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Entries in wildlife (60)

Wednesday
Apr012015

The wildlife of St. Thomas

Although we never left the resort, we did find time to partake in one of our favorite activities—wildlife watching. There were reptiles galore, of course. They were pretty much everywhere we looked. And we swam with some fascinating amphibians. And the early mornings belonged to the birds. We didn't have to leave the resort to find them, they came to us.

Lizards: small, medium, and large

Anole?

Anole

Anole

Ameiva?

Iguanas, Iguanas, and more Iguanas

Green Sea Turtles (which we saw while snorkeling at Turtle Cove, but also these guys swimming around in our own bay)

Brown Pelican

Magnificent Frigatebird (Juvenile)

Magnificent Frigatebird (Juvenile)

Pearly-eyed Thrasher

Pearly-eyed Thrasher

Zenaida Doves

Gray Kingbird

Bananquit

Great Egret

We also saw a number of Atillean Crested Hummingbirds flitting around the flowers on our front lawn, but sadly they were too quick for a picture.

Tuesday
Sep302014

Cali part 5: Sequoia and Kings Canyon

Yosemite was definitely beautiful, but I think for me Kings Canyon surpassed it. Less traveled and certainly more rural, the drive into Kings Canyon is stunning and precarious. It's also a road to nowhere, literally to "Trail's End", and which point all travelers must turn around and head back over the same treacherous thirteen miles they drove on their way in; Thirteen mile that took over an hour to traverse the first time and will certainly take equally long on the way back, if not more so since now the trip is mostly on the outer lane, the one that seems to be only inches from a catastrophic drop.

It's an amazing and completely worthwhile trip.

On this final day for the parks we saw General Grant and General Sherman (the two biggest trees ever), we drove into and out of the stunning Kings Canyon, and straight through Sequoia in a setting fall sun.

We also saw a bear. A real, honest-to-goodness, big black bear.

He was beautiful.

The trees...they're big.

Kings Canyon: the pictures don't do it justice.

That's our road way down there...

...and way down there, too...

...and that's our road again, hanging precariously off the side of that mountain...

Sequoias are surprisingly spongy on the outside

I have no photographic evidence, but imagine a bear here...

Saturday
Sep132014

Fall weekends

Michigan football on Saturdays

Family biking on Sunday mornings, followed by doughnuts and cider at the mill.

And, on occasion, wildlife in the neighborhood (although that has nothing to do with it being a weekend...at least not with this kind of wildlife)

Sunday
Aug242014

Junior naturalist

Our county parks program is wonderful. I've bragged about it before, but I'll brag again. I think one of the best things about the program, if it's not the fact that it's free or offers so many enriching opportunities, is that the naturalists who lead the events don't talk down to the kids. Instead, they expect great things from the little ones, and most often they are right on the mark. Kids are little sponges, something we all know, but as much as they absorb every little conversation that we didn't want them to hear in the first place (and then proceed to repeat them at inopportune times), they seem especially in tune with the natural world. Naturally.

Yesterday was the final Junior Naturalists summer class. It was an exploration of Michigan habitats—forests, prairies, wetlands. We walked through examples of each, identifying critters and plants. Calvin came home with a piece of paper certifying his abilities as a junior naturalist, but I think he was actually more excited about the hours we spent at the splash park afterwards than he was about the piece of paper. Or the splash park after, and the frog we found during the program.

Thursday
Aug212014

Camping 2014

There are few places I love as much as my home state. It has its ups and downs, and of course there are lots of great places to visit in the country and the wider world, but here we are surrounded by a simple, quiet, understated beauty that cannot be matched. Water, water everywhere; soft, white, sandy beaches; majestic trees. The wildlife is plentiful and mainly friendly (as our new neighbors who came from Alabama like to put it, there really isn't much here that can kill you). Brilliant sun in the summers, sparkling snow, when we're lucky, in the winters. The Pure Michigan campaign, now in its eighth year, really nailed it on the head. I'm sure there are plenty of people itching to get out of dodge, but we truly love our home, and we do our best every year—especially every summer—to take advantage of the beauty around us, and not take it for granted.

Last weekend was our annual camping trip with our good friends who have a daughter exactly two days older than Calvin. We started this tradition when the kiddos were just 3. That first year we packed up all our gear (which thankfully was limited at the time) and drove to a site less than an hour away, figuring that if the trip was a complete bust we could still make it home in time for some decent sleep. But it was a big hit—really big—and in the years since we've upped our game to a five hour drive and four nights away.

We feel like regulars now at our favorite campground. This is drive up camping (not like our backpacking trip last year), and our favorite two sites have a lake view and easy access to the beach, the water pump, and the bathroom without being right in the middle of camp traffic. They also come with a resident Thirteen Lined Ground Squirrel. During the day we watch him scurry around, scoping out our contributions to his layout, at dusk we sit around the campfire waiting for the bats emerge, and in the cool mornings we lean back in our chairs and sip hot coffee while listening to the loons.

In all these years, this was our first trip that was less than ideal weather-wise. We arrived Friday afternoon, a day ahead of our companions, and enjoyed a beautiful evening on the lake after setting up camp. The rain storms held off until about four in the morning, when wind, thunder, and a driving rain woke us in the hours before dawn. Or the wake up call might have been the campers in the tent behind us who were screaming, and giggling, at finding themselves in a not-so-weather-proof tent.

By the time we got up in the morning the rain had passed, leaving cool, damp air and a chilly wind behind. While our neighbors went about stuffing all their possessions into garbage bags in preparation for a trip to the laundromat, we had coffee and cereal and planned a morning hike. Jon discovered a point labeled Mt. Nebo on the trail map, and that's where we headed because...well...because Mt. Nebo. The four mile hike was wonderful. Possibly my favorite part of the whole trip. We found birds, toads, frogs, bugs, and mosquitoes, and the cooler air was perfect for the exercise. Back at camp we fired up the stove for a sausage and pancakes lunch and watched the sun burn off the remaining mist and clouds. By the time our friends arrived the air was warm enough to play a bit on the beach before assembling chicken fajita foil packets to cook around the fire.

Our second night was much quieter, and our second full day more eventful, our friends having arrived. Since it was still too chilly for swimming (a situation that remained in effect the whole trip), we instead went into town for putt putt golf, ice cream, and sweat shirt shopping (the funny thing about kids is that they outgrow their warm clothes every year). Back at camp—sand play on a sunny beach followed by dinner. One of the ways that I can tell we've improved our camping skills over the years is our culinary prowess at the campfire. Dinner number two for us was corn and steak.

On Monday we ate cold breakfasts, packed lunches, and headed over the bridge into the U.P. to see the Soo Locks up close. We were fortunate enough to see an osprey, too, and on the way home we stopped at Castle Rock—our tourist trap for the year. Back at camp it was still too chilly for the beach, so we spent more time with ice cream in town and outfit each of us with new shirts (why should the kids have all the fun!) before heading back. When we got back our tent neighbors were packing up and heading out. The forecast was promising heavy rain and storms in the middle of the night and on into the next morning. Since it was our last night, we decided to the same—the air wasn't getting any warmer, and the idea of having to pack up in a pouring rain was less than desirable. So we started a fire with our remaining wood and packed up while the kids played, then ate one final meal and roasted one final dessert. And would you believe it, the rain started just as we climbed into our cars to head south.

So we spent our final night of the trip in a Holiday Inn Express, and our final morning swimming in their pool instead of the lake, but at least we got some swimming in.

And because we had extra time on our final day—no packing up to do and we were already part way home—Jon and Calvin and I decided to make the most of our trip home and visit a zoo we'd never seen. Scattered storms blanketed most of the state, and we were driving in and out of rain the whole way, but when we got to Potter Park Zoo (in Lansing), the radar said we had about 20 minutes before the next storm hit. It's a small zoo, and we made a dash around all of the outdoor exhibits, then broke out our ponchos to go from building to building, taking in the indoor exhibits. It worked out perfectly, even if we were a little wet, but we'll have to go back sometime because we never did get to see the baby moose, our main reason for stopping.

Now we're home, and with rain still dotting the landscape in unpredictable patterns, all our camping gear is spread out in the garage, waiting for a dry enough day that we can set it up and clean it out well for the year. It's slowly dissipating, but it makes the garage and laundry room smell like camp—wood smoke and pine—making me already eager for next year.