One Nervous Tick

It is not often that a blog opportunity just drops into my lap.  I by that I mean literally drops into my lap!  In case you did not get the chance to read my last post, I had my Macro glass out taking pictures of some metal shavings that were wrecking havoc on my whirlpool faucets.  As it turns out, during the afternoon before that picture was taken I was out working in the woods trying to clean up the brush from last year’s Operation Parkify.  I came in and decided to get the images created for the post (trust me, that steps takes far longer than the actual post text takes).  I finally got the camera, Macro glass and tripod all set up next to computer desk in order to capture the metal shavings.  As I was checking something on my computer I noticed something strange on wrist.  On closer investigation a controlled (and very manly) eeeesh was emitted.  Now, snakes do not bother me much, spiders fascinate me and bees/wasps will live another day unless they make a stupid decision to annoy me.  What does slightly raise the blood pressure is this!

I am not sure exactly what causes this concern, but it is likely due to the fact they are CREEPY looking and very difficult to actually kill.  Scratch that [hehehe clever pun], they are actually very easy to kill when you are trying to remove them once they have bedded down in the skin.

Based on some literature I read (actually, my brother may have given me the reference for it sometime back), ticks supposedly do not violate the prey until a number of hours after it lands on the host.  And yes, land is the appropriate verb since contrary to a common city dweller opinion, they do not have the ability to fly forcing them to fall from trees and such on their victims.  Needless to say, there was no way this Macro opportunity was going untested.  For some reason, (let’s call him) Vlad did not want to cooperate with the artiiiiist.  No problems, a quick reach for some paper provided a means to move it into the camera zone.  Vlad must have had a flashback of kids trying to burn its legs off with a magnifying glass because he did not want to sit still under the lens (what, you never did that when you were a kid? how about smacking lightening bugs with a Wiffle ball bat?  tearing wings off of flies?  nevermind 8^).  Anyway, the tight aperture of the Macro was not liking the movement with the low depth of field.

As you can see, the front legs and body are in focus, but the top legs were likely moving and past the depth of field.  Keep in mind this particular beast is all of 7mm long.  By my guess we are about 8x-9x magnification with this Macro shot.  Now, am I crazy or is this image not on the same level as demon spawn CLOWNS?  This was a trick question since nothing is in the same league as CLOWNS, but the jury will accept any comparison to moles or our current Congress members.

The annoying thing about Vlad and his species is how hard they are to see in the woods.  Having perfectly adapted to their natural surroundings, they are basically invisible to the naked eye when lurking between the tree bark and their feather weight raises no concerns when they successfully invade your personal space.  The stain on my computer desk is a little lighter than the hues in the woods, but you can see how it starts to blend in better (compared to the yellow paper in the background above)

The odd thing about ticks around here is they tend to attack a certain member of the family far more than the others.  In fact, that member does not even have to leave the house to get them.  If one of the others are out in the woods and forget to properly check their clothes when then come back in, it is a sure thing one of Vlad’s cousins will seek that member out and start feasting.  That member happens to be Rizzi, our youngest toy poodle.  Why you ask?  Well, he happens to be bright white and this is like streetlights to moths.  I can’t count the number of times we have had to pull ticks of him – once even on his eyebrow.  We do treat him regularly to help prevent this, but these sneaky pests always find a way past the defenses.

In closing, here are a couple super zoomed pictures.  Vlad wouldn’t keep still for a even a second so a lot of the detail shots came out a tad blurry.  This particular shot shows the tiny hairs along the bloody colored legs – try getting this image out of your head come bedtime, worse yet the new associations you will have with CLOWNS hehehehe.

I wish the shot came out better, but here is one of the tip of the foot.  It looks like a tiny scalpel.

Probably so it can dig into the flesh when it goes to bury its head deep into the epidermis to start sucking that juicy red nectar.  I am betting you just developed a phantom itch 8^)

Sweet dreams everyone!

Snap, Digging Days are Over

Playtime is over my little demon claws.  In general, I am pretty lenient on the local wildlife.  As stated previously, I pretty much walked into their backyard, dug a hole and slapped a house on it and called it mine.  In payment for this land grab, I tend to let the wildlife have free run of the area.  This includes the deer who destroyed all my new evergreens I planted last year, the squirrels who constantly attack my bird feeders and the raccoons who like to dig up my mulch.  Sure, I’ll shoo them away, but they generally have the privilege of returning to the waiting paws/hoofs of their four legged companions.  However, I still have my limits.

Take for example the owner of this:

Do you have any idea how much damage this clawed paw can do?  In case you are new to this creature,  imagine if you will spending hour after hour after hour toiling away in the sun and rain to make your dwelling look as scenic as possible.  You spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars in materials and equipment to keep it in that shape for the 3 of the 4 seasons.  Then one day you wake up and it looks like the Chicago Bears held a scrimmage in your yard.   I maintain less than 2 acres of grass/landscaping of our 15.  The rest are left in their semi-natural woods state that animals are more than welcome to frolic in.  But no, the owner of this bastard appendage thinks he should be able to do whatever it wants wherever it wants:

Well, I have my limits and fortunately there are geniuses out in the free world (which is currently turning socialist, but that topic is for another time) that have studied this demon, learned their wicked ways and designed the most effective (and lethal) device to exact our revenge.  First a direct disclaimer, if you are a fan of PETA prepare to cry yourself to sleep (of course you can always ask your president to send another email to the Middle East asking them to using something other than donkeys to blow up our soldiers – nope, I haven’t forgotten nor ever will).

So what happens when my blood boils over, when my leniency is abused, when my hard work is destroyed without a hint of remorse.  Well, let me tell you, it makes a loud SNAPPING sound…. wait for it… wait for it..

This one (let’s call him Mort) isn’t going to make it home tonight.  Why isn’t Mort feeling so well anymore?  Answer: Mort decided it would be fun to shred my front yard and is suspected of tearing up my side and back yard as well.  I am also not talking about a single tunnel from one part of the woods to another.  No, this was a systematic and diabolical effort that essentially resulted in raised ground in every square foot of the impacted area.  So now the barrage of .. your fault, you didn’t kill the grubs, you didn’t put this down, you didn’t put that down, they are so cute, they are god’s creatures too, you’re evil yada yada yada.

What do I have to say to those city dwellers?  Actually nothing, I prefer pictures instead:

Kind of peaceful isn’t it?  Just hanging there enjoying the pretty day, reflecting on all good things in life … wishing it had stayed in the 13 other acres of wooded bliss.  Oh, and as far as the “cute” camps out there.  Exactly what is cute about this beast.  Sure it is has a soft and fluffy pelt, but I have to think Mort was accidentally stepped on during Creation Day.  That is probably what flattened out the front paws so bad.  Couple that with a hideous rat face and you pretty much have your fill of nightmare fodder.  Still not buying it, try this:

Granted, if god is a mole, I am going to be experiencing the “real” global warming in the future.  However, for now, I am willing to take my chances and continue to battle against the horde.  One this is for sure, I will continue to use the most lethal tool in my arsenal.

To the makers of this trap, I raise my glass and salute.  You have truly mastered this animal in much the same way Raid has been owning the nervous system of wasps and bees.   Tonight I will lay my head on my pillow and dream of grass between my toes and vibrant greens surrounding my little dwelling.

Wait a minute!!!! did I remember Rule #2…….oh crap, I think I forgot the double tap…now I’ll have…

ZOMBIE MOLES!

Honey, get the 9 – it’s gonna be a long long night.

A Shot In The Face of Fear – Yep, I PANICKED

That, my friend, is the result of FEAR!

Linda and I were up an agility show in Wisconsin last weekend.  Part of the bribe to actually get me to go with her was the opportunity to head back to the Chain O Lakes Park in Spring Grove.  Well, that and the chance to stop at my favorite chocolate store in Richmond IL.  8+ hours of waiting around to watch my dogs run for a total of about 4 minutes each.  Yes, their chocolate is THAT  good – especially the dark chocolate covered pineapple- yum.  As a shout out to my littlest dog, congratulations to Kerby (and Linda) on making their TACH II Agility Title at the show.

When we made it to the park, we immediately spotted a couple of swans enjoying a swim.  After about 100 shots of them (blog foreshadowing), we packed up and started to head out of the park.  Less than a mile from the exit, I saw something move out of the corner of my eye.  On closer inspection, I still was not able to tell exactly what it was, but it was moving in the weeds and figured I’d just go have a look-see.  Linda double back and dropped me off while she tried to find a place to pull off.  My suspicions were confirmed, it was a Sandhill Crane walking in the fall weed stalks.

It was rather amazing how well it was actually camouflaged among the fall coloring.  Unfortunately, the red on the head allowed me to zero in on it once the movement was vectored.  If you recall, the last encounter with these large birds was from pretty far away on the Yellowstone trip.  Here, the distance was less than 40 feet away giving a better perspective on just how huge these birds are.  Not only was I fortunate to see this feathered beauty….

there was actually TWO of them.  Based by the coloring, it looks like a male and female, but I need to verify that with the field guides.  I was actually struggling to get the shots I wanted.  They were very aware of my presence and continued to walk back and forth and every once in awhile adding some distance.  As they did this, they would pass behind the weed stalks driving my glass autofocus nuts.  Manual focus did not help much either as they refused to stop in one spot for more than a second or two to check out something on the ground or shoot me a glaring eye.  I continued to try and close the distance to help alleviate the focus issue and both the mono and tripods were in the car – mental note, at least grab the mono the next time I rush off into the woods.

So, you are probably wondering about the whole PANIC thing.  Well, it eventually dawned on me that I really did not know anything about these birds I was openly stalking.  Couple that with the fact I was totally alone and nursing a badly torn lower quad so if they had any cheetah friends I was a gonner.   Hit the jump if you want to see what happened.

Continue reading A Shot In The Face of Fear – Yep, I PANICKED