Tuesday, April 29, 2008

This, That, and Random Photos


Other than a few days in the 70’s and 80’s, it’s been dark, wet, and chilly. Whenever I wish for sunshine instead of clouds, I remember the relentless heat and blazing sun from last summer. And the drought. After a year and a half waiting, we’ve had two straight months of above-average rainfall and a cool spring! Because we’ve done such a great job of conserving water throughout the state for so long, the water companies are raising their rates – notably higher. Whatever.

Tonight I’m a little frazzled and out-of-focus. My attention span is shorter than usual so this will be off the cuff, so to speak. This and that.

My house is so snakey. The Black Rat Snake I found on my front porch is the fourth and newest species I’ve seen here, along with another type of small black snake, a Hog Nose Snake, and a Garden Snake. Snakes, snakes, and more snakes. Black Rat Snake is non-venomous but might strike, so I didn’t even entertain the idea of sitting down next to it for a good photo. Oh, my, you're a big one... It became a little annoyed with me and slowly retreated back down the brick wall and coiled up on the trellis that holds the witch hazel.







The cooler weather has been keeping the toads and frogs quiet but there are signs of reproduction from two weeks ago. We’ll eventually have about 2.3 million toads and frogs this summer but the snakes will certainly keep the population under control.



Been busy, man. I'm damned tired.

Pishing helps bring birds out but my camera skills have gone downhill lately without the practice on dark days. Brown Trashers are so cool.

However - one sunny day last week,


I got lucky. A campus Bluebird came to me. Bluebirds are photogenic and they know it. Can anyone possibly tire of seeing Bluebirds on this blog? I hope not.


On the same sunny day, I found a couple on that special tree I admire.

After my foolish fretting during last few weeks, the hummingbirds are finally getting active. Yesterday I saw three females humming around a feeder, followed by a male a few minutes later. For fear of scaring them away, I freeze in my tracks. No camera necessary – just the pleasure of watching them is enough fun but I threw caution to the wind and took a few photos yesterday. It was dark and the photos are horrible. I can’t wait to sharpen my hummingbird picture-taking skills! Just wait and see.




Sunday, April 27, 2008

Everybody Hurts Sometimes


This is a happy community of bloggers. Once in a while, there are posts I read that linger in my mind while I’m driving. It’s coincidental that I was thinking of Julie and Lynne while I listened to R.E.M.’s Everybody Hurts on the radio. Julie has a special healing friend, Shila. Julie might not realize it, but she’s a healer, too. Sweet Lynne lost both her Mother and her Sister within months of each other. A rough time for Lynne… A friend in Pennsylvania has had her life turned upside down recently and she has cried a river. And every time I hear this song, I crank up the volume and sing along, uninhibited, in my croaky way…

When the day is long and the night,
the night is yours alone,
When you’re sure you’ve had enough of this life,
Well hang on
Don’t let yourself go,
‘cause everybody cries
and everybody hurts sometimes…

... ‘Cause everybody hurts. Take comfort in your friends.
Everybody hurts. Don’t throw your hand. Oh, no.
Don’t throw your hand.
If you feel like you’re alone,
no, no, no, you are not alone.

Hold on, hold on, hold on…

We all get too much sometimes.


You think you’ve lost your sense of humor


and realize that early spring turned into summer overnight, the weeds are growing and the gardens need color; your waistline expands; the dogs need bathing and a pedicure; the house needs a good cleaning; you’re overcommitted on the job; there are ants in the bathroom; the windows are mucked up with pollen and dirt and you think you might have a toothache, or is it a headache?; everything and everyone needs your attention; and, you discover a plantar’s wart on your foot…

The days are too short, you’ve run out of time, and everything happens at once.

You worry about your children every day, no matter how old they are, wishing them a content, happy life. You miss the sound of your Mother’s voice as the image of her face slowly fades over time. You miss your Dad in his nursing home, who might not remember you when you visit soon, and feel guilty for not seeing him often enough. So, we all cry sometimes.

Join me while I escape from it all which I often do,

and cheer for the little Brown-Headed Nutty who beat the belligerent Starlings to the worms.


When I tire of the mundane, I go searching elsewhere


for a Great Egret.

Oh, the bird can run away from me


but it certainly can’t hide.

Tomorrow is another day which might contain a pleasant surprise – so SMILE.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Love a K-9 Public Servant

K-9 recertification for explosives detection took place on my campus this week. Thirty-eight dog teams from the United States and Canada arrived on Monday morning for a four-day trial. A nice treat for a dog lover!



The dogs tested separately because the majority of them are unneutered male alphas who love a fight but these two seemed to get along quite well. Handlers became acquainted and enjoyed new friendships during their stay here.


While they waited for their call, the dogs lounged in the police cruisers and personal vans. Always in their alert mode, the parking lot was noisy enough to frighten a few students.


All of the dogs are trained in search and rescue, drugs detection, and personal protection, as well as explosives and like all other public servants, they need yearly recertification. Searching for bombs is a game for them and they do it very well. It’s their playtime!

Oh, how I would have loved to hug such remarkable, obedient dogs but we all knew to hold back and not interfere with a tense dog and its owner.


Most were German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers. I met a new breed this week - a Belgian Malinois, who resembles a German Shepherd but is smaller and sleeker and with a personality similar to a Jack Russell Terrier. A wild look in his eyes – this dog is focused and intense. He requires firm handling by his owner as this working breed is primarily bred for police work. Sharp as a tack, too. I kept my distance.


He didn’t quite qualify for seeing-eye but he did qualify for tobacco and alcohol. Now he’s up for bombs. Sweet.



A wide, open field is a playground for them and they linger only a bit, nose to the ground. Their task is to locate the black box. When they detect an explosive, they sit to confirm they found the prize and remain seated until the handler releases them.


Well done! After every detection, the handler gives praise and a favorite toy. No Bil-Jack liver treats for these dogs!


Relax. Down. Stay. Wait. Spoken in German.


Waiting for a shot at it...


Receiving last minute instructions.


Free to explore and roam but can be stopped and called back instantly. They obey, even on a rabbit chase. Hard to believe, isn't it?



She whispered and encouraged him to do well.


He flew from Montreal on Sunday.


Can you see the love? Need I say more?

Wonderful dogs and owners. They serve, protect, save lives, and love their families and homes. Couch potatoes? Sometimes, yes. Most of all, they love the work. It’s the work and praise they crave most of all.





Always attentive to her master,

and looking for a prize in the back pocket.


I came home from work to greet the Licker Sisters.

So, girls! What did you do today? Did you work hard?


We don’t have job descriptions.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

There is this tree

...I visit often. It’s thriving at the edge of a pond.


What type of tree? I don’t know. It’s sort of homely with an odd shape unlike a tree, it isn’t stately or attractive, but what adorns it is dazzling. This tree is full of life, all the time. I avert my gaze for a bit to search for waterfowl.


There are no Great Blue Herons, Egrets, Ring-necked Ducks, Northern Shovelers, Belted Kingfishers, or Hooded Mergansers to enjoy; however, there are a few Mallards rippling the waters


and congregate at the base of other unattractive trees.

But, back to this tree I’m calling my own. On Sunday morning there was a lot of business in this tree, all at once. I got flustered on deciding what to photograph first.


The Song Sparrow, perched high, was heard above the Red-Winged Blackbirds. I didn't hear the traffic rushing by - just the songbird.


Brown-Headed Nuthatches made an appearance, scaling branches with quick agility, then perched, and stayed for a while. Two of them.


A male Downy arrived quietly to claim his space.

His routine was carried out like clockwork, eyeing me up each time, before exiting.


In the middle of the tree I heard a lovely Bluebird melody. They are always here, in this tree. Females first.



There are beautiful birds all over the world. Then there are Eastern Bluebirds. Breathtakingly beautiful. I’d love to show ten more photos right here and now.


I looked below, over the railing that separates the road from the pond, to see turtles sunning themselves at the base of this tree.

Is there any wonder why I want to call this tree “mine”?