Tag Archives: nature

Sooo, Today Was The First Day Of Spring. Uh huh.

The 1st Day of Spring was not very spring-like. *Sigh*

I don’t think this crabapple bush with snow all over its branches and buds was real thrilled with the first day of spring. I certainly wasn’t.

Everything covered in snow.


And the wind blew so hard it coated the sides of the trees as well.

The snow weighted the tree branches down to the ground. But it made a cozy hideaway under the pines.

There was one person, however, who was just lovin’ the snow. 

Happy belated 1st Day of Spring!

Snow, Ice, Snow, Mist, Snow…

The weather here was crazy today.  But my four-legged energizer bunny (Ryder) insisted he needed his daily chase, so out into the mess I went. It was late afternoon and I was surprised to find an entire yard with no obvious new track marks.  Really? Really!

It was icy enough to weigh tree branches down to the earth.  And notice – no fresh tracks!

Each individual needle coated in ice.

I began scouting around trees and brush piles and by carefully looking, I found some small tracks of adventurous wild things.

Birdy tracks next to a brush pile.  A good place to stay out of the wind and weather.

I was VERY surprised to find a short squirrel trail from the base of one tree to the next. Why would she leave the safety of the trees to go about 15 feet across open ground to another tree when their branches intertwined?

And what on earth did this?  I couldn’t find any prints!  (Update:  I found the same pattern a couple of days later under another tree.  But with tracks.  SQUIRREL tracks.  They are apparently digging for seeds and such under the pine and hemlock trees.)

And that was it!  Apparently everyone was tucked in somewhere waiting for better weather!

I hope all of you hit by this storm are safe and sound!

Household Helper

As you know, I always have a story for getting into odd things. So about last night…

I sat down on the toilet and went to rest my arms on my thighs when a sharp shooting pain went into my elbow.  OW! It felt like I’d been stung. I swiped at my elbow and something came off! I didn’t have my glasses on so I didn’t see what went flying, but we’ve been having warm spells and I wondered if a small bee, like a sweat bee, got into the house. It burned for a little while and I got a little red bump.

Later, I watched my cat Rose patting at something on the rug, but it didn’t move so she left.  And right after she left, I watched a small spider scurry across the floor to my linen closet.  I have watched this scenario many times. But not right after being ‘stung’.  Hmmm, I thought, these spiders are common in houses and I’ve never had any trouble with them, but could they bite hard enough to hurt?

Meet Cheiracanthium mildei, otherwise know as the Yellow Sac Spider, Yellow House Spider, or Black Footed Spider.

This little, most probably, lady is sitting on a clip-on fan in my bathroom. To give you an idea of size, the space she is sitting in is 3/8’s of an inch.

These little spiders normally live outside in your trees, bushes, garden, and leaf piles.  But come winter, if they can find some place nice and warm (your house), they’ll move in and set up shop.  C. mildei hunt by sight and eat other spiders bigger than they are, insects, and their eggs. Very handy if you have gnats living in your houseplants or silverfish in your closets!

Those little cocoons you see them living in up along the edges and corners of your ceilings are made fresh every dawn (they prefer to hunt at night) and take about 10 minutes to make.

These guys normally mate once in summer and the female can produce up to 5 egg sacs with about 40 eggs in each sac.  Outside they overwinter as spiderlings. Unless, of course, they make it inside your house where they can keep growing!

Side view. She didn’t even run away when I got within an inch of her to take the pic.

And can they bite?  Yep!  These guys will bite if provoked and in self-defense.  Like when I nearly squished her. 🙂  The symptoms are similar to a bee sting.  I was bump free and healed in a day, but if your are sensitive to the venom it could take several days. And, no, you won’t die!

On a personal note, I think these little spiders ‘learn’ from their environment.  This lady doesn’t consider me a threat and goes about her business as though I weren’t there.  Let Rose, my bug eating maniac, show up and she pulls her legs up against her body and refuses to move even when Rose pats her with a paw and huffs at her. And she waits to move until Rose hits the bathroom door. Interesting, too, is the fact that Rose won’t eat this spider as she does all the others.  I’m guessing she got a nasty surprise at one point! 🙂

If want to read more, I really enjoyed the articles at these sites : spiderbytes  and Arthropod Ecology.

In the meantime I’ll be checking the toilet paper roll and hand towels to make sure she doesn’t land on me again! 😀

A Treat With A Sadness


What the? That’s what I woke up to a few mornings back. Waaay too early. I sat up to figure out what I heard and there was MORE crashing and banging. I lunged out of bed to see the back of my son turning the corner to the kitchen.  YIKES! It must be bad if it woke him up! BANG AND SCRAPE! And then I was in the kitchen looking at my son holding a punched out window screen.

“What’s going on?” I asked. “Rose had her head stuck in the screen and was fighting to get it out,” he replied.  “She went through the screen???” “Yep.” (Thank heavens I had the windows cranked almost closed or there would have been a one story drop for her to the ground.) “Do you know why?” “Nope, maybe it has to do with that moth or something that just flew by.” My son wears glasses and without them everything is fuzzy.

We put the screen back in its frame and then back in the window.  “Well, aren’t you going to go see what it is?” he asked.  “What do you mean?” “It’s over by the kitchen window.”  I had “ass-sumed” that flying by meant the window so I walked over to look out the window and promptly got smacked in the face. By a BIRD flying around IN the house.  Not outside. CRAP. I immediately started blocking and attempting to catch the bird.  The last thing I needed was to get into a smack down with my three cats and my dog over that bird. I was successful, but that poor bird was panting and stressed to the max.  Poor thing! But I confess I was thrilled to be able to hold it.  I adore birds and it was a treat to have it nestled in my hand.

See how tiny? It’s a wren. So what happened was that the wren was scoping out the window frame for bugs and spiders. They do this all the time.  It must have come inside between the screen and window.  I have a cat perch in the window and it was evidently too much for Rose and she launched her tubby self straight at the bird and ripped the screen from its frame. What we didn’t know until later was that Rose had actually caught that poor bird and run off with it. It had managed to escape. How did I find out? Three cats and a dog sniffing the crap out of a spot in the hall. Here’s what I found:

Tiny tail feathers. They’re about two inches long. I was crushed beyond belief. I had “ass-sumed” the bird had been scared into the house when the screen went.  I didn’t look very closely at it because it was flying around and no blood was dripping. I wanted to get it out of the house as quickly as possible. Stress can literally cause a bird to have a heart attack and die. I can only hope there was no fatal damage. 😦

My son grabbed the camera as I took the bird outside. He was able to get the following shot because the wren didn’t fly away immediately when I opened my hand.

Notice how few tail feathers are hanging down from my hand. After seeing this picture it amazes me that it could fly at all. Poor, poor wren! 😦

This incident solved one problem for me.  I have been sorely missing my feathered friends in the morning since my old lady maple fell. I have been trying to figure out a way to put a feeder off the window sill (like a window flower box) that would still enable me to open the windows (crank-outs suck). But I will just have to do without. I don’t want my cat launching herself through a window one story up nor do I want her attacking the birds.  *Sigh*

And on a side note – it wasn’t the cat that woke me and my son up initially.  It was his phone falling, scraping and rattling down between the wall and the headboard of his bed. I’d have been on my own otherwise, I’m sure. 🙂


The Toughest Fern Out There

I forgot to water this poor fern – not once – but TWICE!  But since it didn’t turn brown or feel crispy, I put it in the dog dish to water it and see what might survive.

It took 3 days the first time and 2 days the second time, but this little fern survived my neglect.

Say hello to the Heart Fern (hemionitis arifolia). This cute little fern is a native to southeast Asia.  It grows both in the soil AND on trees!  Hemionitis arifolia needs moist, well draining soil and high humidity. Heart Fern is a tiny beauty at only 6 – 8 inches tall.  AND, of course, can handle a little neglect! 😀

Time for me to pick a pot and get this sweetie in a proper home!

Feasting On A Maple Seed Bonanza

I was so consumed with our downed tree I didn’t notice the bumper crop of maple seeds on one of our trees. These showed up in the picture of the cat on the old maple. Now picture the whole tree covered in seeds.  That’s a lot of seeds!

Two weeks later – can you see who is enjoying the bonanza?

That’s a fox squirrel balancing on the little branches to reach the feast. Birds and rodents will help themselves as well.

Curiosity got the cat, and I went googling to see if these were edible for humans.  They are!  This tree still has yet to ripen its seeds.  When the seeds get a wee bit bigger (before they’re dry and bitter), I’m going to give them a try!


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.

A Charming Visitor

A rare visitor to our yard, the Indigo Bunting is a welcome spot of color in the spring.

I surprised this little guy at our feeder. He flitted off into the weeds to look around for a bit.

Stunning Spring Sunset

Occasionally we get sunsets that take your breath away.  Unfortunately, because of the trees and hills, we don’t always get to enjoy from our windows.  But before the rain moved in we got a rare treat.

And so it begins…

Another view, a minute or two later.  The brightness already dimming.

In as little as 7 minutes, the show was about over.

Truly something to quickly catch and enjoy ‘in the moment’.



Poor Squirrelie!

This poor beat up guy was eating alone in the rain.

He doesn’t look to bad like this, though there’s hair missing by his eye.

But then he leans forward and you can see all the naked spots on his shoulder and the tip of his hind leg. I wonder who he tangled with?