Category Archives: Favorite Misfits

Life is a ZOO, especially when your’re IN one!!!

A visit to the world famous San Diego Zoo proved to be more of an “adventure” than I was originally hoping for…

First thing in the morning, fellow wildlife artist Kelly Singleton and I ambitiously set out to find the Harpy Eagle exhibit.  Neither one of us had ever seen one and we both really like raptors.   Ever elusive in the wild, this rare bird turned out to be impossibly elusive to find in the ZOO!

Following the zoo “map”, we ended up in a crazy tangle of dense jungle vegetation, wandering aimlessly around in the gloom under the thick green canopy, completely surrounded by the one and only thing that we DIDN’T really care about seeing in the zoo…monkeys and apes.

After an hour and a half of schlepping up and down the incredibly steep hills of this part of the zoo only to find out we’d been walking in circles, we FINALLY found our way out of the darkness.

(Below) This escalator will take any poor unsuspecting sap up into “Monkey Hell”.  We have nothing against monkeys mind you.  But getting that lost in a zoo while your perfect morning light is fading is NOT so fun!   And don’t count on zoo workers to help you find your way, as they don’t seem to know how to get out of there either!!!

I couldn’t resist creating this parody of our little “adventure”.

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In the end, we did find the Harpy Eagle exhibit and it was not even close to where it was positioned on that crazy zoo “map”.    It was on “Eagle Drive”………Imagine that…

The Harpy Eagle indeed had the last laugh.  He/she was hidden by the vegetation inside the exhibit.  We felt lucky to get a glimpse of some tail feathers.  We worked HARD to see that eagles a…s!

(Below) Kelly cops an attitude towards the beautiful bird species that made our morning so “eventful”    How many birds can you count in this photo?

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OK, on to more serious things…

There are very few people in this country over the age of about 35 who have not at least heard of the plight of the California Condor.  This huge raptor became the “poster child” for our environmental mistakes of the past and is partially responsible for the eventual turn-around of  mindset in modern North America.

Thanks solely to the tireless effort of a small handful of biologists who have devoted their lives to correct these mistakes, the California Condor still exists and is actually growing in numbers…albeit slowly.  Only a couple of short decades ago, there were less than two dozen of these birds left on the planet.    Although often thought of as a corny Eco-phrase….. extinction really is… forever.

Very little was known about this species when humans finally realized that his extinction seemed eminent.   More had to be learned about the habits and breeding of Condors without risking these precious few birds left.  A decision was made to capture every wild California Condor and hold them all for safe keeping at three different zoological facilities,  the San Diego Zoo,  the SD Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo.  The population was deliberately split into thirds and kept apart from each other in the event that a disease would accidentally slip in.  This way biologists could be more certain that the entire population was not totally wiped out.

(Below) A California Condor (still  not free from the threat of extinction).   This species now glides free in the skies of California and Arizona as it should be.   Unfortunately these birds are still being shot by short-sighted “Ya-hoos” who think that they are ugly and unnecessary.  I wonder what the Condor thinks of us???

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Enter: The Andean Condor (below), the only other condor species in the world, which thankfully was slightly more abundant and at the time seemed a good candidate for study.  Biologists spent the next number of years working with the Andean Condor (originating from South America) in captive breeding programs.  Much was learned about  successful egg hatching and the rearing of chicks that could one day be released into the wild.  This unlikely hero not only gave insight into it’s own future success, but also was instrumental in the saving of another species.

(Below) An immature Andean Condor takes part in a “Free-flight” show at the San Diego Wild Animal Park.   For many people, their heroes reside mostly in the entertainment world, (musicians, athletes and movie “stars”).   For me, when this pretty fellow took the stage with his out-stretched wing span matching the width of a grand piano,  my heart started pounding faster.  It was like Elton John himself had emerged on stage to tickle the ivories through a famous song.    Fellow bird lovers would understand this…

Thanks to the hard work of biologists and the stunning  Andean Condor, the California Condor now has a brighter future.

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There are many other less “famous” residents at the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park, this one being a male Eurasian Eagle Owl.   This fellow was part of the best “Free-flight” bird show I’ve ever seen.   Owls are defined by their eyes, and this fellow is no exception…

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The symbol of wisdom and darkness as reflected in the soul…

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(Below)  One cannot help but wonder what in the world Mother Nature was thinking when she came up with this character.   This is a Shoebill Stork.   Wild populations now number between 5000 and 8000 individuals and live primarily in Sudan.    This species is considered as “threatened” in the wild.   Ancient Egyptians included these birds in their visual stories.

This chap was incredibly charming.  The more I watched him the more I fell in love.  It’s hard to not get a chuckle out of someone who is this comical looking yet at the same time takes himself so seriously.    He had the trademark quiet, intense, stalking habit so often seen in herons and storks.    But with that big, silly face looking down at them I could almost hear the frogs and fish laughing.

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Of course there are many, many species of mammals in the San Diego Zoo.  But you all already know what lions, tigers and bears (oh my!) look like so I chose to show off some of the more unusual residents.  However… one cannot overlook this silly chap.  He is of course, a meerkat.   Disney made this fellow famous.  There are very few children who don’t know all about him, at least the Disney rendition of him!  :-)

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Baby Faces

It’s baby time.   Our woodland babies are just now old enough to go out exploring with mom.  The world is such a BIG place when you are a little tyke.

This raccoon litter of five will create a LOT of mischief down the road when they grow up a bit.   A friend of mine saw this photo and said “It looks like they are planning a heist.”   Indeed.  I wonder what they will steal first…

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I can just hear them planning…“OK Smarty and Shorty,  you go around to the right and me , Smittles and Bubba will  go around to the left.  Give a signal when you’ve gotten into the kitchen!    Batchy, you stay here and keep watch.   Now GO…and be quick about it!”

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Our does are finally allowing their fawns to be seen.  This one is a classic beauty.

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This fawn below belongs to a different doe.  He has white markings on his face and feet and a PINK nose.  I think there is an obvious name for him…”Rudolph”!   (Or Rudy, if it is a girl!)

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“But Mom, nobody will want to play with “a misfit.”

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A soft whisper in the ear comes from mom…“Everyone is different son.  And being different only makes you more special.” (Moms always know what to say at times like this…)

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Meanwhile, while I was photographing Rudolph/Rudy, this pretty hummer boy was showing interest in the hosta blooms right under the window.  What does this flashy fellow have to do with baby animals?   Nothing.   I just felt like sticking him in here!  :-)

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(Below) My painting of a mule deer fawn entitled “Baby Face.”   This piece was inspired by a trip to the wilds of the Yukon last summer.

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Emerging after a loooong winter…

One of the surest signs that winter is indeed over is the emergence of cold blooded critters.   Reptiles and amphibians appear, often a bit sluggish from shaking off winter and from the cool temperatures of spring.  The sun is a critical factor in warming up their systems enough to gain energy for normal function.

Starting in April, the nearby ponds are filled with a chorus of bullfrogs.

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The eyes of a bullfrog are very pretty I think…

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And who cannot smile when looking into the face of a box turtle?

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A garter snake coils up and gives me a face-off.  She is ready for action.

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This snapping turtle looks like he has had too much to drink on his night out (perhaps too much to eat too)…

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A beautiful Ribbon Snake is out and about looking for lunch.

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Face to face with a Ribbon Snake…

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This little chap creates one of my favorite sounds found in nature, a chorus of tree frogs.   He is perched on our hose holder.

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I ran into this male Broad-headed skink on my walk in our woods yesterday.   What a beautiful creature!

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I will never understand how this Black Rat Snake is able to scale straight down a brick wall.  He  can seemingly defy gravity.

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Nature’s True Masterpieces

As a wildlife artist I am interested in all of nature.  I can honestly say that I don’t find one form of nature to be pleasing and another scary or creepy.   They are all interesting to me.    Some of the most beautiful places on the planet are rarely viewed by human eyes because of the stereotypes that have been placed upon them.

On a recent hiking trip to Arkansas, Alan and I (joined by two adventurous friends) took some time to go underground.   Blanchard Springs is one of several commercial caves in the area.  Much of the state of Missouri and the Ozark mountain region of Arkansas are nearly hollow underneath making it a cavers dream.    I have always had a passion for nature underground.  So a trip to Blanchard Springs cave with camera in hand seemed a natural fit.

Below:  Tens of thousands of soda straws hang from the ceiling of this chamber.  It is said that a soda straw grows about one inch every thousand years.  They are indeed hollow like a straw and are created by the minerals in water as it drips down from the limestone ceiling.   After enough time passes they connect to the floor creating great columns.

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Amazing formations form under ground creating some of the most beautiful patterns found in nature.  Below, this group of columns reflect in a perfectly still pool of water.  It is like sculptural stone sitting on a mirror.  It is difficult to tell where the rock ends and the water begins.

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Commercial caves are often lit up in extraordinary ways, showing off the amazing depth and beauty of their formations.

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It takes many thousands of years create these breathtaking places.

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(Below)  This photo shows magnificent stalactites hanging from the ceiling of this huge “room”.  The railing at the  bottom left gives a sense of scale.  These were some of the largest “organ pipes” I’ve ever seen.

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(Below)  Some cave formations create familiar images.   These minerals have formed a perfect scene of a great ocean liner among icy glaciers.  Could this be the Titanic before it met it’s doom?  Or perhaps it is one of the many ships that failed an attempt across the north pole and is still there, frozen in time.    This photo reveals the magnificent architecture of nature only where the lights shine.  Otherwise, there is complete and utter blackness.

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It  seemed fitting that we happened to visit this cave on Halloween day.  The image below shows stalagmites reflecting in a mirror pool.   They somehow appear as if to be the great glowing, jagged teeth of a frightening Halloween monster.

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Massive “organ pipes” hang from the side wall of this chamber.  A cave is thought to be one of the safest places to be during an earthquake.  It takes many, many thousands of years to create these behemoths.   They have withstood the test of time during countless geological changes throughout history including earthquake tremors.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES:     I was once an avid spelunker.  I spent many years exploring the beautiful world under ground.  The caves that I visited with my fellow cave enthusiast buddies were not beautifully lit commercial caves with paved walkways,  but rather were dark, rugged and largely unexplored.   We would spend many hours at a time exploring and mapping these wild caves.  This photo of me was taken during one of these expeditions back when I was in my late 20’s.  It takes a nimble, strong body and very adventurous spirit to endure the rugged unforgiving terrain, tight spaces and total blackness of the underworld.

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Many of the caves that I explored in my 20’s and 30’s had water passages.  Some were large like the one below.  Some were so tight that we had to remove our helmets to get through them.    Some even required swimming underwater to find a hole leading to the next passage.

Here a thin layer of water lays atop of thigh high mud.   The most difficult part of traversing this passage was keeping one’s hips in their sockets!    Not all caves are as muddy as this one is.

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If you are ever fortunate enough to have the opportunity to explore nature underground, even if it is done the commercial way, be sure to do it.   You will feel as if you have gone for awhile to another planet.    It is the ultimate “get-away”…

A standoff at the O.K. Corral

House Wrens have occupied the bluebird house that is attached to a post at the edge of the woods in front of our house.   This morning I could tell by the sweet, exuberant chattering coming from inside the house that the babies are very nearly ready to fledge.   The parents have been busy continuously bringing the incredible amounts of food needed for them to grow.  This creates almost constant commotion around the little house.

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This morning I was out with the dogs and heard one of the little wren parents having an absolute FIT.  I looked up to see her on top of the wire raccoon guard just outside the entrance to her nest.  She was jumping back and forth wildly.  Her desperate calls rang out through the woods.

Naturally I had to investigate.  Although I was already pretty close to the birdhouse, I knew that I was not the one upsetting her.  I have been around this house quite a bit, and she has not been overly bothered by me.    I wandered over and looked inside the tiny house entrance.   What I saw when I looked in was NOT what I expected!

Filling the round entrance of the house was what at a glance looked like a dark thick rope that was curled just enough that the round part was sticking out of the hole.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that a snake had somehow made it’s way up the post and into the house.   I could smell an unpleasant odor coming from inside.    Things were not looking good for the wrens.

It is my policy to not interfere with nature.  I like wrens.  I also like snakes.   Everyone out there has a tough living to make.   It is my privilege to watch any scenario as it plays out in nature as an unbiased bystander, even when the end result is a sad one for one of the parties.   But something struck me on this day.  Maybe I was in an unusually sentimental mood, I don’t know.    I decided to remove the front of the house and see what was going on inside.   All this time the little wren continued screaming from nearby tree branches.

(Below) this is the scene that was unveiled when the front of the bird house came off.   There was one dead baby on top of the nest.  The entire contents in the box,  including the snake was motionless.

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After some time passed, I stepped back a bit.  Now exposed, the snake was feeling pressure to better hide himself or leave.   He slipped out through a slit in the back of the house which is likely how he got in there in the first place.  The brave little wren came charging down to deal with the situation herself.  She was amazingly tenacious.   Songbirds are fiercely devoted and protective parents.

(Below) A protective parent and a hungry serpent are in a temporary standoff.   The wren’s wildly focused aggression and the newly exposed nature of the nest eventually discouraged the snake.

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The snake decided to retreat back inside of the house for safety from his aggressive little foe.   He hid behind an old wasp nest.  But this was the wrong move to make.   The wren just turned her volume up a few more notches.   He was close to her babies again and this simply was not acceptable!

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In time the snake finally found himself outmatched and decided to get the heck outta Dodge.   I didn’t notice until I looked at the pictures of him on my computer that his eyes were milky.  This means that he has out grown his clothing and is getting ready to shed his skin.

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After the snake left all was quiet.  For a long while I had surmised that the snake had already constricted  all of the babies by the time I got there.  But slight movement way down into the nest revealed that some of the babies were still in there and were alive.  I quickly removed the dead one (and pitched it into the woods to become food for perhaps the same snake?) and promptly placed the front of the house back on.   It will be interesting to see if any baby wrens fledge from this brood after the standoff at the O.K. Corral…

Seeing the World For the Very First Time

Groundhogs have lived with us here for years.  There is nothing all that unusual about that, as many people see groundhogs here and there.  But for some reason our hot tub deck is especially popular with them.  Raccoons like the hot tub deck too, and usually occupy the area under it all winter.  But this spring a female groundhog was somehow able to call dibs on it and made it the site of her den.

I was in my studio working this afternoon and heard  funny squeaking sounds just outside my windows.  I looked out just in time to see two baby groundhogs playing a game of “Ring Around the Rosie” on top of our hot tub cover.  They were soaking wet from being in their little hole under the deck.   Heavy rains have soaked everything here.  The wet babies looked more like baby porcupines than groundhogs!   But the water didn’t seem to bother them at all.

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Mother groundhog is quite patient as her babies crawl all over her.   Oh, the joys of motherhood!

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In short order the babies dried off.  They seemed to almost double in size as their tiny bodies puffed up in fluff.

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There are five babies in this litter.  At first they stayed very close to mom.

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Flowers in the garden provide a wonderful place to play.  It took a day or two for the babies to learn to balance themselves in the classic upright groundhog position.   They looked like fat, fuzzy little bowling pins toppling over.   This one below has finally got it!

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This baby poses for his close-up.  Baby groundhogs are very inquisitive and active.

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The photo below shows the runt of the litter on the right with his sibling on the left.  Four of the five babies are the larger size.  But size is relative.  Baby groundhogs are small.  This gives an idea of how tiny the runt is.  He is about the size of my clenched fist.

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Below, the tiny runt is behind not only in size but also in development.   He seems much younger than the others.  He also wins the grand prize for cuteness!

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Here is a bigger sibling in the same pose.  It is easy to see how different these two are at this stage.

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The tiny one is less active than his bigger brothers and sisters.  He doesn’t have enough coordination to run very fast yet.

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Have you ever seen anything so adorable?

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The babies play and explore but every now and then check back in with each other.  The larger ones are very good to their tiny brother.

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Two bigger siblings touch noses.  They do this often when they come together into the same space.   There is no apparent competition between them and they seem to really enjoy each other.

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This little guy ran right up to the window where I was photographing them.

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Mother groundhog gathered up more leaves to freshen up the den.

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The photo below required a very fast shutter finger and a whole lot of luck.  The tiny runt baby poses with his big brother.  This pose lasted for all of a millisecond before they scampered all around again.

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Below the tiny one seems to be having a conversation with his bigger brother.  I wonder what they were saying…

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A dedicated mom relaxes nearby.

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Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing…

I recently enjoyed one of my favorite things about being a wildlife artist.   That is spending time with the animals that I portray in my paintings.   This past weekend I traveled to visit my wolf friends who live in a captive pack in Indiana.   Wolf Park was established in the early 1970’s by a research biologist.  The wolves are raised as pups by humans and thus are habituated to them.   They are not domestic.  They are “tame”.   But a tame wolf is still a WOLF, and it is important to know how to behave around them.   I have been most fortunate to join the pack inside of their enclosure.   There is nothing quite like actually putting your hands on the subjects that you paint.

The fellow in the photo below is Reudi.   He is a lower ranking male in a pack of six wolves.  He has atypical blue eyes.   He has the cutest face!  I’ve always adored him…

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Actually going inside of different wolf enclosures gives an artist the unusual and magical experience of not only photographing and observing an apex predator up close, but also the chance to feel the “energy and spirit” of such an amazing animal.  I have had a life long passion for wolves.  I remember as a very young child searching the local library for a single book that might have just one photograph of  a wolf in it.   Even with the help of the library staff, I was not ever successful.   I couldn’t possibly have imagined as that wolf crazy youngster, that I would one day have a real wolf licking me in the face and asking for a scratch behind the ears.   Life is wonderful, isn’t it?

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(Photos by Monte Sloan)

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Hey Joni…He’s right behind you…

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Below, Ayla asks for a tummy rub.  It is important to remember that although wolves have so many dog like characteristics, they are indeed NOT dogs.   Correct protocol is important when sharing time and space with wolves.   Ayla did get a tummy rub…all of the wolves at Wolf Park are spoiled rotten (in a GOOD way).   Look at that CUTE Ayla face!

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Wolves are no match for healthy bison.   Below,  Renki strolls past a group of bison that are ready for him.   Nothing more than “testing” ever results from the wolf-bison demonstrations at Wolf Park.  It is a rare, up close look at the relationship between  an apex predator and a prey animal that has evolved with unusual toughness…

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My painting “Wolf Portrait” is one of my earliest wolf paintings.   The inspiration came from an experience at this wolf facility.    The point of this painting was simply to showcase the beauty of Canis Lupus.

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Wolves are individuals and their physical features can vary tremendously.   In my painting entitled “The Eyes of a Hunter” I wanted to capture the intensity of that amazing wolfy stare.

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Charlotte ain’t got nothin’ on this lady

Late summer in east-central Kansas is spider time.  Summer begins to loosen its grip and signs of autumn are felt in cooler, dryer air.    Huge  webs created by an assortment of orb spiders begin to emerge en mass, draping themselves high in the tree tops, in our gardens and all over our decking.  Some spiders spin in the evening and take down their great webs each morning.  The beautiful black and Yellow argiope (often referred to the zipper spider, yellow garden spider, banana spider, or golden orb weaver) is one of the most beautiful of these great web engineers.  Her web stays up day and night while she hangs upside down patiently waiting for dinner to come flying or crawling by.  “Welcome to my home, said the spider to the fly…”

An adult female golden orb weaver (photos above and below) positions herself nicely for yummy things to come.  A light misty rain rolling through in the morning lit her great web up with sparkly diamonds.

Females of this species are much larger than males.  Although she is big enough to deliver a bite, she is not poisonous or aggressive.  She liked my camera too, and proved to be quite photogenic.

The Golden orb weaver is capable of creating as many as seven different kinds of silk using several different glands that supply her spinnerets.   The different types of silk have varying amino acid compositions and can vary in the stickiness of the silk as well as it’s thickness.  She uses these differences as a capture strategy while building her great web.

In order to grow, spiders must periodically shed their exoskeletons.   When the spider is about to shed, the inside layers of its skin are digested.  The spider anchors her legs on part of her web, hanging upside down.  The top of the carapace splits and the spider literally falls out of her old shell.  She doesn’t fall to the ground because she is anchored by a strand of silk from her spinnerets.  She expands in size as her new skin dries.  She can even grow back a new limb at this time if one was lost before.

These beautiful creatures have a life span of only a year.  So when the cold of winter begins to set in, our beautiful girl will see her last days.

Leaping Lizards…and a very cute face

It’s reptile and amphibian season. That means it’s lizard season.

Many of the lizards we see in this part of the country are wide spread throughout the eastern half of the US. Because of our wooded surroundings, skinks are especially happy here, as there is much for them to eat. They seem to favor our decks. They are quick and agile little hunters. Now and then I find one skittling about during the warm days of summer.

This is a Broad Headed skink which is the largest of the eastern skinks. This is a male, who in breeding season has a red head. This particular animal is not fully mature. He will eventually grow larger and will loose the pale stripes on his sides. His little feet stick to the wooden decking like they are covered with glue.

The following fellow is a male Side Blotched lizard. I photographed him in north-western Colorado last summer. He too is very quick and blends in quite well with his sandy surroundings. In late summer when this photo was taken, his colors become less intense.

This is a female Prairie/Plateau Lizard. She cocks her head from side to side to watch for tiny insects. Like all lizards, she uses the sun to regulate her body temperature.

What in the world does this next guy have to do with lizards? Absolutely nothing. But being a reptile, I guess he kind of fits in. I included him for one simple reason. This snapping turtle has an ADORABLE face!

I found this guy crossing the creek at the front of our property. He was minding his own business, as turtles do. When I encountered him and he encountered me, he became a bit frustrated and snapped up a chunk of grass. This photo reminds me of my husband at meal time! :-)

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Nearly everyone has seen a groundhog at one time or another. But I don’t think that most people ever really stop and take a good look at them and notice how adorable they are.

Groundhogs have lived here just outside my studio windows for the past several years. One summer mother groundhog even used our hot tub deck as a playpen for her babies. Groundhog babies are just about the cutest things around. I’ve pictured one below.

The groundhog (also known as the woodchuck or whistlepig) is a rodent, belonging to the group of large ground squirrels known as marmots. In areas where food is abundant a groundhog can grow to up to 30 pounds. These animals see the winters through in hibernation.

Here a groundhog is climbing up onto our deck rail. It looks like she is strumming the strings of a horizontal harp. She is surprisingly agile for her plump posterior.

Here she has made it up onto the top of the deck rail. When she decided to descend, she jumped down and landed with a loud thump!

This baby groundhog poses for a picture. He and his little sibling grew up on and under this deck. It was fun to watch them mature…

Yellow-bellied Marmots have the same basic physiology and many of the same habits as the familiar groundhog and are in the same family, but marmots inhabit rocky areas often at very high altitudes. They too, hibernate in winter.

My painting of a yellow-bellied marmot entitled “Inquisitive”…

High Winds and Serpents

It is no secret that wind is a major force in Kansas. Of course this state is famous for big black twirling funnels that make for great monsters in movies. Indeed we do have more than our share of tornadoes. But strong wind that is unaccompanied by storms is also quite common here too.

My husband and I took a recent weekend camping trip with friends to a wetland refuge in the middle of Kansas, which is in essence the middle of nowhere. We camped under a small stand of cottonwoods on a creek in the middle of the prairie. What we didn’t know when we left and were totally unprepared for, was the weather that was to come. By the middle of the first afternoon, the winds had picked up to 30-35 mph with gusts of 40-45 mph. By dark the temps were down to below freezing. It was not storming where we were, although we learned later that south eastern Kansas and Oklahoma were having devastating tornadoes.

It starts to become difficult to stand up in wind gusts of 40-45 mph. We were there to photograph wetland birds and other wildlife. Holding a camera still in whipping winds is challenging to say the least. And of course the birds we went there to see wanted no part of it. (The next day when the wind died down the birds reemerged in mass).

The stars of the day, who seemed unbothered by the wind, were snakes. I am simply fascinated by snakes. This place was a herpetologist’s dream. In less than 24 hours we saw five different species and that was without even looking for them. They seemed to be everywhere. I’ve included photos below of some of the species that we found. For anyone who is squeamish about snakes, I suggest that you scroll down to the next web log entry…

This stunning beauty is a large Gopher Snake, also referred to as a Bullsnake. This is a non-venomous species that catches rodents with constriction. The Bullsnake is considered to be the most economically beneficial snake in Kansas, consuming large quantities of rodents such as mice, rats, rabbits, pocket gophers and ground squirrels. He also enjoys an occasional bird egg.

A close up look at that pretty Bullsnake face…

The fellow below is a Northern Water snake. He is a lizard and frog eater…

This decorative serpent (below) is the Prairie Kingsnake. He is usually a secretive fellow, but we were fortunate to find him soaking up some rays on a sandy roadway.

Prairie Kingsnakes are non-venomous constrictors, and eat a variety of prey such as small mammals, lizards, frogs, birds and other snakes including venomous ones. They are immune to the venom of North American venomous snakes and such snakes will use methods other than striking to escape kingsnakes. This makes the Prairie Kingsnake VERY beneficial to farmers, as not only will this species rid the farmer of pests like rodents, but also of venomous snakes.

This red striped beauty is a common Garter Snake. This was not only by far the largest Garter snake I’ve ever seen (she was HUGE) but she was also the most foul tempered snake we encountered on our trip. This was a snake with an ATTITUDE. She was all puffed up and very strikey.

This venomous beauty is the gorgeous Massasauga Rattle Snake. The word Massasauga means “Great river mouth” in the Chippewa language. This is the smallest rattle snake species in Kansas, although this one was a pretty good size. We found a much smaller one later in the day.

Here is his pretty face…

This feisty beauty is a black rat snake. I found him prowling around very near a nest of baby Eastern Phoebes. Eastern Phoebes are small birds of the open grasslands and are fabulous insect eaters. This rat snake most likely had his eye on this next. But the Phoebes were resourceful enough to build their nest out of reach of even this most talented of climbers. So for the time being until the baby birds fledge, they are safe…at least for now….

The Masked Bandits of Bell Road…

The Godsy household is home to furry masked bandits of two kinds. One kind lives in the great outdoors and is the absolute OBSESSION of the other, who lives indoors.

We have raccoons here in great numbers; big ones, little ones. We have all sizes. This little bandit scrambled up a tree just as a big storm was rolling in. The other little bandit, my dog Wager was about to pop outside of himself with excitement. To Wager, a raccoon is just about the most entertaining thing on the planet. He watches them through our windows for HOURS. The raccoons make for great “dog TV”!

This is our INDOOR bandit Wager, posing in our driveway…….would somebody please hand him a Kleenex?……

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