About Me

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I'm a woman entering "the third chapter" and fascinated by the journey.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

They're here!

The first Black Squirrel of North Parkersburg has been spotted on Packard Street! One is browsing in the garden across the street. No doubt more sightings of this local sub-species will follow.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Following one's nose

This week's visit to the Toledo Botanical Gardens found the gardens much further advanced into spring than they were at this time last year; I doubt that anyone expected 75 degrees in Toledo in mid-March, but I'm not complaining. Many of the early-spring favorites were in full bloom:

like snowdrops

snow crocuses

        and iris versicolor.

Given my predeliction for wildflowers and the foolproof, some of the week's bloomers are plants I'd seen only in catalogs, things like cornelian cherry
and winter aconite (which I hope I've not mis-identified).
But the botanical highlight of the day was located by scent, not by sight. Wandering through the woodland garden, I literally followed my nose to identify the source of a new-to-me, wonderfully sweet scent. Eventually, the winding paths led me to a Chinese witch hazel.

 It doesn't look like much, but this plant may become one of my favorite signs of spring.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A forgetful squirrel (or perhaps just an unlucky one)

Today I had the good luck to wander around the Toledo Botanical Gardens and my beloved Wildwood Metropark. There was much to observe and enjoy, enough for several blog posts. At the moment, though, I want to write about the fox squirrels (Sciurus niger) that were perhaps the most entertaining wildlife today.

The fox squirrel is the largest squirrel in eastern North America and has become my favorite, probably because we don't have any in Parkersburg (that wanting what you can't have thing again). Their reddish fur, tufted ears, and general hyperactivity (though they have nothing on the West Virginia fairydiddle, which we also don't have in Parkersburg) are endlessly amusing. Today the squirrels at the TBG were hauling around mouthfuls of dried leaves, evidently putting together this year's messy nests.

This particular guy couldn't seem to decide what he was doing.

This one was having a delightful time prowling for something among the pachysandra.
But one unfortunate squirrel in the Manor House gardens at Wildwood was engaged in a serious search for something that it was not finding. Of course, I had the binoculars but not the camera for that particular encounter, but here's how it went:
  • Squirrel looks around, digs intently in the mulch for a few seconds, finds nothing.
  • Squirrel moves over a few inches, digs intently in the mulch for a few seconds, finds nothing.
  • Repeat several times.
I suspect the rodent in question was looking for cached acorns, but none were to be found. Either its walnut-sized brain has a faulty memory, or some other being(s) found the stash and made off with it. In any case, the squirrel eventually gave up and bounded off. This photo is of a different squirrel, but the picture was basically the same.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A warming trend?

The current weather in Toledo (sixties and seventies all week, with lots of bloom already occurring in gardens in the neighborhood) got me to checking weather trends for this area. Given that I should be grading papers, I didn't do any sort of systematic search, just today's date going back thirty years, and so didn't discover an actual trend. I did, however, learn that the historical average high for the day is 45, the record (in 1990, according to WeatherUnderground) 76. Today we're getting rain, keeping temperatures down in the mid-sixties, but this week is shaping up to be one of near-record high temperatures. This is spring break for me, so weather that facilitates traipsing around Metroparks makes me happy (note to self: finish grading today), but I can't help worrying over possible negative consequences of all this warm weather.

Several people have already expressed concern that we may not have gotten enough cold weather to knock down some of the insect population. Yes, we needs bugs for bird food and pollination, but I have absolutely no nostalgia for the giant flying cockroaches of my Florida girlhood and no desire to see them migrate north. And we already have quite enough mosquitoes and fleas.

While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I also love the shift from hardwoods to birches in the woodlands the further north one travels. As beautiful as maples are, if northern Ohio and southern Michigan become too hot for the characteristic vegetation of the northwoods, this will be a very sad thing. Northward migration of the scraggly, not-very-green woodlands of the deep South would be even sadder.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Today found me (finally!) able to attend a full-day session of training with the Nature Nuts, our local chapter of the West Virginia Master Naturalists. Given my overly-packed life, I will probably never get certified, but the training itself is the point for me. Wandering around the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge and the Williamstown Wetlands with a bunch of (mostly middle-aged) self-confessed "nature nuts" is an excellent way to spend a Saturday. We spent the morning learning about nature interpretation (and how wonderful it would be to work for the National Park Service as an interpreter!) and the afternoon about wetlands, a training that involved looking at muddy muskrat footprints on the boardwalk and baby duckweed under a hand lens. How much excitement can one stand?

Finally arriving home a little after 5:00, I dragged my long-suffering spouse on a tour to see what was blooming in the yard. Besides all the standard early spring stuff like daffodils, the afternoon's excitement was discovering not one, but two, kinds of moss blooming in the back yard! Photos to come.

Friday, March 2, 2012

More signs of spring

For all that today is only the second day of March and the National Weather Service is predicting snow for Sunday, spring seems to be springing on Packard Street. I don't mean the crocuses, which are after all not called snow crocuses for nothing, but some real signs.
  • The first grackle of the year was scavenging under the bird feeder.
  • I've only seen one junco in the last five days.
  • The dogwood buds are showing color.
  • Two robins were squabbling over a particularly choice bit of dried grass (but doesn't March 2 seem a bit early for nest-building in central West Virginia?)
  • and...three daffodils are blooming in the garden across the street!