Friday, August 29, 2008

Need something to do this weekend?

Sure, there are picnics to be had, grills to fire up one last time, fireworks to "ooh and ahh" over.

But if you are looking for something different to do this Labor Day weekend, come and visit some of the lovely Hamilton County Parks.
Every Labor Day weekend, the Parks and RAPTOR, Inc. team up to give three days of birds of prey presentations. The Parks bring some of their birds, we bring some of ours. No repeats!

: )
Saturday: Mitchell Memorial Forest, 12 pm-4 pm (I will be there!)

Sunday: Shawnee Lookout, 12 pm-4 pm (Marc and Cindy will be doing this one)

Monday: Farbach-Werner, 12 pm-4 pm (I will be there, too!)

Come take a walk in a shady forest, meet some of our birds and learn more about these fantastic creatures.
I think the coolest thing ever would be for someone I've never heard of, to come up to me and whisper, "I read your blog."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Busy being inspired

No big fun post tonight. I am too busy being inspired and feeling that there might be hope for this country.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A buggy post

The other day, I was putting the girls into the car. I could hear the yearly "dog-day" cicadas buzzing here and there, but suddenly I heard one specific one give an extra loud BUZZ.

A large tussle was going on in the driveway, so I grabbed the girls back out of the car to investigate:

A wasp belonging to nightmares was wrestling a cicada:
Cicada killer
Eastern Cicada Killer Wasp
Jesus, Mary and Joseph. This bug was at least 2 1/2 inches long. (In my nightmares, it's 7 feet long and has PMS)
Look at your pinkie finger. It was like that long.

The girls and I watched with fascinated horror as this thing stung the cicada, and I swallowed hard as I saw that great, fat abdomen pulse over and over.

(Hang on. I got the oogies...)

Okay. Better.

I read that the females paralyze their food, carry it off to their nest, lay an egg on the helpless victim and then closes up the nest cell. The egg hatches in a few days and has a ready-made meal waiting for them.

(ooooooo...I need to do a full body-shiver)

But I didn't know that as I watched the wasp tackle this cicada. Our approach made the wasp take off, and we peered down sadly at the cicada as it twitched.

paralyzed cicada
I thought it was in its death throes, but instead it was just slowly losing its ability to move.

On a prettier note, here's a yet-unidentified damselfly:
pretty damselfly
My goodness, I love dragonflies and damselflies. If hummingbirds are the "flying jewels" of the bird world, what can we call these beauties?
A mixture of engineering, art and magic?

Oh, heck. I have to put a bird pic in here:

I can has a peanut

Monday, August 25, 2008


This post is called Dumb Dog Owners/Bird Harassers, or DDO/BH for short.

Since rain has been scarce, the upside is that shorebird habitat is blooming everywhere. Marbled godwits have been sighted, little blue and tricolored herons, dowitchers, Western sandpipers....Ohio is hopping with shorebird migration.
I wasn't interested in driving hours to see the marbled godwit, but Armleder Park (about 20 minutes away) has a river.
I was hoping to see a nicely shrunken river and a nicely swollen shore.
Lorelei and I got that, but the birds were a bit lacking.

The river was nice and shallow. Lorelei occupied herself by looking for toads and fish, while I tried to slowly make my way towards a kingfisher perched downriver.
It was a precious moment...a kingfisher, just sitting there.
Kingfisher river armleder

I was walking quietly along the shore, getting closer and closer....
The kingfisher bursting from its perch and a huge splash behind me made me jump about 3 feet out of my skin. Did Lorelei fall into the river?????

Nope. A big goofy yellow lab was in the water, fetching a ball.
yellow lab river armleder
CRAP. Does anyone read freakin' signs?????
I have had run-ins with lawless dog owners at Armleder before. And I don't just let it go.

I watched with my jaw dropped as this TWIT strolled along, letting her dog get closer and closer to a great blue heron upstream. Now, this great blue heron had watched Lorelei and me slide down the river bank and was not concerned with us.
walking toward the GBH

closer and closer
Ms. TWIT strolled closer and closer... Look at that body language. Unconcerned. She knew the heron was there. She knew her dog was off-leash. But she didn't care.

And when the heron couldn't handle it anymore:
GHB flies off
Off it went, with the dog on it's heels.

My hands clenched and I started muttering to myself (quietly, since Lorelei was there). And Lorelei was so precious...worried about the bird. (Mommy? That lady let her dog scare off the great blue heron!)

I saw the TWIT double back and I called to Lorelei to come on. We were going to meet up with this dum-dum on the trail.

As we topped the bank, we saw the dog, and as it saw us, started bounding toward us in that way that only Labs can. He was wet and muddy, and proceeded to jump all over me and smear said wetness and mud all over me. I pushed him off and blocked him from knocking Lorelei down.

The TWIT owner came along and I said in icy tones, "Do you know that you are supposed to have your dog leashed at all times in this park?"
She grimaced and said, "Oh! I am SO sorry! SO sorry!"
Continuing to push the messy dog away from Lorelei, I said, "You know, I don't care about a little mud. I do care that your dog spooked that heron."
And I let my hand fall to my camera and let the camera swing a bit.

(Unspoken in my head, "And I will humiliate you and your irresponsibility on my BLOG.")

The dog got tired of being pushed away and bounded off into the woods, to go jump on something that wouldn't put up as much of a fight.
I sighed, took Lorelei's hand and continued on. I could hear the woman yelling for her dog, and the dog giving that bark that they do when they aren't going to do anything you say.

A few minutes later, I saw the woman emerge from the woods, with her dog on a leash.
Finally on a leash

Now, if you maybe have known me for, well, any length of time, you are aware that I am a bit of a rule-breaker. But I would like to add that I have mellowed to the point that I don't have to break a rule just for the sake of hearing it snap anymore. And being a BONE-afied nature lover, I care a GREAT DEAL when rules pertain to nature and birds. So if you think I am being just a bit too mean, or a stickler, well tough. That's how I am.
Anyone think I was too in-your-face (yet another one of my charming traits)?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Where I've been

I've been picnicking with my family.
(photo by Isabelle)

I've been marveling at my children marveling at nature.

I've been rescuing invalid black swallowtails from our street.
swallowtail and isabelle

I've been staring down stained-glass leaf hoppers.
leaf hopper on sunflower

I've been making jewelry I can be proud of.
Fun bracelet

I've been playing with a new toy.
new lap top
(I asked for the ability to do Powerpoint presentations during my programs, and RAPTOR got me a new lap top and digital projector. I do tend to get what I want....but then, I am quite charming.) :^)

front of new lap top

I've been watching a barn owl perch in the sun for the first time.
Storm perched out

I've been watching a turkey vulture molt.
Earl up close

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Crazy little thing called blogging

Those poor saps who don't blog won't understand this post.

I never expected much to happen when I started this blog nearly 3 years ago. My cousin Cathy had a blog, and it seemed like just about everyone else did too. There was no structure or sense to my early posts, but I plugged on.

This little corner of the Internet has brought so much to me, like RAPTOR, Inc., found through Birdchick's blog.
For awhile, the only people reading my blog were Geoff, my in-laws and friends.
Laura was the first "stranger" to comment, and from there the blog roll grew.

After a time, I began to really connect with these other crazy bloggers and got to know them. And then I started to meet them "in the real world":

(Bill helps my tiny Lorelei hit a ball, with Julie looking on)

I took my first guided bird walk with a great gal who has not only become my animals' vet, but a good friend:
Kathi does the I see a bird pose

I've traveled to far-flung locales to meet the inaugural members of the Flock:
Bar blogging
(Susan, Laura and Delia)

As with any meeting of birder bloggers, there tends to be tons of silliness:
What the hell are you two doing
(what the hell?)

The Flock
Though we mourn the void made by friends who cannot be with us on that beautiful shore and sigh as huge swirling flocks of her totem bird wheel overhead, we can look forward to friends who will meet us in the deep woods of a nearby state.

Sometimes great blogger buddies are just around the corner. Sometimes they fly for ten zillion hours to be here. We meet and connect in ways that perfect strangers never could.
We trade our handmade skills, we wish we lived a little closer so we could meet.

We tap away at our keyboards every night (give or take) sending out our thoughts, hopes, dreams and realities. And those ethereal, electronic messages are being received. Pondered. Felt and sent back with words of encouragement, peals of laughter, and tears of sympathy.

This post was brought on by a blogger friend, whose life is changing as we speak.
D, this one's for you.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Stranded in the Everglades

The last Florida post.

On Saturday, we headed out of town and deep into the flat, swampy loveliness that is the Florida Everglades. We wanted alligators, anhingas and snail kites (well, I wanted snail kites). And we wanted to ride on an airboat.
An air boat is just a shallow (knee-high depth) boat that is run by a very small outboard motor and one or two very big fans. Hence the name air boat.
We were assured that safety records for air boats are very very good.

It started out well. The girls were wearing life jackets and it seemed that the thunderstorm we skirted on the way in was going to hold off.
Half-way into the ride, we made a scheduled stop near a swamp apple tree. We learned that swamp apples were poisonous 5 months out of the year, and the guide wouldn't tell us which 5 months that was. Lesson: DON'T eat swamp apples.
We learned about saw grass. He pulled a stem from a nearby plant and passed it around. Yes, it is shaped like a saw. If you handle it the wrong way, it will slice you. Lesson: DON'T handle it the wrong way.
Please click on the photo to see the little barbs along the stem. They are really, really sharp.
Sawgrass macro

What it feels like to skim above water and grass in an air boat:


Thunder. Very very close to the boat. And the rain began.


So the driver (captain, whatever) said for everyone to hang on so we could get out of there.
Choke, choke...
We all started looking around at each other. Isn't the engine supposed to start when you turn the key?
He stuck his head down into the boat and told us that we had lost the right engine (thank goodness we weren't on a damn plane) and he was calling in an SOS for a rescue boat.
Holy cow.

It was a tense 10 minutes. We were in the middle of the freakin' Everglades. In a big metal boat. With an intense thunderstorm over us.
A boat came along (not our rescue...just some more tourists) and we had a nice, pleasant moment chatting with the folks. You know they were thinking, "Glad that isn't US!".
waiting for a rescue boat

Soon enough, a rescue boat came to get us. We then had to transfer out of the disabled boat and into the new one, which scared the crap out of me. What if one of the girls had fallen in? With freakin' ALLIGATORS everywhere? There could have been one under the boat the whole time.
We got the rescue boat going and finishing our tour in one piece.
The captain said, "Well, at least you all can go home and tell people that you were actually stranded in the Everglades."
Yeah. Thanks, Gilligan.

Friday, August 15, 2008

We interrupt all these ice cream and Florida posts...

Working with my big bad birds isn't always in a classroom.
Last year, a student film crew and their professor used a few of our owls for a video project. Recently, the prof contacted me again and asked if they could get a few more shots.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Where to get the best damn ice cream in the world

We used a travel agent for our trip (Julie Sturgeon is her name,and I highly recommend her!) and since she herself has vacationed in the same area, she was hip to the local vibe.

In addition to finding us cheap airfare, a great hotel right on the beach, and generally being a great person, she also sent a personal letter listing all the "local" stuff to do...where to buy our groceries cheap (The Publix on one street was three times as expensive as the Publix on another street...Thanks, Julie!), nice parks for the kids, and also a Dania Beach staple since 1956:
Jaxson's Ice Cream Parlor.

This place was just a little hole in the wall, but they serve ice cream they make fresh right on the premises...and they serve it in UNHOLY AMOUNTS.

Geoffs Jaxson ice cream
Geoff got some kind of sundae with about 5 cups of butterscotch on it.

The girls thought they had died and gone to Heaven:
Isabelle got a simple hot fudge sundae....but it was almost as tall as she was:
Isabelles ice cream
I think that face says it all.

(Lorelei got a single scoop of pictures of that. Boring.)
: ^ )
I'm a fan of chocolate and mint, so I ordered a chocolate mint parfait, and I haven't been seen since:
My ice cream Jaxsons
Jesus, Mary and was so delicious. And I was only able to force down about half of it.

We consumed more calories in that 30 minutes than some families consume in a whole day.
My Jaxsons creation
God bless America.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The life list is growing (and a few non-bird species of Florida)

If I added correctly, my life birds in Florida came to 13. That makes my life list 199! One more and I can get one of those "200" pins!

My life birds from the trip:

Common Peafowl (Countable in Florida! Woo Hoo!)
Muscovy Duck (domestic) (Poop. Not countable.)
Brown Pelican
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Cattle Egret
Common Moorhen
Laughing Gull
Eurasian Collared Dove
Monk Parakeet
Loggerhead Shrike
Boat-Tailed Grackle

Florida isn't just about birds and beaches. We saw so many lizards, crabs, butterflies...All different from what we can find here in the Northern reaches of Southwest Ohio:
The Anne Kolb Nature Center in Hollywood, Florida looked promising for birds, but you know what? I saw Zero birds there.
As we drove in, I saw a sign that gave us a preview of what we would see:
Land crab crossing
Land crabs? Cool!

Land crab nibbling
I went back after a thunderstorm and there were hundreds (thousands?) of small, medium and large crabs scurrying everywhere. The small ones (about the size of a quarter) were covering the boardwalk and would scuttle out of the way as I stepped through. The big ones were in their dug-out mud holes and would disappear before my eyes as soon as I noticed them. It took a lot of finesse to get this picture. If you click on it, you will see that he is nibbling on that leaf!

White peacock butterfly
The butterfly action was nice. I saw no butterfly there that I could immediately ID, which is so fun! This one is called a white peacock.
We also saw a great fritillary and this guy:
Zebra longwing
Zebra longwing.

We walked under this guy on the boardwalk:
Wicked cool spider
A Spiny-backed orbweaver (Gasteracantha cancriformis) It looked like a colorful beer bottle cap from underneath. From what I have read, this is not a spider you have to worry about killing you or anything.

As far as I can tell, the lizards we saw running all over were Florida Scrub Lizards. I don't know from lizards...I'm a bird gal.
This one was found by the girls in the middle of the street at the Nature Center:
Wee little lizard
A baby, obviously. The other ones were about 6 to 8 inches long, and this guy measured in at a whopping 2 inches long. He hopped right up onto my hand, then jumped onto Isabelle, who thought it was the greatest thing that had ever happened to her.

Anyone wondering if we saw alligators?
Um, HELL YEAH. We saw alligators that were way too close to us.
We visited the Everglades on two different days (more on the first time in another post). Finishing a walk along one of the levees, we came to a boat ramp where some young guys (and one small girl about Lorelei's age) were fishing. 30 feet into the water was an alligator.
An eight-foot alligator:

Croc up close
The guys were at least smart enough to lead the little girl away, but they were not smart enough to leave themselves. We kept our distance, knowing full well that an alligator would consider
one of our children a nice meal. And that a full-grown alligator can run up to 35 miles an hour for short bursts. We retreated to higher ground to take pictures. The gator got to within 10 feet of the fishermen, looking very interested in what they were doing. I'm sure gators learn quickly that fishermen will toss out the guts as they dress a fish, so fishermen=free meals. But we were not going to allow our kids to be in any danger. We got in the car and later drove by to make sure there was no carnage. The fishermen's car was gone. Or maybe the gator ate them, then their car?
(A sobering stat: I read that of the last 20 alligator-related deaths in Florida, 10 of them were kids under the age of 13....that is plenty for me to have had an unbreakable grip on the kids)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sand where the sun don't shine

Hello, all! We are back from Florida's Gold Coast!

I am still digging sand out of orifices I wasn't aware I had.
I fully expected to blog while we were down there, but the lap top was on vacation, too. I took it out of the suitcase and the monitor wouldn't light up. So it needs to go to the PC doctor.

Anyway, sand....
Lots and lots of sand:
Girls in the ocean first time
The girls fell in love with the ocean (which was right outside our hotel...I mean, we stepped out onto the patio, went down one step and there was the beach. It was awesome.)
Isabelle and Lorelei spent nearly every waking hour in the water. Lorelei wouldn't go out too far, staying near the surf...and every wave deposited another cupful of sand into her bathing suit. I spent quite a lot of time rinsing suits out. My Mom states that when we went to Florida, back when I was about 4, I was carrying so much sand in my little bikini it looked like I had baked potatoes hidden in there. I guess what goes around, comes around?

My first lifer of the trip....brown pelicans:
Brown pelican fly over
I knew they were big, but man oh man...they are really big!

They didn't seem to care that 20 or 30 people were out in the water....they would fall out of the sky diving for fish 10 feet from us.
Brown pelican over swimmers

Another lifer (and countable!) was a flock of birds noodling around in the palm trees right outside the hotel:
Monk Parakeet
Monk parakeets! I kept hearing what sounded like our parakeet here at home, and was pleasantly surprised to see a slew of green birds swooping in and out of the trees. (Green birds are hard to come by here in Ohio) Monk parakeets are an introduced species (from escapes and numb-nuts letting them go) but they have established themselves in Florida and I am glad they did.
Another exotic species that has found a niche in Florida...a bird we know well here in the Williams' household:

Eurasian collared dove
Eurasian collared doves. They were easily as numerous as the rock pigeons down there. It was neat to see a wild bird just like our beloved Euro. Another countable lifer.

Effortless birding is always a treat. While stopping for lunch before hitting the Everglades, we came across common moorhens and their babies:
Common moorhen and babies
The little ones were adorable, running across the floating vegetation like chickens. Another lifer.

I have about a hundred photos to get through, so I will leave you with not only another effortless bird, but also another lifer:
White ibis
A white ibis, just stalking around a a neighborhood.

At last count, I had 11 lifers. But something that was lacking was the simple, easy songbirds. There weren't little birds just hanging out in the trees. I'm used to seeing chickadees and blue jays and sparrows out and about, but where we were, just shorebirds/sea birds/weird exotic birds.
More tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

What a girl wants, what a girl needs, whatever makes you happy sets you free

The Big Trip to Florida looms...and I wanted to list the things I hope I see:

1. Anhingas
(Shamelessly swiped from Kathi's blog)

2. Manatees

3. Brown pelicans

4. Dolphins

5. Florida Scrub Jays

(And I want one to sit on my hat....this pic also stolen from Kathi)

6. Really, any bird that you can only see in Florida

7. My husband relaxed for the first time in 8 years

8. My kids playing in the surf for the first time ever

9. ZERO clothes washers or dryers, dishwashers or phones.

10. A sunset over the ocean, holding my family close to me

11. My pretty, painted beach toes buried in the sand