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Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

Yes, I find crows magical, and I am a fan. Whoa, whoa! OK, all you farmers out there – I see you throwing your hands up in the air with a loud and unified “OY!” But hear me out. Let’s look at these magnificent creatures from three standpoints – science, myth and magic, and personal experience.

First a little science. Did you know that crows and ravens (same family) and macaws have the highest brain to skull ratio of any bird on the planet? In fact, their brain to skull ratio is higher than in humans! This in part accounts for their high intelligence, not to mention they have been on the planet for 60-65 million years.  Crows also have a skill accorded to one of the most intelligent mammals on earth, the great apes, i.e. they create and use tools. Crows also will gather around one of their own when it has died to try and determine the cause of its death. They will  learn the facial configuration of a mean human and teach all other crows to know it as such and avoid that human. When a crow leaves its flock and joins another, it immediately acquires their “dialect” by taking on the characteristics of the most popular crows in that flock. No intellectual slouches, these crows. Learn more about them.

The magic. When I designed my own website a number of years ago, I drew the header for it myself. The header featured none other than the crow, and I have utilized that symbol for my blogs. Why?

Because in certain cultures and mythology, the crow is believed to be the symbol of magic and creativity, something near and dear to every artist’s soul. In some cultures the crow has been the symbol of evil and/or death, juxtaposed against the white of the dove and purity. I don’t see life in black and white terms, and for all their brilliance, I like the crow’s mythology in Native American terms and Crow Medicine. As such, Crow is a guide on the path to spirituality and enlightenment and is the keeper of sacred law. It is said that Crow has known the darkness and when they appear in our lives, may be guides through our own darkness on the path to enlightenment. Granted, these may be mythological ideas, but it can be said that all religious/spiritual beliefs are mythology, just different. I am not arguing that point, just drawn to the many inspiring aspects of the beautiful and intelligent crow.

Personal experience. I have a very deep back porch, and during the day, next to my back door, is a bowl of water and dry food for my neighbor’s cat. I’m working at my computer when I hear a rather loud caw. “That sounds mighty close,” I think. I look out the back door, and there is a good-sized crow pilfering the dry food. She sees me and flies away. Not 10 minutes later, I hear the caw again. I appear and she flies away. Shortly thereafter, out of the corner of my eye, I see a flash of black through the side door window. She has learned in only two incidents that her caw brings me to the door, and now flies in silently. Seeing me again, her next attempt was from a different angle that I could not easily see.

Another time, I hear muted crow noises and slip quietly and unseen to watch four of them on the porch. They are talking amongst themselves and jostling for position, pushing one another away from the cat food bowl. I take their verbiage to mean “Wait your turn” and “Get out of my way.”  It is likely a dominance issue. I knock on the window and they disappear, but I could have watched their antics for hours; they were quite amusing. Now, as a result of this, I have to bring in the dry food for a while.

Occasionally, I will see a crow on my walks or on the fence near the window where I work. I always say hello and am sometimes acknowledged with a look and a “caw”. When a crow -– or any animal – appears unexpectedly and/or repeatedly in my life, I may look into its possible meaning. In the case of a crow, I might be at a crossroads, looking for or ready for a change, and need to pull more on my own intuition. Even if that has nothing to do with the crow, when is it ever a bad idea?

One last thought .. there is so much amazing art regarding crows, among them gorgeous paintings by Susan Seddon-Boulet ( above left), but also in a favorite children’s book, Crow Call by Lois Lowry and revered illustrator, Bagram Ibatoulline.

The natural world is filled with wonder and beauty. Depending on the day, I could happily write about pangolins, pandas, or hammerhead sharks. Today, it’s crows.

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One of the wonders of nature is the movement of large numbers of animals in a synchronization we can only observe in awe. In fish, we see schools, in insects, swarms, and in birds, we see flocking. It is a mesmerizing dance. Above we see crows, below starlings.

In the video linked to here, titled The Starling and Falcon Dance by Nick Dunlop, set to the most perfect music, we see thousands of European Starlings migrating south. They have attracted a prime predator, the Peregrine Falcon, and in attempting to evade him, they fly in synch and create amazing patterns in the sky. As fascinating as these photos might be, they cannot show you the magic created by the birds in flight.

Please take a look at one of nature’s miracles.

 

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The internet is an incredible source of so many things, and some incredibly wonderful. This is one of those, and brings tears to my eyes each time I watch it. So simple, so beautifully and brilliantly done. Just 3 minutes you won’t regret. Go full screen.

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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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