Friday, October 17, 2014

Do insects play?

In my younger days, oh so many years ago, I used to think that I was quite an intelligent person. The main reason for this was because so many people told me so. As I have grown older and hopefully wiser, I believe that they were using the wrong word. Learned may better apply to my case as I find that studying various subjects does not make you as intelligent as you might think. I have always had a voracious appetite for knowledge, and my almost photographic memory at the time allowed me to regurgitate what I had read with ease. I read the Bible from cover to cover at too young an age to actually get the full benefit from the words within. I followed this by reading three sets of encyclopedias and a library's desk reference Dictionary. And just for fun thirty or forty years of National Geographic and all of the popular outdoor and scientific magazines. All during my high school years. All of this knowledge didn't prepare me for what I experienced.

Growing up near a cedar swamp in Michigan gave me plenty of opportunities to watch and study many different forms of life. Insects being one of my favorite. I used to watch dragonflies and their smaller cousins damselflies for hours. I would read about their habits and hunting pattern then watch their life cycles play out. I do not recall ever having read that insects do anything but work towards one survive long enough to reproduce.  So my conclusions to the following are only mine. I have no hard facts to back up my theory, But follow along and see if it makes sense to you.

Yesterday afternoon I happened to be leaning on the porch rail staring down at the central air conditioning unit looking for my favorite study subject who haunts it.

He wasn't there, He, is a little green lizard. I could tell you his scientific name or some of the names the local Floridians call them, but since he wasn't there why bother. There are several who live in or around the porch and air conditioner, but he is special to me. I know him by his broken toe on his left hind leg. You see we are studying each other. I think he has gotten over his fear of me and is now working on figuring out if there is some way he could turn me in to his next meal. I am trying to figure out how he has managed to survive the last six months since I first came to Florida. I have seen him laying on the fan blade when it is not revolving and move off of it just before it kicks on. 

The large fan blade revolves at 1700 revolutions per minute and blows a mighty wind upwards. And on a calm day my perch here at the rail is a great spot to catch a cooling breeze from it So while letting the dogs out to do their thing I get a chance to view the local fauna.


A little low and right of center of this photo is a blue streak. It is a dragonfly. While I was standing and looking down into the revolving fan and cooling off, a very large specimen came flitting over my shoulder and took a nose dive down towards the spinning fan blades. The updraft of buffeting hurricane like wind bounced it around for a while before rudely tossing it back in my face. I wiped the creature off my nose and it flew off only to return from behind me again and try once more to commit suicide to my thinking. Again it was buffeted about and almost made it when deja-vu, it was again holding onto my nose and upper lip for dear life. I gently pealed it off my face and gave it a helping hand in a direction away from the danger. I called the dogs and went inside thinking that maybe the fan was giving off a sound or vibration that had attracted the dragonfly by mimicking its prey.

Today was a repeat of yesterday, only the dragonfly made it to the safety grate over the fan,

After watching this display for a while I went inside and got my camera fully expecting it to be gone by the time I got back.
The forceful wind was knocking it about almost like a vibration which made getting a clear photo almost impossible. I was marveling at the strength of this creature, Its ability not only to hang on but to not loose it's wings in the process. After snapping a few pictures, suddenly another dragonfly made it's approach.

It too successfully landed.

Then after a while the first one let go and took off.

It flew around a couple of times missing it's approach right,

and finally landed again. Shortly there after the fan shut off and they both flew away.

Now this behavior was not resting or a part of the mating ritual. It was not for food or the second landing attempt would not have been made after not finding food there the first time and with the difficulties involved. And since in the last six months I have never even seen them near it when it's not running. I can only come to one logical conclusion:  I believe that this was nothing more than pure fun.
I think that somewhere lost in the noise of the fan was the laughter of dragonflies and maybe a few double-dog-dare-ya's.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Never Take Your Wife Fishing

Last week Wifey wanted to go fishing before we had to become full time babysitters. So I checked the tide and solunar tables for the coming week and determined that the up coming Wednesday and Thursday evenings were supposed to be some of the best fishing opportunities for the month of June.
But she wanted to go on Thursday morning instead,  so we got up at 5:30 am to catch the 7:30 am high tide at Cedar Key. The 35 mile drive and a stop to get ice for the cooler and another to get live shrimp as bait put us there just about right. We were mildly surprised at how few people were on the pier already. I had no sooner baited her line and threw it out, when she started things off with a real nice size top sail catfish. 

She followed that up with a very nice Whiting.

Then I made a very good catch, a medium sized stingray:


Fascinating creatures that are supposed to taste like scallops. I sure hope so. Luckily a nearby fisherman had a pier landing net to help me get this big boy.  
Then we took turns catching more catfish. Lynn caught the big ones, and I caught the little guys. 
We saw all kinds of fish being caught, including small sharks, a lemon and bonnet head. One guy even caught an eel.  We saw Porpoises playing nearby and I even saw a 3-4 feet wide stingray cruising just below the surface.

Wifey had limited out on catfish and was starting to throw them back when she complained that her wrists were hurting from reeling in all of the fish. Her carpel tunnel syndrome was acting up. Then there was a lull in the fish catching. Finally she said you know I haven't caught anything since I said my wrists started hurting about a half an hour before. I asked if she wanted to leave, but she wanted to stay a while longer, we still had plenty of bait left. (Wifey don't leave until the bait is gone when she is catching fish.) Shortly there after she got a bite, when she set the hook she said she thought she had a snag. She kept pulling and tugging on the line.  All of a sudden the line started buzzing off the reel. It hadn't done that before. I took the reel from her, to save her wrists after she battled what ever it was for a few minutes. It was big, I figured it was probably that big stingray I saw earlier. She was using a light-medium weight freshwater pole with a Zebco 33 reel loaded with Spider-wire 12 pound test line.  I didn't thing I stood a chance against this monster. It's a long way from the top of the pier to the water below and my rescuer with the net had left already. When I finally got the fish near the pier and saw that it wasn't a ray, I shouted " Anybody got a net ?"  Luckily a guy not too far away had one and came to my rescue, for the second time that day. After waiting about half an hour for the fish to tire we finally managed to get it in the net and on the pier. Something I wouldn't have been able to do by myself. I have to get me one of those nets.

Wifey had caught a large black drum....

It was the biggest fish I had ever fought to the end.  Earlier in the day we saw one that another person had caught, it was a little bigger than this one and the largest fish I had ever seem caught on the pier. I have only fished there 3 times before. 

They do get bigger, this guy was 35 inches long.  I can't guess at it's weight, but if you ask me he weighed a ton. My arms and back are still sore from the long fight. Trying to finesse this monster in on a pole, reel and line designed to catch fish less than half this size. 


Black Drum are supposed to be very good eating in the smaller  16-27 inch size range. Above that size the meat takes on more of a chicken like texture so I am told. Also the bigger drum play host to a type of tapeworm that only sharks have in the adult stage. The eggs hatch in the muddy bottom and the juvenile worms are ingested while these big fish are eating clam, oysters and crustaceans. Once inside the fish they migrate to the tail section and grow into what is referred to as spaghetti worms. Once I managed to cut through the very hard, tough scales while trying to fillet this beast I found him loaded with them from the pelvic fin to the tail. So I made my cuts well ahead of them and still managed to get 2 large fillets about 6 pounds each.

Well I was hoping to catch enough for a fish fry so I could try the stingray that my son-in-law Jimmy had caught last week. I think we now have enough for that, 12 pounds of black drum fillets  + 5 pounds of stingray fillets + 5-6 pounds of catfish fillets and  1 pound of whiting. Not too shabby for a days catch.

So never take your wife fishing.........unless you are prepared to be shown up.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Un-Dead Deer

I recently watched a video on the internet of a young man who shot a deer and went running to find it. 
After a short search he came upon the nice buck lying on it’s side. He poked it with the barrel of his gun and it didn't move. But as he reached to grab a hold of it, it suddenly jumped up and took off. Scaring the daylights out of the young hunter. You can see it here:  

My life long friend, fishing and hunting companion Jeff and I had something similar happen to us once. 
It was about 15 years ago, we had both already gotten our bucks opening day and purchased another license so we could continue hunting. We decided to go up to his paternal grandmother’s old farm for an evening hunt. We got there plenty early and were taking our time getting set to head for the woods.
It was a beautiful warm autumn day with almost no breeze. We decided to walk the ridge-line above the Pinebog River to the neighbors homemade bridge, so we could cross the stream without getting our feet wet.  As we neared the ridge we could hear the buzz of the bees from the ancient hives nearby. We went and checked them out and saw that they were as busy as bees always are on a nice sunny day. We had struck up a conversation about the bees and old farm life when we came to a stop at the top of the ridge. Looking out over river, we surveyed  the wide swampy flats. That’s when I saw it. A deer laying on its side all stretched out next to a big old log. My .58 caliber Zouve Musket automatically came off my shoulder, cocked and into firing position. (Since I had meat in the freezer I decided to leave my trusty shotgun home and had  taken my old smoke pole to see if I could get my first deer with it. Here in lower Michigan we are limited to using  either shotguns or muzzle-loaders.)  Jeff spotted the deer about the same time as I and was also into firing position.  One of us asked the other “Is it a buck or doe?” at the same time as the other asked if it was alive.

While I covered it, Jeff rummaged through his pack for his binoculars.  It would be a difficult shot, we were standing about 90 ft. almost straight above the river and it was laying broadside about 30 feet from the bank about 70 yards from us. From all of our target  practice behind my parents house at the old gravel pit, I was pretty confident about how much drop I should give the aim with my .22 but I wasn't using that. My muzzle-loader was sighted in at 100 yards, but with the load I was using it was still on the upwards trajectory and it was pretty close at 400 yards, on the downwards side. I was madly figuring calculations in my head. Around this area things are pretty flat and most of our shots are horizontal and better measured in feet than yards.

What was taking Jeff so long? With all of the noise we had been making I figured that it must be dead or almost. It hadn't so much as twitched an ear and this damn gun was getting heavy. Jeff finally said “It’s a doe and it doesn't seem to be breathing and it's eyes are open.”

Thank God, my arms were turning to jelly.  As seasoned hunters we knew better than to trust a deer with it's eyes closed in death. We had heard the stories and knew enough to put another round in a supposedly dead deer. We talked over what we should do. Jeff wanted me to shoot it, but I would rather save my best shot on a live target since I didn't bring any cleaning equipment along. So we looked for a stone for him to throw. It was close, but still no movement. So we headed for the bridge.

As we came closer we thought for sure was dead. She was a small probably year old deer. But we saw no blood or wounds. Jeff poked it with his gun barrel and then poked it harder. Still not so much as a twitch. Jeff  felt it’s side and found it was still warm. We talked it over and decided to gut it.

Jeff put his gun down and grabbed his knife as I stood guard. Many a big bucks have been missed while hunter's are busy doing other .... things.  As he grabbed it’s leg to turn it over jumped up and took off. Jeff fell backwards and grabbed his gun. It must have been breathing so shallowly that we never detected any signs of it. When she came to life, she headed for the river. It was only about 12 feet wide and about a foot deep there.  She jumped in the water but was stopped by the high bank on the other side. She turned around and stood there looking at us, gasping for breath and shaking,  as we were looking at her through our gun sights for any signs of injury. She looked very healthy and very scared, but little else. I told Jeff to look for blood on the ground where she had been laying. He said there was none, so we let her go.

She must have been very tired or very scared to put up with all of our shenanigans. With all of the noise we had been making and poking, it was unbelievable. When we crossed the bridge she had of opportunity to escape. Even though I had a doe permit and was itching to try out my muzzle loader, I felt good about letting her go.

And the “why's and what if’s” make a much better conversation than any shot I might have made.    
Sometimes while hunting, the experience and the story are worth more than the meat.