Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Mouse in the Woods -- Eeeek!

Jo and I found this Mickey Mouse birthday balloon while walking in the woods the other day. We find an escaped party balloon in the woods every year or so. This one more recently made landfall and is in better condition than most.

I've often wondered about this lighter than air litter. On the one hand, finding a balloon only once every year or so doesn't exactly make them a major source of litter. They certainly aren't challenging beer cans and soda bottles for that dubious honor. On the other hand, it seems odd that we find any balloons on our little piece of rural landscape. How many escaped balloons fall on and equal-size plot of urban real estate? How many helium-filled balloons are released -- either accidentally or on purpose -- every year? How many are occupying U. S. air space at any given time? How far do they travel?

Then again, it could be that we just happen to have some nearby neighbors who are very much into celebrating with balloons.

(Editors Note: BirdGuides has an excellent article discussing the scope and environmental problems caused by released balloons. Many thanks to Gwendolen for providing this link.)


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Eve Deer

While not reindeer, I did see these two does on Christmas Eve.
(Note: There's enough firewood in that fallen tree behind them to get us through the winter and then some. Too bad I don't have any way to get it out of the woods.)


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My World: Frost Flowers

It's been cold in My World over the past few days.  We've experienced our lowest temperatures thus far this winter.  One of the most beautiful and delicate phenomena resulting from this cold are frost flowers, which are actually neither frost nor flower.

Frost flowers occur when the air temperature is below freezing but the ground remains unfrozen.  Here in the Ozarks, that is a fairly common wintertime event.  Our ground never freezes deeply and usually thaws between cold snaps. A frost flower forms when water inside a plant stem freezes, expands and is extruded through cracks in the stem forming thin ribbons of ice. Air bubbles trapped in the ice make it appear frothy white. The extruded ribbons of ice are often much more petal-like than the ones pictured above.

Not all plants form frost flowers.  Two of the more common ones that do are yellow ironweed (Verbesina alternifolia) and white crownbeard (Verbesina virginica). In fact, white crownbeard also is commonly called frostweed.

Wikipedia:  Frost Flowers
Missouri Conservationist Online

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Today's Flowers: Beach False Foxglove (Agalinis fasciculata)

                                                                                                  9/05/08 (By Jo)
Beach False Foxglove (Agalinis fasciculata)
On this shortest day of the year -- and one of the coldest too,-- I thought it would be warming to flash back to an afternoon in early fall when Jo found, photographed and, later, identified this wildflower growing along our road.  (My only contribution was sneaking over to her side of the computer, borrowing photos, doing a little editing and posting them here.)

►  Status:  An annual herb native to North America.

►  Blooming period:  Mid-summer through mid-fall.

►  Range:  Common in the souther states of the U. S.  Extends up the east coast to Maryland.

►  Habitat:  Prairies, sandy open ground, thickets, woodland edges, fallow fields.

►  Identifying characteristics:  Relatively large flowers -- an inch or so.  Purple spots and pale yellow lines inside the flower tube.

Sources and links:
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Missouri Plants
USDA Plant Profile and Distribution Map

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Echinacea and Ice

                                                                                 Photo by Jo

Everything -- including the purple cone flowers that hadn't been deadheaded -- picked up a thin coating of ice and/or freezing fog over the past couple of days. Most of the wintry mix fell as sleet, so the trees and power lines did not get badly weighted down with ice. We would not have been able to navigate our road out, though.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fallen Tree

The amazing things isn't that the tree fell. What's amazing is that it was able to stand for as long as it did growing out of about six inches of soil on top of solid rock at the edge of a bluff.



Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Grass Skipper (Hesperiinae)

Grass Skipper (Hesperiinae)

Hesperiinae larvae feed on grasses and sedges.They hold their wings partially open while resting, with the front wings and hind wings held at different angles. They are usually orange, rust, or brown in color.




Monday, December 01, 2008

Buck Deer in the Garden

A group of five buck deer decided to check out our garden area this morning.  (My apologies for shots hurriedly taken through a dirty window.)

The bucks just milled around browsing for a while.  (You can see a little bit of the light dusting of snow we received on Sunday still hanging around in places not yet touched by the sun.)

After a bit, something scared the bucks and they all hightailed it for the woods.