Sunday, March 30, 2008

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth , Hemaris thysbe, nectaring on Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica).

They are sometimes called hawk moths, and are in the same family as those most unwelcome guests, the tomato hornworms.


Thysbe (Thisbe) in myth: the Greek version of Juliet.

One web source suggests that Hemaris comes from the root haem (blood), but another says it derives from the Greek hemera (day). See here.

A hornworm on your viburnum is probably this species. Leave it! It won't eat much. And it turns into this enchanting creature.


I wondered whether this moth's wing motion was the same as a hummingbird's. The second photo would seem to suggest it, but I couldn't find confirmation on the internet.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Garden Tour

Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis

I was included in a group of wildflower enthusiasts who toured a private garden in Morgan county yesterday.

Our fearless leaders ordered up a day of weather perfection.

It was mainly a native plant garden, with a few interesting non-natives.

Dutchman's breeches, Dicentra cucullaria

But you can probably imagine which ones we were most interested in.

Trout lily, Erythronium americanum


The purple plant around the statue is Money plant, Lunaria annua (non-native).

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Armadillo?

The game cam didn't capture the Easter Bunny this year...

All we got was an Easter Armadillo!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Turkey trot time-lapse

11:06 (advance scout)




11:16 (always a straggler)

Hubby moved the game camera a little closer to the watering-hole action. Unfortunately the sun from this angle is going to be a little harsh - sorry about that.

The Game cam is set to take a picture every minute when the IR is triggered. (Don't know why it didn't take one at 11:07.) I wish it would cycle faster than that, but it's primarily made for deer hunters and I suppose they aren't as interested in multiple pictures of the same animal as I am.

Wild turkey, Meleagris gallopavo.


For more wild critter action at our place, click on the game cam label just below.

And don't forget to visit the Friday Ark.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Rocky top

The top of our property is a little steep.

And rocky.

I've been there once.

And I wasn't too happy about it.

I don't enjoy heights! (Such a weenie.)

Going up is not the problem... coming down is.

Needless to say, my husband took these pictures. It might be a nice view if the trees weren't in the way.


Check out I and the Bird! Thanks for including me, Clare.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Rocks in their hearts

Dave's post Sunday included a video in which a woman spoke of some fused trees, saying, "even the babies have rocks in their... parts".

I originally thought she'd said, "rocks in their hearts"...

... which I actually like better.

It reminded me of these photos my husband took not long ago.

I wonder what the other trees make of this.

Do they whisper behind his back?

I'd love him better if he didn't have rocks in his heart.

Monday, March 17, 2008

My favorite billboard

The devil sign is near Montgomery on I-65 north.

Just in case you didn't get the message:

Go to church or the Devil will get you!

We belong to anti-billboard Scenic Alabama, but I think this is one advertisement that everyone can appreciate.

The original sign was even more devilish. Satan was a more dynamic figure, hovering sinisterly, attached only by his scythe. Seemingly more prepared to leap and reap.

The earlier sign was damaged in a storm, I believe. You can see a picture of it here. There's also an audio story at that link -- Scott Simon speaking to the landowner, Mr. Newell, when he temporarily changed the sign during the last governor's race.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Red-winged blackbird

One of the early sounds of spring, for me.

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) singing. You can't actually see him in the video, sorry.1

There's also a Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) near the middle, and an Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)2 at the end. You may need to turn the sound up to hear them.

I wasn't even aware of the background highway noise until I uploaded the video. I'm not sure if the camera is just sensitive to it, or if I've desensitized myself to the point I no longer notice it.


1That's my workshop, aka Handmade Soap General, that you see through the cedar. Hubby calls it the Soap Empire sometimes, especially when saying things like, "When is this Soap Empire is ever going to make us any money?"

2The bird formerly known as the Rufous-sided Towhee. He's the one singing, "drink your teaaaaaaa".


P.S. To everyone who didn't call yesterday: we're fine. An F2 tornado came through the county in the morning, but didn't touch down too near us. We got a little hail though. And a lot of phone calls afterwards.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Coming soon

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

Trillium cuneatum

Up, but not yet open... coming soon!


Visit the Friday Ark for lovely critter pictures!

Thursday, March 13, 2008


You may be already familiar with the long-running China Bayles mystery series, created by the very clever Susan Wittig Albert. Susan will be guest-blogging here on April 1. No fooling! Her topic will be the herbs in books 7 - 9 (Chile Death, Mistletoe Man, Lavender Lies). I can't wait!

If you don't know Susan, where have you been? And why haven't you been clicking on my blog links? Susan blogs at Lifescapes, where you'll often peek at the beautiful Texas Hill country, gain a bit of insight into her writing process, and turn green with envy over the awesome knitting. (And the reading notes at the end of her posts are one of my favorite parts.)

Other Susan-related sites you might want to check out:
Story Circle Book Reviews
Mystery Partners
Susan's Garden album
Sign up for All About Thyme newsletter, "a weekly celebration of herbs, spices, and the changing seasons".


P.S. I'm lucky enough to be previewing Nightshade, the 16th (!) book in the series, which will be published on April 1. I haven't gotten very far yet, but had to share this sentence:

I intended to destroy the letters, thinking what a pleasure it would be to toss them, one by one, into the fire, to watch his passion turn into dirty smoke and fly up the chimney.

Wow. I love that sentence! (I replaced the identity with "his" so I wouldn't be spoiling anything if you haven't read the series yet.)


The series -- one of three Susan writes, I might add -- is well described in her Wikipedia page:
"All ... of the China Bayles novels include the names of herbs, and the subsequent mysteries invariably include detailed, meticulously reported herbal themes that invoke the title. ... Albert has described her books as "cozy mysteries," because they do not describe much violence or gratuitous behavior."


I have to admit, I never thought I'd have a guest blogger who has her own Wikipedia page!

Here's the entire Blog Tour calendar. It starts March 24. There are a lot of other blogs there I'm planning to check out. And here is her schedule of appearances and signings.

Just be sure to come back here on April 1, and enter to win a copy of Nightshade!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Cause and effect

The chain of events:

Early one morning, an otter is caught red-handed, gnawing on a freshly killed grass carp.

Attempts at closer otter photography only serve to scare him away.

Late the same afternoon, a juvenile Bald Eagle shows up, for the first time ever.

He flies over the fish several times,

before roosting nearby.

The next morning he's there again, and appears to be eyeing the fish. Harassed by hawks, he leaves before getting too close to the fish.

Later in the day, the cleanup crew arrives.

Jasmine has issues with them off and on throughout the day.

Black Vultures are more aggressive than Turkey Vultures, and kept their kinder, gentler cousins away from the kill for most of the day. The frustrated TVs performed a lot of posturing.

I presume this means "I'm bad" in vulture language.


Cast of players:
Northern River Otter (Lontra canadensis), black-hearted fish-stealer
Grass Carp, aka White Amur (Ctenopharyngodon idella), triploid (sterile) pond-saver
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), American icon
American Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus), raven-vulture clothed in black as for mourning
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura), misunderstood purifying one
Jasmine the Wonder Dog (Canis lupus familiaris), a Great Pyrenees


American Black Vultures are the ones with white just at the tips of their wings. Turkey Vultures have white all along the bottom underside.

Internet searches agree that Black Vultures are the more aggressive, but seem to say that the wing-spreading is only for warmth. That did not appear to be the case in these birds. It looked more like dominance behavior among the birds who had not been allowed to eat.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Best. Yard. Bird. Ever.

My Yard List has a Bald Eagle on it, does yours?

Hee hee hee.

We actually got two new yard birds yesterday -- the other was a Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto). But this immature Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) was the big surprise.

We are sometimes liberal in what we consider our "yard", but if we can see it (without binoculars!) from the kitchen table, there's no question.

This beautiful creature has visited us three times since yesterday afternoon. Twice, he was chased off by a pair of Red-shouldered hawks that persisted in dive-bombing the poor thing. He didn't appear overly worried until the actual body-slamming began.

The hawks looked so tiny next to him. They must have a nest nearby... I've seen lots of Bald Eagles, but have never seen them mobbed by hawks.

The Eagle chased off a Great Blue Heron this morning, before settling onto this perch to be poorly digiscoped. He eyed a large fish lying on the ground (more about this tomorrow), then was in turn driven away by the hawks (with Blue Jay backup).

More on this saga later, including why (I think) the Eagle came to call in the first place.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Mystery critters

Argh! The camera was so far away! What in the world are these creatures?!

Critter #1 was just crawling out of the creek bank, I think. The back legs are possibly still below, out of the picture.

I lightened it up a bit, but I'm not sure it helps. This is about the limit of the flash's range, unfortunately.

Critter #2 does us the favor of showing his tail.

Here's the picture lightened up a little.

Since there's no perspective for size in these pics, here are the larger uncropped shots. I'm including yesterday's deer and coyote for comparison. Ignore the times/dates - they got a little off, and haven't been reset.

I'm fairly certain that critter #2 is a muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus). We don't have nutria here, and I don't know what else would have a tail like that.

What is critter #1? I was really trying to make him into a mink, but the more I look, the more I think he's really an otter. Especially when I compare with these earlier game cam shots. But let me know what you think.

Here are more otter pictures, in daylight.


Here is a closer look at critter #2 (click to enlarge slightly):

This is where I am seeing his outline, and why I thought it was a chunky muskrat. This may not be right, however. Like I said, it's difficult to see where his back ends and the brush behind him begins.