Sunday, November 30, 2008

Owls seen and unseen

Sometimes the chase is as fun as the catch.
Kathi tried today, but even her sense of fun wasn't the same as seeing a Snowy Owl.

Another Snowy (or the same one from last week) was spotted about 1 1/2 hours from here. Kathi asked if I was up for it, and of course I was. She had loaned her car to her sister, so I went to get Kathi this morning. She lives an hour and a half from me, to the southeast. We then turned around and drove two and a half hours northwest to find the owl.
We looked. And looked some more. And looked a little longer. NO owl.

That makes two different Snowy Chases that I have choked on. Maybe it is to be my Nemesis Bird (a bird that you regularly try to find and can't)?

That and Snow Geese. They are around here every Winter, but damn if I can actually find one.

Since I don't have great photos of a brilliant white male Snowy, how about a big sassy Barred Owl?
Cindy and rehab barred owl
This female Barred Owl tangled with a fence. The fence won.
(This is Cindy, our Bird Care Director. What is it with raptor rehab and people named Cindy?)

Rehab barred owl
One of our vets performed some laser treatments to promote healing, and this big beautiful girl was transferred to a flight cage to strengthen up.
Look at those feathery toes. All curled up. Can't say it enough: Owls are cool.

Owl expression
That fierce, in a face so sweet.
When I hold our program Barred Owl, I have to remember not to kiss her sweet face. How would I look with no lips?

So I didn't get a Snowy. But I can go and look at birds like this whenever I want.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Spare ham, missing cheese and the traditional Thanksgiving Coop

I didn't chase the Snowy Owl the other day. And I am glad I didn't because there have been no further reports of it.
The reason I didn't chase: As I was getting ready to leave that morning, Geoff and I got into an argument. About cheese.

Yeah, I said cheese.

Two minutes before taking Lorelei to school, he said to me, " Remember the cheese. "

Me: "Cheese? For what?"

G: "Lorelei's class feast today. It was on the newsletter. We need to bring in a bag of mild cheddar cheese, cubed."

Me: "Is there a particular reason you waited until now to tell me?"

G: "I thought you knew about it."

Well, we didn't have any cheese. Cubed or otherwise.

I threw him a seriously dirty look and a few choice words, grabbed Lorelei and flew to the local convenient store and paid $4 for a block of cheese. The teacher could just cube it herself.

All the life-bird-chase was just wrung out of me, so I went to Armleder and walked.

Here's the kicker: When I picked up Lorelei from school, I asked if her class enjoyed the cheese. I was thinking, "They better have shouted to God and the World that it was the best damn cheese they have ever been given."

Lorelei said, "We didn't eat the cheese."
Me: "What?! Why?........wait a minute. Did you tell your teacher you had the cheese, like I told you to tell her?"
Lorelei: (sheepishly) "No."

I looked in her bag. No cheese. What. The. Hell.
The cheese had been absconded.

So here's what I think happened. The teacher took my FOUR DOLLAR cheese home and served it on crackers for her family on Thanksgiving. That's what I think.
: )

My walk at Armleder did yield a life bird.
While taking a deer path to the river, I flushed a bird (more like nearly stepped on a bird!) in the underbrush. I saw brown and a reddish tail, a bird the size of a quail. I looked it up in Sibley's and found that it was a Northern Bobwhite. Life Bird #207!

Tuesday was Swami's birthday, and Swamette asked me to make a cake for him. The girls helped me (yeah, right. Lorelei made an egg explode all over me, the floor, herself...) make a square, two-layer chocolate fudge cake, with milk chocolate icing.

To cut all that chocolate, we crushed Mint Oreos and sprinkled the middle and the top of the cake. I have to say, it was pretty damn good.

Swamis birthday cake
(We didn't count out all of the candles to represent his age. Their smoke detectors are sensitive)

In what seems to now be a tradition, we were visited by the Thanksgiving Cooper's Hawk:
Thanksgiving Coop 2008

A most cooperative bird...sat there in a patch of sunlight, with a good background, for about 15 minutes.
Coop 2

A Ham Story:
Swametti, Swamette's mom, was supposed to bring a baked ham for Thanksgiving, to have alongside the turkey. She forgot to bring it (we forgive her....she's in her Eighties, for goodness sake), but Swamette just happened to have a ham in the fridge. This is testiment to just how organized she is.
Maybe you have to know her to appreciate the story, but it just blew me away. Just happened to have a big spare HAM.

Mom and Swami carve the ham
(Swami and my Mom carve the Spare Ham)

I begged for the turkey carcass (how many times will you hear that sentence?) and right now, I am simmering fresh turkey noodle soup.
Hooper has gone postal about the aroma filling the house:
Some dogs cant hold their liquor

Monday, November 24, 2008

To chase or not to chase?

Since becoming a birder and realizing that wonders are mine to be had, I have paid attention to what was flying around in our area.

From that first "spark" downy woodpecker in my yard to my latest New Jersey Lifer, I have been paying attention. And since my introduction to birds of prey, Winter has taken on more meaning.
Ohio is not on top of the list for Snowy Owls, but we can count on one, maybe two in the cold months. I have been reading my emails from the Ohio Bird listserv every day, turning green with envy at all the Northern Ohio birders who are spotting Snowy's lately. I think there are at least four different Snowys in Ohio right now. I told myself that I wouldn't chase one until it was closer to home.
And today, one was seen about an hour from our house. Their staying power (as in they are seen for a few days, then disappear) is iffy, so I have to make a decision.

Tomorrow, I could drop off Lorelei, drive an hour, search for two hours, then drive an hour back to pick up Lorelei. (Going in the afternoon is out....tomorrow is Swami's birthday, so we must party)

So. Do I stay or do I go?

(The happiest snowy owl on the planet, I think. I don't remember where I found this, but doesn't it just make you happy, just looking at him?)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A good lesson for today's youth

RAPTOR, Inc. has been asked to participate in something really interesting.

Beth Adam, a local Humanistic synagogue, is having a "Mitzvah Mall", to focus kids' attention on giving rather than receiving.

How it works: Students of the synagogue's Religious School will be allowed to "shop" around the event and choose which organization gets their donation. A card will be filled out for the student to give to someone for the holidays. Isn't that a nice idea?

If you are in the area, come check it out:
December 7th, 10:30 am to 12:30 pm.
The students will be "shopping" the first hour and the public is invited for the second hour.

So basically, the students will "shop" around the displays and decide which organization they will donate to. Every organization sends in a wish-list so the students can study it and plan out who is going to get their donation.

Here's our wish-list:

$1.00: material to construct a sisal perch
$2.00: food for a screech owl for a week
$5.00: food for a great horned owl or red-tailed hawk for a week
$25.00: medicine to treat an injured bird of prey, or material to construct either a wooden perch or a heated perch

Let's see....I bring an awesome raptor or two and my effervescent personality....think I can get some donations out of those kids?

: )

Thursday, November 20, 2008

How to goose a great horned owl

It's not often I go so long without a post. Busy, busy.

Two programs today...on opposite sides of town.

The great horned owl really stole the show. This morning's program was at a Catholic School, and the audience was about 200 6th-8th graders.

We were discussing food items of GHOW, where they live, etc. Sylvester then stuck out his ruff (white feathers on neck), and I wondered if he was going to hoot. He has been a bit of a punk lately (like bating multiple times, being a general grouch instead of his usual totem-pole act), maybe because nesting season is approaching. But I haven't noticed behavior changes in him until mid-to-late December. This is pretty early for his hormones to be moanin'.

So, anyway. I told the kids he might be getting ready to vocalize.
Then he opened his mouth and his tongue was sort of stuck out. I suddenly realized that he was about to cast a pellet.

"Oh, boy. Okay, everyone. Watch this. He is about to produce a...."
He has never done that during a program before. It was fabulous.

The only other time a bird has yarped during a talk was when Lucy brought up a whole mouse head and I caught it with my free hand as it fell. It was fabulous.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Contest time, my gentle readers

Okay, you bird nerds. Time to show off. (Or desperately search the Web for the answers). Either way, you will all learn a bit about feathers.

The contest:
Name the basic parts of this feather. (The lines)
Bonus: Name what the "arrow" is indicating.

Now, remember this is a basic diagram. You don't need to go into barbs, barbules, proximal and distal barbules to the next barb, hooklets....okay?
Don't anyone hyperventilate on me.

Hint: This is a wing feather.

The Prize:
A suncatcher for your car's rear-view mirror...complete with Swarovski crystals and a cute little bird charm.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A post chock-a-bock full of ooey, gooey goodness

It's not often I do a post full of warm and fuzzies. But yesterday and today, they were everywhere I turned.

I truly believe Lorelei wants to be Elton John when she grows up. Her old sunglasses broke and since this girl is all about fashion, it was traumatic. We found her some rad blue shades and all is well with the world. They cost all of 75 cents at our favorite consignment store. This is all it takes for her to be happy.

Lorelei and license plate
Here's the new license plate (if you can see it through all that cuteness.)
The car feels like it is really ours now. That, and we made our first payment on it. Feels a bit too real.
: )

Random goodness...
While grocery shopping today, a group from the Loveland Food Pantry was handing out lists of food items that they needed to help people make Thanksgiving dinner this year. I could choose something from the list, buy it and then donate it.
So I did. That tiny thing made me feel so good...and someone who is down on their luck will benefit. Loveland is for the most part an upper-middle class town, but there are still those who will appreciate what the rest of us can do to help.

Lorelei "stole" my camera from the front seat of the car and took random photos. Many of them were of the sky.
I can't explain why that pulled at my heart strings.

This morning, I did a program in Mason, a nearby community. Why, may I ask, would anyone do a nature program at 9 AM on a Saturday? I needed toothpicks to hold my eyes open.
Porous concrete
Their new nature lodge has a "porous concrete" parking lot. Storm water runs through a foot or so of concrete and then through a few feet of gravel. When the water hits the stream nearby, it is cleaner than when it hit the ground. All the salt, oil and grime is filtered out.
Is that cool or what? I was suitably impressed. We need things like this.

When I got home, the house was empty. And cold.
I turned the heat on a bit, started a fire in the fireplace.
I also made a big pot of homemade chicken noodle soup.
Homemade chicken soup
I like a little soup with my noodles. I used a potato peeler to make nice thin strips of carrot, and put in way too much chicken. We had it for dinner with fresh French bread and it was fabulous.
Did I mention that this was from scratch? I think Geoff will soon tire of all the chicken soup I have been making lately, so if anyone has some good soup recipes, I'd love to see them.

So. Twenty four hours of happy moments and cozy comfort.
Tomorrow, back to the smut.
: )

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A video and a contest

We were walking out to meet Isabelle at the bus stop...
I glanced up, and in the tree right above us sat a red-shouldered hawk. I whispered for Lorelei to back up slowly. I got my camera out of the car and got a quick video.
(It's a good thing Lorelei got that answer embarrassing would that have been, a child of mine not knowing her hawks?

For the first time, I got a personalized license plate. A shiny new Subaru needs some bling!
Here's the contest...let's see how well some of you know me.
A standard plate has room for seven letters and one space. I used them all.
First person to guess correctly (or the closest guess) what I chose for my plate gets this:

Silver bracelet with heart-shaped toggle clasp, and a cute, lightweight charm. The beads are metallic glass and green/pink stones.

Leave your guess in the comments.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I've got jack to post about I leave you with some images from Worth 1000 Words:

A squirrel I would welcome to my feeders:

A poignant statement of the fragility of our World:

The legendary "Thunderbird":

Sweet dreams, little one:

The elusive Invisazebra, with young:

And a picture of the mighty Phoenix:

Monday, November 10, 2008

You found WHAT? And WHERE?

You've heard most of the stories...

The Herpes Story

Nut-cracking Cleavage

"Welcome to New Jersey"

Some of the minor stories, I don't have video or photos of. But they are burned in my brain.

Kathi just did a post about her ferry trip across the Delaware, which made me think of this little tidbit:

Sunday night, late... already in our jammies, Lynne and I were settling down in front of the TV for some normal time. Kathi was going to call when the ferry was on its way back (she was visiting Holly...a cyber-friend, not Kathi's dog).
I was dreading the drive through town to the ferry, but it was necessary...otherwise, Kathi would be stranded. Kathi finally called, and I got up and grabbed my keys. Lynne also stood up, and said, "I'll come with you."
Those few words stuck with me. I still think of them and smile. Lynne could have just gone up to bed and left me to my cold dark drive. But she went with me. God love her heart.
We went in our pajamas.

I think medical professionals have the best stories. There is no end to what a person is capable of doing to themselves, and that makes for good tales. Lynne works in a Lab, and any foreign object removed from a person has to go through Pathology.

As we waited for the ferry to unload, Lynne filled the chilly night with tales of Pathology...otherwise known as "What People Will Stick Up Their Bums".
The stuff one might expect to find:
Sex toys.

But also things that one would not expect to find:
Cell phones.

You know that screaming laughter than only women are capable of? We rocked the car with it.

Lynne Sunset Beach

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Susie The Fixer-Upper

This post is brought to you by Deflect-O, the cutting edge of rodent guards.

One of the cats chased a mouse across the basement floor last night. Dammit! WTF?
A few months ago, we did a whole-house overhaul, plugging every single crack and crevice! We used Great Stuff, we used plywood, we did it all. A hole in the garage and a hole in the sub-flooring by the back door, all fixed. Where the heck are they coming in?
Geoff said he had an idea. A few weeks ago, while I was in Cape May, the man moved the dryer to clean behind it.
I know. I will let all of you recover from that. I married up, baby.
He said that the dryer vent duct was pulled away from the wall a bit.
Let's see....

Dryer vent
Hmmm...yeah, I think a mouse could maybe crawl through a FOUR INCH opening.
Man. That's...dirty back there.

So I was thrilled to get over to Lowe's to pick up a new duct. I love hardware stores.
Oh, and we needed a new vent cover where the dryer vents to the outside.
You know how most vent covers have those little louvers that open when the hot air comes out? Ever think that maybe a critter could just lift one of those thingies up and walk right in?

Hence, a wonderful invention:
Bird guard
It was the "Bird" in "Bird and Rodent Guard" that caught my eye. Sure, mice shouldn't get in, but I never thought of birds. My goodness! What if we have somehow endangered birds?
Well, we just can't have that.

I also fixed a tear in our linoleum, replaced a zillion outlet plates....
...and finally painted this desk for Isabelle. She needed a place to do homework, and this desk has been sitting in our garage for a few years.
Beth, my cousin and semi-lurker on this blog, and also the former owner of said desk, may recognize it. Or maybe not.
It used to be white. Isabelle has a lavender room, but she is fond of blue and green. I found a "pistachio" green, and got a small bottle of metallic purple for the drawer pulls. When I showed Isabelle the color, she said, "Can you make purple polka-dots on the top?"
I tried to make the dots random, but not too random:
Isabelles new desk
Now, that's a desk!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

happy endings

A random wind blows through the blog tonight....

It's Autumn, that time of year we give pumpkins to captive animals:
Earls Pumpkins
I don't know if Earl is enjoying these or just staring at them all day. I will check back often.

Earl too close
A "pearly" beak for Lynne.

Fall, a time we bury our kids in bright red, freshly fallen leaves:
Lorelei leaves
(That's Lorelei under all that)

Nellie Lorelei leaves
*slurp*...."you taste like leaves and cookies, Little Human"

The sun is nearly gone by 5:30 pm:
Mile Marker 14 RTHA
This is what is called the "Mile Marker 14 Bird", a red-tailed hawk seen at the Ronald Reagan Highway exit off I-71. It always seems to be here, and this is the first photo I have ever been able to get of it...and I have been trying for 3 years. I was on the phone with Geoff while waiting at the light, and when I saw it, I yelled, "The Mile Marker bird! Call you back!"...and hung up on him. He understands.
Is this the same bird that everyone has been seeing for so many years? Maybe, maybe not. Choice hunting grounds like this are filled quickly when a resident hawk disappears. And highways are choice hunting grounds...if you take away the traffic. Lots of perches, wide open spaces (in between the cars going 70 mph). A good place to look for injured birds, too. I've gotten into the habit of glancing at medians since discovering RAPTOR. Most of the time, it's long-dead piles of feathers, but I check anyway.

A sign spotted the other day....
Happy Ending Nailz

"Happy Endings Nailz"? WTF?
A nail salon that gives happy endings? I don't even want to know...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

(For those of you who are unfamiliar with Euro-Pop, the song on this video is "Blue" by Eiffel 65)

Monday, November 03, 2008

An Evening in the Country

Clermont Northeastern Middle School has one seriously dedicated teacher. Melody, a science teacher I did a program for last month is a True Believer. She believes that Nature can reach children, that a classroom outside can dig into those digitally-addled brains of theirs and create beauty. She has begged and borrowed and worked hard to preserve the school's 150 acres of woodland...she has fought to keep their pond. She has behooved the PTA to help build a bird blind, made into a reality by an Eagle Scout.
She brought me in with our birds of prey, to inspire and awe her kids into looking up and realizing that there is more to life than video games and IM'ing.

She also brought in the heavy guns....The Zick.
Julie did an all day program for the school. I can't wait to hear how she was able to command and inspire 500 middle schoolers.

And Julie brought a small yet powerful ally:
Chet Zick

Chet Baker was the surprise guest at the dinner last night. I have to brag....when he saw me, he broke into big time BT wiggles and roo'ed at me.
It might be because I always bring him treats. Always. But since I had no idea he would be present, I had to improvise.

Chet waits for lasagna
"Thank yew for nibbles of your cheesy, meaty lasagna. It will give me gas, but it suits Mether right. She doesn't give treats like you do. I am bored with Mether."

For the record, Bacon was kind enough to regale everyone later with his Lasagna-scented Gas.

We met up at Nina's for wine and yummy snacks.

"Please pour that wine. The more you drink, the less you will pay attention to me eating all the hors d'ouvres."
Chet Wine
(Wine lovingly poured by KatDoc)

Nina had found a baby black rat snake earlier in the day, and being the Nature-Loving Fool she is, she saved it in a terrarium on the back porch.
"The Girls are coming! I can show them this cute little snake!"

See how we think? Others might want to show off their new stemware. Or grandchildren photos. Not us. We want to see reptiles.

And speaking of Kathi....I think she has a mind to get her own sponsorship.

Kathi and her sponsorship snake

Tell the truth. Did you look at the snake first? I didn't, either.
: )

Now. Confession time. In addition to bears and bridges, I have an anti-fondness for cold-blooded creatures. Okay,'s a fear. Give me a big red-tailed hawk or a brawny great horned owl, I'm fine. I am love, really. But a slithery, cold snake makes me do full body shivers.
Everyone was passing this thing around, and only mildly ribbing me about my aversion. I snapped out of my ickiness and said, "Julie, give me that snake."

She helped me take hold of it, but of course by then, it had warmed up enough from everyone else's hands and instead of being a docile wet noodle, it wanted to get away. Up my shirt. Julie was good enough to take it away.
Snake jewelry
It was a pretty snake. Looks nice with my beaded jewelry, doesn't it?

Bacon was not into the snake. He had found the calmest lap in the room and promptly went to sleep.
Nina Chet

Saturday, November 01, 2008


Facebook. Linked In. Twitter.
We've come up with so many new ways to connect, inside the ether called the Internet. At any given moment, we can read that so-and-so is eating a ham sandwich or someone is listening to Pearl Jam.

But how connected are we, really? Without face-to-face interface, how well can we really know the person behind the monitor?
Some prefer doing their networking via these social sites....
I prefer meeting In Real Life.

Fellow bloggers I have seen with my own two peepers:

Bill and Julie
Jim McCormac
Jeff Gordon and Fabo Liz
Kathi, aka Vet To The Stars
Dearest Laura
Sweet sprite Delia
Susan Merchant
Patrick-of-the-Million Watt-Smile and Beth, his lucky wife
John, the Born Again Birdwatcher
Mike and those 10000 Birds
Amy Hooper
I've even met LURKERS. Hi, Beth! Comment early, and comment often!

*Quick side-story...we were at the owl prowl at Cape May, and talking about Beth knowing who Lynne was, who I was, who Laura was...Someone said, "Lynne has groupies!" and my big mouth said, LOUDLY, "What? Lynne HAS HERPES????"

Where was I? Oh, yeah.
Next April, at the New River Birding Festival, I will be adding to that list.

Just as in birding when you see that life bird, and you always remember where you were when you first saw it, so goes meeting blog-buddies.
Tomorrow night, I get to be in the company of Nina, Kathi and Julie. I did a program at a nearby school, and the teacher said she had booked this artist/birder/naturalist person for November. I asked who and she said, "Julie Zickefoose." ACK!
So I emailed Julie and called dibs on her for dinner. We are meeting the teacher and some others for dinner, then we get to head over to Nina's for post-dinner wine. And laughing. And cackling. And story-telling.
See why I like face-to-face?