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Archive for the ‘Bird’ Category

Hodgepodge of Photos

Here are a bunch of photos that I was going to write a blog post around but never found the gumption to actually do so. Enjoy the randomness!

July 4th Sunset

July 4th Sunset

It kept changing in intensity.

It kept changing in intensity.

We were up high for a good view.

We were up high for a good view.

Pretty nice view, too.

Pretty nice view, too.

Saw this young starling peeking out in our front yard tree.

Saw this young starling peeking out in our front yard tree.

baby-starling-edited

Time for dinner.

Time for dinner.

We call our resident pigeon Barry White due to his soulfull sound.

We call our resident pigeon Barry White due to his soulfull sound.

My camera doesn't do justice to this isopod.

My camera doesn't do justice to this isopod.

You can't tell in this photo, but the snail was blue with an almost translucent shell.

You can't tell in this photo, but the snail was blue with an almost translucent shell.

 

It's very flat here but it is beautiful in summer....sigh.

It's very flat here but it is beautiful in summer....sigh.

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Alfred Hitchcock would have been proud…Monday morning I awoke to watch a huge, dark cloud scuttling across the sky. It was moving rapidly and undulating oddly. Then I realized it was a massive flock of starlings (Sturnus vulgaris).

This time of year they normally gather into large groups to forage but this was the largest flock I have ever seen. They descended on the giant cottonwood in our backyard and make an unbelievable noise…sort of like a bunch of empty metal shopping carts rattling over a bumpy gravel driveway. Leaves were falling off like rain as they moved around in the crown of the tree. Then, with an unseen cue, they all took off and flew away.

It was pretty wild for a dreary Monday morning.

ps: I never knew there were so many different kinds of starlings. Check this page out from the Internet Bird Collection.

Also, this video is worth watching…just what ARE those starlings doing in those trees?!

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I love county fairs. They seem so quintessentially Midwestern and are great places to people watch. Besides, I can get my fill of chickens and goats…wheee!

And my fill of fair food…let’s see we ate sugar waffles, elephant ears, kettle corn, corn dogs, and sweet tea. (Yes, that sound you heard was our respective digestive systems crying out for mercy).

This year we went to the Fulton County Fair, which was much bigger and better than I expected. We had a great time but were a bit wilted by the 90 degree heat. Here are some pics from that day:

Not too happy to be at the fair

Not too happy to be at the fair

a very large rabbitt

a very large rabbitt

with fins!

with fins!

1967 tractor grill front

1957 tractor grill front

Goose!

Goose!

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(I was thinking about Inspector Clouseau, with the bumpf on his head…)

I came across an interesting book the other day: Central Park in the Dark: More Mysteries of Urban Wildlife by Marie Winn.

More Mysteries of Urban Wildlife

You should check it out as it’s chock full of interesting nature/science stuff. Plus, the author has an awesome blog: http://www.mariewinn.com/marieblog/

I miss going out on night hikes and monitoring frogs…sigh. There’s nothing better than being out in the park at night: no people, much less ambient noise, and it’s peaceful. Of course, some people are freaked out about being out in the woods in the dark. According to the author, there’s even a scientific name for this fear: nyctohylophobia. Usually, the worst thing that can happen to you in the forest at night, however, is that you will trip over something or get whacked in the face by a low branch.

Still, we all can give ourselves the heebie-jeebies at times. Years ago, I was frog monitoring (this involves walking a transect at night and counting the number and type of frogs we hear) with another park naturalist. For some reason, maybe too much caffeine or bigfoot stories, we both got spooked by a rustling off the trail in the bushes. It was like something was following us down the trail but hiding and lurking. Trembling, we both trained our flashlight beams on the sound. All of a sudden, something came out of the undergrowth with a crash. We both screamed and jumped about 4 feet in the air. It was an opossum. Admittedly a large one, but still, just an opossum. We told no one of our foolishness (until I blabbed today).

Oh, and don’t miss this blog:  http://urbanhawks.blogs.com/  with great pics of the birds in Central Park.

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The Silkie is iconic for its unusual fur-like plumage

Yes, I have been spending WAY too much time at I Can Has Cheezburger (which you either love or hate…there is no middle ground).

I just found out about this organization that encourages city dwellers to keep chickens, Urban Chickens. A local food/garden organization that helps establish garden plots for low income inner city residents is giving this a try, too. I’m curious to see how it turns out, as they are also going to have goats.

And now…I want a chicken! Last summer, my sister and I went to the county fair and saw some very freaky and some very beautiful chickens. Wish I had some pics from that…maybe next time. Not that I really could handle the work required to keep chickens even if I did live in a “pro-chicken city” (as their website says…I can just see that on the signs entering the city now…).

Check out the design for the Chicken Tractor…how cool is that!

Now for something very, very strange: You’ve got to know your chicken

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So…what’s up with this recent trend in “before you die” literature?! (Let’s call them BYD books).

I see these books at the front of bookstores, mentioned in magazine articles and, most recently, featured in the new books section of my library. January’s issue of the Smithsonian has an article talking about all of this.  Can we blame this on the Boomers, too? It is certainly targeted at a certain demographic and income bracket.

How many of us can afford to visit fabulous but often far, far away places? Here is the description of some events you must do BYD according to one book:

Dog-sledding, Sweden — Aboriginal dreaming, Australia — Crossing the divide, Turkey — Exploring rainforest and reef, Belize — Châteaux and wine-tasting, France — River-running, Zambia — Flying safari, Namibia — Tracking spirit bears, Canada — Fly-fishing and whisky, Scotland — Hiking through Arches, USA — Tasting warrior life, Mongolia — ‘Lost world’ river journey, Venezuela — Himalayan adventure, Nepal — Watching Aida, Italy — Driving Californian surf, USA — Swimming in thermal spas, Iceland — Gambling and glitz, USA — Riding elephants, Nepal — Heli-hiking in the Rockies, Canada — Felucca down the Nile, Egypt — Climbing a volcano, Guatemala — Trekking the Milford Track, New Zealand — Camel trekking, Jordan — Partying at Mardi Gras, USA — Red Sea diving, Egypt — Riding white horses, New Zealand — Walking the wall, China — Discovering wild flowers, Crete — Finding paradise, the Maldives — Souk shopping, Morocco — Following wildebeest, Tanzania — Palace on wheels, India — Trekking Torres del Paine, Chile — Sea-kayaking Baja, Mexico — Rice-boat cruising, India — Skiing the Vallée Blanche, France — Cycling among rice paddies, Vietnam — Festival of the Sahara, Tunisia — Discovering a medieval city, Estonia — Searching for pearls, French Polynesia.

 Shouldn’t that book have been listed as: 1001 Things Millionaires Must do Before They Die ?!

And who has the time (or inclination for that matter) to find the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die useful? (OK, I am making a special exemption for my brother-in-law…but that’s his job to review them, after all). Our library also has these BYD books for albums, gardens, natural wonders, buildings and, of course, books.

And why the 1001 number? What, someone was watching too much of The Price is Right and decided to up the ante by one? (“What’s the highest bid so far? Well, then I bid 1000 and one…ha ha!”)

I will mention that I have been lucky enough to have seen some spectacular places/experiences (mainly on my parent’s dime when I was under eighteen). However, because I like you, I won’t list 1001 of them here:

  1. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon: Forget the congested, tacky South Rim and go to the real deal. Un-freakin-believable! (Hey, I’m a children’s librarian now…I have to wimp cuss). The best thing (apart from snow in the summer and cute squirrels) is the silence. No planes, no traffic or city sounds…just SILENCE.
  2. Zion National Park: because you almost have to go there to get to the North Rim and, again, A-mazing! See great photos of it here.
  3. The Louvre: Yeah, I went but I was 15 and being dragged there by my parents. Needless to say, I was not much of an art appreciator at that time although I do remember that: 1) the Mona Lisa is a very small painting and you can’t get close enough to really see it; 2) there is no way to see all of the art here in one day; 3)we walked a long, long way from the rail station to get there; 4) I whined about all of this (sorry Mom and Dad!)
  4. The Seychelles: World’s best kept secret Eden. I want to live here, walk on the beach and wear muumuus all day! Sigh…I really hope to go back here someday.
  5. The Phyllis Haehnle Audubon Sanctuary in Michigan: Being here on a cold, foggy day and hearing thousands of Sandhill Cranes calling as they flew in to land one fall evening…prehistoric, goosebump awe-inspiring sound!
  6. The Emergence of the Magicicada Brood: A couple of years ago in lower Michigan…Zowie! A most fantastic experience to hear the deafening noise and have hundreds of them flying around you (and I got to see this with my sister, who also appreciates the magic of this insect, too). I’m including a link to this site here simply because it has a very cool clip (scroll to halfway down the page) of an emerging dog day cicada and tons of other links at the end.

OK, I’m done for now…you get the idea.

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For some reason, I couldn’t seem to get any sleep last night. So, I was laying in bed at 5:30 a.m. trying not to think about the fact that the alarm would go off soon and willing myself to get some shut eye (because THAT works so well…) and I heard a sound.

I sat upright, because I thought I recognized it. It was the haunting sound of a screech owl calling. As I listened, it came closer. In fact, it swooped in to the tree right out front and continued to call.

I love that sound! And if I had been asleep I would have missed it. It felt like a gift.

Sadly, a jet flew over and then that noise was combined with the ambient car traffic we get from living in the city so the owl was drowned out. It made me think about how much I must miss hearing by living in our industrialized society. (Not that I am advocating anything radical, I mean I am using a laptop computer now so I can’t be too overly critical…).

Still…heavy sigh.

The one place on earth I have been where it felt like there was absolute silence was a remote part of the North rim of the Grand Canyon. It was so quiet it was deafening. If you’ve been there (or someplace like it), you will know what I mean.

Should you want to hear the sound of a screech owl, go to this page and scroll to the bottom. Beautiful!

(Also, check out this page for photos and more info on the screech owl).

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