Thursday, December 21, 2006

This Morning's Visitors

Snow brings great bird-watching, as an assortment--and quantity--of birds flock to the feeders. As most of the country knows by now, we've been getting dumped on! [This storm is now labeled "Storm 3" for purposes of keeping track.] This morning hundreds of birds--mostly Juncos, Sparrows, and Finches--have been coming by for treats. There are also a few Starlings, Towhees, Crows, Magpies, and of course the Scrub Jays.

When I put out suet earlier this week, I was hoping it would help out the woodpeckers and flickers. Instead, this little Downy Woodpecker decided to go for the thistle seed!

Three Juncos wait their turn at the thistle feeder, while the Downy gets his fill.

The Husband cleared a spot on the porch to put some seed where it wouldn't get immediately buried in snow. When all the little birds disappeared, we knew Artemis, or her new fellow hawk, was in the area. I saw the swoop, and looked out windows trying to spot her/him.

I was scanning too far afield, and in the trees. Finally, I spotted him, just a few feet from the bedroom window (note the indoor potted plant), with an unlucky Starling for breakfast, right on top of the birdseed just put out for the little ones. The spots mark "him" as Speck, our new local Sharp-shinned Hawk. He soon took off with his meal, so I never got a better shot.

When I put out suet, it attracts Black-billed Magpies. So here's a small challenge for you. How many pie-birds in this picture? Answer will be posted tomorrow. (Remember, you can click to enlarge the photo!)

There are Two of Them!

We've been watching young Artemis, the local sharp-shinned hawk since the spring equinox post that launched this blog, so three-quarters of the way around the year. She visits when it snows, so this picture was taken when she stopped in last week. After the Nov 30th snow, she came by to kill a scrub jay by the coop, then, next day, a junco under the lilac bush.

She has, in recent months, lost the white spots on her back.

So the spots told us that this sharp-shinned hawk, now dubbed Speck, was a different bird. Many of the neighbors have now reported seeing these small hawks, but we'll have to hone in on which sightings go with which bird.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A Coyote a Day, Today

This is the scene, as of 7:30 a.m. Winter coming this week, the weather guy says, but so far just chill and damp; not even a hard frost yet. The Rabbitbrush is in full bloom, as you can see.

Daylight, time to let the chickens out, but when I looked out to do so, I saw a Coyote just outside our fenceline. I stepped out, let her see me, and made a little noise. She opted for a different direction, back down into the park. She’s there, in this picture, but her voice is the only evidence. She/they is/are yipping and chatting just out of sight. I let the dogs out back, and now they won’t come in to go out front and monitor the situation. All cats are accounted for.

And THEN I reached for the camera. Ah, presence of mind!

Finally the dogs come crashing back into the house and out the front door. Their mad dash to the fence tells me they haven’t forgotten which direction Coyote went. All is quiet.

I’ll wait a few minutes more before I let the chickens out.

Compare spring views here.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Countryside Musings...

It's fall over at One Deep Breath, and the theme for this week is Countryside. I've been reading "Last Child in the Woods," by Richard Louv, and growing fearful for the future of nature. (Although he also reports many encouraging steps to overcome what he's calling "nature-deficit disorder.") So today's prompt brings us this:

crisp leaves line the path

it's fall in the countryside

where are the children?

I'm still looking for a photo to match my memories of shuffling through the leaves, inhaling the sweet scents of fall in the woods. Hope to have one up soon.

For more on this inspiring book, please see: Why Kids Need Nature, a review for parents that discusses Louv's book and its key points. And head for the hills this fall, with your kids!

Check out other countryside experiences at our weekly haiku gathering.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Solitude as Hyper Fib...

calls me
from other
points on my life path
where to find wabi sabi now?
in the wild where solitude rests forever alone

If we extend the fib concept for another line, we have the "hyper fib"-- which may, in fact, ruin the terseness of the form, but can still be fun to play with. I suspect blogger will play havoc with the shape of this and give me a few extra line wraps, unfortunately.

Solitude: so rich to roll around the mind. Inner solitude is often available. But for physical solitude, I turn to thoughts of deep woods, especially those of the northeast U.S. where I grew up. It was never obvious to us as children that it was tame. Trees gave the illusion of solitude, getting lost in the backyard. Here, midst the playground of a major metropolitan area, solitude in the "wild" can be tough to discover. What do the kids do for solitude in such an environment? More haiku on Solitude at One Deep Breath.

Perhaps when the time comes that
there is no more silence and no more aloneness,
there will also be no longer
anyone who wants to be alone.

--Joseph Wood Krutch

For the rest of this quote, a larger excerpt at least, please visit Romantic Naturalist.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Season of Baby Birds

Along with summer here, I missed the “baby bird” season, at least the early part of it in July. Caught the tail end of “begging food from parents” season, a truly precious time of year. In August, though, the babies are grown enough to come to the feeder by themselves, and we see hordes of young scrub jays, finches, baby towhees, even doves looking for food. The parents almost seem to have disappeared, but perhaps we aren’t looking closely enough to distinguish them from their nearly-grown offspring.

The scrub jays are hoarding, not eating, and would empty the sunflower seed feeder several times a day if I refilled it. Many years ago, observing our scrub jays this time of year, I put their story into limericks. Can this be a more effective way to do environmental education? Painless, even? It’s certainly more fun!

The Circle of Life

A garrulous bird is the Scrub Jay
He sits and he cackles all day
     For sunflower seeds
     To meet his winter needs
Then hides them wherever he may.

From sunflower seeds put away
By Scrub Jays against a cold day
     And never recovered
     My yard is now smothered
With sunflower plants gone astray.

If Scrub Jays could plan while they play
I’m sure they’d be happy to say
     These sunflowers reseeding
     Are going for feeding
A new crop of Scrub Jays next May.

Scrub Jays were an early topic of this blog, when I started it in March. For photos, see Lining up for breakfast, and for a jay adventure, see A Scrub Jay in the Hand.

Apropos of Nothing...

Why have I not been blogging of late? It’s hard to say, tough to figure out. Maybe the busy-ness of summer, maybe the fact that I am, after years of wishful procrastination, getting organized. Trying to transform my so-called “study” into less of a deep storage cave with a narrow path to the computer, and more of a pleasant work space where I can pursue the passion du jour.

I got a labeler… a used 5-drawer file cabinet, THREE new bookshelves, several boxes of file folders (at the same time!). So why not have high hopes that, this time, I’ll be able to find things without launching a week-long search?

The labeler is especially for the file folders, so one may spontaneously create an appropriate folder in seconds each time the mood strikes or a piece of paper simply must be saved for future retrieval. This morning I thought I might also make labels for each new shelf in hopes of being able to find the books as well as the files. How about simple one-word informal names for the 13 new shelves? The first three led to this haiku:

“green … garden… spirit…”
captures my true life in books
labeling new shelves.

I deeply appreciate universal chaos; perhaps even more than the next person. Why get organized this time, after years of reading self-help books and striving to make time for same? I think because I realize that time is more constrained looking ahead, and can ill afford to be wasted, and I know I have wasted weeks, perhaps months, of the last decade merely looking for misplaced information or objects. Also, facing a new project that will be complex and demanding necessitates better organization and efficiency.

The book that got through to me, I guess, is a borrowed one I read while traveling this summer: Get Organized! By … See, just spent several minutes looking in my notebook for the place I wrote it down! Perfect example of why I needed it. There you go.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Haiku, um... Wednesday?

Okay, Sunday then! I've really been enjoying last week's posts over at One Deep Breath-- where our challenge is "the sound of music," and oodles of new talent is appearing! I've had a fun week getting acquainted with all the new contributors, as well as seeing what our regulars have to say.

Time to give up and join in! Here's the one I actually did write on Haiku Monday:

two crows in one tree
calling on the morning breeze
day's music to me.

And here's one to inject a little levity:

last night it got late
"I'll do the dishes," he said
Music to my ears.

And, did you notice, "music of the spheres" not only rhymes but has the same syllable count? So here's one more for good measure.

music of the spheres
singing from all Nature brings
music to my ears.

Alas, it's as if FF is still on vacation-- not just The Trip, but even now that I'm home! So I have a huge backlog of ideas I just need to turn into pixels. One of these days, I'm sure, I actually will!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Coffee and Tea... Haiku Monday

I missed out on the "ceremony and ritual" assignment at One Deep Breath, but today's challenge will do nicely. Is it cheating to use a haiku written earlier? Morning tea and coffee are an enduring ritual at our house, quiet time together...

Cold morning, hot tea

The one I love beside me

Two cats on the bed.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Scenic Route Fibs

Okay... Promised, fibs were-- and here they are! Below are two views of Lizard Head Rock, aka Tunnel Rock, in Red Rocks Park.

goes home
more slowly
winding through red rocks
giving time for contemplation.

this goes:
winding road
better than freeway
quiet and much more respectful!

Thanks for all your comments! It is indeed a fascinating place and a great distraction for the trip home. You've inspired me to get back to work --and post more photos--on the main Red Rocks site--soon! Meanwhile, please see details on these rocks on the long-neglected Local History Explorer.

The Scenic Route

For Haiku Monday, this week's assignment is to take the road less traveled.

I can reach my destination on the interstate, or... not!

the four-lane is fast,

but I'd rather go slowly

where red rocks beckon.

Oh! Bet this would make a good fib assignment too!

For more on this location, see Historic Red Rocks!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

And Here's the Frog...

Courtesy Linda, who took me to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in the first place, here's our leopard frog pal... My photo of him didn't come out at all.

Monday, July 31, 2006

A Raft of Haiku

This week's challenge from One Deep Breath was "garden." Well, that struck a chord, or two actually! As haiku are addictive, I'm going to indulge in a few today. (Thanks for your patience.)

The Garden: first thought was the wonderful garden-in-progress we visited in Maine, the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. Worth a visit, formally opens next year. This summer it's lovely in spots, a little raw in others. But I admired the lichens, we saw a leopard frog along a manicured path, and the idea of wild and tame together caught my fancy.

Brand new Maine gardens
Lichens 'mid tame flowers
Making room for wild.

Or, a variant in Fib form--

Frog hides here
amid tame flowers.
The wild waits beyond our dim sight.

I love the shape of Fibs when they're centered!

Home Again Fib and Haiku: The Husband, perhaps overwhelmed by the awesome responsibility of keeping everything alive in my absence, did an impressive job with plants I'd almost killed (with neglect) before I left. This photo from this morning documents some of his success.

look great,
Thanks to one
who waited behind--
I should go away more often.

Welcome morning chores
after weeks of traveling
say I’m home again!

The "morning chores" haiku reflects all the livestock--wild and tame--he had to care for while I was gone. From filling hummingbird feeders (five) to feeding wild birds, cats, dogs, parakeets, and chickens... well, let's just say I think he's glad I'm finally home to help out a bit.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

More Overdue Haiku

I've gotten so far behind with Haiku Monday, I hardly know where to start! This week's assignment is to look at something from two different perspectives. So here's my entry, in the nick of time...

Driving west, home from my "magnificient trip," as one friend calls it, I enjoyed driving through a magnificient storm in the vicinity of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. Many cars pulled over to wait it out, as visibility was nil, but some of us persisted (slowly) in continuing westward. No opportunity for photos, sadly-- I would have drowned!

To the Farmer:

rain falls on croplands
bringing life-giving water,
beans and corn grow tall.

To the Traveler:

sheets of rain buffet
as we try to move forward:
some people just park.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Meanwhile, Back at the Shire

The Husband sends this photo from home, just a reminder of where I used to be... and will be again in a few more weeks!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

More "Nature of the East"

I'm finally beginning to go back and get up those missing photos from the trip. Our visit to Watkins Glen NY is now posted at The East is Different, back in June where it fits. The rest will have to go in the wrong places I guess, but will get something up soon.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Journey... Home?

Today's haiku assignment from One Deep Breath is about the Journey. Perfect-- it catches me in the middle of perhaps the longest (literal) journey of my life-- well over 2800 miles and counting.

Today at the beach, I was thinking about the vertical displacement more than the horizontal distance and feeling just a little homesick ... so here's my haiku for this week:

six thousand feet down

our feet find a new ocean

unhomed... Atlantic.

Baffled by Gulls...

I should have paid better attention in the "Birds of Connecticut" exhibit at the Peabody Museum yesterday, because I'm stymied by the variety of gulls we saw today at the beach. I'm going to put up a few, in hopes the Husband (at home with the bird book) will help!

This brown guy was one of the big ones... not sure whether he/she was different from the other kind of speckled ones, or not. Some seemed to have whiter heads, but it could have been a gender distinction, I suppose. They all were certainly fun to watch. The little ones in the top photo, aka "regular" gulls, were the most abundant. There's also a little diver, sharp-beaked plunge into the water. Tern? (per the Museum display?) Too quick to capture by camera, but delightful to watch.

This was the biggest gull we saw. Thought I saw another big one, with black feet, fly by... but this one's feet are yellow... (Bonaparte's pops into mind, but it'd be a wonder if that was right!)

The bigger they are, it seems, the more time it takes to settle their wings when they land. Pigeons come down, and boom, wings are stowed. When these guys land, they have to shuffle their wings (left over right, right over left) a few times before they're comfortable.

We were surprised to see pigeons and sparrows taking advantage, with the gulls, of the pickings along the shoreline. Have a few more shorebirds to post tomorrow!

Guess it's back to the Peabody for me...

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Overdue Fibs...

Sorry I've been so scarce here! Lots to tell and show in photos, this trip, but at the moment I'm overdue for an assignment from One Deep Breath. I've been waiting for the photos to come together with the internet connection, but here goes without the visual aids.

The assignment this week is to explore a new haiku formula, called the fib, following the Fibonacci series. A six-line poem with syllable counts of 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 in the lines. Follow the link above to see more fibs and great photos from the haiku team.

I'm at New Haven (CT) now, and have been through a lot of rain to get here. (Still trying to send some of it home.) Yale is beautiful, but the first sunny day was Friday. So here's the fib:

out through
constant clouds
drying up puddles:
a day to furl the umbrella.

More eastern nature notes soon, I promise...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The East is Different!

Nice to be back in the land of GREEN!! Even though it's rained some in Morrison since I left, it's much wetter, drippier, soggier in general here. Not only is the East different, but the Nature of the East is, for me, a large part of what makes it different. On Monday, June 26th, we walked in Watkins Glen, not far from my original home(s) in the east, and got to see some things I rarely see out west.

Here's one I never see in Colorado! Maidenhair Spleenwort... they were all over the vertical shale walls of the Glen. A particularly dainty, delicate fern... and lots of thalloid and leafy liverworts. Don't know if I've captured them very well, but here they are.

And here are the liverworts--little tiny leafy liverworts, and larger ribbons of the "thallus-type" liverworts. They are related to mosses.

Both types are clinging to the shale walls, along with lots and lots of ferns. A very drippy place.

What's a Glen? For those that don't know, here are a few photos of Watkins Glen. Also known as "ravines" in upstate New York, this is what we think of as glens, tho this is a particularly spectacular example.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Parting Shots

Time is short this a.m. and packing is in progress for my big adventure--eastbound! So future nature notes here on Foothills Fancies are likely to have a quite different flavor.

Here's the view--nice of my cholla to flower for me before I leave. And every blossom has its bee! They are loving it... Will try to add more from the road if/when technology cooperates.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

More on Coralroot

In response to Haiku Monday and the earlier post on Coralroot orchids, friend Cat Woman sends the following:

Also noticed your reference to a rare cousin of the Spotted Coral Root orchid, probably Wisteriana, which I occasionally find growing not far from the creek here. Compared to the spotted, it's paler, more fragile, has few spots, and lacks the small lobes at the base of the lip (which is more gnarley around the margin). You have to look really close to tell them apart.

Since it's Haiku Monday:

On hands and bent knee
The only way to know her

Indeed CW, I was talking about Corallorhiza wisteriana--glad to know you have them nearby. The haiku is great too! Meanwhile, here's a better photo of the more common Spotted Coralroot, C. maculata.

Photo copyright L. Livo.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Forest Pathway

Our theme for this Haiku Monday is pathways. A tough assignment from One Deep Breath! Here is my entry this week:

forest pathway strewn

with hail beckons

through the trees...

They say you can break the rules (5-7-5, or 17 syllables, or...), but this may have gone too far! See today's other post for more photos of Friday's unconventional weather.

So here's a more conventional haiku, following up on last week's assignment:

blessings on the land

in a healthy quenching rain:

Earth sighs in relief.

Adventures in Cloudland

Friday's adventures were… well, adventurous, to say the least! On our way to the Moonworts, we were enjoying a pleasant but cloudy day driving up Squaw Pass, at least until the hail started. It came down so hard that we finally decided to pull over and watch. While we sat near the road, we watched sunlight hitting the Continental Divide in the distance through a screen of Englemann Spruce and Subalpine Fir. That puts us, probably at an elevation of 10,000 ft, give or take…

If you click to enlarge this shot, you can see, I think, the hail bouncing on the horizon at the edge of the road (which is the entire foreground) in front of the spruce trees. Sun is still shining on the Continental Divide in the background. It was very entertaining… that, and the noise it was making on the roof of the truck. We estimated it as “pea-size” or smaller, no golf ball hail this time. Unusual in the high country, but hail is pretty normal in June at the lower elevations.

After a brief pause, we reached the aptly named Cloudland, and checked out what we could see of the resident plants. As the hail was small and less forceful than it might have been, it did little damage to the plants we were looking for, other than, of course, covering them up! Here's a little mustard peeking out. Personally, I think they were grateful for the moisture—in whatever form!

We always say, in Colorado you can have any weather you want--you just have to know where to go for it! When I arrived home, I discovered our dryness had broken as well-- we had a good rain here at home while I was gone, and you could almost hear the soaked earth sighing in relief! A second rain last night more than makes up for my lament of last week. Thanks, Haiku friends, for all the good wishes!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Stalking the Wild Moonwort

Herp Pal wanted to see moonworts, so off we went this morning to try to find a locality someone showed me, oh probably 8 or 10 years ago. No problem, right. We know it’s along a roadside on Squaw Pass, surely we can find them.

Oh—you are probably wondering what a Moonwort is! Well, it’s a special kind of fern, in its own family (the Adder’s Tongue, or Ophioglossaceae), of which all of the members in Colorado are considered rare, if not endangered. So, very special indeed!

And we found them! Here are the results of the search. Two species, we think, or at least two kinds that looked quite different. There may have been more had we been more attuned to diagnostic characters. Our goal was to photograph ANY, and our time was short, so we were happy with the results reported here.

First up was this little darling. Probably Reflected Moonwort (Botrychium echo), appropriate as we were not too far from Echo Lake (though I suspect that has nothing to do with the name.) That’s pretty much a wild guess I’m afraid. This is a huge plant, as you can tell from the size of the penny!

And then there was this variety, which we are tentatively pegging as Botrychium lunaria. Somewhat smaller, or the penny has grown substantially. Also note the bluish color and different configuration of the pinnae (or leaflets). Moonworts have a sterile vegetative leaflet (behind) and a fertile spore-bearing leaflet, in the foreground here.

How hard is it to find them? Now that you know what they look like, give it a try! Remember, look for the penny, it’s still there in this photo. (Click to enlarge.)

A New Plant Community

Ecology moves on, creating new plant communities where the old originals have lost vigor, or resistance. So we discovered on Tuesday's hike in Red Rocks. In the shadow of Ship Rock, we found this new plant association I'd never seen before, though the elements will no doubt be familiar to you, as they are to all of us! This is the kind of plant community that makes Europeans feel welcome when they visit our unfamiliar habitats.

Let's take a closer look... Of course, the familiar brown stalks are last year's seed shoots of Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus). Can you see its light green rosettes ready to bloom this year? In the foreground is the clump of Showy Milkweed we discussed in yesterday's post. There's also a consistent, light brown background matrix of Cheatgrass, already seeded and dried for this season (and a great fire hazard).

In case you can't make out the rest, here's a labeled version. What makes a road bank of Mullein and Cheatgrass unusual to me? Its pals... Consorting here are darker green clumps of Catnip (Nepeta cataria), a patch of Musk Thistle (Carduus nutans), and pale blue stalks of Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum), which normally prefers a little more moisture.

Exiled in America from Russia, Vladimir Nabokov was struck with nostalgia at the sight of clover and dandelion in Oregon. These and the plants mentioned here, especially the Common Mullein, have gained a reputation as "white man's footsteps," simply because they've become so ubiquitous here in the "New World." Charles Darwin once teased American botanist Asa Gray because our wimpy native flora was being trounced by imports from Britain and Europe.*

Finches and Fritillaries enjoy the flowers of the Musk Thistle (and probably the Catnip as well when it blooms), so our natives are adapting to some of these new food sources. It's exciting that something has also started to focus on the Poison Hemlock, because every one of the bluish stalks in this picture is stripped of leaves. Bee Lady and I think this is a surprise, not a planned "biologicial control" introduction, but we're still trying to figure out who is virtually wiping out the Poison Hemlock here in Red Rocks, and whether this is happening elsewhere as well. Any ideas, please share them!

*See The Ends of the Earth, page 103, Donald Worster, Ed. for these stories from Alfred W. Crosby's book on Ecological Imperialism.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Lunch with an Assassin

When Book Lady and I walked in Red Rocks the other day, it was clear that the flowers were attracting more than just the two of us. The insect world, in particular, was buzzing... literally! Don't forget to click for a closer look at the photos.

One of the attractions was the abundant thistle crop, both native and introduced. We think this one, happily, is a native-- either the Wavy-leaved Thistle (Cirsium undulatum) or perhaps a close relative, Cirsium ochrocentrum. (Depends on whether you consider the leaves deeply pinnatifid and the upper leaf surface less canescent than the lower. If so, go with the C. ochrocentrum. I think I will.)

The important thing is that the flowers were putting out lunch for a couple of our spineless friends. The large grasshopper was clearly enjoying the thistle, as he soon dove into the blossoms head first. A Yellow Tiger Swallowtail (minus one tail) paused at a nearby flower, and the three seemed to be happily enjoying the sunshine and service.
The third party, however, turned out to have no interest in nectaring. He did, in fact, react to our presence, seeming a little skittish or perhaps just alert. I've always kind of called these guys "shield bugs" in my informal taxonomy, but around the corner a new name popped into my head.

On a patch of Showy Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa), we found a literal circus of the spineless. A bug-hunter's paradise, these yummy flowers were a-buzz with attention from huge bumblebees and other pollinators.

But there's something else going on in the lower right part of the photo. A honeybee was not enjoying the activity of his (her?) fellows, but was remarkably still. Closer examination revealed that he was in the grip of the Assassin Bug, as my colorful friends were now revealed to be. The bee was long dead, and the Bug was sucking out its liquefied innards as we watched. Sharp eyes will also find a different ambush specialist in this photo, and two more Assassin Bugs in the photo above.

A little online sleuthing clarifies these able predators, some species of which even attack humans and, in Mexico, carry Chagas disease. And I always thought they were cute! The moral is, be a little careful around these guys, as even the insect-eaters can inflict painful bites. More reading here and here. And if anyone can give me genus/species on this little guy, it'd be appreciated! (I gather they belong to the family Reduviidae, but that's as far as I've gotten.)

Much later update: Thanks to Ted, of Beetles in the Bush, we now know these are Apiomerus spissipes. More photos and information here. Thanks, Ted!!

For more stories on bugs and other boneless types, check out Circus of the Spineless, an ongoing guide to invertebrates online.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Yuccas, Part 2

(These paragraphs are moved and modified from yesterday's post, because this is the only way Blogger would let me upload the rest of the photos.)

On this photo, the stalk labeled B has lots of healthy flowers. Stalk A, however, has 27 buds or flowers toward the top, and 19 empty flower stems below. I did a small census elsewhere in the neighborhood a week later (6/10), and checked out two stems. One had a single developing green pod on a stalk of 40 flower stems, the other had four pods developing out of 45 flower attempts. In that admittedly small sample, then, we had a success rate of 5.8%... so far! Those five pods haven't made it to ripe yet!

We saw another plant on which all the flowers had shriveled beyond recognition. The stalks, on 6/10, were covered with black and ashy white residue, no flowers or pods survived… Besides predation by Mule Deer, then, these flowers face other threats, which sometimes get the better of them.

Here a pair of Ladybird Beetles patrol healthy buds, while nearby, another shoot faces a serious infestation of yellow aphids. Even the ants are rallying to the defense, and I believe the small white specks may be eggs of the ladybugs, soon to hatch into helpful larvae, devouring even more aphids. (Please click photo to enlarge those cute little aphids!)

As if that weren't enough, Book Lady tells me she encountered a spider eating a Yucca Moth on one plant. Could that be part of the pollination problem? Stay tuned, for the rest of the story...

Monday, June 12, 2006

Yuccas are Happy!

This is a great year for yuccas! Everyone seems to be commenting on how prolific and luscious the flowers are this year, and making comparisons to last year when few plants flowered and they were less obvious in the landscape. Back in mid-May, Bee Lady remarked on it first—when we saw this young stalk sprouting in Red Rocks with a thousand or three of its kin.

I took the rest of these photos in early June (6/3). Each stalk has many individual large waxy flowers, 40-50 on average, and many plants have more than one stalk, as shown in this typical healthy plant. That should mean LOTS of reproductive power. However, despite the efforts of the Yucca Moth, its dedicated pollinator, only a few fruits per stalk or plant will ripen to seed. One problem is, the flowers are tasty! While I didn’t pick any for salads, I noticed our Muley friend checking one afternoon to see if they were at peak flavor.

[*followup on 6/13/06 at Yuccas part 2]

*Blogger doesn't want to upload any more photos right now... will try again later.

Full Moon Rain Down!

So, we've established that the Yuccas seem to be having a good year. But they may be the only ones! I'm sorry to add, things are looking bleak for the rest of Nature around here. It is dry, dry, dry. Promises to be equal to-- hope not worse than-- the bad year of 2002, when rattlesnakes moved down out of the hills in search of prey, and water rationing was the rule of the day in most local jurisdictions.

Bee Lady reports from a park down south a ways that even the native Junipers are dying! We need rain... badly! On our walk a week ago, we noticed the native Delphinium leaves were dried to a crisp, without flowering. All that green promise I reported so optimistically a month or two ago is withering before our eyes.

With all this in mind, One Deep Breath wants us to talk about the Moon this Haiku Monday. Thunder clouds gathered yesterday afternoon, raising our hopes, and obscuring its face. I never got to see the Full Moon til after midnight. I will try to add a photo later, but for today, here is my hopeful, nay desperate, haiku for a rainy moon.

Thunder without Rain--
Is This Moon Full of Water?
Goddess, Let it Fall!

I wouldn't want to short anyone else, but from what I hear, points east have more water than they can handle. We could sure use a little.

Here's a favorite remembered haiku, by one of the Japanese masters I believe, that I reenacted all last night:
Nine times rising to see the Moon,
Whose silent pace
Marks only midnight yet.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Why Blog?

We’re all so busy… who has time for blogging? Evidently, a large number of us do, and we know it’s great. But how do you explain the fascination to someone who hasn't tried it, or doesn’t get it? Here’s my attempt, but I’ll look forward to hearing more ideas from the rest of you. (This post is for those to whom I’ve promised to send my list of interesting links.)

1. You like to write. Some of us can’t help writing. It’s a disease. It may even be infectious, because bloggers seem to inspire each other to write more. Before I joined the blog world, I would have thought writers (and even thinkers) were relatively rare. Now I know better—there are, just in my limited experience, dozens of amazing writers in the blog world. Thank you all!

2. You like to read. Some of us will read cereal boxes if there’s nothing else available. Reading blogs is a far better use of your time.

3. You don't like to write--or read.If you're not into writing, try lurking, being a blog voyeur of sorts. If you don't even like to read, try a photo-blog. Several good ones are listed at Tuesdays Photos.

4. You like people. You meet the nicest people online! Join—or create—a virtual network. Find one person whose blog you like, and let him/her lead you to other like-minded (but very different) individuals. I found a blog carnival, I and the Bird, and met some real birders and great people, like 10,000 Birds, Birdchick, Carel, Coturnix (who recently went pro-blogger), Nuthatch, and Dharma Bums. Endment found me from IATB, and introduced me to Cate the Bean Counter, Willow Grace, DebR, Tammy, Fran, and Susan and Jennifer (see Haiku Monday under #6), among her many fans.

5. You don’t like people, but you want to. The internet, like the world, like life, is filled with the good and bad, the ugly and the beautiful. It is, in short, whatever you choose to make it. If you’re selective, you will find something online that matches (or challenges!) your interests, your biases, your understanding. And helps you grow. Browsing blogs can restore your faith in people. Could probably destroy it too, but I’ve been focusing on uplifting arenas, and I’m charmed by what I find. Please note: Most of my blogging has been science-nature oriented, so you'll have to find your own way in other arenas. Art, culture, politics, crafts, parenting, celebrity, music, cooking, unimaginable diversity!

6. You’re bored. Need something to do? How about Sunday Scribblings, Haiku Monday, Tuesdays Photos, Poetry Thursday, Illustration Friday? That only leaves you Wednesdays and Saturdays to be bored, and a little browsing is likely to fix that as well. (Who could be bored?) Fun and games? Try a meme, like the letter B, or The ABCs of Me, or Wordplay.

7. You’re nosey. Blog-browsing is like eavesdropping on the lives of strangers. We can only learn so much from our one (current) lifetime, why not learn from the lives of others as well? Especially because we can learn things we will never personally experience. The more you learn, the more you blog—and you can share what you learn each week at Life’s Little Lessons.

8. You wish you could travel more. You can, even if you only have a few minutes, go anywhere in the blog world—free! Blogs hosted on often have a small “Next Blog” button at the top of the page. Click on it, and see where you end up! Can’t read Malaysian? Click again for another random page somewhere else in the world. Or use the “Search” feature to find blogs from Tasmania or Lapland. Remember, one nifty blog leads to many others (think Six Degrees of Separation). In 3 clicks, I think it was from I and the Bird, I discovered Baghdad Burning, an inside look at what’s really happening in Iraq that the newscasts aren’t telling us. We all should be reading this!

9. You want to escape reality. You could use the “Search” button again to find fantasies or science fiction worlds. But remember, someone else’s reality can also be your fantasy—see number 7.

10. You want to immerse yourself in reality. If you think your life is too boring, start a blog. Then you’ll have to find something interesting to do, just to blog about it!

11. You could use a little therapy. As someone said “I write to find out what I’m thinking.” Expressing yourself in a blog, as in a journal or a letter to a friend, can help you figure out what you’re about cheaper than—and probably faster than—conventional psychotherapy.

Okay, this has taken most of the morning, so breakfast will now have to be lunch. More links another time--this is more than enough to get you started!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

If the Lady's Slipper Fits...

We returned to the hidden site of the elusive Yellow Lady's Slipper today, not to be disappointed. She showed her face, and her cousin was likewise more visible than last week--two orchids for the price of a short walk in the woods. What more could a naturalist ask? (Perhaps better focusing? Sorry!)

For those who are keeping tabs, this is Cypripedium calceolus.

And her more abundant relative, the Spotted Coralroot, Corallorhiza maculata, left. (No, I didn't key it out, so please consider this a "most likely" approximation, the next most likely being a rarer species.)

Are we crazy, venturing abroad in search of the elusive Cypripedium? Let me offer this historical tidbit, at least 100 years old, I've no doubt. Enjoy this excerpt from a poem on the trials of field work by Henry Beers, Ye Laye of Ye Woodpeckore, in which the "Woodpeckore" and the "Pale Student" speak alternately:


O whither goest thou, pale student
Within the wood so fur?
Art on the chokesome cherry bent?
Dost seek the chestnut burr?

Pale Student:

O it is not for the mellow chestnut
That I so far am come,
Nor yet for puckery cherries, but
For Cypripedium.

[nigh on 11 verses omitted]

Full two long hours I've searched about
And 't would in sooth be rum,
If I should now go back without
The Cypripedium.

Farewell! Farewell! But this I tell
To thee, thou pale student,
Ere dews have fell, thou'lt rue it well
That woodward thou didst went:

[3 more omitted]

The wood-peck turned to whet her beak,
The student heard her drum,
As through the wood he went to seek
The Cypripedium.

[2 more skipped]

The mud was on his shoon, and O!
The briar was in his thumb,
His staff was in his hand but no--
No Cypripedium.


Nonsense? I think not! [Will provide the date, and a link to the full poem, as soon as I find it!]

Walking in Nature

Today, Foothills Fancies has an entry (actually, two) to One Deep Breath, recommended by Endment. One Deep Breath is looking for haiku on this week's theme: Walking in Nature. Thanks for sharing, Endment!

beside a dead log

springs new life, form, and color:

Indian paintbrush

rock ledge overgrown

with moss, bearberry, lichen:

lion's secret lair?