Monday, August 29, 2016

Lovely Warblers

We tend to think "yellow" when we think of summer warblers.  Perhaps because there are so many of them.   But two of my favorite warblers are mostly black, blue, and white.  Occasionally sighted in our woods, neither of these birds come to our feeders.  But last week I encountered a warbler right on our deck.  A Black-and-White Warbler.

I especially love the  black and white because its presence here signals that Spring is arriving.  It is one of the earliest migrants to arrive and it spends the summer with us.  We don't see it near the house but in the woods we see it creeping along the branches of trees searching for insects.  They may look like warblers but they act much more like nuthatches or brown creepers.

The black and whites are fierce little birds and are at the ready to attack any other small birds that invade the territory they have decided to defend.  I've never seen one come to our suet feeders, although their feet seem suited to hang onto a suet feeder.  They have an extra long back claw and legs thicker than most warblers.  Most other warblers would not be able to creep along the bark of trees like the black and white.
[NOTE:  You might wish to enlarge the photographs to see the details]

Just one quick shot before he flew
Wonder if he thought the deck wood was hiding bugs?
Yes, the photograph is in color...but it is after all, a black and white bird on a gray deck

A more delicate non-yellow summer warbler we find in our woods is the Black-Throated-Blue Warbler.  Most North Carolina birders see this bird only during migration.  Here in the mountains, we are lucky to have them nest and stay with us all summer.  The black throated blue generally lives deep in the woods and does not come to bird feeders.  They are considered foliage gleaners because they eat the insects on the underside of leaves.

We rarely see these birds near our deck, but one bird decided to try seeds for a change.  I was lucky enough to get a few photographs before he realized he didn't really care for seeds.

Here he sits on the pole holding a feeder

He looks questioningly at the feeder
You can easily see the white "pocket handkerchief" which is an identification hallmark 

As you can see, the black throated blue is much smaller than a goldfinch.
Note his black throat standing out against his blue body and white breast
He quickly decided there was nothing for him so he flew back into the woods.

I did not get a good photograph of the bird's back.  But the black throated blue here in the Appalachian mountains has a black stripe in the middle of his blue back.  Some think this might be a separate and distinct sub-species.  The more common black throated blues of the Northeast and Canada do not have the black stripe.

I have seen many male black throated blues, but I have not once seen a female.  And I've been looking.  The female is quite drab in color and has few markings in common with the males.  She does have a white handkerchief like the male but it is less distinct.  The females are so different they were at first mis-identified as a separate species altogether.  Perhaps it is not surprising that I haven't seen a female.  Interestingly enough, the females nest and forage at much higher altitudes.  After nesting, the males descend to lower elevations while the females remain at the higher elevations.  (Our house is at 3,000 feet which is not a high elevation for the NC mountains.)

Since I've never seen one, much less photographed one, here is a photograph from Wikipedia:

Perhaps one day on a trip to the higher mountains I will glimpse a female Black-Throated-Blue Warbler.  And if I'm lucky I will have the right camera lens with me.

The Autumn migration will begin before long and both these warblers will leave us to winter in Florida or points south.  Even though we don't see them as frequently as we'd like, we are delighted each time we get a glance.

Friday, August 26, 2016

We Love Lucy

Time is still a-flying.  Next week is September.  Our weather has turned hot and humid once again, and darkness falls far too early in the evenings while the sun sleeps in later every morning now.  And that will get far worse before it turns around.

Wouldn't it be nice if we just totally suspended all the Presidential campaign rhetoric?  Given the two major party candidates, breathes there a soul who is going to change his/her mind at this point?  Or doesn't know already he/she will choose a third-party candidate instead?  Or simply choose not to vote?  I cannot think of a single thing that would change my mind at this point.  I'd rather see a bit more attention given to the candidates "down ticket" and much less to the Presidential candidates.

Living a dog's life may be easier.  Our Lucy cares not a whit about elections or anything outside her insulated little world.  She does worry a little bit about dinner.  If my husband so much as moves in his chair anytime between 4:15 and 4:30, Lucy is on her feet just in case he has forgotten that dinnertime is 4:30.  This in spite of the fact that no one has ever forgotten her dinner.  Not once.

Lucy, up close and personal

We have two quotes for today.  Both of them on the lighter side.

The first is from the late Terry Pratchett.  Actually that is SIR Terry Pratchett, genius extraordinaire:

The trouble with having an open mind, of course,
is that people will insist on coming along
and trying to put things in it.

The second is from old reliable, Mark Twain:

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble.
It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.



Monday, August 22, 2016

Getting a Little Cuter

Most baby birds are quite ugly when they hatch, all feathers and beak.  As they grow, they become much more attractive and by the time they fledge they are downright cute.  You may recall the very young Northern Cardinal fledgling I posted a few weeks ago.  It was by far the youngest cardinal I have seen outside the nest and was not the most attractive one.  I don't think it could fly to perch on the feeder to get fed.  The bird was fed by the father on the deck railing for quite some time.  I did not see the female feeding this little one.

Now the cardinal comes to the feeder independently.  Interestingly enough, it never eats at the feeder but rather brings a sunflower seed to the deck and eats there.  Perhaps that is what it became accustomed to when it was being fed.  I fear it is not much more attractive.

The young cardinal has a sunflower seed on the railing in front of him.
It saw me and I was afraid it would fly when I clicked the camera.

 But it didn't fly and gobbled up the seed.

 The bird is showing signs of maturing but is still rather clumsy.

This is how it looked the end of June when the father was bringing food and feeding it.
We did not see the female. It made us wonder if something had happened to her

Summer is definitely waning here.  The katydid chorus is so loud in the evenings it makes outside conversation difficult.  Our weather has returned to "normal" and we are delighted.  We feel almost cheated out of our marvelous mountain summer this year.  So it is especially wonderful to have the mild days, cool nights and mountain breezes we are supposed to have.  We are blessed indeed.

Friday, August 19, 2016

We Love Lucy

Another week has passed.  A rather uneventful one for us, and that can be a very good thing.  Traffic is much reduced as we enjoy a brief respite between the summer tourists and the leaf peepers.  We feel as if we have our town back for a while.

Lucy is pretty much back to normal although she has a new routine.  Her water dish is downstairs and I wanted to make certain she was drinking enough when she was taking the antibiotic.  So I got a little bowl and filled it with cool water from the refrigerator when she came inside.  In addition to providing cool water, the refrigerator filters the water as well.  Lucy loves it.  Now, whenever she comes in from a walk or break, she stands in front of the refrigerator door waiting for me to get her some of that cool refreshing water.  Yes, she has us trained all right.

You most often see Lucy lying among several pillows.  But she doesn't always nap with her pillows.  There is another bed and sometimes she decides to snooze there sans pillows, with her head lowered to the floor.

Victorian-era writer Samuel Butler (best known for The Way of all Flesh) provides us with two appropriate quotes for today.

"He that complies against his will is of his own opinion still."

"I believe that he was really sorry that people would not believe he was sorry that he was not more sorry.

And from motivational speaker and entrepreneur Jim Rohn:
Jim Rohn

"We must all suffer from one of two pains; the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.  The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons."

And from Claire London:

 "I have learned that sometimes "sorry" is not enough.
Sometimes you actually have to change."



Monday, August 15, 2016

When I Am An Old Woman

I'm sure you have heard the poem "Warning" that begins with
 "When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go and doesn't suit me."

Photograph from the Internet, not credited.

As I have mentioned before, I think that when I am an old woman I shall talk to Siri and listen to music.  But wait...there is something far more interested and entertaining and way more functional that Siri.  And pretty darned cute as well.

It's a little robot named Zenbo, a real companion.  Zenbo shows movies, plays music, makes emergency phone calls and notifications.  He recognizes faces and can move around the house and  monitor your home.  He talks to you., listens to you, and connects to most of the electronics in your home.  He will read a book for you or tell you a recipe aloud while you cook.

NOTE:  The following photographs are from the Zenbo Website (here)

He will work as your TV remote, following your verbal commands.  And he will move around wherever you tell him to go.

He's such a cute little guy and will entertain little ones and old ones alike.

He will remind you to take your medicine.

I figure that by the time I need a robot there will be even more improvements.  I will not likely join a Red Hat Society and may not even wear purple and red and I certainly won't gobble up samples in shops, but I may wear terrible shirts and grow fat.

But I am so getting one of these little guys for a companion in my dotage.  My husband will still be a companion of sorts, but he won't read to me or answer my silly questions or play music for me.  But this little Zenbo will do all these things and smile while he's doing them.  I'm beginning to look forward to it.

[DISCLAIMER:  I have no incentive for sharing this information except that I love this little guy and thought you might be interested.  The company has never heard of me, much less compensated me.]

Friday, August 12, 2016

We Love Lucy

Here we are in mid-August already.  Summer is beginning to wane here with the trees having dusky rather than bright shiny green leaves as they prepare to turn for Autumn.  We got some rain.  Lots of rain.  Seven inches of rain.  I hope the good folks who have been praying for rain stop praying for a few weeks.

Lucy has had a good week although she has often been wet.  With such scattered showers it's difficult to determine when it's safe to be out for a while.  And invariably we get caught sometimes.  We keep fresh towels on a bench inside the garage for drying her.  One more perk of a long marriage...we have lots of old towels now relegated to dog towels.

We don't make many demands on our dogs.  But one we insist upon is to come to us when we call.  Our Ellie was best at recalls.  No matter how interested she was in something, she immediately stopped and came when called.  Lucy?  Not so perfect.  We have to continually work on recalls with her as she "forgets" or pretends she doesn't hear.  She does indeed respond pretty consistently but sometimes her forward progress is really slow, dawdling like a reluctant toddler.  Even inside the house, she might make a circle around the kitchen and dining room before coming to the stairs.

If she is not terribly interested in something, Lucy tends to come quickly and happily.  If she is investigating something she is neither quick nor happy.  Her body language is very telling.

All right, I'm coming.  I don't like it but I'm coming.

There are so many things to love about dogs.  But one of the very best is that they are who they are and they always let you know exactly how they feel.  They are not mean-spirited.

Which cannot be said about one of our Presidential candidates.  Interestingly enough, the candidate whose supporters love that he "tells it like it is" has become notorious for emphatically saying something many times and suddenly back-tracking by dismissing the comments as "sarcasm" or "just joking."  That doesn't always work even in third grade where it is common among eight-year-olds.

Which brings our quote for today.  This from the late Robin Williams:

"People also say the weirdest things, sometimes sarcastic things, and even evil things.  They like to provoke to get a reaction."

I hope that you are enjoying the summer, especially the fresh vegetables.  Nothing is quite the same as a fresh, ripe summer tomato.  Hope you had better luck than I did in viewing the Perseid Meteor Shower.  Nothing here visible but overcast skies.  Oh, well.  There's always next year.


Monday, August 8, 2016

They Were Here First

We live in a gated community that comprises more than four thousand acres of woodland.  It is an older planned community, having been established more than forty years ago.  Homes must be built with minimum impact on the environment.  We have miles of nature trails and hiking trails, four lakes and multiple streams with waterfalls.  The community is fully owned and overseen by residents.  We have a General Manager and a team of people who attend to the business and maintenance, but they report to the Board of Directors of the Property Owner's Association, all of whom are elected by residents.  One of our community's "core values" is stewardship of the environment.

As one might expect, we have abundant wildlife here.  From our own house we have seen bears, coyotes, bobcats, and the usual wild turkeys, 'possums, 'coons, skunks, foxes, etc., walking across our property.  By far the most frequently seen wildlife (except for the damned squirrels) are deer.  It is a rare day that I do not see several deer along our roads.  We planted shrubbery known to be rather distasteful to deer, but that doesn't mean they won't give anything a try.  So we regularly spray with organic repellent around our favorite plants.

Most of the citizens who live here are fine with the deer.  They are part of the community and we simply know to watch for them crossing the roads and we know we will have some damage to our plants no matter how diligent we are.  Because we have so much forest and green space, our deer are healthy.  They are not over-populated like they often are in the suburbs of large cities.

A doe and her twin fawns near our mailbox early one morning
They were alert but not frightened at all by my presence.

Imagine my surprise when I learned there is talk among a few residents about "culling" some of the deer.  At a recent property owners meeting, there was a small rumble about the deer "problem."  And what a "nuisance" the deer were.  One resident gave a dollar estimate of how many plants he had lost to deer.  My blood boils when I hear such talk.  The really impossible thing to believe was one suggestion that we allow archers to come in and "cull" the deer.  They wouldn't have to go on private property, just hunt them along the roadside.  They tried to justify the actions by saying the community could donate the meat to our local pantry, and serve some venison in our club house dining room.

Fortunately those few ideas were quickly dismissed.  The overwhelming majority of property owners consider the deer as a natural part of our environment who have as much right to share our part of the mountain as the people do.  When I heard the man wanting to bring in archers,  I thought to myself, "Who ARE these people who have invaded our community?"

Photo taken from my car with my iPod.
When a deer crosses in front of you, you stop to wait for the rest of them.
Now how sporting would it be to kill such tame animals?

We have lived in typical suburbia where the community was divided between those who fed the deer and those who wanted them eliminated.  The deer there were indeed overpopulated and unhealthy and I was in favor of removing some of them.  Feeding any wildlife is a horrible practice that never has a good end.  There are prominent signs at all three of our community entrances that feeding of any wild animal is strictly forbidden.

Yes, we have the occasional bear break-in, most often because someone left food on a screened porch or deck.  Bears will tear down bird feeders left outside at night.  And a dog will occasionally get sprayed by a skunk.  And deer will try to eat plants, even if the plants are considered "resistant to deer."  And that's what happens when you live in the woods.  And we don't mind one bit.

[OK, we DID mind a lot when a flying squirrel committed suicide by crawling into the dryer outlet vent.]  But generally speaking, we adapt to the animals rather than expecting them to adapt to us.

After all, they were here first.

Friday, August 5, 2016

We Love Lucy

We got a blessed bit of rain yesterday and the temperatures are moderating.  Yeah!

Lucy has finished her ear drops and antibiotic.  Her "hot spot" is healing nicely and she has pretty much stopped scratching it, thanks to the Benadryl.  All of these led to a lot of yummies for her.  But we use tiny training treats except for the pill "sandwiches."  She very quickly learned the behaviors from us that preceded the ear drops.  Like most dogs, she really hates getting them and it's a challenge for us to rub the ear before she shakes her head.  She would come to me to get a treat and then run out of the room.  We would wait for her to return which she did slowly and deliberately.  Then we would do the ears followed by a final treat.  It would have been much easier to do this on the grooming table, but we try not to do things like that on the table.  She is never hesitant to get on the table and we don't want her to be.  So the table is strictly for grooming.  Interestingly enough, she doesn't mind regular ear cleaning, perhaps because it involves sponges and not drops.

We are giving her a reduced dose of Benadryl during the daytime as long as she isn't scratching.  But the reduced dose still sedates her a bit.

Snoozing in the den with her blue tug and new antler.

August is already upon us.  We can already tell the sun is not getting up as early.  And once again, I am using a light when I take Lucy out for the last time in the evening.  I am not at all happy about that.

DJT is holding a rally in Green Bay, WI.  This after he dissed the Governor Scott Walker and the US Speaker of the House, WI native Paul Ryan.  Walker, Ryan, nor the WI Republican Senator Johnson will attend the rally.  Truth be told, the rally is hardly a blip on the news radar, especially in Green Bay.  This week Green Bay Packer quarterback Brett Favre put on his NFL Hall of Fame gold jacket.  He will be honored all weekend in Green Bay.  And when you are talking Packer football in Green Bay no one pays attention to anything else.

Today's quote is once again from Marcus Aurelius:

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact.
Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.



Monday, August 1, 2016

Great Part Time Job

One of my favorite things about political conventions has to be the huge balloon drops at the end.  The speeches may be impressive or disappointing or may even make me angry, but the balloon drop never fails to amaze me.

[Purely personal note:  Folks who know me in real life know that I am pretty much against balloons for very young children.  Most parents do not watch them closely enough, and popped balloons can be hazardous.  Latex balloons can provoke serious allergies.  And almost every balloon encounter comes to a bad end.  Either the string becomes loose and the balloon flies away, or the balloon pops and the child is unhappy.  Or the child goes to sleep with his or her beloved balloon rising high in the bedroom, its string safely attached to a little weight.  And the child awakens only to be greeted by a deflated balloon drooping on the floor.  I think balloons should not be given to children under age five or six.]

But I love balloons for adults.  Like bubbles, balloons make adults act silly with glee.  And I believe we are all better for acting silly now and then.

[All photographs taken from the Internet.  I did not actually attend either convention.]

Massive numbers of red, white, and blue balloons are dropped from
nets high above the arenas at the close of each convention.

 And the grown-ups become children again

 No one has more fun than former President Bill Clinton

 The Republican candidate is more subdued and stately during the drop

 But the Speaker of the House joins in the fun

So what happens to all those balloons after the convention?  They are popped in a rather primitive manner.  Sticks of varying lengths are equipped with tacks and the workers slowly proceed through the area popping the balloons one by one.

Wouldn't that be the coolest job ever?  So much better than bubble wrap, don't you think?

Can you just imagine the continual pop, pop, popping?

I suppose it loses its charm after a while.

My friend suggested they turn loose dozens of terriers.
Boston, Scotty, or Jack Russell, they would make efficient work of popping the balloons.
And the political parties could charge admission and raise more money.

Seriously.  I would pay a concert admission price to see a room full of terriers popping all those balloons.

I must admit I definitely have a love/hate relationship with both conventions.  But few things make me laugh more than a group of adults running for the highest offices in our country turning into little children again.  Batting and kicking balloons while grinning the entire time.  And having such fun over such a simple thing.