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Posts Tagged ‘nature’

This year was a bumper one for our neighborhood rabbits. We had a lot of babies running around during the warmer months, and still have at least a few adults. One has been acting a little extra lately, sprinting by the porch and across the street rather than sauntering as it dod this summer. He seems to be trying to minimize the amount of time he and his brown fur spend exposed over snow-covered ground. Sensible, as we still have a few stray cats and other predators in the area.

Which led me to ask, “How does a rabbit know what color it is?”

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The opposite of this. Photo by Andy Brunner on Unsplash

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We went to the woods today. Blue jays, gray jays, deer, a tick and a spider as big as a fifty-cent piece, wild peppermint, oaks and maple and birch and hickory trees and their nuts, moss, lichen, granite ridges wearing down at geological speeds, and an abandoned bird’s nest, waiting patiently to be discovered in the middle of the trail. The first person stepped over the nest, unaware, the second person strode past, unaware, but the third saw it. And stopped.

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

― W.B. Yeats

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Photo by Farrinni on Unsplash

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Author notes: Let me say up front that there are a lot of things wrong with this story, technically speaking:

  • First, it was supposed to be a drabble, and at just under 200 words that clearly has not happened.
  • Second, even the North Atlantic Octopus doesn’t go as deep as the Titanic, which sits at 12,600 feet below.
  • Third, the octopus is a relatively solitary creature and would probably skip the classroom for more of an independent study sort of situation.
  • And finally, the idea that an octopus would care about the fate of salmon is, of course, patently ridiculous.

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Meteor Descending

Ironically, the first human words Ololilon puzzled out were from a menu. He’d come across the wreck while riding the current.

Metal loomed from the dark, a gaping hole in its side. Oli swam past a deck chair and through a gap in the torn metal, pushing deep into the remnant.

Few would have been able to decipher the fading text. Even in the Cold Deep time has meaning. And this fallen star had been resting on the ocean floor for lifetimes. 

But Oli’s eyes were adapted to the dark. Each shimmering wavelength told a tale, and this story was one of horror.

Chicken, peas and rice meant nothing to him, but oysters and salmon? Cousins and neighbors. Consumed.

But while this message was one of horror, it also bore hope.

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“Teacher, my podmate says aliens aren’t even real.” 

Ololilon’s classroom was full. Spawning season had ended and it was a perfect time to teach the juveniles English. They would need it.

“Their meteors are real enough. And if we can learn how to speak with them,“ Oli said, tentacles swaying with emotion, “perhaps we can keep them from killing us all.”

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Photo by NOAA on Unsplash

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It’s migration season and millions of birds are, right now, flooding the skies. I grew up noticing flocks of geese arrowing their way south but migration is much more than that.

According to BirdCast’s tool, 347 million birds are predicted to be on the move across the US tonight.

For those of us in other Western hemisphere locales, this site beautifully illustrates the interconnected flow of birds by type and pathway. 

Bird Migration Explorer

A quick search of my area shows the paths of eagles, thrushes, gulls, woodcocks, owls, scoters (had to look that one up), whip-poor-wills, hawks, sandpipers, warblers and more.

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I’ve written about bird migration before but this post has a more specific call to action. Nothing too hard, just a polite request: for the few weeks when migration is at its peak, dim your lights if you can.

Opinion | Lights Out, America! (Songbirds Are Counting on Us.) – The New York Times

Migrating birds are vulnerable to many hazards: predators, extreme weather, insufficient food and insufficient water. Glass is particularly treacherous. Expanses of glass — windows without mullions, storm doors, skyscrapers — are the worst.

Good news? When it comes to lighting and windows, there’s usually an easy fix.*

I’ve tried the UV stickers designed to show birds where not to fly but they were just so-so.

Remember those little gold stars teachers sometimes give out? I picked up a batch and have used them to give the patio doors “Bird-friendliest glass in the neighborhood” awards. The upside is that these stars are cheap and easy to replace. The downside is that they are made of paper and, while they last a surprisingly long time considering, they are still just paper. I’ve had to replace them at least once a season.

This year I upgraded to purpose-built stickers designed both for birds and the great outdoors. This is the company I used but I’m sure there are others (no affiliation, just a satisfied customer): Feather Friendly.

Easy, satisfying, and one step toward being a better neighbor to nature.

At our best as a species, this is what we do: We change our ways to protect others, and then we adjust to the new ways. Soon, we can’t remember doing things differently.

Margaret Renkl

* For more about this problem and potential fixes, including Lights Out programs and building guidelines, check out What You Should Know About Bird Migration and Light Pollution and Bird-Safe Design Guidelines.

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Photo by Michael Krahn on Unsplash

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The winds are cooler, the rains no longer soft. Bird feeders empty faster and the flowers look defiant rather than content.

I love summer, of course, but there’s something special about a hot bowl of soup and a warm blanket and crisp blue days and brightly colored leaves.

It’s a wonderful time of year for just about anything, but especially for taking stock and making plans.

Welcome to Fall.

Autumn equinox is the first day of fall. How is that different from a solstice? : NPR

Fall starts at 9 p.m. ET Thursday, a day officially known as the autumn equinox.

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Twilight Surprise

The sky burns down,
A rim of coals glowing gold and red,
Limned with orange again
And kissed with hints of pink.
The clouds reflect tangerine and plum,
Overshadowing the silent glory.
Darkness and light,
Balanced upon this equinox,
Dance together like old lovers …
… and beget beauty.

― Elizabeth Barrette, From Nature’s Patient Hands

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Photo by Samuel Ferrara on Unsplash

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And now, a brief promo for Canada’s national animal.

An unlikely ally in the face of wildfires and droughts: the humble beaver

In the face of increasing wildfires and droughts, scientists are looking to a highly skilled “environmental engineer” to help fight climate change: the industrious beaver.

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Photo by Tim Umphreys on Unsplash

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It’s firefly season* again, and I am there for it. 

Fireflies as a species are under pressure but there’s a lot we can do to help them. Short version: Turn off the lights and get (your yard) a little wild.

Tonight, dim the lights. Find the darkest patch of green you see. If it has tall grass and lush, moist undergrowth, even better. Wait.

Do you see it? That yellow-green flash of light? Bioluminescence, they say. 

Yes. 

Also magic.

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* To be fair, June is actually prime time for firefly mating in most areas but given good weather and habitat they can be seen throughout the summer.

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Photo by Evan Leith on Unsplash

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A Touch of Magic

“A well-composed book is a magic carpet on which we are wafted to a world that we cannot enter in any other way.”

― Caroline Gordon

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Photo by Kevin Wolf on Unsplash

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I woke this morning with a story start in my head, and it’s using up most of my mental bandwidth at the moment. So instead of something new, here’s something old, from a trip journal I took to Latin America in 2000. I’m laughing at the memory now.

April 26
Wednesday
San Jose

I’m late writing again today because we got up at 6:30 a.m. for a rainforest canopy tour and just got back. It was a lot of fun. I was a little worried that I’d need strength, you know like hand-over-hand on a wire, but then the guides started talking about how they’d had an 80-year-old man on tour a while back who was fine. It was a lot of fun (again!).

We drove north 45 minutes or so into the woods, a bit of protected land that’s part of a larger park containing 6% of Costa Rica’s land. We were the only ones on the tour and had a total of four guides. We parked at the “Canopy Adventures” headquarters and were outfitted with harnesses, caribiners (climbing rings), and gloves. We got back in the car with our gear and drove another kilometer or two up a very rocky and steep road. It wound up into the mountains, through a farm and past pastures. After parking at a little turnabout in the trees we proceeded on foot.

The hike was only 20 minutes or so but through the forest and steep. In some parts we walked along a road paved 60 years ago by farmers who needed to get their milk to market despite heavy winter rains. The rocks they used were hauled from a far-off river bed, then set carefully enough that the road is still useable today. The rest of the walk was over a path paved by tree rings, given added traction with metal mesh embedded into their tops. Along the way our guide pointed out different flowers and plants native to the rainforest. I remember the bromeliads (a relative of the pineapple that grows on trees and air), plants to eat if you get lost in the mountains, and plants used to weave coffee-gathering baskets.

Suddenly we were at the base of Platform 1 and the real start of our adventure. Our first task was to climb a wooden ladder up into a tropical oak tree, then out onto the first platform high up in the tree. Each of us carried our gloves and pulley attached to the climbing harness we’d been wearing since HQ. At this point, we were hooked onto a cable with one caribiner, then told what how to move along the wire and land safely. I felt a little like a side of beef, hanging from the wire by my belt and hoping my tippie-toes were enough to keep me on the platform.

We were to travel from one platform to the next along these wires through the trees. At each platform a guide would stand facing us as we held the cable running between platforms. Pulling the cable down in a modified pull-up, the guide held the pulley on top of the cable while connecting our second caribiner to it, just below the cable. Once this clamp was secure the guide unhooked the first caribiner from the cable and clamped it to the pulley, in the opposite direction as the first. Now there was nothing keeping me on the platform but the guide’s hand in front of the pulley. Upon hearing an answering cry of “¡Listo!” from the team at the receiving platform, that hand too was removed. Feet up, head back, one hand on the caribiners and one on the cable behind to brake, and I was off.

There were nine platforms, all fun, with the longest and steepest drop being the best as far as I was concerned. At each I was unhooked from the pulleys, then secured to the tree, which I climbed up or around or through to reach the next jumping-off point. The trees were huge, and seemed to carry the weight of the wooden platforms with ease.

After one or two jumps I noticed that a light touch on the caribiners attached to the pulley would keep me facing forward as I shot through the overgrowth. I also got quite good at braking and had lots of fun zooming at full speed just to the platform’s edge, then stopping right in front of the startled guide. Very fun. They got me back at Platform 9 though. Rather than climbing down from our final jump we rappelled, although the guides controlled the descent. No problema, I thought, I’ve done this before, and I’d be happy to go first. Rope between my legs, hands gripping the locked caribiners, I sat into the harness and eased slowly past the platform’s edge. Humph, I thought, this isn’t too baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaadddddddddddddddd!!!!!!!!! And almost swallowed my tongue as I was playfully dropped half the distance to the forest floor. The guides thought it was funny as hell, especially when all I could say after that heart-thumping, stomach-inspiring drop was “Jesus Christ!” Total free fall, unexpected, scary, and yes, funny as hell. I was still laughing five minutes later.

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Not me but it gives you the idea; I was too busy to take photos for most of this trip.
Photo by Mam NC on Pexels.com

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It’s summer and I’m enjoying a bit of vacation time (yay!) and what do I spot on my new Asclepias tuberosa? A monarch butterfly caterpillar!

 

I’ve seen a monarch or two in the neighborhood this year but not many. (Not like during my childhood down south, when my mother used to pull the car over just about anywhere to find caterpillar-rich milkweed by the side of the road.) There’s a reason why these butterflies are listed as at endangered in Ontario:(

That said, awareness of the issues around butterflies and their disappearing habitat is rising, and it’s not all bad news. I’m happy to see milkweed left to grow by the roadside, to find native milkweed varietals at the garden center, and to watch butterflies flitting in the park. If we had more sun and space I’d plant a butterfly meadow, but for now, we went with butterfly weed. Glad we did:)

As an added bonus, I also saw fireflies in the yard a couple of weeks ago for the first time north of the border:) Here’s wishing you a happy and constructive summer!

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