Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lincoln Pays a Visit

I had time for a quick scan of my back yard before heading in to work this morning. I was looking for the Tree Sparrows that Hap in New Hope said were in the area. No Tree Sparrows, but I did spot this Lincoln's Sparrow! At least I thought it was a Lincoln's so I fired off an email to Hap with a few photos for a consultation.
Yahoo! Hap confirmed it! I sent a copy to Bob Janssen, one of the sparrow workshop leaders from last October and he agreed, stating that it's a rare sighting in Minnesota in winter.

Poor thing, it looks pretty cold. He should have left for warmer southern climates in early November.

Maybe he'll stick around a while. I'll be sure to keep the feeders full and spread some on the ground too.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What do you MEAN you don't have time to blog?

This is one of the education eagles from the Raptor Center that I photographed last September at Carpenter Nature Center
Sorry folks, I haven't been in a blogging state of mind lately. I've been working extra hours at the lab, thankful to have a job as my employer laid off 380 people last week. Winter up here in the north land means much shorter days so it seems there is not much daylight left by the time I get home from work. I can't remember the last time I even took my camera out of the case. I'm not complainin', just explainin'.

Don't forget me!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

I read this fun meme at Leedra's blog and thought it was fun. The things I have done are in bold.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band (school band...)
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain (actually hiked up a mountain)
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang/played a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill (I hope no one from work reads this...)
24. Built a snow fort (Hello! I live in Minnesota!)
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping (Me? Are you kidding?)
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse (both solar and lunar)
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David in person
41. Sung karaoke (it wasn't pretty...)
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt (kind of stinky if I remember correctly)
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight (with Laura, Susan and Jay in Cape May, an all time favorite memory)
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing (Does Lake Superior big deep water count?)
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater (too many times to count)
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Gotten flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma (I'm a blood banker)
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check (sadly, more than once in my younger days)
68. Flown in a helicopter (a little bitty two-seater in the Black Hills and NEVER again thank you very much)
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House (From across the street. Does that count?)
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (I've caught and cleaned fish)
88. Had chickenpox (shingles too)
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous (1. I got a kiss from Harry Chapin after a concert and 2. I sold a bag of candy-circus peanuts- to Marlo Thomas when I worked at Woolworth's in high school)
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Made a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake (even I couldn't sink)
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Gotten a speeding ticket (two speeding tickets, in the same place, one week apart)

Looking over my list there's nothing too exciting here. I seem to be a little deficient in the travel department.
Does anyone else want to play?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Fat Squirrels and Birds that are Black

Richard posted a picture of his fat gray squirrel so I had to try and out-do him with this round ball-o-squirrel. Don't you love how he has his little fingers curled up in his chest fur? I am over-run with squirrels right now. My feeder poles are baffled but these buggers can jump from the lilac hedge to the old wooden swing set frame that I now use for feeders. They hang on those metal, supposedly squirrel-proof feeders and pig out. The ground under that feeding station is always hopping with squirrels catching the seed that falls---
until Rusty the Red Terror shows up. I love this little tyrant. He has a huge attitude and is positively fearless. The gray squirrels out-number him by about twenty to one and they out-weigh him by a long shot but when Rusty blows into town- they scatter!
This lone grackle is still hanging around in the hedge. Doesn't he look cold?
Get outta town grackle!

Every morning the crows fly across my yard from east to west, coming from their communal roost, headed out to forage for food for the day. Every evening they reverse the flight for the night. One of these days I'd like to find their roost. When we have stale bread or old fruit I toss it into the back yard for the birds and critters. On this morning I tossed the old bread buns out early enough to catch the attention of the crows. One crow spotted the bread, swooped down to keep an eye on it and cawwed to his buddies to let them know about the bounty.

First there was just the one on the fence. Within a few minutes there were twenty or so crows raising a ruckus. I love watching crows think. I've read that they are very smart birds and it shows.

They seem to behave as a family, sharing the loot.

Got any butter?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Minnesota's Long Dark

I took a little time off from blog posting around Thanksgiving. Art and I spent our days off cleaning house, trying to unclutter a bit. Where does the stuff come from? With the warm weather definitely gone until spring it was time to think about the long winter spent mostly indoors. My nesting instincts really kick in. Cooking and baking become more satisfying. Soups and Minnesota "hotdishes" are the basis of comfort food to me. I don't mind the cold of our long winters but the shortness of our days is hard. We leave for work in the dark and honestly by 4PM when I get home it's starting to get dark. It's completely dark by 6PM when Art gets home. That doesn't leave any time for birding or picture taking unless I have the day off. I was surprised when I downloaded the last pictures from my camera and saw that the date on the last photos taken was 11/20/2008! Moving to the day shift for my job has certainly put a crimp on my birding time. I am NOT complaining though.
So, all I have to show are pictures from 11/20. Pine siskins had arrived just the day before. Pine siskins are a new yard bird for me here in New Hope. There were many that spent the summer at Hasty Brook but I had never seen them here before. They stayed for a few days and then seem to have moved on.
I noticed there were fewer house finches around the yard this summer and I've only seen a handful so far this winter too. I wonder why the numbers dropped? I like their summer song and the flash of color is a treat in our colorless winter landscape.

I try to keep the peanut wreath filled but these blue jays find them quickly and empty it within a few hours. Even with the windows closed you can hear these brash birds announce their arrival. Whole peanuts in the shell are the only things these guys will take from my feeders. It's worth a few dollars to bring them to my yard.
I noticed a common grackle and a pair of red-winged blackbirds hanging around the feeders. When they weren't gorging on oilers they huddled puffed up, low in the lilac hedge. They've moved along now. Maybe they're lounging on a beach somewhere.

The lovely city of New Hope made us remove our brush pile over the summer. I was pretty upset as I think that brush pile was more instrumental in bringing birds to my yard than anything else. BUT, I immediately noticed that once the brush pile was gone the number of house sparrows dropped drastically. I could handle that. But now that the colder weather is here and since I think I'm the only one feeding birds in my neighborhood, the house sparrows have come back in droves. I don't have any issues with folks that trap them, I just can't do it. (wimp).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I'm Thankful for You All

Thanksgiving is the appointed time for focusing on the good in our lives.
In each of our days, we can find small blessings, but too often we overlook them,
choosing instead to spend our timepaying attention to problems.
We give our energy to those who cause us trouble
instead of those who bring peace.
Starting now,
let’s be on the lookoutfor the bits of pleasure in each hour,
and appreciate the people who bring love and light
to everyone who is blessed to know them.
You are one of those people.
On Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for you.
Happy Thanksgiving!
By Joanna Fuchs
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Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Nicest Thing Happened Today

The nicest thing happened to me today. Art and I made a quick trip to the big grocery store to pick up a few things we needed. I was walking along when a gentleman stopped me and said he knew me. (Sound familiar Beth?
He said "You're Hasty Brook."
I got goose bumps.
He smiled and said "I'm Hap in New Hope!"
Well, I was absolutely flabbergasted! Hap in New Hope lives in my town and has commented on my blog for quite a while. I'm not the only blogger who looks forward to Hap's comments either. I have to say, Hap knows his birds. He's ALWAYS been helpful and kind in his comments here. When I've been wrong in an id he's gently suggested the correct answer. He's been generous in his help and has offered encouragement when I've figured it out on my own.
I was so happy to meet Hap, I almost hugged him!
I saw Art walking up and I couldn't wait to introduce him to Hap because Art has heard me talk about Hap in New Hope. We chatted with Hap for a few minutes and then we had to run off to pick up one of the kids. I wish we could have spoken longer.
I am so delighted and feel so lucky to have met you Hap.
I hope we can meet again in New Hope.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Falling Off the Edge of the Earth

I've been under the weather for the last few weeks. Actually I came home from Cape May feeling pretty puny and it's been up and down since then. Thursday night I went to bed, with a headache and I wioke up a little after midnight with the room spinning. Spinning HARD. Everything I looked at was rolling from top to bottom. Needless to say the nausea came in waves. The only relief I got was lying flat on my back with my eyes closed. Art had to come home from work to haul me in to the doctor. After a brief neuro exam and observation of my eyes twitching from top to bottom (nystagmus) the kindly MD told me I had BPPV. He sent me home with a prescription for meclizine and a transdermal scop patch. Finally this morning it eased off. I'm grateful to be feeling still. I would not wish that vertigo on anyone.
So- while the rest of the Cape May Flock has moved on to other post topics, I still have some photos I'd like to share. Most of the readers of this little blog know of my love for Turkey Vultures. Imagine my delight when we saw this trio of TV's hanging out in the marsh.
This isn't a terrific picture but it show the Black-crowned Night Heron that Katdoc spied in the marsh out back of our condo. Way to go Katdoc!

We saw quite a few Sanderlings scooting back and forth following the waves on the beach.

Last year when I couldn't make the trip because of my Mom's passing Mojoman offered this comment:
Maybe, next year at Cape May, you will be greeted by a most beautiful bird, unlike any you have seen before.
Well Mojoman, here's that bird. The Black Skimmer was my most wanted bird for the trip and fortunately Kathi and I found a flock of them on the beach. What a cool, cool bird. Watching them skim the surface of the waves was magic.
Skimmers in flight could not be any more graceful. At one point we were surrounded by the flock of them (with some Forster's Terns among them) balancing effortlessly on the wind. It was one of several teary moments for me. Thanks Mojoman.

I liked the black stockings on this Laughing Gull. I was able to approach quite close while he snoozed.

Another special gift bird was this Northern Mockingbird. In an email from my brother Charlie he told me that on this trip I would hear a bird singing a particularly pretty song and that it would be Mom telling me to have fun and not be sad. I haven't seen too many Mockers but the ones I have seen have had a pretty harsh sounding song but this one sang softly and beautifully. Even the field trip leader commented on the beautiful song of this Mockingbird.
Living in Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes you might think I'd be pretty comfortable with ducks but I got two new lifers in Cape May. These Northern Pintails have such long elegant necks.

These American Wigeons were lifers for me too. They have a really pretty call- not quacky.

I've seen plenty of Bald Eagles but this one was very scary. Its head was sort of dangling and cracked. Maybe it should go see Susan at Raptor.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

And There Were Birds...

I don't think I've posted any bird photos yet so I'd better get started. I'll admit that the primary focus of the weekend for me was social. But sprinkled in among the laughter and talking and eating we did see some birds. I went on two guided field trips with Kathi and we all went together on a salt marsh tour aboard a boat called the Osprey. This trip was terrific, relaxing and fun.
Laura couldn't believe I was so excited to see a Greater Black-backed Gull. Dime-a-dozen out there but a lifer for me.
Susan was thrilled to see this Peregrine Falcon munching on its lunch atop an osprey platform. We saw two more Peregrines on this boat trip.

Another lifer for me was this Brant. Brants are smaller geese with a kind of gurgling honk. It was a nice, soothing sound.

We saw both Snowy and Great Egrets. This one is a Snowy with its black bill and yellow feet.
During dinner at the C-View someone mentioned that they're really wanted to see an Oystercatcher. Beth mentioned that she saw one on the salt marsh tour and that we'd probably see one too. There were several feeding on this mud flat. Such neat little birds- and very vocal. Lifer!

Double-crested Cormorants like this one were common on the piers but I did get a decent look (but no picture) of a Great Cormorant flying over.
By the end of the weekend I had fourteen new life birds but better than that, I had some amazing new friends.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

New Jersey Firsts

The first person I saw in the Newark airport was a guy in a polyester jogging suit, gold chains, slicked back black hair and no neck. Laura said he was a "Guido."
The first person who spoke to me after leaving the airport (another Guido) tossed me the F-bomb.
The first bird I saw after leaving the plane was a Common Yellowthroat (I think) and it was on a chain-link fence right next to two people making out. A little culture shock in New Jersey!
I saw my first Common Loon that was NOT in breeding plumage. The other birders were VERY excited to see a loon. Loons are quite common here in summer when their plumage is divine.
More than one person snickered when I took this picture of my first barnacles.
I almost stepped on my first black rat snake. I was too excited to be seeing my first Black Vultures! Not just one, not just two, but a kettle of them swirling over my head. They made me giggle with glee.
Earlier in the weekend I also saw my first box turtle. I mentioned it during a field trip but accidentally said that I'd gotten a life mammal. The field trip leader gave me the hairy eyeball.
I had THE BEST pecan pancakes at Uncle Bill's Pancake House. I also ordered my first scrapple. It was described as pork mush, formed, sliced and fried. I'll try nearly anything once, but no thanks to seconds on the scrapple. If you look closely you can see Katdoc hiding behind a post taking a picture from the other side if the sign.
Speaking of Katdoc, she gave me my first buckeye. I think it was supposed to be a good luck token for the OSU football game but sadly, it didn't work. Susan tried to crack her buckeye in her cleavage but that didn't work either...

The first bird I saw at the condo in Cape May was a Yellow-rumped Warbler. They were everywhere, popping up out of the grasses and bushes. In fact they became kind of a distraction. Butter-butts are just so cute though.
I got my first look at a grass called Phragmites in New Jersey. I made the mistake of saying on how pretty I though it was. It's an invasive species and everyone there hates it.
(I still thought it was pretty)
I took my first walk along the ocean before anyone else arrived. It gave me a chance to gather my thoughts, relax from the stresses of traveling alone and think about the weekend ahead of me. I was so excited to meet the bloggers coming together at Cape May. What would they be like in person? Would I fit in? What would they think of me?
Of course I thought of my Mom. It would be one year on Sunday since she passed away. With my sister's illness and death so closely following Mom's I knew that I hadn't dealt with my grief very well. I wondered how- if I could handle being away from home on that day. She was so excited for me to go last year. She'd want me to be here this year.
So I headed back to the condo and waited to meet the Flock for the first time.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Where Do I Begin?

When I got home yesterday I spent the evening with Art and the kids, hearing their stories from the weekend, finding out what I missed and telling them the highlights of my weekend. This morning with the house empty I've had a few hours to unpack, put my traveling gear away and download my pictures. I'm spreading my memories out in front of me, sorting and grouping them. I think Laura all ready touched on it but I need to say also that I was amazed at how quickly I felt comfortable with the friendships I formed with these Flockers. I do believe that we reveal enough about ourselves through blogging that one can get a feel for the types of people we are. I'm pretty sure there were no axe-murderers among the group I fell in with last weekend. Pretty sure...
I was actually a little nervous to meet Kathi from Katdoc, though I'm not exactly sure why. Kathi sparkles. She smiles all the time and is quick to laugh. And Kathi is smart. I mean really smart. Kathi is also a lunatic when it comes to packing. I thought I was bad. But she had what I needed several times during the trip including a flashlight for the owl prowl so I could see my feet in the dark. (I was convinced I would trip and fall in a hole and be left behind.) Thankfully Kathi also had some extra immodium as my supply ran out the last night after a bad reaction to some shellfish... (TMI?)
Susan. Susan has the biggest heart ever. Susan makes me laugh just thinking of her. She could make the Pope laugh. Susan was my personal raptor tutor and I learned lots from her and NOT just about raptors! At one moment outrageous and the next tender, she wears her emotions on her sleeve and shares her heart readily.
Here we are on the Osprey going on our salt marsh tour. The fellow in the picture is Jay from birdJam. We got to spend quite a bit of time with Jay. He's a very smart guy, funny and very kind. A great birder too. I think we made him shake his head a few times. Jay tells a good story (when he could get a word in edgewise). Are your ears still ringing Jay?

Laura, our New Jersey native is a complicated person to describe. She's quieter that I expected and somewhat guarded but hilarious when she'd toss out lines that would make tears squirt out of my eyes. I felt Laura was always looking out for me, making sure I was OK. Don't ask Laura to keep to a schedule. She loves the salt marsh and loves the salt marsh smell. We were all standing out on the deck overlooking the marsh at the condo and just a few minutes after I met her I asked "Um, I don't mean offense, but what's that smell?"
"That's the marsh! It's decay! Don't you LOVE it?"
The rest of us stood with our noses wrinkled.
I will say that I grew to like the marsh smell.

Delia is probably the most genuine person I've met. Painfully funny, she made me laugh until I cried. She shares herself readily and is a skilled listener. When she smiles her eyes disappear into little slits. Mine do too. I will always smile when I think of Delia. In the photo above Birdchick had just planted a big smooch on Delia's cheek.

Jay and Delia bringing up the rear.

Another new good friend from the weekend is Beth. On my first guided tour Friday morning I found myself chatting with Beth when she said she actually knew who I was. She recognized me from my blog. Well, you could have tipped me over with a feather. She said she's been reading Hasty Brook for quite a while. I was flattered and amazed. I invited Beth to join the blogger group for dinner and laughs and we had a blast. I found out that Beth had made plans to go to West Virginia next April for the New River Birding and Nature Festival! Welcome to the Flock Beth! I look forward to seeing you there. (And Beth- I'm with Sharon. Only comment if you want to!)

I think my next post will be about firsts.

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