Category Archives: The Great Outdoors

Suburban wildlife in pictures

A few months ago I saw an article about a blog by a woman in Michigan who, using a device called Bird Photo Booth, posted dozens of close-up photos of birds. I looked up the device and saw that it was on back order. I knew that at some point I would buy it because it seemed perfect for me. I could mount it outside my attic window and feed birds during the day while watching the photos on my computer so I ordered it at the end of April. Earlier this week I got an email telling me that my Bird Photo Booth was on its way and should arrive today.

Unfortunately, even though the device has WiFi it is not the WiFi I thought it was, but WiFi to connect to a smartphone. Still, that’s better than the trailcam I bought last year, hoping to get fun photos of birds at the feeder or maybe other wildlife in our suburban backyard. None of my bird photos were very good, except the ones below.

Speaking of the trailcam — in early January, Dean mentioned that some critter had built a large and tidy nest under our side porch composed of leaves, vegetable skins and eggshells stolen from our compost bin. I researched it and came up with the conclusion that we had a opossum living under the porch. I was excited because they are good wildlife. I set up the trailcam to see the opossum in action.

a tidy nest made of compost
The “nest”

Dean, however, had a different idea and wanted to demolish the pile of compost which he did, some that day and more later in the week. He wasn’t happy about having a opossum living under our porch.

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During this time the trailcam collected some pretty cool images — with an early plot twist and a huge one at the end.

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So, it was not a opossum after all, but a boring nasty rat. Before we knew it was a rat Dean put out mothballs, thinking critters stay away from mothballs. It didn’t bother the rat.

Remember — we didn’t know anything about the critter until we looked at the photos several days later. I still thought we had a lovely opossum.

We also had other visitors to the “nest” area — a squirrel stopped by, also undeterred by the mothballs.

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Here are some night shots of our resident not-a-opossum.

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A curious house sparrow
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Another squirrel

More night shots.

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The final night shot that night is the climax to the story and the final plot twist.

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A fox arrived 3 minutes or so after the last rat sighting

We’re pretty sure the fox ate our rat for a early morning breakfast on January 9th. No more rats were picked up on the trailcam after that.

And now for the fun shots.

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While I was disappointed we didn’t have a opossum, I was grateful we had a fox to take care of the rat.

Anyway — watch this space for, hopefully, more birds. I promise I won’t show any more rats.

 

Take time to smell the lilacs

I have an app or two on my phone and tablet that sends me “memories” of what I tweeted, or posted on Facebook or took photos of that day in history, back to 6 or 7 years ago. For the past few days I have been seeing photos of lilacs that I took and either tweeted about or posted about on Facebook. This morning I panicked, worrying that I’d missed the lilacs this year. That I’d been so preoccupied with a bunch of other things that the lilacs had come and gone and I’d not had the chance to smell them this year.

My lilacs are in the front yard and one would think that I’d notice if they were in bloom or not, what with my car usually being parked 10 feet away from them. But I’d not gone outside much lately and when I did, didn’t think to check the lilacs. I did check them about three weeks or so ago and noticed there were a few tiny buds, so I knew I was going to get a few blooms this year, but not many.

I was happy to see that there were some lilacs on the tree when I checked from the front window of the house but it was hard to tell if they were in bloom or past their prime. This afternoon, after my dentist appointment I got a close look at them and saw that a few of the small flowers were in full bloom, but most were still tightly closed. I’d not missed them after all. I took a few big sniffs, smiled and went on with my day. For the next week or so I plan to visit my lilac bush several times a day and deeply inhale one of my all-time favorite scents.

I also took a moment to snap some shots of the other flowers in our yard. Spring is definitely the nicest season on our property.

Miracle Zinnia

miracle zinnaA couple of months ago two neighborhood girls held a bake sale for some charity that also included some handmade items and a few plants. I bought a cookie or two and some lemonade. I also bought a small zinnia to help their cause.

I ate the cookies, drank the lemonade and planted the zinnia on the front porch. When it bloomed for the first time I remembered a comment Lali made on a blog post I wrote about lilacs — she said that with most flowers the more you cut the more you get. I knew this was true for zinnias so I cut the first bloom off the zinnia to make sure I got more. I put the single bloom in a silver vase Clare received as a birthday gift from her godmother, Totty. It prettied up the kitchen table for a week or so, then I moved it to a higher location so our cat would not eat it. There it stayed for weeks. Eventually the color faded and I thought it was dried out. Eventually I pulled it out of the vase to put elsewhere — after all it was a dried flower — and was astonished to see that it had grown roots! A good 8 inches of roots. I’d learned all about advantagious buds in botany class, but didn’t realize a plain old stem could create roots.

I planted it in the same pot as the mother zinnia and it is still living — the leaves are green and the flower seems to have gotten some of its color back. We have a good couple of months left for it to grow outside. I wonder if it will just stay the way it is — or try to create seeds with its head. Maybe those advantagious buds that are probably near where the leaves meet the stem will begin to grow into stems with more flowers. I may need to bring this little miracle into the house for the winter!