Sunday, April 30, 2006

A tough story to swallow

*gasp...gasp...(Susan runs in from outside and down the steps to the computer)
(types out)...tree...swallow...gourd...tree...swallow...must document...*

I have been on a roller coaster with the purple martin house and environs for the past few days, and now there's a new level of craziness: A male tree swallow is interested in the plastic purple martin gourd. And guess what? The house sparrows are scared of him. (Insert maniacal laughter here)
I didn't see one HOSP go near the martin house while the swallow was there. Maybe this guy can hold his own...he even dove at Nellie as she wandered innocently under the gourd.
This solves a mystery...well, two:
1. It must have been him that I saw yesterday.
2. Last summer, I saw purple martins, but also some birds with them which had forked tails.
I took the above photos with my binoculars with digital camera. Not bad, for bins.
So...the tide has HOSP, but with a tree swallow in residence, the martins will go elsewhere. But you know what? I will take what I can get.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Today, a subadult male Purple Martin checked out our plastic martin gourd. He flew in, and stayed there for quite a while...I had to leave, so I don't know how long he was in there. When I got home, I closed up the martin compartments again, because the house sparrows were nest building in them. But here's the key: They won't go into the gourd. Maybe I need a few more gourds and use the compartments for trapping the HOSP.
I now have TWO bluebird boxes...because yesterday there were 2 pairs of bluebirds arguing over the one box. Didn't see them today...only HOSP. So I put pinecones in the entrances of the boxes and will watch and wait some more.
I now have all potential HOSP nest sites closed in the hope that they will disperse, at least until some bluebirds or martins have a chance to nest. One interesting thing I saw was that the HOSP would not return to the martin house while the martin was in the gourd. Hmmm...are they afraid of him? I hope so.
But here's some good news: I have Carolina Chickadees sitting on eggs, in the sunflower box above. (It's in a tree now) So at least this yard will get some baby birds this year. I don't worry about this box getting massacred by the HOSP because they can't fit into the opening.
We have had sucessful chickadee nests come from this box before. Best $5 I have spent at Hobby Lobby yet. (It was one of their few real, functional nest boxes)

Little trivia for any non-birders in southern Ohio...if you see chickadees around, they are most likely Carolina chickadees, versus Black-Capped chickadees. I never knew until I became a birder that there was more than one kind. The "line of scrimage" here in Ohio is up near Columbus, with the Carolinas staying south, and the Black-Capped up north. Yet they overlap a bit, they are virtually identical, they hybridize and imitate each other's calls. But for all intents and purposes, we have Carolina's here. And I'm providing the shelter for a sweet new family of them. Ahhh...

Friday, April 28, 2006

Memories of Dad

Today, I was yet again tilling the yard, in the corners and miscellaneous spots in preparation of all my native plantings.
Lorelei and I came in for a drink of water, and I suddenly could smell my Dad. Weird as it sounds. I was so forcibly reminded of him, it froze me.
I remembered how he would come in from the garden for a drink, and he would have the scents of gasoline, grass and hard work. It was so part of him, that smelling that smell today brought tears to my eyes.
I picked Lorelei up and sat her on the counter. Desperately needing a hug, I held her close, and thank goodness she was in the mood to be hugged. It was then that I realized that I smelled of gasoline, grass and hard work.
It got me thinking; how much of Dad and his self is living on in me? God knows he tried to drop some wisdom on me...but how much stuck?
To be like my Dad is to be honest, hard-working, wise...not a bad thing, to be like Dad.
I hope I can say it, someday.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Birding with Belle!

I'm fishin'!

Mom's wisteria is such a show-off

The pond...well, it's kinda like a swamp right now

Smallest baby HOSP

Largest baby HOSP

I dropped Isabelle off at Mom's today for a sleepover. Today was so gorgeous...a bit cool, but hey, it's not like it snowed! I took Belle down to the pond in the field to look at the house sparrow babies (yep, they're still there) and to poke around the water.

I actually got a chance to bird, because Isabelle was enjoying the quiet.

She said, and I quote, "Wow,'s so peaceful." How old is this child???!!!

But I didn't see any birds that caused any hysteria. Mourning Doves, grackles, house finches.

But that's okay...because Belle LET ME BIRD.

Most Beautiful Birds Meme

From Laura at Somewhere In NJ:

Rules: Post a list of the 10 birds you consider most beautiful on your blog; you may limit the list to the ABA area (continental United States and Canada) or use a geographic area of your choice. Mark birds you have seen with an asterisk. Tag 3 bloggers to keep it going.

1. Hooded Merganser
2. Northern Gannet
3. Ruby Throated Hummingbird *
4. Black-and-white Warbler*
5. Great Blue Heron *
6. Tree Swallow *
7. Gyrfalcon
8. Purple Gallinule
9. Northern Saw-whet Owl
10. Ivory-billed Woodpecker * (just kidding)

Okay...I tag Cathy...but I don't really know any other bloggers to tag, least, ones who actually read MY blog!
...Laura already tagged me, and she tagged Endment, too. It's up to you, Cathy!
How in the world can you really pick just 10? I think they are all beautiful...except for House Sparrows. :-)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I've been meaning to post about this, but never got around to it. This is dish soap...not the soap that goes in the dishwasher, but Dawn dish soap. And it really gets foamy in the dishwasher...and no one is owning up to putting it in there. I didn't know it was in there until the soap was pouring out of the washer in big sudsy piles. Oh, least the floor got clean.

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Dogs Gone Wild!

A compilation of hilarous dog videos.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Quote of the day

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, "I used everything you gave me".

Erma Bombeck


Cathy's blog really comes through sometimes if you need a laugh.

Here's a song about George W. and Rumsfeld. Ku-ku-kachoo.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Yet another dead animal post (plus some nice plant pics)

We have lived in this house for 6 years, and we had never seen a snake. Today I saw two. The first one, I picked up by mistake while grabbing an old fence post off the ground. Needless to say, I almost wet myself. The second one was lying headless next to the magnolia, obviously a casualty of lawn mowing yesterday.

First photo...Geoff gets fun and interesting stuff from PR agencies when he writes about their clients, and today he got two bottles of new Samuel Adams beer in this box. Since it resembles a nestbox, I thought I could find a use for it. If any birders out there would like to venture a guess as to what kind of bird would nest in this, I would love to hear it. It's about 10 inches tall, 6 inches wide, and the hole is handle-shaped, kind of like a laundry basket handle. It would be easy enough to narrow the hole, since just about anything could crawl in there.

Above: I saw more purple martins soaring and twittering above the yard today, and I thought it was a good time to put up the pseudo-gourd I bought weeks ago. Maybe it will make the yard more noticeable. Sweet little martins, please come to my yard. I am willing to do anything for you. I will even throw you crickets when the weather's bad. I will trap the house sparrows who try to crowd you out. Anything you need. We are the most bird-friendly yard around!!!!

This is my started hummingbird garden: Catchfly, bee balm and bleeding heart. As soon as the catchfly was in the ground, a bunch of cute little flying beetles alighted on it.
BTW, I saw our first little hummer today...a female. Thank you for blessing our yard, little one. We will treat you right.

Take the pledge

Okay, y'all. It's free. It's easy.
Take the Audubon Healthy Yard pledge.
And while we are on the subject, I need to get something out of my craw. When I see a Scott's Lawn Care or ChemLawn truck in our neighborhood, I want to puke.
Do these people have so much money that they would like to pay for something they don't need? Why are they poisoning their yard? Why are they killing their insect population? Why are they fertilizing the grass so it grows twice as fast?
Let's look at some facts:
1. Nature not only abhors a vacuum, but also abhors a monoculture. So these yards have grass and ONLY grass? So what? It's boring.
When a monoculture exists, any organism that is dangerous to the monoculture is capable of wiping it out. Totally wiping it out.

2. When you kill all the bugs in your yard, you are removing the food from baby birds' mouths. Many, many bird species depend on at least some insect food for their young.
Also, if left alone, nature is damn good at taking care of itself. Insect A eats Insect B, but Insect A is eaten by Bird A, B and C. So if you kill Insect A, you will be harming Birds A, B and C, but allowing Insect B to flourish and unbalance the whole thing.

3. Fertilizing your lawn makes it lush and green and pretty. It also makes it grow faster. That equals more mowing...which equals more gas being consumed...which increases our dependence on foreign oil and dirtying the air more...which falls into lakes and streams with the rain...which...I could go on and on.
Last note on fertilizing: When fertilizer runs off your property with rainfall, it ultimately ends up in some sort of natural body of water. This fertilizer feeds an algae bloom. This algae bloom a. Steals all the oxygen and kills off fish and b. Blocks out sunlight to other aquatic plants in the water and causes them to die.

Thinking about cancelling your lawn care yet?

If you have the money to spend on chemical lawn care, you have the money to donate to charity, or donate to wildlife conservation.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Susan Gets Native~All Native! All the Time!

Red Chokeberry
Dutchman's Pipe
Jenny Catchfly
I finally got to Earthscapes to start the native march into Spring.
Above are three of my purchases today.
The chokeberry will feed the birds in Fall and Winter.
The Dutchman's Pipe will be adored by the butterflies...and it grows 25-30 feet high. Gulp.
The Jenny Catchfly "caught my eye" not because I am a girly-girl who is a sucker for a pretty flower, but because Geoff is a sensitive man who is a sucker for a pretty flower. He likes all the fluffy, wavy flowers out there and when I saw this, I had to get it.
It will be a nice backdrop for the Hummingbird garden.
It's so heavy and wavy that I will need to plant it near the fence for support!
Speaking of hummers...
Geoff saw the first one of the year today feeding at the
sugar water feeder. Hoo-Yah!
I didn't photograph these, but I also got:
Bee Balm...great for bees, butterflies and hummers
Black-Eyed Susans...Seeds for birds
Bleeding Hearts...for the hummers (and butterflies, presumably)
While the girls are at school tomorrow, and after my Owl Check,
I will be gettin' dirty in the back yard!
Laura did a sweet thing:
She did a very nice, elaborate post about ponding since I mentioned that a pond is in my future. Check it out here.
Thanks, Laura!

Friday, April 21, 2006

In my next life, I'm gonna be Birdchick

She's at Bear River today, and it sounds like she's practically stumbling over the birds, it's so great.

This is where I grew up...25 years of fresh air, sunshine, love and great food! (A good recipe for growing kids)
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Mom's not having any trouble getting her wisteria to bloom. It's getting nice and's actually tied to the fence in sections
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One of my better shots, if I do say so myself
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This tree could be on the cover of a book about Haiku. It used to have a big bushy pine tree as a neighbor, and now that the pine is gone, it has a beautiful shape
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(put Lorelei in there just for perspective)
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Calling all shovels

I have worn Geoff down enough for him to admit that a pond in the backyard would be a good idea.
1. Where to put it?
CHECK: In the soggy section between the house and the pine island
2. How big should it be?
CHECK: As big as we can handle. Sites I researched all said that the pond you get will be about 30% smaller than you envisioned, and one of the top mistakes made in making a pond is starting too small.
3. How to dig a hole that big?
I am totally sure that everyone in the immediate area, and possibly beyond (Cathy, Laura, Endment, you up for it?) would love to come help us dig a really big, really muddy hole in our yard.
Okay, okay, people! Calm down! Everyone will get a chance!
No pushing!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

20 feet.

At Mom's today, I did the rounds by checking and cleaning out her bluebird houses. She has four, but is not actively trying to attract bluebirds.
The first three had trashy nests, and no eggs.
Number four was a different story...
Five naked one-day old chicks and a warm egg. (See below for photos)
Now, I posted this morning how much I hate the little buggers, because I am trying my damnedest to get some bluebirds. And I tried to remember that as I carried the nest with the chicks and egg to the pond to leave in the grass. The chicks were peeping and begging.
In my head: They're House Sparrows...House hate hate them.

I got about 20 feet.

Returning the nest and inhabitants to the box, I had a rather unpleasant dichotomy raging in my head. Eggs, empty nests, no problem. Baby birds, no matter the species, I just can't do. Even eggs, I could throw away. Eggs don't peep at you, or shiver with cold or beg for food.
I spared the life of 6 House Sparrows today. I had it in my power to end their lives and the United States would have 6 less HOSP to contend with.
But I still couldn't do it.
It's made me much of a hard-core birder am I? Do I care what those bird-or-die types will say?
Turns out that I don't care. I care about the sleepless nights I would have (and boy, would I!) and the anguish every time I walked by Mom's pond. I care about the life I held in my hand today...even if it was a House Sparrow life.
I couldn't do it.

A baby House Sparrow...what to do?
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The nest of House Sparrow chicks and one egg. Note the slummy nest, with feathers, a cigarette butt, string...
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Susan, defender of all things BLUE!

I was just outside...I had been keeping the bluebird house propped open on the premise that if bluebirds weren't nesting there, nothing would be allowed to nest there.
Well, I saw my beautiful blue boy perched in our red maple, just staring at the nest box. I ran out, set the box back to rights and I am now watching and hoping. But as I was out there, I heard the hated cheat cheat cheat of the HOSP in the fir trees. Good God in Heaven, I hate those birds! If I were traveling abroad and happened to see them, say in London, going about their little birdy lives, I would appreciate them.
But they do not belong here and they are messing with the blues and giving me the blues!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

View from a swing

View from my backyard swing
I feel like shaken Jell-O. I finally tried out my new rototiller today, and of course overdid it.
A woman and her power tools.
The soil at the back of the house has gradually been compacted over an unknown period of time due to the downspout falling off and allowing water to flood down our foundation, instead of to the sump pump. And I want to put the vegatable garden there.
It took around 2 hours of hanging onto the rototiller to scrape up approximately 15 feet X 7 feet X 4 inches of soil. And that's only half done. I should really dig down another 4 inches...but when my arms stop throbbing.
After dinner, I corralled all of us out to the back yard so I could sit and admire my work. The girls were intent on getting muddy again, and I was not in the mood to give them a THIRD bath of the day, so Geoff took them in for bedtime snack, which left me...just me...ahhh.
I was in a perfectly Zen-like zone when the brat two doors down fired up his motorbike and started fuming up the neighborhood. I tried to ignore him and suddenly was graced by the presence of our red-tailed hawk wheeling over the top of our house. Sigh...perfect.
The swing's creak, the wind making the grass whisper, the chip chip chip of the macho cardinals.
Made me forget about my arms.
Thank goodness for spring.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The girls take a break in Isabelle's cubby. I love the smile on Isabelle's face...and the chocolate gumming up Lorelei's teeth. (I got this photo by telling the girls NOT TO SMILE.)
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Lorelei's class did this piece together. Lorelei's handprint is the red one in the middle.
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From the Art Show at the girls' preschool tonight. This lovely piece was done by Isabelle and is a house with Geoff and me inside.
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Test anxiety

Warning: This is a post for birders. There are no cute pics of preschoolers or warm and fuzzy shots of pets.

Sharon Stiteler's blog had something interesting on it today. I didn't even know something like this existed, but birders in Wisconsin can take a test to become a "certified birder".
You know, I thought I knew a thing or two about birding, but there's no way in Hell that I could even begin to take this test.

American Beauties

No, I don't mean Isabelle and Lorelei.

I posted something about this a while back but the link wasn't working.
Now it is.
American Beauties.
Native plants and landscaping ideas...worth checking out.

I was wondering when I would get around to living up to my blogger name.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The redbud looks like purple mist creeping out of the other trees.
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A close up of the gorgeous pink blooms of the crabapple
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Nellie was SO good this evening, following me around outside the fenced part of the yard, checking things out, but staying close in case she was needed.
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Huey's resting place, under our beautiful pink crabapple.
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This is my favorite tree. It's right outside our living room window and the birds and bees love it, too. I wish flowering crabapples bloomed all summer!
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I know, it's not NATIVE, but I love my Chinese Wisteria, and I have yet to see it bloom, but I'm hopeful that this year will be the year.
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Our 2 year old sycamore is working hard on its new set of leaves
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What kind of soda are you?

You Are Coke

A true original and classic, you represent the best of everything you can offer.
Just the right amount of sweet, just the right amount of energy... you're the life of the party.

Your best soda match: Mountain Dew

Stay away from:Dr Pepper

Sunday, April 16, 2006

My Easter Angels

Miss Lorelei
Miss Isabelle
Butterscotch (aka Quagmire)
Roxy the Wonder Dog
We had a very nice Easter gathering at the in-laws. My mom came up, too, which was cool. The girls were dressed up pretty, and ended up digging in the dirt for worms and centipedes in the back yard. And my in-laws have trumped me in the bird category.
They have a Cooper's Hawk nesting in their back yard.
Why do folks who don't really try very hard to attract birds, like my Mom and my in-laws, get great birds like Great Blue Herons-Wood Ducks-Pileated Woodpeckers (My mom)
or nesting Cooper's Hawk-Indigo Bunting (my in-laws)
And I stress and freak and worry and try my damnedest to get the birds, and I can't even keep a pair of bluebirds?
This is not fair.
To be true to myself, I do have alot of birds coming to the yard, but nothing is exciting me because they are easy birds to get (I get about 100% of the feeder birds for this part of Ohio)
but come on! A nesting hawk?
I will be documenting and reporting on the hawk's progress to share with all of you.
I admit it. I'm jealous.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


I just happened to stroll out to the now- defunct bluebird house (those damn sparrows!!!) when a dark bird zipped in front of me to check it out first. At first I didn't believe what I was seeing, until ANOTHER one flew past. Two adult male purple martins! I watched them for a few seconds, then snapped out of it and RAN (well, my version of running) to the purple martin house, lowered it, broke a nail getting the door stops out (worth it) and ran it back up the pole.
I haven't seen them any more today, but since they were adult males, they may very well have another spot they have previously nested, and were just passing through. One looked very interested in the bluebird house, though. When I told my Mom about them, she said that there was a semi-successful martin nest in one of the bluebird houses at the house way back when. Semi-successful meaning that a predator got to the eggs before they hatched.
News on the RAPTOR, Inc. front: I finally spoke to a lovely lady from RAPTOR yesterday, and I will be beginning my volunteer-ship with them on May 20. It is such a cool place, I can't wait. When I told her about wanting to trap House Sparrows, I mentioned that I could freeze them and give them to RAPTOR for prey food, and she thought that maybe they could use some LIVE ones for the Cooper's hawks. Rehab places like to gauge how ready a bird is to be released by giving it live prey to catch. So my plan to wipe out HOSP at the Williams "manor" may bring good to some lovely raptors.
Thanks to Birdchick for a link to rehab centers in our area.
What else...what else...
I strongly suggest to all my loyal readers, that if you get bored with my girls and my bird news, please visit Laura's blog for a change of pace. While she is a birder, she is also a bunny-lover and a bibliophile, and she always has something lovely to share. I can hear Jim now..."Who could possibly get tired of your girls? Are you crazy??" But life is on a narrow path at this moment, and my subject matter doesn't get too deep, so I thought I would mix it up.
Another gorgeous blog is Endment. This woman gets the most fantastic bird photos. I don't know how she does it. She also shares poetry, some hers I think, some from others, that is moving, thought-provoking and above all peaceful. I am so glad I know about her blog...after a day of chaos, it's like a warm blanket and hot cocoa.

I hope everyone has a happy, healthy, safe, candy-filled, choco-licious Easter tomorrow!
I will certainly be posting adorable photos of the girls in their dresses and all the festivities.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Moving day

No, we didn't move. But I feel like we did.
My in-laws handed down their old dining room table to us
and I rented a U-Haul to bring it home.

And look at the truck the rental place gave me! One with a Goshawk! How perfect is that?

Nellie wanted to check it out and ensure the safety of all involved.

Lorelei "helped" us alot. You can see the dining room chairs behind the blanket she's holding. The chinz fabric is part of the curtains we used to cushion everything. And my in-laws handed those down, too. Every time we leave their house, they try to pawn more stuff onto us.
That's if Jim can bear to part with it.

For all of his "rat" jokes, the man must be part Pack Rat himself.

"Come on, Belle!"