Muskrat – Reshaping the Banks of Their Watery World

Alberta water

One evening I watched some Muskrats ‘working like beavers’ at a friends farm. The muskrat is a largish rodent that looks like a stocky rat. It seems harmless enough, but has the ability to reshape the banks of any body of water it decides to call home. In this photo, you can see a cut in the bank where one of its underground dens has perhaps collapsed. If they dug bank burrows under the windmill on the other side of the dugout, it might eventually cause a big problem!

Alberta Water
Muskrats primarily eat a wide variety of plants. This pair were transporting sweet clover – doesn’t it almost looked like a bridal bouquet!?

I really was disappointed when I downloaded my muskrat photos and looked at them on my computer. The early evening light wasn’t optimal for capturing detail with a zoom lens. I fancied the photos up with a few filters, but all in all, I’d say they are good examples of what ELJAYGEE calls  Second Best Shots

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Elemental.

Ghost – A Satisfying Day at the ‘Gamma Dogs’ House

We recently became ‘Grandparents’ to a puppy, though the term ‘puppy’ seems odd for a dog that never was very small and is growing really quickly. Our daughter and her husband are taking their puppy, Ghost, to puppy classes and are making good progress in establishing themselves as the ‘Alpha Dogs’! This training is quickly forgotten, however, in the excitement of a day here at our rural Red House. We joke that I am so far down in the dog’s ‘hierarchy of obedience’ alphabet that I am the ‘Gamma Dog’.


“so many smells. i wonder if any of them are dog approved food.  ‘alpha dog lady’ didn’t like the dead gopher. i found here last week.”

“sniffing, running, digging, rolling.  i need. a bowl of water!”

“and I’m done. someone carry me to the car.”

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

Are you a dog owner? Or – do you just enjoy a dog when it visits, then get to send it home with the owners?

White Butterflies Hiding in the Hay Field

There is a hay field across the road from us. I love taking photos when it is full of big round bales, especially when the hawks sit on them. This spring, the farmer planted new things in the field. I haven’t figured out what all the plants are yet, but the field is absolutely beautiful! For the past few days, it has attracted masses of white butterflies. I tried to get some photos of them…

but the butterflies moved too fast! I was very satisfied, though, that I had captured the layers of blue green, bright green, shades of pink/purple, and splashes of yellow.

If you do the best work you can, the reward is ultimately your self-satisfaction – the sense that you have done the best you can. And then there’s that piece of how others respond.
– Jerry Pinkney –

Does the positive response of others make you feel even more satisfied with your efforts?

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

Would Grandma Approve?

A Collage of Doilies. What would Grandma think if she saw some of her handiwork hanging on the wall!?

red wall, starched

Doilies with the FotoSketcher Emergence filter
Doilies with the FotoSketcher Dots filter
Doilies with the GIMP Stained Glass filter

Do you have any of your Grandma’s  or Grandpa’s treasures displayed in your house?

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

Arizona, Washington, and Germany – An Artistic Look at Bridges

‘Post processing’ or photo editing can not only slightly improve a photo, it can extensively alter it! Here are a few ‘before’ and ‘after’ examples I applied to photos of Bridges.

Bamberg is an beautiful example of an early medieval town in central Europe. It has a large number of surviving ecclesiastical and secular buildings. It is crisscrossed by many rivers, winding canals, and bridges. Some of the bridges are old and famous and some, like this one, are more modern, but don’t detract from the architecture of the surrounding buildings.

After: FotoSketcher Watercolor filter

In keeping with the feel of an ancient European City, I used a Watercolor filter.

_________________________________

Before: Deception Pass Bridge, Washington

Deception Pass Bridge is the common name for two, two-lane bridges that connect Whidbey Island to Fidalgo Island in the U.S. state of Washington. Pass Island lies between the two bridges.

After: FotoSketcher Emergence Filter

I used a filter called Emergence, which is really a series of triangles. I like the way they highlighted the red rose hips.

_________________________________

Navajo Bridge – The original Navajo Bridge was completed and opened to traffic in January 1929. Prior to the building of the bridge, the only way to cross the Colorado River and its formidable gorge was at Lee’s Ferry a short distance upstream. Construction on a new, wider bridge began in May of 1993. The old bridge became a walking bridge.

After: Pencil Sketch filter

I used a Pencil Sketch Filter – just because…

_________________________________

Have you experimented with using filters on your photos? Which program do you use?

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Bridge.

Fritillary Butterflies and Violas

Bridging the Knowledge Gap:

I was weeding and deadheading a few days ago, and was surprised to find my viola/pansy crop consisted of mostly bare stalks. Odd. When I looked closer, I could see that the few remaining leaves were well chewed.

I didn’t give the sorry state of the Viola family much more thought.

Yesterday I was patrolling the yard with my camera, looking for birds, blooms and bugs. I ‘caught’ the House Wren feeding it’s young, a blue dragonfly, various flowers and seeds, and a spotted orange butterfly.

Alberta, Canada

The Butterfly was a new find for me, (or so I thought). I looked it up on the Internet, and decided it was a Fritillary Butterfly.

Determining which Fritillary (Atlantis, Callippe, Edward’s, Great Spangled, Meadow or Mormon) was too fine a distinction for my ID skills! The important piece of information, though, is that the Fritillary Caterpillar eats members of the Violet family. That probably explains the decimation of my Viola and Pansy plants.

Alberta, Canada I also learned that the top and bottom of butterfly wings will have different patterns. The underside (bottom) of the Fritillary Butterfly wing is what I had photographed and been looking for on the internet.

The top of the wings is a bit different. I went to my photo files of Butterflies, and realized that I had already photographed a Fritillary Butterfly, but had only seen the top of it’s wings.

My two butterfly ‘finds’ were actually members of the same family. Another Knowledge Gap bridged!

The interesting thing is, in normal circumstances, I would not have photographed the chewed up Violas.Their role in the life cycle of the Fritillary Butterfly would have been lost to me. A small, but important piece of information bridged that gap, and that made all the difference.

The Flutter Files
Species: Argynninae
Name: Greater Fritillary Butterfly
Date Seen: July 7, 2017 and August 8, 2016
Location: North of Calgary, Alberta

What big connections have you made when you found a small, but important ‘bridge’ piece of information?

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Bridge.

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.

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.

Cactus Spines – A ‘Don’t Touch Me’ World

Living in Arizona has taught me a few things about the Danger of Cactus Spines! While it is unlikely they would cause any serious reaction, the punctures can be painful!

When I go on a ‘Nature’ walk, I carry a pair of pliers to pull cactus spines out of the soles of my shoes. When I am working in my yard, I wear thick leather gloves, and I never back up without knowing which plant is poised and ready to attack my leg. Even plants in the succulent family can inflict damage – Agave leaves can have razor sharp edges or wicked spears on the tips.

Like a porcupine, some cactus readily shed their spines into your skin. Usually I can remove them with a pair of tweezers. Then it is a simple matter to wash off the blood, and apply an antiseptic of some sort.

If I had been attacked by a large number of very small ‘hairy’ spines, there are apparently several ‘bulk removal’ methods. The first is to spread a layer of white glue over the area, let it dry, then peel it off. The other way is to smooth a piece of sticky tape over the area, then peel it off. Apparently duct tape works well.

I bought a cactus. A week later it died. And I got depressed, because I thought, Damn. I am less nurturing than a desert.
– Demetri Martin –

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

What is the most dangerous thing that grows in your ‘neck of the woods’?