Summer storm

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I found the perfect spot to watch this storm roll in.

Some of my favorite childhood memories include watching storms. When I was very tiny, thunderstorms scared me. A lot. But my parents held me close and let me watch some from the safety of their bed, and I began to appreciate all the bluster – along with the beauty.

The way my house is situated, surrounded by trees, I don’t get to watch many storms. But I ran out for a quick errand today, and afterward, was mesmerized by the storm clouds surrounding my town.

I drove over to Joyner Park, one of my favorite nature spots, and watched the storm move in.

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I thought for sure it would rain any minute. But this storm didn’t want to stop.
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The wind promised a rousing tempest, but then relented. These clouds moved on.

‘Owl’ take three!

The invitation caught my attention as I scrolled through my Facebook news feed. Pay a few dollars, hold an owl. Make that three owls. Ooooooh. Who could resist?

We met the organizers and other participants at the American Wildlife Refuge headquarters Saturday afternoon. The organization is located in a small, out-of-the-way office in south Raleigh, but they do big things. Their volunteer staff has rescued over 600 raptors in and around the area.

Most are successfully rehabilitated, but not all the birds can be released back into the wild. Some of those become ambassadors for the cause.

After our training and education session about the great horned owl, Rasputin, Forest, the barred owl, and Speedy, the tiny Eastern screech owl, we were invited to don a glove (on our non-dominant hand) and take turns meeting each owl.

Rasputin looks a little scary, but he was the bird I met first. His eyes are large and clear, and, yes, his claws are big! He did not seem at ease, but he has not been an educator bird for long. He was fairly comfortable with his trainer, though.

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It take a lot of patience and care to set these raptors at ease. The instructors, however, have plenty.

Rasputin, at about four pounds, proved to be heavy. Four pounds is not a lot, unless you balance that weight on your hand and wrist for a few minutes!

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You’ve heard of “holding something at arm’s length”? Rasputin looks . . . intimidating. So we did not get too cozy.

Barred owls, in contrast, are not hard to hold. But, they have quite a grip! Each owl requires its own specialized glove, depending on what kind of protection the owl-handler needs.

Forest, whose dark eyes were at half-mast for most of the presentation, looked so soft. But petting was off-limits. So I respected the rules.

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This dark-eyed owl hunts at night. But he was sweet about having his nap interrupted.

A cute little screech owl caught our attention before we met the other birds. He was perched on a pedestal when we walked in. He stood so still, we weren’t sure he was real. Then he moved. The eyelashes on owls are quite incredible! They also have an extra eyelid to protect them while hunting.

The raptor volunteers said if this fundraiser went over well, they would schedule others. More, please!

To keep up with the activities of this dedicated group, log onto their website, their Facebook page, or join their Meetup Group.

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Meet Forest, a magnificent barred owl. Check out his specialized feathers.

An experiment in mulch

This summer’s “monsoons” followed by suffocating heat and humidity have not done my threadbare yard any favors. The whole thing needs to be dug up, amended, covered with rich dirt and replanted, but . . . that isn’t happening any time soon.

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In the future, I’m hoping to avoid the swamp effect.

Still, I can’t stop my imagination from creating an inviting oasis or two as I ponder the worst patches of scruffy crabgrass, and today, I decided to get some of that mulch I’d been eyeing at one of the local stores.

It’s actually soil conditioner, but I like to call it mulch-without-the-awful-smell, and I think it looks better than mulch, as well. These bags were five for $10, and that’s the cheapest I’d seen it, so I bought in bulk.

I planned to just fill in part of the yard that this year’s repeated, hard rains have turned into something resembling a ditch, but I though of those pavers I had stuck (without much success) in various parts of the yard, and channeled my inner artist.

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I relocated these stones from another part of the yard.

If I like it, I’ll make it more permanent by brushing some of the mulch away and laying down sand and repositioning everything. Then, maybe I’ll find some more shade-loving plants.

In the meantime, the front yard looks a little more inviting.

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We’ll see what happens next time it rains.

Fleeting beauties

Is it my imagination, or are there fewer butterflies around? Or maybe like me, they’ve been avoiding the heat. I’ve managed to see a few . . .

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I’ve learned to take my camera, or at least my phone, when I walk for exercise.
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This little guy was attracted to something on my front porch.