Monday, June 23, 2008

Stroll at Wood Lake

Hello everyone!

How was your first official weekend of summer?! Birthday shout-outs to Poundpapi; I'm looking forward to hearing about his celebration.

Recently life has been dominated by work and triathlon training. Three weeks to go! I'm feeling fairly competent, even at swimming, although my endurance in the water isn't the best.


This weekend I hankered for a fish taco and went to Sea Salt. It's not a place to visit by yourself; it seems there is always a huge line and a long wait for food, which is fine if you can chat with a buddy. I had raw oysters on the half shell and four fish tacos, which lacked the creamy sauce and cabbage I was hoping for. They were sprinkled instead with good salsa, cilantro and onion and served with limes. I might have to try to make my own fish tacos, although it seems the Food Network website is lacking what I want as well. Maybe I will try this recipe.

On Sunday R and I made our inaugural journey to Richfield to check out the wetland and hopefully spot some critters!

The first
of the season!

I love fat toads! A faster-moving toad hurried across our path later in the walk.

Also enjoying the sunshine:
Some turtles! A faster-moving turtle sped down the embankment and into the water later in the walk.

We also found some dried up turtle egg shells and shallow holes from which the baby turtles emerged. How amazing would it be to watch the tiny turtles making their way to the pond for the first time?! (Wendell wipes a wishful tear from her eye.)


We did see the muskrat, the red winged blackbird, a dead mole and a dead shrew! We think the latter might have been drowned out of their holes.

More Wood Lake nature:


How is your critter watching?

Have a good week, y'all!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Car Cat


I hope you are in the midst of a delightful weekend! Happy Father's Day to all you daddies out there; especially to Mr. JS, as we met his newborn daughter this week! Adorbs. And congrats to Mrs. JS too, of course!

DSCN3652.JPG (R's mountain bike, robbed of fenders and lights to trick out my hybrid bike! Also the hallway where our three bikes spent the winter.)

Currently I am damp from my first nighttime bike ride! Not only am I a recent bike convert, partially because of my triathlon training (less than a month away!) but also because I'm commuting to work! My new job is seven minutes away by bike. This is perfect for me as I don't get too sweaty or nappy-haired, and also because there is no parking at my workplace; plus I'm saving the earth or whatever.

Tonight the plan was to meet sis AB and some of her peeps at a local bowling alley. R said, "It's really close; let's ride our bikes." Of course a thunderous downpour occurred while we were bowling! It was fun to ride home in the rain with our lights flashing!

Today bro DHB rode his bike over to meet R for a disc golf excursion. Since the living/dining room was filled with cycles, I figured I better take a picture:
DSCN3653.JPG In the foreground, DHB's maroon Surly Steamroller fixie; in the background my blue Specialized mountain/hybrid bike. More hidden are our road bikes; R's Surly Cross Check and my "new" red Peugeot, which was a true find at a Motherland yard sale!! Apparently the latter is worth some money as it has a sought after steel frame.

DSCN3654.JPG These photos also illustrate why we need to buy a house with a garage!

The title of this Critter Corner refers to a phenomenon R and I witnessed this last week. While looking at homes in south Mlps, a blue Lumina passed us. It was adorned with multiple bumper stickers, but instead of a dog sticking its head out of the passenger window, there was a car cat!

It's true; a brown tabby, head out the window and alert and blissful in the manner of a pooch. Have any of you seen this car?! The funny thing is that the same car was parked near the Franklin Avenue public library on Tuesday night. The tabby was roaming the dashboard!

Someday I will take a photo of this car cat. Would your cats enjoy this type of activity? I think my Uncle JS's cat, Bob, rides in the car with him.


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Garter Snakes

Hello and happy Sunday to you all!

After watching a show featuring garter snakes a few months ago, I knew I needed to write an entry on these charming reptiles!

Do you like snakes or are you scared of them? When and where was the last time you saw one?

Apparently as a little girl of three years old, I walked up to my Mom excitedly holding a snake! I'm assuming she told me to put it down.

The Eastern garter snake.

The most widely distributed reptile in North America, garter snakes range from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada, and are the only snake found in Alaska. These snakes are obviously very adaptable, living in prairies, forests, rocky heights and wetlands.

Within the Thamnophis genus there are many species and varieties of garter snakes, some of which are disputed by scientists. Only one garter snake species is endangered: the San Francisco garter snake.
Oooh, pretty!

Garter snakes are 24 to 53 inches long, weighing about 5.28 oz. Most garter snakes have one to three light-colored vertical stripes down their body, while some have patterns between the stripes. The background color of their scales can range from black, gray, brown and olive. Back in the day folks thought these narrow, striped snakes resembled garters, and the name stuck. Here is a pretty MN native, the red-sided garter snake:

Like most snakes, garter snakes are predators. They find food by moving around their territory, particularly in cool mornings, afternoons, and evenings. Using vision, vibration detection and sense of smell, garters search out slugs, worms, bugs, eggs, lizards, birds, spiders and rodents. An aquatic garter snake will also eat tadpoles, frogs, fish and leeches. Many people consider garter snakes helpful as they will dine on garden and yard pests.

Because of their diet, garter snakes are affected by pesticides and water pollution. Other enemies include mink, hawks, crows, crayfish, other snakes, herons, raccoons, snapping turtles and domestic cats. Baby garters are preyed upon by shrews and frogs.

Garter snakes are mostly independent during the warm months. They communicate by excreting pheromones to each other, or leaving pheromone trails. Because of the cold here in MN, and further north, garter snakes hibernate together during the winter, finding traditional hidey-holes that stay between 37 and 39 degrees fahrenheit. This process is called brumation, which varies metabolically from actual hibernation. On warm winter days garters will occasionally come out to sun themselves on rocks.

In the spring, garters wake up from brumation horny! Often the males will emerge first, lying in wait for the females to emerge a few days or weeks later. She will emit a sex pheromone, and the snakes form a writhing mating ball!

To assist in successful copulation, male garter snakes (and all snakes) have two penises! Each hemipenis is attached to its own sexual glands. Apparently only one penis is used at a time, however!
(Don't worry; the above snake is not being harmed. Gently "popping" out the hemipenes is a definitive way to sex a snake.)

Some male garter snakes are born with both male and female pheromones. These "she-males" emit their female scent while in a mating ball, presumably to distract the other males from the ladies. Once a male has ejaculated inside a female snake, he leaves a mucous plug inside her cloaca to block other males. She also stops emitting the sex pheromone, and can leave the mating ball to find a suitable place to eat and bear her babies.

If the female garter snake isn't feelin' any of the dudes, she can simply use sperm she might have saved from the previous autumn!

After two to three months, the female garter snake gives birth to three to fifty live babies. The juvenile snakes are 5 to 9 inches long, and independent immediately after being born. Being small and vulnerable, baby snakes often die in their first year.

Contrary to popular belief, garter snakes do produce venom. However, their small rear fangs lack the venom grooves to deliver poison to the enemy, and they don't possess the giant front fangs a rattlesnake or viper has. A garter snake has to sort of chew the enemy to deliver their mild neurotoxin. Most garter snakes will retreat when approached, but will occasionally strike. They can also be tamed and make good pets!

I hope you've learned something about garter snakes, and will send them happy vibes the next time you see one! I know I'm always excited to spy a snake. Maybe you will like them more if you think of their twin penises!?

Whither do they slither,

Friday, June 6, 2008


Hello, everyone!

It's true; I've seen my first baby bunny of the year!

I saw him as I turned off 280 onto my street last night, delicately nibbling grass by the side of the road. Be careful, little rabbit!

This week I started my summer job, which has been going well. The problem is that I have to get up at 6:15 am. Whine whine. It will take my body a while to get used to that.

The cool part is that I've been riding my bike every day! Including last night, when I got completely drenched in the storm.

How was your week? Wildlife sightings?

More to follow; have a great Friday!