Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tiger Cubs

The Montgomery Zoo announced and debuted today its seven-week-old white tiger cubs. They were born at the zoo and are currently being hand raised by the zoo staff until they are older and much bigger. For now, they are staying in the nursery, which has viewing times. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Shopping Center Fauna

In late May, my family and I went to Orlando, FL, for vacation. It was a short trip, and I admittedly was more interested in the usual attractions than the alternative attractions. Perhaps I'll check them out in the future if I ever go back.

In the meantime, after a little trouble with transportation, I found this guy on the window sill of the Domino's Pizza, just sitting there. I took the photo, and was able to eventually figure out it was a squirrel treefrog. I think it's cute. It also shows how frequently wildlife can and will pop up in the middle of human areas. Admittedly, the area of Orlando I was in had many areas where you had pockets of development mixed in with pockets of less developed areas, and it's easy to imagine this guy came from the nearby fields and ponds, probably attracted by the potential insects drawn by the lights. He was pretty quiet, which is unfortunate because I would have like to hear its call. Or not; the sample on the linked page sounds more like a duck than other frog calls I've heard.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Household wildlife--Spider

Found this guy coming down from my bedroom ceiling light-fan. Other than indicating I really need to dust up there, I was rather pleased to see it. Hey, something to identify! Unfortunately, while I was able to catch it, I was unable to get a good picture of it. My preferred camera took pics while it was hanging and couldn't zoom in enough to get it from the right angle, then the battery died; the second camera sucks at close ups and I couldn't get a good photo. These are the only ones I was able to get, and unfortunately the best one is from below. Makes it harder to identify. Oh well, I'll probably find another one and be better prepared to identify it, then release it.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Garden Cleared

My dad cleared the garden plots of the winter vegetables today. This means we're now moving along with planting the garden for the summer. As you can see, the ground still needs to be turned over, and there are a few plants left in the right plot, such as the cabbages.

This year we'll be paring the number of vegetables and fruits down from what we had last year. We're doing this because we had too many plants in the plots, and way too many vine and crawling plants that a number of plants got crowded out. We had in the old garden:
  • Collards (could only get one harvest before the bugs got to them)
  • Tomatoes
  • White eggplants
  • Okra
  • Melons
  • Watermelons
  • Squash
  • Cucumbers
 That includes three vine plants, and two--melons and cucumbers--were very close to each other, and got very crowded and overlapped. The eggplants didn't work, and the squash were crowded out by the water melons and tomatoes. This year, we're limiting it to two vine plants, the melons and the watermelons, because they turned out so well. We're keeping the tomatoes, and probably doing a couple more plants. My father says he'll turn the soil over in a couple of days, and the plants will probably be put in the upcoming weekend. I'll tell you the final plants we'll be raising then.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Winter Plants Make Nice Spring Flowers

Sometimes the most unassuming plant can make the best decoration.

Last summer, my family had a vegetable garden and we had a variety of vegetables and fruits in it. Not all of them were a success, and some were only a brief success. The collards we planted at the beginning of summer were one of those brief successes, and we enjoyed them while we had them before they were destroyed by the bugs. My mother especially liked how well the big leafy leaves looked all on their own.

Fall comes in and my mother did not want empty plots or the withered remains of the vegetables as an eyesore in the backyard. We took the advice of our landscaper and had some winter collards planted. I didn't really pay much attention to them over the winter, they were just there. It wasn't until spring rolled around that we got a pleasant surprise.

Turns out winter collards produce some very nice yellow flowers on very tall stems. These are at least five feet tall, if not taller than me now. My mother is rather pleased with how they look. We're enjoying them until we get around to cleaning out the plots again for this year's spring and summer plants.

Unfortunately, I don't know the variety that was planted.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


I took these photos a couple weeks ago, and I thought I'd like to share them because they represent part of something I've realized over the last few years, something that began when I took systematic botany (I had to look at a copy of transcript to get the right class name). In the systematic botany class I took, we were taught a mix of taxonomy, which is the system of classification to identify species of organisms and to further identify their genetic/evolutionary history to other species, and plant identification. We moved from understanding how they worked, which you learned in basic biology and is further developed in later biology classes, to being able to identify them. We had to collect a certain amount and preserve them, which resulted in me traipsing all over the Auburn campus and beyond looking for strange plants. A few things stuck with me, and I'll discuss them in later posts, but what mainly stayed with me was the ability to find, identify, and name a plant I've probably seen all my life but hadn't bothered to figure it out. A lot of wildflowers were named for me that semester, and a few were able to stick with me.
While I honestly can't recall if the periwinkle was one of those that I managed to find for my collection at the time, it is one that I've seen a lot every spring along the roadsides and open fields. I didn't have a ruler with me to make measurements, so I'm not sure if these were Bigleaf Periwinkles or just plain Periwinkles, but part of me is leaning for the latter. According to eNature, they're not native to Alabama, but are escaped introduced plants, like a number of wildflowers probably are. I don't know why, but I've always liked this little guy. Maybe it's the nice shade of blue-purple, or how they're like small morning glories. Who knows, but now I definitely know the name of the flower, and that's a plus.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Signs of Spring

We're well into the first week of March. For a lot of people, this gets them in the mind for spring, and the weather around here is certainly beginning to move more towards the warm sunny days than the dreary cloudy days of the last couple of months. But for me, I started seeing signs of spring a couple of weeks earlier.

I'd noticed a couple of years ago that the first birds I started to really notice around this time was the robin. Now, I see birds throughout the fall and winter, usually mockingbirds and finches, sometimes pigeons, and because they're always around they tend to fade into the background. But robins stand out for me during the late winter and early spring. They tend to flock in moderate to large flocks on the roadside or on the various lawns. When it's just a handful, they're easy to miss. But when you have a dozen or more, they tend to stand out, especially the males with their orange breasts.

A few friends have commented about the rather sudden appearance of robins, and they do have that feeling of appearing without warning. I believe they started appearing this year in late January, and I know I saw a couple here and there by February. But by the middle of the month, they were becoming much more common. Even now, I see them searching the fields for food. Not particularly large groups yet, but I'm sure I'll see them.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Greetings and Introductions

Hello, and welcome to "Outdoor Notes." This blog is intended to record various observations I make of nature and life sciences, with a little bit of news and research sprinkled in the mix for further enlightenment. Topics I hope to cover range from sightings of wildlife around the area, both urban and more natural, to gardening to places I visit with a focus on nature and life sciences.

Things to know about me: I've got a B.S. in zoology with a focus on conservation and biodiversity, which pretty much means I'm interested in learning about the life histories and behavior of animals with the intention of finding ways to protect them or improve their populations and environments. I also have a technical writing background, which makes me either a zoologist-cum-writer or a writer-cum-zoologist. At any rate, my plan is to merge the two aspects of myself to look at everything around me with a little more attention and appreciation, and to share it with you.

Let's see how it goes, shall we?