A window onto wildlife
I sat in an auto repair place. I was preparing myself to tremble pitifully as they tabulated my bill. I looked out an enormous window and watched a squirrel scamper. That’s what squirrels do. American white pelicans flew over in squadrons in tight formation over the street.
I imagined their shadows falling upon passing cars. Turkey vultures circled over the repair shop as if they might find a dead car to be a delectable dish. I spotted several warblers flitting about in landscaped vegetation. I have been on a whale-watching trip. It was a righteous endeavor. It was no more exciting than the wildlife-watching trip I took without leaving a chair in the waiting room of an auto repair enterprise.
The house wren
Most house wrens migrate to the southern US and Mexico for the winter. The house wren's scientific name is Troglodytes aedon. A troglodyte means "one who lives in caves." How can a tiny brown bird be a caveman?
This wren builds nests in natural cavities, such as woodpecker holes and in artificial ones that include nest boxes, mailboxes, cans, and jars. A friend made a wren house out of an old cowboy boot. A wren took to it like a duck to water. Aedon, in Greek mythology, was a daughter of Pandareus.
According to Homer, she was the wife of Zethus, who with his brother Amphion was the joint king of Thebes. She had only two children and envied her sister-in-law, Niobe, who had many. She planned to murder Niobe’s eldest son in his sleep, but by mistake killed her own son, Itylus, who was asleep in the same room.
Zeus took pity on Aedon in her grief and changed her into a nightingale; her song was a lament for her dead son. A wren isn’t a nightingale, but is a skilled songster.
Ducking a duck
I was doing a marsh survey at Myre-Big Island State Park. It should have been darker than dark, but most of a moon provided light. I was waist deep into the task and mosquitoes when a blue-winged teal flew straight at me. I had to fall to the earth to keep from being hit in the head. It would have knocked me right out of my Red Wing boots.
I don’t think the duck did that on purpose, but I don’t know for sure. The blue-winged teal is a small duck, but it could have done me harm. I would have come to hearing a voice saying, "How many fingers am I holding up? Do you know what day this is?"
I wouldn’t have gotten either of those questions right even if I hadn’t been hit in the noggin by a blue-winged teal.
Q and A
“Are there more cicada killer wasps this year than normal?” Their numbers are linked to cicada populations, dry weather, and mild winters. The docile creature that resembles a giant yellow jacket paralyzes cicadas and places them into burrows. She lays an egg in the cicadas to feed larval wasps. If a single cicada is placed in a burrow, the wasp lays a male egg. A female egg gets two or three cicadas. The burrow is filled in and a new wasp will exit leave it next July or August.
“How can I tell cougar tracks from dog tracks?” Tracking is difficult, but expert trackers look for three lobes at the bottom of the pad. Dogs and coyotes have one indent at the bottom of their pads. Teardrop-shaped toes. Dogs have toes that are oval-shaped. No claw marks are usually visible, except in extremely rare occasions when mountain lions use them for traction or acceleration. Claw marks are usually visible in dog and coyote tracks. Dogs leave a blunt, flat claw mark. When present, a cougar's claw marks are slender and sharp. Chances are that what you see are the tracks of a dog, but you never know.
“Do you ever see a luna moth?” I saw one of the giant silkworm moths in June. It was a treat to see the luna moth with its 4-inch wingspan in a minty green color. The males have larger and bushier antennae than the females. Neither has mouthparts that allow it to eat anything. Their only purpose is to mate. Bats and owls prey upon them.
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"Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein."--H. Jackson Brown Jr.
“A man has made at least a start on discovering the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well he will never sit."--D. Elton Trueblood