Don’t Worry, Make Flowers!

How to make an origami Tulip.

It’s Time For The Tulips To Bloom:

I bet you, as I, love the Spring Time when all the flowers begin to bloom. One of my favorites is the tulip. I thought you would enjoy learning how to fold some origami Tulips that will last a little longer than the beautiful ones in your garden. You can make a bouquet for your inside table while leaving the real ones on display outside.

By the way; this makes a great Mother’s Day gift.

What You Need:

To make this project you will need a sheet of green copy paper, some colorful paper (either origami or copy paper), some white glue, scissors, a straight pin, and a pencil.

First Things First:

You will have to cut a square from the copy paper unless you are using a square sheet of origami paper.

Fold the square into the traditional water balloon base by folding an X on one side of the paper, turning it over and folding a cross on that side. It should look like this:

Next you will fold up the right side top wing portion like this:

Do the same on the left side but leave a little gap vertically between the two wings. Then turn the paper over and repeat on the backside.

Save Yourself From Frustration!:

This next step was the most frustrating for me when I first tried to fold the model. If you don’t do this correctly the petals will not fold down later.

Take the top right hand side and fold it to the left, then do the same on the backside. It should look like this:

Next, place the model so that the flat point is at the bottom. Fold the right hand top portion diagonally to the left like this:

Next, fold the left side over to the right diagonal edge:

Next, you will insert one wing into the pocket of the other like this:

Repeat on the backside.

Now for the Fun Part:

In order for your flower to bloom you will have to breathe into it a breath of life. (I doubt if your breath will make it alive, but it will make it more life-like.) If you have ever made a traditional origami water balloon it’s the same process. Just be sure not to blow too hard. You just want to inflate the model not blow it apart. You will need to blow into the hole at the bottom of the model like this:

Petal Power:

If you look closely on the outside of the model you should find four petals. These need to be rolled down to make the bud bloom. Carefully pull out the top of a petal and roll it around a pencil like this:

Repeat on all four petals:

Now for the Stem and Leaves:

Take your sheet of green paper and cut off of one side a long skinny rectangle. Cut out a couple leaves as well.

Let’s Make It 3-D:

For the stem portion you will just keep folding the rectangle in half as many times as you can so it will support the weight of the flower head.

The more times you fold the stem in half the stronger it will be. Use a straight pen or the tip of your scissors to lightly scratch a crease in a curved fashion down the middle of each leaf. When you bend the sides of the leaves together the crease will follow your scored line. Just be careful not to scratch too hard or you will tear through the paper. Now let’s curl the leaf tips. Open your scissor blade and use the flat side against the paper. Pull the paper down over the blade like this:

You Are Almost Done :

Now we will glue the leaves to the stem and top the stem with the flower like this:

Helpful Hint: if you put some glue on the top of the stem before putting the flower on, it will hold the flower place once it dries. Otherwise it is just gravity holding it in place.

It Takes More Than One to Fill the Vase:

In order to have a nice bouquet you will need several flowers and a vase. You can use a nice flower vase or make your own with a Mason Jar. Here are a couple pictures of my bouquet:

Notice the difference in the above pictures. The bottom one still has the label showing on the jar. Above that you can see how I covered the bottle with a ring of colored paper to make it more attractive. You might also see some irises mixed in with the Tulips. You can find origami models for several types of flowers on-line or in books you can find at the library. There are also several YouTube videos available.

As You Think About the Flowers, Think About This:

If you were successful in folding your bouquet, you are probably going to be pretty protective of your finished project. Did you know God cares for us in a similar way, only much more.

Are You Worried? Check This Out:

Matthew 6:28-34

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you – you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat? or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Notice that this is a conditional promise of God to His Children. If you are not in His family you can be by acknowledging Jesus Christ as LORD of your life. Believe on Him (His death, burial and resurrection) and you will be saved.

For those of us who know Him, the flowers can be a constant reminder of His care for us.

Origami Covid-19 Model

With all of us practicing “Social-Distancing” and staying in our houses during this epic 2020 pandemic, I thought I would amuse you with a fun project and bring you a word of encouragement.

It is amazing to think that a tiny virus has been able to effect changes throughout the whole world. Though we need to respect the potential dangers of this disease and follow the directions given to us by our government leaders, we do not need to live in fear. God is still in control! One way to face our fears is to visualize our enemy. Let’s make a paper model of the virus.

To make this model I made an Origami Quadra-Sphere. You can find the directions for folding this in my April 4, 2019 post. Once you have constructed a Quadra-sphere you just need to add some spikes.

Easy to Fold:

It is really easy to make the spikes. Just cut some long rectangles and fold them in half lengthwise. It takes quite a few spikes to complete the model, so make a lot! You can add as many as you like but I glued one on each corner of the Quadra-sphere.

If Want More Drama:

To make your model more dramatic use bright colors like red, yellow, and orange.

You can make your model any size, but the smaller you make it the more it resembles the real thing. Just think about how small real viruses are. It takes a powerful electron microscope just to see them!

Once you make your model you can place it on a bright paper base or hang it by a string to make a mobile. Guess what? This model won’t hurt you.

If You Are Fearful, Listen to This:

 

For those of us that have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, our LORD, we can take courage from the promises in Scripture given to by our Savior.

Isaiah 43:1

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.”

 

I John 4:18

“Perfect love casts out fear.”

 

Psalm 18:2

“The LORD is my rock, my fortress and deliverer.”

 

Romans 8: 38-39

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither Angels or demons, neither the present or the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

If you do not have this peace of mind, you can by asking God to give you eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ.

John 3:16

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Let’s Make An Octagonal Box:

The Product of Much Experimentation:

While exploring origami it is fun to create your own original models. These Octagonal boxes are one of my favorite creations. The most difficult part was to figure out how to lock the edges in the final folds.

Here Is How To Do It:

You will need two pieces of paper. If you are using two sided paper, start with the colored side down.

Use the water balloon base. Fold an X on one side of the paper and a cross on the other side.

Pinch in two opposite sides to collapse the paper into the above base. Do this with both sheets of paper.

Take one of the four wings and fold the outside edge to the center vertical crease. Bend this same crease back and forth like a door hinge to prepare the paper for the next move. Pull up this section like a shark fin. Put your finger inside the fin and push down. It should look like the form above on the right side of the picture.

Now you need to fold the outside edges of the tail section so they meet in the middle as shown in the picture above. You can do this on each of the four sections as you fold them or after you have all four formed. It seems to be easier to align the folds when you have the outer wings in place so you can see the horizontal alignment. Crease these folds well so shaping the box later will be easier.

Fold the paper to lock the previous folds. Repeat this on all four wings.

Now your project should look like the one above.

Bend up the bottom point to the center of the top horizontal edge. Again, hinge this fold back and forth several times so it will open correctly in the following folds.

Insert your finger into the top of the fold and push outward on the inside panels to open the box. Be sure to push out where the crease lines are already in place. This part seems strange until you see the box shape pop out.

Now Let’s Lock The Edges :

Lift up one of the folded down points. Fold out the side flaps like door hinges. Be sure to keep the creases on top of each other when you swing the hinged sections into place. To lock this section, fold the point inside at the horizontal crease.

Repeat on all four sides. Check that all of your creases are the original ones you folded in the previous steps.It’s Time To Collapse The Form:

In this next step you will be straightening all the creases to form a symmetrical octagon. Some people use these collapsed forms as containers to store stamps and other flat objects. These are sometimes called origami tattoos.

Observe the process in the above pictures. By pushing in the center of any two opposite sides you will collapse the form. This can be a tricky step since you have to bring in all the sides to the center at the same time. Fold each of the little shark fins to the right so they overlap and the form is flat. Run your fingers over and push down on the outside edges to straighten all the folds. Use your fingernail to indent the outer edges of the octagon all the way around the circle. This will start to create the crimping you will do with the edge of an ink pen.

Reopen The Boxes:

Now that all the creases have been set you can reopen the box by placing your fingers inside and pressing out on each of the V joints. They will still slightly bend in like the pictures above. Use the end of a pen cap to carefully crimp down the bottom outer edges. Be careful not to tear through the paper. Slide the pen cap left and right on each of the 8 sides to create a lip on the bottom to receive the lid. This forms the bottom half of the box.

Forming The Top:

Now let’s crimp the top section. Place the box on its side and use the pen cap to crimp the edges as shown in the pictures above. If done properly your lid will rest on the bottom crimped edge. Adding these crimps gives the fold strength as well as form.

You Can Stack Them Up:

Use Them For A Gift Box Or Storage Container:

Depending on the size of paper you start with you can make boxes of various sizes. Using a standard 8 1/2″ X 11″ piece of paper your box will hold four standard size chocolate truffles. If using the boxes to hold food items, line them with cellophane or tin foil so the oils don’t soak through and ruin your fold. You can use them to wrap up presents, jewelry boxes, and more. You can stack several of decreasing sizes to form a Christmas tree. What other ways can you think of to use them?

Where Did Form And Design Originate?

As I look around me at all of the designs I see in creation I’m reminded that there has to be a Designer of these wonderful forms. Just like I have designed this box, each designed shape has function as well as beauty. If you see similar patterns in many things you can assume there is a common Designer. It’s like being able to tell which cars are Chevys and which are Fords by seeing similarities in each model. We see the same things in God’s creation. Some animals have four legs while others have two. Many animals are bilateral having two eyes and two ears. Having two of each of these gives us depth perception. No matter which creature you observe you will see that each design has function. How each creature functions has a greater purpose in its survival as well as its place in the whole of creation. I hope you, like I, have come to know this Creator. He is the giver and sustainer of life.

Psalm 36: 9 “For You are the one who gives and sustains life.”

Colossians 1:16a “For by Him all things were created…”

Best Day of Fishing:

That’s Cool!

The temperature dropped from the recent summertime heat. Fall weather is coming. It seems like the catfish like to feed when the cooler mornings drop the water temperature. Today was my best day of fishing at the lake near my home. I caught three large catfish weighing in at 8lbs., 11lbs., and the largest at 13 lbs.

Know What They Like:

The trick to fishing is, you have to get smarter than the fish! One of the most important things to know is what they are feeding on. In the lake where I fish there are tons of bluegill. After catching a few this morning one swallowed the hook and I knew it had a poor chance of survival if I threw it back into the lake. I decided to use it as bait. I was able to get several nice pieces of bait for my hooks from the one small fish.

Double Up the Hooks:

A good way to increase the likelihood of catching fish is to have more than one hook on the line. I like to use two. Be sure to check the regulations in your state to be sure it is legal to use more than one hook per pole. In some waters you can only use one! I like to put one hook on the end of the line with a couple split-shot about a foot above and then the second hook about a foot above the weights. That way the hooks don’t get tangled very often. Be sure to hide the hook inside the piece of fish! The nice thing about having two pieces of bait on the line is that if one gets pulled off there is a second one still waiting to be eaten. In fact, one of the fish I caught today actually had swallowed both pieces of fish.

Know Their Fighting Tactics:

If you are trying to catch a big fish you have to know how to keep them from breaking the line or shaking the hook. Be sure to set your drag so that they can pull off some line when they make a run (Believe me, if it’s a big one it will make several attempts to swim away with all its might!) If the fish is headed toward a tree branch in the water or some other potential snag, you have to turn it. Put extra tension on the line and aim your pole tip in the direction you want it to go. Reel in when ever you have any slack in the line. Let the fish work against the drag. Don’t reel too fast or pull too hard or it will break your line. Be patient! The fish will eventually tire. Consider the strength of the line you are using. Lighter weight line breaks easily. I had some lighter line on my pole a couple weeks ago and lost two big ones. I learned my lesson! After putting on heavier line I knew had a much better chance of landing these monster catfish.

Consider Catch-and-Release:

I know most fishermen like to show off their big fish. The best way to do it is with a camera. If you have ever eaten a large catfish you, like I, have discovered they don’t taste as good as the smaller ones. The big mature catfish are also important in the reproduction of more catfish to catch in the future. I return the large ones to the water to catch again. I figure other fishermen would like to catch a big fish too!

One of the Best Survivors:

Of all the kinds of fish I have caught I think the catfish are the best survivors. I used to fish with the California legend, “Mr. Catfish”: George Powers. He could catch catfish when nobody else was having any luck. He often shared his catch with others like when we had an annual fish-fry at our church. He taught me a few cool tricks for catching and preserving the fish we caught. He would catch catfish and keep them fresh for hours by placing them in a Gunny-sack. When he would pull them out later, after a day of fishing on the lake, the fish were still alive and kicking as if they had just come out of the lake. I also remember as a kid, while riding in a pickup with my Grandpa who worked for the irrigation district, watching catfish still alive while buried in the mud of a irrigation channel that had been scooped out with a Backhoe to improve the flow of water. The fish were in great shape. Even though they are durable, it is still good to get the fish back in the water as soon as possible when you plan to return them to their water home.

Notice the Design:

As you look closely at a catfish you can clearly see it is designed for function. Each part of the catfish anatomy shows intentional strategy for what the catfish must do to survive. Catfish are bottom feeders and must have ways to detect their prey even in cloudy water and darkness. The whiskers are great sensory organs. Down the side of the fish is the lateral line which also tells the fish what is in the water around it as it swims around looking for food. Catfish seem to be attracted to smelly bait. They have a very keen sense of smell and can also detect movement in their surroundings. How did the catfish acquire all of these amazing features? I believe the catfish, like all other creatures, was designed by the Master Creator, the LORD Jesus Christ.

Colossians 1:16-17

“For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities- all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all thing hold together.”

 

Keep Your Eyes Open:

If you take the time to carefully observe everything around you as you go through life, you can clearly see that everything was designed with a purpose. Each kind of creature is uniquely designed for where it lives and what it needs to do. Have you ever considered your purpose? When God created mankind He made man the object of His love. We will only find fulfillment when we become part of His family through the Salvation He offers through His Son, Jesus Christ. Through Him we have access to God the Father. I hope you have or will come to know Him too.

Northern Watersnake: Often A Case of Mistaken Identity

Let’s Go Fishing:

As I often do, I like to go down to the lake to go fishing. When I go I am not the only one fishing there. Yesterday I met a grandpa fishing with his five year old grandson. It was fun to see the little guy reel in a few bluegill. Soon we discovered we we not the only ones fishing there. While casting out my line I saw the grandpa taking a quick step back from the edge of the lake startled that he might be seeing a poisonous snake.

At first sight one might think “water moccasin!” But that would be a wrong assessment and might endanger the snake more than the one trying to make the identification. This is a Northern Watersnake: Norodia sipedon. It is not poisonous and poses little threat to man. Many times these snakes are wantonly killed by those who think they are doing everybody else a favor by removing an unwelcome visitor.

Actually A Great Benefit:

Rather than being harmful, these snakes are an important part of the ecosystem. As you can see in these pictures it has an appetite for fish. It also eats frogs, salamanders and toads, as well as other small creatures along the shoreline. If you are not familiar with the group of fishes to which this bluegill belongs, they are known to release chemicals into the water that regulate the growth patterns of other fish of its species. This mechanism is designed to help the overall population to have enough food to go around. I remember fishing a lake in California where the bluegill were over-populated. All of the fish were about 2-3 inches long. There were so many you could catch them with a bare black fishing hook. Though you could easily catch fish there wasn’t much good in the effort since they were all so small. The best way to rectify the problem would be to remove many of the fish. This would allow the remaining fish to grow larger. In a similar way snakes also keep other species in check.

 

Watersnakes, birds, and many other predators help naturally regulate the number of species in lakeside communities. By killing snakes you can quickly upset the balance with lasting consequences.

Fun to Watch:

If you have a natural fear of snakes you might be missing out on a lot of fun! Snakes are actually very beautiful animals with many interesting behaviors. As an example, these snakes often find homes in muskrat holes along the shore where they hide in the sticks and leaves inside. They often can be seen lurking along the shoreline seeking out minnows and larger fish. As you can see in these pictures, many times their prey is even larger than the size of the snake’s head. No problem for the snake, however, since its jaws can expand to allow the whole fish to slide in. A muscle action pushes the fish down where it is eventually digested. It’s fun to see a snake just after swallowing a large meal. It reminds me of the many cartoons I’ve seen of snakes.

Food for Other Animals:

Not only do these snakes help in the ways mentioned above, they also provide food for many other animals. Raccoon, Skunks, Eagles, Herons, Egrets, and large fish prey on watersnakes. I guess it’s fair play for a large fish to return the favor after the snake has consumed many of her young. The majority of the snakes eaten are the young. Fortunately watersnakes can produce quite a few babies. They also bear their young alive. A mother can produce up to 30 young in one birthing though more commonly far less. I remember watching as about fifteen newly born little watersnakes swam by one day while I was fishing. I bet that very few of them made it to adulthood.

Can You Tell The Difference? Heads or Tails, You win!

The poisonous snakes with which watersnakes are confused actually have several distinguishing characteristics. One is the much broader body shape. They also have elliptical pupils whereas the Watersnake has round pupils. Another feature found on the poisonous snakes are the heat-sensing pits on their heads. These are found below and between the eyes and nose. If you look at the other end of the snake you will find that watersnakes have long slender tails whereas water moccasins have short and thicker tails.

Overcoming Fear:

One helpful way to overcome your fears is to face them. In many cases just acknowledging your fears can lead to solutions. Learning the facts about what you fear can also help alleviate a lot of the tension. Find someone knowledgeable and they can help answer your questions. You will find that after conquering your fears you will enjoy the outdoors to a much greater extent. Do some research, talk to an expert. Don’t let your fears ruin your life.

A Bigger Purpose:

While you are spending time outdoors experiencing God’s Creation consider the part you play in His overall plan. We can learn a lot about ourselves and our Creator by exploring His Handiwork. If He has a purpose for watersnakes He surely has a purpose for your life and He has created all things for you to enjoy.

Here Are Some Good Sources for Further Research:

National Wildlife Federation

Tennessee Watchable Wildlife

Wikipedia

Virginia Herpetological Society

Robber Flies: The Winged Assassins

Not Just Another Fly:

When one thinks about flies we usually picture those annoying house flies that seem to want to buzz in an land on your food when you have an outdoor picnic. But not all flies are the same. Can you think of a fly that is known as an Assassin?  One such creature is the Robber Fly.

AKA

Not only are they known as “Robber Flies” but they also are called “Bearded Flies“, “Assassin Flies“, “Hanging Thieves“, and “Bee Killers“. That’s quite a rap sheet!

They Live Up to Their Reputation:

These aggressive flies are known for their sneaky tactics. They are airborne attack artists. They usually sit in wait hanging from a perch near areas where flying insects travel. When one is sighted they zoom out at grab the unsuspecting insect with their long hairy legs. They then puncture the body of their prey with their long pointed mouth part. When this enters the body of their prey it quickly immobilizes and paralyzes it with special enzymes included in the fluid injected into the bite. The saliva injected contains a powerful neurotoxin that attacks the muscles of the insect prey. This fluid not only subdues the prey, it also begins to digestion. The flies then travel to a nearby perch and suck out the fluid from the dissolved protein within the bodies of the insects consumed. When done with their meal, they drop the outer remains of the body and move back to their perch to wait for another victim.

 

Classification:

Interestingly there are over 85 species of these flies in North America and thousands world-wide. They range in size and coloration. Some even mimic bees for protection and stealth when chasing their prey. Some are as small as 3/8 ” but range all the way up to 1 1/8 ” in size. They are members of the Animal Kingdom, the Phylum Arthropoda, the Class Insecta, and the Family Asilidae, and Order Diptera (the flies). One characteristic of all flies is that they possess two wings instead of two pair as in other flying insects.

Why Not Pick On Someone Your Own Size?

Believe it or not, Robber Flies are not shy when taking on other insects. They can easily capture insects their own size and even larger. They specialize in capturing members of the order Hymenoptera (the bees, wasps, hornets and bumblebees). Even though these opponents have powerful weapons to fight back, the Robber Flies usually win the competition. They also buzz out and grab dragonflies and butterflies. One amazing thing experienced by some observers was when a large Robber Fly actually capture a small hummingbird. **

This Looks Like a Good Hangout!:

One interesting behavior of Robber Flies is where they like to hang out. They often perch themselves near nectar producing flowers. Seems like a good idea because that way their food comes to them. Another by-product of this behavior is the opportunity to augment their diet with a little sugar nectar from the flowers. It seems that female Robber Flies need a little sugar when  producing their offspring.

Is That A Stinger?

If you look at the end of the abdomens of some Robber Flies you will see a long pointed structure that looks like a stinger. It is actually an ovipositor, (and egg laying device). If you have ever been bitten by a robber fly, however, you will think you’ve been stung. The bites are painful but rarely experienced unless you are handling them roughly or traveling through an area where food is scarce. I remember being bitten by one while hiking in the Sierras. Their bites are not pleasant but are of no lasting concern.

Are They Helpful or Harmful?

A good question often asked by gardeners is whether or not these creatures are helpful in the garden. The answer is a of mixed opinion. They seem to have a taste for grasshoppers  and leafhoppers which cause a lot of damage to crops. Since they feed on these and a lot of other pests that feed on your veggies they are helpful in that way. However, they are not selective in which insects they eat. They also consume a lot of the pollinators that transfer pollen from one flower to the next allowing the production of the fruit and veggies that you are growing to harvest in season. For the most part, scientists believe their overall presence is helpful in maintaining balance in the food webs and providing food for other animals. Those who raise bees for honey and wax would say, “We don’t want them around our hives”. They aren’t called “Bee Killers” for nothing!

Do They Have Any Enemies?

Robber flies are often part of the diets of birds, bats, praying mantises, centipedes, assassin bugs,  Ground Beetles and  other Robber Flies. They are also occasionally trapped in the webs of spiders.

Long Live the Young:

Robber flies, like many other insects, go through complete metamorphosis: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. They begin as eggs which hatch out into larvae. The larvae are worm-like grubs which spend up to 3 years developing. In this stage they are usually living in decaying plant material or the deteriorating bark of fallen trees. In this stage they are also active predators feeding on the many other insect larvae developing along side of them. Once they get big enough they form into the pupa stage and later emerge as adults. As adults they only live for about three months before they mate and die. The females deposit their eggs in the soil to start the whole process over again.

I’m Feeling a Little Depressed:

One distinctive characteristic of these flies is the depression between their large compound eyes. This can be seen more clearly if you look down on them from above. Below you can see what they look like from the bottom side of the body. Notice that their antenna are very short. Their beak-like mouth is held in a slot under their chins and can easily be swung out when needed to pierce the prey.

Did You Hear That Buzz?

One way to know these flies are around is the loud buzzing sound they produce as they fly by.

They Have Quite a Following:

Did you know there are many people who find these insects so interesting that they have formed groups to study them?      If you want to read more about these insects you might check out the following web sites:  The Asilidae Homepage,  and Roy Beckemeyer’s Asilidae Homepage. One of the most interesting blog post I read was the one that described the hummingbird incident. It was http://www.hilton pond.org. **You can also check out the National Geo, Wikipedia, and the Audubon web sites. 

They Are Part of the Big Picture:

As I observe and research the many creatures I find in the wild I am always trying to get a view of the bigger picture of life’s purpose. When I look at the many specialized features of this insect I am reminded that there had to be an Amazing Designer. The many features these insects possess reveal an intentional design by a Master Creator. They were designed to fill an important role in the overall environment. The closer we look at Creation the more evidence is found of the bigger picture. God also has a plan for your life. Do you know what it is? You can learn more about this by reading God’s Word, the Bible. It tells us everything from the original Creation of living things to the future of mankind.

Make You Own Observations:

I hope you will take some time to explore God’s Creation yourself. There are so many interesting things to discover.

American Alligator: Quite a Come Back Story

“See You Later Alligator”

You have probably heard the expression. “See you later, Alligator.” Believe it or not, it almost became true of these amazing creatures. Back in 1973, due to over harvesting and wanton killing,  these historic American reptiles were threatened by extinction and placed on the Endangered Species list. What a shame it would have been to lose these interesting creatures from their natural habitats. As a result of careful management, they have made an amazing comeback and were removed from that list in 1987. They are still carefully managed, but have come back in impressive numbers.

What’s On the Menu?:

We found this warning sign while observing birds around a lake in Alabama.

After viewing these creatures you develop a great respect for their powerful jaws. It’s interesting to note, however, that it usually isn’t people that are eaten by alligators. Rather, it is people eating alligators. Their meat is highly sought after and cooked in many interesting ways. Besides their meat, one of the reasons for their reduction in numbers was their skins. Many items used to be made from their hides. They also got a bad rap! Many movies and books portrayed these animals as a great threat to mankind. Though they are to be respected, they rarely threaten humans unless they are approaching them in their nesting areas. Most areas where viewing is provided have ample warning of their presence and suggest you watch where you go while watching them from a distance. You can also go to places where alligators are raised commercially and watch shows where they demonstrate their abilities to snap onto and devour their food. Alligator meat can be found on the menu of several restaurants that have been raised commercially for harvest.

 

                     The Two Signs Pictured Above Were In the Audubon Bird Sanctuary in Alabama

They Can Be Hard to Spot!:

Can you see me now?

Though alligators can hide well in vegetation, as above, they more commonly like to rest on the shoreline where they absorb the warmth of the sunshine on cold mornings. After they warm up, they may then crawl back into the water to cool down and look for food. Being reptiles, basking is a form of temperature regulation.

My, What Big Teeth You Have!

Just like in humans, the teeth of the alligators change as they mature. When very young,  they have needle-like teeth well adapted for capturing insects and other arthropods as well as young fish and crustaceans. As they grown older, their teeth also enlarge. With these big teeth they can crack open even hard-shelled turtles and break bones of other animals. Their jaw force is amazing. Interestingly, the force of their jaws is greatly minimized by placing a hand or a band of duct tape around their snouts, which is often the tactic used when subduing these animals in zoos and in the field when the trapper plans to release the animals after collecting data on their length, health, age, and other factors. Once the tape is removed, you better watch out! When they clamp down they have one of the greatest bite forces in the Animal Kingdom.

That’s Twisted!

One unique feature of alligators is their habit of capturing their prey on shore and dragging it into the water to drown it. Once it is dead, they grab on to part of the body and do an “Alligator Roll” which twists off pieces of the animal for more easy swallowing. They have even been known to work in groups to tear apart larger animals with each getting their share of the food. Since they really don’t actually chew their food they have been equipped with gizzards, just like the birds. In these organs they can grind down the meat and derive the energy in this food through further digestion. I consider all these amazing traits as a sign of their unique design by a thoughtful Creator.

Using Tools?:

Of the many members of the animal kingdom that have been observed using tools, the alligator is included. This is highly unusual in the ranks of reptiles! “What tools do they use?”, you might ask. Well, they have literally figured out a way to really “Stick It to” their prey. They have been observed holding branches of trees in their mouths while waiting for unsuspecting birds to descend and lite on the branches offered as perches.   When the birds land they are surprised when the large mouth opens and clamps down on their bodies: I guess this is the Fast Food of the alligator’s life.

 

Be Fruitful!

Interesting studies of alligator’s stomach contents have revealed that they are not totally carnivores. Though, to my knowledge this has never been witnessed by man, within the stomachs there have been elderberries, wild grapes, and citrus fruits taken directly from trees. This again, shows the great adaptability of these creatures to use the food available. Their diets are very diversified.

Infrasonic Communication: “B Flat”, Now That’s Music to My Ears!

Like other animals alligators have some interesting ways to communicate with others of their own kind. The males can create bellowing sounds by sucking air into their lungs and then emitting it quickly. This seems to be a way to warn off other males invading the mating territories where the females are during the mating season. Those who have observed these sounds say that they are more felt than heard. They even create vibrations in the water around the gators when they are emitting them. The sprinkling effect is even called the “Water Dance” by those who have witnessed these things. In one experiment, tubas were used to stimulate the large males into producing their own vibrations. When checked with the musical scale, the vibrations register a B Flat on the scale. Baby alligators also vocalize with a chirp-like sound to let their mothers know when they are ready to emerge from their eggs buried in the vegetation by their mothers for incubation. The mothers then dig up the babies and watch over them for some time until they are ready to fend for themselves in the wild.

Who Is The Hottest?

If you have ever wondered who is the hottest between males and females, it’s the males. At least in the Alligator world. You see, the temperature during the incubation period has a direct effect on the gender of the babies. At 93 degrees F. you will have males. At 86 degrees F, you will have females.

Helpful In Removing Unwanted Guests:

Alligators have an important role in the environment by regulating the populations of the creatures living there. If there are too many of some species there will not be enough food to go around. Besides the native species that over produce, non-native species create an even greater danger. Man has messed up this critical balance frequently by bringing in unwanted non-native species. One of these creatures, the Nutria, was brought into the U.S. from South America back in the mid- 20th century. They quickly multiplied and became a nuisance species burrowing into the banks of levees causing floods and eating up the food that the other species depended upon for survival. Give a shout out to the alligators! It seems that the alligator is one of the most important factors in regulating these animals. Another group of terrible invaders are the Burmese Pythons that have been released into Florida by some who found their newly acquired pets were getting too large to manage. Soon, pythons were taking over the environment. Alligators seem to have a taste for these creatures as well.

Every Creature Is Important!

One of the things man has learned over the many years of observation is that every kind of animal is important in the balance of the ecosystem. When God created all things He had a purpose for each one. It is important as Earth’s Caretakers, to realize how it is important that we acknowledge this balance and work to maintain it for the preservation of the species. This requires careful observation and management by taking time to consider the ramifications of our activities in the natural world.

Interesting Alligator Facts:

Like other reptiles, alligators are cold-blooded.

Alligators can weigh over 1000 lbs.

Alligators live in the South-Eastern part of the U.S.

The scientific name of the American Alligator is Alligator mississippienis.

Alligators have a third eyelid that covers their eyes underwater like built in “diving masks”.

Alligators have 80 teeth when mature, 40 on top and 40 on the bottom.

Alligator teeth are aligned so that the upper teeth fit into the bottom ones for a tight grip.

Baby alligators have an “egg tooth” located on the tip of their noses to use to get out of their eggs when fully developed.

Strangely, alligators have 5 toes on each of the front feet while only 4 on the rear ones.

Scientists believe that alligators live up to 35-50 years in the wild. In captivity they are known to live  from 60–80 years.

Alligator meat really does taste a lot like chicken.

Why Not Do Some Further Research?:

Some of these facts come from Avia Trivia, Wikipedia, Peterson’s Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians, Reptiles of North America, Animal Fact Files: Reptiles and Amphibians by Chris Mattison, Val Davies and David Alderton.  

It’s not hard to find a lot more information by simply doing a Google search on-line. Check it out!

Bald Eagles: Symbol of the United States of America

Do You Know Me?

 

One of the most well known birds, recognized in photographs, is the Bald Eagle. These interesting birds have been studied for hundreds of years while uncovering many of their habits and characteristics.

 

 

Let’s take a closer look.

If you look closely you will notice that these eagles are chocolate brown in coloration. The adults have white heads and tails. You will also notice the yellow eyes, beaks and legs. Notice the powerful hooked bill which is designed for tearing meat apart and can also be used as a weapon.

Second Largest Bird of Prey in U.S.

Though these birds are very large, they are only the second largest in the U.S.  Can you name the largest? It is the rare California Condor. Have you ever heard of the Bergman’s Rule? This general rule relating to the size of Eagles predicts that the farther North you go, the larger the birds will be. It seems to stand true when comparing specimens from the North compared to those found father to the South. The larger females range from 35-27 inches long with a wingspan of 79-90 inches. That is a big bird! The smaller males are between 30-34 inches long and have a wingspan of 72-85 inches. That makes the females 25% larger than the males.

Are They Really Bald?

Strange as it may seem, the eagles are not bald as one would think. The term “Bald” actually doesn’t come from a word meaning “without hair“. It actually  comes from a word that means, “White Headed“. Interestingly, they do not acquire their white heads and tails until they reach maturity around 4-5 years of age.

Controversy Over Naming the Bald Eagle As National Symbol:

If you look at the Presidential Seal, and on many U.S. coins, you will find the Bald Eagle as a national symbol of the U.S.  This has been the case ever since 1782 when it was declared the official emblem of our great country. Not all of those present at this time thought the Eagle was a good choice. One notable exception was Benjamin Franklin, who thought the Eagle’s reputation and character was far beneath the dignity of the U.S.   He noted that they were cowardly and of low moral character since they often steal food captured by other predators and will flee from the little  King Bird when being chased by them.

It Takes a Thief: “Kleptoparasitism”

Bald Eagles are often seen swooping down and stealing the prey from Osprey, foxes and other smaller predators. Have you ever heard the term “kleptomaniac” used to describe one who compulsively steals from others? Well, scientists use a similar word to describe animals like the Eagles that steal the food from others. This term is “Kleptoparasitism“.

They Eat What?!!!

Did you know, that in addition to stealing food from others they also eat dead things found along the road or in the field or beside the streams. This is known as “Carrion”. In many places and when the opportunity arises the large portion of the eagle’s diet comes from these sources.

They do, however, take wing and work for some of their food. It seems their favorites come from the ocean or fresh water. If you have ever watched an eagle for very long you may have seen it swoop down and snag a fish from the water with its talons. They then fly to a nearby nest, rock or tree top to tear the food apart for storage. They store it up in a large crop at the bottom of their necks until they further process and digest it later. Sometimes eagles go for several days without hunting, processing the food they captured earlier. They are known to feed on many different types of animals being opportunistic hunters. Some of these include: ducks, coots, auklets and other small birds. They also eat rabbits, raccoon, muskrats, skunks, opossum, armadillos, arctic foxes, baby beavers, and even baby seals when available. They augment their diet with shellfish, turtles, crabs, and small birds.

What’s In A Name?:

The scientific name of the Bald Eagle is Haliaeetus leucocephalas”. The Genus and Species names are written in Latin. They mean “Large Sea Eagle with a white head“. Scientists use this universal language for all their classification of living things. Apparently this name came from Linnaeus clear back in 1766.

Nesting Characteristics:

One of the most outstanding characteristics of the eagles is their ability to construct huge nests. One of these was calculated as being almost two tons in weight and was 20 feet deep in the middle.. Another nest was  measured at 9.5 feet across. These are built high above the ground often on tree tops. We saw one high in a tree when we visited Yellowstone National Park several years ago. Nests more often are about 4-5 feet in diameter. Since the nests are reused for several years they get bigger as the years go by when new building materials are added to the original. Eagles often use man-made telephone poles and radio towers as places to build their nests.

Finally Removed From the Endangered Species List:

One of the sad historical events associated with the Bald Eagles was when they were dying out and threatened with extinction. This was primarily due to the introduction of the deadly pesticide, DDT. When this pesticide was used it eventually got into the food chain. The poison caused damage in egg shell formation and when the eggs were laid they broke before the chicks could develop. This not only hurt the eagles but many other animals in the environment. The government declared its use illegal and it has taken several years for its effects to be removed from the environment. In 1940 Congress passed  the Bald Eagle Protection Act. Since the poison also threatened other birds of prey, in 1962 an amendment added the Golden Eagle to the mix. In 1963 there were only estimated to be 487 nesting pairs of Bald Eagles. Much regulation and active protection helped the bird’s numbers to recover. In 2007 the Bald Eagle was finally removed from the list of threatened and endangered species.

 

It’s Our Duty to Care for Them:

Though these birds have recovered, it is important to realize how careful mankind must be in how we treat the environment. God gave man the Dominion Mandate way back in the Book of Genesis. He gave man the responsibility to care for His Creation. It was created for man to use but not abuse.

Considered a Sacred Bird:

Many of the Native American tribes have considered Eagles sacred birds for thousands of years. Today true Native American tribes can still harvest the feathers of these birds which are illegal to possess by others. They use them in many of their religious ceremonies and include them in their clothing and head wear. If you have ever seen a picture of an Indian Chief you have probably noticed the large feathers in his headpiece. The feathers were also waved through smoke while brokering agreements and treaties with others.

Why Not Learn More?:

Much of this information came from reading books and blog posts including National Geographic Field Guide to Birds of North America and web sites, Smithsonian Institutes National Zoo, Wikipedia, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Blog.  There are many more that you can easily find by looking on line.

 

Note: The pictures I took of these birds were from Queens, N.Y. at the Zoo there. The eagles on display had been brought to the zoo injured and after they recovered were unable to be released to the wild since their wings were damaged. 

Burrowing Owls: Welcome to the Underground

A Different Kind Of Owl:

On our recent trip to New York we stopped in Queens to visit the Zoo there the night before we flew back to Tennessee. While there we witnessed one of the strangest owls I have ever seen, the Burrowing Owl.

What Makes Them Different?:

They have a leg up on the competition:

There are several characteristics of this owl species that set it apart from other owls. As you can see in this picture, the owls have long legs.  By having long legs they can scan the grasslands while standing on the ground or sitting on a low perch like a rock or branch.

They have mastered the underground:

Rather than burrow in trees and barns, these owls prefer to use abandoned prairie dog burrows or even man-made structures embedded in the ground. I once saw some in a culvert in a construction site in Sacramento. They can dig burrows themselves if necessary, but seem to enjoy re-purposing the work of others before them.

They often live in groups:

As you probably know from previous experience, owls are usually solitary individuals. Burrowing owls, however, often live in colonies of many owls. This provides for better security since one owl can sound an alarm so that many can respond immediately.

They have yellow eyes:

If you have seen other owls up close or in photos you probably noticed they usually have orange eyes. Burrowing owls have yellow eyes. These allow the birds to see well in both the dark and daylight.

They store up food for the future:

One of the interesting traits of these little birds is their ability to plan for the future. When food is plentiful they often store it up in their dens for hard times to come.

They even eat the small stuff:

Most owls prefer to eat rodents like mice, rats, rabbits and other small mammals. Burrowing owls take advantage of many kinds of food overlooked by others including insect, spiders, scorpions, and centipedes. In this manner they are important to the ecosystem’s balance and help keep these creatures in check. They also eat reptiles, (lizards and small snakes),  amphibians, (toads and frogs and salamanders), and even fish when available. In addition to these arthropods they also specialize in eating small rodents in their territory. Some of these include groundhogs, squirrels, mice, voles, pocket gophers and the like.

They have some special tricks for acquiring their food and repelling enemies:

A strange greeting: May seem smelly and trashy!

One interesting thing I discovered about these little birds is their habit of laying out a carpet in front of their burrows. What do you suppose this carpet is made of? I bet you didn’t guess it was poop! Yes, they gather up the dung from deer, cows, buffalo.”Why on earth would they do this?”, you might ask. Well, mixing dung and grass attracts one of their favorite foods, dung beetles. They get their food brought right to their doorstep. Another advantage of such a carpet is that it repels many would-be enemies from entering their burrows. They smell the animal feces and flee the other way thinking a larger animal may be near by. They also often scatter small pieces of paper, tin foil, bottle caps, and the like around their entrances. Scientists are not sure exactly why they do this but it seems to be some kind of an indication that the dwelling is occupied. They say. “Seek another place to build your home!”

Don’t let them rattle you!:

Strange as it might seem, these little birds can make a sound that is very similar to the rattlesnake. They use this alarm when other animals get too close to their nesting places. It seems to be pretty effective! I think I would think twice before messing with them if I heard this sound. How about you?

They have a high tolerance for gasses that would harm other creatures:

Living underground may seem like a great place to live but one of the dangers of such a dwelling is the high concentrations of Carbon Dioxide that flows into these low places from above. Since CO-2 is much heavier than the other gasses in the atmosphere it has a tendency to flow underground into any depressions in the ground it can find. God created these birds so they have a much higher tolerance to this gas than other creatures.

Night and Day Shifts:

Though these owls prefer hunting in the evening, especially at dusk, they also can be active in the daytime when necessary. As you know, many insects are most active in daylight. The owls often sit on perches just above the ground waiting to see movement. When motion is sighted they quickly can respond by either pouncing on their prey or hovering above before dropping to capture it.

Other interesting things to know about these birds:

Burrowing owls are classified into these groupings:

Kingdom = Animalia

Phylum = Vertebrata

Class = Aves

Order = Strigiformes

Family = Strigidae

Genus =   Athene

Species cunicularia

They are found mostly in range-land, grasslands, near airports and golf courses.

They are small in stature, up to 9 inches tall.

Males are actually slightly larger than females (This is unusual in the animal Kingdom).

Their range is mostly in the Mid-West in the US, though they also are found frequently in Florida. They can also be found in Central  and South America in the grasslands there.

The father shares the duties of caring for his mate and young. While the female incubates the eggs the males spend time hunting to bring her food so she can spend the time caring for her developing young. The males also help acquire food when the young emerge from the eggs.

Rather than take to the air when threatened, they often flatten themselves near the ground or run off quickly on their feet. They are very speedy!

Just call me Bob:  One unique behavior of these creatures is their up and down movements. They bob up and down when on the ground or standing on their perches. This seems to help them see movement around them.

They are good at digging. Some of the burrows they dig can be up to 9 feet long with many chambers along the path. These are used for storing food as well as providing many hiding places if enemies enter the burrows.

The more I study the many creatures God has created for us to enjoy, the more I see how He designed each creature for where it lives and has provided built in instincts for them to survive.

We need to be careful in our use of our God given resources including the many kinds of living things around us. One of the sad things about burrowing owls is that their numbers are decreasing due to man’s development in the places where they live. Hopefully mankind will improve our respect for needed areas for these and other creatures to live and thrive so that others can enjoy them in the future.

Origami Cranes at the Wedding

How To Use 1000 Cranes:

 

In my last blog I showed you the process of folding 1000 origami cranes. I made these for my granddaughter’s wedding in Long Island, New York. I thought it would be fun to show you how we used the cranes in celebrating this occasion.

Once we arrived in Long Island we were taken to the church where the wedding was to take place in a couple days. My youngest granddaughter and I sat down to finish folding down the wings of the last 200 cranes which were to be used at each table setting for the wedding feast.

We had previously sent the cranes to NY with their wings still in the up position so                                                            they could more easily be packaged for the flight to NY.

The Majority of the Cranes in Place:

The day before I arrived most of the cranes had been strung on strings with various numbers of cranes on each. Some were long and some were shorter. Along with the cranes were several Japanese Paper Lanterns hung. The neat thing was, that since they were all white, the colored lighting could change the colors from pink, to blue, and yellow in an alternating fashion. Those who strung the cranes used a little dab of tacky glue to hold the cranes on the string with a little separation. When we came into the sanctuary for the first time the whole floor up front was covered with strings of cranes to be hung in and out of doors.

 

Some of the cranes were taken outside to a large tent and hung over the dance floor and eating area.

The Bride and Groom indoors

 

Father and Bride Dancing Under the Cranes.

 Cranes Are A Symbol Of Good Fortune

And A Long Lasting Relationship.

One of the interesting things about cranes is the way they mate for life. They have been a symbol of faithfulness and good fortune for thousands of years.

The Bride and Groom:

As a Christian I am reminded of the faithfulness of our God to His Bride, the Church.

What a celebration awaits us when He returns to claim His Bride. That will be a celebration like none that has ever come before it. I hope you are rightly related to Him so you can celebrate on that day too.

Read more about it in Ephesians 5:22-33.