Friday, September 28, 2007

Travel on the cheap

Photo by Bill Thompson III
Feel like going to the Amazon but can't afford the airfare or the time off? I have a great travel-on-the-cheap tip for you: Hitch a ride with Bill of the Birds. It'll be a trip to remember.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Interview with a RAPTOR

A while back, Susan of Susan Gets Native fame agreed to let me interview her. Her busy schedule made it oh so difficult for us to meet over cocktails at Sardi's, but her people finally got with my people, and we were able to do lunch and chat.

And now, exclusively on beginningtobird, presented live and in color and in NibbleVision, it's Susan... Gets... Native! Let's give her a nice round of applause, folks!

Susan, welcome to beginningtobird. You list your occupation as "Director of Education, RAPTOR Inc." How'd you get this gig? Is it an 8-5 thing, plus an hour for lunch? How would one apply for such a position?

I got the gig at RAPTOR thus: I started volunteering on Saturdays, when all the cleaning and feeding take place. Someone has to clean the cages we keep our live mice colony, someone has to pick up all the "leftover" food in the birds' mews (cages), someone has to then clean the mews with a rake and hose, and then someone has to feed all the birds. Anyway, during one Saturday, I asked about the educational programs RAPTOR does, and when I heard how cool it sounded, I said it was interesting to me. Turns out that the current director was leaving, because he had found a "real" job teaching, so the position was going to be open. So they trained me to handle the birds and gave me a basic outline for programs. I shadowed the director a few times, held the birds, got comfortable, and I have now done a few hundred programs! It's not an 8 to 5's whenever the requester wants it. I have done programs at 8 am and also at midnight. To apply for such a position, I guess you could contact a rescue/rehab center and do it like I did...get your feet wet in the organization and display a distinct interest.

What's the strangest/funniest thing you've found out about raptors?

General facts are not funny, exactly, but there are funny stories about some of our education birds. Earl the turkey vulture, for example, has escaped twice, and has flown up to the nunnery that is near RAPTOR and tapped on the windows, frightening the nuns. They called us and Earl was easily recaptured. Earl is fully flighted, but is a human imprint (she thinks she is a person) She was brought in after someone had removed her from her nest as a baby, and tried to raise her by feeding her raw hamburger and chicken breast. She was very thin when she was brought in, so it was assumed she was a male. And a few years later, she laid an egg. So we knew she was a female, but the name Earl stuck.

Tell us about this whole "gets native" thing -- is it hard? Do you still have to mow the lawn?

Get favorite subject, other than birds of prey!
Why are native plants important? They are food sources for other native organisms, like birds. They have evolved along side these animals, and are perfectly adapted to survive and thrive in their native environment. You rarely have to water them, you don't have to fertilize them. I have a "prairie" in the back yard, planted with mostly native plants...a few exotics have raised their heads, but I kept them because they have seeds for birds.
I do mow the lawn, but the total area is lessened because a third of the back yard is the prairie. We also keep the corners "brushy" and we build brush piles along the borders of our property to provide cover for small birds and mammals. We don't use ANY weed killer, pesticides or fertilizer. All those things have a way of NOT staying where you put them and they eventually end up in our water supply via lakes and rivers. Did you know that fertilizer can kill off the entire fish population in a pond? The fertilizer runs into the pond, causing an algae bloom, which sucks up all the oxygen and sunlight and the fish die by suffocation.
Our yard has been host to these mammals,snakes, amphibians and birds:
Deer mice
Field mice
Gray squirrels
White-tailed deer
Meadow voles
Eastern brown snakes
Black rat snakes
Cope's gray tree frogs
Green frogs
And about 40 species of bird....all in just under an acre of land! I am rather proud of that.

Where did you grow up? Did you always want to be a raptorologist educator person?

I grew up in Bright, Indiana. I wanted to be a marine biologist, a vet, a rock star....I never thought I would be doing this for a living. But it's not like the money is all that good. It helps, though.

Have you ever been bitten or injured by a bird? (either on the job or not)

I have been bitten, scratched, pooped and vomited on. The pooping and vomiting was just the birds being themselves (Earl, being a TV, will vomit on you if she doesn't feel like coming withyou and the screech owls use their poop as a stinks, big time). The biting and scratching were both my fault. Two-Socks, a RT we had, scratched me on my arm, early on, because I wasn't holding him properly. Our male kestrel bit me on my fingers while I was talking to someone in the crowd, and he was perched next to me, and I didn't realize I was standing so close. The program birds don't hurt us out of spite, because they have been treated gently and used for many programs, so they know how to react. It's the REHAB birds you have to watch. We handle them more rough than the ed. birds. And they get pissed.

Well, folks, that's all the time we have today, but let's thank Susan for being with us today and for not bringing a vulture to puke on me!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

To be a buzzard

Yesterday when I was leaving work, I saw a turkey vulture flying very low over the grassy area near the back of the parking lot; he couldn't have been more than 25 feet off the ground. This is the closest I've ever come to a TV, so I hopped in the car and drove nearer back there, trying to watch him as I went (maybe 100 yards). He was alone, as far as I could see, and I don't know if I scared him or what, but he kinda drifted back farther toward the road and away from me, still flying low. I had to keep my eye on him from crazy angles inside the car (through the windshield and the side windows and the moon roof), and in that time, the TV disappeared. I mean, he absolutely vanished. There was no place for him to hide; I didn't see him on the ground or in the small trees. He just vanished! I was bummed, both that I didn't have my camera and that I might've scared him off of some food source he'd found.

I drove away, trying to get a broader non-car-blocked view of the area, and he was still just gone. I don't know where he went, but he went there FAST.

To me, turkey vultures are both beautiful and somewhat repellent. As Linda mentioned in a comment on the Power Bird quiz post, vultures in flight are quite beautiful: large, with a broad wingspan and delicate fingerlike primary feathers spread out at the wing tips. They rarely flap their wings, instead just floating along on wind currents. Whenever Kat and I are driving somewhere and I see a turkey vulture, I always say, "Look, an eagle! Soaring majestically! ... in a circle!" It's our little birding joke, because I always used to make every large bird into an eagle to make it seem more exciting and because I'd never actually seen an eagle yet.

TVs (I've never seen a black vulture, so I'm limiting my discussion to turkey vultures) always seem to fly so slowly, preferring to drift instead of actively flap their wings to get someplace. It looks like they go where the wind takes them, stopping only when they get that scent: the scent of death. This is where the "somewhat repellent" part comes in, but still I'm fascinated. I read in one of my forensic science books that vultures (and some insects) can smell death even before it comes. What exactly is it that they smell--blood? I can understand that, because blood emits a powerful scent to a predator; but sometimes an animal's injuries are internal or he's just sick and dying, so there's no blood. How do the vultures find that animal out there in the vast expanses of a desert or a valley and thus begin their circling dance? My forensic science book didn't say how the animals and insects did it, just that they can.

How does it work? What it is about a flying vulture that can sense death miles away, float toward it on the wind, and then circle above it until (gulp) it happens?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Crosspost for mercy

My blogpal Splotchy has a very new blog called Who's in Charge Here?, on which he posts publicity photos of bands and asks commenters to figure out who in the photo is actually the supposed "leader" of the band. His band choices are always obscure and the band photos are always hilarious: a bunch of uber-sensitive guys looking like the world just misunderstands them, or quirky neo-punk weirdos with bad hair and makeup, etc. You can tell the photographer (probably one of the bandmembers' significant others or something) was trying to "make a statement" for the band, pose them in such a way that you just couldn't resist the urge to buy their CD so you could hear about the emotions pulsing underneath that glossy surface.

The latest band is a two-woman outfit called Peach Candy. Only four people have commented on who's in charge, so Splotchy hasn't updated with the answer. (He waits for sufficient table-talk to have occurred.) Well, I'm DYING here, people! I gotta know if I picked the right one! So for a good time, head on over to Who's in Charge Here?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Muxola: Just what the Dr. ordered

I was on Dr. Monkerstein's blog a little while ago, and my word verification was "muxola." What a great word! I'm not sure whether it sounds more like a medicine or a new high-fiber cereal, but I like it. It's now the official -er- product of beginningtobird, whatever the heck it is.

Perhaps it's a baked good:

Perhaps it's something more abstract, and it will save the universe:

Perhaps it's a secret weapon, to be guarded with your life:

What is Muxola?

P.S. Official thanks to Retro Ad Art and Retro Clip Art for not arresting me (yet) for lifting these images.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

What kind of bird are you?

Your Power Bird is an Owl
You are beyond wise. You are so smart, you're almost prophetic.Your inner voice always speaks the truth, and you take the time to listen to it.You are good at seeing who people are... including the darkness of others.As a result, you tend to have a rather dark - yet realistic - outlook on life.

New reader Gledwood from merrie olde England had a link to this little quiz, and it's fun. It's painless and only takes a minute or so--go check it out. I wanted to answer several of the questions with three or four of the choices, but you're only allowed one choice per question. Otherwise, I might've been some sort of cross-bred freak bird.

Monday, September 17, 2007

From the greatness that is Look at the expression on that poor little guy's face. "Um. Excuse me. That's, well, that's my HEAD. Hello?"

Saturday, September 15, 2007

You’re about to see some ookey photos; you might want to just skip this post unless horrifying mouse death doesn’t bother you. Zick, you’ll probably be happy just to see mice anywhere but your dryer....

I warned you...
Yesterday I was getting some birdseed for the babies when I noticed a grotesque site: there were (gulp) two dead mice in the feeder! I didn’t take a picture of this (didn’t have the camera) until after I dumped them out and washed out the feeder:

What the--? The birds must've just eaten the seed as it came down, and these guys were just trapped in there. EEWWW!!!

Then I looked at the birdseed I'd scooped. That's when I screamed a little and dropped the scoop. There was another dead mouse in the scoop!

It didn't take a Science Chimp to figure it out: There are mousies dying in my birdseed bag.

Hello? (icky!) Hello in there?

I don’t see any holes in the bag; did they just climb in and then couldn’t get out? It’s like when I found that mouse trapped in the empty beer bottle! EEWWW again!

(I’m shuddering as I type this. I warned you it would be el creepo.)

I’ve put the seed in plastic containers before, but the mice always graw their way into those. I think I’ll have to buy one of those shiny metal trashcans; that might keep them out.

EEWWW!!!!! Has this ever happened to you?

Birthday morning coming down

Today is my 43rd birthday, and I woke up at about 7:15a.m. I don’t think it’s fair that my body decided to wake up this early, but I can’t get back to sleep because I know I could be outside birding. It’s not like I have to go to work, after all; I figure I should take advantage of this sleep deprivation.

The sunrise after a stormy day yesterday:
It takes my breath away to look at such things so early in the morning.

I didn’t see any warblers or anything, but I did see some “regular” birds:
Northern cardinal
American goldfinch
Downy woodpecker (first one I’ve seen visit the suet since I put it back up)
Bluejay (the squawky beautiful things!)
Gray catbird
Common yellowthroat
Carolina wren
Chipping sparrow
Eastern starling

I saw this bird at the top of a tree and thought, “what the heck is that?” That’s how long it’s been since I’ve seen a starling in his jazzy fall outfit:

You see how light he is, though? I thought I had me some exotic bird for a minute there!

So I set off on a nice walk after doodling around the backyard and watching the birds I mentioned above (though I STILL haven’t actually seen that yellowthroat, dangit!). The traffic on our road was incredibly busy, and I was cursing it and wondering what was going on when I remembered: “Oh yes. Penn State home game.” The Central PA universe revolves around Beaver Stadium.

Note to self: Don’t go into State College today, no matter what!

I finally turned off the main road onto Shook Hollow, a nice road for walking:

I didn’t really see any birds other than bluejays, catbirds, and starlings here, but the walk was nice all the same. I did get some looks from the locals, though:
And what, may I ask, are you doing here?

Here’s my usual turn-around point:

It’s so cold this morning, with a brisk wind blowing through the trees and providing a nice background sound for the constant cries of bluejays and mews of catbirds. I’m in shorts and a sweatshirt, so I’m not too cold except when the wind gusts.

Some sights from my walk:
Is this a doodie? I mean a scat? From what?

Who lives here?

And here?

Where are these guys going?

The wind is cold, but I can feel the warmth of the sun as it peeks through the trees.

I made my way back home, and took a few more close looks at the nature around me:
Pure white beauty

The tomatoes, still giving me everything they've got

The coming mums

I pick some dandies for Niblet (he loves the flowers even more than the leaves), and he’s so happy to see me. I couldn’t get any good shots of him that weren’t blurry; the battery’s tired after so many photos. And so we come to . . .
The end

Friday, September 14, 2007

From England with love

The following article was brought to national! attention by my pal KGMom:

It's dove at first sight
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
All together now: Awwwww

It's a tale straight out of Disney – an abandoned baby monkey, close to death, is revived by the love of a bird.
The 12-week-old macaque was rescued on Neilingding Island, in Goangdong Province, China, after being abandoned by his mother.
Taken to an animal hospital, he was weaned back to physical health but still showed little appetite for life.
It was not until a fellow patient, a white pigeon, took him under her wing and showed him love and affection that he perked up.
Now the two are inseparable, say staff.
They are not the first odd couple. In March, we told how a tiger cub in China was being raised by a sow along with her piglets because his mother didn't know how to feed him.
And in 2005 Mi-Lu the baby deer became best friends with lurcher Geoffrey at the Knowsley Animal Park, in Merseyside, after being rejected by her mother.
- - - - -
Now how cute is that!?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Mr. Little Spider

There’s a little—and I mean tiny—spider who lives on the back of my monitor at work. I’m actually just guessing he lives back there, because I’ve see him every day for about a week. He comes out in the morning, crawls around on the edge of the monitor, then sometimes he jumps onto my copy-holder-stand-thingie and checks out the stuff I’m entering in our database. So far, he hasn’t crawled onto the screen itself yet; maybe it’s too hot or bright or something. He’s so tiny (I’m looking at him as I type this). He’s probably 2mm in length. Not even a quarter of an inch. He’s dark with some lighter parts (white?) on him. Because my close-up eyesight is so terrible, I tried to use the loupe to see him but he’s too shy for such magnification.

How does he eat? It’s rare that flying insects get into the building, at least down where I am. If only I had a gnat for him.

This is what I’m focused on today. Anything but the obvious.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Wetland regulars and migrants

So that's what it looks like at 6:30 in the morning.

The alarm clock went off at 6am this morning to wake me for my first field trip to several area wetlands with some State College Birding Club members. I was a little tired after a late night of calculus limits and derivatives, but I got up.

I met a lot of new people from the club, as well as some people who've come out the marsh behind my house, so that was nice. I didn't take my scope, but several people had Swarovskis and Kowas, so I did get some close-ups of some of the birds we saw.

For those of you near Central PA, we visited several spots on the lake at Bald Eagle State Park, which looks to be a great site both for birding and camping, plus Lower Greens Run and the Julian wetlands. One place in the park, the Frog Pond, was amazing; I've never seen that many frogs in one place! And for some reason, the little minnows (? they were small fish) were jumping out of the water and straight into the air; they looked like little fingers sticking up repeatedly, making little splashes. I'd never seen that before; it was really funny to watch.

It was a rather foggy and then steamy humid morning, and bird activity was pretty low. However, we did manage to see some notable migrants as well as the usual suspects:
Wood duck--in eclipse plumage, so I still haven't seen one of these in full glory, sadly; still, it was my first steady long look at a wood duck, so I'm finally adding it to my list--a lifer. Even in eclipse, the eye-ring was distinctive.
Common loon--not common up here, and another lifer! We watched him dive repeatedly for food right near the stone wall at Sayer's Dam near Howard, PA.
Double-crested cormorant--another lifer that we watched diving for fish.
Great blue heron
Great egret
Green heron
Solitary sandpiper--my first real look at one of these migrants; lifer!
Yellowlegs--couldn't tell whether it was lesser or greater, with only one in sight. Still--yet another lifer!
Belted kingfisher--these were everywhere!
Northern harrier--saw a few of these, another lifer! We saw several raptors this morning.
Cooper's hawk--a young one, who for some reason decided to try to nail a wood duck and made several passes at him before giving up.
Osprey--we got to see one of these perched not far from us, over the lake and looking for food.
Bald eagle--a mated pair! the male actually caught a fish as we watched; it was like watching Wild Kingdom!
Northern flicker
Cedar waxwing
Rose-breasted grosbeak (female)
Bluejay, Mourning dove, American crow, American robin, and Gray catbird--not too notable.

Not at all bad for a humid morning in September! We'd hoped to see some migrating warblers, but that didn't happen. I'm okay with that, especially in light of the facts that (1) I'll be at Cape May soon, and (2) my fall warbler ID skills are, well, pathetic.

What a Great Egret!

A really poor shot of a perched osprey.

It was neat to take a field trip with so many new people; in normal life, I'm not too big on meeting new people, but when you know you've already got one big thing in common, it's easy to make quick friends on a birding trip. I thought several times that I should print up little business cards for my bloggy; then I could hand them out on trips like these. Then, not only would they see my blog but they'd have links to follow to the great birding blogs of Birdchick, Julie Zickefoose and Bill Thompson III, Laura H in NJ, and other Flock members. Does anyone else print up little cards for their blog? Is this an okay thing to do, or would I be seen as a weirdo?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Memories of birds I've known

In my last post, I talked about the hunting craze in Pennsylvania, and it reminded me of my childhood hunting trips with my father -- and an incident that ended those hunting trips.

When I was little, my father used to go hunting a lot for whitewings--a particular kind of dove common in South Texas during certain parts of the year. (In my memory, it looks a lot like a mourning dove, but I think it was some related species.) Because my dad worked A LOT, my sister Mary and I used to go on these dove-hunting trips with him so that we could spend time with him and so we could go out to "the country" and drink sodas and eat chips and sandwiches. I thought it was the height of "roughing it," you know?

Our job on these hunting trips was to collect the just-shot birds and pull the feathers off them. My dad would do the yanking off of the head, gutting, etc. because Mary and I were grossed out by that. We really enjoyed these trips and "peeling" (defeathering, don't know who came up with that term) the birds, playing with the feathers and stuff.

One time, we went hunting behind our grandpa's house, just out in the vast sorghum fields outside Donna, Texas. My dad shot a bird, and when we went out to gather its little corpse, we found it wasn't yet dead. This had never happened to us before; the birds before had always been dutiful in their deadness and thus I usually didn't feel anything about picking them up, peeling them, and so forth. This guy was fluttering his wings, making little sputtering sounds, and pretty much freaking the crap out of Mary and me.

We then went into EMT mode, laying him on his back, pumping his little bird chest with a fingertip, blowing on his face, trying to find and perhaps extract the fatal shot. In retrospect, we probably hastened the bird's passing, which is a good thing. Despite our efforts, of course, the life slowly ebbed from his body and he stopped moving, but not before significant crying and hullaballoo ensued.

I never went dove-hunting after that.

When I was younger, I really didn't think too much about wild animals and the pain we humans inflicted on them. There are pictures in the family photo albums of my siblings and I next to dead deer and dead fish, all of us just smiling for the camera and happy to be near my dad when he was in such a good mood. He wasn't at work, and he'd just engaged in a sport he enjoyed. We'd watch him gut deer or fish or doves, and other than thinking "gross!" at all the blood, I just don't remember feeling anything for the lives of the animals. I still went fishing a lot, and even as an adult, I used to love being out there on a lake or near the ocean, feeling the little tugging of another life at the end of that line. (I was strictly catch-and-release; I didn't want to have to clean the fish.)

I don't really remember when my feelings changed, except that they did. My love for farm animals, birds, wild beasts of any sort just kind-of grew as I aged, to the point where I stopped eating meat of any sort over five years ago. Sure, I miss the taste of a good steak or a nice piece of rosemary chicken with lemon juice on it, but the idea of sitting down at a table and cutting into that--well, I just don't even want to think about it.

Even before I began birding, I would think about the lives of the birds I saw flying around, scavenging for food in city parking lots, begging for food on my college campus, wondering what they did when they weren't looking for food. I remember that bluejay baby I found in my driveway in Austin, dying after being pecked and ejected from his nest by his mother or father bird; wondering why the adult would do that. I remember watching a little chipping sparrow feeding its young, seeing the gapes of the babies and hearing their cheeping as the parent came near the nest. I began to bird in part out of a desire to learn just what birds did all day, in addition to just watching their beautiful feathered forms.

I'm struggling now to end this post, to back-out to some sort of generalization or clever turn of phrase that will serve as a tidy closure. But my mind is still too full of memories: still melancholy about that dove, still wondering what made that bluejay kill its young, still wondering what happened to that robin's eggs and made her abandon her carefully built nest. Still wondering what birds do all day, and watching them to try to find out.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Green Monkey Music Project -- for a better America

Remember when you were in high school and college, and you and your friends (or your boyfriend/girlfriend) would make mixtapes for each other, with songs that were special or meant something "inside" between the two of you, etc.? Oh, the mixtapes I made back in the '80s! All Go-Go's and Altered Images and B-52's and Bow-Wow-Wow and other crazy early-MTV-era bands, Fleetwood Mac, all kinds of crazy stuff--that, in fact, is how I got really good at playing guitar, because my first girlfriend Kris and I would send each other tapes and tablature of cool songs we liked; that's how I learned to play everything from Rush to the Pretenders. Those were the days!

Well, I, Splotchy (I'm always talking about Splotchy, aren't I?) has been putting together online mixtapes under the heading of the Green Monkey Music Project, and I participated in a recent mix called "What's In a Word" featuring one-word-titled songs. A few other people and I submitted our lists, and Splotchy put up the links to download all the songs for free! (with just a quick little registration--painless). My songs are special to me, but there are some REALLY great songs in all his mixes. Check it out! By the way, Beth's songs ROCK; definitely check them out if you don't already have them in your rotation.

Besides, now I get to put this cool badge on the bloggy:

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Look out, all you animals!

It's that time again when I receive my yearly email alerting me and other non-hunters of how effing scary the woods around these parts are about to become: It's HUNTING SEASON. The craziest part is the list of the animals that these hunters target:

SQUIRRELS- Oct. 6-12 ; Oct. 13-Nov. 24; Dec. 10-22 and Dec. 26-Feb. 9
RUFFED GROUSE: Oct. 13-Nov. 24 ;Dec. 10-22 and Dec. 26-Jan. 26
RABBITS Oct. 20-Nov. 24, Dec. 10-22 and Dec. 26-Feb. 9
PHEASANT: Oct. 6-12 ;Oct. 20- Nov. 24; Dec. 10-22 and Dec. 26-Feb. 9
BOBWHITE QUAIL: Oct. 20-Nov. 24
WOODCHUCKS (GROUNDHOGS): No closed season, with a few exceptions
CROWS: July 1-Nov. 24 and Dec. 28-April 6, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday only..
STARLINGS AND ENGLISH SPARROWS: No closed season,with a few exceptions
WILD TURKEY Oct. 27-Nov 17 (not everywhere in the state)
SPRING GOBBLERS April 19, 2008;April 26-May 26, 2008.
BLACK BEAR Nov. 14-15 ; Nov. 19-21; Nov. 26-Dec. 1; Nov. 28-Dec. 1.
ELK (Antlered or Antlerless): Sept. 3-29; Nov. 5-10
DEER: Sept. 15-28; Oct 13-20; Sept 29 – Nov 10; Nov. 12-24; Nov 26-Dec 8;Dec.10-22; Dec. 26-Jan 26
COYOTES: No closed season
RACCOON & FOXES: Oct. 20-Feb. 16
OPOSSUM, SKUNKS & WEASELS: No closed season, except Sundays and prior to noon during the spring gobbler season
BOBCAT Oct. 20-Feb. 16

People here in PA will apparently kill ANYTHING! I mean, crows? Possums? Starlings!? Is this for sport, or do people just hope that pesky skunk or starling is messing up the yard ONLY during those open-season dates?

The email goes on: "As you see, there are MANY hunting seasons. Since brown hair might look like a groundhog to a hunter who is 200 yards away, we suggest that you always wear a Blaze Orange cap and vest whenever you’re out there. It’s not being paranoid, it’s just common sense."

Oh. My. God. I don't OWN any "blaze orange" clothing or caps, people. All I can do is make like Denethor, son of Ecthelion, and yell, "FLEE! FLEE FOR YOUR LIVES!"

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Around the backyard today

I've been reviewing algebra and geometry and studying calculus all weekend, so I figured I deserved a break this morning. It's been a long time since we took a walk around the backyard, so here's a sampling of what's outside this afternoon. First off, the sky is a beautiful blue, not a cloud in the sky.

There's a cool breeze going, a hint of the autumn weather to come.
The morning glories are in full glory, even at about noon, and the bees are just lovin' it:

This guy must've been just drunk with nectar and pollen, because when he'd pull out of the flowers he'd kinda just tumble down and then recover and go to the next flower.

I sat down behind the firepit, hoping to use it as camouflage, and waited to get some bird pics. I did get one of Mary's faves, a female cardinal:

But she was too jittery to come to the feeder; she'll come back later and bring the hubby, I'm sure. I saw Hubby yesterday, and he looked a little worse for the wear what with the molting and all. She may have told him to just stay home!

Most of the time, I watched this:

Not a lot of action, though there were a lot of house finches tittering in the trees. Laughing at my lack of a tan, maybe? I did get this shot of a very handsome Mr. House Finch, perched right up at the top of one of the pines:

and a female who came down and hit the feeder for a while.

Every time I see finches now, I think of this:

It's kinda hard to take a picture of oneself like this!

The pears should be ready soon; they still feel kinda hard right now.

Being outside inspired me to have one of my favorite lunches:

My own home-grown tomatoes and basil, dishes of olive oil with fresh-ground pepper and balsamic vinegar for dipping, some Carr's Rosemary Crackers, some mozzarella, some artichoke-and-garlic hummus, and a sprinkling of kosher sea salt. YUM!

I put out suet cakes for the first time since taking them down about two months ago--back then, the grackles and red-winged blackbirds were hogging them up at an alarming rate, so I just stopped putting any suet out there. Now, though, I think it's safe to put it out again. I'm hoping to see some downy woodies, white-breasted nuthatches, and other visitors from last year. I now have two of the little cages out there on the tamarack tree, near the big feeder. Once the tamarack sheds its needles (weird but normal), I'll be able to get some good shots of birdies as we move into the fall and winter.

Niblet says hello, and don't forget to pick some dandelions for him!