Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Leaving 2010... behind!

I finally got my picture of a Carolina Wren:)

Happy New Year, everybody.
Thanks for visiting and for inspiring me.
Looking forward,

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Tom has been located.  He is safe.  And, it turns out, a very fortunate young man.  Word is, he was assaulted near the border, robbed of everything he owned, including his car, and left unconscious.  He woke in a hospital in Mexico.  He is home with his family in Maine now, and recuperating from his ordeal.    Thanks to you all for your thoughts and prayers.

Missing Son
A Parent's Holiday Nightmare

Instead of preparing for a family Christmas in their beautiful, turn of the century home in Portland, Maine, dear family friends are embroiled in a frantic search for their missing son.  I'm begging you to please take just a few moments to copy and paste these links into e-mails to everyone you know in the United States.

Is this not the season of miracles?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Texas Bandit

(Lanius ludovicianus)

The Loggerhead Shrike is known in many areas as
the "Butcher Bird" because it
impales it's prey (large insects, lizards, and small birds)
 on barbed wire, fence posts, and thorny branches.
Some believe this is because it lacks the strong talons
of the larger birds of prey.
For a fine illlustration of this, check out this post on

I include this photo to give you
a glimpse of its beautiful markings.

For more, detailed information about the Loggerhead Shrike ,
visit Sibley Guides for their latest post, which happens to be -

For more Nature Notes, visit Michelle at Rambling Woods

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Texas Insects

(Atta texana)

So enthralled with watching this army of ants at work, I only took this one picture of the pile of leaf pieces
 left outside the entrance to their tunnel.
These ants were following the trail to home,
carrying pieces of leaves that, as you can see here, 
were larger than the ants themselves. 
It was quite a sight.

When I looked them up, I was amazed at what I learned. 
These are fungus ants, found mainly 
in the south central and eastern parts of Texas. 
Basically, the worker ants bring pieces of leaves to the nest,
other worker ants chew them up into little pieces,
yet other worker ants carry them to the appropriate chambers up to 8 feet down (everyone has their own job to do),
where the chewed up leaves turn into a fungus.
They are cultivated fungus gardens for food,
with proper venting, and everything!
It's necessary to farm the gardens properly,
because, according to What's That Bug,
the population of one colony can number up to
2 million ants!
Their underground habitat can spread out to over 1/2 acre,
rendering them difficult to manage
and presenting a large problem to farmers,
who lose an estimated
$5 million annually to these hungry critters!
Homeowners aren't too crazy to share space with them, either!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Riparian Rarities

Be very still.
Is that what I think it is??
Yes, indeedy!

Children at Play!
One of most favorite things!

"There is a real world, beyond the glass, for children who look, for those whose parents encourage them to truly see." Richard Louv, "Last Child in the Woods"

And that reminds me
to remind you of a couple of great books
I've mentioned in the past
that would make great Christmas gifts. 

Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv, would make a great gift for any parent, grandparent, or teacher on your list.  This book really gets to the core of some present day issues surrounding the activities our youth participate in, or the lack there of, and why.  It is written very clearly, in everyday language, and there's no beating around the bush.  If there is anyone on your list you would like to encourage to expose their children to more meaningful outdoor activity, this is the book for them.

Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson would definitely be on my list for gift giving this year to all the families in my life with small children or grandchildren.  I consider this among the 'must haves'.

 The Young Birder's Guide to Birds of Eastern North America by Bill Thompson would make a great first birding book for any child this
Christmas, in the hopes of sparking some enthusiasm for becoming a new birder.  Bill engaged, not only his daughter, but his daughter's class, in putting this book together for the younger set, and it is terrific.
After all, it's
Kid Approved!!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


I can't resist sharing this cake recipe with you. 

"Some Oreo cookies and banana Runts make this birthday cake a real hoot."
Parenting Magazine

There are more adorable cakes of all kinds - animals, fairytales, insects, sports!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Guadalupe River State Park

Saturday morning dawned gloriously warm and sunny, so we headed to Guadalupe River State Park to enjoy some safe outdoors time, escape the unnerving sprawl of the city, and to check it out as a possible winter camping destination while I am here visiting.

Located in the Texas Hill Country, the park is comprised of 1938.7 acres along 4 miles of the Guadalupe River and is adjacent to the Honey Creek State Natural Area, another 2293.7 acres, which itself is only accessible on Saturday mornings during a guided interpretive tour.

The river is lined with enormous bald cypress trees, their massive exposed, gnarled and twisted root systems making an interesting walk along the river bank.

The Bald Cypress, Taxpdium distichum, is a deciduous tree that can grow to 130 feet tall and boast a trunk diameter of up to 10 feet.  Also called the Swamp Cypress, these native trees are most commonly found along riparian wetlands in the southeast sweep of the US from Delaware Bay to central Texas (range map).  The largest known living specimen, dubbed "The Senator", near Longwood, Florida is 118 feet (36 m) tall, and with a trunk diameter of 11 feet (344 cm). The tallest known, near Williamsburg, Virginia, is 145 feet (44 m) tall, and the stoutest known, in the Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge near Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has 17 feet (521 cm) diameter. (Wikipedia)

Rife with winter birds who were too busy to pose for photos, I heard the staccato rattle of and observed my first Sage Wren (Cistothorus platensis) ever, several sparrows that I could not identify because they wouldn't sit still long enough for me to ponder, Phoebes, and more Northern Cardinals than I've ever seen in one place before.  The Park Rangers told me that earlier in the morning the trails were full of kinglets. 

A week exploring the abundance of this park on my own and at my leisure should be lots of fun.  Hopefully I will have more pictures to share!

Speaking of sharing, one of my favorite Texas blogs can be found by clicking right HERE.  Kay does an amazing job photographing and sharing information about all of the South Texas specialty birds that frequent her property.  You'll be so envious!

And for more Scenic Sunday posts, just click HERE!  It's as easy as that!

Scenic Sunday

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Today's (Texas) Flowers

Mexican Hat
Ratibida columnaris (Asteraceae)

This 2 - 3 foot tall, robust, drought tolerant perennial
 is a variety that is native to the mid-west
 and has naturalized throughout North America.
 The characteristic black, cone-shaped heads
 are surrounded by drooping, fire-red ray flowers
 with a splash of yellow accent. 

They bloom from June through September,
but this lone flower waitied for me
to arrive in TX for the holidays!
By clicking HERE, you can see more beautiful flowers from around the world.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My World Tuesday: So, It's Hunting Season

Hunting season really cramps my style. 
I have to compensate by paying closer attention
to what's going on in my own backyard. 

This year I'm delighted to have
 a new backyard environment
to nose around in while
I am visiting my daughter in TX. 

One just never knows who'll come for a visit!!

Perhaps it might be a handsome Northern Mockingbird,
the Texas State Bird,

or a caterpillar that will some day grow up to be a 
 Great Leopard Moth

This Variagated Fritillary, (Euptoieta claudia), although a little
tattered around the edges, was a delightful find!

A lizard type visitor?

Or a friendly neighborhood owl or two!

For a simple,
fun tutorial
and pattern,
to make this
sweet owl
visit Juicy-Bits

See more My World posts by clicking right HERE!!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Texas Odonata

How delightful to be in a new environment!  And how gracious this lovely Red Saddlebags (Tramea onusta) was to rest for a few minutes, giving me time to snap a few photos.

While dallying at the water's edge, several of them flew up to me and checked me out, up and down, side to side, before continuing on their hunt for a tasty treat.  Just shy of 2" long, they seemed bigger in mid flight.  Red Saddlebags are of the family of skimmers, and are very beneficial, as they feed on mosquitos and small flies.  Skimmers are noted to be the most common and the most colorful of the dragonfly family.  Greg Lasley, a nature photographer, has some exquisite photos of Red Saddlebags.

I had to lean way out over the water to grab this shot of the Desert Firetail (Telebasis salva).  I had never seen such a fiery red damselfly before and couldn't resist almost falling into the water for this shot.  I wish I could have gotten closer.  I was surprised to read that they frequent only 3 states -Texas, Arizona, and California.  I guess I'm a lucky girl to have spotted them at the pond.

And I was excited to find a different meadowhawk than those that frequent my wet meadow up in Cape Breton.

Variegated Meadowhawk
(Sympetrum corruptum )

The other damselflies and spreadwings that I observed at the pond were almost impossible for me to identify through the photos I took.  They were everywhere!  They literally carpeted the surface of the water.  Usually I am quite satisfied with my little camera, but this day I wished I had a better outfit!

I saved this little guy from drowning.  He sat in the sun on my knee for about 5 minutes before he flew away.

I guess you get the idea!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Christmas is Coming!

Don't wait for the last minute to finish your Christmas shopping!  Here are the few books I've recommended in the past for you to consider when making your gift giving decisions. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Little Blue Heron

(Egretta caerulea)

I accompanied my daughter to work on Wednesday, confident I could amuse myself while she toiled at her job.  Much to my delight, there is a trail behind the college that circles a small pond. 

As I quietly made my way along the well-worn path, watching and waiting, listening for anything and everything, I spotted this little head.

Freezing on the spot, I waited patiently as it slowly emerged from the vegetation.  Ah, yes, a Little Blue Heron!  My heart started to race as I stepped as quietly as I could to get a better view.  Don't see specimens like this in the far north  Atlantic Maritimes, and rarely in the marshes of Maine!  I felt pretty lucky because I know Little Blues are secretive, blend in well, and that I'm on the very western fringe of their range.

Standing approximately 2 feet tall, with a 40 inch wingspan, one might say that a Little Blue Heron isn't quite so little.  But compared to the Great Blue (Ardea herodias), it's name is significant.  The Great Blue Heron measures 36-55" from head to toe, and boasts a wingspan of up to 79"!

There is no distinction between the plumage of the male and female Little Blue Heron, but an immature is all white for approximately the first year.  Mother Nature, being as smart as she is, saw to it the immature herons remained white to enable them to feed alongside the Snowy Egrets, who tolerate them while they are white much more than when they turn blue.

Preferring freshwater swamps, lagoons, coastal thickets and marshy islands, it's a pity the Little Blue's choice of diet is small crustaceans (crayfish) because there were hundreds upon hundreds of damsel and dragonflies on and around this pond.

I don't know if you can see the dragonfly just above and to the right!
Some were as big as small birds!
 More on the lotta' odonata in the next post.  Hope you are having a nice weekend!

Check out more Nature Notes posts.
Thanks for hosting this meme, Michelle!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sky Watch Friday/Above the Clouds

My journey to Texas was underway
as my plane departed Logan Airport
in Boston under rainy skies. 
The majority of the ride was spent
cruising above a solid carpet of clouds.
As we crossed the miles along our
westward path, the clouds began
breakingup little by little, until
there were only tiny wisps to be
seen here and there.

I flew Southwest Airlines and it was a pleasurable experience, smooth going from the moment I entered the airport until I collected my luggage and met my ride.  Is this where I mention the beautiful, warm, sunshiny weather?  

Check out more SkyWatch Friday posts!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Into the Wild Blue Yonder

It's that time of year again
to take my cue from my feathered friends
and migrate south for the winter . 

Tomorrow I journey from New England
to San Antonio, TX
to sponge off  visit my daughter
for a few months. 

Heaven forbid I don't have something
to keep my little hands busy! 
Luckily, there are many sewing projects
that are perfect for travel,
and hexies are my first choice to occupy my time 
during this trip. 

I always keep hexies on the ready
and use them in many different projects
throughout the year.  I like to take the time
to embroider different centers onto each flower
to give the finished product
an extra special look.

While rummaging through
some old quilt magazines,
I came across this project
in the June 2001 McCalls Quilting
magazine.  I am a big fan of
Grandmother's Flower Garden,
but thought this might
be more manageable,
and a bit more challenging
to construct. 

This is what I've accomplished so far.  I couldn't resist the urge to begin sewing the flowers together, even though they weren't all constructed.  By the time my plane lands in TX, I'll have all the flowers completed, ready to add them on.  Too bad I'll have to visit a local quilt store to purchase fabric for the basket and background. 

While I'm on the subject
of flowers, I can't resist
showing this beautiful,
Massachusetts rose!
Now, off to put the finishing touches on packing!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Serendipity in a Nutshell

I had the pleasure of attending a performance this evening at Stage Right Studio by a Massachusetts family who is dear to my heart.  I was blown away.  I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce to you The Flynns.  I hope you enjoy the performance.

I have been an honorary member of this family since birth.  My mother was best friends with their mother/grandmother.  But, as a young adult, I drifted apart from them after my mother's untimely passing in 1982, and for the next few decades my whereabouts remained a mystery to them.  Until one day, 6 years ago, I received a phone call from Little Sister.  Seems the family wanted my address to invite me to a 65th wedding anniversary celebration. 

"I'll give you Karen's address, but I doubt she'll come.  You see, she's up in Nova Scotia now."

"She is?   Where?"

"On a little island off the coast of Cape Breton called Isle Madame."

You see, I needed to escape, so one day I opened up a map of Nova Scotia, closed my eyes, and pointed my finger.  Where it landed is where I ended up!  And, where the elder Flynn's grandfather emigrated to from Ireland back in the 1800's.  Not only that, but they were on their way up the following week to continue their geneological research.

It is indeed a small world.  After all those many years, we were reunited, and I have been embraced ever since by this wonderful family.

That's My World

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Afternoon Delight

life just gets in the way,
repressing inspiration,
inhibiting motivation,
 until one comes upon a scene such as this. 

"Play, Incorporating Animistic and Magical Thinking Is Important Because It:
Fosters the healthy, creative and emotional growth of a child;
Forms the best foundation for later intellectual growth.
Provides a way in which children get to know the world
and creates possibilities for different ways of responding to it.
Fosters empathy and wonder."
-Rachel Carson
The Sense of Wonder

Photo stolen borrowed from
a friend.
Thanks, Michael.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A More Than Worthy Cause

Today, at Wren's site, I became aware of a program to assist children with the financial burden of their classroom projects.  As a former educator, I can appreciate the efforts of this website,, and applaud, not only their goals, but the ease in which they are making it possible for children to gain access to hands-on knowledge across the learning spectrum.

The classroom project that Wren is promoting involves frogs!  Oh, my!  I wish there had been such a project and as dedicated a teacher when I was in school.

There are many more classroom projects that need your support and the website is user-friendly.  So, if you choose to explore the possibilities, you may find a project in your locality that better reflects your personal interests and passions!  Or, you can go to Calling All Scientists: Frog Life on View Classroom Project at and make the purchase of a new aquarium for this one teacher in Detroit, Michigan!!

Won't you take a few minutes to check it out?!?

And Wren, thank you for the heads-up.  To excite children about the wonders of nature fills me with delight.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Quilt Guilt?

The forecast calls for more rain the next four days.

Since Hurricane Earl passed through, our late summer/early fall weather has been unseasonably disappointing.  What few days that the weather has been merely passable have been spent mowing the lawn, splitting and stacking wood for the winter, and putting the gardens to bed.  There has been no hiking or paddling going on.

The not so nice days?  Well, let me tell you - I've been sewing.  I guess you could say that I've been in a sewing frenzy this year, trying every new idea that comes into my head and every pattern I come across.  I've been stitching (embroidering) and appliqueing, piecing and quilting, making quilt tops and handbags. 

Yesterday, The Ranger looked at me and asked, in all seriousness, "Do you ever suffer 'Quilt Guilt'?"  Now there is some serious food for thought. 

My first response was, "No, I've paid my dues, and now I can do as I please, guilt-free."

Not long after, I was sitting at my machine, sewing on a quilt, looking out the sliding glass door as I worked, and I just had to jump up and take a picture of these two doves taking advantage of the birdbath.

This, my friends, is 'Quilt Guilt'.....

A half filled birdbath highlighted with green scum.
I am SO embarrassed to confess that, yes, this is mine.
(Rest assured, as soon as I looked at this photo,
my bird friends had a clean dish!)

This is why.

These are just a few of the projects that I managed to finish
inbetween jumping from one Work-In-Progress to another.
(And starting yet another!)