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).