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Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

It was my plan to post a drawing I did of two whales. I went through my recent sketchbooks, and they seemed to have swam away. But what kept appealing to me was this pen and ink sketch I did of a spirit bear.

Spirit bears are snow white bears, not albinos, that live only in a specific area of Canada, the Great Bear Rainforest, one of the largest unspoiled temperate rainforests on earth. This is a partly protected area in the islands and coastal areas of British Columbia. They are actually a rare subspecies of the American black bear known as a Kermode bear, most of whom have dark coats. The double recessive gene for the white coat must be carried by both parents in order to produce the white spirit, or ghost, bear. They are looked on as sacred by the indigenous tribes of the area, and have become symbolic of these people’s fight against proposed desecration of the rainforest by those wishing to build a pipeline there. It is unclear how many spirit bears there actually are, but estimates run from 150 to 200.

Learn more about the Spirit Bear.

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I do. Even if I’m not doing very much of it at this very moment.

Yesterday I received a notice from Pinterest that someone had pinned one of my French Bulldog drawings from one of my boards which features only my own Frenchie artwork. (I have others I’m working on, but they’re not active yet.)

I don’t know why I feel so inordinately touched when someone pins one of my drawings, but I do. Why do I still feel so surprised when someone appreciates my work? Since many people actually do, I thought to share a drawing I did not too long ago of a grey wolf.

I have a deep fondness for wolves and feel very connected to them. I actually feel connected to all animals, and my work in Frenchies has simply been part of my path. When I visited the board where this kind person had pinned my French Bulldog pencil drawing I was greeted not with just Frenchies, but drawings of all kinds and subjects. I was entranced. They reminded me of how much I really do love to draw. I felt inspired.

I realized I need to make time. Not find it, but make it. It’s a challenge in an overly busy schedule, but when I looked at all those drawings, I felt happy. I felt happy because I know that that’s inside me. And I don’t have to draw for a reason, such as working on my portfolio or illustrating one of my picture books; I can draw just because I like to draw. It’s seems like such a novel idea, yet it’s hardly a new one.

And so, once again, I am offered a lesson I haven’t yet learned – different time in my life, different presentation, somewhat of a variation on a theme. I do believe that we all have lessons to learn in our lives, and we will be given them again and again until we catch on. Sometimes I feel like a pretty slow learner, but I’m sure it’s all unfolding exactly as it should.

And for those who’ve read this post, and who very possibly agree, I thank you for stopping by, for briefly being part of my world and perhaps sharing yours, both of us unfolding together.

 

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northernhawkowl-jbalsam2I found myself really looking at a stunning calendar photograph of this Northern Hawk Owl for the month of November. I am the recipient of a large number of calendars each year, some from organizations I support, and others that are cold mailings from like-minded organizations. I have several of them posted around my home, not to remind me of the date but to enjoy the beauty of nature and animals, changing every month.

As December approached, and a new bird would arrive, I started to play with the idea of doing a watercolor of this owl. She is clothed in multiple shades of browns with large white flecks on her dark wings and a cap that looks like it has been dusted with freshly fallen snow. But ahh .. there has been a bit of a drought in these parts in terms of my drawing, so rather than tackle something I haven’t done in ages, why not do something I really enjoy, simple black ink. And so I drew.

Perhaps most surprising as I hunched over my desk, was that Jazzy, who normally would be meowing up a storm demanding dinner at that precise time, was utterly quiet. It was as if she knew this was something even she hadn’t seen in a while, and best not to disturb a woman at her work.

We never know what will inspire us. I, myself, was surprised that this owl had been calling out to be drawn for days. What I do know, is that when we’re inspired, it’s good to listen.

 

 

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Among the many wonders of nature, I find camouflage one of the most fascinating. Below are photographs of owls who quite literally disappear into the trees behind them. If viewed from enough of a distance, it is practically impossible to even see them.

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If you can find the owl easily, move further away from your computer/device until it is hard to spot her, and then view the rest.

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I cannot take credit for these wonderful photos; they were sent to me in an e-mail and were collected, I assume, from around the web with no photographer given credit. I just prepped them for my blog, hoping you would appreciate them as much as I. Whoever the photographers are, thank you for sharing these amazing images online.

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We live in an amazing world. Sometimes it’s easy to see just how amazing it is.
Sometimes we have to look just a little harder.

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Today is World Elephant Day, and I wanted to share with you two things – a wonderful video of a baby elephant in a protected nature preserve for rescued elephants in Thailand;  she finds a long piece of ribbon and plays with it. It’s enchanting – she’s just like any other little kid, (she’s 5 years old), with a new toy …

And the rescue of a humpback whale who was saved by a group of researchers out on their boat. They came across her so entangled by discarded fishing net that she is slowly drowning. One of the men swims out to her to let her know that they’re there to help. Ultimately, when she seems to know they are freeing her, she patiently stays alongside their boat as they cut her free, and then she shows them what freedom really is.

There is much sadness in the world as to how man treats his animal brethren, but it is always so wonderful to watch him rise above. Thanks to the people who take such good care of these elephants and the individuals who freed this magnificent creature and saved her life.

 

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You may know from watching nature shows that there is something in the animal world called symbiosis or mutualism. What it means is that two unlikely creatures form alliances for their mutual benefit. I will offer a few examples with stunning photographs from Wikipedia and then my own humble example.

Perhaps the most well-known example of symbiosis in the animal world – only because there have been so many photographs circulated about it – is that of the clownfish and the anemone.

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The charming little clownfish seems to be one of the only, if not the only, sea creature that is immune to the anemone’s sting. That works out perfectly. The clownfish has a place of safety to which he can swim when predators pursue, and in turn, brings dinner right to the anemone.

Then we have cleaner shrimp. These slender, delicate shrimp perform an important function for a variety of sea-dwellers from groupers to anemones to eels, as we see below.

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Here a cleaner shrimp does a tidy-up on the mouth of a moray eel. The benefit to the eel is that of a good dental/oral cleaning as bacteria is removed from its mouth. For the shrimp, who is a scavenger, a meal on the go.

Not all examples of symbiosis are under water. For example, oxpeckers are birds that often co-habit with zebras, (and other large mammals), for mutual advantage. The oxpeckers eat lice and ticks from the zebras’ coats and help the zebras by screaming when predators are nearby. Crocodiles and plovers co-exist with the plovers popping right into the crocodile’s mouth. Once again, in exchange for a good dental cleaning, the croc allows the plover whatever morsels he can find.

And then we come to my personal example:

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A cat and a car. Perhaps the most mysterious and least understood, (to the average passerby), of symbiotic relationships, there are even tertiary benefits in this relationship – to me!

Pumpkin, my buddy from next door, likes to take his nap in the shade of my bumper. The hotter it gets, the deeper in the cool shade he lies. The benefit to Pumpkin is obvious, but what about the car?

Two stories came to my attention awhile back. My neighbor across the street found one day that his truck wouldn’t start. It was taken by flatbed to his mechanic who found that a goodly number of field mice had set up housekeeping in his engine and chewed through all the wires. So bad was it, that it couldn’t be repaired. It was either a new engine in the truck or a new truck. The neighbor across the street on his other side was driving to work when her car simply stopped running. She coasted to the side of the road, was taken by flatbed to her mechanic, who found that a goodly number of field mice had set up housekeeping in her engine and chewed through her wires as well. Luckily, her car could be repaired.

Getting my drift? So while I am always aghast to see the occasional mauled mouse that Pumpkin, (or his cohort Cloudy, my other buddy from next door), leaves lying about, I also know his presence is keeping my engine intact. Which means I get to drive knowing my wires are not chewed through, both cats get shade and bottomless bowls of food and water on my back porch, and we all get some cuddling and hanging-out time.

Beats eating ticks and lice or screaming at the approach of predators, eh?

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BaldEagle-Headshot2Each year, a pair of nesting Bald Eagles builds their nest on the Duke Farms Estate, and lay their eggs. This alone, is wonderful, but the entire process is caught live on the Duke Farms Eagle Cam.

Bald Eagles had become nearly extinct in New Jersey thanks to the excessive use of DDT, but they are slowly on the rebound, and this pair can be counted on to lay 2 or 3 eggs each spring. Through the eagle cam, you can watch the baby chicks and their doting parents high up in the tree. The first egg was laid on February 17, and the second of the two eggs hatched March 30. You can catch these youngsters as of this date in their pale baby feathers, then watch them grow right through fledging from the nest.

At times, there’s not much to watch on the eagle cam, but at other times, you have the opportunity of watching either or both of the parents bringing in food and feeding their chicks, moving around the nest, and the youngsters trying out their wings. In addition, there are weekly updates on the family as well as photos showing what you may have missed.

It’s a rare opportunity to get a peek at nature, so enjoy the Duke Farms Eagle Cam.

p.s. In reading more of the post notes, I see that one of the eagles hatched in the Duke Farms nest in 2009 was identified 150 miles away in Connecticut, where he had mated with a female, and fledged two chicks in 2014; the pair has nested again this year.

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There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks. Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough to pay attention to the story.

~Linda Hogan

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My apologies – I have been remiss! As in years previous, there has been a live eagle cam at the Duke Farms in Hillsborough, New Jersey, and I have lost track and not gotten it up in a blog post til now!

This year, the bonded pair hatched 3 eggs and have 3 growing chicks. Please check them out here! The first egg was laid on February 17, and the third egg hatched on April 1 – so they are growing!

PeregrineFalcon2And to apologize for my negligence, nature lovers, here is a second live stream cam – on the top of a skyscraper in Jersey City, NJ – a nesting box of the endangered species, the peregrine falcon.  The young falcon nestling is 23 days old today, June 3rd. Check out the baby on the Jersey City Falcon Cam.

 

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NewmansOwnCoffee2Once vilified as being a troublemaker to your health, coffee has been getting a whole new appraisal as of late. Its health benefits are now being recognized. An article in Prevention magazine wrote up how coffee can help lower your risk for Type-2 diabetes.

Researchers at Harvard University looked at 28 studies with more than a million combined participants and found that people who drank six 8-ounce cups of coffee daily had a 33% lower risk of diabetes. The good news is that each cup lowered your risk by 9%, so you don’t have to go crazy with coffee consumption, but just be aware of the possibilities.

What’s even more exciting is that it’s not the caffeine responsible for the effect, so if you drink decaf, this still applies to you. Researchers suspect that it’s a naturally occurring chemical in coffee called chlorogenic acid that reduces the rate at which the intestines absorb glucose.

So that’s how you can change your personal world, but how about expanding your vision and changing the world at large?

The coffee you drink can make an actual difference to the rainforest and to saving the lives of migratory and resident birds. With the advent of agri-technology, sun-grown coffee became the new big thing, but is not without a goodly number of drawbacks. Here are a few differences between your typical coffees and shade-grown coffees in their benefits to wildlife and the environment.

Poco-Coffee2* Migratory birds and many resident birds, (such as Poco, a rescued macaw, right), find sanctuary in the forest canopy of traditional coffee plantations, while in sun-grown coffee areas, there are 90% fewer bird species.

* Shade trees protect the coffee plants from rain and sun, help maintain soil quality, and aid in natural pest control, thanks to the birds. These traditional coffee plantations also help to conserve watersheds, leading to higher water quality and quantity for local populations. Sun grown coffee requires chemical fertilizers and pesticides and year-round labor, placing financial demands on the growers. It also leads to greater soil erosion and higher amounts of toxic runoff endangering both wildlife and people.

* Shade coffee plants can produce crops of beans for up to 50 years, while sun grown plants produce for only 10 – 15.

* The higher quality beans produced by shade grown methods produce a better tasting coffee!

FairTradeLogoWhere do you find shade-grown coffee? Most coffees marked “Organic Fair Trade” will also be shade-grown. Read the labels and check out the producers’ literature and/or web sites for details. Smaller merchants, health-oriented food stores, and, increasingly, your local supermarket now carry shade grown coffee. There is one more bonus – when you see the “Fair Trade” logo on your bag of coffee, or elsewhere, it assures you that the farmers and their families who grow the coffee are being paid a sustainable living wage for their work.

While it may be a bit more expensive than sun grown coffee, it preserves the biodiversity of our planet, the rainforest, and a multitude of bird species, plus it helps humanity. A pretty good deal all in one cup of coffee.

So you can change your personal world, and spread your wings and change a whole lot more of it.

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StrayDog2There is never a shortage of amazing things one can find on the web, and the site I recently came across is no exception.

As both an animal and movie lover, I am particularly sensitive to animal suffering and death on film. I have a very hard time watching cruel or violent  treatment of any animal even if I know it’s an animatronic sit-in for the real animal. It’s still inordinately painful. I also much prefer to know that the animal lives happily in the end, but I know, realistically, that may not be the case. I also know, despite the oversight by a humane organization, that unacceptable behavior towards animals in film has been known to occur.

So if I’ll be upset by animal suffering, what about children? How much and at what age can they accept and understand animal suffering or the dog/cat/horse/whatever dying at the end, even though it may be a logical plot ending?

Well, here’s the site that will guide you to whatever you or your kids can tolerate – Does the Dog Die?  Does the Dog Die has currently reviewed 680 films and indicates by a happy, neutral or crying dog icon if animals live, recover or die in the end. Click on any of the film names and you’ll get details about how every animal in that film is treated and what happens to it.

There’s an awful lot of violence and death in films (and TV) today, both human and animal. Sometimes we just don’t need to watch it. So check out Does the Dog Die? and decide for yourself how much you want to take in.

 

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Although I am surrounded by country, I do live “in-town,” as they say. But perhaps it is exactly because open space surrounds us that there is no shortage of wildlife so close to our homes.

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Working at my computer just this past June, I looked out front and saw a doe nonchalantly strolling down the street. She did not observe the Stop sign, but continued walking, looking for the tastiest greens she could find. Unfortunately, this is at a particular neighbor’s home who happens to be the most ardent gardener for a few blocks around. Of course! She has the delicacies!

But Ms. Doe wasn’t stopping and no sooner was she out of sight, than she came through the hedges bordering my property and casually walked down my driveway at an angle. This made me believe this may be is who is responsible for the deer tracks I see in the snow in roughly the same places – she must have a route.

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Today I looked up and saw … the same doe? a different doe? and her still-spotted fawn. Mama could easily scale that white picket fence for the best nibbles while baby clearly hasn’t yet mastered leaping hurdles. I was able to go outside and get a few shots before the more worried fawn walked further down the road.

While I enjoy watching animals of all kinds, having deer so at-home in our neighborhood isn’t good. They have become accustomed to our smells and sounds and are no longer frightened. The offspring they produce will become even more acclimated to being around people. It is certainly wreaking havoc on our properties as the deer now consume shrubbery and flowers year-round even though there is plenty of browse in the nearby woods and fields.

Sadly, it just creates more enmity towards these beautiful creatures, even referred to by some as “vermin.” It’s a problem for farmers as well as residents and a complex one, yet it is we who have taken more and more of their land through endless development. It’s not a problem with an easy solution.

Meanwhile, I truly do enjoy seeing them even though they have “deer-scaped” the plantings around my home as well.

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