Tuesday, September 30, 2008

How very special are we....

It's that time of year again, to quote my favorite kid movie:

He turns the seasons around
And so she changes her gown
But they always look in their prime

They go on dancing their dance
Of everlasting romance
Mother Earth and Father Time

The summer larks return to sing
Oh, what a gift they give
Then autumn days grow short and cold
Oh, what a joy to live

How very special are we
For just a moment to be
Part of life's eternal rhyme
How very special are we
To have on our family tree
Mother Earth and Father Time
(Charlotte, from Charlotte's Web)

And if you want to relive a few minutes of your childhood (or young adulthood, if you are a geezer), here's the song:

Non-sequiter...is it me, or do Killdeer always look 'worried'?
Worried Killdeer
"Is that danger? I don't know. Maybe it's danger. I can't tell...it may or may not be. I better yell just in case it's danger..."
Oh, yeah. Back to Autumn...
Kelley's Nature Preserve is a special little piece of heaven for me. It's not especially birdy, except in migration. But I did get a great look at a Barred Owl there once.

Autumn may be the Preserve's best season.
Kelleys nature preserve Little Miami
It rained a little last night, but since we have gone a month or more without anything substantial, the shore was just as I like it. Walkable. Towering sycamores, peach-colored leaves dropping into the water without a sound.
Leaves Little Miami
It only reached about 70 degrees today, a perfect day to take a walk.
Or stand still and just be present.

Orange and Green

Don't you just love trees with personality?
I can see a smiley face and a heart. Do you see it?
Heart Happy Face Tree

And lo and behold, some birds:
I am fully ready to call this a winter wren. But I'm not sure. And it's early, right?
These photos just don't do this little cutie any justice. It was like...a ball...of chocolate.
Really! He was nearly spherical. Like a bonbon.
A buff eyeline. Really dark. Really stubby tail.
I bet Kathi will bail me out on this one, expounding her bird-wisdom and letting us know if it is a House or Winter. Either way, he was freakin' adorable.

And another "CFW" ID that I spanked until it called me Mama:
Black throated green warbler Fall
According to Sibley, a Black-throated Green Warbler, first year female. I don't know about that last part, but the first part is correct.
And I didn't even have to get out of the car. I was sitting in my car, doing RAPTOR paperwork and making calls. Thankfully, I wasn't on the phone when this bird flew in with some goldfinches. I would have been like, "OH! Sorry, so-and-so, I have to go! Confusing Fall Warbler right in front of my car! Must DOCUMENT!"

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Yes, I do requests....

Mary asked if I could do a poster for the West Virginia trip...so here it is:


(Update...I forgot a few people, so I re-did this. But Susan M. and I look like we are peeking up over a table.)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A great weekend to be Outdoors

What a great day.

A day spent teaching the public about birds of prey and their importance...meeting new faces, grilling out, baked beans and chips.

The first part of the day was a four-hour informal program with some of our birds perched out in front of the CNC. Storm, Sylvester, Isis and Lucy.

A word (or many) about Isis:
A few months ago, I found it more and more difficult to use Isis for programs. Her original injury (a gunshot to her right wing...what kind of idiot would shoot a hawk like her????) had become so calloused, every time she hit it against something in her mew, it would bleed. And she was breaking blood feathers constantly.
Being a nearly pure-white bird, it was rather obvious that she was a mess. I went to our board and our bird care director and asked them to do something. She went to one of our vets, who agreed that more of the wing needed to be removed.
A small portion of the remaining bone was removed, leaving a flap of skin. The flap was sewn over the wound and needed only four stitches. She healed up very nicely (and is even growing feathers back where there were none) and today was her grand re-opening to the public. She does very well perched out for programs, but today she was even better than I thought.
Isis and GHOW CNC
(that's the GHOW way in the back, doing his "I am a totem pole" thing)

I do love that owl...
GHOW macro
Such a polite bird (except at sunset when he's more active, and in the months of December and January, when hormones get the best of him)

A very, very cool find:
In front of the red barn, we were all chatting and had no idea a small amount of possible death was crawling around our feet. Craig, a young volunteer, shouted, "There's a black widow!"

Yep, it was:
Black widow

Someone handed me a stick so I could turn her over to get a shot of that red hourglass...then I realized that I was hold an effing black widow spider and someone needed to rescue me.
I tried very hard not to cuss.
Black widow 2
She was gently and respectfully carried to the woods' edge and deposited.

Let's meet Ethan:
Ethan and Isis
This darling 6 year old...here's the history of RAPTOR and him:
Last year at the Great Outdoor Weekend, I met Ethan and his mom, Liz. This kid had a very healthy interest in birds of prey, and birds in general. I had a great time talking with him and marveling at his knowledge.
A few months later, I got a call from his mom for an educational program at Ethan's birthday party.
Thanks to that program, I got in the Cincinnati Enquirer, the article saying that this was the "new" way to throw a kid's birthday. I got quite a few programs out of that.
And today, he and his mom were at the member's picnic. Turns out that Ethan is a member of RAPTOR now. The youngest member, to be exact.

I had to photograph him with some of our birds.
Ethan and GHOW

During a nature walk earlier in the day, he found some feathers...he showed me where he had thrown them back into the woods (because he remembered what I had said about them being protected and that possessing them was a crime). My God. Someone is actually listening to my programs?
He said there were many, many "downy" feathers, so something had tackled something.
Ethan and feathers
The one on the left is a great horned owl feather, and at first, I thought the other one was a red-shouldered hawk. I did some research and found that this was a turkey feather. Looks like a GHOW tackled a turkey. Awesome.

I disapprove of your use of fire
"I disapprove of your use of fire. And what the Hell is a S'more?"

I was putting Isis back in her carrier as the picnic ended, and realized I didn't have a picture of Isis and me.
Cindy, our Bird Care Director, was good enough to oblige:
Isis and me 3
Good bird. Glad you are feeling better.

The whole day was so fun. I got to meet old RAPTOR members, revel in some new ones, and Isis, our Flagship Bird, is feeling great. Life is good.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Great Outdoor Weekend 2008

Okay, dudes. You need something to do this weekend.
(Well, Mary will be stuck in her house watching the rain due to gas shortages, so get out there for her!)

If you are in the Cincinnati area, do yourself a favor and get out to one of our fantastic parks for free...get your kids involved in a nature-related craft or a nice long nature walk.

If birds of prey are your thing (or even if they're not) come see me at the Cincinnati Nature Center tomorrow (Saturday) from 12 pm- 4 pm. A display of some of our education birds and my charming persona will be there to titillate your senses. The barn owl may make an appearance and he is quite the show-stopper!

Last year's program...click here.

And just like last year, RAPTOR, Inc. will have a Member's picnic at our new property, complete with S'mores and a roaring bonfire.

P.S. If you have been trying to reach my on my cell phone for the past 2 weeks, it has been in Hilton Head with the newlyweds. Long story.

Unamused.  As always.
"Idiot. Who lets their cellphone go on someone else's honeymoon?"

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Confusing fall warblers, I SMITE thee!

If you watch birds for any length of time, you are bound to run up against a bird you can't identify.
Fall warblers routinely fall into this category. In breeding plumage, warblers are easy if you have a field guide (and if you can get a good look at the bird, that is).

I hate ID'ing warblers. I love looking at them, but figuring out what the Hell I'm looking at gives me a headache. Kind of how I used to feel about ID'ing hawks. Hmmm.

Today, when confronted with a CFW (Confusing Fall Warbler), I bucked up and decided to figure it out. It took an hour to ID ONE BIRD.

This flitty goofball would only hold still for maybe three seconds at a time. I cursed my binoculars. I cursed the beautiful sunlight that inevitably back lit the bird. I cursed the park workers who just had to drive through when the bird got close enough to get pictures.

I ran through my field guide (Thank you, Sibley, for showing fall plumages!), observed the behavior, ruled out most of the warblers.
Two white wing bars.
Yellow belly.
Dark eye line.
Gleaning from the undersides of leaves.

Hold still, DAMMIT~
front bay breasted CFW

bay breasted CFW
For the first time, I was able to see a reddish blush on the flanks. Thank you, flitty bird, for showing me that.

CFW bay breasted
So, yes. After an hour, I ID'ed this as a Bay-breasted Warbler. It helped that it's early fall and this little guy still had some "bay" on the "breast".

If you want to see better photos than what I have, go look here.

And if you want to dispute me and tell me that there is no way that is a Bay-breasted Warbler, be prepared to make me cry and possibly call you vile names.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Let's hear it for 200 and 300 !!!

Somehow, Kathi talked me into a bird walk with the Cincinnati Bird Club today. It started at 8 am, and the distance meant I had to be up at 6 am. UG. I don't DO pre-dawn, man.

But I'm glad I went.

Just a handful of birders, and a fun guide named Charlie.
(the guy with the scope and blue shirt, and the woman on the left in blue are my "groupies"...they seem to show up to nearly every program I do at any Hamilton County Park and know RAPTOR's birds very well)

bird walk group oxbow

We saw a gator out on Oxbow Lake....
Oxbow lake gator
(okay, okay...it's a log.)

The reason this trip was worth it....Bird Number 200!
stilt sandpipers
Stilt Sandpipers...four of 'em.
I did the Life Bird Dance...the group (except Kathi, who knows the Life Bird Dance) must have thought I was crazy.
200 different species of birds. Wow. When I became a birder, I never thought I would see 50.

A total of 28? species were seen today...I'm not 100% sure. Kathi's the record keeper, so she can do the math for us.
Another special moment...I was scanning the far shore and saw a "duck". The light was bad, the bird was far away. But it looked "teal-ish", which got Kathi all in a froth. Turns out that Green-winged Teal would be a life bird for her. And not only a life bird, but her 300th!
We couldn't ID it, so we walked on, hoping to see a male to make the ID easier. The bird in question was a smallish, brown mottled duck with a dark head. And we couldn't see the speculum.
Farther down, we got it: Green-winged Teal!
Kathi did the Life Bird Dance, and I dutifully documented it with a photo:
Kathi does the Life Bird Dance
"Raise your hands in the air and wave 'em like you just don't care..."

Yay, Kathi!

PS>>>>>If you would like to read what Chet Baker thinks of me, go check out Julie's post for today.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Releases are the BEST!

I wasn't present for this one, but I know the feeling of letting a bird of prey free.
A true sense of accomplishment...our rehabbers work unbelievably hard to turn these battered birds back into fierce angels of the sky.

This female peregrine was found in downtown Cincinnati in mid-July, with a wing injury. This was one of the PEFA hatched on the PNC Bank building this year.

After a few months of tender loving care, free meals and rest, she was released back to the wide open sky above Cincinnati.

Is it me, or does that toe crossed over the others make her look nervous?

Off she goes, back where she belongs...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Words that I never thought I'd hear

A bonus of heading out to Middle of Nowhere, Ohio is seeing Julie, who happens to live just south of Middle of Nowhere, Ohio.

Sure, Julie is fun to talk with, and you are always sure to come away with a new tidbit or two of nature lore. But it's the critters who seem to be the stars:

A mini-Monarch ranch was set up on the kitchen table when I came in:
JZ monarch ready to J
This guy was this close to folding over into the "J" position, and we checked as I was leaving to see that he only had one more set of feet to let go of before beginning the process of turning into a chrysalis filled with goo....soon to be a butterfly.

This one was already cooking:
JZ Monarch crys

If you follow Julie's blog, you will recognize Shelley:
Shelley and Phoebe
(And that's Phoebe in the background, with late afternoon sunlight setting her hair aglow)
(Liam was at a cousin's house...I was trumped by video games. It's cool. I've been snubbed for less.)

A little turtle aerobics around the living room:
Shelley backside

I absolutely LOVE this one....you can almost hear the wee little turtle "uhn!".
Shelley UHN

The gravy...BACON!
Chet almost air
Thank goodness for "burst" mode...Chet Baker rarely sits still...
"Please throw the ball, Miz Susan...watch how fast I go."

"Are you watchin'?"
Chet catching big air
Yes, Baker. Always.

"Look, Miz Susan! I'm SO high!"
Chet air 2

"And I can do a neat twisty, too."
Chet air 1

"I brought it back for you. Please throw it again. And again...."
Chet ball

All that running, jumping and twisting can wear a Boston out and heat up their little bodies. So Julie wet down a towel (adorned with Australian wildlife, even) and draped it over His Royal Dogness.
Hot Chet 1
"That's better. Thank you, Mether."

After a snort of really yummy wine, it was time to hit the Birding Tower.
I listened with unbridled envy as Julie rattled off the list of raptors either seen and/or heard on the property. Golden eagles. Peregrines. Show offs.
I looked below at the feeding station and a strange bird caught my eye.
The conversation that followed:

Me: What the...?
JZ: Whatcha got?
Me: There's a weird bird in that tree...(pointing it out)..it has a white head!
JZ: (looks down)....
And then she said something that I never thought I would hear from Julie's mouth...
"I don't know what that is!"

She then started cussing that she hadn't brought up either her big lens or her binoculars. She called down to Phoebe, who brought up the implements. We followed the bird for a few minutes...

And my camera got a big ego-boost when Julie complemented it on its light-gathering ability. This is the photo I got, and remember, we were 42 feet in the air:
vireo closer

This weird thing was gleaning bugs in the trees, and was traveling with similar-looking birds, which helped with ID...a leucistic red-eyed vireo! A very cool find...and MY find. That didn't hurt my ego, either.
leu REvireo farther
A new leucistic species for both Julie and me.

The sun was retreating fast, and I had a rehearsal dinner to attend. With a pout on my mouth and a "crrrrrap" in my mind, Julie, Phoebe and Chet walked me out to my car. But there was one more critter to be discovered.
I saw what looked like a toy snake in the garage doorway and pointed it out. I really thought it was a rubber snake, but it was instead a baby red-bellied:
And it was not going to be picked up without a fight....
tackling the red belly

A beautiful little snake, and this is coming from a gal who DOESN'T LIKE cold-blooded anything.
Red bellied snake
(Look closely at Julie's necklace...it's a perfect representation of a monarch chrysalis. I want one.)

A final hug and thank-you, and a sweet gift from Phoebe. She picked a tuberose from the garden for me to take along with me. If you haven't experienced a fresh tuberose bloom, you ain't lived. A night-blooming plant, its blossoms give off an exotic yet clean, sweet yet light-filled fragrance. You just have to smell it for yourself.
I placed the bloom on my dashboard and waved heartily as I went down the driveway. I hate driving away from Indigo Hill. Visits are always too short.
But during the hour-long drive back to Zanesville and my family, I breathed deeply as the scent of tuberose filled the air.
Thank you, Julie and Phoebe (and Baker!) for the lovely visit, for opening up your home to me for a few short hours.

With this ring, and seventy-mile an hour winds, I thee wed

Well, halleluia, the power came back on today.

I have a few hundred pictures from this weekend and the four days we were in the dark.
Let's start with the coolest wedding I have ever been to.

I have to say, Rachel (My new Sister-in-law) has class. And good taste.
The Wilds is a conservation organization of grand scope. Being an animal advocate (and birder...she knows the difference between an indigo bunting and a blue grosbeak, know what I'm sayin?), the Wilds was a perfect place for her and Kevin to begin their lives together.

The wind was unbelievable. From what I heard, the gusts were at 70 mph. I'm surprised we all didn't end up in West Virginia.


The flower girls were beautiful, of course:



And the best man was pretty hot:

Rachel was aglow:
The groom was grinning from ear to ear:
(I kept seeing a turkey vulture over the pastor's shoulder and tried to get a photo, but it was too windy...wouldn't that have been perfect?)


Next...a visit with JZ.