A Better Mousetrap

29 November 2012

A couple of weeks ago I spent four days at a camp at Moosehead Lake. Did a lot of hunting, a little shooting, and realized that if I had to rely on my skills as a hunter to feed myself I’d be hungry a lot.

But I did encounter an excellent and ferocious little hunter while there. We had all been wondering why the camp, while showing signs of mice infestation, had no mice in evidence. The night before we left, we found out that a ruthlessly efficient predator had been keeping the place clean.


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Devourer of mice and turkey morsels


Apparently, one of Stoaty’s relatives had been making the camp a part of his hunting rounds. As a reward for his fruitful efforts, some of the guys put out a plate of leftover turkey morsels for him, which he quickly stowed in whatever stashes he had established.


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“Better make sure the mice aren’t playing cribbage on my watch.”


Our presence didn’t seem to alarm him as he made his rounds of the camp, through the kitchen and woodpile, in the bunk rooms and even under the chairs we were sitting in.

After some Googling I’m pretty confident in identifying this as a stoat (Mustela erminea), which Wikipedia informs me is “also known as the ermine or short-tailed weasel.” And this guy (or maybe girl, I didn’t feel comfortable trying to lift the tail of something with teeth that sharp) was already dressed in his best winter finery.

I got some more pix of him the next morning as he ripped edibles from the partridge carcasses we had discarded.


stoat

“What? You expect me to stop working and pose for you?”


He was moving pretty quickly, so I was using autofocus, which has its limitations. I got some better quality images than this one that don’t make me try to blink away the blurriness, but this was too good a pose to pass up. One of the carcasses, bigger than he was, got caught in the underbrush as he dragged it away. It didn’t seem to discourage him at all. As we left, he was still happily ripping off pieces of partridge flesh and organs to stash in his various hidey-holes.

I just hope it snows soon. Right now his fur makes him easy pickings for hawks, owls and coyotes.

In Memoriam

25 August 2012
connie clendenon

Constance

In an idle moment this morning, I went searching for names from my past. I didn’t expect what I found.

I served with Connie’s dad in the Philippines in 1966. He was my Communications Officer at the San Miguel Naval Communications Station. I was a Marine on Temporary Assigned Duty from Viet Nam to learn how to service some new electronic equipment that we were supposed to get but never did.

Connie was his 14 year old daughter, living on the base as a Naval dependent. I’m not sure how, but Connie and I became fast friends. Her real name was Connie Jean, but she hated it, so I called her Constance. Outside of work hours, we were near-constant companions for the duration of my TAD. We stayed in touch when I went back to ‘Nam, and after our separate returns to CONUS. I visited her in the D.C. area in the summer of 1967, and she came up to Maine in 1972 (I think) while on a winter break from school. We maintained sporadic contact over the years, and if there were lapses, it was because I was never very good at staying in touch with people. One December in the mid-’90s I finally sent her a bunch of birthday letters I owed her and wrote something like, “There, I’m all caught up.”

I never heard from her again. She had told me about the botched surgery and HIV-infected transfusion, but I kept hoping that she was just pissed at me for missing so many birthdays. Despite never being able to find her through directory assistance or internet search engines, I always expected to see her again someday, or pick up the phone and hear her voice, or get a birthday letter from her. She was a Constant in my life, a small part of me, even though I hadn’t heard from her in over a decade and a half. This morning I learned that I’ll have to wait for the next life to see her again. But that wasn’t the unexpected thing I found; that was just confirmation of what I suspected was the case.

Here’s the unexpected thing I found this morning: emotion. Nearing the end of my seventh decade on this planet, I’ve had a lot of people circulate through my life. Family, a lot of friends, a lot of acquaintances, some enemies. A bunch of them have died. I can’t recall feeling much when they departed, including my mother and father. Connie’s loss makes me feel sad. I’ve had friends and family die of drug and alcohol abuse; I’ve had friends and family die from accidents and bodies that have run down; I’ve had friends die from the aftereffects of Viet Nam, and the aftereffects of the aftereffects of Viet Nam. This is the one that got past my armor, and I don’t know why. I guess the not knowing is why I had to write this out. It’s disjointed and doesn’t do her memory justice, but it’s what my feeble brain can produce.

I’m seventeen years late with this: Goodbye, Constance. Godspeed.

test flower id

19 August 2012

Yarrr.

19 September 2011

Today be talk like a pirate day.

Amber Lamps

8 July 2011

This is what happens when an ambulance drives through a four-second exposure:


amber lamps

Amber Lamps


The Convergence of Evil and Stupidity

21 April 2011

From this post at Power Line:

http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2011/04/028868.php

[Edit 2011/08/26: Looks like the video’s been taken down. Here’s the Power Line Post.]

Happy Birthday to Me

18 October 2009

Big changes in my life since my last post.

The elderly couple whose properties I had been maintaining both died, and one of the properties was sold, leaving me with not much to feel productive about. I had promised myself that after they were gone so was I, and it seems to be working out that way. Forty years of Maine winters is an awful lot.


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A cold day in heck.


So here I am on my birthday, in a putatively warmer clime, hunting for a house. It’s kind of cool today, I don’t think the temperature broke 70; but it was in the 90s all last week and it’s supposed to warm back up to the upper 80s again later this week. Beats the 30s and snow they’re having today back in Maine.

I stumbled across a small state park this afternoon. Not much there, but it supplied a respite from people and buildings for a little while. Worth the three dollar entrance fee: finally learning how to identify the three different kinds of mangrove that grow around here. I also ran across these little guys:


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A bunch of tiny crabs at the water’s edge at Don Pedro Island State Park.


This one was crossing the path in front of me as I headed back to the car:


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“You’ll never get the secret recipe outta me!”


I paid for that shot. After crawling around on all fours, sticking my macro lens in the claw of this arthropod, I found I couldn’t straighten up. I had to make my way back to the car crabwise. My back is still in spasm. Still, it was worth it.

In The Merry, Merry Month of May, Day Two:

12 May 2009

The next day we went out to the Marshlands Conservancy, in Rye. The terrain was a little flatter than I like, but it was another very nice hike. I must have left my photographer’s brain at home, though, because I came back with a camera full of ruined shots from that day.

We saw a bunch of deer crossing the trail. The ones I managed to shoot either turned out headless, as they were passing behind trees when I tripped the shutter; or blurry, because I didn’t have sense enough to change the ISO setting on the camera to compensate for the dark overcast exacerbated by thick canopy. It sure was green in there, though.

I did manage to get an almost-passable shot of a pair of Great Egrets hunting along the marsh.


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Great Egret [Casmerodius albus] at the Marshlands Conservancy in Rye, N.Y.


Just before the first crack of thunder heralding the coming storm, we came upon a tiny cascade:


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Tiny cascade in Marshlands Conservancy, Rye, N.Y.


The last shot shows just how incredibly green it was in there. It doesn’t show how incredibly overrun with poison ivy it was. At least I haven’t started itching yet.

Right after that we hotfooted it out of the woods and made it back to the car just as the first drops started falling.

Next up: Day Three.

In The Merry, Merry Month of May: Day One

10 May 2009

The area around New York City is beautiful in early May: everything seems to be blooming at once. That will not be reflected in this post.

I just got back from my nominally annual trip to NYC to visit my sister for her birthday. We took a hike in a different part of Westchester County each of the three days I was there. On the first day, we went to the Cranberry Lake Preserve. While the gardens and grounds of the homes in that area are beautifully landscaped, not much seemed to be blooming in the woods.

This was one exception:


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Wild Geranium [Geranium maculatum]


A Jack-in-the-pulpit is a Jack-in-the-pulpit, right?

Ha! Apparently, there are three types of Jack-in-the-pulpit, and I didn’t have my book with me to make a positive identification. But this looks like the variety sometimes known as Indian-turnip:


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Northern Jack-in-the-pulpit [Arisaema stewardsonii]


We never did make it to the second lake, because the trail markers for one whole end of the preserve were nonexistent. They ran out at the same place on two different trails: the old quarry left over from the building of the Kensico Dam. The one quarry pond we found was a nice place to have lunch, though.


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Quarry pond at Cranberry Lake Preserve


There was lots of wildlife. At the quarry pond, we spotted a water snake I was too slow to capture with my camera. We also saw what might have been a redheaded woodpecker, although it was too distant for positive ID. Later in the hike, my nephew with the young eyes spotted this guy sunning himself beside the trail:


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Northern Black Racer [Coluber constrictor constrictor]


Despite not getting to see the whole preserve, we had a pretty good outing. Next up: Day Two.

Update: I’ve added a link to the Cranberry Lake Preserve’s website (just click the name of the preserve either here or at the top in the original body of this post). Not including it earlier was an oversight on my part, now corrected.

Chrome Memories

30 April 2009

The other day, I was driving through Windham, trying to find a boat ramp (I never did find it), when I drove past this beauty on route 302:


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1956 Ford Fairlane Town Sedan


I drove on for about a half mile and then made a U-turn. It was just what I thought it was.


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1956 Ford Fairlane Town Sedan


If the captions haven’t tipped you off, it’s a 1956 Ford Fairlane Town Sedan.


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1956 Ford Fairlane Town Sedan


Aside from a few cosmetic differences, this is the car my father bought new in 1956. Same colors. Same chrome trim. Aaaaagh! The chrome!


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The chrome! It burns!


Even as an eleven-year-old, I had large amounts of patience and OCD. But the chrome polish was handed to me, and this grille was a killer. There was a lot of it, and the back edges were sharp. And it sucked even more in cold weather, when my hands hurt anyway.


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1956 Ford Fairlane Town Sedan


Still, if I hadn’t just blown my life savings on a new truck, I would’ve been sorely tempted to buy this one-owner sweetie. Chrome killer-grille and all.

Hey, I never said I was rational. OK, maybe I did, but I lied.


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