Archive for the ‘animals’ Category

Dragonfly at Feldspar Mine, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

This past week I was looking at an old feldspar mine near the former MacDonald Mine (Bancroft). It would appear that the whole area is pitted with abandoned diggings through the forest and the mineral varieties range from amazonite through to Ellsworthite and uranite, a deeply shadowed quartz (smoky) being indicative of the radioactivity that is inherent in several of the local mineral species. In fact in the 1950’s the Bancroft area was a major location for the mining of radioactives. This namelss mine that I visited in the bush was especially well endowed with the typical feldspar minerals.

As soon as I can get my Camtasia video editing software going you will be able to click here to see a short video on the trip.

Anyway this particular mine was along a barely distinguishable track that was lined with tailings which made great rockhounding possibilities. A word of caution, without even realizing it both Jeff and I cut our hands to pieces on glass sharp shards of quartz. Unlike feldspar which has a tendency to break cleanly and smoothly along natural cleavage plains, amorphous crystalline quartz breaks in a random, haphazard way with concoidal fractures – exactly like you would see in glass. You might recall that the Aztecs used to cut the chests of their sacrificial victims open with obsidian blades, this quartz is much the same.

Though bug season is now mostly behind us, they are still pretty bad in places, in particular around the stagnant water of the place that we visited. Perched on a rock in front of me was this giant dragonfly – I’ve never seen one quite as large as this. From end to end the dragonfly was probably about 4 inches in length and it sat dead still as I photographed it. You can see the circle of lights from the close-up function of my camera – reflected in its eyes. The best thing about dragon flies is that they eat blackflies.

Hopefully the dragon flies do their thing over this week as the Rockhound Gemboree 2013 is this coming weekend and those mineral gathering trips are always better when the bugs are fewer.

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IMGP4157, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

At the top end of a precipitous limestone valley near Toronto JC and I had found this pipe that ran up into a concrete barrier. That day we had been looking for caves on a tip from andrew. I believe we may have found what he had described (more on that in another post), but more to the point of this picture, we found this curious rusty pipe. well it was hard to ignore the mole in me and I soon found myself crawling up it – wondering where it went.

See video here that shows a little of that day and the crawl up the pipe and what I found at the end.

I suppose there is still room for urban exploration out in the countryside, and sweeter yet is something that is old and decaying in a forgotten valley.

Stay tuned as this coming weekend JC and I are again heading northwards for some serious Ontario cave exploration. We have several leads, in particular pushing Milo Cave and hopefully opening the extension of the tunnel that leads on beneath a granite hillside. Of course the semi – albino crayfish are encouraging.

see Milo cave here

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Huge spider at the entrance to a new Ontario cave - Wasteland Waterway

Huge spider at the entrance to a new Ontario cave - Wasteland Waterway

JC and I went to Wasteland Waterway Cave today to do a bit of mapping. Well that was not entirely successful because although my waterproof paper held out, the supposedly waterproof marker did not. we only got about 7 shots done and were a little over 100 feet in before we had to quit.

As soon as I got home my mother called to see if I’d been caving and if so had it rained where I was. No it had not, the weather report for that area had no indication of bad weather and although the sky looked grey all was well at Wasteland Waterway (thankfully, obviously Goderich was a different matter. My brother-in-law had his porch torn off by a tornado). Nevertheless, as a backup precaution in case of rain we had dug open Blue barrel sink as our flood escape route.

See blue barrel sink and one of the huge spiders there – blue barrel sink

See the short video for cave mapping equipment here – cave mapping equipment.

See the cave mapping conditions here – cave mapping environment

The spider pictured above was one of several that was lurking around blue barrel sink. I believe this is what they call a hunting spider -it’s about 2 inches across, not as big as the ones in the Moira cave, but still big enough for me. In fact these looked a little different from those at Moira; notice the spiny hairs on it’s legs. I always thought spiders had 8 eyes, this one appears to only have 2 on either side.

So anyway it was pretty creepy sliding down the sinkhole knowing that there’d be more such creatures, some possibly even larger lurking in the crevices. We also discovered another cave when we dug a sinkhole open – more on that tomorrow.

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Behave Yourself! – Rockwatching Blogging Protocal


scan0001, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Well, Rockwatching has been up and running for a number of years now (5 to be exact) and I believe it has contributed significantly to the interest of people like myself who like caving, rocks, the outdoors, gems and minerals in Ontario.

We are just a few short days from 2011 and I believe it’s high time we made some resolutions -all of us  (you my loyal fellow bloggers as well).

So in the interests of all involved a few ground rules to follow on Rockwatching from now on

1) Lets not carry a personal vendetta onto this site which is meant to be a forum where like minded enthusiasts can interact in a positive way.
2) Lets respect each other and try not to get personal when we are frustrated.
3) Lets respect the basics of conservation and eco-minded thought.
4) Lets not assume stuff we don’t know for sure (hence the survey at the bottom of the post).
5) Lets keep in mind that this is all about enjoyment.
6) Lets keep in mind that just because the topic is on the table, every single aspect that pertains to it is not an open book.
7) Lets respect people who are not on the site, private property, reputations etc. Just because there is discussion of a site or feature does not mean permission has been granted to go there.

8) Lets not get petty, self righteous or important. Stop correcting my grammar, spelling or use of terms. I am a writer at heart and so I believe I can use the language as I please (providing it’s in good taste, or if I choose, not in good taste).

9) Lets not waste my time by having to re-direct you to one of the above rules.

Happy and prosperous 2011 – Mick

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Cuban Farm – Beyond the Playa

This picture appeared in the July/August 2008 issue of “Atmosphere” – Air Transat’s inflight magazine. My article was “Beyond the Playa” though initially I had called it “Mario and the Crocodile”. Mario was not one of the fellows in this picture, he was our host and a very decent and generous Cuban at that! My visit with Mario was on the same trip that I visited the Cuevas de Bellamar with Jesus (pronounced hay-zeus).

Before dinner we went on a tour of Mario’s farm – he had an alligator on a chain that he goaded for our entertainment. It lived in a scum covered cement pool behind the shed where he kept his Lada. I wondered if I could keep a pet like that, but come to think of it, we have some kind of exotic pet law back in Guelph.

Here is a little bit of how the article had initially appeared (though in “Beyond the Playa”, the editor had coaxed it into something more about the dinner than the crocodile) …

““My he looks like a nasty fellow” I commented to my host. The creature eyed me coldly. “How long have you had him?” “9 years” “ And I suppose you are going to take his belly skin? Use it for handbags? Gangster shoes?” “Si, my pet, I feed”.  Still no reaction from the beast, it seemed indifferent to its fate. I doubt that it understood me, but then again, neither did my host.

Life never fails to amaze, I wondered at the bond that must have developed over those 9 years. Master gazing fondly over his ill-tempered charge; a rusty chain fastened around its armoured neck. Reaching over in provocation the farmer yanked it’s tether and the beast went absolutely beserk, snapping and thrashing it let loose a fetid hiss from its gaping mouth. Whereas a dog bites at 300 pounds per inch this killer pulverizes bone at a crushing 5000 pounds pressure.

I wondered what it was that had bought me here. My resort offered a perfectly suitable meal – rice and beans – typical Cuban fare, and chicken or some kind of fish. “What kind of fish?” I would ask. “Cuban fish” they would invariably reply.

Well here I was in the banana grove of a farm near Varedero; overlooked by the various creatures who lived there, my host’s Cocker Spaniel, Hootie, the hootia and of course the angry beast. “Nombre?” I asked my beaming host. “Crocodillo” he told me. The “Tinyosa” – great flapping black vultures watched from a tree nearby. I am sure they hoped that I might get to close.”

As for the piggies in the picture, sweet and snuffling as they were, I believe we derived a significant amount of guilt. I hadn’t realized that one of their brethren would serve as dinner until a part of him/her appeared with our meal. I believe we would have paid for his freedom if we’d realized the consequence of our visit, but then again, a wild pig soon grows ferule and even uglier, so freedom for these creatures might be good in theory, but in practicality Mario’s family would go hungry and so would we – “Circle of Life”.

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IMG_8289-1, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

I just got back from SNAFU’s which is always interesting and you never know what kind of stuff hes gonna hit you with. He open’s the mind to some really outside the box ideas. Ask me about his musical invention “The Pneumungaphone” one day.

Today it was chamomile tea and dried seaweed as a snack. “What is it that captures the essence of SNAFU? I asked intending to take a picture. He opened his kitchen draws to find some kind of cooking implement to explain the core of his inner being. No, that didn’t do it – he’s an artist in the disguise of a mad genius, or possibly a mad genius disguised as an artist.

Anyway, you might wonder where I got a title like “Man beats hyena with a bone – look at the album cover, there is this guy there with a bone and a muzzled hyena. I’m not sure whether the thing is a pet or a captive that he beats to amuse himself when bored.

SNAFU started at Uof G around the same year as me and though neither of us were particularly well suited to formal education we both scraped through and he’s now finishing his PhD. in chemistry after spending years in Japan as an English teacher.

This record in SNAFU’s hand is called “Lagos Shake” and though I didn’t have the faintest clue as to anything about it SNAFU introduced the album with , “Well presumably you know the basic story (and I was all ears as I had thought he was going to explain the man and the hyena) “It’s a lot of electronic producers re-mixing Tony Allen stuff.

“Whos that?” I ask

“He was one of the drummers for Fela Kuti – a veritable god in African music”.

In the background there is this sound like an angry beehive that is slowly sinking in a pond and bubbling. I believe that was “Flying Lotus”, a group according to SNAFU that plays abstract hip hop. “I thought you might like it, the vocals are from Gonjasufi, but they changed it so much you’d never recognize it as Gonjasufi. “This stuff is similar to “Gas Lamp Killer and the reason that I’m telling you about them both is that Gonjasufi works with both of them and they all had a role in producing this record”.

Listening to a little Flying Lotus and leafing through his collection SNAFU suddenly shouts out “Oh, I love this record, it’s not bizarre but he did a great job anyway”. It appears that the artist is Losfeld and his album is called “Gospel” and “not bizarre” is only a matter of perception.The music starts normally and then gets bizarre with flute trilling in the background and this vocal like the guy is chanting something down a toilet role.

I was assured that “Non” would be entertaining – and that it was. “It’s spoken of as easy listening for those who’re hard of hearing. Here, I’ll just drop the needle wherever”. I only hear this roaring sound that instantly reminded me of the sound before my first parachute jump – a ripping of wind and flapping of coveralls and terrible anxiety as to whether the thing would open.

I don’t like your “Non” lets head off before the Albion fills up”.

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If the airport guy’s boss reads this you should fire him!

P1020295, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

You might wonder why I would choose to blog so desolate a picture – well in truth, it matched my mood this past Tuesday morning. I have been away for the past week on business in Dodge – Kansas. People at the airpot thought it quite funny that I did not specify Dodge – Kansas in my inquiries “Thares all sorrrts of Dodges” I was told.

It all began when my luggage did not come out on the carosel with everyone elses. I waited for around 20 minutes with several other mournfull passengers and then went to the North Western ticket counter. It took about 5 minutes before the rep choose to notice me and then when I explained my situation he said – go back and check, its probably there. I headed off full of optimism, but in glancing back I saw him dashing for the door – heading home. I knew I’d just been had. Obviously nothing had changed at the carousel and when I got back to the counter there was nobody there.

It took about half an hour before I managed to catch the attention of somebody who was coming from a door behind the counter and he said my luggage would likely be coming on another plane. The fellow recorded my details and off I went – said they would deliver it when it arrived (two and a half hours to Dodge? Thats a long way, but not uncommon)That night I phoned and they still had not found my luggage.

The following morning, still wearing the same stinking shirt I went for a walk at about 4 AM. I was feeling pretty downhearted, suspecting that I would likely have to re-equip myself at Wallmart. In our town (Guelph) I was a vocal opponent of that establishment – now here I was in Kansas having to eat my words – its pretty well the only place I could find to shop in Dodge – maybe theres other places, but that was all I knew about. Fortunately my boss was very generous with his time and the Holiday Inn were fantastic in their efforts to help – they gave me a free razor and the lady at the counter offered to find me some jeans.

This picture was beside the railway tracks, it was kind of neat in a way, I was the only one that seemed to be up at that time, besides the cattle trucks storming down “Wyatt Erpp” the main road through Dodge. For a small town in the middle of absolutly nowhere it had an interesting kind of flavor – middle America, its quite different from where I come from – people are very hospitable but the scenery is pretty grim. Passed through a town on the way from Wichita that had been entirely obliterated by a1.6 kilometer wide tornado. It killed 9 people and the town was wiped off the map. Twisted trees everywhere, a stairway went up to nowhere and a smashed -up mobile home beside the road – thats it, thats Greensburgh.

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The Bats Looked Healthy to me

P1010706, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Much has been said of the mysterious disease that had been killing bats this spring. Having just seen numerous bats in Northern Ontario (Bancroft area) I was unable to notice any of the white fuzz around the nose. This disease might possibly have just shown itself earlier in the year – or maybe it has not hit the mines up around Bancroft. These bats are sheltering up at the end of a shallow drill hole and numerous other bats were flying around in the tunnels.

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Real cute little guy – Costa Rica

Costa Rica 3 185, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

A mother and baby howler monkey in what we came to refer to as “the monkey tree”.

One really hot day when Maggie only wanted to relax on the beach I ventured further inland up a dusty road. I reached this tree that must have had about 30 howlers in it. I think it may have been a guanacaste tree that has been enveloped by a strangler fig.

The monkeys just watched me until I got really close and then the males started barking. It was insane. Every monkey within several kilometers took up the cry, you could hear them everywhere. Its quite intimidating.

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Ontario cave with a scary past.

IMG_4403, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

The picture is a little blurry but I thought that I would post it today in memory of a time not so long ago when I was able to go outside without my nose almost freezing solid.

This is Donald of the SQS – a Quebec caving organization. Donald, Corneilie, Marc Andre and I had entered this Ontario cave and we followed it to its sump where there had been an especially harrowing diving accident some years ago. Two divers followed the underwater tunnels inward and only one returned. Fortunately the diver who came back went back to the surface for extra air tanks and then returned to rescue his buddy who had found an airpocket somewhere.

What was especially cool about this cave – aside from the dip at the entrance was the bats. They were fluttering around in the tunnels in significant numbers – possibly leaving the passages by an entrance other than the one we had used.

In reaching the furthest extent of the passages I was very interested to see the sandbars which seem re-worked each year. I cant be sure – maybe I was just confused by the map but in retrospect I think that maybe a passage; that is not mapped has been exposed from behind a sand bar. I hope to visit when the weather warms up to be certain. I was reluctant to probe further on my last visit as I did not want to disturb the sediment but with a map in hand I can seperate my confusion from reality. It’s probably just wishfull thinking though.

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