30 December 2005

Friday Bird Blog: Who-o Am I ?

Illustration by
Louis Agassiz Fuertes
My sister lives on a former prairie, farm and woods, all three sacrificed to development. Her site, though, overlooks a preserve where, so they tell her, no building will ever occur. The landscapers even do controlled burns and scatter seeds of native prairie plants each year to help nature along if the burns don’t sufficiently resuscitate the flora and fauna. She has the best view of any, and that’s as it should be, considering her love of the wild things that are looking to reestablish a home base.

On Christmas night, after our fĂȘte, she heard her owl, so she and her daughter Amanda and I went out to stand still and listen. Sure enough. Hoo-hoo-hoo. Hoo hoo.

“Not the Screech Owl,” said we. He is named for his call, a sound almost like a glass harmonica, or an eerie whistle. Our visitor’s voice was resonant and deep.

I didn’t have time to look up her owl-in-residence until just now. What we heard was the Great Horned Owl, a male announcing his GPS locus. According to the bird books, he isn’t friendly, but, hell, how would you act if crazy, destructive humans kept you on the run? He is among the most adaptable of the owls, however. His diet is small animals, unlike the Screech Owl, who prefers mice.

My sister’s cat, Charles, prefers mice, too. I was concerned that he might run into more competition that he’d bargained for, if the owl was looking for mice. As it turns out, the owl might be looking for Chuck. The picture here shows a deceased skunk in its talons. Charles has encountered skunks, as well, in his travels, and FYI, giving a cat a tomato juice bath (the home remedy for skunked puddy cat) is both dangerous and a waste of time and tomato juice. Just ask Chuck.

link has a succinct description and audio links with its call. Woo hoo!

26 December 2005

Boxing Day Greetings from Arthur

Today is Boxing Day in Jolly Olde England. Even though I am a Welsh American, I appreciate the Queen. She has such excellent taste in canine companions.

On Boxing Day masters are supposed to give their servants presents. Most of my dog friends celebrate Christmas, because they are part of the family. For example, I got cards from Winston and Truman, my Maltese cousins in Iowa; Butch Brand, my cousin in Elmhurst; Rock Parker, a really cool guy who lives in my old neighborhood; and an email from my friend Jim. He is not a dog. All were Christmas cards, so you can easily see I am not a servant.

I don’t understand why the servant dogs don’t just pull themselves up like I did after I was sold by the breeder for $350.00. That’s quite a body blow, to be sold for only $350.00. But I would not quit until I reached the top. I spell 'luck'

Quite a few cats sent us cards, too, but they can get their own blog column.

Speaking of, here’s how the freeloading dopes celebrated Christmas. First, they got catnip from management, but I happen to know that it isn’t a new package. It’s the same old cat nip she gives them on Saturday nights. Then “Santa” provided a gift from Hartz Mountain, whatever that is. It is a Wacky Mouse 3-Pack. There are 3 calico catnip fake mice with a jingle bell on the rear end. Big Whup. Since the cats can’t count, I ate two of them, and now they are fighting over the last one. Management will think they lost the other two. Ho ho ho. This is so funny.

Catnip gives you the munchies, though. I wish management knew someone who would buy her a box of Godiva chocolates. She’s too cheap to buy them herself.

24 December 2005

Peace on Earth

'Listening to some wonderful harp arrangements of Christmas music. I think I can go to bed in about an hour if I don't fool around at all. 'Traveling Christmas morning. A lovely day to all. be safe and happy. Merry Christmas!

23 December 2005

Friday Bird Blog: A Wandering Willet

Illustration by Louis Agassiz Fuertes
l. Western Willet, r. Eastern Willet

A Willet is lodging at the Whiting Power plant discharge canal in Monroe County, Michigan. It has been sighted there since November 25th and was counted in the official Christmas bird count recorded on December 17th by the local enumerators. As I think I mentioned before, a census of the bird population takes place every year at this time. The period this season during which bird watchers, generally organized by an Audubon chapter, will identify and take note of all birds who happen to present themselves within a specified area is December 14th to January 5th, 2006.

The Willet, either a Western or Eastern subspecies, is not supposed to be in Erie, Michigan in December. Normally, the ones I’ve seen along the Lake Michigan shoreline are packing their bags for the trip south already in late July. They are Specialty birds in these parts, as their breeding and winter ranges – eastern or western – are along both ocean coasts. Here is a summer distribution map provided by the us gov:

The map doesn’t distinguish between Catoptrophorus semipalmatus semipalmatus (the Eastern Willet) and Catoptrophorus semipalnatus inornatus (his Western cousin). In the late 19th Century Willet eggs were a prized delicacy and the birds were a sporting target, so the dangerous homo sapiens put a serious dent in the population. The subspecies are nearly impossible to tell apart unless they happen to be together at a family reunion or something. A single bird among other species would be very tough to identify.

The Monroe County specimen found a pleasant and welcoming niche at the Whiting power plant. Whiting is a coal fired facility, not a nuclear one, and it has won good citizen awards for environmental stewardship from the state of Michigan and nature and environmental groups. Where native human populations manage to stay put for a few generations it seems to me that they – or many of them – take note of their surroundings and resent it if the landscape and its inhabitants start to disappear. (This rule would not apply to real estate developers and their backers.)

The employees at the Whiting facility, a Consumer’s Energy (formerly Consumer’s Power) plant, maintain a wildflower meadow, and a local Lotus club tends a pond where a native species was found to thrive. They alone can harvest the seed and propagate it.

Through the years I noted that many birds find their way to the Whiting plant, and birders know to go there, of course. Whiting has been around since the early ‘50s, so it, too, is part of the local scene. Its web site lists how much tax it pays to the local authorities and how the employees, as well, support local commerce. All true. Too bad we can’t get a clue about energy use.

(By the way, I just learned that Consumer’s is putting its Palisades nuclear plant, located on Lake Michigan’s eastern shore, up for sale. There are 5 or 6 nuclear plants on the southern tip of Lake Michigan.)

NOTE: Blogger is a pain in the backside today. I'll try to upload other images later. GRRRR!

02 December 2005

A nitwit cat from Neenah

As usual, America is succumbing to liberalism and low moral standards. This time it is over a stupid cat named Emily that walked into a crate and ended up in France. Friends, what about personal responsibility? What about consequences? The nanny welfare state is to blame. These leftists and liberals love a story like Emily the careless cat. I hope my tax dollars aren’t going to pay for this. Management is all glowing about a cat rescue. I can’t even get her to take me for a walk. ‘Think I’ll go pee in the dining room again. That’ll get her attention.

Photo AP/Darren Hauck