Saturday, January 19, 2013

Catching Up

I did some birding with Alan this morning and got some alright photos and great birds so figured I'd do a blog post considering it's been almost two weeks!  Our first stop would be the Fair Plaza and Price Chopper for the Black-headed Gull reported there over a week ago.  We didn't hold out much hope until we got a missed call from Sheila and we figured she and Mark were on the bird!

We'd arrive with a touch of optimism until we saw the usual Ring-billed Gulls including the one above with banding on its legs.  There would also be a handful of other tagged gulls thrown in for good measure but no Black-headed.  Mark and Sheila would arrive at the parking lot beaming over the fact that not only did they get the gull right at the parking lot, but great photos no less but it took off toward the sewage treatment plant.  Doh!  We'd stick around for a bit hoping it would come back but after almost a half an hour we decided to head toward the treatment facility in hopes of getting it there.

We'd pull off on Route 20 to get a look at the structure above and it wouldn't take us long to see a gull smaller than the others.  Photo is awful as you can attest to, but if you blow up the picture you will see a gray shaped gull to the left of the photo and right behind that to the right is the Black-headed Gull. :-p.  Alan would get out of the car to get the scope on the bird and we'd see it to confirm it but not a solid confirmation and then the little bugger would either fly off or go deeper into the gull circle making it hard to see.  We'd both be cold at this point and get back into the car to leave but then my eyes would go back to the spot where I'd see the cute little gull land back on the structure so we had to repeat the scope process with numb hands as the wind there was pretty brutal!  I'd get not only good looks at it perched but in the air as well where I could really see the dark under primary wings (different than the Ring-billed), which was a treat.  We'd get back in the car and Alan would tell me not to look again in fear I'd refind it to repeat the process yet again, but sure enough it was clear to go (although I do admit I snuck another look).

And we'd arrive at our next stop which was Big Chauncey in Westborough for the reported Snow Goose (probably the same one Dawn had in Southborough).   We'd run into Mark and Sheila again who would not only be on the Snow Goose but an Iceland Gull as well.  See the gull in the dead center of the photo behind the Canada Geese.  This would be a sweet stop as I'd get 2 FOY's!

Lousy shot of the goofy Snow Goose on the ice with the Canada Geese.

The next stop would be Wachusett Reservoir in hopes for the Canvasback where I didn't hold out much hope considering I struck out on the Great Cormorant last week (working full time sucks sometimes) but I still held out a glimmer of hope.  Nick and Justin would arrive so we'd all join forces in hopes for a glimpse.  Of course I'd strike out on it but did get some FOY Ring-necked Ducks as well as the best looks I've ever gotten of the female Barrow's Goldeneye!  The last stop would be Gate 25 (above) for the reported Red-breasted Merganser and we'd strike out on that too but did see one lone Common Loon to make for another FOY so all in all, not too shabby at the end of the day!

And besides that, things have been rather quiet for me birding wise as I continue in my quest for domestic perfection in all of my winter hobbies including bread making as I thought it would be the perfect skill to master as it would go perfect with my jam obsession!

Did someone say bread!!  Sigh, I still haven't gotten to the point where I can move onto a more challenging recipe so continue to bake lots of French Bread that I admit I'm getting a little sick of at this point.  Since my last post I've also acquired a couple of new hobbies all centered around the homestead that frankly has me a little mystified considering they're all very female in nature and a total contradiction to where I was this time last year when I was eating steak for breakfast and flipping tires of 18 wheeler's all in my goal of being a female viking warrior.  My eBay and Etsy hobby had to go on the back burner as I was spending more money than I should have and the postman at my office started hating me so decided I could still adorn my house with nice things but with little cost as there's this whole new network of women out there that do nothing but DIY projects.  Now I'm not talking small stuff here but rather grand craftmanship where they upcycle all kinds of things with nothing more than labels and paper.  Get the right paper and get some labels and voila, your'e transported to France (which is my soft spot when it comes to anything antique or vintage). I still have get to dive right in, but watch out!  HA

A sample of my first work or art.  Cute little labels that are now affixed to anything I can affix to.  The label above means the bread for cheese.  I also have other bags for my dozens of loaves of bread including Le pain pour le vin (for wine) and Le pain de confiture (jam).  My poor son doesn't know what to do when he sees the labels as he took Spanish instead of French in high school (much to my disappointment), but he's getting the hang of it here and there!

Anyway, since I have so much Pain de fromage, I'm sharing my bounty with all of my yard friends and am happy to admit my bread is a smash hit with not only the European Starlings but Ring-billed Gulls who fight over the stuff (they were on the roof to my house when Alan picked me up this morning- don't tell Ken)

In fact, the birds fancied it so much that some of the Blue Jays were preferring that to the peanuts I just threw out to them (I see baker in my future!)

Under cover photo of the corvid in action.

In my continuing domestic spree I've acquired another object somehow (this time from eBay) which is a copper jam pot from France!  SWOON!  I've wanted one of these since the 1st year I started canning considering the French are known for their mouth watering jams and preserves and a lot of it has to do with their methods including the use of copper pots which allows less cooking time for it to get to the set stage, which means the fruit tastes better as it's not cooked for as long.  The one thing about unlined copper though is it can have a chemical reaction to acid which means citrus preserves are a "no no" so I bought some organic frozen strawberries at Wegman's to try and make some jam with my copper pot.

Ready to make its debut!!!

And the co-star!

The final outcome!!  While the berries were not farm fresh and local I do have to say not only did the jam taste wonderful but the consistency was better than any other jam I've ever made with only half the time so it will be well worth the investment when I'm canning in summer when birding picks up as I can whip up a batch in a flash between birding, working, household tasks, etc... Perfect for my pain de confiture as you can see above and also the thé (tea, must make label for that).

My quest for perfection doesn't stop there though as I'm still up to my elbows with organic citrus and another batch of grapefruit marmalade but this time it's going to be my own creation as I looked all over google and no canner has ever made a marmalade with citrus infused with pine tea via pine needles from Wachusett Reservoir until now!!  Of course I'm a little leery considering no one has ever thought of it before but heck, both citrus and pine and clean and refreshing so why not!!  This won't get done until later in the weekend so check back for results, woot!!!

As you can see I've been real busy lately!!!  I look at it more as being prepared of course and doing my own version of "prepping" and feel good in knowing if there was ever a zombie apocalypse I'd have enough jam, marmalade, pickles and wine to get me through it!

Take care all.

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