Friday, February 29, 2008

"the true voice of spring"

As I mentioned a while back, I've been reading RTP's Wild America, written with James Fisher, and I promised to give you some excerpts. Here's one that's been percolating in my mind since I first read it a few weeks ago.

After dinner that evening we had walked across the damp fields toward the clear plaintive birdlike peeping until the myriad voices almost shouted at us from the dark pool and then fell silent. To easterners this nostalgic sound more than than any other--more than that of any bird--is the true voice of spring. It is a voice of resurrection: "Spring is come!" Everyone knows the voice and is glad, but few have ever seen the tiny inch-long singer. Tonight, with the peepers, there were multitudes of cricket frogs rasping out their strident notes, and here and there a green frog gave its single croak, like the plucking of a loose string on some instrument....

These sounds that pipe and trill from a hundred throats on evenings in spring are love songs of the swamp. They are ancient music, for the frogs sang their songs ages before the birds did; they were here first.... This orchestration of frogs and toads is one of the outstanding things about spring nights in eastern North America.

I read that passage again last night as I snuggled under my six layers of covers in bed, and I could almost hear the peepers and the toads and the green frogs playing their symphony; I could almost feel the warm breeze and smell the damp earth of the marsh. We leave our windows open in the summer, and each night we fall asleep to the sweet sounds of the peepers.

Once last summer, a friend came over and we went out on the marsh at dusk with flashlights to look for peepers. We saw a beautiful brown one, his throat blown up with each peep, his tiny body dwarfed by both his huge bubble of a throat and the loudness of his call.

Photo credit

Some people in PA are already hearing peepers, even though the ground is still covered in snow. I haven't heard any calls yet, nor have I seen any red-winged blackbirds, the other harbinger of spring on the marsh--though others in Central PA have seen some. I guess Penns Valley is a little behind the rest of the area, under its thin blanket of snow. But this passage, and the thought of the coming warmth and beauty and new life, makes me happy.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The stork has arrived!

and he's dropped off the newest addition to the beginningtobird family, Alan Rickman!

Here he is in one of my favorite performances, Severus Snape in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. "Page three-hundred-and-ninety-FOUR...."

I loves him.

...but clouds got in my way

These are a favorite: low-tide sandflats clouds:

For comparison to real low-tide sandflats, see this picture from Lillian and Don Stokes' blog.

Pet sounds

I took some pics of Nibble and Kisses and wanted to share with you.

I call this one "EveryNibble is Illuminated" in honor of the Jonathan Safran Foer novel and movie:

He's happily eating his "crack" or this special bunny mix I get him for treats--it has smashed nuts, dried fruit, sunflower seeds, etc. mixed in with pellets. Someday I'll try to video him doing his crazy dance when he knows he's getting his crack. Boy, can that bunny move!

Kisses has the cutest little paws, and I lucked out and got her asleep for these shots:

Sweet Kitty Kisses!

Friday, February 22, 2008

More Cooper's pics!

Here are a couple more photos from yesterday's raptor excitement at work. He first landed at my pal Niki's window; the light wasn't good on that side of the building, but I managed to get a decent shot of him through the window:

Look at how far around he can turn his head! I kept hoping he would turn his body around so I could see his front, but he didn't. Right after I took this pic, I pulled my camera down from my face (I always look through the little image thingie rather than the big LCD screen, because my old eyes can't focus on that tiny screen). Just at that moment, he lifted his tail and pooped! I missed it! I was so bummed.

So after about ten minutes, he flew to a spot a hundred or so yards away--right near the parking lot. I missed this, as there were about a million cubicles in the way, but he stayed low to the ground, maybe three or four feet high.

Here's the wide view of his landing spot:

He's there in the center. Cars were driving by every few minutes, and people were walking on that sidewalk, but he stayed in this spot for at least twenty minutes. This is where I got the bulk of my photos. Look, he blinked!

And here, I think he blinked his nictating membrane thingie:


I waited and waited, hoping he would stretch his wings and take flight so I could get pictures of that, but he just kinda hung out there. Finally, I had to get back to work, so I left. I went back about five minutes later, though, and OF COURSE he had gone and I had missed it.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Raptors invade my work!

Well, a single raptor, and he was sitting outside the window right next to the building!

Here are some pics I got (way to go Delia, for remembering her camera!):

My ID is an adult Cooper's Hawk. Susan Gets Native -- what say you? And is that some recent blood/flesh on the beak? He sat out there for a while--maybe digesting?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It's an outrage!

Okay, The Onion has officially gone too far! What did owls ever do to them!?

Wonder how much it costs... just kidding! It's an outrage!

Friday Night Nibble on Wednesday afternoon

Oh, how I've missed you all! My opportunities to blog have been severely limited by work, school, and dial-up slowness, so here's a little Nibble to get you through the rest of the week:
Isn't he a handsome little devil? Apologies for the blurriness on the carrot photo.

Monday, February 11, 2008

So much for birding, building

UPDATED--with pics. BTW we're having a big snowstorm today, and I'm hoping my calculus class gets CANCELLED. Keep your fingers crossed!
UPDATED AGAIN!--Class was cancelled! And I took a personal day today! I'll go out in a while and get some snow pix!

This weekend, I was supposed to go birding with my pal Roana, her parents, and some other bird clubbers, but we had a little problem with the weather:
Okay, okay, that's just a stock photo of a New York blizzard. Here's how it really looked:

All right, you caught me again--that's another photo taken in New York in 1888. Truth: I was so freaked out by the horizontal-blowing snow that I just didn't even think to take a picture.

Back to the point, however, I did not get to go birding. We were supposed to make a trip over to see a Bullock's Oriole that's been wintering near here, and then we were going to go OWLING! I really wanted to go, because the Bullock's and the anticipated Short-Eared Owl would've been lifers, and I haven't had a lifer in a while. But the snow was pretty heavy on Saturday, and on Sunday we had downright blizzard-like conditions. It was snow like I'd never seen before, and I basically stood at the kitchen window for about two hours watching it and hoping we didn't lose our electricity.

The other thing I didn't get to do was go to Lowe's during said blizzard to buy some drywall. See, we're re-doing the kitchen, and I had to tear down a section of the drywall after we ripped out a cabinet that was held in place by about three thousand nails:

That's six nails (each two inches long) in a space of about nine inches.

This -er- construction technique is typical of the Marsh House; whoever built this place believed in nails--lots of nails--as the solution to any and all carpentry projects. They also loved staples, those u-shaped brads that hold cords and stuff, and did I mention staples and nails? When we first moved in, we ripped out the carpets only to find that
1. the tacking strip was nailed down not just by the little nails that come already in the tacking strip but by 2-inch nails spaced every three inches as well. Lest that carpet be blown away, I guess.
2. the pad under the carpet was both glued and stapled to the floor; the staples occurred at a rate of about 15 per square foot. Not. Effing. Funny. But I digress.

So we ripped down the cabinet and pretty much put all kinds of holes into the drywall. That's when we discovered this:

While our house was built with plenty of wood and metal fasteners, it was built so long ago that no one thought to put in any sort of insulation. Not hundred-dollar bills, or an original draft of the Constitution. Not old magazines. Not newspapers. Not nuthin! Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, our walls consist of barn boards covered by drywall! To be completely honest, there is another layer: ancient asbestos siding on the outside. Nice.

So--here's my hand, poking through a space in between the barn boards:

The kitchen is a pretty cold place right now, what with the wind blowing through the wall and everything.

But that snow was amazing.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Tennessee Tornadoes

If you'd like to help, please follow the links. UPDATE: You can also donate to your local Red Cross and earmark the funds for the tornado-torn areas.

What do birds do during a tornado?