Spring flowers
autumn moon
summer breezes
winter snow:

With mind uncluttered
·  this is  ·
the finest season!

-Wúmén Huìkāi

Transitional tanager

Though scarlet tanagers favor the kind of oak-rich mixed forest that prevails around Farrar Pond, they hang about in treetops and—despite dramatic coloration—are not often seen. This male


Piranga olivacea

was apparently driven into view by extreme local drought and perhaps itchy feather mites


(note eye-protecting nictitating membrane here and below), two inconveniences with a common relief: a solar-powered shower bath:


Many so-called bird-baths are too deep to be useful except for drinking. Most guests at this spa appear to prefer just a fraction of an inch of immersion, perhaps in common with dust baths (which also get much use here in dry weather).


This does, however, require some contortions


to get deeper cleansing than the overhead spray produces.


Changing over to winter plumage in mid-August: a woolly bear warning of chills to come?



Lone adult white-tailed deer tend to be fairly accepting of human presence, especially in full daylight


Odocoileus virginianus

and when we move slowly and smoothly (predictably?). Well-defended with hoofs and sometimes antlers, not expecting hereabouts to be shot from afar, and easily able to outrun us, they often tolerate fairly close approach;


Albizia julibrissin, cropped

even when chastised for grazing on valuable specimen plantings, they are more likely to amble away


than to bound. Their young seem even more fearless/tolerant, perhaps at this age due less to confidence than to a common prey-animal survival strategy of freezing in place


when sighted, as many predators have difficulty focusing on motionless subjects.


But fawns seem more quick to ignore (or become less overtly wary toward) observers than do their parents.


–Except, as with foxes and some others, when generations commingle. Then the doe is likely to initiate stampeding flight, where a carnivorous matron will approach a stalker in attack posture and make warning sounds.

As to the artifacts of humans, deer seem largely indifferent, so long as these also move (if at all) slowly and smoothly. And while their motivations are unknowable, hence making perilous any anthropomorphic projection, browsing deer may seem only a little less curious about intrusions into the “natural” environment than are gatherers like chipmunks and squirrels,


appear comfortable with uncategorizable objects,


and may even participate in random acts of surreal performance art:



Incomplete closure


Eastern gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) are not always gray. Genes can mix to produce “melanistic” individuals that are jet-back, or—as seen here dining on seed regurgitated by a bluejay—tinged golden-brown:


Rarer combinations seen hereabouts include gray with black tail, gray with white tail, and all-white (not albino but “leucistic”). Those of mixed color do not seem to persist long, perhaps due to enhanced visibility to predators. And while melanistic squirrels are not common here, they are believed to have been more so—even predominant—in earlier, shadier climax-forest condtions.

An unfortunate example of the type was (or may still be) this youngster, appearing normal in profile


and ominously less so in quarter-view:


Up close:


One inference might be unsuccessful attack by a raptor; birds may aim for a quick kill in this way. But the odds seem low of a squirrel escaping from that point at all, much less with apparently undiminished capacities. And the precise positioning of the wound just above the orbits on the sagittal suture, apparent here [click through for larger images],


suggests instead an organic cause: incompletely knit skull-bones. Humans are normally born with this condition, enabling harmless deformation during constrained birth; the soft “fontanelles” persist for months. Mammalian skulls tend to share—with modification—many structural features, including multiple skull plates that grow together, as with this local flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans or possibly G. sabrinus):


These sutures are delicate works even under normal circumstances,


and our subject’s may have been disrupted by illness of parent or infant, chemical toxin, or an unfortunate transcription error. Whatever the case, the animal was not long in residence here; given the species’ potential life-span of a decade (seen locally more than once) or even longer, we may hope that it found timely healing rather than untimely transfiguration.


… a fellow of infinite jest …