Monday, April 15, 2013

Baby Squirrels

At least 5 times in the past couple years, my mom has come home with orphaned animals.  I have no idea how or why it keeps happening, maybe she's some sort of little baby animal magnet.  From a nest of rabbits being run over by a lawn mower to baby squirrels falling out of their nest, my mom always gives these little guys the chance to fight and grow strong.  The first one or two times this happened, we weren't very prepared.  We didn't have anywhere to keep four baby squirrels that hadn't even opened their eyes yet, or any knowledge of how to care for them.  Now, we're much better equipped.  Building a big cage isn't all that hard if you have the right materials, and it's much better than a twenty gallon fish tank.  Our vet actually lives on the next street over from us, so we know a lot more about how to nurture these little fellas back to a healthy point where they can be released.  It's amazing how fast baby squirrels can recover.  They'll go from barely moving and needing to be dropper fed to climbing all over you and socializing in just a few days.  Before you know it, they'll be strong enough to join their friends in the trees.  

Yellow-Spotted Salamander

Whenever I see a log or a rock in the woods, I have an intense urge to go over and flip that thing over as fast as I can.  Ever since I was a little kid, any time my father and I go on hikes or walks through the woods, we search for the perfect log to flip over.  What we're looking for is a rotting log or rock, in a moist setting, the perfect home for a salamander.  These little amphibians are one of my favorite animals.  If you're going to start flipping logs to add some extra excitement to your walks through the woods, you'll mostly find Red-backed or Jefferson salamanders, the two most common species that live in New England.  If you're lucky, or after you flip enough logs, you'll find a Yellow-Spotted salamander.  They aren't super rare, but they are still pretty uncommon to find.  I've found two of these specimens in my life, and each time it was a memorable experience.  The bright yellow spots that cover its body make it look almost fake, just too perfect.  After finding this little guy under a decaying log in New York, I took a few pictures, and returned his log, leaving him to eat his worms and other insects crawling around in the dirt.

Even Dead Fish Have A Story

Salmon are tough as nails.  They're born along with thousands of their brothers and sisters, working with a very small percentage to live.  In the first few stages of their life, they're constantly battling to stay alive, to live and feed in the river that they were born in.  Once they reach maturity, the hard part starts.  Using the instincts they were born with, they follow the river downstream until they reach the ocean, where a new life, along with a whole new batch of dangers await.  Orca whales, Salmon sharks, and even humans are just a few things these fighters have to deal with while living in the ocean.

Their next journey is their last.  The same instinct that drove them from their birth place out into the vast ocean kicks in again, guiding them back to that same river.  The salmon spawn, and finally end their epic, perilous journey.  Tired and very beat up from the spawning process, they die.  Some of them will decay and become a part of that river where it all began.  Others, like the one in the picture above, get caught up in shallow waters.  The seasons change and the water levels drop, temperatures plummet and snow falls, preserving the carcass for months, even years.  

First Timers

One of my favorite parts of being an experienced fisherman is sharing that experience.  Even if someone doesn't find the same release that you do, or experience the same joy that comes from landing that memorable fish, it's still worth seeing the amazement and surprise spark up in a persons eyes.

Bringing first timers out for a day of fishing is always risky.  The weather is always changing, and some days those fish just aren't around.  Luckily, when my dad and I brought my sisters best friend and her boyfriend, we had a bright, calm, perfect day.  We saw whales, we caught big fish (the above picture is a 50" Striped Bass, the first fish either of them had ever caught).  I couldn't think of a better way to show people a new experience.

Bird and Her Eggs

So hopefully by now, anyone who is reading this should know that I'm into nature.  Not just plants and the outdoors, I'm big into animals as well.  Which would explain why, throughout my life, many different types of critters have taken up residency in my house.  Cats, dogs, birds, an iguana, multiple orphaned baby squirrels, and at one point, a turtle that had been run over (don't worry, he lived!).

This is my bird, Bird.  Yes, I did name my bird Bird, and there's a story behind it.  When we first got her, we had no idea how to tell whether she was a male or a female.  She was young, and with research I found out that it would take a few years for certain features to develop that would indicate the sex.  So that, coupled with the fact that I've never been good at coming up with interesting and catchy names, resulted in the name Bird.

A couple months later, when Bird was living a happy, although still genderless bird life, I noticed that she was spending most of her time in a little bird house that I had recently put in her cage.  After a few days, I started to get a little worried due to the fact that she now would not come out of her humble abode.  I popped the top of the house off, and there was Bird, sitting on a pile of pure white cadbury-egg sized eggs.   

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Tiger Lily

I think I've always had a great eye for taking pictures.  I don't consider myself an artist, but when I take a picture and it comes out like this, sometimes I start to feel a little bit like one.  I was just sitting on my steps, tying my shoes, and getting ready to go out on my boat on this beautiful day last summer.  I didn't have my camera with me, I wasn't even thinking about taking pictures when I looked over and knew I had to capture what I was looking at.  I shot this with my iPhone, and I still consider it one of the best pictures I have taken.  I guess the point I'm trying to make here is that good art can happen anywhere, at any time.

Monarch Caterpillar

This is the caterpillar of a Monarch Butterfly.  The first time I saw one of these funky little guys was when I was in first grade, on the first day of class.  My teacher had created a whole lesson around these insects, with something typical that we were supposed to take away from it, like "you've watched these caterpillars grow up and fly away, now it's your turn."  Now, I definitely was not paying attention to that part.  I was busy being  mesmerized by the incredible transformation that a caterpillar goes through to become a butterfly.

About five years ago, a couple of milkweed plants sprouted up outside in my yard.  Milkweed is the only type of plant that a Monarch caterpillar will eat (the leaf in the picture is a milkweed leaf).  Each year since then, more and more milkweed has started to grow in that same spot, and each year, we get to see tons of butterfly's laying their eggs.  So although I didn't really pay attention to what my teacher was trying to teach us, I think I can say that that experience in first grade is what sparked my interest in nature, which I am thankful for.