Bobcat

Bobcat (Lynx rufus)

Bobcat (Lynx rufus) photo: J.Masson

My neighbor called today to let me know that our resident bear has returned from hibernation, larger than ever, visiting their compost pile and bird feeders last night. As they usually get the first visit, it’s nice of them to give me a heads-up to protect my own feeders. Their yard is very popular with wildlife and they get many more visitors than we do, perhaps because we have a dog or that their smorgasbord of feeders is enough for one-stop dining.

In conversing, I learned that the handsome bobcat I posted about the other day has been hunting squirrels off their feeders all winter. They kindly shared the above photo of this beautiful visitor calmly sitting on their deck! Check out that face and those huge paws!

According to this website, which was filled with a lot of information about the species, bobcat diet consists of 75-90% rabbits, followed by smaller rodents like squirrels. In winter, when their primary food can become scarce, bobcats have been known to kill adult deer, revealing their power and hunting skill.

Males are larger than females by a third (average range is 15 to 35 pounds), so it is hard to determine sex without closer inspection (not likely). Breeding season is late winter with 1-4 kits being born two months later. It is possible that this is the female I saw at our river two summers ago with a little fuzzball of a kit by her side. If she is pregnant or nursing, that could account for why she is being seen more often, needing to increase her calorie consumption. One can only speculate.

Bobcats rarely interact with humans, secretively traveling out of sight around the hours of dawn and dusk. Their contribution to the keeping rodent populations in check is helpful in balancing ecosystems. Conservation, decline of hunting/trapping and regrowth of the forest in our area has contributed to a rebounding of their population. Good news all around!

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Blog Tour

blog-tourStorm, at stormiesteele.com has asked me to join in The Blog Tour Award, in which I am happy to participate.

Storm, a published author, offers posts that are spiritual and uplifting, encouraging us to reach deeply within to connect to our inner voice, our true soul connection to Spirit.

1. The 3 nominees that I’ve chosen:

cropped-angel-sittingTrini at Love Notes from Angels ~ Beautiful poems and photos that touch the heart and lift the spirit

cropped-taperoo-on-25-april-2014-14-00-0181Rebecca at Twenty-one Words ~ Fellow nature lover with fascinating posts from Australia

shoshone_lake_moonrise_1_blogMike at Nature Has No Boss ~ Exquisite nature photography of the American West and a few other places, too

Although there are many, many other bloggers/writers/photographers whose work I admire, I’ve chosen three for this Blog Tour.

2. Rules are below.
I would like to propose the dates: One Time: Monday Post April 27 or May 4, 2015 (Please feel free to vary the date.)

Accepting this award, here are the rules :

3. Rules:
1. Pass the tour on to up to four other bloggers.
2. Give them the rules and a specific Monday to post.
3. Answer four questions about your creative process that lets other bloggers and visitors know what inspires you to do what you do.

Q1. WHAT I’M I WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT ?
Q2. HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN MY GENRE?
Q3. WHY DO I WRITE OR CREATE WHAT I DO ?
Q4. HOW DOES MY WRITING/CREATIVE PROCESS WORK ?

4. Compose a one-time post on a specific Monday (date given from your nominator).

I’ve chosen April 20th for this 1 time post. Thanks again Storm!

Katsura blossoms

Q1. WHAT I’M I WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?

Being a gardener, I’m clearing away debris from winter and trying to stay ahead of the curve so the gardens are all set for summer.

Q2. HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN MY GENRE?

IMG_0586My gardening style is informal and I have decreased the area of lawn by half over the past decade in favor of wild field habitat. While nature might look “messy” to some, this experiment has yielded a healthier ecosystem. I think of my yard as a painter’s studio and I am working on many canvases simultaneously.

Q3. WHY DO I WRITE OR CREATE WHAT I DO ?

April12 029I have always loved nature and gardening came early in my life. Some of my earliest memories are picking and arranging flowers. Ten plus years ago I became interested in writing as a way to teach others about gardening and lately it has moved towards helping others understand how they affect the natural world and the importance of using native plants to support the greater ecosystem in which we live. We are all connected!

Q4. HOW DOES MY WRITING/CREATIVE PROCESS WORK ?

IMG_9792In my garden beds, each a separate canvas, I use texture and color like I would paint to create beauty. I use plants I love and want to see in my garden. I don’t have a formula, just a feel for what pleases me. Most times it works, when it doesn’t, I consider it a learning opportunity. There are no mistakes in the garden, it is generally simple to do over. My only regrets are Asian invasive species that I planted in ignorance and am now stuck with: Houttuynia and rhizomatous Bamboo. Never plant these!

For my posts, I often take walks with my camera and write from the photos I capture. I see so much beauty all around me, I love to share it with folks in the blogosphere.

IMG_0168Thanks again to Storm for this opportunity and hope you visit her site as well as my nominees, all who have wonderful posts to offer. Enjoy!

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Wildlife in the Yard

Wild Turkey tom (Meleagris gallopavo)

Wild Turkey tom (Meleagris gallopavo)

Yesterday afternoon I noticed a wild hen turkey near our feeder and as I drew near the window right below me was a tom strutting his stuff! Like the iconic Thanksgiving bird, he displays heightened mating season color and stance – blue skin on his head and bright red wattles, fanned tail, lowered striped wings and ruffed up iridescent back feathers. I love the way the hens virtually ignore their amorous advances, almost bored and seemingly unimpressed.

IMG_4886Relaxing his feathers and stopping only a few times to peck at some tidbit on the ground, he resumed his full mating stance, vibrating his tail as he stalked her across the yard and into the woods. Fascinating to watch!

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Then today, our dog alerted me to another surprise visitor in the driveway – a bobcat! By the time I retrieved my camera he or she was beating a hasty retreat into the woods.

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Bobcat (Lynx rufus)

IMG_4901It appears to have been tagged in its left ear. Perhaps it was a relocated animal or an orphan released into the wild?

It’s encounters like these that make me happy that we live in a rural area where wild critters abound. Glad to see that they made it through the harsh winter in good condition. May they live long, healthy and productive lives with lots of offspring!

 

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Wood Frogs

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“Oh baby, be mine!”

It is that time of year again when our little friends are calling from the pond. There are already eggs among the submerged vegetation and soon the tiny tadpoles will hatch. I thought I’d publish my post from last year to honor their arrival and this ancient rite of spring.

Wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus) have found their way to my little garden pond next to the front steps. There is still snow in the yard, but they are announcing spring is here. To hear their mating call, click here. They sound a bit like ducks quacking.

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Kind of cute, isn’t he?

These little critters are about 2-3 inches long and live in wooded areas, hunting in leaf litter for prey. They are so well camouflaged that one only sees them when they jump, making a fast getaway. They overwinter under the leaf litter and curiously, can freeze completely, even enduring repeated thaw and freeze cycles. Wood frogs only come to water, usually vernal pools, to breed. Frogs prefer vernal pools (which are ephemeral, lasting only a month or two), for breeding because they lack fish, which will prey upon eggs and tadpoles. I’ve come to the conclusion that they are a delicacy because everything eats them, including other amphibians.

Can you spy four frogs?

Can you spy four frogs?

We cover the pond over winter to prevent it from filling with leaves and debris. On Saturday morning my spouse uncovered it and it had a 2″ layer of ice covering it. Sunday I raked the garden bed surrounding the pond and was startled to uncover one of these little frogs – yikes! The ice was melting pretty fast, but seeing that we already had a tenant waiting to take up residency, I removed the rest of the ice with a rake and scooped out what leaves that had found their way in under the cover. The pond always smells a bit off at first, but the sun takes care of it after a few days.

"Your eyes are like deep forest pools."

“Your eyes are like deep forest pools.”

It only took two days to attract four frogs and more will come. The spring peepers will be next. My favorite, they are are only 1 inch long and cling to the shrubbery around the pond. They drive my spouse crazy since they incessantly “peep-peep-peep” all night long into June, especially if it rains! We will eventually also get green frogs that find their way up from the river. It’s quite a party out there some nights – all in this tiny  3 x 4 foot pond!

To learn more about wood frogs and their life cycle, click here.

 

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Biltmore Estate

"Biltmore Estate" by JcPollock - Self-published work by JcPollock. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Biltmore_Estate.jpg#/media/File:Biltmore_Estate.jpg

“Biltmore Estate” by JcPollock – Self-published work by JcPollock. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Biltmore_Estate.jpg#/media/File:Biltmore_Estate.jpg

Recently, while visiting my sister, I was fortunate to visit the Biltmore Estate, a 250-room French Renaissance chateau completed in 1895, located in Asheville, NC.

It was a beautiful, warm day and we toured the gardens (such a treat!) and the house, which covers FOUR acres! It is the largest private home in the United States with 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. Can you imagine cleaning a house that size? No thanks!

cora-with-creditAn added treat was an exhibit of over 45 costumes from Downton Abbey, the popular PBS series, many of which I recognized from watching the show for the past five seasons. It was great to see the lavish beaded gowns and tailored men’s suits up close. The overlaying of the fictional series with the real lifestyle of the Vanderbilts helped us envision what day to day life was like for the ultra-rich.

The priceless art, elaborate furnishings, tapestries from the Middle Ages and floral arrangements in every room were a sight to behold.

Today, it requires a staff of 1,800 to maintain the house and 8,000 acres of grounds. Over a million people visit the estate each year, which now includes an inn, stables and winery.

IMG_4766Of course, my main interest was the grounds and 40-acres of manicured gardens, which were designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. IMG_4764 IMG_4767

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A stunning display of tulips, hyacinths and daffodils filled the beds of the walled garden.

IMG_4768 IMG_4770The conservatory was filled to brimming with beautiful tropical plants that are used to decorate the buildings throughout the estate.

IMG_4772IMG_4775IMG_4782Many spring shrubs were in bloom including magnolias, dogwood, eastern redbud, forsythia and cherry. It was wonderful to jump into spring, leaving my still snow-covered yard and cool weather behind. I will return renewed and expectant of the abundant growth to come. Best of all, I’ll get to enjoy two springs this year!

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At Last

IMG_4753 IMG_4759At last, there are flowers in my garden! While large patches of snow remain all over the yard, the sunny front bed offers up its gift of snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) in the spring sunshine. I’ve been waiting all winter for this moment…the gardening year has begun!IMG_4758

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Nemesis

IMG_4745 IMG_4746Nemesis: (noun) arch rival, adversary, foe, opponent, arch enemy.

Wren is not happy about this little chipmunk that has set up housekeeping in the stonewall right outside the door. So close, yet so far. I think he has figured out that this dog is no threat to him and may even enjoy taunting her by sitting for long periods of time watching her whine, bark and scratch the window frame, which of course, displeases me!

He may not be there for long, however. Today a sharp-shinned hawk swooped down in an attempt to make him lunch. He made a lucky escape this time, but tomorrow is another day.

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