Monday, July 28, 2014

Early Morning in Late June - The Drive to Work

If you look closely along the horizon line to the left, you can see the fog bank above the Kansas River.  It is visible for miles.  Everything was brilliantly green to my eye, but the camera captured it differently - (unskilled photographer).
Wabaunsee County Speed Bump
The Bountiful and Beautiful Flint Hills
I grudgingly admit civilization can be beautiful.  A little park in one of the oldest sections of Topeka.  This photo is also suffering from my lack of skills.  
Just a tiny peek of the Potwin area, the most beautiful residential area in Topeka.  The houses were built in the 1880's.  This time of year, the enormous old trees bathe the brick streets and manicured lawns in cool blue shade, pierced by the golden early sun.  I genuinely wish I were a better photographer.
In the intersection of each block in Potwin, the city government built round-abouts to prevent the wild young men from racing their horses at break neck speed on the streets.   Truly, some things never change.
And this is my destination, day after day, month after month, year after year.  And, yes, the camera captured everything in perfect lighting...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A House Attracts "Barnacles", Too

I opened my eyes one morning to see these two granddaddy long legs motionless on the screen. As I observed them, one of the creatures very slowly waved a single, impossibly long and insubstantial leg. I truly have no idea but I assumed it was a gentleman spider wooing a lady spider. Eventually he appeared to be touching one of the female's legs. I had to get ready for work, or I would have continued to watch them.

The next time I checked, only one spider remained. If the female had eaten her mate, as many female spiders do, it had been a speedy meal - poor guy. Maybe his slow leg-waving dance was not the seduction portion of the mating ritual but his patient and careful bid to hypnotize his lady in order to make his escape. They could have also been two critters of the same sex, and the leg waving was some sort of slow motion flexing to avoid aggression.

I marveled over their insubstantial forms, and wondered how they could possibly survive the rigors of life on this hard planet in such fragile bodies. I wondered how they experience their lives in this world. Whatever animates my biomass animates theirs, too. I am guessing they do not have to pay taxes or worry about cube farm politics. It might not be such a hard life to be a granddaddy long legs.

This messy nest right out the front door was the compromise between the birds who thought building a mud nest directly over the front door was a good idea, and me. I did not think it was a good idea whatsoever. Let me tell you, these little birds are industrious! I noticed a big messy spattering of mud on the porch on a Saturday afternoon. It looked as if someone had thrown a mud ball at the door and it splattered all over.  I am slow on the uptake sometimes.  I could not imagine how that had happened or who could have done it.  I had been home all day and had not heard anything hit the house...  A couple of hours later, I realized it was the early stages of a mud nest.

It took more than two weeks of tussling against the force of instinct in the nesting birds.  I would hose the nest away, sometime three times in one day!  There was an enormous amount of dirt involved.  How can tiny beaks carry so much mud in such a short time?  I regretted destroying their hard work, but I was not willing to contend with bird poop and angry bird parents, nor was I going to enter and leave my own home through the garage.

I like these birds because they eat wasps and yellow jackets that also try to build their nests on the front porch.  They are natural stinging insect control.  They decimated an entire colony of wasps that had built what I suspected to be a very large hidden nest directly above the front door in the old house.  They also wiped out the carpenter bees that were slowly destroying the old garage.  As much as I appreciate them, they were simply not welcome to build directly over my front door.  I continued to destroy their efforts, thinking every day they would finally realize their mistake.

I believe one of the two birds was a bit slow on the uptake as well, continuing to build over the front door.  It must have thought the daily failures were due to foundation problems, and worked harder to broaden the base.  Instead of a six inch wide muddy mess, eventually it was an eighteen inch wide muddy mess!  While the nest failure over the door continued, another nest soon began to take shape on the gutter down spout.  It was a workable compromise.  At last the birds stopped their efforts above the door.  Soon the male was bringing insects to his wife as she brooded the eggs.  He used the rain gauge as a staging point.  The babies appeared in a remarkably short amount of time.  Each parent would land on the gauge with its beak full of insects, then fly to the nest.

I hoped I would be home when the babies left the nest but of course, I was not.  I hope they learned to fly almost immediately or Duke may well have helped himself to the babies.  I have waited to see if the nest would be used again this summer, but so far there has been no activity so tomorrow it comes down, too.  I hope they do not build on the house again next year, but I guess it will not hurt anything if they choose this spot again.