Aug 5, 2005

The Summer's fine,

wish you were here. Instead of me.

It's bloody hot. I've already mentioned this before. I've been in the field again this morning, this I've mentioned before too (me being in the field, not me being in the field TODAY.)

I haven't mentioned that it's very nice to work in a small office. Today is Dead Day, which means that the Corporate office has shut us out of changing patient records for the day while they do month-end billing, so we're pretty much dead in the water. Hence the name. I went in a little early this morning, 'round 7:20, and puttered until about 8:30, at which time I realised I had done everything I had to do for the day, and everything I COULD do for the day. So, I asked the boss if I could go home and do yard work and run to town later, and he agreed. So we spent a few minutes chatting, I gave him the heads-up on what all I had done (everything, but I wanted him to know in case a question arose) and I headed out.

First stop? The field. Before it got too hot. Two hours of driving Rita up and down the rows until I had stopped at every tree, every shrub, and done some pruning. You'll recall I started this whole tree-trimming thing last week, and honestly today is the first day I could get back out there to finish. This afternoon rain has been really putting a crimp in outside work.

The thing being, this time was different--last time I blogged about the field I believe it was about the chicken snake and all the varied things I see out there. My dear mother-in-law, who is also one of my avid readers here, told me that I really needed to take the camera out with me next time I went out. Well, field cutting is next weekend, so I took out the camera today, and found some interesting things for you!

It's different when you go out with a tractor as compared to going out with a truck, a pair of gloves, and some limb loppers. Slower for one thing, and you don't cut near as much grass. BUT, you do see more. For instance:

I found this thing about 10 feet up in a tree, mixed in the branches, and fortunately for me I was moving slowly enough that I saw it before I cut it's supporting branches. So far as I can tell it's a preying mantis egg sack. I know the area is overrun with them, because a decade or more ago I bought three preying mantis egg sacks from a gardening supply company, and every year since then I have spotted mantises of various sizes each and every summer without fail. The egg sacks I purchased looked like this one, only without all the cunning leaf camouflage attached, and without the tan webbing that attaches this one to the branch above. The ones I bought likely enough were cleaned and made more presentable before they were shipped to me, but I could be way off base too, and for all I really know that could be an egg sack from a Tree-Dwelling Peruvian Boot Weasel. But I'm pretty sure it's preying mantises in there. Tee tiny ones.

The other thing I spotted was this very nifty find. I haven't seen fledglings in a nest in a very long time, and I'll admit that I almost didn't see these. My father raised me to be a more observant outdoorsman than I was being--it was nearing 10:30, past time to get out of the heat and into the A/C, but I was determined to finish the trees, and the crepe myrtle in the picture was the last of the day. I started trimming rather blithely, and as I went around to the opposite side to trim a few more branches down I caught sight of three gaping yellow beaks on the end of craning necks. I almost dropped my clippers I was so surprised to see them there. No cheeping, no screaming insistently, just three little grey fuzz-covered heads, yellow beaks, and little black eyes.

I creeped away as quietly as I could, feeling rather like I was the bull that had just about destroyed the crystal, and came back with the camera after a long shower and lunch. I'm 99% certain they are mockingbirds, both because of the oak twig nests that I see all over the trees out in the field with mockingbirds on them, and the greyish-white linear patterns on the wings of the little ones, which you can sort of make out on the fledgling to the far left. There's actually three in the nest, but I simply could not get any better of a shot. The nest was right in the midst of the thickest part of the tree, only about 5' off the ground, but the nest was so cunningly built into a mass of branches that I simply could not get the camera in any closer without damaging the nest.

What makes me smile the most is that I saw many mockingbird nests while I was out there, but this one was the only occupied one. The rest were empty and falling apart, either at the end of their usefulness or abandoned half-built. I never saw the parents, but I'm certain they saw me, both times. I'll try to get out there as often as possible to get pictures of them as they grow. That should be quite an interesting photo shoot. *grin* If only I had caught them as eggs and been able to follow them from that point on, now THAT would have been the crowning achievement.

So there you are, two of my field finds, both integral parts of the process of life ongoing in my field. It also just occurred to me that they're both part of the food chain out there--mockingbirds are insectivores, so the one has to keep a swiveling green eye wide open to keep from becoming food for the other. Me, I'm just awfully glad I got to see them both, and hope you enjoyed seeing the pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them. Pictures and sights like those make the sweat worthwhile.


Anonymous said...

Love the photos!

Irrelephant said...

Thank you! There are times when sweating like a pig pays off.