Archive for the ‘animals’ Category


13 July 2010

One of our vacation days at Lapa Rios, we spent the morning on a boat watching dolphins!  This was definitely one of the best days we had in Costa Rica, and since they were all pretty darn good that says a lot!  We were charmed and captivated by the bottlenosed, spotted, and spinner dolphins we saw in the Golfo Dulce.

The day started early, and we had ordered fruit and ginger cookies from the kitchen to take along as a snack.  They gave us way too much fruit, but we ate some of it.  We were driven to Puerto Jimenez, where we had the opportunity to use the Lapa Rios Office bathroom before boarding our boat.  Soon we were in the midst of a pod of dolphins!

They came right up to the boat, even mothers with babies!  They blew spray into our faces, turned to check us out, and zig-zagged off into the distance.  Sometimes they raced the boat, other times they played in the wake.

It was MOST exciting when the dolphins leaped out of the water, sometimes right nearby!  This happened first only a few moments after our guide told us that the dolphins could leap six feet out of the water.  Suddenly one did, right next to us!  It is VERY tricky to capture the leaps in a still photo, but we had three cameras capable of video with us, and one that can shoot 30 frames of still shots per second.  So we got a few good shots, a lot of photos of splashes, and this collection of video clips I’ve assembled (and edited down from way too long to watch):


4 April 2010

My friend Ron wished to go to Hawk Mountain for his birthday, so his wife e-mailed a bunch of friends and got together a small gathering for a huge lunch and a short hike. I was pleased to attend!

We met at 11:45 at the Port Clinton Hotel, in Port Clinton, PA, which prides itself on serving huge portions.  I think their burgers must start with more than half a pound of ground beef.  I had the Mushroom Swiss burger, and it was cooked perfectly to my medium-rare specification.  The four of us shared a large order of fries, and we were unable to finish them.  I couldn’t finish my burger, either, though it was very yummy.

After lunch, we loaded the four of us into a Mini Cooper for the short drive from Port Clinton to Hawk Mountain.  After putting on our hats, choosing our viewing equipment and cameras, and paying our trail fees, we crossed the road to the trail.

The weather was beautiful – warm and sunny, but not too warm and not humid.  The sun was lovely through the still-bare branches of the woods, and there was a perfect breeze at the rocky lookout points where the sun was strongest, so nobody got too hot.  It was my first time visiting the mountain, and the trails were busy and the lookout points were getting a fair amount of traffic.  Families with small children, groups of teens, random people who seemed to just want a place to sit and talk on their cell phones.  Why come to such a nice place to talk on your phone?  I suppose it beats talking on the phone inside your house.  But it seems awfully public for one of the conversations we heard.

We saw a lot of turkey vultures, which are not that special, in my opinion.  They are found all over Pennsylvania.  But while we were at the North Outlook, which has an excellent view down the valley the birds fly up, the Hawk Mountain interns there pointed out a bald eagle, which took its time soaring by.  That was pretty special.

It was also pretty special to relax in the outdoors, to laugh and joke, and enjoy the sunshine!  And never fear, I wore sunscreen and did not get a burn.

I’m really glad I got out into the woods this weekend!  Happy Birthday, Ron!

Our hike

For the birds

26 February 2010

So here I am at home, on the 5th snow day this month.  Our school district budgets only four snow days each year, so we will have to make this day up somewhere, either in June or over Spring Break.

I have been making use of the free time in various ways.  Yesterday I went grocery shopping at 6 AM.  The grocery store opens at 5 AM and I was up and dressed, so I went ahead and took care of the shopping at a time when there were very few other shoppers.  The aisles were full of employees, though, restocking shelves depleted, no doubt, by crowds the day before the storm.  Yesterday and today I am again keeping up with my AP Physics curriculum by meeting my class online using Elluminate.  I will also be holding my Science Bowl practice this afternoon online.

I’ve also been enjoying watching the birds.  I counted 36 grackles this morning before I had to give up due to them flying about, saw a European starling, and also gave up trying to count the song sparrows since they are all over the place and it is difficult to distinguish them from the other sparrows.  There were three cardinals, several mourning doves (though not the 16 I counted in our redbud tree a couple of weeks ago), juncos, and house sparrows.  I see a Carolina chickadee in the redbud now, waiting for a turn at the feeder.

Two weeks ago during our previous snow event, I participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count.  I dutifully counted the birds as best I could, but I have difficulty distinguishing song sparrows, house sparrows, and tree sparrows (if we even have those) from a distance, from above (since I watch mostly from my office window on the second floor), and while the birds are moving, which is most of the time.  I remember seeing one house finch, though!

Ooh, there’s a tufted titmouse!  I haven’t seen any woodpeckers at our feeder in a while, though I keep looking for them.  I wonder if buying the  different blend of seeds (with fewer sunflower seeds) has sent them looking elsewhere.

I’m definitely going to have to replenish the bird feeder today!

Catch and Release

11 October 2009

Catch and release: it’s really easy when you are talking about a turtle.  1. Approach turtle.  2. Pick up turtle.  3. Set down turtle.

I was walking home from the train after church and I saw it crossing the road…and there were two cars about a block away and heading toward it!  So I picked it up, put it on the sidewalk (on the side it was heading towards) and put it down.


About halfway home from the turtle, I had the thought that I should have brought it home with me, then made posters proclaiming “FOUND: TURTLE” with a photo and posted them in the neighborhood.  But I didn’t.  I wonder if it was looking for some mud to bury itself in for the winter?

Population growth

23 November 2008

Thanks to a great birdfeeder my parents gave us and my father in law helped us put up, we’ve been feeding the birds in our neighborhood for nearly five years.  When we first started feeding the birds,  I can’t remember seeing more than one adult male cardinal at a time.  We’ve had juvenile males hanging around, however.

This fall, I have seen FOUR adult male cardinals at once! Here’s one of them:



16 November 2008

Every year, we get asked what we want for Christmas.  I don’t mean this in the general sense, I mean my mom calls or e-mails and asks if my husband and I have our lists yet and to please send them as soon as we can.

This is difficult.  We both maintain wish lists on, and keep them fairly up-to-date.  But to come up with things we need is a challenge, and things we want, well, we don’t want much and when we do want something we usually buy it for ourselves.

So this year, we decided to make a list of charities.  A list, so there would be some choice, or maybe our parents could give a little to each one.  Here they are:

  • Heifer Project International – Donations buy farm animals which go to needy people who can then sell the eggs or milk and breed the animal(s) to expand production.
  • Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres – Doctors help people who are victims of natural disasters, wars, or poverty.
  • The Nature Conservancy – Donations are used to conserve nature, either by directly buying up land or by partnering with others to buy or protect land.
  • Camfed USA – This group is educating girls in rural Africa and empowering them to become leaders for change in their communities.

I hope you will agree that at least one of these charities is worth supporting.  I have given to each, and I would love it if you would also.  Please do not give me any gifts this year.

If you are curious about how these organizations (and many others) spend their money, you can check out Charity Navigator.  This website gives a breakdown for charities on how much they spend on accomplishing their mission, fundraising, and administrative expenses.  You can see how much the CEO is paid and how big a chunk of the overall pie that is.  I recommend checking this site before donating to any organization that is asking you for money.

Is there an entomologist in the house?

27 October 2008

I ought to just take these photos to the biology teachers at school.  I know one of them is having his classes make insect collections.

This big insect was found dead, on the back deck:

It was white on the underside, and at least 4 cm long.  Is it a cicada?  Most of the cicadas I have seen in my life are the shed skins of cicadas, which are an amber-brown color.

Then last week there was this tiny insect in my office:

This one was at most, one centimeter long, counting the wings.  It walked slowly up my wall, so I had time to pull out my tripod and take the photo on maximum zoom.  Unfortunately, it is still fuzzy—I don’t have one of those non-jiggly remote-shutter thingies I used to have for my old SLR camera, and of course I jiggled the camera while pushing the button.  It was unavoidable.  Is it a baby praying mantis?  It looks a lot like a teeny praying mantis to me.

Is there an entomologist in the house?


22 August 2008

Buzz has gingivitis!  I took him to the vet for his 3-year rabies shot and a general check-up, and he has bright red gums next to his teeth.  I never look in his mouth (he really doesn’t like me doing that) so I hadn’t noticed at all!

The vet prescribed a liquid antibiotic, which we have to squirt into his mouth twice a day, a two-person job that will become more interesting once I am back at work starting Monday.  More interesting because I usually leave the house in the morning before my husband is out of bed.  Since the first week is all in-service, I don’t need to be as early as I like to be once classes begin, so I will leave a little later and we’ll get the morning dose down Buzz somehow.  I hope he doesn’t start to hide every morning when he sees us coming!  It is very hard to get him out from under the bed, for example.

I really don’t want to start brushing Buzz’s teeth.

Ah, summer days, tra-la

7 July 2008

All those weekends I stressed over papers I had to grade or lessons I had to prepare; all those evenings when I fell onto the sofa, exhausted; this is when I have that time back.

So, I pull weeds, wash dishes (Greg does more of that during the school year), cook more often, and make to-do lists.  And watch the Tour de France, and watch wildlife.

Wildlife?  Well, suburban wildlife.  Yesterday we found a praying mantis and a small brown snake while pulling out some poison ivy from the front garden.  There are lots of birds at the birdfeeder, in addition to the white squirrel.  I’ve only been seeing one white squirrel at a time lately…so I don’t know what is going on in that community.  Did the one I saw in early spring going at it with a gray squirrel have her babies?  Did two of them die?  Has a squirrel gotten territorial and chased the others away?  There’s a little bird that lands on the wooden dowel of the bird feeder and keeps slipping upside down.  That happened to the woodpecker too, until it figured out how to balance on the top of it, sideways.  There are cardinals and chickadees and titmice and lbj’s (little brown jobs).  And wood doves, which are basically backyard pigeons, as opposed to street pigeons.

So far this summer I haven’t seen (or heard) the foxes that we’ve sometimes had in the backyard, and I also haven’t seen the hawk I saw last year.  But we haven’t had any problems with rabbits, despite some of my friends complaining bitterly that they are overrun with rabbits this year.  However, I found a really huge Japanese beetle in my roses on Saturday.  Ugh!

Here are some (out-of-focus) pictures: