An owl in daytime

I spotted an owl in a tree in the woods above the creek yesterday afternoon.

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I watched this owl as it slowly rotated his head around from front to back. Owls can truly look behind them and can turn their heads nearly 360 degrees according to National Geographic. This is necessary because the owls’ eyes are in fixed sockets and can’t move around like ours do.

I’m pretty sure the owl I saw is one of the Great Horned Owls that we often hear at night or in the early morning hours.

Two Great Horned Owls viewed at 9:00 a.m. on December 23, 2013.

 I’ve seen one or two perched above the creek before. It must be good hunting ground.

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Great Horned Owl viewed at 9:00 a.m. on January 9, 2014.

Many people believe that if you see an owl in the daytime it is a bad sign. From early times, across many civilizations, owls have been viewed as harbringers of bad luck, ill health, or death and destruction. But sometimes owls are seen as divine messengers of the gods. (Radha on Yahoo answers – 2008)

For many people the owl is a symbol for wisdom.

At Symbolic Meanings by Avia she explains that although owls are associated with death in certain cultures, it is “revered (honored) as being the guardian of the after-life.”

Furthermore, Avia explains, as a creature of the night, the owl is symbolic of inner-knowing, psychic ability, and intuition. “If an owl has visited you,” she says, ” an incredible gift has been bestowed.”

Is the owl a harbringer of death or wisdom?

Unlike known and provable facts like the earth is round, beliefs can be chosen.

On this first anniversary of my father’s death, I don’t have to tell you which belief I’m going with.

Thank you universe for the gift.

Beaver or groundhog? Looking for clues.


The other day I showed you this picture of what I called a groundhog. Some of my readers thought it was a juvenile beaver. So I’ll pose the question, what do you think?

Meanwhile I went looking for clues.

Creek bed at the base of the hill behind our house. It swells with rainfall.

I took my ferocious wildlife tracking canine and my human body guard with me.


As we walked along the creek bed, we saw the big tree where I’ve photographed groundhogs in the past.


We saw quite a few tracks in the mud, but they were mostly white-tailed deer tracks. No big surprise.


I did see a couple of tracks like these. I don’t know whether they are just messed up deer tracks or something else.


When I looked online I couldn’t identify them.


We also saw this pile of tree branches across the creek bed. One of the dead ash trees in the woods had fallen across the creek, and Mark thinks that it served as a barrier to block other sticks  that got washed down the creek. I don’t know what to think. In the pools visible at the bottom of the photo, Mark noticed a couple of small gold fish swimming around with many minnows.

Circle and saturated color around goldfish added in photoshop for visibility.

Where do these guys come from? We believe our creek is part of the Mill Creek Water Shed, but mostly it carries runoff from the rain.


I tried to capture a photo of the many minnows that swim about and are easy to see by the naked eye due to their motion, but apparently are not so easy to capture as a digital image. I got a lot of reflection of the trees and skies.


I think you can see one minnow in the middle of this photo. I’ll have to admit; I just wasn’t expecting there to be fish living down in the creek.


We had the bonus of a couple of hawks landing above our heads. I only got one in the picture.  This might be a Cooper’s hawk, but I’m not sure.


The final piece of evidence came from one of the plastic chairs we use at the bottom of our yard. Can you see the teeth marks? Somebody was gnawing on this. What do you think, beaver, groundhog, or maybe just a squirrel?

Here’s a site that might help.

I hope somebody can clear this up for me.

Arthur has a bit of excitement

Arthur and I were hanging around the kitchen after breakfast this morning. Arthur was at his post by the side door monitoring the garden outside and I was still at the kitchen table when a little motion from outside near our deck caught my eye. I saw a little black nose attached to a small gray-brown head that was poking itself up through my deck railing right above the space where we’ve housed a family of groundhogs in the past.

Before I could react, the little critter, groundhog I think, made its way up onto our deck. That’s when Arthur noticed it too.

Then all heck broke loose. Arthur started barking. I ran for my camera which somehow rarely manages to be in the right room at the right time.

When I returned with camera in hand, the little critter was gone. I hurried into the adjacent laundry room, Arthur at my heels, but didn’t see anything from that window either. I didn’t see which way it went, and Arthur wasn’t talking.

“It’s gone,” I told Arthur.

A few minutes later the little wild critter came walking along the deck from the back of our house where Mark grows two tomato plants in pots. Need I say more?

The groundhog, I think, was taking its time sauntering back off the deck the way it had entered. That’s when I caught the photo and evidence of at least one of our produce thieves.


He walked down through the St. Francis garden and out into the woods. When he was out of Arthur’s boundaries and reach, I let the little dog, who could hardly contain himself, outside. Arthur did his thing of sniffing, finding a trail and nosing around for a few minutes while I investigated the tomato plants. I didn’t see any tomatoes, but that doesn’t mean much. Mark might have gotten them all earlier.

I heard a loud rustling sound and looked down by the creek where the ground hog was tearing across the bottom of the yard and then jumped down the creek bank. Arthur somehow may have rustled him out, although I don’t know how. Arthur was up by the back of the house and the groundhog was down by the creek. It might have been a diversionary tactic to get Arthur away from the nesting space under our deck.

Nature can be exciting.

Arthur agrees.

I am adding an addendum to this post to correct the identity of the wild animal pictured above. I have been informed that it looks like a baby beaver, and I have to agree. At the time I saw it, I didn’t think it looked exactly like a groundhog, but I wasn’t sure what else it could be. I was worried it might be a big rat, but it’s tail was too broad. The thought of a beaver never crossed my mind. You can see a diagram of a beaver in the link graciously provided by Teepee 12 in the comments below.


In case you missed them, here are earlier posts about the groundhogs that sometimes share our abode.

Are groundhogs vicious—or is my nosy little dog safe?
I shot the groundhogs—twice
The groundhog saga continues
I saw a baby groundhog

Scenes of summer

Morning swim lesson at the VOA – June 2013

I’ve been snapping photos here and there the last few weeks. I’m taking this opportunity to share them with you now.

Hummingbird – June 04, 2013

This little hummer was making daily visits for a while. I haven’t seen him lately. He liked some of the potted plants on our deck.

House wren – June 04, 2013

I call this one  “House wren in bird house.”

Fawn – July 18, 2013

This hillside across the drive from our house used to be thick with honeysuckle. Mark has cleared a large section of it out. The little fawn decided to take a bit of a rest here.

Fawn – July 18, 2013

I didn’t see the mother nearby. Perhaps she told this little guy to wait for her here.

Sunflowers – July 19, 2013

Not bad for a few volunteers. I’m enjoying the height and color they’ve added to my garden.

Male American Goldfinch on sunflowers – July 19, 2013

I call this one “Elevensies” after a tradition brought to me by a good friend and once-coworker, Cathy, who needed that morning snack to get through to lunch.

Young buck – July 18, 2013

I’m not sure why this buck only has one antler. I googled it and nosed around a bit, but there was too much reading involved for the amount of time I wanted to spend. Perhaps you know and can tell me.

Male American Goldfinch on sunflower – July 19, 2013

I call this one “Yellow.”

Female American Goldfinch on sunflower – July 19, 2013

Let’s not forget the female. She clearly wanted her portrait taken as well.

House wren – July 20, 2013

I was sitting at my computer desk, minding my own business, when this little guy started hopping back and forth on the two porch rockers sitting outside our large study window. He was there for quite a while before he flew up into the tree. And he was giving me the what-for. I’m not sure what he was carrying on about.

I suppose that’s just one more thing I’ll never know.

Sights and sounds at the VOA

I’ve had a goal to do more short video on my blog. I don’t know if you’ve tried to use video, and maybe I’m missing the shortcuts, but it seems there are a lot of steps involved:
1. Take the video
2. Upload or download (I can never figure out which is what) the video to my computer.
3. Open iMovie and start a new “event.”
4. Import the movie.
5. Start a new “project.”
6. Edit the movie by selecting segments, or clipping off bad ends, or whatever I can do with iMovie (which at this point isn’t all that much.)
7. Finalize the movie.
8. Share the movie (there is an option to share it directly to YouTube, but that didn’t seem to work for me so I exported it to my computer.)
9. Go to YouTube and download or upload (still haven’t got it) the movie.
10.Copy the movie’s URL and paste it into the “text” page of the WordPress new post editor.

Am I missing something? I suspect if I didn’t want to edit the movie first this process could be significantly shortcut. But I’m going to have to get a whole lot better at planning and shooting videos for that to happen.

I know I talked about this before, but I’m trying again. It’s one of those things that I think if I just do it enough times it will become second nature to me. What do you think?

Also, I vaguely remember seeing a post from WordPress about a new way of adding video that works better. I can’t find it now. I know I saved the email for a while, but I suspect it went the way of the recycle bin on a recent purge in an attempt to get my inbox once again below 50 messages.

That was just the lengthy introduction. Here’s the post.

It was a beautiful breezy day at the VOA this morning. I walk by these little chiming spoons every time I go there. I think it would be lovely to have lots of silverware chimes such as these hanging from the limbs of my trees. Not sure Mark will go for it.

This group of ducks caught my eye. I think they are mallards, but they don’t look quite right, so I’m wondering if they are a group of juvenile mallards. I also don’t know what they’re doing.

Are they practicing their swimming? Having a party? Diving for coins? You tell me.

I was going to show you photos of wildflowers from Leo’s Garden, but in the interest of time, and a desire to have an easy post for another day, (you didn’t hear that from me), I’ll end it here.

It’s still a beautiful day here. I hope you have nice weather to enjoy where you are.

The amazing planet earth

Downed red bud tree – March 2012

This planet we’re on and the plant life on it never fail to amaze me. Right now a storm just kicked up outside my study window where I sit at my desk. The rain is pouring, tree limbs are moving violently, thunder is booming, and my little dog Arthur is hiding behind the recliner shaking. I’ll have to go get his Thunder Shirt.

Storms amaze me. But that isn’t what this blog is about, just a timely coincidence.

I want to talk about new growth. New life.

You might remember last spring when I came home to find our red bud tree in the back yard lying down on the ground in full bloom, like a carelessly tossed aside bouquet.

Mark went out and cut it off at the ground. I brought in a few boughs for a centerpiece, a floral arrangement to  mourn the loss of this herald of spring.


And if you’ve followed my blog at all, you probably know I like to take Arthur for walks at the Voice of America park where I often take photos of the birds that frequent the lake and surrounding meadowland. What you don’t know is that they have had a problem with beavers there in recent years. Even if you’ve never seen the results of a beaver’s work on a small tree, you will know right away if you ever do.


 In March of this year, this is what was left of a Cleveland Pear tree planted in memory of a individual named Walsh.


And this is what was left of a Swamp White Oak in memory of Dan Fleming.

I thought the trees were goners.

But here’s the amazing part.


In the beginning of June, the Walsh pear tree started showing signs of life.


By the end of June, the Swamp White Oak had a lot of dense new growth.


And finally, our red bud tree is growing again. It looks like a little bush beside the chairs.

I think this is amazing.

What are we to make of it?

Well, some might say, that’s no big deal. The trees have an extensive root system that stayed alive even in the absence of limbs and leaves.

Yes! My point exactly.

It is all underground. I can’t see any of it. There is life pulsing beneath the earth, within the soil. Isn’t that amazing?

This is an incredible beautiful bountiful planet.

Don’t miss it it on your short stay here.