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1. And The Fox Kit Research Begins

Fox kits 4-17

I went to the fox den today, just thinking I’d be collecting the SD card from the trail cam.  But I didn’t get that far.  Once I saw these adorable kits outside the den entrance, I knew I had to keep my distance.

fox kits 4 4-14

I set up my camera and extended the lens. I itched to get closer, but resisted the urge. Two very young kits lay in the opening, curled around each other, soaking up a sunbeam.

I never *sneak* in to see them, quite the opposite in fact.  I let my hiking boots crunch and snap twigs so they know I’m coming and have the opportunity to hide.

These two didn’t scramble away though. They just peeked in my direction through sleepy lids . . .

fox kit 3 4-14

Stumbled around a bit on wobbly legs .  . .

Fox kit 2  4-14

Curled up together again, and fell back asleep.


I fox kit 5 4-14

I never did collect that SD card, as I would have had to take another seven giant steps in their direction.  Why disturb their nap in the sunshine?

The card can wait. I got what I needed for today.


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2. #541 – Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma: The True Story of an Orphaned Cub by Darci Pattison & Kitty Harvill

abayomi the brazilian puma.

Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma: The True Story of an Orphaned Cub

by Darci Pattison & Kitty Harvill, illustrator

Mims House           2014


Ages 6 to 8       32 pages


“From the award-winning team that brought you WISDOM, THE MIDWAY ALBATROSS, comes a new heart-warming story of an orphaned puma cub. A mother puma, an attempt to steal a chicken, and an angry chicken farmer—the search is on for orphaned cubs. Will the scientists be able to find the cubs before their time runs out?

In this “Biography in Text and Art,” Harvill takes original photos as references to create accurate wildlife illustrations. Pattison’s careful research, vetted by scientists in the field, brings to life this true story of an infant cub that must face a complicated world alone—and find a way to survive.”


“In the far south, in Brazil, a puma cub was born in the early spring month of October 2012.”

The Story

Brazil, once covered by deep forests, now houses more people in cities and villages. To keep their cars moving more sugar plantations took over much of the remaining forest. Pumas, and other wild animals, must live closer to man and find it more difficult to hunt for food. One night, a female puma spotted some chickens in a farmer’s barn. Their normal diet of armadillos, capybaras, and ring-tailed coatis were getting hard to find. The puma needed to feed her cub and the chickens were easy prey. But she fell victim to a farmer’s trap. Before wildlife officials could get to the farm and safely remove the puma, she died.

Alone, hungry, and no mother to help, her cub had to hunt, but would he know how? Wildlife officials followed the mother puma’s trail trying to find her cubs but came up empty. Twenty-three days after his mom left and never returned, dogs a mile away from home cornered the cub. Dehydration and starvation ravished the cub’s body, stealing the energy he needed to walk. He staggered from place to place. This time wild life officials safely caught the cub, naming him Abayomi, which means happy meeting in the Tupi-Guarni native language. Scientists did what was needed so this little guy could return to the wild. Were they successful?

mom in wildlife officials cage


The team of Darci Pattison and Kitty Harvill have made their second successful wildlife children’s book about a fascinating survivor. The first, Wisdom, the Midway Albatross, garnered starred reviews. Abayomi will undoubtedly do the same. With simple language and thoughtful prose, the story of Abayomi will come to life for schoolchildren, many of whom live in urban areas and have never seen a puma. Though the death of the mother puma was most likely gruesome, Pattison wrote,

“. . . She fought back. Once, she hit her head hard against the side of the cage and was dazed. After hours of struggling, she died.”

The illustrations were just as easy on the subject. You see the puma in a cage and some chickens in a roost, but nothing more. Not one spittle of blood mentioned or seen. Children should not experience nightmares after reading Abayomi. All of the illustrations are soft watercolor renditions of actual locations in this true story, completely vetted by experts. Each image is realistic yet gentle on the eyes. The scrawny cub, shown from the backside, does not noticeably display starvation. The hips are noticeably larger due to a lack of abdominal body fat, yet not so much as to scare even the youngest children.

starving cub

The book concludes with some facts about Abayomi, the Corridor Projects, and urbanization, along with some resources children can look up for more details. Children could write an interesting book report after reading Abayomi the Brazilian Puma. Pattison and Harvill make a splendid team that children, parents, and teachers should not ignore. Conservation and wildlife experts and scientists fact check Pattison’s research. Harvill uses photographs taken on site when painting her illustrations. The pair have made clear choices that make the books assessable to younger children, while still interesting older kids. (Yes, like myself.)

As with Wisdom, the Midway Albatross, Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma should be in school libraries and homeschooling bookshelves that cover wildlife, conservation, or the changing world. As starting points, Abayomi and Wisdom, are great resources for children. While not an expansive missive, these two books will guide students to other resources and further knowledge. The two books also allow younger children to learn about these subjects in a mild, non-scary manner that will peak curiosity, not provoke nightmares.

mom and cub

ABAYOMI, THE BRAZILIAN PUMA: THE TRUE STORY OF AN ORPHANED CUB. Text copyright © 2014 by Darci Pattison. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Kitty Harvill. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Mims House, Little Rock, AK.


Learn more about Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma HERE.

Get your copy of Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma at AmazonB&NMims Houseask for it at your local bookstore.


Meet the author, Darci Pattison, at her website:   http://www.darcypattison.com/

Meet the illustrator, Kitty Harvill, at her website:  http://www.kharvillarte.com.br/artist.html

Find more Mims House stories at the publisher’s website:  http://mimshouse.com/


Also by Darci Pattison

Saucy and Bubba, a Hansel and Gretel Tale

Saucy and Bubba, a Hansel and Gretel Tale








.Also by Kitty Harvill

Up, Up, Up! It’s Apple-Picking Time

Up, Up, Up! It’s Apple-Picking Time

Vida Livre (published in Brazil)

Vida Livre (published in Brazil)






Also New from Mims House

The Girl, the Gypsy, and the Gargoyle

The Girl, the Gypsy, and the Gargoyle




Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Library Donated Books, NonFiction, Picture Book, Series Tagged: a changing world, Abayomi, Brazil, conservation, Darci Pattison, forest depletion, Kitty Harvill, Mims House, pumas, wildlife, wisdom

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3. Mystery Of The Eagle’s Nest



Well, it’s official!  Mystery of The Eagle’s Nest is off to the printers!

The release date?  August 17th!  We’ll be having another book launch here at Poland Spring Campground.  I’ll post more details as we get closer.  I couldn’t be more excited to share this story with all of you!

So what’s next?  I’ve begun research on Book 3, which will feature fox kits.  It’ll be set in late April, early May, so I’m doing my setting research now, taking notes about weather, foliage (or lack of!), what we’re doing to get the campground ready to open -

and what the fox family is doing.

I’m lucky enough to be able to do this research first hand, just like with the loons and the eagles.  Two years ago, I found a fox den on the property quite by accident.  You can read about it here.  Those little faces just melted my heart and I knew I had to put them in a story.  I have the trail cam on them now. Up until last week, I had only seen the adults coming and going and bringing furry mammals to the den.

But last Friday, after changing out the SD card from the cam, I walked a few yards away before stopping to safely tuck it into a zippered pocket.  Then I checked my phone.   I was putting it away in my back pocket when I heard a noise, like falling sand. I turned in time to see an adult fox exit the den and shake himself off.

fox den 1


fox den 2


I froze.  How gorgeous, he was!   He sniffed the air, then turned back to the den.  A tiny reddish-brown fuzzball stumbled out.  The adult licked it across the head, then it’s back.  Gently it nudged it back toward the opening of the den.

I was so in awe, I forgot to take a picture of the moment.

But sometimes, it’s more rewarding just to watch. To soak it up into your memory.

I’ll wait a few more days before I collect the SD card from the trail cam again.

And if I’m lucky enough, I might get to see a kit as well.

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4. The Eagle’s Are Expecting!


You might miss it, if you didn’t know what you were looking for.  At first, even I thought no one was on the nest.

But there she was, just the top of her white head showing on this glorious day  . . .

Eagles 3-8 nesting (51)

The Eagle’s are expecting!

The lake was crazy busy today with an ice fishing derby down by the state park.  The eagle stayed put on her eggs, even though four wheelers and snowmobiles circled her island.  And in spite of the ice fishermen who had set up directly under the nest. (I’m suspecting they didn’t know she was there, considering the side of the island they were on)

Her mate, roosting in a nearby tree, was a little more restless, however.

Eagles 3-8 nesting (11)

Eagles 3-8 nesting (14)


Eagles 3-8 nesting (17)




Eagles 3-8 nesting (8)

It IS quite early for them to be sitting on their eggs.  Do they know something we don’t?  Can we hope that it means an early spring is on the way?

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5. Owl Sighting In My Own Backyard

Owl - Mar 7 (3)

Right at dusk . . . with a pink sunset fading behind him, the owl swooped into our backyard.

Owl - Mar 7 (7)

Unlike the other day, when I’d caught a sleepy owl around 3pm, this one was quite active.  He almost didn’t look real, as his head swiveled from side to side looking for an early supper.

Owl - Mar 7 (10)

We watched until we couldn’t see him through the darkness any more.

Owl - Mar 7 (11)

Oh, how I wished he’d shown up earlier so the pictures were clearer.  Still, I was honored by his visit.

Now I can’t stop looking out my back window, hoping for signs of his return.

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6. Soaring Eagles


Watching an eagle soar is a most wondrous sight.


They do it so effortlessly . . .

They look so free . . .


Circling above the lake soundlessly, eying the fisherman’s catch, riding the wind,




. . . watching them fills me with awe.

When these eagles take flight, all eyes on the lake turn upward.


Today, I watched as she came in for a landing on the nest.  When I’d first gotten to the lake, I was worried to see no adult on it, as she’d been sitting there for hours just days before.

AND I’d told everyone on this blog.  And Facebook.  And the campground blog too.  And the Campground Facebook page.



I held my breath as she walked along the tree branch  .  . . were there eggs or weren’t there?


She stopped to look down into the nest several times. It gave me hope.


After poking her beak into the nest once, twice, three times, she hopped into the nest and  settled back down onto her eggs.


Whew!  We’re nesting. I didn’t fib.

These photos were taken before the big snow, wind, ice storm Wednesday night.  My relief over knowing they were definitely nesting was replaced with worry. The eggs were on my mind for most of the last few days.  After my meeting was done today, I trudged down to the lake to find her sitting on the them, only the tip of her head showing.

I shouldn’t have doubted her.  She IS the Queen of the skies, after all.


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7. What Can Clear Your Front Yard of Song Birds?

Last week, the bird seed ran low somewhere around Wednesday. It seemed that every time I went outside, I was getting scolded from chickadees, titmouse, finches, and squirrels.  “You expect us to all fit on one feeder?” they taunted.

So on Saturday, hubby and I stopped for the food and suet and even a special treat of safflower seeds.  I cleaned feeders, shoveled around them (hoping the squirrels would stop jumping up on them – it didn’t) and refilled.

“Here you go!” I called out. They were buzzing my head in seconds.

Back inside the house, I vacuumed, then did some research, peeking out the windows as I went. Suddenly, I realized there were no birds at my feeders.  There was no song.  No chirping.

But wait, clinging upside down to the thin side of the suet feeder was one, tiny nuthatch. He was stone still.  No movement.  I knew then what was going on . . .

I went window to window until I found it.


I’ve had a Red-shouldered Hawk and a Barre Owl clear my front yard before.


But never a Sharp-shinned Hawk!  I took a few photos through the window.  When he stayed, I snuck silently out the side door to take a few more.  Still he stayed.


I noticed he was puffing up a bit, probably from the cold.  I went back inside to grab the tripod.  As quietly as I could, I set it up a little closer and snapped a few more photos using my remote control.

Snow began to fall.  He stayed.


It took me awhile last night to figure out what he was.  Sharp-shinned Hawks are quite interesting!  They prefer to live in the forests.  Their long tail helps them maneuver around trees as they fly.  They chase song  birds and mice. For their meals.

So is it any wonder my front yard stayed quiet through sundown, even though the hawk left the front yard around 5pm?  I’m not sure I’d risk it for a few seeds either.

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8. One billion dogs? What does that mean?

By Matthew E. Gompper

As part of my recent research on the ecology of dogs and their interactions with wildlife I took the necessary first step of attempting to answer a seemingly simple question: Just how many dogs are there on the planet? Yet just because a question is simple does not mean we can confidently answer it. Previous estimates of 500-700 million dogs were rough calculations. I tried to do a bit better by pulling together hundreds of local-scale estimates and extrapolating across much larger regions. The result? One billion dogs (986,913,500 to be exact).

What are we to make of such a shockingly large number? The estimate itself is undoubtedly inexact, and in the future population demographers will likely improve on it, much as demographers studying human populations have increased the accuracy of human population size estimates. Maybe it is ten percent less than a billion. Maybe it is twenty percent more. Either way, it’s a massive number. There is something about hitting the billion threshold that makes one pause and wonder how to interpret such findings.

One way to ponder such numbers is to ask about impact. What is the impact of having a billion dogs on the planet? We tend to view dogs as benign commensals, and indeed, with only rare exceptions (such as Australian dingoes) that is the case. These billion or so dogs are entirely dependent on humans to survive. We shelter and feed them directly or indirectly ¬– the latter when dogs survive by feeding on the foods that humans have discarded. For the most part, individual dogs can’t make a living hunting wild prey. (In this sense, dogs are quite different from cats, which can survive just fine outside the bounds of human societies.)

But that doesn’t mean that dogs won’t kill the occasional prey if it has the opportunity. My dog, an Australian Shepherd that as I type is happily snoozing on the living room couch, will gladly chase any squirrel in sight even if his chance of catching it is close to nil. But ‘close to nil’ is not the same as ‘nil’, and to quote Hamlet, “ay, there’s the rub”. Occasionally, some dogs can catch the proverbial squirrel, and many dogs are better than that, regularly ranging into areas where animals are likely to be found and chasing or killing whatever they can. This ranging may be alone or with other dogs from the neighborhood; the dogs may also be accompanying their human companions. One dog doing this occasionally is not a big deal. But multiply that by a billion and we suddenly recognize the potential for dogs to be important drivers of the behavior of wildlife and important mediators of wildlife population dynamics.

Free-ranging dog in Great Indian Bustard Wildlife Sanctuary, Maharashtra, India. Such dogs have the potential to greatly influence wildlife in the region. Photo by Matthew Gompper. Used with permission.

Free-ranging dog in Great Indian Bustard Wildlife Sanctuary, Maharashtra, India. Such dogs have the potential to greatly influence wildlife in the region. Photo by Matthew Gompper. Used with permission.

Indeed, numerous cases have been documented showing how dogs interact with and cause problems for the surrounding wildlife. Dogs disturb or kill wildlife, compete for the resources that wildlife also need, and act as reservoirs for pathogens that cause epidemics in wildlife. Dogs even act as prey for some big species of wild carnivores such as tigers, leopards, wolves and bears, and in such cases draw these species into areas where conflicts with humans are more likely. The more researchers look into the issue of dog-wildlife conflict, the more they come to recognize both the importance of the issue for protecting species and environments of conservation concern, as well as the importance of recognizing just how little we currently understand.

For instance, it would appear that a simple solution would be to restrict the ability of dogs to roam in areas where wildlife exists. Since most dogs in the developing world are fed kitchen scraps and roam in search of additional discarded food waste, combine restrictions on roaming with a better diet for dogs, and everyone wins, right? Not so fast. Commercially-produced dog foods are in many ways nutritionally similar to human foods. Producing dog food requires agricultural lands above and beyond that required for food production for people. Indeed, back of the envelope calculations based on the caloric needs of dogs suggest that the agricultural production requirements to support dogs equates to 30-40% of that required to support humans. Where would that land come from? Putting more land into agricultural development might do more damage to wildlife conservation efforts than the direct impacts dogs are currently causing.

But maintaining the status quo of allowing dogs to roam widely interacting with species of conservation concern is not satisfactory either. Nor do the norms of society allow us to cull massive numbers of dogs or confine every dog to a small space. After all, we as a global human population, like our dogs. So what are we to do? I believe a necessary first step to reducing the extent of dog-wildlife conflict may lie merely in first getting the word out regarding the importance of such issues. Once people come to realize there is an issue, locally tailored solutions, whether they involve curtailing how far dogs roam, increased oversight of dog welfare and breeding, or expanding the space set aside for wildlife, are more likely to be found acceptable than any one-size-fits-all approach to reducing dog numbers or impacts. The end result would hopefully benefit dogs, wildlife, and people.

Matthew Gompper is Professor of Mammalogy at the University of Missouri. His research examines wildlife disease ecology, the biology of mammalian carnivores (both wild and domestic), and the effects of resource subsidies on animal ecology. Gompper is the editor of Free-Ranging Dogs and Wildlife Conservation.

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0 Comments on One billion dogs? What does that mean? as of 3/24/2014 7:17:00 AM
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9. Signs


This morning, as I gathered my things to go to school, I saw a flash of orange through my office window.  I looked again, and smiled to see the fox trotting down what we call Main Street in the campground.  Heading home from a night of hunting, I guessed.  Instead of passing by, he turned toward my front yard, and stepped a paw on it, I gasped.  He seemed to change his mind, backing off the lawn and continuing past our house on the other side of the hedge, toward our campground gate.

But where the hedge ended, he again turned onto the lawn.  I grabbed my camera, which still had the big lens on it, and  flew to the living room window.

And there he was, investigating under the bird feeders.

fox outside window 4-1 2

I really didn’t need that large lens, but I didn’t want to take the time to switch it out.

Click, went the camera. He turned my way . . .

fox outside window 4-1 8

What amazing hearing they have!  He stayed for a minute or two, even came next to the house to sniff around under the bird feeder in the window.  Again, when I snapped a photo, he seemed to look right at me.

Fox outside window 4-1

Write the story, he seemed to say.

I knew what story he meant.  His story.

But I shrugged it off.

Later today in class, the students were issued three writing prompts and told to choose one. Most dove right in.

Two did not.

I coaxed.  I gave my best helpful tips.

And yes, I threatened to make them work through our read-aloud.

“Buuuuut it’s soooo hard!”  One young man moaned.  He was quite angry with me as he lives for the read-aloud.

“Yes, the first words ARE hard,” I explained.  “Write anything, anything that comes to mind.  And once you start, the rest will come more easily.”

“It’ll just be junk though!”  He closed his ipad, crossed his arms and put his chin in his chest.

“You’re right,” I agreed, deciding honesty was best.  “But you can delete what you don’t want once you get going.  The important thing is to begin.  Don’t be afraid of the blank page-”

I stopped talking mid sentence.  All the students looked at me, waiting.  Finally, I sighed, shook my head and laughed.  I confessed to the young man how I’d been holding back from writing those first words too.

Then I thanked the class for teaching me something.  I needed to follow my own advice.

I haven’t started a brand new project since 2011.  Mystery on Pine Lake was complete when I sold it, and Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest was half done.  Starting from scratch IS scary!   And I’d been losing myself in fox research instead of taking a chance and writing those junky first words.

fox outside window 4-1 9

Well, it’s time.

Consider Book 3 officially started.

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10. Wednesday’s Wildlife Pic

Squirrel Oct 15 (3)

Hey!  How you doin’?

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11. Wednesday Wildlife Pic

Eagles 5-21 022 (2)

The eaglet eyes the oriole . . . .

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12. Wednesday Wildlife Pic

This week’s pic is from sunny Florida . ..

Biking to the Lighthouse 071 (3) (1280x854)

This osprey was quite happy with his lunch of fish . . .

Everywhere we go this week, we see osprey nests. Dave and I both agree there’s more than ever before.  Several people have stopped to ask me if they’re eagles (I think it’s the camera, that makes them do this) and I have to explain they are not.  I may not be well versed in birding, but I do know an eagle when I see one!

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13. The Line Up


Sunset on Causeway 040 (2)

The picture book writer in me sees so very many storyline possibilities in this photo!

It was taken under the Sanibel Causeway, near sunset, while Dave and Ben were fishing. Dolphins swam just a couple hundred yards away.


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14. Wednesday Wildlife Pic

While I was away in Florida, my eagles were busy!

Here’s a photo of their nest on February 7th.

008 1280x8241 1024x659 No Nesting Eagles Yet . . . Buuuut . . . And here is the nest this week!!What a difference!

Walk 3 1 008 1280x854 1024x683 No Nesting Eagles Yet . . . Buuuut . . .

So I’m pretty confident that our eagles will be using this nest this spring!  And with these 40 degree temps, I bet I’ll be taking pictures of a nesting eagle very shortly.

The big question is, will there be one eaglet . . . two . . . or another rare triplet set?

Time will tell, my friends.  Time will tell.

(For those of you who are new to my blog, I have triplet pictures from last year!

Just click here to follow their story

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15. The New Nest Location

When I went back down to the lake on Saturday, the eagles were back to fluffing their nest.  There’s been at least one adult on or in the nest all weekend.

What I love about their new nest location, is how they now have branches to sit on over it, which gives me so many different poses to shoot!   In prior years, they’d either hang out on the edge of the nest, which became a bit crowded when the little ones were born, or they flew off to another tree.

Eagles Nest building 3-9 047 (1280x854)

Eagles Nest building 3-9 049 (1130x753)

Hopping down into the nest


Nesting Eagles 3-10 012 (1100x734)

Climbing down into the nest

I’m thinking I’ll be getting some gorgeous family photos this year.

Eagles Nest building 3-9 110 (469x706)

Eagles Nest building 3-9 157 (876x586)

When I left on Sunday, one of the adult eagles had settled into the nest.  I’m fairly certain the eggs have been laid or were just about to be.

Nesting Eagles 3-10 022 (652x434)

Wish them luck!

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16. Fox Sighting

The trail camera snapped a couple great photos of the fox . . .


I’m going to try to use a higher resolution on it next week to get clearer photos.

This cutie looks very  healthy, doesn’t he?  With all the spring-time love in the air, I can’t help but wonder if we’ll get lucky and see some cubs.  It seems that March is the cubbing season, and the female relies on the male to bring her food.  This might be why I’ve only been seeing one fox in each photo.

In April, the cubs venture out for the first time.  So I believe I’ll leave the trail camera right where it is for the next few months, just in case. I’ll keep you posted on any new news!

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17. Wednesday’s Nature Pic

Look who’s been out and about!

This pic was taken with the trail camera on the 13th of this month.



And here, he’s wandered into our backyard for a little shut eye the next morning.  I can’t help but wonder if his den is full of cubs and he was looking for a quiet place . . .

Fox Backyard Nap  (21)

He stayed for quite awhile and made me late to work!  Hubby took over with the camera after I left.

Fox Backyard Nap  (19)

I can’t wait to see what the trail camera picks up this week!

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18. Juvenile Blue Heron

Whew, it’s been awhile since I posted, but Cooper’s second adventure needed to be written in spite of a busy campground and school starting. Every spare minute went to his and Packrat’s story.   I’m happy to report it’s done.

Okay, it’s not totally done.  The first draft is done.  Before I dig into the many revisions to come, and while it’s being read by a keen eye for feedback, I finally got a chance to take my camera on the trails.

I’d been itching to go since I’d had a wildlife tip from one of my young campers, “Where were you all day, Tami!” he’d said, early Sunday morning.  “It was RIGHT THERE!”

The blue heron he was talking about wasn’t quite “right there” by the time I got lakeside.  I followed the trail, in hopes of seeing something, anything.  But then I stumbled upon him wading silently amongst the lily pads . . .

Great Blue Heron 078

I quickly crouched down to hide behind a small bush.  He’d seen me though, and we stayed still, staring at each other for at least ten minutes.  Him measuring me.  Me willing him to stay put long enough to take a couple pictures.

Great Blue Heron 106

Great Blue Heron 114

Stay, he did.

Great Blue Heron 128

Great Blue Heron 143

He even started preening, feather by feather.

Great Blue Heron 152

I took over two hundred photos of this gorgeous juvenile heron.

Great Blue Heron 166

Great Blue Heron 196

When I had enough, I thanked him quietly.  Then we both left.

Great Blue Heron 226

Great Blue Heron 231


I hope I meet him again sometime.

Great Blue Heron 179


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19. One Foggy September Morning


Over my Writer’s Camp ‘n Schmooze weekend, two of my friends, Cindy and Mona, went kayaking in the early morning hours to watch the sunrise.  They asked me to go too, but I was sooooo tired from juggling teaching, writing and camp, I decided to get the extra couple hours of sleep instead.

After seeing their photos and hearing about how they’d seen the fall loons . . . well, I’ve been regretting that decision ever since.

So when my friend Linda arrived for the weekend, I asked, “Want to see a sunrise tomorrow?”

Of course she said yes . . .

Kayak Foggy Morn 002 (1024x683)

Kayak Foggy Morn 027 (1024x683)

Kayak Foggy Morn 072 (800x533)


But there was no sunrise.  The fog was thick.  It danced across the water toward us, around us.  It clung to everything . . .

Kayak Foggy Morn 016a (683x1024)

It made it hard to take photos of the ducks and geese, which have begun to gather for their trip south.

Kayak Foggy Morn 034 (1024x617)

Kayak Foggy Morn 046 (1024x683)

We followed the sound of the loons mournful cry to find them.

Kayak Foggy Morn 083 (800x571)

My how they’ve changed!

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Loons molt in September, changing from their brilliant black and white colors to a gray, not unlike a juveniles.  After they fly to their winter home, they’ll molt again, this time becoming flightless for a time until their new feathers grow in and they return north.

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We watched them for awhile . . . fishing and preening.  Then we continued  down toward the state park.

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Right on the park’s shoreline, we saw a duck-like bird we didn’t recognize.  Five of them.  Diving, coming back up with little minnows, chasing each other.

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It turns out it’s a common grebe!  I believe these are all females.  They were interesting to watch.  A new birding find!

As we headed for home, the fog lifted and the sun came out.

It was going to be a glorious day . . .

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but we’d already seen the best part of it.



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20. Muskrat

Late yesterday afternoon the sun peeked out of the clouds, just before the it dipped below the treetops.  I waffled on taking a walk with the camera.  It was getting dark.  It was chilly.  I had things I should be doing.

But I went.  Because I hadn’t taken a walk in like, forever.

And I discovered something new . . .

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I was standing still, very still, watching a pair of robins feasting on fall berries, when I heard the sound of water moving.  As if something was swimming. I tiptoed between the crunchy leaves until I had a clear view through the bushes and gasped.

I’d found muskrat’s getting their den ready for winter.  Right. Off. Shore.

I watched the pair for forty minutes or more, swimming out into the lake a few feet, then coming back to the hut to drop things on top of it.

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I wish the light had been better.

When I pushed down on the camera button, it sound like Cli . . . . . ick.

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There were two of them, Muskrat Susie and Muskrat Sam perhaps?  (Okay, that dates me just a little bit)

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You can bet I’ll be going lakeside again tomorrow. This time, I’ll go a little earlier AND bring my monopod to stabilize the camera in low light.

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I want to catch some sharp clear pictures of these two before they winter up.

And since I’m about to embark on Cooper’s third adventure, the research wouldn’t hurt either.

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21. Our Eagle Pair

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This is the eagle’s nest from last fall.

The eagles have been busy.  And not six months busy.  This is how much the nest grew in the last TWO WEEKS!

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As I headed to the lake today, I hoped to see just one of the eagles.  Instead, at the half way point, I peeked through the trees to see two!

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I hurried to get a closer look.  Images of clear, flight photos ran through my head.  I walked on top the snow (which is quite rare nowadays, I don’t mind admitting) and I slipped a bit as I tried to get to to the lake’s edge.  Cradling the camera, I began to walk slower with one eye on the prize.

Then I hit the last fifty feet.  I crunched.  I cracked.

And the eagle’s flew away . . .

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I cannot wait to document our 2014 Eagle Adventure.  Especially with Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest being released in August . . .

Come back often for eagle updates!

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22. Meet Animal Helper: Kim Johnson

As we continue to feature wildlife rehabilitators this month on the Sylvan Dell blog, this week we meet Kim Johnson from The Drift Inn Wildlife Sanctuary. She shares with us the trials and tribulations of rescuing wild animals.

Texan Kim Johnson often works with her veterinarian husband and a tiny volunteer group at her Drift Inn Wildlife Sanctuary in Driftwood to care for a wide variety of mammals, including raccoons, squirrels, deer, fox, skunks, even bobcats. “Every year is different and I never know exactly what to expect” says Kim, one of a small handful of licensed rehabilitators in her state, “During Hurricane Ike, 200 squirrels were delivered to my front door.”

Despite her hectic schedule caring for wild animals, many of them babies, for 14-18 hours a day, seven days a week, Kim never seems to lose her sense of humor. “If it’s native and it lives in Texas, it’s been in my house, and maybe even if it’s not native,” she quips.

In many of the pictures that Kim submitted for possible use in Animal Helpers, she is wearing a big smile and very heavy welder’s gloves. The grin is, of course, because Kim loves her job. The gloves are because she is smart and seasoned. After 33 years as a rehabilitator, Kim is keenly aware that those gloves are mandatory equipment for handling fuzzy babies that have big paws, sharp teeth, and claws.  

Name: Kim Johnson

Name of organization/clinic: The Drift Inn Wildlife Sanctuary

State: Texas

Specialty/special areas of experience: Mammals, raptors

Years as rehabilitator/volunteer: 33 years

Busiest time of year: May-July

Number of hours you work per week during your busy season: 18+ hours a day 7 days a week

Number of volunteers in clinic: 4

Why did you become a rehabilitator/volunteer: For the love of nature and animals

Most rewarding aspect of rehabilitation: Release days and seeing an animal we thought would not pull through survive and be released!

As a rehabilitator, what is the most common question you are asked? If I touched it, will the mother come back?

Having cared for wildlife for so long, Kim cheerfully tells wonderful stories about the creatures that have come through her clinic, such as: A 7-week-old bobcat came to us on Christmas Day.  He was cute as a button, cute in the “I have claws and teeth and know how to use them” kind of way. For some reason, people still think that all little wild animals drink cow’s milk. (Unless they arecows, they do not do well on cow’s milk.) After getting his weight up, this bobcat soon started to fit right in with the rest of the crew.  He ate mice in nanoseconds, soon was jumping up on everything and getting more mischievous by the day!  Seven weeks later, it was time to move him to a larger facility.  This bobcat had grown four times the size he was when we got him. He was ready to mingle with his own kind.  We transferred him to a much larger facility outside of San Antonio where there are 12 other bobcats. He will be released onto a 1,000 plus acre refuge.  We will miss him; but, as with all of our animals, we feel blessed to have them and to be able to give them the care they need for the time we do. 

Favorite animal story:  We got a call that an adult raccoon had his head stuck for the entire night and half of the day in a bird feeder in a tree.  As I got there sure enough, he had wedged himself to where he could rest on the edge of the feeder as he contemplated his problems.  I told the lady that I could save the coon but not the feeder.  She suggested that they have a warning for purchasers of said bird feeder that it could also capture raccoons.  I got on a ladder and proceeded to unscrew the feeder and remove it from the tree.  So far so good.  I quickly realized that the coon was not coming out of the feeder without a chisel or saw and some serious drugs (for the coon of course).  I decided to put said coon and feeder in the back of the SUV and take him the eight miles down the road to the house where Dr. Johnson (Ray) could tranquilize him and we could then figure out how to release the raccoon from his feeder.  Halfway home, I have visions of the coon releasing himself from the feeder and kicking my tail in the car all the way home.  Luckily, for both of us he was quite stuck and we made it home.  Ray was almost laughing too hard to sedate the bugger but we got it done and although he never completely passed out, he was docile enough to unscrew the rest of the feeder and chisel the wood from around his neck without so much as a scratch on him!  He looked at us and groggily ran off without so much as a thank you.

What advice would you offer to children considering a career in wildlife rehabilitation?

Become a veterinarian who specializes in wildlife.  There are few out there and more are needed!

Remember Animal Helpers: Wildlife Rehabilitators is FREE for the month of October at www.sylvandellpublishing.com, or Read it on your iPad, by downloading the free app Fun eReader in iTunes and entering the code: 2WZ637 in the red box on the App Registration page.

0 Comments on Meet Animal Helper: Kim Johnson as of 10/15/2012 11:49:00 AM
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23. Tuesday’s Nature Pic







Since Cooper and Packrat as sooooo into nature, I’ve decided to begin posting a Nature Pic every Tuesday.  Some will be past favorites . . . some will be new.

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This Tuesday’s picture is of our 2012 Eagle Triplets.  The oldest is on the verge of flying . . .

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24. The Best Camera Day Ever!

Dear Readers, you are not . . .

I repeat, NOT . . .

going to believe the amazing, awesome experience I had wandering the property today.  Honestly, I couldn’t have put it all together better myself.

I have to say that this was supposed to be a quick walk to the lake to give Cookie some exercise.  Down and back, I’d told myself, as I’d planned to work all afternoon on tweaking my school visit presentation.  It needs to be done so I can practice on a 7th grade English class Tuesday.

It didn’t get done.  And here’s why . . .

I headed down the usual lakeside path to check on my eagles.   When I first trained the camera on the nest, I sighed in disappointment.  No eagles.

Then, I saw movement on the ice, and there, halfway across the lake was the eagle feasting on a fish.

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I wonder if he stole it, or it was a gift from, one of the ice fisherman on the lake.

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He flew off, but I found him perched along the edge of the golf course.

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I tried to wait for him to return.  But the wind was whipping down the lake across the ice, and the wind chill was ferocious.  My fingers were so cold, they hurt inside my mittens.  I decided I’d been lucky enough with the camera for one day.  I called to Cookie, “Home”!

She started down the second half of the trail, then turned to look at me hopefully.

“No!” I called sternly, nodding up the camp road.  “Straight home.”

She took one last look at the trail, sighed, and followed like the good girl she is.

When I reached the house, I let her in, then decided what the heck, I should get the trail camera photo card. “Put the coffee on, please,” I called to hubby.  “I’ll be right back.”

I’d set up the trail camera behind the house, which is lower and more wooded than the campground’s marked path. “Warmer too,” I thought, letting my fingers out of the mittens. I took my time, looking around for any signs of the owl or pileated woodpecker.  I found the trail camera still trained on the den of what I think might be a fischer, collected the camera card and put a new one in.

Those of you who read my blog, but not my Facebook page, wouldn’t know that late last week I found what I think is an owl perch.  The base of the tree is littered with 1 inch long, smooth, oval shaped pellets.  I figured, why not swing by it, and take the long way home?

Alas, no owls were roosting there, or anywhere I could see.  I remembered the coffee waiting for me, and headed for home.

Just as I stepped out of the woods and into the circle of campsites, I heard crazy chickadee calls. Lots of them.  Right off the back of site 126.  I tried to see what was going on, having remembered reading that owls and other large birds of prey are often harassed by smaller birds, when he flew!  A large, silent, gray swoop between the trees up toward the main road of the campground.

I followed slowly, cringing with every crunch of my boots in the snow.   I searched the trees, not daring to hope . . .

And then I saw it . . .

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Isn’t he gorgeous!!

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I met David at the house door with a huge grin!  I couldn’t believe my luck!  I must have taken forty pictures!

As we sipped coffee and I told David of my travels, I popped the trail camera card into my laptop.  To my surprise, this is what I found . . .

Here’s the den I’ve been watching.  I think it’s home to a fisher . . . or that’s what past photos, (not very clear because the camera was further away) have indicated.




Obviously, this fox is interested in the den too!  There’s six photos total of him around the hole, but not going in.  I think he’s stalking whatever lives there.  I’ve left the camera in place, and time will tell.

I feel so fortunate to be able to wander my property and study great animals, such as these.  I will never take it for granted . . .





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Here's a big cat. This is from "Animalogy", written by Marianne Berkes, illustrated by me, published by Sylvan Dell Publishing.

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