Archive for the ‘wildlife’ Tag

03-30-2018 My Wildlife Welfare System   Leave a comment

Being a lifelong animal lover has it’s ups and downs and living here in Maine makes things even more interesting.  With the harsh winters and constant snow cover the wildlife here has become quite  deligent in their hunt for food. I’ve been a loyal bird feeder for most of my life because I really enjoy having the birds around.  My better-half is also a bird lover and we currently have six feeders we keep filled.  I estimate the birds are eating close to 125 lbs. of feed a year  not counting the many packages of suet we purchase to keep the woodpeckers healthy and happy. Add to that two or three quarts of sugar syrup for the hummingbirds and you begin to truly understand.

It became apparent some months ago that the birds living in this area have a rather accomplished communication system to spread the news concerning food sources and the location of predators. This came to my attention when a herd of wild turkeys showed up out of nowhere and began feeding from the food accidently dropped from our hanging feeders.  Needless to say my better-half was quick to buy more corn and began strewing it everywhere. That’s all they needed to make our home the number one spot on their regular feeding rotation. With the heavy snow cover this winter they needed to do something inventive to help them survive the winter.  Thus began the feeding of a another new group of dependents that I couldn’t claim on my taxes. As always I just went along thinking that would be the last of the additions to our extended family of two hundred or so really hungry birds.  I was sadly mistaken once again.

Last year I erected a squirrel feeder on a nearby tree hoping it might convince the little buggers to stay away from the bird feeders. Once again, no good deed goes unpunished. We found out very quickly that turkeys and the occasional deer are also fond of corn.  So began the battle for the corn that lasted most of the summer and into the winter. My better-half still insists on bringing home an endless supply of corn to keep the battle going.  I left one of the bags sitting in the basement and hoped she would forget about it.  She forgot for a time but the field mice did not.  They like corn too and we soon found ourselves overrun with mice. Since the untimely demise of my lifelong best friend, my cat Stormy it’s been difficult to keep them under control.  He died a year ago and the mice discovered his absence rather quickly.  A new war was a brew’n.

A quick visit to Lowes supplied me with an armload of mouse traps and a determination to keep the mice out of our home.  I did discover that putting cheese in a mousetrap is a waste of time.  At first the mice were able to pull the cheese from the trap without harming themselves.  After some research I discovered that JIFF creamy peanut butter really gets the job done.  I’ve peeled 13 little corpses off those traps so far and I hope there will be many more to come. I toss their little corpses out onto the snow bank in the backyard where the crows and coyotes fight over the free meal.  At least with the mice I only have to feed them once.

I wish that was the end of this sad story but no such luck.  Next on my list is a large group of industrious little chipmunks who have quite a nice residence under our home.  My father always told me if you see one chipmunk you probable have at least ten. If that’s true then we may have upwards of a hundred roaming around. Oh yeah, they also love corn and bird seed just like damn near everyone else. It’s a little more difficult for them because they’re so small and the birds are constantly chasing them away.

I’ll begin working in our garden within the next few weeks and “Job 1” is to be certain that the fences are intact.  All these little varmints, birds, deer, and skunks are just waiting for me to make a mistake and then my garden will be trashed.  Don’t even get me started about that big fat skunk that patrols our property looking for trouble.  If he was any bigger I could just ride him around  like a horse.

So begins another summer here in Maine.  It should be interesting.

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08-20-2015 Journal–A Return to the Sanctuary!   Leave a comment

The Dog Days of August are upon us with all of the heat and humidity that they bring.  I’ve been staying fairly inactive due to the heat but it’s driving me crazy.  I just need to get the hell out of the house.

I decided to visit an old friend today. That’s the Wildlife Sanctuary in Scarborough, Maine.  Over the last five years I’ve spent a great deal of time there documenting the plants and wildlife.  I was driven to create a photo book of the place which took me two years to complete.  I was very proud of the result but knew all along it could be a double-edged sword.  My biggest fear was that people would read the book and then decide to visit the place in large numbers that might change things in the Sanctuary.  Unfortunately I was correct.

In past years the Sanctuary wasn’t visited all that much and remained a pristine place to monitor and photograph the wildlife.  In just two short years the place has dramatically changed.  Since the town received copies of the book, they’ve begun promoting the place.  The trails are now mowed to twice their original size and from all of the piles of dog feces, it’s becoming a dog park rather than a wildlife refuge.

Vandalism is evident in certain places with hints of teenage visitors from nearby high schools occasionally appearing. Most of the wildlife I initially photographed is now almost impossible to find.  They must have decided to leave the immediate area due to the increased human and canine traffic.

Here are a few photos I snapped as I made a casual walk-thru just looking for anything.

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‘The milkweed fields are as healthy as ever.’

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“Thistles continue to flourish.’

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‘Lots of elderberries available for use.’

The birds and squirrels are harder to find these days and even the deer seem to have moved on.  I decided to made a quick stop in the swamp, hoping for some dragonfly activity but even it was minimal.  In years past they completely filled the air over the swamp but that’s no longer the case.  I was hard pressed to get more than a handful of usable photo’s.

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I continued on to a second small pond looking for damn near anything.  Usually the place is overrun with frogs but I found just these two.

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There was a time when I could visit the sanctuary three times a week and never see another person.  Today there were three cars plus my own. A family with three small children and three dogs were running here and there while the parents picked blackberries nearby.  They spent part of their time trying to keep the dogs from attacking me, which I greatly appreciated. 

I’m sorry I ever made the book available to the public. I should’ve visited the Sanctuary, created the book for myself, and kept my mouth shut about it.  I may have helped ruin the place and that makes me sad.

05-14-2015 Journal- Family Gardening!   Leave a comment

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I love the Spring of the year.  It rejuvenates me like no other season can.  I can’t wait to get out of bed in the morning, go outside in the garden, and just mellow out.  I’m sorry if I sound a little like a hippie or a New Ager but it can’t be helped. 

With the better-half still out of town I decided to get as much done as possible with the garden before she returns home.  I traveled a few miles down the road to my favorite nursery yesterday.  It’s rather small and family run but the plants and seedlings I purchase there always seem to do better than the stuff the big box stores are peddling.  This small nursery takes a great deal of pride in supplying their customers with the healthiest and happiest plants they possibly can.

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I arrived at the nursery the day after Mother’s Day and the place was cleaned out.  The staff was busily restocking the greenhouses and repotting seedlings as fast as they could.  The owner who’s become a friend of sorts over the years told me that this Mother’s Day weekend was the best weekend they’ve had since opening the nursery almost fifteen years ago.  I love hearing things like that. It seems people are once again finding a home garden something they want to do and do properly.

I can thank my parents for my interest in gardening.  My late Mother was really into growing a large assortment of flowers and her knowledge of herbs was amazing.  She passed that knowledge on to me and I  thank her everyday.  To me she’s always seems to be hanging around my garden talking with the plants and checking things out as she always did. 

My Dad was more into growing vegetables and I picked up a lot of information and tips from him over the years as well.  He also educated me on the proper curse words to use when describing deer, groundhogs, and rabbits.  His war with them was epic and never-ending and it gave the rest of the family a lot of laughs over the years.  Just as a point of fact, he never won that war.

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‘Culpeper’s Complete Herbal’

This is my favorite book on herbs.  I’ve had my old copy for more than thirty years and for me it’s a real connection to the past.  Some of the information is outdated but in it’s day it was the ultimate source for herbal facts and remedies.

I purchased a few dozen marigolds yesterday that I intend to plant around the perimeter of the garden. They seem to magically keep the deer and other pests away and it something we’ve done for years.  Many of my neighbors complain constantly every summer about the wildlife that comes to visit and damage their gardens. I’m not sure just why marigolds keep them away but they do. I’ve been told it has something to do with their  fragrance but who really knows?

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Tomorrow my garden work continues with a general clean up but I won’t be planting anything else for at least the next two weeks. The fear of a hard frost  remains a real possibility until sometime after Memorial Day.

I can’t wait to get up and get going.

05-08-2015 Journal – Beaches, Blankets, Bikinis   Leave a comment

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Yesterday was a day spent enjoying the warm and sunny eighty degree weather. My better-half had the day off and we were able to spend some quality time together just bumming around.

Living in Maine has it’s issues like bad winters and quirky weather patterns but it also has a lot of pluses.  We’re able to visit the White mountains within an hour, the ocean and beaches within a half hour, the  New Hampshire lakes region in one hour, and Boston in two hours.  We also have an abundance of wildlife that we sometimes take for granted.

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As we left our home and traveled less than a mile we observed turkeys roaming around  in a nearby field.  We see turkeys on a regular basis as well as hundreds of seagulls and as many hawks.  People in our rural community that have chickens are well aware of the hawks, coyotes, and foxes. If your chickens are free range or left outside of a fenced area then you can be sure to lose a few to these predators. It’s also possible to lose a small cat or kitten right off your deck if your not careful.

These two pictures were taken less than a mile from our house. This fat old fox was just strolling along the road, crossed right in front of our car, and then stopped to watch us from the woods.  He hung around long enough for me to get these shots.

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With the day being so warm we decided to make our first Spring visit to a local beach.  Maine residents are a hearty folk who hit the beaches as early as possible in the Spring.  We have a need to shake off those winter blues once and for all.  While it was sunny and warm the wind still had a chill to it but it didn’t seem to matter.  A lot of sunbathers were on the beach and even one crazy fool of a wind-surfer.  That water was damn cold but he was having a great time.

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We had an all-around terrific day walking the beach and taking a few pictures. There’s no better way to kick start our Spring and Summer seasons.

04-20-2015 Journal–Spring in the Woods!   Leave a comment

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While we’re having a string of bright sunny days the nights continue to be a little too cold for my liking.  It seems to be taking so damn long for the temperatures to heat up so I’ll do the best I can not to whine continuously about it.

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‘You gotta love those pesky woodpeckers.’

This week’s  weather milestone permitted me to don my first pair of shorts for 2015 and to sun myself on the deck.  I even managed to get a light sunburn on my face and arms which tingled nicely as I showered last night.  A truly delicious pain, right up there with hot peppers.

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With the better-half having a weekend off we decided to get away from the yard work for a while and to take a walk in the woods.  With cameras in hand we made our way to our favorite sanctuary located along the Scarborough River and marsh. 

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I love visiting this area early each Spring but to most people it just looks drab and dismal.  The greenness of the plants is a week or two away, the ground is a little muddy, and the winter damage to the trees is highly visible.  We got a little wet and muddy but the sun was shining and bright and we really enjoyed the fresh air. We walked though the sanctuary and ended up along the river bank overlooking the river and the marsh beyond.  I’ve already used one of those photos for my IPad screensaver and I hope to collect many others as the summer progresses.

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As we walked along we ran into another couple and their big old barking dog. The people were friendly enough but the dog left a lot to be desired. We continued walking back through the woods to check out the two small ponds looking for signs of any wildlife.  We saw a few birds and some noisy crows but not much else.

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It appears that it’s still too early for the frog population to make their appearance.  The ponds were full of tadpoles swimming everywhere and there should be no lack of frogs later this summer.  I’m not sure why I have such a fascination for swamps but I really do.  Frogs are cool and my favorites, the dragonflies, are just weeks away from making their first appearances.

I can look forward to a summer of regular visits here and lots of terrific pictures, I hope.

06-29-2014 Journal Entry – Hiding in the Woods!   Leave a comment

Do you ever feel the need to get away, to hide from the world, or to avoid the people you care most about?   It happens to me periodically for no apparent reason and at odd times.  I normally just disappear from the house proper and take refuge in my man-cave but that doesn’t work as well as it once did. It seems that other people, including a rather inquisitive grandson have figured out my secret hide-away. When  that happens my last resort is to take my camera and head for the woods.

Yesterday was one of those days when the better-half was working and I was tired of gardens, gardening, household fix-it jobs, and the occasional unexpected telephone call.  I told no one where I was going, packed up my gear, turned off my cell and hit the road.   It was hot and humid and I didn’t care at all if anyone knew where I was going.  After arriving at my destination I parked my car, sprayed myself from head to foot with bug repellent, grabbed my camera and disappeared into the woods.  It’s one of the reasons I love living in Maine.  There are more woods here than I could ever visit in my lifetime.

I’ll give you a short walk-along as I made my way through a number of trails, two swamps, and my favorite blackberry patch. The bugs were out in large numbers but the repellent kept most of them at bay.  Since this Spring has been a wet one the woods are lush and green.  I didn’t walk twenty feet before I discovered these wild daisies.

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I found a patch of these smaller yellow flowers as well and I have no idea what they are or where they came from. I do know they’re very delicate and love being photographed.

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The trails are over grown in places and it was dead quiet. I visit this spot every so often because there are so few people who even know it exists.  It’s just me, the bugs, and the occasional wildlife visitor. 

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I was especially interested in visiting the swamps.  It’s a little early for the dragonfly population to be booming but I thought I’d check it out anyway. I’m fascinated by them and have hundreds of photos in my files.   Unfortunately the swamps today had almost no dragonflies at all. I found that a little unusual but I’ll try again later in July when it gets a little warmer.  As I neared the first swamp I saw this wild Iris just sticking up out the water all by lonesome.

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A  few steps further on and I almost stepped on this bull frog who was hiding in the weeds near my feet.  He refused to move so I took immediate advantage.

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I made my way a short distance to the edge of the Scarborough River and Marsh.  It’s a thousand acres of a fresh water marsh with a water connection to the open ocean.  Beautiful scenery as far as the eye can see.

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I followed anther trail that took me along the river and then inland to a second swampy area.  Again no dragonflies just another big fat bull frog who refused to look my way.  He sat quietly and gave me the cold shoulder until I left the area.

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I decided to make my way back to my vehicle and along the way check out my favorite blackberry patch.  Over the years this patch has supplied my better-half and I with dozens of jars of delicious jam that is to die for.  It’s a huge patch as you can see and it is loaded with berries that should  begin ripening in big numbers in a month or so.

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That was a photo of the patch but here’s one of the berries I intend to pick and eat in a few weeks.  I can’t wait to make more jam and freeze a few quarts of those big fat berries for use on my morning cereal.  There’s nothing better.

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I headed home with a few dozen photo’s and a better outlook on life. Being in the woods has always supplied me with that clarity of thinking that’s so important. 

01-26-2014 Journal Entry – I Love the Nightlife!   1 comment

There was a time time in my life when I was the ultimate night person.  I slept all day and worked and played all night.  After work I’d  visit a variety of clubs and bars returning home in the wee hours of the morning.  It was a great time in my life because everyone knows the best shit happens after dark in the middle of the night.

I worked those hours for more than five years.  My job required visits to massage parlors (not officially as a patron), strip joints (not officially as a paying customer), and even the occasional brothel (again, not as a paying customer).  I became educated very quickly to the unbelievable quantity of nightlife activities, how to enjoy them, and even more important, how to survive them.

The more things change the more they remain the same.  All these years later I’m discovering a whole new word of nightlife here in Maine that I’ve been totally unaware of.  We live in what could be called a rural area.  Our home is adjacent to a small river and a large forest of pines.  We live far enough out that without assistance from technology (range extender) we can’t receive cell phone signals and are not registering on most GPS devices.  It’s like living in Never-Never Land.  That being said, we love it. We thought that “wildlife” in this area was mostly confined to the Portland metro area and was low key and had a minimum of crime to deal with.  How little we really knew.

Last night we had an unusual snow fall. It snowed for no more than twenty minutes and then stopped completely.  There was just enough snow to cover everything in a pristine white sheet.  We went to bed after the snow fall stopped and remarked to each other about how white and smooth the back yard seemed with the new snow cover.  There wasn’t a mark of any kind on that snow.

We awoke this morning and walked to the window and were shocked at what we saw.  It appears that our backyard is the night club for most of the “wildlife” in this area.  These pictures will give you some idea of the night time traffic taking place in our back yard.

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We live our lives giving little or no thought to the “life” swirling around us every day and night.  I saw tracks of coyotes, deer, chipmunks, squirrels, one lonely turkey, a big fat skunk, and a trail left by that sneaky cat belonging to our neighbors.  I’m not surprised too often but this was amazing. I guess that one day warming trend we were blessed with brought everyone out to celebrate.

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I think I may have to pay a little more attention to what’s going on around me.    With a good lens and a small night light I might just be able to get some really interesting photographs.

11-16-2012   2 comments

Patience is a virtue. I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve been told that by family members and friends alike. I guess the reason I’ve heard it so often was that I lacked any patience whatsoever in years past. I was an overachieving, goal oriented, pain in the ass workaholic. For most of my career I worked six days a week and three or four of those days were spent in airplanes flying around the country. So not only was I impatient but I also had  a white-knuckle fear of flying which made me more than a little irritable. Not many people knew of my flying phobia and I never made anyone aware of it until much later in my life.  For years I was on the go constantly and when I made a request I was a major-league pain-in-the-ass about making sure it was honored. That included associates that worked for me, the people that worked with me, and any service personnel paid to do a specific job.

After twenty years I left the “rat race” and  spent the next seven years working for the State of Maine in a job that was hectic but not crazy. During that seven years I was able to dial it back a little and tried to be a little more patient with friends and family. I still had my moments but I felt like I was getting it under control. Out of the blue I began to suffer from severe headaches and fits of rage. Being the paranoid person that I am I found a doctor who ran a normal battery of tests to determine what my issues were. Come to find out I had been suffering from seriously high blood pressure for a number of years and was verging on real problems. The doctor directed me to find a hobby or two to help calm me down. The medication I was immediately given calmed me down in a big way. After so many years of high blood pressure I had a tough time adapting to being so calm. I felt like I was high all the time but I was assured by the doctor that would pass as I became accustomed to the medication. He was right and after a time I leveled out.

Now to find a hobby. I’d been a winemaker for years but not recently. Winemaking forces you to become patient, like it or not. Mix the ingredients together, put in the yeast, and you’re then required to wait up to three or four months to see the final product. During that time you have to baby that wine if you want a satisfactory batch. It actually helped me a great deal. I had been a half-assed photographer for years and returned to it gladly.  Nothing is more calming than communing with Mother Nature and hoping against hope to be in the right place at the right time to get that Kodak moment wildlife shot.

Yesterday was a sunny and reasonably warm Fall day here in Maine. I spent two hours sitting with my back against a tree out in the middle of nowhere attempting to get a photograph of either a bear cub or a barn owl. Three years ago I stumbled into a isolated area and sitting in a tree about 5 feet away from me was that owl.  He’d been sleeping and when I walked up he became frightened and flew away. He only flew a few feet before landing in a nearby tree. I took approximately 20 photographs of him in that tree from all angles. They were some of the best pictures I’d taken up until that time. I’ve been returning to that area for years now and have seen him flying above me but never again had him sitting in a tree. I’m now patient enough to eventually be successful.

The bear is pretty much the same story. I happened to be walking through a wooded area and I heard a rustling about 30 feet up a nearby tree. I looked up and sitting in that tree with just the top of his head sticking up from behind the leaves was a baby bear. I snapped one photograph and he ducked back into the leaf cover. Being the careful person that I am I knew where there was a bear cub there was also a mother some where nearby. I backed off immediately because I had no way to defend myself if she showed up. I’ve returned dozens of times trying to find that young bear and possibly get a decent photograph or two. Now that I’m patient person I may eventually find them but even if I don’t I’ve still succeeded.

What’s the moral of this story? You decide.

10-27-2012 (2)   2 comments

Well, as I mentioned earlier today I finally was able to spend some quiet and interesting time in a nearby wildlife sanctuary. It was a beautiful sunny day and I seemed to be totally alone in over eighty acres of woods and fields. You should understand that this sanctuary is located adjacent to the Scarborough River and it’s 1100 acre fresh water marsh. It’s really a beautiful place to spend time. I made my way to the river bank where I sat in the trees observing no less than a thousand birds slowly circling the marsh. I can only assume they’re gathering for their migration south but it was really something to see. I attempted to get a few photos but they were too far away and I didn’t have my telephoto lens with me. It’s things like this that have a real calming effect on me and actually made my day.

As I worked my way back to my car I walked into an open field and found myself surrounded by at least fifty wild turkeys. I stood perfectly still as they wandered all around me. If I had moved the least little bit they would have been gone in a flash but I managed a few shots as they left the area. It’s been quite the year for wild turkeys here in Maine. I’ve seen hundreds in the last few weeks and even had a dozen in my back yard for a time a week or so ago.

It’s that time of the year in Maine when walking in the woods can become a life threatening experience. It’s like being in a war zone except many of the soldiers are under the influence of alcoholic beverages. I don’t want to be the headline in the papers: Man Shot by Hunters, Mistaken For a Cow, so I’ll be staying home until hunting season is over.

I’m making my special chili tomorrow for a group of my better-half’s friends and family and I need a few habanero peppers to spice things up a bit. A quick stop at Hannaford Foods and then back home.

The radio tells me Sandy is making her way up the coast and will be here in a day or so. Sixty mph winds should make for an interesting night or two. Thank God for our generator.

I’m looking forward to movie nite with my better-half. We were recently introduced to a BBC program made for TV that is an updated remake of Sherlock Holmes. You should know I’ve been obsessed with Sherlock Holmes for years and I’ve read everything ever written about him. I stumbled on the DVD at a local store and now I must find the second season. It’s absolutely addicting.  We can kick back and relax for a while before sleep.

Tomorrow is another day.

Posted October 31, 2012 by Every Useless Thing in Just Saying Again

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