Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday Tidbits

Taking pictures of Christmas lights is very challenging. I decorated my gazebo yesterday and am almost done. Next step are those icicle lights I am going to put on the top and bottom of it to frame it in light a little better.

Today was a lazy day for me. I went to the bike trail and saw a blue heron and a hawk, both were too far away to get a decent photo. I saw the golden crowned kinglet again and noticed he had more yellow in him that I thought. Once again he was too quick to take a picture of. What I find most frustrating about taking pictures is having to make all of your adjustments to get the picture right. By the time you are done doing that, the subject has flown away!! Grrrrrr.

I did take other pictures though.

Untouched pine cones. I am hoping they will provide food for the birds and other critters this winter. It was nice to see pine cones like this considering most of mine are gone already.

As you can see, it was very cold this morning. The frost had not melted by the time I got there.

View of the Blackstone River. I loved the red and the green. It reminded me of Christmas.

I decided to go to the local cemetery to see if I could see any birds. All was quiet due to the rain. I did see another blue heron though. I love this little tombstone. It was no larger than 8 inches, and all by itself in a corner.

Off to eat the turkey soup I made. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday everyone.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Duck, Duck, Goose, King & a Warbler?

I think this is a robin's nest. I have a hard time identifying them still, but it is a rounded cup much like the one I had in my gazebo one year where a robin had her babies. Can someone confirm this perhaps? Thanks

I decided to do a little exploring today. While I love my backyard birds, I was yearning for more. It's kind of like eating pasta on a daily basis, you love it but crave something different.

I went to a pond in my town that I have not been to in quite some time. Here is a tiny river that feeds water from our large lake to the pond.

I went there in search for baffle heads. I only caught a glimpse of them before they waddled away. I did see a duck and a goose though. It was very odd because they were together and when they saw me they left together. HA!

After that I went to a bike path we have in our town. This bike path was built for both people and wildlife. They designed it specifically for wildlife survival and have a ton of berry producing trees and shrubs. They also built blue bird boxes along the path. I normally don't go here because most birds seem to hide, but a few were out today.

Can someone please tell me what they are doing. I saw all of the ducks and the geese in the same position today. Are they trying to keep warm??

I had three highlights of the day. The first was the belted kingfisher I saw. I could hear him making his usual racket and looked around frantically to see if I could spot him. He was very busy looking for fish and perched on a tree branch. The picture is obviously blurry. He was very far away from me so getting a photo of him with my pathetic Kodak Easy Share was quite the task. I love this little bird. He is so cute and reminds me of this boy I used to have a crush on in the 80's when Mohawks were in style! Very Flocking Seagulls!

Second, I came upon a birds nest that was absolutely adorable. It was about the size of a puffed up house sparrow. I have no idea how the tissue got on there, but it was interesting to say the least. Can someone please tell me what kind of nest it is?

Last but certainly not least was the sighting of the most adorable bird I have ever seen. He was smaller than a chickadee and had gray feathers similar to the color of a catbird. The most stunning thing about him was this orangey, red spot on the very top of his head. I couldn't get in close enough for a picture and he wouldn't stand still anyhow. I am thinking he was a warbler because he was so small. He was eating grass seeds with the chickadees, song sparrows and juncos, so I may very well be wrong. I am racking my brain here trying to figure out what he is. I left my field guide in my office so I think I will be googling for the remainder of the night.

I am going back to the bike path first thing tomorrow morning. I found my new mini heaven and can't wait to get back.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Somebody Stop me Please! Camera Crazy

Check it out! My first unblurry picture of the woodpecker that visits my yard everyday. First off, I gave my windows a good cleaning w/ vinegar. Second the screen got lifted up. Third, I didn't overzoom. Fourth, the lighting was perfect (both inside and outside).

Once I realized how nice the photo came out I became a woman obsessed. I had a turkey to put in the oven and casseroles to prepare, but all I wanted to do was take photos. The wild life was abundant in my yard yesterday and I wanted to capture every moment of it.

That's him again at a different angle.

This is a picture of my cardinal. What you see behind him is a small section of temporary fencing and chicken wire is behind that. I do this to make the feeding station as close to Fort Knox as I can. My neighbor has a cat that gets out on occasion and I want to make it as unpleasant as possible for him to enter. He doesn't get out much, but you can never be too careful. The un raked leaves behind him serve a purpose as well. You see they crinkle when you walk on them so it's my very own crinkle alarm. While it is not pleasant on the eye, I am proud to announce I have not had a bird casualty that I know of yet. This is my method of thinking folks, I overly complicate everything. ;o)

Last one, I promise. HA

I now want to photograph everything. I can finally understand why some of you are so dedicated to photo taking in your blogs. It is fun! I have the whole weekend for photos so I am going to continue to practice.

On a serious note I wanted to pass a link I found through the Cloud Messenger's blog to someone who lives in Mumbai. If you are concerned for all of the people living in chaos and hell right now, than I suggest you stop by and offer your well wishes and thoughts. They need to know that the world is with them on this and we are unified in wishing for peace in our country and every other country in this very large globe of ours. Here is the link.

Peace to all

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

This tufted titmouse was the first to discover the Thanksgiving bounty I put out for all of the creatures that visit my backyard. He loves is when I shell peanuts for him as you can see. I put some pomegranates in there too. I use the seeds as a garnish for my meals and never use it all. I did a google search to make sure this fruit is safe for wildlife and once I found out it was, I put it out there. It hasn't been touched yet.

Squiggy and his family got hazelnuts today as well as their own suet. They are stuffing themselves as I type this and I am hoping they get so full that they sleep for the rest of the day and leave my birds alone.

I had my own Thanksgiving surprise this morning and was it a doozy. The red bellied woodpecker who I spotted in my backyard a few weeks ago decided to pay me a visit. The picture is blurry because I was overly excited when I took it. HA!! He loves my suet so that makes making it worth the effort.

I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with good food, family and friends. I am grateful to have discovered this wonderful blogging community and all you have taught me. I took your tips on better camera shots and it's working! Thanks everyone.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mourning Doves Anyone?

If any of you follow Stokes Birding blog, you will remember an entry they had on mourning dove decline in NH. Link:

After I read that I started keeping my eyes open here in Massachusetts and I have only seen one lonely dove in my backyard eating the seed I put out for the ground birds.

I was talking to a security guard that I work with about birding and in general conversation he told me he wasn't getting any mourning doves this year. Right the minute he told me that I remembered the Stokes blog entry and started wondering if we are in fact experiencing a mourning dove decline of some sort.

Has anyone seen mourning doves in their area or is it unique to New England somehow?


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Taking Photos is for the Birds

Nothing to see here, move along. HA! Okay, if you really want to know I am playing with my photo editing software. Sharon told me to use sharpen and boy did I ever. While it is not a work of art, I do think there is some difference to the photo in the other post.

I never knew picture taking could be so difficult. Especially those of live wild life. First you have to get them to stand still, and then you better make sure you are good and prepared or they will fly off and you will be taking pictures of a branch or bare grass.

Then you better make sure your camera settings are perfect because if they are not, the photo comes out lousy no matter how well your subject poses. I also realize my windows need a good cleaning. Maybe that's why my pictures are so blurry. Windex is a must I'm afraid.

After all of the difficulty in taking the photo you then have to put it into photo editing software to make it look better. I get analysis paralysis here because there are so many tools you can use to make the picture look better, but I don't know what all of the buttons mean.

I am trying to look on the bright side here and figure I have all winter to try and figure it out. If I can get the hang of it, I am going to get a better camera. My camera is a pathetic Kodak Easy Share. Not exactly the camera of choice for photographing wild life, but it will do for now.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Birds Have Arrived!

Sunday quiz for all. What is the button you normally press in photo editing software to not make pictures so blurry? I am desperate here. Thanks

I cannot believe the amount of birds I have had the past couple of days. I must have 20 house finches, 10 gold finches, a few cardinals, 3 tufted titmice, 2 chickadees, 2 downy woodpeckers, 5 blue jays, a bunch of those darn house sparrows, 3 crows and a flock of seagulls. Yes you heard that right I said seagulls. I was mortified to see them arrive but they couldn't resist the peanut butter toast I put out there for Squiggy and his family. They left after all the toast was gone so I was fortunate. All I could picture was them sticking around all day so people could drive by and realize that yes I am indeed crazy.

I have figured out the water station until I get my heated bird bath this Christmas. What I do is get a gallon of hot water. Pour it on the bird bath and then take a rock and chip away at the ice until it's gone. I pour the rest of the fresh water in and it lasts the birds 2 hours before it freezes up again. I also have one of those flexible Rubbermaid trash container covers that is on the ground and filled with water. This is in full sun all day so it stays unfrozen longer.

While I love watching the birds from my kitchen window, I already miss going outside and looking at them. This is my therapy and it gets me away from the insanity of my house and lets me refocus and put things into perspective. I am hoping it will be a little warmer next weekend so I can layer up and get out there with my binoculars. Until then, my kitchen window will do.

Have a great Sunday everyone.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What is up with the Weather?

The photo that won't go away.

Before I rant, I am going to post my funky pod photo one more time in hopes I can get an identity on it. Sharon, I did send an email to Steve (as you suggested in your comments) and I am hoping he can tell me what it is.

Now onto my favorite subject for the month. Weather.......Now I consider myself a hardy New England gal, I have lived here my entire life and should be used to extreme cold by now, but not this year. I HATE the cold. I am thinking it has something to do with the fact that it was warm last weekend and then we jumped to the direct opposite. Every morning is brutal. First I have to get out of bed and turn my heat up some because it's so cold that I don't want to get out of bed. Then it's time to get ready for work. After I have gotten ready for work it's time to feed the birds.

This is a chore in itself because the birds are hungrier now and word has gotten out in the squirrel community about my many offerings. I think Squiggy sent out a 411 to others that I have good eats in my back yard and he brought his gang. So now I spend 10 minutes every morning putting out various foods in various feeders to make sure everyone is happy. It's more difficult to do now because the lids are frozen onto the feeders so I have to pry many of them open. I can't wear gloves while doing this because I can't open anything with them on so I have to rough it out for the birds.

Now onto the bird bath. I really thought I was clever with my idea of adding hot water to my bird bath every morning. My reasoning was that all of the ice would melt and I would be left with fresh warm water for my thirsty little friends. Naive on my part. I now have a honkin ice cube mixed with bird seed sitting in my bird bath. I saw a house finch trying to chip away at the ice yesterday morning and my heart broke. Out I went with a spatula in an attempt to chip away at the honkin cube and I couldn't do it (I did cut my hand though). I had to resort to putting a small plastic dish out there with water in it and filling it up every morning. A heated bird bath is the first thing on my Christmas wish list this year.

My temper is short at this point and now it's time for me to go to my job. I hop in the car and I can't see out of the windshield because I didn't warm it up long enough. I am still in denial at this point and figure all the ice will melt by the time I get down the street. Naive again! I can only see through the very bottom of the windshield which forces me to crouch down while driving so I can see where I am going (I look like Egor and my son is mortified). I have to pull over and use my AAA card to chip away at the ice because I lost my scraper.

When I get home it's dark out and the birds are gone and it's cold in my house. I put on my three layers of fleece and waddle around like an Oompa Loompa because of the extra padding. I refuse to set my heat to anymore than 62 degrees so the Oompa Loompa look will be very much in fashion in my household for the remainder of the winter.

Tomorrow is supposed to be the worst. Wind chill, cold, more ice on the bird bath. What is wrong with this picture?? It is November not January......Pray for me please.......


Edited to Add: I got this link from 10,000 birds and it's really fun to do.
You type in the url of your blog and it will analyze your personality type. The scary thing is that they were spot on regarding me. I often take the Internet tests and they seldom get it right so this is a hoot! Try it out and see what you get.
This is what I got

ESFP - The Performers
The entertaining and friendly type. They are especially attuned to pleasure and beauty and like to fill their surroundings with soft fabrics, bright colors and sweet smells. They live in the present moment and don´t like to plan ahead - they are always in risk of exhausting themselves.

The enjoy work that makes them able to help other people in a concrete and visible way. They tend to avoid conflicts and rarely initiate confrontation - qualities that can make it hard for them in management positions.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


WARNING: I am not my usual self. Work has been Hell! I have been doing 11 hour days and when I get like this it is hard for me to make a complete sentence, let alone write.

With work being as insane as it has been bird watching has happened in small doses and usually in the morning. It has been extremely cold here in Massachusetts and I have been filling my bird feeders more. I am getting the usuals in pairs of 2 or 3. I can't say the same for the finches though as they are appearing at my feeders by the dozens. The house finches love safflower seed and I have gone through 1/2 a bag in 10 days.

The biggest reason they are here is because of this tree and the pods that are on them. Can anyone PLEASE tell me what it is. I have googled every type of tree I can think of and still can't figure it out. All I know is that both the house and gold finches love the seeds that are inside the pod.

Pardon the pictures as I am still uncomfortable with my camera! The blurriness is due to my shakiness and because they were taken through a window and a screen. I have been complaining to the kids how difficult it was to take pictures with the screen interfering and my son opened the window and put the screen up. Why didn't I think of that?? HA!!, I am telling you this cold weather has caused some of my common sense to freeze up along with everything else in my yard!

Here is the tree with the pods on them

Here are some more pictures of the finches. I love to watch them because they are not as hyper as the other birds which makes picture taking much easier. I bet they will be even easier to photograph now that the screen isn't in the way. ;o)

Now I am off to decompress. I have been crunching numbers for 3 days straight and my brain is aching for mindless activity. I just want to sit on the couch and watch the rerun of Top Chef.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Day Light Savings Time Blues

Photo by Peter Griffin

Where is the sun? I ask myself this every morning as I drag myself out of bed to start the coffee. I wait for daylight eagerly as my son is getting ready for school and taking his time as usual. I don't mind much because it gives me time to look out my kitchen window in search for the first early bird. It is always the cardinal..I can hear his familiar call as he lands on the coconut feeder for his breakfast of safflower seeds.

Soon enough the others follow. Blue jays are next, waiting for me to put the peanuts out on the fence post. They know me by now and get really quiet when they see me come outside. They are so eager for the peanuts that they don't even wait for me to finish before they start swooping in to fight for the heaviest ones. The titmice, chickadees and finches join in and my back yard suddenly comes to life as I grudgingly head off to work.

While driving, I come to the realization that it's getting lighter a little later each morning. Soon enough I will be lucky to be able to watch the birds for 15 minutes each morning before I fly off to work.

I go out each afternoon to get away from my desk and breathe in the fresh air. Many times I go to the small park across the street from me. Sure enough there is always someone feeding the pigeons. I watch them as they toss the bread to the clumsy birds who fight with each other for a piece. On occasion a house sparrow is daring enough to get in the middle and grab a bite. The outraged pigeons chase after her as she flys away with her morsel to eat in peace. These are the only birds we have in our downtown area (besides the falcons that feed off of them), and while I don't like them in my yard, I find myself going there more and more lately just to watch the birds.

By the time I get home it's already getting dark and the only one in my yard is the cardinal getting his last meal before he retires safely in a tree for the night. I put on my sweats, do some light housework and then plunk myself on the couch and fire up the computer to read the blogs and catch up. The energy I had this summer is suddenly gone. I long for warm blankets, macaroni and cheese, and black and white movies. Snap out of it! I tell myself, but it is no use because I miss the daylight and the nature that goes with it.

I end this with a poem I found on the Internet. I think she is using the sun as a metaphor here, but it still suited my mood.

My Brilliant Sun By Eileen Ramage

I laid my soul so bare to you
It may not have been the thing to do,
For now you seem so far away
Yet we were so close just yesterday

Back to the world where we were one.
You shone for me like a brilliant sun.
My world is dark now you are gone.
My search for you goes on and on.

To hear your voice would set me free.
To have you here once more with me.
To feel your touch and close embrace
Brings back the smile upon my face

Souls have touched and shared together
Moments that will last forever.
No one can take them away from me
For they are mine for eternity.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Squirrel Stress

I have had it.....Yes, I know I started this blog in an effort to get in touch with nature and my inner self, but this time he has gone too far and I need to vent. The squirrel is back and he means business. I was driving home from PetSmart on Sunday and sure enough, there he was on my feeder eating my seed for the birds. Outraged I slammed on my brakes and started honking my horn at him. The neighbors looked at me rather strange, but I didn't care this time because as far as I'm concerned- this is war. I pulled into my driveway and ran to the yard and yelled at him until he decided to run. I knew he would be back and my head suddenly started to hurt.

While I was putting away my purchases, I fantasized about ways I could rid myself of the little beast. Hmmmmm. I could shoot him with a pellet gun........Nope, I could never do that because it's cruel, and I don't own a pellet gun.......I could trap him and bring him to my mothers ............I couldn't do that either because my mother would kill me and he would be away from his family and would probably die of hunger and loneliness.........You see, I kind of have a love/hate relationship with Squiggy (that's my name for him). A therapist would have a field day with this since I consider him my torturer, but he is rather cute when he wants to be.

It's no use, Squiggy is here to stay. I could try all kinds of things but he would still figure it out. I have yet to meet a birder who has developed a way to prevent squirrels from at least occasionally raiding their feeders. If there were such an individual than they would be rich selling their proven success tips on DVD's during late night infomericals. As we all know, squirrels are smart little varmints and can usually tackle any obstacle if they are determined enough to do so. In fact, squirrels are so good at overcoming obstacles that I bet they could solve many of the things we humans still have yet to figure out like stopping global warming, fixing the economy and teaching men to put the toilet seat down after use, if we could only tap into their peanut sized brains.

I guess all I can do is continue to feed the squirrels separately and perhaps increase their food intake some. I am new to bird feeding so I don't know if this is true or not, but from what I hear squirrels are not as bad in the winter because they don't like to be out foraging in the cold and snow. Somebody please tell me this is true. I don't mind feeding him and his family, but I would appreciate it if he would eat in the squirrel/blue jay/occasional crow feeding area vs. the small to medium sized songbird area. I even made him a peanut butter bagel Sunday morning and this is the thanks I get.

I give up.

Sunday Tidbits

Check out the picture I took this morning. I really like the way the clouds seem to synchronize with the tree. I am practicing taking pictures ever day and am happy to report it's getting easier. The only thing I can't control is my shakiness. I don't know if it's the caffeine or my energy level, but I get too shaky when taking pictures and half of them wind up blurry.

I also want to remind everyone to make sure they watch TV tonight. Nature is doing an hour long special on Bald Eagles. See the sidebar to the right for more detail.

Here is a sneak preview of what we can expect. It looks really good. I even bought cheese and crackers for the occasion, I am such a dork! I want my kids to watch it too so I resorted to mini bribery. If they want cheese and crackers than they have to watch it with me. Ah, the compromise of parenthood.

Last but not least is a plea for help. You see I have this tree in my yard that has these bizarre looking pods on it. I was wondering if anyone knew what they were. I have been watching the birds on the tree to see if any of them found the pods appetizing and the only ones who really seem to like it are the house finches.

What the heck is it??

I wish it were something the squirrels found appealing because they will NOT leave my feeders alone.

Well I am off to make suet and do battle with the squirrels.

Have a great Sunday everyone

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Rain..Rain....Go Away

November Rain
November rain washed away my guilt November rain washed away my pain November rain - so tired I felt November rain was not just any rain Long I longed with deep torment For so long my body waited November rain, , , , Oh, sweet friend November rain- slowly I faded. November rain- I cried within Steady and slowly, it kept on pouring November rain, watered my skin And deep inside, I heard my roaring. November rain, it refused to quit November rain kept on pouring And alone outside, in the streets I wept- dripping... dripping and falling.

I woke up this morning to yet again the sound of rain. The temperature is still warm for November, so I decided to brave it out and go to the cemetery to see if the blue birds were still there. This time I decided to bring both my camera and binoculars because I really need to practice getting used to taking pictures. The one below is of the wetlands that are behind the cemetery.

It was quieter than usual, due in part to the rain I am sure. All I could hear was the sound of raindrops falling on the leaves. A church bell rang in the distance and the familiar sound of a blue jay was crooning high up in a tree. I was grateful there was no one present besides me at the time. I often go there when people are visiting their deceased loved ones and it makes me feel sad because while I am there looking for life, they are there mourning the dead.

I walked past my favorite tombstone and decided to take a picture of it to practice a little. I think the reason I am so drawn to it is because it is rather unassuming. There is no name of the departed on the tombstone or no flowers by its side. It is the closest tombstone near the wetlands so I have to walk past it every time I go birding at the cemetery. I often wonder what the woman was like who chose this spot as her final resting place. I have a deep feeling I would have liked her.

The rain had dampened my enthusiasm and there was not a living creature to be found. The blue birds have long since gone and everyone else was seeking shelter from the rain. I decided to make the best of it and wandered around seeking nature.

The blue heron that was there this summer with her babies has moved on to her winter destination, but the nest remains. Someone told me she will go back there next year and rebuild a new nest on top of it. The picture is crude at best, but I was impressed I could even take it.

I was going back to my car when suddenly the air was filled with the sound of crows calling in the distance. I grabbed my camera and searched for them hoping to get a picture. Check it out! My first action shot!!!! HA!! The dot in the left center of the picture is the crow. He is not sitting on the branch, but flying past it. It just looks that way in the picture.

Soon enough more joined and they were crowing up a storm. Yup, something was certainly bothering them and I wanted to find out what it was. I saw one up on a tree and decided to go closer. There a few branches down from him was a hawk! I grabbed my binoculars to get a better look but it was no use. I don't know anything about hawks and they all look the same to me so I have no idea what kind it was. What I found extremely odd was the fact that the crow was there above him. I thought he was crazy being that close and I was convinced he was going to be the hawks breakfast.

The hawk took off and the flock of crows followed. They were stalking the hawk!! I have never seen anything like it. There had to have been about 7 crows that had surrounded the hawk. All you could hear was the sound of "Caw, Caw, Caw, echoing throughout the cemetery. Does anyone know if this is normal??

Anyway, we are supposed to get another 1/2 inch of rain this afternoon. Time to do housework I guess.

More pictures.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Where has all the Music Gone?

Each bird loves to hear himself sing.

There is nothing more pleasant on the ears than the song of birds. When the weather was warm this summer, I would sleep on the sun porch just so I could hear them sing their first morning song. The couch was small and uncomfortable, but that didn't matter because the song made up for the sore neck and cramped legs.

Now that it is colder, the birds have stopped singing. The carefree days of summer have long since past and the birds are too busy to sing. For how can one sing, when food becomes scarce and the trees bare. There will be time for singing later, survival is the priority today.

So take care my friends and be sure to visit. My feeders are full, my water thawed, I have plenty of weeds in my neglected back yard. It's the least I can do to help you out, just in case you had any doubt. Just be sure you greet me this spring with your song.

Until then, I will settle for You Tube

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Nature's Pests-Not for the queesy

Before I engage you in the gross details, I wanted to send out a TIVO alert. Nature is doing an episode on eagles this Sunday. Click here for details.
You can see a review of it here from someone who was lucky enough to get a sneak peek. Thanks for the heads up Kate (from Outside my Window)

The woods are my refuge. I go there every chance I get. It's a chance for me to get away from the kids, the pets and the endless housework to just be me.

I discovered these woods last fall. I was looking for bittersweet to make wreaths but wound up finding so much more. Oh yes, I found the wonderful things like a pond with geese, hidden marshes and all sorts of wildlife but I was also introduced to ticks.

Now being an amateur woods explorer I had never given ticks much thought. Oblivious to tick precaution I would leave the woods, come home and go about my business. To my horror I found a tick under my arm and ran to google to find out how to remove them. I was shaky and disgusted while doing this but in the end I did remove it and that was that.

This year I am using more preventative measures but I am obviously not doing enough. Over the course of the past three weeks I have been bitten twice by ticks. I removed one last weekend and thought I got the whole thing but just realized this evening that the head was still there and my son had to remove it because I was too freaked out to do it myself.

You see, I didn't think ticks could still be alive at this point so I was lax in wearing proper clothing or taking a shower when I got home. I did more google research today and this is what I found.

General Information

The most wide spread opinion is that ticks drop down from trees when they detect a possible host passing by, but this assumption is not true. Ticks actually tend to lurk on low lying vegetation such as twigs or the ends of leaves. They climb onto blades of grass or underbrush up to 1.5 m high and wait for a host to pass by.

Ticks prefer to live in areas of the forest bordering on meadows, clearings, stream- or river flood plains. plantations with underbrush and hedges, areas between deciduous and coniferous-, timber and coppice forests.

Ticks are very resistant creatures. Tests show that they can survive temperatures of more than 45°C. What is more they can also survive being frozen at a temperature as low as -18°C and then being thawed out again. This means that ticks could even in some cases strike in winter. One method of prevention is to wash one's cloths at a temperature of at least 50°C. When taking a hike in the woods it is advisable to keep pant legs tucked into the socks so that they cannot climb up underneath. Furthermore, every walk in the outdoors should be followed by a thorough tick-check and a shower. Tick repellent is another way to prevent being bitten.


Yes I know this isn't a poetic topic to blog about but decided to put it on here as a reminder that the ticks are still out there and to use precaution.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I Fought the Squirrel and the Squirrel won

I like squirrels, really I do. I realize that they too need to eat and if you are going to feed the birds, than there is a very good chance you will be feeding the squirrels as well.

With this in mind, I developed a feeding plan for the squirrels that I thought was genius on my part. I found a few tree stumps in the woods while taking my usual walk and I placed them far away from the bird feeders but close enough where I could watch them. I bought them all of their favorites including sunflower seeds, cracked corn and peanuts. This worked well for a while, but now the squirrels have a hunger like I have never seen before. I read in a book that this is the time of year that squirrels seem to eat 24/7 in order to prepare for the winter, but this is getting ridiculous.

I took a peek out of my kitchen window to see what birds were on my feeder and this is what I saw.

Startled by his audacity, I started to knock on the window to get his attention. He ran away and I thought I solved the problem. 20 minutes later I did my usual peek and sure enough he was back.

This time I was frustrated because the squirrels were well fed this morning. I have been increasing the amount of food I give them to keep them occupied so I can watch the birds and this is the thanks I get!! I banged on the window again and he just stared at me and continued to eat. I opened the screen and started shouting at him to GET! GET OFF OF THERE. Away he jumped to the yew tree to start gobbling down the berries. Determined little critter, I thought as I walked away satisfied that this was the last of my peskly little friend.

NOT! This time I went out there and shouted for my patience was wearing thin. All of the birds were on perches awaiting their turn and they didn't stand a chance with him in the middle of it! He saw me and he jumped from the platform and onto the ground. I watched him with a mixture of frustration and amusement as he jumped up a tree and proceeded to urinate all over it. Must check book to see what that could mean.........

I thought I scared him really good that time but he obviously called my bluff. I sat there and watched him and admitted defeat for this determined little foe was too much for me. I was tired at this point and was sick of fighting.

I decided to make the best of the situation and got out my camera. Since it appeared as if he owned the feeder at the present I thought it would be a good time to practice using it. I am not good at taking pictures and photographing birds is even more difficult because they move around so much (that is why I like to go over to all of the other blogs because I am amazed at the pictures many of you can take of creatures that rarely stand still).

He was much easier to photograph than the birds, but he wouldn't do me the honors of turning around for the camera. Heck I thought to myself, that's the least he can do since I feed him his breakfast, lunch and dinner!!!

I do have to admit that it was fun to take these photographs. I don't like taking pictures much because I'm not that good at it, so this gave me the opportunity to practice a little. Now if I could only get used to the photo editing software.
Yes it was an exciting day today outside of my kitchen window and I bet he will be there again tomorrow.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Around the Water Cooler

Photo by Duncraft:

I could have taken my own photos but picture taking is not one of my stengths and I could never have gotten one with the birds on it because my camera's zoom feature is pathetic.

And yes the birds do indeed perch like that as shown in the photo. I love to watch them take a sip of water and tilt their little heads back to drink it in. You just gotta love these little creatures!!

Check it out! Isn’t this one of the cutest things you have ever seen?? That is what I said to myself as I was shopping at Duncraft on my lunch hour at work this past summer. What started out with a tube feeder of thistle and another of black oil sunflower seed had soon developed into a full blown obsession. One of the reasons why I decided to get into gardening and bird watching in the first place was to save some money by planting my own vegatables and herbs in my own garden and spend a little money on bird seed for my daily entertainment. I figured I would save a lot of cash watching birds instead of shopping or going out to dinner or all of the other things I did for fun. You see I have a bit of a shopping problem that I have had since my early childhood years. It has been a long struggle for me and I always try to control it somehow, but it always has its own way of sneaking up on me.

I wanted to change this not only for my financial well being, but also because I found myself getting kind of turned off over how materialistic many Americans had become. We want the biggest house, the newest car and everything else that money can buy. I had also started to develop a strong dislike for China due to how they treat their citizens, their animals and the environment and I realized I too was contributing to the country’s wealth with every purchase I made because many of the things we buy in this country were made in China in one form or the other.

That was it, I made up my mind. No longer would I be a prisoner of consumerism and contributing to China. I was going to be like those people you read about that survive on $100 a month by cutting out unnecessary purchases and living the simple life.

The first thing I did of course was google ways to save expenses. Coupons, hmmmm, I guess I could try that again but I always lose them, pack your own lunch for work, yup that’s certainly doable, and then I saw something that caught my eye. Shop at thrift stores because not only is it thrifty, but you are helping the environment by buying recycled items and not buying brand new things made in China. HA!! Why didn’t I think of this on my own?

I had heard of a place called Savers the next town over from me and I knew it was a thrift store. Off I went in my car to go check the place out and save the world!! At first it was a tad overwhelming and the store had a smell to it I had never smelled before-but I was soon over my reservations once I saw all the china dishes they had stacked on a shelf. I looked at the prices and was floored over how inexpensive they were. I flipped the dishes over and not only were they not made in China, but they were made in faraway places including France, Germany and Switzerland. I was like a wild woman putting fancy plates in my cart. Yes it was true that I rarely entertain, but if I ever did these dishes would certainly impress my guests! Soon enough I would visit Savers every weekend and I later realized that I was not really changing my buying impulses, but only how much I spend.

Around this time I started to develop a close relationship with my neighbors. They are the thrifty types that I always admired but could never understand because I had such hard time saving money. I would go over to their garden and they would show me where they were going to plant the tomatoes this year and point out all of their nectar producing perennials that were guaranteed to attract the hummingbirds. I really enjoyed my time over there and had a sense of peace that was severely missing in my life at the time. This is when I started getting back into gardening and was introduced to birding and nature which I truly believe has helped to bring a sense of inner calm to me that I did not have before. It has also helped to control my spending because it is rather difficult to find time for shopping when you are weeding the garden or searching for birds.

That’s not to say that it was easy at first. I never knew how much money you could spend on birds. The water cooler above is an example of one of my bird and garden shopping sprees over the summer. The funny thing about this purchase though is that I have no regrets in buying it. It is early November here in New England and the birds got much use out of it two weeks ago when many of the local bird baths were frozen with ice. Even the squirrels like it and they let me know when it is empty and time for a refill!!

I find myself relaxing more and learning to enjoy the simple things in life instead of the local sale at the mall. For it is not about the things we own that makes life special, it is really about the things in life we take for granted. Like the smell of freshly brewed coffee first thing in the morning or jumping in freshly made rain puddles after a hot summers day, and of course watching your thirsty feathered friends taking a good long drink as they gather around the water cooler (which by the way, I found out was made in China when I opened my package)….. Baby steps I keep telling myself, it’s all about baby steps…………

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Mystery of the Brush Pile

The humble brush pile in my side yard. All it needs are some evergreens for shelter from the snow and the birds will be happy. The section of my yard gets full sun as well which is something to consider when building your own brush pile because it will help keep the brush pile and the birds warm.

You have seen them before, those piles of branches and brush in the corner of your neighbors yard or perhaps somewhere in the woods hidden away near the babbling creek. It has a life of its own that we humans are too busy to pay much attention to. It is the humble brush pile. An eye sore to some as society has taught us that yards need to be tidy and lawns need to be mowed.

To me, it is a place of mystery and wonder. A place where branches, twigs and twine meet to weave a maze of hidden passages that most are too large to see. For birds and other wild life, it offers shelter from the weather and protection from predators.

I created my first brush pile purely by accident. The kids and I were doing some yard work and needed to get rid of some branches that were close to dead on our trees. We stacked them together near our yew trees in an effort to make it look somewhat organized. Next came some thickets and vines from the Virginia creeper and wild blackberries that were taking over the yard. I kept telling myself I would get rid of them at some point and until then they were OK where they were because it was hidden away where no one could see. Or so I thought. I soon found out that many did indeed see my brush pile and spent a lot of time inside of it. I saw all kinds of sparrows and even a chipmunk or two hidden in that secret maze. There was no way I was going to dispose of that now, seeing what kind of pleasure it was giving my feathered friends. Yes, the brush pile was here to stay.

My journey with brush piles doesn't end there. I have just started one in my side yard where I feed the birds. The area where I feed them doesn't have much as far as trees and bushes are concerned. I am working on that and plan to fill in some of the space this upcoming spring, but until then, the birds have a few trees and one bush, but that's about it. I needed to come up with a plan for the birds this winter and the first thing I thought of was a brush pile.

I did my research this time and spent an hour or so getting tips on google (which ironically enough introduced me to the world of bird blogging, a topic I knew nothing about before hand). Armed with this knowledge, I was off to the woods to find branches big enough to start my base. I am lucky that there are a lot of woods across the street from me so that's just where I went. I was disciplined in my choosing making sure I didn't disturb any brush piles that were already established because I was afraid I would be kicking some wild creature out of their homes. I mainly focused on dead trees that had fallen down after the crazy summer of lightning and wind we had here in New England. I would take some of the larger branches off of the dead tree and struggle to bring them across the street to add to my pile. While doing this, I was very self conscience of what the neighbors would think. HA! I have always been the odd neighbor who doesn't conform to societal norms but this was strange even for me!

Anyway, I am halfway done. Next I have to add more mid sized branches (with forks in them to make it easier for the birds to hide and find shelter. After that I will clip some evergreen branches from my male yew tree (the female has berries for the birds so I don't want to disturb that), and I will be done.

I hope the juncos and sparrows will use it for shelter from the snow and the rest will be smart enough to dart in there whenever the occasional hawk decides to pay me a visit. Best of all, the brush pile is close enough to my kitchen window that I may be able to peak in at all of the mystery that brush pile has to offer -with the help of my binoculars.

I have discovered more uses for dead branches to make my bird feeding station a little more bird friendly. I put some up behind my bird bath so the birds can perch while waiting their turn. You will also notice the chicken wire I have around my bird bath and around my entire feeding station. I did this to protect the birds as well. Yes stray cats can still climb over this, but it will at least give the birds a better chance at flying away.

I also use the branches as extra holders for my ever expanding bird feeders. It saves me some money and I feel good about using yard waste in a useful way. Talk about a win/win situation!

The blogs that introduced me to bird blogging. Thanks Mike and Kate!


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