Fox and Raccoon Videos

Here are some notable videos from my trail cam over the past few weeks:

Fox videos

Two foxes in the same video! This is the only time that's happened.

A nice closeup view:

This is rather rude, but funny:

Raccoon videos

The family of raccoons is back! The little ones have grown a lot since the previous video.

A few weeks later they return again, this time for a nice closeup.

The Trapped Bird

Three years ago I posted about a bird that died at our bird feeder, with its head stuck in the food hole. That was very weird. A couple of weeks ago, in the evening as it was getting dark, Wendy looked out the window and saw a bird at the feeder with its head in the hole. She looked again a while later, and the same bird was still perched in the same position. "Is that another dead bird?" she asked.

We both watched the bird for any sign of movement. Suddenly it flapped its wings, so it was alive! But it also didn't change its position. Its head was still in the hole. We realized then that the poor thing was stuck, and we had to do something to help free it. Otherwise it would stay stuck until it died. Probably just like the bird from 3 years ago!

We went outside and tried to figure out what to do. The bird made no effort to fly away, so it was clearly stuck. I got a stick and tried to gently nudge the bird from side to side, hoping that would help. But it didn't. All that happened is that the bird flapped its wings every so often. I needed another course of action. So I went inside, got some gloves, and very gingerly took hold of the bird and tried to gently pull it out. This was terrifying, because I was afraid I was going to hurt it. But I couldn't get the bird out. It was really stuck in there. A couple of times as I held it, the bird squawked at me, at which point I immediately let go. I needed to try something else.

At this point I took the feeder off the pole it hangs on, and tried turning it this way and that, thinking that maybe a different angle would help the bird get free. But that didn't work either. I tried again to nudge it with a stick, but still no luck. Wendy was watching all of this, holding a flashlight for me, and offering suggestions and moral support. The only other thing I could think of was to remove the bottom of the feeder, which was held on by screws. I didn't think it would help, based on where the bird's head was stuck, but I couldn't think of anything else to do, and neither could Wendy.

So I set the feeder on the grass, went inside, and got a screwdriver. When I came back out, I walked up to the feeder and started to kneel down. The feeder was sitting slightly unevenly on the grass, and as I was kneeling, it suddenly lost balance, and started to tip over. Wendy gasped, and I watched in horror as the feeder seemed to tip over in slow motion.

When it hit the ground, somehow the bird popped free! It flew a foot or two off the ground, hovered for a few seconds, and then flew off above Wendy's head, at which point she screamed. I watched it fly to the very top of one of our trees. It's flight path was slightly wobbly, but only slightly, and it was able to fly to the top of the tree.

Wendy and I both breathed a huge sigh of relief! The bird was free and seemed to be mostly unharmed. We were so worried it would be badly injured, or that we wouldn't be able to free it. I'm not sure how exactly it popped free, but I'm so glad it did. I decided right then and there to throw the bird feeder away. One dead bird and almost another one was enough, so into the garbage bin it went. When we got back inside, Wendy said "That was stressful!" Yes! Yes, it was! (I'm exhausted from just typing up the story for this post.)

The next morning I got to relive a few scenes of the trapped bird, because my trail cam dutifully recorded videos of the event! It didn't get any particularly good videos, though. There's one of me nudging the bird with a stick, one of me looking at the feeder while Wendy holds the flashlight, one of me taking off my gloves to go inside and get the screwdriver, and one of me watching the bird fly away right after it got free. I was hoping it would get a video of the bird popping free, but it didn't.

Here's the best screenshot I could get from the videos of the trapped bird (it's on the left):

Later that evening I started looking online for a new bird feeder. I found two different feeders on Amazon where someone left a review saying the same thing (a bird getting stuck) happened to them! One of the reviews even had a picture of it. This is crazy; I never knew such a thing could happen!

Eventually I did buy a new bird feeder, the Squirrel Buster Plus from a local wild bird shop. It took several days for the birds to get used to it, but they're now starting to use it more:

I sure hope this one goes better!


In my recent post about Wildlife, I mentioned a bunch of different animals: raccoons, ducks, fish, foxes, toads, and turtles. But I did not mention egrets, despite seeing them frequently at the pond near our house. The main reason I didn't is because I couldn't get a picture of them. They often hang out along the shore of the pond, but every time I got close enough to take a picture, they would fly away as soon as I pulled out my phone.

Finally I realized I should get my phone's camera ready in advance. A few days later, while I was out walking, I saw an egret on the shore in the distance. I pulled my phone out, started the camera app, held it up for a picture, and kept walking towards the bird. Once I got close enough, all I had to do was press a button. It still flew off when I got too close, but at least I got some semi-decent pictures:

A couple weeks ago, I was out for a walk in the evening, and I noticed an egret with a fish in its mouth! I pulled out my phone and snapped a picture. Apparently it was too focused on dinner to fly away this time.

As I was looking at my phone and taking this picture, I heard a crunching sound. I looked up, and it had swallowed the fish!

Stone Bridge Trail

Last summer I wrote about some new trails we explored, which included the Long Prairie Trail. That's become one of our favorite trails to ride; we've gone there a couple of times so far this summer. It runs east/west for 15 miles. At the western edge, when the Long Prairie Trail ends, the Stone Bridge Trail begins. A couple weeks ago we rode a portion of that trail for the first time, and we really enjoyed it. There were several noteworthy things from the ride.


First up, are turkeys! There were a couple of turkeys out for a stroll on the trail. As we rode by, they quickly moved off the road and into the bushes. I tried to take some pictures, but they mostly turned out blurry. This zoomed-in photo is the best I could get:

Kind of fun!


Next, we saw a couple of deer on the trail, well ahead of us. One of them had very impressive antlers! We stopped to watch them from a distance, and they watched us back, suspiciously. When I took out my phone, they started to run away down the trail and then into the woods. Here's another zoomed-in photo, which is the best I could get:

We rode a bit further ahead, and then stopped again because we could still see them through the trees. From the glimpse that I got, they looked enormous! A few seconds later they ran further into the woods, out of sight. I wish I could have gotten a better picture, because they were much larger deer than I'm used to seeing. The photo above doesn't do them justice.

I think we were really lucky to see them, too, because other bikers appeared a minute later. They would have scared off the deer had we not done so first. Anyway, it was very cool!

Stone Bridge

Finally, the trail took us over a stone bridge, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

After we rode across it, we parked our bikes and went down a very steep and twisty walkway. Here's the view from halfway down the walkway, looking towards the bottom and then looking up towards the trail:

 At the bottom was an observation platform, with a display stand that had lots of history of the bridge and the area. Here's the bridge as it is now, and what it used to look like back when the trail was a railway:

After returning to our bikes, we rode back to our car and drove home. It was a fun trip!


A few days ago my trail cam recorded a family of raccoons marching through our back yard in the wee hours of the morning. It was kind of cute:

Last night, I went for a walk around the neighborhood. I saw a mama duck watching a bunch of little ducklings frolic about in the water. It, too, was kind of cute. So I took a picture, but as soon as I pulled my phone out the mama duck turned around to look at me, so the final picture wasn't as cute as I'd hoped:

Several weeks ago, while on a walk around our neighborhood, Wendy spotted an unusually large fish in the pond by our house. I recorded this video of it:

Several blog posts ago (here), I posted a video of a fox jumping over our neighbor's fence. Since then we've gotten 2 more videos of that happening. Here they are:

Finally, a month or two ago I went out for a walk shortly after it stopped raining. Walking down our driveway, I was startled by a splash in front of me, and then I saw this big toad:

Those are the notable wildlife encounters I've had recently. Haven't seen any big turtles so far this year, but one of our neighbors said they saw one sitting in our driveway early in the morning about a month ago.

Bike Ride and Starlink

Saturday morning Wendy and I went on our first trail ride of the season.

It was sunny and warm, with highs in the 80s. Great bike riding weather. Instead of getting on the trail close to McHenry and riding north, we drove north, got on the trail, and rode south. The advantage to this is that we get the hard part -- a long, gradual uphill climb -- out of the way first. Then we have a much easier and more enjoyable ride when we turn around and head back.

Distance: 6.03 miles

One of the nice things about working from home is being able to go on a bike ride around the neighborhood during lunch. Thanks to those rides, my season total is at 43 miles (last year my total was 205 miles).

Saturday evening, a little after 10pm, I made some tea (mango ginger, delicious!). While it was steeping, I stepped out on the deck to look at the stars. After a couple of minutes, I noticed what I thought was a plane flying overhead. But then I saw another one behind it, and then another, and another... and I quickly realized it was a chain of Starlink satellites that just happened to be flying overhead right then! I yelled to Wendy to come look. We stood and watched as dozens of them slowly flew by. They were easily visible, as bright as any of the stars. Three or four would be evenly spaced, followed by a slightly larger gap, and then another three or four evenly spaced. I would guess we saw about 50 of them total; we lost count around 30 or so. It was kind of a crazy sight, but cool.

We looked up more information about them afterwards. A new batch of Starlink satellites was launched on May 15; that's probably what we saw. They stay in a chain formation for a while, but over time they spread out to their own orbits. The satellites are owned by SpaceX (Elon Musk's company) and are used to provide Internet access.

And finally, as of today it has been 2 weeks since my second dose of the vaccine, so I am now fully vaccinated!


This past Sunday, 60 Minutes aired a segment on UAPs (Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon - a modern term for UFOs). They interviewed Navy pilots who have seen strange craft, and they showed declassified video of those objects. The Pentagon confirmed the videos show craft that they can't identify. Here's a link to the segment:

Note that there are 3 separate videos on the page. Each is worth watching. I've been asked what my thoughts are, so this blog post is my answer.

Some random thoughts:

It was a really interesting segment. Kudos to the pilots for coming forward, especially considering all the ridicule they faced immediately after their encounter. Government acknowledgement of these things has to start somewhere and this is as good a place as any. Another video was released last weekend; it shows a UAP flying along the ocean surface and diving into the water. I'm hopeful that all of this results in even more evidence being released and that it allows the topic to be discussed openly and intelligently in public.

At the same time, it's frustrating. UAPs/UFOs have been around for at least 70 years. We should be much farther along than this. The government program referenced in the segment, AATIP, was started around 2007 and had a budget of $22 million dollars. That's pocket change. There have got to be much deeper programs within the government (more likely military) with infinitely more money that have been studying this since the beginning. The military isn't stupid; if there's any chance of gaining an advantage by studying these objects and potentially reverse engineering them, they would do it in a heart beat. So the 60 Minutes program is surface-level disclosure. I would bet there's still a deeper level to go. But you have to start somewhere.

Some even stranger thoughts:

The 60 Minutes program focused on pilots who saw something strange flying through the sky. Let's not forget that for decades people have reported encountering occupants of those flying objects, and have communicated with them! If any answers are going to be found to this puzzle, it will most likely be from studying those people and that communication.

I said earlier that UAPs/UFOs have been around for at least 70 years. I think it's more likely they are as old as humanity, given that similar descriptions are found in folklore, fairy tales, myths, and ancient and religious texts. So what are they? It's easy to jump to the conclusion that they're beings from another planet. But every culture that encounters these things interprets them differently, according to their cultural beliefs. It's unlikely that our culture is the one that finally gets it right.

Here's one non-extraterrestrial hypothesis (I think I read this theory in the book The Super Natural): In the far future, humanity hits an evolutionary dead end. So they travel into the past to nudge us down a slightly different evolutionary road. Thus, humanity is evolving both forwards in time and backwards in time.

But here's another idea, one that I really like: Just as fish have no idea what's happening on land, humans have no idea what's happening on some other aspect of the Earth. It might turn out that humans aren't even the most evolved species on the planet, because we haven't realized what "the planet" fully means.

Of course, I might be wrong about everything in this post, so take it all with a grain or two of salt.

The Acrobatic Fox

Last night's videos from the trail cam were the most exciting so far! It recorded 8 videos throughout the night and early morning: 1 of a raccoon and 7 of a fox, including one where the fox jumps over the neighbor's fence!

Each video is roughly 10 seconds long. I've combined them chronologically into one file so it's easier to view. Here's a breakdown of the action:

0:00 (7:18pm): Fox trots across the yard
0:10 (8:01pm): Raccoon appears
0:20 (9:01pm): Fox runs near the fence
0:30 (4:04am): Fox seems very interested in what's behind the fence
0:38 (4:20am): Fox runs through the yard with something in its mouth! (I hope it's a chipmunk)
0:47 (4:59am): Daylight, and the fox jumps over the fence!
0:57 (5:04am): Fox runs through the yard to the right.
1:07 (5:05am): Fox comes from the left, pauses, and heads to the fence

Here's the video:

I hope we get more excitement like this in the future!

Opossums, a Fox, and a Coyote?

Here's the latest on our backyard animal sightings, thanks to my new trail cam:

First up are two videos of an opossum:

I went down a small rabbit hole (opossum hole?) while writing this post trying to figure out whether I should use "possum" or "opossum" and whether to use "a" or "an" in front of "opossum". I read articles from mentalfloss, grammarly, and before deciding on "an opossum".

Fortunately, a fox has no such confusion. It's the next animal on this brief tour:

And finally, a coyote... I think?

That's the end of the tour. No skunks or raccoons yet, but I'm sure they're out there.

Words Containing Backwards Words

Several years ago I wrote this blog post about a book of word-search puzzles I bought at Sam's. I've still got it, and for the past week I've been solving a puzzle each day. Last night I worked on a puzzle where each word in the list started and ended with the same letter. At one point I found the word SPANK, which was not on the word list. Eventually I realized that spelled backwards it formed the beginning of the word KNAPSACK, which was on the word list. I had never realized that KNAPSACK contained SPANK in reverse.

Which got me thinking, what other words contain words spelled backwards? I looked online to see what I could find, but all the search results were focused on palindromes (words that read the same backward and forward, like "madam") and semordnilaps (words that spell a different word when reversed, like "war" and "raw"). But that wasn't quite what I was looking for. So I did what any nerd would do: I wrote a computer program to figure it out. My Linux system came with a standard dictionary of around 100,000 words, so I used that since it was readily available.

Reading through the results, I was struck by how funny some of the combinations were. Below is a list of some of the more notable ones. The first word on each line contains the second word spelled backwards.

adrenals => nerd
aerobic => bore
alright => girl
anemone => omen
benevolence => love
whorehouse => hero    (I can't stop singing this to the tune of "Juke Box Hero")

Episcopalians => snail
amoral => aroma
asparagus => sugar
cardiovascular => avoid
chestnuts => stunt
cognate => tango
cohesion => noise
deviant => naive
drowsy => sword
herons => snore
knapsack => spank   (proof that my program worked!)
lameness => enema
lightning => ninth
matrons => snort
muffins => sniff
myriad => dairy
nightlife => filth
revolt => lover
spacecraft => farce
strafe => farts
televangelist => navel
vegetarian => irate
weightlifter => filth

Tylenol => lonely
dairymaid => myriad
drawers => reward
excitement => emetic    (I had to look up emetic -- it means inducing vomiting!)
explained => denial
partner => entrap
werewolf => flower

phenomena => anemone

sensuousness => sensuous

I can't get over that last example. What are the odds that the word "sensuousness" contains "sensuous" spelled backwards!

Anyway, this was my idea of a fun Friday night.