Tag Archives: mother nature

Good-bye To An Old Friend – “My” Old Maple

Those of you that have spent time here on a regular basis know that I love to take pictures of the wildlife feasting and visiting in the grand old maple just feet off the back of my house.  With my kitchen a story up at the back of the house, I got to spend time up in the tree with all the critters.  It was wonderful and relaxing.

The feeders in the old tree weren’t the only draw for the birds. The large spreading tree offered a great place to hang out as well.

Baby squirrels would hone their climbing and jumping skills on its broad limbs after pigging out at the ‘all you can eat’ buffet.

But the old tree had been dying off, bit by bit, over the past few years. Of course, the woodpeckers all loved the bug buffet. And the resident flickers decided to raise a brood of young in a top branch of the old tree last year.

Unfortunately, this spring it was clear the old tree wouldn’t stand on its own much longer.  Only about a quarter of the tree began greening up.  After several days of heavy rain and wind, I was out in the yard with the energizer bunny (Ryder) and noticed a distinct list in the tree.  I checked the ground and realized there was no mound next to the base of the tree.  Roots on a leaning tree will push up the dirt as the tree pulls them up.  There was nothing there. YIKES!  I informed my husband that the next storm would probably push the tree over, and, oh, by the way, there are some branches that need taken off the roof.

So my husband goes up to remove branches and I began vacuuming.  As I was in the middle bedroom, I heard noise, looked up, and saw all kinds of dust and pine needles go blowing by the window. I rolled my eyes figuring he was dragging the branches off the side of the house and kept vacuuming.  A few moments later he walks into the house looking white as a sheet.  Part of his commentary cannot be printed here.  Apparently, one of the branches on the roof was still partially connected to the old tree.  He was tugging and twisting the branch in an attempt to break it off.  Whilst he was holding that branch, the tree fell nearly taking him over the side of the roof with it.  Have I ever mentioned how much my husband dislikes heights? 🙂

This was my view as I walked into the kitchen.

The old maple fell into an old pine on the corner of the house. This gives you an idea of how close it was to the window.

Into the old pine. The large green part of the old tree is literally in the pine tree. As you can see, this dead side has lost almost all its branches.

One of the neighbor’s cats decided this was a great vantage point to view the world. (The mesh pattern is the window screen in the bathroom.)  You can see we moved the bird baths away from the tree.

As we pondered whether or not to assist the old tree to the ground, two days later Mother Nature took the matter out of our hands with some nasty storms that included high winds and tornado warnings.  It was a day that made me feel a little like Dorothy in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ as all kinds of crap went blowing by the windows.  A glance out the window showed the old pine swaying mightily and making the old tree move as well.  I stayed well away from the back of the house until I  heard all the snapping and popping and ‘KABOOM!’ that signalled the end of the old tree.

The old lady was down.

As you can see there was considerable rot throughout the tree. Only one large root was feeding the live part of the tree.

Perspective. I am 5’6″ tall and weigh 130 lbs.

In this shot you can see the destruction wrought on the old pine. A quarter of it stripped bare. And all the mess at the base of the pine is the smashed top of the old maple plus the pine branches ripped off by the old lady on her way down.

It was very interesting to watch as over the next couple of days everyone, feathered and furred, came to inspect the downed tree.  I began checking out the windows whenever I could to see who was next to inspect the old lady.  I was amazed at the activity AND the noise as they all spread the word, “Come here! Check this out!” Nothing goes unnoticed by the wild denizens of yard and forest.

While the critters have gone on with their lives, making adjustments to the new location of their free food, I have been bereft.  The view from the kitchen table is wide open and empty.  No more birds at breakfast.  No woodpeckers and loud squirrels for lunch.  And no more flying squirrels to peek at in the night.  All the activity and nature right outside my window – gone. I’ll live, I know. But for now I mourn my daily trysts with my old lady and the wildlife she nurtured.

Neoscona Crucifera Rides Again

I don’t want Fall to come.  It’s too soon.  I have too much yet to do!  But a harbinger of Fall showed up in my window, Neoscona Crucifera.  Last year I wrote about the life of Neoscona Crucifera  here.

There she is sleeping in a corner on the inside of my window.

There she is sleeping in a corner on the inside of my window! (My windows crank out away from the house with the screens on the inside of the house.  Who thought of this? It’s insane. )

So I checked Almanac.com and found out that in June we were getting 15 hours and 2 minutes of daylight.  The sun was coming up at 5:50 am and setting at 8:53 pm.  Now we’re getting only 13 hours and 8 minutes of daylight.  The sun isn’t coming up till 6:47 am and is setting at 7:56 pm.  And we’re going to lose another hour and half in September!  *sigh*

But Neoscona Crucifera cares for none of this.  Time is counting down for her. So that night I opened my window and waited.  She did not disappoint.

I was very lucky on the angle of this web.  You wouldn't believe how difficult it is to take a picture of a spider web at night!

I was very lucky on the angle of this web. You wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to take a picture of a spider web at night!

There is the top of The Husband's head to give you an idea of how large the web is.

There is the top of The Husband’s head to give you an idea of how large the web is.

Isn't she beautiful?

Isn’t she beautiful?

Later she had a suitor come calling and there was much waving of legs. I couldn't get a clear picture of both of them together.  The little guy is the suitor.

Later she had a suitor come calling and there was much waving of legs. I couldn’t get a clear picture of both of them together. The little guy is the suitor.

Unfortunately, the weather turned cold.  48 degrees at night!  Way to cold for me, so I was forced to close up the house.  Knowing how important food is for her at this time of year, I was forced to dislodge her from her cosy window perch.  I scooped her out of the corner (she was highly displeased) and put her outside on the window sill.  She scrambled for cover immediately.  Later that night I looked out the window.  She was not to be deterred!

There she is!  Hanging out on the outside of the window!

There she is! Hanging out on the outside of the window!

So like it or not, Fall is on its way.

Yep, It’s Fall (Unfortunately) – Meet Neoscona Crucifera

As you know, I got sideswiped by circumstances last May and it threw my whole summer.  And now Fall has made itself known.  I am not a fan of Fall on a good year and this is not a good year.  It means Winter is coming.  My least favorite of the seasons since it is one long season of torture for me.  Constant, never-ending cold.  On top of that I lost my summer.  I am not yet ready for Fall.  Anger and resistance abound.  “Life” and Mother Nature do not care.  They keep to their cycles and move forward with or without you.

It is now dark right after dinner.  No more long after dinner work sessions outside.  It is dark when the Husband leaves for work in the morning.  According to www.almanac.com our day is now only 11 hours and 46 minutes long.  And the leaves are beginning to turn.  *Sigh*

If that were not enough, the bane of my fall window cleaning has shown herself.  Neoscona Crucifera.

Common Name? - Neoscona crucifera This is a picture from http://bugguide.net/node/view/28154/bgimage?from=24  a really cool website for identifying bugs of all kinds.

Normally when it comes to spiders, I am a live-and-let-live kinda person.  I usually catch them and throw them outside when I find them in the house.  I enjoy viewing their webs, which are masterpieces of construction.  And they eat bugs.  A very good thing.  But every year I have complained about those damn spiders that show up every fall and hang around my windows.   They can build huge webs up to 2 feet across.  I didn’t want to be scrubbing away and get bitten.  One year they were so bad I had my husband take the hose and go all around the house blasting them down.  This year, however, will be different for me.

Yesterday, early evening, my husband called me outside.  And showed me this:

There she was, between two electic lines coming into our house.  The specks are bug remains.

There she was, between two electric lines coming into our house. The specks are bug remains.

I realized that I had never bothered to identify this spider.  Or learn about it.  Why, for example, did I only ever see this spider in the fall?  And why on earth always around my windows?

Neoscona Crucifera is a Orbweaver who normally builds her web at night.  Frequently she uses windows and porches as support for her web to take advantage of the bugs coming into the light.  As morning approaches, she eats her web and any remaining bugs she has caught and then retreats to a place of safety so that she does not become a meal for someone else.  Young Neoscona Cruciferas are a favorite of the Pipe Organ Wasp.

The spiderlings hatch in the spring after overwintering in the egg sac.  Some make silk ‘balloons’ and float away.  Many stay in the area near where they hatch.  The spiders reach maturity in the middle to late summer.  The males lose the ability to make webs and spend their time looking for mature females to mate with.

As fall approaches the females begin egg production.  As you might guess, this requires an enormous amount of energy.  The female must keep herself well fed.  But with the approach of fall comes cooler nights and less nighttime bug activity.  So the female spiders begin to leave their webs up during the daylight hours to catch the necessary amount of food.  Which is why I only find them hanging out around my windows in the fall.

Waiting patiently.

Waiting patiently.

Also of interest is the fact that Neoscona Crucifera is not a danger to us humans.  She would rather run or curl up in a ball than fight.  And if I was stupid enough to poke my finger right up into her face and she did bite me, she isn’t poisonous to us humans.  Oh, that isn’t to say getting bitten wouldn’t be painful.  But she won’t send me to the hospital.  I feel kinda bad now about blasting those ladies out of my windows.  This year I’ll have more respect and less fear.  Knowledge is a wonderful thing.

I had hoped for a better daylight picture, but she had eaten her web.  That little bump is her waiting out the day.  Her web tonight is glorious, but it wouldn't show up in the camera flash.  Maybe we'll get lucky and it'll will still be there in the morning.

I had hoped for a better daylight picture, but she had eaten her web. That little bump is her waiting out the day. Her web tonight is glorious, but it wouldn’t show up in the camera flash. Maybe we’ll get lucky and it will still be there in the morning.