One of the main players in our traditional pageant of critters at our north-woods cabin at this time of year is this little frisky, cheeky red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). It’s less than half the size of the gray squirrel, but about twice the size of the chipmunk. They are able to interbreed with the grays to produce a larger hybrid, but we are always delighted to see one of the pure line, of which this was a notable example. They are very vocal, producing a loud chattering call, but they usually wait to vocalize it until one has just passed through their vicinity, as if scolding us for the intrusion. We are missing them. I made this photo exactly eight years ago today. (Click on it if you’d like more detail.)
Seven years ago today we were, as usual at this time of year, at our cabin in northern Minnesota. It had been a very lovely day, and our daughter Batty was there for a visit. As the day drew to a close, we went for an evening paddle in our new canoe (which we have brought with us to New Zealand). Although we are very grateful to be here, we are having very nostalgic thoughts of memories there.
Eight years ago today I had set my quietest alarm for 5:30 am, and crept out of bed as silently as possible. I made myself a nice cup of coffee, grabbed a couple of fresh doughnuts, and drove off into the silent pre-dawn darkness with my little 52-pound canoe on the roof and hope in my heart. When I got to my destination, 20 minutes later, as I was putting my fishing gear into the canoe, this single cloud was my companion. It was a perfect morning for meditation and serenity and a pair of loons were singing to each other on the lake, and I remember it as if it were yesterday.
It has been quite some time—twelve weeks in fact—since my last Webnesday post featuring a new encounter and I, for one, have missed them. I have posted several from my archives during the isolation and now I’m happy to bring you a fresh one again. I have presented this variety before, the last time having been five months ago (here), but think that this is the smallest one that I’ve seen. It’s quite possible that she hatched from the eggs laid in the web that I featured in that post. She’s a Bronze Aussie Jumper (Helpis minitabunda), and her species was first seen here in New Zealand in 1972, an immigrant from Australia. In these photos she’s exploring the tiny flowers of a hebe bush that grows in our garden. Her total leg span was only slightly more than a half centimeter (about a quarter of an inch). Fortunately, the sky was overcast and there was almost no breeze at all, both of which helped the photographic conditions considerably. And she was very patient with me during our ten minutes or so together, another real bonus.If you’d like to see more detail in any of these, just click on the photo, then click again.
Here’s my “promised” second installment on our little friend, the fantail. When I presented the first one about three weeks ago (here), I said I’d try to bring you an image of one with its tail actually fanned, which I was not able to catch during that photo session. We’ve had quite a spell of gray, windy, and rainy weather since then; in fact, just the other day the rains were so heavy in the northern part of the North Island that they broke an old record for one day’s total precipitation that had been standing for 500 years. But yesterday the sun shone and the fantail was back, flitting around constantly, and very difficult to catch in a moment of relative inactivity. I can’t tell if it’s a male or a female, as apparently the only obvious difference is that the male is slightly larger. I did have some success with my project, as you can see, and although I could have wished for somewhat sharper results and a more complementary background for my third image, I’m pretty happy with these. At least now you can better understand how it got its name.
Eleven years ago I had the opportunity to visit Chile. It was mid-winter and accordingly brisk, but in the relatively-sheltered area of the capital city, Santiago, the surrounding elevated terrain provided a basin of relative climate moderation but, unfortunately, also a vast, too-calm valley of inadequately-ventilated collection of industrial pollution. On my work-free weekend, I resolved to try to get above the smog and made my way, via circuitous public transportation, up to the Parque Metropolitano, which provided me with this view across the city with the magnificent snow-capped Andes in the distance.
Blogging buddy Mike Powell and I have been talking about how dragonflies are able to cope with apparent physical disabilities. Mike’s recent post about a tattered skimmer (here) featured one with damaged wings. I’ve seen many with similar tears and wrinkles through the years, but the one that most impressed me was this Minnesota dragonhunter (Hagenius brevistylus), back in 2004, almost exactly 16 years ago. It had one severely dented eye but seemed unfazed by it (although it did allow me to get intimately close for this image), and I was amazed when it flew off with what looked to be a relatively normal flight pattern. If you’d like to see a more detailed image, just click on the photo.
Exactly two years ago today we were enjoying a typical summer at our cabin in northern Minnesota, and the water in the lake was wonderful. Squiddy and The Elf were visiting, and their joy was a thing to remember. A part of me wishes that we could be there, as we normally would be, but—on the other hand—we are very happy indeed to be here in NZ and secure in the knowledge that it’s far safer here.
In these times of severe stress and unrest, it’s a pleasure to be able to bring you a true story of spectacular success. Almost exactly two months ago, when I went out to my workroom, aka my bloke shed, I noticed an unexpected lump of something in the grass at its front edge. It looked like a mud-encrusted rock with some spiky vegetable matter imbedded in the mud. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a hedgehog, but in a condition that I’d never seen before. I eased it into a cardboard box and immediately contacted my daughter Squiddy, confident that she knew some folks who would be able to help in such a situation. My confidence was promptly rewarded, as she made one phone call and an animal rehabilitation specialist came over and took it back to her facility within a matter of a couple of hours. The report came back that it had a severe case of mange (caused by parasitic mites), and that she was confident that it could be treated. I heard no more until this evening, when Squiddy appeared at our door with another cardboard box. I thought it might be another hedgehog in need of treatment, but it was the same one, completely cured and ready to be released. In my professional capacity, I have dealt with many cases of mange in dogs and cats, but I’ve never seen one that had advanced to this degree of severity. The main element of veterinary practice that I have missed since my retirement is the joy of helping an animal in desperate need to return to a state of health so that it can continue to live out a normal life. I released it back into the garden tonight, where I’d found it and it went right back under the shed. What a treat to be able to help another one!