Blue-Eyed Grass – Easily Overlooked

With tiny flowers only 1/4 inch (6mm) wide, that only open in the morning, it is easy to see why I’ve only found Blue-Eyed Grass in my Alberta yard on three occasions.

Alberta
Blue-Eyed Grass Flower

This time my transient wild flower popped up in a bed close to the garage. I just happened to pass the bed in the morning, when it was in full bloom. The flower closes tight in the afternoon, and that makes the plant almost invisible among the other grasses.

Alberta
Blue-Eyed Grass – closed flowers and beginning of seed formation
Alberta
Blue-Eyed Grass – seeds forming

Plant Profile
Common Name: Blue-Eyed Grass
Scientific Name: Sisyrinchium montanum
Native to: A perennial that grows in open meadows all across Canada; Midwestern and North Eastern U.S.A.
Growth: Loves full sun and medium to moist soil, but is drought tolerant, can grow in shady areas and is extremely resilient. Grows 10-50 cm tall.
Blooms: Purpley-blue star shaped flowers with yellow eyes; blooms from May to July.The flowers open early in the morning and close by midday
Comment: The grass like leaves are a reminder that this plant is a member of the Iris family.

This week’s WordPress.com Photo Challenge is Transient.

Grow Up, Snake!

Transient – a snake passing through the yard, my ‘fear’ of said snake, the snakes skin.

I have to say at the outset that I don’t really like snakes all that much. Not big snakes, for sure. (A snake always looks bigger than it really is, by the way.) So the first time I saw a ‘pretty big’ snake in my yard in Arizona, I was a bit ‘freaked’ out. It looked suspiciously like a Rattlesnake… Fortunately, our local Fire Department comes running when you call and ask for their Snake Removal assistance. I think they would rather deal with a snake than with a snake bite.

The snake turned out to be a Gopher (or Bull) Snake. From a safe distance, Gopher snakes and Rattlesnakes resemble each other – they have the same sort of markings and colors.

A stretched out Gopher Snake – about 3 ft (1 metre) long.

When I’d calmed down, and took a closer look, I saw how the Gopher Snake differed from a Rattlesnake.

round pupils
Gopher Snake head – no facial pit, and round pupils distinguish the gopher snake from the rattlesnake.

Both snakes can be a bit short-tempered. The Gopher Snake will rise to a striking position, flatten its head into a triangular shape, hiss loudly and shake its tail at intruders. The ruse works very well if the snake also happens to have it’s tail hidden in tall dry grass.

tapered tail
Gopher Snake – tapered tail, no rattles

After this particular snake had slithered off, The Car Guy discovered that it had left it’s skin behind. ‘Love the Skin You’re In’ only works for a month or so for a snake, then they discard it for a nice new one so that they can grow larger.

Here is the skin – each scale sparkled in the bright sunlight. Quite beautiful.

Snake Stories
Common Name: Gopher Snake or Bull Snake
Scientific Name: Pituophis
Description: The top of the snake is tan, cream, yellow, orange-brown, or pale gray, with a series of large dark brown or black blotches, with smaller dark spots on the sides. They can reach 9 feet (275 cm) in length, but 4 feet (120 cm) is more common.
Native to: from the Atlantic to Pacific oceans, as far north as southern Canada, and as far south as Veracruz and southern Sinaloa, Mexico, including Baja California.
Date Seen: April 28, 2017
Location: North of Fountain Hills, Arizona
Comments: This is a powerful constrictor that preys on a wide variety of animals including rats, mice, rabbits, lizards, birds, snakes, eggs, and insects. It hibernates during the cold months of late fall and winter.

Have you ever found a snake skin? Did you know that humans shed their entire outer layer of skin every 2-4 weeks at the rate of 0.001 – 0.003 ounces of skin flakes every hour?

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Transient.

Striped Coralroot Orchid – On Going Unnoticed

I thought I had met most of the residents of my forest (north of Calgary, Alberta) – I’ve been tromping along it’s paths looking at plants and birds and bugs for 26 years! But in early June, I discovered a ‘new to me’ plant – a Striped Coralroot Orchid. I don’t know how long this tiny 13 cm (5 inch) plant has lived here – perhaps for years, or maybe it is a fairly new arrival!

Robert Frosts poem, On Going Unnoticed, exactly captured my thoughts as I looked down on the small clump of beautiful pinky-red flowers – they “… look up small from the forest’s feet“. If I hadn’t been walking in that area at the same moment that a small shaft of sunlight briefly illuminated the tiny plants, I would probably never have found them.

Alberta pink

Alberta pink

Alberta pink

Alberta pink macro

Plant Profile
Common Name: Striped Coralroot Orchid
Scientific Name: Corallorhiza striata
Native to: Found in shaded forests and wooded areas across southern Canada and the western and central United States
Growth: Coralroot is a member of the orchid family, with underground rhizomatous stems that resemble coral. It is a non-photosynthetic plant with leaves that are little more than scales on the stems. The Coralroot Orchid in my yard is almost 5 inches tall.
Blooms: It produces a mass of yellowish pink to red flowers, with several darker purple veins giving the appearance of stripes. In my yard, it bloomed in early June.
Comment: The plants get nourishment from dead leaf matter by being parasites of fungi in the soil.

RCMP – Law, Order and the Musical Ride

In 1867, Canada became a nation. This year (2017) is Canada’s 150th Birthday!

Mounties, dressed in red serge, are often seen leading local parades on Canada Day (July1st). There are 680 RCMP Detachments across Canada.

Six years after the Dominion of Canada was formed, the Parliament of Canada established a central police force and gave it the task of maintaining Law and Order in the newly acquired western territories of Canada. The force acquired the name “North-West Mounted Police” (NWMP). By 1886, the NWMP’s first riding school was established in Regina and in 1887, the horses and riders performed mounted precision cavalry drills on several occasions. It wasn’t until 1901,  though, that the drills, choreographed to music, began to be performed for the public.

In 1920, the name of the force was changed to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

Today, the Musical Ride consists of 32 riders (plus one leader) in scarlet jackets on beautiful black horses. The RCMP has bred and raised its own horses since 1939. The Ride tours throughout Canada and internationally between May and October.

RCMP Musical Ride at the Calgary Stampede – 32 horses and riders in an orderly line-up!

More Canadiana – Best Canadian Puns, Jokes and Observations.

This week’s WordPress.com Photo Challenge is Order.

I Don’t Want Your Squirrels

A Black Eastern Grey Squirrel – an introduced species.

Really – I don’t want your squirrels. They are your problem. If you don’t want them at your place, why do you think I want them at mine?

Do you think you are being humane by transporting them out to the country to release them? Well, you aren’t. You’ve just signed their death certificate, but you are too ‘sensitive’ to kill them yourself.
– You’ve removed the squirrel from a home range where it knew how to find food, water, shelter, and how to stay safe.
– You may have trapped a mother squirrel – her babies will be left behind to die.
– You’ve spread a non-native introduced animal into yet another habitat where it doesn’t belong.

In the past week you’ve brought me two squirrels- a brown Eastern Grey Squirrel and a black Eastern Grey Squirrel. The magpies were quick to spot them, and followed them around and harassed them. With major predators, like hawks, owls, weasels, fox and coyotes, the squirrels will not likely last long. That’s good news for life in my forest.

In a perfect world, someone would drop you off in my forest for a few days too. How long did you spend in the trap – was that terrifying? You would wander through the woods, naked, with no food or water, no roof over your head. The Coyote Pack would be close by…

I love mankind … it’s people I can’t stand!!
– Charles M. Schulz, The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 5: 1959-1960 –