Monday, June 29, 2009

A Mother of the Year Award I think I actually deserve!

I joke that when I do something stupid involving the kids, that's my latest submission as "Mother of the Year" turning around suddenly in a store, accidentally knocking one of the girls down...or bumping them with the grocery cart...stuff that is unintentional. I will proudly proclaim, "Another Mother of the Year Award!" and pick them up and give them a kiss and a hug. Well.........I think I might actually deserve it today.

Isabelle has been losing teeth left and right. Lorelei has been feeling left out, so the "Tooth Fairy" wrote a note and sneaked it into the mailbox today.

Dear Lorelei,

I have heard that you were upset about me visiting Isabelle, your big sister, but not you.

I’m sure you are very eager to lose your first tooth. Just remember that you will keep your baby teeth until you do not need them anymore.

I wanted to tell you that you will lose your first tooth very soon, and I will be coming to get it from under your pillow and leave you some money.

Be patient…I will see you very soon!


The Tooth Fairy

As we were heading off the dentist this afternoon, I stopped at the mailbox to "check the mail". We were all VERY surprised to find the "Tooth Fairy's" note. I read it to Lorelei, and it was as if the sun came out on her face.

She insisted on showing it to all the hygienists at the office, and also the dentist himself.

While the girls were off buying toys with the "gold coins" the dentist gives them, he pulled me aside.

"That note was perfect. It was age-appropriate and told her exactly what I would have told her. EVERY other parent, when there are two kids involved, asks ME to tell the youngest child why they haven't lost teeth yet. You saw the need for this note, and did it. I'm very, very impressed. I saw on the charts that you are an educator, and I can say that you come by it naturally. You have not only taught your child about why her teeth aren't coming out yet, but you have also boosted her self-esteem. You made her feel special...I wish I could get you to talk to 99 % of the parents who come in here. More parents need to be like YOU."

Well, you can imagine I just floated out of that office.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A walk in the woods...with a complete stranger

I take chances in my life...but I'm not stupid.
When I "Friended" this guy on Facebook, I knew that he had once volunteered at RAPTOR and he was a bird bander. That alone would have made him okay in my book, but in a conversation with my husband, I also found out that Geoff had interviewed this bander for a Cincinnati Post story about 10 years ago.
A sign at a church I passed yesterday gave me my new motto (okay, so it's always been my motto):

Well, I like it.

When Les Peyton asked me if I would like to come out during one of his M.A.P.S. banding sessions, I jumped on it.
I made the mistake of telling my Mother that I was going out into the woods with a strange man for a whole day.
BIG MISTAKE. I may never hear the end of it.

Today dawned very early...why is the prettiest part of the day the time when I least want to be conscious?
I knew the day would be good when I encountered a fox (Yard Mammal!) as I backed out of the driveway:

foxy lady!
I accidently came between her and her breakfast of yard bunny, so I apologized and headed out.

Here's Camp Les, in the middle of Miami-Whitewater Forest:
Camp Les

Les has been working this site for 11 years...with 10 nets spread out over 20 acres.
That didn't sound like a big deal...

The tools of the trade...Peter Pyle's Identification Guide to North American Birds, ruler and banding pliers:
Tools of the trade
I whispered to him, "Raptor banding pliers are bigger..."

We headed out to check the nets, and the walk was okay, even pleasant...until Les told me the last leg would be "challenging".

Hurrumph. What am I? A SISSY??
Les crossing the Tree of Despair
That thought stopped in its tracks when I saw the large tree we had to walk over...oh, and did I mention the deep ravine that is under the tree? Or that the tree had no branches to hold onto in the middle of it?

Crap.....deep breath. You can do this.
Halfway across, Les took my camera and got a shot of me doing the tightrope thing:
Me crossing the Tree of Despair
I did okay until Les made me laugh and I almost went over.
Me: "Stop making me laugh! I am GONNA FALL!!!!!"
Les: (hee hee hee)...."Sorry!!!"

So here's the maybe-lunatic that I spent the day with:
Les net

He's very fierce.
(And he actually has a blog...The Lamest Birder...but there is NOTHING on it. If we work at him, he might get it started...So now you are going to get blog traffic, Les. Time to start writing!)

woth in net

He went out a few more times to check nets, but after sweating every drop of water out of me and crossing the Tree of Despair, I bailed on the net checks.
There was plenty for me to photograph and enjoy while I waited for Les to return with bags full of birds:
mayapple apple
Mayapple, with huge fruits just waiting for a box turtle to come along...

jack in the pulpit fruits
Jack-In-The-Pulpit fruits...

Jewelweed...I have seen this plant on plenty of nature walks, but I never knew what it was.

(Les is also pretty darn knowledgeable about botany, so he was very helpful in identifying all the greenery. He showed me how jewelweed seeds will actually explode from their pods when you touch them, so I collected some to scatter in the yard. Good food plant {NATIVE!} for hummingbirds)

The birds caught were common species, but fun to see up close. Cardinals, lots of robins, chickadees, titmice, wood thrushes:
Is that gorgeous or what? "Oh-la-leeee...oh-la-laaaay..."

This was the "highlight" bird of the day:
acadian flycatcher
An Acadian Flycatcher! If it was countable, that would have been a lifer for me. Oh well.

A beautiful little bird...
acadian whiskers
Look at those cute little rictal bristles around the bill!

And they aren't just cute...they think they are ten feet tall:
Fear  me!
"Fear me! For I am the Big, Bad, Frightening Acadian FLYCATCHER! Roarrrr....???"

So I may never hear the end of it from my Mother, but a trip to the woods with some strange man...was worth it.
Thanks, Les! Take me out there again!
But could you build a rope ladder for that ravine?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Purple skies, cussing songbirds and Ode to Farrah

Quick and dirty post tonight...have to get to bed early. Bird banding at 7 am!

The sky was a lovely shade of purple last night, cradling a crescent moon:

While blow-drying Lorelei's hair, we decided to make an "Ode to Farrah" hairstyle:
Lorelei's Ode To Farrah

While at RAPTOR today, I heard a bunch of robins and blue jays cussing at something in the woods behind the barn. I grabbed my camera, in case it was an owl....
It was TWO barred owls...
Barred owl number 1:

...and barred owl number 2:

It all happened rather just one photo of barred owl number 2 before it dashed off further into the woods, with the robins and blue jays hot on its tail!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A post about why I love my job....again....

Today's program was for a summer camp at a local Christian academy.
More specifically, a "bird camp".
Bird camp? Where was MY bird camp when I was younger???

Greeting me at the door was a banner lovingly made by the kids who were eager for my arrival:

Big colorful letters, and little bird drawings tucked in everywhere...and all the kids signed it!

R bird
Hmmmm...a Great Potoo, perhaps?

Mallard on Banner
A very detailed mallard....

TV on banner
A turkey vulture....

Owl on C
...the most adorable teeny owl sitting on the "C" in Inc....and the "C" is a bird, too!

Eagle on I
And this unfinished eagle, looking very very angry as he says, "Thanks for helping us, Sue Williams."
A great group of kids...all crazy about birds, and all more than willing to sit on a cold floor for an hour and 15 minutes to listen to me exclaim the awesomeness of raptors.

I love my job.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Love is a butterfly

In the cage of a heart,
Love is a butterfly

Question mark
A beautiful wisp of light.

Some sort of frittilary
Seeking only to grow
And to burst from darkness into the sun,
looked upon by all.

Northern Pearly Eye butterfly
To taste and to feel,
Taking to the space between, as a prayer.

Tiger swallowtail on hand
Here for a time, hoping for forever,
When even forever is not enough.

And if loss tears its wings,
Poor ragged thing
Its flight continues on...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Is there a Life Dance for this one?

I wasn't going to post tonight. Too tired, too...something.

I glance out the front window a few minutes ago and saw a bright yellow splash in the flower bed. Did the girls spill paint out there?

My heart did a dance when I went out and got a closer look....

SLIME MOLD!!! My first slime mold!!!!

Yellow slime mold 1
Two huge swaths of it, growing under my Little Blue Stem and also under my Shadblow Serviceberry bush. (Native plants...ahem.)

I probably should have waited until morning, to get pictures of it in the sun, but I was too excited and had to is a surreal shade of yellow. Not butter-yellow. Or even canary-yellow.
It's freakin' CRAYOLA yellow.
Yellow slime mold 2
I have read about slime molds. The book that comes to mind immediately is Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. Bill Bryson is a travel writer, but also does fantastically droll and pee-in-your-pants hilarious works on other topics, too. Get some of his books. You will be glad you did.

Slime molds:
The term "slime mold" is a broad term describing 'fungi-like' organisms, that use spores to reproduce. Called slime mold because of one of their life cycles is decidedly gelatinous. They feed on bacteria that grows on dead plant matter.

This particular flavor of slime mold I encountered is a common one, Physarum polycephalum.
It has a phase of development called the "streaming" phase...when it sends out thin strings of itself, surrounding its food and sending out enzymes to devour it. They do this by rhythmically contracting its protoplasm to allow itself to move.
And get this...those people who get to say where something goes in the biological order of things? They can't decide if it is an animal or plant!!!

From an article about some scientists who put this slime mold into a maze:

"A team of Japanese and Hungarian researchers, writing in the journal Nature, claimed to have found the slime mold Physarum polycephalum is capable of finding the shortest way through a maze. Pieces of the slime mold were enticed through a 30-square-centimeter (five-square-inch) maze by the prospect of food at the end of the puzzle. The researchers concluded that the creature was exhibiting a kind of primitive intelligence.

Normally, the slime spreads out its network of tube-like legs, or pseudopodia, to fill all the available space. But when two pieces of food were placed at separate exit points in the labyrinth, the organism squeezed its entire body between the two nutrients. It adopted the shortest possible route, effectively solving the puzzle."

They also seem to be able to anticipate events:

"As the cells crawled across an agar plate, the researchers subjected them to cold, dry conditions for the first 10 minutes of every hour. During these cool spells, the cells slowed down their motion. After three cold snaps the scientists stopped changing the temperature and humidity and watched to see whether the amoebas had learned the pattern. Indeed, many of the cells throttled back right on the hour in anticipation of another bout of cold weather. When conditions stayed stable for a while, the slime-mold amoebas gave up on their hourly braking, but when another single jolt of cold was applied, they resumed the behavior and correctly recalled the 60-minute interval. The amoebas were also able to respond to other intervals, ranging from 30 to 90 minutes."

If that's not cool, I don't know what is. Pretty damn smart for a single-celled organism.

This stuff doesn't feel like a dry foamy sponge, like a fungus would. It's wet and fluffy, like perfectly-cooked scrambled eggs.
Great. Now I'm craving eggs.
Yellow slime mold macro
This unique thing of beauty is growing right outside my front door.

Lorelei wants to know if there is a Life Slime Mold Dance?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Almost Heaven...but not quite. And then finding my way Home

This weekend will go down in my personal history book as one of the longest, hardest of my life.
I had some programs scheduled way over on the other side of Ohio, in Portsmouth. Being so close to West Virginia, I thought I would sneak over the border and see some birds...and recapture the magic I found there at the New River Bird and Nature Festival. That week in WV changed me in a very visceral way and I wanted to feel it again, that thrill of the mountains.

But it wasn't the same. I missed my people.
I wanted Lynne beside me, crying for joy at her first sight of a Cerulean Warbler.
I wanted Mary and Nina there to get fantastic photos and share them with me.
I wanted Kathi to ID the birds singing outside and sit back with me to open a bottle of wine.
I wanted Kathie to light up at the sight of yet another eastern US lifer.
I wanted Jane there to give me that sweet smile and tell me to Embrace My Inner Sheep.
I wanted Tim to entice me to join him in the hot tub.
I wanted to look at Beth and cause her to break into fits of helpless laughter.
I wanted to sit out on the porch swing with Laura and whisper secrets into the night air.

I was a lonely member of a Flock who had not made the journey with me. NOT the same...

It was raining as I got into Fayetteville. Big surprise.
I got a picture of the bridge I had been so afraid of...

New River Bridge

...and smiled at the rhododendron in bloom:
blooming rhododendron

Found a tiny perfect pink mushroom.
Perfect Pink Mushroom
The birds were quieter than they had been in late April. Breeding is slowing, and the migrants have passed. Oh, well.

Before I left for the trip, I emailed Geoff Heeter (check this post...Geoff is the one shouting, "I like to DANCE!") and asked if he and his family would like a private raptor show, since I was in the area. He loved the idea, so I was welcomed into his lovely home and did a program for him, his charming wife, his kids, the neighborhood kids, the parents of the neighborhood kids....right in Geoff's kitchen. It was fun and relaxed, and the kids loved it.

I was able to meet Geoff's of them here being held by Geoff's daughter:

And I don't know what Geoff is feeding these chickens, but they have reached gigantic proportions:
Giant chicken
Look out, little girl! That chicken looks hungry!

The impromptu program for Geoff's family was the highlight of the trip. I spent all day today driving back home. Five hours in the car.

Unhappy birds in the back (they had been living in their carriers for 2 days, and that just makes them cranky...and Lucy wouldn't eat at all...I was a wreck) and a sore neck and the melancholy of leaving West Virginia somehow unclaimed.
I went there looking for something, and I couldn't find it. I left with a special sadness in my heart.

After stopping at the house to pick up my family to go get the other car from the shop, I then drove the birds back to RAPTOR.
Then it was off to Indiana, to my niece's graduation party.
The Graduate

I miss Indiana and the parties that are to be had.
Some things you can find there:

Manly games of Cornhole, played here on a "Breast Cancer Awareness" board:
The Manly sport of Cornhole
You have to live west of Vine Street (that's the dividing line in Cincinnati that tells you if you are a "West Sider" or one of those uppity "East Siders") to play Cornhole.
I think some uppity East Siders are picking up the game, I guess when they want to come off their high horses and try to act like common folk.

(I live on the East side of Cincinnati, but since I grew up in Indiana, I am forgiven and allowed to cross the state line)

The food at a party in southeastern Indiana is delicious and truly horrible for you, hence the appeal:
Side dishes like Skyline Dip, Seven-Layer Salad, Fritos with everything, and the most Heavenly Bar-B-Que Chicken Dip you have ever tasted. It comes with a HazMat warning.
Who the Hell brought vegetables?????

And the only way to cook your food is with, make that massive....amounts of OIL (lard if you are feeling extra naughty):
Everything has to be deep-fried. (Look, Laura! A cooking barrel!)

The only way to cook all of your food
Fried chicken...and French Fries and also fried pickles and fried Twinkies. Seriously.
For those of you who aren't privy to the ways of I said to someone this weekend, "We may be part of the North, but we ain't YANKEES."

You need something cold and delicious to wash down all that grease, and that's where this contraption comes in:
An invention of my brother's....a refrigerator that has a beer tap right on the side:
The coolest fridge ever

You need to have this Oh-So-Cool fridge, because you need to be able to put your HALF-BARREL somewhere:
Inside of coolest fridge ever
Yes. A half-barrel. Not a KEG...a HALF-BARREL.
There were three half-barrels at the party today...and when I left, they were down to one.

Bright, Indiana has its own gang sign.
I could tell you what it means, but then I'd hafta kill ya.
The Bright Indiana Gang sign

Monday, June 15, 2009

Species Profile: The number one Raptor species I want to see before I die

Species Profile:
Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja)

The harpy eagle is a very large bird of prey with a body length of 35 to 41 inches, a 6 1/2 foot wingspan and can weigh between 10 to 20 pounds. As with most birds of prey, the female is much larger, sometimes twice as heavy as the male.
The name of this bird comes from the Greek myth of the harpies, wind spirits who took the dead to Hades. The Harpies had the face of a woman and the body of a vultur
e or eagle.
The upperside of a harpy eagle is slate-gray, with white underparts. The chest is crossed with a black band that reaches the neck. The head is dark gray with a double crest that can be raised or lowered at will.

The feet of a harpy eagle are as large as an adult human hand, and the talons reach lengths of up to 5 inches. That's the length of a bear claw.
This is the largest raptor of the Americas, and among the largest extant eagle species in the world.
It is the only member of the genus harpia.

The harpy eagle's range covers the tropical lowland rainforests of Central and South America, from southern Mexico to northern Argentina, in the upper canopy layer.

Harpy eagles are active-hunting carnivores, with their diet consisting of tree-dwelling mammals like monkeys, coutis and sloths. They will also occasionally attack other birds like macaws, and will eat snakes, porcupines and iguanas. They can lift more than three-quarters of their body weight.

Harpy eagles build large stick nests high in trees, usually the kapok tree, one of the tallest trees in South America. They lay 2 eggs, but once the first egg is hatched, the other is ignored and does not hatch. It can be aggressive to humans who approach the nest.
In many South American cultures, it is bad luck to cut down a kapok tree, which may aid the conservation efforts of this species.

Conservation status:
The harpy eagle is listed as Near-Threatened by the IUCN, and Threatened with Extinction by CITES. The Harpy Eagle is threatened primarily by habitat loss provoked by the expansion of logging, cattle ranching, agriculture and prospecting; secondarily by being hunted as an actual threat to livestock and an imagined one to human life, due to its great size.

Cool facts:
  • Recently, a chick from the all but extinct population in the Brazilian state of Paraná was hatched in captivity at the preserve kept by the Brazilian/Paraguayan state-owned company Itaipu Binacional.
  • The feathers on the face may act as a facial disc, similar to those in owls, to help the eagle detect prey.
  • The San Diego Zoo is the only zoo in the United States to breed harpy eagles.
  • If you want a chilling account of a face-to-face meeting with a harpy eagle, go to Julie Zickefoose's post here.
  • If I am ever blessed enough to actually see one (either in the wild or in captivity), those of you with me will witness me peeing my pants, crying and fainting. All at once.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I used to be cute.

Lorelei and Isabelle really wanted to see what I looked like when I was a kid. While at Mom's, we looked through some old photo albums...and I took pictures of pictures.

Sorry for the lousy quality. Mom doesn't have a scanner.

My shirt says, "Where in the world is Bright, Indiana?"
It's so small, WE didn't even know where it was.
And check out my groovy bell bottoms with the totally cool cross-stitching.
I was blond once. But I was smart. And cute!

The happy family at a wedding.
Dad very rarely wore a suit.
Maybe that's why someone took a picture.

The first wedding I was cousin Sue's.
The colors were peach and brown.
It was the Seventies.
My Grandma made that dress and headband. I felt so grown up. I was 5.
And my brother was practicing for a career as a mortician.
Check out the ruffled TUX. Steve was smokin'!!!!

I think there are still pieces of this tea set somewhere at Mom's house....
I was so excited!
Jeez, was I really a girly-girl?
Check the tooth missing....a friend of my brother's had pushed me down a full flight of wooden stairs and I had to have a baby tooth pulled. Loser.
But look how cute I was!

Catching my first fish....if you can't see it, it's that tiny, fish-shaped thing in the bottom right corner.
I was rather proud of myself.
But I didn't want to touch it, so my Dad had to take it off the hook for me.
(And more bell bottoms. The Seventies were ugly. But I was cute!)

Anyone think that Lorelei kind of looks like me?
I may have been cute, but she has me beat, I think.
(Isabelle refused to stand still for a photo...but there's a lot of me there, too.)

So I wasn't always a snarky, dye-haired obnoxious old broad.
Once, long ago, I was adorable.
That keeps me going.