Sunday, November 3, 2013

Common Flicker, Woolly Bear Caterpillar, and Deer (of course)

It's amazing how time can last post was August 4th!?!? I guess that shouldn't surprise me...we were still waiting for David to see the doctors at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, MO to see if they could rid him of the infection and fix his shoulder. Mentally, we were both finished by then; the good news, however, is that the doctors there were able to repair the problems better than we dreamed.

He still has a long road ahead of him, but it does seem the infection is finally subsiding (he had to have a catheter PICC line with IV antibiotics for just under six weeks and he has to take oral antibiotics for some time yet) and the orthopedic surgeon pretty much un-did what the original doctor did and a lot of "fixing up". We're still in shock that this nightmare that we've endured for this entire year may be coming to an end.

He's been very busy trying to get his workshop going now (that we bought shortly before he tore his shoulder last year!) and with the massive restoration needed, this has taken all our energy and then some (on top of David's physical therapy as well). Is life back to "normal"? No...but we don't really have a "normal" so we just take each day as it comes. He hasn't been able to take photos much as of yet, his arm and back tire very easily and he gets very sore, but he does what he can.
We're seeing the gorgeous fall colors of our trees now; the various deciduous trees emblazon the sky with their copious shades of yellows, oranges and reds, the fruit trees laid mostly bare with the recent rains ripping away what leaves were still hanging tenuously from the branches, and intermingled are the stately pines with their green needles a constant reminder of life, and the holly tree announcing a robust crop of berries just in time for winter. What a joy to see!

Today unfolded with a rather strange morning...there I was, sitting in my recliner, sipping my coffee and looking out my living room window, as usual...
...when David opened the front door and exclaimed, "Come look at the mist!". Sure enough, while I was looking at a perfectly clear north side of the house (above), the south side looked like this (below)...
and the east side was like this...

We're seeing the blue jays again, and juncos, and hearing our friendly neighborhood woodpeckers. Today, David was able to capture the Common Flicker (the yellow-shafted race) that we have never seen before, although they are year-round residents of our area.
 They are 10 - 13 inches in length, with a wingspan of 18 to 21 inches. Weights range from 4 to 6 ounces. There is a red chevron on the back of its head; white rump; black crescent at throat; yellow or red on underside of wings and tail (in the East, yellow only); male with "moustache" of black (in the East, the yellow-shafted race) or red (West, the red-shafted race). Their habitats are deserts, farmlands, suburbs, parks, and open forests.
 In the photo below, the Common Flicker is in the lower pretty in flight, you can just see the hint of yellow. I hope to have many more photos to share of this beauty.
 This woodpecker, unlike most other woodpecker species, is often seen on the ground, searching for ants and licking them up with its long tongue; they also eat termites, caterpillars, crickets, and grasshoppers, but will come to feeders for seeds and suet. It nests in holes in trees (or substitutes such as telephone poles). Both sexes excavate a cavity from 10 to 90 feet up, unless natural cavities are available.  From 3 to 12 white eggs, incubated by both parents, hatch in about 12 days. Both parents care for the young, who leave the nest in just under a month. Flickers are conspicuous in the Fall, when they often travel in loose flocks.
David also snapped 168 photos of a caterpillar today! haha It turned out to be the Woolly Bear, which turns into the Isabella tiger moth. A common sight on our roads, David now humors me and swerves as safely as possible to avoid running over them. I do admit, they are difficult to see, so I try and scout for him and tell him where to weave. As a kid, I always just knew these as woolly worms, and of course heard the folklore that the length of the black bands foretold the severity of the upcoming winter. Apparently, though, it merely determines the age. Another childhood tale dashed!
(from Wikipedia): The Isabella Tiger Moth (Pyrrharctia isabella) can be found in many cold regions, including the Arctic. The banded Woolly Bear larva emerges from the egg in the fall and overwinters in its caterpillar form, when it literally freezes solid. First its heart stops beating, then its gut freezes, then its blood, followed by the rest of the body. It survives being frozen by producing a cryoprotectant in its tissues. In the spring it thaws out and emerges to pupate. Once it emerges from its pupa as a moth it has only days to find a mate.
Caterpillar hosts are: asters, birches, clover, corn, elms, maples, and sunflowers.
In case you ever wanted to see the facial profile of a woolly worm, see the photo below.
This time of year also brings many hunters to our area (since Pope County is the deer capital of Illinois)...the deer are noticeably absent, they surely know the hunters are around! David was still able to find one sneaking about though.

I had better stop for today...I keep rambling on! Apologies for the long absence yet again...this time, hopefully, I can get back to enjoying life around here again and actually documenting some of it!
Until next time....

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