This is a photo of a “possum” (opossum), Didelphis virginiana, that was in our yard last week. I had to shine a flashlight on it in order to take a picture because my camera doesn’t have a flash suitable for night photos. It is the largest possum I have ever seen. The possum is the only marsupial native to North America.
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The red fox returned last week. About 9:30 p.m. I heard the alarm calls for a few minutes, then silence. It’s strange how this is the first time I’ve heard it calling since March. That’s from vernal equinox to summer solstice, almost. Does it have some kind of internal clock that sends it to this area in a cycle?
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In the late ’90s I was walking up the main road to the back entrance of the Palace. I encountered a very large turtle on the side of the road opposite the Palace driveway. It had a shell that was about 12″ in diameter, so I knew that it was very old. I was a cleaning woman for the guest facilities at the back of the Palace at that time, so I got a black plastic garbage bag from the storeroom. When I leaned over the turtle with the bag outstretched, to move it back across the road, it leaped several inches in the air at me. I knew then that it was a snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina serpentina) and could bite off my finger if I got too close. Eventually, it turned back around towards the Palace lake, crossed the lawn, and dove in.
A few weeks ago (mid-May), I went out for a walk around noon. I spied a lump in the road and went to examine it. I saw that it was a turtle that was baking in the hot sun. Using a branch, I spent about half an hour trying to get it back into the bushes along the roadside, on the down hill side towards water. I was amazed at how firm a grip it had, even with only one foot holding on. It stayed in one spot, beside a piece of log, the whole afternoon. I called to the Schrader Nature Center at Oglebay, but they did not want it.
Before dusk, one of the neighbors came by on a tractor. The wheels went over the spot where I thought the turtle was hiding. After checking underneath all of the bushes and not finding remnants of squashed turtle, I realized that it had made its escape. After I looked it up online, I discovered that it was an eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina).
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There is a chorus outside my window. This haiku seems appropriate for this first day of summer:
proudly pricks up its whiskers
(trans. by Stephen Addiss)
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Today marks the summer solstice, the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. It is also the first official day of summer.
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Today is celebrated as West Virginia Day, in honor of the entrance into statehood of West Virginia. It split from Virginia in 1863 and today marks the 144th anniversary. West Virginia is noted for great natural beauty, an abundance of wildlife, and a huge variety of plants. This is a photo of great mullein (Verbascum thapsis) in bloom:
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