Frog Calls and Other Songs of Life

Wildlife sounds are AWESOME.  They are relatively easy to learn and allow you to identify and enjoy animals even when you can’t see them.  Here are some resources to get you started on identifying the sounds around you that you may have been missing:

Frogs and Toads

Here in the Northeast there are only a handful of frogs you are likely to hear.  Many people are able to identify the jingle-bell like chorus of Spring Peepers

Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer)

but you might not know many of the other frog and toad species that start singing their heart out this time of year.  My graduate research has involved being able to identify frog calls and there are some great easy resources out there for anyone who wants to learn.  The best is from USGS which has a site where you can learn the calls and then test yourself on them:

Click HERE to look up frog calls in your area

Navigate to the ‘Public Quiz’ tab or click HERE to test yourself!

I find learning wildlife calls a lot of fun and frogs are an easy place to start for kids or adults. Go out in the evening at dusk and see what you recognize! Ponds, wetlands, and even unlikely seeming flooded roadside ditches might be teaming with sounds you never noticed before.


The next step might be bird calls, of which there are many beautiful and strange ones to learn.  There are many many bird songs and even accomplished birders can’t identify everything.  But it is pretty easy to identify the common birds in your area or even your backyard.

Here are a few to get you started:

There is also a great website called BirdJam where you can look up specific calls if you know the species OR you can click on the habitat you are in (woods, field, shoreline, urban/suburban, etc) and try and figure out what you might be hearing.  And another great place to turn for bird info is Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology where you can find thousands of sounds, facts, and activities related to birds and birding.


I know less about insect calls, but I just recently bought this book:

And I’m excited to learn more!  The author John Himmelman is a well known author of books on insect and other wildlife for children and adults.  He also has a website where you can listen though some of the calls:

Cricket Radio

I LOVE that it’s called Cricket Radio.  There are also many mammals that make sounds (coyotes howling, foxes screaming, squirrels chattering, and however you describe the noise a hungry porcupine makes), but there are few guides on them so you might have to search through youtube or find them out for yourself!  That’s all for now.  Now go outside and keep your ears open!

Candle Making

So I’m not going to go over candle making step by step because there are some great websites and resources for that out there already.  I used both the instructions that came with my kit as well as info from which has great stuff for candle and soap making:

What I WOULD like to do is share some learning experiences I’ve had and show off the finished products.  Candle making is definitely something anyone can do, and I’m having a lot of fun with it.  The basics are to heat up some wax (always in a double boiler, not directly), add in some color and essential oils or fragrance (see here for the difference:, and then pour into a container or a mold.  Here is the kit I got from Amazon (I think it was about 20 bucks):

It came with a pouring pot, clip on thermometer, some wicks and molds, and some blocks of color and fragrance and a hunk of wax.  It worked perfectly well and was a good easy beginner kit, so I recommend getting something like it unless you already have something you can easily use for a pouring pot and clip on thermometer.  You can also get all of these things separately.  I of course got over excited and bought more wax and liquid dye colors and some essential oils for the hundreds of candles I was sure I was going to make!

   $5 – DON’T use food coloring  $2 a pound for the basic stuff

$20 I couldn’t help myself

The essential oils are not specific to candle making so there are several that smell nice and a few that are medicinal but not the best candle fragrance (like tea tree oil).  Needless to say I immediately opened all of them and sat smelling them.  Lavender in particular is awesome for headaches.  Put a drop on your fingers and massage your head and it does really seem to make my sinuses happier.  I also sat smelling the orange extract essential oil for like 20 minutes…who needs drugs when you can DIY?

There are several wick holder type dealies you can buy to keep the wick in place while the candle hardens…but that seemed silly to me, so I suggest making your own.  I just folded up a piece of paper and taped it, and then cut a slit in it to hold the wick:

It worked fine.  You could also chop sticks or something similar to lay across the top and hold it in place…be creative!

Lastly, I wanted to add a little personal touch so I shameless searched the internet for cute pictures to steal and made some little decorative labels.  I made up three and I think I’ll put them each on a different scented candle.  Maybe see if I can sell some on Etsy?  I’m having so much fun making them, I might as well see if I can make a little money on it.  Here are the labels:

Critter Candle Bands

And the finished product.  You can see where I did the second pour because I didn’t heat the wax up quite enough so it didn’t quite merge with the wax below.  This one is orange/lemon grass scented.  I meant to make it more orange colored…clearly coloring the candles has a bit of a learning curve….Practice makes perfect!:

Happy Sunday everyone! Now go outside!

Mammal Feeder

I bought a bird feeder to put in the mini-backyard at the condo I live in a few years ago.  And while I do get the usual cardinals and chickadees and assorted LBB (little brown birds), I mostly get mammals.  Thus it is more of a mammal feeder.  And today I saw the first chipmunk of the year at my feeder! Chipmunks are inactive during the winter so this is a sure sign that spring is underway and I thought I would spend a post recounting the various mammals that my mammal feeder has attracted.

The first is obviously the squirrels with whom I have waged a seemingly un-winnable war:

It is pretty fun to bang on the window and watch them all freak out though

They seem to love the endless challenge of the baffles I put on and around my feeders and have grown to enjoy the spicy taste of the hot pepper spray.  They have worked together with the raccoons to get into the metal container where I keep the seed.  And of course, they have perfected the art of dog-taunting:

Very soon squirrel, very soon.


And there are those under the porch dwellers and drifters, that have included raccoons possums, skunks,and rabbits:

‘Allo there, can I borrow a cuppa sugar?

As well as one very contemplative woodchuck:

How much wood could I chuck? What does that even mean?

And of course, my little buddy Norbert the chipmunk who was tame even by chipmunk standards.  Chipmunks are total foodsluts and I probably could have had him jumping through hoops for peanuts, but all I really wanted was to cuddle.

I haven’t seen him since that summer so I’m a little worried due to the high volume of cats in the neighborhood, but maybe he just found a better meal over at the retirement home across the way.  Them old ladies are pretty free with their breadcrumbs.

Happy first day of chipmunk season to you all!

Flower Crowns

So I was very excited last week to discover that it is crazy easy to make chains of flowers for crowns and necklaces and bracelets.  Are you ready for this?  Here is what you need:

1. Flowers                                                                                                                                  2. Thumbs

I did this with my cousin over the weekend for Easter and we had a blast! Here are the steps:

1.  Collect flowers.  Flowers that work best have relatively long stems and must be herbaceous (non-woody/tough stems). I have heard dandelions and daisies work well.  We used my mom’s violets pansies from her planters….er…thanks mom!  Make sure you pick them so you have an inch or more of stem.

2. Use your thumb to make a slit in the stem a little ways down from the flower and then thread the next flower through it.

3. Pull tight and then put a slit in the next stem for the next flower.  Continue on adding flowers until the length you would like it reached.  Finish by making a second slit in the first flowers stem and pushing the last flower through it.

Kids can easily do this with a little practice!  Here is my cousin with her finished crown.  She decided to put two daffodil into it as well…I would advise cutting the stems shorter but she liked the “antenna”:

Happy Spring!

New Purse!

My dear crafty friend Sarah has finished the purse I commissioned from her!  She is magical and turned these lovely fabrics into this amazing purse!

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It is the perfect size and has awesome pockets and an adjustable strap as well as a key clip on the inside!

She is awesome and you should go buy things from her Etsy store:

Happy Monday!

NestCams & WildCams – Keeping up with the Bird-Dashians

Say good bye to whatever you were planning on getting done today…

It’s nesting and baby-makin’ season and there are some amazing live web cams set up to view a whole host of species as they go about their lives.  Please let me know if you know of others!

Cornell’s NestCams have some exciting stuff going on right now including:

Great Blue Heron and Red-Tailed Hawk with their newly laid eggs. 

The Raptor Resource Project also has several cams via Ustream:

These include it’s popular Decorah Eagle Cam.  Right now you can see mom with three healthy chicks!

Project FeederWatch is another great Cornell Project with webcams on feeders in cool places.

This is also a citizen science project you can get involved with!

A site called U See Wildlife has several cams although I’m not sure who it is run by or where the cams are located:

They have cams set up in several locations and claim to often spot deer, raccoon, bear, bobcats, etc, for you more mammal inclined enthusiasts

Lastly here is a list from NPS of the webcams they have up at various National Park.  (Click the blue links)

Some of these will take a little bit to load, but I think they are worth it.  When I have to spend the day inside in front of my computer it’s nice to at least get a peek of what the world is up to.  And I’m definitely not alone.  At the time I was watching the Decorah Eagle cam there were 35,000 other viewers and the Cornell cam has a very active chat room up next to the cam for questions and comments.  Reality TV at it’s best.


Reusing Candle Containers

If you, like me, are a bit of a candle-a-holic then you probably end up with a bunch of candles with too little wax and too short a wick to use.  I found a great article on on how to clean these up for reuse.  Check it out if you want more details:

But I’ve tried it and I’ll give you a brief overview here:

1. Use a spoon to scoop out the gross old left over wax in the container. Get what you can out, but don’t worry too much if there are some bits left.  Make sure you get the wick out as well.  Hint, don’t do this with the candle lit.

2. Preheat oven to a little less than 200 degrees F

3.  Place containers open end down on a cookie sheet or shallow pan with parchment paper under them

4. Pop em in for about 10-15 minutes

5. Take them out – notice the left over wax has melted and soaked into the paper

6. Carefully hold them with a towel or oven mitt and use a paper towel to get all the rest of the gunk out

6.  Congrats! You have brand new containers ready to use!

I just got some candle making stuff in the mail so hopefully I’ll get a chance to do use these container to make some new candles and report back in the near future.

Now go play outside! It’s wicked nice out!

Happy Animals Being Happy

It’s Monday and everyone needs a little cheering up on Monday, so I’ll share a ridiculous collection I have.  Sometimes in my meanderings of the internet I run across photos of animals that genuinely look like they are having an awesome time.  I have collected many of these into a folder called “Happy Animals Being Happy”.  Sometimes when I’m bummed I take a look at these critters just enjoying life and it makes me feel better.  At some point in my life I’m hoping to surround myself with actual happy animals and children (starting this summer at Audubon!) but until then, sometimes you just need a photo of a kid licking a pig:






Please feel free to share your own Happy Animals Being Happy!

Procrastination Station

Well, here we are.  I am in the process of finishing up my masters in natural resources at UVM in the next few months.  In that time I need to finish analyzing my data, write, defend, move out of my apartment, and prepare for a job starting soon after.  But while I’m not doing those things maybe I will relate funny stories to you about attempted DIY projects, wildlife encounters, and videos I find the involve cats riding roombas and other nonsense.  Enjoy!

I have been told that blog entries are better when they involve a picture.  So here is a picture of me as a kid preparing for a lifetime of adventure:

Stay Tuned!