Denizens of the Yard

A quick turn about the yard this weekend revealed some critters that call our property home, too.

Under the stoop on the shady side of the yard we discovered a very well fed toad...

An eastern kingbird was sitting atop a pine, keeping an eye on the garden.  He eats an amazing number of insects!

Number 33 was on patrol along the path we keep mowed.  She is a beauty of a young box turtle.  We hope she spends many happy years with us here.

Out on the carport we spied a young praying mantis on the prowl.  We have had a bumper crop of mantids this year.

Cruising the edge of the yard, in a section of the property we maintain in an old field succession state, we noticed several spangled skimmers keeping an eye on things.  This one is a male.

I love the variety of life just outside my door.


A Battle Ensues

This time of year there is a war going on in our yard. It's a fight over who is going to get the blueberries...
We have a good stand of a variety of bushes, with the berries ripening at different times to prolong the harvest. Fresh blueberries at breakfast is one of the delights of the season.

It seems, though, that we aren't the only ones with a taste for the little nuggets.  A certain summer tanager has his sights set on them, too.  He discovered them last year and the long intervening winter did not cause him to forget them.  He is downright brazen about snatching the berries.  He'll sit on the adjacent grape vine, announce his intentions with a chatter, and dive right under the bird-netting to snag a berry.  Then it's back to the grape vine to nom it down.

The evidence of his crime...

That bird needs to go eat a bee and leave our blueberries alone.


A Few Pond Shots

A few shots of the pond taken yesterday afternoon...

I first laid eyes on this place the spring of 1978. Little did I know that I was peering into my future. Such a beautiful place and so full of wonder for those who take the time to explore.

Swamp rose, Rosa palustris

Blueberries growing on a stump out in the pond.


Is Something Bugging You?

Loads of critters are active in the yard this week. Treebeard was kind enough to provide perches for some so I could take some pictures.

Here we have a little whisper of a bug, a juvenile leaf-footed bug. It just assumed that Treebeard's hand was an extension of the plant it had been sitting on. One wonders how something that starts out so cute can become such a pain in the garden when it matures.

A rustle in the weeds drew our attention to this shield-backed katydid. She didn't take kindly to being caught and set about munching on Treebeard's hand. She put her weight behind it, too ;) Katydids in general have some pretty strong jaws and they can deliver an impressive pinch when they are this size.

Last, but by no means least, we have a pale jumping spider. Yes, I know, it isn't particularly pale. That's because this one is a male. The common name comes from the appearance of the female -- she is pale. Whenever we hold spiders we are very gentle. So far neither of us has been bitten. Spiders are not out to get you (FC, SIL, Maineac, et al)
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Mug Shots

If you plan on walking our property line down near the swamp, watch your step. We have some ornery neighbors down that way and they aren't shy about walking across our land.

Common snapping turtle

Looks like it's been doing some muddin'.

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Raccoon "Cookies"

Sorry the picture is a tad blurry -- blame it on the low light conditions in my kitchen. So, why would one create such cookies? For a scat ID program, of course! Besides, they are quite tasty. Want one?

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Flowers Along the River

Our day along the river yielded more than fish. Tucked along the bank here and there was a nice variety of flowering plants...

A viburnum -- most likely Arrow-wood

American snowbell

Blueflag iris

Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium sp.)

Lance-leaved violet


Fishing on the Chowan

Treebeard and I fished the Chowan River last Monday. We caught a nice variety of fish, but we didn't keep any of them.  Several of the bluegill we caught were definitely big enough to keep though.

Something with a large mouth had hold of this bluegill at some point. Except for the nasty looking wounds, the fish seemed to be okay. Treebeard said it put up a fight when he caught it. I hope it heals up.

Around here this fish is known as a speckle or a speckled perch.  Some of you may call it a black crappie.

Only one largemouth bass managed to be caught during our trip.  Treebeard caught it.  That was fine with me.  I don't care much for bass.

Sometimes you see some odd things when you're fishing.  This shellcracker, a.k.a. redear sunfish, had an unusual shape.

I thought this pumpkin seed that I caught was the prettiest fish of the day.  The photo doesn't do justice to its colors.

My vote for least attractive fish of the day goes to this warmouth, a.k.a. chub robin or goggle eye.  You can see where the goggle eye name comes from, I don't know how chub robin came about.

We caught several yellow perch.  Raccoon perch is what folks around here call them.
They have a pretty red pelvic fin.

We also caught a number of white perch.  These are tasty fish :)

Last, but not least, here is the one robin that was caught.  These are also called redbreast sunfish.

We had a nice day on the river.  There were a few large power boats out, but the kayaks handled the wakes with grace.


Lupines in Bloom

Treebeard and I spent the day on the Chowan River on Monday. On the way in to our launch point, we enjoyed the sights of lupines in bloom in the Sandbanks.


Down in the Ditch

Once a year there is paddle madness along this historic canal. Hundreds of kayaks and canoes launch from the park where I work and head north into Virginia. The paddle is a tad over 7 miles and attracts paddlers of all skill levels. Thankfully, this Saturday was bright and beautiful with temps in the upper 60s to lower 70s. Everyone seemed to enjoy the paddle -- even those folks I had to remind to don their life jackets as per the rules of the event ;)

Three miles into the paddle, boats prepare to cross the state line.

There were several craft powered by peddling. They were popular with tired paddlers who wanted to catch a tow for a while. This lady was kind enough to let her friends hitch a ride for a bit.

I usually direct traffic during the unloading of the boats for the event, but this year I got to ride in a chase boat. It was a nice change of pace.