Monday, October 29, 2007

Fire Ants - Die, Die, Die!

I love most of God's creatures. Even the ones I don't particularly enjoy, I recognize they have a place in the ecosystem.

I make an exception for fire ants. I just discovered them on my home territory, and, as far as I'm concerned, they can die a quick and grisly death. I still have the scars from my first experience with the monsters, and I hate them with a passion.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Home Again, At Last!

After a VERY long trip, I'm home again. The Clemson Forest field trip was fascinating, but I'm exhausted.

I set up the Flickr account. I sent the information to Karen; when I get some time tomorrow, I'll post a message on signing in and posting your photos.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fern Identified

As I was walking the grounds, I noticed the above fern, and was very happy to realize that I recognized it as a Christmas Fern, which I first saw at Caesar's Head.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Bunny Alert!

As I was walking to my car this morning, I saw a flash of brown. From the movement, it has to be a rabbit. I'll have to consider that when planning next year's vegetable garden.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

On the Patio

I finally made time to set up chairs on the patio. I need to find an inexpensive table, sturdy, but not too heavy, to use as a base when I go outside. I think if I'm able to set up my computer, it will make it easier to manage outdoor blogging.

The picture above was taken with the MacBook's built-in camera. One BIG advantage is that it makes no noise. I've been trying for several weeks to take a picture of the birds that nest in the bushes along the left front of the house. No luck so far, and my vision is not that good that I've been able to find out what they are. I need to set up camp in the front yard, with binoculars, and wait. Sooner or later, I should be able to get a good look at them.

Time is the BIG constraint in this. I've not been able to make it home early enough in the day to get much time outside. By the time I get home, it's usually near dark, and we've yet to eat.

Today, I'm sitting, enjoying the sounds. Although it's a quiet neighborhood, when I focus on the noise, it seems to overwhelm me. Among the sounds:
  • Planes overhead at a distance
  • Cars - about once a minute. And this is on a Sunday. They are not right outside my door, but the sound carries from about a mile or so down near the highway.
  • Birds - many are fairly high up n the trees. The sounds include cawing, chirping, and a kind of trilling. As I listen, I can begin distinguishing between the sounds.
  • Dogs - we have some prodigious barkers.
  • Motorcycles - they seem to be around more on the weekends.
  • A train - we're a few blocks from a train track, but I can hear it clearly in the distance.

    I just took a video of a squirrel in a tree. It appeared to be sending a threatening message - possibly at me, since I am the only other large organism in the area.

    [Due to technical difficulties, I'm going to have to upload the squirrel video later]

    Daddy-Long-Legs abound near (and sometimes inside) the house. I've mostly left them alone, occasionally moving one away from the door.

    I just spotted a hawk flying overhead. That's the second one today (the other was a few blocks away, at our church parking lot.

    Their flight is a wonder of efficiency - they bare move as they soar through the air. They seem to be able to catch even a slight updraft, and minimize their energy output.

    The silvery shimmer of webs runs through many of the paths of the grounds. So far, I've left them mostly undisturbed, except as I needed access to other parts of the grounds.

    Today, I walked around, familiarizing myself with the back part of the grounds. I'm beginning to know where to look to find life.

    What I just saw took me by surprise. I saw a small (sparrow-sized) bird, black head, white front, small beak. I was so astonished that it was so near, I just saw there, watching it. Completely forgot about my camera.

    I've seen several moths fly by close just now.

    I'm back inside, grading, and have just looked through the Sibley book for the bird.

    Nada. Zilch. I'll try later on the web.

    3:04 pm - I'm reasonably certain that the bird is a tree swallow. The head appeared black, but it could have been a very dark blue-green. It's one of the few common varieties with a white underbelly.
  • Thursday, October 18, 2007

    A New SC Science Resource

    I found A Natural State, a site on KnowItAll, where artists of various regions in SC provide examples of their work, and write about the influence of nature in their region on their artwork.

    Sandlapper Magazine is available online.

    Teachers can give their students a preview of nature field trips via NatureScene.

    RiverVenture allows students and teachers to remotely explore the rivers of SC.

    The RiverVenture Journal includes videos of SC's river resources.

    The above fern is one I'd like to identify. It seems to be a little less stressed by the lack of water than some of the other plants. I may want to take a cutting, and cultivate it indoors under a grow light. If it propagates well, it would be nice to begin replacing plants that aren't handling the drought with one that appears to be better suited.

    Saturday, October 13, 2007

    Finally Some Time in the Field

    I've been captive to the indoors for almost a week. By the time I left my school at night, it was already dark.

    It couldn't be helped, but that didn't make it any easier. By this weekend, I was starved for time outside.

    I started late this afternoon with a stroll around the grounds.

    I can't wait for the spring - magnolias are a favorite of mine. As a non-native, I'd never seen one until I moved south two years ago. It wasn't until near the end of the school year that I saw one in bloom for the first time.

    Even after the blooms dried up, the magnolias provided cover for other organisms. They are, however, quite eager to spread, and will take over readily any empty space.

    Other pushy plants are below:

    Monkey Grass will colonize, given a chance.

    So will ivy. This year, I've chosen to allow it free roam. With drought conditions, it seemed better to allow a little temporary overgrowth than leave soil uncovered. Although I've found that most of the grounds have adapted to the lack of water, the mosses have taken a hit.

    When we first saw the house in July, what part of the ground that didn't have grass was covered in mosses. At that time, they were moist and green. As can be seen above, most have dried up. With the water restrictions, I'm hand-watering any vegetables, and letting the rest fend for itself. I've left the dropped leaves and clippings as mulch cover for now. That has helped with water retention.

    I'm noticing many of the shrubs and trees appear stressed. Bugs are chomping down vigorously, and one of the trees has some brown spots on it. I'm assuming that's not healthy.

    Monday, October 8, 2007

    Testing out a possible background for the blog

    What is This Spider?

    It's not that clear in the picture, but the spider is green with red markings on the abdomen. The nearest match I could find was the Green Lyssomanes - but the picture in the identification book shows white markings, as well. This one didn't have those. I found it in its web in the Low Country region this last weekend.

    Bird Sounds

    I've found a site with digitally recorded bird sounds - not just their songs, but also the sounds they make as they move around. The author, Doug Von Gausig, has compiled a large variety of animal sounds that have to be heard to be believed.

    Despite spending a LOT of time lately outside, and listening to birds, I'm afraid I may be hopeless about being able to identify birds by species, using sound identification. My hearing is impaired; I have both some dimming of ability to hear high-pitched sound, as well as tinnitus.

    What is tinnitus? Wikipedia has a failry decent explanation
    Tinnitus can be perceived in one or both ears or in the head. It is usually described as a ringing noise, but in some patients it takes the form of a high pitched whining, buzzing, hissing, humming, or whistling sound, or as ticking, clicking, roaring, "crickets" or "locusts", tunes, songs, or beeping.[3] It has also been described as a "whooshing" sound, as of wind or waves.[4]
    In my case, it's a hissing sound, similar to static on a radio.

    Thursday, October 4, 2007

    Time to Restore My Soul

    I've been thinking about the missing ingredient in my life, and I've decided that it's not making time for the things I truly enjoy. I tend to make and follow a tightly-wound schedule, trying to cram in all that I can.

    The trouble is, that schedule doesn't include recuperative down-time. What I mean by that is time that's not "owed" to a worthwhile activity, time that's not "killed" with entertainment euthanasia, time that allows me to quietly observe and enjoy my natural surroundings.

    I bought a house recently, that is in the midst of an acre of mixed vegetation. Literally within steps of any door, I can be surrounded by a staggering variety of species, in all kingdoms.

    My goal this month is to invest at least 20 hours exploring and enjoying my territory. To make sure that I do, I'm going to set up a backpack. I'll leave a hand lens, field guides, a camera, observation book, pens and pencils, and some light protective gear (poncho, sunglasses, etc.). I'll leave it near the door, so I'll have the materials and equipment ready to go, when the opportunity arises. I want to make it as convenient as possible to fulfill my goal.

    I've been documenting my territory and working on my landscape map. Below is a picture of one of the many mosses - I'll be scraping a sample later this weekend, and looking at it with the microscope at school. I have a QX3, so I'll examine it, and take a picture with the microscope. I've been researching moss, fungus, and lichens - with luck, I'll be able to identify it. If not, I'll bring a sample on our next field trip.

    Here's a picture of the property from GoogleEarth. I'm going to be using my GPS to walk the perimeter of the property, and mark the coordinates. It should be useful in creating the landscape map.