Blue Birds Of Happiness and And An Unexpected “Croak In”.

bluebird

 

Somewhere Over The Rainbow  from the Wizard of Oz – Judy Garland circa 1939

One of our Historic Rivers Chapter’s projects is monitoring Blue Bird nesting boxes trails on 17 trails scattered throughout the Peninsula. I am a member of a group of Naturalists who monitor 40 nesting boxes each week in the Newport News Park throughout the nesting season March through August and report bluebird data in accordance with the Virginia Bluebird Society protocol. Newport News Park, which is located in Newport News, York County, and is one of the largest city run parks in the United States.

Here is a comparison of nesting activity on all of our trails’ 298 nesting boxes (2017 vs 2016) .

EASTERN BLUEBIRD

Active EABL Nests

EABL Eggs

EABL Chicks

EABL Fledges

Total EABL Activity

7-18-2017

71

115

140

655

910

7-24-2016

31

52

44

440

536

Results of our monitoring on Friday, July 2nd :

I want to thank my Team Member Geoff Giles for identifying the frogs

11active nests,  1 partial nest,  28 empty nesting boxes

31 BB chicks,  14 BB eggs,  3 fledged young BB

no other species nesting

Here are some other observation made during our Survey:

Box 14 had 4 Squirrels Tree Frogs and a Cope’s Gray Tree Frog occupying it.

squirrel tree frog #1

Squirrel Tree Frog – Hyla squirella

copes grey tree frog

Cope”s Gray Tree Frog – Hyla chrysoscelis

photos from Google

 

Northern Mocking Bird , a Great White Egret, and a Ruby Throated Humming Bird were seen. A beautiful Yellow-bellied Slider made it across the road (just in time) at box 23. He was a “Buff” male who looked like he had just put on new duds and was on the prowl looking for a date.

yellow bellied slider

Yellow Bellied Slider – Trachemys scripta

photo from Google

We spotted three butterflies: an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (our State Insect), a Zebra Swallowtail, and a Common Wood Nymph.

common-wood-nymph-butterfly

Common Wood Nymph – Cercyonis pegala

Photo from Google

An expanded comment on the frogs :

I was reading an old Gothic novel written by H.P. Lovecraft titled “The Doom That Came to Sarnath”. It put me into a macabre frame of mind.

Box 14 was again the scene of a Batrachian convention hosted by the H.P. Lovecraft Inn at 24 Cthulhu Ave. They were conducting readings from the Nicromicon’s “Book of the Dead” and trying to utter unspeakable incantations for summoning the “Old Ones”.

When we heard , ” Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’ nagl fhtagn”. We shuddered and silently crept away.

Here is a photo of that awful Covention taken on July 7th. There are 4 Squirrel Frogs in the for ground with a Cope’s Gray Tree Frog hiding in the right hand corner.

BB frogs

Photo courtesy of Geoff Giles

To paraphrase Forrest Gump: My Mama always said, “ A Blue Bird Nesting Box was like a box of Chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get”.

Ramblin Clyde

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prey, Predators and Collateral Damage

My beautiful picture

Recently we had infestation of rats in the neighborhood (non-human) and Cockroaches. A number of neighbors including myself hired an exterminator to get rid of them. They had gotten into my storage shed and were also playing havoc with the bird feeders and flower garden succulents. The exterminator first put down sticky strips around and in the shed.

BrownRat-Rattus norvegicus

Brown Rat -Rattus norvegicus courtesy of Wikipedia

Two strips caught the following:

My beautiful picture

Prey:  cockroach- Blattoidea. & house fly-  Musca domestica

 

My beautiful picture

Predators:  Shrew –Blarina brevicauda and Centipede –Scutigera coleoptrata

(note tick next to shrew)

The first strip which I named Prey and the second is named Predators. As the shrew & centipede were next to the insects I am surmising the two predators were going after the insects, unfortunately they became Collateral Damage. I had the strips removed and rat traps put down.

The traps caught 5 rats over a week’s time and evidently ended my problem. I have stopped putting bird seed on the ground and that has also helped.

The Shrew family are the only venomous mammals found in North America.

Here is an exert from Wikipedia:

This shrew consumes up to three times its weight in food each day.[4] It eats small quantities of subterranean fungi and seeds, though it is mostly carnivorous.[5] It prefers insects, earthwormsvolessnails, and other shrews for the bulk of its diet, though salamanders and mice are also eaten.[5]This shrew consumes vertebrates more often than other shrews do.[5] The shrew mostly forages within a few hours after sunset, though it is also active during cloudy days.[5] High evaporative water loss requires the shrew to have access to a source of water, though it does obtain water from its food, as well.[3] The shrew often hoards food, especially in the fall and winter, or during a time of prey abundance;[3] one study found it caches 87% of the prey it catches, while 9% is eaten immediately and 4% is left where it was killed.[10]

Toxin[edit]

The saliva of the northern short-tailed shrew contains a kallikrein-like protease, used to paralyze and subdue its prey.[11] The toxin is strong enough to kill small animals, up to sizes somewhat larger than the shrew itself, and results in painful bites to humans who attempt to handle the shrew.[3] The venomous saliva is secreted from submaxillary glands, through a duct which opens at the base of the lower incisors, where the saliva flows along the groove formed by the two incisors, and into the prey.[3][5] The toxin is very similar in structure to the one produced by the Mexican beaded lizard(Heloderma horridum) which independently developed its toxin from the same precursor protein.[12]

This photo is an update. I found this strip under our deck and wanted to include it. The Predators are a 5 Lined Skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) and a spider. There are six cockroaches, at least two house flies, a Lighting Bug/FireFly (Lampyridae family), several Roly Polies(Isopods) and a Partridge in a Pear Tree ( a jest).

My beautiful picture

The local paper is reporting large numbers of “bugs “ are being driven out of yards into shady or cooler areas ( especially house foundations, garages, etc).

One wonders if how many Prey animals would be consumed by the Predators if they had not been killed as “Collateral Damage” ?

Ramblin Clyde

I had an unusual experience with the birds that were feeding on the seeds I scattered on the ground.

A backyard resident Song Sparrow brought two juveniles and was busily picking up seeds and feeding two juveniles who were eagerly following and doing the fluttering wings and outstretched head bob .

The odd thing was that the two juveniles were at least twice the size of the adult sparrow. I realized they were immature Cowbirds. I sympathized with the parents having to raise two aliens. I am sure that when they hatched ,the interlopers kicked out the sparrow eggs/nestlings .

song sparrow Melospiza melodia

Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia ( courtesy of Wikipedia)

The two juveniles were very “tame” and I could get quite close to them. They are now competing with the feeders birds though they have work hard as they haven’t learned to perch on the tube feeders and suet log.

My beautiful picture

Cow Bird juvenile Molothrus ater

Ramblin Clyde

Poetry From The Born Naturalist

IMG_5098(1)2
A Blue Jay Named Satan courtesy of Inge Curtis, HRC, VMN

I took a Child of Nature

and raised it for my own.

And by little acts of Kindness

seeds of Love were sown.

Those flashing Wings of azure blue

his wild and raucous sounds.

The worlds of sky and earth He knew

only by Love were bound.

Within His breast a wild Heart beat

unchained from worldly care.

Yet he loved a Boy, a selfish Boy

this Child of God so fair.

He gave to me his very being

his Love a precious thing.

Perched on my shoulder every night

a song of Life he’d sing.

Puffed up and vibrant He would fly

above my bed each morn.

And Tidings of a new day come

upon his Wings were born.

But now my Life is emptied

of this bit of little Bliss.

there is a dark and lonesome Void

left by Death’s cruel kiss.

He symbolized a link between

God’s natural world and mine.

But now to God I give Him

Oh Lord he’s wholly Thine.

His grave beneath the Willow lies

marked by the Laurel green.

A little bit of Life now stilled

Oh Death your aim unseen.

To be alone is not Life’s way

Through Love the World is made.

Yet for the gift of Life and Love

the Price of Death is paid.

 

pennsylvanian-blue-jay
Satan -A Blue Jay Photo courtesy of Bonnie(Marsteller) Pancoast
https://clydeccedm.wordpress.com/2016/07/15/
Title of article: A Story Of A Blue Jay Named Satan and Other Memories
My beautiful picture
The Lake at Tawlfen

The Lake nestled in the hills

  turquoise blue in emerald green.

A piece of heaven wedded to earth

  when at a distance seen.

Fed by the rains and storm clouds

  born in the sky above.

Droplets splashed into its’ bosom

  soft kisses of celestial love.

Peaceful and life giving it lies

  obeying the wind’ command.

It wavelets chase fallen leaves

  across its’ shoals of sand.

Shy wild creatures come and drink

  and see themselves reflected.

Then move back into woodland haunts

  there by their depths protected.

And deep below the surface

  another world is seen.

Long arms and fronds of plants

  fishes dark and lean.

Glimmering schools of life

  break as their ranks are tore.

By ravenous teeth and shuddering

  forms of hungry predator.

So it is in most things

  in the peaceful something mean.

  below the surface worlds unseen.

In the beautiful and obvious

the Lake
and see themselves reflected.”
Photo courtesy of Bonnie(Marsteller) Pancoast
           https://clydeccedm.wordpress.com/2015/10/26/
TITLE OF ARTICLE: THE SKUNK HOLLOW BOYS

sea-coast-night-sky-stars-milky-way

The Milky Way

Courtesy of Texas Fish & Game Google article

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

How I wonder where you are.

Now obscured by light pollution.

How I wish there was a solution”

Ramblin Clyde

  • The first night we decided to fish at the dock. The sunset was spectacular. I remember later lying on the dock after midnight and looking up. I have never seen stars like that. The Milky Way in all its glory was splashed across the sky and every so often a shooting star fell across the canopy. It was a mystical experience. Then I noticed there were lights in the water! As schools of fishes swam by or as we fought fish we hooked, the water flashed with luminescence. Between the sky and the sea it was a show I will carry in my soul forever. To add to all this beauty the night exploded with sound. Coyotes started to talk with on another and the gulls flew over head in the darkness answering them.
  • https://Clydeccedm.wordpress.com/2016/06/20/
  • Title of Story: Treasured Island

The Demi God

By Clyde Marsteller, 1955, upon the occasion of shooting

The Old Man of the Mountain”

 

The creatures of the forest

are silent and fearful.

For Death stalks the wooded glades

relentless and careful.

A movement now a flash

a sharp thunder is heard.

A wild death cry a thrashing form

to sight is bared.

Large or small none are excluded

rabbit,squirrel and deer.

From their wild haunts

by this pursuer are rooted.

Hiding,running,blindly fleeing

crouching close to the sod.

Quivering,dying, innocent victims

of the deadly Demi-God.

The majestic buck defiant

shakes his antlers proud.

ten pouinter

courtesy of Google

His does unlike their Lord mill

in a frightened crowd.

King of his dominion he surveys

the familiar wood.

Unaware out there watching

the Demi-God concealed stood.

Then thunder, the buck sprang up

but the messenger flew true.

The valiant heart stopped by the

message struck through.

Destroyer decreeing that it die

your tools gun and rod.

Who is to argue? Not I

For I am the Demi -God.

 

https://Clydeccedm.wordpress.com/2015/08/29/ title of article : The Hunters

 

 

 

Starting And Keeping A Zoo

When I first conceived the idea of having a Zoo to entertain the children in my granddaughter’s 3 rd grade class at Poquoson ES I did not think what an awesome job and responsibility it would become.

I want to go through the experience before my memory fails me.

I realized that I would have to put any animals I collected to into suitable habitats or containers. If I was looking at long term containment I would have to provide environments close to the one I took the animals out of. Then it dawned on me I would have to feed them!

Terrariums were cost prohibitive. What to do? I settled on large plastic containers like the kind pretzels, Halloween candy, snacks come in. I also bought several dozen various sized storage containers.

typical-animal-home
Typical Critter Habitat-Halloween candy jar
isopod-habitat
Roly Poly Home

slugs-snail-habitatSlug & Snail “Gastropodium”

I made up a collection kit and started off on my grand adventure. I had chosen the three acre suburban tract belonging to our church. It had a lot of undergrowth and logs from Hurricane Isabel’s visit that the men of the church cut into pieces I could roll over easily.

collection-kit
Collection Kit
My beautiful picture
G3A

I worked the area around several of the “Isabel” logs, carefully cleaning the surface area around each and collecting what ever I uncovered and putting the animals in collection jars. Next I rolled over the logs and collected what I uncovered there. I wandered through God’s Three Acres (G3A) chasing after insects, lizards, beetles, spiders, and butterflies.

It was great being a kid again!

betsy-beetle-by-Isobel log

Betsy Beetle by Isabel log

critters-085
Red Admiral Butterfly in G3A
critters-148
Catching a Millipede in G3A
My beautiful picture
Swallowtail in G3A
Isabelle Log
Isabel Log

I uncovered a number of snakes under other logs, rocks and pieces of lumber scattered through out the tract.

snake on Isabel Log
Earth Snake on Isabel log

Once home I separated my catch and set up house keeping in our den.

Over the months I added to Zoo with frogs, toads and turtles and lizards along with more small snakes.

green frog
Zoo’s Green Frog
My beautiful picture
Leopard Frog

My beautiful picture

Mushroom -our Toad

My beautiful picture

Box Turtle

broad-headed-skink

Broad Headed Skink

five-lined-skink
A 5 lined Skink
fence-lizard
Fence Lizard- a Swift
clydes-zoo-babies-009
Common Ground Skink

dekay-or-brown-snake

Dekay or Brown Snake

 

My beautiful picture
female rough earth snake

worm snake #1

 

worm snake

ring-neck-snake

ring neck snake

green_snake

green tree snake

male-black-racer

Male Black Racer

The Zoo was taking shape. I learned how to handle the animals by putting them into traveling containers ,ie; jars, plastic storage containers and various plastic food containers.

Zoo Display

traveling habitats

clydes-zoo-babies-011

traveling container for snails/slugs

clydeandspottedsalamander
Our Spotted Salamander- note Hissing cockroach on my sleeve and Betsy Beetle traveling plastic container

betsy-beetle-containerPatent Leather traveling container

The presentations evolved as I learned about the animals’ life histories. I divided the Zoo into two major elements: Decomposers and Predators. I quickly learned I needed at least two other VMN folks that were not afraid to handle the critters to help with the presentation .

The Zoo Cru was born!

PES Zoo Visit

Zoo Cru Jan & Patty with children at Poquoson E.S,

Meanwhile back at the den. I was learning how to adjust habitat and more importantly- how to feed my charges. Most of the Decomposers were vegans. The Predators of course were more tricky to please as they all ate PREY! Welcome to the world of crickets, termites, ant eggs, grasshoppers, and a worm farm.

Food purchases ran into apples, mushrooms, greens, Cheerios, honey, crickets and a constant search for logs & wood infested with termites. A Master Gardener friend of mine, Cpt Compost, provided me from his compost pile a bucket filled with earthworms ( it lasted the life of the Zoo)

The current Zoo animal levels have stayed the same from 2008 through 2013.

My total expenses for the Zoo and Insect Collection maintenance and upkeep for those 5 years was $1,937.50 .The costs from January 2014 to June 2014 ( when I had a stroke and had to give the Zoo program up) added an additional $180 for a total of $1,117.50

Food included Apples, Packaged Mushrooms, Crickets , Cheerios ,and various greens.

Termites were free.

Why Cheerios? All of the Decomposers loved Cheerios except the Gastropods. The cereal

is vitamin fortified and kept the little critters healthy (sugar content didn’t hurt either).

termites

zoo termites

I can not guess the number of hours I spent in the field collecting, feeding, cleaning the habitats, cataloging, identification and listing of the Zoo animals and The Insect Collection.

They were priceless golden hours granted to me that filled my life.

Ramblin Clyde

Clyde & Zoo
clyde & zoo

Notes From The Wild Side

jan-in-pa

First Day Of Spring At Home In Pennsylvania

Courtesy of Bonnie (Marsteller) Pancoast

Hello Gentle Readers,
Here are three photos I just took down here in the Lower Forty (Newport News).

My beautiful pictureThe first is a bowl filled with blossoms from my three Camellias shrubs:  Red Blush, Candy Cane and Peppermint Patty.

We have a great Horned Owl in the pines across the street. He hoots at me every morning when I bring in my paper (0630 hrs) but I have never seen him in daylight. Finally I spotted him snuggled against a pine. I couldn’t get close & I don’t have a telescopic lens. A murder of crows found him and he took off.
My beautiful picture
I get a “Hoot” out of him
The last bird photo is from our kitchen window. My Yellow Bellied Sapsucker and one of my blue birds are on the peanut butter log feeder and a Tufted Titmouse is on the adjacent feeder. The Sapsucker, Butter Butts, and my Juncos are still here. I also have a pair of Hermit Thrushes coming in daily to scratch on the ground around the feeders
My beautiful picture
Sapsucker, Bluebird & Titmouse

I got to wander through G3A (God’s Three Acres) while Miss Ellie was doing Altar Guild.

I went to a sheet of plywood lying on the upper end of the woodlot and found my favorite Gastropods: Giant Wood Slugs and a Painted Wood Slug.

critters-058

Giant Wood Slug- Limax maxmus

Limax maximus

Limax maxmus

Giant Wood Slug – Variant coloration

Painted Wood Slug

Painted Wood Slug – Limax specie

Two plants were stretching towards the sun:  a  bunch of Running Cedar and and several patches of Crane Fly Orchids. I added a photo of the Crane Fly Orchid in bloom I took last year in August. The plant has leaves that are green on top and dark red on the bottom.

My beautiful picture
My beautiful picture
My beautiful picture
Running Cedar – Lycopodium digitatum
My beautiful picture
Crane Fly orchid- Tipularia discolor
My beautiful picture
Crane Fly Orchid in Bloom

Crane-flyOrchidleaves

bi – colored leaves

Ramblin Clyde

 

This blog is dedicated to those of us who love the outdoors. I have been asked to share my “Notes From The Wild Side” and other articles pertaining to my experiences as a “Born Naturalist”  growing up in the outdoors of Pennsylvania , travels through Texas, Colorado and now life in Virginia.

Here is the website with the articles in chronological order:

https://clydeccedm.wordpress.com/2016/11/21/a-born-naturalist-2/

 

 

 

 

HOW TO START & KEEP A ZOO

When I first conceived the idea of having a Zoo to entertain the children in my granddaughter’s 3 rd grade class at Poquoson ES I did not think what an awesome job and responsibility it would become.

I want to go through the experience before my memory fails me.

I realized that I would have to put any animals I collected to into suitable habitats or containers. If I was looking at long term containment I would have to provide environments close to the one I took the animals out of. Then it dawned on me I would have to feed them!

I realized that I would have to put any animals I collected to into suitable habitats or containers. If I was looking at long term containment I would have to provide environments close to the one I took the animals out of. Then it dawned on me I would have to feed them!

 

I realized that I would have to put any animals I collected to into suitable habitats or containers. If I was looking at long term containment I would have to provide environments close to the one I took the animals out of. Then it dawned on me I would have to feed them!

Terrariums were cost prohibitive. What to do? I settled on large plastic containers like the kind pretzels, Halloween candy, snacks come in. I also bought several dozen various sized storage containers.

typical-animal-home
Typical Critter Habitat-Halloween candy jar
isopod-habitat
Roly Poly Home

slugs-snail-habitat

Slugs & Snails “Gastropod-arium” (old cookie tray)

I made up a collection kit and started off on my grand adventure. I had chosen the three acre suburban tract belonging to our church. It had a lot of undergrowth and logs from Hurricane Isabel’s visit that the men of the church cut into pieces I could roll over easily.

collection-kit
Collection Kit
My beautiful picture
G3A

I worked the area around several of the “Isabel” logs, carefully cleaning the surface area around each and collecting what ever I uncovered and putting the animals in collection jars. Next I rolled over the logs and collected what I uncovered there. I wandered through God’s Three Acres (G3A) chasing after insects, lizards, beetles, spiders, and butterflies.

It was great being a kid again!

betsy-beetle-by-Isobel log
Betsy Beetle by Isabel Log
critters-085
Red Admiral Butterfly in G3A
My beautiful picture
Spice Bush Swallowtail in G3A
critters-148
Catching a Millipede in G3A
Isabelle Log
Isabelle Log

I uncovered a number of snakes under other logs, rocks and pieces of lumber scattered through out the tract.

snake on Isabel Log
Earth Snake on Isabel log

Once home I separated my catch and set up house keeping in our den.

Over the months I added to Zoo with frogs, toads and turtles and lizards along with more small snakes.

green-frog
Zoo’s Green Frog
My beautiful picture
Leopard Frog in G3A
My beautiful picture
Mushroom the Toad

Miss Terry

Box Turtle in G3A

broad-headed-skink
Broad Headed Skink
five-lined-skink
A  5  lined Skink
dekay-or-brown-snake
Dekay or Brown Snake
My beautiful picture
female rough earth snake
wormsnake
worm snake
fence-lizard
A Fence Swift
ring-neck-snake
ring neck snake
green_snake
green tree snake
male-black-racer
Male Black Racer

The Zoo was taking shape. I learned how to handle the animals by putting them into traveling containers ,ie; jars, plastic storage containers and various plastic food containers.

plastic container full of Isabel critters

Clyde & Zoo
Clyde & zoo
critters-179
traveling container for snails/slugs
clydeandspottedsalamander
Our Spotted Salamander- note Hissing cockroach on my sleeve

c
betsy-beetle-container

Zoo Display
Traveling zoo display

The presentations evolved as I learned about the animals’ life histories. I divided the Zoo into two major elements: Decomposers and Predators. I quickly learned I needed at least two other VMN folks that were not afraid to handle the critters to help with the presentation .

The Zoo Cru was born!

Meanwhile back at the den. I was learning how to adjust habitat and more importantly- how to feed my charges. Most of the Decomposers were vegans. The Predators of course were more tricky to please as they all ate PREY! Welcome to the world of crickets, termites, ant eggs, grasshoppers, and a worm farm.

Food purchases ran into apples, mushrooms, greens, Cheerios, honey, crickets and a constant search for logs & wood infested with termites. A Master Gardener friend of mine, Cpt Compost, provided me from his compost pile a bucket filled with earthworms ( it lasted the life of the Zoo)

The current Zoo animal levels have stayed the same from 2008 through 2013.

My total expenses for the Zoo and Insect Collection maintenance and upkeep for those 5 years was $1,937.50 .The costs from January 2014 to June 2014 ( when I had a stroke and had to give the Zoo program up) added an additional $180 for a total of $1,117.50

Food included Apples, Packaged Mushrooms, Crickets , Cheerios ,and various greens.

Termites were free.

Why Cheerios? All of the Decomposers loved Cheerios except the Gastropods. The cereal

is vitamin fortified and kept the little critters healthy (sugar content didn’t hurt either).

termites
zoo termites

I can not guess the number of hours I spent in the field collecting, feeding, cleaning the habitats, cataloging, identification and listing of the Zoo animals and The Insect Collection.

They were priceless golden hours granted to me that filled my life.

Ramblin Clyde

 

Introduction to “A Born Naturalist” series

This blog is dedicated to those of us who love the outdoors. I have been asked to share my “Notes From The Wild Side” and other articles pertaining to my experiences as a “Born Naturalist”  growing up in the outdoors of Pennsylvania , travels through Texas, Colorado and now life in Virginia.

Here is the website with the articles in chronological order:

https://clydeccedm.wordpress.com/2016/11/21/a-born-naturalist-2/

 

Starting-And-Keeping-A-Zoo

When I first conceived the idea of having a Zoo to entertain the children in my granddaughter’s 3 rd grade class at Poquoson ES I did not think what an awesome job and responsibility it would become.

I want to go through the experience before my memory fails me.

I realized that I would have to put any animals I collected to into suitable habitats or containers. If I was looking at long term containment I would have to provide environments close to the one I took the animals out of. Then it dawned on me I would have to feed them!

Terrariums were cost prohibitive. What to do? I settled on large plastic containers like the kind pretzels, Halloween candy, snacks come in. I also bought several dozen various sized storage containers.

typical-animal-home
Typical Critter Habitat-Halloween candy jar
isopod-habitat
Roly Poly Home

slugs-snail-habitat

Slugs & Snails “Gastropod-arium” (old cookie tray)

I made up a collection kit and started off on my grand adventure. I had chosen the three acre suburban tract belonging to our church. It had a lot of undergrowth and logs from Hurricane Isabel’s visit that the men of the church cut into pieces I could roll over easily.

collection-kit
Collection Kit
My beautiful picture
G3A

I worked the area around several of the “Isabel” logs, carefully cleaning the surface area around each and collecting what ever I uncovered and putting the animals in collection jars. Next I rolled over the logs and collected what I uncovered there. I wandered through God’s Three Acres (G3A) chasing after insects, lizards, beetles, spiders, and butterflies.

It was great being a kid again!

betsy-beetle-by-Isobel log
Betsy Beetle by Isabel Log
critters-085
Red Admiral Butterfly in G3A
My beautiful picture
Spice Bush Swallowtail in G3A
critters-148
Catching a Millipede in G3A
Isabelle Log
Isabelle Log

I uncovered a number of snakes under other logs, rocks and pieces of lumber scattered through out the tract.

snake on Isabel Log
Earth Snake on Isabel log

Once home I separated my catch and set up house keeping in our den.

Over the months I added to Zoo with frogs, toads and turtles and lizards along with more small snakes.

green-frog
Zoo’s Green Frog
My beautiful picture
Leopard Frog in G3A
My beautiful picture
Mushroom the Toad

Miss Terry

Box Turtle in G3A

broad-headed-skink
Broad Headed Skink
five-lined-skink
A  5  lined Skink
dekay-or-brown-snake
Dekay or Brown Snake
My beautiful picture
female rough earth snake
wormsnake
worm snake
fence-lizard
A Fence Swift
ring-neck-snake
ring neck snake
green_snake
green tree snake
male-black-racer
Male Black Racer

The Zoo was taking shape. I learned how to handle the animals by putting them into traveling containers ,ie; jars, plastic storage containers and various plastic food containers.

plastic container full of Isabel critters

Clyde & Zoo
Clyde & zoo
critters-179
traveling container for snails/slugs
clydeandspottedsalamander
Our Spotted Salamander- note Hissing cockroach on my sleeve

c
betsy-beetle-container

Zoo Display
Traveling zoo display

The presentations evolved as I learned about the animals’ life histories. I divided the Zoo into two major elements: Decomposers and Predators. I quickly learned I needed at least two other VMN folks that were not afraid to handle the critters to help with the presentation .

The Zoo Cru was born!

Meanwhile back at the den. I was learning how to adjust habitat and more importantly- how to feed my charges. Most of the Decomposers were vegans. The Predators of course were more tricky to please as they all ate PREY! Welcome to the world of crickets, termites, ant eggs, grasshoppers, and a worm farm.

Food purchases ran into apples, mushrooms, greens, Cheerios, honey, crickets and a constant search for logs & wood infested with termites. A Master Gardener friend of mine, Cpt Compost, provided me from his compost pile a bucket filled with earthworms ( it lasted the life of the Zoo)

The current Zoo animal levels have stayed the same from 2008 through 2013.

My total expenses for the Zoo and Insect Collection maintenance and upkeep for those 5 years was $1,937.50 .The costs from January 2014 to June 2014 ( when I had a stroke and had to give the Zoo program up) added an additional $180 for a total of $1,117.50

Food included Apples, Packaged Mushrooms, Crickets , Cheerios ,and various greens.

Termites were free.

Why Cheerios? All of the Decomposers loved Cheerios except the Gastropods. The cereal

is vitamin fortified and kept the little critters healthy (sugar content didn’t hurt either).

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zoo termites

I can not guess the number of hours I spent in the field collecting, feeding, cleaning the habitats, cataloging, identification and listing of the Zoo animals and The Insect Collection.

They were priceless golden hours granted to me that filled my life.

Ramblin Clyde

Roly Poly’s Great Adventure

With thanks to my Virginia Master Naturalist Mentors and the support of my ZOO Cru and our Historic Rivers Chapter along with a collection of the most interesting and fascinating animals  you would want to meet, ” A Zoo In My Shopping Bags” became a resounding success. The Zoo entertained, charmed, and educated over 13,000 children and adults of all ages with two exceptions. There was two age groups I had neglected.: Preschoolers and Kindergarteners.

How to include these children? How to introduce them to our Natural World and to the concepts of Conservation and Stewardship ?

I had an idea that they would respond to a story about the adventures of a whimsical Hero.

What animal would charm them and hold their attention?

I chose a small inoffensive animal that wouldn’t bite, didn’t transmit disease, and could be handled without harming either itself or the children. It was one of our Decomposers ( a Detritivore ) – an Isopod aptly named Roly Poly.

Reasons for my choice:

Their ancestors lived in the sea, but ancient pill bugs crawled out millions of years ago to carve a life for themselves on dry land.

Pill bugs are crustaceans, not insects.

Though they’re often associated with insects and are referred to as “bugs,” pill bugs actually belong to the subphylum Crustacea. They’re much more closely related to shrimp and crayfish than to any kind of insect. Roly poly bugs are able to form their bodies into a ball shape, in a process known as conglobation.

2. Pill bugs breathe through gills. They retained them even after becoming dry land dwellers. Sort of a reverse SCUBA diver.

3. Pillbug mothers carry their eggs in a pouch.

Like crabs and other crustaceans, pill bugs tote their eggs around with them. Overlapping thoracic plates form a special pouch, called a marsupium, on the pill bug’s underside. Upon hatching, the tiny juvenile pill bugs remain in the pouch for several days before leaving to explore the world on their own. This makes them a kind of arthropod kangroo.

4 A pill bug can drink with its anus.

Though pill bugs do drink the old-fashioned way – with their mouth parts – they can also take in water through their rear ends. Special tube-shaped structures called uropods can suck water up when needed.

5 Pill bugs curl into tight balls when threatened.

Most kids have poked a pill bug to watch it roll up into a tight ball. In fact, many people call them roly polies for just this reason. Its ability to curl up distinguishes the pill bug from another close relative, the sowbug. This process is called conglobation.

6 Pill bugs eat their own poop.

Yes indeed, pill bugs munch on lots of feces, including their own. Each time a pill bug poops, it loses a little copper, an essential element it needs to live. In order to recycle this precious resource, the pill bug will consume its own poop, a practice known as coprophagy.

Note: I dropped this fact when talking to the age groups as being too suggestive.

7 A pill bug’s blood is blue.

Many crustaceans, pill bugs included, have hemocyanin in their blood. Unlike hemoglobin, which contains iron, hemocyanin contains copper ions. When oxygenated, pill bug blood appears blue.

(FYI) Little Pill Bugs Make a Big Impact

In 2015,a study by Yale and several other universities found that terrestrial crustaceans like pill bugs may play a very real role in controlling the global climate.

Pill bugs consume fungus that is responsible for breaking down organic matter in the soil, a process that releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. As the atmosphere warms, the fungus activity increases, resulting in more carbon released and even higher atmospheric temperatures. It’s a dangerous vortex.

But when pill bugs and their kin are present, they’re able to mitigate the effects of increased temperature by consuming more of the fungus. They’re small, but pill bugs may be protecting us by slowing climate change.

Here is a great video about our Hero:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/pill-bugs-emerged-sea-conquer-earth/

Now On To The Story About Roly’s Great Adventure

A Zoo Presentation to PreSchoolers and Kindergarten classes.

Talk about Cockroaches-it is a Living Fossil. It’s Family has been around for 400 million years. It was running around Dinosaurs feet 65 million years ago.

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American Cockroaches

Show American Cockroaches and let them touch the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach. Tell them the Hissing Cockroach came over from Africa to visit its American cousins.

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Cousin Hissing Cockroach

They are Insects. Tell them what an Insect is. Show them Robo Wasp.

Clyde & Hornet
Clyde & Robo Wasp

Do you know what a Roly Poly is? He is a Bug and a lady Roly Poly is the kangaroo of the bug world. They originally came from the ocean and their cousins are crabs & shrimps.

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Roly Poly starting his great adventure
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Roly Poly after being frightened

Tell them the story about his journey from the sea to the forest.

Roly has gills like fish so it had to take some sea water along with him.He grew a little sack around his gills and filled them with sea water.

Pass around Roly Poly House.

Roly got hungry and found some dead crunchy leaves to nibble on and they tasted sooo good!

Roly meets Millie the Millipede – she has 1000 legs.

Tell story about the little boy & his millipede

Once upon a time there was a little boy that came from a family that was so poor that they couldn’t afford to give him a puppy or kitten to play with. One day as he was walking to school he saw a millipede crawling along street. He picked it and said,” You are so pretty I think you be might be a little girl and I am going to name you Millie”. He took Millie home and put her in a match box and carried it around with him. When got lonely he would talk to Millie in the matchbox and he thought he could hear her talk to him.

One day as he was walking home he saw a five dollar bill along the road. He picked up and ran home. When he got in his house he took out the matchbox and told Millie he found enough money to take her to the movies. He said, “Millie, do you want to go to the movies with me?”. Millie didn’t answer, so asked her again. and she still didn’t answer. Finally he shouted, “do you want to go to the movies” ?

He heard Millie say,” Yes, but it is going to take a while to put my socks and shoes on.”

Remember Millie has a thousand feet!

Millie likes leaves too. Pass Millie around

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“Millie” the Millipede

Roly runs into a shell- looks like his cousin Hermit the Crab who lives in an old shell back in the Ocean. But this shell belongs to Dale the Snail. Dale munches on leaves too, but he really likes mushrooms.

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Dale the Snail

Dale introduces Roly to his cousin Mug the Slug. A long time ago Mug got tired of carrying his shell around so he threw it away. Now the he didn’t have anything to protect himself from creatures that wanted to eat him so he covered his body with slime to protect himself.

Pass snails & slugs around

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Mug the Slug & a buddy

Roly feels the ground shake and a long snake like animal pokes his head out. It is Herm the Worm. Herm is slimy like Mug the Slug but lives underground.

Pass Night Crawler around.

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Herm the Worm

Roly sees a huge object ahead of him. To Roly it looks a big as a house. It is a tree log. He crawls up to it and knocks on the wood.

A loud voice says, “ Who is knocking at my door?” A big head looks out of a hole in the log.

“Who are you ?,” asks Roly. “My name is Betsy the Beetle and I can talk to people”.

Pass around Betsy Beetles and let the kids hear them.

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Betsy Beetle & Friends

Remind the kids that a beetle is also an insect. Tell them about baby beetles (grubs) and how they are fed by their parents. Mom & Dad feed the babies Beetle poop until they are big enough to chew wood.

Betsy Beetles & larva
Betsy Beetles & babies. They really “talk”

All these animals eat dead leaves and wood and turn them back into soil dropping their poop on the ground.

Betsy tells Roly, “Watch out, something bad is coming the log”!

Roly hears someone singing,” Fee Fie Fo Fum, I see something munchy”. A terrible animal with 8 legs and eight eyes jumps down. It is a spider. Roly curls up into a ball and the spider can’t figure out how to eat him and she leaves.

Turn on Robo Spider.

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Golden Garden Spider
My beautiful picture
Shelob -our Wolf Spider & babies
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Clyde with Robo Spider

Roly climbs on top log and meets an animal that looks like Millie the Millipede but has only 100 legs. It also has huge jaws. It is a Centipede.

Pass out centipedes.

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Centipede

Roly squeaks and fall off the log. He rolls into another slimy creature. It is also hungry but all it  wants are ants and termites for a meal. It is Sally the  Salamander , she breathes through her skin and has to stay wet to live.

Pass around salamanders

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Sally the Salamander

Roly hears an argument above him the trees. One voice says,” I want that grasshopper”! Another voice says, “ I saw him first”. There is sounds of fighting and two animals fall down and hit the ground. One is Dink the Skink and the other is Gizzard the Fence Lizard. Both have hit the ground so hard that they like Jack in the poem “Jack & Jill went up the hill” broke their crowns.

Pass out Skink and Fence Lizard.

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Dink the Skink
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Gizzard the Lizard

Tell the children the difference between Salamanders (amphibians) & Lizards( reptiles)

Roly runs towards back to a pile of leaves and something jumps next to him. It is Mushroom the Toad.

He says.” Hello little fellow, have you seen any crickets or grasshoppers? My cousin Rana the Leopard Frog and I are looking for a meal”.

Pass put Toad & frog and tell the difference between them.

My beautiful picture
Mushroom the Toad
My beautiful picture
Rana the Frog

Roly runs back to the log and tries to crawl under it. He sees another strange creature. It looks like a worm but had a head and eyes and keeps sticking it’s tongue out. “ Hello” it says, “I am Jake the Snake. I would eat you but I just ate some tasty worms”.

Smooth Greensnakevirginiaherpetologicalsociety.com
Jake the Snake

Roly tries to leave but bumps into something that looks like a rock.The rock grows a head that says to him,” Hello little fellow, you have a shell just like me”. “Who are you ?” asks Roly The creature says “ I am Myrtle the Turtle”.

My beautiful picture
Myrtle the Turtle eating a worm

Roly thinks to himself. I should have stayed in the ocean but this place is so interesting and these leaves taste better than sea weed. I think I’ll stay.

Talk about Stewardship and helping the animals have homes to live in, also explain that a Steward is someone who takes care of people , animals and plants.

At the beginning of the story I tell the children if they listen I will give them present.

I explain that this present belongs to them and they must be good Stewards of it.

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our present to the children. It is now theirs and they must be good Stewards of it

Only The Bear Facts

Close Encounters of the Bear Kind

In 1955 Dad and I decided to spent the opening day of deer season hunting on public game lands in the Wild Creek Reservoir of the Pocono Mts in eastern Pennsylvania. We hunted in the area known as Hell’s Hollow because of its deep gorges filled with rhododendron .The locals called them rhododendron “hells” because of the impossibility of getting through them.

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Rhododendron Hell

We got to the area at O’ dark 30 hrs. and found stands by deer trails on the ridge at the top of the Hollow.  The season opened at sunrise and I was standing under a small pine watching and listening to the wild critters waking up. I was draped in a red flannel blanket my Hungarian Grandmother has sewn for me and I held my rifle at ready ( loaded with the safety on). Dad was about 50 yards further down the slope at another deer trail intersection.

About 7 am I heard something walking down the trail towards me. I raised my rifle and held my breath.

About 30 feet away a large Black Bear suddenly appeared. It stopped sniffed the air and looked straight at me. I could count every hair on its face. It couldn’t decided what I was and started towards me again. I held my rifle out and poked it in his snout. It stumbled back and “woofed” at me and ran straight down the slope towards Dad. I yelled “Bear, Bear” and heard the Old Man yelling back at me “Bear”. He came running up all excited and wanted to know if I saw the critter. I don’t think he believed me at first but he could see the saplings broke down where Ursa bull dozed through. The ironic thing was bear season ended the day before and we could not have legally shot him anyways.

Later on in the season I shot a monster of a buck on our summer home property along the Appalachian Trail in the Blue Mts of Penna, but that is another story for another time.

Close Encounter number two happened on a fishing trip to Canada. I took the liberty of adding the story as an attachment.

Three of my fishing buddies and I had made plans to go on a Canadian fishing trip. I was excited because this would be my first time leaving the country and the lure of the Northern Woods was overwhelming. We were going to a lodge outside of Calabogie, Ontario on the Madawaska River. Calabogie is a small Scotch-Irish village with a post office, general store and a Convent. We stocked up on perishables, Moose Ale and worms before driving out to the fishing camp. The trees were spruce, balsam, birch and hardwoods and the air smelled like a million Christmas trees.

.As we drove along the gravel woods road a big black bear burst out of the brush and ran along the side of our car. What a welcome!

The Bear That Wasn’t

The Applegate Gang had a new hangout. The guys had reached that magical and stupid age of reason- we were now 21 and could legally drink alcohol. We immediately became members of  a local club with a bar- the Young Democrats Club. It was ideal hangout with a large lounge,TV, dart board, two lane bowling alley, pool table, and beer on tap. A home away from home.

We would meet there to plan out our week-ends. This Friday night was was decidedly unproductive.

The few suggestions we had fell flat. In the lull of conversation I asked if anyone had seen the bear that my cousin Bobby T. had shot last weekend. Bear season was drawing to a close the last day being Saturday.

Rod said he knew of an area we would stand a good chance of seeing a bear. We immediately made plans to get our hunting equipment from our homes and meet a midnight at Applegate’s parking lot.

Five of the gang showed up and we all piled into Rod’s car with our fearless leader driving to an area he said was near the Wild Creek Reservoir in the Poconos. He figured it would take two hours. The weather had turned into a thick fog and by the time Rod found the country lane leading to the hunting area it was about 3 am. The fog got so thick he decided to pull off into a lightly wooded area to wait till dawn.

We all bundled up with our rifles across our legs sitting next to a tree and waiting for the day to start.

The lateness of the hour and the beer we had consumed lulled us into a sound sleep.

Couple of hours later as the dawn was breaking we awoke to the sound of a door slamming shut.

We all stood up and saw to our consternation that we had fallen asleep in the front yard of a farmer’s house. We rushed to the car and got out of there before he found us trespassing.

We drove for about an hour along the dirt road until we grew concerned we might get stuck out in the middle of nowhere.

We never did see any bear ( even one that wasn’t).

A Shenandoah Misadventure

A good friend of mine ( an old vet like myself) relocated to the Charlotteville area . While in the service he had gotten into hiking and wilderness camping. On one of his European tours he met a Czechoslovakian who shared the same interests. They and their wives hiked all over eastern Europe together. When he got settled in his new home he contacted his Czech friend and invited the family over for a hiking holiday in Shenandoah National Park. The women decided that they wanted to go shopping and told the husbands to go without them.

The first night they were camping near one of the Ranger stations in the area and had settled in for a well earned sleep. Suddenly my friend was awakened to a loud roar and terrible screams. As he crawled out of his tent he saw a horrific sight. A large black bear had attacked his friend and was carrying his body off. He ran to the Ranger station and screamed for help. A rescue party searched the area to no avail. As morning broke my friend and a Ranger was returning to the camp when the Ranger suddenly spotted a large black bear against the ridge line, He whispered to my friend, “Is that the bear?”

My friend said “ I think so”. The Ranger shot the bear and it tumbled down the slope to their feet.

The Ranger cut the bear’s belly open to recover the human remains. To his dismay there were none.

The moral of this story is- Don’t trust anyone who says , “ The Czech’s in the male”!

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Just the Bear Facts