Monday, May 28, 2012

Today's Find

a Cecropia Silkmoth, or Hyalophora cecropia. I don't know squat about moths - I looked it up. Found during a very pleasant Memorial Day picnic at Black Moshannon State Park. I love the clown pants.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Why did the turtle cross the road?

Who knows? A better question might be will he make it. The Eastern Box turtle is not on the endangered list yet but every survey shows rapid decline in their populations. Being killed crossing the road is one of the main reasons. Harvesting as pets is another.

I spotted this one on a country road on Friday and stopped to move him as I usually do with turtles when possible. Carrying him across as he was heading put him on the edge of a vast newly plowed field, pretty inhospitable to turtles, so I carried him back into the woods from where he came. This may not have been the thing to do, I learned later, as they tend to stick with whatever directional input they are receiving. It could be a half hour later he was crossing the road again.

I hadn't seen a box turtle in years. What a beautiful creature. I think this one is a male  about 22 years old. Males have reddish eyes and their underside, called the plastron, is slightly concave to fit better over the female shell when mating (ain't nature grand?). Age can be roughly determined by counting the "scutes" which form rings on the shell, one each year. Box turtles can live 100 years and their home range is just a little over an acre. Both these facts surprised me.

With all our maps, local and global, and now, GPS devices it is hard to imagine navigating your path given just the visual input of the next three feet. How does a turtle stay within his "home zone"? How does he have any sense of his acre?

I think they have an endearing thoughtful look so it's no wonder that every kid who finds one wants to take it home. This is not a good idea. Most wild turtles brought into captivity die well before their time even if released later.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Predator Pets

Some mornings all that's left is just a leg, or the head, or an internal organ.

This evening from the kitchen window I see Simon sauntering towards the cat door with a mouthful, a baby bunny. I step outside to intercept him with a gruff, "Simon!" and he drops his prey and meows with an air of boredom. He lets me pick him up and dump him in the house. I go back to inspect the quarry and it moves to flee but drags its hind leg, surely a death knell for one dependent on speed to live. He seems otherwise unharmed. I pick him up without a squeal or struggle and carry him out to the woods and let him go beneath a thorny bush. I'm doubtful he will live long but who knows. Here's hoping.

I once rescued a pretty moth from what seemed a dire situation and set it to flight from our porch. The warm glow of the good Samaritan was quickly iced as a phoebe swooped from the eve and picked it clean mid air, landing on a branch with hearty gulp. Bird didn't seem to care that I didn't use the good silver or light the candles.

The dog killed a groundhog last Sunday.

What do we think of this natural instinct to kill in the food chain, the instinct of these pets we feed so well?  I live with a vegetarian who feels ill at the sight of the carnage. I work with a vegan who tries to convince me to be one too. I have been a vegetarian but am now an omnivore like most of our species. I have never hunted or fished. I have only intentionally killed an animal once or twice out of mercy. I cringe at the thought of doing it, but have no doubt I would do so if I was hungry.

If I have a food philosophy, and I am wary of philosophies, (spoken as truth but subject to change at the slightest duress) it is simply to be grateful for food. Any food. Eat what is offered.

We who have been well fed all our lives can not imagine otherwise. The thought of pawing through a dumpster, of eating garbage, is unthinkable. But the unthinkable happens to people every day.

A simple twist of fate and this evening I might have said, "Here Simon, c'mere boy. That's a good kitty. What a good hunter you are. Thank you for this food."

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Omen is defined as,  "anything perceived or happening that is believed to portend a good or evil event or circumstance in the future".

I can never point to something in hindsight and say that was an omen that foresaw such and such event that occurred. But fairly often I witness something that makes me ask, "Is this an omen?". It's when things feel strangely aligned, a sequence of happenings that could not have been predicted, something that momentarily makes you question what you thought you knew. Something is happening and you don't know what it is, do you Mr. Jones?

I try to be responsive to these things, to be more willing to go with the flow, to be a little more attentive to what might happen next.

My son graduates from college tomorrow. After work I shop for a party planned for Saturday night. I remember my father had agreed to giving a cash gift and get a card for him to sign. I stop at the retirement community where my parents live so he can sign the card. I find them sitting in the dining area with a few others, my father asleep in his chair, his mostly untouched dinner before him. I rub his back to wake him and say a greeting and do the same for Mom. He looks at me with bleary eyes and says, "Did I ask you to send a check to Dylan for graduation?" This is a 97 year old man with short term memory loss. I had mentioned the gift idea weeks ago. He tells me the amount of the check I am to write. How is it that he so lucidly has this on the tip of his tongue as I walk in with the card?

It just makes me wonder.

Driving home the sky is full of big cumulus clouds, storms in the area but the sun is shining. Then it starts to rain, quite hard but the sun still shines. Gotta be a rainbow, gotta be a rainbow, ah there it is!

And several hours later this big cloud and moon as the sun sets. Never seen that before.

So I got the word and the word is pay attention. Something's brewing.