Our Window on Nature

. . . exploring the world around us

Bats Above

Filed under: Mammals — Lowell Christie -- August 23, 2015 @ 9:05 pm

Big-eared-townsend-fledermausWhile we stroll idly through the campground, swatting mosquitoes and trying to enjoy the last moments of daylight, we’re joined by reinforcements. A pair of fluttering wings begins zigging and zagging above our heads.

Is it an owl? No; its flight pattern is too erratic. Even the most coordinated owl can’t manage such midair acrobatics. Our benefactor turns out to be a bat, a fierce predator of mosquitoes and other night-flying insects. Thanks, buddy; you can join our camping trip anytime.

Although these flying bug hunters are often the subject of horrid childhood fantasies, they are a camper’s good friend. Bats won’t take a bite out of your hide and – campfire tales to the contrary – it would be extraordinary if one came close enough to become tangled in your hair. (Read the rest …)

Nature’s Cleanup Crew

Filed under: Birds — Lowell Christie -- August 17, 2015 @ 7:18 pm

TVs in TreeThe beauty of it sailing,
not flapping, o’er the sky,
The wonder of it perched,
wings spread, hung out to dry.
The strangeness of its habits,
no meat too ripe to eat,
The wrinkles on its naked head,
the weakness of its feet.
No matter which it is,
adolescent or adult, sir,
It’s a marvel of construction,
this amazing turkey vulture.
….Author Unknown

If ever a bird had a face that only its mother could love, it’s the turkey vulture – it has more wrinkles than last year’s apple and not enough pride to cover it all up with feathers. Other than that, vultures are nice birds. (Read the rest …)

Left-Handed Plants And Right-Handed Snails

Filed under: Critters,Plants — Lowell Christie -- August 7, 2015 @ 2:31 pm

Fallen TreeFor the most part, left-handed people occupy the same status as unemployed brothers-in-law – they’re both insulted and ignored. It isn’t enough that automobiles and most tools and machines are built for the convenience of right-handed people, but even the dictionary perpetuates a variety of negative connotations associated with lefthandedness.

The American Heritage Dictionary includes in its definition of the word left-handed the description “awkward; maladroit, of doubtful sincerity; dubious” (as, for example, in a “left-handed compliment”). But while admittedly not the dominant pattern in nature, left-handedness does occur in a variety of living as well as nonliving forms (weather, for example.) (Read the rest …)

Shades of Gold

Filed under: Trees — Lowell Christie -- July 30, 2015 @ 8:11 pm

AspenOn one of our favorite walks, the slightest breeze brings the sounds of a flowing mountain spring. But thirsty as we may be, we no longer bother looking for moving water. It’s actually the flutter of aspen leaves set trembling by air currents passing by.

Depending upon the speed of the air, the sound can range from the almost inaudible hiss of soft rainfall (some call it the music from thousands of butterfly wings) to the rush of a mighty mountain stream. If there is any air movement at all there will be some sound, accompanied by a shimmering light show as the aspen leaves flutter in the breeze. (Read the rest …)

Summer’s Flashing Fireflies

Filed under: Bugs — Lowell Christie -- July 24, 2015 @ 3:22 pm

firefliesPinpoints of light danced the minuet across our darkened lawn, a visual counterpoint to the dozens of chirping crickets and the distant drum roll of thunder. Such are the memories of hot, muggy Midwestern summer evenings.

Miles away and decades later, we paused in our drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The air was heavy with the scent of white and red and pink roses, so we close the windows  of our motorhome (proving that even amid such beauty, allergies take precedence over aromas).

As night draws near, the roses and the grasses are clothed with flashing lights, this time of a slightly different flashing pattern and a somewhat different color. (Read the rest …)

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