Thursday, November 30, 2006

Great Gray Owls for Susan

Here's a post for Susan Gets Native. Hope it brightens you day Susan!
The winter of 2004/2005 was an irruption year for Great Gray Owls and Northern Hawk Owls in Minnesota. In January 2005 I boarded a motor coach for my first ever guided bird trip. The trip was originally scheduled to head up to the Sax Zim Bog area in northern Minnesota. But by that time, there had been sightings of these owls from the boreal forests much closer to the Twin Cities. The tour leaders were great. I was a little anxious, never having gone on a bird trip before. They were generous with their knowledge and their bird id guides. Did we see owls?
By the end of the trip we saw 80+ GGO's! All of my pictures were taken through the bus windows. The stress on the birds was kept to a minimum. When the bus stopped for a longer look, the driver stopped a distance away, hopefully to prevent interfering with the owls' hunting. These were the MOST beautiful birds I have ever seen!
I know this is not a great picture but it's the only one I got of the single Northern Hawk Owl that we saw that day.
So here you go Susan, I hope your day is better.
Grab LauraH and anyone else that wants to and come on up to Minnesota this winter. We'll go hunting for OWLS!!!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I had plans to make a day trip today to see the tundra swans in southern Minnesota. Sick kid = equals cancelled plans. Oh well, we're having some pretty heavy thunderstorms right now which makes for a nice day to snuggle up with coffee and a book (and a laptop!). It also gives me a chance to fuss over sick kid a little bit. We all need to be fussed over from time to time. I'm really surprised that I'm not more disappointed about cancelling my plans. It seems the older I get, the more I'm able to take things in stride. Or maybe I'm just too tired to give a rip...

I'm hoping to drive up to Hasty Brook this week end. We haven't been up there since the middle of October when we brought the camper home. I saw several woodpecker species on that visit. There are many dead trees, mostly missing tops that support woodpeckers. There are pileated woodpecker cavities everywhere and I was lucky to see one this day. The birch snag on the right has a flicker cavity that was busy all summer.

Sapsuckers make this characteristic pattern around tree trunks. These trees seemed healthy, but I wonder if the drilling causes any damage. Hairy and downy woodpeckers are common in the woods at Hasty. They seem fearless and often follow me on my walks.
On an earlier post I mentioned that I thought I had found wild hops growing along the creek. Here I found them dried, twined through the branches of a little tree. I need to do some more research- I'm not sure if we have wild hops here.
There are many large tree stumps throughout the woods. I assume they are left from the last time the land was logged. I love this fuzzy one, covered with life, taking it back down into the earth. I looks like a heart to me.

I just heard a weather report. We're on the edge of a cold front and it seems the rain is turning to snow in southeastern Minnesota. I'm glad I'm home with sick kid. The tundra swans can wait. Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 20, 2006

I'm Thankful

We've been cleaning like nuts over the weekend, getting ready for Thanksgiving. We're having Art's family plus my Mom and sister here for dinner. This is my first Thanksgiving off work since I started back 4 years ago so I'm especially happy. I really love having company. I love the feeling of a super clean house, I just wish we could keep it that way! My cleaning is done, groceries bought, and the favorite recipes are on the counter waiting. I have so much to be thankful for, if I let myself, I could be overwhelmed. When Art and I met 16 years ago, I had my own house, a good job, and everything I thought I needed. My brother called and said he knew a guy he thought I'd like- the brother of a coworker. Oh great- a blind date! We were married in under a year! Art has been the greatest blessing in my life.

Three years later, after many tears and prayers and many, many doctor visits came Molly. She's an amazing girl/young woman. She's smart and big-hearted and a very independent thinker. She wow'd us all with her beautiful voice in her school's musical review of the 50's.

Just 14 months after Molly was born we were blessed with John. John is quiet and thoughtful. In third grade John had to do a report about his name saint. He paged through an enormous book of saints until he found an entry about St. John the Silent. Johnny thought that was perfect. John is bright and he is one of the funniest people I know.

Time to stop before I get too choked up. Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and thank you for welcoming me into this blogging community. I look foreword to reading what you have to share and I appreciate your kind comments here!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Medicating a Rabbit

As I mentioned before, our mini-lop rabbit Buddy has an eye infection. We've learned that rabbits are prone to upper respiratory infections and eye problems need to be treated. The vet sent us home with pink antibiotics and a syringe to squirt them into his mouth. In the picture above you can see how yucky his right eye got.
Here we have Molly daintily trying to get the syringe tip into Buddy's mouth. NOT a happy bunny. Buddy does not like to be picked up. EVER.
Where IS Buddy's mouth? Buddy has big cheeks so eventually we found success by peeling his lips up until we could see his big front teeth, then sliding the syringe tip around behind his teeth. At this point he clamps his teeth shut quite firmly. When we give pills to the dog, we shove the pill to the back of her throat, hold her mouth shut and blow in her nose. She swallows every time. We tried puffing at Buddy's nose to get him to swallow. Did you know that rabbits can slam their nostrils shut at will?
Buddy disapproves of pink medicine.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Sick Kids, Sick Pets

We've had a crazy week around our house. Last week was quarter end for my kids' school. There were lots of projects and missing assignments due. The weekend was action packed with a volleyball tournament and school play. Molly was wiped out and John came down with a croupy cold yesterday. I'm really hoping his cold doesn't make its way through the rest of us. My chest aches for him- if you've ever heard a croupy cough you'll know what I mean. Molly is in eighth grade at a K-8 parochial school so we're busy trying to decide on a high school for her. There are two Catholic high schools that she's interested in. They both require entrance exams and references from teachers. ACK!! The public high school that we're zoned for has had some major violence and academic issues in the last few years that eliminate it from the decision process. We do have the option of applying to a high school out of district, but there waiting lists and no guarantees.

On to the pets! Last weekend Art accidentally tripped over Gidget the dog in the middle of the night. She limped around the next day, and by the following morning she couldn't walk. AT ALL! Her back end was totally lame. She wouldn't put any weight on one leg and would not stand. I carried her around on Sunday- 45 pounds of black dog! (She's a very chubby small-size terrier mix) On Monday I couldn't stand to see her hurting and had her at the vet's door first thing in the morning. I tried to prepare the kids for difficult news. I really thought some thing was broken. Two vets and two x-rays, they couldn't find anything wrong! I settled Gidget gently on the floor so I could look at the x-rays with the vets. Nothing. John tapped me on the shoulder. "Mom, Gidget left." Huh? In the space of 30 seconds, Gidget went from lame to sneaking out into the waiting room to visit with the other dogs! We went home with a bottle of Rimidyl and $280 lighter. She limped around and whimpered all evening. I gave her one pain pill and she was out. The next morning she raced me downstairs, flew around the back yard and rolled in a nice stink. Hmm. John said it was a miraculous x-ray. I'll keep my opinion to myself.

A couple of days ago I noticed that Buddy (bunny) had a drippy eye. This morning it was goopy. Off to the vet we go! No scratched cornea (yay!), could be viral, but here are some nice pink antibiotics and a syringe to squirt them in his mouth. Bunnies like sweets so he'll probably slurp it up says vet. Yeah right! Two cc's, twice a day for 7 days. Heaven help us! I was holding Buddy, trying to calm him down while the vet prepared the antibiotic drops when I noticed two black dots MOVING in his fur. FLEAS!!! Gidget gets a once a month flea/tick/heart worm/everything else treatment but it never occured to me that Buddy might get fleas. I guess it's quite likely that he got them when he has his morning outside romp. Add on a dose of flea medication for rabbits and the bill goes up to $90. I'll go to the store for the flea-bombs for the house tomorrow.

Oh, and my 88 year old Mom is mad at me because I can't take her to the grocery store until tomorrow.
And I work nights Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
OK, I'm done now. Ranting and whining over and out.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

My Turn!

I think I'll jump on the meme bandwagon! My lack of entheusiasm about listing makes me feel like I don't really qualify being called a birder. I've always called myself a birdwatcher. You be the judge.

What state(or country) do you live in? Minnesota.
How long have you been birding? About 10 years.
Are you a lister? Yes , but not very seriously.
ABA life list: Don't keep one.
Overall life list: 41
3 Favorite birding spots: my back yard, Hasty Brook, Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden
Favorite birding spot outside your home country: never birded outside the USA
Farthest you've travelled to chase a rare bird: 70 miles north to see the Great Gray Owls during the irruption year.
Nemesis bird: don't have one
"Best" bird sighting: Great Gray Owl- goose bumps cool!!
Most wanted trip: Cape May sounds cool
Most wanted bird: I would really LOVE to see a Snowy Owl
What model and brand of bins do you use? Vortex Stokes DLS 8X42 and Canon IS 10X30. I love them both.
What model and brand of scope do you use? Nikon something- can't find the model.
What was the last lifer you added to your list? Wilson's warbler
Where did you see your last lifer? Hasty Brook
What's the last bird you saw today? Dark-eyed Junco
Best bird song you've ever heard: Hermit Thrush- I can't believe that sound comes out of a bird!
Favorite birding moment: New Years day, 2006 I mentioned out loud that I wondered what my first bird of the year would be. Seconds later a Pileated woodpecker flew in to my feeder station in the back yard! I had never seen one in the Twin Cities area before or since!
Least favorite thing about birding: bugs!
Favorite thing about birding: Watching how they live. I often get so caught up in how they do their "birdy thing" that I forget about field marks. I love to watch them "be birds".
Favorite field guide for the US: Peterson, but I also love Stan Tekiela's "Birds of Minnesota"
Favorite non-field guide bird book: I have two of them.
"Life List: A Birder's Spiritual Awakening" by Chris Dunford and
"For the Birds: An Uncommon Guide" by Laura Erickson
Who is your birder icon: There are 3 Minnesota birders that come to mind.
Sharon Stiteler aka Birdchick who shares her knowledge with sass.
Laura Erickson aka Birderblog who shares her knowledge with class.
Stan Tekiela who shares his knowledge through terrific "state" field guides with amazing photography.
Do you have bird feeders? Many and all kinds.
Favorite feeder bird: Catbirds but I really love them all.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Back to the Earth

Pam at Nature Woman has published a few interesting posts about mushrooms and they got me thinking about decay and life returning the the earth. I found this old tree stump, barely recognizable as such. If you look closely you can see the teeth marks of a beaver. This one stump supports the growth of many, many bits of life. Moss, lichens, grasses, fungi and even a tiny balsam seedling. All of that life, feeding off of, and accelerating the decay of what was once a good sized tree. I wonder how long ago this tree was felled, and how long it will be until it is unrecognizable. Fallen leaves on the moist ground become humus in a single season.

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This birch seems to be decaying from the inside out. The waxy bark is still quite intact while the wood is soft and crumbly.