Survival instincts

Doing a quick check in the back forty of Walkabout Estates this evening, I spotted this guy, almost certainly the same one as the first in this post from a couple days ago.

Carolina anole Anolis carolinensis snoozing in roll of chicken wire
I’d seen him nearby earlier in the day – this was not even half-a-meter from both the earlier photo and this afternoon’s spotting. He’s entwined in a roll of chicken wire leaning against the edge of the greenhouse, by his own doing mind you – I’m glad to see that he found a spot not just warm and snug, but safe from being spotted as well.

Seriously, I think the instinct to find a safe place to snooze kinda slipped in this case. I found them plenty of times last year, either basking where they could get some overnight dew during the drought of the summer, or tucked in between leaves as the nights got chillier. It’s gotten a bit chilly tonight, but I doubt the benefits of this spot are notable.

While out there, I saw the ass-end of a mouse disappearing over top of a fence post, and played a little tag back and forth trying to get a good view. The mouse, instead of jumping off the post and disappearing into the voluminous leaves surrounding the area, chose to slip into the gap between post and garage and hold still, allowing me (after much angling and adjusting of the flash) to get a quick photo.

unidentified mouse species hiding in gap between post and house
This isn’t a good enough view to determine species, though I would suspect, from their prevalence in the area, that it’s either a house mouse (Mus musculus) or eastern deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) – I’d lean towards the former because, in my experience, the latter is a better climber than this one seemed to be.

No frogs anywhere though, which is curious after finding five out there last night/early this morning. No rain tonight though, so maybe that was it. They’ll be back.

I don’t date months under 30 days

It’s the last day of poor little underdeveloped February (wait, it’s not a leap year, is it? No, 2023, probably not,) and I shot nothing even remotely abstract all month. Granted, there wasn’t a bounty of things to shoot anyway, but here we are, making do with a frame taken not hours ago, heavily cropped to make it abstracty in some loose, Walkabout sense:

close up of hyacinth blossom
Hardly an award-winner, even by my standards (and there’s apparently a petition to keep me from even using the word, “standards,” snobbish pedantic pricks,) but what it does illustrate is that there is some color popping up here and there, and given that it was 18°c while I was out there shooting at 11:30 PM, who’s complaining? Not me, at least not about things other than stupid petitions.

But while we’re here…

small green treefrog Drypophytes cinereus peering skyward
This was one of five green treefrogs (Dryophytes cinereus) found out there while poking around, because see above about temperature, not to mention that it had rained lightly earlier, yet the moon was out as I was shooting. I suspect this guy was checking up on the upcoming conjunction, though that’ll be tomorrow night, March 1st, and I’ll be out there myself if the conditions hold – it’s not looking too promising right now, but we’ll see (or not,) I guess…

Tripod holes 9

roseate spoonbill Platalea ajaja and unconfirmed gull, likely herring gull Larus argentatus, hanging out
N 42°59’23.70″ W 76°45’9.08″ Google Earth Location

If you’re reasonably savvy about North American birds, you know the pink one is a roseate spoonbill (Platalea ajaja,) and if you know a decent amount about that species, you know that the location photographed is way the hell out of their range – you can try going back to this spot and seeing if you can find one, but I’m betting against it. As it was, this was in the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge at the northern tip of Cayuga Lake in central New York, and The Girlfriend gets credit for spotting it before me and realizing it was not a typical species to be seen there. The word was just getting out among the birders of the area, but only a couple had managed to get there by that point to witness it; we returned a couple days later and the visitors were abuzz about it, though the spoonbill wasn’t making an appearance at that time.

Why it was there, we really don’t know. I have heard of cases where major storms drive birds well outside of their normal range as they try to escape the strong winds and pressure systems, but there had been none that passed even close to New York. Spoonbills don’t even migrate across the US; their flight patterns just hit the coasts of southern Florida and Mexico, extending down through the Caribbean and into South America, so this was well over a thousand kilometers out of normal range. Escapee from a zoo or wildlife park? Probably not, as I do a little webbernetting and find an article from that time, but it doesn’t appear that the mystery had been solved by that point at least. Either way, we’ll happily accept the blind luck that let us see it during our visit.

Enough for me

Here at Walkabout Studios, we don’t truck about with calendars. Well, we do, but only for unimportant things like reminders about the oft-ignored holidays, though when it comes to the important things like knowing when spring has arrived, we do it the old-fashioned way. Nope. we’re not talking about a Walkabouthenge (though that is a good idea, we’ll be looking into this,) but about the harbingers. And we have them, so go ahead and shift your wardrobe around – not the big piece of furniture, you can leave that where it is, but all those clothes inside it.

blossom on almond tree
That there is a blossom, one of over a dozen, on the almond tree. Last year I started spraying the cherry and almond trees with deer repellent early on, with the result that both trees did much better, and achieved more new growth, than ever before – it appears that the deer were nibbling away far more than I thought. So this winter I’ve been maintaining the treatment, and whether this is directly related or not, the almond tree is notably in bloom right now. Yes, this is early, as it is for most of the plants and trees that are budding out, but no arguments on this end.

Alongside the greenhouse is a slapdash structure that I’ve dubbed the adjunct greenhouse, using old window sashes and sheet plastic, housing a few of the potted plants we’re trying to protect from cold snaps. Yesterday when I noticed that the sheeting had slipped a bit from the wind, I straightened it out and disturbed this guy, tucked within the folds.

Carolina anole Anolis carolinensis eyeing photographer irritably
This Carolina anole (Anolis carolinensis) is the largest specimen found around Walkabout Estates – I’d seen him numerous times last year – and likes the greenhouse area. I’m considering this one ‘official,’ even though I’d photographed one twelve days previously, because this one had little benefit from the house heat; the other clearly lived in or around the access door to the crawlspace and water heater, which remains warmer than the surrounding areas.

Carolina anole Anolis carolinensis tucked into gap in doorframe
This is the gap along the edge of that door, and yes, it could use some more weatherstripping, but it only leads under the house and there’s plenty of insulation there, not to mention there are foundation vents along the walls, so it’s not exactly an energy loss. But the space is marginally warmer than the outdoors, plus a perfectly-sized gap for an anole, and this one (with one other at times last year) finds it a great place to nap. I just have to remember to check the door before I haul it open.

The green frogs (Lithobates clamitans,) as mentioned earlier, don’t indicate much, but while I was poking around late last night early this morning, this one was sitting on the edge of the backyard pond and so I crept in while it was dazzled by the headlamp.

green frog Lithobates clamitans near edge of pond at night
Its associate saw me approaching somehow and launched itself into the water, but this one remained motionless even as I crawled forward on my knees and elbows to less than a half-meter away – it’s probably used to this jazz by now.

However, none of those were what I was really after, nor the true sign of spring. It was warm enough this morning and I suspected that I might find one, but had largely given up, finding none in the usual spots. Then as I was checking the plants in the greenhouse (the real one,) I espied this guy through the glass on the outside.

juvenile green treefrog Dryophytes cinereus clinging to plastic panels of greenhouse
That’s a juvenile green treefrog (Dryophytes cinereus,) and the best indication of spring as far as I’m concerned, though I would have accepted a Copes grey treefrog as well. You can keep your equinoxes and official calendar days and robins and all that – it’s spring when the treefrogs say it is. Question it not.

Two little stories

Pamphlet received with order shipped from UkraineOne year ago today, Russia invaded Ukraine in a phenomenally stupid attempt to re-absorb the territory as their own, so this seemed the best time to post this (given as how I forgot about this little featured aspect until just recently.) Like most of the country, I stand 100% behind Ukraine in this regard. Until the invasion, I knew Putin was a return to the totalitarian mindset maintained throughout the Soviet Union years, but the invasion certified him as a megalomaniac, and not a very bright one – no wonder Florida Man is on good terms with him (that would be Trump, but this is the last time you’ll see that name here, because Florida Man fits him oh so much better.)

Anyway, around September I stumbled upon a model kit that I particularly liked, produced by an Ukrainian company and available nowhere else. The price was just a little steep but not too much so, and I was more than happy to place the order even with the warning that it might take some time to get here; frankly, I was glad to provide the funds and considered receiving the model, if it did indeed arrive, as a bonus.

It took just over a month, but arrived in good shape and appears to be quite a detailed kit – I have yet to start on it, but everything looks good (‘AMP’ is the company, if you’re into kits, and they produce aircraft that no other company has.) But with it came a little pamphlet, the cover of which is seen at right – the remaining pages will fall below the fold so as not to fill up the main page of the blog, but go ahead and click. It’s an absolute hoot.

[NOTE: I originally had a “read more” tag in here to prevent the entire content from appearing on the home page, but this isn’t working and I don’t have time to determine why right now, so here’s the full post anyway.]

Pamphlet received with order shipped from Ukraine

Pamphlet received with order shipped from Ukraine

Pamphlet received with order shipped from Ukraine

Pamphlet received with order shipped from Ukraine

Pamphlet received with order shipped from Ukraine
Now, a couple of things to draw attention to, in case they were missed. You’ll note the depiction of the Russians in panel 4, and the infamous Russian tank being towed off by a Ukrainian farmer’s tractor in panel 5. Panel 7 is a reproduction of a Ukraine postage stamp issued on April 12th of last year, commemorating the response of Ukraine guards on Snake Island at the start of hostilities. It depicts the Russian guided missile cruiser Mockвa (“Moskva,” or, “Moscow”) being ‘saluted’ by Ukraine; whether this actually happened or not, what did happen was that, on being hailed and told by Mockвa to surrender, a Ukrainian soldier on Snake Island (specifically one Roman Hrybov) responded over the radio with, “Russian warship, go fuck yourself.” I decided that this quote needed to be featured for a while on the sidebar, and while I’m not retiring it now – it will go into regular rotation with the other, decidedly frivolous quotes – after today it will no longer be the sole quote featured.

Even better, the day after the issuing of the stamp, Ukraine forces sank the fucking Mockвa! The stamp (designed by Boris Groh – credit where it is due) was already approved and in production, so on subsequent stamp sheets, non-postable versions were included with the seal, “Mockвa DONE,” visible in the lower corner of panel 7 in the pamphlet – it’s not easy to make out in my photo of it, but the package is leaning against a button marked, “Bomb.” Or you can see the actual stamps here, if you like.

Which is the second story. I was of course dying to obtain at least one of those stamps from the moment that I saw the approved version, but knew the demand would be high and the production probably wiped out immediately. While writing this post, I decided to do a quick check, which is how I found the link above, direct to Ukrposhta, the Ukrainian postal service. Not only can you order sheets of the stamps, they do international shipping. While I suspected the cost, converted to US currency, would be prohibitive, it’s not in the slightest – you can convert it directly on the page by going to the upper left corner where “UA’ and “UAH” are listed, and selecting instead, “EN” (English) and, “USD” (dollar dollar bills y’all.) Which means that sheet, as I type this, was a mere $4.50, the postage to the US less than $8.00! Yes, I ordered a stack, and included a donation to help the animals of Ukraine as well. Fuck yes.

In the face of Russia’s brutal, unjustifiable attack, which has been targeting non-combatants and engaging in criminal and reprehensible acts, Ukrainian citizens and soldiers have been responding not just with resolve, but with competence, professionalism, and outright defiance. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has displayed more statesmanship, leadership, and character than any US politician – really, all of them combined (which isn’t saying a lot, admittedly – most of ours believe they’re playing in sandboxes while overdue for a diaper change.) Here’s hoping that, by this time next year, this idiotic war will be well over. Slava Ukraini!

This doesn’t count

crescent moon with Jupiter and Venus in frame
I did manage to set aside a little time to pursue some photos for National Wildlife Day but the wildlife was not cooperating very well at all – mostly what I got were some lackluster photos of solitary cormorants. And the images here are about as far removed from wildlife as possible, definitionally and linearly, but I saw this in the sky and had to grab the tripod to fire off a few frames. I remember hearing about a conjunction coming up but let it slip from my mind, and caught it anyway because I’m just that good. So here’s tonight’s crescent moon, with Jupiter alongside and Venus way off down there in the corner. I had the long lens on and, backing off down to 150mm, I could get all three in the frame. But it looks better concentrating on the closer two.

crescent moon overexposed to bring out earthshine as well as Jupiter's moons
I was aiming mostly to bring up the earthshine in the shadowed portion of the moon, but also just barely caught the Jovian moons as well – no earthshine on those, admittedly, and there won’t be, because they will never show crescents to us here on Earth. Jupiter is far enough out that the sun is always effectively ‘behind’ us to its orbit, and the only planet (or any major body) that can show phases to us Venus, because it’s closer to the sun than we are. Mercury probably can too, but that’s close enough to the sun that no equipment that I have is going to capture it. Meanwhile, we’ll take a closer look at Jupiter and its entourage.

Jupiter with Ganymede, Io, Europa, and Callisto
This is with the 150-600 at 600mm, with the 2X teleconverter as well, so about 1000mm (I know that doesn’t seem to make sense, but calculating the magnifications indicate that the 2X converter isn’t quite 2X – closer to 1.8X,) and this is a full-resolution crop of the frame. The Jovian moons, meaning the largest and easiest to see from Earth, are all visible here: from top, Ganymede, Io, Europa, and way down below trying to hide is Callisto. While checking the details in Stellarium, I noticed that it was showing only three of the moons, and eventually determined that Europa was ‘there’ but not displaying in the program – probably something to do with the version that I just reinstalled.

But yeah, this is as good as it gets until I get the telescope up to speed. So we’ll turn to the moon for a moment.

crescent moon with earthshine and atmospheric haze and exposure glare
Part of the glare here is due to the humidity, and I will note that Venus vanished from site before it ever set, and only minutes after I got the frames that included it, above. But most of the glare simply comes from overexposing the moon to bring out detail from the earthshine – not quite the best phase to tackle this within. I should have tried last night if I wanted that, because we’re in the waxing period now and the moon will only be increasing in phase for the next two weeks, becoming brighter and worsening the glare.

BUT, I’m not a total loss, because while out on the edge of the neighborhood pond getting these pics (the best view towards the west,) I noticed a few frogs hanging out, so I include a true bit of wildlife for the day:

green frog Lithobates clamitans at edge of pond at night
This is a common-as-the-muck-it’s-sitting-in green frog (Lithobates clamitans,) and about as token as you can get for ‘wildlife.’ But at least it’s not an insect. Admittedly, I could have snagged an image of one every night that it’s been even slightly warm all winter, because there are three wintering in the backyard pond that pop up with the faintest hint of a decent temperature, but, well…

Rehab rehash

The date that I originally posted this is now just one day shy of a decade ago, but it remains relevant and so it tends to return at this time of year, right before birthing season starts for many of the local species. So, here on National Wildlife Day, let’s consider what we should do with injured and orphaned wildlife.

I used to work in this field a fair amount, both in administration of wildlife organizations and as an active raptor [birds of prey] rehabilitator, plus I served as wildlife adviser in several different situations. So I’m familiar with most of the more common reactions people have when they find ‘orphaned,’ injured, and ill wildlife. It’s hard to give enough useful information without trying to cover every situation or alternative, so treat this as an overview. One thing that I especially want to emphasize here is that there is an immediate emotional response in most cases, which tries to override the advice given by those who work in the fields, so be aware of it. There isn’t an ‘instinct’ we might have that applies to wildlife, and the rational mind is the part that needs to take control.

Additionally, the amount of folklore regarding wildlife is not just abundant, in most cases it’s ridiculously wrong. I’m not even going to say, “If in doubt…,” because you should doubt right off the bat, and consider that most of what you’ve heard is highly suspect. This means, contact someone who is supposed to know, and go with their advice.

Number one rule, and I can’t repeat this enough: Don’t try to raise wildlife on your own. Their diets are specialized, their needs varied and specific to the species, and their adult behavior dependent on how they’re raised. This isn’t the place for guesswork or experimentation. Even if they seem to be ‘doing well’ (like the viral video of the guy raising a baby hummingbird,) they may have developmental issues from an improper diet or exercise, or simply have imprinted on the wrong species, and you are in essence just prolonging the death of the animal. In the US, it’s illegal to raise any species without a specific permit, and songbirds are federally protected. It’s possible to obtain these permits, and quite frankly encouraged, because there are few places with enough rehabbers, but if you’re going to do it, do it right. More further down.

So, we’re about to enter baby bird season, and this accounts for a large percentage of wildlife encounters. I’ll dispel the first myth that touching a baby bird will cause the mother to abandon it. Utter hogwash, pure and simple – yet, I don’t always discourage parents from teaching this to their children, because it’s one way to try and get kids to leave them alone, which is a good thing. Better, perhaps, to teach them to leave them alone for the right reasons, which is to avoid interrupting their feeding schedule, or injuring them, or thinking it would be neat to have a pet robin. But returning to the myth, baby birds will occasionally fall from the nest, and it’s perfectly fine to return them to it, and in fact this is recommended.

It doesn’t always work, however. Some species will discard young that are not doing well, and some even kick their own siblings out – this is nature’s method of selecting the most viable offspring, as ruthless as we find it, and we’re not going to change it. Basically, if it’s a baby bird not ready to leave the nest (not fledged; we’ll return to this,) put it back. If it keeps coming out, there may not be much you can do.

Can’t reach the nest? Try to find a way, first. If that’s not possible, occasionally the parents will accept a substitute nest, such as a plastic berry basket with soft tissue as bedding – this should be placed as close as possible to the original nest, firmly anchored so it doesn’t come down. Observe the nest carefully, but from a safe distance, for 30-60 minutes to see if the parents have indeed found the substitute. If not, seek out a rehabilitator or wildlife official.

Abandoned nest? Maybe, maybe not. Once the eggs hatch, the parent birds go into feeding mode, gathering food constantly during daylight hours and stopping at the nest for brief periods to jam it down the gullets of their ravenous progeny. The 30-60 minute rule above is because waiting less may mean you’ve simply missed the brief feeding period between the extended gathering periods. Observation has to be done at a distance that does not alarm the parents – minimum is six meters (yards,) and more is recommended. Also, being low key is paramount, so take a seat (with binoculars, for preference) and remain still and quiet. Yes, it’s boring, but it’s for the health of the offspring, and if you didn’t care about that you wouldn’t be reading ;-)

fledglingsAs the nestlings become fledglings, they abandon the nest on their own in learning how to fly. This does mean that they’ll be found unable to fly, fluttering around at low level and even just sitting there staring at you. This is normal, and they should remain undisturbed. The parents are nearby, providing food and encouraging the flight attempts. Most bird species know enough not to give away their progeny’s locations to predators, or draw attention to themselves by moving a lot, so your ability to approach, or not being attacked by angry parents when you do so, means nothing at all. Again, observation is good here, as is knowing the calls of the species in question – the parents may be coaching their young towards them.

Now, telling the difference in ‘nestlings’ and ‘fledglings.’ A nestling is a baby bird that must remain in the nest for a while; they will have few feathers, or perhaps even odd ‘quills,’ which is what the feathers look like as they are growing out. Unable to support itself? Eyes not open? Nestling. Fledglings are the babies that are ready to learn how to fly. Their feathers will have good coverage with little to no stragglers or ‘stuffing coming out’ (the baby down.) One rule I always used over the phone was to ask if there were tail feathers – if there are, they’re about ready to fly. These are fledglings and should only be observed.

If in doubt, contact a rehabber/official. This is before doing anything else, save for getting it out of immediate danger. No food, no water, nothing at all. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard people say, “We’ve tried giving it water and worms” – birds can aspirate the water if it’s not given the way the parents do (you’ve noticed the beak getting jammed halfway down the throat, right?) and only one species in North America eats earthworms. Again, folklore – ignore it and be safe.

Also, bleeding in birds is serious, no matter what. Birds have very thin blood that doesn’t coagulate easily, and they can bleed out quickly. Also note that those ‘quills’ of new feathers mentioned above have a blood supply for a while, and these can be broken and start bleeding as well. Time is important in such situations.

HappyOwletBaby raptors will tear you up – they know how to use the beak and talons very early (often on their siblings) and will not hesitate to protect themselves. And adult raptors will protect their young. This is where it’s best to leave it to the experienced.

And it may seem funny to have to say this, but baby birds do not look like their parents. Adult kestrels and screech owls, both diminutive raptors, are often considered “babies” when found by those not familiar with what a real juvenile looks like. Basic rule: if it has a smooth appearance and good coverage of feathers, it’s at least fledgling age, probably older.

What about mammals? This is a little different – mammals are generally not found away from their parents unless something has gone wrong. Most especially, if the youngster’s eyes aren’t open, they’re wet from the rain or dew, or if they’re cold or dehydrated, this is the time to contact someone. Test for dehydration by gently pinching up the skin over the shoulders or side in a ‘tent’ and releasing – if the skin takes more than a second to go back into position, this is dehydration.

Always use gloves. Juvenile mammals can certainly bite, and there’s an additional risk to this: rabies is active throughout much of North America. This is an invariably fatal disease once it passes a certain point (much more so than HIV,) so this needs to be taken seriously. It is not just the bite that can transmit it, but contact of an infected animal’s saliva with mucous membranes can introduce it as well, which means that picking up a damp animal and rubbing your eyes puts you at risk. Animals do not have to be showing symptoms to be infectious, and symptoms vary anyway. BE SAFE.

It’s not just rabies. Mammals are far more likely to introduce other zoonotic issues than birds – they’re enough like us that parasites (internal and external) and some viruses can be transmitted to us. Bringing them into the house may mean you just introduced fleas, lice, giardia, and so on into your home. You’ve been warned.

possumpeepingAlso, and it pains me to have to always say this, but cute does not mean safe. Any animal can defend itself. I have never been bitten by a raccoon, despite their aggressiveness, but I have a scar and a touch of nerve damage from a grey squirrel – one, moreover, that was raised in a house. Rabbits and mice can bite the hell out of you. Shrews even have a toxic saliva. Yes, I am trying to scare you – if you’re scared, you’re cautious, which is better than incautious.

In many cases, mammals about half of the adult size can be on their own without issues – they learn how to forage for their own food reasonably quickly. Again, the stillness thing doesn’t mean they’re lost – it may simply mean they’re trying not to attract attention. This is especially so for white-tailed deer fawns – they often curl up in the grass and conserve energy while mom forages, and will not move even when someone approaches – occasionally not even when picked up. Leave them be, and come back in a few hours. If they’re still there, that’s when you should contact someone.

Rabbits are notorious for abandoning the nest if it’s been disturbed, even with a full brood of young within. This is doubly hazardous because their nests are often in clumps of grass and can be inadvertently discovered by cleaning the yard. If it happens, immediately put everything back as it was, without touching the young, and place a few distinctive blades of grass across the nest opening (preferably something you can see from at least a short distance away,) then leave it entirely alone. Come back in a few hours and check to see if the grass has been moved. If it has, things are probably okay. If not, it may be time to check the warmth and hydration of the young. Contact a rehabilitator.

Again, trying to raise them yourself puts them at a high risk. This is especially true for rabbits, which are among the hardest mammals to raise in North America. I can’t count the number of people who have assured me that they did it once before, so “they know how to do it.” While this may be true, it ignores numerous things, such as how viable the released offspring were and whether they lasted longer than a month, whether they had developmental deficiencies because of improper nutrition, and even whether they had habituated to food or behavior that left them ill-prepared for their conditions. There is a shortage of rehabilitators, so believe me, if it was easy most people would be encouraged to tackle this on their own. The fact that not only is it discouraged, it is unlawful in most areas, should be a good indication that there’s something more to consider. And the welfare of the animal should take higher precedence than anyone’s ego.

Injured animals are extra dangerous. Yes, they may seem incapacitated or helpless, but you know what they say about appearances. One of my colleagues rashly checked an injured, near-comatose squirrel bare-handed, and it bit through her finger, joining its teeth together in the fleshy part of her index finger – I actually heard them grinding together. It then passed out without letting go. Animals in pain (even pets) often respond aggressively – they have no concept of your attempts to help them, and restraint can make them even more agitated. Deer can do vast amounts of damage by thrashing with their hooves, and the big waterfowl like herons and cranes can drive that beak into your face (and yes, they aim for effectiveness.) I really want to emphasize this, because the nurturing instincts are badly misplaced here, and extreme caution is necessary instead.

“There’s a nest of animals in my attic/crawlspace/walls and they need to be removed!” No. Most especially not when they’re raising young, which is most often when anyone notices them. Once the young are there, no further damage is going to be done to your house, because the parents are concentrating on raising their brood. Trying to relocate them is hazardous, both to the animals and to people in many cases, and pointless. Let them be, and in a few weeks the young will be old enough and move out on their own – about the only exception to this is bat colonies (more below.) Once there are no young to raise, the adult animals often leave on their own – nests are primarily for young – but they can also be encouraged to leave or stay out at that point. Squirrels are pretty bad about wanting to return to successful nest areas, and will even chew through wire mesh at times, but most others take the hint and find better places to live.

“But what about rabies?” Animals raising young, even in the eaves of your house, are not an especially high risk. Contrary to belief, rabies does not cause animals to leap suddenly out and attack people; those events are remarkably rare. While anyone should be quite cautious of any mammals that openly approach, living near them does not place anyone at special risk – you’re at greater risk of being killed by the tree near the house falling on you, and we won’t even talk about road risks. Like snake bites, most contacts with rabies vector wildlife occurs by people initiating the contact.

beaverspoor“Animals are doing damage to my property and need to be removed!” No. I can’t tell you how much this attitude annoys me, but that’s what a blog is for, right? Wildlife goes where the habitat is ideal, and pays no attention to humankind’s imaginary idea of “property.” First off, anyone should enjoy the opportunity to see behavior, something that is often hard to accomplish even when making the effort. If someone has wildlife around, chances are they aren’t in a high-rise apartment, which means they wanted to live with at least some vestige of nature visible; surprise surprise, it comes with other animals. While we might decry the damages to our gardens or landscaping, that’s part of the territory, just like road noise and power lines. Learn how to cope, and the ways to exclude animals from certain areas so we can have tomatoes. I’m sorry that a $500 tree was stripped, but no one should have planted something that was that appealing to the local species in the first place, and chances are, numerous appropriate trees had been cut down first so that the fancy landscaping could be put in its place (and I used to work for a landscaper, too.)

Trapping and removal is rarely effective. If there’s a habitat, someone else will move in. And wildlife populations have been shown through numerous studies to be fairly self-regulating; the issues come because habitat destruction by humans is not. We can put in housing developments much faster than the natural cycles of population reduction and management, and those displaced animals end up somewhere. They likely feel the same way about us – dread the point where they develop opposable thumbs.

But what about bats? Ah, the poor little guys! Much of our population considers them ugly and creepy, not at all helped by folklore and horror stories, yet bats are actually way cool mammals, and good to keep the insects down. But most species nest in colonies, and this does sometimes mean in attics, which can produce lots of guano (bat poop) and increases the risks of rabies exposure, primarily when one gets lost and ends up within the human spaces of the house. However, the damage that they can do is minuscule, since they do not dig or gnaw, and excluding them only takes 1/4″ hardware cloth (small-holed wire mesh.) Again, this should be done when no young are being raised, and should always be done with gloves and a breath mask (guano turns into dust easily and can be inhaled.) Should you find a bat in your house, contact your local animal control, since states differ on how they handle potential exposures.

I said I’d get to this: So you want to learn how to rehabilitate wildlife? Once again, this is actually encouraged, but like riding a motorcycle, it should be done properly and responsibly. If there isn’t a wildlife center or organization available in your area, contact your regional Wildlife Resource Commission office (for the US at least) to find out who in your area can train you, and most especially what permissions you need. In the US you’ll need at least one permit, possibly several. What you’ll mostly need is training, because any species requires a decent body of knowledge to tackle well – which also means pick a species, at least to start. Your local rehabbers can suggest a few, which might mean picking something you didn’t initially desire, but which is either easier to learn or presents the greatest needs within an area (and again, is this about you, or the animals?) Expect to spend a lot of time at it, since most animals need lots of attention – mammals may need feedings every four hours around the clock, and birds every 15-30 minutes during daylight (yes, I knew a songbird rehabilitator that kept baby birds in the desk drawers of her office.) And it’s almost certainly all coming out of your own pocket.

I feel obligated to say this, too: wild animals are not pets, and should not be raised as such. There are lots of reasons. The domesticated animals we have as pets, like cats and dogs and horses, have been bred that way for thousands of years and quite likely were chosen because they already had traits that assisted the process. Animals do not domesticate by simply raising them around people, and in many cases have behaviors that cause them to run afoul of our own (I mention once again the squirrel scar I bear – that story was posted a few years ago.) Many animals also do not have diets that are easy for humans to replicate, meaning that they’re unlikely to thrive and may develop serious disabilities. But most distinctly, what we might imagine them to be like is rarely ever the case – they are highly unlikely to bond with humans in the slightest, and aren’t going to make good companions, do tricks, or even exhibit any appealing personality. They belong in the wild, and that should be your only goal.

Now, if the demands of rehabilitation are too much to contemplate, you can always volunteer with a local organization, and do rehabilitation on a rotation as your schedule permits. This helps prevent burnout and lets you have vacations and family emergencies. This also allows you to get involved without necessarily requiring the permits, because you can operate under the aegis of the organization and its own permits (which is how I worked with raptors, since my apartment would not fit the 15-meter flight cages required.) Still, expect to be dedicated to the job, even when it’s unsavory – cleaning cages and wounds, and even euthanizing injured animals, is a requisite part of it all. Not to mention how many species expect live or fresh food. If you’re thinking of cuddling fluffy bunnies, you’re not ready; rehab requires lots of ugly stuff, and very little bonding – they’re not pets, but wildlife, and need to be wild.

Or, simply donate money or materials. That works too, and is just as necessary – the nice thing about the subject is how nearly everyone can find a niche (provided they accept the reasonable expectations.) Despite such things as Wildlife Resource Commissions and the US Fish & Wildlife Service, there really isn’t money being put into wildlife rehab, especially not from a state or federal level. The vast majority of organizations run solely on donations and grants, and often even have to have veterinary services donated. Experienced workers are great, but donors are just as important, if not more so. Even people who can promote greater donations are important. Just about everything is grass-roots level, all of the time – the few exceptions are great, and demonstrations of what can be done, but not what you can expect throughout the field. Your help, whatever it is, will be appreciated.

A final note: find out, now, how to contact your local wildlife people. Before you find yourself with an injured owl on your hands. In some areas, it’s not self-evident or easy to find, and if it’s not a registered organization, you can forget about searching any telephone listings. Local animal control usually knows, and the 24-hour emergency vets. Often, 911 operators do not, and even local law enforcement may be stumped. A few minutes to get prepared can save a lot of hassle later on, and as I said, we’re entering baby season.

Hope this helps!

More to celebrate

osprey Pandion haliaetus in dive
Tomorrow, February 22nd, is National wildlife Day – actually, one of two for the year, the next being September 4th. While I have a post lined up, it’s not exactly specific to the holiday, and had I planned better, I might have spent the day in a National Wildlife Refuge, but the nearest to me is Roanoke River NWR, a bit over two hours travel time, not to mention that it’s still a bit early in the season to have decent expectations for an outing. Given that wildlife is the primary focus of the blog and website, I can’t feel that I’m shirking my duties here. Nonetheless, I may sneak in a more local outing if I can, and the weather holds out.

Are there good ways to observe the holiday? That’s always a loaded question, of course – the typical answer is along the lines of, “raise awareness,” which is fine but incredibly vague, and effectiveness is up for grabs. Contributions to wildlife, conservation, or rehabilitation organizations of your choice are commendable, as is any kind of educational program, aimed at children or adults. Even just educating ourselves over different species, habitats, or ecosystems works fine, as far as I’m concerned, and I may have something along those lines as well.

I recently discovered that (as indicated at the linked site,) this particular date was chosen because it was Steve Irwin’s birthday, which gives me distinctly mixed feelings. This might surprise you, it might not, but I only watched a few scattered portions of ‘Crocodile Hunter’ and various other appearances by Irwin, and was never the least impressed. Credit where it’s due for getting a generation interested in wildlife, in a way, but I’m firmly of the opinion that there were much better ways of going about it. Irwin never displayed the least evidence of being a naturalist, and exemplified some of the worst habits towards wildlife that could be found this side of hunting shows. He was a character, riding the wave of popularity, and the inclusion of animals in his shows was considered ‘enough,’ though what positive impact this had remains to be seen – and what negative impact, as well. Respect for wildlife was never at the forefront, and even while ostensibly trying to illustrate the dangers of certain species, he generally did do by doing exactly what you should never do. Most especially, it made the various species performers in his own scripts, with little awareness that an aggressive response was and is distinct evidence that the animal is stressed enough to trigger it. This is as bad as some kind of ‘reality’ show where someone provokes fights with people on the street. What, exactly, is the point of that?

From a nature photographer’s standpoint, there’s always the desire to push the boundaries to see what kind of images can be obtained, but it needs to be emphasized: it often doesn’t take much to provoke a response, and even a minor one is interruption of a species’ habits. We tend to forget that no animals in the wild get regular meals, or automatically find safe places to sleep, and our interfering with this definitely has an effect – maybe minor, maybe not, we don’t know. While it’s impossible to remain completely unobtrusive in most situations, we should be endeavoring to spark as little response as possible.

On top of that, there’s our own safety to consider. We also tend to forget that we cannot interpret the mood and actions of most species with even slight degrees of accuracy; any animal may appear disinterested or blasé, up until they react, and by then it’s too late. I’ve spent a lot of time observing plenty of different species, and while I consider myself halfway-decent at it, I’ll be the first to tell you I only have a faint inkling of what they’re thinking. It’s best to always assume that any animal might decide that we’ve crossed the line at any time, and maintain safe distances and, where necessary, an escape route. Never go for a close approach, never feed an animal, and never assume that it’s all cool because we aren’t seeing any signs – wildlife isn’t in the habit of communicating with us.

That’s enough lecturing. If you can, do something appropriate and, for preference, something positive and effective. Wildlife, regardless of what it is and as vague as that title can be, is fascinating, and good to have around.

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I apologize for failing to give more warning of this, but today is IMDB Day, referring to the popular Internet Move Database website at “Database” is just one word, not even hyphenated, but “” had already been snagged by the band Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark when they weren’t looking closely at what they typed. For those readers not familiar with IMDB, Seriously? What the hell, man? it’s a listing of movies, TV shows, and related ilk that is largely crowd-sourced, meaning Joe Q. Public gets to go in and add details to their little hearts’ desire. This is, presumably, subject to editing by some kind of official staff, though apparently only for accuracy.

While it’s getting less and less frequent now, I still visit IMDB on occasion, mostly to settle the internal nagging of just where I’ve seen that actor before, usually only after a few days of pride not allowing me to before my memory gets fed up and says, “Listen, I just don’t have the time right now, okay? You’re going to be forgetting much worse than this, you old fart.” And in this respect, it’s certainly handy, as well as reminding people exactly how a particular quote goes, rather smugly I believe because no one ever trusts it and end up re-watching the movie just to reluctantly confirm that they’d remembered it wrong.

And while there, I always click on the Trivia section, because I keep believing that I’ll find some interesting nugget within – I’m not sure why. The Trivia and Goofs sections are chock-full of details that you can only obtain otherwise from the wannabe film students (even worse, hard as that may be to fathom, than film students themselves) who can recite the dialogue from Barry Lyndon by rote. 90% of the entries in the Trivia sections can be found by simply clicking on the Commentary menus of the DVDs, so if you ever needed a transcript of those, you’re golden. As for the Goofs section, it’s not really clear what purpose this serves, except to illustrate how many people can’t simply watch the damn movie; you can find them easily by examining their remotes for excessive wear on the ‘Pause’ and ‘Rollback’ buttons, while the phrase, “Netflix and chill,” will always confuse them.

The more regarded the movie, the denser these categories will be, to the point that reading time for either will exceed the runtime of the film itself by a factor of four or more. The site has gotten popular enough now that actors and directors will often indirectly populate the pages with apocryphal details provided in interviews, placing bets on just how quickly they appear on the site.* It is rumored that Philadelphia was funded solely from bets won over the trivia entries for Bachelor Party.

But to get into the spirit of the holiday, I present some of my favorite entries from IMDB, in no particular order. Some of these present instances where the lack of accuracy will take you right out of the movie. The films that they pertain to should be obvious.

DIRECTOR TRADEMARK: The word, “and” is used frequently by the actors in dialogue.

CREW OR EQUIPMENT VISIBLE: At 1:17.21, if you pause the movie and zoom in on the reflection in the squirrel’s eye and enhance this with forensics software, you can easily see that the squirrel is not actually behind the wheel of an ocean liner.

Parkerette Stephens’ order number at McDonalds is 63.

Antoinette Glub’s answering machine is a GE AM-23, particularly known for eating the cassettes, yet she listens to at least 17 messages without issue.

CONTINUITY: At 53 minutes and 82 seconds, you can see that the whoopee cushion on the coffin does not have enough air in it to produce the volume of noise that it emits only seconds later.

Agnes Dorflmetting and Biff Snothausen also appeared together in Platypus Pie.

When the hammer on the Sig Sauer GS-517/AX pistol falls on an empty chamber, it makes a click in the 42 Hz range, not 44 as depicted in the film.

INCORRECTLY REGARDED AS GOOFS: The GE AM-23 answering machine only ate tapes if the capstan rollers were never cleaned; Antoinette Glub would certainly have maintained her appliances.

While finishing off her previous film, director Hortense Snagbigot was sitting in a café looking at a pool of spilled clam sauce, realizing how much it looked like the outline of Indonesia; this served as no inspiration whatsoever for this film.

ERRORS IN GEOGRAPHY: Characters continually say they are from “America” as if this is a specific country rather than referring to the entire Western Hemisphere.

Paul Reubens, Dame Judi Dench, Dan Aykroyd, Clint Eastwood, and Whoopi Goldberg were all considered for the role of ‘Lolita.’

INCORRECTLY REGARDED AS INCORRECTLY REGARDED AS GOOFS: The GE AM-23 answering machine suffered from poor-quality tension roller material that no amount of cleaning could compensate for.

A trained and experienced waste disposal technician would never operate the compaction lever without first examining the entry chute for obstructions.

Director Spangwie Popperfop has admitted in interviews that Robert Fooss was supposed to be slightly bi-curious when under stress.

CREW OR EQUIPMENT VISIBLE: At 13 minutes in, as the camera zooms out on a panning dolly tracking shot, cast members are visible.

DIRECTOR TRADEMARK: Transitions between scenes.

Peter Sellers was on board to play the parts of both Cyndi Lauper and Lou Albano, but had to back out over previous commitments to being dead.

In Greece circa 375 BCE, nobody spoke with a Liverpudlian accent

STOP TRYING TO SOUND LIKE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT: Replacement rollers for the GE AM-23 answering machine were easily obtainable, something that Antoinette Glub would almost certainly have installed.

CHARACTER ERRORS: “Y’all” isn’t a fucking word.

The director has hinted in interviews that the film is a modern retelling of Captain Kangaroo, with Hermione as the Captain, Ron as Mr Greenjeans, and Harry as that moose puppet.

In the novel that the film is based off of, Everett Fungusballs cooked the sausages before the eggs.

At 36 minutes in, Detective Sangfroid can be seen using a paint stirring stick with little indents for handles, but in 1971 Sherwin Williams did not offer paint stirring sticks with little indents for handles.

During the confrontation with the matador, while you can hear Boss Lady say, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,” you can see that her lips actually say, “That’s not my aubergine dildo.”

Porgs are not native to rocky terrain as seen here.

As Boofdar confronts the Falwellians about their treachery, you can see that the gem on his ring is 5 degrees right of center in the initial scene, but as the view cuts back to him after the captain feigns indifference, the gem is now 12 degrees left of center, with no apparent twiddling taking place.

The film repeatedly shows nature photographers receiving recognition and a living wage, despite being set on Earth.

In a deleted scene, Rose lets Jack on the door, but he tries to put it in her ass and she banishes him to the water.

So, grab a big drink, get comfortable, and spend way too much time learning fascinating facts about your favorite movies rather than, you know, just watching them. Alternately, you can cue up the movie with a notepad in hand, hit ‘Pause’ a lot, and impress everyone with your remarkable perspicacity and powers of observation! Whatever works.

* This is almost certainly true – I’d do it for damn sure.

Tripod holes, part 8

rocks in middle of Cane Creek, NC
N 35°59’9.88″ W 79°12’25.05″ Google Earth Location

[Doing something a little bit different this time: I’m still not sure that the old Google Earth Placemark thing works anymore, but when I had a system glitch that appeared to have borked my Linux install*, I reinstalled with an upgraded version, which eliminated too many of my programs, and when I was reinstalling those, I found that Google Earth is now doing a web-based version as well. So now the link points to that instead, or you can just use the latitude/longitude coordinates in the mapping service of your choice as always.]

This week, we wade down into Cane Creek, from too many years ago, and I do mean ‘into,’ since the tripod was set up in the middle of the stream, whereupon I had to hold perfectly still (at least from the waist down) to let the ripples die out in this placid section. Meanwhile, within a few dozen meters or so were cascading sections where the creek narrowed and passed through clusters of rumpled rocks much like those in the foreground here. It was in one such section that I did a self-portrait while crouched on a fallen branch crossing the water, and I knew this was taken with the newly-acquired Canon Elan IIe and the RC-1 remote, so it was in 1998. I had planned this past summer to find the spot and semi-recreate the image (I imagine the branch has long since deteriorated,) but some time in the intervening years, the area where I could park the car was eliminated by roadwork, and there were no possible locations close by; the road that crosses the creek is a narrow and twisty country road that has no shoulders to speak of. I’d probably have to be dropped off, and I don’t foresee that happening anytime soon.

I mean, I wouldn’t do this soon anyway, because the trees are bare and the water’s cold, but don’t expect to see it this summer, is what I’m saying.

the author endeavoring not to get bitten by a common snapping turtle Chelydra serpentina, photo by The GirlfriendThe image above was tweaked a little for better color rendition, which is shameless digital manipulation because it was shot on slide film, so colors and contrast are fixed and immutable – it represented exactly what was to be seen at the time. Save for the particular traits of the specific slide film I was using, and whether I was using any filters, and the effects of the lens itself, plus the bare fact that photos of any kind increase contrast, but otherwise it was authentic. Meanwhile, the image at left was taken some years later by The Girlfriend on our first outing to the same creek, perhaps our first outing to any of the natural areas that I tend to visit – I seem to recall that she wanted to see what I did when out shooting/exploring, and this illustrates it well: that’s me of course, with a large common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) supported by the rear shell, the safest area to do so. Not only was it a large specimen to find in such a low-volume creek, but the snout was seriously misshapen from some long-past injury, which is what I was examining. No nature photographers nor turtles were harmed in the making of this story.

* A small note about Linux Mint, at least, but I think all Linux kernels suffer from the same trait. Windows allows you to choose where to install programs, while the default location is called, “Program Files’ or some variation thereof. Linux, however, does not allow any choice at all, and the default location is often usr/bin or local/share or some such thing – it’s up to the program creators, really. Which is stupid. My computer, like so many others nowadays, has the operating system running from a solid-state dive (SSD,) a smaller but faster version of a harddrive – and it holds Windows 7 on there as well as a dual-boot system so I can still access Windows-specific things like the film scanner. Meanwhile, there are three separate harddrives – 2 and 3 Gb – for storing files. It is therefore ridiculous to keep installing programs to the limited space of the SSD when options are available, plus the fact that the reinstall of Linux would not have wiped out so many of the programs had they been on a separate drive, or even in a dedicated folder not at all intertwined with the operating system. For as long as Linux has been in development, it’s inexcusable that such nonsense exists in the structure.

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