Thursday, November 13, 2008

Come hike with me...

I looooooove to hike. Love it! We usually go once a week, but if I could I'd probably go every single day.
Fall is my very favorite season for hiking. When the leaves turn a spectacular array of colors, the world begins to take on an unnatural feel. The wind blows and the leaves gently float down like confetti. Sometimes the intense blue sky and vivid leaf color literally stops me in my tracks, and I just stand and stare for a while (which I'm told is rather annoying).
Then, from staggering bursts of fall color we merge into the cold, dead look of winter. Of course, winter does have its benefits..... you can more easily see old footpaths and rock walls that are overgrown in summer, and...... snow!! I'm eagerly awaiting the first of the season.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mollusk in my driveway

What a pretty snail. I keep finding the most interesting creatures around our house. This one was in my driveway while I was unloading groceries and I could have nearly stepped on it! It is about 2 inches long fully extended. Check out this diagram of snail anatomy - fascinating! Not being much of a biologist, I'd never given much thought to the subject. I do have a small collection of tiny empty shells, gathered mostly from the tennis courts where we used to live. (click photos to enlarge)

I took a bit of video as well... it let me get so close and I was mesmerized by the slow and graceful movements of this gastropod.

Friday, November 7, 2008

It's a rainy day....

.... so let's look at my terrariums! They're so green and cheerful in my kitchen window. Made from recycled jars and bottles, gravel, potting soil, spanish moss, and a variety of green mosses. I did not include charcoal for aeration, I remove and replace the lids in a cycle over the day and I'll see how that goes.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

It's crow season again!

When I say that, I don't mean it in a Daffy Duck/Bugs Bunny "rabbit season! duck season!" kind of way. What I do mean is that we've reached the time of year when the various crow clans around our city start gathering together in the evenings and roost together overnight in a massive flock, a "murder".

For several years I've observed them flocking to one location in particular as dusk approaches. Occasionally they gather in other spots within a mile of that 'headquarters'. These locations vary over time - I've seen them abandon two locations due to human interference (ie: clear-cutting of trees). I've not stayed around to see if they roost at HQ or move onward to another area, but I hope to find out this season.

As you can see I am quite interested in crows (and ravens) (and birds in general) and that led me to an interesting discovery. Crow calling. I ran across crow calls in the hunting department of Bass Pro (I do NOT hunt), and decided to purchase one. I wondered if it would really work to get their attention and bring them near so I could get a better look at them.

Successful? Oh Yes. I'd say my crow caller has about an 80% success rate of bringing crows in when I use it, if not better. The first time I tried it out in the mountains (where we often hear crows cawing), we were swarmed by a small stormtrooper-like squadron that circled the treetops for a couple minutes and made such a huge racket!

Sometimes when I call crows, they answer back but keep their distance and don't fly in closer to investigate. They usually seem to respond most strongly to caws in bursts of 5, 7 and 9, as opposed to lesser numbered or even numbered caws. Oddly enough, this is similar with my own bird (a cockatiel) - he responds best to and prefers to mimic sequences of 5 or 7 finger-taps upon his cage bottom or a table top (he hammers back like a woodpecker).

This video was taken last weekend in the mountains. Sorry for the Blair Witch-like visual, you can't see much but the sound is OK :-) We were in an area which crows frequent, and we heard them cawing in the distance. I got out my caller and sent out a sequence of 7 calls. Within about 30 seconds two came to investigate us. As usual, we stood still and watched as the crows circled above the trees. A third did a single fly-by and left. The two who stayed were very vocal, and we heard others probably about a mile away but they did not come. One mostly perched in a treetop while the other circled around. I gave 5 caws, then 4 caws (they responded well to both), then after about a minute they headed onward.

The most crows that have ever flown in after a call has been about 10, which can be rather unsettling when they get into full clamor. They always leave within a few minutes of locating us.

Crow quotes:
"Crow is an omen of change. Crow lives in the void and has no sense of time. The Ancient Chiefs tell us that Crow sees simultaneously the three fates - past, present and future. Crow merges light and darkness, seeing both inner and outer reality."