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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Locavore Presentation This Weekend (Blog 342)

At our Botetourt County, Virginia home this Saturday, June 3 from 9 to noon, Elaine and I will give a presentation on how to be locavores.  We, as well, will talk about our solar panels, garden, chickens, wildlife habitat management, serve lunch, give a tour, and have copies of our  book Living the Locavore Lifestyle given out as part of the $20.00 cost to attend.  Here is the link to our event, which is a fundraiser for the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Milk Snake, Not a Copperhead (Blog 341)

Last week, I wrote about seeing a copperhead near the stoop of our Botetourt County, Virginia home.  But as I told Elaine, I was not quite sure that my identification was correct.  Today, as soon as I came home from the last day of school for Botetourt County, I saw the snake once again near our stoop.

Elaine earlier in the week had bought me "snake tongs" so that I could pick up any snake for examination or photos.  So I quickly retrieved the tongs and used them to hoist up the snake. Immediately, I was able to see that the creature had a rounded head and round eyes, not at all like the head and eyes of a venomous snake like a copperhead.

Nevertheless, Elaine wanted the milk snake far away from her stoop, so I took the milk snake some 75 yards away from the house and released it unharmed.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

"Birds, Snakes, and Skinks in and around Our Virginia Home (Blog 340)

There are things that seem to happen during the late spring every year at our Botetourt County, Virginia home.  A few days ago, the first copperhead of the season lay sunning next to our front stoop.  A few days later, a black rat snake visited our sundeck, perhaps lured by phoebes that had been nesting under our eaves.

When I went outside to take pictures of the rat snake, the young phoebes exploded from the nest. Had they randomly picked that moment to leave forever their first home, or had I, or the black rat snake, accelerated their desire to depart? It is one of the mysteries of nature, no doubt.

A few days later, the skinks started sunning themselves on the front stoop, and Elaine began warning me that they were not to come into the house - as is their habit several times each spring and summer. I am not quite sure how to keep a skink out of a house, as these lizards invariable make their way inside every year.

The natural world is often just outside our front and back doors if we will take the time to look.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Virginia Gobblers Remain Silent (Blog 339)

Although I have tagged out on Virginia turkeys for the season, I still am going to listen for birds behind our house every morning.  I have not heard any toms all week whereas previous weeks I heard as many as four.

Of course, some of those toms may have been killed on the adjacent farms and the rainy, cold weather probably has something to do with the lack of gobbling.  More rain is forecast for the next three days, and I would not be optimistic about hearing any gobblers during that type of weather.

Here's my prediction. I believe the weather will change next week, and there will be intense gobbling from multiple toms next week in many places including our woodlot and around Virginia and West Virginia.  Of course, the seasons will be over in both states, but such is life and the vagaries of the spring some years.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Most Beautiful Bird in the Spring Gobbler Woods (Blog 338)

Last Friday, while turkey hunting in West Virginia, I heard my first scarlet tanager of the year.  Stopping hunting for a while, I tried to spot the bright red body and black wings of this typical late arriving migratory bird.  But I could not, so I continued on my way.

Sunday while hosting friend Doak Harbison and my son Mark on my family's Sinking Creek land in Craig County, a scarlet tanager suddenly flew down from its typical tree tops habitat and lit on a branch at eye level.  Doak and Mark had never seen a tanager before and wanted to know what it was.  The scarlet tanager definitely has the ability to dazzle.