Female Cardinal in Spring

(Toledo, OH) Yes, it is "just" a Northern cardinal, common enough in Northwest Ohio, but I find the vivid red colors of these birds to be especially appealing. The female cardinals possess only hints of red in their plumage and beak, and they seem to be less likely than the males to venture out from the brush that they normally call home.

Of course, it is just as likely that my eye simply cathces the brilliant red hues of the males, and that I am likely to overlook the contributions of the less-showy females.

Kind of like the human world, no?


Handsome Puggle

(Toledo, OH) There may be no subject as overexposed on the Internet as the pets of bloggers (with the possible exception of babies of bloggers), but I occasionally contribute to this genre with pictures and stories about our dogs.

Pictured on your left is Eddie, a 2-year-old Puggle we adopted in 2007 from Planned Pethood. Not only is Eddie a handsome fellow, but he is one of the smartest and most affectionate dogs I have ever known. We plan to enter Eddie in the upcoming Pet Idol contest at the Toledo Blade.

No, this does not involve singing, dancing, or other televised pimpery, but merely the submission of a photo and a few brief words. Winners get their pictures in the paper and some canine-related products, like dog food and grooming certificates.



Duck up a Creek

(Toledo, OH) A walk through a neighborhood park is always sound advice, especially when a person is feeling glum. I came across a Mallard duck who seemed a bit livelier than I was, and paused to watch him for a few minutes.

At one point the duck seemed intrigued with his own reflection in the creek, or perhaps this was just my interpretation of his activity. Either way, it was an entertaining diversion to stare at his rippled shadow and then back at the three-dimensional bird, who might have been cruising the creek looking for freshwater pearls.


Tulips in the Snow

(Toledo, OH) The presence of a foot of snow from two recent winter storms did not prevent my tulips from beginning the process of springtime renewal. I was somewhat surprised to see the first leaves of the plants emerge in the still-snowy late March chill this afternoon.

There is an inspirational message here someplace, involving the drive to survive and the power of life, but I am too tired and melancholic to create such a happy Hallmark moment. Instead, I will briefly suggest that readers consider following this link to learn more about bathroom fixtures.


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Snowstorm at Night

(Toledo, OH) An early spring snowstorm dumped about eight inches of snow in Northwest Ohio overnight, and areas of Southeast Michigan received over one foot of snow. I started shoveling last night, but the one-inch-per-hour rate made my efforts something of a waste of time.

I instead chose to spend a few minutes standing in the storm, listening to the deafening silence of a city at rest under the blanket of frozen precipitation.

I think these storms serve a useful purpose in bringing people closer together. After my minutes of chilly reverie, I went inside and played backgammon with my wife, an activity we might not have shared had the weather not caneceled other plans.


Early Spring Snowstorm

(Toledo, OH) Though the vernal equinox arrived several days ago, Northwest Ohio is bracing for the arrival of yet another snowstorm in a season that has already broken the top ten for snow accumulation. We may see up to eight inches of the fluffy stuff before the storm ends tomorow morning, and there is already about an inch-and-a-half of snow in my backyard.

At this point, the warm pavement temperatures are working against any significant accumulation of snow on the roads, but that will change after sunset. The only way we will avoid getting buried is if the storm hooks to the north, but at any rate it is highly probable that Easter will be white in the region.

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The Springtime Muck of Lake Erie West

(Toledo, OH) Several days of almost continuous rainfall have saturated the ground in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan, and the result is millions of acres of standing water and muck. While this region has not been as battered by heavy rains as, say, the states of Missouri or Texas, there has been no shortage of precipitation here, either.

A trip out to the garage necessitates a pair of boots, and the act of letting the dogs outside means several minutes worth of cleaning up the mud that they inevitably track in the house. While the gardener in me appreciates the value of water delivered from the sky, there is a point at which the rain loses its welcome mat or - in more contemporary terms - its memory foam mattress.

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Clouds Rolling In

(Toledo, OH) The weather forecast for the next two days is calling for several inches of rain, and the first of the storm clouds are beginning to roll into Northwest Ohio. My mood matches the gloomy skies above, and this will be the sort of weather best spent lost in the reverie of literature.

While I am skeptical of the explosion of self-diagnosed cases of seasonally affective disorder, I do recognize that mood and climate have some connections. I think, however, that those who are quick to turn to wintertime antidepressants would be better served by soaking up the sun's rays on the brighter days than by popping another pharmaceutical concoction, as opposed to wallowing indoors near LCD televisions and digital signage.

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Ottawa River Goose

(Toledo, OH) The flooded waters of the Ottawa River must have seemed inviting to the flock of Canadian geese that congregated near the golf course the other day. Golfers, of course, tend to detest the appearance of waterfowl in and around the links, but I have always enjoyed the sight and sound of a gaggle of geese on a spring afternoon.

I have seen numerous V-formations of southbound geese in recent weeks, which suggests that the arrival of spring may indeed be here. To me, there are few natural experiences that can compare with the plaintive honking of an impressive-sized wave of geese passing overhead, both in terms of the sonic blast and of the way these birds can maintain position in the aerial choreography.

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Flooded Walkway

(Toledo, OH) Recent rains, coupled with the melting of the heavy snows of the past two weeks, have caused a number of areas in Northwest Ohio to declare flood warnings. This section of the pedestrian foot path in Toledo's Ottawa Park was under several inches of water after the Ottawa River rose over its banks in the past day.

If the high waters continue, travelers in Ottawa Park might need a canoe and a GPS device to make their way through the watery maze. Udcks and geese in the park, however, seemed to be enjoying the warmer weather and wider variety of aquatic terrains.

Blue Jay

(Toledo, OH) Yes, blue jays can be screechy, and yes, these birds can aggressively dominate the backyard feeders, but the brilliant blue hues of the blue jay always catch my eyes.

This is especially true after a winter-long absence of bright colors, and I enjoy studying these creatures in their adaptation to urban settings. Jays are one of the most successful of wild bird species in making the necessary adjustments to human-constructed spaces, and they are always welcome in my yard.

And blue jays never find themselves seeking out such products as a colon cleanser, given their high-fiber diet.



Foraging Deer

(Toledo, OH) I grew up in Detroit, and there was not much in the way of wildlife in my neighborhood, save that associated with drug users and hookers. Thus I am always amazed to come across creatures such as deer in an urban setting, like this doe that I saw foraging near the Ottawa River at UT.

True, this is not exactly the stuff of Marlin Perkins, late host of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, but I am entertained nonetheless, and that is all that matters, at least as far as this post goes. Still, this is better than staring morosely at a magazine filled with ads for small business phone systems, isn't it?



Snowy Sunset

(Toledo, OH) The near-constant fall of snow over the past day dumped over a half-foot of snow in my neighborhood, but the storm gave way to a crisp sunset this evening. I was a bit lax in dusting off the camera and getting the better colors, putting a higher priority on getting my driveway cleared.

Personally, I am about ready to start investigating hotel deals to a warmer locale, as this has been one of the snowiest winters I can recall. My wife still enjoys the winter beauty, but I am getting weary of long trips on slick roads. I hope that spring will arrive soon.


Yet Another Snow Storm Hits Toledo

(Toledo, OH) Northwest Ohio and the surrounding regions got smacked with another heavy snowfall over the past 24 hours or so. I measured about six inches of snow in my backyard, and I am inclined to be thinking about Wilmington real estate right about now.

Luckily, this was a light, somewhat powdery snow that was not so taxing to shovel. I belong to the ever-dwindling number of Americans who eschew power snowblowers in favor of old-fashioned muscle.

Of course, were I to gain enough disposable income to plunk down $500 or more on such a machine, I would gladly toss my shovels in the back of the garage.

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Thar Be Possums

(Toledo, OH) The heavy snows that fell on Northwest Ohio this week provided an opportunity to track the creatures that have been rifling through my trash cans of late. My neighborhood is home to both raccoons and opossums, and I deduced from these tracks that I snapped pictures of the front paw prints of the latter.

Our previous protection against four-legged invaders was my old friend Hershey, who was a 110-pound chocolate Labrador retriever. Over the years, Hershey caught something on the order of a half-dozen opossums, a few of which I had to put out of their misery after being chewed upon by the dog.

The raccoons were both too smart and too agile for Hershey to catch, though they were known to tormet him from a safe distance.

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Robin in Winter

(Toledo, OH) I sometimes set aside my books and gaze out the window next to my work desk at home. My crabapple tree provides me with a wide variety of activity to distract me from my work, and this robin kept a lonely winter's vigil from the tree last week.

It seems surprising to me that so many creatures can adapt to wintry conditions that would have me whining in seconds, frostbitten in minutes, and dead within hours. This is especially amazing considering the poor selection of food available to animals such as the robin, which is reduced to eating frozen crabapples, moldy seeds, and garbage generated by humans.

Lunar Eclipse, February 20

(Toledo, OH) Yes, there are a million better images of the lunar eclipse from a few weeks ago, and I am late getting this image up.

Sue me.

I never realized what a pain it is to experiment with settings to get a decent eclipse image. Too slow of a shutter speed and you get bleeding from the bright parts of the moon, and too fast of a speed gives you crappy detail on the moon's features. This moon looks constipated, like it was wearing a corset and ate a pound of cheese eight hours earlier, but it is the best I snapped.