Saturday, September 15, 2007

Baby Raccoons

Here's this year's crop of baby raccoons. That's mom in the back. This was one of their first trips to the cat's dish (in addition to our kittens, we feed a stray cat -- but he's a real coward when it comes to 'coons). I believe there are actually 3 babies, but we only see two here.

[Correction -- there are 4 babies.]

In this picture, mom is planning to run off with the bowl of cat food. These may be her babies, but she has no intention to share with them. Of course with a baby in the bowl, she's not likely to make a clean getaway. You can see where this is heading...

And here's mom on the left and junior on the right, picking up the pieces.

We have a neighbor who really likes having raccoons around -- so we're planning to try to trap these babies and take them over to him. Don't worry -- it's a cage trap, they won't be hurt.

Kitten Update

As you know, we adopted a pair of kittens back in April. They are now about 6 1/2 months old, and they have certainly grown! This picture was taken in July -- they are still very close.

Pixie, the little female, is the most difficult to photograph as she tends to blend into one big blur -- especially at night, and even with the flash. This is a particularly good shot (I do get a few). One thing about Pix -- I think she's going to remain small and petite. But not her brother -- Specs is going to be a big cat!

Here are the two of them -- I distracted them from looking out of the window. Unlike Pixie, Specs is very photogenic. This is a good shot of him, though I have to be careful not to get too much of that pink nose! Our front window has a shelf on it just for the cats. It's been really hot out, and really cold in -- so our cheap windows fog up regularly.... did my camera lens as I made a quick "shot in the dark" out the front door to catch our neighborhood "bandits." They had been climbing on the treadmill (with the white cover in the previous photo) and trying to get at the birdfeeder. For a while they were nose to nose through the glass with the kittens. It was quite interesting, but they all moved too fast for me to get a picture.

More raccoon pictures coming...

Spiders -- two types

OK, if you don't like spiders, I suggest you skip this one!

The brown spider to the right is a "Writing Spider," Argiope aurantia.

It used to be that these were about the only large spiders we saw on our property. We might see two or three around our place and other places. And then a few years ago, the "Golden Orb" spiders arrived and seemed to largely displace the writing spiders. This year, we had two writing spiders on our front porch -- those are the only ones I've seen.

Acording to the link above, the white "writing" in the web is called stabilimenta. This extra thick webbing helps prevent birds from flying through the web. But apparently also helps insects (a.k.a. "dinner") from flying into the web as well. Perhaps that is why we see fewer writing spiders than golden orbs, who do not use stabilimenta.

This lovely lady (left) is a Golden Orb spider, Nephila clavipes. I have recently discovered a bit more about these spiders. The "Orb" in the name describes the type of web they weave -- the big circular type. In fact the writing spiders also weave orb-type webs.

In this picture, you see the same spider and her mate. You can also see the golden strands in the web. The Wikipedia article, referenced above, suggests that these spiders weave a golden colored web, but Marc suggested that some of the strands (the sticky ones) have attracted bits of pollen. This makes more sense to me, as only certain strands of the web are "golden". Another interesting thing is that these spiders use multiple-strands to create the anchors of their webs. Sometimes the anchors are not attached to something fixed, but to a bit of broken branch or large leaf. It is a bit of a shock to be driving out of the driveway early in the morning and have a small floating branch suddenly smack your windshield!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Fall Migration is Beginning!

Well, it's been a long time since we've posted to the blog. That's because, just as the birds fly south for the winter, they also fly north for the summer. We're South -- so around here, we just don't have a lot of birds to take pictures of during the summer.

But lately we've been seeing ducks. Lots of ducks flying by. No geese yet, but they'll come. And very soon, we should start seeing more hawks. There is a spot near Corpus Christi where several hawk flyways converge. We went last year (won't be going this year). We were a week late to see any great numbers of birds, but we found out that the best week to be there is the third week/weekend in September. That's next week.

My work schedule is going to be pretty hectic for the next month or so, but we're planning a trip to near West Texas, probably in November and we'll be going Coastal around that time too, with the hopes of seeing Whooping Cranes. So things should pick up again soon. Stay tuned!