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May 30th, 2008

The Strange Mystery of the Groovy Teeth. Sounds like a Scooby Doo Episode, but it actually started with a pile of bones Fred & Chrissy found on an Earth Day cleanup, high above the Mississippi River. After our session they showed the bones to us and we were all mystified. There were large rib bones, fairly large vertebrae (1/2 to 3/4" or so), weird parallelogram shaped thin bones with muscle attachment points on one side, and no skulls, tails, fur, or feathers except a few of these things that looked a lot like shed turtle skutes.
Then there was the peculiar bone above, with the grooved molars (we guessed, they LOOKED like teeth) and some little toadstool-like molar-looking cap teeth nearby them, with one actually growing out of the SIDE of the other tooth. (!) Also, the space between the teeth was not normal, large gaps with no sign of other teeth having ever been there. And what seemed like ancient molars alongside little buds.

On the flip side of what we were calling the "jaw" bone, the structure was amazing. It was a "girder-like" construction re-enforcing thin bone material. In one place you could actually look up thru the tooth and out the other side. Some parts looked almost transparent. The other thing was that the bones were so CLEAN. No dirt, fur, mineralization, tissue, nothing. Almost like they had been cleaned in acid... Then a bell went off in my head. Could it be an Eagle barf? Eagles and other raptors cannot digest the bones in the live prey they eat whole or nearly whole, and regurgitate a "pellet" containing the bones, claws, fur, and feathers every 12 to 24 hours. Still, this would have to have been a gargantuan eagle to eat stuff this big. These bones were large. And there seemed to be types that didn't match up. Maybe it sat in a tree and barfed separate meals in relatively the same spot or something, which was fairly probable. I researched, and asked everyone I could and came up empty. Some doubted they were even really teeth in the bone, maybe just bone spurs or the like. I looked for animals having a thin bone structure, birds coming to mind first, but that didn't fit with everything else. Rabbits have thin bones as something like 8% of their total weight is in the skeleton, so they can jump with ease. They have a similar separated molar array, with huge incisors in the front, but the jaw bone didn't look anything like this one. I read and learned a lot about osteology, but things just didn't all fit together cozy enough. The grooved teeth usually belonged to a herbivore, to grind up plants for easier digestion. Mammals just don't have that type of bone structure. I tried searching using different starting points. Nada.
Finally I had some work time at Springbrook coming up, so I brought my bone in and asked the Nature Center Director, Siah St. Clair if he had ever seen anything like this. Immediately his face registered, and then scowled. "I know I have seen this before, I know I went down the same path you are going before by myself . It was starting to drive me crazy and I had to find out what it was. Then one day a guy came in with a bone that looked very similar to yours and mine. I've got it in my desk here somewhere - begins rummaging, weird animal taxidermy parts flying every direction - I don't know - it's here somewhere. All I remember is I was very surprised when he told me what it was. Let's see, herbivore, big teeth, strange jaw shape... I remember, try fish! Try fish!" So I went back to looking at old teeth pictures on the Internet and finally one popped up that looked VERY familiar:

Left side: Common Carp. Without a doubt. Carp actually DO have teeth to grind up plants, they are for the most part herbivores, but not religiously. They use their respiratory muscles to create a grinding motion in the pharynx, wear the "jawbone" is. An expert can tell their age and size by the teeth. All I know is it had to be a monster with a backbone like a badger.
I'm bringing them to the dentist next time and telling him they fell out on the way over.

May 29th, 2008 - Resynced!

We have a new addition to the household. It's Capt'n Jack, the Painted Turtle, ain't he cute?
He is rehabbing his left ear, as it is kinda swelled up and causing his eye to close weird, giving him that questioning pirate look. It looks like this is his first day on this Earth, as he had some eggshell chunks on his nose when he came in to Springbrook this morning. That might have something to do with his cauliflower ear as well. One of our High School service helper kids found him wandering alone down their driveway as they were heading over to us. Proud parent bathtub shot.
Good luck, little buddie. Hope we can get you off the DL.
Hey! We're re-synced and blogging real-time! Finally.

May 28th, 2008

There is a season, fern, fern, fern. Our front yard ferns were looking too good in the bright late afternoon sun to pass up.
The lilacs are popping. This one's down the parkway, Sharon's dwarf lilac is a few days behind.
Dandilion sparklers.
Ripples and riffles from the creek reflecting on the underside of the 34th Ave. bridge.
Our pastoral creek scene, looking east.

May 27th, 2008

The tree blossoms are going gonzo, I can't keep up with them. I think this is something from the chokecherry family.
Not to be out done by the Wood Ducks, the Mallard family runs a tight ship. Nice formation there, mom.
Flying at night, going god knows what direction. Which way do we go this time of year? Is this just a beer run? I thought you had the map!
Big flow at the Falls. Thought I would try a little "Rear Curtain Sync" combined with a little "Slow Rear Curtain," using the natural and artificial light. Net result: well-lit background with colored water. Bears more experimentation.

May 26th, 2008 - Post #203!

Welcome to Blog Post #203!!! Ahh. Well, now that that fanfare has died down, it's on with the program.
Happy sniffs his favorite prairie. "I knows there's some a them lemmings round here somewheres..."
The proud Wood Duck family on parade! Six little ones. At least someone besides the squirrels are using those boxes. Have a cigar!
Carp are spawning, frogs are bellowing, dragonflies are buzzing, frogs are getting torn limb from limb by raccoons and there's frog guts all over. Oh! Spring! This must be the place.
Green, green, it's green they say - on the far side of the hill.
Bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum bum.
My favorite, the bunch-grasses are coming in.
Happy #203!

May 24th, 2008 - Leah & Josh's Wedding

Saturday we drove down to Rochester (MN) to be at our friends Leah & Josh's wedding, and to try and get a different angle on some pics for them.Meanwhile the entire party of groomsmen got their butts kicked by a ten year old soccer phenom.

Let me get my cleats, I'm gonna teach that kid a lesson.

The reception was fun, but it sucked having to move your car every 28 seconds.

I guess they normally have pretty small news days in Roch.

May 23rd, 2008

The ornamentals at the Longfellow Gardens are stepping into rare form these days, even more vivid with night flash, in my opinion.
Don't know what this is, some kind of hanging lantern froofie thing. I had better ask Teresa the Gardener at the Longfellow. [Ed. Note: My Sis tells me that this plant is a "Dicentra" (Dicentra spectabilis) also known as a "Bleeding Heart" and that our neighbors grew them when we were growing up in Ashland, WI. (I knew I saw them somewhere before.) They are also known as Venus's car (oddly enough), Dutchman's trousers (not breeches), or lyre flower. They are perennials native to eastern Asia from Siberia to Japan. The flowers are shaped much like hearts, or "pendulous," and are produced along a strand called a "raceme." Cool. Thanks Bethy!]
Black tulips are always nice, kind of Goth in a naturey way. Except they remind me of that birthday party I had to clean up at the Nature Center where the cake had black frosting. Gah. I don't know how anyone could eat that much food coloring and survive. It wouldn't come off the tables, chairs, and floors, I can't imagine it does much better in your colon. Yarch.
And then there's our old fiend again, Buckthorn. It looks pretty innocuous when it's blooming, with it's white flowers and deep greens. But "Rhamnus cathartica" is aptly named, as a cathartic is something that gives you the fast-acting laxative effect. Birds eat the berries, especially in fall when there isn't much else available, and can barely get over to the next bunch of trees before they have to poop them out, making a handy and efficient seed/fertilizer mixture to keep the Buckthorn Dynasty rolling. You've got to admire the audacious procreativity to maintain the species, even if it's not needed in it's current environment.

May 21st, 2008

The pink Rue Anemone (Anemonella thalictroides) are going gangbusters at the Adams trail. Nice plant, short-lived spring bloomer.
I finally got time to take a couple pictures on the Adams School Nature trail when the teacher took the kids on an extended hike after my program. I got to wander back to school alone and really look at things for a change. It is amazing how different the forest looks when you aren't in the middle of a pack of 30 kids. And Silence is Golden... Gol-den...
Muhu haha. Ha.On the flip side, and at the top of the bulletin board at the Ecological Post Office here's Public Enemy #1 (or so.) Sweet-faced, but rightfully demonized, Garlic Mustard (Aliaria petiolata), the Evil Invader. Remember The Blob with Steve McQueen? It's coming soon to a neighborhood near you, without the schlurpy sucking sounds. Pull it before it flowers. Make pesto. Do your native plants a favor. Save yourself!

May 20th, 2008

The evening sunlight adds a Victorian glow to Longfellow Manor.
Here's something you don't see every day. A woodchuck climbing trees and munching away like a Koala bear. Doody doody doo. If the wood won't come to you, you must go to the wood.
Woops, these branches are a little narrower than I first thought. Ahh, hmmm...
Mayday! Mayday! Look out Martha!

May 19, 2008

A blubird checking out all that noise outside her hotel room in the middle of the night.
Wet Wood Duck flash shot. They still look good even in the dark.
Sign on a bag of Owl Pellets:
WARNING: Choking Hazard.
For who?! The Owl!? I thought that was the point!

May 18, 2008

Spring continues to amaze as North America's most common, and most commonly mispronounced snake species makes an appearance and slithers stealthily thru last year's leaves. The Garter snake is well-known but is for reasons unknown often called: "the Gartener, Gardener, Gardner, or Gartner snake," none of which will get you a chance at Double Jeopardy, and may even remove you from receiving a copy of the home game.
That fine animal, the Turkey Vulture looking for a handy pre-killed snack. Even more amazing than their predilection to defecate on their own legs to help cool down the heat of summer, and the ability to projectile-vomit at would-be nest robbers, the ironic thing is they are known to have very sensitive olfactory receptors in spite of walking around in their own filth all day and eating rotting carrion. Maybe they CAN smell all the nasty smells too, and just deal with it as part of their fate. Maybe they should have been more polite in a previous life.

May 17, 2008

A bee's eye view

May 17, 2008

Our first GPS session at the Bass Ponds provided an epic trek thru the Minnesota jungles surrounding the Watercress Creek. Lush and exotic looking flora abounded. The bugs were good. The Garlic Mustard was insubstantial, on our side of the creek at least. Redstarts chirped and flanked us like dolphins off a boats bow. It was a day I will not soon forget.
Oh, the Trillium. What a perfect name.
The Bellflower was deafening.
This is a poor image, but check out the "runners" sprouting vertically off of this downed and "dead" willow trunk. Talk about a will to live.
Indiana and his son making the dangerous creek crossing right before the snapping alligator was flattened by the giant concrete ball.