Home at Last and Back to Natural Notes

It’s official…I’m home at last.  Home in Florida again. It’s been a tough year in many ways, and there’s no need to go into all the gory details.  Suffice it to say I’ve relocated once again (this time, permanently I hope) in sunny southwest Florida.  I am refreshed, renewed, and excited about a new life, new prospects and of course…no more icy cold winters!

North Jetty, Nokomis

North Jetty, Nokomis

I’ll be  working on Natural Notes regularly now…sharing some of my adventures and observations.  There will no doubt be a lot of posts on marine life and beach living.  Aside from that…who knows?

Thanks to all the readers who keep checking this blog, and who still leave very nice comments on even some very old posts.  Much appreciated.

Happy New Year everyone!

Howling Coyotes and Ignorant Neighbors


Sunning Coyote Photo by Richard Spencer

There are coyotes in them thar woods.  For the past few weeks now, the coyotes have been singing – their yips and howls echoing down the canyon walls of Lake Cumberland and causing our dogs to bolt out the pet door into the fenced yard, barking and bristling at the hoodoos in the woods.  I love it.

Not everyone around here thinks the same as I do though.  One of our neighbors stopped by last night to chat with my hubs, and talked about how the coyotes were getting out of hand.  Too many of them, killing off the deer.  Really?  Is that really the case, or are you just a less-than-adequate hunter?

If one is lucky enough to either stay up all night (hardly) or be a very light sleeper who sleeps with her window open a few inches, no matter how cold it is, so she can hear the night sounds outside – and if one really listens  to the wild, wonderful serenade, one would be able to discern there are maybe five or six voices in the two,  rarely three – groups that are singing.  Granted, there may be several groups that don’t all call at once, and there’s no way to really know how many are out there – but I don’t think we’re surrounded and outnumbered by a population “out of hand.”  It’s also important to remember that these are coyotes,  not wolves, not cougars…and they pose no threat.  They most assuredly are not taking down full-grown deer.  There are plenty of those around here too; they probably outnumber the coyotes.

It’s winter – so there are no newborn fawns, which coyotes will take if they can. But coyotes are omnivores, eating whatever they can find.   This bunch of canine ruffians are more likely to be feeding on mice and voles, rabbits,  flying squirrels, skunks, insects, groundhogs, carrion, nuts, chipmunks, and yes, feral cats – though around here there’s a tree about every two feet so any cat with half a brain could save itself.  There is no shortage of feral cats around here either.  If you really think about it, coyotes prey on many of the animals people complain about having around in the first place!

Some coyotes will prey on farm animals like chickens, sheep and goats when the opportunity is available to them, but this usually happens when wild food sources become scarce.


As a matter of fact, another neighbor, about half a mile away through the woods behind our house, has a goat farm – for several years now.  I asked her if the coyotes have been a problem – especially since they have goat kids every spring – and if she puts them in the barn at night to protect them.  Nope.  No coyote problems, not even an attempt.  The coyotes sing all around the goat farm, but apparently prefer rodents to ruminants.

We live in the Daniel Boone National Forest, for Pete’s sake!  Personally, I feel privileged to be able to hear the coyotes at night, and have been known to leap out of bed and bolt out the door with the dogs (though I use the people door) just to hear them singing.  In a world gone crazy, it’s actually one of the most reassuring sounds.  It tells me that, at least in this particular place, all is right with the world, and all is as it should be.

I Don’t Want to Talk About It

I’ll just say that this blog vacation has done some good, and I’m ready to blog Natural Notes again.  I know I’ve said that before, but apparently, I wasn’t as ready as I thought, and that’s all I’m going to offer on that subject.  Thanks to all of the folks who keep reading and commenting and reminding me that this blog is still being visited, in spite of my neglect.  Amazing to me. Thank you.

So, in a nutshell, so to speak,  here’s a rundown of the past few months:

Cats – about 12 I think, we’ve stopped counting.  Most stay outside, much to my chagrin, but they are neutered or spayed and mostly feral, and don’t seem to have an interest in hunting after they are neutered.    The rest are  fixtures around the house.  All are strays or offspring of strays we haven’t been able to neuter or spay yet.

Dogs – holding at four.

House – still finishing the remodel we started 3 years ago.  Does it ever end?  Have to finish the flooring now.  Big job.

Work – I’ve had a pretty good year actually with my primitives shop – Cave Creek Primitives.  Started selling wholesale which boosted my workload, but bought lots of cat food.

Nature – Out and about as much as I’m able.  Started walking with my friend Brenda, up and down the hills here, about 2 miles almost every day.  Weight coming off slowly and heart still working, so I’m good.

Resolutions – It’s not January yet so I’m still thinking about it.

Pretty boring, huh?   Today is absolutely gorgeous outside. . hard to believe that tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  It feels more like September out there, the sun is shining and it’s warm enough to open all the windows and turn off the heat (yay!).   If this is Global Warming, I’m all for it.  Just kidding – I like warm weather and dislike winter, what can I say?

Spring Count

I had a great time birding on Saturday morning for the Spring count.  My list for the day, from just before sunrise to about 2 PM.

60 species

Eastern Bluebird

Wild Turkey  4
Turkey Vulture  7
Red-shouldered Hawk  1
Mourning Dove  2
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  2
Chuck-will’s-widow  1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  2
Red-headed Woodpecker  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker  4
Downy Woodpecker  3
Northern Flicker  1
Pileated Woodpecker  6
Eastern Wood-Pewee  16
Eastern Phoebe  1
Great Crested Flycatcher  3
White-eyed Vireo  5
Red-eyed Vireo  30
Blue Jay  5

Nashville Warbler

American Crow  19
Cliff Swallow  6
Carolina Chickadee  12
Tufted Titmouse  8
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Carolina Wren  11
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  13
Eastern Bluebird  3
Swainson’s Thrush  2
Wood Thrush  16
American Robin  7
Gray Catbird  1
Brown Thrasher  4
European Starling  10
Ovenbird  24
Blue-winged Warbler  4
Black-and-white Warbler  5
Nashville Warbler  3
Common Yellowthroat  6
Hooded Warbler  24
American Redstart  5


Northern Parula  2
Magnolia Warbler  1
Blackburnian Warbler  1
Yellow Warbler  2
Chestnut-sided Warbler  5
Pine Warbler  1
Yellow-throated Warbler  1
Prairie Warbler  6
Wilson’s Warbler  1
Yellow-breasted Chat  10
Eastern Towhee  9
Chipping Sparrow  7
Song Sparrow  8
Scarlet Tanager  5
Northern Cardinal  19
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  4
Indigo Bunting  18
Red-winged Blackbird  5
Brown-headed Cowbird  3
Baltimore Oriole  4
American Goldfinch  2

International Migratory Bird Day and Spring Counts

Northern parula warbler

Also known as International Bird Migration Day, or simply Bird Day –  the big event is tomorrow,  Saturday, May 12.  Celebrated  in the USA, Mexico, Central America, and Canada,  IMBD was created in 1993 by the Smithsonian Institute, in an effort to raise awareness about migratory birds and migration.  In some areas the date may vary, but most counts take place on the second Saturday in May.

The day is celebrated in different ways around the country, with most nature centers and environmental organizations hosting educational programs, bird walks, banding demonstrations, and bird-related activities.  It’s also the time in the USA when birders head out for the annual Spring Count, which is exactly what it sounds like.  Counting all the birds  you see and/or hear in a day.

This count takes place throughout the country.  A Google search for spring bird count or International Bird Migration Day will lead you to many sources and resources for this event.

Since I’m not banding this year, I’ll be heading out before sunrise with millions of other birders to participate, and I’ll post my list here on Sunday.

Shelter From the Rain

Heavy rain on Tues. evening, with showers and thunderstorms into the morning.  But then came the clearing and the sunshine – and the discovery of what some critters do to seek shelter from the rain.

Cecropia moth

Just outside my studio there is a shagbark hickory tree, with large, wide leaves.  As it turns out – a perfect hiding place from the rain.

A Cecropia moth, our largest native moth, clings to the underside of one of the leaves.  Wings folded, this moth was not disturbed by my attempts to photograph it, which proved extremely difficult.  The breeze kept the leaves in constant motion,  and I had to point the camera up toward the now-bright sky.  So, the photos are not great, but enough to show you what I found.

At one point I did try to hold the leaf still with one hand, while attempting to work the camera with the other.  When I did that, the moth opened his wings – possibly to scare me off with those spots!  They look like holes in his wings in this picture, but they are just its spots.  Not wanting to disturb the moth any further, I gave up and left it alone.

There were several black beetles clustered around the leaf stems, just a few leaves away from the moth.  I haven’t taken the time to identify them yet, but one of the scarab or stag beetles, I think.  There were at least half a dozen.  Again, very difficult to get a decent photo with the leaves swaying in the breeze.

And finally, right under the window frame, another huge spider.  What is it with spiders and my studio building? I’m not sure what species this one is either – have to hit the books and find out.  It should be fairly easy to find, given the striping and size – and I’ll post it back here when I do.   Until then, I’m with Ron in Harry Potter – “Why couldn’t it be butterflies?”

Added  Note:  I took the time to research this and I think the spider is a six-spotted fishing spider.  It says I can tell also by the “undersurface paler, except for six black spots between leg bases.”  So I’m supposed to turn this thing over and have a look at its belly?  Seriously?

Seriously Creeped Out

Fishing Spider

This is NOT what I wanted to see on my studio window screen this morning!  The window was open, but at first glance I couldn’t tell whether this way-too-big-to-be-comfortable-with-it spider was on the inside of my studio, or outside, where it belonged.  Closer – albeit careful – inspection revealed it to be clinging to the outside of the window screen, so that was permissible.

Admittedly, spiders are not among my favorite forms of wildlife.  I do try to capture and release indoor trespassers before I resort to squashing or vacuuming, though that thought always crosses my mind.   Spiders that are outside my buildings are in their own habitat and  I respect that, and their right to be there.  It’s only the ones that come indoors that I have issues with.

Anyway, this one is called a fishing spider.  I’m not sure what he’s fishing for on my screen, but they do like trees and woods and there’s plenty of both here.  In fact, my guess is that it came off, or was heading for, the shagbark hickory that is only inches from the window.

As spiders go…a beauty, I suppose.  Though I think there should be a size-limit on spiders.  Things like insects and spiders tend to get creepier as they get larger.