Thursday, July 11, 2013

This could have been the beginning of a horror movie

This morning I helped with a bird banding demo for a teachers workshop being held at a nearby Conservation Area. Chick in Charge and I went to visit the site on Tuesday to speak with the supervisor and choose a place to set up our nets. When we picked an area around bird feeders, we were warned that deer could be a problem. Chick in Charge decided to circumvent that problem by placing one of us (the volunteers) just outside the feeding area to deter the deer.

The Supervisor met with us this morning to fill the bird feeders while we set the nets up. Her appearance with a big bucket of seed was like a beacon to the deer. There were at least 3 hovering just outside the feeder area. The deer remained after she left, and even moved in closer. We decided to place both of the interns outside the feeders to deter the hungry deer.

Thankfully the demonstration passed without incident. Sensing our wrap up, the deer began amassing just outside the feeder area.  It was a little unsettling to watch this small herd of deer walk slowly towards us with no fear. I could picture their eyes turning red, baring their teeth as they tightened the circle around us hapless two leggeds. How could we stand a chance against those hooves? And our nets! How were we going to protect those oh-so-expensive nets from the destruction of these feral deer?? Hmm, I think I've read too many urban fantasy books.

But all kidding aside, see that aluminum pole on the right side of the picture? Yeah, there's a very expensive mist net on it. I was rooting through the supply box, looking for flagging tape when I looked up to see that.
You're not fooling anyone. I see you.
Now begone!

The supervisor appeared to watch the process of shutting nets and keep an eye on the deer. Not long after we shut down our second net, one of the deer walked up and started licking one of the aluminum poles. The supervisor clapped her hands and the offending deer bounced away
Why are you licking our pole? That doesn't resemble a salt lick. Shoo!
Thankfully deer aren't too much of a problem at our other banding sites. Our main offenders are insects and I'm the one usually trying to extract the cicadas, dragonflies, and junebugs. Bumblebees and wasps are a different story. While I've overcome my trepidation of bees, I still run the other way when a stinger hits the nets.

There's rarely a dull moment with mist netting. If the flyers aren't keeping you busy, the nature around the nets keep things interesting.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Lost Keys. Part 3

It has been awhile since I've had a key incident (entries here and here). Sure, I've had a few episodes of misplacing my keys, but not a big one, not like last night. I went to the park to take pictures and enjoy the evening.  The park was crowded last night and the area I initially wanted to sit was occupied, so I sat at a different bench. Not long after I sat down, a bench closer to the pond opened up and I moved again.  Not long after I relocated, some girls began feeding bread to the ducks nearby.  I moved for a 3rd time, this time sitting in the grass near the action.

The ducks were fighting over the bread, and I sat for a long time photographing the feeding frenzy. There was one duck in particular that was good at stealing bread right before it landed in the bill of another duck. He was chased by his victims, and at one point, he was surrounded by 4 hungry ducks. I went between watching the activity and taking pictures.

When the girls ran out of bread, the ducks settled down to sleep. Twilight had set in and it was getting dark. I packed up and looked to the grass next to me, thinking my keys would be next to my camera bag, but  they weren't there. I stood up and checked my pockets. Nothing. I checked every pocket in the camera bag and came up empty handed. I was beginning to worry but wasn't panicking...yet.  I retraced my steps, slowly searching the grass and revisiting the benches. There were 2 older ladies sitting at the bench I was on before I moved to the grass. I thought about asking if they had found my keys, but decided against bothering them.  Instead, I called Danno.

"OMG I can't find my keys. They must have fallen out of my pocket. I haven't checked my car yet. Let me call you back." I rattled.

" Uhhh ok." He replied.

I went back to the car, looking under the vehicle and at the ground as I walked. Still nothing. I called Danno back and told him I still had not found my keys. After hanging up, I sat down at the first bench and took all the items out of my camera bag. I looked through the pockets again and still no keys. I finally approached the women.

"Have you by chance found a set of keys here? I was sitting here a while ago and I can't find my keys." I said.

Both ladies immediately stood up and asked their questions on top of each other.

"Where were you sitting last?"

"Have you retraced your steps?"

I answered both questions and thanked them for their time. But they weren't done with me yet. They walked with me as I again retraced my steps. I felt guilty that they were helping me search. The women didn't even know me. But they were so friendly and I immediately felt at ease with them. I told them each place I had sat and where I had looked, and as we walked, they both retold their horror stories of lost keys.

I stopped where I was photographing the ducks and put my bag down.  "This was the last place I was sitting." I said.

"Did you search absolutely every place in that bag?"

I looked down at the bag and realized I didn't check the back outer pocket. I completely missed it. The pocket lacked the telltale bulge of keys, but figuring I had nothing left to lose, I unzipped it...and found my keys.

I pulled them out and dangled the keys in front of the ladies.

There were cries of joy as we engulfed in a group hug. I thanked them repeatedly and they both exclaimed they were so happy I found them.  After chatting for a few moments they returned to their bench and I tried to call Danno to tell him that I found my keys. But it was too late. Not long after I found my lost keys, he showed up.

Sorry honey.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Dime Store

A few weeks ago I went to the dime store on a mission and ended up taking a trip down memory lane. In the last few years I have grown disenchanted with purses and started carrying around wallets instead. I was looking for a new wallet and knew the store (probably the only dime store here in this part of town) had hard covered wallets with pretty designs. I quickly found what I was looking for and decided to explore the store. I had gone in there in the past, but usually with a purpose and left no time for browsing.

Growing up, we frequented a Ben Franklin close to our house. While our mom went off shopping in the back of the store, my sister and I went down the candy aisle, and with small plastic baskets in hand, picked Garbage Pail Kids and Baseball Cards, Blow Pops, Tootsie Rolls and whatever other candies caught our fancy.

Back to the present time, I let the little Colleen go wild in the dime store that day. I went to the candy aisle and the not only did the assault of bright colors and sugar smell trigger memories, but the candy brands as well. Runts, Nerds, Dum Dum suckers, Blow Pops, Sugar Daddy, Slopoke, Bit O' Honey, Spree, Sour Patch Kids, Laffy Taffy, Now and Later, Dubble Bubble and Fruit Stripe gum.

 So much gum and tootsie roll flavors
Pop Rocks!
Candy Cigarettes (now called "Candy Sticks")
As we got older, our visits became less frequent until we no longer shopped in the dime store. I grew up and the candy from childhood got tucked within the many layers of memories. I will confess that I did purchase candy that day. After all, there is nothing wrong with indulging the child within once in awhile. I'm glad this dime store has been able to hold its own against the ever growing number of big chain retail stores. From the number of kids in the candy aisle that day, I'm sure this place is providing memories for this generation. May the dime store live on.      

Sunday, June 23, 2013

How quickly they grow. Another entry in the Great Seed Experiment of 2013.

The Great Seed Experiment of 2013 continues. I had a few setbacks with the flowers in late March. While the Black-eyed Susan and Purple Coneflowers were being transplanted into bigger pots, the Butterfly Weed and Common Milkweed were dying and the Bee Balm was growing crookedly. Hoping natural light would save some of those struggling plants, I started leaving them outside during the day in early April.

I continued to lose Common Milkweed but the sunlight slowed down the death of the Butterfly Weed. The damage seemed to be done with the Bee Balm. The plants continued to grow crookedly despite the natural sunlight and support. I lost one pot. But I refused to give up on the pretty purple flowers.
While the older plants may have died off or continued to grow crookedly, new growth sprouted in all of the pots. In fact, I think I need to transplant these babies.

I came to the conclusion that the Common and Butterfly (both of the genus Asclepias) Weeds did poorly with grow lights and needed sunshine. I lost all but 2 of my Common Milkweed and a half dozen Butterfly Weed remain. But they have markedly improved since being transferred outside.
Butterfly Weed

Common Milkweed

My Black-eyed Susan are beginning to bloom!
The Coneflowers growing, but at a slower rate and have not flowered. I don't know if this is normal or not.

Time to get transplanting.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Willow Ptarmigan; A bird with my kind of personality.

After Seattle, we headed up to Nome for a bird tour. We spent Monday through Friday with this group and birded about 12 - 13 hours each day. They were long days, mostly spent in the car, but the scenery was unbelievable. With the exception of Nome and the outlying villages, there were absolutely no signs of civilization. No cell phone towers, telephone wires, or airplanes. There were very few people and no noticeable pollution. The air was crisp and fragrant. You could hear rushing water, the crunch of lichen under your feet and the wind as it whipped down the mountains and across the tundra.

The only way to reach Nome is by air, boat or snowmobile/dogsled trails. There are only 3 major roads, each over 50 miles, that lead to the Kougarok River and the villages of Teller and Council. We traveled one of the roads each day.

Anytime I go on a bird trip, I find a favorite bird. My favorite bird in South Texas was the Green Jay. During the Arizona trip it was the Lazuli Bunting. Outside of Nome I fell in love with the Willow Ptarmigan. The Willow Ptarmigan was a very aggressive bird who fearlessly defended his turf. My first witness to this behavior was during our first outing. We had 3 leaders who drove separate cars. Each day the group was divided to fit in the cars and no one sat in the same vehicle twice. The man in charge of the tour drove a white van and on our first day, he drove in front of the car we were in. We watched a Ptarmigan chase after that white van. No exaggeration. This bird was running alongside and behind the bumper. On that same day, we stopped once to look at some songbirds and a Willow Ptarmigan did not like us on his turf.
He just took notice of our trespassing.
He warns us with his clucks and barking rattles. Several field guides describe their barking as if the bird is saying "Go back go back go back." If you want to hear what the Willow Ptarmigan sounds like, here's a link (you can really hear the "Go back" at the end of the recording). And I heard it firsthand that day. That bird rattled and barked "Gobackgobackgoback." ** He was very unhappy with us.
When we refuse his demand that we go back, the Ptarmigan fluffs his feathers to show us he means business. He begins to charge in our direction.
We're in big trouble.
But he stops short at the last minute. We were let go with a warning.

Countless times during that trip, we had a male chase the cars and on one occasion had a Ptarmigan turn around in mid-flight to fly at the windshield of our van.

I felt an incredible kinship to this feisty bird. When I told Danno, he laughed and told me that he wasn't surprised. Apparently I am crabby like the bird, and I have been known to say "Go away" to people on occasion.**

I have no idea what he's talking about.

** I originally typed that the Ptarmigan says "go away", when in fact he says "go back".  I'm the one who supposedly says "go away".

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Gum Wall

There is an unusual landmark in Seattle located in an alley behind the Pike Place Market.
 Your eyes are not deceiving you. It is called the Gum Wall. This was my 3rd visit to the Emerald City and the first I've heard of this place. Geocacher casually mentioned it when we all went to the Pike Place Market. There was a mental screeching of brakes when I paused to consider this unusual attraction.

"There's a gum wall?" I asked.

"Yeah. It's in Post Alley. There's a hidden geocache." He replied.

"I've got to see this!"

After shopping in the Market, we were led to this interesting, albeit slightly disgusting, landmark.
I learned the origins of the Gum Wall through the internet. Patrons waiting in line for tickets to the theater often passed the time by sticking gum and coins to the wall. Theater employees scraped the gum laden walls, but gave up in 1999. The collection has been growing ever since.
I'm not sure if the theater is still open, but the windows are clear, which leads me to believe this is an active business.

People are creative with their used up gum. Gums shaped into hearts, flags and names. Sometimes there are objects within the sticky grasp of used gum. Movie tickets, gum wrappers, pennies, notes and receipts. This recent addition to the wall made me smile.

I feel bad for the business across the street.
Yea, good luck with that.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Roaming Gnome.

Meet Norman the Gnome. He hitched a ride in my suitcase up to Nome.

He knew I was going on a birdwatching tour and wanted to tag along. He met a few of the birders who were immediately charmed by his sparkling personality. One of the guides eagerly showed him a small flock of Red-necked Phalaropes.

And one of the birdwatchers was nice enough to allow him a head view to find Savannah Sparrows hidden in the shrubs.

For 4 days, he rode along, taking in the sights of the beautiful tundra while we bird watched.

He hoped to go fishing in town, but was disappointed to find that it wasn't allowed.

But he went to the beach and the local History Museum instead.

He felt fortunate for the opportunity to travel. How many gnomes can say they've been to Nome?