Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sunset---in the East?

The sun was setting as we were coming back from the garden. But unlike many evenings, the colorful display was in the East.

Who could get tired of looking at the sky?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Glimpse of the Magnificent

On a recent Sunday afternoon, B and I were heading home from the lighthouse, when I spotted a very large bird sailing across the sky. With binoculars, I was able to identify it as a Magnificent Frigatebird. Not friggin,' Frigate. It is also  known as the Man-o-War, or Man of War, bird.

I had never seen one here in the Panhandle, though I have in places south of here. I have not mastered the technique of photographing flying birds, but I gave it my best shot(s) until it disappeared behind clouds. This was the only one that was close to focused.

Sadly, you cannot see its deep swallowtail. You have no concept of how large it is: the wingspan may be more than 7 feet. This one was a juvenile with lighter feathers on the head.  The males have these amazing red gular sacs (throat pouches) that they inflate to impress the gals. They are truly impressive birds and it felt like a privilege to see it.

For better pictures, click on this webpage:

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sunday, September 23, 2012

At the Buttonbush Buffet

Things were really aflutter at the Buttonbush Buffet last Sunday. The gulf fritillaries are gathering along the panhandle coast to begin their migration flight across the Gulf of Mexico. Before they left they found the nectar of the buttonbushes and other plants irresistible.

Upon closer inspection, I saw that there were also lovebugs enjoying the spheres.

 And when I looked even closer, I saw this tiny, orange, white and black striped moth. It is called a microlepidoptera because of its size. It also has a species name, but I did not find that.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Diamond in the Rough

Our path crossed with this diamondback rattler.

We ssssssusssspect that from head to toe--er, tail--it was about four feet long.

We watched as it sssssssslowly crossed the pavement and went into the swampy woods.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Going Nowhere---or Somewhere!

Our son gave his wife a nifty device for her birthday. With a new baby, she was missing her bike rides. So the device allows her to use her bike as a stationary bike while the baby naps or plays in view. It easily disconnects when they are ready to take to the trails in the neighborhood.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Wonders of Woolly Bears

This woolly bear caterpillar was feasting on our new broccoli plants so we scooped it off and I took it to school. I already had a tank set up with gulf fritillaries, monarchs and swallowtails, so what was one more mouth to feed? I fed this one salad. When it started hanging upside down, we thought it was beginning to make its cocoon, but it chose a spot in the very top of the screened roof.

Woolly bears have been used as prognosticators of the severity of the upcoming winter. Several communities in America even have wooly bear festivals.

When I was researching what else it would eat BESIDES our broccoli, I made what is to me an amazing discovery. Woolly bear caterpillars live within the arctic circle where they have such a short eating season as a caterpillar that they cannot go through their cycles in one year. In winter, their bodies freeze solid and their hearts stop until the spring thaw. Then they come out of the ground, eat and do it all again, year after year. Some woolly bears live at least 22 years!! Eventually, they become a moth, mate and die within a few days.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Mailbox Monday: For Hotmail

I cannot imagine that it could be a working hydrant.
Maybe they are just dog lovers?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Softy for Softshells

There is a spot along the lighthouse road where we have seen softshell turtles on several occasions. These turtles are found mostly in Florida but range to other states in the extreme southeast. On a recent trip we saw one of these jump into the air, flip around and almost sprint back into the vegetation as a truck passed it without slowing at all. We watched, stunned and thoroughly amused to see a large turtle behaving in such a way. I read that softshells are among the fastest turtles on land. The jump and flip combo was amazing!

I love their flippery feet and their snorkely nose.

I did not get very close to this turtle; I used the zoom lens as they have powerful jaws and do bite. Look at  how translucent its skin is!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Time and Temperature

Two things that I want to know: the time and the temperature. Time, I will admit to being somewhat compulsive about: I sleep in a watch --and I only buy watches that have a glow-in-the-dark button. Temperature? I joke and say that I want to know how hot or cold I am.

This little battery-operated digital thermometer hangs outside our bedroom window. The other morning I opened the shade to check the temperature to discover it was a nice seventy-tree (frog) degrees.

Do you think it was waiting for me to open the shade to see the big digital clock on B's side of the bed to know what time it was? 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Slinky Skink

Skinks and green anoles come uninvited into our screen porch. We have so many on the  property that I guess it is inevitable. B is very handy with a dip net and can  usually scoop them up. I am more handy as a door opener. In the first picture, this little guy was enjoying a sip of water from a tiny puddle on a hot, hot day.

It looks like its new tail is almost complete. Will humans ever have such ability to regrow lost parts?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Crab Spider Camou

While cutting zinnias in the garden, I try to keep an eye out for bugs of all kinds. This crab spider uses camouflage to make itself all but disappear.

Last year there was a pink one on a pink zinnia out there.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


This is a phone picture-- and not a wonderful one at that. It shows a tiny green anole that had tucked itself into the petals of a medium-sized zinnia during a rain shower. You can see that it had managed to add a pink stripe to its back to aid in its camouflage. Nice trick!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Mailbox Monday: The Bottom of the Barrel

Fifty-five gallon drums are so multipurpose! Burn barrels, rain barrels, mailboxes,...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Wipe Your Feet!

On Saturday morning, B and I were enjoying another cup of coffee on the porch when he noticed tiny, wet tracks on the top (roof) screen. They ran all around, sometimes in circles. Our best guess is that an anole left them behind. I took a half dozen pictures, trying to be able to show the tracks, but it was pretty useless. If you look hard in the blue part, you can make out some if you click on the picture. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Turkeys in the Pouring Rain

We came upon these turkeys feeding in the field while it was pouring rain. 

We sat in the truck on the dirt road and counted thirteen.

This younger one looks a little wet.

It seemed there was always a sentinel on guard. At one point, this one appeared to charge us!

One morning this past week, I saw another dozen turkeys feeding in a rural yard on my way to school. That evening, we saw 4 wild hogs feeding by U.S. 27 as we were coming home from the garden. I always feel so blessed when I see wildlife like this.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Something Fishy Going On

We stopped in the truck to watch disturbances in three or four places in the brackish water beside the lighthouse road.

While disturbances are common, this was different: there were heads sticking up out of the water, swimming around.

 We thought at first of bullfrog tadpoles, but it was fish.

If you click on the picture,  you can see their eyes!

Very curious.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cat on a Hot (Shingled) Roof

The other day, I noticed this kitty pretending to be a red-shouldered hawk. The hawks in our neighborhood have a tendency to perch on the pitch.

It had more than one option for descent, so we were not concerned it might be stuck.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Flight Aware: Very Aware

Let me start by saying that I am not by nature a worrier. I know worriers. I have lived with worriers. But that is not how I live. Part of it is my faith, for sure. But it is also that I  consciously prefer not to spend time in the great state of Worry. It is a waste of energy that can be better spent in my other activities.

Now with that out of the way, let me tell you that our younger son has a way of pushing my no-worries limits. Like the time he went as a teen to the back country of Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico and we did not hear from him for about a month. These were pre-cell phone days, for sure, but I'm pretty certain that postcards could be mailed from the base camp.  Then there was the time he went winter backpacking in snow drifts in North Carolina. He ended up caring for a girl with hypothermia. In high school, he had an externship where he helped feed panthers and bald eagles-- teeth, talons and all.

So now, he has been in South Africa for the last three weeks and we have been watching to track  his progress back to the U.S. ---all 16 hours and 14 minutes of it. Most of the trip is over the Atlantic Ocean. His research work there required that he have an armed game guard to watch out for charging rhinos, elephants and lions and such. But it is the long, long flight that makes me the most uncomfortable.

He has been to Africa before as an undergraduate a few years ago. During that first long flight, we were also tracking him when the plane did an unscheduled U-turn, landing on an island off the north African coast. After quite a while, I called Delta to see what was up. Their answer of, "Well, they were not supposed to do that!" was not all that reassuring. Eventually, we learned that the place they were supposed to refuel was fogged  in and they could not land. So they were redirected to an island. But of course, no one had a passport for that country, so everyone was kept onboard until the fog lifted and they were able to go to the refueling place and continue on to South Africa. And once we knew, we started breathing again.

Furthermore, his previous trip was ultimately to Namibia, where many wild animals live. But perhaps the greater risk was the war left-overs: ordinances left in place with grass growing over the top in the fields where he was conducting research. That, and the not-well-marked border with Angola.

So here is his track home:
He left Johannesburg at 2:25 our time.

The gap between these two pictures is when I went to sleep for the night. No worries. (mostly).
Lots of prayers, though.

He arrived in Atlanta at 6:25 A.M and, eventually, back to Columbia, Missouri by 2:30 Eastern Time.

As an after note: we  talked to him every weekend and could text most any time. And his postcard arrived in today's mail! We are so thankful for this amazing opportunity for  him and so thankful he is back safely.

Here is the link to his blog that he wrote while he was gone:

It is full of wildlife photographs!

I was sent this a few years ago and I thought it was so fascinating I have kept it and feel it is appropriate to share it now. Africa is HUGE!