Monday, March 31, 2008

Friends on the Marsh

I'm sick to my stomach right now. The memory card, while I was able to retrieve it, is so damaged that I am not able to get the irreplaceable pictures I took on Saturday.
Still, Laura was right there with me, so if you would like to see Delia and Kat's special day, go check out her pics.
I had never been to a commitment ceremony (well, technically, I still haven't, since Laura and I, the two biggest directionally-challenged people in the world missed it). The reception was just like any other reception I have been to...except the couples were of the same gender.

I have long been a gay-friendly sort, and miss my mo-folks since we have all scattered across the country. So my little cotton-pickin' heart was filled to the brim this weekend.

The best part of the trip? The fact that I don't have to call these women my "Bird-blogger friends". I think now we have achieved plain old "Friend" status.

*These pics were stored on my internal memory, so for all my time getting to PA, I have a total of 14 pictures*

Kisses the Cat
This is Kisses the of three kitties in Delia's household.

Anyone remember Delia's "Mystery Egg" post? Well, she showed us the spot where she found it.

Chain of events:
1. I peered into the grass at the spherical white object.
2. I saw that the spherical white object had a seam.
3. I picked it up and said, "Delia, this is a ping pong ball."

It's pong ball
The best part is that we put it back. Maybe Delia was visited by a rare migrant ping pong table and maybe this ball will hatch into a paddle or something?

First-of-year tree swallows greeted us as we headed around the first turn into the marsh.

TRES on Delias marsh

Tree swallows are possibly the bravest, most non-concerned-about-people birds there are.

We saw a muskrat (life mammal for moi), lots and lots of wood ducks (flying away because we could NOT SHUT UP long enough to be sneaky) two northern pintails, a coot doing a walk-on-water drive-by, mallards, deer, song sparrows, a red-tailed hawk, a sharp-shinned hawk and two Cooper's hawks doing an aerial courtship display.
Also cat poop, dog poop and coyote poop. The coyote poop was thoroughly Chimped by yours truly. I think someone got pictures of that. Yummy.
We also found the remains of a raptor kill....a bunch of bloody mallard feathers.

Did I miss anything, girls?

At the end of the marsh path, Delia said that here is where she usually turns around and walks back instead of crossing a very wet stretch of ground.
Now, I don't really remember whose idea it was, but we attempted to cross this wide expanse instead of just going back the way we came.
Shoes and socks and pants were sacrificed to the Marsh God.
Laura was the last to cross:
Laura stranded
Susan: "Come on, Laura! You can do it! Just run!"
Delia: "No! Don't run! It will cause much splashing!"

If you look closely, you can see just how far she is sinking. It was hilarious.

Inspecting the outhouse
The cap at the end of this adventure was the Official Inspection of the Outhouse.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Stuck Stick

Here we are in Pennsylvania. Laura is here, too.
It's a mini-Flock gathering!
I would show you great pictures from today, but my memory stick is stuck in my lap top and not in a way that I can pull photos out of it.
The drive here was really nice, even though most of it was in pre-dawn darkness.
Pennsylvania has beautiful rounded almost-mountains, with soaring vistas...I would come over a hill and it was so high that it made my heart fall down into my colon.
Tomorrow, we are headed out to Delia's for a bit of birding, and if she lets me borrow a screwdriver I can get my memory stick out. So you will have to wait.

My day so far:
Awakened at 2:30 am, left house at 3:00 am.
Drove 7.5 hours to Penn State.
Tried to check into my hotel early, but they wouldn't let me. But they let me use a DIRTY room to change my clothes. Yuck.
Went to my car to work on my make-up. Fell asleep for 30 minutes.
Laura called and is driving in circles looking for the ceremony. I also drove in circles, looking for her.
Finally found a parking space and walked 100 miles to ceremony.
Walked in circles until I found Laura.
Just as we got to the right room, the doors opened. The ceremony was already over, and there were Kat and Delia.
Finally checked into my hotel room. Laura found a hotel room down the street.
Met up with Delia and Kat again and had dinner.
Back to hotel and yelled at lap top for eating my memory stick.
Now, shower and fall comatose until tomorrow morning.
I have so much to write about, but I will save it until I am more coherent and can do it justice.
The bottom line is that we are having a blast and Laura and I are glad we came.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Eastward migration

I'm ready for my own migration...
Heading eastward for Delia and Kat's commitment ceremony.

Next post...from Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Down home

I love going to see my Mom at the old homestead in Indiana. It's the place I feel a vibration of recognition. The fields, the secret ponds hidden beyond the next hill, all these welcome me back every time I cross the border.
I didn't appreciate it as much as I do now. Being young, we tend to overlook what we have been given. What I have been realizing, though, is that I have changed, living over here in Ohio. I have become used to the way people think and act here, and when I go back to Indiana, it's like a different planet sometimes. It's not that Indiana has changed...I have. And some of the people are just downright funny.

Just some random observations:
Mom sent me out to get lunch, and while waiting in line at Wendy's, the person behind me ordered a "Chicken Fillet". Not "chicken fill-ay"....he asked for a "chicken fill-et". I nearly bit my tongue off trying not to laugh.
On the way back up the hill, I passed a mailbox that I have never noticed:
A. J. Butt.
(Do you think he is the butt of any jokes?)
Later, at the Oxbow:
An elderly lady walked down to my car as we were preparing to leave. She struck up a conversation, and when she learned that I had grown up in Bright, she started listing her family tree that included places that don't even exist anymore.
"Y'all know that farm up in Mt. Pleasant that got tore up durin' that ternada back in 1990?"
"Ya know, that water is up because those folks in Louisville (that's pronounced LOOvull) don't wanta get flooded, so they kept that there dam down there closed up."
"Ah watched a squirrel (pronounced Scwall) try ta jump acrossed that there water and he fell. I was wishin' Ah had a board to float out to 'im."

There wasn't one article of clothing on this woman that didn't have multiple holes in it, including her shoes, but she had a bag of bird seed under her arm. She said "Those Oxbow people don't want to feed the birds."
And she said that she comes down there to collect "far wood".

In the midst of all that country-ness, is my Mom....the farthest from hillbilly you can get.

How did I escape from being a hick?
I sure don't know.

Monday, March 24, 2008

It's gonna be random, so try to keep up

I've taken so many pictures over the past week I don't know where to begin.
If you would like to see the girls in their Easter finery, go to my Flickr home page and check them out.
Yesterday, aside from being Easter, was also Rita's (Swamette's) birthday.
Since I have become a beading fool I thought I would make her a neat, eclectic necklace:

Swamette's necklace
There are charms for both the girls, with their birthstones, and an "R", and I also made all the other charms by hand, thank you very much.

I have been meaning to post about our last day visiting with Trixie, but the flood and all that got in the way...
Lorelei and Vivi got to spend time together, and they helped Trixie's Mom make noodles from scratch:
Making noodles Vivi Lorelei
There was so much cuteness, I could hardly stand it.
Vivi mixing

rolling noodles
If Alaska were closer, these two would be very good friends. Why is Alaska so far away, I ask?

Trixie's Mom lives in a condo on a nice big lake, and it was amazing how many species it was attracting, given that this was a residential area:

Buffleheads! And not a mile away on the other side of a vast expanse of water. They were right there.

female kingfisher
A female belted kingfisher was scouting the area, too. Has anyone, anywhere, EVER gotten a good picture of a kingfisher????

ring necked duck
And a fine array of ring-necked ducks...this one was about to take a nap. Look at that amber eye. You don't get to see that when they are a mile away across a vast expanse of water.

Finally, a moment of repose for Nellie:

Nellie upside down

That's a lot of dog to turn upside down....

Nellie must learn to relax
And the lip is always loose and flappy. That's required.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

It's a rare Saturday when I have no obligations. I'm off seeing the latest rare bird (well, looking for it, anyway) or I have a RAPTOR program, or there's family stuff. Today I thought my help would be appreciated at RAPTOR after the flood.

When I first got there, I got Lucy out and perched her so she could get some exercise and stretch. Then, I got brave and decided to go get Earl. Now, I don't deal with Earl. When I do a program, I walk right on by her cage. One, she doesn't fit into my car and two, she's freakin' crazy. But I wanted to overcome my nervousness.
The others asked if they could watch. I said no. They asked if they could laugh. I said yes.

I went in and picked up one of her jesses and she commenced to biting the everloving Hell out of me. I stood my ground, but she was having none of me today. Thankfully, Marc came in and helped out by holding her jesses while I got the swivel on. I got her on my glove and walked outside. She then bated (flew off the glove) and spun me around a few times (she's 4.6 pounds...and strong). She then refused to get back up on my hand and just hung there (a bird's version of pouting). Marc got a glove on and assisted her back up to my hand. And then Earl puked on me. And not a little dribble...more like a whole rat's worth of barf. It got on my hand, on my shirt...I may have to burn it.
I passed her to Marc, and she suddenly was acting like a lady.
Marc and Earl

She is such a brat.
Earl 032208
Gratuitous vulture photo for Lynne.

The carriers that held the birds for two days were in need of some major scrubbing:
cleaning carriers 1

Craig and Russ cleaning carriers
Russ and Craig, spraying out one of the bird carriers.

Bent over
Marc grabbed my camera and got some pictures of me. I'm sure glad he didn't come up from behind me. Cause that's not my good side.

We also coped Lucy's beak, and at the end of it all, Marc reached in to feel for any rough spots, and Lucy bit the crap out of his finger. She was hooded, but there was just enough room for her to see his fingers getting close and bam. It's not a good coping unless someone is bleeding.

Me scrubbing carrier

For those who don't routinely scrub raptor poop: Red-tailed hawk poop is similar in consistency and permanence to spackle. It takes a wire brush and lots of scrubbing and maybe you will get it off whatever you are trying to clean.

Vulture vomit, blood and big-bird poop.
Just another glamorous day at RAPTOR, Inc.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

She can't take it back now!

Happy Spring First to one and all! We made it!
Even if Mother Nature throws snow at us, she can't take back Spring!
Today....53 degrees, dry and sunny. Glory.

GHOW lake isabella brooding
Mama GHOW is brooding...she is way high up in the nest, obviously getting crowded up there with those new fuzzy owlets.

RAPTOR in the sun wasn't any better looking fact, the water was higher:


Covered Bridge is only a few feet above the water line. I have a phobia of driving on bridges over water, so I hit maximum speed when I cross here.

The birds are still in carriers high up in the barn, and they seem to be taking it okay:

This is WAY too pink for me

"I appreciate the dry quarters, but this carrier is way too pink for me."

Poor Earl...she would rather be out picking through our hair, instead of being cooped up.

Poor Earl

Lucy's just fine. I think blue is her color:

Lucy carrier flood

An interesting find in the driveway...disconnected frog's legs:
Who wants Frog Legs
"Okay, everyone. Who wants the thigh?"

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Keeping the birds' heads above water

I really want to post about my visit with Trixie before she left, but that will have to wait until tomorrow.
The big story around here is the water. What they are calling "moderate" flooding, has shut down roads and schools all over the area. For example, Isabelle's school was closed today due to a power outage from high water. We haven't seen this much water since the big Flood of 1997.

After a program last night (and being soaked to the skin getting birds and putting them back...can't use an umbrella) I was looking at the driveway at RAPTOR and thinking, "Well, Mill Creek won't get this far." There was a nice stream of water coursing down the driveway, but that happens frequently during heavy rain.

Today, the water got that far.

raptor flood 1
When I arrived for the board meeting, all of the education birds from the west side of the yard had been evacuated to the barn in carriers. The water is deep enough to drown all of our small birds and even our larger, non-flighted ones. Birds of prey can't swim much, by the way. And if they are permanently disabled, their chances are zero.

raptor flood 3
Mill Creek isn't even visible through these trees when it is in its banks. And here it was, in the yard. And yes, that is SNOW.

During the 2 hour meeting, the water had reached my car:

raptor flood 2
There was a small spit of dry land to the back door, but my feet got wet as I got in the front.

Isis raptor flood
Isis: "I hate this carrier. But I would rather be here than in my mew, treading water."

The trick is to figure out how to house the birds until the cages are dried out. That might take 2 days. Perching them out in the yard won't work, even if someone babysits them. The yard is so saturated, the perches won't stay up.
The last part is what makes me really nervous: There is one way into the street that RAPTOR is on...over a bridge that crosses Mill Creek. If that closes, I guess we would have to swim across?

Monday, March 17, 2008

An unexpected reaction to a program, and a video

The vast sea of kindergarten faces was just great today. Isabelle was beaming like the sun, watching her Mommy do her thing.

The one thing that made today's program different from others was this: About halfway through my talk, one of the kids barfed all over the third row. The poor little guy was ushered out of the gym and a janitor was summoned to remove the puddle of over-excitement.

This is my first vomited-on presentation. I'm not sure if I should be honored or horrified.
: )

A video of one of two pileated woodpeckers working the trees above RAPTOR today:

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Easy like Sunday....

At Swami's yurt today:

Juv coop at the yurt

Every year, Cooper's hawks investigate the nest in a tree behind the house. They will break off branches from the pine trees and place them in the nest, but we have yet to see any real nesting. There is another nest down the street, so maybe they are using that one.

Quagmire tongue
Butterscotch (aka Quagmire) was salivating at the squirrels.

I will be talking to Isabelle's ENTIRE kindergarten tomorrow morning (230 little darlings), so I picked up some birds tonight so I don't have to get up at zero-dark thirty in the morning. Here's a cute note on one of the cage doors (holding a rehab Cooper's hawk being exercised for release):
flying pig note
"Feed me a lot. I'm a flying pig!"

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A lark (and some larks)

As Nina and Kathi have already posted about, we had a mini-Birds & Beers last night, Ohio edition. Trixie is in town and we used that fantastic occurrence to get together.
Trixie's mom was gracious enough to let us use her righteous digs to have a bit of wine and cheese, humus and humor.

I had never met Nina FTF before last night...she is as calm, graceful and classy as her blog. But with a wicked-funny streak. I love that in a person.
(Kathi was NOT imbibing alcohol...I don't remember what she was having, but it was innocent)

it was THIS big
I really can't remember what Trixie was talking about, but I guess it was THIS BIG. I adore Trixie to no end. Seeing her once a year is nowhere near the vicinity of ENOUGH. We are planning on getting together again before she heads back to the Frozen North next week.

Trixie's mom is a knitter like Trixie is (and a HOOT, by the way), and Isabelle and Vivi started pulling out a bunch of stuff from the other room, including This. Thing.
Stripper knitting
We pondered it, and decided that it was a stripper's thong. A knitted stripper's thong.
(That could have been the wine talking.)

Today, I had time to cruise Armleder, and found a singing horned lark. Word to beginning birders: Learn bird songs and calls. Even if you don't know what you are listening to, it will help you find twice as many birds than sight alone. Learning the "common" birds (robins, chickadees, jays, etc) helps you notice birds that might be new.
Horned lark
I NEVER would have found him if he hadn't been singing. They blend in so well. Not a lifer, but still a great bird to watch. Their voice is so musical...

Remember my really sucky meadowlark picture? I think this one is better. Do you agree?

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Yard Birds

No, not that group that Jimmy Page, Eric Beck and Eric Clapton used to be in.
MY yard birds.

I got a new one today...a sharp-shinned hawk. Did I have my camera handy? Nope.
That makes the sixth raptor species either seen or heard in my yard:
1. Cooper's hawk
2. Sharp-shinned hawk
3. Red-tailed hawk
4. Red-shouldered hawk
5. Great Horned owl (heard)
6. Barred owl
My yard rocks. Totally.

Mama GHOW is sitting higher in the nest...I wonder how many chickies she has under there?
(They lay 2-4 eggs)
GHOW Isabella

What's better than watching an owl usher in the new generation?
Finding another GHOW nest.

This one is at another local park. I didn't check this one as anally as the Lake Isabella one, so I don't know what stage she is at with incubation or brooding.

GHOW Symmes 3

And just because I like to inject a bit of humor on my blog, here's a billboard from one of our local hard rock radio stations:

we heart big cans

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Language of Love (Red-Shouldered style)

There's just way too much snow around, and all the parks in the area (my usual birdy-haunts) were closed. I walked the Loveland Bike Trail since some kind-hearted soul blazed a trail with a 4-wheeler.
There are RSHA nests along the trail and I was hoping to catch a glimpse...
I found three hawks circling and crying out in that awesome voice they have. I think that the RSHA scream is tied with the barred owl "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?" hoot for my favorite bird sounds.

So sit back, turn up your speakers and enjoy the sound of love:

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The White Death of 2008

After nearly 24 hours of snow, we have come out the other side with 15 inches fallen and drifts 2 feet high.

Geoff spent 2 hours shoveling the driveway. We usually like our long driveway (we are back in a cul-de-sac and it lends to a certain privacy), but winters suck sometimes.

Geoff shoveling

And here's the end result of all of his work:
Geoffs work is done
He's a trooper, that Geoff. This way we can get out and buy dog food tomorrow.

My car is in there somewhere
My car is in there somewhere....

Hey lady we are running low on the suet here
"Hey. Hey, lady in the window with that awesome camera? Could you get off your butt, stop taking pictures and get us some more Zick Dough? We're a little low."

Tree sparrow
Aren't tree sparrows spiffy with that Eighties crest?

An interesting thing that I read on the Cornell site:
A study found that the American Tree Sparrow seems to prefer to look for predators out of its left eye. This preference may be because the right hemisphere of the brain is dominant for processing visual information. Oddly, the Dark-eyed Juncos examined in the same study preferred to look out of their right eyes.

Huh. Who does studies like this? Where do I get a grant? I could come up with some cool studies.

So. We survived the worst snow storm since 1998. I plan on birding tomorrow...even if it is just to get a picture of Mama GHOW at Lake Isabella. It's my luck, isn't it, to get a bitchin' new camera and then be snowbound in the house?