I recently went to Mars and thought I'd post a couple pics from there. And if you didn't know, it is located a bit north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Yes, your science books had it all wrong.
And across the road from that sign, is a much bigger welcome sign. But this one you really have to read closely to get it. Funny!
Main Street Mars. Yes it's Mars Bank, and a welcome to Mars banner, but did they really have to even do the street name Mars-hall???
And finally, yes, you can buy Mars property...
Don't know if I've posted a close-up of one of these before, so here is one. This is a dark-eyed junco, which in West Virginia is typically the slate-colored variety. Nice little birds that tend to fly near roadsides in the evening so I catch them in the bat nets fairly often.
Australia loves its bats, and it has some good ones. But after the beautiful flying foxes, what bat would one put on a coin? How about the Ghost Bat (Macroderma gigas). This bat is carnivorous, and like many such bats gets the nickname the False Vampire Bat, with the emphasis on "false."
These are cave bats, mostly found in northern Australia, and are a bit ghostly looking. They are gray on the top, and white on the bottom so there is that. But, they are actually called ghost bats because they have very thin wing membranes which give them a bit of a ghost-like appearance during flight.
The coin itself is quite the thing. With opal being a national treasure of Australia, they set about designing an entire set of coins using opal inlays. There are quite a number of animals in the series, such as kangaroos and pythons and the like, but in 2015 they gave the ghost bat the opal treatment.
So here it is. A 2015 Australia $1 PROOF 99.9% silver coin with a ghost bat inlaid with opal.
Now that's a very neat-o coin, and fantastically difficult to photograph. The outer rim is silver and in a mirror proof finish, while the center is black with an opal inlay that twinkles colors in the shape of a bat. It will take more than one photo to really show this one.
But the coin itself is extremely well-designed. The bat in the center with the black (for night) is surrounded by a set of cave formations (for its habitat), a crescent moon (neat how they show the full moon with only detail on the crescent) to show it is night out, and the southern cross constellation to note it is the southern hemisphere. Exactly what the meaning of those kurrajong flowers is eludes me, but must be something particularly Australian. Oh yeah, and the little 'P' is the mint mark and stand for the Perth Mint, and the other small print says "ghost bat" and 2015 1oz 999 silver.
The coin is fully legal tender and could be spent for a dollar, not that that is likely to ever happen. Which bring me to the other side (which is the obverse, and which is the reverse is a bit confusing here).
On this side one finds Queen Elizabeth II, surrounded by rays and looking most majestic. And other than the country name, Australia, the coin is simplified down to just the denomination. Elegant actually.
But there needs to be a better look at the bat. Not that it was designed to really look exactly like the bat, but to see the inlay better. Which was another photographic trouble spot. With the lighting needed to get any kind of photo every little tiny mote of dust lit up like a miniature sun and well lots of other stuff. But here is a look at the inlay.
Looks quite like a bat! Remarkable job I'd say, and in fact it honestly does look a lot like the ghost bat in most ways. Well done.
So, this coin needs some kind of box to package it up and send it in and keep it in. So, they did up an equally nice bit of packaging. The box itself is well-designed with all the elements that are on the coin, and inside it comes with a certificate of authenticity and information about the coin and the bat. Of note, they say that no more than 8,000 of these will be distributed.
And finally, FINALLY, I will try and show just exactly how the Perth Mint meant for the coin to be gawked at. See, in that little felt case that actually houses the coin, there is a photo sensor that, when it senses light, turns on a little LED light aimed at the coin. Yeah, really. So you open it up, the light comes on, and the con just absolutely glows brilliantly with all that silver and opal and colors and well, take a look...
Rising to over 300 feet on the first hill, and reaching speeds over 90mph, this is a pretty amazing rollercoaster at Kings Dominion in Virginia.
I often am asked about getting bitten by wildlife. Generally the answer is the same, that other than mosquitoes and the like, I don't get bitten by stuff unless I have to handle it. And then, well, things bite, so just don't handle wildlife, okay?
But it's my job to grab things and do stuff, like measure ear length or weigh them. Lots of things depending on the project I am on. So yes, I get bitten. And this has become a point of question again since I posted in a side note that scarlet tanagers bite, but that it doesn't hurt much.
Different species tend to either bite a lot, or not. Some birds never seem to realize that might even be a thing, while others, most notably the chickadee, do nothing but try and bite. Some can give a pretty good pinch, especially the ones with a strong bill like a grosbeak, but mostly it really isn't hard enough to do much.
And, one of the times I am most likely to get bitten is when taking the photos to document the species capture. See, when taking animal measurements I can control the whole animal including the mouth, but for the photos the head needs to be fully in the clear. Which of course allows it more freedom to take a nip. So while I normally just ignore the photos that don't well-document the species for our records, I do have other ones that show what the animal was doing while I was trying to get a good pic.
And to satisfy curiosity, here is what a bite from a scarlet tanager looks like. See, not much, but if it gets you in the soft spot between your fingers you'll know about it.
Just a quick pic of a small, cute bat. Small-footed bats only run about 5 grams in weight, or roughly the weight of two pennies. Really! Quite agile flyers, but we still catch them in the nets if they are around. And as always the rubber gloves seen in the background are to protect the bats from getting something from us, not the other way around.
When in the field we run into all the wildlife at one point or another. Most often I am asked about bears and rattlesnakes. Well I put up a photo of bears, so here is a photo of a black-phase timber rattlesnake.
This 4-foot long snake was seen just about 10 feet from one of the poles that hold up the bat mist nets, so pretty much right where we had to work all night. Surprisingly, after this sighting right at dusk we never did run into him again. And yes, he was rattling away at me when I took this photo.
Beautiful animals and always great to see them, and harmless if merely left alone to go about there business.
There was a 4.5 foot long black rat snake in camp one day, but I was out. By the time I got back it had taken up residence in a tree hole that just seemed a bit too small for a snake that large. This is all I could see of the snake.
We saw a lot of scarlet tanagers flying around during the day, but one evening just after opening the bat nets at dark I caught a female in the net. They tend to bite, but it doesn't much hurt. And obviously the female is not exactly scarlet, but a fine shade of greenish yellow. This bird was quickly photographed and released so it could get to its night roost without much delay.
Where I was camping and working in Pennsylvania we had more than our share of bears. Pretty much saw one or more every day, and sometimes quite close. These were seen while a couple of us were walking along a trail about 200 feet from our camp. Mom wasn't super happy when she saw us, but no real danger as they are more interested in going the other direction when we bump into each other. Admittedly, bumping into this pair only 40 feet away was maybe as close as one would like for such a wildlife encounter. They posed just a moment like this, I snapped a quick photo, and they were outta there.
Keith Christenson - Wildlife Biologist