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Baby Squirrellybird Incident

>> Monday, August 30, 2010

When we came home from work tonight we noticed some kind of hullabaloo in the bleeding hearts.  Spouse made a quick dart toward the garden, and out shot a feral cat in one direction, and out tottered a baby squirrel in the other direction.

Uh oh.

The poor little squirrel flipped onto his back and started chattering when we approached him, but appeared to have escaped his tormentor relatively unscathed.  Spouse stood guard over him, while I shot into the house to find gloves and some kind of box to put him in while we debated what to do.  Poor baby.  He was clearly too young to be turned loose in the back yard with the local cats on the prowl.

Have I mentioned that I have inherited my Father's soft spot for gray squirrels?  I do love them.  They're such jolly, happy little creatures.  I grew up with a yard full of them, and can't remember a time when squirrels didn't make me happy.  When I was a kid, my Dad, being the kidder that he is, used to tell me that "squirrel" was really just short for their full proper name of "squirrellybird".  I believed him for years.

Anywho, there was no way I was going to leave the poor critter defenseless, to starve a slow painful death, or be tortured to death by cats.  I plunked the fuzzy baby in the upstairs bathroom for a few minutes while I figured out what to do with him.  When he hit the linoleum he grunted squeakily, tottered around, peed, and then fell asleep while trying to nurse on my leather glove.

Here's baby, looking a little sleepy:

And here he is with my glove, for size comparison:

I love the Internet.  I quick search for "wildlife rehabilitator" and the name of my Village, and on the third page I found the name and phone number of a licensed local rehabilitator.  A quick phone call confirmed that a) our baby was definitely too young to be on his own, and b) she would be happy to look after him.  So we plunked him into the cat carrier and took him for his first car ride.

A 1/2 hour drive later, and our fuzzy friend was clearly in good hands.  I had handled Mr. Fuzzy with leather gloves, because I didn't relish the idea of having baby rodent teeth embedded in my fingers.  But our wildlife rehabilitator reached right into the cat carrier and scooped him out.  He promptly curled himself around her warm fingers, and in less than a minute had fallen sound asleep.  Guess he'd had a mighty long day, and is used to being curled up against somebody warm for sleeping.

The rehabilitator said he was a normal weight, and wasn't dehydrated, so we had clearly found him in time.  She said he'd go right into her new squirrel enclosure with the other squirrels she has who are about his same age.  Somehow that knowledge - that he'd soon be sleeping in a fuzzy pile of other lost baby squirrels - gave me immense comfort.

And, just because we are who we are, I will put the rehabilitator's contact info into my phone.  Somehow I suspect we just might see her again.


A Fungus Among Us

>> Sunday, August 29, 2010

I mentioned a while back that I was going to do a post or two on the mushrooms of Maine.  The coastal region of Cobscook Bay in Maine is loaded, and I mean loaded, with mushrooms.  Any fungus fans out there?  If so, I highly recommend a little trip.  They're everywhere, in nearly every shape and color imaginable.

It's taken me a while to get around to doing this post because I'm still working hard to identify all the dratted things I took pictures of.  I am far from a fungus expert!  And while I have two separate field guides here, I'm coming up with nothing for a whole lot of these, and only guesses on a bunch of others.

Bottom line: I love to photograph mushrooms, but I stink at identifying them.  But you know what?  I don't think I appreciate their aesthetics any less when I can't put a name to them.

Anywho, here they are.

Tawny Grisette.  I love these.  I don't know why, but something about the delicate gills on the edges and the little cup around the base that makes them look like they've hatched from an egg:

No idea on this next one.  We found these all over the place and they stank like a rotting corpse, but I haven't come up with an ID.  It doesn't help that I think all the ones we found were somewhat past their prime:

One of the challenges of identifying mushrooms in Maine was slugs.  They swoop in at night and devour a lot of the mushrooms, or else leave them looking like these next few - swiss cheesy, and a bit slimy. Sometimes they'd chew off the gills, other times they'd leave perfect holes right through the mushroom. Sometimes they'd eat off only the identifying features, like the gills.  

Although I for some reason didn't take any pictures of slug covered mushrooms this year, this is a shot of the phenomenon from last year (sorry for the poor quality... the old point and shoot left much to be desired):

Honestly, those slimy piles of half-digested fungus made me a bit queasy to examine.  And there is little worse than scrambling up a steep trail and accidentally sticking your hand smack into one.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to get that much slug slime off your hand in the middle of the woods?  Even with soap and running water it would be a challenge.  But I digress.

No idea on this next one.  The only thing I found in the book like it only grows in the Pacific Northwest, but you can see the lovely holes:
Mmm.  Slug slime trails.
I love the perfect hole through the stem of this one.  My best guess is an Emetic Russula, but it was a little early in the year for one, so I'm not certain.  As you can see, it was in a boggy, sphagnum mossy area.

The Russulas in general were popular snacks.  Nearly every one we found had been chewed:

I have no idea what this thing is.  It looks like pizza crust after the slugs got done with it.

This is some kind of Bolete, and I'm guessing King Bolete:

Another Bolete:

There were lots of Yellow Patches around.  I happen to find these particularly appealing, for some reason.  Partly I think it's the bright color.

I love this one that looks like a pancake, but haven't a clue what it is.  I forgot to take notes on what its underside looked like, and therefore can't begin to identify it.  But you can see how big it is compared with my size 8 sneaker.

Non-inky Coprinus, perhaps?  I love how delicate its little ridges are:

I am kind of reaching on this one.  Perhaps Bracelet Cort?  I've got four shots of what I think are all the same variety, or at least related varieties:

A couple of shots of Common Laccaria:

Perhaps a Sphagnum-bog Galerina?

Don't know, but it's cute anyway:

Yellow--orange Fly Argaric:

And the rest of these I've given up on trying to identify.  I'll include them here anyway, just because I found them appealing.  Perhaps some of my faithful readers will have suggestions on a few.

This one looked like dark brown velvet:


On the Road

>> Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Today was one of those days when I could take full advantage of being on the road for work.  I had to travel to Norwich for a meeting, which concluded pretty late in the afternoon.  A quick survey of the Evil Blackberry told me there were no real crises awaiting me at the office, and the GPS told me I wouldn't get back to the office until after 5:00 anyway.  No reason to rush.

Happily, I had taken my camera along for the ride.

Norwich is one of those places one cannot travel to without taking a bunch of twisty windy back roads through a lot of breathtaking farm country.  I stopped several times when the sun's rays peeked from behind the heavy clouds to illuminate a hill, and when I could find a spot to pull the car far enough off the road to not present a hazard to my fellow travelers.  Although I don't think any of these are exactly extraordinary, here are a few of my favorite shots:

Somewhere along Route 80 I stumbled upon this sweet old cemetery.  I think that's where I finally hit my photography groove for the day.  I was happy and completely enthralled in taking photos for a long, long time there.  I have a thing for cemeteries - old ones, anyway.  I have been known to take a book and spend an afternoon sitting in one, and my husband and I used to go toss a softball around in an open field surrounded by old cemetery that was a block from our old townhouse.  I've always wanted to live next to an old cemetery because I find them peaceful, and because I think they help keep life in perspective.  I also happen to think the dead would make excellent neighbors.

I always wander about in old cemeteries, looking at the stones and wondering about the life stories that are represented there - all the love, and all the heartbreak.  Who died from fevers, who in child birth, and which few lived to a ripe old age?  Who lost all their children young, before they died themselves?  And who fought for our country in war?  Who is remembered by name, and which women were unlucky enough to be remembered only as some man's wife?

Anyway, today what struck me most was not so much people's stories, but just the contrast and textures of the engraved stones, and the way nature slowly reclaims its own.  I thought I'd share a few of the images and textures that struck me the most:

I am puzzled by the inscription on the one above.  It reads, as best as I can tell:

Asa Pritchard, Esq.
Died July 30, 1838
AE 17 yrs.

Beneath this stone an honored Parent lies
Death will not stay for pleading childrens cries
No fond companion can afford one breath
When fastened in the name of Death.

Was Asa 17 years old?  And an honored parent at that tender age?  If anyone has any insight, let me know.

One does wonder about this next one.  How do they feel about being buried together, and were they his wives in succession, or at the same time?


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