Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Photography Challenged Day

American Idol is airing soon, but I need to record this day quickly and hope to see most of it. After a restful sleep last night, I felt invigorated enough to head outside twice for a walk along the trail at work. It was strangely quiet but I took advantage of a few opportunities that produced nothing. There might be a pine cone somewhere in this photo but I certainly lost the bird.

On the drive home from work I noticed an absolutely gorgeous view of a hawk on an electric line by the road. The sun cast a golden glow on this bird and it would have been a fantastic photo. With traffic behind me and no shoulder on the road to make a quick pull-over, I cringed at the loss.

After I got home and viewed the back yard, I realized that fat-ass squirrel cleaned my feeder today…again. I’ll be laying out more cash for a baffle this weekend! Cha-ching! He's eating me out of house and home.

Here’s a Chickadee belly.

With little sunlight left, I carried my camera to the front porch and found the back end of a bluebird in my neighbor’s Japanese maple. This was after I saw two bluebirds at my own feeder and lost those shots, too.

Good news is that I noticed a little pecking at the suet feeder, FINALLY!

How about a faceless junco?

At least I could photograph the weather forecast for Charlotte. Isn’t it ridiculous to do this? I feel like a real nut. IF we have snow tomorrow, I’ll be ready with my camera but I certainly dread ICE.

Michael came home tonight from a one night stay in Virginia and brought me two little gifts. The Yankee candle, "Greenhouse", smells heavenly and I love the little glass birdie paperweight most of all. This is a gift from a man who claims that birds are only good for crapping on your head. Oh, isn’t he so tough! I’m touched.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sleep walking

My eyes are bloodshot and I’m overloaded at work. Rest is so important to good health and mind and I’ve been neglecting my body’s cry for a good nights sleep lately. There was no walk today, no birds, and no story to tell because I’m too cold and lack the brain power and energy. That’s what happens when a body is tired.

After work, I bundled up and went outside to top the pond a few inches and checked the skimmer. I was shocked to see a frog peering up at me… The slippery thing tried to get away but I grabbed it and threw it gently into the deep end. Kermit did the breaststroke back to me, looking shocked and alarmed, as if to say, “Hey, what did ya do that for?” It’s common to rescue frogs from the skimmer in the warm months and something I did quite often. But it’s January!

Tonight I'm washing two loads of laundry and I can’t understand why men and children insist on throwing clothes into the hamper inside-out. Everything I wash for Michael is inside-out…socks, shirts, sweaters, jeans, and trousers. I remember when Gina was a kid, I’d pick up sweatpants from her bedroom floor, complete with panties inside and socks hanging from the bottom of the pant legs. This all takes time and I'm irritated with it.

Chloe is taking a wonder drug. After only one dose of a pain relieving anti-inflammatory drug, she was zippy this morning. Last night, I slept with her on the sofa since she was diagnosed at the vet yesterday with a strained cruciate ligament that caused her to walk three-legged and stumble. It will be a real challenge for me tonight me to keep her from running or jumping but I’ll be sure to entertain her in other ways. What a relief!

American Idol airs tonight and I’ll be ready to cuddle on the sofa for an hour of entertainment from Birmingham, Alabama! Soon after that, I’ll be snoozing in my own bed, under a nearly full moon. Ahhhh...

Tomorrow will be a better day if I can help it.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Bluebird Saga Continues

Early this morning at the office, I was the first to notice there was a Bluebird flying around inside the building. Could it be Millie’s Johnny?

“Millie, it’s me. I’m up HERE and I can’t get OUT!”

“See? It’s ME! Please help get me out of here!”

We opened all doors after I called in the facilities manager. I moved two live trees from the conference room to the front entrance where Johnny was hanging out, hoping he’d perch on a tree and fly towards the cold air.

I called Raptor nearby and they put me in touch with a songbird lady who suggested placing mealworms near the entrance. The ceilings are thirty feet high and I decided it would be my last resort.

After lunch, we were getting very worried. Our director of curriculum Googled Eastern Bluebird songs and played them near the trees. We imitated songbirds ourselves while hiding around the corner. Then we called in the Dean.

She gathered the painters with their ladders, maintenance staff with an extended duster, and then climbed a ladder herself.

Johnny had turned towards a hallway with lower ceilings and a doorway, good for a better escape. I propped those doors open with chairs. Then we had him cornered.

We waited and shooed him towards the doorway. And kept shooing him. When he was two feet from the doorway opening, you could have heard a pin drop, but inside ourselves we were screaming, “FLY, GO FREE, FLY, FLY, FLY OUT OF HERE! GO!” And the moment he set himself free, we roared. High-fived. Danced in the hallway.

Our Dean giving hugs. Some of us shed tears of joy. Not me, though. Wink. Just kidding…

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sunday, flying by...

Late last night, Chloe was sleeping while standing - in pain. So I slept on the sofa, in hopes she would crash on the floor next to me. She did, lying on my warmest coat. I covered her with a blanket and she didn’t move all night but I slept fitfully. Today, she’s on the mend and her little "stinger" tail is wagging.

After Michael did a few chores around the house this morning, he sat at the computer and I urged him to see my blog, particularly the Bluebird story I posted earlier in the week. He was not at all interested, which was no surprise to me. I thought, “Ok, you snooze, you lose, buster,” and I continued pushing the vacuum. The Hoover was howling and I noticed him smiling at the computer monitor. The sneak was reading through my blog and laughing. “Who named the bluebirds?” he asked. Back at him, “Who do you think named them? It was my story!” (Yes, it’s now confirmed, Michael. Your wife is a fruitcake.) Smiling, he shook his head and knew enough not to say a word. It was so nice to see him smile and enjoy something I love doing.

A few minutes later, he called out above the vacuum, “Do you want to take a ride to Southpark Mall?” Southpark Mall is very, very upscale. You go there with full make-up and wearing jewelry accessories. I had slept on the sofa all night, had not showered, and to put it plainly, I looked quite rugged and skanky. Who would finish vacuuming the whole house, be sure dinner was in the oven at 3pm for Gina and Billy tonight, top the pond, poop patrol the yard, and a dozen other things around here? Does he think I'm "Bewitched?" I don’t understand men and their thought processes, sometimes. Besides, I wanted a little time to look for bewds. Minutes later, the phone rang with a golf invitation for him. You Go, Michael! I was saved by the bell! The feeder was buzzing today but I couldn’t get near them. Still no takers for the suet. Not a good bewd day. I wanted that Titmouse!

On my short trip to the grocery store I hastily pulled into an empty parking lot. I was allowed only one shot of the hawks before they fled. They might be red-tailed but I'm not sure. Click to enlarge the photos.

Turned back to the car. How could I have done something so stupid? The keys were in the ignition with the engine running. Who needs to report a stolen car on a Sunday afternoon? I’d better be more careful.

If you love bluebirds, come visit me. See the strong wind ruffling his belly? I see more and more of them each day at my house.

This Cowbird pair is cute. The wind was horrible today and they hung on tightly atop this flimsy evergreen and waited for me to get back inside the house. This isn't a good photo of them, but I like it.

Male Cardinals are striking in color but there is something about the female that is so exquisite.

Several white throated sparrows allowed me to get closer than ever.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

Just Couldn't Wait One More Day

For over a month, I’ve been hot on getting a few more feeders and resigned myself to wait until January 31. That’s payday. An e-mail I received this morning from Wild Birds Unlimited announcing a sale of a free decorative suet feeder with the purchase of a case of suet got me dressed and out the door at 9am. That did it. I'm so impatient. I met Michael there, my tour guide and skillful tempter. He knew he had me. My eyes rolled at everything new and I looked like a little kid in a toy store! The free, limited supply, suet feeder was out of stock so he offered me four cakes in lieu of the feeder. I’ll try the suet and see how popular it is before I make it on my own stove. After meeting this fine and entertaining gentleman who helped me choose, I whipped out my plastic, we shook hands, and I was on my merry way. A suet feeder and tube feeder next to me on the passenger seat made me squeal with delight.

Are birds slow to catch on or wary? Salesman Michael told me it may take a while for birds to use new feeders and he’s right. After I hung both of them next to the platform, the fifty-plus birds hung around in trees and bushes looking spooked by the new additions. Not one bird touched the suet today. Maybe they haven’t had it before? The tube feeder was popular and I have plans for two more stations on my property to include feeders to entice the gold finches and titmice. I’d like one on the west side of my house so I can watch the feeders in the evening sun and I’ll have another on the south side. The one in the photo above is on the northeast side and gets shadowed before dinnertime. The birds on my property have it all – food, water, and shelter. There was no time for photography today but I had my nose at the windows, watching, with a basket of laundry on my hip.

Yesterday, I decided to trespass onto the golf course and parked my car at the first hole, only to find a foursome out there. It was too cold for golf! My husband has played golf in way below freezing, though. That's weird.

My effort wasn’t a total loss. There were several busy bluebirds next to the cart path.

This is what Chloe, the drama queen, did all day. Stand and whine with the tail down and head hanging low. She’s hurting badly from the rabies shot in the thigh she received yesterday and I don’t think she’ll feel normal until Monday. I’m giving my poor girl buffered aspirin in hopes it will help her out… And next time I see Dr. Mark, I’ll ask him why some vets give the shot in the scruff of the neck and others give it in the thigh muscle. Ouch! Now it's time for a pee break outside. I'll help her out.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Chloe Deserves Filet Mignon for Dinner Tonight

Chloe took a ride to the vet today. She’s a great passenger and loves a ride in the car. When I stop at a light, she stands up to see and sniff, especially if we are near a Bojangles or McDonalds. I had my camera with me and regret leaving the battery in the charger back at home…darn!

Since she was a puppy in 1996, I’ve dreaded her visits to the vet. Her bad behavior has been embarrassing and unnecessary. I’ve had several different vets during her life and she hated them all. What made matters worse is that animals can detect anxiety in their owners and will share it but I did the best I could to cover mine. In the waiting room, she’d tremble while I tried to calm her with relaxed conversation in our own language we share. Chloe’s phobia and fears caused growling, struggling, and snapping. How could this loving and sweet girl turn into a demon the moment she entered the office? That’s not how Boston Terriers behave, although she does have some wicked tendencies we admire. (I need to add that she was not bred by Jane, the famous Chet Baker’s breeder). In Chloe's ten years, she never had a complete and thorough exam due to her quick snap at the stethoscope and other instruments. Nails clipped? Forget that! “Just give us the shot, doc, and we’re out of here!” Luckily, she's been a healthy female.

Today was different from past visits to the vet. Maybe she’s mellowing in her senior years or maybe she decided she likes Dr. Mark. This was the first Christmas she didn’t steal and run with a dozen Christmas tree ornaments and lately she has been intently watching certain programs on TV. This morning in the examining room, she sat in her own chair, next to me, and allowed Dr. Mark to investigate a benign mass on her back, examine her teeth, listen to her heart, and look closely at her eyes with an instrument. She wasn’t happy about it but was amazingly patient! Dr. Mark has a "Dog Whisperer" way about him. We heard a little low growl when she got a rabies vaccine in the bum, though. I’ll take that. Inside me, there was a woman bursting with joy, wanting to shout out, “Yay! Chloe, gimme a kiss! I’m so proud of your brave old soul!”, but I waited until we got into the car.

In February, she’s going in for an overhaul. Under general anesthesia, the surface growth will be removed. At the same time she’ll have her teeth cleaned and her nails trimmed to puppy length. Dr. Mark gave me more good news. She’s maintaining her 23.1 lbs. well. She doesn’t have cataracts. What she has is called lenticular schlerosis, more commonly called ageing eyes. Her acuity isn’t as sharp as it used to be and she’ll have some trouble focusing at dusk and dawn. We won't be calling her "Eagle Eyes" anymore... She looks tired after her trip today.

After we arrived back home, I read her new rabies tag with an expiration date of 2010. A while back, I read that the life expectancy of a Boston Terrier is about 10-13 years. I did the math. Chloe will be 14 years old in 2010. Oh, heartache, loud sigh. I had to grab a Kleenex. Could this be her final rabies vaccine? NO. I can’t bear to think about it right now.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Images in the Sky!

Stepping onto my front porch yesterday, I looked at the sky and saw a heart. If you look closely and enlarge the photo, you’ll see a jet flying in or out of Charlotte Douglas Airport above it. As a child, I remember spending time with my little boy and girl friends laying on our backs in the grass, gazing up to the clouds in the sky, looking for dogs, leaves, or faces. It was a game we loved to play. Also, we enjoyed looking for four-leaf clovers and the first to find one was the winner. There was no prize involved. Being “the first” was a prize in itself. We’d try to outsmart flies and cup them with our hands before they’d get away. (Yuck) Lightning bugs were held captive in empty pickle jars. (Stinky) The weeping willow stems served as clothing for our Tarzan dramas and we made mud pies for dinner. Playing hopscotch in the alley, dodge ball, jacks, yo-yo, marbles, pick-up sticks, and “Go Fish” are the things we did because we wouldn’t dream of staying indoors unless we were punished - oh, the agony. On rainy days, we read books all day. Taking walks to the country store for a loaf of bread for our Moms provided revenue in the form of soda bottles we found along the way, enough to buy a coddie or a handful of bubble gum. Often, we fought and argued over those soda bottles. Some of my friends didn’t have a bike so we shared our bikes and took turns riding. We even made our own skateboards out of one “key” skate and a Golden storybook. We sat on the storybook and flew down the sidewalk! Some boys made a real skateboard with a 30-inch two-by-four piece of lumber and nailed ½ of a metal roller skate to each end. I'm dating myself, here, but I don't care.

We had real imaginations in those days and a desire to explore and create our own fun. We were never bored. We lived in a more carefree society then, and our parents didn't always lock the doors at night. I’m glad we didn’t have electronic games and computers to entertain us all day while eating candy and snacks over the keyboard. There were no cell phones, IM'ing or text messaging. We ran down the street to see our friends and knocked on their doors, instead. New toys came at Christmas and birthdays, only. I often wonder what my childhood neighborhood friends are doing now. Do you? Do you remember some of the games I played?

For the first time in my life, I saw a Red-Bellied Woodpecker today. Could be a female but looking at the photo, I'm not sure. This bird was working away on a tree near the tennis courts in my community. I drove into the area looking for a hidden pond I could see from the main road but instantly heard some racket from this woody in an ancient tree. Noisy and beautiful! I look forward to seeing one at my house when I have some new feeders...

This morning I found European Starlings on campus. These birds seem to be agitated and loud but it was a pleasure to see them, way up there.

Three things I've noticed about myself since I carry a camera with me most of the time:

I can drive and scan treetops at the same time (a little scary).

I can walk briskly while looking upwards without tripping (very scary).

I can hear better, i.e. my radar is finely tuned.

What I thought was a Song Sparrow during my short walk this afternoon turns out to be an Ipswich Sparrow, I think. I say this because the bird resembles a Song Sparrow but has yellow eyebrows and is paler than a Savannah Sparrow. Interesting.

Not a bad day.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Bluebird Story of Millie & Johnny

Millie and Johnny were lovers, in search of a new place to hang their hats.

“Millie! Check this place out! Hardwood flooring throughout!”

(There is a birdhouse on campus. I had a meeting to attend. Oh, well…I’ll be late. I didn’t call the meeting, anyway.)

"Wow. Let me IN, Johnny!"

"This is grand!"

"Where did she go?"

"Arrrrgh! Females! You can't live with them and you can't live without them! She's probably out shopping again."

Millie was out bargain shopping, just as Johnny thought.

(I am never late for anything. Ten minutes late to the meeting, I apologized profusely. But, today, I realize I have my priorities in order. There are some things in life you just can't put off for another day.)

This one's for you, Dew. Hugs.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Summer Apprehensions

Before I start writing about my thoughts tonight, here is a photo I took yesterday under the clouds later in the evening. This bird perched at the highest point of the tallest tree a few doors away from me, with a companion below out of my focus. I hiked up the hill with the camera ready but the lighting produced only a silhouette. I thought the ID might be easy with the pointed beak and round body with short tail. The size of this bird was a bit smaller than a hawk but larger than a crow when observing the wing span during take-off. It perched for at least an hour there and did the same thing tonight. Help?

Now I will get on with my post.

The tossed salad I took to work for lunch today didn’t excite me much. It was elaborate but not good enough. Although I was hungry enough to devour the whole salad, I picked at it and wished I had brought more of my home-made dressing which isn’t bad considering it’s mostly made with red wine vinegar, garlic, canola oil, and a pinch of Splenda. Two months ago, just before Thanksgiving, Gina and I went to our first Weight Watcher’s meeting. For four weeks, we weighed in religiously. Since then we fell off the wagon but not in a big way. I’m still holding on to the edge of that wagon with my fingertips and saying no to most of the things I like to eat. Or, at least, I’m pleasing myself with two pretzels instead of thirty, one Hershey’s dark instead of ten, one little slice of cheese instead of a block, and the lists goes on. Both of us want to go back soon but only when we are ready to give it 100%. We’re getting there. Who wants to go get weighed in, lay $12.00 on the counter before you find out that you lost .5 lbs.? Or gained 3? Not ME! Add the cost of attending the meeting, lunch afterwards, and a pair of new shoes for the daughter. We had better be wholeheartedly serious about it! I almost weighed myself after I stepped out of the shower this morning but made a quick decision. No, my hair is wet. That’s added weight. Maybe tomorrow.

The thought of swimsuits is weighing heavily on my mind - the dreaded and feared “trying one on” under those fluorescent lights in the dressing room where every dimple and roll I have is magnified, not to mention the blinding white color of my skin - it all scares me. Ecckk. It’s like a horror movie. I wonder if security cameras in dressing rooms are real and what kind of person might be watching with a sadistic smirk on his/her face?

My neighbor, Maureen, loves to go to the pool in our community. I baked at the poolside and beach for twelve years in a row and don’t care for the sun anymore. She’s invited me to go with her many times but I always made an excuse to back out so I wouldn’t need to put a swimsuit on. Stand me next to Maureen and you’ll see why. I’m short all over with a chubby upper body and skinny legs. Maureen is five years younger than me, eight inches taller than me, and has legs like Stacy Keibler of Dancing with the Stars fame. She’s a former dancer and she wears short-shorts to show off those tan, long legs! Not baggy, elastic-wasted ones like mine that drape half-way down my thighs. Hey, if I had legs like hers, I’d wear them, too. I really want to wear a swimsuit this summer and continue using my self-tanning cream from a tube or bottle. I really do. That’s why tonight, not one pretzel will touch my lips. I want to sit next to Maureen at the pool this summer without wrapping myself in an oversized towel.

I’m sitting here at the keyboard and listening to Taylor Hicks’ new CD. Hmmm…and daydreaming…

His band is playing at our pool cabana. He’s singing “The Deal”. The saxophone is sooo sexy. I’m sitting next to Maureen wearing my new hot swimsuit and slurping Bourbon slushes while admiring my new pedicure. In the early evening, there’s a warm breeze slightly moving my blonde wisps. It’s real hot so I get up from my chair and sashay to the pool, in the rhythm with his music, then sashay back after being very careful not to get my hair wet. I can’t keep my eyes off him while he sings to the toe-tapping crowd. Will I at least make eye contact with him?

Maureen: “Mary, he’s looking over here. He’s pointing to you!”
Me: “Oh stop, he is not. He’s pointing to you! He wants your legs, Maureen.”
Maureen: “Get up girl, go over there and dance with him! Go, Go, Go!”

My little daydream reminds me of the movie, Griswold’s Las Vegas Vacation when Wayne Newton, singing “Loving You” by Minnie Riperton, put a spell on Ellen, Clark’s wife. Out of her mind with pleasure, she stands against Wayne on stage and belts out the highest soprano note in the song, beautifully. (I can’t stand Wayne Newton.)

When you are a pre-teen or teenager, it’s normal to fantasize about your heartthrobs, i.e. Davy Jones, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, or Elvis. Should forty years make a difference? Huh? Heck, no! Maybe I should rename my blog: I really amuse myself sometimes :)

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Camouflage, maybe?

Until I add feeders closer to the front and back of my house, I need some effective clothing. My bright green coats and light colored jackets don’t blend in with the landscape and the birds know it. For $27.00, I can buy camouflage outerwear. Replace the gun with a camera around this guy’s neck, and then add a blonde female under the hat. You get the picture. I think it will work because I can stand and wait, motionless, for a long time. I can hold my breath for a long time, too.

My husband and daughter are getting worried about me and my obsession with the camera and birds. I say, “So WHAT!” Little did they know what the future would bring when I opened the box that held my new camera on Christmas day. Tee hee. I have a new sport and I can play it at home whenever I want. Or, I can go somewhere else and play it. I have always loved outdoors and now I have more passion for it, thanks to my blogger friends and my new camera.

Thanks to Liza Lee Miller’s comment yesterday, the black oil sunflower and striped sunflower seeds my DH bought yesterday drew those chickadees to my feeder today like flies on cow dung.

A chilling rain fell today and the skies were dark. It was a grand day for the birds, though, at my house. It wasn’t without some agonizing moments, let me tell you. While sweeping the front porch, a Tufted Titmouse landed on a tree only ten feet from me. We were eye level from each other. Perfect! No camera. I froze and we had a stare-down for at least six seconds, then he was gone. Arghhhh! My body twisted in agony. Right behind the titmouse, a male and female house finch flew directly over my head on the front porch, flew out, then perched in the spot the titmouse had landed minutes earlier. They are eyeing up a barn swallow nest from last summer that still sits under my porch roof. No camera. Arghhhh! Again, my body twisted in agony. Damn!

My camera has features I haven’t even tried yet. Later in the day I tried the low-light feature with decent results. It’s very difficult to use optimal zoom in low light but I was so pleased to see a Carolina Wren before I tried the new mode.

I love mockingbirds because they sit for a long time and allow you to zoom in and get close.

At my house, there were bluebirds today. I nearly fell to my knees in thanks and praise. They were plentiful in the pouring rain and I was delighted, to say the least. Heart pounding, I held my composure and snapped way. Some of them were very bright blue and some wore a more subtle shade.

White throated sparrows visit my lone feeder. Here is a view of one using a low-light mode. Not too bad but not great, either. I think I forgot to zoom in enough. Silly me.

There was a feeding frenzy today for the ever present cardinals, doves, cowbirds, various sparrows, plus tufted titmice, and chickadees. This shot, in a low-light mode, was taken just a minute before the noisy escape of the doves. I saw the brown-streaked hawk wings dive through that ended the party. We have a hilly terrain and I couldn’t trespass downwards into my neighbor’s yard fast enough before he was gone and headed to another feeder two doors down the street. If I had pursued the hawk, I would have slipped on the pine straw spread on the steep hill and landed face-down, right in front of the neighbor's kitchen window. Wife: "Oh, how nice, Carl, Mary came to visit."

I’m amazed to see these birds. In Delaware, we lived on a link-style golf course, wide open and flat and with few trees or foliage, other than the young ones we planted. The main visitors at my feeder were doves, red winged blackbirds and other large flocks. They would clean out a filled feeder within minutes – no kidding.

So, I excitedly said to Michael, “We have bluebirds out there!” His reply, “So? Birds are birds. Just birds.” This was an attempt to annoy me, just for the sheer pleasure of seeing me puff up. So I was right back at him, “Well, instead of the shrimp sauce over pasta tonight, let’s have the leftover meatloaf no one liked.”