Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bye-Bye! Butchies! Bald Eaglets Depart

"Gosh, it looks like a long way down there. Are you guys sure this flying thing will work?"

He had a hard time maneuvering his big wings around.

"Moooooooooooom! Come get me! I want to go home!"
I did my final Butchie Check today. Hasn't this been like following a soap opera? "Like sands through the hour glass, so are the days of our lives," I can hear Macdonald Carey doing the intro. to Days Of Our Lives just like he did the first time, in 1965. My maternal grandmother, "Nanny," never missed an episode. When I was barely ten, she unfailingly stopped her days work to watch. It didn't matter what hadn't been done that should have been, laundry, lunches or watering her flowers. She stopped to watch Days Of Our Lives. We didn't watch T.V. as children, but we did when we spent summers with Nanny and Grampy. My father had an ahead of his time notion that T.V. would result in the destruction of the human race. He maintained that one day, beings of the future, unknown to us today would find televisions in our ruins and remark that is what must have killed us off. But, my grandmother didn't care about his Beatnik notions. Every day at lunch time, she pulled out a   metal T.V. tray for each of us, set our lunch upon them and commanded us to be quiet so that she could watch her show without interruption.     
     All winter long, she had saved the comics from the newspapers for me. My favorite was The Wizard Of Id. It still runs in the dwindling daily rags of today. She also saved McCall's paper dolls which I didn't like so much. I pretended that I did since she had cut them out all winter and saved them for me. Sometimes, while The Days Of Our Lives was droning on, I read The Wizard Of Id collection. I could not tell you one thing about the plots or characters of the episodes of Days Of Our Lives. I do remember though, that one day at least thirty years later, I stumbled on the show on T.V. and was gobsmacked (as the British say) that one of the main characters was still there. To my mind she must have been an actress of at least a hundred years of age. Alice something was her name. I can hear MacDonald Carey's introduction in my mind like it was yesterday.
    At the time, The Days Of Our Lives was ahead of the television programming curve in presenting family situations that were outrageous for T.V. It was very daring in its portrayal of real life American families. Most people like soap operas because they air problems that are so far reaching from most people's realities that they can let go of their own horrible lives, if only for an hour. Sometimes, it's easier to fall down the hole of some else's drama than it is to embrace your own. So, I'm all choked up and messed up and sad about the Butchies leaving home today.
     When I got there, one of them was gone from the nest and nowhere to be found. I searched in the trees all around and even on the ground thinking perhaps the worst had happened. Once when a baby robin fell out of the nest, I brought it into the house. I put it in a cardboard box and tried to keep it alive. It lasted long enough to recognize me as the food source (worms delivered with tweezers). Every time I came into the kitchen it started its "FEED ME, FEED ME!" cheeping racket. Then one morning, it was dead. I would never do this, but can you imagine a baby eagle in a box on your kitchen counter demanding to be fed? YIKES!
     I did find one of the Butchies sitting on a tree limb only 30 feet off the ground. He looked so forlorn and scared it was heartbreaking. Of course, who knows what it was feeling, but I had to wax anthropomorphous. After all, their progress over the past month or so has been my soap opera. I had a relationship with them and talked to them every time I visited. The remaining Butchie sat on the limb, hopped around to adjacent limbs and flapped its huge wings a few times. It looked to the ground repeatedly as is to ask "Hey! Is this flying thing you've all been talking about for real? It looks really scary to me!" One of the parents appeared on scene a few times. It swooped low in an arc and disappeared several times, barely a shadow, as if a ghost checking up on the living. There was no great whooshing of wings as I had heard other times, nor calling to its youngster. Madame Butchie was doing her version of peaking from behind the curtain of a kitchen window as junior masters the tricycle alone in the driveway. Butchie would look longingly in her direction and flap. He seemed all confused by the tree branches and too much wing to move around amongst the sticks. He issued a few, weak, thready "pee,oo-pee,oos"  Eventually, I left him. I struggled with the walk away. I said goodbye. "Have a great life, Little Butchie. I'll see you down the river."

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Ms. Manors - Bald Eagle Washing Up

Each time the Bald eagle was done chewing from her carcass cache on the coast, she would have a few drinks of salt water to wash it all down. I'm surprised that the bird was drinking salt water.
  Madame Butchie continues to visit. I have not seen her working the jerky-like remains of the seal carcass, but she has been soaring around and loitering in the trees. The carcass has been roasting in the sun for a week now. Even the flies have died down. Maybe she is oppossed to processed foods; the seal does look like an over-grown Slim Jim now. Of note is that the Common terns, Herring gulls and Osprey have been giving Madame a very hard time, though they aren't interested in the carrion (ya, even the gulls won't touch it!). The raucuous "peeeeent, peeeeent," of the osprey and the shouting and carrying on of the terns and gulls alerts me that they are coming in my direction in hot pursuit of herself. I've tried to get photos of this event, but they have not been very satasfying. I get a lot of bird butt shots - hers and theirs.  The birds are nervey enough to actually make contact with the big eagle in mid air, bitch slapping her into ungainly mid air manuevering. So, the question remains - what is she doing here? The Totman Cove Take-Out menu appears to have become tired and The Welome Wagon ladies have turned on her like a pack of hyenas. Maybe she's here simply to escape the the Butchie Brats back at the hacienda. They've got to leave any day and then, she'll have the place to herself. Ahhhh, a nice long soak in the tub with candles, a glass of wine and a Norah Jones CD.
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Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Magnificent Acre - Butchie Update & Common Yellowthroat

These Common Yellowthroats were on The Magnificent Acre July 24, 2010. The male and female were together in the alder scrub. There is a strip of shrubs on the west side of the vast salt marsh. It seems to be almost a giant net 'catching' birds when they cross the marsh. The strip of alders, honeysuckle and choke cherries is backed by the road. After crossing the marsh, the birds land in the small trees before crossing the road. I can sit in my car listening to the radio and just wait for them. But, why do that when I can sneak around trying to find them while suffering mosquitoes and walking amongst the Poison Ivy? That's how I roll!
    I visited "The Magnificent Acre" yesterday to check up on The Butchie Boys. When I arrived at the nest, my hear sank. "Oh no! They've flown away and I missed the send off!" I lamented aloud to no one,  my words trailing off into the woods. I wondered how I could have been so dense as to miss a huge cue that they were taking off. Since their parents had been spending so much time enjoying the Totman Cove Take-Out, they were not taking fresh meat to the boys. That meant that the boys would be hungry, thus provoked to try to fly.
     But, then, I saw them. They were sitting up in the tree away from the nest. They looked like big, chocolate lumps hidden in the White pine boughs. It was difficult to photograph them, or even get a clear view due to the pine needles.They had each moved far enough out onto the limbs that if a good wind comes up, they'll plummet to the ground onto their fat cans. The two of them are bigger now than their Mom, Madame Butchie. Eaglets surpass their parents' size just before they fledge. They've been sitting around not moving while getting fatter and fatter gorging on fish and chips delivered.
     When I watch T.V. shows on obesity in children, I'm appalled by the co-dependencies of the parents. After all, an obese child is being supplied with lousy, pork-butt producing food by its parents. They don't get there on their own, at least not to start with most of the time (there are some disorders where children are obese unrelated to consumption). Watching these eagles balloon over the past month has made me realize that this may be more of a natural phenomenon than I have realized. We are humans. One thing that separates us from the animal kingdom is that we ascribe values to end results, like socially unacceptable,fat children.
     Eagles fatten up because when they leave the nest, they don't have hunting skills, yet. The fat has to carry them until they get good at catching food or spotting, say a dead seal carcass. So, maybe there is some valuable outcome for rotund children leaving home barely able to walk. Hopefully, the Butchie Boys will be chubby enough to one day fly down the Kennebec River for dinner at the Totman Cove Take-Out. I'll be open and learning to be less judgemental.
  This is The Butchie Boys' junk food diet remains. Think of it like fast food wrappers lying around a sofa. Under the nest were these uneaten parts of a Herring gull. The gull would have been caught and brought to the boys by the parents. The bone was the leg (I think). Birds have hollow bones to lighten them for flying. There were other bits of bone around and loads of feathers.

(No, I mean it, literally the end of the Herring Gull)
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Saturday, July 24, 2010

What'll It Be - Carrion Or Mink? Bald Eagle & Mink

"Wow! I love Totman Cove Take-Out! It's better than Red's Eats in Wiscasset!"
This is as close to a critter cam as you could get, I'm sure of it. I took these shots less than an hour ago. I was sitting in my underwear at my computer reading e mail. Suddenly, a dark shadow loomed over swinging around from my left shoulder. "EAGLE!" I screamed to my husband and out the door I ran. The Butchie Boys mom was back! As you can see, the seal carcass is still there, boding well for my planned skull recovery. It's wedged tightly into the rocks. Madame Butchie has to use the full force of her wings and neck muscles to pull morsels from it. She yarns out  hunks then nibbles away quite daintily at the tidbits on the rocks. Before I crept across the deck and down the stairs for closer shots, my loving and attentive husband whispered from the door, "Would you like your bathrobe?" I whispered back, "Ya, and another camera battery, please." He had already brought coffee and breakfast to me in bed. What a guy. Other women's husbands hate it when I tell stuff like this because they look like marital slouches by comparison. And, unless they are obliging their own queens in these ways, they are. Tighten up your acts, boys!
     While I was watching Madame Butchie gnarling away, an American Mink showed up. I had recently been thinking about them as it was this time last year that I had last seen them. The eagle heard the mink first, then saw it. Twice, the mink scampered by, not fifty feet from her. I could tell she could hear it as she stopped yanking yuk and turned to it. She hesitated, glared at the mink, then fondly eyed the carcass. She looked at the mink again. But, in the end, the bird in the hand, or carcass in the claw as it were, won out over the possibility of fresh meat. We like to think of the majestic eagle as a hunter first and carrion scavenger second, but in this case, that was not true.
    Now, gentlemen, I suggest you all turn to your own bird in the hand, that dear old carcass you have at home, and go buy her flowers.
These eagle photographs were taken with a Canon 50D, Canon Zoom lens EF 100-400mm IS, L series at about 40 feet distance. Nice back yard I've got! 
American Mink scampering across the rocks and seaweed
Each time I've watched this eagle eating here at the Totman Cove Take-Out, she waddles away to the grass where she can dip her beak into the water and tidy up. I can anticipate when she'll take off based on this sequence of behaviors.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

A Face Only A Mother Could Love - Turkey Vulture & Bald Eagles

The Bald eagles have been very busy with the seal pup carcass. They have been soaring about and sitting vigil in the trees. There have been two adults, definitely a male and a female based on side by side size comparisons. I think the one sitting on the pier is the male as it looks more slender and slightly smaller than the one ravaging the carrion. There is also a juvenile. I'm guessing second to third year. The juvie looks as if it is double banded. It is probably the offspring of the pair who I'm sure are the parents of The Butchie Boys. That would make Junior here a sibling to The Butchies, though not a nest mate. There have also been ravens and crows and of course, gulls interested in the pup remains.
     I have had a reader wish for me a Moon tide to take it away and another suggestion that I dump lime on the carcass. I'll put up with the wafting of rotten meat, thank you. Although, last night while I was sitting on my deck having a glass of wine and chatting with my husband, the stench was pretty intense. I had to keep shooing flies from the rim of my glass. I guess I should have been drinking faster to keep them away. Nonetheless, I would not alter the carcass. It's a naturally occurring event in a natural place. I'm fascinated by the birds and beasts that are drawn to it, not to mention the millions of insects and organisms that I can't even see! Plus, I'm hoping that eventually, I'll be able to get the seal skull. Cool!
The majestic and pretty animals aren't the only ones that cotton to the carrion. This lone Turkey vulture tilted around a few times before landing on our roof deck. David and I were married on the very spot where it stood. I consider myself very lucky to wake up each morning to David's smiling face. Can you imagine waking up to this face every day?
"Honey, have you thought about a nose job?"

Did you know that the Greek tragedy, Prometheus Bound took place on our pier? Prometheus intercepted Zeus' plans to wipe out the human race right here in Phippsburg, Maine.
    Turkey vultures are wide spread around the world. In Maine, they are migratory. Some of them go as far as South America. Their enormous, six foot wing span casts an ominous shadow when they pass. 'Buzzards,' as they are sometimes called, find their food mostly by sight. They can actually see the gasses that arise from decomp. (They always say that in crime shows, one cop to another at crime scenes, "Lue! Smell the holy decomp.!"). Birds have the sensory devices to detect smell, but for most it's not highly developed. Odors dissipate quickly in tree tops and the sky where birds usually hang out, so they don't have much use for smell. Vultures are an exception with a highly developed sense of smell. They have a nasal septum which is hollow so you can see through to the other side.  I've seen kids with ear lobe expanders that look like that. To me, they both beg the question "Why?"

Thanks to Wikipedia for information on Turkey Vultures.
For more information on avian sense of smell, click here.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Butchies' Mom - Bald Eagle Details & Feeding

 "Somebody please schedule a mani-pedi!"
Last evening, this Bald eagle swooped in landing on the rocks just in front of our house. It was a great beast of a bird. I'm guessing she is the mother of The Butchie Boys. I was in my bathrobe, blissfully drinking a glass of wine as supper was cooking. The sweet scents of cooking Sock-eye salmon glazed with vinaigrette and mushrooms wafted around my house. I use apple cider vinegar and Dijon for this, of course with EVOE as the emulsifier. I like apple cider vinegar for dark meat fish as it's sweeter but not overpowering as balsamic can be. Oh, but I have digressed.
     It was not the aroma of broiling Sock-eye that brought in the eagle; it was a putrefying seal pup carcass. When the eagle yanked it out of the rocks, the flies rose enmasse and so did the stench. It was the kind of rank odor that permeates everything as only particulate oils can do. In a word - YUCKY! Birds do not have olfactory receptors, so it isn't actually the smell that has attracted them (a juvenile just swooped in as I'm writing this), it's sight. The carcass is jammed tightly into the rocks, so wasn't visible until Mom yanked it out last night. I can only guess that it is masses of flies that they can see, which indicates a goodly chunk of something decomposing. I myself follow flies when I want to find a dead animal.
     The usual photographs that one sees of eagles are in flight. I've taken more than my fair share of those shots, too. But, I thought I'd give you something a little different - details and repulsive behavior. Aren't those talons out of this world? Somebody needs a manicure! My daughter once had an iguana that was around three and a half feet long. It also had some helacious nails. My daughter painted them hot pink. The iguana did not seem to mind, in fact, it started some courtship behaviors with itself while looking in a mirror shortly afterward.
     After Mom worked on the carcass for about an hour, she went to the water and tidied up. She dipped her beak into salt water and drank a few slurps. Then she wiped her beak a couple of times across the grass and sharpened her beak on the rocks before taking off.
     I'm sure you're thinking "Wow! What luck to live in a place where that's the dinner theater entertainment!" True enough. But bear in mind, that pile of funky carrion is close enough that it might as well be in my living room and sitting poolside is out for a couple of days.

Scraping her beak to clean it off and sharpen it on the rocks like a giant honing stone

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"You Stink!" Butchie Check - July 19th

"Butchie, do you think I need stronger deodorant?"
I went twice yesterday to check on The Butchie Boys. They did not even flap once while I was there. They are holding their wings out almost like buzzards or cormorants do to dry off. Big birds like Turkey vultures and eagles do this to cool off. It must be pretty ripe up there with the heat and humidity that we've been having and the remains of dead fish and mammals rotting. Below the nest I could distinctly smell dead animal. I couldn't find anything nor did I see flies. I can usually find a dead thing if I watch for flies. I'm thinking maybe that foul odor is coming from on high.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

It's NOT A Peregrine! Red-tailed Hawk Youngster and The Butchie Boys - Latest Installment

 I just came back from three days at the New England Camera Club Council conference (NECCC) in Amherst, Massachusetts. It's three days of lectures and workshops from 8 AM to ten PM or whenever you may drop like a rock before that. The campus is huge, so there's a tremendous amount of power walking from one event to the next. I stay in the dorms and eat in the student cafeteria. It's photography boot camp. The NECCC conference is largest event of its type in the northeast and has about 2,000 attendees. The lecturers are photographers from all over the world and they are world class. They are the big names from National Geographic, Conde Nast and other travel magazines, photographers to the rich and famous for portraiture and weddings and the biggest stock agency names in the business. There are also zoologists, ornithologists, geologists and others who in the name of science picked up cameras (usually to support scientific papers for journal submissions) and got really good at photography. It's an inspirational, educational, exhilarating and exhausting total immersion event. Oddly, though, there's not too much actual photography going on amongst the attendees. It's more about learning from other people, not being behind your own lens. There's also just not too much time to do anything other than stand in the food line and run from one class to the next, hoping you'll squeeze in a minute to find a bathroom before you find a seat. The NECCC does put together some fantastic staged photo shoot events, though. Every year it's something different. This year, among other smaller events, they had scheduled a paratrooper group to jump onto the campus with colored smoke, flags and other stuff. It probably doesn't surprise you that that isn't really my thing. I was with some photographer friends who were in to it though, so I got my gear and prepared to tag along.
     Since the first day I had set foot on campus, I had heard vocalizing of hawks and they were close! Seven times I saw them on tops of buildings and window ledges seventeen stories up. They had been distracting to me, almost taunting from on high.  I was not so much interested in the paratroopers as I was getting shots of those hawks somewhere on the campus. I had the lens for that job on my camera, not a lens for guys jumping out of planes tied to a silly sack. On the way to breakfast, crossing a barren quad which sported a single, aging spruce tree, I heard the birds again. Honestly, on seeing them from afar and because of the persistent vocalizing, I had thought they were Peregrines. I know some of you will laugh and roll your eyes at that. I'll never live that down and I'll never give up on that quest, either! Two of them zoomed across the quad then landed on a building. I had seen as many as three together previously, so this wasn't surprising. I'm quite sure it was two parents and a fledgling. They were being harassed by Northern Mockingbirds which are abundant on the vast University of Massachusetts campus. I thought, rats! They were gone again. But I listened and could hear them close as I continued to the dining hall. In the one rag-tag tree on the dried up quad I could just make one out. Sure enough, it was there eating a Red squirrel which it must have tagged on it's trip across the quad. I thought it was fitting that it was having its breakfast just outside of the dining hall.
     Of the 2,000 people there, at least half of whom crossed that same quad at about the same time, I'm the only one that found it in the tree and had the right lens on at the right time and the right skill set developed for the image captures. Many lined up behind me and fired off, I could hear them clicking away at my flanks and behind me. I pished a couple of times to get the bird to look at me. A woman said, "Hey! What's that noise?" My eye glued to the view finder, I did not answer but pished again. A man responded, "Does that really work?" I pished again. The bird looked right at me. Not taking my eye from the camera, I said, "Don't know. What do you think?" Click, click, click. There was lots of oooooing and ahhhhhing, wonderment and "OH MY GODS!" Between classes, at least a dozen people approached me over the next couple of hours to ask if they could see the pictures of the bird. Ahhhhhhh. That was followed by a big pile of steaming scrambled eggs, bacon and desperately needed coffee.
     What I most love about wildlife photography over other types of image captures, like weddings or car advertisements, is that it gives me a chance to be great. Sometimes, I'm just in the right place at the right time in the right bathrobe and I get the shot. Wildlife photography gives a bungler like me a shot. Much like photojournalism, a wildlife image does not have to be technically great if it carries enough emotional impact. Ideally, it's technically flawless or near to, but that takes a back seat to the 'oooooh, ahhhhhhh' factor.
     When I took the photos of the hawk, I was wearing a dress. I know that doesn't sound like me, but bear with me: I had slept in the dress the night before. It's a cotton, short thing someone had handed down to me. I had taken it with me because I thought it would be good to sleep in and lounge around in. I did not intend to wear it out of the dorm. My girlfriend said it was cute and I should wear it, so after sleeping in it as I had intended, I wore it for the day. Technically, that makes the hawk photos 'Bathrobe Birding,' even though I was in Massachusetts wearing a dress.
Juvenile Red-tailed hawk dining on Red Squirrel on the UMass Amherst campus.
By the way, I did not even see the paratroopers. I hope you're not disappointed. I'm not. Life is about choices. I think that's a Weight Watchers slogan or something, isn't it? I'll always choose wildlife first and breakfast second.
Friday morning, on my way out of town at 5 Am, I checked on The Butchie Boys. They are doing a little more flapping and looking plenty cramped. I'll check again today. I'll bet they are ready to take the big leap any moment. I'll let you know.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ragged Robins - American Robin Nestlings

When I was photographing The Butchie Boys, it was spanking hot. After I had my fill of waiting for them to move, which they did not, I moved. I went down the road to turn around at the saw mill. When I did, I saw this American robin's nest on a support post of the mill. It's on the mill's loading dock! I had seen the nest when last I checked on The Butchie Boys, but I didn't think there was anyone in residence. What drew my attention this time were these gaping, orange maws. In the photos you can see the pink feet of one of them on the edge of the nest. You can also see that they have new, secondary feathers. They are just about to fledge. The little rascals are flapping their wings and stretching out of the nest, unlike the young eagles. This is the phase where the robin-ettes are apt to fall out of the nest. They've only got about ten feet to fall and would probably survive. However, this same area, which I have called The Magnificent Acre, is where I have photographed Red foxes only feet away from this nest. I'm sure the foxes know the robins are up there and are probably waiting with drooling chops for the sound when one thuds to the ground. If I were a fox, I would do the same. If one of The Butchie Boys fell, they would have about sixty feet to fall. They, too would probably survive. If a fox thought it had an opportunity, an eagle, even a young one would give it a run for its money.
     I'm so thankful that neither of my children fell out of the nest, though I was sure that they were going to. My son almost did, but grabbed back on just in time. He had his share of troubles with the law after committing childish crimes. He regrets that phase of his life and says he can't explain it; it was his way of learning to fly. Also, my daughter wrecked a car that we didn't even know she was driving. She was too young for a license and was supposedly practicing in our driveway. We were blissfully eating dinner and watching the evening news when the police came with those awful words, "There's been an accident." We were all so very lucky no one maimed themselves beyond repair on their attempts to leave the nest. These things were many years ago, familial ancient history now. Nonetheless, recalling them gives my heart a dark, hard twist, the terror of near to death catastrophe still close enough to boil up easily. I hope when birds have young teetering on the edges of their nests that it does not fill them with fear. 
 These are parents of the nestlings. They were being run pretty ragged bringing food to those demanding mouths. You can see that the bird on the left has Honeysuckle berries and a tender, green grasshopper. The one on the right has a mess of spiders. Below, on the left, the father has the earthworm that we've all come to expect in a robin's diet.
What goes in must come out! On the lower right, the mother is picking up a fecal sac deposited by her chicks. She swallowed it in one gulp, no chaser. We've all taken crap from our kids that we wish we had not had to swallow. Robins do this to keep the nest clean. Eagles just poop everywhere then move out when it gets too disgusting. I've had tenants in rentals do the same thing. That's another story.
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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Designed To Sell - Osprey Carrying Stick

We went boating on the Sheepscott River last night out of Robinhood Marina in Georgetown. That's Georgetown, Maine - not Washington, D.C. We went with close friends whom we have not seen all summer, because we've all been too busy. There is something really wrong with summer and life in general when it's too hectic and clogged up to enjoy friends and lolling around on a boat doing nothing at all. As Mr. Toad would have said in the Wind In The Willows, "simply messing about in boats." That was my favorite book in all the world as a youngster. I once did an illustration for a mock cover for the book. The illustration won me a prize which was one of the most joyful moments of my childhood. What a crying shame that any of us lose the ability to just relax and  enjoy what's around us. Rather, we feel as if we have to plow through it all at high speed. In fact, when we went with our friends, we had the intention of motoring up the river to an eatery in Five Islands. This made my husband very happy because we were going to be moving and there was food involved. He has zero tolerance for just sitting anywhere not being productive. But, our plans were foiled by thick fog. We had to sit, sit in the boat slip and do nothing.  
  Of course, I had my camera, but there didn't appear to be anything much to photograph. I resigned myself to noshing on cheese and crackers with soprasata while sipping Merlot. Well, actually, truth be told, guzzling. My father always admonished, "sip, don't swill," but I never got the hang of the difference. Then, I noticed these osprey. I had seen them immediately when I set my first foot on the dock, but I've taken loads of osprey photographs. I wasn't too excited about them. Then, the osprey came in with the stick and the two youngsters popped their heads up and I was off! Waves lapping at the hull became the bass hind note to the staccato of rapid fire shutter release.
   The osprey flew in several times with additional sticks which were artfully arranged and rearranged in the nest. The youngsters watched, presumably for food which was not immediately forthcoming. They got in the way of the interior decorating a couple of times resulting in some squabbling. During the hour or so that I watched, the osprey flew in with at least four sticks, but only one fish. The bird worked feverishly as if she had to make the place tip top to sell or to keep the chicks from falling through the floor. Though the osprey was doggedly industrious, I did notice that she was also able to sit for periods, doing nothing, simply looking out to sea. Good for her. That talent definitely puts her ahead of me on the evolutionary scale.
These osprey chicks are close to flying. They are flapping their wings and jostling around in the nest for room. They will make their first, clumsy attempts to fly in another week or so. Osprey are migratory here, so they had better get their act together. Before we know what hit us, it will be fall.

For more information than you might ever want to have on Osprey, click on this link.
For information on The Wind In The Willows, click this link. Take a breather and enjoy the wild ride.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Eaglet Update - Butchie And His Other Brother Butchie

I took these shots yesterday, July 12th at the Winnegance aerie. Butchie and his other brother Butchie, are much bigger since my last update. They are big enough that it's getting very cramped in the nest. Some wing stretching is going on, but not much. It was also eighty degrees and humid, so that may have accounted for some of their obtunded behaviors. They were panting from the heat and yawning. They are major poop machines, as you can see from the sides of the nest and the branches. There are great swarms of flies up there. I'm hoping to see them start trying to fly.

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Drunken Cedar- Wicked Waxwings

Cedar Waxwing enjoying a Choke Cherry. Nice hair-do!
This one looks like a burglar in a mask sneaking up on the berries.
Cedar Waxwings get their name from the red tips of their wings which someone thought looked like red sealing wax.
"You're going to get that stuff stuck in your braces and your jaw will glue shut!"
I think Cedar Waxwings are one of the most dramatic birds that we have. That says a lot considering that they are a nearly drab, sable brown color and they have bad hair. I guess it is the mask that does it for me. I have always gravitated to men who have the aura of bad about them, my current husband not withstanding. He's a super nice guy; everybody says so. Sometimes, I find his virtuousness and people's constantly telling me what a kind, nice man he is to be tedious. They are absolutely correct in their assessments, but it's like living with the Dali Llama. I'm just not up to the challenge and find it burdensome. I'm not that nice. If my husband were a bird, he would be a Black-capped chickadee and I would be a Sharp-shinned hawk.
     David says that when birds eat berries, they get drunk from fermentation of the berries and that's what makes them crash into windows. His excusing the birds and blaming their behavior on the demon Choke Cherry is an example of his more benevolent mindset than my own. I say "Blame the birds!" They could stick to eating spiders or snakes and staying home instead of driving into my windows. There should be laws, honestly. I'm going to make it a point to call my congressman about this.
     Another thing I think I'll call my representative about is legislating the erratic appearance and disappearances of certain birds. I'm not talking about pollution or global warming, either. I'm talking about the unexplained no-shows. This year, there are hardly any Ruby-throated hummingbirds here. Usually, we have eight to ten of them zipping around and I have to practically beat them back with a stick. They threaten to lodge in my hair and I can't keep up with filling the feeders. The feeders are the same ones hung in the same places, too. This year, however, I've only seen two hummingbirds at once and not every day. It's a mystery. David says the hummingbirds are cute and he misses them. See the difference in our thinking? It's amazing that we are married. The Cedar Waxwings, however are all over the place. Everyday, I see and hear them. They have a distinct, electronic buzz of a sound unmistakable in the trees even when they aren't visible. Most summers, I rarely see Cedar Waxwings and associate them with spring and fall migrations. The Bad Boys in masks have commitment issues this far south, heading generally north for picking up chicks. Their prevalence here this summer is as unexplained as the absence of the hummingbirds. I think there should be a law against this irregularity. At least, there should be some expectation of regular appearances -like if you miss too many dental appointments, you get dropped from the patient panel. If my husband were an orthodontist, he would be the only broke one on the planet. He would give everybody a break, no matter what their flimsy excuse for not showing up.

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