Herpetology

For reasons I cannot fathom, my husband does not find countless turtle pictures nearly as interesting as I do.  So, here you go:

This gal came up onto the lawn (sand pile) as my second big turtle (snapper, rather than red-eared) sighting for the season.  Note the bit of shell (a “scute”) that is peeling at the rear of her shell.

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She wasted no time in circling, laying and heading back to the lake.

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Much to my surprise I can remain motionless for a long time propped up on my elbows on a paint-peeled porch to capture film of insanely slow (deliberate? patient?) mama turtles.  I do not envy them even a tiny bit.

I believe that the very next day I had my third snapper sighting in a week.

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I think she’s lovely.  Clearly I missed my calling about thirty years ago.

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I especially like how these ladies come to handle their business without regard for the slugs and leaves they are dragging with them.  But then again I’ve spent only limited time with jelly-and-snot strewn children and so probably should not be surprised at all that this mama hasn’t got time to fix herself up.

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Unfortunately their eggs do not survive the night.  Ever. A track left in the sand matched near the eggs left by this turtle matched up with a weasel print.  We also have a skunk that does nightly rounds at about the time my old lady dog needs to go out.  Not sure who to blame.  The first night (maybe after my first turtle, posted a few days ago) I put a milk crate over the eggs (or over the hole in which she’d hidden the eggs about six inches down under hard-packed dirt) and put three pieces of slate on top to anchor it down.  A critter climbed into the crate and dug out the eggs.

So….

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Being heavy on ambition and light on talent, I rigged up a milk crate that was not only anchored with slate but surrounded by it too.  Of course I have never played that video game (Tetrus?) where you make shapes fit together and I nearly failed tenth grade geometry, so I had to include some sticks into the bargain…

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Honestly, if you don’t love me yet there must be something wrong with you.  I kill me.  I think my husband may want to kill me…

Despite my undeniable cleverness, the eggs were eaten.  A weasel (I matched a print) dug a lovely hole under this Hunger-Games like apparatus.

Here is what I’ve learned: my dogs like to eat turtle egg shells and the little kids around the corner are young enough to believe me when I tell them the egg shell remains belong to already-hatched turtles.  Oh – and half a turtle shell fits on child’s fingertips as nicely as do black Thanksgiving olives.

And just when you think the turtles and weasels couldn’t be anymore entertaining, along comes a door toad:

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Now I need to sleep.  And then (alas!!) I need to earn some income.  Had to get these photos out to you so I can focus on much less exciting things.

A Turtle in the Field and A Rainbow in Someone’s Cloud

Late last week I was so pleased to glance up and see the clouds had given way to a sunset that threw orange light on the lake, an apology for seven weeks of clouds and rain.

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Several nights later, after a rain that fell briefly from angry clouds, I looked out toward the fields and saw a double rainbow.   I do not recall what I thought about rainbows when I was a little girl, although today these multicolored arcs made by light striking water droplets inspire joy and sorrow.  I always feel like I’ve won a prize at the fair when I am treated to the sight of a rainbow (single or double).  But I am also reminded of two particular individuals who’ve departed too soon from earth, at separate times and compliments of distinct cancer diagnoses.  What do rainbows mean to you?

In Maya Angelou’s Letter to My Daughter (Random House, 2008) she urges the reader to “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”  I think she was on to something.  I notice she didn’t say, “But only if they look like you or vote like you or smile at you first.”

Today’s weather would have required that we be a fan in somebody’s window.  Today was hot.  I mean HOT.  For Maine, anyhow.  Ozone levels were dangerously high, which should be no surprise since Maine’s geographic location makes us the “tail pipe” of the nation.  That is, pollution from other states blows in on the Gulf Stream and dirties up our air and lungs.

So it seems like maybe today was too hot for this snapper to climb two hundred feet up the slope of our yard to lay eggs.

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I feel like this old gal is plain tired and grouchy, but I’m probably reading her all wrong.

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Eventually she headed for the rock wall that separates lawn from forest.

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Hiding in the leaves – or resting in the shade?

turtle hide and seekHer handy work below.  May not look like much to us, but it means the world to her (even if she wouldn’t quite put it that way.)

turtle egg siteI’d rather have a backyard that creates breeding habitat for wildlife than a manicured lawn that grows lush with chemical assistance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Least Among Us (Or, of Damselflies and Svalbard)

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Blue-tailed damselfly (male, I believe) on lupine plant outside my house several nights ago.

Interesting fact:  There is a global seed vault (the Svalbard Global Seed Vault) buried in a mountain on an island in the Arctic Circle.  The seeds in the vault are meant to give us food for that fun post-apocalypse era when we are rebuilding life on earth.  Indeed, this vault is known as the “Doomsday Vault.”  This is feel good stuff, right?  The location of the vault was supposed to have been perfect – able to withstand nuclear war and natural disasters.  This winter, however, climate change caused the permafrost to melt to such an extent that the doorway to the vault flooded.

What does this have to do with damselflies in my backyard?  Nothing and everything, I suppose.  Only that climate change is real and horrifying and the Trump Administration is rolling back environmental regulations that will protect this planet for future generations.

Mad about all the ticks in your yard, on your pets, on your children? Global warming.

Can’t breath on bad ozone days?  Maine is the “tailpipe” of the nation.  In other words, air pollution flows in our direction due to the gulf stream and other air patterns.  As a result, Maine has some of the highest rates of asthma in the United States.

Do you eat Atlantic Salmon once a week?  Splurge on Maine scallops when they are in stock?  Someday you may not be able to buy them in Hannaford or Shaws or wherever you buy your groceries.  These fish and shellfish are among the most vulnerable to climate change and may be wiped out.

Each day Washington rolls out a new plan that will help the wealthy and to hell with everyone else.  Indeed, we seem to be marching straight into the fire.

Stay clear-eyed and brave.  Look around you – literally.  Spin in a circle.  Gaze ten feet ahead of, then as far as you can see.  What difference can you make in your yard? In your neighborhood?  In your town or city?  If we cannot reach out to hold up the least among us then maybe a seed vault future is what we deserve.

Small Hurricanes

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Fun fact:  Bumblebees sweep their wings back and forth (rather than up and down) to fly.  The angle of their wings also creates vortices in the air — like small hurricanes. The eyes of those mini-hurricanes have lower pressure than the surrounding air, so keeping those eddies of air above its wings helps the bee stay aloft.  (http://www.livescience.com/57509-bumblebee-facts.html)

But before we get to the bumblebees, we need to acknowledge the rain.  I’m trying to learn to love the things I hate, and what better way to do this than to honor the rain with a poem snippet:

Let the rain kiss you. 

Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. 

Let the rain sing you a lullaby.

                      – Langston Hughes (April Rain Song)

So what’s new in my neighborhood?  Nothing and everything, I guess.

The blossoms on the magnolia tree in our yard came and went under a spring sky that hung low and gray for better than a month.  The sweet fragrance of the petals was a balm to winter-worn spirits.

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Bloom time is brief, only about two weeks.  Unfortunately two days of rain and wind pulled the petals loose earlier than I might have liked.

I was feeling rather triumphant about a half dozen scrawny tulips in my flower bed until yesterday, when I was feeling baffled about the missing petals.  My lilac tree boasts five flowers this year, so that is a victory for sure.  (Our backyard is a super-highway for hungry deer.)

When the rain finally let up (about three days ago) I made my way over leaf litter down to our water’s edge to watch the sky for something impressive.  I startled an adult eagle and a great blue heron out of a pine tree and the cattails, respectively.   There was a bird in the osprey nest that I watched last summer, but my camera couldn’t pick up a good image so I’m not sure what I was seeing.  I could hear the osprey and I saw one hunting for dinner.  I also have had fun this spring watching the osprey come into our yard (and the neighbor’s) to take sticks for its nest.  Stayed tuned for a nest update.

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Aside from black flies and the mystery nest guest, I found a pretty crazy looking mushroom growing up out of the pine needles.

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Knowing I couldn’t possibly top the excitement of great fungus photos, I retreated to the house.  And that is when I decided the bumblebees deserved my attention.

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Anyone who has read this far into this post likely cares enough about nature to know that Honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder (“CCD” or “Oh dear, where are the bees?”) has become a serious problem.  But who cares, really?  They buzz in your ear.  Maybe sting you.  Good riddance to bugs that won’t quit bugging us!  What does it matter anyway?

Except that it does matter.  Bees pollinate 35% of the world’s food.  In 2015, 42% of bee colonies collapsed due to a combination of climate change, habitat loss and pesticides.

What can you do to help?  Hold off on the Roundup, for starters.  If you feel you can’t live without pesticides, at least consider organic pesticides, which are safer for bees.  You might also consider buying at least one bee-friendly plant, or go wild and buy several.  For tips on how to get started check out The Honeybee Conservancy website:  http://thehoneybeeconservancy.org/plant-a-bee-garden/.

Even during dark political times, I remind myself of a quote that I had taped to my bedroom bulletin board through all of my high school years:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

     –  Margaret Mead

In other words, plant a flower for a honeybee.