Sunday, September 30, 2007

Like I needed more reasons to love blogging

I have had an affair with blogging since 2005 and have come up with so many reasons to continue our affair. But there are even more...

1. Yesterday, one of our RAPTORites could me how it was cheaper to fly into Atlantic City versus Newark , Philly, etc (he just came back from Cape May) and Geoff, my very brilliant husband started thinking about all the Skymiles he has accumulated. I checked it out online last night, and I will now be flying into Atlantic City,
and guess how much it will cost, using Geoff's Skymiles....

Round trip.

I come from a long line of bargain hunters, and this one will be going down in the books.
2. The whole reason I am going to Cape May is because of blogging. I started writing my blog in October 2005 and no one outside my family was reading it.
Then a sweet, wise woman named Laura started commenting. And I started commenting on hers. Then I investigated her Blog Roll. And cyber-met Lynne, Mary, Pam, Delia, Tom, Liza and many more. I met IRL (in real life) Bill, Julie, Kathi and Trixie.
And in just under a month, a bunch of us are going to Cape May to party like it's 1999.

3. Blogging led me to RAPTOR. I found Sharon (Birdchick) through someone's blog (I can't remember how I got there) and through one of her links, I found RAPTOR, Inc. and now I have the coolest job in the world.

4. But most of all, I have an outlet to bitch about all the stupid people in the world, to rave about my kids and husband, to crow about my own accomplishments, and to share what I think is beautiful in the world.

Sunset in Indiana

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Great Outdoor Weekend

Did you get outside today? Well, if not, there's still one more day left of the Great Outdoor Weekend. I spent today at the Cincinnati Nature Center, where we do a RAPTOR presentation every year on this weekend.

Scarlet rests in the leaves
Scarlet, our ever-so-gentle (not!) red-tailed hawk. She is a bit jumpy, since I don't use her often enough. But I handled her today and felt more comfortable around her than I usually do. You know what helps? (Other than Marc making fun of me) I think of little Mona Rutger holding a 14 pound bald eagle. So what is the big deal about holding a 4 pound RT?

AK and Marc
Marc not only came to help out, he also brought all the birds for me!
(This is Marc holding the male kestrel)
Give me a fresh dead rat and no one gets hurt
"Hand over a fresh dead rat and no one gets hurt."

You bore me, human
"Human, you BORE me."
Check out those nictating membranes!

Oh, I am so proud of this one. I pulled a "Birdchick" move:
Laying down in front of a bird about to be released and got a great picture!
(I was probably laying in deer poop, but I bit the bullet for my blog. Aren't you glad?)
Kestrel release 092907 Red Barn
With larger birds, it's usually a good idea to give them a little toss to help them get going. With the little guys, they pretty much do it all themselves. This was the first of three kestrels released today at our RAPTOR annual picnic at our new facility.
I'm ready to go, too!
Kestrel #3..."I'm ready to go, too!"
Look!  The loft is haunted!
I wonder if the barn is haunted...see all the orbs?
Well, really it was the dust that the girls (my girls and Jeff's girls, a fellow RAPTORite) were stomping out of the rafters. But it makes for a weird image, no?
Please check out the new link at RAPTOR's can ADOPT a banded bird!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Our version of the movie The Birds...and some raunch

To start off, Delia has this meme thing that I offered to do. She interviewed me via email, and I responded via email. Click HERE to read it. She did a great job....sounds like a real interview! If you would like to continue this thread, let me know in the comments section. I will interview you and post your answers here. And it got me is going to be damn cool to meet everyone at Cape May. Does anyone realize it's only a month away?
Has it been two weeks yet? I miss my camera.
*Looking back through my posts....damn. It's only been a week.*
Ducks and a pied-billed grebe
Count the birds in this picture. The ducks are obvious, but look at the little bird in the water.
A pied-billed grebe, in drab fall colors. That was the only interesting bird at Lake Isabella today. Winter is the season for this lake. Mergansers, grebes, all sorts of neat birds fly in while the water is still open. Some of you who are lucky enough to live near the ocean may think I am dumb to get excited about water birds. But here in Ohio, we are in awe of stuff like that.

After dinner, I glanced outside to see if the feeders needed filling (they did) and I saw a few hundred birds coming in. A few HUNDRED. At first I thought they were starlings, but I realized they all had yellow eyes. Grackles. A whole bunch of 'em.
Our own version of The Birds
They were in our yard, the neighbor's yard, in the trees, in the air...
Part of the hundreds of grackles
I went out to spread a little seed for them, but going out spooked them. I hope they hang out a few days. This is the yard to be in, if you are a bird.

Nellie will be meeting with her new veterinarian tomorrow. I bet you can guess who that will be.

I had to add this. My brother sends me the nastiest forwards:

A guy goes to the supermarket and notices an attractive woman waving at
him. She says hello.

He's rather taken aback because he can't place where he knows her from.
So he says, "Do you know me?"

To which she replies, "I think you're the father of one of my kids."

Now his mind travels back to the only time he has ever been unfaithful
to his wife and says, "My God, are you the stripper from my bachelor
party that I made love to on the pool table with all my buddies watching
while your partner whipped my butt with wet celery?

She looks into his eyes and says calmly ...

"No, I'm your son's teacher".

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Sadness at the Oxbow

I spent my alone time today at the Oxbow. It rained off and on while I was there, but I was too happy to feel the drops to complain.
The Oxbow is ringed with corn and soybean fields along its west side:

Field road at the Oxbow
The only good thing about the drought is that the roads in the Oxbow are drivable. In typical years, there are areas that will swallow your car. No joke.

Hollow but alive
This tree was hollow, but still alive. How do they DO that?
You can see the "old" shoreline in this picture.
dying and dead fish
And here is the new shoreline. Oxbow Lake is nearly dry.
cracked earth
Check this. Look at my feet...I wear size 8's, and the cracks are nearly big enough to twist an ankle.
big shell
Everywhere you look, unionid shells are laid bare. This one has a puddle of rainwater. I have seen these every time I visit the Oxbow, but today was like watching extinction. There is very little water for them to hide in. I read that they can make pearls, but the pearls are chalky and soft.
Black vultures
A flock of black vultures came in and chased off the murder of crows across the way. They wanted the fish and they got it all, too.
spotted maybe
Spotted sandpipers, I think.
I really think this was a Baird's sandpiper. They have been spotted here in the past week or so.
I miss my camera. It helps me with ID's. It can focus faster than my binoculars. And I can get better looks at things.
I couldn't walk more than a few feet without encountering a dead fish.
What lazy hunters leave
I wasn't aware that hunting was permitted in the Oxbow. That doesn't sound right to me. But the Conservancy's long-term plan include traditional use of the floodplain (hunting, fishing and farming). Oh, well. At least the hunters could pick their shit up, right?

I also saw a worm-eating warbler, yellow-rumped warbler, grackles, blue-winged teals, an unidentified "peep" ( I want it to be a sanderling!), double-crested cormorants, barn swallows, and the usual chickadees, cardinals and of course the very annoying killdeer.

I was happy with the birding today, but I left a bit down. The water level is so low, the big fish (I don't know, carp?) are forced to lay on their sides to get one gill under water to breathe. And the water is still shrinking. We need about a month of rain to get everything back on line.
I wonder how long the effects of this summer will last?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

New glasses

Sunday was a family togetherness day (no work for Geoff, no programs for me) and we went to the Cincinnati Museum Center.
A favorite of mine is the "Cave". It's a fabricated cave system inside the museum, complete with waterfalls and stalactites/stalagmites.

In the cave room
You have to cross a pool of water to get through this room. It's so fun!
IN front of a big dead fish
The Natural History area is the best. I like to see the remains of giant prehistoric fish, the specimen of our lost passenger pigeon, the display of trilobites...There's also a fabricated glacier that is in the middle of the big warm-up, with streams of cold water flowing down the trail beside you and along the way are moose, wolves, humongous beavers...

So little has been happening, it's hard to think of anything witty...
I am going birding tomorrow, all by my lonesome! Haven't decided where yet. Just about any spot is pretty decent right now. You never know what could fly through.

Speaking of birds, guess who like Zick Dough?

Euro and his Zick dough
Euro, our Eurasian Collared Dove, jumped INTO his food bowl to get to the mound of dough I tossed in. He approves. He approves so much I thought he was going to choke himself.
I love the look on his face. For some reason, I always think of him having a French accent.

Today, I took Isabelle for her yearly eye exam, and she did very well. She has been going to this doctor since she was 4 weeks old, so it's all old hat to her. Click here to read the whole story.
Her prescription needed to be increased, just a bit (this is the first time it hasn't stayed the same) and her old pair of glasses broke in her hand just as we were leaving the office. Good timing. We went to the local Lenscrafter's and now she has a new pair...she picked them out herself. On the way home, she was marveling at how nice they were, and she said:
"Oh, Mommy! I can see everything so clear! Thank you for getting me new glasses!"
Now I ask ya, what kid says that?
When did Isabelle become a teenager
Wait a damn minute. When did Isabelle become a teenager?????

Monday, September 24, 2007

Let's talk about peregrine falcons

Since my camera is going to be in the camera hospital for 2 or 3 weeks, I am going to have to pull posts
out of my a**, I guess.
I like doing species profiles, so let's start off with my favorite raptor, the Peregrine Falcon:

The peregrine falcon's scientific name is Falco Peregrinus, which means Falcon Wanderer.
There are three recognized subspecies in North America: F.P. Pealei from the coastal islands off Alaska; F.P. Tundrius, which nests above the tree line in the Arctic; and F.P. Anatum, which once ranged over North America from coast to coast. They are the same size and weight of a crow.

In the 1960s, scientists discovered that DDT was interfering with egg shell formation of meat and fish eating birds. Healthy birds were laying eggs so thin they were crushed by the weight of the incubating adult. By 1965, no Peregrine falcons were fledged in the eastern or Central United States. By 1968, the Peregrine population was completely eradicated east of the Mississippi River. In 1972, use of DDT was severely restricted in the United States and worldwide.
Efforts to breed the Peregrine in captivity and reestablish populations depleted during the DDT years were greatly assisted by methods of handling captive falcons developed by falconers. (So if you know a falconer, be sure to give them a hug)
Neat facts...
The Peregrine's awesome speed and power also made it the favorite bird for falconers in the Middle Ages. The female, which is slightly larger and more powerful than the male, was preferred and only she is given the title of “falcon”.
A male Peregrine is referred to as a “tiercel” or "tercel" meaning third.

Baby falcons are called eyasses (pronounced eye-esses). They are covered by white down when they are born, which is replaced by feathers in three to five weeks. Although they have a high mortality rate, Peregrines have been known to live as long as 15 years. They usually begin breeding when they are about two years old.
They double their weight in only six days and at three weeks will be ten times their birth size.

They are nature's fastest fliers: Peregrines have been clocked in horizontal flight at 40 to 55 mph, and diving, or stooping, at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour. They are the fastest moving creature on the planet.

Peregrine falcons feed primarily on birds they take in the air: their prey includes ducks, pheasants, and pigeons (and if we are lucky, starlings and house sparrows). They hit their prey with half-closed feet, basically punching the bird in mid-air, and either retrieve the dead bird in flight or from the ground.

Falconry clubs are alive and well in the U.S. Falconry is an ancient sport, dating back to China before 2000 B.C. Shakespeare was a falconry fan, who brought falconry terms into popular speech, like "hag" or "haggard" which is a term for a mature hawk or falcon.
Ancient Egyptian art depicts falconry, and Horus, an Egyptian god, was a falcon. The "Eye of Horus" is a stylized falcon eye.

The Peregrine Falcon has one of the longest migrations of any North American bird. Tundra-nesting falcons winter in South America, and may move 15,500 miles in a year.

Peregrines are currently listed as endangered in Ohio. All the major cities in the state have a nesting pair.
Young falcons raised from the nest in Columbus have nested in New York, Michigan and Indiana. Other Columbus young have been observed in Alabama, Texas, West Virginia and Canada. The falcon management program is funded by contributions to the Endangered Species and Wildlife Diversity Fund (State Income Tax check-off and Wildlife Conservation License plate).
Stats from the 2006 nesting season: 18 nesting pairs, 60 chicks fledged.

Now, is it any wonder that Lucy (above) is my favorite?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

It seems that the Snits are contagious

I'm grumpy today. That's not something you typically hear from me, is it? But I'm in a snit.

And not about anything in particular, either. Just grouchy. Maybe I miss my camera. Can you imagine if it had broke while I was at Cape May? Y'all would have seen a different side of Susan, let me tell ya.
Now, onto our regularly scheduled post:

I wanted to tell you about an interesting phenomena I have witnessed. I have done a few hundred programs for RAPTOR so far, and I have talked in front of a wide variety of people.
Yesterday, I did presentations at two separate locations, with two very diverse groups.
The first one was an informal program (i.e. the birds are perched outside and people come and go, ask questions, etc) in an area that is, shall we say, financially disadvantaged. It was a church festival, whole-community sort of thing. And this group of people was so interested in the birds (I took Isis, our leucistic red-tail; Lucy, the peregrine; and our gray screech owl-that bird needs a name) and asked very good questions, listened to what I had to say and I could tell they had a new appreciation for birds of prey, and nature in general.

One little boy stands out in my mind, and probably will for the rest of my life. He was maybe 10 years old, with the silkiest-looking corn rows and braids ( I had to tell myself constantly NOT to reach out and touch them) and big wonderful eyelashes (why do BOYS get the good eyelashes?) and he was BRIGHT. Bright like those kids that you know will be something someday. Bright like I bet Julie was as a child.
He asked the most in-depth questions, soaked in what I said, made connections I would not have expected from a 10 year old. He even helped me pack up my visual aids (the heads, feet, wings, pellets). What a sweet kid.
His big brother was with him, and was encouraging the boy to learn more. Oh my God, this little boy is going to be one of those people who goes places. I hope.
The event coordinator helped me load my car afterwards, and I mentioned the boy, and she knew just who I was talking about. I made her promise that she would keep an ear open about him. I can see him becoming a kick-ass naturalist, or a leader in conservation, etc. Yes, he was that exceptional.

My next program was in a very affluent area. That audience was just fine, but it made me think of other programs in similar neighborhoods. I have presented to the big, fancy-schmancy private schools in the area, and on the whole, I have never seen such spoiled, disinterested kids.
People send their kids to expensive private schools, thinking that they are giving them advantages. But these kids never know what it's like to go without, they are given everything they want, and how do they act? Like the brats they are.
It was a bit of a depressing revelation. Now, don't get me wrong. I am trying not to stereotype. I am only reporting what I have seen personally. There are exceptional kids in all walks of life, and there are ass-hole kids in all walks of life. But my observations during my programs has opened my eyes. Just because you make a lot of money and send your kids to the "It" school doesn't mean they are going to turn into a great adult. And transversely, just because you are poor and can barely send your kids to the public school doesn't mean they are going to turn into a criminal or dead beat.

That sweet little boy has given me hope for the next know, the people who are going to be taking care of US someday?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Birding with KatDoc is really the Pits (or, If you are birding with OLDER people, remember to bring an ear trumpet)

*I have had a day for the books, y'all. First, I tried to capture the "cute" little orange kitten, and was rewarded by 14 puncture wounds in my right arm. After wrapping it in gauze, Lorelei went out to Stonelick Lake to wade in the water, feel the sand between our toes, and maybe see some birds. We were there 2 minutes, and my CAMERA broke. (The lens won't retract) So, instead of going through the horror of maybe seeing some great birds and NOT being able to take any pictures, we left and went to Best Buy, where I said goodbye to my camera for 2 to 3 WEEKS. (Tip: If you spend more than $200 on anything, GET the WARRANTY)
I am forced to use my very old, very slow camera that has a whole 2.8 X zoom, and 3 whopping megapixels.*

Word to the wise:
If you ever get to go birding with KatDoc, be prepared to see NO BIRDS WHATSOEVER. I have birded with her before, and really have yet to see anything interesting.
Of course, it might not be that there aren't any birds to be found, but instead that we spend so much time laughing hysterically, we are missing them all.
I bet Kathi will beat me to the post, since this camera was made by cavemen. And since I no longer have the software for this camera, I had to up load the pics through Picasa, and then I couldn't find where they had gone to.

We went to That Place. The one that is illegal unless you have a permit. Or, in Kathi's case, you know someone "on the inside".

The trip list, as far as I can remember:
Pied-billed grebes
4 Cardinals
4+ Carolina chickadees
2 Wood ducks
7 billion mallards
2 Least sandpipers
7 billion killdeer (or maybe it was just one, and it was following us)
Some American coots
1 million mourning doves (or MO-DO's, as Kathi calls them)
Black ducks, we think
A flock of Canada geese
Some kind of hawk, a tiny speck on the horizon
Gray catbirds
A whitetail deer (I saw this one, but Kathi missed it because she was too busy looking through her binoculars at a stick)
A snake
Turtle heads (presumably attached to turtle bodies, but we weren't sure)

I was actually one up on Kathi here, because I had driven in to the place before, albeit illegally.
Isn't it pretty?
We found a really dead goose.
Since we haven't had any rain, the body was in very good shape (the naturalist said it had been there for a long time). So we pulled a "Julie" and poked and prodded it, puzzling out what might have happened to it. And took 127 pictures of it.
Chimpin'!! Eee! Eee! Eee!
This was our best moment of the evening...a fall warbler. After a lot of field guide digging, we are calling it a Prairie warbler. And Kathi saw a Nashville, but I missed it. I must have been straining to ID a clump of mud on the far shore.
The water is more than four feet below what it was this time last year. Makes for fun rock formations. (The white dot is the reflection of the moon)
God help me, but as I was trying to take a picture of the moon and its reflection, pulling another "Julie" by getting into a really strange pose, Kathi took a picture of me. Can't wait to see that one!
*Just checked Kathi's blog, and she must have gone to bed or something, so check out her version of our excursion tomorrow!
Edit: The Zick has chimed in, and the warbler is a Cape May, not a Prairie. Damn. Woulda been a lifer.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


I was just sitting here wondering what to post about, when Cindy, RAPTOR'S Bird Care Director, emailed me and gave me a new word:

Plumicorn: An ear tuft of feathers, as in the horned owls.

Nothing of interest happened today, but I bet I will have a great post tomorrow. Kathi and I are going birding late in the day and I'm sure we will stumble over each other trying to be the first to get home and post! I do have an advantage, because I live 10 minutes from where we are going, and she lives like a zillion miles from it.
I'll drive slow, Kath.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A cat, a kid, a frog and some birds

I thought maybe I would throw all of you by doing a coherent, solid post with a theme.
But then, I thought...naaaaa.

See how badly the legal way sucks
See why the legal way sucks? Could you identify a duck in that water? This is the view from the legal trail that runs between a public nature preserve and the pits.

another white pigeon
I found a new white pigeon down the road from RAPTOR. It isn't the one I used to see...that one had a tan-colored tail. I love pigeons. Feel free to think I'm nuts.

outside cat
We seem to have acquired an outside cat. For the past 8 nights, I have gone out to feed and try to capture this kitten. Despite lots of sweet mewing and rubbing his body all over the cars and trees, he will not let me get close enough to him to grab him. I may have to resort to the old coyote/roadrunner box held up by a stick, tied- with- a -string trick. Yeah, I bet that'll work.
When he is finally caught, he will be going to a shelter. Any one want a cat?

checking the deodorant
"It's not nesting season anymore, but I better check and see if my deodorant is still working."
another fall warbler
I'm going to call this a Magnolia warbler. Gray head and face, yellow belly and white wing bars.

Summer Lorelei
Late Summer light falls on my Winter baby.
When did she get so grown-up looking?
Where was I? Did anyone send a memo?

Our new tree frog
Surprise, surprise, surprise! (in a Gomer Pyle voice).
Our tadpole, who I thought would turn into a bull frog, has instead turned into a tree frog! This little guy is the newest generation of Cope's gray tree frog, a frog that I didn't even know lived in Ohio. Click HERE to see just how much it has grown and changed in 9 days!
Now we have to find teeny, tiny crickets to feed him. Ug.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I did it the legal way, but the legal way sucks.

I had a million things to do today, one right after the other, but I managed to squeeze in 45 minutes of birding at "Grand Valley". If you want to read about my previous trips, click here and here and here....the last one was with Kathi (KatDoc) when she showed me the "legal" way to bird at the pits. And just as Kathi commented on my last post, I too am getting birding fever now that the crappy, hot summer weather has passed. And Fall Migration is revving up! Whoot!
The legal way to bird at the pits is also frustratingly far away. Way up on a hill overlooking the water.

Pied-billed grebe

cedar waxwing
There were between 50 and 75 cedar waxwings working the trees. And I could only get two semi-decent pictures.

preening waxwings
So, you won't turn around so I can get a good picture of your face?
Fine. I am totally taking a picture of your butt.

And the nemesis of all birders...the FALL WARBLER:
fall warbler
Let's see. We have yellowish head and chest, white wing bars, and faint streaking on the chest. I am trying to turn this into a pine warbler. Anyone want to chime in?
fall warbler 2
I'm going back with Lorelei tomorrow, when I will have more time. Thanks for showing me the "won't go to jail" way to bird the pits!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Easy like Sunday morning

This weekend has been so nice and relaxing. The weather is decidedly Fall-like, with that painfully blue sky and warm sun. Ahhh.
First,I had to go to RAPTOR to get some more pictures for our "project", and since I had heard of an American White Pelican at the Oxbow I decided to take Bailey back to my Mom's, and Geoff needed to work, so I took Lorelei along, too. That sentence was way too long.

I didn't see the pelican (which would be a life bird for me....doesn't that seem ridiculous, that I have never seen a pelican? It seems ridiculous to me), but the Oxbow was quite birdy. The only binoculars I had with me were my first pair...not very large and not very powerful.
What I did see:

Greater yellow legs
A group of three greater yellowlegs. I love the way they walk like they don't want to get their feet wet, like marching.

A group of unidentified ducks, using their bills to spoon through the muck. The Oxbow's water level hasn't been this low in about 20 years, so it's a good year for shorebirds.
I also saw a few great egrets, a big flock of killdeer, a double-crested cormorant (I almost typed doulbe-breasted!) and about a hundred great blue herons.

I found most of a skeleton. Anyone want to guess at its previous owner?
All I could tell is that it wasn't a fish. A goose? A duck?
The breast bone was as large as my hand.
Science Chimp! We need an intervention!

Bailey stayed in the car, but Lorelei was happy to bird with me.
This part of the Oxbow is usually under about 6 to 8 feet of water. Now it's covered in sedges.

Lorelei in the sedge

It felt very comfortable to walk on. Smooshy.
And Lorelei was so delighted in it, she laid down and said, "Ooooooh...".
all the way in the sedge
I decided not to mention the possibility of snakes and frogs and bugs crawling around in the sedge. Why ruin her moment?

By the way:
Correction on my last post...Cooper's hawks have a "cross" shape, sharpies have a "mallet" shape. I was thinking "cross" and typed "mallet".
Brain cramp.

Geoff had a marathon to do a book signing for, near his parents' house, and he had to be there really early in the morning, (another really awkward sentence...Laura? Correct that for me, will ya?) so he took the girls up and stayed with them overnight. I had the place to myself! WHOOT!
I did some home projects that I have been putting off, and just enjoyed myself.
I slept until about 10 am today. It was fabulous.