Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Blustery Day

It's a blustery day - windy, rain, a little sleet, followed by snow. Only one more work week remains until my official retirement, so I decide to buy a new bird feeder and pole to hang all my feeders on as an early retirement present. The neighborhood birds approve of this decision and flock to inspect the new hanging restaurant. From the crowds, I think I must be earning a five feather review!

Other bloggers have noted large numbers of Pine Siskins at their feeders, while I never saw any in my yard. Today I join the crowd and find several Siskins among the Gold Finches. They have stripes like a female House Finch, but today I see the yellow that distinguishes the two species. Hooray! A Lifer in my backyard!

Our little Carolina Wren goes after the last of the suet. I've got Julie's recipe for Zick dough and plan to get the ingredients at the store tomorrow to whip up a batch. Then I just need to decide where to put it for easy access.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal stop by for a quick bite....

... along with this bright eyed Mockingbird and a squirrel who isn't to0 proud to take the leftovers.

One person, however, isn't so happy with the new arrangements. Pippin, our fat cat, will have trouble adjusting to my retirement, I fear. According to FatCat time, whenever Mom is home, it's time to eat. "Mrroww! Feed me NOW!" Jump on Mom's lap. "Mrroww! Feed me NOW!" Walk on her computer. "Mrroww! Feed me NOW!" Look her right in the eye. "Mrroww! Feed me NOW!" Now is that the look of a neglected cat? Need you ask...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Feed the Birds

Even Ziggy has become a birder - of sorts! I love it!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Wishing for Spring

Wishing can make it so. By mid-February, most of us are pretty tired of winter. In Kentucky we haven't had as much snow and cold as other parts of the country, and I'm still tired of winter. A walk at Creasy Mahan Nature Preserve might be just the thing. Walking and wishing through the woods, just might encourage Spring to come along. Ready? Let's go wishing!

The Preserve has been hit hard twice in six months by bad weather, first Hurricane Ike in September, and now the January ice storm. They won't need to buy wood chips for their trails for about five years! Critters that like brush piles as a habitat will be overjoyed.
First, we wish for some nice birds, of course. Well, I found plenty of birds tough enough to take the winter, but they'd appreciate some warmth too. Cardinals, Downy Woodpeckers, Gold Finches, House Finches, Tufted Titmice, Blue Jays, Juncos, Song Sparrows, Nuthatches, and some cute Chickadees and Bluebirds all chirped and whistled to encourage me.

Robins were the most numerous birds of the day. At one point, I saw 8 - 10 of them just sitting on the ground, not scratching for food, not singing, not moving a feather, and all facing in different directions. It looked like they'd been playing Frozen Statues, and no one had come to unfreeze them. It's great for photos, but odd behavior. Hundreds of other Robins played a perpetual motion game, darting from tree to tree.

Now that the birds have been called in, what kind of plant life should we bring? Here are some wrinkled berries. The Robins should finish them off pretty soon. Look in the background for rose hips, especially the one with blood from my finger!

The Japanese Honeysuckle won't waste any time waiting for the weather to get warm.

I'm familiar with the fruit of the Sycamore tree. This time of year, the balls just burst apart when they drop to the ground, so the seeds can blow away and grow. Even the giant trees along the streams started as a small seed blowing in the wind.

Lots of small green mystery plants are peeking up through the leaf litter. Curly topped onions are the tallest. The others seem to be more cautious, and lurk in the leaves, waiting to be sure of the warmth and sunshine before putting too much effort in growth.

Last week I found part of a Robin's egg in the park. Today, I found the egg of the rare Golf Bird, which normally is found nesting only around country clubs. Again, I found no evidence of a nest, and we have another Spring mystery. How did this egg fall to the ground and not break? I assume that it will not hatch after sitting on the ground. Do you agree, birders? The Weather Channel talks about more storms coming from the west. It's just like with Tinker Bell - you have to believe to make Spring come!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Raptor Romance

This morning we joined the Beckham Bird Club for a late winter bird walk at the Falls of the Ohio. It seemed to be the time for raptor romance, which is appropriate considering that today is also Valentine's Day. We saw a pair of Red Shouldered Hawks climb and soar through the clear sky, oblivious to anything else. Oblivious, that is, until a much larger Red Tailed Hawk dive bombed them. Not sure what that was all about - territory? Jealousy? Sounds like there might be a soap opera episode in the making here. A littler farther down the levy, we saw a pair of Cooper's Hawks, also enjoying the stiff morning breeze.
The Black Vultures didn't seem to be interested in romance, just finding a good thermal. Every time we saw a large soaring bird, we examined it closely in bins and scope, hoping to see a Bald Eagle or two, but it ended up being a Vulture every time.
When I got home, I was surprised to see a For Rent sign on our big Oak tree. We removed a limb years ago, and now there is a nice big hole, just right for an 0wl to nest in. Someone finally put up a For Rent sign trying to attract an owl. I just hope it works. I've always wanted to have an Owl close by.
You can see that the hole is in move in condition. No remodeling necessary. The backyard plants are showing signs of spring too. The Verbena has nice fuzzy buds, and the Pachysandra buds are swelling. The Red Winged Blackbirds are making an appearance, so spring must be getting closer. Everyone is tired of winter, and I hope that our wishes all come true!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Signs of Spring

Some people get excited about the "first Robin of Spring." Of course, birders know that Robins stick around all winter in many places. But when you walk home from the bus stop in February, and hear Sandhill Cranes flying overhead two days in a row, you know that Spring is on the way!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Stir Crazy Saturday

It's Saturday, and I'm going stir crazy. Like a good and generous mom, I loaned my car to my son when his died the other night. I ride the bus to work every day, so this won't be a problem, right? Then Saturday comes, Dick takes his car to Bernheim for the day, and I start pacing the kitchen like a caged lioness. The clean dishes put away, and the dirties washing, what shall I do now? Did you know Prairie Home Companion has old episodes online? They play for two hours, while I bring my Internet Favorites up to date on the laptop, and review more birding blogs. Dick worked on the downed tree limbs yesterday, and they sit at the curbside waiting for the chipper to come to our street.

What to do now? As a small neighbor girl used to say, "Let's take for a walk!"

I'm amazed at this house. As an OSU grad myself, I wonder how in the world this couple ever got together, since Ohio State and Michigan are bitter foes when it comes to football.

Looks like the lumberjacks made a stop here. Chain saws roar in another neighbor's yard. Look closely and you'll see that she has a small pine sapling growing at the base of this tree. I wondered why she let it get started beneath this huge tree. Now it can thrive with plenty of sunshine.

A bright blue-green eggshell attracts my attention in a nearby park. Just to be sure, I look up for a nest. This must be left over from last year. How did it avoid being crushed this long? Dog walkers did not clean up after their mutts during the storm. The sidewalk is littered with doggy-do piles. Yuck!

My senses focus on nature as I walk. The clouds race before a strong wind and the branches hum along. It's February, the month when birds start to sing again. Ah, there's a Pileated Woodpecker on a mission, with no time to stop and pose for me. The Crows caw back and forth to each other, while a Vulture soars just beyond the trees, disappearing before I can focus the camera. A Cooper's Hawk scurries before the wind and behind houses on to the other side of the street. Song Sparrows, Blue Jays, Chickadees and Carolina Wrens serenade anyone who listens. The aroma of pine perfumes the air. Isn't it lovely?

The park isn't enough to soothe my fevered brow, so I take life in hand to cross the four-lane road to a farm which has resisted the lure of subdividing so far. Melting snow flows across the pavement, looking for a stream to join. Little Goose Creek gurgles with the runoff. Small tributaries reflect the snow untouched by the sun until the temperatures melt the last of it. Power crews gossip among themselves while one man works on the power lines, their trucks idling on the roadside.

Come home and look out the back door. Gold finches bloom like flowers on the thistle feeder, arguing and jostling each other as they look for a prime feeding spot. I experiment with digiscoping, but no photos turn out this time - all fuzzy. Am I not focused on the scope, or the camera? Or are the windows between scope and outside dirty enough to make that much difference? At least I figured out how to get rid of the vignetting. If I had wheels, I could go someplace along the river and try there. Ah well, not today I guess.

I find one of Dick's books on Interpretive Writing, and start to read it. Use active verbs, it says, and stay in the active voice. I'm trying. Do you notice a difference? Binx wants to take a nap on my lap, if I will raise the chair and make a lap for him, please? When I do, he points out that I have been wearing shoes that don't even match all day long, for goodness sake! Well, Binx, why didn't you say something about this earlier?

Hope I get my car back soon, even if I just go to the grocery in it.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

And the Freeze Goes On...

When the sun came out, the icy branches turned to diamonds, shining everywhere you looked.

Despite our efforts, the breaker tripped on the bird bath heater....

...and the birds left little notes. "Hey lady, what kind of hotel is this? We don't expect hot water, but at least it should be liquid!" By Saturday the forecast calls for 47 degrees. Yippee!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Got a lot of livin' to do

There are birds just ready for watchin’
And I mean to watch me a few!
Oh those birds don't know what they're missin',
I got a lot of living to do!

Sparkling wine all ready for tastin'
Travelin’ far to places so new
Gotta move, cause time is a-wastin',
There's such a lot of livin' to do!

There's photos to take,
Places to go,
people to see!
Everything for you and me!

Oh, Life's a ball,
if only you know it
And it's all just waiting for you
You're alive, so come on and show it
We got a lot of livin'
Such a lot of livin'
Got a lot of livin' to do!

It's official - I'm retiring from the firm at the end of February, and I've got lots of things lined up to do. The local Community College has an online class on Photoshop Elements. I've been using it for several years now, and never understood so many features in it. The YMCA is calling my name to get trim and flexible, while lowering my blood pressure. The Raptor Rehabilitation of Ky will get a new volunteer, while I'll spend time at the Falls of the Ohio, and Creasy Mahan Nature Preserve. Dick and I plan to take some mid-week birding trips, and maybe learn how to camp. I haven't done any since the Girl Scouts, and we have a tent and equipment in the garage. It will take us years to go to all the birding festivals I've found already.

So wish me luck and happiness, as I wish them for you!