Yes, there is a story here -- but I'm not telling ;)

Hope everyone is feeling fine as frog hair this last day of 2006. We are celebrating Treebeard's birthday today -- 53 trips around the sun. Happy Birthday Treebeard!


A Sucker, Pure and Simple

From a conversation back in August:

Flamebrain: Ma, I have a friend who needs a place for his cats to stay for a couple of weeks. Any way you could watch them? If he has to board them at a kennel it's gonna cost him a bundle.

Ma: You're sure he'll be able to get them in a couple of weeks, right? I have no interest in adopting two cats. We're trying to cut down on the number of pets we have around here.

Flamebrain: Yeah, he can get them in a couple of weeks. He'll be moving in with his girlfriend and they allow pets in her apartment complex. He'll provide all the food and litter.

Ma: Well, I guess it will be okay. Afterall, it's only a couple of weeks...

By the middle of December I had reached my limit. The male cat was spraying everywhere and the little female was getting neurotic from being kept upstairs. So, the cats were going back. Sorry if the owner had broken up with the girlfriend, sorry if it was gonna cost him money to board his cats, sorry if I expect grown men to be responsible pet owners. I couldn't stand having the cats living in near isolation upstairs, but there was no way I was letting that male come downstairs and spray everything (even though he was such a sweetie and absolutely beautiful and loved the way I scratched his neck for him...)

I called Flamebrain and told him to tell his friend that if he didn't get his cats they were going to the pound ASAP (HA! Like that would happen - but the friend has never met me and didn't know that.) The friend said he could take the male cat back, but he was going to have to take the female, whom he called Little Girl, to the pound.

Meet Sticky Wicket - the newest member of the family

Wiki, posing for her picture. Isn't she the sweetest thing?

All together now -- SUCKER!!!


Thursday Things

A motley assortment of a few of the things that caught my attention at work today. It was an exceptionally beautiful day and I felt fortunate to be able to spend a majority of my time outside.

Swamp treasures of the prehistoric kind. Okay, so I found the shells on Tuesday...but they were still sitting on my desk today.

Lycoperdon pyriforme, Wolf-fart Puffball. Why wolf-fart? I don't have an answer for that :) You'd have to ask a mycologist.

This limb is just outside my office window. What makes it significant you might wonder. Nothing, I just like it. Some days it is full of birds stopping for a rest, other days it might find itself host to a gray squirrel munching on a pilfered fungus.

Bad light and too far away...but I don't care. Cedar waxwings are too pretty to ignore. A bunch of them swooped in and started eating honeysuckle fruits. The downside of that is that they will distribute the seeds far and wide.

Wonder what worked so hard to make this lovely cavity? I'll have to keep an eye on it this spring and see if anyone new moves in. I wish I had a way to look inside -- perhaps one of my bat mirrors can be adapted to fit in the hole...but that is a project for another day.


Along The Trail Today

I had an opportunity to walk a couple of miles this afternoon -- I was trying to catch a couple of hunting dogs...but that's another story. Anyway, while I was out I saw a few things I wanted to share.


...from that.

Now wait a minute...I thought this was supposed to be a blog about swamp things. What's a seashell doing in a swamp? Isn't it another 60 miles to the coast?

Not-so-little-bitty kitty feet...bobcat tracks next to a boot track. I saw tons of bobcat sign on the trail. In addition to numerous tracks, I found a couple of places where the cat had marked territory with some tidy scat piles and scratchings. (The tracks were probably made early this morning, we had rain last night.)


Another Road Trip

Greetings from away! No pictures today, Treebeard and I are on a whirlwind tour of family: Raleigh yesterday, Charlotte today and tomorrow, lastly Wilmington on Tuesday morning and home Tuesday evening. Back to work on Wednesday. (After reading that I think I may need another cup of coffee...)

See you back at the swamp - TTFN!


Tale of a Tiny Turtle & Other Swamp Stuff

(I have decided that it's just too hard to update two blogs -- I have trouble just keeping this one up to date. So, from now on I plan to post images from the work swamp here on SwampThings and let SwampStuff go by the wayside.)

There has been some land clearing going on at the work swamp in preparation for the construction of a visitor center. The felling of trees and the clearing of underbrush is not something I enjoy seeing - I feel the loss of each tree and fret over the destruction of critter habitat, but I know that the visitor center will be of benefit once it is constructed. You could say that the guys doing the clearing feel my pain and have been really sweet about it. Yesterday they were doing some grading and uncovered a turtle hatchling. One of the guys gathered it up and brought it to me. I appreciated that.

Isn't he beautiful...

Check out the "egg tooth" on the upper jaw.

An unexpected visitor...as I was coming out of the swamp yesterday, I felt a little tickle on my cheek. I reached up and found that I had a hitch-hiker. This is an agrarian sac spider (Cheiracanthium inclusum). According to some sources, this spider's bite is somewhat painful - similar to the sting of a bee or wasp. Since it did not offer to bite me, I can't confirm that. It does have some pretty impressive chelicerae though. (Sorry, FC!)

Mornings have been foggy the past few days, giving the canal an air of mystery. Tundra swans passed overhead this morning, their mournful calls adding to the ambience.

Have I mentioned lately that I love my job?


Work Swamp Tidbits

Typical black bear calling card, a nice pile of scat in the middle of the path. This one is full of smilax seeds and some other seeds I haven't IDed yet. The bears will be active as long as there is food available.

This is bittersweet...but which one? It could be American bittersweet or it could be Oriental bittersweet. It's driving me crazy!! I don't want to have to wait until spring to figure this one out.

Just when you think it is safe to go in the woods... Black-legged Tick, Ixodes scapularis


Cold morning.

Morning pond.

Morning mist - the water is still warmer than the air.


Another Slime Mold

Treebeard and I think we have this IDed, but we aren't sure so I'm not posting a scientific name. We'll just enjoy the fact that it is yet another manifestation of slime mold and leave it at that.

Here's some more of the same stuff. Looks kind of like fish roe...

Woodland caviar, anyone?


Tree Trunk Trickster

Just a quick post of cute little faker...the larva of a green lacewing. Look at the clumps of lichen in the photo. The topmost clump is an insect larva in disguise. With a little gentle persuasion from the tip of Treebeard's knife blade, we were able to pry the little beastie from the tree trunk. I flipped it over in my hand and snapped a quick picture before it flipped back over, turtle style. Seconds later it was back on the tree trunk, busy being what it is.

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Can't quite exactly figure out how this happened. Did the wax myrtle reach out and grab the pine cone as it fell...and why didn't the dense cone rip through the relatively tender leaves??? What goes on out there while we aren't looking?



One very geriatric groundhog (Marmota monax) . I think this little guy might be some sort of rodent record holder - he appeared to be very old :)


Downy woodpecker, Picoides pubescens, waiting patiently for us to step away from his suet block.


Heart's a-bustin', a.k.a. strawberry bush. Real name: Euonymus americanus.


October Sunday

Paddle with me for a while. I want to show you something.

But we must be quick because here the fall palette is subtle and it doesn't last long.

Don't forget to look down from time to time. The dark water makes an excellent mirror on calm days and provides interesting patterns on windy days.

Just remember, the camera can't see with the heart, so come with me and see what I see...


One Tough Mama

As soon as I approached, this mother lynx spider (Peucetia viridans) moved to protect her young. She was quite impressive, waving her long, spiky front legs at the camera lens.

Lynx moms are serious about their maternal duties...

...as this wheel bug (Arilus cristatus) found out the hard way.

A wheel bug is a formidable beast in its own right and can deliver a painful, piercing bite - I'd advise against picking one up.

About 80 Miles, WSW

Yesterday, while attending a workshop on self-guided interpretive trail design, I had some time to take a walk in the rain (time is something one has in abundance when one misreads the starting time for one's class and arrives two hours early). Walking in wet woods holds a special appeal for me. There is something about the quality of the light, the muted sounds and the deep fragrance of the duff that touches me in a way I can't quite describe.

The park where the class was held is in North Carolina's fall zone, an area of transition between our coastal plain and piedmont regions. Although it is only about 80 miles to my west southwest, it is an area quite different from the coastal plain. I enjoyed having the opportunity to walk up an actual hill and see those most intriguing of objects, rocks. We don't have rocks in the swamp and our highest "hill" in the home swamp reaches the staggering elevation of 40 feet. All of my adult life I have lived in the northeastern coastal plain of NC and I love it here, but deep inside I guess there lurks a child of the piedmont and I sometimes miss the hills, rocks, and yes, even the red clay that I grew up with.


A Mighty Mite

Brightly colored and energetic, mites such as this often catch my eye as they motor through the underbrush. One of the velvet mites, Trombidium sp., she was about 3 or 4 mm long and refused to be still for a proper picture.
(Note to self: Break out the hand lotion and apply liberally!)

Stinkhorn Fungus

This appears to be a Stinky Squid, Pseudocolus fusiformis. I found it quite by accident while I was looking for something else - perhaps Serendipitous Squid would be a better name...nah, it was pretty smelly so Stinky fits.

Where There's Smoke

I travelled to another park yesterday to assist in a prescribed burn. Things went well all day - a good start to our burn season.


I find myself becoming cautiously optimistic...I'm going to sneak away now and return tomorrow...

and this is another test

this is a test



Blogger, or perhaps Picasa, is misbehaving and I am displeased. My pictures are not loading properly. Anyone out there know why this might be the case?? I haven't changed anything that I am aware of, haven't futzed around with any settings...so, any ideas? You people are way smarter than me and I need your help :/


Especially for Jane

I have a friend who reads this blog on occasion and she loves her reptiles and amphibians. So, just for Ranger Jane, here is a picture of the great big toad Treebeard and I found on the trail in Baxter State Park in Maine.

Meet Baxter, the honking-big Maine toad. As close as I can tell it is an American toad (Bufo americanus). It was quite impressive and of course, it peed all over Treebeard's hand.


Cutie Pie

Normally I don't like to post pictures of spiders unless I can ID them but I'm going to make an exception this time. This jumping spider, sitting atop Flamebrain's very red car, was just too cute to leave languishing in a file on my computer. ( As soon as I key him out I'll be back with an ID.)



The planets are refusing to align for me. I'm sure it is a cosmic conspiracy. Things simply will not calm down enough around here to allow me the time to blog. I have more vacation pictures to post and I owe you some text for the last post...maybe next week, while I'm recovering from PRK on my right eye. We'll see (no pun intended).


O, Canada

Update: It seems I won't be able to find the time to go through these images individually as I had intended. Instead, I will just tell you the pictures were taken at Roosevelt Campobello International Park in New Brunswick. Of course we found the nature trails to be of greater interest than the cottage, but the flower beds in front of the cottage were spectacular.
The yard around the visitor center (centre?) afforded us an excellent birding opportunity. We saw Philadelphia vireo, Wilson's warbler, Blackburnian warbler, black-throated green warbler, Tennessee warbler, black & white warbler, chestnut-sided warbler, magnolia warbler, palm warbler, redstart, bay-breasted warbler, eastern wood-pewee, chipping sparrow, cedar waxwing, goldfinch, black-capped chickadee, and raven all within a couple of minutes.
One more note, the bottom right photo is of a hip from Rosa rugosa. The rose hips from these bushes were huge and quite tasty (hope it wasn't against the rules to taste the hips - if it was, we apologize).


We made two day trips into Canada while we were vacationing in Maine. The photo collage below is from our first trip.

Canada, on a foggy day. I promise I'll come back and fill in the details later...just wanted to get the pictures up first.

Things are a trifle hectic right now, both at home and at work. I have had no time to sit and reflect on what I would like to share with you. It's frustrating!


A Maine Quickie

No time for a picture-heavy post today. Just a couple of shots of a northern crop.

Blueberry fields...isn't that crazy? Around here we have high bush blueberries and the season is well past. Apparently, up in Maine they grow theirs a little closer to the ground and have a later harvest.

But high or low, northern or southern, one thing is certain: Blueberries are tasty.