Sunday, October 07, 2007

A Few Little Things

Ever since I was a young child, I have always been fascinated with small things and small details. Perhaps I am mildly autistic, but I can't count toothpicks or cards like the Rain Man. ;) Mostly, I have always had an interest in noticing and observing little things that most people seem to ignore. When I was about 8 years old, I watched some movie about leprechauns. This was the first time that I heard that four-leaved clovers were considered lucky by some people, especially those of Irish descent. A short time after that, I took an interest in a clover patch near our house. I knelt down next to the patch and began to scan the clovers looking for one with four leaves. After only a few minutes, I found my first one! Within about 15 to 20 minutes, I had found several more four-leaved clovers. I picked one and showed it to my mother. She had never seen a four-leaved clover and was somewhat amazed. :) I continued to look at clover from time to time, with continued high leaf count success. A few years later, I was outside playing in a grassy school yard with my classmates. The teacher was outside with us, which was customary at that particular school. I really liked that teacher, so I decided to do something nice for her. There were a lot of clover patches in the field, so I began to look for a four-leaved clover to give my teacher. Well, this particular field was quite lean in terms of four-leaved clover content. I spent about 10 minutes and didn't find any at all. This was rather unusual in my experience. However, I persevered, and a few minutes later, I found one. It was a rather scrawny thing with one leaf slightly tattered, but it did indeed have four leaves, which was all that really mattered to me. I took it to my teacher and offered her my little gift. When she saw it, her eyes really lit up! Just like my mother, she had never seen one. She was really pleased, and she called all the kids in my class to come over and see it. The kids got really excited and they all wanted to find a four-leaved clover too. You can imagine what ensued during the remainder of our outdoor play time. About 20 kids all running around and squatting down in one clover patch after another. I think most of the clovers in that field got pretty well flattened that afternoon! :) I looked at more clover patches too. Eventually, I found one more four-leaved clover, a really nice and big one, which I also gave to my teacher. However, none of the other kids found one, and some were quite disappointed! After that day, the kids in my class may have thought I had some sort of special powers. ;) Well, not really, I just have very good observational and pattern recognition skills. Over the years since, I have found a great many four-leaved clovers. I lost count a long time ago. Whenever I take the time to look at a clover patch, I can almost always find at least one with four leaves. Something that most people don't know is that a clover can actually have more than four leaves. I have found a few with five leaves, and I once found one with seven!

Well, I wrote my little clover finding story a few days ago. Today was a nice sunny (albeit rather hot for October!) Saturday. I decided to go for a walk in my favorite city park/nature preserve. Having my clover story in mind, I decided to see if I still had the knack for spotting a rare four-leaved specimen (its been quite a while since I tried). Usually, when I go to this park, I hike along trails through the woods. The trees are big and tall (future post alert :) ), so the woods can be a bit gloomy during the leafy seasons. Clover do not thrive in gloom, indeed they do not grow in the thick woods at all, so I decided to hike along the grassy roadsides running through the park. There were lots of small clover patches scattered here and there in the short cut grass. I probably looked at about half a dozen patches before I spotted something interesting. Passers-by who saw me may have wondered what that strange man was doing staring into the grass. ;) Anyway, the interesting object that caught my attention was a clover with not four leaves, but five! Now, this is a really rare find. I think it may be only the third time in my whole life that I found a five-leafer. I picked it, and a regular three-leafer growing a few inches away, for a photographic comparison. My friend Hnk seems to like the word "Wallah" (last post comment reference). So, I present to you ladies and gentlemen, for your viewing pleasure: Clovers In My Hand, Wallah! ;)



It was still early in my walk, so I decided to keep looking for a four-leafed clover to add to my captive menagerie of small leafy greens. As I walked farther down the road, I came to a small lake with a lot of grass along its banks. Several people were fishing in the lake. As I walked along the trail next to the bank, I saw some really nice clover patches near the anglers, but I decided to keep walking for a ways past them. I didn't want them to worry about the crazy grass watcher right behind them. ;) Well, as it turned out, my decision to bypass those luxurious clover patches wasn't a bad one after all. I found a much less impressive patch a few hundred feet away that yielded a bit of green gold (Indiana tea?). :) So, here is the final lineup, in order of leafy ascendancy:



Ok, lets transition now from the world of plants to the animal kingdom. Why don't we start with a really tiny king (is Little Elvis in the house?). ;) My friend Melantrys recently entertained her visitors with some pics of a bumblebee foraging among some nice flowers somewhere way out in the boonies (ancestral home of Dan'l Boone? ;) ) of the German countryside. Well, I wanted to get a picture of a good ole' American bumblebee for comparison. I staked out some flowers at a prime location somewhere in the densely populated metropolis of Indianapolis (the exact location must remain undisclosed as the bees that frequent these flowers may or may not also pollinate the flowers of the "potatoe" fields on the estate of former U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle ;) ). After a good five minutes of staking, a large bee lumbered into my field of view. At first, I thought it was a bumblebee, but when I got a closer look, it turned out to be a carpenter bee. I should have known right away what it was, considering the lumbering and all. :) On a serious note, carpenter bees can be very damaging pests when they are present in high numbers. They tunnel into dead trees, wood posts in the ground, or the lumber of houses, to raise their young. I have heard about structural collapses due to these bees! Well, fortunately for Indianapolis residents, they are not terribly common, at least not in my experience. The picture below is of my little wood chewing bumble-like friend. I waited for a while longer near these flowers, but unfortunately, I did not see any real bumblebees. Perhaps they prefer "potatoe" nectar. ;)



Every Summer, I see quite a few hummingbirds. These tiny birds are really fun to watch. They can hover in mid-flight, or even fly backwards! Their wings beat so fast that you will just see a blur if one flies by. They are very territorial. They will often chase each other away from the good flowers or a feeder (they drink nectar from flowers, or sugar water from a feeder). Sometimes, they would even buzz me! There is only one species of hummingbird that is very commonly seen in Indiana and many other parts of the Eastern United States. It is called the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. However, it is only the males that display the beautiful bright iridescent red on their throats (see link for a nice pic). The bird in this picture is obviously a female, considering her whitish throat. To give you an idea of just how small these birds are, this female was about three inches long from head to tail. I occasionally saw a male this summer, but I never managed to get a picture of it. He was rather timid. I snapped this pic a few weeks ago. These hummingbirds migrate all the way to Mexico or Central America for the winter months. However, we have been having an unusually warm Fall in Indiana, so the hummers have lingered past their typical exit date. Indeed, I saw one just a few days ago.



Next up is a seahorse. The zoo has a fascinating oceans exhibit. The main attraction is a petting pool for kids that is stocked with small sharks (I presume they are a toothless variety! - I have pics, but they do not fit with my "little" theme). Additionally, there are various species of fish, a lobster, an octopus, sea anemones, and lots of other marine fauna. I have always liked seahorses. They seem so exotic and un-fishlike! No doubt they were creatures of wondrous mystery to ancient ocean divers who first came across them.



In another view from the oceans building, here are some small fish (maybe eight inches long at most). Its very hard to get a decent picture of swimming fish, especially in the low light environment of this exhibit. My camera flash went off, but the fish are still a bit blurred. Mainly, I like this picture for the very colorful corals in the background. Once upon a time, during my early teen years, I had a salt water aquarium. I had various small marine fish. Sadly, most of them didn't live very long. Marine fish tend to be very sensitive to the salinity and pH (acidity vs. alkalinity for you chemistry buffs) of their water. The water needs to be tested daily and adjusted by adding salt or an acid or base solution, depending on the test results. I was just too young, ignorant, and or lazy to keep a close watch on my aquarium's water quality, so my fish had an annoying tendency to expire after a few days or weeks. One of my fish, though, was a very hearty little fellow. He (I assumed it was male, although I actually had no clue about its gender) was called a Jawfish (the pic at this link is similar to my fish), and he was the ugliest fish that I ever put in that tank! Most of the time, he just sat on the bottom. He certainly didn't exhaust himself to death! ;) Well, he managed to live for more than a year. For all I know, he may have died of natural causes. Another long lived denizen of my ill fated aquarium maintenance experiment was a hermit crab. I think it lingered for nearly a year, dragging its small conch shell back and forth from one end of the tank to the other. That crab ate several of my fish. Bad crab! Also, it ate about half of a jellyfish that I added to my little aquatic zoo. The jellyfish had nearly finished regenerating (which was a very interesting process to observe!), when it simply disappeared from the tank one day. I assumed that my crab, tiring of his frozen shrimp treats, finally decided to make a meal of the whole jelly. ;)



Well, I have saved my favorite pic for last. This little guy (or gal) peeking out from the drain pipe is a chipmunk (ever heard of Alvin and the Chipmunks?). Chipmunks are small ground dwelling squirrels, with a number of species living in North America. This particular bright-eyed hider is an Eastern Chipmunk. Chipmunks live in underground burrows. Usually, when one catches sight of me, it will scurry down the nearest hole. This one, however, must have wandered a bit far from its burrow. When it saw me, camera in hand during my bumblebee stake out, it ran a short distance into the downspout outlet of a roof gutter. I walked over to the outlet and waited patiently. It peaked out and then did a quick about face when it saw me. I waited some more. While it was up in the drain pipe, it made some very loud chirp/squeek sounds. I got the message that it was very annoyed with me! ;) Finally, it stuck its little head out and I snapped a picture. Perhaps it was dazed by the flash, as it didn't move. I walked a bit closer and snapped another pic. Still it didn't move. So, I carefully moved even closer. I approached to about three feet away and I slowly squatted down. Amazingly, the chipmunk remained frozen in place. I extended my camera out until it was about two feet away and snapped this pic. The little fellow just sat there, perfectly still, and continued to peek at me. Too bad I didn't have a nut in my hand at that moment. ;) Well, this chipmunk was a really good sport, having allowed me to take some very nice pics of its nose. So, after this shot, I stood up slowly and backed away, while it continued it's unblinking peek. I disappeared around a corner to continue my bee watch. A few minutes later, I looked back at the drain pipe and the chipmunk was gone.

9 Comments:

Blogger Pretty in Pink said...

absolutely beautiful...

10/17/2007 1:56 AM  
Blogger maas said...

Hi David
I enjoyed your post and pictures so much ,
as I saw that you have hobby in whatching of insects,,that's nice .
you remembered me when we were children ,and my brother saw cell bee ,he started to annoy the bees, and we begin to run away to escape from their bites ..

Thanks again David

10/17/2007 12:49 PM  
Blogger David said...

Hello Pretty in Pink, thank you for your very nice compliment. :)

Hi Maas, I'm glad you enjoyed the post and the pictures. :) You are right, I really do enjoy watching insects. They come in so many different shapes and colors. My favorites are the very large moths which are known as silk moths. There are many types of silk moth. They are all very colorful and some are bigger than my hand! I never annoyed bees, as your brother did, but I annoyed a nest of wasps once. I hit it accidentally with a ball. The wasps became very angry and one stung me on the leg. It was very painful!! I was much more careful around wasps after that.

10/17/2007 10:16 PM  
Anonymous Dalia said...

Hi,

Very nice post ^^ beautiful pics...

I am scared of bees, well i am scared of all kinds of insects , but i loved the bee's pic very much, and the chipmunk is soooooo cute ^^

Take care,

Bye

10/20/2007 4:01 AM  
Blogger David said...

Hi Dalia, I'm happy that you liked the pictures. :) Are you really scared of all insects? Some are quite delicate and beautiful. Maybe I will send you a picture of a really not scary one. I think that chipmonk is really cute too! :D You take care also.

10/21/2007 3:26 AM  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

Indeed, it is a cute chipmunk. As to fourleaf clovers, I recall one time in highschool in which I grandly announced I would find them for everyone in my group--there were about 20 of us, we were at an afternoon party or rehearsal or something.
Much to my astonishment--because really I was only going on bravado--I did find a patch in which nearly every clover had four leaves, and some had five.
My friends were impressed. Me, I was astounded.

11/11/2007 3:33 AM  
Blogger David said...

Hi Jarvenpa, you may be the luckiest person in the world! ;) I think the most four-leaf clovers that I ever found in a single patch was five. When I was writing this post, I did an online search for four-leaf clover articles. I found quite a few. One of them taught me that there are two plants that look very much like clover that typically have four leaves. These plants are called Pepperwort and Oxalis. According to this article, the "real" four-leaf clover comes from the White Clover plant. Since nearly all of your patch yielded four-leafers, there is a good chance that you found a patch of the clover mimic plants. Here is the link to the article if you are interested. There are some very good pictures there of White Clover, Pepperwort and Oxalis for comparison.

11/12/2007 11:32 AM  
Blogger aNarki-13 said...

very good post and pictures :)
oh and the newer one as well, about the Roman Exhibition!

i liked the bust of the lady, i like to think she was somebody's somebody, in order to be immortalized like that ! also, imagine if someone told her at the time that thousands of years later, her image will be viewed in lands that have not "existed" yet! AND they'd say she was beautiful as well!

thank you for sharing with us all of this :)

also did u know there was an "Alvin and the Chipmunks" animated movie coming out in the next couple of years? funnily enough: they used to show a feature movie re: Alvin and his two (three?) friends every thursday or so at Iraqi state tv channel ONE, the Kids hour :) fun movie, they went out on a trip round the world, one of them got hypnotized, and the others rescued him/her.. cant remember! so many years ago..

12/21/2007 9:52 AM  
Blogger David said...

Hi Anarki, I'm glad you stopped by. :) You are welcome, I am glad you liked the post and the pictures. :)

No, I didn't know about the new Alvin movie. I'll have to look for that when it comes out. I am very surprised to hear that Alvin was featured on Iraqi State TV when you were a kid! I guess that animated chipmunks are just as cute to all children around the world. ;)

P.S. I will copy part of your comment about the Roman Exhibition up to that post.

12/22/2007 2:01 AM  

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