Merry Christmas from Low Roller Acres

Christmastime in Florida is a little different. 
You'll see...

Mike put up the tree this year. WTH!?

Vultures and the Crested Caracara

We get lots of vultures here at Low Roller Acres. They are some ugly birds and they come in several different varieties. We got your black vultures and your turkey vultures and some that are mix of something in between.

Vultures can look really mean, too but mostly they'll just fly away if you get too close.

I'm an idiot, but it's OK...

     We all do stupid things. Me, most recently. I downloaded something I really, REALLY shouldn't have. I know better, I'm a tech for chrissakes! I tried everything I knew to fix it but it just wasn't working. The straw that broke the camel's back was when I got several messages from my credit card company. 

Creepy Crawlies

I knew I had another bug post just waiting. What's a better time for the Creepy Crawlies than Halloween.

Butterfly Love....
Well, not so creepy...

Hot Flashes and Cool Weather

I feel terrific today! 

After so many restless, sleepless nights fighting with the hot flashes I think I have found what works for me. It's the Black Cohosh, suggested to me by many of my Facebook friends. I take one a day and although I sometimes have a flash or two, they are not nearly as often nor as intense.  

I got a lot of suggestions also about the use of Melatonin  and Sleepy Time Tea. Thanks to my friend next door, who kindly slipped some into my mailbox for me to try, I can say that neither are for me. 

I took the Melatonin for 4 nights straight. I couldn't tell that it did anything for me, good, bad, or indifferent. I also brewed up some of that Sleepy Time Tea. I've never been much of  hot tea drinker in the first place and this tea didn't change that. Although I've always enjoyed the smell of daisies and wildflowers on a warm summer evening just after a rain, I certainly don't want to drink it.

Anyway, on to the regular mix of nature like things....
The weather has cooled off a bunch and with it comes volunteer morning glories.

Florida's Subtle Seasons

The rainy season has been in full force for a while. Just now, the last few days, we are coming close to being knee deep. Just the usual....

American Bittern

Some more of My Backyard

I've been wanting to get back to taking pictures of what I do best. I've had the camera out for several day now and I just can't seem to make the pictures pop like I used to. I don't know if it's the camera, the lack of opportunity or (most likely) the lack of enthusiasm on my part. Whatever it is here's a few odds and ends for you.

Kansas City

I decided it was time I went to see Chris at his home in Kansas City. Booked the airline, rented the car, and spent 5 days with him and Steph. 

First night there we were getting ready to go to a KC Royals game and what do I find?
Mom's Diet Coke!

Saltwater Catfish - Good to Eat?

It's been a fun couple of days. It was Mike's Birthday so I baked him some cupcakes.

And bought him a good bottle of whiskey.

Sunrise in Labelle

I am not a morning person at all so I miss opportunities like this all the time.

A few pictures of the sunrise looking across the field.

Back to Nature

It's time, back to nature and back to nature photography.

This is an Anhinga. He will dive under the water and hunt fish for up to 5 minutes.

Projects: Cement and Bone

Here are a few projects that we've done over the last few months. What inspires us? Well, we had picked up several bags of cement and stucco on a trip to the home improvement store. These were busted up bags that they were giving away for free. Gotta put that to use. And I have this dremel tool that has been sitting around for ages and I figured it was about time to put it to use, too. 

Mike and I did 2 separate cement projects and I've been using the dremel tool to carve jewelry from bones.

We have a New Kitten!

We have a new kitten!

They say cats have 9 lives and I figure this one has already used up about 7.5 of them.

Mike was on his way to work, doing about 65-70 mph when he saw something come out from underneath the car in front of him. He swerved to miss it and looked in his rearview mirror to see this little fur ball rolling down the highway. He locked up his brakes, shoved it in reverse and watched as 8-10 cars went right over her. He jumped out of the car and threw his hands up, stopped the traffic, to pick up this little girl.

He brought her home to me. Amazingly, this cat has very few injuries and is in really good shape. I found a bit of road rash on 2 of her feet, her eye is swollen and red, a rough spot on her nose, and it looks like she bit the inside of her mouth. I called Chris, who is my go to guy for anything animal, especially injured and lost. I think we are getting her back into shape. Feeding her regularly, worming and so on.

I think this girl is in excellent shape for what happened. Mike calls her Road Rash.

She was also feral and quite feisty, spitting and hissing at me. Chris assured me that would only last a short time being so young. He judged her age from the pictures at about 4 to 5 weeks. She's eating ravenously, she's playing like a ferocious lion, and she purrs really loud. 

So we worry how Dusty is going to get along with her. The main fear is because of this. We were out for a walk and Dusty hit on this huge field rat, grabbed it, and with one flip over her head, it was dead. Please note, this rat is bigger than the kitten.

So I've been working with Dusty to make sure she is careful. She grrs at the kitten if she comes too close and twice now Dusty has nipped the kitten hard when the silly cat tried to share Dusty's food bowl. I worry but the dog listens to me very well, and it's getting better. They "almost" played together the other night. 

The kitten will hide underneath one of the couch's and when Dusty isn't looking she'll run out, make a feint at her and boogie back under cover of the next couch. The kitten also tries so hard to play with Dusty, she thinks that fluffy wagging tail is fascinating!

And I think you'll notice I've been calling her kitten throughout because we really have yet to stick to a name for her. I cannot call her kitty because it confuses the dog (my fault for calling the dog kitty in the first place). Mike wants to call her Road Rash which makes sense. We have a tradition of naming our animals from whence they came: Freeway, the cat that Mike bottle fed after finding his mother dead on the freeway and Birch the dog, of course, found on Birch street. We did the same with Dusty. We got her from a shelter on a road called Industrial, so I suggested in-DUST-rial would be Dusty which fits because she has a big dusty mop of a tail. 

I have been calling her Elby! That's short for Elby Kay or LBK or Little Baby Kitten. It doesn't vary that much from family tradition in that the last cat we had was named via acronym: Pita, who really was a pain in the ass when we first got her.

She is about 6 weeks old now and she has come a long way. She is very funny and playful and I can't wait to get a picture of her and Dusty playing or cuddling together.

Whatever we end up calling her I'm glad she decided to roll out from underneath a car and come live with us.

ZOOM Zoom zoom

 I finally got my brand new super zoom camera! It's a Sony DSCH400 with 20 megapixels and a whopping 63x zoom. This first batch of pictures has solely been a learning exercise. Some great successes and several failures. (Well, actually, a LOT of failures but I have this handy delete button and move on.)

 Daytime moon....
Kind of fuzzy, I'll work on that. 

 Night time half moon.

Day time half moon.

Casual quick snap of a dragonfly and his reflection. In fact this camera is quite snappy... a lot quicker to focus than the last.

I can get closer from further away... if that makes any sense.

And out of the blue we have a gator in the pond.

Wait, here's another and he's tiny!

On to flowers... This is a tiny grass flower, zoomed and cropped.

My gardenia is blooming.


Now for the cream of my photography world, birds.
This is a Red Bellied Woodpecker.

A rare opportunity, Pileated Woodpeckers. There were actually 3 all together and I'm guessing it was mom, dad, and the new baby out for a first lesson. I was so excited to see them, my pictures are less focused than I would like. Still learning.

This kite teases me. He will swoop low over my head only when I don't have the camera in hand! I'm going to get a good one of him yet!

A nice skinny mockingbird.

Edit: There's a reason this mockingbird is so skinny... it's actually a Loggerhead Shrike.

I managed to get a shot of this Yellow Shafted Flicker through the trees. (I look these things up, you know.)

Here he is again.

This is a pretty Blue Jay.

He's fluffy.

Close in on a grackle.

I didn't edit this one at all.
(Again, it's a Loggerhead Shrike.)

Bright red cardinal

And a blue jay again at the feeder.

I sat down and took a break while Dusty went crazy after a gopher or something.

Silly Puppy!

Screech Owl Chronicles

This is the story of a pair of Screech Owls that visit my place every year.

For those that know me, you have seen most of these pictures before. I thought I would tell the complete story in one single post, dedicated to these little owls.

When we moved here in 2005 we were living in a tiny run down mobile home. Just outside was a huge scraggly pine tree with a single hole in it, way up high. One night Mike reported to me that he saw a bat on the electric wire running just outside the lanai. So we investigated.

With some stealth and a spotlight we found this guy in the copse of trees nearby, so we knew it was was an owl. In fact there were two. We could hear them call back and forth to each other. It's a really a soft cooing noise that rises up, a trill. I don't know why they call them screech owls because I have never heard them actually screech.

Later on, I noticed this guy, sticking his head of the hole. Now we know where they live.

Life went on and we didn't see hide nor hair of these guys and then, several weeks later I saw this baby sticking his head out during the day. We were really paying attention then! 

One night a few days later we heard some something beating on the branches in the copse nearby. We ran out and watched as the little one was making his first flight and caught a few pictures, too.

Since then we have learned that the Screech Owl will mate for life. We have watched every year and about the same time, mid March, we will see one of these guys sitting in the hole obviously waiting for his/her mate to arrive for the year.

Maybe we weren't paying enough attention but there were several years when we would see one for a week or so but never see any babies. This year we paid close attention and sure enough, about the middle of March, look who showed up. He, as usual, sat outside during the day for about a week and then disappeared. We were hoping they were busy... you know what I mean?

 And sure enough, about a month or so later we see one of the babies!

OMG, look at the feet on this guy!

Wait, there are two of them!

They are getting close to fledging... I woke them up from their nap...

One is slightly bigger than the other. He must have hatched earlier. And the little one in front does not look happy! I hope that doesn't come to haunt me later...

And the day comes, I actually got to watch this guy climb up out of the hole and to the top of the tree. WHERE'S MY BRAND NEW 63x ZOOM CAMERA!?

Got it! I knew he was about to fly away so I went into the nearby copse of trees and...

And there he is! That's daddy owl (or momma owl) waiting on standby for his baby's first flight. 

I didn't see either in the hole the next day so I guessed his little brother was in the fledgling business, too. Yup! 

So, out I go with my brand new camera. I see an owl here, I see an owl there. I'm fighting with the camera to get the shot. I can't get it work! I don't know all the knobs and buttons and it's dark and I'm being eaten alive by mosquitos! 

This is the only worthwhile shot I got that night, just before he made a pass at me and smacked me upside the head. Or was it his little brother? I don't know. I was all... change setting on camera, smack a mosquito, try to focus, fly away, itch like hell, change the setting, get winged by an owl, smack a mosquito, try to focus, itch like hell, get winged again......

I gave up, took a Benadryl and slept for 12 hours.

 The little one  looks like Gonzo!

I haven't seen any of them since...