Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Yard Birds and Other Critters

Wooee! I had a first ever yard bird earlier this week! This Eastern Kingbird stopped on our driveway snacking on little green worms that were dropping out of the birch tree. He only stayed a minute but it still counts!
"Be sure to wash behind your ears and scrub between your toes."
"Wakey, wakey- rise and shine!" These little guys fledged today!!
"Can you see me?"
"Can you see me?"
Our dog Gidget is afraid of the wind. She gets really hinky when the wind blows and moves the doors, like she thinks there are ghosts in the room! Here she is, directly under my feet, hiding her head under the bed so the ghosts can't see her.

"Can you see ME?"
Is that a cute butt or WHAT?
I know my posts have been few and far between so far this summer. I kind of feel like I've lost my balance too. It's been busy and fun, lots of softball, family get-togethers, gardening and of course running the kids around to their stuff. I work a stretch of nights every other weekend and we are just swamped in the laboratory. The workload goes through the roof when the weather turns hot. Car, ATV, motorcycle accidents, and violent incidents such as shootings and stabbings run emergency room admissions up. Since school let out, other than the peregrine banding, I haven't taken any time for myself to get out and do what I love- bird. Tomorrow is booked with taking my Mom shopping and an evening shift in the lab, but Thursday morning we're headed up to Hasty Brook! Steaks and brats on the grill, bonfires at night, my morning coffee sipped on the hill overlooking the creek. Birds. The friendly chickadees, red-breasted nuthatches, herons stalking along the creek. Bald eagles and turkey vultures soaring overhead, ruffed grouse in the spruce trees behind the camper, and the best of all- veeries and hermit thrushes calling well into the dark. I had never heard or seen veeries or hermit thrushes before we bought Hasty Brook. Those magical sounds (THE most beautiful bird songs IMHO) are forever tied to that piece of land.
Hasty Brook is the loveliest place in my world.
It's a little piece of heaven in northern Minnesota.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer

Mary has a post about summer songs and "Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer" by Nat King Cole is an old summer song that came to mind for me. Nat King Cole, the Mills Brothers and the Harmonicats were huge favorites of my Mom and Dad and having those songs run through my mind bring back such wonderful memories. I think that's why I REALLY enjoy Larry's Songbird Lyrics Game at The Brownstone Birder. If you like music at all stop over there and have a go at the game.

There hasn't been anything lazy about my summer so far. We have been BUSY! Here's one project that Art and I got done. My new new two tiered ponds! I had a single preformed pond in this raised bed for several years but it sprung a leak and I couldn't repair it any more. I found this two pond kit complete with fountain and pump for $98. It's not huge (135 gallons) but fits our yard. Birds love it and the water sound helps drown out traffic sound from the nearby highway. Two weeks ago we went to Eau Claire, Wisconsin to see my brother-in-law race his hot rodded '67 Chevelle. He built the engine himself and it is fast! Here he is pictured above flying down the quarter mile track. There were also junior dragsters (all driven by girls) and snowmobiles outfitted with wheels that raced. It was hot and loud but we all had a good time.

I think I mentioned before that we have a visitor from Germany staying with us. Aranka lived with us 9 years ago as an exchange student and attended Cooper High School as a senior. It was an amazing year for us all, full of fun, challenge and growth. John was in pre-school and Molly was in kindergarten. Aranka was here for Molly's first day of kindergarten and happily was here for her graduation from eighth grade. Here are my two girls- Molly and her German sister Aranka.

My kids have attended a small Catholic K-8 school connected to the church we attend. We've been very happy with the environment and education they've received there. Molly is off to public high school in the fall and is very ready for the change. John has one more year at parochial school. The graduation ceremony was in the church. When I saw the picture of John and Molly above I nearly wept. How can time speed past so quickly? When they were babies (they are only 14 months apart) life seemed so intensely busy and I remember thinking that when they got just a bit older I'd be able to catch up. Well, I've never really gotten caught up and wish I hadn't wasted time and energy worrying about it. Why do we do that? Why is so hard to live in the moment and fully appreciate now? I do think that mindset is slowing down the older I get. My kids can't wait to move foreward as fast as they can, I try to see each day as an event and my 89 year old Mom thinks always of her past. I guess that's how we're made.
Molly plays in a girl's softball league and they had their mid-season tournament last weekend. Here she is with her Oma and Opa (Art's parents). Saturday was their 50th wedding anniversary. They married in Germany. Opa was in the Army when he met Oma. They married and left Germany to come back here to the family farm. A year later they moved out on their own, Opa completed a teaching degree and they went on to raise five children. They are both enjoying retirement and we were happy to have them join us for an afternoon of softball. Saturday was also Art's birthday (49!) and our 17th wedding anniversary!

After three games spaced throughout the day Art and I went out to a dinner of steak, shrimp and crab legs. YUM!! They were my first crab legs- tasty, but alot of mess, but the coconut shrimp- pure heaven.
BTW- Molly's team placed third out of 26 teams.
Way to go Molly!!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Peregrine Banding! Part Deux

The peregrine chicks were carried from the nest to the roof of the parking ramp in this cool soft-sided box, cushioned and well ventilated. Each chick was in it's own separate compartment. Before the chicks arrived the parents were making a HUGE racket, obviously angry and distressed that something was messing with their babies. The noise level went way up when the babies arrived. The babies were screaming and the parents were calling back.
Bud Tordoff did all of the handling. He's a tall, soft-spoken and humble man who I'm told was instrumental in the establishment of the Midwest Peregrine Society and it's success in reintroducing peregrine falcons into the wild. According to the Midwest Peregrine Society "In 2006, there were 210 pairs of peregrines on territories in Midwest, 153 pairs succeeded in fledging 435 young. Productivity of young in the Midwest matches healthy populations elsewhere in the world. Life is good for Midwestern peregrines." Hooray Bud! Proud to meet you!

The talons and beaks on those fluffy balls drew blood.

" What?!?!"
Not a great picture, but here you can see the window washing bucket used to move the chicks in and out of the nest. That's Mom.
I love this picture of Hellziggy. I think the expression on her face tells the story of this amazing experience. I met Hellziggy (aka the other Sharon) last February on a birding trip I took with Birdchick to northern Minnesota. Hellziggy takes beautiful photographs. Check out her link as her pix of the peregrines in flight will amaze you.

Birdchick has an uber-cool post about this banding complete with video and tons of neat pictures including one of two local bloggers geeking out over the whole experience!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Peregrine Banding

I'm exhausted but I just have to crank out a post about my afternoon. Yesterday Hellziggy left a comment on my blog telling me that the Raptor Center would be banding the peregrine falcon chicks at the Colonnade Building in Golden Valley. I wrote a post back in March about the pair of peregrines that nest there. Check out the hair and the expression on the guy in the background! I found Hellziggy and Birdchick in the crowd and then they brought the chicks down.
There were two males and two females. Just look at that face!They were 21 days old and looked to be about the size of small chickens.This one shows the two bands that were attached to each one.
A blood sample and measurements were taken on each chick. The long gray feather on this chick is actually just stuck there from some mystery bird that the parents brought to the nest to feed these chicks.
It's been a really long day today and I don't think I can put another sentence together. (I'm thankful for spellcheck!)
More about this amazing experience tomorrow!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

I got a call Tuesday from a friend inviting me to go for a nature walk at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Her niece had been there before and suggested that she ask her "birdy friend" to go along. It was quite warm and humid and I should have stayed home to get some work done but I really needed a break outdoors so I went. The Crown Vetch was in bloom in the sunny areas along the trails.
I saw and heard a new sparrow near the edge of this pond. You can see the little brown blob near the bottom of this picture. Watching in my bins I think it was a swamp sparrow but I would like a better look before I add it to my life list.
Many parts of the trails led through shady woods. This spot was a nice break from the hot sun. There were many creeks in the area and it was nice to see that the water was so clear. The air smelled so nice in this spot. This wildlife refuge is just a stone's throw away from both the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport and the enormous Mall of America. I didn't see much for birds, although I did see a pair of American Redstarts. I didn't get a picture but I did get to watch them for quite a while which was nice. I really love taking pictures both to remember what I've seen and to help with details for ID but sometimes I feel like the camera gets in the way. It separates me from the birds I'm watching and puts them at more of a distance. Anyone else feel this way or is it just me?
I did get pictures of two feeder birds at the Refuge. It's the odd couple- this big wild turkey
and this tiny ruby-throated hummingbird! The hummer is a tad out of focus but it's my first hummer picture so I'm happy.
While we were there the wind picked up and was tossing the tree tops so loudly it was impossible to hear any birds. Later in the day thunderstorms came through with cool, drier air behind them. I'm wishing the rain along to you friends in the drier parts of the country.