So the winner of today’s photography challenge is the mockingbird that I saw on campus this afternoon. So while the temperatures were still hotter than normal for this time of year (basically low triple digits, with a heat index probably ten to fifteen degrees hotter), I still went for a walk at lunch (mainly to get some chocolate).
As I was heading to the student union I noticed a mocking bird land at the top of a cedar bush, so I stopped and took it’s picture.
It didn’t seem happy with the temperatures (and who is happy with them)—hopefully it flew by the fountain in front of the library to cool off a little.
Since I’ve already done a post on mockingbirds, including interesting facts—I’ll just link to it—mockingbird. One thing I do find impressive about them—their ability to listen to something and then almost perfectly mimic it (hence their name—mockingbird).
I’m going to see if I can manage to get pictures of other birds on campus–such as sparrows, grackles, and starlings. If I manage to walk down by Theta Pond, I might see some ducks. Lunch walks may now become a thing I do–just to help get the steps in and hopefully as a way of managing stress and anxiety a bit better.
So it has been the dog days of summer lately and I haven’t made it up to Boomer Lake in about two weeks. Not that I don’t want to–but I’m not fond of overheating before ten in the morning (and water doesn’t stay that cold, that long). At least I managed to get some pictures of various birds in the backyard this afternoon (yes, I was crazy for sitting outside today–though I did have an outdoor fan going).
The winners of today’s photography challenge are the hummingbirds and the swallowtail butterfly.
So I had noticed that there was something at the nectar feeder that was upsetting the one hummingbird that was coming in to feed. This was one of the first times I’ve seen a hummingbird try to attack something. Once I got closer I realized that it was a swallowtail butterfly. I was able to get pretty close to it, but stayed back enough that it didn’t feel threatened. I was able to watch it a good five minutes or so drink, before it flew off.
So I’m not sure if it was the same hummingbird that tried to run off the butterfly, but one sat above us in the tree semi-patiently waiting for new nectar/sugar water to be brought out for consumption.
The feeder has been popular this summer, especially since the flowers on some of the bushes seem to fall off as soon as they bloom lately.
I’m pretty sure that this hummingbird is either a young one or a female–because I didn’t see any red on it’s throat–which rules out it being a mature male ruby throated hummingbird. Since we are almost halfway through August, it means that we’re also entering the start of the fall migration season already. Hopefully that means seeing hummingbirds at the feeder daily until they’ve all headed south.
Hopefully I will make it up to Boomer Lake this coming weekend for an early morning walk and see if there are any migratory birds starting to stay in town already.
The winner of today’s photography challenge are the two younger dogs: Rolex (our box mix puppy), and Magnet (my brother’s dog).
Magnet has been an off and on presence in the house, since my brother lives a couple of hours away and they don’t make it back that often (I mean who really wants to do a four-hour round trip drive constantly?). But since she is basically a year older than Rolex, that makes her the beta of the house (Boozer is the alpha, and when Magnet isn’t around—she is alpha and beta rolled into one). Problem is that the youngest wants to play almost constantly during the day and it wears on the other two dogs (especially her methods of playing).
I’ve realized a few things over the past couple of months—I would love to get another dog, but until I have a solid plan in place for my future that has to be on hold. The second thing is that the overly playful puppy is going to be needing to learn how to walk on a leash—she does okay for a short distance, but when I took her for one walk around the block it was total chaos—so there is that training that needs to happen. It is something to look towards when the temperatures cool, and I don’t have to worry about heat stroke for either of us.
I’ve also decided that once things are in order and I move—a kitten first (since Pancakes doesn’t care for either of the younger dogs right now), and once that helps settle her in, maybe a puppy or an slightly older dog (say no more than three or four).
I know that Chewi and the others are watching from the rainbow bridge, and happy that we’ve moved on from mourning and brought another dog into the household.
The winner of today’s photography challenge is the moray eel and the French grunts that were swimming past it when I took the picture.
So the grunts are native to the western Atlantic ocean, and are found in close proximity to coral reefs. They are nocturnal hunters of small crustaceans and mollusks. It probably seems odd to name a fish a grunt—but someone, somewhere listened to them—and I guess they grind their teeth together (I’m assuming after capturing some type of prey), and that is where their name came from, the grunting sounds of them grinding their teeth.
The moray eel is one of my favorites at the aquarium—there is something about them that I find fascinating. Part of it is their body structure—they’re fish—but they lack certain fins (pelvic and pectoral). Though with this one, you can’t see the dorsal fin on the back of its’ head. I also love how in reality—they aren’t yellow or green—they’re actually a drab brown in color. It’s because of the aquarium having a drab background color in the area, the tint of yellow in its body mucus, reflects back as yellow or green (as it is referred to as a green moray eel).
One thing I’d like to do is to visit other aquariums and see if I can spot moray eels within the different areas (since I know that the New England Aquarium has them within the larger central aquarium).
So since today is International Cat Day–it is only fitting that the winners of today’s photography challenge are the cats.
So we have three cats (all adopted from the local humane society). The eldest cat (by about a year and a half or so) is Pyewicket, our calico cat.
Then we have our “breakfast duo”: Waffles and Pancakes.
We got Waffles and Pancakes within a few days of each other–Waffles was adopted first, and then I saw Pancakes picture on the site, and fell in love. It had been almost a decade since I had lost my first cat, Bigfoot (who was also a black cat–though he had more white on him than Panny does). Pancakes is my little cuddle bug at night, and in the morning. She loves to sit on my lap–and does a good job of reminding me when I spend to much time on the computer.
Not the best picture of Waffles, our Russian blue cat–but lately she has decided that the top of the cat condo is her spot to sleep (though that is where my cat usually likes to relax). This is our little troublemaker–she doesn’t like change (and lets you know), and isn’t above possibly starting things with the puppies.
I know find it funny that we’re in a “age reversal” with the animals–when we got the cats, we had several dogs, but they’re were all in their adult years. Now we got a puppy (and my brother got one last year), the cats are in their adult years and are acting like it. I swear if they could talk it would probably be nothing but “get off my lawn”, “turn the music down” and “in my day” from the cats to the pups.
I have realized that when I move–I will need to bring in a kitten (after a few months) so that Pancakes has company, and then after say another six months or so maybe get a puppy and hopefully that will all turn out nicely.
Happy International Cat Day!!! Do your cats and dogs get along all the time?
The winner of today’s photography challenge is the either the lone large crab apple, or the lone apple (that grew on what we have always thought is just a crab apple tree).
What makes this unique and odd—it’s the only one on the tree. I spent a good five to ten minutes (I know not a lot of time—but enough when its in the mid-90s and there is a triple digit heat index at basically 8 o’clock at night) looking and all the other “apples” are the extremely small ones that have been on the tree since early summer. Now one or two may grow into an apple like this—but this is the first year, we’ve seen an actual large fruit on the tree.
So now we’re on looking at the tree constantly to see if any other apples all of a sudden appear on the tree. In addition, we’re going to have to see if it starts to turn colors (say to red or yellow) or if it’s going to be a green apple. I hope that we’ll be able to harvest it before it falls to the ground—where the squirrels, birds, and probably dogs will all take a go at it. That is one thing that I would like to do whenever I move back east (hopefully)—go to an apple farm in the fall and pick some fresh apples and then try to make homemade apple sauce, or some dessert with fresh apples.
The winner of today’s photography challenge are wisteria seed pods.
The wisteria is a climbing vine that is native to the eastern part of the United States. This flowering vine is actually a member of the pea family—which is one reason why it’s seed pods look like pea pods.
Though unlike peas—wisteria plants are poisonous, so it shouldn’t be planted in areas where child play, and shouldn’t be planted in areas where someone might accidentally pick the seed pods and eat the seeds.
We have the wisteria growing along the back fence, and I’ve been thinking of trying to start a new wisteria vine elsewhere in the yard—that way once it does flower (in ten to fifteen years), it can be seen closer to the house, and it may add value to the house whenever it comes time to sell. The only thing is—I’ve never tried to grow the plant before (the one we have, we got as a smaller plant from a friend who was thinning her’s out).
But I’m thinking that I’ll check on the wisteria over the next couple of months and maybe pick a seed pod or two, and see how many seeds are inside. Then I’ll dry them out, put them in an container for the winter and then try planting them somewhere in the spring. If nothing else, we’ll get some green growth going as the vines are suppose to start growing rapidly.
The winner of today’s photography challenge—is the following book that I managed to finish about two weeks ago: “Outer Order, Inner Calm: Declutter & Organize to make more room for happiness” by Gretchen Rubin. This is the second book by Gretchen Rubin that I’ve read over the past year (the other was The Four Tendencies).
This particular book deals with the issue of getting rid of
excess belongings and organizing what you keep in a manner that makes you happy
(and others living with you). Society as a whole owns way to much stuff—and
there are people who rent storage units to store the excess that they can’t fit
in their houses. Now I’m currently renting a storage unit, but that is because
when I moved home—my room had been converted into a guest room (and I had only
planned on being a guest for a few years tops). So my bed, a large bookcase,
some other furniture and other belongings (dishes and such) have been sitting
in a storage unit for six years.
I’d realized out in Boston that I had too much stuff, and
got rid of some of it before moving back (in hopes of savings some money), but
I still have too much stuff—especially if I add in what is in my bedroom to
what I have in my storage unit. I’m going to slowly be going through things and
paring down on what I have (as I realize I probably don’t need forty different
t-shirts). That way if I do head back to Boston and have a smallish apartment—I
can fit everything into it, without being overwhelmed.
So the book has five chapters, each covering a specific point/topic
in the path of creating outer order, and hopefully inner calm.
The first chapter basically lays out the facts that you have
to make choices on what you’re going to keep and what you’re going to be
getting rid of; also when you’re getting rid of something you shouldn’t feel
guilty about the fact that the item no longer has a place in your home (as the
author points out—you can out grow things, or just decide that it isn’t
necessary to keep a gift just to keep someone happy (who may or may not remember
giving it to you).
The second chapter talks about creating order, and just lays
out some simple guidelines that once can follow: such as if you can’t retrieve
an item you probably won’t use it—which makes sense, we have one cupboard over
the fridge that I forget what is stored in it (obviously we aren’t using the
items, and it probably wouldn’t hurt to get rid of the items). Another
guideline is to avoid buying souvenirs, or if you are going to buy souvenirs
one should go with ones that are small and easy to display.
This is one area I will have to deal with once I’m settled
(as I don’t plan on really unpacking all the boxes in my storage unit &
repacking them)—I have a lot of little knickknacks that I’d bought over the
years; I do have a small number that I’ve bought since I’ve moved home—but for
the most part they’re packed in my storage unit.
I think I’ve come up with an idea on how to display them
nicely—making use of my large bookcase, but at the same time I will probably
try to sell some of them depending on how I can display them. Having little
things showing your personality is good—you just need to be able to take care
of them (such as dusting)—and if you have too many of them, you might fall down
on that task.
The third chapter talks about knowing yourself and others.
Basically—know what you consider to be clutter, what others consider to be
clutter and if they don’t agree find some type of middle ground. The fourth
chapter talks about cultivating helpful habits (such as tossing junk mail right
away, making your bed in the morning, putting dirty dishes into the dishwasher,
and so forth) to help keep the clutter down to a minimum.
The fifth chapter talks about adding beauty to the spaces.
This can include adding a signature color (or pattern) to the rooms, arranging
the displays on a tray, having a theme for the picture frames and so forth.
Basically the book walks you through the steps/thoughts of
starting to declutter your home and/or workspace. Decluttering isn’t for
everyone—you actually want to be doing it, or if you start you might find
yourself with even more stuff (as you feel guilty for getting rid of things,
you end up bringing in more to make up for it); also it doesn’t have to happen
overnight. I’ve been slowly (and I stress the word slowly) working decluttering
my life for the past year—I’ve gotten rid of some stuff, but I also know that I
have a lot more that I can get rid of and still be happy. How I’m going about
it: I’m asking myself—does this have more than one use? If I find myself in an
studio apartment—things will need to be multi-functional (and maybe even
multi-storage). Having multiple collections as a teenager or young adult is
fine—but now I have to ask the question: do they have a place in the life/home
of someone who will be hitting their fourth decade next year?
I highly recommend this book for anyone who is thinking of
embarking on the journey of decluttering.
The winner of today’s photography challenge is the snail that was moving around the pond about a month or so ago. Snails belong to the class Gastropoda (and there are more than 65,000 species within the class) within the phylum Mollusca. This class is the largest group in the phylum, and includes both snails (land, fresh & sea) and slugs (both terrestrial and sea).
This is a land snail, and they can go dormant during unfavorable weather conditions (cold, heat, drought).
As with any animal, depending on where they are originally from (and then introduced), they can either become somewhat beneficial or harmful. Take the snails of Hawaii—over half are extinct (thanks to destruction of habitats, unintentional introduction of rats and non-native snails, and shell collection), and of the remaining species, most are critically endangered.
There are a small handful that cause health issues (only because they’re intermediate hosts for other parasites); for example there are several snail & slug species that serve as intermediate hosts for the rat lungworm—which can migrate to the brain and cause moderate to severe damage once it encysts within the brain tissue. Schistosomiasis is another disease that is caused by minute blood flukes that have snails and/or slugs as intermediate hosts.
They aren’t all bad though—they do have an important role to play in the ecosystem—they’re decomposers. They will help break down dead plant and animal matter into nutrients and compounds that living plants can uptake through their roots. Other snails are predators, and help keep other insect/snail/slug populations in check as well.
Then there as the time I did a little gardening work in the early spring, and when I turned over one of the rocks–I found a good number of snails attached to the bottom of it.
So I try to make sure that they get into the garden, or the compost pile to help break down all the dead leaves and other things that have been accumulating all winter. It will be interesting to see if I get out into the gardens this fall if I will find any snails or not.
So, continuing with the theme of insects, the winner of today’s challenge is probably a green stink bug nymph. The reason why I’m saying probable stink bug—I didn’t threaten it, so it didn’t release it’s unpleasant odor.
I’d notice this guy crawling along the edge of the patio table, and decided to try to get some pictures of it—if nothing else to prove that I don’t sit inside all day during the summer. While I knew it was a true bug (based on it’s shape), I wasn’t sure of the species—so turning to google, the closest insect seems to be a green stink bug.
I’d assume that this is a stink bug in it’s third (possibly fourth) nymph stage–it was fairly large, but I didn’t see any wings on it yet, so it isn’t in the fifth (and final) nymph stage yet.
This makes sense, since we have a small peach shrub/tree that gives fruit—but the fruit never fully ripen. I’m wondering if these guys could be part of the reason why the fruits only develop so far. These insects like others go through a incomplete metamorphosis—where they have five instar (or nymph) stages before becoming adults; and each instar stage looks a little more like the adult. The full life cycle is usually around thirty to forty-five days (so about six weeks or so).
They are a pest of crops, fruit trees, and other plants. They feed on the sap of the plants—so they have needle-like mouths for pierce the stems/fruits of the plants. The young nymphs can winter in the leaves and emerge in spring/summer when the temperatures are warmer to complete their lifecycle.
So again—giving space to another living creature allowed me to get some good photographs, and also ensured that I wasn’t going to be smelling an obnoxious odor (that if it was a stink bug it would have released if it felt threatened).
One thing I may try to do—be outdoors more and look for more than just flowers, birds, or animals to take pictures of–look for the smaller things, try to find the young nymphs of insects (or even the eggs). Looking for the small things may be even more rewarding than finding the big things.