animals

Posted by Ellen

Last summer, when floodwaters swamped one-fifth of all the land in Pakistan, spiders were among the creatures struggling to escape the rising waters. Spiders moved up into the trees, while the water on the ground stayed high for so long that the new eight-legged tree-dwellers had plenty of time to spin web upon web among the branches.

Today, many of the trees of Pakistan are tangled up in spiderwebs. And it has been reported that many of the mosquitoes of Pakistan have been snagged in the webs, resulting in a much smaller than anticipated post-flood mosquito problem.

Posted by Ellen

For at least the past fifteen hundred years, Swayambhunath Temple atop a high hill west of Kathmandu–the Monkey Temple–has been a holy site for Buddhists and Hindus both.

Hundreds of pilgrims climb the hill every morning before dawn (we're told), up a flight of more than three hundred steps to reach a temple plaza guarded by wooden lions. As the sun rises, the faithful start circling the huge white-domed stupa with its golden spire, spinning prayer wheels as they greet the dawn beneath Buddha's all-seeing painted eyes. Tibetan Buddhists circle the stupa clockwise; Nepali Buddhists go counter-clockwise. There are lots of both.

In addition to the stupa, the Monkey Temple complex features numerous shrines and temples, a monastery, and vendors selling everything from strawberries and tiger balm to postcards and mandalas.

One of the most popular shrines is to a Hindu deity, Heriti, the goddess of smallpox and childhood diseases. Apparently, Heriti is a fertility goddess who developed a niche specialty: keeping children alive till the age of twelve and curing smallpox even in adults. Because divine protection of this sort is much in demand but Buddhism lacked a deity with expertise, Heriti was borrowed from the Hindus. At her shrine, people bring flowers and gifts, both to enlist her aid and to thank her for good work. A donations box has been set up directly in front of her statue.

The whole hill does swarm with monkeys. People who live nearby complain that monkeys venture out into the neighborhood and eat everything green in people's gardens.

Posted by Ellen

This lucky duck, preening for the camera amongst the ripples of Rockefeller State Park in Pleasantville, New York, was selected for immortality of a sort--or if not immortality, then fifteen minutes of fame, give or take--when Karen and Stuart Berlowitz happened by last fall while out for a walk in the woods. Of all the ducks on all the ponds all over this crazy world, this guy is the one to be get its very own Good Morning post on the intertubes.

Posted by Ellen

Those of us of a certain age take one look at what's going on here and think: things are about to get very bad. We know the scene is set in an isolated spot along the coast of northern California. But actually, the flocking here is on the coast of southwestern England, in Devon, where starlings fill the sky like this all winter long, and it's not a problem at all.

Posted by Ellen

 

We tossed crumbs out onto the snow in our little backyard, but the birds--with the possible exception of this one fellow--didn't really seem interested.

Posted by Ellen

 

Sunday was warm and sunny, maybe the last pleasant day this fall. While the humans sat chatting on their stoops, Toby the dog and Samantha the cat had a little fun with each other.

Samantha is often kept on a leash when out of doors. She doesn't seem to mind the restraint, and whenever Toby stops rassling for a moment to catch his breath, she goes straight at him, begging for a little more nip and snort and tussle. He generally obliges.

Posted by Ellen

 

There's an email that's been going around for at least six months or so about this deer that came to somebody's backyard every morning, in Harrisburg, PA, to play with the resident cat. Here are two of the five pictures from the post.

What do you think? Real, or urban legend? Well, after doing my due diligence, I'm inclined to say maybe. Hand-raised deer often behave this way, apparently, and similar goings-on have been described in first-hand reports from several places around the country. For example, from California:

"Every morning our cat used to walk down our lane and disappear into the woods. One morning, I was sick and got up much later than usual to let her out. As I opened the door, I looked down the lane and saw three deer standing there staring at me. To my astonishment, my cat happily bounced down to them, touched noses, and the four of them trotted off into the woods together.

"Perhaps there's a cat/deer accord we are not privvy to?"

Posted by Ellen

 

Many kinds of cats sometimes grow big. But Maine Coon Cats commonly grow ridiculously big. And that's all I have to say about that.

Posted by Ellen

Monarch butterflies know how to enjoy winter; they fly south, leaving the eastern United States and heading for the mountains around Tlalpujahua, in the state of Michoacan, Mexico. Winter nights can get chilly up there in the mountains, and the butterflies huddle together in the trees. But the days are warm and sunny, and every morning as the temperature approaches 70 degrees, the Monarchs take to the air, flocking skyward all at once.

No single Monarch lives long enough to migrate to Mexico in the fall and back to the States in the spring. But somehow, the young butterflies born in Mexico each winter know to start flying north in March, and even know to head for particular ancestral summer homes, which they've never seen before. There, they mate and produce a new generation, which is born not only with the magic power to change from caterpillars into pupae into butterflies but also with the knowledge of when to head south in the fall and how to find the Mexican mountaintop where their ancestors always liked to spend the winter.