Caterpillar of the Apocalypse!

Woolly Bear Caterpillar with fallen cedar bits as a comparison. The little guy doesn’t look impressive in the photo (and its russet middle doesn’t show well). That’s a ruse….

Must be dead, I thought when I found it on the driveway. Even at noon, the 21F/-6C temperature was much too cold for caterpillars.

After lunch, I prepared to go back to work. The woolly-bully was closer to the car. If I squinted, its tiny feet seemed to be moving! Slllooowwwwly, though. It’s also curling a little in on itself, as woolly bears do when threatened.

When I came home at sunset, it was motionless as I took the photo. I had no doubt it was still alive. I didn’t want to accidentally squish it under the tires or scrape it up with a shovel of snow, so I tried to flip it onto an oak leaf. It “stuck” because its amazing grippy feet were clinging to the tiny grooves in the cement. Gently, I rolled it onto a leaf and put it in the flowerbed.  

Today it was gone.

A charming custom in Eastern and Midwestern USA is to look for woolly bears (“woolly-bullies” where I grew up) in the autumn. The length of its black bands was said to predict the length and severity of winter. If that were the case, what apocalypse is foretold by it hightailing in the dead of winter?!?

Wet Squirrels

I tried unsuccessfully to get a photo of the squirrels today. Torrential rain started before dawn and returned throughout the morning. In the early afternoon, a break in the clouds passed overhead.

Squirrels came onto the deck to feed on fallen maple buds. Their fur was fluffed because of the chill but rainwater clumped it together. Their sodden faces seemed more rat-like than usual and their bellies sported spikes of fur. They looked like a punk band after a rough night.

Unfortunately, they were more skittish than usual, so I didn’t dare move closer to the windows.

Thanksgiving

I’m thankful for truck drivers who drive at a steady pace on the interstate highways, so strings of cars can follow in their tracks through the sloppy snow. I am also thankful for road-graders. But most of all, I am thankful that I survived a white-knuckled drive through a snowstorm and arrived safely at my destination.

Morning in my childhood home.

The whitish area at the top of the shot is ice forming. The darker area is slush. You can see trails through the slush where ducks meandered eastward.

Fall Already?

For the last two weeks, the maple in the back yard has been dropping leaves. It’s accelerating now. Sadly, I can’t see the colors through the greenery below, but the fallen leaves are spectacularly red and yellow this year.

Peak color is two weeks off, by my reckoning, but storms are coming later this week. Saturday was warm, sunny, and breezy – in other words, a perfect autumn day.

Decked out for Fall.

I ran errands in the morning and swung by Marine City, where I spent a couple hours just enjoying the sights. My favorite coffee shop has already started serving pumpkin spice latte (with nondairy creamer!). It was a nice treat made sweeter by meeting an older couple who chatted with me outdoors for a while.

Afterwards, I came home and tore up the garden.

The neighborhood varmints ate half my zucchini. Literally. They ate the bottom half and left the tops to rot on the vine. Imagine reaching to pick a beautiful squash and feeling it squish between your fingers because inside the skin is nothing but rotten mush. Curse you, cute but destructive rodents! I picked whatever was intact, no matter the size or color.

The delicata, a winter squash, had withered from the roots outward, giving no more nourishment. Normally I’d leave them out to harden, but I couldn’t chance the squirrels. The cherry tomatoes were various shades of green, but gardening friends assured me that if I put them in a paper bag and let them sit, they’ll ripen in a few days.

I spent several hours pulling vines, pulling weeds they’d been hiding, and cutting off the remains of flowering plants. Everything was stuffed into three bags for the community compost.

This week I’ll do the more onerous tasks: transplanting flowers, digging up and resetting pavers, and landscaping the now-empty ground around the shed.

Bluegill Nests

Visiting my hometown for Independence Day but unable to visit my friends, I spent some time doing the daily activities of my childhood. One of my favorites was checking the number of fish spawning in the shallows where I used to splash and play with my brothers.

It’s been many years since the swimming area was so full of nests. Sharp-eyed readers may notice empty shells of the invasive apple snail.  Some catastrophic event seems to have killed them, which might be a reason for the fish’s return.

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The Sound of Sile… What is that NOISE?

I have to laugh at a couple city-dwelling friends who found out that, with traffic reduced, they can hear NATURE. Usually it’s birdsong, which can be very loud before dawn and at dusk. (I sympathize with the folks near the Detroit Zoo who hear peacocks! Oh, they’re loud and they sound like a child yelling for help. Who wants to wake up to that?)

Because of shifting animal demographics, people living in less-populated areas can be startled by new sounds. An acquaintance discovered that foxes’ calls during the mating season sound like someone is being murdered by a yappy dog. He described it as “SCREEEEAAAAMMMM. Woof-woof. SHREEEIIIIK. Yodel. Woof-woof.”

An early-rising jogger friend-of-a-friend heard a deer screech: “Freaked me right the F out the first time I heard it.” I think he lives in a region with small red deer. Whitetail make a kind of grunting noise that is distinctive but not stress-inducing.

A few days ago, one of the Middle School Mafia decided to incite a disturbance by howling in the backyard. All the dogs in the neighborhood joined in and couldn’t be quieted for a good thirty minutes. Everyone had a laugh except the nightshift neighbors.

As the lockdown lifts, I hope people keep an interest in the sounds of nature.

The New Neighbor

Since the destruction of the birdfeeder, I made a seedpile for the critters and gave up restocking. The usual critters came: grackles and cardinals and silent, stately mourning doves.

Then I spotted something that looked like a field mouse!  A squirrel chased it off during a ruckus with another. When it returned, I recognized it as a chipmunk. I tried several times to capture it on film, but the twitchy little thing kept bobbing its head up and down.

The best I could do was a hastily zoomed-in shot of his profile, complete with seed-stuffed cheeks:

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I kept a close eye on it because, unlike big squirrels, chipmunks have the mouselike ability to exploit tiny openings into human spaces. When we shared an apartment, M’e the Fashionista lost an entire sleeper sofa because the storage area was invaded by chipmunks. They managed not only to disembowel it – stuffing EVERYWHERE –  but filled every nook and cranny with acorns.

Luckily for me, Chip-chip-chipper lives somewhere beyond the fence. He came through while I was sweeping the deck and froze. He stayed frozen while I eyeballed him and snapped a better photo.
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Then I looked away, giving him the opportunity to unfreeze and run away through the hydrangea and under the fence.

 

Gloomy… sunny… snow!

Michigan’s official motto is Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam, circumspice (If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look around you). The state, composed of two peninsulas that jut into Great Lakes, has truly beautiful areas around every corner.*

However, the unofficial motto is “If you don’t like the weather in Michigan, wait five minutes.” The photos reflect the hazy coolness,  sunshine… and wind and snow that occurred over just 14 hours in my hometown, where I checked on my aged parents.**


* Its smallest state park is the 22-acre “pocket” around Wagner Falls.

**My official excuse in case I was pulled over while driving to see them last week, when Governor Whitmer tightened her shelter-in-place order.  I wasn’t. Nor were the many out-of-state drivers pulling boats to their cabins.

Rockin’ Robin

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This mutant robin has territory on a main drag in the nearby town. Because the roads are mostly traffic-free, I managed to snap its picture after several attempts. Its condition is leucism, a lack of pigment in feathers.

North American robins – aka Turdus migratorius aka Wandering pooper* – have returned en masse to Michigan.  They boldly hop across the deck while I’m lunching, They investigate the sod I’ve overturned – while I’m in the middle of planting hostas. They scold me as I refill the birdbath.

Of course, they make up for it by being harbingers of warmer weather. They also sing, “chuckle” and chirp: three sounds for the price of one!

They will, no doubt, return to their milder manners after they’ve finished fighting each other over territory and started building nests.

Or I am doomed to be bossed around by birdbrains!


*Not the real translation of the Latin scientific name, although it CERTAINLY is “in the vulgar.”