Saturday, June 30, 2007

Five-lined Skink

by Donna L. Watkins

The Five-lined Skink (Eumeces fasciatus) is one of the most common lizards in the Eastern United States, so we saw them when we lived in Alabama and enjoy seeing them here in Central Virginia.

© Donna L. Watkins - Female Adult Five-Lined Skink
View Enlarged Image
You can see how they got their name with this photo that shows the light-colored lines. They also have a bright blue tail which is what usually attracts our attention as they dart about our deck and grounds. Their size is from 5 to 8 inches long.

Our cat, Squeek, enjoys seeing them squeeze under the screen door on the screened porch. She sits there on the rug watching and now and then one will tease her. They are poisonous to household pets and having been a feral kitty, Squeek knows better than to think of it as a snack.

Although these skinks are smooth like a salamander, they are lizards. Lizards are reptiles which have claws and ear openings, while salamanders are amphibians which lack both claws and ear openings.

The females retain the striped and blue tailed pattern for life, but the adult male's coloring becomes brown or olive.  During mating season in Spring, the head and jaws of the male turn orange-red which helps them to attract a female.

Photo by Donna L. Watkins - Adult Male Five-Lined Skink
View Enlarged Image
Their nest is created in rotting logs, loose soil, or leaf litter where 4-15 eggs are laid. We had one nest under a garden statue of a Mallard Duck.

The female skink guards the nest until the young are born. After only 1-2 days the newborn skinks are left to their own instincts.

To attract skinks or other reptiles to your garden, provide lots of shelter in the form of dense vegetation, brush and rock piles, and fallen logs. Let leaf litter accumulate and place a rock or log where it receives morning sun as an invitation for basking reptiles.

They will reward your efforts by consuming roaches, grasshoppers, beetle larvae, spiders, crickets, flies, grubs, crustaceans, worms and even small mice, a diet more varied than that of some other skinks.

They are extremely important to humans as natural pest controls and play an important role in the survival of many larger lizards, birds, mammals, and snakes as they are a food source for these predatory animals.

One of their defense mechanisms is a tail that easily breaks. If confronted or grasped, the skink's tail breaks away and continues to wiggle wildly keeping the attention of the attacker on the tail, while allowing the skink to escape. The tail does grow back, but not to the original length, and it is left more defenseless until then, so viewing them from a distance is best since skinks shouldn't be handled.

Although considered terrestrial (ground dwelling), the Five-lined Skink will climb a decayed snag in its forest home where it knows insects can be found. Although secretive and wary of anything that moves, skinks occasionally bask on rocks or logs in the sun, but take shelter under logs, rocks and leaf litter in the heat of the afternoon.

Its most comfortable temperature range is 78-85 degrees and it is most active during the day. In areas where Winter brings cold, they hibernate in rotting logs, under large rocks, or underground.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Bug Walk at Ivy Creek Natural Area - June 2007

©Photo: Great Spangled Fritillary Butterflies Mating

Ivy Creek is in the city of Charlottesville, VA, but feels so remote on the trails. The Rivanna River is on the border and the diversity of critters is a delight. They offer a lot of walks for the public so Randal and I took a bug walk given by Peter Warren.

View Bug Walk Photo Album at Ivy Creek Natural Area - Charlottesville, VA

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

God's Direction

by Donna L. Watkins

How about you? Do you ever feel like you're hanging off a cliff? Like the old joke where a man falls off and is hanging by a large root with nothing between him and the ground 100 feet below. He is screaming, "Help! Somebody help me!" God says, "I'll help you! Let go!" There is silence for a moment and the man shouts, "Is there anybody else up there?"

Wouldn't you like to have a fax or email from God with a list of instructions for your life? Directions for the road so you'll know where to make the turns and be sure to arrive at the exact place He wants you to at the correct time? I sure would!

I seem to get hung up in the "Lord, what do you want me to do next?" mode for way too long. Maybe it comes from being a recovering perfectionist. Sometimes we don't make decisions because we're not sure that it's the "right" answer. Nobody likes to make mistakes so we can avoid them by procrastinating and "waiting on the Lord."

I read that the Columbia space shuttle's guidance system only kicks in when it's several miles out in space. Maybe God's guidance system works the same way. It doesn't kick in until you're in motion, which means you've got to get off the launch pad. If you stay frozen waiting for God to "show you" the answer or until you hear His voice for certain, you may not ever get direction.

Many times we have a task before us that we have not done. Maybe it's not the one we'd like to have, so we keep hoping God will change His mind and change life around a bit to fit more of what we picture it to be. God might be saying to you, "You'll hear more from Me after you have done what I've already shown you to do."

Hebrews 11:8 says that "By faith, Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going."

Sometimes we have to just get moving in the direction that God has shown us. If you've ever walked outside at night with a flash light, you know you can only shed light on a small area in front of you. We've forgotten to get the mail before it got dark and had to tromp down the driveway to the mailbox with a flashlight.

You've got to keep the light only a foot or so before your feet. If you shine the light further in the distance, you're likely to trip over something. If we're looking ahead to what we want the picture of life to be without taking the first steps that are at our feet, we are not going to get to where God wants us to go. You won't see beyond the bend in the road until you get there to make the turn.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:7 that "we walk by faith, not by sight." It's nice to know where we're supposed to be going, but God wants us to trust Him with our lives and He knows we may get overwhelmed with the big picture, so He gives us a few steps at a time.

If we give God a willing heart and trust Him to have the best for our lives, we will begin to care less about what's around the bend, and enjoy what's at our feet. So take those steps that you know to take now and see what God has for you when you get further down the road. You don't need to know it all now.

Don't worry about mistakes. Those with great wisdom know that there is much knowledge in mistakes and they use it for their benefit. As you walk, you will find closed doors, denied access and roadblocks ... but keep in mind that these are as much a part of Divine guidance as a clean and clear path. And you know how rare those clean paths are!

Get up and get moving!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

One Backyard Habitat At a Time

This bee chose one of our Foxglove plants to snooze on for the night. When I go out in the garden early in the morning before it warms up, I'll find bees snoozing on many blooms. They sometimes snuggle up inside of them. What a great place for a bee to wake up to breakfast!

Do you notice the fuzzy tips of the foxglove bloom? There must be a purpose. Maybe it's to give bees and hummingbirds a brushing. After all they don't carry combs around. God does everything with purpose and I've got a zillion questions when I get to Heaven.

Watching the natural world around us fills me with awe and wonder for the Great God that created it all. He made the grass and flowers and birds and bees and animals and then .... He made us. What a loving God to create the beautiful gift of the natural world just for us to enjoy.

Who can enter a forest or a garden and not sense the presence of God? I believe that God dwells in gardens and forests waiting to meet with us. After all, that was His original design.

Get out there and enjoy His gift. Create a Backyard Habitat for the critters and creatures He will send your way. He watches over the sparrow ... but He may need your hands to help out. If you have a passion to know more about the natural world and creating wildlife habitats, take the free NWF Wildlife University Course online.

It is not enough to set aside special places like parks, refuges and sanctuaries for wildlife. These places are critical, and their establishment must continue. But so much land has been, and will continue to be, developed for human uses, that only individual land stewardship will save most of the world’s species from extinction. One backyard at a time.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Black-Winged Damselfly

The Black-winged Damselflies are back. They've been delightful to watch in our yard. Usually we find them in the back since that's where the pond is.

The Black-winged can be more easily identified than many damselflies since it is the only one with solid black wings. There is some color difference on the wings between the male and female with the male being a darker color and the female being more brownish.

However, the best distinguishing mark to spot the females is a tiny white spot at the top of their wings as this photo shows.

Dragonflies and damselflies are not the male and female names for the same insect, which is what I thought for many years.

Damselflies hold their wings together over their back when at rest. Dragonflies generally have their wings spread. Another tip is that damselflies have elongated or wide heads, while dragonflies are rounded. The photo to the right clearly shows a broad head on the male.

These beautiful beneficial creatures begin their lives as nymphs in the larval stage, living underwater for a year of more. The aquatic nymphs of the Black-winged Damselfly are typically found in flowing streams.

If you look for them along stream banks, you will probably see a male defending its territory, since they spend much of their time within a small area throughout the day.

They choose their site for its suitability for egg-laying. Another consideration is a perch for the male to keep an eye on his territory. Maybe an overhanging branch similar to how hummingbirds defend their feeders and flowers. Damselflies feed on small flying insects like mosquitoes and gnats, which they catch in flight.

The male will even defend his territory from other species and especially other males. Damselflies mate on the wing in the same unusual fashion as dragonflies and after mating with a female he will immediately return to his perch.

The nest is just below the water's surface on some type of stationary debris to which the eggs will stick. They hatch in about 7 days and the nymphs swim away to feed. As I've been playing around in the pond with a little tea strainer I've caught several of the larvae and was able to get the magnified photo of one of them while it was still in the strainer.

This is the first time I've seen this in our pond and after identifying what it was I was very excited. Our little habitat at Bluebird Cove gets better every year. It's wonderful to see things balance themselves out.

The nymph will molt from 6-15 times before emerging into what we see flying around. The last stage crawls out of the water onto vegetation before the adult emerges. Most species have one generation per year. Adults emerge spring, summer or fall and live from a few weeks to a few months. Seems like such a short time for such a beautiful creature, but that is similar to butterflies also.

Adults feeding on flying insects are very effective at reducing mosquito populations in the air while nymphs eat mosquito larvae in the water.

Like most of their adult behavior, the feeding ritual is very interesting. They will choose a place to perch that is directly facing a sunny area. When another insect flies into the area, the damselfly will speed out and catch it in flight with its hairy hind legs, and then return to its perch to feast on it by chewing.

Fortunately we're able to watch this from our breakfast area window which seems to be a favored spot for them since there are plenty of bushes and stair rails and posts. It's also not very far from the pond.

Ponds provide an added habitat feature to your Backyard Wildlife Habitat. Ours is only about 4' wide by 8' long but it has been busy since a few months after we completed it.

We were blessed to have Charlie Allred help with the pond project. He was the one who "paved the way" for the one we had in Alabama.

Charlie is also known as "The Butterfly Bench" man since he made the steel butterfly bench for us which has been a major attraction here at Bluebird Cove.

We've got a lot of wings fluttering around here .... if you get near Central Virginia, remember you're welcome to come sit with me on the butterfly bench and take a walk-about. Until then, maybe you'd like to see some recent critters and blooms of Bluebird Cove.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Taking Time For Your Dreams

by Donna L. Watkins

© 2006 Donna L. Watkins - Bluebird Cove Walk To Our Door

Do you take time for dreaming? Like this squirrel who knows how to chill out on the cool concrete garden bench, you need time to get away to where the birds gather ... to dream!

Dreams are of God. When you dream you go beyond human limitations and today's realities. You see beyond what you can accomplish and begin to imagine what God can accomplish through you.

Don't expect anybody to give much credence to your dreams. Remember Joseph's brothers who mocked him and even sold him as a slave because they were sick of hearing about his dreams. Those who don't dream will always minimize those who do.

Dreams that stretch you to the point of discomfort are more God than you. He wants to be involved. Actually, a better mindset on it would be that He wants you to be involved in His dream. Sometimes we leave dreams behind because we don't see how WE can make them happen. As usual when it comes to God things, "it's not about me."

What has God allowed you to see? He won't lift you up and plant you in the middle of the dream, and you won't be able to make it happen with your own abilities, so dreaming isn't always comfortable even for the dreamers. The nation of Israel had a dream of getting out of slavery. Don't you imagine as the taskmasters loaded more and more work on them that they pictured being able to walk away from their heavily-laden lives and start over afresh someplace else?

Their dream came true when God sent Moses to deliver them ... but they had to walk through the wilderness to get to their dream. Many of them grumbled and complained and dreamed of the food they had to eat back in Egypt. Their stomachs made their minds willing to give up freedom for a bigger meal. After all the hardships they'd lived with in Egypt, you would've thought they'd have more stamina to make the trip, but human nature wants life easy and memories of "how it used to be" are very altered in our minds from the reality of it all.

To make your dreams come true, you will have to refuse to turn back. You'll need to go the distance and many times with God only revealing one step at a time. Most of the nation of Israel never stopped complaining and they never entered into their dream. It took them 40 years in the desert because they grumbled. It was only a 40-day walk through that wilderness to the Promised Land.

How many times have we allowed grumbling to steal our dreams and visions? How much of our lives have we handed over to be stamped "Not Fulfilled." Regardless of what advertising and the media want you to believe, life isn't handed to you on a silver platter no matter how much money you have. We are here to work our way through, but it can be done in joy and peace and with God's favor upon us. Joseph went through the betrayal by Potiphar's wife and imprisonment, but his dream carried him to be ruler of Egypt. He trusted God to fulfill it but always kept his eyes on it.

Dreams hold the joys of today and the hopes of tomorrow. Protect them and feed them with The Word. Don't set your time table to them. Let God reveal the timing.

The Word For You Today had these three things to remember about dreams:

1) Dreams are specific, not general; personal, not public
2) Dreams are usually outside the realm of the expected
3) Dreams separate winners from losers. Dreamers are always a minority.

What are the dreams that God has shown you? Have you tried to make them happen and given up? Renew them and relive them in your mind, and then let God show you what the step for today is. Not how to make it all happen ... but what needs to be done now.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

I'm Alive In The Garden

If I've got energy I like to be moving and doing something with my hands. This time of year I love making the yard look appealing to birds, lizards, toads, butterflies, bees, bugs and so much more.

Visitors enjoy the walk to the door. I have a friend, Carolyn, who says as soon as she gets out of the car and walks the path, birds and critters are flying and darting about everywhere. I love it!

I just believe that God made me to move and my favorite place is amongst plants near and in the woods. After all, we were created to spend our days with God in a garden. Just because sin closed the doors to that garden, doesn't mean we can't create our own to enjoy with God.

That's the visual image I keep as rheumatoid arthritis attempts to keep me from moving. It's much too easy to get caught up in our own agenda and forget to say, "Is this the direction you want me to go, Lord?" I have so many ideas that I often forget to ask that question until I hit the proverbial brick wall when it's obvious it's not the right direction.

But even a "closed door" shows God's leading us. That may be the only way He has of telling some of us busy people to stop and reconsider. But in the garden, time stands still and I am all ears to what God has to say to me because all around me is His Creation. His Creative Energy!

When I get weary from garden work, I head for the hammock in the backyard. I can truly relax in a hammock. I like to keep it swinging. I think it reminds me of when my daddy would push me on the swings as a child. I can still hear my voice begging for more. "Push me, Daddy!"

There is something magical about a hammock and since ours was a gift from our friends, The Allreds, it's a very special place to be. In colder weather, I imagine my Heavenly Daddy swinging me in the hammock as He talks to me about His love for me. We are each His "one and only" because none of us are alike. We are truly unique and specially loved for who we are.

If you don't think of yourself as special, you better work on that and get into agreement with the Word of God on who you are!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Clipping Your Pet's Nails

by Cheryl Faulkenburry
Center Hill School

Our Chihuahua does not like having her nails clipped. She goes nuts the minute she sees the nail clippers and bites and growls at us when we try to clip her nails. Is there anything we can do to get her over her fear?

Nail clipping can be a pretty fearful process for animals. Many animals don’t like to be held tight and have someone touch their feet. If the nails are cut too short, the quick may be cut causing the animal pain and leading to even greater dislike of the process.

To help animals get over the fear of having their nails clipped, you need to start with some handling exercises. Get your animals used to be touched all over. If your animal is sensitive to touch (some cats get over-stimulated and lash out), just touch your animal a few times for the first few sessions. Slowly increase the amount of touching. Don’t just touch your animals on the back and head. Handle their feet, look in their ears, lift their lips and look at their teeth.

Get your animals used to all sorts of touching, looking, and holding. Start the process when an animal is young so they will think it’s natural to be touched all over. This will make vet visits and grooming much easier.

As far as a fear of nail clippers, start associating the clippers with good things. Put them next to her food dish as she eats. Show the clippers to her and give her a treat. Touch her nails with the clippers, but don’t cut them. Give her a treat.

Desensitizing a dog to any kind of fear takes time. This process cannot happen in just one day. Spread it out over a few weeks. If your animal is not ready to go on to the next step, take a few days extra. Don’t push too fast and always end on a positive note.

When you do get around to clipping the nails, only do one nail the first day. Give lots of praise and a treat. It may take over a week to get all her nails done at first, but a least they are getting clipped. Long nails can damage an animal’s foot. Eventually you will be able to clip more nails at a time. The idea is to leave things on a happy note.

Ask About Your Pet's Behavior Problem

Cheryl Falkenburry has traveled the world helping people make sense of mind-boggling animal behavior. Working with animal behaviorists in Tucson, Arizona and England, majoring in psychology, and becoming a certified parenting educator prepared Cheryl to teach both humans and animals. She has helped thousands of people develop new and exciting relationships with the animals who share their lives. Get details on phone and email consultations.

Monday, June 11, 2007

180 Ways To Save Money

From The Frugal Lawyer Blog

Here's a list of 180 money saving tips that can turn your financial life around 180 degrees. These are things that I have learned while reading blogs or other books. I’ve tried to provide links to blog posts and other articles that elaborate more on the tip. This was a fun exercise. While I personally don’t practice every single tip listed, it was a good way to find out how I can do better on saving money.


1. Wash and vacuum your car at home.
2. Buy a used car. New cars drop significantly in value as soon as you drive off the lot.
3. Get rid of your car. If you’re married, just have one.
4. Keep your tires inflated at the correct pressure.
5. Do not carry unneeded weight in your vehicle. Excess weight puts a heavier load on the engine.
6. Accelerate slowly and smoothly. Avoid jackrabbit starts. Get into high gear as quickly as possible.

Read the entire article with all money-saving categories

Get more tips and articles on finances at The Frugal Life.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Mayapple and Native Wildflowers

The photo is of our first leaf of a Mayapple that we planted last Fall. Since it's near the pond, I think of it as a covered picnic area for the frogs. I planted it near the pond, just in case we had any dreaming frogs that desired such a canopy.

The common name refers to the May blooming of its apple-blossom-like flower. Although the leaves, roots, and seeds are poisonous if ingested in large quantities, the roots were used as a cathartic by Native Americans. The edible ripe golden-yellow fruits can be used in jellies.

I discovered a new site called, Celebrating Wildflowers, which helps to educate the public about the many values of native plants. The site activities emphasize:

* The aesthetic value of plants - a field of wildflowers is a beautiful sight
* The recreational value of plants - picking berries is fun for the whole family
* The biological value of plants - native plants support other life
* The medicinal value of plants - chemicals from plants help combat sickness
* The economic value of plants - plant material such as floral greens are commercially valuable
* The conservation of native plants - protecting and maintaining native plant habitat

My favorite area is "Why Garden with Native Wildflowers?" It saves time and money and natural resources to use native plants. We have been establishing our habitat with natives and it's been incredible to us how they require no care. They've been bred to survive on their own, but it's amazing to see it happen in your own backyard.

Visit the site to learn more.

If you'd like to find native plants for your yard, the LBJ Wildflower Center site has a search where you can choose your state and soil and sun conditions and find which plant works.

Natives make gardening a whole lot easier because they don't need to be fussed over once they are settled in. They're certainly the "green" choice since they don't take water or fertilizer and they are more resistant to bugs and typical garden problems.

During a drought we can really see the difference in our garden between the natives and the common nursery stock.

The wildlife know the difference also since natives bloom and produce food at the right time for the wildlife cycles. What an amazing web of beauty it all is when it's working together.

Surrogate Mom for Baby Owls

We are blessed to have The Wildlife Center of Virginia nearby for a place to take sick or injured wildlife for rehabilitation.

Recently, a local news article mentioned The Wildlife Center because two baby owls there are being "fostered" by a resident non-releasable Great-horned Owl. Such stories are so heartwarming to me. This mama owl has been a surrogate to 10 other owls besides these two. What an example of turning the seemingly bad events of life into good. We learn so much from the natural world and animals around us.

Make a note of this wonderful option we have to take injured wildlife. Be sure to make note of where you found it because they want to return it to the habitat it came from. Matter of fact, you can be the one to release it if you will return to pick it up after its recovery. That's been a very exciting experience for us.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)

As a pet parent, it’s important that you know about potential problem areas for your companion animals before they become serious.

Unfortunately, urinary tract problems are all too common in cats. Here are the warning signs of which you need to be aware:

• Frequent urination
• Urination in places other than the litter box
• Straining to urinate
• Bloody urination

There is evidence to suggest that stress can be one of the primary causes of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD). Stress can lead to the release of hormones that constrict the muscles of the lower urinary tract. Changes in the household routine, a new companion animal in the home, changes in weather and lack of attention can all lead to increased stress in cats. Be as in-tune with your cat as possible, and take steps to decrease or eliminate stressors in his or her life.

Cats evolved as desert animals, so they don’t have a strong instinctive drive to drink water. This can result in the accumulation of minerals in the kidneys and bladder, leading to the formation of crystals or stones. Using a continuous water fountain can attract the attention of cats, encouraging them to drink more. Using canned foods like Instinctive Choice that contain water from biological sources will help to increase the amount of fluid intake.

By taking preventative measures now, you may be able to prevent your cat from developing urinary health issues, helping him or her to live a longer, healthier life.

Source: This article is from the Healthy Pet Newsletter, a free monthly email newsletter.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Unconditional Love

by Donna L. Watkins

© 2006 Donna L. Watkins - Frog
Do you sometimes find yourself proclaiming gloom and doom over your life? I have a friend that has been having a grand time of life lately and the other day she began "expecting" things to go badly because they had gone so good for quite awhile. Why don't we expect to have a good time of life. Why do we believe those old wives tales about "knocking on wood" and not saying anything or "something will go wrong."

If we expect or fear something is going to soon go wrong with a great situation, do we have any effect on whether it goes sour? If we expect something to happen to change the joy of life into the dreads of life, do we begin looking for it happen? Are we waiting with expectation of evil instead of rejoicing in the delights of our days?

Since every action begins with a thought, how does it affect our lives when we begin thinking that things will go wrong? Do we begin to notice slight imperfections in relationships or circumstances and make a "mountain out of a mole hill?" If we were rejoicing, we would be in mercy mode and slight irritations or bad moments would slide right on by almost unnoticed.

Instead we begin to be in judgment mode because we have actually made a judgment about what our life is going to be like. Will those thoughts begin to seek justification for that judgment? We do like to be correct, don't we? Even to our own hurt.

Thoughts of "this isn't going to last" may be based on a root belief system operating that says, "I don't deserve to be this happy."

Nobody has had a perfect childhood or adult life and I've not met anybody that received perfect unconditional love from parents, siblings, friends, boyfriends or spouses. Relationships are made up of less than perfect people. Only God gives us unconditional love, but again, we may feel that we don't deserve that either. Yes, God is love and He loves everybody, but when you bring it down to just YOU ... do YOU accept His unconditional love or are you living a performance-based lifestyle that says love is based on rules?

Do you read the Bible with God's mercy and love on your mind ... or do you see the law and a God with a gavel ready to judge you for not being all that you think you should be. All that you think you should be based on your interpretation of the Scriptures.

When we put those kinds of burdens on ourselves, we also place them on others around us. We can't give unconditional love if we are not willing to accept His. Galatians 5:14 tells us that the whole law is fulfilled in one word, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." We know from the Parable of the Good Samaritan that everybody is our neighbor. Paul reviewing the 10 Commandments in Romans 13:9 tells us, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

If we aren't loving ourselves, we're not living the Christian life too well.

Expect good. Allow yourself good. Be good to yourself. Enjoy life. Do things you WANT to do, not only what you HAVE to do. Falling in love with yourself will allow love to flow out to others and your relationships will become rich and fulfilling and you will change lives.

In these days of self-doubt, poor self-esteem and continual spread of doom and gloom in the media, we need to see God's kind of love that says, "You are of value." Let me speak into your heart and say that your thoughts, your desires, your dreams and wants that won't leave you alone are there for a reason. God places passion within us for His purposes. Seek His face and ask Him to direct your steps. Walk in love towards yourself and you will naturally begin to love others. Reach out and accept His unconditional love for you.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Baby Birds, Bunnies, Frogs and Dragonflies

We've been seeing baby bunnies. They have been keeping the weeds trimmed in our small patch of grass out back. We don't mind "weeds" coming up in the grass since our wildlife enjoy the labor of removing them for us.

There's been plenty of evidence that the baby bunnies are nibbling away at many of the plants also. I don't mind sharing, but this morning I found that Peter Rabbit had consumed all of the morning glories I had planted to climb the willow tree.

Look at that sweet face ... do morning glories really matter when you want to be sure that little tummy is full? They'll grow back.

We have had so many baby birds this year. I have literally lost count. I wish I had journaled them. I've been so excited that our habitat has provided for wildlife, especially since a lot of acreage nearby was destroyed last year for a development of homes. Maybe that's why we have had so many crammed into our one acre of Bluebird Cove (what we fondly call our place).

I've been taking tons of photos. Yesterday I downloaded 244 photos and that was from 4 days. I get carried away having a digital, but only 69 of those were keepers. I don't put all of them on our gallery site, but y
ou can see some of the baby birds and other critters in this year's Bluebird Cove 2007 Critters online gallery.

If it's blooms you enjoy, I've been snapping away in the garden also. View the Bluebird Cove 2007 Garden gallery.

Our pond is producing some exciting things also. There are tadpoles growing. The predominant frog this year appears to be the Green Frog. Not as exciting a chorus as the American Toads, but combine them with the tree frogs and I fall asleep smiling.

This year I discovered dragonfly larvae. I scooped it up in a small strainer and thought it was a leech or something weird. So glad I took a photo and realized what it was when I could magnify it.

Nice to know we're producing those beautiful creatures to flutter around with the butterflies. Our pond is only 4' x 8' so I get so tickled at how small a habitat you can build and still make a big difference for wildlife. View photo album of the pond project.

With all of that life about me, it's hard to think of the reality that wildlife has to struggle now and then. We named one of this year's baby squirrels, Scrawny Tail, because her tail dragged behind her and was barely an inch wide. That didn't keep her from enjoying the food and special treats she got. Read the entire Scrawny Tail Story.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Butterfly Bench Visit

How many times have I mentioned if you get anywhere near Central Virginia to be sure to drop by to sit with me on the Butterfly Bench with some herbal tea?

One of the subscribers to this mailing mentioned months back that she was going to get here and she did. Sheila and Ed Shepardson visited with us on June 1st and as you can tell from the photo, we were all smiles. You'll also notice that it was too hot a day for herb tea so we had homemade lemonade made with honey.

What a delight it was to walk around Bluebird Cove with Sheila. Randal thoroughly enjoyed Ed, so we all had a grand time of it. We spent some time at the pond enjoying all the frogs who were more than generous with their poses. And since it was an unusually warm day, we retired to the living room to chat and chuckle.

So ... let this serve as a reminder to you that there's always a welcome sign on the Butterfly Bench. Maybe some critter and garden photos of our place will entice you to schedule a tea party.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Dogs Are Thinking

Dog owners have long maintained that their pooches have a lot more going on between their furry ears than scientists acknowledge. Now, new research is adding to the growing evidence that man's best friend thinks a lot more than many humans have believed.

The provocative new experiment indicated that dogs can do something that previously only humans, including infants, have been shown capable of doing: decide how to imitate a behavior based on the specific circumstances in which the action takes place.
Read article.

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