Monday, April 30, 2007

Battle of the Birds

Let me get these out of the way so we can get to the gravy:
Fat tadpoles
Armleder Park is hosting some seriously big ass tadpoles.
They're like brown plums with tails.
Bye bye nest
Remember the mallard nest in one of my recent posts?
I think this is a sign that things ended badly.
(Excuse my dangling lens cap)
Empty eggs
I am not well-versed in post hatching egg shells. Was this a predator's work?
The female mallard was nowhere near...I am hoping that she was off teaching a swimming class with her new offspring.
Calling the Science Chimp!

Okay, enough of that.
Now to the exciting stuff...
This morning, I was watching the tree swallows go back and forth over the yard.
And soon, the male purple martin joined in, and they both ganged up and kept him from entering the gourd. (These birds REALLY like gourds!)
I watched for as long as I could, but I felt tortured.
So I went outside and took down the gourd, which was hanging from the purple martin house. I then placed it on a shepherd's hook at the far end of the yard (in the place my bluebird house was) and stepped back to watch.
The TRES then began to guard both the gourd AND the house.
I decided to give up, apologized to all three birds, put the gourd back up, put up the original blue bird house and went back in.
An hour later, I looked outside, and saw this:
male adult purple martin
The purple martin was sitting on the house!
And the TRES were flying around in confusion.
I held my breath...could I have my cake and eat it, too?
The TRES then flew to the BB house, looking like they were admitting defeat.
I don't want to jinx anything, but if things go well, I could feasibly have both purple martins and TRES.
Croaking Pmartin
I stood there, transfixed, as the PUMA did his croaking calls.
You can click here to listen to the two different vocalizations that martins make.
I will try to be up early tomorrow morning to listen for his Dawn Song.
Things are going to get interesting again.
Update: I forgot to mention that our first hummingbird showed up today. I saw him/her from the back for about 1.5 seconds, and didn't get a picture. Maybe tomorrow.

I see a bird watching Mommy bird
Cute Isabelle thing:
Isabelle makes up bird names. Today, she was using this empty paper towel tube as a scope, and she said she saw a "Picture-taking Mommy bird", a "TV watching Lorelei bird", and a "Computer working Daddy bird". I just think that's cute.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Counting Wrens

Ahhh...a perfect Sunday, mowing the lawn.
This is the first time we mowed this year.
I didn't take any "before" photos, because it was too awful.
As in, up to my knees in some sections.
I had to got over many sections 2 or 3 times, to chop up the clippings. We don't usually rake, but rather leave it all where it is and let it break down naturally.

Backyard finally cut
But I knew that raking was in my future, so I spun the mower in circles to create big piles of clippings.
(I have to wonder what the neighbors think of my prairie...see the uncut grass in the back? I doubled the dimensions this year)
We will rake up a good amount of the clippings and start a grass compost pile behind some pine trees in the farthest part of the yard.
And for the love of God...please don't put yard waste out for the garbage! It belongs in a compost pile, not a landfill!

Play with me
"Okay, so you're done with that loud thing you were sitting on. Can we play now?"
The winner of the Take the Gourd Challenge
And we have a winner in the contest for the prime real estate on the property...the purple martin housing.
The tree swallows have started gathering nest material, and while I was mowing, I watched them drive off a purple martin.
Oh well. I better get out the feathers I bought when I saw the TRES had arrived.
We have other nest boxes available, but only one tall house on a pole. So the martins are out of luck again. Same thing happened last year.
Barely visible beaks
The baby wrens are getting huge. I can't believe they all fit in this little nest box. If you squint, you can make out three yellow dashes...that's the three sitting closest to the entrance.
And you may think I have gone off my nut, but I swear that my adult wrens can COUNT.
Wren with beakful
I couldn't get it on film, but I watched both of the wrens clean out the meal worms today, and each time, they would grab one worm and swallow it. Then they would pick up a worm, one at a time, until they had five and then fly off to the nest.
They know that they have five mouths to feed, so they pick up five worms.
That just rocks.
Has anyone else seen anything like this?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

My life is Cereal

Update on the great horned owl I picked up the day before Easter:
He is most likely going to be a program bird for someone.
As you can see from the photo, his right pupil is completely opaque:

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But Cindy and Marc tell me that he is very gentle and sweet, so if he becomes a bird used for education, I think he will be perfect.

And now, a picture of Susan, surprised:

Dove on my head
Euro (Thanks, Julie, for that name suggestion) is let out of his cage for about an hour a day, and last night, he landed on my head. I've said it before, and I will say it again...he is one sweet, cool bird. A very nice companion as I sit here every night...even his poop is polite.
Don't I look like a psycho?

Some rehab birds at RAPTOR:
Elvis and BO07-02
On the right is Elvis, our program barred owl.
On the left is BO07-02. This is one tough owl...
He was hit by a tractor trailer, and 5 miles later, the truck driver got out and discovered the owl stuck to the grill! And he lived through it. That just rocks.
And the size difference cracks me up. We never realized how HUGE Elvis is. He's twice as fluffy as the other one! But don't let it fool you into thinking that it's muscle. Barred owls are all feather. Get them wet and they look like a cat who's just took a shower.
The three amigos
The Three Amigos:
The GHOW I picked up is on the left. In the middle is a GHOW whose wing was pinned, and the vet has not been able to pull them out. No idea as to how they are going to handle that. I forget what injury the one on the right has.
And check out the size difference here! They are all adults. "My" GHOW is a male, and the other two are females. When I talk about reverse sexual dimorphism in my educational programs, I wish I was able to hold two birds at once, to show just how much bigger females are compared to males. The difference can be more than 25%...that's a big deal if you are talking about some of the larger species, like red-tailed hawks or eagles.
That means the female is the boss. And it also allows the birds to exploit a wider array of prey...the smaller, faster males can go after agile prey, while the females can take down larger prey.
But an interesting fact is that species feeding on carrion, like turkey vultures, show no sexual dimorphism. Their food is already dead, so it's not like they need to sneak up or run it down.
Okay, enough of my lesson.

Bird fence
I officially love these people. On the road leading into Governor Bebb Preserve, on the way to a program, this fence made me stop the car. They had about 30 bird species carved from wood, painted and perched on their fence.
Bird People!
Rainbow 2
Friday we had four-leaf clovers, and today, a rainbow.

I am living in a box of Lucky Charms.

Friday, April 27, 2007

My lucky day

I realized that I haven't done a "Word of the Day" for a while, so this one is for The Swami:

Word of the Day
quagmire \KWAG-myr; KWOG-\, noun:
1. Soft, wet, miry land that shakes or yields under the feet.
2. A difficult or precarious position or situation; a predicament.
(It's also the name of Swami and Swamette's cat)

Today was a good day. Isn't it nice when you can say that?
Aside from some patchy rain showers, I managed to get out and see a few birds.

Downy on Pop Out
At home, our female downy had discovered the "Pop-Out", a plastic thingy that can hold sunflower seeds, peanuts, or suet nuggets. It's easy to clean, and it's cheap. That's my kind of feeder.
Feeding the wrenlets
I refilled the meal worm feeder three times today. The wrens have been sallying back and forth all day. Yes, the feeder looks messy...but I didn't have any fresh fruit to feed the meal worms, so I used mango applesauce. It's not like they were there long enough to eat, anyway.
On to Armleder Park with the girls and Nellie:
Four leaf clover
Isabelle found two four-leaf clovers within 30 seconds of entering the dog park!
And that seemed to help out the birding quite a bit. It was pretty quiet there, with a mix of tree swallows, martins and red-winged blackbirds.
We left the dog park and stopped over at the retention pond, and I saw some swallows hawking over the water.
Swallows are some of the more friendly, brazen birds, and these four swallows were swooping right over my head.
Martins? Tree swallows? Nope, they were brown.
I got rather excited...rough-winged swallows?
That would be a life bird.
Bank swallow
Nope...they were too dark, and when I looked closer, I saw a dark breast band.
Bank swallows! Whoot!
Swallows are notorious for eluding a camera while in flight, but I caught a few...
(Kathi, I wanted to call you and tell you about it, but I thought that since your life list is so much longer than mine, you may not think it was a big deal. Was I wrong?)
Bank swallow 2
See it? Above the soccer goal?
While I was watching the swallows and trying desperately to get a good picture, I noticed something swimming just under the surface of the water. It was HUGE.
A beaver? Nope.
I got out the binoculars...a snake? Nope. Thank goodness.
An alligator? Seriously, I thought about the people who get gators when they are small and manageable and then dump them in a river or pond when they get too big to handle.
Nope. Not a gator.
A fish.
Floating fish
A fish that looked like it was in a pond that was too shallow for it to be there. It meandered from the middle of the pond over to where I was standing and looked at me for a full minute, and then meandered off back to the middle.
I'm not a fish expert, but I have to wonder if during the latest flooding, he was deposited there and when the water receded, he was left behind? Or he is sick? Or just waking up and feeling a bit disoriented?
Female mallard on nest Armleder park
A nice surprise as we were leaving the park...a female mallard nesting right beside the road.
A prayer to the god of birds: Please watch over this one. Please keep stupid kids and construction workers from squashing her eggs.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

This dove is such a fantastic pet. I let him out for about an hour a day, while I am down here, and the cats are not.
He flies around from place to place, cooing and making the funniest "ha-ha-ha-ha" call. He also bows a lot as he coos, making it more likely that he is a he. Julie called him a "Eurasian Collared Dove" and I have seen the names "Turtle Dove", "Barbary Dove" and "Laughing Dove".
Well, whatever he is, I love him.
And she suggested the name "Euro"....
My Dove reads up on his roommates
Today he read up on some of his roommates.
Dove on my PC
And he was interested in what I was working on.
(My blog, of course)
He's just so tame...he flew over and landing on my shoulder today, and I felt honored.
What a cutie. I am working on getting his tail feathers back into shape. His perches weren't in the best arrangement, so his tail has been knocked around for years.
moldy hummer feeder
I put my hummingbird feeder out too early again. I do this every year, but it's even harder to predict when they will show up this year. I just hope that the hummingbirds know what they are doing and migrated late this time.
I noticed white fluffy stuff in the sugar water, so I went out and brought it in to change it.
It was like wading through a prairie out in the back yard...and the irony is that even though we got our mower fixed, it has been raining for the past few days, and I have only had the opportunity to mow the front yard. The grass in back is as high as my knees in some areas. Wow. Next thing we will have is snakes in the house. Eek.
bird bath
I love this picture...but I also worry when I see birds bathing in the low point of our driveway. We are careful to keep oil and gasoline off the blacktop, but just by driving our cars on it creates a layer of gunk.
Baby wrenlet update: All of them are fine. When I peek in, I see five gaping mouths and they seem quite vigorous. The parents have been cleaning me out of mealworms the past few days. They are medium worms, and even if they are too big to feed to the babies right now, it's helping Mom and Dad Wren by filling their cute little bellies.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Babies, babies everywhere

Okay. That picture from the last post was a pug nose.
I was hoping for some hilarity, but either all of you are smarter than I thought, or not as funny as I thought.

Three legged pug
One of the pugs at the dog park yesterday had only three legs.. a neighbor's dog got hold of it through a fence and shredded the leg, necessitating an amputation.
Call me weird, but I love dogs and cats who are missing a limb. They aren't missing it, and go on with their life and adapt to their new stride by taking it all in stride.

Lorelei and I spent some time at Lake Isabella, tossing rocks and looking for birds.
I like that particular park for its quiet atmosphere...I take my RAPTOR scheduling book and can sit and make calls without any disruption.

Throwing rocks

Lorelei on the rocks

I seriously can't wait until I go to Magee Marsh. There, the warblers come to you.
Last year, I had a black and white warbler try to step onto my camera, after I had been standing still for a few minutes, trying to get a good picture. It's one of the Top Ten birding destinations in the country.
Yellow rumped warbler
Here's a bad picture of an osprey, hunting up and down the Little Miami:
Osprey flying away
I could hardly understand what I was looking at, until I saw the wings. Osprey hold their wings in an "M", looking like a red tailed hawk with crooked wings.
RT on nest  hackles up
And speaking of red tailed hawks, I visited the RT nest on I-275 at the Loveland exit. I couldn't see any babies, but one of the parents was keeping an eye out.

My Mom called today to rub in the fact that she got her first hummingbird of 2007.
Later, I was able to trump that:
Male purple martin
This was Isabelle's find. We were sitting at the dinner table, and she said, "Mommy. I just saw a starling or tree swallow go into the gourd and then come back out."
I looked, and saw a dark bird with a notched tail skimming above the yard. When it landed, I caught a glimpse of a beautiful, almost-black purple glimmer.
Hot Damn! A male purple martin!
Things are going to get interesting around here. I have seen just a few tree swallows around the past few days, but no one has "claimed" the gourd yet. I have been eagerly awaiting the TRES staking their claim on this pricey real estate, so that I can stop worrying about the damn house sparrows taking over. TRES are very territorial and will fight off any bird who is dumb enough to try and steal a nesting site. I loved to watch the TRES last year dive bomb the starlings and HOSP.
So...If the martins start setting up housekeeping, I will open up the compartments on the martin house. If the TRES claim it, I will keep the compartments closed. I wish TRES would nest communally. Wouldn't that be fantastic?

Isabelle also made another find today. She was down here in my office, talking to the Dove, and she asked if she could feed the fish.
A few minutes later, I looked over and she had her cute little face pressed against the glass, and she said, "Mommy! I see baby guppies!"
Huh. I didn't even notice that one was pregnant!
So we have RT babies down on the interstate, baby guppies, baby wrens, and also some surprise babies that I will tell you about when they arrive.

And hows this for adorable and sweet:
After discovering the guppies, she said, and I quote:
"Thank you for getting me glasses, Mommy. I can see so much!"
You're welcome. And thank you, Isabelle, for being such a great kid.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

My computer has PMS. Does anyone have any Midol?

My PC is still running slow, so I upload these with Flogger...I mean Blogger.

How about a really bad picture of a life bird today?

I'm starting to doubt that this was the bird I saw.
Sitting at Lake Isabella, on the river side of the park, I heard a really unique bird call.
It was a rising, zeeeeeeeeee zeep!
All I knew was that I hadn't heard it before, and I was betting it was a warbler.
I caught a flash of yellow on the throat, and some blue-gray on the back, so I thumbed through my trusty Birds of Ohio and found the Northern Parula. It fit perfectly to what I was seeing and hearing. A small warbler, high in the treetops (hence the really bad pictures I got) and a very unique, rising zeeeeeeee zeep! Lifer #123.
So this is one of less than a handful of times I got a life bird by sound!
(One of the other times was a bittern...I "felt" the sound in my chest.)

I got out of the car to stretch and saw this thing swimming in the river. This is another really bad shot...a little head poking up from the surface, and it was treading water, and then disappearing. Weird. A turtle? A salamander? Who knows. Right before seeing this little guy, I had crested the hill and a large splash and something large swimming away under the surface. The river was too muddy to see anything clearly.

And now, a cautionary tale:
Rule #1 when mowing a lawn...

Don't run over a pick axe.

Last fall, Geoff was getting ready to mow for the last time (Remember how November was? We were still cutting the grass!) and I told him to walk through the yard and pick up all the toys, dog chewies, etc. But he missed something.
And to be fair and share the blame for this, I was the one who left the pick axe out in the grass.
Basically, the quickly-spinning blades of a lawn mower cannot cut through a steel pick axe. One or the other will have to give, and the pick axe is going to win every time.
Mower blades are supposed to be straight... like this:

My brother Steve came over tonight to put on new blades. I could have done it myself, but he's the guy with all the socket wrenches. We are still building our tool collection.
Thanks, Uncle Teeb! (That's what the girls call him)

A quiz...and you won't win anything, but I would love to hear some guesses on this one.
What is this?
(Hint: It's not a bird.)

Monday, April 23, 2007

The birds in my life

On a trip to the dog park today (which was such a waste...I hate it when there are only one or two dogs there. I want Dog-O-Rama!) I got a picture of this female red-winged blackbird. It's funny, but I don't remember ever seeing one. Before I was a birder, I guess I assumed that the males and females looked alike.

Female RWBB
Our baby Carolina wrens have arrived.
Yes, it's a bad picture...but they choose a nesting box that really isn't functional: No doors, no way to open it and see down into it. All I did to it was drill a few holes in the bottom for drainage.
Fuzzy, cute little wrenlets!
Baby wrens

And now, an introduction.
A new family member...
My sister-in-law, Anne, called today and asked if I would take one of her animals. She is having some back trouble and finding it hard to care for some of her critters. So I agreed to take one.
Her ring-necked dove.

Ring necked dove
She isn't sure if this is the male or female. She had both at one time, and they were very successful at breeding. Then one of them died, and she just isn't sure which one this is.
Hey Science Chimp! Have any ideas on how to sex a ring-necked dove? My Internet searches aren't coming up with anything. My luck is that ring-necked doves aren't sexually dimorphic.
We also need to rename this bird.
I've never seen such a sweet, calm bird in my life. He/she perches on our hands, likes to be stroked and kissed, and makes the most beautiful, eerie cooing you could imagine.
Geoff and Dove
Geoff didn't even care. My brother and his family have always helped us when we needed it.
Ow!  Ow!
Lorelei kept saying "Ow! Ow!" while the dove was perched on her hand. She has been leery of getting hurt ever since one of Kevin and Rachel's rats bit her.
I must preen now

Isabelle and the Dove
But Isabelle is in love.
She's never held a bird before. Our parakeets are not interested in any human interaction. Anyone want a pair of parakeets?
I just loved watching Isabelle hold and pet and kiss this dove. She was so proud of herself.
So, a new critter in Critterville.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


It's been hit or miss on my blog this past week. I somehow feel bad when I am too tired to post something.
My computer is moving very very slow tonight, and I have been trying to upload a video for what seems like an hour.

In the meantime, I will share a few bumper stickers that I have seen in the past few days:
(I didn't get pictures of them, but I committed them to memory, because they were too hilarious)

1. "I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather...not screaming like his passenger".
2. "Reality is for those without imagination."
3. "I'd rather be at the beach, poking dead things with a stick."

I had some punks disapprove of my bumper sticker...(the one that says, "My Peregrine Falcon is smarter than your honor student."
I was pulling onto the street that RAPTOR is on, and some high school age boys were behind me in a car, and one of them yelled, "YOU'RE WRONG!"
Bite me.
Feeling a bit insecure, are we?
On the flip side, I have had people call out to me at red lights, telling me that my bumper stickers are hilarious.

How about a rant while we wait for this damn video to upload?
Rules I would make if I ran the show, general bitchiness, and a few things that keep me up at night:
1. Every homeowner should be required by law to have a compost pile.
2. If you own a Hummer, you deserve to be publicly flogged.
3. I hope that all the goof balls who drive around in their cars with the bass turned all the way up should go deaf.
4. Dog owners need to treat their dogs like DOGS, not short furry people.
5. Why do we drive on a parkway, and park on a driveway?
6. If nothing sticks to Teflon, what makes Teflon stick to the pan?
7. Super models should be no younger than 30, and weigh more than 125 pounds.
8. High heels, stockings and under wire bras should be outlawed.
9. Future parents should have to have formal training in child rearing and have to get a license.
10. A male birth control pill should be invented.
11. Teenagers should have their vocal cords and sex organs paralyzed until they turn 21.
12. Child abusers should be castrated.
13. Teachers and police officers should be the highest paid professions.
14. People who let their children or dogs ride in the back of a pickup should have their driver's license revoked.
15. All auto companies not yet doing so, should be fined $1,000,000 a day until they produce a hybrid or fully electric car.
16. Every mother of a newborn should be given a maid, a chauffeur, a massage therapist and a cook, to live with them until the kid goes to college.
17. Why is it that a dog hates it when you blow in their face, but when you put them in a car, they stick their head out the window?
18. Why do we deplane, but we don't debus, decar, or deboat?
19. Why do we call a peanut out of the shell as "shelled"? Shouldn't we call it "unshelled"?
20. If someone can be called "ruthless", why can't we call the opposite "ruthfull"?

Oh, thank God...the video is done.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

25, 000!

First, I would like to thank all of you who visit my blog. I recently got to 25,000 hits, and that's not counting my visits.

I love my job at RAPTOR. It's weird to even call it a job, it's so fun.
But there are days that I wonder how I am going to get through it all.
Yesterday, I had a day-long presentation at a local private school's Science Day.
I started at 9:30 and ended at 3:15. Every 40 minutes or so, a new class would come in and I would go through the whole spiel again. One thing I have learned is to take some calm birds when I do programs like this.
The school wanted as much hands-on experience as possible, and since I can't have anyone holding the birds except me, I brought along lots of heads, feet, wings, etc. for them to examine.

Before the presentation

Lucy perched
Lucy was a little high-strung, but that's pretty normal for her. Since she is one of the lighter birds, she's easy to manage. And I like to think that she and I have come to an understanding lately. I use her frequently, and we have been learning things from each other.
She knows that when she sees my bright blue glove, nothing bad will happen to her. I know her movements, how she is feeling and when she is about to freak.
I have also begun training her to eat while on my hand. This is a process that will probably take a few months for her to master.
She used to not eat while I watched her outside her mew. Now, she is letting me watch. I have started handing her a rat or quail and letting her take it from me. Eventually, if all goes well, she will eat while I am in the mew with her. Then, we will gradually get to the point when she will eat while I am holding her. Some of the RAPTORites have seen this type of presentation before and they said that it is really impressive to watch...the feathers of the bird being eaten just go everywhere!
While I would probably not do this in front of young kids, I bet some adult crowds would enjoy it.
GHO perched
Every time a new group of kids came in to the classroom, they thought that Big Momma was a stuffed owl. Then she would blink or turn and look at them, and they would shriek. It was hilarious.
SO perched
Our little gray screech owl was perched on a table, and I kept a carrier in front of her until I was ready to talk about her. Lucy was a little too interested in her for my (or the owl's!) comfort.
I am not a happy owl here
Some of our educational visual aids are a little disturbing.
"I was once a barred owl. Now I am The Ghost Of The Head That Sits And Glares At You."

Yes, I am still in here
The Carolina Wren mom is still sitting. I think her guard has been lowered a bit, since she no longer flushes when I walk by. Hey, chicky baby, if you are going to nest on the front of our house, you just have to deal with us being outside sometimes.
Today was a "normal" program at a local library. A good crowd with interested girls (YAY! Girls who want to be smart!) and some adults who asked very good questions.
I like it when someone has thought out a rational, relevant question that can further everyone's knowledge of the subject. Sometimes I get a question like, "Will Lucy's wing grow back?"
From a kid, I can understand it. But I have had a few adults ask me that.
I had a scheduling problem today...I was scheduled to be in two places at once. Don't ask how that happened. Marc was gracious enough to take on one of the programs. He took Isis (the leucistic red-tail), Elvis (the barred owl) and Rufous (the red screech). Before I got there, he was doing some bird handling training, and incorporated tethering up Scarlet (female red-tail) for me. When I got there, she was all boxed up, newly jessed and ready to go. Now, I haven't used her since her recent egg-laying (read hormonal, crazy bird). I didn't really know how she would act during the program, and I told the audience that, too. But after a rocky exit from the carrier, she was WAY better than I expected. Of course, she didn't want to get back in the carrier.
Back at RAPTOR, before getting her back out, I opened the door to her mew, and put on an extra layer of protection on my arm. (she is very, very strong)
I really tried to go slow and keep her from bursting out of the carrier, but she had other plans. Out she flew, taking my arm with her and spinning me around. She ended hanging upside down from my hand, and then I saw that she had snapped one of her anklets (the larger birds have an anklet that is fastened with a grommet that the strap of the jess goes through) and if she broke the other one, I would have a free-flying, pissed off crazy red-tail to tackle. I got a glove on my other hand and guided her back up to my hand and prayed the whole way over to her cage that the other jess would hold. It did, thank my lucky stars.
Yeah, thanks Marc.
But seriously, she is an impressive bird, and other than the carrier episodes and a lot of stepping up and down on my arm, she is a good bird to present with. So anyone from RAPTOR who reads my blog, listen up: Help me bring her around to being a better bird by handling her as much as you can.
You all know who you are. Lurkers!

By the way...anyone else miss Pam? I sure do.
Let us know how you are doing, dear.