Thursday, May 29, 2008

Not a fan of the hemavores

Today we got to do billable rare turtle surveys in combination with volunteer warbler surveys. We hit five sites. Ticks were bad at the first couple sites but it was nothing compared to the last site. Mind you I had sprayed myself with potent deet bugspray a couple times during the day. The last site I must have gotten at least 20 dog ticks on me. A bunch were in my hair even though it was all tucked in my hat. We were done early but I just couldn't stand to go back to the house with a bunch of ticks still on me. I went straight home and I combed my hair out and found another tick inside my shirt. I'm all showered and the clothes are in the wash. I finally can relax and get some work done.

No rare turtles were found. I spotted one large snapping turtle which I named Snappy. No pic of Snappy though. We did spot a luna moth while taking a break in the morning, which was cool. At our third stop which was the most boring of the bunch, a co-worker found this nest of three presumed baby song sparrows. Not so cute yet.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Thirsty Turtle

Sunday was supposed to be my turtle free day. I was going to run an errand in the morning and then the afternoon was going to be devoted to a wine festival. I was driving past my local wetland and I see a turtle on the shoulder of the road. I slam on my brakes and quickly turn around. Sure enough it's another spotted turtle. It's a real old dude and almost all his spots have been worn away. I don't have any equipment nor a real camera so he rode shotgun back to my place. It's only like a couple minute drive. Music is pumping but he is brave enough to come out of his shell and start to walk around. I get him home and take notes, measurements, and pics. Poor chap has lost his front left claw and he has a growth on his tail. He didn't seem to have a real idea of where he wanted to go on the road when I saw him. He wasn't crossing the road but was sitting parallel on it. I was concerned about putting him back where I found him and there really weren't any real wetlands in that spot. So I put him in the same wetland I found the other spotted turtle.

The wine festival was great. It was held at a former estate which is now owned by the County. I've been lucky enough to be inside that old mansion on the hill. I didn't know there were going to be so many wineries but we lucked out and the first one we hit was great and cheap. We had to be smart about our selections since it would be impossible to do full tastings at like 20 wineries. It was a cloudless awesome afternoon and I bought 6 bottles of wine.
Monday was spent doing household chores and getting my car's oil changed by my dad and brother. I decided to bring Cashew along to crawl around in the grass for the first time. At first, she was brave and craning her neck in amazement. Then she got freaked out and hid in her shell for at least 20 minutes. I got tired of waiting for a good camera opportunity so I put her back in the tupperware. She came out of her shell again and I let my mom and brother watch her in the grass. She walked around a little bit more (each time my mom squealed which probably didn't help the cause) and had a staredown with an ant. Then it was back to her tank for now. I'm running out of food so this weekend will be her release date. The weather is finally being consistently nice and warm and I found a good spot for her to go. It's going to be bittersweet but it's for the best.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Worse than trying to find a needle in a haystack

We've can only now go to turtle sites that may or may not have these rare turtles. I hit two of these sites Saturday morning with little luck. I did see a bunch of frogs and birds. Then I headed to my local wetland which may have this rare turtle as well. Of course, the area I am talking about is massive. I have yet to walk the entire area. When you look for these turtles, you are supposed to concentrate your efforts on the good habitat. It's tough to do when there is miles of area that has OK habitat. So it's like searching a hundred haystacks which may or may not contain one needle. It went from rare turtle search to find any turtle search. Then onto to walk in the woods. It didn't help that I received a call from a person I hadn't spoken to in awhile so we had catching up to do. I didn't want to trek through tough mucky and watery terrain while on the cell phone. I've seen too many cell phones get dropped into the muck. While on my woods hike, I stumbled upon my second fawn of the season.
I ran into two garter snakes as well. Then off to the other side of the road which also has potential rare turtle habitat. It quickly went from find any turtle search to find some irises to clip, bring home and put in a vase. Then I headed to woodchip trail in the woods to make it back to my car. Literally 20 feet from car, I saw a spotted turtle on the trail. Spotted turtles are one of my favorite kinds. Since I had all my equipment to measure and weigh the rare turtles, I worked this little chap up. Upon his release, he tried to dig himself into some wet leaves in the adjacent wetland. I had found a spotted turtle crossing this road years ago. I had helped it across the road. I was delighted to find one again and it's my first this season. I am pretty sure it's not the same one since the first one wasn't so smooth.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


A new leaf has been turned. I am back at out at the site next to the beaver lake. I arrived on time and the day went perfectly. One of our stops was at the alpaca farm portion of the site. Of course, I had to try to lure them over. Here they are before I tried to beckon them over.
"Mom" as I called it came over to check me out. Babies didn't follow.
Since I didn't have food, she quickly turned around. But note all the cute various colored babies who were newly shorn.
The beginning of the day yielded this mossy well in the woods. I can't remember what sort of fairy tale troll is associated with wells, but this certainly would be a good candidate. But alas no troll was inside the well.
Here's another bear scratch mark....but no other signs of them out in the expansive woods.
There were a bunch of awesome story book houses on the site. Here's the one I most covet. You can barely see, but it's a great view of the backyard since the house sits on a hill. If the above one doesn't work out, how about this one below? Alas, it's still out of my budget range.

The only thing I can afford is the fixer upper. That's more like my price range. It comes complete with live in wildlife. I harvested some lily of valley in its backyard. They are now potted and on my deck. I clipped some past prime lilac and changed my mind once I realized that they were infested with bugs. Of course I didn't find this out until they were already in my car. So I have lilac blossoms and mysterious fruit fly sized bugs to keep the ticks company in my car.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Turtle Insanity

What's that Calvin Klein old school obsession commercial? It's a fine line between love and obsession. I leave for a few days last week for billable field work and meetings and I get back to complete turtle quest obsession. The guys really love to be super competitive at almost any cost. I don't want to be around when they both spot the same turtle. I don't like to be at the back of the pack with the least amount of found super rare turtles so I get swept up in this tidal wave. Their office work suffers since they take extended lunches for the turtle quest. If they could do that everyday, they would. This includes full days of turtle quests on the weekends. So this weekend I was out both days. I also feel guilty for enjoying time off during the nice parts of the weekends. All things aside, I found two super rare turtles on Sunday. I also found another semi rare turtle which I had never found myself. Saturday was a beautiful day and ideal for turtles but all I found was a snapping turtle. I don't understand why the turtles weren't out.
The most insanely competive guy at the office found four super rare turtles, and three other types of turtles. Here's his adolescent box turtle he found. This girl cracked me up with her half eaten grub on her snout and the rest of the grub between her neck and her skin.
I think the competition may cool down a bit now that the higher ups know what's been happening. I suggested a schedule so that everyone can get a fair shot and not go crazy. But I'm sure I'll be out again this weekend...but I am putting my foot down and won't spend all daylight this extended week on the turtle quest. I am tired and my car is so full of ticks its not even funny.

The cutest find on Sunday was made by the only turtle competitive coworker..aka birdman. It was the first fawn that I saw this season. It was underneath a skunk cabbage and was being shielded from the rain by a cabbage leaf.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Garden Party

I finally went to the Duke Farms indoor garden display. It's closing indefinitely at the end of May for renovations. I had never been before and it was great. Some many amazing and beautiful flowers...nevermind the various smells. Everyone should get a lemon tree since their flowers smell awesome. Each display is from a different country or theme. You have French, Edwardian, Italian, tropical, Indo-Persian, Chinese, Japanese, desert, etc. I'd have to say my favorite was Edwardian but that was based solely on all the amazing orchids. I must have taken like 25 pics alone in that room.
I could seriously have a post for each room since each photo has a story to tell. Here's the French garden. For some reason, it reminds me of the stuff at Neverland. You know those low lying flowers in various shapes.
This is the English garden. There was a secret visitor to the Knot Garden, which was shrubs shaped into a knot...think Celtic knots. Can you spot the squatter?
Here's the Chinese garden complete with koi and a bull frog squatter.

They had a giant sequioa (at least that's what I think it was...either that or a redwood) bonzai. Poor thing!

Here's the Indo-Persian garden complete with citrus and papaya trees. Watch out for the water hazard in the middle of the sidewalk.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Beaver pond finale

We finished up the beaver pond site today. Of course there were a couple minor snafus. I arrived late, of course. My boss came by to check out some areas I was concerned about. I got all the maps out and we were going over them in the back of her truck. She then departed and 15 minutes later I realized that I didn't have my maps. They were still in her trunk! I called her and thankfully she was still in the area and not only were all the maps in her trunk but so were my sunglasses. I'm not sure why she didn't notice when she shut her trunk since they were all layed out. I think this site plays tricks with everyone's minds. It's so beautiful that you get easily distracted and that's when the fun begins.

Above is the house on the site that I'd like to live on. It's right on the giant beaver pond. It's almost like a vacation house it's so remote.

Here's a fun sea of skunk cabbage. It's out in all its glory. This is what most of the day looked like.
Cool root action. It'd make a great little home for some critter.
Here's another awesome stone house on the site. I'm really glad the dogs were in the pic. Too bad the mastif had to be tied up...but he cracked me up with his lazy, slow and low woofs. It's like he can't be bothered to freak out like the other dogs do, but he still wants to participate.
Here's a box turtle I found at the second site we have to do down the road from the beaver pond site. We drove the perimeter and I'm delighted to say there is an alpaca farm on it. You know that hours will be wasted and many pictures will be taken while I play with the alpacas.

In good news, I went outside to fully investigate the loss of the suet feeders. I didn't want to go yesterday since they just sprayed for bugs. I discovered one suet feeder lying on the ground in the thicket of bushes. The suet was completely gone but I suspect that the real culprit here is racoons. I don't know why the condo people would remove the suet, but throw the feeder on the ground in a dense thicket. The other feeder was nowhere to be found. I was suprised because it's difficult to remove the feeder since I loop the hook back around into the wire mesh. I guess racoons are craftier than I expected. So one feeder is back in action and to be safe I made sure it was even more hidden.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Attack rooster?

That was the thought that crossed my mind today while I visited a defunct chicken farm. My boss had been "attacked" by a "chicken," which I presume was actually a rooster and it really wasn't an attack. The rooster chased him around his vehicle and actually went around the other side of the car to cut him off at one point. He had to hold off the bird using his soil auger. I was hoping to avoid this encounter when I saw the rooster who then proceeded to come towards me repeatedly. Then I began to realize that he thinks I'm going to feed him.

Aside from the rooster, there was a bunch of feral cats around. They enjoyed watching me at a safe distance. There's actually two cats hanging out by the garage door that's open a crack. The feral cats and rooster apparently like to hang out. I tried to get as close as possible to the motley bunch but the cats are in mid scamper in this picture.

It goes without saying that there's an "Egg Room." I'm betting the Spelling mansion doesn't have an egg room.

I'm still recovering from my sinus infection. I still sound sick but I can survive without having fistfuls of tissues and cough medicine. I'm waiting for my appetite and energy to come back. It makes it hard to smell the flowers that are out. I found some lily of valley, which I feebly attempted to smell. I love lily of the valley.

In other news, the bird feeder saga continues. Yesterday I couldn't find my secret hidden suet feeders I hung in the rhododendron bushes. I confirmed their absence today since they were pretty well hidden....sometimes I had a hard time spotting them. I'm guessing the evil condo manager has spotted them, since I think it's unlikely the people who came to spray for bugs today would pay any mind to bird feeders. I'm wondering if I'll get be getting another threatening letter in the mail. That's fine. I have my bowl of bird seeds I keep on the deck during the condo manager's off hours....holidays, weekends, and early morning/evening. I may have to add to that a suet feeder. The latest reason for being anti-birdfeeder is that they claim squirrels cause thousands of dollars damage to the buildings....even if the birdfeeders are squirrel proof. They say squirrels will eat the seeds off the ground that the birds drop. The the squirrels gnaw their way into the buildings. The whole situation just plain stinks and is beyond reason.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Toxic Avenger

I haven't been really sick since November 2006. That all came to an end this week. Sunday I had a sore throat. I didn't think much of it because it could have been anything. Then it got worse on Monday and by Tuesday my sinuses were evacuating. I made an appointment with the doc and sadly cancelled my field work for the week. I was out sick Wednesday, half a day Thursday, and now all day Friday. I now have a delightful cough and sound like Kathleen Turner. My half a day at work yesterday was spend decontaminating my desk, catching up on emails, voicemails, and mail. I did notice a couple other people coughing in the office and heard a lot of "You are sick too!" or "You sound horrible!" By 3 pm, I wasn't sure why I was even in the office since I was feeling so poorly. So by 4 pm I was on my way home to get my prescriptions. It's 11:30 and I've been up for an hour and I'm ready for a nap. But yet I'm planning on spending part of Sunday looking for turtles. I must be delirious!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Meet Billy

Turtle season is in full swing. Unfortunately the weather hasn't been too cooperative this past week. A lot of dreary cold drizzly type days. That was the case until Sunday afternoon. Once I woke up and speedily rushed through a couple errands and household chores, I zoomed up to rare turtle country. Of course I totally forgot my real camera, but remembered everything else. Stop one was unfruitful but I had called one of my bosses earlier in the day to find out if the weather was good. She said that if I found a turtle, she'd come by and take some pics. Stop two was a site I had never been too. It was big and dense. See the dead cattails in the background. But then plain as day was a rare turtle sitting on the ground. I still get in full panic OMG mode when I see this rare type of turtle. It's like the world turns the black and I just focus on grabbing it. He saw me but made no attempt to run or hide. By the time my boss arrived, Billy as I named him, was ready to flail about after hiding in his shell for a good 20 minutes. I name my rare turtle finds because trying to remember them by their markings is tough for me. So I have the names to help trigger the memory.
Big thanks to Lioux for fixing my top photo. I had autocorrected the pic and then immediately saved it. The pic had turned a purple tone that I couldn't undo with my low budget technology.
Then since I was muddy and up there, I made on last stop. No rare turtles were found, but I found some unhatched old eggs. Sad.
I encountered a dead snapping turtle. Sad again. But on the same plant that I had found old turtle eggs, I spotted this little one. It was a hatching snapping turtle. So cute and so small. Life continues.