Friday, June 25, 2010

Their house blew away and all we got was a T-shirt

As you may have read on this post, some of us here Bloggers have been telling Debby Kaspari's story and letting everyone know how they can help.

Well, we have another way you can support the cause: T-shirts.

Murr over at Murrmurrs (a shoot-a-drink-out-of-your-nose-funny blog) designed this shirt for Team Kaspari on the Zazzle website and you should head over there and get yourself one.

You can choose from an assortment of colors and styles, and ALL of the profit goes to Debby and Mike's rebuilding efforts.
And I'll tell you why I love the shirt so much...the meaning behind it. Two forlorn scissor-tailed flycatchers surrounded by a *Flock* of birds of other species who are bringing in nesting material. Murr's a genius.

Just go and do it. You'll be glad you did.
Nest in peace.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

They might be giants

Mary Ann became my temporary BFF.

Way back in March at the Adams County Bird Syposium, a raffle was drawn for a chance to see the banding of some peregrine falcon chicks in Aberdeen. A friend of Mary Ann's won, but since she was already involved in the banding of the chicks in Cincinnati, she gave the chances to Mary Ann. And that's when I became her new BFF.
(If you don't remember who Mary Ann is, she is in this post. And this post. And this post. She has no blog. Poor dope.)

No, I wasn't using her just for the banding opportunity. Well, maybe 10 percent. Okay, 20.
I mean, we're talking peregrine falcons here. Baby ones. My totem bird. My favorite.

In all seriousness, Mary Ann is a fun and tolerant new birding companion and I was so thrilled that she let me come along.
But honestly, I wonder at the agonized howls that would have ensued from my mouth if she hadn't.

So with an hour-long drive in my falcon-mobile, we arrived.
In fact, let's just get to the photos, huh?

The Peregrine Falcon project is administered by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Wildlife.

And this is the lady who travels all over the state banding the babies:
Mary Ann and Jenny
(Jennifer Norris with our Mary Ann)

From the ODNR website:
"Along with several other Midwestern states, Ohio began introducing the birds in 1989. Several pairs were released in cities between 1989 and 1992. Last year in Ohio, 19 nesting pairs of peregrine falcons are estimated to have successfully hatched and fledged 64 young. An estimate was made because actual counts were unavailable due to site access for some nests.
Federal funds for the peregrine falcon project and other wildlife diversity efforts of the Division of Wildlife are provided through the State Wildlife Grant Program, which targets species with greatest conservation need.
The division's peregrine falcon management program is funded by the sale of cardinal license plates, the division’s new Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp and contributions to the state Wildlife Diversity & Endangered Species Check-off Fund. "

Quick note about bands:
close up bands
These dual-colored bands will show up at a distance and the letter/number combination can easily be read. They are read from top to bottom, so the one on the left would read "black over red, 16Y".
If you ever see a banded peregrine falcon, here's a handy chart to tell you where it came from:
Red                 Captive bred
Black/red bicolor Eastern United States
Black/green bicolor Eastern United States
Blue Tundra Peregrines
Black/blue bicolor Tundra or Anatum captured off the breeding grounds or subspecies unknown
Green Peale's Peregrines
Black Anatum Peregrines

USFW bands
Another band, in purple, is fitted on the other leg. These are USFW bands.

We found out that a local sixth grade class (I did a program at that school!) came up with names for these chicks. Since Mary Ann, myself and one other woman were the only audience members, we each got to choose which falcon would get which name.

And here are the babies (all females, by the way):



(The largest and likely the oldest of the three. This is the one I named!)

Aside from the bands, parasites and blood samples were collected:
blood sample

Peregrine chicks start out life not with that majestically long, rudder-like tail, but instead sport a stubby butt that looks like it belongs on a chicken:
peregrine chicken butt

limp toes
Check out the limp toes (this is a defense mechanism).

food feather
Epic had the remains of breakfast stuck in her beak (see the tan feather?).

Let's just soak in the adorableness of that face for a minute......

These babies will grow up to be the race cars of the sky, blue-gray thunderbolts that split the air with their speed and strength. But this day, at 3 weeks old, just fuzzy white perfection.

This last photo makes my heart do a drum roll.
Those toes, the same type of toes that curl around my thumb and forefinger on a regular basis, that clench my hand when the owner needs reassurance, the toes that take food from my hand and have a firm hold on my heart....
Fingers and toes

Good luck, little ones. Go forth and multiply.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

When it's all gone, what do you do?

Last month, a grim and deadly parade of tornadoes blew away homes across Oklahoma. I always feel something for the people caught in the path of one of nature's most powerful forces.
I remember the panic and feeling of utter helplessness of being a breakable human as a tornado has roared nearby. I've been close to tornadoes twice in my life, and that is twice too many for my comfort.
When updates started popping up on Facebook from Tim and Julie regarding their friend Debby Kaspari, who was right at tornado Ground Zero I waited with trepidation.
When it was all over, Debby, her husband Mike and their cat Gizmo had survived the F4 tornado inside a shelter built into their garage floor. But they could see light shining in the gaps around the shelter. That wasn't right. They emerged from the shelter, and this is what they saw:

(Photo by Debby Kaspari)

Their house, their cars, their stately oak trees. Smashed or gone.
Take a moment to live in their shoes. Your house is now a pile of rubble. Your cars have large trees on top of them. Your clothes have blown away. Precious photos are shredded.
And if you are an artist like Debby, the paintings that have poured from your heart...are they still in one piece?

As the days wore on, Debby and Mike were able to collect some of their belongings, but the task is ongoing. Since they are in an unincorporated section of Little Ax, the rubble has to be removed by the homeowners. They even found some things that didn't belong to them:

This is a pickup truck that was carried from the gas station down the road...a MILE down the road. And the gas pump nozzle was laying next to it.
(Photo by Debby Kaspari)

It sounds like an insurmountable task, picking your life from the destruction. Both physically and mentally.
We build our lives cocooned in our homes, and when that home is gone, how does that feel?

The blogging community, a gathering I am proud to be a part of, is sending Debby's story out into the world and asking our readers to go to the link at the top of my blog on the right and donate to the cause through PayPal.

Friday, June 04, 2010

My Jersey Girl

I began this blog way back in 2005, and I don't even remember the reasons.
For the longest time, only a few family members and a friend or two would read it and comment.

I was pleasantly surprised when, in February 2006, a STRANGER left a comment! Just out of the blue!
She had a blog too. I went to her blog, started reading her stuff, and also clicking through to other blogs on her blog roll. And away we went. From that initial interaction of two blog owners, came the beginning of the Flock.
(Thanks to Laura and her urging to come to Cape May's Autumn Weekend, we began to migrate together as a pack.)

Since tomorrow is the anniversary of her arrival on the planet, (The Birthday-That-Must-Not-Be-Named!) I decided to make a list.

Laura, this one's for you!

A List of Laura:
Her confidence (seriously, just watch her walk across a room to see what I mean).
Making me laugh so hard and so long I wonder if I will die from it.

Generosity of soul.
Thinking that she secretly likes my weird choices of nail polish.
The fact that she is never on time for anything.

Her poet's heart.
The squeak of that porch swing.

(Photo by Steve Mattan)

When she rolls her eyes at my nonsense but sticks around to hear more.
Her camera in one hand and a beer dangling in the other.

A facade that seems reserved, but will crumble into silly fun at any time.
Erasing the stereotype I had in my head of "Jersey Girls".

That soft focus she rings her photos with.

The secrets we whisper.
The trust we forge with those whispers.

Knowing each other long enough to have a repertoire of stories.

Feeling so blessed to have her as my friend.

Happy birthday, Jersey! Love you!

(Photo by Steve Mattan)

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Just good people

I like people. Most of 'em, anyway.

There have been plenty of situations in my life, when I lay eyes on someone, and just know that we are going to work out just fine.
(This never really worked with any of my past boyfriends. Lust is blind, I guess.)

Most of my relationships of late (five years, since my blog reared its ugly head) have begun in cyberspace and then bloomed into an all-encompassing bouquet of friends that honestly, I don't know what I would do without. It's a rare thing to meet people the old-fashioned way.

Thank goodness I still know how to do it.

This Spring, at the New River Birding and Nature Festival I got to meet and spend time with a couple that I didn't actually know through this tiny computer monitor. Imagine.

Meet Larry and Diana:

This is exactly where I met them, while Diana was holding a just-banded titmouse and said titmouse was biting the hell out of her finger.

I set my camera to "Burst" mode and got a series of the titmouse bursting from Diana's hand. The best one, however, was the one that shows the titmouse flying right in front of Larry's face:
Larry and thte titmouse
I laughed out loud when I previewed the photos, and went over to Larry and Diana to show the best one.
Just look how happy Larry is

This was the first birding festival they had attended, and I assured them that they picked THE BEST ONE to start with.

Over the course of the week, I got to know them better and it was interesting how many things we had in common:
They live in my home state (Indiana), Larry is a Mason (so were most of the men in my family), they are both in Eastern Star (like my mother), and Larry's been known to hunt a deer or two
(I was raised on venison!).
And they're just good people.
It was like being with family members.
(I'm trying to put together a video of some of the participants' Life Bird dances, and there's a super cute one of Larry after he got...ummm...a Cerulean I think?)

I sort of adopted them, and as the festival ended, we exchanged email addresses and heartfelt wishes that we will see each other again next year.
I hope they return...we have more Life Bird Wiggles to do!