Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Dogs and their Favorite Things Meme

Okay, so Mary interviewed her pets, so I had to do it, too.
I have so many pets to choose from. We have the cats, the dogs, the fish, the rats, the dove, the parakeet...So I chose the dogs. They are effervescent enough to be interviewed, right?

1. What are your favorite songs?
HOOPER: "Silly woman. We are dogs."
Hooper investigates the lens

2. What are your favorite toys?

NELLIE: "I like my soccer ball...that doesn't have any air in it. I don't like any balls that have air. I like them sqooshy."
Nellie raspberry

HOOPER: "Toys are beneath a dog of my stature. And I don't have the energy that toys involve, anyway."
Hooper sings opera
"I do occasionally chew on a cat or two. Not to hurt them....just to hear them squeak."

3. What are your favorite foods?

NELLIE: "I likes that yummy fish oil that Auntie Kathi gave me for my itchies. And I like Auntie Julie's Suet Dough. That little kid here, Lorelei? She drops a lot of chicken tenders and I like those, too."

Nellie the dentist
"And Hooper's breath is pretty fantastic, too."

HOOPER: "I like it food, people food, crayons, cardboard, kitty crunchies..."

4. What are your favorite activities?

NELLIE: "I am the original party animal:

Basket case
I like to roll around in the yard and get smelling real good. Raccoon poop is the best. But Mama doesn't like that smell."
Nellie rolling
"I really like to run for the back door when the tree swallows are out in the yard. They scare me and I have to run with my eyes all squinchy."
Nellie the Chicken Dog

Nellie kisses Lorelei
"These kids taste really good sometimes. I like to help clean them up, because their parents let them run around with food all over them. I'm doing a service here."

HOOPER: Sleep. Eat. Pass gas (Chet, you got nuthin' on me, dude). Get the "Gritties".

5. What are your bad habits?

Poor unloved puppy
HOOPER: "I'm lazy."

Tongue hanging out
NELLIE: "Sometimes I drool when I sleep."

Ol' Geezer Dog update: He was perkier this morning, after a night being cared for and fed and given lots of soft blankets, and I took him to our local shelter. I hope his family is looking for him. He's a sweet dog.

And to reiterate Kathi's comment from last night: PUT ID ON YOUR DOG! Whether it's a microchip or a tattoo or just some tags....just do it! That dog would have been back with his family last night if he had had some ID on him.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I'm off to see a man about a dog...

So, there I was, cooking dinner and minding my own business. The girls were playing and begging me to cook the food faster because they were "starving".
All of a sudden, Hooper began to howl at the back door (since he may have a bit of "wolfishness" in him, he doesn't bark. He yodels). Nellie ran to see what was up, and she began to whine and "ruff, ruff". They only do this when someone or some thing is walking along the road behind the house.

There was a dog, walking down the middle of the state route that runs beyond the back yard.
Oh, Hell.
I grabbed a leash, threatened the girls with eternal grounding if they let our dogs out, and ran out the door. I could hear car horns beeping continuously, and I thought, "Dang, this dog is either deaf or really hurt."
A woman had stopped her car, gotten out, and helped the dog to the side of the road. Another neighbor had come out to help. The woman in the car went down to a few houses asking if anyone had lost a dog. Nope.
I checked the dog out: Blood around the eye (little bit), blood around the nostrils (little bit), blood in the mouth. (little bit)
I attached the leash to his collar and slowly walked it back to our house. It was lame in one or both back legs. And this is a very old dog...a very gray muzzle on an otherwise golden dog.

I put it in the garage and ran in to call Kathi. (It totally rocks to have a friend who also happens to be a vet.) I was in a bit of a froth about all of it, and she calmed me down, asked me some questions, and said that if he could eat and drink and wasn't gushing blood, it could wait until morning to go to the shelter. So that's what I will be doing. Old, seems-to-be-mostly-deaf geezer pup is resting comfortably and will go to hopefully be found by his owners at the shelter.

How do they find me? (I'm sure Geoff is thinking the same he prays that no other animals show up at the door.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Being a stubborn git can pay off (i.e. the 5 raptor day)

When I woke up this morning, I realized that evil sinus fairies had stealthily stole into the bedroom last night and replaced my brain with wet cotton balls.
(I am a sneezing, snuffling, half-comatose mess right now. And a bit high on Robitussin. You have been warned)

Lorelei and I went out, with no particular goals. We "made the rounds" of the local birdy areas, starting with Lake Isabella. There has been a nesting can for great horned owls there for years. Last year, after incubating for nearly 30 days, the female disappeared after a really horrible ice storm. (Click HERE for a "Sunday Sketch" of the nest)
I have been checking that can for the past 2 weeks, and was ready to give up. Maybe they are taking a break this year.
No, I say! NO! I will check one more more time. And my anal fixation of this nest has paid off. She was on nest today.
Day 1 of incubation:

Great horned owl nesting 012908

See the ear tufts?

Plumicorns in a can

I was so thrilled. (Despite the evil sinus fairies) And Lorelei was, too. She has been as hopeful as me about this nest.
So, that's raptor #1 today.

Then it was Armleder Park, the home of this season's RAPTOR-PALOOZA.

First bird (raptor #2) as we came into the park was Skippy, the Welcome Kestrel:

Skippy the Welcome Kestrel

The car was right next to this sign, and he could have cared less.
"Welcome to Armleder. Please obey all rule and regulations. Please keep all dogs on leash. Please park only in designated areas. Enjoy your visit, and have a wonderful day."

He also doubles as the Traffic Bird:
Kestrel stop
*whistling...."Stop! In the name of looooooooove..."

Raptor #3 was one of the spazzy harriers who are calling Armleder home for the winter.
Raptor #4 was a PEREGRINE FALCON trying to get out of the way of said spazzy harrier. He/she took off across the river to go eat some pigeons off the Beechmont levy.

Why did I have to go all the way to Cape May, New Jersey to see my life PF, when they live HERE? Why, I say?

Raptor #5 was a red-tailed hawk at Exit #14, at mile marker 14 off I-71 (affectionately called the "Mile Marker 14 Bird" by some RAPTOR, Inc. members.

Just think. If it had been a bit colder, I would have seen the short-eared owls. That would have been #6. And if our resident red-shouldered hawk had been hanging around the yard, that would have been #7. Or our barred owl. That would have been #8. That would have been too fantastic to handle.

Monday, January 28, 2008

TVs and BVs for Lynne

Since Lynne could probably use some cheer, I decided to go out today and find the big roost of vultures that hang out near the Cincinnati Nature Center.
They weren't in their usual place, but I found them a few miles down the road:

50 or more turkey and black vultures, basking.

Venue of vultures

BV flyover
Even when I got out of my car, only a few flew off. A very relaxed venue of vultures.

Black vultures 2
Oh, I miss my camera. These pictures would have been so much better. I was using my binoculars with the camera, doing the "digi-bining" thing. It is so not a substitute for a good birding camera. My camera better come back perfect.

Black vulture 1

Basking vulture
Call them ugly if you must. But they are very cool.
Like 'em, Lynne?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Girly-girl party and a new cat

We had a birthday party for Lorelei yesterday at Mom's. I can't believe Miss L is FOUR (well, as of 4 pm tomorrow).

Lorelei front door

Birthday girl
She dressed a ball gown.
It's all about the fashion. And purse. And jewelry. And shoes.

I found THE perfect cake for her:

Barbie cake 1
A Barbie (tm) cake. A real Barbie stuck into a big cake:

Barbie cake 2
The doll is sitting in a plastic tube, and when you pull her out, she isn't all gunky with icing.
The dress is the cake. That is brilliant. Four layers of chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. My glucose levels still haven't come down.
Isn't that cute???
(I like that the Barbie isn't Caucasian. We need color in our lives. I call her "Guadalupe Barbie".)

Big news at the Mom's house:
A new cat.
Now, if you know my Mom personally, you know that she has been very adamant about no more pets. Bailey, her Manchester terrier, has been just fine for her and that's that. We had cats and/or dogs while I was growing up, but after my Dad died, she said no more animals. But.

My SIL found this cute cat outside (when it was like 5 degrees) and started taking care of it.
Mom resisted a whole 2 days before asking my SIL to bring the cat over. Next thing we know, there's a litter box in the basement and Fancy Feast in the pantry.
And Mom's all, "Who's a pretty boy? Who's a pretty boy? Wuzza wuzza wuzza...."

Mom Spot and Bailey
His name is Spot. Bailey is unsure of this, but seems to be willing to adapt to this strange fuzzy thing.
This is one cute kitty. Loving, happy, calm, always has the motor running...
He has short hair, white with black spots.....
But his tail looks like it used to be on the end of a raccoon:

Spot on toilet
Welcome to the fam, little kitty. You hit the Jackpot.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Coolness is relative

I've always thought of myself as cool. In elementary and high school, I didn't have any problems with being ostracized or getting "kick me" signs on my back. I was not the Queen fact, I felt sorry for the elitist girls who felt that they had to be so perfect and so accomplished and so looked-up-to. The people I hung out with were on the "middle ground"...not the Elite, not the Geeks. We were friends with people from all the groups, but part of none of them. It worked for us.

Cool used to mean something that other people saw in me. At some point, that changed into viewing myself and seeing that coolness was in the eye of the beholder.
If someone had told me back in the dim 1980's that I was going to be a good mom, be proud that my whites were really white, know all the words to "The Wheels on the Bus" and be a birder, for chrissakes, I would have thought they were mental. I mean, a birder? (Or that antiquated term, birdwatcher) One of those tweed-wearing dudes? Or like that pompous old lady in The Birds? Come on. I have been in mosh pits. I have patent leather thigh-high boots. I've been tossed out of a Waffle House for dancing on a table.
I have a tattoo, for goodness sake!

But here I am. I have fought anyone who wants to label me, to pigeonhole me (excuse the bird pun there), to say I am only this or that. But if you want to call me a birder, feel free. Because that's what I am. Call me a Mommy. Because that's what I am. But if that's all you see, then you don't see me.
What I think is cool and awesome is that it's popular to be into the environment and get out to the forest and care about what you see. I like that. It makes it easier for people to change their ways.
If anyone thinks that being into birding and nature are uncool, I give you Julie. Now, you tell me that woman isn't cool.

Now, a bit of Gary Larson....I miss that man. Don't you? Why isn't he still doing comics???

And me getting my tattoo (the artist is spraying my punctured skin with disinfectant...ow.):

I want another one. Geoff is 50/50 about that. He'd rather I didn't, but I tend to be a bit headstrong. My next tattoo? Something drawn by the Divine Ms. JZ. Maybe a falcon? A great blue heron? Anyone have any ideas?
I can sense Geoff up in his office as he reads this, getting pale and vaporish.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Parade of Fools

My camera is broken. The damned "Lens Error" thing came on and I was picture-less. That sucks. So once again, I am using a cute little point 'n' shoot.
And once again, I am dipping into the past for photos.
The title of this post is an accurate description of what is to follow...
The guys who let me get away.

Mom and the In-Laws, you are so not allowed to read this.....Potty-mouth alert. But I bet my best friend Shannon will have a good laugh at this....

Let's begin with 1988: My brother's wedding.
Good Lord.
Now, Anne, (that's my SIL) you usually make such good decisions. Why the Southern Belle look? Why, in the sweet name of all that is good and holy?
This is Tom, a friend of my brother's. I was 15, he was 19. The things he pulled with me were technically a felony. We didn't actually date. Just wanted to add the photo because I look like a goof.

1989, one of four proms I attended:

Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Who in the Hell did my hair?????
This is Chris. He was a junior, I was a sophomore. We dated for about 4 months, then, while our marching band was in Florida on vacation, he dumped me. But still wanted me to be his date for the prom. Probably because no one else would want to be seen with his sorry ass. So I went. And he ditched me at the After-Party to go to another party. I had to get a ride home from people I really didn't even know. Loser. We were in a church group together (okay, okay, enough with the incredulous laughing) and he was all Christian when it came to talking to my parents, but he was a dirty, dirty boy when it came to the
backseat of a car (no, not all the way dirty).
What a hypocrite. What a schmuck.

Summer, 1991. A friend from high school was getting married, and I needed a date. I ran into Billy at the mall and asked him to go with me...just as a friend, or so HE thought.
We had such a great time at the wedding. We danced our butts off and laughed and talked...I didn't want the night to end. I flirted like I have never flirted before. I drove him home, and he didn't try a thing.
He was so cute. And clean. And a great dancer. And sweet. And a gentleman. And so GAY.

(I found that out a few years later and it all made sense. I wasn't his type. Last I heard, he was in a warm, healthy relationship with a nice guy. Cheers, Billy! But you missed out.)

1992. But we have to back track a bit...I dated Tony just after Chris (see above, you know, the schmuck) and Tony was a very nice guy. Just poor and from the wrong side of the tracks.
I got tired of all the drama (drugs, the LAW) and broke up with him. I told him that I would think about taking him back if he straightened up and got his life in order.
Know what he did? He joined the Army. And got sent to Kuwait.
When he got back, he got in touch with me. He was stationed in Oklahoma, and asked me to come for a visit.
What a disaster that trip was. He wasn't any cleaner than he had been. The Army just shined him up a bit. He kicked me out of his house after I found him doing coke on the kitchen table and I had to spent the rest of my trip with his neighbor. (But that neighbor was a hottie.)
It's a damn shame, too. He was a gifted writer and funny and a really neat person. But he didn't follow his dreams. Last I heard, he had a kid and a woman and was managing a fast food restaurant. Damn shame.

1996. The guy I almost married.
Tony (yep, another Tony...almost a carbon copy of the first one) was from the wrong side of the tracks. He never finished high school, had a rough life even though his parents tried. He was freakin' hilarious, had a heart of gold and thought I was the best thing God ever created. I dated the doofus for almost 6 years. I thought I could raise him up out of his life and help him get a new one. But I learned the hard way that you can't do that for someone. They have to be the driving force in their own life.
We got an apartment together, and six months later, it was over. The SOB cheated on me. With an ugly older woman. WTF?
But it was the best thing he could have done. I woke up. and moved OUT.

You know the saying that you have to kiss a lot of frogs to get your prince? Well, there's a few frogs for you. And I got my prince.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Because she wants to know

Recently, Lynne asked a desperate question and really, really wants to know...

Why are some owls' eyes yellow or orange, and others are brown?

That's a darn good question. A question that does not have a simple answer.

Bigger brains than mine have puzzled over this. But here is where my train of thought went:
Okay. North American owls have either yellow or brown eyes, and European owls have orange eyes. It's not a "light-gathering thing" with the yellow eyes, because if it was, all owls would have yellow eyes.
Let's think about our owls on this side of the pond...

Great horned owls: Yellow
Western and Eastern screech owls: Yellow
Maybe tufted owls have yellow eyes and non-tufted owls have brown eyes?

I AM happy

Two owls two ears

Elvis is not amused.  Ever.

Nope. Snowy owls are non-tufted, and have yellow eyes.

(This is Ghost, an education bird at Bird TLC, Anchorage Alaska)

And Northern saw-whets have yellow eyes, and no tufts.
And great gray owls...same thing.
Crap. What else?

Well, why do humans have green, brown or blue eyes? A species accumulates a trait through evolution because the environment has placed selective pressure on that species to survive with those traits.
Example: People whose descendants are from lands near the equator tend to have dark eyes, to help protect their eyes from the harsh sunlight. Same thing with darker skin and courser hair. And those whose descendants are from more northern climes are lighter skinned and have lighter eyes, because less protection was needed.

So, did dark-eyed owls evolve from earlier bird life that lived in the south? And lighter-eyed owls come from primitive Northern birds?
Let's list some "Northern" and "Southern" owls:
Great gray owl-Y
Great horned owl-Y
Snowy owl-Y
Northern hawk owl-Y
Northern saw-whet owl-Y
Boreal owl-Y
Short-eared owl-Y
Northern pygmy owl-Y
Flammulated owl (whose range is both northern and southern parts of the west-B

Whiskered screech owl-Y
Burrowing owl-Y
Central American pygmy owl-Y
Fulvous owl-B
Chaco owl-B
Spectacled owl-Y
Long-whiskered owlet- RED!
Striped owl-B
Mottled owl- B

So. While this is in no way a scientific study here, and there are like 175 owl species in the world and I just don't know them all...What I see from this very small amount of searching, is that a good number of Northern owls have yellow eyes, while Southern owls are sort of split.
So is this evidence for the argument that this is an evolutionary trait? Not really. But it begs the question, "Is there something to that?". Who wants to give me a grant so I can go travel the world and study this? This could go on and on...there are nearly 10,000 bird species in the world, and some of them have yellow, white or red eyes, and the rest have black or brown.
Interesting fact I came up with...Birds have 5 eye color variants, humans only have 3.

The short answer is, "No one is sure."

The really long answer is, "No one is sure, and definitely that Susan Gets Native person doesn't know. She isn't giving us anything Earth-shattering. Why do we come here? Man, I came here for funny videos. How about some shots of those cute dogs she has?"

I invite all to ponder this and comment. But no bashing my research skillz...I took Advil PM a while ago for a killer headache, so I be fuzzy....

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Species profile: Barred Owl

Since my week so far has been blessed by barred owls, here's a species profile...

Look at my pretty

The barred owl, (strix varia) is an owl of deep forests, swamps and woodlands near waterways. Their range covers much of North America except for the Rocky Mountains and the deserts of the Southwest. Their range slightly overlaps the range of the Spotted Owl, and there is evidence that in some areas as they push west, they are pushing the spotted owl out. Northern populations can be migratory, depending on food sources.
Territories can be between 200 and 900 acres.

They are medium-sized owls , and like most other raptors, are sexually dimorphic only in size. The males are approximately 16-20 inches in length, and weigh about a pound.
Females are much longer at 20-25 inches, and weigh around a pound and a half.
Stumbling across an owl is always a surprise and pleasure, and when they are flying away, they always seem larger than they actually are. I've heard many a tale from folks who say, "This owl came flying out of a tree and it was this big! (holding out both arms)".

The barred owl is our only medium to large owl with dark eyes. They have no ear tufts.
They are called "barred" because of the pattern of their plumage...white, brown and gray bars.

Barred owls are my favorite birds to listen to...a very distinctive hooting, which is phrased as
"Who cooks for-you, who cooks for-you all?"
Click HERE to listen to the typical call.
They can also caw, scream, caterwaul and grunt like monkeys.

Like all birds, barred owls are opportunistic. Not strictly nocturnal, they can be seen hunting before sunset, usually on cloudy cold days, or during nesting season. They use a perch from which to dive down to its prey (meadow voles, mice, rats, mink [that's ironic, given that Elvis was killed by one] frogs, snakes, fish (wading into the water for them), small birds, large insects, get the idea.)

Barred owls call throughout the year, but things really get turned up starting in February when they go looking for love. Breeding starts in March. They do not construct a nest, but use tree cavities and will also use nest boxes. An abandoned hawk or crow nest can also be used.
The female will lay 2-4 eggs, one every 2 days or so. Incubation begins with the first egg, so the eggs will be staggered as they hatch 28-33 days later, and they will fledge in 42 days.
Barred owl parents will care for their young for 4 months, much longer than other owls.
The young, when they are grown, will not go far from their birthplace, usually staying within 6 miles. Pairs mate for life and a nest site will be used for many years.

Barred owls can live in the wild for 10 years, and in captivity, up to 23 years. Their only natural enemies are great horned owls.

barred owl tethered out
"Thank you, thank you very much."

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sometimes the non-birding spouse is worth listening to

You know, living with us nutso birders sometimes rubs off...NBB unavoidably picks things up from Sharon, Delia's squeeze has been known to pop off some birdy knowledge...and my husband is really, really great at spotting raptors. Most of the time, it's Geoff who sees the red-tailed hawk in the tree, or the red-shouldered hawk resting on the fence.

Today, I was in our bedroom, and he called out, "Honey? I think I see an owl...or a hawk."
Eyes rolling, and thinking, "Good God. Geoff is such a dork. He thinks he sees an owl, in broad daylight in our yard..." I got up and walked to the front window. And damn skippy. He was right. A barred owl:

Sleeping barred owl Front yard 012008
Sleeping in the sun...
I sneaked out (which always makes me laugh at myself...sneaking up on an OWL) and started taking pictures.

Just waking up barred owl yard 012008
"Oh. Good morning. Got any mice?"

Got any mice handy
I had put out some spare mice left over from a program on the fence yesterday, but since it hasn't gotten over 20 degrees lately, they were little mice-cicles, so I guess the owl wasn't too interested. (Though owls will cache food and then "incubate" it later, to thaw it out)

Close up barred owl
It is always so thrilling to see a healthy, whole bird of prey. RAPTOR's birds are either missing a wing or have parts that are at the wrong angle.

Barred owl cedar tree
Sweet, huh?

Yesterday I mentioned that barred owls are called the "Old Men of the Forest"...
Imagine walking through the woods and glancing up to look into this face:

Old Man of the Forest
I think that would frost my shorts, at least for a second.
I have seen a barred owl here a total of two times since we moving in here 8 years ago. But it has been so long since I have seen or heard one, I wondered if they had moved on. It's nice to know that they still think our place is great. I think we need a nesting box. How precious would that be, to see baby owlets in the Spring? teeth hurt just thinking about it.

Now, I thought Geoff finding the owl was pretty groovy. But when he started doing this, I was reminded why I am so lucky to have him.

Ladies, I present the sexiest thing a man can do:

The sexiest thing a man can do
You're jealous. You know you are.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Newest program bird at RAPTOR....Introducing Priscilla to the carrier

I have posted her picture before, but I can now use Priscilla for programs, providing she can handle getting into and out of the carrier (the box I use to transport the education a car seat for raptors). So you can guess what I spent my Saturday on.

But first, let's bask in the beauty that is a barred owl face:

That sun feel good on my feathers
It was bitterly cold today (about 15 degrees), a good day to have feathers. The sun must have felt very nice for her. And speaking of feathers, check out those

Close up of eyelid feathers
Yep, those eyelids are covered with tiny, silky-soft feathers. (I haven't felt them on a live owl. I'm not a stupid woman...I have felt them on specimens.) Owls look soft because, well, they are. Look at the feathers of a falcon, cardinal, hawk, raven, etc. They are sleek, and in the case of falcons, stiff as hell (Lucy has given me many exfoliating, one-sided facials with her wing feathers). Owls need to be silent, and along with the fimbriae, or flutings, on the tips of their wing feathers,
they also grow fluffy, soft body feathers.
So the last thing a mouse or rat is going to think is "Why am I flying?"

Look at my pretty

If you didn't appreciate the beauty of owls before, I think you can look at this wonderful bird and say, "Now THAT'S a pretty bird." I get lost looking into her eyes. (Isn't that a Debbie Gibson song?)
Barred owls are called "The Old Men of the Forest". Can you think of a better way to describe them? Since they are our only large owl in these parts with dark eyes, they really do look human. Ever come across a roosting owl? They look at first like a little person sitting there, STARING at you.

Quickie video of putting Priscilla into a carrier for the first time...sorry my big butt is in the way, but I didn't trust Isabelle to hold the camera. The owl did awfully well, considering this was her first experience with a carrier:

Just a bit of scuffling, then she settled down.

And back out again:

Dern Blogger. It spent so much time "thinking" about uploading, I just gave up.

Same thing...she panicked just a little, but I talked to her (they really don't care what I am saying, just how I say it) and gently pushed up and in (on her belly) and she stepped up. I think it's safe to say that I love her. And that she will be a great program bird.

I feel a Barred Owl species profile comin' on.

Good grief, Blogger. Does it really take a freakin' hour to upload a video????