Category Archives: Mother Nature

My Unexpected Encounter With the Barred Owl


Last night I got home from work late around 10PM, and as I pulled into my spot in my apartment complex I was startled by a huge shadow that swooped down and landed in the tall bush in front of my 2nd story window in my apartment. I was on the phone with my sister, and the conversation when something like this:

Me:  OMG….omgomgomg!!

Sister: What?!

ME:  OMG!!! the coolest thing just happened!! This HUGE Barn Owl just landed in the bush RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME!!!

Sister: omg, I don’t care.  Why don’t you call someone who would care, like dad or something.

hmmm….great thought, dad WOULD care!

ME:  OK, gotta go.  I’m calling dad!

Immediately, I hang up with my sis, and moments later I’m on the phone with my dad:

Me:  OMG DAD YOU’RE NEVER GOING TO BELIEVE WHAT JUST HAPPENED TO ME!!!

Dad: SOMEONE PROPOSED TO YOU!?

ME:  No,  (keep in mind I’m not even dating anymore, so that actually would be unbelievable, so I pretty much disregarded him saying this) the coolest thing just happened!! This HUGE Barn Owl just landed in the bush RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME!!!

Dad:  Well it probably wasn’t a Barn Owl.  It was probably a Barred Owl….

ME:  OK, well it was huge! Like 25 – 30 lbs – wing span of like 3 feet!

Dad:  yea…It was probably a Barred Owl.  Barn Owls don’t come out in the open often.

ME:  OK, whatever, it was a huge owl.

He was kind of missing the point of the excitement, but after I eventually agreed that it was most likely a Barred Owl, but I would “know for sure after I look it up” we were able to move on to the excitement of seeing this predator.  My dad, who is just as obsessed with “being right” as I am sent me a link to a Barn owl and a link Barred owl within 3 minutes of getting off the phone.  Turns out he was right…it was a Barred owl.  Bravo Dad, bravo.  Here’s my pic to prove my sighting.

barred owl - erinWhat?  You can’t see anything in that picture?!  What the…OK, so my picture isn’t the best…stupid smart phone!  But see those eyes?!  even from a distance and in the dark, you can see this guy was a monster!  I sat in my car looking at him for a few minutes, and then I got out.  Partially to try to get closer to take a better pic, partially to go inside.  Mr. Owl puffed up and cocked he head to one side looking at me, and then cocked his head to the other side…still staring me down.  I figured it was a pretty good idea to hop back in my car because I was more than slightly afraid he was going to dive bomb me.  Moments later a smaller bird flew out of the adjacent bush and Mr. Owl swooped in…he missed, and then flew away.  All about 10 feet in front of me.  It was AWESOME!

barred owl

Disclaimer: I did not take this pic! click photo for source

So in case my picture wasn’t a good enough picture for you to see what the Barred Owl looks like, here’s a pic I grabbed off the internet.  Though my picture didn’t capture Mr. Owl’s beauty I was able to see him clearly while I was sitting/standing there, and he was so cute!  So as you saw from my conversation with my dad above, I mentioned that he was really big, probably 25 – 30 lbs.  Turns out that the average weight of a barred owl is only about a pound in a half…I guess there is really something to be said about hollow bones!  In my defense, his body was definitely much larger than a football, so I was just assuming he was heavy because he was so big.  But I guess it makes sense that something able to soar through the air is so light.  I was correct about the wing span, though.  The average wingspan is between 3 – 5 feet.    You learn something new everyday, right?!

barred owel - wing span

Disclaimer: I did not take this pic! Click photo for source!

Barred Owls are known to perch while hunting, and most of the time opts for rodents like mice or moles.  Given the 2.5 feet of snow on the ground, its not surprising that he was swooping in for something not buried:  a bird!  I wish that he did catch his prey because usually they will devour their findings on the spot, which would have been cool.  The best part is that according to The Owl Pages, Barred Owls typically stay in a .3 mile – 1.5 mile radius of their home, so I’m hoping that he will come back and visit again.  I will call him Frank.

 

Loving Lizards and Much, Much More.


So I’ve been in Florida for approximately 36 hours and if I can tell you one thing, I’m not disappointed by the 90 degree heat.  Especially when it’s approximately half of that where I’m from.  OK, maybe in CT its slightly more than “half” of 90, but basically anything under 75 is too cold for me.  Anyways,  when I got into my hotel room I looked out back and saw a medium sized pond and I was delighted to see a couple of pretty big turtles swimming around a few more sunning themselves on a partially submerged log.  So I did what anyone would do in a situation like this and went outside to take some pics of the cute little reptiles, but pop, pop, pop they were back in the water as soon as I was about 20 feet away.  Sheesh, whoever said turtles are slow DEFINITELY has not met FL turtles.  I was able to get a pic later of just one of them, but jeeze, those guys are fast!  It was cool to seem them up close, but I think it might have been even cooler being able to seem them swimming around in the water from my room.

Turtle in FL

Check out this big guy!

Anyways, I decided to walk along down the trail a minute and the BEST thing happened!  I hear this “plop” into the water and look over and guess what it was…the biggest iguana I’ve ever seen.  Truth be told, I’ve never actually seen an iguana in real life before, but this one was definitely a good size – over a foot from what I could tell.  I told both my mom and my dad about this creature separately and both of them insisted that I saw an alligator.  So, if you were also thinking that, let me tell you – it was NOT an alligator.  I watch Swamp People and Call of the Wildman.  What I saw was a run of the mill Florida iguana. I never knew those suckers could swim, but then again, I guess I never really thought about it.  I looked it up before writing this post and turns out, they actually good swimmers.  Who ever knew?

In addition to these first two gems, I have seen a bunch of cool bird, including the “duck” below that basically looks like the offspring of a turkey and a duck.  It was white with what looks like the turkey’s “gobbler”.  One odd duck if I do say so myself hehe.

FL Bird

Bird drying its’ wings

Turykey Duck

Turkey Duck

 

I’d have to say that hands down my most favorite thing about Florida, animal-wise anyways, is the little lizards that run around everywhere.  I love them so much.  I wish I could take a pic for you, but since they are as fast as laser beams and relatively small I can’t really catch them on my stupid camera phone…bummer.  I’ll definitely update you with a pic if I do happen to get one before I leave though, don’t worry.

To sum things up, I’m already getting depressed about going back to stupid CT and only seeing stupid New England animals like bunnies and squirrels.

The Facts of Life


Childhood Passtime:  Hungry Hungry Hippos and Madagascar Character, Gloria, will never be viewed the same in my eyes.

I’m here this afternoon to lay some very important knowledge on you.  As a child growing up, I was led to believe that hippos were very nice, friendly, and most important, hungry animals.  Slow movers, eaters of small white balls that come in a variety of colors, and that’s about it.  My initial beliefs were then confirmed as a young adult when Madagascar came out and I saw just how funny, caring, and fun a Gloria the hippo was.  Well It has recently come to my attention that all of this is FALSE.   I found out that not only are these games and movies misleading, but they are so far from the truth it’s not even funny.  Why are people harboring this important, not to mention life saving, information?  Apparently, hippos, who can grow to be weigh over 7,000 lbs.  The largest on record was over 9,000…and let me tell you…they’re not using their “big bones” to roll horse around with other jungle animals.  No.  These animals are apparently viscous and kill more humans each year than any other jungle animal – lions and snakes included. Their jaws, which contain K9’s that can grow up to a foot long can apply the pressure of 8100 N (1821 lb).  Which is basically enough to chomp you the hell in half.  Seeing as how these animals are apparently “herbivores”, I’m not really sure why they need such large and powerful jaws.  Maybe so they can pull off stunts like this:

Now that’s a Hungry Hungry Hippo…

I understand the desire to make a scary animal less terrifying, but lets be realistic here.  Now some poor kid in Africa is going to go up to a hippo thinking things are going to be “cool” not knowing they have met their match.  Now, coming from a newly self-proclaimed Hippoexpertamus, my advice to anyone who is in a situation where the may have to encounter this beast you need to do one of two things:  Either swim out somewhere deep.  Despite the fact that Hippos spend a lot of time in the water, including that they are born in water, they sink like a rock in water deeper than where they can stand. Your other option is to climb a tree.  However if you’re like me you wont be able to pull your own body weight up fast enough to escape the Jaws of non-life.  Both of these options include serious risks, most of them being other poisonous or otherwise viscous animals, but given the situation, you will really have to weigh your options.  The one thing you do NOT want to do is RUN.  Don’t let their short stocky stature fool you…these turds can run over  19 mph, and will easily outrun you.   So, next time you are in Africa, make sure you remember these points.  Hippo = death.  See hippo = swim or climb.  You’re welcome.

Down By the Bay….


One of my favorite things to do at Cape Cod, which I haven’t gotten to do in years, is to walk out into the Bay on low tide.  I used to do it with my dad every year and he taught me tons of things about the bay wildlife.  So, one of my very first stops when I got to the cape was down at First Encounter Beach to see what time low tide was.  The first day we were there it was 7:50.  Perfect!  We could go to the beach and then come back to the bay and walk out around 6 with the tide!  I love sharing my infinite wisdom with others, so you can only imagine how happy I was that Ben was actually willing, and excited to go on a science adventure with me.

We got to the Bay around 6 and started walking out, of course it was a slow start, but then again, it always is.  None of the “good stuff” is around until you’ve walked out into the water at least a half mile.  So we kept on walking and walking and ended up seeing everything from razor clams to spider crabs, and most things in between.  I will say that although I love seeing and touching all the cool things in the ocean, I do scream from time to time when crabs “chase” me, and I don’t like putting my hands in places where I can’t see them, nor do I like walking through the weeds.  I know that’s where lots of cool things hide, but it just kind of creeps me out not knowing what my poor feet are going to land on.  I may or may not have basically jumped into Ben’s arms a few times as I got nipped by those feisty crabs, but that’s ok, he probably secretly enjoyed it

The few things we didn’t see that I wanted to see was a horseshoe grab, a huge moon snail, and whelk.  Ben has seen a horseshoe crab before, but not a whelk, so it would have been cool to discover one in the wild.

Here’s all the cool stuff we DID see:

One of the first Hermit Crabs we found. Hermit crabs are cool because they will live in just about anything. Unlike moon snails, they are unable to produce their own shells, so they scavenge for shells as they grow. Without a shell they are pretty much defenseless and would be eaten by something in a snap.

Spider Crab! Spider Crabs are awesome because they look really scary, but they are totally harmless. Don’t let their tough and rough exterior fool you. Their pinchers are so small even the biggest one couldn’t hurt you. One thing to be careful about though, is their legs are very pointy and somewhat sharp at the ends, so be careful if you’re going to rest it in your hand.

Scallop Shell

Clam: I was really excited to find this because my and dad and I go clamming every single year. We never go in the bay though because it can be much more difficult to find clams in the bay, as opposed to in a salt point or inlet. I found a bunch of these this year though! (We didn’t take any, though, because they were all too big – oh, and we had hundreds at the house already!)

Skate Egg Case: These egg cases are pretty tough. Skates, which are a type of ray, hatch from them and the cases many times wash on shore.

Fiesty crab ben caught

Ben with his crab

Two crabs mating. A little biology lesson for you! haha! These crabs were extremely calm and didn’t try to attack us at all. I guess because they were…uhh busy! hehe

Me holding a HUGE spider crab! Even though I knew it couldn’t hurt me, I will admit that I was nervous to pick this bad boy up!

Oyster! On a side note, I actually tried oysters this year for the first time. Delicious! tastes like clams but not chewy at all…yum!

We finished our walk at the bay right at sunset…awww how romantical.

Mountain Biking Massacre


A couple of days ago in Cape Cod, Ben and I decided to go mountain biking.  We drove about a half hour to Hyannis to the  Cape Cod Pathways.  We started the ride, and for some reason I was feeling a bit more adventurous than normal.  I even recall actually saying to Ben “I’m really keeping up with you a lot better than I was before”.  This was my first mistake…overconfidence.  I was feeling really good, actually riding on the downhill parts and pedaling through the sandy parts…basically feeling pretty comfortable throughout the whole experience.

It all seemed too good to be true.  Probably because it was.  I officially counted my eggs before they were hatched.  We were on our way back and I decide to go down this hill a little more (ok, a lot more) steep than normally I would.  This was my second, and nearly fatal mistake.  I thought that since it was a small hill I could totally handle it.  I was wrong (shocker, I know).  Anyways, so I get half way down the hill, and my left foot and petal catch a rock, causing my handlebars to flip around and ultimately resulting in my bike flipping over my left shoulder bringing me with it.  Cool.  Luckily, I didn’t break any bones, especially because I have a very important wedding to be at in a couple days, but I do have one badass bruise to show for it…ouch!

Wonderfully Wet Watkins Glen State Park


Recently Ben and I visited with some of my relatives in the Village of Burdett, and we were able to do a lot during our visit even though we were there for less than 48 hours.  Besides visiting with my family, going to Lodi Point State Park, Wagner Vineyards, The Crooked Rooster, and the Seneca Harbor Wine Center, my aunt and uncle took us to Watkins Glen State Park, which was pretty much the highlight of the trip.

As you can tell from past posts, Ben and I love hiking, so already this was right up our alley!  Connecticut doesn’t have any cool gorges like Watkins Glen, though, so this really was quite the treat.  Watkins Glen State Park is the most famous of the Finger Lakes State Parks, and it’s easy to see why:  throughout the 1.5 mile path there is water flow that drops over 400 feet.  Some flows over huge waterfalls, others just over the rocks.  It is so cool too because you can see how the water has worn the rocks down over time.  My aunt is a nature fanatic and was able to tell us a lots of cool fun facts!  Over thousands of years, glaciers originating in Canada drifted down to the US to create these amazing gorges, and they also brought some nonindigenous plants and trees with them.  It was also these same glaciers that created the 11 Finger Lakes!  Interesting right?!  We can’t wait to get back up there and hike some other gorges in the area!

Starting at the top left- water dripping, top right – me drinking from a natural spring (cold and delicious), bottom left- water rushing through the rocks (you can see all the different layers the water has cut through throughout the years- cool!),  bottom middle- my family standing on a bridge that was chiseled in the 1800s.  At that time, the water poured down under the bridge to a flour and feed mill that was located right about where I stood to take the picture! Bottom right- one of the couple hundred feet tall waterfalls.  The picture doesn’t do it justice since the waterfall was so tall I wasn’t able to get the whole thing in one picture!

Top left – Pic with Ben, my cousin Laura, and my Aunt Mary and Uncle Jim.  Top Right – cool pic of the water.  Bottom:  Me and my uncle Jim behind the sign.  (we both like taking pics of signs haha)

Me and Ben behind one of the waterfalls!

Jack Attack


Jack the cat is my aunt’s cat….kind of. He’s a stray in their area that my aunt feeds and takes care of that she would love to bring inside, but my uncle is allergic. So instead he lives outside, sometimes under their porch and is as friendly as a golden retriever. Jack has a personality (which that alone is strange for a cat) that is unlike any other cat I’ve ever met. Jack comes around as soon as he hears people talking and comes right up and hops right on your lap. Despite his long talons he is extremely friendly and loves being around people. You can’t get mad at his accidental clawing though, being an outdoor cat he needs it to survive.

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Ben went outside this morning and barely sat down before Jack was in his lap.

Sunday Hike: Gay City State Park


So as usual, this week was busy for Ben and I.  I haven’t even posted anything other than a quick picture in a couple weeks…it’s getting depressing!  Anyways, since Sunday was our only day to really hang out and do something together we made the most of it.  We started out with was supposed to be breakfast at Pastrami on Wry, but since we got there WELL after breakfast hours we had a delicious lunch instead.  Then we headed over to Gay City State Park in Hebron, CT, which is also part of our 2012 Bucket List! Gay City is interesting and has a quite a bit of history behind it.  It’s an old abandoned mill town from the 18th century and gets its’ name from the surname of the majority of the small town’s 25 families,  the Gay Family.

Despite it’s interesting name, Gay City has tons of things to do for everyone!  There is a pond for swimming and fishing, tons of trails for hiking and mountain biking, a small beach, picnic areas which are fully equipped with charcoal grills, and lots of open space for stuff like wiffle ball or frisbee.  Gay City also allows dogs, which is great!  I can’t wait to go back and bring Tazzy!  Jake may enjoy it too if we were just going to hang out, but I know Taz would love to hike or mountain bike with us (of course he would only run while we bike!).

We had a wonderful time hiking the blue trail, on to the red/white and then finished on the red.  We thought it would nice to go back next weekend with my aunt and uncle, but we’ll have to wait to see what the weekend brings!

We saw a cool bird’s nest that was stuck up on a shed with mud…very cool!k  We also saw tons of bull frogs and even cooler, tadpoles!  They were on their very last step before being full fledged froggies!  most of them had back legs grown already, and were about 4 inches long!  very cool!  We are going to get some nets and a bucket so we can start catching some of these creatures…of course we will release them though!

Update from JT Farm


If you’ve been following along throughout the Spring, you probably have noticed I have a borderline obsession with the sheep on my street.  I can’t help it!  They are so darn cute and cuddly, and though I have tried to get out of my car on more than one occasion to get a closer look, they always run away.  There is a new development on JT Farms, though.  The sheep are now gone and there a lots of goats.  Regular sized goats, baby goats, and one big fat one that seems to always escape the enclosure and gets to the other side where the grass is really greener.  He doesn’t seem to want to run away…he only appears to want to have the choice pick of grass instead of eating off the hay pile like the rest of them.

Anyways, I noticed the other day one of the big goats giving one of the little goats a lesson.  It looked like the animal version of  “Billy Goats 101 for Dummies”.  Basically what happened is that the little nugget goat went up on his back legs and the big goat would put her head down and the little goat would slam down to head butt her.  The pair repeated this sequence about 3 times before they realized they were being watched-once they realized they had an audience they got stage fright.  I sincerely think a lesson was being taught.  Check out how cute these little babes are!

This is what goats do during the day…lucky little bastards.

Now, as for where all the cutesy little lambs went…I’m not sure.  I’m going to pretend that they were not included as inventory in the “Lamb, Beef, and Eggs for Sale”.  Who knows, maybe they are just getting their wool sheered off…it is pretty hot out there to be wearing a wool sweater for crying out loud!  I will await their return!  I do miss the sheep, but I can also appreciate that the goats aren’t as skittish…in fact, by the way they posed so regally for my photo shoot, I think they downright liked me!

That is NOT My Northface


While we are talking about how great high school was, I want to bring up a fun party spot we used to dominate.  Back in the day (you know, like 8 – 10 years ago when I was in high school) We used to party it up big time down at the pits.  “The Pits” was this outdoor party spot that was used as a go to if we couldn’t meet up at anyone’s house.  It was really where they used to have an old drive in movie theater built in the 1950s on the Manchester/Bolton  line on route 6. There is little remnence of this besides the screen’s skeleton, which still stands.  Now, it’s nothing more than sand dunes with heavy tree cover.  Anyways, we used to go down there all the time and park in the commuter lot then hike through the pitch black woods to where we would build bon fires.  Hey, we live in CT – parties in the woods are NOT uncommon!

The Pits was a great party spot because it was basically open to all.  You never knew “which group” would be down there at any given time, and many times there was intermingling among a few different cliques, which was fun.  I will never, EVER, forget the time one of our friends, Jesse, “punked” another one of our friends, Liz.  Jesse and Liz had been friends for the majority of their lives, but had this antic been for real, that may have changed.  We were all hanging out, and Jesse threw a black jacket into the fire.  Liz, seeing the black jacket, assumed it was here’s and almost immediately flipped out.

“That is NOT my black Northface,” Liz said.  The rest of us (about  20 people) quickly quieted down and looked, but no one said anything.

“That is NOT my Northface” Liz repeated…still no one spoke up – to be honest, I think everyone DID think it was her Northface, and in our heads we were all making up escape routes…Liz seemed pretty pissed, and while normally she was a kind hearted and fun person to be around, I think we all knew that if we pissed her off enough she could probably ‘take’ any of us.  No really, she once punched a girl in the face so hard that all 5 of her acrillic nails popped off…

A third time Liz spoke up, “That is NOT my f*cking Northface”.  I was scared, and I’m sure I wasn’t alone there.

It was just then that Jesse came out from behind a tree with Liz’s actual Northface screaming “YOU GOT PUNKED!!”  Everyone started laughing and was relieved that no one had to run away.

From Left to right:
Stef, Shannon, Courtney, Brooke, Julie, Erin (me)

I’m not sure if this is a “you had to be there” story or not, but for me, it’s a memory that I’ll never forget, and will always bring a smile to my face!

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