Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Bug in My Ear!!!!

A Bug in My Ear!!!!

 So, after a long day of hiking, thirteen hours and eighteen miles to be exact,  I was home eating dinner at eleven P.M.  I felt a bug on my face while sitting on the couch shoveling pasta into my mouth.  I swatted it away.  It went into my ear.  I was up  and on my feet at that point.  I may have been yelling.  I did not know what kind of bug it was.  I felt its wings whirring in my ear.  I heard its wings whirring in my ear, my right ear.  The dogs were barking and my husband was yelling and I was shaking my head to get the bug out.  It was flying down the canal.  It was NOT coming out.  Dan, my husband, was googling what to do when a bug is in your ear.  I was dancing\ jumping\ yelling and trying in a not so calm way to calm everyone down, including myself.  Dan poured mineral oil into my ear in hopes of drowning the bug.  I felt the oil, the bug, and a pulsing sensation.  I thought bee, deer fly- something with wings.  How could this be happening?  I was tired and hungry and it was our twenty-seventh anniversary!  The bug was not budging.  Dan tried tweezers, and flashlight and sucking it out with a turkey baster.  He tells me I was jumping around like crazy.  Well, yes!  We went to the E.R.  It was midnight.  I told my situation to the receptionist.  The poor woman...  Who knows who will come in with what.  I was covered with mineral oil and I still had a cake of mud on my legs from the hike, even after showering.  Dan had not showered.  His legs were covered with mud.  We had walked for miles up and down a stream bed which was the trail.  There was a lot of opportunity for mishap - a slip - some broken bones. But no - a bug in my ear.  The first nurse tried hard with washes and rinses and a probe.  The bug was dead she said.  My friend, Kristin, another nurse, came into the room.  We exchanged greetings.  She knew of a tool with a suction cup.  A third nurse came in with that tool.  I squeezed Dan's hand as she pulled out the beetle.  I had to take it home to photograph.  She placed it in a urine cup.  I was happy and relieved.  It was a BEETLE!  Are you kidding me?  It was a memorable day.  It was our twenty-seventh wedding anniversary.  It was our thirty-seventh high peak out of forty-six.  It is our story.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Out and About: Round Lake Nature Notes August 2012

    I have spent a good amount of time in my flower and vegetable gardens this summer planting, weeding, and especially, watering as the season has been so dry.  Along with these garden chores, there's also a number of diseases to worry about the plants contracting.  Farmer friends pointed out powdery mildew on the zucchini plant leaves and advised a spritz of milk, baking soda, and soap to clear it up.  The mildew is a result of water staying on the leaves and not drying.  It's best to water in the morning to avoid this happening to your plants.  Some of our tomatoes have blossom end rot.  Lovely!  The blossom end of the tomato begins to get a spot which becomes black, leathery, and ugly.  This could have happened  due to the drought and insufficient watering.  Good grief!   Gardening can certainly keep a person busy.  A gardener battles pests, blight, weather, wayward garden stakes and critters.  This leads me to tell you that Chuck ( wood chuck) is also back in my garden.
    I had my suspicions that Chuck had made a return.  One of my dogs has become a window cling on the glass paned porch door looking out to the garden.  He barks his head off; I look out and nothing is there.  Was it Chuck?      I transplanted some ground cherries I grew from seed in window boxes into the garden.  I soon noticed their leaves neatly clipped off.  Rabbits or Chuck?  I went to put tools away in the garden shed and saw a large stone moved back from the foundation.  Chuck.  Yesterday I looked out and there he was standing in the garden pondering his next move and meal.  I opened the door and he took off like an Olympian, darting across the road and diving under the Wade's hostas.  I watched the hostas  jiggle and ripple as he kept cover and crawled beneath them.  Time to make a hot pepper tea to spray on the ground cherry leaves.  Yes, yes, I will do it in the morning or else will have powdery mildew to deal with too.   I am growing two kinds of hot peppers.  One is a Czech black pepper and the other a hot fish-shaped pepper.  I will chop a pepper up, seeds and all, soak it in hot water and douse the cherry leaves.  I will let you know if Chuck likes his food hot and spicy or not.
    I have other visitors that tread lightly in the garden and even cooperate for photo shoots.  Hummingbirds, dragonflies, hummingbird moths, Giant Swallowtail and Monarch butterflies all can be seen hovering over the flowers, basking on rocks, or resting on the tops of flower heads.  The Butterfly Bush is now flowering and attracts butterflies, bees and wasps.   There is also a resident toad I come across now and then.  I'm happy it's around as one toad can eat up to 10,000 insects in a summer!  That's great pest control.  I try to take time out to just enjoy the garden and watch the visitors.  You never know what you might see and learn about.
    Years ago, while on a camping trip in the Adirondacks, I took some time to sit by a pond.  I raised my binoculars to check out the other side and discovered a Great Blue Heron fishing.  The heron walked slowly and quietly in the shallow water not rippling the surface.  Its bill was pointed down.   Suddenly, it lunged forward, stabbed  a fish with its bill and consumed it.  For awhile the heron would  stand very still in the shallows watching and waiting.  Then it would  lunge down again grabbing its meal.  Years later, I came across a description of a heron fishing which was exactly what I had observed and what I would have written as well.  Tell me what's going on in your garden and I'll share your observations in next month's article.  Enjoy the month of August.     

Garden Visitors Summer 2012

Wrennie at the Gourd House June 2012

Out and About: Round Lake Nature Notes July 2012

We never expected to be so thoroughly entertained by a pair of House Wrens that nested in a gourd hanging from our garden shed porch!  It all started in mid-May.  We had been away for a few days.  We were not in and out of the shed or out and about in the yard and garden.  The wrens probably thought that they'd found a quiet place to select a bird house.  The first day I was back I walked toward the shed and heard a chattering and scolding call and saw a little wren, tail up, looking right at me.  I backed off.  Only the weight of about two quarters, it had convinced me to leave.  I retreated to the house porch to watch what was going on.  A wren pair flitted in and out of several of the bird houses hanging on the shed's porch.  Decisions, decisions and not a realtor in sight.  This decision process went on for about a week until I finally saw nesting material being brought into the gourd, consisting of  dried grass, leaves and twigs.  Watching through binoculars so as not to disturb them, it seemed they were building a barrier inside the house to protect them from the elements and predators. 
    House Wrens are very vocal.  Both the male and female sing.  During breeding the male sings nine to eleven times a minute and the female responds.   Guess how early they start singing?  At the crack of dawn until about 8:15 in the evening.  Good Grief!  Initially, we closed the bedroom window but I could actually hear them with the window closed.  One morning I could not hear them and got up and opened the window so I could.  They were ruling our lives in other ways, too.  While the male was over singing in a neighbor's yard, we took our gardening tools out of the shed and put them by the garage. As quiet as I tried to be, he caught me going in and out of the shed.  He gave me what for, chattering and physically making his presence known by flying around the yard.  I stopped weeding by the shed and filling the hummingbird feeder on the shed's porch.
    On June eighth, activity changed at the gourd.  I saw Wrennie ( Yes, I named him.) bringing insects to the gourd's opening.  Baby birds!  I saw the female fly out of the gourd with white, round balls - fecal sacs - poop!  She would come back after her drop with an insect for the babies.  Our yard began looking like a continuous  paint ball fight with only white paint.  Birds remove the sacs because it can get messy in tight little nests.  They also dump them away from the nest as to not alert predators. 
    Wrennie positioned himself in the lilac shrub next to the gourd like a surveillance camera.  He hated Blue Jays.  As soon as one came into the yard he not only started his scolding but he went after it, chasing it out to the playground.   He went after squirrels and chipmunks the same way and even pecked at a squirrel's back as it ran along the fence rail away from the nest.  He would leave in search of insects for the kids but fly back quickly, poke the insect into the gourd and resume his post.    These wrens were amazing parents.  They were diligent and vigilant, guarding the nest and scouting for insects for their babies for fifteen days.
    Then on Friday, June twenty-second, things were quiet at the gourd house.  I had heard singing in the early morning but by mid-day everyone had moved out.  I missed seeing them leave and was really disappointed.  I knew it was about time for fledging as House Wrens fledge  between fifteen and seventeen days after birth.    I still hear  chattering nearby though.  Maybe Wrennie and his mate are starting a second brood.   I'll keep you posted!
    On May twenty-seventh Dan and I paddled down the outlet of Round Lake and saw not a single nest in the heron rookery.  A week or so later, we biked on the Zim-Smith trail and detoured into the Industrial Park before Curtis Lumber.  We rode  over to the edge of the Ballston Creek Preserve.  It looked like half a dozen heron nests were back there.  On June eleventh, I walked into the Ballston Creek Preserve from Eastline Road.  I discovered there are eight active Great Blue Heron nests and one very large Osprey nest in the preserve.  Dan and I went back on June seventeenth and several of the heron nests have four to five juveniles in them.  The Osprey pair was not at all pleased with us being there.  The female flew out of the nest to investigate.  We kept our visit quiet and short so as not to disturb nesting.  I have pictures on
    Check out the Pizza Garden on the side of the library.  It was planted by three and four year old gardeners.  They are doing a great job growing ingredients for a delicious pizza.  We've had two lettuce harvests and are eagerly waiting for tomatoes, peppers, and zucchinis.  Enjoy Summer!