Wednesday, October 29, 2008

An Update On That Catfish

I used some photo's of a rather large catfish for the PhotoHunt weekly theme of 'dark' a several weeks ago so I thought I would update you on the catfish. Of course there is no way to tell exactly how many catfish there are in the pond, but I have a sneaking suspicion that there is only one the size of that one I caught and returned to the pond.

Channel catfish do not reproduce very well in small ponds unless they have suitable nesting sites. They need cavity type structures such as holes in a bank, rock formations, or perhaps old downed trees with holes or protected areas under them.

We have not added any structure to simulate this environment in the pond so any of the large catfish could possibly be from the original stocking of the pond (or perhaps the rare second generation) and that was years ago. GG stocked with some small catfish during the spring, but it will likely take several more months before they reach a respectable size of 1 to 2 pounds.

During the summer a very large catfish would come up to eat with the carp, turtles, and smaller fish. We would only see one at the time and as you can see it is appears healthy and hungry.

And here is a very short video of the catfish chowing down on the fish food.

Please Note: This video includes audio that can be adjusted on the video. The audio is not excessively loud, but you may want to adjust the initial volume settings depending on your situation. Also, you can view a full-screen version by selecting the small icon immediately to the left of 'vimeo' in the bottom right corner of the video block. You can return to the normal view by pressing [Esc].

Catfish from BakerWatson on Vimeo.
Hopefully next year we will have many more catfish coming up to eat. A steady diet of high-protein food can double their growth rate in the first few years. If we stock new fingerlings next spring I expect we will use some type of enclosed cages to protect them from predators during the first weeks/months. This will also give us a chance to feed them regularly to promote faster growth before we release them into the pond.


Friday, October 24, 2008

The Itsy Bitsy Spider Crawled Up The.....

When it comes to scary there are spiders and, well, there are spiders. Some are harmless little creatures just going about their daily life bearing no ill-will toward the huge, clumsy humans they encounter. And then there are...the other ones.

You know the ones I'm talking about. Those hide-in-your-shoes-waiting-for-you-to-slide-your--unsuspecting-little-tootsies-in spiders. Those running-across-the-floor-when-you-turn-on-the-kitchen-light-in-the-middle-of-the-night creatures with eight legs. Those are the types that get to me.

And let's not forget the crawl-across-your-bare-foot-while-you-are-in-the-shower-with-soap-in-your-eyes monsters. You've been there. You know them only too well.

But the ones that really get to me are those diabolical ones. I'm talking pure evil here. The mere thought of them can make you break out in a cold sweat. The absolute worst. Those hide-between-the-sheets-and-wait-for-your-warm-body-to-slide-in monsters. They are so sly. They wait for you to get nice and comfortable, warm and cozy in your safe little bed. Then you feel it. The slight touch along your leg. It is almost like a gentle tickle.

At first you think it is your imagination, but then you feel it again. It stops. You wait. It moves again. Higher. You hold your breath. You are deathly still. Visions of horror movies run through your head. You can feel it against your skin. You feel the legs touching you. Crawling. Higher. You.....

Oh!...Wait!... I'm getting off track here. I just wanted to share with you a shot of a regular garden spider. Nothing dangerous here, folks. It may look a bit scary, but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't harm you despite its sheer size and those hideous hairy legs.

Then again it probably wouldn't hurt anything if you made a quick check between the sheets before you go to bed tonight. You never can tell.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I Hope To See You In The Spring

I'm going to miss a lot of the creatures around the pond now that the weather is changing and their summer time has passed. Some have migrated. Some will hibernate. And some, like the fish, basically just slow down for the cold weather and we will not see them as often. Of all those creatures I think I'll probably miss the green herons the most.

This year the green herons have been special. It started back in the spring with the rescue of a trapped green heron as recounted here. That was one of the incidents that prompted the creation of the blog.

Throughout the summer the green herons visited almost daily. At first there were 2 and then 3 when what appeared to be a juvenile arrived. Eventually we seemed to see just 2 at the same time and then primarily just 1.

Green herons are known to wander a bit after breeding so we presume the parents stayed around for some time as their offspring learned the ropes and then departed. Perhaps they lived nearby and brought it to the pond periodically until it was old enough to venture out on its own. Whatever the case, the remaining one that visited often appeared to be an immature bird by its markings.
This bird and I spent many hours around the pond together. We were both visitors there, but for different purposes. I was there to capture photographs. It was there to capture its daily meals. Over time it became more accustomed to my presence. It allowed me to come much closer and eventually it even approached me at times.

Of course it always maintained a safe distance, but I noted the change. I could tell it was growing much more tolerant and had begun to consider me as a natural fixture around the pond. We were on good terms. Some days I would stay far away and let it hunt in peace. Other days I would approach closer, but I always tried to avoid putting too much pressure on my friend.

Finally it was letting me get close enough to capture some its life around the pond. Often it would hunt mostly along the bank but sometimes it would concentrate its hunting near the cages where many of the small fish congregated.
Then all too soon the day came. It wasn't there. Nor was it there the next day. I watched for a week thinking maybe I had just missed it or it had changed its daily schedule.

But obviously the time had come for green herons to leave. That mysterious internal clock said it was time to go. It was time to head south.

I hope the heron finds its way back next spring. Maybe by then it will have a mate of its own. And maybe they will bring their young ones by to show them the best places to fish for lunch and teach them by example how to stalk the shallow water for prey.

We will be there waiting for them.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What This Blog Needs More Of

I was looking through some of the photo's used in the slideshow in the sidebar and I realized one thing the blog needs more of. It needs more yellow. Yep. More yellow.

We have lots of greens and browns, the reds and pinks come up pretty often, there are blues here and there, and even orange pops up from time to time. But, there is not a lot of yellow. So I went off searching the photo archives for a bit of yellow or gold to balance things out.

Now I don't know about you, but I always have a hard time shooting yellow flowers. They just normally do not come out very good. I'm sure it has to do with the light and perhaps I'll get that figured out someday. Anyway, that's probably why you have not seen many yellow flowers here.

Fortunately I have a few photo's of butterflies on yellow flowers.

And just by chance there are some other yellow items around the pond so I could sneak in a photo of one of those. (Actually I'm curious about how many of you will know what the yellow thing is used for.)

But I think this one below was my favorite yellow of all this past summer. This is a female Calico Pennant. I watched for this one after having seen and photographed a few males around the pond. The males are similar, but colored red in the place of the yellow/gold color of the female. Together they make a handsome couple.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

We Are Family

First of all, I want to thank tnchick for selecting our blog as the featured post for last week's 'lazy' theme. It was quite a surprise and very much appreciated. We really enjoy being a part of the PhotoHunt family.

Second, I must apologize for being late with this week's theme post. I was unexpectedly called away from home for a day or so and did not have adequate access to the net. (You know how it is when the family calls.) So, I'll try to keep this week's theme post nice and short.

Of all the animals around the pond there is one group that I think best illustrates our notion of 'family.' We always have a few around as they are generally year-round residents in our area of the country. They often have two or even three broods each summer. It is very evident that both parents are deeply involved in raising the off-spring, but the 'family' aspect extends even further.

It is not so very uncommon for members of the first brood to stay around and help with raising the second or third brood by guarding the nest and feeding the young. And even more interestingly, members of the later broods often stay with the parents through the coming winter forming a small, tight-knit family group until spring arrives and they disperse to start their own families.

It is not often one is able to get a family portrait so I was very pleased with this one.

May I present to you, Mr. And Mrs. Bluebird and family.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Imagine My Surprise

Perhaps you can imagine how surprised I was when I was going through my reader and up popped a blog post with the title 'Baker's Butterfly'. I was even more surprised as I read the post.

The blog belongs to one of our regular visitors, Tammy at My Little Corner of The World. Like many talented people Tammy loves to paint in her spare time. A couple of weeks ago she asked if she could use as references a few of the photographs in a post I had made about the butterflies visiting our neighbor's flower garden. Of course I was honored that she would want to use them and replied that I would be happy for her to paint any of them she wanted to, but I also suggested that she make sure she shared those paintings with all of us.

Well, Tammy came through in flying colors. She has completed the first painting and posted a photo of it on her blog. It's a great pastel of the Gulf Fritillary perched on a multi-color lantana. I think you should go by and check it out and leave Tammy a comment.

As for me, I want to thank Tammy for posting her work and linking to our blog. Tammy, you did a beautiful job. I hope you enjoyed painting it as much as I enjoyed spending time with flowers and butterflies while capturing that shot. I think we will both agree that the ultimate credit goes to the butterfly and flowers.

Here's the photo she used for the painting, by the way. I'm sure you will agree she did a great job.

P.S. (added 2:38 PM)

Now this is not directly related to this blog, but one of our other long-time visitors to the blog recently posted a work which I think you will find interesting. Avril of Clare Artist - Wildlife, Landscape, and Irish Life posted one of her most recent wild animal paintings.

If you have never visited Avril's blog you should definitely drop by. You will find links there to more of her art work. If you love wildlife you really should not miss her big cats and other magnificent animals.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

This And That From Baker's Hat (II)

If you saw the original 'This And That From Baker's Hat' post you may recall that this is where I just pull some unconnected photo's 'out of the hat' and post them. These are the photo's that I would probably never get around to using in a regular post. It's not that I consider them great photo's or anything like that. I just find some of them interesting. So, here are a few more of those unconnected photo's that have been languishing in my photo files.
Floating Tomato

I'm sure you can see how it would be difficult to weave this photo of a tomato into another post. We found it floating in the neighbor's pond. I could venture a guess as to how it got there, but I really don't know the how and why and I probably never will. The odd thing was that on the same day there was a single red pepper floating there, too.
I took this one for a past PhotoHunt theme, but ended up going with something else. I just thought it was colorful and now I can use the photo in the slideshow in the sidebar.

As for this last one below, I probably could use it in a post sooner or later, but I since I don't have a particular post in mind I thought I would include it here. It almost looks like they are on ice rather than water. I was amazed at the variety of insects in such a small spot around the spider. It may be that the spider is actually consuming a recent kill and the insects are drawn in to partake of any leftovers.

Oh yeah, one other thing. Some of you may have noticed I have added a new blog. It's just a simple little blog I created a few days ago to share some of the items that happen to land in my inbox or that I run across on the net. They are basically just fun or interesting items that don't fit here on this blog, but I thought some of you might enjoy them.

You can find it at What I Found In My Inbox or you can always find the link in the sidebar of this blog. Drop by for a quick chuckle or for an interesting photo or video when you get a chance. It will only take a couple of minutes or maybe just a bit longer if you watch the short video which I highly recommend by the way.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Blue Eye Shadow

How about some lizards? For some reason I've seen more of the lizards as the weather becomes cooler. Perhaps they extend their range for foraging as the insects they feed upon become less numerous. Maybe some of their prime predators have gone south for the winter making them feel safer or the cooler weather makes them seek out warmer spots. Whatever the reasons, they provide a good opportunity to take a few photo's.

Check out that area around the eye on the one above. It is so perfectly round that it almost looks like it was photoshopped into the picture. And the blue around the eye is interesting. It makes me think of some kind of reptilian alien trying to mimic a human look with a bit of blue eye shadow. (It is particularly noticeable in the enlarged view.)
Now this guy above was just hanging out doing what lizards do I guess. A closer look from the other side might result in a different impression though.

That lowered lid and the way his jaw appears to be resting upon the branch makes him look sleepy. Or maybe he is just day dreaming.

Or perhaps he is pining away for a certain long-tailed, slender green creature with blue eye shadow.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Art of Lazy

Now isn't some good old procrastination an ultimate form of lazy? At least with us humans it seems that way. Even the definition of procrastination refers to lazy. Procrastination: The act of postponing, delaying of, putting off, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness.

By way of example may I present to you the following excerpts from numerous exchanges between the MOH (male of household) and the FOH (female of household) about a particular heavy duty chain. (You will note that no names are used. Let's just keep it that way, OK?)

MOH: 'I'll just hang this right here in the crook of this tree for now so I will remember where it is. '
FOH: 'You probably should go ahead and put it in the garage.'
MOH: 'Yeah. I'll get it later.'

FOH: 'Honey, don't you think you should put that chain in the garage?'
MOH: 'Yeah. Probably so. I'll get to it this weekend.'

FOH: 'How many times do I have to tell you that you need to move that chain?'
MOH: 'Don't worry. I'll get around to it.'

1991 - 1998
(A basic recycling of previous years' comments, but less frequently. You know the routine.)

MOH: 'Honey, do you know where that chain we had is? I can't find it anywhere.'
FOH: 'I'm sure it is right where you left it.'
MOH: (upon finding said chain exactly where he left it) 'OH CRAP!'

(Well, it was something like that. This is a family safe blog, you know.)

Now flash forward to:

October, 2008

Guess where the chain still is.

And guess where it will stay.

Around here we refer to this sight as a genuine work of art. It even has a title bestowed upon it by those familiar with the artist. The title? The Art of Pure Procrastination


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Southward Bound

With autumn underway our summer dwelling birds are leaving for their migration to warmer climates. Our little green herons are already gone from the pond, I haven't seen the Indigo Buntings nor the Blue Grosbeaks in a few days, and I no longer hear the melodious song of the Wood Thrush in the evenings.

Our smallest summer residents, the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, are beginning to leave also. The males have flown south already as I haven't seen one this week. However, some females are still here. Both sexes are metallic green above. The males, as seen here, have a red throat (called a gorget) and a solid black double pointed tail while the female has a white throat and a fan-shaped black tail with white at the end.

From Paintings By GG

These tiny aerial acrobats fly so fast that they are pretty hard to capture in a photo. They have been clocked as fast as 60 MPH, their wings can rotate up to 78 beats per second, and they can hover, fly directly up or down, sideways, and backwards. Baker loaned me a tripod so with his help and encouragement I was able to take several good shots of some having a territorial fight at the hummingbird feeder on my porch, a few of which I will share with you.

Hummingbirds live only in the western hemisphere and some are the smallest birds in the world. Of 388 species only 16 live in the contiguous US. The Ruby- throated Hummingbird is the only one who lives east of the Mississippi River and they travel to central America for winter. In the late summer they must fatten up to make their long journey, as these tiny birds fly from the southern coasts all the way across the Gulf of Mexico to their winter home. This is an astonishing 500-mile, non-stop journey across the water for such a little creature. Excluding beak and tail they are no longer than two knuckles on your finger!

Hummingbirds get their energy by eating the nectar from flowers (as well as sugar-water from feeders)and their needed protein from tiny insects and spiders. They are very territorial and defend their food sources diligently. When in confrontations around a feeder they can fly so fast they are seen as just blurred streaks! Though they chase each other viciously they never seem to make contact or hurt one another.

Sometimes there were three in this aerial battle but I was never able to catch more than two at a time in a photo. With camera on tripod I then stood still and waited for the action. The two females here twirled around each other for some time before the intruder finally gave up and flew away, leaving the first to devour her "nectar" in peace.

By next week they will all have flown south. We will all sorely miss their presence and antics until their return next spring.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

This And That From Baker's Hat

Just like most of you I sometimes don't have the time to make regular posts. Or perhaps the mood is just not right. Or maybe I don't have the right photo's so a post has to sit on the back burner for a while.

And sometimes I may take some photo's thinking about a particular post I would like to make, but either I don't make the post or other photo's are a better fit so some of the shots fall by the wayside. Then there are those quick, one-time photo's of something I may never write a post about. It's not that they are the greatest photo's, but I find some of them interesting and thought some of you might also like them.

So, for those times when a longer post is not feasible and to share some of those unrelated photo's I decided I would create a recurring post featuring these odds and ends. I considered it sort of like pulling a post 'out of the hat' so to speak. I hope you like this inaugural version of "This And That From Baker's Hat".
This looks like a Ring-necked Snake and I presume it is a Southern Ring-necked as we live within their range. Evidently this one is still young, but I understand it will only grow to about 2 to 3 times this size. (That board is only 3 1/2 inches wide so you can see the snake is not very long.) They are fairly common, but are not often seen in the open due to their small size and their normal habitat of rotting logs, old stumps, and loose bark they can hide under.
I find it interesting how much color one can find in some fairly ordinary wild grasses.
I know this may look like just a kiss, but actually a piece of a carrot was involved. He's a sweetheart, though, and just might give you a kiss if you wanted one even without the carrot.


Monday, October 6, 2008

They Look Good From The Other Side, Too

I've been meaning to post a few more photo's of the flowers, but it seems I keep getting sidetracked by other things. Once it was by Something A Little Different and then the butterflies took over.

Well here are a few shots from recent visits to the neighbor's flower garden. Although I took several with the standard views it seems I have become quite attached to taking a few with the unconventional view so I thought I would share some of those with you. I think they are beautiful from both sides.

It seems the Gulf Fritillary found this one irresistible, too.


Friday, October 3, 2008

Sad? Well Just a Tad

Quite honestly I didn't look forward to this week's PhotoHunt theme of 'sad'. It just doesn't seem to fit the general theme and tenor of this blog. I really didn't want to go looking for things that were sad and highlight them in a post.

I was thinking about it one day while I was at the pond and finally came across something that I do find just a bit sad. Not really sad, mind you, but sad in a wistful sort of way. I walked around the pond and took a few shots and combined them below.

Now why would I find these sad? They are just sticks after all. Leaf-less twigs and branches sticking out over the water. What is so sad about that?

Well just a few short weeks ago those same sticks and others like them would have provided a different view. They were the perches for some of my favorite creatures. On almost any day I could walk along the edges of the pond and capture them in their varied colors and intricate patterns with the sunlight reflecting from their delicate wings.

So in a small way, for just a short moment, it makes me a bit sad to see the sticks bare of their recent visitors. Their season has passed and soon they will all be gone for the winter.

But am I really sad? No. I know it is just the cycle of nature. I can be fairly certain that new dragons will arrive next year to perform their aerial acrobatics and occasionally perch on the sticks and twigs to bask in the warm sun. After all, they have been around over 200 million years so they evidently have this cycle business down pat.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Name At The Top

I know the name at the top of the page says 'Fish and Frog - Turtle and Blog' but I must confess we haven't had very many frog posts lately. In fact we haven't had any since the early part of summer when we had tadpoles and tiny frogs by the hundreds (or more likely thousands). There's a good reason for that. We just haven't seen a lot of frogs, at least not the sizable ones.

Of course we saw the odd toad fairly frequently during the summer. Most of those were in the woods or near our houses, not near the pond.
And we continued to see the really tiny frogs along the edge of the pond all the time. I must admit I was a bit surprised by this. They do not seem much bigger than they were when we originally saw hundreds of them months ago, but I see they actually have grown some when I compare them to the earlier photographs. I just expected them to grow a bit larger.
But as for the larger frogs, we just haven't seen many despite the fact that we saw lots of the large tadpoles during the spring. During the early summer we would listen to their mating calls in the evening and could distinguish several different species. Those calls slowly faded away for the most part within a month or so.

I was sure there were some larger frogs around. I could see them from a distance as they jumped into the pond upon my approach. But sneaking up on them for a shot was another matter. Now over the past few weeks I've begun to see a few of them up close.

There was this little guy settled comfortably in the mud along the edge of the water. Larger than the others, but still not what I was looking for. I'm still a little curious about what he was planning to do with that sword-looking stick he has his left front leg wrapped around.

Then a few days ago I found this guy below. Finally, a larger, more interesting frog. Nice patterns and very clean. Out in the open. A good subject if ever there was one.

He just sat there for me as I approached. He even stayed motionless as I sat down cross-legged right before him to take a few shots. Finally he jumped into a small bit of grass which prevented a good clean view. I figured I would use my hand to ease him back out of the grass and into the open so I could get a different angle for a clean shot.
Well he had other ideas. Rather than go where he should go he decided to hop right up in my lap. Now I'm sure that would have made a great video with me trying to squirm around and free the frog (that was now falling between my legs) while not squashing him flat. He was moving a little too fast for me to catch him with my left hand while holding the camera in my right.

And then he disappeared. He just vanished. We never knew where he went, but you can be sure I was soon standing upright and checking things out considering I had on a pair of rather loose-fitting shorts at the time and I wasn't ready for any sudden surprises. Now I'm not afraid of frogs or anything like that, but in my opinion there are certain limits that don't need to be crossed in this communing with nature stuff.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Standoff

Recently I posted about a few of the other creatures around the pond and vicinity. As so often happens, within days I happened across some of them again and was able to get much more interesting and fun shots. I found the lizard above on one of the cages around the edge of the pond. Another lizard, however, had already staked his claim to the cage and rushed to its defense. Warily they approached one another, sizing up the opposition and displaying a series of threatening gestures.

Evidently some manner of sticking one's tongue out at an interloper is an effective deterrent. The unwelcome invader beat a hasty retreat.
Eventually His Highness, smug in his victory, climbed to the summit as though to survey his domain and keep an eye on the retreating competitor to make sure he had learned his lesson.

All was now well in this lizard's kingdom.