Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Preview of Coming Attractions--the First Birder Blogging Conference!

So far, the flock for the First Birder Blogging Conference at the Cape May, NJ, Autumn Weekend (October 26-27-28, 2007) includes:
Mary at Mary's View
Lynne at Hasty Brook
Laura at Somewhere in New Jersey
Susan at Susan Gets Native
Birdchick at Birdchick.com
and me!

This will be my second birding festival, and I'm totally pumped! Join us!

For more info, click here!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Still alive and kicking

It seems like weeks since I posted on my blog, but the absence wasn't intentional. I've just been really busy with the new job and some house projects. I've also been enjoying our relatively mild summer, drinking in the early morning fogs and the bright sunny days. Here are two pics I took of the marsh one recent morning:

9:03 am

9:24 am

The biggest changes have involved our home office situations. Kat's office is now in the crazy uncle house, and mine is now upstairs in what used to be her office. If you remember the crazy uncle house, which was once a chicken coop then was converted (by previous owners) into a two-room "cottage" (imagine putting up drywall in a barn, adding some plywood for subfloor, then covering that subfloor with linoleum from circa 1963). We'd worked on beautifying the outside, and now we've started on the inside. Here's a Before:

That's Em's friend Sarah, wondering what the hell we're thinking, converting this glorious space (painting by Em, stamp-painting by Em and Sarah) into a staid old office. I would show you the After but it's still in progress. I'll only say that you will not believe it! Give me another week or so; Kat and I are working as fast as we can!

This afternoon I looked at the garden and thought, "they've got to see this jungle!" So here are some photos of what the veggie garden looks like now. I won't bore you with the usual pics of little green peppers or yellow baby squash; instead, I'll show you how a little neglect can--er--pile up:

The morning glories and moonflowers, which we planted in the hopes that they'd act as a fence cover, have completely taken over! I don't even know if you can open the gate anymore; it was pretty tough last week, and I've watered since then, so I'm guessing I might need a machete.

A lettuce tree, about four feet tall.

The giant sunflowers. I'm taking this from my eye level; I'm about 5'1". Giant is right!

Somewhere up there in the upper atmosphere, I believe we're getting some flowers! I could hire out a helicopter and do a flyover to make sure, or I could just use the zoom:

I think Em is afraid to even go out there. I saw a zucchini the size of a man's leg out there earlier.

Meanwhile, the tomatoes are doing well, though I'm anxious to eat some of the other varieties besides 'Early Cascade' and the 'Sweet Million' cherry toms. The 'Cascade' are rather small, though they do indeed grow in cascading bunches; their flavor is decent, but I wouldn't choose them again. The 'Beefsteak' and 'First Lady' have a lot of medium to large green fruits on them, and those are the ones I'm dying to sink my teeth into. If I had to live with only one veggie for the rest of my life, I'm sure I'd pick tomatoes--right off the vine.

Photo contest! Can anyone guess what plant this is?
Your hint is that I planted it last year; it's a leftover now. The prize will be the satisfaction of knowing you guessed right.

Birding-wise, not much has happened lately other than the usual yardbirds and stuff. Now that the atlas safe dates are mostly past, Roana and I aren't going birding anymore, and I've been working so hard on the house that I've just been too tired to go out in the evenings, much less super-early on the weekends. Still, I've enjoyed seeing the babies growing up around here, testing their wings and their independence. I'm now starting to anticipate the fall migration and winter's bounty of feeder birds, though I'll admit I'm not quite ready to shovel snow yet....

I had a mama robin who had laid an egg in what might've been a second brood, but the egg--and Mama--disappeared. I hate it when that happens. She had woven some rather long cord into her nest; I'd chopped some smaller pieces for her, but she took the small ones and the long ones:

I began to suspect that her egg had been taken, though, when she didn't come back for a couple of days. Sure enough:

Such a nice sturdy nest, and nothing to show for it. It's not like robins are endangered or anything, but I felt sad for Mama Robin. You know I don't deal well with that whole "circle of life" thing.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Why, why, why, Delia?

At least once every day, I find myself asking questions—to myself, or to anyone who’ll listen—in my unquenchable thirst for learning. And I don’t even mean big, weighty questions (at least not most of the time); I’m talking silly questions about little things. This morning, as I asked myself yet another little question, I thought I’d ask everyone to send me some of your questions, and maybe even some of your answers. Let’s ask some questions of the universe and see what replies we get!

1. Why does Scotch tape tear so easily down its length, but to cut a piece requires a sharp edge (or your teeth)?

2. Why do cowbirds lay their eggs in other birds’ nests, totally ignoring their responsibility for the next generation?

3. Why do dishonest, corrupt, or otherwise bad people get so much money and power, while kind, intelligent, and good people usually toil in obscurity, never getting the opportunity to share their goodness and intelligence with the wider world? (although blogging has helped a lot of these people reach a wider audience)

Your turn. Send me some questions and/or answers, and let’s see what new things we can learn.

Oh--P.S.--why do so many people see my name and pronounce it "Delilah"? There is only 1 L in there. I know it's not a common name, but still....

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Wrapping up the breeding atlas, noticing the change

Roana and I went atlassing one last time to wrap up the majority of "safe dates" for most of the breeding birds in our state. We drove through a block in Havice Valley this time, to try to get as many birds as possible for this year's reports. I didn't take my camera, as the battery was almost dead--I really regret that because I saw some great birds!

The block was beautiful, featuring mostly wooded areas with a few small clearings and some Amish farms. We saw 50 different species, but the most notable for me were Blackburnian warbler, magnolia warbler, and a ruby-throated hummingbird just hanging out on a snag and then an electrical wire. I finally got to see the Blackburnian and magnolia, both at once; the Blackburnian was just going about his business, hawking for insects and enjoying the morning sun, but the magnolia was displaying some morning grumpiness. As a result, neither was too hard to spot, and we got some great views. Oh, what I would've given for my scope and camera! The Blackburnian was as beautiful as I'd imagined he'd be, displaying what the Stokeses call his "fiery orange throat," and the magnolia's pronounced black breast striping showed him to be a male as well. We watched them for a while, hardly believing our luck.

I continued my quest to actually SEE a common yellowthroat, but I was unsuccessful; I did see a striking indigo bunting, a beautiful male Eastern towhee, and a giant great blue heron who had perched on a snag near Penns Creek. For a July atlassing trip, we did pretty well, according to Roana, so I was very pleased.

Another thing I've been noticing lately is the changing behavior of the birds. I've been seeing great flocks of them, flying in long chains, all over the valley. I read somewhere, maybe on the Stokes' blog?, that these flocks gather to prepare for the upcoming fall migration.

Seeing those flocks, and listening to Roana say things like, "we'll have to remember this spot for next year," made me feel like the spring and summer have flown by. It doesn't seem like that long ago that I was taking photos of winter birds around my feeders in the snow. I was looking forward to the spring migration, the Oil Creek birding festival, and seeing tons of warblers. Now, after watching that spring migration's beautiful fallouts of warblers at Oil Creek and elsewhere, I'm seeing most of the birds around here watching their young take flight on their own paths, wrapping up all that breeding behavior until next year and putting on the fat stores that will sustain them on their flight southward. The cycle of the seasons continues, never stopping to let me catch my breath.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Eight random facts about Delia

I’ve been tagged. Both Nina at Nature Remains (which is an incredibly beautiful blog) and Mary at Mary's Corner of the World{NOTE: that's the updated Mary--I mistakenly credited Mary at Mary's View with tagging me--sorry, both Mary's!) tagged me with the Eight Random Facts meme. Without further delay, then, I’ll tell you eight fairly random facts about myself.

1. I learned to play the guitar after being inspired by the Go-Go’s, my favorite band in high school and college.

2. Until age 38, I’d never been east of Houston.

3. I have a master’s degree in English; my thesis examined the mother characters in four of Tony Morrison’s novels. My job now has nothing whatsoever to do with my degree, but I enjoy it.

4. I’ve had a very crazy employment history. I taught college English for six years at Tarrant County Junior College in Fort Worth, Texas; when I turned 30 and realized that I had another 35 years of that life ahead of me—grading papers every night, talking about the same issues over and over, semester after semester—I realized that I needed a change of profession! Three years later, I quit. I then got into desktop publishing, working at Taylor Publishing, doing pre-flight on school yearbooks. Was your high school yearbook “Taylor-made” between 1998 and 2001? If so, chances are I worked on it. I then moved into the trade-publishing division as the managing editor. That job ROCKED. When they sold the division and laid us all off (ouch), I did more desktop publishing for a business forms company. Then I delivered pizza for a while, then we moved up here. I’ve worked as a staffing agent for a temp service, as an inside sales rep for a life sciences company, and as a mail-list clerk/marketing assistant.

5. My favorite books are Morrison’s Beloved (a literary symphony!) and Melville’s Moby Dick.

6. I’m going back to school to become a forensic scientist, and most of the books I read now are crime- or forensic-science-related.

7. When I was kid, I wanted to become a tree surgeon, a marine biologist, or an astronaut.

8. I was in a Top-40 cover band in college and grad school, playing lead guitar and singing vocals on some songs (the ones by female singers). I played everything from Van Halen to George Strait. I play guitar only occasionally now, though Kat wishes I’d play songs for her every day (though NOT Van Halen or George Strait).

Now to tag eight more innocents. Hmm...have to find people who haven’t already been tagged -- this might be difficult.
1. Zen Birdfeeder
2. Susan at Lakelife
3. Rondeau Ric
Okay, I give up. I can't think of anyone else, so I'll just hit PUBLISH POST. Have fun!