Sunday, September 10, 2017

Walking with my phone

 My wife and I took a walk into the woods above our house yesterday.  It was he last walk with the dogs before going out of town for a few days.  I came along in order to learn the nuances of successfully walking the dogs without her.  Will they mind me, or will I lose them?  I'm not a "dog person."  But our dogs are pretty darn nice as dogs go.  I didn't bring my camera so I could pay better attention to my instructor.  But, I did bring my phone in case one of our kids texted their need for a ride somewhere.  I was excited to find the False Solomon's Seal I photographed in flower a couple of months ago had produced a bunch of berries and the birds had not got to them yet.  Then I found another a few yards away.  I find these colors exciting.  And these photos are better than I usualy get with the phone.  I'm still kind of an iPhone klutz.

 On the way around the big green water tank, I spotted a Blue Elderberry bush laden with fruit.
 If I weren't so busy, I'd have picked these and tried to make a jar of jam.  I hope somebody else discovered these and does the same.  Or maybe make some wine.  Don't forget to cook them and not risk kidney damage.  And, if you're at a little bit higher altitude and run across the Red Elder, don't eat them at all.  They're pretty toxic.
Another reason for not bringing along the camera is that I was quite aware that I've accumulated several posts with pictures over the last week or two without keeping up on generating text.  All these stories are rattling around in my head and getting mixed up with my lessons plans for three courses for the coming week.  But the stories are still in there somewhere.  Maybe I can backtrack and squeeze them out before they disappear into my subconscious, or I start revising them and drifting into fiction.

Resurrection in my front yard...

Text coming soon.  9/11/17

Colors and Scents of Autumn

Text coming soon.  9/11/2017

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Butterfly, Part III: New Discoveries (for me)

I've never seen this flower before my recent trip out to Butterfly Valley Botanical Area.  That's because I've only visited the place during Spring and early Summer.  One common name is Grass of Parnassus.  Interesting name to research.  Even more interesting to me was the family affiliation.  It has been a member of at least a half dozen families over the years.  Some of those names are now extinct, superseded by other names.  In some cases the plant has been switched from one family to another, both families continuing to exist according to botanists.  My most-often used field guide, the one by Jack Laws, lists it as belonging to the Saxifragaceae.  No other source I've found places it in that family.  The "ground" keeps changing under my feet.  I find this flower exceptionalyl beautiful.
The greenish veins in the white petals are special.  Quite often I find white petals difficult to photograph because of what digital photographers call noise.  But I'm satisfied with these two photos.  I hope you are, too.  Click on them for closer views.
These next two photos were also a new experience for me.  The dried up flowers of Darlingtonia, the Pitcher Plant, or Cobra Lily, or.... the list goes on.  In late summer in this dried up condition, I found them intriguing.  My lack of text when I first posted the photos had nothing to do with a "guess what this is" contest, but a few people did guess and asked me what they were.  Everyone guessed wrong, but that's OK.  After all, I've often mistaken a paper bag for a fox or bobcat while driving late at night and not fully awake. 
I'm intrigued by the annual life cycle of these flowers while at the same time the cobra-like leaves are always green, or, while some dry up and turn brown they are continually replaced by fresh green ones - sort of like evergreen trees.  Anyway, I hope to get back to filling out some of these recent posts that lacked texts, but now I have to take a break and do some lesson plans for tomorrow.

Butterfly, Part II: Some freshness in dry conditions

Text coming soon, although the title gives a pretty good clue what this will be about.  9/11/2017

Butterfly, Part I: Old Standbys

This ain't natural!

An intriguing cover on The New Yorker a couple of weeks ago.  What's it doing in a "natural history" blog?  I'll explain after dinner.  Suffice to say for now that the title given to this cover by The New Yorker (and maybe the artist?) is Blowhard.
Well, it's not only "after dinner" but actually several days later and the intensity of emotion I felt when I first saw this cover art has diminished a bit.  But I still have a bit of a story to tell to relate this to natural history.  Soon.  9/11/2017.

No more cherries for the bears?

For several years, we had a small plum tree on the east end of our front lawn.  Every morning during harvest time we'd find fresh bear poop on the ground beneath it.  A couple of years ago, winter took its toll and the tree perished.  We cut away all visible remains including the tap root and filled the hole.  During the following three Falls and currently during late summer, bears still come snooping around where that tree was.  I wonder if it's bear family memory or if they are sensing some remains of the tree.  Once the tree was cut away, some bears discovered a cherry tree (above) on the western boundary of or small property and began climbing it to get at the cherries.  By mid-summer or this year, the leaves on the top 15 feet or so began to turn brown.  As you can see in this photo, there's a sharp distinction between the dead top and the very-much-alive bottom.  no more cherries, and some kind of fungus infection at the junction of dead and alive.  This weekend we're going to cut the trunk just below the infected portion and see if the tree will come back next spring as a bush.  It may or may not produce cherries again, but our neighbor has a healthy cherry tree, so we'll get see see bears in the neighborhood.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

No Respect for Scatologists

When I took my early-morning walk to a downtown coffee shop, I passed a fresh (maybe even still warm) pile of bear poop.  It would have taken out my iPhone for a photo except the poop was in the shade.  I figured I'd get a better photo on my way back.  Well, yes, it was in the Sun by then, but had also suffered the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," or been flattened by several vehicles. Only slightly tongue in cheek, I titled this post "no respect for scatologists" because I take a serious interest in learning what I can by observing animal scat.  In the case of bears, some components of their diets are obvious on casual inspection.  In my neighborhood, two components usually stand out - apple skins and choke cherry seeds.  With microscopic examination, one would discover parasites as well as partially-digested foods that are less obvious than apples and cherries. So, to people studying ecology and natural history, observing animal scat is a matter of course, thus scatology is a legitimate branch of science.  However, when one looks up the word in a dictionary, our ambivalence about poop because apparent, for some of the definitions suggest an abnormal obsession with the objects of study and scatology were a mental illness.  So be it.  A synonym, more or less. is coprology, although the latter term is more often used when referring to coprolites, or fossil animal dung, dung being one of many synonyms for poop and scat.  In my travels around academia, I have ,met more than one paleontologist who kept a coprolite or two on his desk as a paper weight and/or conversation piece.  I've actually never met a female paleontologist, so I don't know whether they might have a similar sense of humor.

Text will be added to the previous two posts.  I needed to load the photos while our fickle Internet service was functioning well, but I did not have time for the accompanying text.  Check back ater if you're interested in some more weird stories.

Watching Me Make Lunch

The Joys of Stacking FIrewood

Decorating the Oak Twigs

 The Oak Treehoppers Are Back a month earlier than I've ever seen them in past years.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

More than a pair of pears to pare.

This post is partly here to tease my students who find spelling a challenge.  Who wouldn't with a language like English.  Two pears can be too many to think about when trying to spell.
Another reason to post this photo is that it's a close-up of an amazing pear tree in my neighborhood.  It must be holding at least a thousand pears.  I wonder if there's a deposit of radio-active material beneath the tree, or maybe a leaky, old septic tank.  It's an impressive tree.  Maybe tomorrow I'll get a photo of the whole thing.
OK, class, study pear, pair and pare, and two, too, and to. THen we'll move on to their, they're and there, and maybe new, knew, and gnu. :)