Thursday, May 29, 2008

Collective nouns

Collective Nouns

"Parliament" is the generally accepted word for a group of owls, but I've found some really fun ones:

A bazaar of Owls
A hooting of Owls
A looming of Owls
A stooping of Owls
A brood of Owlets
A diss of Owls
A sagaciousness of Owls
A stare of Owls
A wisdom of Owls
A stable of Barn Owls
A jail of Barred Owls (I like this one!)
A prohibition of Barred Owls
A schizophrenia of Hawk Owls (?????!!!!! Are hawk owls crazier than other owls?)
A volery of Little Owls
A blizzard of Snowy Owls

That is a whole lot of collective nouns for a bird family that rarely gather in groups larger than one bird.

Anyone ever come across any neat collective nouns for birds of prey?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

House Docs and Dog Docs

Geoff and I hired a "handy-man" service to come to the house and fix a few things that were beyond us. Mainly, the roof.
Our ever-so-helpful homeowner's insurance refuses to pay for the big-ass hole in our roof because they say it's a "manufacturer's defect". Yeah. Bite me.
The makers of our lovely house didn't use long enough nails for the ridge vent (the point of the roof) so every time it rains, large amounts of said rain enter the attic, run down the supports and collect in the drywall above our upstairs hallway. And a rather large moldy area has developed. So the handy man fixed the ridge vent today and will be back to tear out the moldy area and put up new dry wall. All we will have to do is paint the ceiling.

He also fixed the water line to our refrigerator's ice maker and water dispenser. I guess Geoff doesn't know his own strength, because as he was trying to clean behind the fridge (which qualifies him for canonization anyway) he pulled too hard and snapped the copper water line. So now we have ice and water in the door of the refrigerator.

We also got all-new smoke/carbon monoxide detectors throughout the house, the kind that all go off at once if there is a problem.

Tomorrow, a new toilet tank kit, since I couldn't for the life of me get the bolts off the tank to do it my own damn self.
It feels SO GOOD to get all this stuff taken care of. Geoff has been working his cute little butt off and the house is reaping the benefits.

Today was Hooper's turn to visit Kathi for a check-up and vaccines. We are going to Mammoth Cave this weekend and will be boarding the dogs so shots needed to be updated. It's always fun to see Kathi in action (though I giggle when I have to say, "Dr. Hutton".)

Kathi checks out Hooper
She's a great vet...calm, gentle, reassuring, fun....that makes her a great birder, too.

She scooted out to get a Poop-Collecting-Tube (yeah, that's the official name), and Hooper waited impatiently for her return.
Waiting for Kathi to return

While we waited, Lorelei, for some reason, wanted to smell Hooper's breath.
Smelling Hooper's breath

"Ewwwwww!" Duh, kid. I told ya.

Another project that we have been working on is the backyard. Right up against the back of the house, there was this boring, weedy area that was hard to mow and unsightly. Over the holiday weekend, we put down weed barrier, had mulch delivered, spread it out and planted some flowers. And Home Depot (which I hate, usually) had 8 foot landscaping timber for $1.97 a piece, so I grabbed up a few (another reason I am sporting so many band-aids...loading all of that into the trunk of my car was no picnic.

New flower bed
The weird thing in the middle is the air-conditioner. This is the south side of the house, and the hottest side of the house, too. Our electric bills in the summer are insane, so I put up a bamboo reed fence around the unit to block the sun but allow the air to circulate. The fence is a bit too high and isn't perfectly straight, so when all of my blisters heal, I will go out and cut it down a bit.
The plants:
Existing weigela
Something whose type name is "Tizzy"....big red/orange double flowers
Lamb's Ear (I can't remember if it was Laura or Delia who called it "Farmer's Friend" or "Hunter's Friend", because it's soft enough to use as toilet paper.)
Something I can't remember the name of....knip-something.
Blue butterfly bush
Maidenhair grass
And Beard Tongue and Gerbera Daisies I haven't put in the ground yet.

True, that list doesn't include many native plants. But my source has dried up. The local native nursery is closed. Or open. I'm confused. I heard that they had closed, but I checked their website yesterday and it said they were open. I drove there today, and they were closed. WTF?

Monday, May 26, 2008

What a weekend!

I have lots of photos, so if you are still one of those poor dopes with dial-up, go get a massage or a few beers and wait.

Da da dum dum, da da dum..............

Isabelle graduated from Kindergarten. I cried. A lot.
Isabelle K graduation

(photo by Swami)

Caught some teeny hummingbird tongue action.

Female hummingbird tongue

Powder thought my nice Longaberger bread basket would do for a bed.
Powder in a basket
Makes her look like she forgot her body somewhere.

I took the bird-sicles that Kathi gave me, to RAPTOR. I thawed out a starling and gave it to Lucy.

Lucy holding Kathi's starling
I left her alone, and by the time I came back to put her back she had de-headed it.

I did some glove training with No-No:
No No in the sun
I could look at him all day. What a mixture of textures...pure white, copper, chevrons of dark grays...and let's not forget those big liquid eyes....Ooooooo.

Our first yard bird babies of 2008 showed up to learn how to use the feeders.
House finches:
Close up HOF youngin
Why is it that the last of the baby feathers are ALWAYS on top of their heads, like bad haircuts?
Feed me...I'm yours
"Dad? Dad? Dad? Daaaaaaaaad? Daaaaaaaaaaad?"

HOF fledgling
This one hovered awkwardly for about 10 seconds trying to get back up to the feeders.

Picnic at Germantown Metropark.
My first kingfisher nest, on a cliff above the dam backwater:
Kingfisher bringing fish back to nest
Carrying a fish back to the babies!

This sign is by the fence above the backwater, just for those dummies who would think that a swim in an active backwater would be a great idea. I asked the girls to stand in front of it with frowns on their faces, and Lorelei, without any prompting, struck this pose:
Yep, that's my kid.

We took a nature walk and found a red-backed salamander:
Red Backed salamander
Look, Nina! A Sally-mander!

I started turning over buckeye leaves and found a little blue caterpillar:
Blue caterpillar on buckeye
What kind of caterpillar uses buckeye for a host plant? Anyone know?

And a life dragonfly:
Carolina saddlebags dragonfly
A Carolina Saddlebags. A goofy name for a spectacular dragonfly.

I didn't even include all the gardening I did in the past few days. I am typing with most of my fingers wrapped in Band-Aids. I will have to save all that excitement for the next post.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday Feathers

Are we up for a new quiz? (Won't it be refreshing to see a post from me with no dead, gooey things?)

  • 18 subspecies
  • Nearly global in distribution
  • Does not build a nest
  • Usually vocalizes only during breeding season
  • Was nearly wiped out by a pesticide invented in 1837
  • Wears a "helmet"
Friday Feathers 052308
This one isn't hard, my gentle readers.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

How do I trump that?

Julie chimed in on the Innard Spree from yesterday: cottontail killed by a canine. I concur.
Do I have a choice? I mean, it's Julie Freakin' Zickefoose. : )

After my walk through a CSI episode yesterday, I did the trail loop and ended up at the kiosk for the Clermont County Parks.
It's always interesting to come across a sign about me (well, a program I will be doing):

A sign about me
If you are in the area of Chilo Lock #34 on June 28th, stop by and meet me and our birds.
But I'm wondering how I will even stand a chance against the program coming up after mine that day:

Sign about Sam the Eagle
Sam the Bald Eagle from the Cincinnati Zoo. If I am not mistaken, this is the bald eagle who does flight demonstrations at Reds baseball games.
What can I do with "my" birds that will be as memorable as a freakin' bald eagle?
I mean, seriously.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

CSI Miamiville (Or, Things that make you go Hmmm....)

At the risk of everyone telling me that I should change the name of my blog to "Susan Gets Dead Stuff"...
I went on a walk today at Kelley's Nature Preserve. Today was Lorelei's last day of school, so I wanted to get out and make this last day count (Geoff said I made it out to be the "Last Supper")

I seem to have the knack (or is it misfortune?) to always find crime scenes. They are everywhere.
I can't help it...and thanks to Julie, aka The Science Chimp, I try to puzzle out what happened and to who.

*Graphic ickies ahead....tread at your own peril*

This was strewn across the path:
Remains. Guts. Innards. Pick your word, that's what it was. Intestines, maybe a stomach?

That ain't worms, y'all.
Small pieces of fresh meat, a slug, green flies...

CSI veggie matter
Here's what I think is the stomach...full of veggie matter. And split open. Ew.
So this is a mammal of some kind. (It didn't look like a bird's digestive system)

CSI Pretty Fly
There was a beautiful orange/black fly tasting the deli selection.

I didn't find any bones. That might have been helpful in this CSI case.

CSI Hairy Situation
Macro of the hair stuck to some of the remains. Course, black with pale tips.
Is this from the eater or the eatee?

Tracks around the scene were canine, but that could be either coyote or regular old pet dog.
Things that make you go "hmmmmm...."

I don't know about you, but I need some cleansing photos.
How about young salamanders?

Mom's Salamander
My Mom's pond is almost a vernal pool...but it usually stays wet most of the year.
(Unless there's a horrible drought) The water never gets more that 2 or 3 feet deep.
I thought this guy was a frog, until it showed us it's profile. I am a newbie at salamanders. What kind is this?

Salamander youngin
And here's a slightly younger one...still sporting crazy gills. Whenever I see these guys, they remind me of Oriental dragons. (You know the paintings you see of ancient dragons, with all that crazy stuff behind their heads?
And what is up with the dandruffy water there?

These last two are for Nina, our resident Salamander-phile.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Happy RAPTORversary

It seems like it has been 100 years.
Two years ago, I started at RAPTOR, Inc.

It started out as just a thing to do on Saturdays. Wanting to do something real and tangible for birds, something other than just putting out seeds and suet.
When they asked if I was interested in doing education programs, my life took a turn for the better.
The first time I ever held a raptor...the red screech owl. Can you believe I was nervous?

We have a RAPTOR board meeting tomorrow night. I fully expect a card or something.

Monday, May 19, 2008


We celebrated Rachel's (soon-to-be-daughter-in-law of Swami and Swamette) birthday on Saturday night. Her choice of restaurant was SoHo, a Japanese bistro. I had never been to a Japanese place before, so I was worried that I wouldn't like anything (I tend to go for food that would be appealing to a five year old). I had NOTHING to worry about.

This was the type of place where they prepare the food in front of you on a grill in the middle of the table. So much much fire!

Veggie rolls pickled ginger and wasabi paste
Vegatable rolls, pickled ginger and wasabi paste. I didn't try it...I just took a picture of it because it was pretty. They know how to present food, let me tell ya.
The food was spectacular. I even ate calamari, which I had never tried before. It helped that they disguised the squid in something that resembled a deep-fried onion ring.

My girls have had some experience with chopsticks, but it was more fun to make bridges and play the drums instead of eating with them.
Playing with the chopsticks

Rachel Isabelle Lorelei me Japanese bistro

Lorelei insisted on wearing her Cinderella shades into the restaurant:
My futures so bright...
What can I say? She's a Diva.

Our present to Rachel:
Rachels bracelet
A bracelet made entirely of Swarovski crystals. I had so much fun choosing the crystals for this one....bead stores are my undoing.

Quick video of how they begin the cooking process:

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Three Fourths

So much to post, so little time.
*The correct answer to Friday Feathers was a Great horned owl. Laura got it right first!*

Saturday was a jam-packed day. First, I went to RAPTOR to put new jesses on our screech owl, and to also begin my own training with No-No the Barn Owl. The Barn Owl has been jessed up and a few of our members have been training him on the glove. This is a fairly hyper bird, and his wound (amputation at the wrist on one wing) requires that we be gentle and take it slow.
I have been so looking forward to handling him, and at the same time nervous about it.
Cindy, our wonderful Bird Care Director, filled me in, thankfully. No-No will lunge at your face while you try to grab his jesses.

Man, that bird can jump high. And it's not the beak you have to worry's the talons. Barn Owls are all leg and he was able to jump about two feet up, trying to kick at my shins.
I remained calm and confident and after about 5 minutes, was able to grab his jesses. Then the screaming began. Oh. My. God. Barn Owls are very, very good at doing an impression of a woman screaming...or a tea kettle hissing.
No No and Me
We walked around the property for about 20 minutes. When he began to show signs of tiring, I put him back. He was much better than I though he would be. He is not an official education bird yet...he has to be put on our education permit, he needs more training, etc. But the process has begun finally.
After RAPTOR, I met Kathi at Armleder Park. It was officially closed, but we decided to flaunt the rules and go in anyway. (Well, to be honest, Kathi made me. It was her idea.)
We had heard about black terns and bobolinks, so we were panting to get in there and see them.
The first bird we found was not what we expected....

We came across a wing and a leg.

Leg and wing
Surgical-precision cutting...the blood was fresh and still wet. It was some kind of buteo. Could we find the tail, to ascertain what kind?

Yep. About 30 feet away, the tail...and the other leg.

Leg and tail

Kathi was good enough to pull aside the tail feathers to show the one, rufus-colored feather.
A second-year red-tailed hawk.
One red feather
Again, clean-cut but twisted limbs.

About 20 feet further, we found the head and the other wing:
Head and other wing
Eyes were still open, showing their sunny yellow color.
The body was twisted but the principal pieces were intact and looked as if they had be cut from the body.

The Chimp would be proud...Kathi immediately realized that this hawk had been hit by a low-flying plane over Armleder Park (which sits just next door to Lunken Airport, a small airport that brings in many planes with propellers.

Now. What do you think the raptor-phile in the group, with a permit to take such beautiful pieces, would do then?
Yep. I took 'em and put them in Kathi's car and take them after our birding walk. I have lots of different pieces of many different species in my education box...but I don't have any RTHA wings. So the pieces were gently, respectfully and quietly put in Kathi's cooler, along with some dead HOSP, starlings and a window-strike cardinal. Her car was the Bird Hearse.

And so the bird walk continued:

We found the Bobolinks immediately.
Male Bobolink
Not the best picture, but it was windy. Lifer!

And calling on the powers of the Chimp to ID these tracks:
Mystery tracks and Kathi s key

We found indigo bunting males giving chase to each other, tree swallows, red-winged blackbirds, song sparrows, killdeer, etc...etc...
As we were starting to head back, Kathi spotted a small flock (6-8 birds) over head. She yelled out, "BLACK SKIMMERS!!!!!" I thought she had gone off her nut, but she corrected herself and yelled, "BLACK TERNS!" Lifer!
Dickcissels were singing in the grass, and we were able to see a few as they popped up.
It's a dickcissel, I swear.
So two lifers, a bunch of neat local nesters and three fourths of a hawk.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday Feathers

It's that time again....
To Guess the Friday Feathers!

The bird that these feathers are attached to, nests in every county in the U.S.

Myths about this bird:

Arctic Circle: a little girl was turned into a bird with a long beak by magic, but was so frightened she flapped about madly and flew into a wall, flattening her face and beak. So the ****** was created.
Cameroon: too evil to name, the *******is known only as "the bird that makes you afraid"
Peru: boiled ******* is said to be a strong medicine.


All you need to ID this bird is here in this picture.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Storm passing over Lake Erie (and nearly pushing me off my feet)

Lake Erie is, of course, a lake. But you wouldn't know it sometimes. It has the rage of an ocean when a storm get it kicking.

While the Great Lakes don't have tides, per se, they do experience seiches (when the water in the lake is pulled to one side, like dragging a bucket of water and it all sloshes to the back)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Seventeenth Raptor

I took the auto tour on Saturday. Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge is a fantastic place full of multiple habitats: Mud flats, deep ditches, vast expanses of deeper water, marshes, swamp...

The auto tour is my favorite part of the area because you can go at your own pace, and birding from a car is easy on the feet.

At one point, I had stopped (it's easy to find an 'exciting' bird, because a bunch of cars will be stopped and everyone will be out of their car, looking in the same direction). I noticed large, dark birds circling above. Vultures are around, but not like here. A large dark bird is worth checking out.
There were three birds:
1. The first one was obviously an immature bald eagle; Wings held totally flat. dark overall with lighter splotchiness.
2. The second one was too high up to tell anything.
3. The third one was holding its wings in a very shallow dihedral (a "V") and the plumage was all dark brown. It turned into the sun and I saw a golden gleam across the head and nape.
Oh my God. A Golden Eagle.

I stood there in disbelief for a minute. Golden eagles are hard to come by in Ohio. But I got my validation when the carload of people just down from me started yelping....I heard one woman say, "That looks like a Golden to ME!"

I grabbed my cell phone and left a probably maniacal message for Kathi.

I couldn't get a clear picture of it, so I just watched it until it was gone. Grinning like a fool, I got back in the car and moved on. As I turned a corner, I saw the second bird swoop low enough to ID adult Bald Eagle. Whoot.

I came across another car stopped, and I got out to see what they were looking at. It was the "swarm" of dunlins. I asked them if they had seen the Golden.
This guy said, rather snarky, "Well, I saw the IMMATURE bald eagle."
I said, "I did, too. But there was a Golden with it."
He then started schooling me in raptor identification. I decided not to alert him to the fact that I don't need schooling in raptor identification.
I moved on...and began to second-guess myself. I know I shouldn't have, but he bugged me.
I went over all that I had seen, and I kept telling myself that I did see a Golden.
The next day I checked the Hawk Watch Tower list, and observers had seen FIVE Goldens. I had my validation.
I adore other birders. We are, for the most part, helpful people who are fun and who listen. And then there are those "Crotchety Old Lady From The Birds" types. COLFTB's.
Have I just created a new acronym?
So, anyway. That Golden Eagle makes my 17th raptor species. Woo hoo!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Bird stories

The Beautiful Boardwalk

Here's my list of birds seen and/or heard this weekend (Thanks to Kathi, this list is way longer than it would have been if I had been alone):
Bold = LIFER
(there are only seven lifers...I must have miscounted. But still....)
Canada goose
Tundra swan (yes, I saw a live one)
Wood duck (In a TREE, no less)
Northern shoveler

Double-crested cormorant
Great blue heron (100's)
Great egret (100's)

Turkey vulture
Bald eagle
Red-shouldered hawk
Red-tailed hawk
GOLDEN EAGLE (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
American kestrel
Peregrine falcon

American coot

Greater yellowlegs
Lesser yellowlegs
Spotted sandpiper
Ruddy turnstone
Dunlin (500 +)

Ring-billed gull
Herring gull

Mourning dove

Northern flicker

Eastern phoebe

Purple martin
Tree swallow
Barn swallow

Black-capped chickadee
Golden-crowned kinglet
Blue-gray gnatcatcher
Wood thrush
American robin
Gray catbird
Brown thrasher
European starling

Cape May
Black-throated blue
Yellow-rumped (Hey, Delia! I saw yellow-rumped warblers!!! Hee hee)
American redstart
Northern waterthrush
Yellow-breasted chat


White-throated sparrow
White-crowned sparrow

Northern cardinal
Rose-breasted grosbeak
Indigo bunting

Red-winged blackbird (there were at least two RWBB's every five feet. And that's not an exaggeration)
Common grackle
Baltimore oriole

American goldfinch

House sparrow (very very sparse, thank goodness)

And now, some pictures:

No ID yet
I don't have an ID for this one yet. Anyone want to throw in? It's either some sort of empidonax or a female warbler of some kind.
UPDATE: Kathi can't comment (Blogger's acting like Frogger) but she agrees that this is some sort of empidonax)

Another dead Tundra swan
Yep, another dead tundra swan. I Chimped, but the body was too torn up to figure anything out. I looked for bands, but this one is anonymous.

Tundra swan looks bloody
This one was alive, but looked bloody! I watched, and it seemed to preen most of this stuff off. I assume that it just had its head stuck in some mud underwater, and not injured in some way. I observed it for quite a few minutes, and it seemed just fine. Scared me, though.

Crazy Ovenbird
Ovenbirds are just color-crazy. This one was stylin' with that brown-bordered orange head.

Let this be a Gray cheeked thrush!
I would very much like this to be a gray-cheeked thrush. It's not outside the realm of possibility, since Kathi saw one the day before. Anyone?
UPDATE: A Swainson's. Crap.

Grackle has a bad day
Poor grackle. He got into a tussle with someone.

Muskrat and yellowlegs love
A muskrat and a lesser odd couple.
Feel free to sing "Muskrat Love" by Captain and Tennille. I'll wait.

It was getting late in the day, and I knew that I had to start for home soon.
I walked the lake trail that Kathi had pointed out to me earlier, and I am glad I did.

First, I saw the terns that we had glimpsed the day before, but couldn't ID.
Common terns, soaring and plunging into the very cold water for fish. They didn't even care that I was standing just beyond the water, snapping photos and giggling like a maniac.

Common Tern
They reminded me of the black skimmers the Flock saw at Cape May.
Gorgeous, elegant, graceful birds.

I was preparing myself mentally for the actual removal of body and soul from MY Lake Erie ( I never want to come home after being there), when I noticed that the terns had disappeared before my eyes.
A medium-sized bird was flying parallel to the beach with strong, purposeful wing beats. Hmm. That looks like some kind of dark gull. No, wait. That looks falcon-ish.

A peregrine falcon. Just for me.

Peregrine flying away
(This is the best I could do. My eyes were all teary and I was jumping up and down and struggling with my new birding bra and trying to get the camera up to my face)

Peregrines hold a sacred place in my heart. Lucy was the first one I ever laid eyes on, and her mixture of sweetness and nervousness, and yet that unabashed fierceness, has endeared the species to my soul forever.
So I stood there on a lonely beach on Lake Erie, buffeted by cold wind and freshwater spray, and cried because a peregrine falcon had just passed by. Yeah, I'm all crunchy on the outside, but there's a chewy, gooey center in there somewhere.

Tomorrow: The eagle that didn't get away!