Archive for December, 2012

Ladybug Beetles

A ladybug landed on the side of the house near the picture window in early November. It reminded me of swarms of ladybugs I found one fall while hiking along a sandstone bluff.

They  had swarmed where they planned to hibernate for the winter. These were at the mouth of a deep crevice that went way back into the sandstone.

This is the same “pile”of them as in the first picture. They were everywhere. Their body temperature remains the same as their surroundings.

They are known to congregate in swarms in houses too. I learned, when they used to get in my camper, that they don’t smell the best and that their tiny bite hurts. They will also gather in clusters under the bark and in crevices of trees.

Ladybugs are beetles, with over 5,000 species worldwide!

SNOW

This is what I woke to this morning, December 29.

The blizzard that started on Christmas evening left us 14 inches before it finally quit the later the next morning. We actually had a little melting yesterday morning. Then a light rain started, then went to freezing rain, then sleet and finally snow. Now we have six more inches.

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… I look out now at 10:30. A light snow falls again, and  the breezes increase enough to now knock snow off the branches.

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  It’s absolutely beautiful.

Chicken cooks for chicken salad. Dough rises for Basic White Bread and will soon fill the house with that wonderful bread-baking aroma.

It’s a good day.

Woven Nest

Two bird “cousins” that nest here in southern Illinois build similar nests. The Baltmore (or northern) oriole weaves its nest 15-30 feet high. I’ve only found two of them, and they were found in the winter when there were no leaves hide them. The males have a bright orange front, black back and head, and white wing bars.

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I found this woven nest last winter just north of where I park the truck at my rural property. I knew immediately it was an oriole nest. The back side of the nest had been torn from its other support. I didn’t think and just assumed it was a Baltimore oriole’s.

Then I later had a “duh” moment and looked up orchard orioles. They nest from 4 to 50 feet high, and this one was about 4 feet high. Both usually construct the nest in a forked terminal twig. Their nests are woven with strips of plant fiber, and are lined with fine grass, plant down and hair.

The way the nest was so tightly woven it made me wonder how they did that. They don’t have two hands like we do.

Nighttime Mist

Domesticity often gets in the way of my fun. Like tonight, while cooking supper. A front was coming through, a strong wind blew from the north, temperatures were dropping and a heavy mist fell … or should I say “blew.” I just had to hurry out to see how the  mist looked in nighttime pictures and if there were any orbs.

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I only saw 3 orbs in the picture above, and all of them are on the right side.

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This picture looks filled with only mist-produced orbs. I pointed the camera in all directions, except the north because of the wind direction. I didn’t want the camera lens to get wet.

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Looks like the orbs of from the emanations of spirit beings made themselves much larger so they wouldn’t be confused with the orbs caused by the heavy mist. Besides the orb on the back of the old garage, there’s one above it and to the right, and two above to the left.

IMG_5436 redAll these “orbs” resulted from the mist except the pale one at the top of the pine.

 It wasn’t 5 minutes and I was back to cooking. At least I felt much better learning what I learned.

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The above happened on Dec. 17. The following pictures were taken last night, the 20th. A strong weather pattern that hampered holiday traffic brought us strong winds gusting to 50 mph and dropping temperatures.

I just had to hurry out for a few pictures that might include orbs.

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Turned out that a light snow was falling. Amongst all this I found 2 small orbs. Obviously, the distance from the camera determined the size of the “snow orbs.” The wind also blew them enough to alter their shape.

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I snapped this picture less than a minute after the one above. Both are from the same direction, with this one being from further back. Six orbs appeared in it — one low on the right at the edge of the picture, another above the bush on the left and two faint ones in left side of the tree. I also suspect the two prominent round white ones are orbs too.

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A gray orb “hangs” in the lower right side of the pine tree.  Three or four minutes were enough time to satisfy my curiousity about the possiblity orbs in these conditions … besides, it was much warmer inside and a good movie had just come on.

Puttyroot Orchid

Buffy and I were walking toward the creek on my rural property, and I walked right up to a puttyroot orchid … last day of November.

It may only be a leaf, but it’s still an orchid.

Three more orchid leaves grew near the creek. The leaves will remain green all winter and then wilt about the same time the flowers bloom mid-May into June.

The flowers in this picture are a little past full bloom. Puttyroot orchids (Cymbidium hyemale) grow up to 20 inches tall. They grow in low, rich woods, along streams and in ravine bottoms here in southern Illinois. Their range covers northeastern U.S.  from Minnesota, part of Missouri and Tennessee.

Sometimes it’s easier to find the seed stalks of orchids than the flowering plant.

Puttyroots orchids can grow in patches and only a few bloom. There used to be a large dense patch of them along the road to a place Buffy and I visit often. There were 50-plus leaves in an oval. They were visible from the road if a person knew where to look. I visited every year … the patch “disappeared” six or seven years ago. Native orchids don’t transplant well at all. What a loss and a shame!

Oh What a Night!

December 13 and oh, what a night!

The sky was clear, the temperature in the 30’s. Being new moon meant no moonlight to overpower the stars or the Geminid meteor shower.  I bundled up in my heavy winter Gortex outfit and headed out at 9p.m. My only gear was flashlight, camera and lawnchair.  By the time Orion reached overhead there were so many stars visible that it was hard to find.

My first activity was making a loop of the backyard, taking pictures, hoping to capture orbs.

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Orbs were numerous! I wondered if it was because of the new moon, the 12-12-12 portal the day before, the meteor shower or all three combined.

The tree on the left in the picture above is a large elm, and for some reason it usually has more orbs than the other trees in the yard.

Orbs are thought to be emanations from spiritual beings according to Dr. Klaus Heinemann. He’s co-authored two books — The Orb Project and Orbs, Their Mission and Messages of Hope. I have the latter. For some reason orbs are able to be photographed with a digital camera and flash.

When I first started taking orb pictures the orbs were darker, and the didn’t show as much. Then lately I read to be sure to use the nighttime setting on your camera. I didn’t know I had such a thing. I found it and now the orbs show much better.

Since learning that, I go out most nights and some mornings. I’ve taken pictures when it’s just getting light or just getting dark, and when it is dark. I’ve experimented with clear skies and cloudy. I’m new at this and have a lot to learn. Now I’m waiting for increasing moonlight.

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This view goes across part of the back of our backyard. We have 2 acres. There’s a blue orb on the left just above the barn roof and a green one at the upper edge of the picture above the blue one. Dust particles can cause orbs in pictures. They are usually brighter and lack any interior details. Dr. Heinemann says the air-born particles must be within 4 inches of the camera to make the orbs.

Orbs are spheres, not disks

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 A lot more of the orbs will show in these pictures if viewed in a room with low light. The orbs above and to the right of the old garage are in/around a hackberry tree. The bright white orb below the window was square. I captured it on the back of the house in 3 pictures that night.

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The picture above shows orbs over my what my husband calls my “weed patch.” I only took 133 pictures that night in 4 picture-taking sessions. The number of orbs varied in each session. The orb numbers declined by the fourth time.

I have commonly taken a picture that ended up with a lot of orbs, and immediatley taken another picture of the same area and there’d being only a few.

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Orbs usually congregate around the pine too. I included this picture to show the bright blue orb to the side of the tree and a pink one above. Another picture that night had a bright pink one over a small branch. I’ve gotten pictures of blue, turquoise, pink, orange, shades of green, white, and this night even a few earth-tone ones. A blue orb of a certain size shows up in a lot of my pictures. There must be a reason.

In my less than 2 months of taking orb pictures, I’ve never gotten anywhere near this many orbs. Not all the pictures were as crowded with orbs; the average was still way above previous experiences.

After 2 hours of all this fun … I saw 34 meteors. I realized too late that I would’ve seen more if I had been laying on the ground in a different location.

But,

OH what a night!

Backyard Eagle Encounter

I was sitting at the computer by the picture window that looks out over our backyard. An eagle circled and went back over the strip pit. Another adult bald eagle did the same. I called my mother to “nanner nanner.” One eagle returned. I got off the phone, grabbed my camera and hurried outside.

The other eagle returned too. They circled here and there, heading north and returning, back and forth over the old strip pit behind the house and returning. A strong south wind blew, blowing cumulus clouds to the north, speeding the eagles’ flight and complicating picture-taking.

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They’d disappear and return. I’d occasionally hear one of their  eek” calls. I lost concept of time. Nothing but waiting for them,  and watching them, trying to get pictures. Then a 3rd adult eagle joined them. They didn’t sound to pleased about that. Heard occasional “eeeek” calls.

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I did pause occasionally to breathe. They were closer than they look in the pictures. If I zoomed in too much I couldn’t find them before they were too far off. The back and forth behind the strip pit, and flights to the north and back continued.

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Obviously, the first 2 were a mated pair and the third an intruder. This got me wondering when they mate in southern Illinois and lay their eggs. Big birds obviously take longer to reach maturity.

Great horned owls begin nesting here in southern Illinois at the end of January. Bald eagles incubate their eggs 35 days, and the eaglets fly at 70-75 days. That’s roughly over 3 months.  I couldn’t find the information I wanted online. I’ll file these questions in my brain somewhere and maybe will learn the answers sometime.

New Hobby

I have a new and exciting hobby … taking orb pictures.

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My first experience with orbs was in this picture that I used in my “Lazy Hike” blog. I saw the orbs while taking several pictures. These were the first I’d ever seen. Both orbs moved around slightly while I photographed them. If you look close, you can see that the left orb is behind strands of the spider web. The sun was behind me too, so there couldn’t be any glare involved from it.

A blog site “Orbs Delight” found my blog site, and then I found her blog site. Information in her site said to go outside at night and take pictures using a flash. I did and it worked. I’ve taken pictures most nights since November 18, and each night has been different.

Orbs are now thought to be “emanations of spiritual beings,” according to Dr.  Klaus Heinemann in the book he co-authered titled, The Orb Project.

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The first nights of my taking pictures found varying numbers of orbs. They varied in size, location and intensity. On the overall average, most were too dark. Then I had a break-through last week when looking up orb colors and just happened to see a sentence that said, “Be sure to use your nighttime setting.” I didn’t even know my camera had such a thing.  Now my pictures turn out much better since they gave more light.

Now I take pictures during the in the morning when it’s just beginning to get light, during the last light of the day and after it’s dark. These first pictures were taken on the moist hazy morning of December 8.

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The long orb resulted from its moving when I took the picture.

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It was a humid morning, and I think the teeny tiny “sparks” are from the flash hitting water particles close to the camera. I could see them when the flash went off. According to Dr. Heinemann,  particles must be within 4 inches of the lens to make an orb.

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This picture baffled me when I took it, and it still does.  This picture was taken from the backyard looking toward the house. I pressed the button to focus. Suddenly the image on the display went way out of focus and the camera went off.  This resulted in the picture above. If you look close, you can see a thin red ring around the orb.

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I immediately took another picture of the same view, and this is what I got.

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This picture was taken a few mornings before when I aimed the camera overhead at the sky. The orange orb is the only orb in the picture, and there was nothing in my surroundings that would’ve caused it. I didn’t see it on the display until after taking the picture.

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When I’m taking pictures, I just walk around our 2-acre yard. Some are taken closer to the barn or certain trees. Others are longer views. If I’m too close to an object like the barn, the flash overpowers too much of the picture. Buffy (large female chocolate lab) is the dark brown shape below the lowest orb. A picture of her in the same area a few nights ago ended up with an orb right above her and another one to the left.

IMG_4626 redThis was the last picture before going in the house.

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It was dark when I went out in the evening. There’s also an orb near the ground beside the little table and other small faint ones.

IMG_4668 redI try different angles and different distances from the subjects. It’s exciting because there’s no way to predict the outcome. I’m getting more colored orbs like the one above for some reason. I’ve also gotten pictures of faint green ones, turquoise, orange, pale pink, and violet ones.

Orbs can position themselves with a background that creates a face in the orb. Orbs also occur in shapes beside round. I even have captures squarrish ones. They can be variations of out-of-round. So every single picture produces a unique arangement of orbs, according to the orb’s purpose for being in the picture. They offer messages by their strategic placement. Nothing is random.

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My biggest frustration right now is my night blindnessthat keeps me confined to the yard. There’s so many places, like cemetaries, that I’d like to check for orbs.

Seems like the more I’m out taking orb pictures, the more questions I have. Do things like the moon phase affect their numbers and their characteristics? Is the color of the orb associated with a certain angel? If I talk to them, invite them to join me in the yard, offer them gratitude for coming, will that  affect the numbers that are present?

There’s a lot to learn with my new and exciting hobby.

The Eagle Nest Tree

My best friend, Therese, went by the eagle nest recently and reported in to me that she’d seen an eagle in the nest. Seems the tree with the nest lost more limbs with a strong storm we recieved from hurricane Sandy. Buffy and I took a drive this morning to check it out.

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It did look a tad bare.

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No eagle sat in it or in any of the surrounding trees.

Last year I started a series of blogs with weekly trips to the nest.

IMG_9576 red 5 This is an old old picture, with obvious lack of quality. It does show how the tree looked before it lost one whole trunk.

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Both adults were in the nest January 26.

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I took this picture on March 27th this year while the tree was still leafing out.

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This picture was taken the same day.

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The eagle appeared to be feeding young. The date was April 10. I made 4 trips between April 24 and May 5 without seeing any eagles. I assumed a predator got the young while the adults were away.

Eagles mate for life. They will add to their nest every year, and will continue to use as long as the tree’s standing. The largest eagle nest on record was 9 1/2 feet wide, 20 feet high, and weighed over 2 tons! (I would’ve like to see that tree.)

Eagle facts: average life span up to 28 years in the wild, body size 34 to 43 inches, weight 6 1/2 to 14 pounds and wingspan 6-8 feet. Females are larger than the males. The young are 4-5 years before they have white head and tail.

We made a loop around behind an old abandoned mine. A large bird soared around in an area with a large field by the road and the mine off in the distance. It didn’t have white head or tail. It did hold its wings flat — an immature bald eagle. Vultures hold their wings in a vee (dihedral) when soaring. So that’s a good way to tell the difference between the 2 at a distance.

I do so hope the tree remains standing, and the eagles successfully raise young next year.

Slugs, as in Mollusk

Procrastinate is my middle name. This time it involved piling rocks back up that I didn’t use in a garden project. I finally got around to it this afternoon. I hadn’t moved many when I picked up a larger lumpy one. And there on the bottom were …

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slugs! Nice sliiimy slugs. Ugh.

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There were 15 in all in the depressions on the underside of the rock.

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 This one didn’t like my attention and slowly went the other direction. I couldn’t believe how long it ended up being. I didn’t even want to know what was stuck on its back or what the green slimy “piles” were. The “compressed” slugs were about an inch long.  Did I say, “Ugh.”

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A snail was considerate enough to be in one of the depressions for comparison purposes.  A slug is more or less a snail without a shell. Some slugs have an internal mantle in their back, which these do. Both are a mollusk and both are mainly nocturnal.

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I’ve never been inclined to try escargots, and I’m for sure not about to now.