 2007

Summer camp

Away freeway trolls
and skull poison

Away chainsaw dogs
and anything downloadable

Welcome butterfly people and snake elves

unfamous artists
and freeform laughing

dark and beautiful
names that mean shadow

and drowsy bee biographers

Stand still long enough

Measure the angles of coyote eyes

Change your mind about
what is highly collectible

Get broken spiders back in love

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sun Halo

On the 10th we saw something in the way of atmospheric optics...

...but it was very difficult to photograph. (Still no new camera yet, by the way. I remain frozen by indecision.)

Edited portion follows

The pictures were perhaps too subtle. I've added this over-enhanced photo. (Can you see me now?) The arc is a pale upside-down rainbow that begins 2/3 down the left side of the picture and sweeps over to the larger cloud mass at right.
Maybe you had to be there.

I couldn't identify which particular effect this was. 22° halo? 46° halo? Something else (Supralateral arc)? I suspect a 22° halo, mainly because it's the most common. But this wasn't as bright or as colorful as those sound.

Here is the same picture with the contrast enhanced. It looked so much cooler in person.

The details: Near Oneonta, Alabama. Around 10:00 - 11:00 am, sun at about 45° angle to horizon (so, not a Supralateral arc then, since they only form at 32° or less). With the camera at 35mm I could not get them both in the picture. (But I wasn't too far from it, which also makes me think 22° halo.)

I read and read at the wonderful Atmospheric Optics web page. (I kept confusing myself.) I posted on a weather forum but got no answers.

Note to self for next time:
Edge of halo one outstetched hand (at arm's length) from sun: 22° halo.
Two outstretched hands: 46° halo.

Also difficult to photograph was this recent cloudbow.

Oh the fuzziness.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Recent visitors

Red phase American Toad, Bufo americanus, in the garden.

Please stay and eat some bugs.

A nice webpage that includes info on how to differentiate similar species by cranial ridge patterns.

Cool red dragonfly: Carolina Saddlebags, Tramea carolina. Thanks again Giff Beaton.

A turtle I haven't identified yet. But now I see why they call it a turtleneck.

She was in a hurry to get somewhere.

Unwelcome visitor. One of the neighbor's cows, again. Tremendous painintherearus.

Monday, June 18, 2007


We found a new vine near the pond: Anglepod (sometimes written Angle-Pod). It's one of the climbing milkweeds, and the latin name is either Matelea gonocarpa or Gonolobus gonocarpa. The latter doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but was apparently the original name. Then it was changed to Matelea, which sounds much more poetic, if you ask me. Then it was changed back. Maybe.

Several internet sources cite the "it was changed back" story, but the USDA plants site and the Integrated Taxonomic Information System pages both show Matelea as correct.

They've both got .gov at the end so they must be correct, right...? I have no idea.

To make things even more confusing, there are two similar species, the gonocarpa and the suberosa (or suberosus if you are going with Gonolobus instead of Matelea). Basically the difference is that one has smooth (glabrous) flowers and the other has hairy (pubescent) ones. But in one scientific paper, it is suggested that yes, there should be two types, but they should be distinguished not based on hairiness but on flower color. (The flowers may be colored as shown here or they may be pure green.)

I think I'm just going to call it Anglepod! And try to avoid writing it down.


Hilton Pond's article on the hairy two-toned version.

Wayne at Niches has written about this confusion previously. (And if I'd been better about keeping up with my blog reading lately I'd have seen it before I wrote all this!)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Rodents of Unusual Cuteness

Still haven't gotten a new camera yet... too busy getting ready for the big soap meeting, and now that it's over, have too many other things to catch up on. (I think every scrap of clothing in the house needs laundering.)

These pics are from Mother's Day at my mother's house.

Eastern Chipmunk, Tamias striatus. Did somebody change the spelling while I wasn't paying attention? I could've sworn he was a Chipmonk.

My Dad was constantly at war with them in the yard. Once he thought to burn them out of their tunnels with gasoline. I'm sorry I missed it -- the roaring whoosh of flame from the drainage grate was apparently something to see. As was the look on his face when he realized that the chipmunks could just as easily have tunneled under the house.

Melanistic Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis.

Melanistic = overabundant pigment
Leucistic = reduced pigment
Albinistic = no pigment

OK, not really a rodent, but my sister's unusually cute small dog, Elvis the Bichon Frisé. He was this small at Christmas.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Duckie update

Our broody Indian Runner duck, Bluebill, hatched out one baby the day before Mother's Day. At one day old he was the cutest thing in the world.


Here he is now. Or rather, last week. Still cute, but the awwww factor has mostly been replaced with I can't stop looking at that crazy thing on his head.

When we ordered our ducks from Ideal Hatchery, I noticed the statement, "Crested Fawn and White Runners may possibly be included with your order." None of our ducklings were crested though, so I forgot about it. But one must have carried the gene.

According to the Domestic Waterfowl Club of Great Britain, "The crest is a mutation associated with skull deformities... The crest is formed from a mass of fatty tissue that emerges through a gap in the cranium (skull). From this, feathers grow."

Also fascinating:
The crest gene is an incompletely dominant one. ie, if an chick receives a double dose of the gene - one from each parent (homozygous) it will die in the shell. If only one of the parents passes it on (heterozygous) the resulting hatches will be : 25% will not hatch, 25% will not have crests and 50% will have crests. If a crested heterozygous bird is crossed with an un-crested one, the resulting hatch should be 50% crested and 50% plain.

Bluebill started sitting on eggs just after the Easter week freeze, so only the eggs laid that morning had a chance anyway.