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Archive for the ‘Wildlife Wednesday’ Category

Last night I heard a Boreal Owl calling—the first of the season around our place.

Every year, when I hear the first owl call I wonder if one will nest close by. Several years ago a female nested in an old birch snag behind our house. We’d see her poking her head out of a round hole in the dead tree—an opening made by a woodpecker.

One day–sometime after the trees leafed out—I heard a crash on our deck and went out to investigate. Here’s what I found.

A just-fledged Boreal Owl snug up against the house.

It stayed there for at least 30 minutes. I didn’t know if it was hurt so I gently touched it with a stick and it moved. Horray!!

Finally, after several more minutes, it flapped it wings and landed on the railing.

A few minutes later, it flew off.

So yeah, every year when I hear the first owl I wonder if we’ll have new neighbors for a little while in the Spring. I hope so!!

Do you have any animals making their homes by your house? Or, have you in the past?

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It’s been about 12 hours since the scorpion delivered its venom to the tip of my pinky finger.

At first I think a stray cactus spine has somehow lodged itself into the carpet by the foot of the bed where I was reaching my hand. But when the tip of my finger just keeps buzzing with pain, and then the buzz and tingling starts traveling down my finger into my hand and toward my elbow, I start considering other options.

I carefully lift the frilly decorative sheet that hangs to floor at the edge of the bed. And there, partially visible in a crevice between the mattress and box-spring, is a tan scorpion.

I’m no stranger to things that bite and sting and know that all scorpion venom is not created equal.

Am I a little freaked out? Hell yes!

I want that scorpion in a container to identify it so I’ll know if I’m just going to experience some major discomfort or something worse that requires medical attention.

I position a yogurt container where I anticipate the scorpion will fall when I harass it with the end of a broomstick. (Side note: In the midst of all this my wife and I are both googling “scorpion bite” on our laptops and finding some gruesome stuff.)

The scorpion misses the container, skitters under the bed, and I attempt to pummel it with the broomstick figuring a dead scorpion is much preferable to a live one. But even peering with a flashlight after my attack, I’m not sure if I got it.

I call the people we’re renting from. Luckily they live right next door and turn out to be scorpion experts. They come over with a black light (that’s the best way to find scorpions since they glow), and shine it under the bed, and yes, we find some scorpion parts, but we’re not sure if they’re from the scorpion.

They offer us the spare bedroom in their house but we decide to stay at our place. We strip the bed, do a thorough search and find nothing.

In the meantime, the pain and numbness has traveled up my arm to the base of my shoulder, but I’m not experiencing any of the really bad symptoms, i.e. foaming at the mouth, shortness of breath, profuse sweating, so I’m pretty sure all I’m going to have is a local reaction.

When I wake up the morning, the numbness and buzzing has retreated to my pinky finger. It’s hard to type because I can’t feel my finger when it presses on the keys, but supposedly it’ll be much better in another 24 hours. We’ll just have to wait and see.

So, if you’ve got a character in your novel that experiences a scorpion sting I’m your go-to guy for information.

This scorpion incident ranks second worse in my continuum of sting experiences. Sometime I’ll have to tell you about number one.

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The Walrus haulout at Cape Pierce.

One of the weirdest job duties I ever had was removing tusks from dead Walrus. I didn’t have to do this too often—only seven times. I was working as a volunteer on Togiak National Wildlife Refuge at Cape Pierce doing marine mammal, nesting sea bird, and migrating waterfowl surveys back in 1986. A portion of male walrus population remain in the southern Bering Sea in the summer while the females and young stay with the ice pack as it recedes north.

I don’t have photos from my time with the Walrus because my camera broke, but here’s a few I found taken at Cape Pierce from subsequent years.

Cape Pierce is a remote, windswept peninsula jutting into the Bering Sea in the lonely Southwestern corner of Alaska.

Cape Pierce is the cliffy peninsula on the right-hand side of the photo.

In the two and half months I worked there we had visitors twice.

It’s a 90 minute bush plane flight from the nearest settlement. Yeah, it was out there. And the wind blew almost all the time. Twenty miles per hour was normal. The highest wind speed I recorded was 65 mph.

The Walrus would haul out in these sand dunes—anywhere from six to twelve thousand of them.

A typical scene at Cape Pierce.

Over the course of several days the walrus would leave to hunt for food on the ocean bottom and then come back and rest.

The reason we had to remove the tusks from the dead animals was to prevent poachers from flying low over the herd and harassing them. Ivory sticking up in the air attracted poachers who would fly in small planes.

One shady character was rumored to have a gun mounted on the wing of his plane. We were given a description of his plane and were supposed to take cover if we spotted him in the air. Otherwise, we were supposed to make ourselves visible because just having people out there was a huge deterrent.

Before the Fish and Wildlife Service stationed people at Cape Pierce they averaged two disturbances a week. The ten weeks I was there we had zero disturbances.

It was a bloody, stinky job removing the tusks. Think major dental work on something big that’d been dead for a while.

One tusk of the 14 I removed.

I didn’t know that’d be one of my job duties when I accepted the position but hey, you can’t know everything, and given the circumstances, I was glad to do it.

It wasn’t your typical beach party.

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Sometimes you write what you know. And likewise, sometimes you photograph what is around you. And if you only have a tiny video function on your camera, you use it. Yes, people, I’m thinking of getting a real video camera. If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments. Thanks.

But first, check out these brief clips of my friend, Mr. Moose. Yes, this moose is a young boy, probably born this past spring. Last Wednesday he was pretty musical with those wind chimes. This week he’s on to break dancing, and rumor has it that he’s applied for a driver’s license.

 Would you dance with this moose? Would you let him drive?

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I was walking out the door to cut a few sprigs of brocoli and a couple of kale leaves from the garden when I was stopped in my tracks by this guy. 

I was planning on having steamed veggies for lunch. Yeah, I do that about three times a week during gardening season. I already had carrots, cabbage and califlower in the steamer. I figure the earlier in the day I eat healthy food the more likely it is that I’ll actually eat it. (I planted some M-n-M seeds this year, but unfortunately they didn’t take. I guess they don’t do well in a northern climate.)

But the moose—he was pretty persistent. I stood on the deck for about thirty minutes watching him strip willow leaves from trees, and look longingly at the vegetables behind the our seven foot tall fence.

Then he did something really funny and strange, and kept doing it for five or six minutes. My camera has a video function that allows you to take 15 seconds of video at  a time. The resolution isn’t that great but what he does is.

Yeah, he really had a thing for those bamboo windchimes. After he got tired of playing with the chimes, he approached the deck to get a closer look at me.

I’m sure glad I didn’t choose the PB&J for lunch, then I would’ve missed the whole show.

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Moose are huge. And outside my house, sometimes it seems like they appear out of nowhere.

Moose1

When I see a moose, I stop what I’m doing and pay attention. I almost always learn something new. Last winter I watched one gnaw on shell fungus that was growing on a birch tree.

moose2

Several years ago I watched a mother and two calves as they ate the jack-o-lanterns perched on our deck railing.

With writing, I think of a moose-on-the-loose as being struck by a different idea. It wasn’t in the picture a moment ago, but now there it is. And, it’s huge.

So, do you check out the idea? It might be just what your story needs. You never know. Do you just make a note of it and move on, or do you run with it?

I wouldn’t want to use a moose-on-the-loose as an excuse to abandon my story idea, or to procrastinate, but it could be just what my story needs.

moose3

I’ve been observing a moose-on-the-loose in my current WIP for a few days now. I’ve just decided to follow it because I think it will deepen an already existing plot thread and add complexity to both the protagonist and two major secondary characters. Hopefully, this moose-on-the-loose isn’t just leading me into a dead end swamp.

What do you do when  a moose-on-the-loose suddenly appears in your manuscript?

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