mammals


I have been busy lately. I started a new job earlier this month, and it is sure eating into my leisure time. I decided today that it was time to make time to take a few photos. I stopped at a “secret” park near my church. I call it secret because there is no sign on the road alerting the public to its presence. I had driven by it maybe a thousand times before I knew it was there, and only spotted it from satellite photos while playing around on Google Maps a few years ago.

But the park is there, and it has wildflowers. I stopped for maybe ten minutes. First up was some tower mustard. I have this growing along the south side of my house.

Tower mustard (Arabis glabra)

Tower mustard (Arabis glabra)

The yarrow is blooming now too:

Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

And the king devil is out. Some people call this yellow hawkweed, but “king devil” definitely has a more adventurous ring to it.

King devil (Hieracium pratense)

King devil (Hieracium pratense)

The birdsfoot trefoil has been in bloom for a while, but I think this is my first shot of it this year.

Birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)

Birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)

Then I found this unfortunate fellow.

Deer?

Deer?

This is only about half its spine. All together, I estimate that the spine was at least three feet long, and maybe more. There aren’t a lot of animals around here that are that big – deer, bear, coyote, and sometimes beaver. I think this is a deer, but I’m really only guessing. It looks like it has been picked pretty clean.

Not far from the skeleton I saw a black locust in bloom. Most people don’t know it, but these flowers are edible, and indeed, they are very sweet and quite palatable. I ate this bunch after I took its picture for you.

Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)

Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)

On the way back up the hill towards the car I found some white campion.

White campion (Silene latifolia)

White campion (Silene latifolia)

And then I saw this clump of yellow sorrel.

Common yellow sorrel (Oxalis stricta)

Common yellow sorrel (Oxalis stricta)


These are also good to eat. As most kids can tell you, they are very sour (in a good way). That sourness comes from oxalic acid (hence the genus name). Too much of it is said to be bad for you, but kids everywhere seem to pay that no heed whatsoever.

Then it was back to the car, and off to work.

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Winter has returned to New Hampshire.

Back yard

Back yard

We got about a half inch of snow today. When I got up there was ice all over the windshield of my car. This surprised me, but I guess it should not have.

Front Yard

Front Yard


Some people are probably pretty upset about winter’s last gasp, but I find it a welcome return. Maybe it will be enough to tide me over until next winter (or if I’m lucky, autumn).

Throw it already!

Penny gets ready to catch a stick


Penny didn’t seem to care. All else becomes unimportant when there are sticks to be caught.

Spring will be back again, and soon I’m sure. We had chipmunks in the yard last week. This one was at the foot of the deck stairs.

Chipmunk

Chipmunk


I opened the sliding glass door and he turned around, but he didn’t run off. Luckily, Penny didn’t see him as I took several shots.

Another thing I did last week was visit a virtual geocache in Franklin called “Abnaki Mortar” (sic – should be “Abenaki”) From the name, I couldn’t figure out what it was, but once I got there it was plainly obvious, and I felt silly for not knowing what to expect.

Abenaki Mortar

Abenaki Mortar


This is a mortar where the Abenaki Indians ground corn. European settlers used it too. I imagine they would have scooped the water out and tried to dry it a bit first. I was pretty pleased when I got here and saw what it was. I really like Native American history, especially here on the East Coast where almost none was recorded before they were driven out.

Meanwhile, I have been making slow but steady progress on the canoe. In spite of today’s snowstorm, we had a spot of nice weather last week. It was warm enough to consider epoxy work, so I considered it. And did it. I fit the instem into “Miss Nancy.”

New instem

New instem


That’s a tough proposition, as the stem is kind of the foundation of the boat. The brief period during which it was stemless, it was also exceedingly fragile. Once I got this new stem in place, it regained its strength plus some extra strength for good measure. Once the epoxy set on the instem, I attacked the outstem too:

Outstem attached

Outstem attached


Instead of clamping the outstem in place, I screwed it into the instem with steel screws. Those came out once the glue set, and will be replaced with brass screws. I generally don’t drive brass screws into wood until I’ve used a steel screw to cut the threads in the wood. Otherwise, the brass screws will twist in two, or strip out. As it was, the steel screws themselves all snapped in half when I went to remove them. I haven’t decided how to deal with that yet. Now that the epoxy is set, the screws are more decorative than anything else. I think if I tried to remove the steel screw nubbins, all I would do is mangle the ash. I might just use some shortened brass screws to plug the holes and make it look good.

Since this was done, I also shaped the outstem so that it flows into the hull with sweeping curves. It looks pretty good now. I also mixed up some epoxy and wood flour and slathered it into the cracks between the planks. I still need to hit it with another layer of that mixture and sand it down, but once that’s done, it’ll be ready to take a new layer of glass. Then the strength will increase by another order of magnitude. Once that’s done, I can smooth the inside of the hull, slather on more epoxy/wood flour, and sand that, and then it will be ready for glass as well.

This is going to be a nice boat.

This morning after I dropped Beth off at school I went home by a circuitous route through the back roads of Canterbury. I had solved a geocache puzzle some time ago (maybe a year ago) and decided it was high time I picked it up.

Before I got there, a white tailed deer sprung out from the woods and crossed the road in front of me. Since this was a country road with no traffic whatsoever, I stopped and looked at the deer for a minute. She had another deer with her, and I expect it was last year’s fawn. They were too far off in the woods to even think about photography, so I left my camera in the bag.

Then I went off to collect the geocache. It was in a guardrail next to this pretty little stream.

A stream in Canterbury, NH

A stream in Canterbury, NH


Having found the cache, I got back in the car and looked for a place to turn around. Not finding one, the road took me to a farm (Hackleboro Apple Orchard), so I turned around there. I don’t like turning around where a road ends basically in someone’s driveway, but sometimes, that’s what happens.

As I made my way back through Canterbury, I saw a very large cat bound across the road in front of me. It was a bobcat! I had never seen one in the wild before, so this was a first for me. It stopped about 100 yards into the forest, turned around and looked back at me. I didn’t have a clear view, so I back up ten or twelve feet, thinking I might be able to go for a photo. But the bobcat thought otherwise. As soon as I began backing up, it took off running again and was gone in less than two seconds. Sigh.

I drove slowly trying to remember exactly where it crossed the road so I could look at its tracks, but I didn’t find them. Instead, I saw a pair of farm dogs galloping down the fence row on the side of the road from whence the bobcat had come. Maybe that’s what it was running from.

I am almost ready for warmer weather now, not because I don’t like winter (I do very much), but because I need some temperatures more conducive to canoe repair. I can’t use epoxy until the temp is at least 60, and 70 would be much, much better. I thought I might be able to heat the garage up some with a space heater if it was 40 outside, so I brought one home from church and plugged it in. It only raised the temperature to about 50 in the garage – not nearly warm enough. So I returned the space heater on Saturday.

Speaking of Saturday, while I was at church, one of the kids in my Sabbath School class noticed a bird outside our classroom window and wanted to know what it was. I took a quick glance and erroneously pronounced it a mourning dove. Upon further inspection, I knew that it was most certainly not a mourning dove. I had no idea what it was. We observed the bird through the window for about five minutes from less than 10 feet away. It had a very long bill and would use it to probe holes in the ground, presumably for snacks of the invertebrate variety. It would bob up and down rather comically. What a day for me to have decided to leave the camera at home! I always take my camera to church with me, but when I saw it that morning, I inexplicably decided… nah. :-/

When I left the room it was still out there. I sought out one of our church members who is a wildlife biologist. He has done some birding, but even though that was not his expertise, he came down straight away. He thought it might be an American Woodcock, but wasn’t sure. When I got home I looked that up, and I have to say, he nailed it.

So three rare (for me) wildlife sightings in as many days, and exactly zero photos of them. Still, just seeing them was a treat for me, and perhaps not being able to take pictures made me observe them more carefully in person.

We got back from our trip yesterday evening, and I must say, it is good to be home again. We will use today to recover from the trip, and there is plenty of recovery needed! This trip was pretty hard on our equipment. Not only did my camera finally give up the ghost, but the motherboard in Va’s laptop bit the dust too. Because of that, we had to share my laptop, which is why I didn’t do a lot of blogging during the trip. I need to get her a new computer. Our washing machine spins only when it feels like it, so I need to look into that as well. Hopefully it will feel like it today so we can get some much needed laundry done.

But all of that is boring stuff that. Let’s take a look at the photographic haul from the trip.

Virginia buttonweed (Diodia virginiana)

Virginia buttonweed (Diodia virginiana)


This is Virginia buttonweed. It does not grow in New Hampshire, so the only time I ever see it is when we travel to the South. With the heat wave, it was not easy to find any open blossoms, but I did find a few. Here’s another.
Virginia buttonweed (Diodia virginiana)

Virginia buttonweed (Diodia virginiana)


This one seems to have caught the morning dew.

We set out for home Sunday morning, and mad our way through Tennessee. Va likes to stop at an outlet mall in Crossville. I stayed outside with Penny so she could get some exercise, which is when I saw this killdeer.

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)


This one is in the middle of its “broken wing act,” a ruse it employs to distract a predator from its nest. I was not fooled, and Penny didn’t even notice (there were sticks to be chased!)

As we travelled, we saw plenty of electric utility trucks headed into Virginia. There was a convoy of about a hundred of them from Mississippi, and among them was this gigantic truck with Mexican plates.

Behemoth Spark Plugs

Behemoth Spark Plugs


Presumably, they were on their way to help restore power to the 3 million or so who lost it during the derecho that swept through the area.

So now we all know a new word.

We were worried that we’d have a hard time finding a place to buy gas, and that the combination of heat wave, power outage, and utility worker influx would make it hard to find a hotel. We usually just show up with a coupon book, but this time we called ahead. I’m glad we did too, because when we checked in in Wythville, VA, they were full. Breakfast was a mad house, but the scenery was not bad at all.

Hayfield in Wythville, VA

Hayfield in Wythville, VA


I especially like the lack of camera sensor dust in this photo. 😉

I also found a plant I had never seen before, but thought I knew what it was.

Moth mullein (Verbascum blattaria)

Moth mullein (Verbascum blattaria)


Moth mullein (Verbascum blattaria) is very similar to Common mullein (Verbascum thapsus). I had read about it in the past, but had never seen it until Monday. I just now looked it up and compared it to my photos, and I’m pretty sure that’s what I’ve got here. According to the USDA, it grows in NH, but I have never seen it here. I guess I should count myself lucky, as it is an invasive alien and has been declared a noxious weed by the state of Colorado.

After breakfast and repacking, we headed to Mt Crawford, VA so we could go to the Green Valley Book Fair. This is the highlight of the trip for Va. They have a huge warehouse full of books (mostly remainders) that they sell for 50-90% off. We bought about three dozen. I was hoping to pick up about a dozen copies of a field guide for the Pathfinders, but they didn’t have any that would be good for teaching an honor. I could have settled for ferns, edible wild plants, wild flowers, reptiles, or just about anything. But all they had was flowers in the western US, mammals (don’t really need a field guide for that), and one on the atmosphere. Maybe next time.

Next stop was in Pine Grove, PA where we spent the night. They have rabbits.

Rabbit

Rabbit


We’ve stayed at this place before, and they always have about half a dozen rabbits in the hotel yard. They were very concerned about Penny, but Penny was interested in sticks (so they were safe). I think the new camera takes better zoom shots than the old one. There’s still some noise in the photo, but not as much as with the 110.

We wended our way northward to NY, then to VT. We drove through Wilmington, VT and I stopped so we could see the park the Pathfinders worked on back in September after Irene rolled through. What a difference!

Municipal park in Wilmington, VT - After

Municipal park in Wilmington, VT – After


If you don’t remember, here’s what it looked like in September when we mucked it out.
Municipal park in Wilmington, VT - Before

Municipal park in Wilmington, VT – Before


Can you see the difference? I thought you could!

We finally rolled into our driveway around 7:30pm. I unloaded the trunk, but that was about it. I was too tired to do much of anything else. Sitting on your duff for three days straight takes it out of you!

This is the first time in a week I’ve had time, energy, and an adequate Internet connection to post. I’m a tad low on the energy, but I’ll do what I can to at least give an initial report.

We’ll start with this photo my niece Rachel Gogel took of me on the Red River at dawn on Friday. I think it was Friday anyhow.

Me on the Red River in Heber Springs, AR

Me on the Red River in Heber Springs, AR


I liked it so much I made it my new header photo, but you have probably already noticed.

Beth, Jonathan, and I arrived in Dawson Springs Tuesday evening. We stayed at my parents house, and got up pretty early Wednesday morning so we could drive to the fishing hole in Heber Springs, AR with my parents, my brother Mike, my niece Rachel and her fiance, and my Dad’s brother Dallas. It was a long drive, but it was also pleasant!

When we got there, I went to the store with Dad to buy some groceries. The generators were running at the dam, so the river was up. Dad doesn’t like to fish when the river is up (it’s a lot harder to catch fish then), so he opted to not go out the first evening. Beth was disappointed, because she was going to go out with him. I unloaded the canoe and carried it down to the dock, and the two of us went out.

Everyone seemed alarmed about me going out on the river with it up like it was, but it was pretty trivial compared to the rivers I have run in the past. It really didn’t present much of a challenge at all, actually, and I was able to paddle upstream without too much effort. It was a nice paddle, and we came in before it got dark and had some supper.

In the morning we got up at 5:00am and had a quick breakfast. Then everyone was on the water by 5:30. Here’s Beth and Jonathan with Dad getting ready to go out.

Jonathan, Beth, and Dad

Jonathan, Beth, and Dad


This was Beth’s first fishing trip. Everyone was pretty well convinced that she would be bored with it pretty quickly – if not in ten minutes, then certainly within an hour. But that did not happen. She went out and started catching fish – and she was hooked.

I do not like to fish, so I got in my canoe and had a nice paddle. I went almost all the way up to the dam (which was about three miles). I turned around when I ran into a bunch of fishermen at a little riffle. I could have attained the riffle, but then there were several guys with lines cast across the river, and I didn’t want to cross them (the lines, or the fishermen). Also, I don’t like to have an audience when I attempt to attain a riffle.

Fishermen below the dam

Fishermen below the dam

I turned around and headed back downstream. It was a magnificent paddle! Over the course of the stay there, I saw a pair of otters (a first for me), a muskrat, two deer, a pair of bald eagles and their two chicks (which were larger than the parents), a couple of hawks, several great blue herons, countless swallows (exact species unknown), and trout.

Unfortunately, my camera has finally given up the ghost. It will no longer turn on. My brother very generously offered me the use of his though, and I gladly accepted. So I will be sharing some photos as the week progresses.

But right now, I should probably get to bed!

I mid-identified the small furry mammal in Wednesday’s post, and I am super-embarrassed about that. In the back of my head, I had two names – ermine, and Neovision vision [sic]. I Googled Neovision vision which corrected it to Neovison vison, and when that turned up an American mink, I figured it was solved.

But it was not. I should have pursued the other name as well. An ermine is better known as a stoat, and has the binomial name Mustela erminea. In winter their coats turn white except for the tip of the tail, which remains black.

We saw one of these at the church a couple of years ago so I took several photos and sent one to Fish & Game for an id. And they said it was a stoat.

I organize my photos using a program called digikam (which is an open source package available for Linux, which is my preferred OS). It allows me to tag my photos, and I usually tag by binomial name. I already had a tag for Neovison vison, but there were no photos listed. This is not unusual, because sometimes I archive my photos to DVD to free up hard drive space. This is necessary, because I have taken 30,000 photos in the past three years. When I archive them away, the tags stay in digikam, but the photos disappear. If I bring them back onto my laptop, they show up still tagged.

I suspect N. vison was probably a mistaken tag from when I found the M. erminea, but when I saw the tag, I used that as confirmation.

And that was incorrect! I also have a tag for M. erminea, and here’s who I found under that:

Stoat (Mustela erminea)

Stoat (Mustela erminea)

Sorry for the mistake! I will be more careful from now on!

Today when Jonathan and I got to work, I happened to notice a small, furry animal just outside the parking garage. My first thought was that it was a ferret, but I knew that was wrong. As soon as we were parked, I asked Jonathan to take my laptop upstairs to the office while I went in search of this critter.

He was still there, but he was fast. I was fiddling with the camera trying to get the setting right as he dashed in and out of the shadows. Twice he went into the stairwell – a dead end. The first time he did this, he quickly slipped past me. I followed at a distance, still fiddling with exposure times and f-stops. Then he returned to the stairwell again. This time I blocked his exit while I took several shots.

None of them did this creature justice, and I am most definitely not happy with any of them. I guess that’s what makes flower photography so comparatively easy. Sure, they are oft times buffeted by the wind, but they can’t run away!

Believe it or not, I was able to recall a semblance of the Latin name before I knew the common name. Ferret? Ermine? I thought “Neovision vision”, but Google told me “Neovison vison”. Or as most people would say, American Mink.

Update: What a dope I am! This is not Neovison vison at all, but rather, a stoat, aka ermine, aka Mustela erminea. A stoat has a white underbelly and a black-tipped tail. A mink does not.

Here are my awful shots:

Can't get out this way!

Can't get out this way!


Maybe I can slip by again!

Maybe I can slip by again!


But he won't let me!

But he won't let me!


I'll try the back way!

I'll try the back way!


Hah!  Freedom is mine!

Hah! Freedom is mine!


I didn’t keep him hemmed in for more than a minute. But now I wonder how he made out after I left.