Sunday, July 31, 2011

The newest addition

A little over a week ago I randomly peeked outside my deck one night.  At night, I've seen everything from racoons, skunks, opossums to deer mice on my birdfeeder or deck or in the vicinity.  At first I thought I had  spotted yet another deer mouse on my birdfeeder.  But it was huge! I said that's the fattest and biggest mouse I've ever seen and what's up with it's belly. It had this rippling effect along the side of it and I could see that it's belly was white as compared to gray brown fur.  Then I spotted it's tail and it was not a mouse or rat was furry. By George that's a flying squirrel! I quickly ran to grab whatever camera was in reach and shot some horrible pictures. 
The flash gave a double exposure effect and it was just too dark out on the deck even with the deck light. Plus the deck light is yellow to keep the moths away.  It's been coming back almost every night and I've experimented with different cameras and my work point and shoot seems to be best.  I haven't figured out all the settings on the dslr to get a good shot. I did use my headlamp light as a spotlight and got these better shots.

Every summer I battle chipmunks, squirrels and others eating tomatoes and constantly digging in the flower pots.  It may be a population explosion but this year has been worse than ever.  There's definitely an endless population of chipmunks and they scurry around the entire condo development. In the past, I've tried to use rocks, pebbles and other things to cover the soil.  This year they've thrown the rocks out and dug around the bigger stuff.  Mind I also was dealing with yellowing of the tomato leaves and fungus gnats.  I started under watering with fertilized water and that seems to have solved both of those problems.  Yesterday and today I went on a rampage with the deck garden. I cut out circles of hard green plastic netting and placed them on top of each pot. I also did that for my basil plants and newly planted peas in the flower boxes.  So far the digging has stopped...granted it's been one night.  But they continue to eat the tomatoes.   I don't even remember the last tomato I picked...cuz they eat the green ones and the ones that are just barely turning non-green. So I upped the ante and took some crushed red pepper flakes and ground them in my coffee grinder.  I made about 1/2 cup of powder and it sure works on me....sneezing fits, running nose and eyes from just grinding and dumping it out. I sprinkled it on top of the soil in hopes of dissuading them from eating and digging. I'm hoping this all works otherwise I may be harvesting green tomatoes and ripening them indoors...yuck.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A new visitor

 I had a new visitor to my deck over the extended weekend. It was a juvenile praying mantis.  It was not happy to see me and vibrated itself farther and farther away from me. At first I took a couple pics with my new work point and shoot camera. It does a fair job but with it has a hard time focusing where I want it.  So I went back inside and then a little while later I realized that I totally should use my dslr camera...aka fancy camera. I don't have a macro lens yet so I'm stuck with the limited kit lens, but I was able to get some ok shots. I had a lot more control over the focus area and mantis was not happy that I was inches away from it.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Swamp dogs

This past July 4th extended weekend I headed up to the Berkshires to Cokane's father-in-law's place.  I drove up Saturday morning partially using printed out directions, a map, and my gps.  Anyone that uses gps knows that sometimes its preferred route is not really a preferred route.  I tried to avoid major cities and highways that I thought would be full of traffic. I ended taking smaller highways through picturesque towns and eventually onto unnecessary dirt roads.  I say unnecessary because my gps made no distinction between a dirt and paved road. I was met by a sign that said "not a through way. no winter plowing" or something along those lines. But I continued onward and made my way to the house. No one was home but I immediately heard some cool birds and was happy to be out of the car and walking around in nature. 
After lunch, grocery shopping and some scenic driving, we headed back to the house.  It was a gorgeous day and we headed out for some stick playing and a walk with the dogs.  The dogs couldn't have been more excited regardless of the constant bombardment from mosquitoes.  We headed towards an emergent marsh along that same dirt road that I drove in on.  Cokane restrained the dogs while I snapped a couple pics and briefly searched for any herps.  Then the dogs were released and immediately dove into the mucky water.  As you can tell from the top pic, they didn't mind marsh muck treatment and we very pleased with the results.

The next day was pretty much all rain, but I arm-twisted Cokane into heading in the backyard swamp and towards another open marsh area surrounding a network of streams.  From an aerial photograph, it looked delightful and full of possible herps.  We suited up in rain gear, walking sticks, rubber boots, and hip waders.  Alas, it was an alder shrubby wetland and the rain got more serious as we got there. So we turned around and headed back to the house.  Maybe next time, I'll continue the hike in hopes that it'll get better as it goes downstream.

Friday, July 1, 2011


Early in June we had a crazy period of time were we had watch nesting turtles at night. It went for 7 days a week. Thankfully we all rotated so no one had to be out there every night. The first night I was out there most of us got to watch a successful nesting of a turtle. I didn't bring binoculars and chose to be catcher of the turtle once she was done so I didn't see her at work. I was rocking two walkie I could only hear out of and the other walkie I could only talk in. After sometime, I got word that she was done and to catch her so that we could photograph and mark her. As I rushed over, she just sat there on the side of the stream. She gave me the look of "I'm exhausted and now you are going to eat me." I was able to see that she was marked so I let her be and took a couple horrible photos. My camera's flash doesn't work and it was at that I point I resolved to buy a new work camera. Hence the blurry photo above.

The second night I was out there was just me and one of my bosses. We split up at dusk and I ventured down a small trail to check out one stretch of the stream. When you leave me alone, that's when the weird things happen. Sure enough as I was walking I heard a minor noise in the very dark woods. It was getting dark and the hemlock woods were pitch black. I chalked it up to a squirrel but my spidey sense said otherwise. I kept going to my destination and headed back. As I was walking back, I heard a rare bird calling and another bird going crazy. Next to this and near the woods, I saw a bush being repeatedly tugged at. I get on the walkie and relay this to my boss as I continue to watch it. We chat back and forth and then I see the darkness behind the bush (which I thought was from the lack of light) turn into a bear head. It had the look of "Oh hiya. Didn't see ya. Don't mind me as i eat this bush or those baby birds." Needless to say, I headed back to my boss.

A few days ago we went to check on our radio tracked turtles. The new turtles were crazy far away and the beginning of our journey was immediately met with weirdness. We were venturing down that same narrow trail and heard a noise that sounded like an elk (not in NJ) or what I called a giant housecat throwing up but doubly fast. We immediately turned around and away from it and went to get a better view of the action. We saw nothing and went through our internal database of what that could be. We came up with momma bear telling her cubs that danger was near. We went around it to the road and were met with a bunch of senior hikers. They said they weren't making weird noises but had been on that same trail. They must have spooked it and we were the icing on the cake. I looked it up online and it sounds like concerned mother black bear, so we were correct.