Sunday, June 28, 2009
Perhaps I could consolidate the two: a Barn Swallow in flight, harnessed and trailing Michael Jackson through the sky. Throw in a little Shakespeare, “True hope is swift, and flies with swallow’s wings,” and you’ve got yourself a world class devolving dollar bill.
All Barn Swallows migrate, some far as Argentina and South Africa. Swallow tattoos are a tradition amongst sailors symbolizing long journeys and safe returns. A sailor gets his first tattoo after traveling 5,000 nautical miles. These Barn Swallows occupy a friend’s barn here in Phippsburg. There are ten nests, each one with 4-5 chicks. They usually lay twice in a summer, so that’s about 100 baby swallows from that barn each year. The success rate of the broods is about 75%. That’s a lot of swallows! Sitting in the barn, watching them zoom in and out feeding their chicks practically requires an umbrella. The barn owner has every square inch draped with plastic and paper, a sort of canvas for the splatter, like a Jackson Pollock painting without the talent.
Their mud pellet nests are repaired and reused for 10-15 years, but have been documented to have been used for 48 years! That’s a dilemma for a barn owner. The nests could be destroyed, forcing the swallows to rebuild. After all, what did Barn swallows do before barns? They nested in more precarious places, such as overhangs on cliffs. In the Northeast, they nest under Osprey nests. It’s a reciprocal arrangement where the birds of prey drive away other predatory birds while the swallows gobble up the flies accumulating in the rotten fish scraps in the Osprey nest. Barn swallows have thrived in our company and our safe structures for their nests. We also tolerate these flying guano machines for their fine dining on flying insects. Swallows have always been one of my favorite birds. Their zooming flight is like my mind - an elegant, dark thing tearing through a dim barn, resulting in a lot of crap.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Just a little break from the denizens of the damp, those that lurk, slither, writhe and snap. This is a White Admiral butterfly. On the peony, its wings are open. After it moved to a leaf of Raspberry Wine bee balm, it closed its wings. I took these shots late in the day as the sun was near to setting. The cool evening light brings out the blues in the rhododendron blossoms. These photographs were taken in my garden.
I was asked how I moved the Snapper I had photographed and if I had just happened to have a snow shovel in my car. Because I'm a gardener, my car is a traveling tool box, so shovel? Yes. After all, I was able at a moment's notice to de-bone a full sized Wild turkey on the side of the road. Now, that's preparedness! The turkey was, however, dead. It did not fight back nor was I expecting it to do so. Other than some necrotizing flesh eating bacterial disease that I might have contracted, there was little risk to my well being. That Snapper, on the other hand, could have done me real damage. I did not move it. I left her to her own devices including crossing a major road and wished her well. In this video, a woman who obviously has experience, intervenes and moves them. If you have any doubt what so ever about how fast this turtle can be, watch this video. I jumped when I watched it. You might want to have a good, stiff Scotch before you watch this.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Mallards are our largest dabbling ducks. They are found everywhere from urban ponds and drainage ditches to large lakes. Up the road from us in Bath, there is an outdoor hockey rink. Every spring when the ice finally thaws, there is a pair of Mallards that hang around in the melt water. I look forward to them as a sign of spring. These ducks were photographed in the wild in their 'natural' habitat. The female below is clearly a Mallard and has the classic orange and black bill and dark eye line, elegant! We'll call her Maybelline. The male appears to be crossed with some other kind of duck. I'm guessing by his mottled cheeks that his parents were a mix of Mallard and domestic duck (Mallard X domestic) which is common. Or, perhaps since we've had heavy rain here for almost two weeks straight, it could be mold. Even ducks have their limits of how much water they can take! I vote for mold. I will confess that I didn't get out of my car for the shots. I had gone to a garden center and purchased plants for a customer. My car was as loaded as it could be with greenery. My car usually looks like it is operated by a headless driver because I'm so short. This day, my car looked as if it were being operated by shrubs. So, when I saw the ducks in the marsh as I was whizzing along, I was able to pull right up to them. They didn't take any notice of the moving bushes. I was able to put down my window and shoot through the four foot tall Japanese irises in the passenger's seat. Leon Leonwood of L.L. Bean fame couldn't have come up with better camo. than that!
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Calvin "Clicker" Embry talks a little funny these days. You would, too if a 15-pound snapping turtle ever latched onto your tongue and wouldn't let go.
This bizarre story started to unfold just before dusk this past Fourth of July. Embry, 41, a laborer from Wayne City, Ill., was at a local fireworks display when one of his buddies asked if he'd show everybody how he can hypnotize a snapping turtle and kiss him right on the snout.
"I started doing this trick years ago, and it's a great crowd pleaser," the legendary turtle hunter said. "I guess I've kissed about a hundred snappin' turtles and never been bit — until this last time."
Embry just happened to have a 15-pound "snapper" with him at the fireworks show, and he proceeded to demonstrate his bizarre animal hypnotism routine.
"I got him out of the truck, tilted him down at just the right angle and started rubbin' his belly," Embry said. "If you do it just right, they get all relaxed and everything and you can kiss 'em right on the snout."
Well, Embry did everything the same way he had the previous hundred times, but something went wrong.
"I must have tilted him the wrong way, 'cause he woke up," Embry said. "I can usually kiss him on the snout, then lick their eyeballs before they wake up, but something went really wrong."
What went wrong was the 15-pound turtle woke up and latched onto Embry's tongue as he was preparing to lick the creature's eyeballs.
"When it happened, everybody started running around like crazy and were yelling," Embry said. "Do you know how hard it is to talk with a 15-pound snappin' turtle hanging off the end of your tongue?"
Embry finally was able to communicate to a friend to get a knife and stick it into the turtle's mouth and work it back and forth. "They'll let go every time," Embry said.
Once his friend had pried the turtle off his tongue, "Clicker" decided it was time to go to the emergency room to see what was left of his tongue.
"That doctor hadn't ever seen anything like this, so he took some pictures for the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine," Embry said. "I got a tetanus shot and he sent me home."
Embry later saw his family physician and got some antibiotics. The chunk of tongue that's missing makes "Clicker" talk a little funny, but it's not serious enough to stop him from kissing snapping turtles on the snout or licking their eyeballs.
"I kept that old turtle and will probably have him mounted by a taxidermist one of these days," Embry said. "For now, though, I'm keeping his water changed every day and don't have any plans to dress him out."
If anyone's keeping score, that's "Clicker" Embry 100, snappin' turtles 1.
n Contact Len Wells at (618) 842-2159 or email@example.com
Monday, June 22, 2009
Oh ya! Isn't she pretty?
Friday, June 19, 2009
"Back off, Lady! The chick is mine!"
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Queen of the night skies, this Cecropia Moth is nocturnal. Though not rare, for this reason, not often seen. Of the family Saturniidae, she is the largest silk moth. She is the largest moth in North America with a wingspan of 5-6 inches. This one is 5 1/2 across and a female that was laying eggs while being photographed. Have you no shame, woman?! She will live about two weeks, never eating only laying eggs and seeking a mate. She emits a pheromone to attract a male which they can detect in the air from as far as a mile away. Who needs Chanel?
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
This is a video I made a year ago of various photographs of birds. You know the drill, give it a minute to buffer or it will get cranky. At the bottom of the video box is a little button for full screen viewing which you might like better than this itty bitty doll house movie. It's a soothing movie, but in deference to Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill One and Kill Bill Two), I've given you part two first. Go figure.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Even the birds are sick of all the rain we've had. They sit around sulking. Ever seen a bird pout? Well I have. These crows appear to be a mated pair. The female is on the right, I think. She was grooming the boyfriend repeatedly. "Awe, come on, fella! You can make it! This will end soon, I promise. It always does. Don't let yourself go to pot over it."
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Lathyrus japonicus-Beach Peas
The Vietnam War and the Sexual Revolution flavored the background for my teenage development. I entered the sixties as an innocent five year old and came out a jaded fifteen year old. By the time the decade closed, I had done drugs and had sex. So, as 1970 dawned, I was sure that war was wrong and that everybody should have sex whenever they wanted. Now, forty years later, I’m not so sure. Theoretically, the more years a person lives the wiser they should be, but for me, the opposite is true. With every breath taken I’m less certain because the older I’ve become, the more times my core values have been tested. When I walked in on my son, then later, my daughter having sex the test was huge! Each of them was older than I was the first time I had sex, but still - I was appalled. How dare they! Not my children! They may disagree, but I think I was cool about it. There weren’t any dramatic scenes and they were each suitably mortified. I was ultimately, more taken aback by my own gut reaction than about what they were doing. First, I was sure that my generation had invented sex. Certainly, this was true because my parents never had sex. Ugh! Oh shudder and wince; what a revolting thought! And my dear sweet little children would never have sex because now we know: I would kill them! So what was my horror about? Wasn’t it perfectly natural and to be expected? It was very okay for me when I was a teenager, why wasn’t it okay for them? Many nights I wrestled with that crocodile; hypocrisy floundered in a swamp of dreams. I concluded that natural as it is, teenage sex is not sanctionable (easy enough since I’d already had my teenage sex!). When children have sex, they are not prepared to be responsible for the consequences of their actions. I know I wasn’t, even though I thought I was. After all, I knew everything there was to know. The life altering fallout of disease and unwanted pregnancy seemed even manageable to my naïve mind.
Now that I wrapped that up with a nice bow for my psyche, that brings me to war. I wish that was as clear. Ideally, I would like to say that I’m opposed to war. I’m opposed to the death penalty so it should be clear, right? But, what if somebody intends to do harm to those precious children having sex like rabbits in your living room? Do you stand back or do you fight back? My response to hurting the ones I love would be damned primal; I’d hurt the other guy if it came right down to it. I’d mangle the beast that messed with my kids. I know this because I’m the mother of the rabbits. That’s taught me that I’m capable of things my intellectual mind thinks repugnant or just impossible. I’d like to think of myself as more evolved than the aghast mother who stood slack jawed while her daughter and the pimple faced boyfriend scrambled for clothes. But, I’m not. I’d like to think that I’m sophisticated enough to rise above my fear for my own losses to not wage war. But, I know I’m not. After all, I did have sex in my parent’s house while wearing a training bra. The drives are basic.
Fort Popham, built of granite in the 1840s, sits where the Kennebec River meets the Atlantic Ocean. At the end of the school year, teachers take students there for a last dose of history, a romp on the beach and at the old fort. These kids were throwing sea weed, screaming and daring each other to go into the cold water when this destroyer appeared. It’s a Bath Iron Works Littoral Combat Ship, the U.S. Navy’s first Trimaran war ship. Designed for speed and maneuverability, at 419 feet long, it was awe-inspiring. I wish that we could design a better way to settle our differences on the globe and defend our rabbits. I wish that teachers could tell kids about old forts and destroyers as truly things of our human past. I hope I never am a shocked, bewildered mother screaming “Not my child!” if one is lost to war.
The Spring Azure butterfly is a little guy, only about the size of a nickle. This one was enjoying the Beach Peas at Popham, but usually they prefer woodlands.
Rock Doves (feral pigeons) have nested in the observation slits in the granite fort.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
While brushing my teeth and still in my bathrobe, I saw this oddly shaped bird fly by. I threw down the toothbrush and flew for my camera. There on the top rail of the pier was this Black Crowned Night Heron. It's mate was standing off a ways on the rocks. What a beauty! I have not seen one of these since, according to my records, 1991. They are common, but not commonly seen as they are nocturnal. Fish eaters, they shop where other herons do, but grab rather than skewer their meal. On that note, I think I'll try brushing my teeth again.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Anonymous recently asked me if my brain ever shuts off. “Where do your ideas come from? Do you wake up thinking of this stuff ?” Yes, I wake up thinking of this stuff, I go to sleep thinking of this stuff and sometimes I dream this stuff. My brain never shuts off. A kaleidoscope of thoughts constantly turns inside my head. Everything I see turns the barrel a notch changing the colors. It’s maddening and exhausting. I wake up feeling like I've been at meetings all night long, meetings where no one read Roberts Rules Of Order. I just live with squirrels in the attic. Medication helps, but that’s all: helps. It takes some of the edge off, allows me to sleep some, but not always.
That dog is gone
only he knows what.
Don’t know how
his rope,chain, noose
Thinks he can
To curl in
his patch of dirt
Rest up awhile
before he’s off
A half yelp in sleep
Only dogs hear.
his ears, jumps up
and he’s off
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
I put this 3 minute video together of my gardens and a couple of other shots which I have taken over the past two weeks. To view in full screen, click on the small square at the bottom right hand side of the video box. You know how computers can be: give the little darling a minute to buffer. Norah Jones sings "Come Away With Me." I hope you enjoy it; it's just something pretty.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
This photograph was taken with a cell phone then sent winging across the internet to me. It’s my grandmother's telephone. The number on the dial is still hers. Though if you call, she won't answer, because at ninety-nine, she lives in a nursing home. Nor would she remember that was her number. I can almost feel the warmth of my grandparent’s hands radiating from the receiver. They would have had that phone number probably since the late 1940s. It would only have had the last four digits; the prefix and then the area code would have been added later as the population increased. I remember when they had a party line. My grandmother was put out when the phone company told her that she couldn't have a party line anymore and would have to pay more money. I should probably disconnect it. Though my grandfather died sixteen years ago and then my grandmother lost her mind, to disconnect the phone and give up the number feels too final a disconnect from them. This doesn't make too much sense, because I don't visit my grandfather's grave anymore. I used to take my grandmother there and fix the grave site up every year. I would clip the shrubs on each side of the head stone, plant a couple of geraniums and smell the thyme creeping through the grass over my grandfather. Sometimes I'd lie on the grass and say things to him which amused my grandmother. But since she's been 'gone,' I don't bother anymore. I’ve heard that grave sites are rarely visited longer than three years after the burial anyway, but I still don't want to give up the phone number. My daughter, the one who wants to be an astronaut, the great-granddaughter of the phone owner, took the photograph. She regards that telephone as a Flintstonian antique and can’t get over the dial. It's as inconceivable to the budding astronaut that a phone line could be shared as the concept of the cell phone would be to my grandmother. There was a time when she might have found it fascinating that there was such a thing and beyond belief that it could include a camera. I'm not sure she could ever have grasped that additionally, the photograph wasn't on film and was sent through space to my house onto a computer. She has lived through the development of television and its integration into practically every home in the world, space travel and the invention of the computer. However, the telephone evolution would have been too much for her to handle. Communication was never her strong suit.
Once given the highfalutin' name Quiscalus quiscula, the Common Grackle was ignored. Maybe that's why they make so much noise. Could their raucous calling be a demand for respect and recognition? "Hey! Listen up! We are the Quiscalus quiscalaea from Mooselookmeguntic!" This ubiquitous bird has adapted well to man's presence on the earth. Not endangered in any way, it's a maurader that eats anything, even garbage. It's a crop raider descending on fields in whorling dark flocks and can strip a homeowner's feeders clean in no time. Pale yellow eyes and gleaming, metalic feathers evoke sinister armour. Lock your doors and hide the children! The Quiscalus quiscalaea are here!
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Friday, June 5, 2009
I took these shots a few days ago at the mouth of the Kennebec River by Fort Popham. There, the Ospreys and seals were busy catching Alewives, not the Sand Dabs that they are after at my house. When the Ospreys were right over my head, looking for fish, it looked like they were checking me out for lunch! They have impressively large, sharp talons which could scalp a girl in no time flat. That is, if they didn't become hopelessly tangled in my hair, which would be bad for us both. Who would you call in a situation like that? The fire department to come with the Jaws Of Life or a good hairdresser? It would be a wound that would be hard to explain in a hospital emergency room, especially if I was in my bathrobe.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
This is a juvenile Red squirrel. It is small enough that it could sit comfortably in the palm of your hand. They are destructive little critters that chew everything in site and will make a huge mess in an attic or eave. They are voracious bird seed eaters. We have platoons of them because we feed the birds, so we feed them, so they make more of themselves. We have altered the balance of nature in the course of promoting and enjoying a different aspect of nature: birds. The Red squirrels are almost at the point of being a problem for us that we will be obliged to do something about. But, then I look at this adorable little mug and think "What could I possibly do to hurt it?" I'll think of something.
The American Goldfinches are quite busy at the feeders. I give them what they want. How could I not when it looks into the window at me like that? There could be a million of them and I think I'd be glad, unlike the Red squirrels. Seems kind of unfair in a way, doesn't it?