Mission Statement

Bearing Witness to Local Natural History-- from the wildness of Indiana

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Frog Dangling in Water: How to Spend a Brutally Hot Day

                                           ©Joni L. James

We have had brutally hot days and uncomfortable nights (as most of the U.S.) the last couple of weeks. It was a small break to receive a brief rain and cloudy skies today. The humidity is still thick. I decided to post this photo as a way to cool down. But . . . with heat indexes of 100-120 degrees, one could be in hot water. (And I mean that literally). Stay cool & safe folks!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Caution: Antibacterial Soap & the Effects

I read an interesting article the other day which has me rethinking the use of antibacterial soaps. According to studies, antibacterial soaps do not clean any better than ordinary soap and water. An active chemical ingredient called triclosan can have a strong impact on our environment in many ways. Triclosan is added to approximately 75 percent of soaps and other consumer products as an antibacterial agent. It breaks down in water and sunlight into forms of dioxin. University of Minnesota researchers have found dioxins derived from triclosan in Mississippi River sediments. (Regular soaps that do not purport to be antibacterial do not have triclosan).

One of the problems with triclosan is it damages genes in bacteria which creates immune strains of bacteria. The other potential danger is the effect on our watersheds and the living things which use them-- that includes us. The chemical structure of triclosan looks very much like thyroid hormone. In studies with tadpoles by Caren Helbing of the University of Victoria in British Columbia, they found that triclosan can disrupt thyroid function in frogs and hence their development. This could have implications for human development.

I want to mention that my writing here is not exhaustive and was gathered from several sources. There is much more to this story so I encourage anyone wanting more info to seek it on your own. This is simply food for thought. No doubt we and our children are exposed to an exorbitant number of chemicals everyday. Use caution. You may go to Living on Earth: http://www.loe.org/shows/segments.html?programID=06-P13-00044&segmentID=1 as well as other sites--just Google them.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Songs of Insects & Indiana Raptor Center

                                          ©Joni L. James

Songs of Insects
Check out my Songs of Insects Jukebox in the right margin! Learn to identify sounds of the night & day!

One of my goals this summer is to begin to learn the songs of insects. Last fall, I purchased the book, Songs of Insects by Lang Elliott & Wil Hershberger. It includes a CD of numerous insect songs. How gratifying to be able to identify the many beautiful sounds of the summer night. I did not realize how ingrained and comforting these symphonies of warm (or hot!) nights were to me.

I highly recommend this book and their website: http://www.musicofnature.org/songsofinsects/index.html. Be sure and check out the sounds of these common songs-- I know you have heard them!

Common True Katydid, Fall Field Cricket, Greater Anglewing, Lesser Anglewing, Nebraska Conehead, Scissor-grinder Cicada, Handsome Meadow Katydid, Swamp Cicada.
These are just a few of many you can listen to at their website.

Indiana Raptor Center (formerly Return to the Wild)
Yesterday I thoroughly enjoyed a tour of the facilities at the Indiana Raptor Center located in Nashville, Indiana. The nonprofit organization is operated by President and executive director/rehabilitator Patti Reynolds and master falconer and education director, Laura Edmunds. Between them and their assistant, KayLee Witt, they have hundreds of hours training/education in the medical care & rehabilitation of raptors. Their mission involves rehabilitation, education, and conservation.

They currently have over 40 birds at their facility. Raptors I met included barred owls, screech owls, great-horned owls, Eurasian eagle owl, barn owl, red-tailed hawk, rough-legged hawk, Harris' hawk, African augur buzzard, peregrine falcon, gryfalcon/peregrine hybrid, American kestrels, bald eagles, turkey vulture, and one pigeon. I hope I did not leave "anyone" out. All were very endearing.

I also visited with Marcus Dopatka, a master taxidermist. His bird mounts are exquisite and his work can be seen at the Indiana State Museum as well as numerous parks.

Their work depends on funding through donations, fundraising events, and other non-profit organizations. They provide many educational programs to children and adults. Get involved and support their work through donation. Tours are available through appointment only--they are busy! Their website (although I don't know if this will be changing due to their recent name change: http://returntothewild.org/).

Thank you to the dedicated staff at IRC for not only the tour but for the service you provide to the raptors of Indiana.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Becoming Part of the Harmony

[The] sound of the waters is audible to every ear, but there is other music in these hills, by no means audible to all. To hear even a few notes of it you must first live here for a long time, and you must know the speech of hills and rivers. Then on a still night, when the campfire is low and the Pleiades have climbed over rimrocks, sit quietly and listen for a wolf to howl, and think hard of everything you have seen and tried to understand. Then you may hear it – a vast pulsing harmony – its score inscribed on a thousand hills, its notes the lives and deaths of plants and animals, its rhythms spanning the seconds and the centuries.
     - Aldo Leopold

                                                       Lake Edgewood ©Joni L. James

"I am driven to embrace this land, to protect it, to know all its moods and secrets.I must know who lives here, whether it is dragonfly,chipmunk, cattail, kingfisher, or cricket frog. These are my neighbors. They have taught, inspired, and sustained me all my adult life."
--from Dancing With Herons: Bearing Witness to Local Natural History by Joni L. James

I so agree with Aldo Leopold. To really know a landscape-- is a great gift. Boundaries are dissolved and you are no longer an observer . . . you are part of It. You are a part of the harmony -- part of the rhythm-- no separation. You become One.

" . . . I need to know a landscape intimately."
--from Dancing With Herons: Bearing Witness to Local Natural History by Joni L. James

Have you ever felt the boundaries dissolve and became part of the harmony & rhythm?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"The True Source of Joy . . .

The true source of joy is love — love of God, love of beauty, love of wisdom, love of another human being, it does not matter which. It is all one love: a joyful awareness of dissolving boundaries of our ordinary narrow self, of being one with the reality beyond, of being made whole.
     - Irma Zaleski, from the essay The Door To Joy

                                           ©Joni L. James

I do believe it is about dissolving boundaries. Losing oneself. A feeling of unity results . . . of oneness with All. When this occurs, it is not just joy though. It is Ecstasy!

If you have read my book, Dancing With Herons: Bearing Witness to Local Natural History, I expound on the subject of opening oneself in Nature to the possibilities. Opening oneself to the connection that can occur in which you feel you have merged with all living things including the landscape before you. I have known ecstasy in many encounters & experiences in Nature.

Any comments from my readers? Share your thoughts!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Heron Stalks Placid Pond

                                          ©Joni L. James

Early morning light
The heron stalks placid pond
Ripples mirror life.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Fireworks or The Big Bang!

I am a seeker of Beauty . . .
Although these images are not directly related to Nature-- when I uploaded them to the computer from my media card, I was stunned by their resemblance to photos of deep space. There is a beauty in the patterns, and lines of light, dark, and color of the explosions.

Beauty abounds everywhere. I hope you will enjoy of few of the images I took this past July 4th.

Beauty . . .

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Deptford Pink: Dianthus armeria

                                          © Joni L. James


A speck of beauty so easily overlooked!

Standing tall between the space of two large stones
Reaching upward with slender round stem
Opposite leaves, linear in shape, graced with pubescence
A cluster of five pink petals dotted with white encircling
Ten stamens and two styles
You demand my attention.

Merely a speck against the stone
Vivid pink captures my attention.
In grasses nearby dwells a cluster of relation
Yet you dare to risk among the stone . . . alone.

Deptford Pink a traveler from England.
Dianthus armeria -- a speck of beauty.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Fowler's Toad, Eastern Cottontail, & House Wren

Today was another day of fun encounters with wildlife. The weather has turned warmer and definitely humid. Thankfully it stayed cloudy though which helped to keep the temperatures down. While strolling around the house during late morning, I discovered a Fowler's Toad hiding in the leaves and grasses. It cooperated while I took several photographs. They are uniquely spotted and their eyes are like jewels when viewed closely. Fowler's Toads are common amphibians of our patios and porches at night when the lights have been left on. The lights attract the insects which then attract the toads.

                                           Fowler's Toad  ©Joni L. James

In this close-up, you can easily see the beauty in the eye and the nasal area.

                                           Fowler's Toad Close-up  ©Joni L. James

An Eastern cottontail rabbit has been busy feeding in the mowed section of the yard. It usually pops out of the field into the mowed area and enjoys the white clover and plantain.I believe they were nesting in a clump of day lilies in my east yard.

                                          Eastern Cottontail Rabbit  ©Joni L. James

All day a recently fledged house wren has been singing its heart out on the back side of my home. It has been perching on the railing of my small deck singing and fluttering its wings-- often typical of begging behavior. No parents seem to be present. I will keep watching to see what transpires the next few days.

                                          Fledged House Wren  ©Joni L. James

Notice in the photo above the tail feathers-- just a few are developed. Also, take notice of the primary feathers-- they also are not fully grown.

                                          Recently fledged House Wren  ©Joni L. James

Anyone else have experiences with toads, rabbits, or house wrens?

(I invite readers to post comments to any of my posts. If you have questions, similar encounters to share, or simply comments, please join in for conversation. Also consider signing up to be a "Follower". Check out the right margin).