Category Archives: Photos

Unfulfilled promises

It feels like a house with one of its children gone.  Perhaps even emptier than that.

Loki sitting on the floor staring at me (162_6284)

It feels like a song with no music or lyrics.  Perhaps even quieter than that.

A close-up of Loki as he looks outside (163_6319)

It feels like a bed with no one to warm it.  Perhaps even colder than that.

Loki half asleep on the bed (2009_03_01_011809)

It feels like a list of unfulfilled promises that can never be redeemed.  Perhaps even more disappointing than that.

A close-up profile of Loki as he sleeps (20081005_13451_new)

At least now he can sleep peacefully without suffering.  That’s the only substantive good I can find in this hollow.

Loki, February 1997 – May 2014

From above

It started with a cacophony of avian voices, mostly eastern bluebirds, but also a titmouse, a mockingbird, a few sparrows, and even a cardinal.  Oh the racket they made.

I meandered toward the noise to see what was happening.  I saw the bluebirds—both the male and female—flitting to their nest box and hovering near the entrance, then flying to the roof of a storage shed where they would hover where the wall and roof met.  All the while the bluebirds complained loudly and constantly, joined often by the other birds in attendance.

“Their young must be fledging,” I thought to myself.  Only I knew it was too early for that; the bluebird young wouldn’t fledge for another week.  And even if they were fledging, the other birds wouldn’t care.

So what was going on?

I decided to move closer, knowing it would disrupt the birds, but also knowing it was the only way I could figure out this raucous rabble-rousing.

Texas rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri) climbing atop a wall (20140424_10059)

Facing into the setting sun and peering at the roof of the shed, the cause of the uproar made itself quite apparent.  From outside, at least, where I could see part of a large snake as it meandered atop the wall.

With the bluebird house only a few paces away, I had no problem understanding the hoopla.

Texas rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri) climbing atop a wall (20140424_10073)

More of the snake was inside the shed than outside.  And trust me when I say there was a lot of snake to be seen.

Close-up of a Texas rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri) climbing atop a wall (20140424_10069)

Perhaps six feet/two meters long, this Texas rat snake (a.k.a chicken snake; Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri) didn’t appear phased by the birds outside.  For that matter, it seemed only casually interested in my presence, even though I stood close enough to reach up and touch it.

Close-up of a Texas rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri) climbing atop a wall (20140424_10085)

Our bluebird houses are protected by multiple lines of defense: barbed wire encircling the posts that hold them up and baffles higher up that stop anything from climbing to the nest boxes.  But the birds don’t know they’re so heavily guarded.

Texas rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri) climbing atop a wall (20140424_10075)

Besides, many snakes—rat snakes included—are excellent climbers, able to slither into trees, up walls and posts and poles, and pretty much surmount any vertical obstacle so long as they can get some grip.

Texas rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri) climbing atop a wall (20140424_10093)

As long as they knew the snake was there, the birds continued their uproar.  And the snake?

Close-up of a Texas rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri) climbing atop a wall (20140424_10101)

Eventually it curled up in the corner beneath the roof, apparently settling in for a nap.

We had no problem leaving the snake to its evening and its eventual hunt.  This is a real farm, and that means we have real rodents.  Rat snakes make a welcome addition to our anti-rodent arsenal.

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  1. This encounter reminded me of a not too dissimilar encounter last year while my cousin was visiting.  I’ll have to share that story soon.
  2. Not all small critters are unwelcome.  Rats, mice and gophers are some of our worst enemies, but we also have moles who are not villains.  I recently caught one—an eastern mole (Scalopus aquaticus)—and relocated it to safer territory away from the house and farm buildings since our outside cats hunt those areas.  And yes, I took pictures of the mole, so I’ll share those soon as well.

Warm company

Yesterday I took a walk around our largest pasture, a space that is half woods and half prairie.  My primary mission was to look for a fallen tree in case it landed on the fence (something I heard around 2:30 AM that morning but couldn’t definitively locate by sound).  My secondary mission, of course, was to take pictures and enjoy nature.

Unfortunately for me, the jaunt came after heavy rain and on a moderately cool day and on a very windy day.  I had little hope of seeing much other than flowers and fungi, perhaps even the occasional arthropod, the latter being mostly comatose given the temperature.

Texas spiny lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus) (20140408_09848)

To my surprise, I had a good deal of warm company no matter where I looked.  That company came in the guise of Texas spiny lizards (Sceloporus olivaceus).  Mostly males, these reptiles seemed to be out in force occupying every sunny spot available.

Texas spiny lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus) (20140408_09865)

They didn’t welcome my company, of course, but they likewise didn’t rush away just because I appeared.  After all, scampering about served only to remove them from open spots in sunlight.

Texas spiny lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus) (20140408_09881)

A few butterflies[1] and a few caterpillars couldn’t fill the long walk, and the flowers and fungi are ubiquitous and thus things I have seen and photographed on a regular basis[2].  Thus it was with great pleasure that I welcomed the warm company of these lizards, even if they weren’t exactly thrilled with my invasion of their sunbathing moments.

Texas spiny lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus) (20140408_09889)

Despite my lack of activity of late[3], herein lies a bit of what’s to come.  Or at least a bit of the warm company I enjoyed yesterday.

Oh, and the fallen tree was beyond the pasture.  The only thing I found on the fence was a sapling about 15 feet/5 meters tall.  And I removed it without difficulty.  Apparently the big tree I heard fall was one well beyond our property.

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  1. We have been mindful of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus).  Given the precarious situation they’re in—likely to be wiped out in the next decade at most—we’ve allowed all manner of milkweed to grow around the farm.  And we’ve been watchful for their presence.  Yesterday I saw two across the expanse of a multi-acre pasture.  Sad, yes, but still hopeful.
  2. For the other tidbits I saw and photographed and didn’t present here, you can expect to see them in an upcoming post.
  3. I’ve been busy of late with tasks about the family farm, not to mention the rebuild of my laptop—going from Windows to Linux.  I’ll share a bit later about my experience on the Linux upgrade.


For those who have followed the news recently—or, in fact, for the past thirteen years—relevance has been granted to a group of steel beams found “amidst the debris of the World Trade Center following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks,” steel beams which, to the religiously inclined, obviously resemble a Christian cross.  Never mind that such constructs exist in every structure built with crosswise supports, like the transverse beams of a sailing ship built centuries ago.  This one, by golly, is a sign!  Despite being nothing more meaningful than two crossed structural steel beams, it’s obviously a Christian cross.  Right?

And so you see a face on Mars.  And an elephant in a cloud.  And Jesus in a piece of toast.  All because you see meaning where none exists.

Unfortunately for atheists, they also see a cross where none exists, and so they spin their wheels and rage against the machine and battle to keep a religious symbol out of public life—a religious symbol that does not exist.

Why doesn’t it exist?  Because it’s just a pair of crossed steel beams, the same kind of crossed beams found around the globe in any structure built with the same specifications, whether built of wood or concrete or steel or whatever.  In the end, transverse structural support is just that—crosswise bracing.  It’s nothing more complicated than that.

Nevertheless, people want to find meaning in it, and those people are Christian and atheist and any number of other groups.

What all these people suffer from is a form of apophenia called pareidolia: the ability of the human mind to find meaning in random stimuli.  If you see patterns in clouds or see a face on the moon or hear meaning in records played in reverse, you’re suffering from pareidolia.  And if a structure falls and you see a cross in two steel beams, you’re suffering from pareidolia as well.

How do I know?  Let me show you the dragon I found.

A dragon via pareidolia

There it lurked in the woods, staring at me even as I stared at it.  A dragon.  A monster.  A mythological beast as real as I am.

I saw it, I photographed it, I experienced it.

A dragon via pareidolia

Camouflaged to look like so much debris, evolved to seem as innocent as a fallen tree in the forest, the dragon never flinched as I looked at it.  And I never flinched as I photographed it.

For it gave me proof that such creatures exist, pictures of a demon heretofore considered a whimsical thing, an unreal thing, an imaginary thing.  Yet there it was.

A dragon via pareidolia

While others might see only a rough wood felled by nature itself, I know better.  Just as others see a cross in the steel beams of a fallen building, I see a dragon in the fallen remnants of a tree.

If they’re right about the cross, then I’m right about the dragon.

Blog reboot

I’m rebooting xenogere.


Mating pair of syrphid flies (a.k.a. hover flies; Toxomerus marginatus)

Since I last changed my blog theme, I’ve grown increasingly disenchanted with blogging.

That is to say I’ve hated the idea.

But no more.

Close-up of a red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

Facebook and Twitter and Google+ and various other diversions will no longer distract me.

I will, however, continue to focus on my novels.

Because I have more important things to do.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) mobbing a feeder

And I’ll focus on photography.

Because I can make money with that, let alone use it to expand my horizons.

A male eastern Hercules beetle (Dynastes tityus) crawling on my hand

And I’ll focus on technology work since that has put many a coin in my pockets.

I mean, hey, come on already.

A female white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) with her fawn

I started blogging more than eleven years ago.

It’s time to either shut down and move on or restart and move forward.

I choose to move forward.

A Striped bark scorpion (Centruroides vittatus) eating a cricket--which has been decapitated

As you can see, I’ve made significant changes to the site. These changes aren’t done yet. In fact, not only are they a work in progress, they’re a work in need of focus.

There are problems I must fix, changes I must make, enhancements I must address.

So the site’s incomplete. But trust me when I say I’ll take care of it.

a Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis carolina) crawling along a storage barrel

Meanwhile, it’s time for me to get back on the horse so to speak.

And I intend to do just that.