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It was 14 degrees F this morning when I got up - that's outrageous. You can tell me that it's not that cold...that it is much colder up north. Well, yeah. It's supposed to be much colder up north! Personally, anything under, say, 35 degrees F is too cold for me unless we can have snow. No snow? Then no reason to be any colder. Period.
The unreasonable temps have me hovering next to the woodstove - any closer, and I'd be in the woodstove - and eating everything in sight. Guess I'm entering hibernation mode :)
Outside the kitchen window the birds are busy cleaning out the feeders. Today's list has reached 28 species. That includes the red-shouldered hawk and the red-tailed hawk that visited the tree-line at the edge of the yard and the vultures (both black and turkey) that flew over the house. Lucky for me, I have reached my RDA of birds without having to go outside at all.
Tomorrow I'll be back outside, but today I'm just going to hibernate.


Just A Dusting

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Ah well, meteorology is, after all, an art, not a science. The cold air did not move in as quickly as was predicted. We ended up with a dusting of snow instead of the up-to-four inches that was being anticipated. Had I pointed the camera down, instead of up, you would see a photo of green grass with little tufts of snow here and there.

Glancing back through my archives I discovered something -- today is my blog's birthday! And it seems that we had snow that January day in 2005. Plus, I had my first ever comment - thanks SquirrleyMojo! You are near and dear to my heart :)



The weatherman says the miserable, cold rain that has been falling all day is going to turn to snow. One to three inches of snow. We'll see. Snow is an infrequent occurrence here and I only believe it is coming when I see it falling. Stay tuned...

Double Trouble

Standing dead snags are great things...unless they are too close to a high-use area. Then, according to guidelines, they have to be cut down. We took down 53 dead trees on Tuesday and Wednesday. Generally, we fell them, buck them, and them toss them off the road. But not this bad boy...we called for the front-end loader to move this one after it was dropped.

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Nearly forty feet tall, this dead sycamore was wrapped up with poison ivy, (Toxicodendron radicans), and it was within two feet of the road. It had to come down.

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The vine was so big I would have had to use both hands to reach around it - not that I touched it, mind you :) We grow some impressive poison ivy in the work swamp! Luckily, I have never experienced a rash from ivy and I hope to keep it that way.

And for those of you who may be unaware of the fact, you can get a rash from poison ivy anytime of year. The oil that causes the rash is in all parts of the plant (except the flowers and berries). If you are susceptible to it and you get the oil on your skin, then you're probably going to get the rash.


Black Corsair

So, you're out with your chainsaw clearing hazard trees off your newly cut trail. You bend down to roll an old, rotted log off the trail and it breaks. Inside you discover this attractive looking insect. Quick! Do you pick it up for a closer look?

NO! At least I wouldn't (Treebeard will pick up just about anything). This is a black corsair, Melanolestes picipes, one of the assassin bugs. It can inflict a nasty bite from what I've read. The ever intrepid Treebeard wanted a closer look, so of course he picked it up. Luckily he was careful and the bug was cold and didn't bite him, but it did release a foul smelling chemical. Somewhat reminiscent of a dirty, wet dog.

Ah, the wonders found in rotting logs.
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Hop To It

It is a cold and dreary Friday here in the home swamp. I am off today and had grand plans to paddle the pond. It has been ages since I have been in my canoe. Alas, it's too dark for decent pictures and as I look in the kitchen I see a pile of dirty dishes that need to be washed. The floor could use a good sweeping, too...at least I think that's the floor. Hard to tell under all that dog hair - Hannah may be old, but she still produces copious amounts of hair. And then there's the laundry. Oh, and some bills that need to be paid.

Oh well, c'est la vie. Better hop to it and get some things in order around here...but still, it would be a great day to find some otter out on the pond. And the dishes, dog hair, laundry, and bills will still be here when I get back...and it is supposed to rain tomorrow ;)

In case you're wondering, the critter in the picture is an American Bird Grasshopper, Schistocerca americana. They are very active here in the winter on our warmer days and usually hard to catch. Treebeard was able to snatch this one on a recent cool day and snap a picture. Very handsome hopper, don't you think?
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Out in the pond the water boils...something is moving out there. It seems to have two heads...and two tails...but they are awfully close together...

Oh my. Seems we have interrupted an intimate moment between a male and female beaver. An awfully chilly place for love, doncha think? Around here beaver usually mate in December and then give birth in late March or April. Guess these two just got a late start.
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Bullet Speaks His Mind

Excuse me...excuse me. You need to get off that computer and pay attention to me. You know I am the best cat you have - not that goofy Wiki. I couldn't help but notice that you have posted more photos of her than you have of me. An oversight on your part, I'm sure. Afterall, I've been your companion for fourteen years -- she's only been around for a measly two years. Now, move that mouse pad out of your lap and make room for me...
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How Pretty

Perhaps I should start a bear scat of the month feature this year...
Seriously, it really was pretty -- full of greenbrier (Smilax sp.)berries. Love those bright red seeds and the dark blue berry skins.
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Plus, there is an added appeal to piles of scat like this. In another section of the swamp I found where a bear had planted an accidental garden, all little greenbrier plants...
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Sometimes you find beautyberry thickets, dense stands of pawpaw, a wild tangle of supplejack vines or loads of baby swamp gums. All courtesy of some intrepid pooping bear :)


Just Another Thursday at Work

[knock, knock, knock] Uh, hi. Me and my crew are working down the road and there's this bird. It keeps following us around and my guys are scared of it.

Yes sir, I'll be happy to help if I can. Could you tell me what type of bird it is? (I reach for a net)

It's one of those birds with a big bill. You know, about this long...(spreads hands to indicate about 10 inches) Plus, it's got like duck feet. You know?

Are you talking about a pelican? (my eyebrows raise inquiringly and I put my inadequate net back against the wall)

Yeah, yeah...that's what it is, a pelican. (vigorous nodding) I couldn't think of what they were called, but I saw one on TV once.

And you say your crew is working nearby here?

Yes m'am. Just out on the highway there. You know, in the median.

I'll follow you in my truck...

Sure enough, it was a pelican. A pelican "terrorizing" a DOT crew working in the median of the highway. The poor guys were tucked safely in their trucks and didn't get out until I got out of my truck. Seems they were putting out signs and traffic cones and this pelican just started following them around.

Not wanting to startle the pelican, I approached it slowly. It just stood there, calm as could be. I raised the binoculars to read the band on its leg and recorded as much of the number as I could. Meanwhile I was trying to think of who to call to help me wrangle a pelican -- didn't want the bird to fly out onto the road because it's a busy highway. Assuring the work crew that I would be back as quick as I could I headed back to the park. Close to our parking lot I spotted a county animal control truck and flagged him down. Yipee! Help.

Me: Hi, how you doing? You have anything in your truck to catch a pelican?

Animal Control Officer: So that's what it is, eh? A pelican. Dispatch said there was a report of a bearded duck out here not letting people out of their cars. I saw your truck as I passed. Is it out there on the highway?

Me: Yep and the DOT guys are not happy.

ACO: I've got a net... (Sheriff's Deputy wheels in) Hey, Deputy! That bearded duck call is about a pelican. The ranger here saw it.

Deputy: Heh. I thought dispatch was gonna choke trying to keep from laughing about the bearded duck. (Another animal control truck rolls up.)

Me: Hi. How are your pelican wrangling skills?

Second ACO: Guess we'll find out. I was kinda hoping it really was a bearded duck...

First ACO: Ranger Swampy says it's out there with the DOT crew. Guess we better head that way...

Deputy: No hurry. I saw a big bird take off when I passed that work crew just now. Sure didn't know it was the bearded duck...


A Doe, A Deer

These two couldn't quite make up their minds about me. They would start to run, then stop and stare. I see them nearly every day, you'd think they'd recognize me by now :)

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Anybody Home?

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Blue grosbeaks build some interesting nests. They are always looking for the newest in building materials. Some industrious bird incorporated an entire plastic bag into this nest. Can you imagine what that must have looked like? Here's this pretty, deep blue bird flying down the road dragging a grocery bag in its beak. And then the actual weaving of the plastic into the nest. Wish I could have seen it.

I got a little curious about what might be in an abandoned nest this time of year. I grabbed a rake and pulled the limb down to eye-level. Seems that the water oak is using the nest to store acorns and some caterpillar used it as a restroom back in the fall. In case you missed my post on caterpillar frass(buried somewhere in my archives), then let me help you out. The brown thing that looks sort of like some sort of decorative bead is the frass.

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After Our Walk

Treebeard was trying to catch a nap when Wiki decided she needed to have her belly rubbed. Both seemed content. (Treebeard was not exactly a cat person when we met, but he has come around over the years. Guess he had to - around here it's "love me, love my cats.")
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Things That Caught My Eye

Treebeard and I went for a walk today - surprising, I know ;) Several things caught my eye as we rambled and I thought I'd share some of them with you.

First a little swamp art:

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If you click on the image to enlarge it, you can more fully appreciate the Picasso-esque quality of this particular baldcypress knee. Baldcypress knees are kind of like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike.

Next, a sort of Mother Nature still life...

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An oyster mushroom bowl holding a nut and a leaf from a beech (Fagus grandifolia), a grape leaf, and a bit of dried grass. Variations on a theme of brown.

Then, a bit of snail graffiti. This time variations on a theme of gray.

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But, in the winter woods, the eye is always drawn to a spot of color. This bright green was provided by Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides).

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And then there were textures to appreciate. The smooth tupelo berry (Nyssa aquatica) resting against a bed of prickly baldcypress needles (Taxodium distichum), crunchy red maple leaves (Acer rubrum), and a tupelo leaf.

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Last, but certainly not least, some very persistent blueberry leaves and some buds (probably Vaccinium corymbosum).


Icy Morning

It was a chilly 16 degrees out this morning. The swamp was icy.

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Tired of Looking

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Okay, I give up. Does anyone know which slime mold this is? I find it most frequently on decomposing pine logs. The sporangia are stalked and tend to turn brown with age. It's driving me crazy...
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