Friday, May 29, 2009

Suicidal Toads

Every year dozens of Toads (Bufo americanus, for those of you who were going to ask) with a death wish have to be rescued out of our window wells. If you don't rescue them, it gets yucky. One of these days we'll learn and put covers on them. I guess they're even kind of cute~ in a grumpy, bloated sort of way. No, I'm not carving a stamp.
Gives a new meaning to Spring Peeper, doesn't it?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Honey Bee Swarm

This afternoon we were privileged to be the temporary hosts for a Honey Bee Swarm. The short story is that a new queen hatches out in an existing hive. When she is mature, she leaves the hive taking a number of drones with her. They land in a temporary place while scouts search for a new suitable location. They can be there for minutes, an hour or a day. After hanging out on our mailbox for about 5 hours, they left. We followed the cloud as it moved across our yard and disappeared over the corn field. Very cool.

I see a Honey Bee stamp in my future.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Yesterday's Treasures

Thought I'd share just a couple of "treasures" from yesterday's 5 1/2 mile, 8 box planting spree.
This is the first time I've had my camera when the May Apples were in bloom. It is interesting to me that a majority of the woodland flowers have white blooms. Why is that?

Jack in the Pulpit~Richard Young FP in Kendall county has some of the biggest Jack in the Pulpits that I have ever seen.

Six Spotted Tiger Beetle, a beautiful jewel

On the way home, I found this Chrysemys picta, or Painted Turtle doing his best Tuck Everlasting impression in the middle of the road, so I moved him. Any day you get to rescue a turtle is a good day in my book!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Treasures of Hiking, pt. 2

Again, just a few pictures of some of the "treasures" we have seen while letterboxing. This time~Fauna
We have seen deer a number of times while out on our adventures, usually up close and as a complete surprise. More often, we see the evidence that they are nearby. My oldest is fascinated by footprints.

Maybe this doesn't quite count because they are contained, but there are a couple of local preserves where you can see Buffalo. They are always impressive and invariably start the girls singing "Home on the Range".

One of my favorite things is hearing my girls giggle after something has unexpectedly crossed our path. Those encounters can't be planned, and I'm glad! It would spoil the fun to have control over every detail.

Speaking of encounters...I nearly stepped on this Garter basking on the path yesterday. I shrieked like a little schoolgirl; not because I am afraid of snakes, but because it started me so much. The girls have seen me hold snakes much larger than this one, so they laughed at me. It was completely embarrassing. A short time later, we saw a juvenile Fox snake, but it was faster than I was with the camera. And No, I didn't scream that time.

Sometimes it's not who you see, but who sees you!

Some of the local soft shells

There is an over abundance of Red Squirrels, Grey Squirrels, and even some White Squirrels in Illinois, but this was the first time I had ever seen a Black Squirrel.

Later I'll posted either Fungus (for you, Kathi!) or Feathers.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Treasure Hiking

If you are not aware of the up and coming aspect of letterboxing known as Treasure Hiking, a simple search on AQ will supply all the info you could need. The gist is that you can earn rewards for hiking in pursuit of new letterboxes.
While I am looking forward to coordinating for Illinois and earning my own pathtags, hiking has always yielded intangible treasures for me. The next few posts will be boring for most people, but will share some of my favorite forest findings.
"Not all treasure is silver and gold, Mate."~Cap'n Jack Sparrow

Flora...I have a gazillion pictures of plants because I simply can't help myself. Just ask my family. Every bloom, seed, and tendril is fascinating. I will restrain myself and only post a few of those seen on letterboxing adventures. They might not all be fancy, but each are jewels in their own right.
Woodland Violets (the state flower of Illinois, btw)

Trillium, can be found in white also

Dutchman's Breeches
A field of purple (in Minnesota)

Shooting Star, a native prairie plant, also can be found in purple

The different textures of leaves add lots of interest. These above were huge!

I have not identified this one yet, but I love how delicate and fragile it seems. Maybe that is part of the appeal of woodland flowers. They are only in bloom for such a fleeting period of time and then they are gone. If you are lucky enough to see them, it is like being part of a closely guarded secret. Sounds like buried treasure to me!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Like a moth to the flame

Cats just can't resist an empty cardboard box.

A Bunny in the Hand... worth six in the garden.
A last second reverse heave on the levers of the hydrostatic mower managed to avert an accidental massacre. Chopping baby bunnies is never a pleasant thing, no matter how cold-hearted the person. The unintended consequence is that for the last two weeks we have been protecting rodents.
What follows is a tale of conflict. A war, as it were, between the ever-so-practical-facts-of-life-no-matter-how-brutal-they-are side of me and the isn't-it-adorable-don't-you-just-want-to-hug-it side.
An inexperienced doe scratched a little runnel inside our Border Collie's pen. Fortunately for her babies, all of Kirby's killing instincts have been bred right out of him. He checks on them every time he does his rounds, but other than that is leaving them alone. You could say that they are the most well herded rabbits around.

At the time of the near fatal mowing, the niece and nephews from next door, plus our own daughters were present. We have never tried to shield our kids from the fact that death, while not pleasant, is part of this fallen world. However, when there are six children clamouring around, there is no such thing as discrete, humane dispatch. Which is why I have been giving daily progress reports, keeping the backyard light off to keep from scaring mom away, and even running out in the rain to cover them so they don't drown.

Their names are Clover, Thumper, Dandelion, Hazel, Fiver and Sixer. Between the coyotes, hawks, stray cats, and foxes, one of them might make it to adulthood. The last of the bunch struck out on it's own this morning to seek it's fortune in the wide world. It's probably hiding in my rhubarb.