Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Wow. Morning Glory Clouds, Blood Rain, Great Blue Hole, Bright Red Lake “Netron,” The Sailing Stones, Eternal Flame Falls, and The Door to Hell. Wild stuff. The world is a crazy place, man.

You’ve all heard many a story about a little dog called The Spark. He’s battled coyotes, squirrels, horseflies, spiders, sweepers, the occasional hobo, and a lady in a power suit. Little dude is fearless, and he proved it again today.

Sparky and I welcomed a new addition to our family a few weeks ago, a little Maltipoo named Lilly that needed a home. Sparky has welcomed Lilly with open paws (ok, he does have to let her know who’s boss every now and then) and for the most part it’s been smooth transition. Whenever we’re around other dogs Sparky makes it clear that he’s Lilly’s protector, always staying between her and any potential danger.

Which brings me to our latest adventure . . .

Today I took Sparky and Lilly to a local state park, a place with a huge lake and plenty of room to run around. As I pulled into the parking lot near the dam I noticed a large American Black Vulture sitting there. It had its wings outstretched and it was massive. It had to have a wingspan of close to 6-feet and of course had one of those hairless heads and nasty looking hooked beak. I’d read about these creatures before and knew how mean they could be. Just recently I’d read this in the Louisville Courier-Journal:

They’ll devour slimy newborn calves, full-grown ewes and lambs alive by pecking them to death.

First the eyes, then the tongue, then every last shred of flesh. 

Yeah, so I knew I needed to keep an eye out, and especially up.

As we parked it flew away, but not before Sparky had spotted it and gave a low, gutteral growl. Not much gets past The Spark, man.

I got out of the car first, just to have a look around and scan the skies. I mean, I was pretty sure we’d scared the beast off but better safe than sorry, especially where my dogs are concerned. Plus, I figured no flesh eating bird in its right mind would swoop down with a human standing right there.

All was clear.

The pups hopped out and started doing their thing, trotting around and sniffing everything in sight. I made sure to stay close, especially to Lilly. After all, Spark is 22-pounds, experienced and a badass, but Lilly weighs probably 8-pounds and wouldn’t know danger if it stared her in the face. Spark was about 20-feet to my left, Lilly no more than 15-feet in front of me.

And then it happened.

First I thought Sparky had spotted a squirrel or rabbit and was making a mad dash for it. He was heading straight ahead so I thought he’d fly past Lilly in his hot pursuit. Then, out of the corner of my eye I saw it – the damn vulture was making a dive at Lilly.

For a brief instant I thought Sweet Lilly was a goner. What flashed through my brain was that poor little girl, who’s already been through so much, being carried off to be eaten alive by that winged monster.

Fortunately, somebody wasn’t going to let that happen, and that somebody was Sparky.

Not on my watch, you flying freak.

I promise you that behemoth was 20-feet up and diving as The Spark made his charge, growling and barking like a dog possessed. He leaped up and I swear, for just a split second, that I thought he was going to make contact. Instead, the beast made an excellent life choice – it got the hell out of there.

And as the big bird rose and flew away, Sparky gave chase, looking up and growling as he ran. I’m telling you that dog would still be giving chase had I not ordered him to come back.

Lilly? She was standing under me, shaking, and did so until Spark trotted back and they nuzzled noses together.

And as we walked back to the car, Sparky constantly the skies, ever watchful.

In retrospect, Lilly tore a toenail a couple days ago. It’s being treated but she’s still limping pretty badly. I believe the Black Vulture saw that and estimated Lilly was easy prey.

What it underestimated was the furry ball of protective fury they call The Spark.

I gotchu, girl.

 

 

Check out that Flying Squirrel, man. Just soaring through the skies like a freakin’ winged rat. When I was a kid we called these animals Sugar Gliders, which is way cooler in my opinion. We actually had them in the woods near my house when I was a youngblood, and you could hear them swoosh above your head if you were out in the woods near dusk. The young are born in a nest and are cared for by their mother. By 5-weeks they’re able to practice gliding skills so that by 10-weeks they’re ready to leave the nest. Cool. Anywho, Flying Squirrel/Sugar Glider.

PS- They also make great pets!

So a guy in Pennsylvania recorded a couple videos of all the animals that crossed a log bridge over a stream on his property. The results are very cool. Enjoy.

Check out that Blanket Octopus, man. Blanket Octopuses get their name from sheets of webbing that stretch between some of their arms. When threatened, they stretch their arms out, creating a blanket-like silhouette meant to frighten would-be attackers away. That’s cool. They are always in the open ocean—in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as in Info-Pacific waters—and never rest on the sea floor. And get this – the Blanket Octopus is immune to the stinging cells of the highly dangerous Portuguese Man-of-War, which it uses to its advantage by yanking the tentacles off and brandishing them as weapons against predators. That’s badass. Anywho, Blanket Octopus.

PS- Be sure and watch the videos below the photos. Nature, man. And as always, click and scroll.

What a world. Click, scroll, be amazed.

Ohio seems well represented.

Check out that Dracula Parrot, man. Looks like a cross between a parrot and a damn vulture. It’s also known as the Vulturine Parrot, or Pesquet’s Parrot, and its featherless face gives it a bit of a frightening look. This dude mainly eats figs though, not meat. Scientists think its bare face might be an adaptation to prevent bits from sticking to it when diving into a meal, just like a vulture. This guy is native to forests in Papua New Guinea. Anywho, Dracula Parrot.

Ossi Saarinen is a 23-year-old Finnish wildlife photographer. Check out these photos showing the enchanting and magical side of his motherland. Finland, man. Looks amazing.

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So I was perusing a website called Terribly Terrier today and found an article entitled Jack Russell Terrier: The Adrenaline Junkie of the Dog World. It contained info and facts about Jack Russell Terriers, so of course I couldn’t help but see if Sparky fit the stereotype. Let’s take a look . . .

If you’ve never heard of a terrier who can jump 5-foot fences, spend hours tenaciously pursuing a rodent, and keep the whole family continually entertained with its antics, then you don’t know Jack.

The Jack Russell Terrier is arguably the epitome of terrier-ness, possessing in spades all the traits that make terriers what they are.

Jacks were originally bred to hunt foxes in England in the late 1700s. But like other terriers who started as hunting dogs, they have more recently leveraged their intelligence, charm, and scruffy good looks to become beloved household pets.

Jumping 5-foot fences? Check. Keeping me entertained with his antics? Check. Intelligence, charm and scruffy good looks? Yep. That’s my Spark.

Jacks are feisty, funny, affectionate, loyal, smart… and entirely too much for many people to handle.

My Sparky is all of those things and more. In fact, I know for a fact that my little dude is smarter than many of my former 5th graders and more loyal than most of my friends. Affectionate? You tell me.

The Spark, as we speak.

These active pups need lots of daily activity. They a chance to burn off their excess energy in positive ways.

Hence my hikes and trips to the cemetary and soccer fields. Dude loves to run.

Jacks are generally good-natured, especially toward members of their own pack. However, they’re not afraid to mix it up with other dogs – even dogs that are several times bigger than them.

Gee, ya think? Sparky has not only scrapped with dogs several sizes larger than him, he’s had scrapes with possums (it bolted after a quick scuffle, didn’t play dead), nutrias (OBX critter), raccoons (thankfully he didn’t get bitten), stingrays (seriously, in the shallow surf), geese (it attacked first, bad decision), buzzards (it was eating something in a field and Spark took offense), skunks (somehow he didn’t get skunked), snakes (it lunged and was dead in about 3-seconds), and yes, coyotes (he won). Click on that link for the story. We won’t mention chickens due to the Statute of Limitations.

Jack Russells love to dig. If you have a garden that’s precious to you, you might want to consider another breed.

Well, Sparky once spent nearly an hour at my Mom’s digging and trying to get to some sort of critter. He’d still be there if I hadn’t bribed him with a Chicken McNugget.

Some pooches just aren’t cut out for social hour at the dog park, and that includes a lot of Jack Russell Terriers. If they aren’t acquainted with other dogs thay may show aggression. 

Mmmmm . . . yeah. I shall plead the 5th on this one.

Unfortunately, because a lot of people get Jack Russells without realizing how much attention they need, you can also find a lot of these dogs surrendered to shelters and rescue organizations. If you’re up to the challenge of owning a Jack Russell, consider adopting an adult dog that needs a home.

First off, anyone who surrenders a dog to a shelter should be beaten about the head and shoulders with an 18-inch Nylabone Big Chew Toy Bone. Secondly, sure Jacks are a bit of a challenge. They’re energetic and need attention. However, if you want a loyal, affectionate, intelligent, charming and funny companion, Jack Russells are the way to go.

Seriously, rescue a Jack Russell. Sparky coming into my life is one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Check out that Werewolf Cat, man. Just Werewolfy as all get out. It’s scientific name is Lykoi, which is cool but not nearly as cool as Werewolf Cat. Roughly translated, Lykoi means “wolf cat” in Greek. Lykoi cats are derivatives of feral cats, and as such they have retained their strong prey drive. They very much enjoy stalking other smaller animals and children, so if you get one you best keep an eye on little Ainsley and your pet Chiweenie. Anywho, Werewolf Cat.

This gorgeous creation is known as the green Regal flowerbird and Crotalaria cunninghamii is the stunning plant’s scientific name. It’s a member of the legume family that includes chickpeas and alfalfa. The perennial shrub is native to inland northern Australia, where it thrives along sandy dunes. Its ties to Australia are quite ironic, considering that no hummingbirds live there. That’s wild, man. Mother Nature doin’ her thing per usual.

Check out the Bilby, man. Just as cute as the dickens. Bilbies are also known as the Rabbit-Eared Bandicoot which is cool as hell. They’re believed to have inhabited Australia for up to 15-million years, and I’m no expert but that seems like a long time. Bilbies are featured in the songs and stories of Aboriginal Australians, because of course they are. Bilbies co-existed with Aboriginal people for 60,000-years, but in the 200-years since Europeans arrived they’ve been pushed close to extinction and that makes me sad. Save the Bilby! The Bilby is about the size of a domestic cat and typically lives for about 10-years. Anywho, Bilby.

[click and scroll for some amazing Bilbiness]

Dude, that’s a 5-foot tall stork, bigger than a damn 6th grader. I’m telling you man, the glaring, dark stare of a 5-foot tall stork can be a frightening thing for a weary traveler. These bad boys can exhibit territorial tendencies, as seen in an infamous incident that occurred at the Belize Zoo. Their stork exhibit now features a roof above the visitor viewing platform after a Jabiru Stork tried to stab an unsuspecting patron with its freakin’ 14-inch-long bill. Jeebus. Jabiru storks are native to Central and South America, where they typically feed on small mammals, fish, amphibians and the ocassional lost toddler. Anywho, Jabiru Stork.

The Taal Volcano erupted in the Philippines on January 12th, but that didn’t stop this couple from going through with their wedding. What resulted is this amazing photograph.

Check out that Flower Mantis, man. How have I missed this guy? Just stunningly beautiful like you read about. The little dude climbs up twigs of plants and sits there, imitating a flower and patiently waiting for its prey. It then sways from side to side, and soon various small flies land on and around it, attracted by the small black spot resembling a fly on the end of its abdomen. The Flower Mantis at once seizes the bug and the party’s over. Diabolical. Anywho, Flower Mantis.

Magical, really.

For readers of Shoe: Untied that are from areas other than Southern Ohio, the mascot of the local school where I taught and coached for many years is a Bearcat. I actually wrote about our mascot in a blog entitled The Origin of the Bearcats and the Black & Gold. However, do any of you know what a Bearcat actually is? Let’s take a gander . . .

An actual Bearcat is a glorious creature. It has a body like a small bear and a tail like a monkey, not even kidding. It’s scientific name is Binturong, which is cool but not nearly as cool as Bearcat. They have long, low, stocky bodies covered with coarse, shaggy black fur tipped in gray, so they sometimes appear speckled. Long ear tufts protrude from their small, rounded ears. Just look at that guy on the right. Their faces have slightly lighter fur and stiff, white whiskers that can reach up to 8-inches long. They grow to be about 6-feet long including the tail and weigh between 25 and 50 pounds.

Binturongs live in the dense tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia and are not often spotted in the wild. They’re currently classified as vulnerable, with populations declining more than 30% over the past 30 years. The main threats to binturongs are habitat destruction, hunting, and the wildlife trade, and that’s just sad. Save the Binturong, man!

Their secretive nature has kept many aspects of their behavior hidden until recently, but my crack staff here at Shoe: Untied has unearthed some fascinating nuggets for your perusal. Read on for my list of facts that make the Bearcats a weird, awesome and wonderful animal . . .

1. Although the Binturong is also known as the Bearcat, it’s not closely related to bears or cats. The Binturong belongs to the Viverridae family, an ancient group of small to medium sized mammals found only in the eastern hemisphere. A bunch of them live in Vietnam.

2. The meaning of the word Binturong is unknown. The language it was derived from is now extinct. That means it goes waaaaay back.

3. Binturongs are in the order Carnivora, but they mostly eat fruit. In the wild, they eat a varied diet which can include carrion, eggs, plant shoots and leaves, small invertebrates, fish, birds, small mammals, and fruits like the strangler fig. In captivity, a Binturong could enjoy dog food, leaf-eater biscuits, ground meat, carrots, yams, tomatoes, apples, bananas, and their favorite, grapes.

4. They smell like buttered popcorn. True story. Like other members of the Viverridae family, the Binturong has scent glands, which are located just under its tail. As it moves about, the Binturong drags its tail, marking branches and foliage in its territory. To humans, the smell is reminiscent of buttered popcorn, but to other Binturongs it communicates that the area is occupied and they should move along. It can also help male and female Binturongs find each other when they want to mate. Cool.

5. Binturongs make lots of noises to communicate. A happy Binturong will chuckle (seriously), but an irritated one will utter a high-pitched wail or growl fiercely, sort of like Monica, a girl I dated in college. On the prowl, it may periodically produce a series of low grunts or a hissing sound made by expelling air through its partially opened lips, also reminiscent of Monica. A female Binturong in the mood for love will purr. Again . . . never mind.

6. Binturongs live high in the forest canopy and rarely come down to the ground. They are excellent climbers, moving slowly and cautiously through tree branches, aided by strong feet with semi-retractable claws. Their hind legs can even rotate backwards so their claws still have a good grip when climbing down a tree head-first. Due to their large size, Binturongs cannot leap between trees; they must climb down to the ground to move from one tree to another. Binturongs even sleep high in tree branches, curling up with their heads tucked under their tails.

7. They have prehensile tails. The Binturong is the only Old World mammal and one of only two carnivores (the other is the kinkajou) with a prehensile tail. Its tail is almost as long as its body and acts like another limb when climbing. At the tip of the tail is a leathery patch for extra traction when gripping branches. The binturong’s tail might be its most important climbing tool. Even when sleeping, its tail is anchored securely around a branch.

8. They walk like bears. Binturongs walk flat-footed, like bears and you and I. This results in an ambling, side-to-side gait. A strut if you will. Bearcats are cool.

9. Females can delay implantation of an embryo. Binturongs mate throughout the year, yet most births occur between January and March. Scientists think this means Binturongs are one of the approximately 100 mammal species capable of delayed implantation. Say whu-u-u-u-u-t? This allows them to mate whenever they encounter a male, but time the birth of their young to a season with favorable environmental conditions. Bearcats can control when they give birth. That’s wild, man.

10. Binturongs have a special relationship with the strangler fig. Binturongs play an important role in their rainforest habitats by spreading the seeds from the fruits they eat in their droppings. This is especially true for seeds of the strangler fig, which cannot germinate without assistance. The Binturong is one of only two known animals with digestive enzymes capable of softening the tough outer covering of the fig’s seeds. This special relationship makes the Binturong a keystone species in the rainforest ecosystem.

And finally, get this – Bearcats have 5 toes. This means all those paws you see on our school’s walls, shirts and other logos are wrong. The paw prints actually look this:

We need to fix this. It’s not too late, people!

Check out that Chevrotain, man. Just as cute as a button. They’re also known as a Mouse-Deer, which is adorable as hell. The Chevrotain is so elusive that scientists had long feared it was extinct after none had been photographed for decades. But as The Washington Post reports, the first images taken of the mammal in nearly 30-years prove that the species is still alive in the woods of Vietnam. The little guy is about the same size as a rabbit and is the smallest hoofed animal on Earth. Long live the Mouse-Deer, man. Anywho, Chevrotain.

Check it out, man. The greenhouse keeps the regular house at a comfortable 60 degrees year-around. And during the warmest parts of the summer, the glass roof automatically opens up when it hits a certain temperature to let the heat out so it doesn’t get too hot. Since they built a glass ceiling, they no longer needed a roof. So, they removed it to create a large deck for sunbathing, reading, gardening, entertaining with friends, or just hanging out. Plus, they grow all the food they need right there in the greenhouse. As if having free heat wasn’t enough, the owners have also installed a rainwater collection system for free water and a composting toilet system that provides free fertilizer for their plants. Also, the plants that thrive in their home return the favor by cleaning the air and providing more oxygen.

Genius!

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I was talking to a friend recently about my fascination with abandoned places. I’ve alway been interested in them. Even as a little kid I’d stare at old farmhouses, trees growing up around and through them, forgotten in the mists of time. At one time these places were built with a pupose and possibly love, and for whatever reason they were just left to rot, untouched and unsaved. I always wondered why that happened. Anyway, here are 30 photos of places that were, for whatever reason, abandoned. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

PS – I’ve posted a couple of these before, but they’re worth a repost.

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Oh for the love of God this is all we need right now, a Man-Fish swimming around in China. And if there’s one there’s more, kids. That’s just science. What’s next? Pig-Faced Chimpanzees? Horse-Faced Gerbils? The mind reels, man. If I was swimming and that Koi-Beast rolled up beside me I’d die on the spot. Holy Hell that’s horrifying.

PS- Don’t tell me those are just markings on that fish. That’s a damn demon face and you know it.

PPS- China’s been on a roll lately, amirite? Must be the a nuclear plant leak or something over there.

Yep. There they are.

Newsweek: A colony of up to 1-million Cannibal Ants trapped in a nuclear bunker for years have escaped, scientists in Poland have said.

The ants, which had no food source other than their dead nestmates, were first discovered in 2013 were found to be solely made up of worker ants meaning they could not reproduce—how their numbers grew so large was a mystery.

The team, led by Wojciech Czechowski, from the Museum and Institute of Zoology and the Polish Academy of Sciences, were carrying out a survey of bats living in an abandoned Soviet nuclear bunker when they came across the wood ants living in an ammunition bunker where nuclear weapons were once kept. The ants had no access to the outside world and appeared to have come from a nest above that was positioned over a ventilation pipe. When the ants fell down the pipe, they were entombed in the bunker.

However, after returning to the site two years later, scientists found the colony was not only still there, but that it had grown in numbers. This was despite there being no obvious food source, no heat and no light. A population estimate suggested there were at least 1-million ants living in the bunker.

In 2016, scientists found the colony was still there and the team set out to analyze its behavior. They installed a boardwalk that led to another ventilation pipe that the ants could use to escape the bunker. A year later, they returned to the site to find the colony had almost completely vanished. The team inspected the corpses that had been left behind and found bite marks and holes, mostly in the abdomen. This, they said, was evidence that the ants were eating their deceased nestmates in order to survive.

As far as I’m concerned Wojciech Czechowski of the Museum and Institute of Zoology and the Polish Academy of Sciences can go straight to hell. “Hey, check it out! A million Cannibal Ants trapped in a bunker! Let’s let them out!” Good God man. You had them right where you wanted them. Shoulda taken a flamethrower to those cannibals and called it a day. But nooooo. Now those things are going to spread from Poland to lay waste to Germany, swarm France, make one of those cool ant Living Rafts and land in Virginia Beach by New Year’s. Bottom line we’re all doomed thanks to our boy Wojciech. Sad really. Enjoy your next 7-weeks everyone. Happy Holidays!

Well, do ya?

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You guys know how much I love these nature videos. Animals just being animals like you read about. The Battle at Kruger was amazing, and I’ll post it below. This second one features a lone Water Buffalo being attacked by a Lion, fleeing to the river for safety, getting attacked by a Croc, heading back to land only to be attacked by the whole damn pride. The Lions were being real badasses until the cavalry showed up, as you shall see. Nature, man. Never gets old.

Here’s Battle at Kruger Part 1. Wait for it.


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