Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A net would have come in handy

The girls have been little couch vegetables for days, so I took them out for a bit today.

We ended up at the dog park at Armleder (are we the only people who go to dog parks without our dogs?).

We met lots of nice dogs (and a few that needed more attention from their owners...why don't people who own dogs learn about dog behavior????).

This is Greta...a perfect copy of Nellie. (a few years younger, anyway)
Acted like Nellie, too. Didn't want to venture far from her person.

This is Plato. A great thinker.
(and an Anatolian Shepherd)

This was the friendliest Great Dane we have ever come across:
The angle is a bit off in this photo, but that dog was actually taller than Lorelei.

On the way home, I saw a small bundle of rufus feathers with ears, just off the road.
Damn. It looked like a screech owl.

I did a U-turn and parked on a skinny little shoulder. Trying to think three steps ahead
(I didn't have a box with me...so I had to think about getting one at the UDF down the road....grabbing my gloves....figuring out how to hold an injured screech owl and drive at the same time...), I approached it.

It swiveled its head around, and took off across the four-lane road.
Well, at least now I knew it could fly.

I got back in the car and swung around and parked again. It had landed behind a fence in some shrubbery. On private property.

It kept retreating deeper and deeper into the woods, and I knew I wasn't going to be able to catch it. Trespassing while running after a flighted screech owl, with two kids in tow....I like gathering blogging material as much as the next person, but...


Well, it can fly. Its eyes were uninjured. I assume it was stunned by a car and was gathering its wits when I came along.
All we can do is wish it the best and be hopeful.

When it retreated into the underbrush, a whole bunch of blue jays noticed it and started giving it what-for. It was funny, in a sad way.

Good luck, little buddy.
Bad shot of cute screech owl
(The best shot I could get, as it scurried off.)
Maybe I will start carrying a net in my car?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Species Profile: Osprey

I haven't been birding in, well, forever.
That means, it's time for a species profile!

(Pandion haliaetus)

As its common name (fish eagle) suggests, the Osprey's diet consists almost exclusively of fish. It has evolved specialized physical characteristics and exhibits unique behaviors to assist in hunting and catching prey. Because of its unique characteristics, it has been given its own taxonomic genus, Pandion and family, Pandionidae. Four subspecies are usually recognized.

  • Large raptor.
  • White breast and belly.
  • Black back and wings.
  • Long wings, held with wingtips angled slightly backwards.(Flying "M")
  • Dark eyestripe.
  • Crown and forehead white.
  • Size: 21-26 inches
  • Wingspan: 59-71 inches
  • Weight: 2.2 to 4 pounds
(Female is larger than male)

Short, chirping whistles (kip kip kip kip...up to 20 calls in six seconds)

Breeds in variety of habitats with shallow water and large fish, including boreal forest ponds, desert salt-flat lagoons, temperate lakes, and tropical coasts. Winters along large bodies of water containing fish.
Osprey migrate for the winter. European osprey go to Africa, American and Canadian osprey go to South America (though some may only go as far as Florida and California), and Australasian osprey do not migrate at all.

Osprey dive into water feet-first to catch fish. Will often hover before taking the plunge.
(Osprey have no downy feathers, to help them dry off faster after fishing...another reason they migrate for the winter. Can't keep warm if you don't have downy feathers)
They have sharp spicules on the undersides of their feet, to better grab and hold onto slippery fish. Osprey have "closable" nostrils to keep water out of their lungs, and a special polarized lens in their eyes to aid them in looking into deep water.

When a fish is caught and the bird is flying to perch and eat, they will turn the fish so that it is facing forward, to make them more aerodynamic and reducing drag...smart birds)

Osprey build a large stick nest, either on a man-made platform specifically built for that purpose, or will use telephone poles, highway signs, channel markers, etc. Nesting materials have included brush wood, sea wood, corn stalks, shingles, small floats, toy boat, eggs of sharks, old brooms, old shoes, fishing line, cans, doormats, sheep bones (especially skulls), sod with the grass still growing.

It usually takes an osprey three years to reach breeding maturity.
One to four eggs are laid and incubation lasts for about 5 weeks. Young will fledge in eight to ten weeks.

Interesting facts:

The osprey suffered greatly from the wide-spread use of DDT from the 50's through the 70's.
Through the banning of DDT, their numbers have risen, though they are still listed as endangered or threatened in some states, especially in inland states where populations were extirpated during the pesticide years.
Also detrimental to their population was the stealing of eggs by collectors and poaching.

Nisos, a king in Greek mythology, became an osprey to attack his daughter after she fell in love with Minos, the king of Crete.

Pliny the Elder wrote that adult osprey forced their young to fly into the sun, and killed the ones that failed.

There was a medieval belief that fish were so mesmerized by osprey that they would turn belly-up in surrender.

used a gray wandering osprey as a representation of sorrow in The Wandering of Oision and Other Poems.

And finally....
Susan would very much like to have an education osprey for programs.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Crash Bam Boom

So, the three of us were driving down the road, on our way to pick up Geoff's car from the repair shop.
We went round a sharp curve, and continued on. I heard a horrible squeal behind us and I looked in the rear view mirror just in time to see a pickup truck swerving sideways. It over-corrected and then spun in a circle, and finally crashed into a telephone pole.

I slammed on the brakes and threw the car into reverse.
Geoff says that I said, "Oh. My. God."....he thought I had seen a cool bird or something, not realizing that an accident had occurred behind us.

I jumped out of the car as the other driver staggered towards us. Without shoes, and without pants.

He was gasping and was white as a sheet. He leaned on the back window of the car (no doubt scaring the Hell out of Isabelle and Lorelei) and I made him sit down behind the car.
Another car stopped behind us and a woman jumped out. She had training in CPR and First Aid, so she tended to the guy while I called 911. We got the paramedics, police, firemen, and his mother there within 5 minutes.
Turns out this guy was only 16 years old, had only had his license for a few months. He was on his way to his job at the local cinema. I told him the popcorn would definitely have to go on without him today. (That made him smile.)
The impact had torn off his shoes and when he jumped out of the truck, somehow his pants had fallen down.
The police gave me a quick interview, not that I could give them much info. As the interview was ending, one of the firemen turned the ignition on the truck and the radio blared to life....quite loudly. Seems that this young man had his radio at a deafening volume and took the curve too fast, as far as I can tell.
The boy didn't have any major injuries, but he said his back was pretty sore. I don't envy him the full-body aches he's going to have tomorrow.

When all was said and done, I said a few words to the boy's mother. She thanked me for stopping to help her son, and then she hugged me.

I spent most of the rest of the day in a happy glow.
I glimpsed a tiny bit of what the police, firemen and EMT's get to feel every single day. What a rush it must be.

Here's a few photos from the last few days:

Group 2008
My Mom's group of friends, stuck with each other since the late 60's. I think you can tell from the photo who had been drinking and who hadn't.

A yummy appetizer:
Fruit salsa 2
My Fruit Salsa. A healthy choice from Frito's and beer cheese.
Chop up an orange, a few kiwis, a bunch of strawberries and toss in a can of crushed pineapple. Then drizzle with a bit of lemon juice.

Serve it with fresh cinnamon tortilla chips:
Fruit salsa chips
Spread melted butter on regular tortillas, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar , then cut into wedges. Bake them for about 8-10 minutes at 400 degrees.
It is delicious, and this is coming from a person who doesn't really like fruit or veggies.

Me Geoff Lorelei Christmas 2008
(photo by Isabelle)

A fun sight at Kevin-the-brother-in-law's:
White squirrel
In Middletown, Ohio, there is a street populated with all-white squirrels. We had just turned onto the street when I said, "I wish I could see one of those white squirrels..." And there one was, in Kevin's front yard.

Lucy 122708
I love her. Have I mentioned that ever?

Lucys feet
And I even love her feet.
Look at that one toe crossed over another. Reminds me of this photo.

And waiting.....
GHOW nest empty
...for the local great horned owls to get on with it.
(That dark thing in the nest is a branch that has been there since the "hurricane" blew through in September.)
Come mid-January, I will be obsessively checking this nest for a great lump of owl to be sitting on sweet eggs.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Let me show you the way...

As the dust settles, we sit back and survey the damage.
Though we have picked up the wrapping paper, torn down the boxes and washed the good china, I am still finding bits of tape stuck to my socks, little plastic tags in the carpet, and dishes in the sofa.

I could bore you with all the toys given and squealed over.
But let's talk about MY new toy:

A Garmin nuvi 205. It's the only thing I asked for.
When I prepare to go off to a program, I have to look up the address and Google directions from RAPTOR to the program location. I then print out the directions and have to have them on the seat next to me as I navigate through Cincinnati.
A waste of paper and it's not safe to read something as you drive.

Geoff listens to me when I ask for something for Christmas, but it's not like he could have missed the hints.
"Geoff, did you know that GPS devices can talk to you?"

"Hey, Geoff! Target has Garmins on sale!"
I should have asked for a BirdJam-equipped iTouch. birdjam birdjam birdjam......Hi, Jay!

Well, my birthday is next Friday....
: )

When I opened it, I was so happy I kissed the box.

Yesterday morning, I went looking for an open Starbucks and used the Garmin. Even though I know the location of every Starbucks in a 20-mile radius.

It has a wonderfully calm, Sigourney Weaveresque voice.

You can either type in an address (I ADORE touchscreens!) or it can find something you are looking for. Food, ATM's, hospitals, parks, hotels, parking, attractions, auto repair....
You can enter coordinates...which will come in handy looking for that rare bird on the listserv when someone can only describe the location in coordinates. (That was an awkward sentence, but you know what I mean)
You can change the little icon that symbolizes your car....I changed mine to a bald eagle. It's very cool.

While playing with the Garmin, it struck me that a satellite way up in space (bloop! bloop!) knew exactly where I was. And I could tell it where I wanted to go, and it would help me get there. The technology of it all was just too much.

Here's a picture of my reaction.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Season's Greetings from RAPTOR, Inc.

What a bunch of creative souls we have at RAPTOR...
Marc put this together as a holiday greeting card for our veterinarians:

RAPTOR Christmas Greeting

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Forever free

A call from a RAPTOR rehabber yielded bad news for me today.

Rufus, our beloved red screech owl, was found dead in his mew. It is unclear what caused this, but we have had Rufus since 2005 (he was an adult when he was brought in, so at least a year old), and even if he lived to be 4, that's a respectable life for a screech owl.

I had myself a little cry in his memory, and so many things came to mind....

He was the all-time favorite of the 3 to 5-year old set (because he didn't scream, and he was a non-scary size).

A school that I present to every year loves him so much, they put him on the front page of their website.

His little legs were sensitive to the chemical tanners in our jess leather, so he got "special" jesses.

He would never raise his ear tufts during programs, so I would gently and slowly lift them with my pinky finger.

His yearly Ugly-Molt was something to look forward to.

He was the very first bird of prey I ever held on my hand. And I was scared out of my mind...I kept thinking, "Oh, my God...I'm holding an OWL."

Getting attached to our education birds is different from bonding with a pet.
We don't (and can't) cuddle them, scratch their heads...but I still love my birds fiercely, and there is a very, very large void when they are gone.

Please....let there be a Heaven for Screech Owls.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Am I still here?

The large, pink, horse-sized antibiotics are slowly allowing me to talk and move.
Is it really necessary to make a pill too large to comfortably take? These things are about the same diameter as my thumb.

Saturday, while I was still able to stand, brought us our FOS pine siskin:

FOS pine siskin

Just one. But a nice one, nonetheless.
We got our first siskins ever, last year, the day before heading to my first Cape May weekend.

My ear is still full of pus, my throat is not on fire anymore yet still smoldering, and my sinuses seem to be full of something akin to Silly Putty. There are two more programs scheduled for me this week, and it is still up in the air as to whether I will be able to do them.
I hate being sick. I really hate being sick for a week and a half.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Drove myself to Urgent Care this morning.
Fever. Can't breathe or swallow without wincing.
Turns out that I have pharyngitis, a big nasty ear infection and tonsils that look like mold-covered cherry tomatoes.
Had to cancel a very big program for tomorrow. How can I teach if I can't talk?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

View from a Kleenex box

While it's not over completely, at least Geoff and I were able to continue our Parental duties today.

Why didn't I get a flu shot this year? WHY???

I managed to get out to the drug store for more Theraflu
(Really good stuff.... 10% alcohol...wheee!)

Lorelei and I found something we have been looking for, and it helped to boost my mood:

Antlers and red nose
Antlers and a red nose for the car.
Yep. I've become one of those people. But I think it's cute. Don't you?
Best part...it was on sale.

Oh...and here's my newest bumper sticker:
This car guarded by attack screech owl
I wonder if non-birders will get the joke?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The only person in this house who isn't very, very ill....is Isabelle.
Geoff has a fever. I have a fever. Lorelei has a fever.
Think Isabelle can get herself to the bus tomorrow morning?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Devil's Henchvulture

Illness update:
I spent yesterday mostly on the couch. Today, I'm fine. Lorelei went to school, but they called and asked me to pick her up early. She has bounced between no fever and temperatures of 102 and up. If I only knew what it was....the kid has virtually no other symptoms besides a raging fever.
I took her to the doctor yesterday and after a urinalysis, Strep test, and an ear and throat check, it was deemed a "mystery virus".

You Moms out there will recognized that....it means "Your child will not be getting any antibiotics and you will just have to ride it out and watch your child suffer."
If she is still running a fever tomorrow, the pediatrician wants to see her again. That will make FIVE days of fever. Holy crap.

Ever feel that creepy sense of dread on the back of your neck? Well, it might just be Earl:

Marc and Cindy took some birds to Marc's company's Christmas thing on Saturday, and Cindy reports that "Earl was amazing." Acting like a lady and stuff.

Sure, she's got a subtle beauty, it looks like her wings have been dipped in liquid silver, and her eyes hold a definite intelligence and curiosity....

But she still hates me.

I prefer my vultures looking like this:

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Es gefelt mir!

(That's Yiddish for "I like it!")

If only more people really got into the Holiday State of Mind...

Today was a beautiful, albeit tiring day. Beth Adam, a synagogue here in Loveland, ran a "Mitzvah Mall" for their Religious School students and the public. The children had a roomful of charities and non-profits to choose from, and when they made their donation, a card was filled out for them to give to someone. Like, if little Timmy gave me $5, I filled out a card that said, "A donation was made for "food for a great horned owl for a week", to "RAPTOR, Inc." from "Little Timmy".

A few photos from the Mall:

Rufus close up
Everyone thought Rufus was animatronic, he was so still...

When in fact, he was thinking,
Rufous Mitzvah Mall
"This is just too much for me, so I think I will just be invisible and blend into my surroundings."

Lucy had her own spot on the floor, "behind the blue line".
My presentation table
I thought about feeding her to really knock everyone's socks off, but then thought better of it. I had so much to do, I couldn't really think of much else besides all the paperwork I was doing.
Every donation needed to be added to the tally sheet, then the card needed to be filled out, then a receipt had to be written. The kids flocked to my table (hardly seemed fair to the other participants...I had real live birds!)
The final total: $204.44. (The 44 cents came from a sweet little boy who instead of asking his parents for a check or a big wad of cash, had a bag of pennies.)

Isabelle is feeling better. Lorelei is still running a fever over 102. This sucks out loud.
I'm not feeling all that great, either. But she has a Christmas show tomorrow night, that she has been practicing for and looking forward to! And I have a program tomorrow!

Not to leave you with a sour taste, here's a few drawings from our little darlings:
Loreleis duck drawing
I asked her if that was a bug near the duck's mouth, she said, "No, Mommy. That's a note."
"A musical note?"
"Yep. He's quacking."

That is so cute, I may never recover.

And this one just made me laugh hysterically:
Isabelles drawing of us
Isabelle's drawing of Geoff and me, sleeping in bed. You totally have to click on it to really appreciate it. Geoff is sporting a 5 o'clock shadow, and I seem to have become Pippy Longstocking.
The "things" at the end of the bed are our toes. See how mine are just about normal-size, while Geoff's are like, monster toes?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Wishing a good nights sleep for myself and Geoff

We got our first substantial snowfall today. About 2 inches (can you hear Trixie and Dave chortling right now?). But the temperature just barely hit 32 today, so there was plenty of ice to deal with.

I was out in it today, all excited to finally be driving my safe new car in the snow. Oh, what fun.
Although Subarus are known for their sure-footedness, I slid right through an intersection this morning.

I went out again later, to pick up birds for tomorrow morning's "program". Not a typical educational presentation, but I hope to WOW some kids.
I got the birds tonight so that I don't have to brave the Super-Early Morning Hours sliding my way across town and then back again (the program is only five minutes from my house). It's supposed to be around 19 degrees when I wake up. Ugh.

To put a big cherry on this sundae, the girls were sick today. Isabelle was complaining of a sore throat and had a very mild fever.
Lorelei was complaining of a headache (seemed to be sinus-related), and had a temperature of 102.9. She felt like a space heater.

After counting dose upon dose of Advil and Dimetapp and throat drops, they are sleeping now, thank goodness.

Please, please, please....let them sleep all night. I need to be fresh and rested in the morning!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Species Profile: Great Horned Owl

As their nesting season draws nigh, I think it's time for a species profile about my favorite owl.

Bubo virginianus
pretty junior close up
(Junior, the owl who thought I would make a good mate)

The great horned owl is found in just about any habitat you could name in North America, from the Arctic tundra to tropical rainforest, from desert to suburban backyards.
Though adaptable to many habitats, they prefer open and secondary growth forest, and agricultural areas.
It is estimated that this owl nests in EVERY COUNTY in the US.
Though they can be easily mistaken for Magellanic Horned Owls and other eagle-owls, they are allopatric.
There are a number of sub-species that have been named:
Click here for a list.

  • Size: 46-63 cm (18-25 in)
  • Wingspan: 101-145 cm (40-57 in)
  • Weight: 910-2500 g (32.12-88.25 ounces)
  • The female is larger than the male.
  • Large owl.
  • Prominent ear tufts widely spaced on head (called plumicorns).
  • Body brown and gray with dark barring.
  • Throat white.
  • Orange facial disk outlined in black.
  • Eyes yellow.
  • Bill dark.
  • Some forms pale gray to white.
Great horned owls do not build a nest of their own. They will use the nests of hawks, eagles, and crows. They will also use broken snags of trees, and will readily use man-made "nest cans".
Courtship begins in mid-December, and egg-laying begins in mid-January. So if you have local GHOW's, start listening now for their courtship hoots!
Voice: ho-ho-hoo, hoo hoo
Male's voice is deeper than the female's.

Mitchell GHOW nestlings
(Very ATYPICAL nest can...two owlets, half of a mallard, a whole cardinal, and half of a red-shouldered hawk, complete with band. The best band recovery I have heard yet.)

Number of eggs laid can be 1-5, with the norm being 3. (5 is very rare)
Incubation lasts from 27 to 33 days.
Either the male or female will brood almost continuously for 2 weeks, until the chicks can thermo-regulate themselves.
(Brancher....when the babies are strong enough to perch on a branch (6 weeks old), but still not ready to fly away yet)

The offspring can still been seen begging for food in late October (5 months after leaving the nest) and most do not separate from their parents until right before they start to reproduce for the next clutch (usually December). Birds may not breed for another year or two, and are often vagrants ("floaters") until they mate, establish their own territories, and settle down.

While young GHOW can have many predators, adult GHOW have almost no natural enemies.Occasionally, Northern Goshawks and other great horned owls are the only natural things they need to worry about.

Unnatural causes of death:

Hit by cars.

Hunting is done on a perch, waiting. Then a swoop-and-grab.

There is a wide variety to a GHOW diet.
Small to medium mammals: Mice, rats, squirrels, flying squirrels, voles, bats, marmots, shrews, rabbits, hares, woodchucks, SKUNKS and sometimes even PORCUPINES. (The great horned owl is one of very few predators who will eat skunks)
Repiles, fish and amphibians.
Other raptors up to the size of Snowy Owls.
The largest prey I have heard of taken by a GHOW: Great Blue Heron. WOW.

In northern regions, if a GHOW catches prey that is too big to eat in one sitting, they will allow it to freeze and "thaw" it out later by incubating it.

Great horned owls have 500 pounds per square inch crushing power in their talons. For reference, an adult male HUMAN has about 60 pounds per square inch crushing power in his hands. WOW.


Great horned owls have eyes about the size of a humans, and their vision is binocular. Their eyes are immobile within the bony sockets, so instead of turning their eyes, they turn their heads....about 270 degrees around. (Compared to us pitiful humans only managing 180)

Due to the size of their eyes in comparison to the size of their brains, owls are able to see in near-darkness.

show us your hooters

An owl's hearing is as good, if not better, than its vision. Ears are off-set, usually one being much higher (and larger) than the other, giving them better depth perception in their hearing. We humans can tell if something is left or right of us, but owls can tell the difference between up and down, too.

A great horned owl can take prey up to 3 times or more of its weight. (Keep those cats indoors!)

Though they do not strictly "migrate", young banded birds have been found over 150 miles away from the place of their birth. Northern GHOW will move farther south in the winter months, while southern owls do not move.

Great horned owls are long-lived: In the wild, banded birds have been found 28 years after banding, and the record captive GHOW lived to be 45.

Thanks to their soft flight feathers and a specialized edge on the front of their wings, owls have silent flight.

Unamused.  As always.
"I disapprove of....well, everything you just said."

Monday, December 01, 2008

A post full of Holy Crap moments

Laura's done it. And she found it over at Jayne's blog.
So let's allow the insanity to continue.
If you go to Yearbook Yourself, you can stick your face on a number of "vintage" school picture poses. Oh, Lord.
Here we go.

I really AM my mother.
I think I sort of look like Carol Burnett in this one. Maybe it's the hair.

Holy crap.
Why did girls think those horn-rimmed glasses were nice? I mean, honestly.
(Of course, the same could be said for our 80's Big Mall Hair.)

That's not too bad. Girls had an overabundance of hair back in the day, didn't they?

Here, I sport a goiter.

My hair will NEVER, EVER be that straight or calm. EVER.

This one is from the mid-nineties, I think. Not too far from what my actual high school photos look like. But the hair was BIGGER.