Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Thar She Blows!

I had planned to do a strictly craft-centric post today, because I've done several projects and have fallen far behind on posting pictures.  The same with some recent baking experiments.  But we had such an interesting weather event this weekend that I couldn't resist a few pictures.

The forecast for Friday afternoon was cloudy skies with a 20% chance of precipitation.  Suddenly, the sky got dark, the wind picked up, and hail started pattering down.  We had a torrential downpour and heavy winds for about 15 minutes, and then the storm passed.  We had just experienced a microburst, or a weather system in which a small column of air sinks and pushes out, instead of in a circular rotation like a tornado.  I couldn't believe how much damage was done in just a few minutes.  Another large tree in the back yard fell over, taking a smaller tree with it.

Huge branches down, and lots of little ones.

A gigantic limb on our front poplar tree snapped and is hanging precariously from another branch.  Sadly, the tree, already damaged, is basically in shock and unable to be saved.  The whole thing is going to have to come down next week.

Birds' nests torn out of branches and eggs scattered everywhere.

Twenty-four hours without power, so lots of Scrabble by candlelight for us.

Despite the intense heat (almost two weeks of upper 90s), we've had some flowers blooming.  The mimosa trees that hang over the pond are gorgeous.

Spiderwort lines a shady path...

These Rose-of-Sharon-like flowers are blooming on a side yard shrub.  I prefer them after they've wilted for their beautiful blue color.

Our owls are staying busy and making regular appearances.

A heron pair is nesting nearby.

The squirrels frisk in the morning and disappear in the heat of the afternoon.

The cats have stopped begging to go outside in this heat...

...and are focused on indoor entertainment. 

And those trees in the pond?  We aren't worried about them.  Our beaver family is making short work of that job!

I will try to get that craft post up next week.  Have a good weekend!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Leaf Hoppers and Tree Choppers

We had what I would consider a fairly mild storm this week, but it was enough to knock down one of our giant dead trees.  It fell into the pond, taking another tree with it.

It's hard to tell from the pictures, but the tree was huge!  It stretched almost the entire width of the pond.  The first few days, the beavers worked on the bark.  Beavers love to eat bark and the soft layer beneath.

Today, we woke up to discover the tree completely gone! 

How they sectioned and hauled off that gigantic tree in one night is a mystery to me.  They are amazing creatures!

Speaking of amazing creatures, Todd found an ant migration this week.  It was at dusk, and millions of ants were carrying eggs from a depressed spot in the ground to an existing colony location by the side of the house, a good 50 feet distance.  Since the light was so poor, I couldn't get a clear picture, but here is the general idea:

We were transfixed by the sight of these tiny, determined creatures, marching with a single-minded focus to their new home.  Today, they swarmed.  This well-established colony of ants produced sexually mature males, which will mate with the flying queen when she appears, and then die. 

More amazing...this ant dragging a lacewing insect three times its size, and so quickly that I was barely able to get a shot!

Spiders are out now, too.  This common orb weaver secures her prey...

...before climbing up to repair a tear in her web.

A beautiful yellow garden spider hangs on our back deck.

 It's an ingenious place to set up shop, right by a set of deck lights.  There's a never-ending supply of moths and other small flying insects.

We're hearing cicadas now, and seeing their discarded shells, too.

I don't usually see post-molt adults, but one attached itself to our sun room screen yesterday:

Right in line with the flowering of our front sun perennials...

...come the leaf hoppers.  Aren't they beautiful?

Here's a velvet buck in the yard, so called for the fuzzy growth on his antlers that will shed by fall.

And there he goes!

Finally, some sad news.  This is the last  picture of Little Miss's cardinal chick.

He was growing rapidly and feeding frequently, and then one day, he was just gone.  It was much too early for him to leave the nest, and I didn't find him on the ground beneath it, so I can only conclude that he fell prey to one of his many predators (snakes, owls, raccoons, etc.). 

I'll keep an eye out for other interesting things around the yard.  There's always something going on.  Have a great week!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Leave It To Beavers

We've had some pretty spectacular downpours so far this summer. 

It's slowed our progress of cleaning up the fireplace area somewhat, but we've entered a relatively dry period now.  The wood is drying and will soon be able to be cut and burned.

The nice thing, though, is that Todd and I have been able to spend some time there, playing Scrabble or chit-chatting after supper.  It was on one of those days when I discovered...we have beavers.

Two adults have set up shop across the pond.  I rarely see the female, but every single day at dusk, rain or shine, the male is out.  He stations himself at the foot of a downed tree and is very busy there, doing something.  He's an amazingly large beaver and we've named him Augustus, a fitting name for such a majestic creature.  Did you know that adult beavers can weigh as much as 60 pounds? 

He works busily at his log for a while, swims a few leisurely laps, and repeats.  Sometimes I'll startle him, and he slaps his tail loudly on the water's surface and dives.  But he's a pretty laid-back beaver.  It isn't long before he returns to work.

Last week, I saw a little one next to him.

That's right...our beavers have babies!  I've only seen two so far, and again, there's one that's much more visible than the other.  I've named her Pepita.

She's very shy, but also very inquisitive.  I just love watching their little faces!

We've discovered other creatures down there, too.  Barred owls have long been making their presence known here, with their "Who cooks for you?" calls.  But they're rarely seen.  However, we have a nesting pair with a fledgling that we've started seeing almost every night!  They've flown right at us and perched above our heads on low-hanging branches.  They seem awfully brazen, and we've hesitated to approach them!  The juvenile is the talker.  I usually hear him first with his loud begging call.  The parents aren't far behind...flapping from branch to branch, perching on fences and posts, and sometimes landing in the yard and surveying the landscape that way.  So many great opportunities, and I've never had my big camera with me when they've been out.  I've gotten a few blurry pictures through glass, though:

The crazy thing is that these big, powerful birds have a much smaller predator:  a mob of crows.  An owl can kill a single crow easily, but just like the case with zombies: one alone isn't an issue, but a big, worked-up group of crows is another story. We have a pair of crows that have claimed our yard as their territory.

They harass hawks during the day and owls in the early evening.  I've seen them chase an owl from tree to tree, then over the pond, until he was out of their territory!  It's pretty remarkable. 

Speaking of remarkable, and birds...Little Miss has hatched an egg.

I wasn't sure at first, but the other egg is still there.  It just hasn't hatched yet.

Hopefully it will hatch soon!

Meanwhile, our more familiar animals have been enjoying themselves at our rodent-proof feeders...ahem...

...and there's plenty of feline relaxation going on in the shade!

Hope you're keeping cool, too, in this hot weather.  Have a great week!