Thursday, May 31, 2007

As Promised, The Bobcat

We started seeing bobcats in our yard in September 2005. Their appearances were sporadic. The short time they spent here was a means to an end, merely a footpath to wherever they were headed. We enjoyed seeing them, as their presence was always fleeting, just a quick glimpse of something very wild.
Lately that has changed. This young bobcat seems to have adopted our yard as his own territory. We've seen him four times in ten days: in the light of bright sunny afternoons, in the evening at dusk rolling around in a bare dusty patch on the edge of our lawn, and at night crossing the yard close enough to the house to turn the motion sensor lights on.
On Tuesday, the bobcat spent enough time prowling around that I saw it hunting, watched it flush a rabbit from under a cedar tree, attempt to pounce on it, but miss it by a mile! It stuck its nose into the lupins behind the bird feeder, sniffed around the flower beds, and then headed out through the our wild lupin and daisy field to the fence. We watched it make its way by watching the flowers sway as he passed them by.
We assume that this is a fairly young cat, and does not know yet to be fearful of humans. In fact, after he saw me the first time on Tuesday, instead of running out of the yard, the way all the other cats have done, he hung out, and then took a very nonchalant stroll. That fearlessness will not serve it well even in a rural area such as this. So, Roger and I are going to attempt a little aversion therapy and discouragement. The first thing Roger intends to do is to mark our perimeter territory by leaving his scent along the fence. He will do that the old-fashioned way by urinating. We know this works for keeping canines away, we're not quite as sure about felines. I may do a little research about that. We also never make a sound when the bobcat is in the yard. Our approach has always been not to scare it. I suspect if there is a next time, we will not hesitate to convey our presence in a way that will make him feel less welcome. Some obvious noise, maybe banging on pots and pans, or perhaps playing a recording of the sound of a coyote or wolf.

We like this cat very much. You can see he's quite a beauty. But we no longer feel completely at ease in the yard right now. He's obviously too small to be able to hurt us seriously, but he could certainly inflict some damage, if he felt the need. And, he could easily kill our cat. We had been feeling safe letting Bonsai outside when we're out, but even that does not seem safe at the moment.
So now you know our plans. Hey, I didn't realize our Bachelor Buttons were blooming until I saw this pic. Gives you some idea of what size he is.

The close-up of the cat's face was taken through the screen on our slider. That's why the photo looks soft focus. I think he was registering disappointment that he hadn't caught the rabbit.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Now, The Inelegant Solution

We've noticed lately that birds are striking our windows more this year than in all the previous years we've been here. Seems we hear a strike a few times a week. We found one stunned Pine Siskin two weeks ago, but other than that, we've haven't seen the birds who have hit our windows. That is, until Tuesday morning, when I found this dead Rufous Hummingbird. That was it. I knew there had to be something we could do to at least deter these birds from flying into the lovely reflection of the yard.
Roger volunteers at Habitat for Humanity on Tuesday mornings, so I was left up to my own devices to solve this little problem. I googled "preventing window strikes" and found a site that had a lot of excellent information about bird strikes and very good solutions. I altered one a bit, and came up with this.
I took a very nice white sheet and cut it into strips. I got the ladder out of the big shed and grabbed some very nice push pins. I attached the sheet strips loosely in front of the windows. We often have a breeze here, so the strips are rarely motionless. I'm hopeful that the moving cloth will be enough to keep the birds from being drawn to the glass yard.
We gave up this view, but what we get in return is truly immeasurable for us.

While I was composing this post Tuesday afternoon, I had the doors open and could hear the birds singing their melodious territorial songs. While I listened their calls became much more frantic and alarmed. I recalled this sound from last week when the bobcat was in the yard. It was a sound I made myself remember. I took a look around, and sure enough that young bobcat was sitting under the trees right behind our lovely pergola and the blooming lupins. This is a very young bobcat, cinnamon colored, and small. I watched it slink off very quietly into the shadow of the trees before I could even get the camera to my eyes. I think this little one has adopted our yard. No surprise. We have more birds (and more bird strikes) than ever before here. We don't plan to encourage or discourage the cat from coming into the yard. The birds are still making a racket as I type this. It's really quite a yard.

Okay, just after I typed that last sentence the bobcat made a very obvious appearance strolling across the yard, behind the pond, around the bird feeder, over to the flower beds, where it tried and failed to catch a rabbit, then ambled through our sea of lupin, and out through the fence. I photographed as much of it as I could. I'll post those pics tomorrow. I will say this, this sighting definitely was too close for comfort, and we are reconsidering our decision about not actively discouraging this young fearless cat.

Roger came home from Habitat and said, "Hey, you TP'ed the house!"

Monday, May 28, 2007

Of All The Nest Boxes...In All The World

We saw a Violet-Green Swallow take over the Black-capped Chickadee nest box. It's not something that was immediately apparent. One day the chickadees were flying about, feeding their young. Both parents -- going from the nest to the feeder, a quick fly around the yard, then back to the nest. Over and over. They were feeding hungry babies to be sure. Then there was a new bird hanging on the box. It was a Violet Green Swallow. So, I just assumed it was checking out nest boxes and saw that this one was already occupied. Well, okay.
But then the chickadees started to behave differently. They flew to the nest box, but didn't go in, just stared in from the opening. That didn't seem good at all. Suddenly a bird flies out of the box. Whoa, who's that? The parents go in and feed their young, but leave again. The swallow flies back in.

Is she adopting the box and the babies, or just the box, and the babies be damned? Brave Roger, who puts up with my fretting and meddling, opened the nest box from the side and found the swallow sitting on the nest. She gave him a look and flees. He quickly notices six or eight chickadee babies in there; one is already dead. He closed the nest box. We think we must take some action, but what?

One thing for certain, I was determined to not let the swallow back in the box. While Roger came up with a plan, I stood in front of the box with our long-handled, pond-skimmer net. The swallow tried over and over to get back in there, but I absolutely would not let her. She was aggressively persistent.

Roger devised this plan. He reasoned that the swallows only approach the nest from straight on, but the chickadees can approach it from many angles. They can cling sideways and upside down. He thought if he hung an overhang over the nest box opening it would deter the swallow by making it impossible for her to enter, but doable for the chickadee. So, with some left over shingles from our siding project of last summer, he partially blocked the entrance.
The swallow tried to get in, but could not. She was instantly thwarted. It took the chickadees about two seconds to figure out how to get to their babies. They went on an immediate feeding frenzy, spending the rest of the day flying in and out of the box with lots of food from the feeder.

We didn't want to, and probably couldn't anyway, completely banish this beautiful swallow from the yard, so Roger hung an unused nest box for her. She found it and after a little while decided it met her expectations, and took up residence.

I contacted our bird advice guru Julie Zickefoose to help us with some of the details. I wasn't sure if we should remove the dead bird or not. She said a definitive "yes." I also sent her photos of the nestbox with the overhang, and she suggested that we make it shorter because the babies need to see the world they are about to navigate and fly into.

Roger took the dead bird out on Saturday evening, and he cut the overhang Sunday morning.

If we hadn't been paying attention, we would never have known, but we believe with knowledge comes responsibility. I think that's even an apt lesson for Memorial Day.

We know we are tampering with nature here. We'll apologize at the Pearly Gates, after we've asked about the intelligence of such a design.

Please click on the pics to see the larger view of what's going on here.

update: i checked the nest box this am. i counted 5 chicks, all alive and breathing. both parents have been spotted, bringing in food and taking out the poop.

not easy to see them all. the one on the right opened his beak for food several times. but not when i was ready with the camera.

the swallow in her own box.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Goldfish and Silverhair

We have been watching our fourth generation of goldfish in the pond. We bought the first batch in May 2004. They were eaten by the heron in the fall of that year, but not before they had a batch of babies that over-wintered and grew big and strong by spring 2005. They were eaten by the heron that fall, but not before they had a batch of babies, and so on. This spring we have a large and beautiful school of gold and multi-colored fish. They look big and healthy and will make a grand meal for the heron in the fall. We wish it weren't so, but we can't seem to prevent it from happening.
This Saturday Good Planets may be enjoying its last weekend at The Gypsy's Caravan. I haven't rounded up a new host, and really I haven't even tried. To be perfectly honest, I have been a bit ill the past few months, and my energy for such things has waned. I love the concept of Good Planets, I love that it's a carnival of pics, and not links. I have been thrilled by the views from around the globe. But carnivals take time, consideration, prodding, thoughtfulness, and vision. Things I have been sorely lacking lately. So, perhaps this weekend's offering will be the last of it. It was a good run, and I've personally loved every minute of it. Please email your spectacular, celebratory earth pics to SBgypsy at hotmail dot com.

About my health, back in December I noticed a small rash on my arms and was utterly panicked by it. Several years ago, I had a rash that started out the same way, spread relentlessly over almost my entire body, lasted five months and left me with post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation that took years to finally fade. This rash began the same way, but has turned out to be slightly different (doesn't feel like a very bad case of sunburn and poison oak 24 excruciating hours a day). I went to the doctor during the first bout, but they could not come up with a diagnosis even after biopsies. I went to see a local doc the other day and was diagnosed with systemic eczema. I'm not sure I buy that, but that's what she said. To look at me you'd never know this was going on under my clothes. My face, hands, and feet are completely fine (just like the first rash), but I am sick. So, that's a little background on the light posting, the fatigue, the generally uninspired way I've been feeling. I'm supposed to start the antibiotic Keflex and steroid cream tomorrow. We'll see about that. I may be sick, but I'm still an old rascal who will do just about anything to avoid taking medicine. Wish me luck.
Here's a pic our friends took of me on Tuesday. I showed them the black and white cover of the NY Times magazine from three weeks ago. I thought it looked something like me. We tried to do a match, although I don't have a hair stylist, didn't brush my hair at all for the shot, and couldn't figure out how to light for the contrasts they obtained. The cover says: Can Science Tell Us Who Grows Wiser?

What do you think?

*click on all pics for the big view.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Ordinary Days

We've been busy with lots of things lately. Gardening, weeding, going to the doctor, dentist, store. The everyday-ness of life. Lucky for us a few extraordinary things do happen in the midst of the ordinary.

Like over the weekend when there were warblers everywhere. Yellow Warblers, Wilson's Warblers, and warblers we couldn't identify. (Click on the pics for the bigger view)
For several days there was a yellow parade in the pond, but we could not identify the little one with the orange-crown. We thought it was an orange-crowned warbler, but every description I read said that they are rather drab little birds, and not one mentioned an orange crown. Of course, I wonder where the name is derived, and, who exactly is this little one?

To top it off, a Western Tanager showed up. I swear, I see one every year just once. I happened to be photographing the warblers when this one poked up behind the pond. Totally lucky shot.

On Tuesday, we had dear friends from Santa Cruz visit. When we went into the yard to show them the lilac we had transplanted, there was a bobcat sitting among the lupins, as close to our house as one has ever been. It was 2:00 in the afternoon. It slipped away quickly, but then stopped to look back at us, before disaappearing. We thought about looking for it but assumed it was long gone. A short while later, I saw it once more sauntering along the fence without a care in the world. I'm not sure if I've ever seen a bobcat run. They seem to be very laid back little critters.

Unfortunately, no pics, just a nice moment for us and our visitors.

So, what have you been seeing lately?

Monday, May 21, 2007

spring garden stuff

it has been springlike lately, even when the sky is overcast with clouds. warm air. fir trees blossoming and spreading pollen. we have been busy outside. stuff grows. and how when it's quack grass and thistle and clover. so we have been weeding a lot. we'll use more mulch next winter.
it was about 50 degrees outside when i took this picture, and cloudy. the greenhouse is unheated and not entirely airtight, but it captures heat from any bit of sunlight.

these are datil pepper plants in the greenhouse. i started them in january just to see if the seeds i have are still viable. i couldn't bring myself to discard them. i nursed them along under a light till i had set up a little heated area for starts in the greenhouse and moved them there. i transplanted them into the growing bed on april 29. the glove is for scale.

i set out broccoli and cauliflower three weeks ago and learned about wind damage and the bad result of not hardening starts. they all survived, but took a beating. so these i just set out have nice little shingle shelters and they have been outside on the north of the greenhouse where they got some morning sun and no greenhouse heat for two weeks.

fresh asparagus harvested 5 minutes ago. this is the second year for our asparagus bed. we get enough for a meal at least twice a week.


i read the news today. oy vey!

"Dried apples preserved with a cancer-causing chemical.
Frozen catfish laden with banned antibiotics.
Scallops and sardines coated with putrefying bacteria.
Mushrooms laced with illegal pesticides.
These were among the 107 food imports from China that the Food and Drug Administration detained at U.S. ports just last month, agency documents reveal, along with more than 1,000 shipments of tainted Chinese dietary supplements, toxic Chinese cosmetics and counterfeit Chinese medicines.

"So many U.S. companies are directly or indirectly involved in China now, the commercial interest of the United States these days has become to allow imports to come in as quickly and smoothly as possible," said Robert B. Cassidy, a former assistant U.S. trade representative for China and now director of international trade and services for Kelley Drye Collier Shannon, a Washington law firm.

As a result, the United States finds itself "kowtowing to China," Cassidy said, even as that country keeps sending American consumers adulterated and mislabeled foods."

this is from a front page article in the washington post (free registration required) that details the problems with foodstuffs imported from china. but we can't vigorously inspect the imports and diligently apply existing laws and standards because big biz here wants access to china's market.

i thought it interesting that a former u.s. trade rep to china would use "kowtow." the link is to wikipedia because it has the best illustration i found.

eat hearty folks.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Purple Day

If Tuesday was green day, then Wednesday was definitely purple day.
These are living sand dollars. A whole beach of them, exposed by the -2.7 tide. We collected the skeletal remains of so many. In another time, perhaps we might have traded them as wampum.
We've noticed this amazing seastar on other minus tide walks. It stands out so beautifully amid the black mussels, white barnacles, and gray sands.
Oh, this purple finch is breaking my heart. It showed up Wednesday morning and sat still on the lawn. No healthy bird sits still for this long. But here it sits. I want to rescue it, but I won't. Every now and then it bends its head to grab some food. Sometimes, if we get too close it flees into the bushes. It won't last long.

That was our purple day.

We're driving to the airport Thursday (200 miles roundtrip) to deliver my mother and sister to their respective flights home to southern California. It's been a great visit. We are truly sad to see them leave.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Green Day

Tuesday was a green day. Roger, Lynn, and I (we left my mom home to nurse her injured knee) took a minus tide walk at Fort Townsend. The tide was a -1.7 at 9:20 am. We hit the beach at 9:00 and started walking. We had taken my sister to this same beach at high tide just the day before. We wanted her to see the tidal changes. It's quite spectacular, sometimes a difference of up to 12 feet.

Tuesday was simply a summer day in spring. Even in the morning, the temps were already in the 70s. The sky was cloudless. All we could hear was the small lapping of water on the shore and the far off sound of a motor on a boat across the bay. Every now and then a Kingfisher chattered before he leapt from some fallen shoreline tree and headed out to grab one of the tiny silvery fish that broke the surface of bay.
Tuesday was the day we saw a green-throated loon. We googled every combination of words we could conceive of to see what type of loon this mght be. We settled on an Arctic Loon in breeding plumage, but we're not really certain. Our favorite advisor about these things, Dawn, told us that it could be a Common Loon. Who knows? It is a beauty.
Tuesday evening we had dinner outside for the first time since last summer. We had homemade barbecued veggie burgers, broccoli, and rice. Just as we were finishing up, I noticed a spider by the empty broccoli dish. I ran for the camera and took a close-up of its face. It was green. We think it may be a Phidippus clarus-- a jumping spider. When Roger leaned over to take a better look, we watched the spider turn its green face and eyes to take a good look at him. It was truly a priceless moment.

On our beautiful green Tuesday, Jerry Falwell died while we were watching eagles fly and green-throated loons dive for food.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Dinner Theater

We've been having a grand time with my mother and sister who are visiting. The weather has been mostly good, except for Sunday, when it decided to be winter again. Temps in the 40s and drizzly grey.

We went out to dinner to celebrate Mother's Day and my birthday. If you know us, which some of you do since we've been posting for nearly 2 1/2 years, Roger and I do not go out to dinner. We love to cook. We love to eat our own cooking. We're spoiled that way. But there are times that require a bending of our own rules, so we went into town to a very fancy-schmancy restaurant. We had an expansive view of Port Townsend Bay from our table. We watched the ferries come and go. Luckily, we even had a rare treat of seeing a Brown Pelican. We have not seen one since we moved here three years ago. It was a real delight. I thought all of this boded well. A lovely table, the perfect view.

The wine arrived, and it was delicious. But, surprisingly, our dinners proved to be much less than what we had hoped. Roger did thoroughly enjoy his fresh pan-fried halibut. In fact, he mentioned it several times, much to our comedic delight. But my mother, sister, and I ordered something else, and descended into howling laughter about it. The roasted chicken, grated potatoes, and grilled carrots were all sopped in iron-heavy juices of the kale. Everything was wet and kale-flavored, and not well flavored at that. Yuck.

That's when the theater began. It's really hard to say when laughter becomes something embarrassing, but you know when you've crossed the line. The small restaurant is usually very subdued except for the small murmurs of quiet, possibly even romantic conversation, but not last night. Our laughter was uncontainable and uncontrollable. It spilled into everything we tried to say, and everything provoked it. My mother finally said, "It's a good thing they put us in a corner," and she was right. That made us laugh even more. The other patrons probably thought we were out of our minds, and they were right too. I had to turn my head toward the window, and cover my face with my very stiff white napkin so I could catch my breath. Picture that. I'm a 55 year old gray-haired woman, and I have a napkin over my face in a restaurant. I am really so dignified. My mother and sister had tears rolling down their cheeks. That didn't stop us. We roared every time the waitress came to the table, and every time she didn't. We laughed about laughing. We laughed for 45 minutes nearly non-stop. Finally they took away our failed dinners and brought us a torte of bittersweet chocolate with coconut and macadamia nuts for dessert. It was delicious. We were quiet, appeased.

After dinner, on the ride home, we saw a bald eagle off in the distance. It was flying unusually fast. Roger and I knew exactly where it was going; it was headed to its nest. I told my mother and sister the eagle would cross right over our car to get there. It did. Its huge wings worked and worked to get where its mate and nestlings were waiting. It came so close to us we could see its feathers. It was quite a moment. My mother said, "That's the real dessert." She was right.

Above photo of a Red-tailed hawk chasing a juvenile Bald Eagle. Photographed from our yard on Friday. We were amazed by the aerial dynamics. Check out the size difference there!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Mothers and Daughters

There is no special reason to pair these dragonfly photos with a Mother's Day post, other than the dragonflies are out and about these days, and we've been out photographing them and butterflies. Although this is not true on Thursday when the dragonflies were out, but we drove to the airport to pick up my mom and sister who flew in from California.

This Sunday is Mother's Day, and every once in a while Mother's Day falls on my birthday. That is how it is this Sunday. My twin brother and I will be 55 years old, and so my lovely mother and my sweet sister are here to celebrate. We wish my brothers could be here with us, but my twin is in Santa Cruz and can't leave his ancient, health-impaired 21 year old cat, and the other is 3000 miles away in Virginia, a little far for a weekend celebration. We know they both wish they could be here.
So, it's the three women of my family, and Roger. Imagine that. Really.

We'd like to wish a Happy Mother's Day to all of you out there who have in some way kindly mothered someone.

Don't forget to send your Good Planet pics to The Gypsy's Caravan: sbgypsy at hotmail dot com.

Thanks everyone, and have a great weekend. See you Monday.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Cousin Tony and the Mourning Cloak

On Monday, while Roger and I were out taking pics of butterflies and dragonflies, my father's cousin Tony was buried. When my siblings and I were young, we didn't get to know Tony the way we did the other cousins because he was always out of the country. He worked for the State Department, and spent time in Argentina, Italy, or Brazil. He married Elisa in South America and had twin daughters. We always kept track of what Tony was up to, but we rarely saw him. What we knew was that Tony loved our father, who was his much older cousin. As an adolescent he saw my dad come home a hero from World War II, and he respected and looked up to him always. That was enough for us kids, we automatically loved Tony.

I had a handful of encounters with my dad's cousin. Once in 1987, I met him and his wife in a Washington D.C. hotel lounge for wine and delicious conversation. It's when I learned that he loved to talk about family. He told me stories of my grandmother, who had died before I was born, and for whom I'm named. He told me stories about my father's bravery, stories my father had never shared with us. It was Tony who told me that my father had fought behind enemy lines in the Battle of the Bulge. I realized for someone who had been out of the country so long, Tony had somehow become a grand repository of our family lore.

In 2004, Tony and I struck up an email relationship. He was coordinating the construction of the Freeman family tree with other family members. They were busy tracking down arrival dates of ships from the 1860s. My great-great grandfather was on one of those ships. I was sent photographs of ship manifests, of ancient family gatherings, and gravestones. I loved being included in this detailed account of our shared history. Unfortunately, all of the information and correspondence from that year disappeared with my computer crash of 2005.

All I have left are a few emails from last summer. So, I did a google search on Anthony G. Freeman and found this from the Library of Congress.
ANTHONY G. FREEMAN -- (Senate - July 30, 2003)

[Page: S10256] GPO's PDF


Mr. Hatch: .Mr. President, at the end of this week, Anthony G. Freeman will leave the post of Director of the Washington Office of the International Labor Organization, or ILO, after almost a decade serving this specialized agency of the United Nations in its liaison with the executive and federal branches of the U.S. Government. These last 9 years spent in this important role follow his 33-year career as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer.

In that career, Mr. Freeman represented our country all over the world: in Valencia, Spain and Rome, Italy; in Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo and La Paz. From 1983 to 1992, he served as Coordinator for International Labor Affairs and the Agency for International Development. In that capacity, he was Special Assistant to three Secretaries of State.

Tony Freeman's professional focus has been advancing the role of freedom of labor around the world, promoting the dignity and safety of workers wherever they toiled. He was a labor specialist who served as labor officer in many of his posts around the world. This experience was developed over three decades, culminating in his last assignment at the State Department as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. No one understands better than Tony Freeman that true democracy cannot exist without human rights and neither exist without the freedom of the working man and woman.

Some may not be aware of the importance that American labor has played in U.S. foreign policy through the decades. Some may not appreciate the role that the American worker has played in building alliances with workers around the world, conveying and supporting traditions of freedom--freedom to work and to organize and to be free of oppression--that are an essential aspect of American society. American unions, working through the State Department and working independently, have done great work advancing freedom around the planet, and continue to do so today.

(snip, Orrin Hatch talks about himself here. Ugh)

After 33 years working labor issues at the Department of State, Tony Freeman accepted the position of Director of the Washington Office of the International Labor Organization in late 1994. I first worked closely with Tony in 1995 and 1996, when a misguided congressional initiative threatened to defund U.S. participation in the ILO. It was a time when the ILO needed to make itself relevant to U.S. audiences, particularly Congress. Irving Brown's legacy with the ILO, when we all worked together to fight Soviet communism, was a great historical achievement, but that did not move policy-makers in Washington searching for new roles for international organizations in the post-Cold War era.

I joined with the late senator from New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who, incidentally, did his doctoral dissertation on the ILO, to defend continued U.S. support for this organization. Supporters of the ILO came to our offices, including representatives from the Labor Department, unions and U.S. businesses. The beauty and strength of the ILO is that it is the only tripartite international organization of its type in the world, where workers and employers from all member nations join to address labor questions alongside their governments. We made our case that the ILO's relevance in an era of expanding trade and globalization, as well as spreading transnational challenges like child labor exploitation, was greater than ever.

And we prevailed, and the U.S. continues to play a role in that important body. All of the coordination to preserve that role was organized by Tony Freeman, and today I want to express my personal gratitude for that important work in 1996.

Tony's efforts did not peak then, and he spent the following years raising the ILO's visibility, and its new missions, before new audiences in the U.S. He developed closer ties between the ILO and human rights groups in the U.S. He drew their attention to the basic human right of working people around the world to have a voice in the workplace, and to the work of the ILO to free people trapped in slavery and bondage, including the forced laborers in Burma. He strengthened the common bond between the ILO and organizations and policy makers fighting to end abusive child labor and saw large increases in U.S. funding for the ILO's child labor programs. In addition, Tony Freeman worked tirelessly to gain U.S. ratification of ILO conventions, and, during his tenure at the ILO, he made a signal contribution to the efforts that led to U.S. ratification of Convention No. 176 on Safety and Health in Mines in 2001.

I understand that Tony will be teaching in Washington in the coming years, as well continuing to offer his lifetime of experience and counsel. I am relieved to hear this, because we still need Tony Freeman's experience. He has lived a great life of service to the working man and woman, across all borders, and he has served the American public well. Today, I wish to honor the work of Tony Freeman all these years. I thank him for his 33 years in the State Department. I thank him for the critical leadership he provided the International Labor Organization. I thank him for putting up with all my Irving Brown stories. I thank him for his friendship. Most of all, I wish to thank Tony Freeman for his service to his country.

Of course, I hate that it's Orrin Hatch speaking about someone in my family. I don't know anything about the ILO, I can only hope that it's an organization that really does promote human rights in the workplace. But I do feel that I know a bit more about my father's mysterious cousin Tony. But like all mysteries, I am left wanting to dig around for more.

The photographs, taken Monday, are of a Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa). The color of the underside of its wings never even hint at the colors of the upperside. So apt and beautiful.

Monday, May 07, 2007

empty nest

late friday afternoon we noticed that one of the three junco nestlings was gone. when robin went to look saturday morning she saw another leave. by saturday afternoon the nest was empty. i first saw them seven days before, when they still had bare, pink backs. they do grow and fledge quickly. we have already noticed birds behaving like they have nests in other places we had intended to weed or otherwise rearrange. what's up with ground-nesting birds? there's no arguing with successful adaptive behavior, but it does seem to add to the danger.

we're leaving the nest and its protective chicken wire cage in place. juncos may have more than one brood per season, and here is a nest that worked once. we'll check for eggs. i can't tell one junco from another (when ya seen one ya seen em all) so who knows if "our" nestlings survived. if a pair uses that nest i think we can provisionally conclude that it is the same pair.

we have watched a black-capped chickadee take fibers from our disheveled doormat (scroll down a bit) to this nest box, and watched her fly straight into it. robin saw the chickadee pair seriously harrass a hawk perched there, perhaps the very one pictured, diving at it and chirping furiously, until the hawk left. would that be like having the grim reaper on one's roof? or maybe a man-eating tiger?

"our" ducks haven't been around lately. i have nest envy. look at what thersites has in his yard.

the gypsy's caravan is this month's host of good planets picture gallery

Deadline for submissions
Friday, May 11th for
Good Planets Saturday, May 12th.
Email your Good Planet pics to sbgypsy at hotmail dot com

Friday, May 04, 2007

Nest Update

The Dark-eyed Junco babies are getting very big. They fill out the nest, and look at those feathers. Are they not beautiful? We only check in on these nestlings once a day, and we are relieved that they really seem to be healthy and doing so well.
Roger took a peek behind the chickenwire and straw to snap this pic. In just a few days these birds will wander away from the nest, and that will be the last time we'll recognize them. They'll probably show up at the feeder someday, but we'll never know.
This guy we recognize whenever he shows up. Look at that stretch. Doesn't that look like a bunny that is incredibly relaxed and comfy here? It must feel so fine to have a quiet safe moment, and all that seed. Yum. Life is good.

Have a great weekend, friends.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


i cleaned up around the greenhouse, weedwhacking all the grass and other stuff growing right up against it. i have put this off a bit and so was a bit late, as the stuff was up almost two feet. i have an older whacker which i have equipped with heavy duty, uh, weed whacking plastic line. it cuts right on through heavy clumps of almost anything. i started at the door on the north wall and worked westward. turned the corner, and completed the west wall. as i whacked along the south wall, the thickest area because of the sunlight i suppose, i noticed that i had uncovered, and just barely avoided destroying, a nest of some sort. oops. as i leaned down to look and picked it up, i noticed little bodies with grey covering......except on top, where they looked pinkish. double damn triple oops! i scalped or skinned something, probably mice!

(reality check.....robin took this picture the day after the event. this is what i saw, without the open beaks)

but wait. three little bird beaks are opening up and waiting for food. yellow beaks and bright red mouths. live, hungry, healthy junco chicks (birdlings?). pink on top because they haven't even started to grow real feathers. now what, as i have wiped out their hiding place in the weeds.

i wasn't confident of their survival. would the parent birds continue to care for them? how could they survive there in the open? i put some of the whacked grass loosely over them. the next morning when i went out to check on them i saw that the grass over them had been carefully parted, and the chicklets were still vigorous.

so i asked robin "hey, you want to see some baby birds?" she would, and got the camera. she took pictures......and asked why i hadn't said anything yesterday. i confessed that i knew that she would have been quite upset at the possibility that they would die from my interference. she also pointed out that they needed shelter. i scrounged up some chicken wire and made a bit of leanto over the nest and added straw for sunshade. robin brought over a potted blueberry to block one end and added a large plastic plant pot for the other end. a goofy arrangement but the birds have adapted.

juncos fledge quickly. 12 days. they will be done with that brood soon. i'll weed earlier next year.