Thursday, April 30, 2009

Aerie Weather: Back to the fridge

It's really quite amazing but temperatures that just a few short weeks ago would have been very comfortable now feel bloody chilly and down right cold. I'm talking about the high of a mere 60 degrees we had today at the Aerie. (The low this morning was just 40 degrees.) Being overcast, gray and windy all day didn't help either. Of course, the reason it feels cold is we've turned all the thermostats off and would prefer they stay that way until next October. The log walls hold what ever heat we generate from cooking, respiring, etc. and glass on the northwest facing end of the house picks up the late afternoon sun (if it does shine). A cold rain started to fall around 5:30 PM, stopped at around 7 PM and may reappear for an hour or so later tonight.

I managed to get outside this morning to plant the lettuce, spinach and some more bush beans. It was chilly and the wind was short, the type of weather in which no self respecting black fly would be flitting about. Which was fine by me. Heck, I even watered the newly planted seeds it was so nice to be bug free. (Remember, this was early this morning and rain was a long way away...if at all.)

Oh well, the sun will come out tomorrow afternoon (they promise) and the temperature will get back up to around 70 degrees. Then the rain returns tomorrow night. *sigh*

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Flies. It had to be black flies.

About a week ago the temperatures started to warm up...seriously warm up. At the Bolt Hole things got up in to the 80s which is well above normal for April. It got so warm that there were thunderstorms two nights while I was there and the black flies started to appear on Sunday.

At the Aerie the temperatures followed suit. It got into the upper 80s last Thursday and Friday and then into the 90s on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. I came home Monday to put the window AC unit into the bedroom. (So, of course, the temperature dropped like a stone in a deep, deep well on Tuesday afternoon. It never got above 72 degrees but fell so fast that you could watch the digital thermometer report the temperature. In one hour it dropped 10 degrees and by 8 PM it was pushing its way south of 50 degrees. Every time the outdoor sensor send data to the indoor base, that temperature was down, down, down. Even though it read 36 degrees this morning (Wednesday) at 7 AM there was ice on the deck. Yeah, ICE! It did warm up some during a beautiful, near perfect day and reached 68 degrees this afternoon. Things seem to be back to normal on the old thermostat.

I said it was a "near perfect day" above. Why "near" and not "perfect", you may ask? Remember the black flies I mentioned that appeared at the Bolt Hole? We got the hump-backed little bastards here, too. When we built the Aerie in the summer of 2006 they were virtually non-existent. The same is true for 2007 and 2008. But not today.

Good God Almighty! Are there black flies out there today! I wanted to get some more top soil (10 bags) and plant some seeds for zucchini, cucumbers, bush string beans, broccoli, spinach, and lettuce. (Yeah, I know it's a bit late for the last three, but until last week we were getting snow once a week and frost every other day.) I managed to get most of it done but even Deep Woods Off was of little help in keeping the voracious little buffalo gnats (so called because they have humped backs like the American bison) away. I don't remember the last time I ran into flies this thick even in the Adirondacks.

I hate black flies! There. I said it. Does that make me a racist? Does it help if I say I hate white flies too? For an entirely different reason, of course. White flies suck the juice out of some of my favorite plants--especially, it seems, geraniums. Black flies suck my blood and their bite itches for hours if I can refrain from scratching or days if I can't.

The fact that they are out and about now means they will finish their "business" and disappear early...I hope. They typically do not like the warm weather and two weeks of it will send them packing. Terry and I have a date out in Eugene, OR the weekend of May 16-17. We'll be driving so we'll be on the road for a couple of weeks. With luck the flies will be gone by the time we get back.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bolt Hole Report, evening edition

The turkeys were back in the yard this morning. This time there were four of them. None sported a beard so it looks like hens and poults form last year's brood.

I spent the morning and early afternoon hauling some of the pine logs off to an area we call "the dump"--an old hole dug in years long past that was probably a source of sand for the septic system. It holds a good amount of water this time of year but there's still some dry areas where the branches and logs we don't put on Mount Slashmore can go. That pine's no good for firewood and it's too dry to think about using it fro a bonfire/campfire.

Around 2:30 PM I'd had enough and sat down to watch the tube and got sucked into the Talladega 500. (See previous post.)

I'll be packing up tomorrow morning and heading on back to the Aerie. (Running out of clean undies and socks.)

Mark had a couple of game cameras out for the last week and got some really nice pictures of the turkeys, a few deer and one coyote. I'll post the best when I get a chance.

I had company outside much of yesterday and today. There was a grouse drumming from an old sugaring foundation just a few dozen yards from where I was running the ATV. He probably thought the rumble of the engine was a competitor. Overhead I spied a pair of broad-winged hawks. They must have a nest in the area somewhere for they circle around the property quite regularly. They are not happy with the ATV! A few Canada geese flew over yesterday and today there was a sizable V of them. They must be from either of the two small ponds or the lake four-five miles up the jeep trail. Flickers were, of course, present. Juncos, robins, phoebes (they've renovated the nest on the window and seem to have moved in), some chickadees, a distant barred owl, a couple of blue jays, and some turkey vultures rounded out the avian population.

The turkey vultures were interesting. yesterday as I was hauling slash, three of them came from the woods to the north just above the trees. Two seemed to be attacking the third as if to drive it off. When they flap their wings at that low an altitude, you know you've got company! Perhaps the pair have a nest in the tops of a tree nearby. There are no cliff ledges on which to nest anywhere around here, but there are plenty of trees that have lost their tops due to storms.

I've seen just one red squirrel in the yard. It's probably pissed that the pines have been thinned as the cones provided seeds the squirrels love to eat. They'll stash cones everywhere when they are ripe. Or they will sit on a branch and chew on the cone like it was an ear of corn. This one was doing the latter. He must have known I had not gotten the .22 out 'cause it didn't budge when I walked up to the tree on which it was sitting.

I spotted a chipmunk today, too. It was hustling around among the brush near the house. I've no idea what it was finding but it looked healthy enough.

A few morning chores, battening down of the hatches and I'll be on the road shortly after noon tomorrow.

NASCAR = Holy cr*p!

Let me start by saying that I'm not a NASCAR fan or follower but yesterday and today I ended up watching the two races from Talladega when I took a break from working outside in the heat.

Of the two races I can say:

1) ABC/ESPN was really pushing the danger of racing at this particular track on Saturday. The announcers were all over "the Big One" that was to happen sooner or later. (It never really did as far as I could tell.) Saturday's race turned out to be quite entertaining even without any wrecks. David Ragan got his first win with a pass on the final lap.

2) In today's race "The Big One" was actually "The Big Three" with two huge pile ups involving lots of cars (a 13-car crash on the seventh lap and another 10-car accident with nine to go) and one smaller but all important one happening with less than half a mile to go that resulted in Brad Keselowski becoming the winner.

This led me to come up with two insights:

1) Perhaps the reason the Main Stream Media news folks seem to look down upon the NASCAR fan is that the typical NASCAR fan is wise to them. Your average liberal newsman is constantly pushing crises. The NASCAR fan watches the race and sees one in action. The fans are there to root for their favorite gladiator to defeat the lions and come out victorious. (Or at least survive to do battle another day.) As a result, the "crises du jour" of the cable and network news shows means little to them.

2) The drivers who go out there to race four across at 200 mph are plum crazy! They get into wrecks early in the race, get their cars rebuilt in the garage area of pit row and then go out to race some more. They end up getting bumped while leading the race with half mile to go, end up airborne and totally wiped out, hop out of their car and run to the finish line just to say they completed the race. Which is what Carl Edwards did today. After 499 1/2 miles he gets wrecked and his car does not finish. Was he angry at the driver who bumped him? No! Edwards acknowledged that what happened was part of racing and that Keselowski was not to blame.

(Incidentally, on that final crash, Edwards' car smashed into the safety screen between the track and the fans. Apparently some loose debris made it's way into the stands and several people were injured. Two had to be airlifted to local hospitals. The helicopter was used to avoid traffic problems on local roads.)

As they say, "You don't have to be crazy to work here, but it helps."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bolt Hole Report, AM edition

I must have forgot about the warm front that was sliding through the area last night. That's the one with the thunder storms associated with it. Reached here between 10 and 11 PM and instead of marching through broadside and getting things over quickly, it came through end on like a column of army ants. Every fifteen minutes or so another boomer would approach from the southwest, produce a sound and light show, dump some rain and head off to the northeast.

E-V-E-R-Y F-I-F-T-E-E-N minutes. Right up until nearly 4 AM. Not the worst storms I've ever seen up here, but loud enough to wake me up.

And now a freaking woodpecker is on the stovepipe. Probably a flicker. They do like their noise.

(Ever wonder what would happen if those army ants all did a right face and marched broadside through the jungle? As it is now, you only have to worry if the head of the column or it's scouts bumps into you.)

Threecollie asked if I had a game camera and if I used it.

You're right about the trail cams: they can be very entertaining. We (Mark and I) have several that we've just about worn out over the last couple of years. (Cold weather takes its toll on the digital cam and computer inside them.) Gotten some nice pictures too. Bear, fox, deer, ravens---the usual suspects. One fall, at the end of hunting season, we set one up on the remains of two deer we had butchered. That resulted in pictures of fisher cat, weasel (ermine really as it was all white except the tip of its tail) and coyotes. The coy dogs lived up their name staying just out of reach of the flash--except for the eyes and the leader's not-quite-quick-enough sprint in to grab a leg bone.

Then there was the last photo of a "lost"--soon to be deceased--hunter who came upon the camera on his final hunt.


Well, the brush will dry off soon and that means it will be time to go back to work on the honeysuckle and slash.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Bolt Hole Report, evening edition

Nothing much to report from the Bolt Hole today. There was a freeze overnight with the temperature dropping to the high 20s. The truck was coated in frost and the little pond had a skim of ice on it at 6:30 AM. The sun came on strong, however, and by late afternoon the temperature was around 70. The weather quacks are making noise about it being even warmer tomorrow afternoon with a chance of some T-storms forming as a result. Tonight it's supposed to get down into the upper 40s and I'm debating whether to light a fire or not to warm the house.

All this warm weather has brought out the lady bugs from their nooks and crannies. There must have been a hundred on the south facing window this afternoon. That they got inside is not a surprise. This old place is hardly air tight. Why they don't go back out the same way is a mystery. Okay, they don't have a terribly large brain, but still.... I opened the screen door for a bit and shooed them out but what I really need is a couple of 10-year olds with a step ladder, a file card and a jar.

I spent the day cleaning up some slash and lopping out some bush honeysuckle--the invasive species kind that offers wildlife no comfort at all. It doesn't even smell like the vine honeysuckle. It does form a near impenetrable barrier when it grows large and close together. And the damn stuff does grow! It's all over the place. Small ones can be pulled right from the ground due to a shallow root system. Large ones have multiple stems up to 2" in diameter each and will grow back if all you do is cut them. I've heard that the best thing to do is cut them close to the ground and paint the cut ends with undiluted Round-Up (which I do not have). Otherwise, it's cut them this year, next year and maybe the year after until they give up. I'll be doing more of the same tomorrow.

I did walk the woods a little with the loppers in hand. Lots of tree tops and a few whole trees blown over during the winter. I cleaned up some of the trails to make walking easier. I find the deer and bears appreciate the effort, too. They are more likely to use a a trail I've cut or an old skidway than they are to bushwack through the hemlocks and fir trees if they aren't pressured. It's amazing the small openings they will take when they really, really want to get somewhere, however. They'll think nothing of going through a thicket that would have you and me crawling on hands and knees. Put a coyote on their tail or fire a shot at one and they'll go OVER the same thicket.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bolt Hole Report, AM edition

It's snowing this morning here at the Bolt Hole. It's not sticking, however. The temperature's hovering at the freezing mark but it's supposed to warm up so the precip will become all rain this afternoon. Yeah, the rain came last evening about an hour after I posted about how it hadn't arrived yet.

It's toasty warm inside and that's where I'll stay today doing some house cleaning, a jigsaw puzzle, a crossword or two and maybe finish reading One Man's Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey by Sam Keith about Richard Proenneke's 1968-69 adventure in building a cabin and living in the wilderness at the Twin Lakes about 170 miles west of Anchorage.

Tomorrow promises to be a good day with the temps rebounding to the 60 degree mark and lots of sun. That will be the time to start hauling the slash around. Saturday and Sunday will be more of the same. Hope the black flies hold off for a while.

What's wrong with Napolitano?

Apparently, our Homeland Security Chief gets her daily briefings from South Park videos:

On April 22, 2009 at 5:16 PM Glenn Reynolds says: JANET NAPOLITANO BLAMES CANADA.

What a maroon, eh?

And they said the Governor of Alaska was out of her league? Pah-leeze!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bolt Hole Report, evening edition

Well, the rain hasn't arrived...yet. We did have about a dozen drops or so when a really dark cloud passed overhead around noon but I don't think that's what the weather guessers were thinking of. I will say that it's been overcast most of the day so the clouds are there.

I managed to fell four pines that were casting shade on the fledgling apple orchard and one small poplar that was growing against the garage. All fell exactly where I wanted them. After that it was a matter of limbing the pines. The loppers did a good job on that since the pines are really soft, fast growers. I did use the chainsaw to cut the larger limbs and the trunks up into manageable sizes. Not much went into Mount Slashmore as I'm not in caber tossing fitness at the moment. I did pile everything up nice and neatly with all the butt ends together so I can lasso them and drag them off later.

As I was working it suddenly hit me that today is Earth Day and here I am cutting down trees and burning wood in the stoves to warm the cabin. Oh well, if it gets down to the 30s again tonight (as it did last night) we could use a little more global warming. Besides, the apples will thank me, the grass will thank me (although it means more cutting on my part...with a gas powered mower), the wild strawberries and blueberries will thank me, the woodcock will thank me for the larger strutting grounds, the turkeys will thank me for the same reason, and even the hawks and owls will thank me now that they have a larger hunting grounds for voles and such.

Will I worked, the ravens passed loud comments upon my work, flickers perched on tree tops nearby and yakked it up, a red-tailed hawk circled above, a trio of yellow-bellied sapsuckers made a racket as they tried to sort out their marital arrangement, and, off in the distance, a grouse found a suitable log upon which to do his drumming.

When I came into the cabin to get something to drink, I cleaned some of the debris out of the small pond out front. I call it a pond but it's not much bigger than a 100 gallon aquarium. While scooping out the dead leaves and phlox stems that had found their way into the water I also pulled out several newts and one large salamander (about 8" long, an inch wide, black/blue with large yellow dots). I also netted three small frogs (or the same frog three times). I note that someone got lucky last night as there were two large egg masses attached to the weeds I pulled out. I didn't feel badly about grounding them since, if they all hatched, there would be over 100 little critters swimming in that tiny pond. I did not notice any mudbugs (dragonfly larvae) which are often present. Perhaps they are still down in the muddy bottom or perhaps the cold went too deep this winter and they didn't survive. Or, maybe, that big salamander has a belly full of them.

Bolt Hole Report, AM edition

It's going to be one of those days here at the Bolt Hole. The guys say 40% chance of rain today which means we'll get about 20-25 minutes of shower activity every hour. Not the best conditions to be far from the cabin in case any of those are heavy showers. Still, there's stuff to do outside.

I already cleaned up all the phlox stems from last year's growth and noticed lots of green down at the base. I also noticed a lot of vole and mice tunnels and one or two nests down under the fallen stems. I came across the carcass of a grouse that must have crashed into the one window on that side of the cabin last fall. Not much left now but feathers and bones.

There's hardly a bit of a breeze outside. Barely enough to tickle the tips of the pine boughs. Be a good time to fell some more of the scotch pines as they are likely to fall where I plan they will and not where the wind directs them to.

Turkeys were back on the lawn this morning at 7 AM which confirms they roosted nearby during the night. I don't hear any clucking or gobbling so they're keeping a low profile.

Some flickers out there yakking up a storm and a few grouse still drumming away. A pair of brown headed cowbirds were up at the top of the maple tree outside the front door. They have a nice liquid song when they want to share it with you. Half a dozen chickadees supervised my clean-up work and I got buzzed by a robin that came around the corner at full speed about 8 feet off the ground. A couple of juncos were prospecting in the leaves along the side of the jeep trail that runs in front of the cabin. I spied the phoebe looking over the remnants of last year's nest. Probably trying to determine if it's repairable or if he should start over somewhere else.

Well, the sun is peeking out between the clouds and the trees won't fall by themselves so I better get outside and do some work. Later.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bolt Hole Wildlife

I didn't get outside much today. It was raining a good portion of the morning while I cleaned the fridge. Then after lunch I fixed the #)($&%$*@ sink. With the travel back and forth to the hardware store, that little chore took three hours.

Still I wasn't bereft of wildlife sightings. The blue jays around the yard seemed to have found their voices to protest something. The same goes for the local raven population. The local phoebe is still advertising for a mate. They've built a nest above one of the windows every year for the last four or five. They are fun to watch as they swoop out for a fly and then go back to their favorite perch. Two turkeys walked through the backyard this morning and three returned this evening. I hope they got a lot of the cluster flies that are starting to emerge. They'll be back for the hawkweed buds and wild strawberries when the lawn starts to grow. I did see even more turkeys walking up this way about a mile down the road at 1 o'clock. Considering the amount of snow and the 20 below winter temperatures, it always surprises me to see them around the Bolt Hole. A stupid grouse was crossing the road a short distance after I saw the turkeys. They seem to think they are porcupines or skunks and have little fear of a car or truck bearing down on them. Male grouse were druming in the woods much of yesterday. I couldn't hear them from inside but I'm sure they were at it again today. The grouse will be around looking for the strawberries and blueberries later in the summer. They'll also be here in the fall to scare the beejesus out of me as I still hunt. They explode from right under your feet and cause a brief heart stoppage. And robins, chickadees and juncos scattered whenever I walked between the truck and the cabin.

The only sign of mammal activity was the red squirrel nest I uncovered in the wood shed attached to the house. It wouldn't be so bad except it was constructed of a little grass and a lot of pink insulation. I hope that came from the plastic bag of the stuff in the shed and not from the walls.

A green frog continues to croak outside the window but he's being intimidated by the thunder off in the distance. Every time it rumbles he shuts up for a moment before he lets out a tentative croak. Perhaps he's in awe f the frog making such a loud noise.

Yeah, there's thunder out there. A cold front is moving through tonight and temperatures will drop into the 40s and low 50s for Wednesday and Thursday. Over the weekend it will be back up to the 70s which should trigger the black fly season. Hey, the sooner the better. If it starts now, and if the temperatures get up into the 80s (could happen, according to Saint Albert Gore) then the flies will disappear sooner.

Bolt Hole, Refrigerator

Despite the leaky faucet problem, I did manage to clean out the refrigerator. The crud from the exploded soda came up pretty easily with a soaking of hot water drawn from the bathroom sink and the racks cleaned up easily in the bathroom too.

It gave me an opportunity to do a bit of inventory and decide what should really be thrown away. Some of the condiments are near archeological and the granulated sugar isn’t any longer. There’s a one pound box of sugar and another of salt that have the consistency of solid concrete. I think a hatchet might be necessary should I decide to use either. Then again, if I put the containers in the toe of a sock, they would make one hell of a weapon. This is a frost free refrigerator/freezer and you would think moisture would find no haven inside but it obviously has. (Although there was a jar of capers that looked like dried peas since all the fluid in the jar was gone.) A lot of the stuff went back to when Terry was living here while the Aerie was under construction in the fall of 2006. But some was left over from various fishing trips to Quebec in 2003 or earlier. And some of the dried spices go back to when I worked at Camp Sabattis in 2002 to 2005. Some may be older than that. I know we have liquor that we obtained when my Mom died.

There was a bottle of habanero pepper sauce that was probably okay to use as paint remover. It may actually been edible but I was not going to take the risk as there would be no joy in having it rush through my system in either direction should it be tainted. The same goes for some barbecue sauces that were half used. And I’m sure the white circles dotting the contents of the half jar of mint jelly was simply crystallization, but again, I’ll not risk it. If it had been purchased last fall, maybe but three years ago?

I went through the stuff on the door shelves, too. Mustard and dried spices I’m not worried about. (Onion and garlic flakes will not go bad even while the salts of the same will form a solid block that needs to be scraped to be used.)

Bolt Hole: That sinking feeling

Okay, the duct tape didn't hold. Not a surprise but more a disappointment.

I went to draw some hot water from the kitchen sink so I could scrub the refrigerator this morning and heard the drip, drip, drip of water under the cabinet. Sigh. Sure enough, water was leaking from the spray hose again. Turns out that the culprit was the pipe connection and not the crimped end of the hose. The duct tape barely covered that junction so it was overwhelmed by the flood of water. Nothing to do but try to replace the hose. Right! Easier said than done.

I must have wrestled with trying to unscrew the pipe fitting for half an hour before I realized I needed a pair of vise grip pliers. Problem is I must have thrown the cabin's set into my tool box last summer and it was sitting down in the Aerie. Okay. There's a little mom-and-pop hardware store not too far away and since I didn't need groceries today, that was where I headed. Got a pair of vise grips (I now own three...or maybe four...there's the trailer's tool box...also at the Aerie) and came back to the Bolt Hole. No go. After 15 minutes I could see this was not going to work and the nut on the pipe was nearly round instead of hex shaped.

I decided to take the entire faucet out and see if I could separate the pipe then. Oh-oh! I snapped one of the plastic fittings that held the cold water pipe tight against the underside of the sink. These things are supposed to be finger tight. HA! I ended up using a drill to loosed the plastic and the faucet wrench was then able to get the damn thing off.

With the faucet in one hand and wedged between my knees, I was able to grip the recalcitrant pipe with the vise grips and get it apart. I had a spare spray hose and could have installed that or, since I now had to return to the hardware store for the broken plastic nut, I could get a brand new without a spray. Since the spray has been the big bugaboo on several occasions, I opted to replace the whole sheebang. That took just 15 minutes when I returned but there is no leak at all so I count that as a victory. Not a cheap one considering the faucet wrench (also in the tool box back at the Aerie), vice grips and the replacement spray hose I purchased but it's done. (I should be able to return the spray hose, which I no longer need, next time I'm in the area of Lowes.)

Monday, April 20, 2009

At the Bolt Hole, April 20

I got about 2 1/2 hours of work in this morning before the wind kicked it up a notch. What had been a stiff 15 mph breeze suddenly became 30+ mph with gust going over 40. It was all I could do to keep my hat on let alone try to throw branches up onto the pile we've created.

The ProHauler parked in front of Mount Slashmore

It was time to do some plumbing work anyway. Which ended up as a bust. I could not turn any of the nuts holding the spray nozzle hose in place or the faucets. Even after I went to Lowes and got a faucet wrench (one of which is sitting in the Aerie's workshop), they just would not budge! In a fit of desperation I pulled out the duct tape, crimped down the end of the hose where it was leaking, dried it off thoroughly and the wrapped it in duct tape...and it worked! (That was $14 for the wrench, another $8 for a replacement hose, a couple of hours of fiddling trying to disassemble the faucet, and two hours back and forth to Lowes that I didn't have to spend. The duct tape was on the shelf here already.)

It started raining here around 1 PM and has been raining pretty hard for five hours now. The temperature dropped to around 30 degrees so some of the rain ended up as sleet. Whatever the precipitaion, it's supposed to slacken a bit overnight and the sun may even come out for a little tomorrow before the rain returns on Wednesday.

I did some food shopping while I was out so I'm set for a week or more. The coffee supply was getting low and the freezer meats were too. One package of pork loin cutlets and one of chicken breasts and I've enough for eight meals. Frozen mixed veggies and french fries will round out dinner. A package of spaghetti and a jar of Ragu incase I want some variety. A package of hot dogs and rolls along with a bag of potato chips takes care of lunches. (A couple of cans of chili incase I want variety there too.) I've eggs, oatmeal or pancake mix for breakfasts. A bag of mixed fruits (apples and oranges) for snacks. Two 10.3 oz containers of Folger's Gourmet Blend (Dark) for the necessary jumpstart.

If it's raining tomorrow morning, I'll have to swap out the dried up mess in the refirgerator. It's got to me done sooner or later and now that the kitchen sink is back in operation I've no further excuses.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

At the Bolt Hole

It took me a little over four hours to make the drive from the Aerie to the Bolt Hole this morning. And a lovely ride it was, too. Traveling up Rte 14 along the western shore of Seneca Lake through all the wine country between Watkins Glen and Geneva was a pleasure rather than a chore. Even the ride along the NY Thruway from Exit 42 to Utica went very smoothly although there I had to contend with the sun to the southeast.

Upon arriving I found that Mark was in residence and had started to move some of the pine slash produced from Phase Three of his apple orchard recovery program. He had downed a dozen or more scotch pines that were shading the old apple trees (I say "old" even though most are just a few inches in diameter--remnants of what must have been a heck of an orchard 50 years ago) and the pile we had burned a month ago had grown to three times its preburn size!

First we worked at getting the ATV running. It was a bit of a chore until we drained the carberator and used fresh gasoline in the tank. Damn new formulas having "up to 10% ethanol" are tough on machines left over winter. The stuff breaks down even when you use something like Sta-Bil. Having a battery charger that has a starter setting and a spray can of starter fluid helps, too. It took a lttle doing but we got the 1989 Yamaha Prohauler started and got to work. Which meant hauling even more slash and making the pile even larger. Mark had been dragging the stuff on a tarp last weened when there was eight inches of fresh snow on the ground but that has all disappeared and using the ATV and a trailer was the only way to get it over there efficiently. We worked for five hours taking a few breaks to walk in the woods and scout out our next source of firewood. Mother Nature has been generous thhese last two winters and there's plenty of windblown maple and cherry that we'll be cutting into cordwood within semi-easy reach of trails the ATV can handle. We managed to clear about 75% of the small stuff. There will be no burning for awhile, but come next winter when there's snow on the ground this will make one heck of a bonfire!

The weather was perfect for our efforts with a light breeze blowing as we labored under clear skies. That's likely to change tomorrow as a rain system is moving in from the midwest and there should be some precipitation by early afternoon. If I get up and out early enough I might just be able to haul more of the slash away before that happens. The larger branches and tree trunks are going to be cut into smaller lenghths and stacked where they are. When the time comes, I'll move them or use them as campfire wood. The pine will not be burned inside because of the creosote dangers.

I also tested my chainsaw (Homelite) and, after dumping the little fuel that was in it and putting in some fresh, it started on the second or third pull. I think I cracked my face when that happened because I was smiling so broadly. If there is time tomorrow before the rain arrives there are a couple more pines that may have seen their last sunset. Certainly, before I leave here later in the week, they are going down!

Even if it rains in the afternoon, I've got things to do. The water system in the cabin is working and I've got hot water but the spray nozzle at the kitchen sink is leaking and I need to find out why or get a replacement. It doesn't appear that there's a split in the plastic line but rather that the leak is where the line screws into the faucet assembly.

Then there's the mess in the refridgerator. Did you know that beer and diet soda will freeze and birst their cans even when in the refirdgerator? They never had before this winter. I'm going to blame global warming. I discovered this the last ime I was up a couple of weeks ago but, bot having an ample supply of water (I was melting snow for flushing the toilet and washing dishes), and since things were already dry inside the box, I didn't have the means or desire to try to clean it up. Now that the well is pumping again and the hot water heater is producing what I need...well, there's no excuse.

Theres a green frog in the little pond out front, and I just heard a woodcock while talking to Mark at the door. A phoebe and several chickadees kept us company all day while we worked. You could hear the woodpeckers signalling their territorial boundaries and a barred owl gave his "who cooks for you all" call in the middle of the afternoon. But there was not one red squirrel to be seen or heard despite our walks in the woods and our work removing one of their favorite haunts--the scotch pines behind the cabin.

I'll take some pictures in the morning and see about posting them tomorrow night.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


I was going to write a post about how the Mets have to stop getting 3 runs in the first inning. Every time they have done so this season, they seem to struggle to score any more and their starter gives up more than 3 in the first five innings of the game. Then the Metsies had to pull Friday night's game against Milwaukee out of a hat by coming back to tie the score at 4-4 on 40-year old Gary Sheffield's 500th career home run and then accepting a gift wrapped win 5-4.

(Today's game was a humdinger of a pitchers' duel that saw Johan Santana get his second win in a 1-0 thriller.)

Then there was the Yankee vs Cleveland game on Saturday. The Yankees scored 2 in the bottom of the first to jump out to a 2-0 lead. From then on is was Custer against the Souix. Cleveland scored 14 runs in the top of the second inning. The final? 22-4 Indians. Ouch!

Heading up north

I'll be heading up to the Bolt Hole bright and early tomorrow (Sunday) morning. The weather is supposed to deteriorate considerably on Monday and showers are being forecast for much of the week up there. Still, there are things to do both in the cabin and in the garage's back room.

If the weather breaks I might be able to go for a walk in the woods to see what winter has wrought. Regardless of what the weather is, I'll be on dial-up so don't expect many pictures!

Saturday at Hills Creek State Park

This morning's bird walk was exceptional on many fronts. We had a dozen participants (not one of them camping at the park, however), we saw 35 species of birds in just two hours of walking, and we all had a great time.

There were a myriad of water fowl on the lake and, with the wind virtually nonexistent, each bird stood out. Even though they tried to pull that old trick of always being on the far side of the lake, we still got a good look through the spotting scope of Double-crested Cormorants, Horned Grebes, Lesser Scaup, Common Loon and more way, way out there. And spotting the Barred Owl resting in the hemlocks and fir trees as we walked underneath...again and again, was a real treat.
Only a few springtime species are starting to show up in the fields and thickets so things can get much better before the summer doldrums arrive.

Any way, here's my report for the day's outing:

Location: Hills Creek State Park
Observation date: 4/18/09
Notes: Beautiful morning with 12 participants for the Hills Creek bird walk. Spotting the Barred Owl across from the host campground was the highlight but close behind were the Hooded Grebes and Double-crested Cormorants out on the lake.
Number of species: 35

Canada Goose X
Wood Duck X
Mallard X
Ring-necked Duck X
Lesser Scaup X
Bufflehead X
Common Merganser (North American) X
Wild Turkey X
Common Loon X
Pied-billed Grebe X
Horned Grebe X
Double-crested Cormorant X
Turkey Vulture X
Broad-winged Hawk X
Killdeer X
Barred Owl X
Belted Kingfisher X
Northern Flicker X
Eastern Phoebe X
American Crow X
Black-capped Chickadee X
Red-breasted Nuthatch X
White-breasted Nuthatch X
Ruby-crowned Kinglet X
American Robin X
European Starling X
Magnolia Warbler X
Field Sparrow X
Song Sparrow X
White-throated Sparrow X
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) X
Northern Cardinal X
Red-winged Blackbird X
Pine Siskin X
American Goldfinch X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Friday, April 17, 2009

Two walks are better than one!

Especially when the second is a very, very short one.

So I drove west of Wellsboro this morning to the eastern terminus of the Pine Creek Rails-to-Trails Bike Path just off Rt.287 and walked westward from there for over a mile. Lots and lots of birds despite not yet having the full migration take place. Going out from the parking lot took an hour and forty-five minutes because of all the stopping to spy on the feathered fauna. Coming back took just 35 minutes of non-stop (mostly) walking.

The highlight of the walk was seeing an American Bittern tucked in among the grasses of one of the creeks and a Northern Harrier soaring overhead with a kettle of Turkey Vultures. Once again, I'm sure I under-counted the song Sparrows, Robins and Red-winged Blackbirds as they flitted from one side of the trail to the other, were flying ahead of me, behind me and over me.

Still, 24 total species is not to be sneezed at this early in the spring. The list:

Location: Rails-to-Trails Rt 287 W
Observation date: 4/17/09
Notes: Clear, crisp morning with little breeze. Temp 38-45 degrees. I walked from the eastern terminus of the Pine Creek Rails-to-Trails about 1.5 miles counting birds as I went. The return trip on the same path yielded no new species.
Number of species: 24

Canada Goose 11
Wood Duck 4
Mallard 3
American Bittern 1
Great Blue Heron 1
Turkey Vulture 6
Northern Harrier 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Killdeer 2
Mourning Dove 4
Belted Kingfisher 2
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 2
Downy Woodpecker 1
Eastern Phoebe 6
Blue Jay 4
American Crow 11
Black-capped Chickadee 3
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
American Robin 19
Song Sparrow 20
Northern Cardinal 6
Red-winged Blackbird 17
Common Grackle 12
American Goldfinch 14

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Being close to noon when I got back to my vehicle, I stopped at PagoMar's (a nifty little shop right at the entrance to the trail) for a sub and soda (I passed on the ice cream--which took a lot of will power) before heading up to The Muck to see what waterfowl might be hanging about. Sitting in the parking area, eating my sub, I kept getting interupted by birds! Before I even finished my sub I had spotted seven species including the first Common Yellowthroat of the season.

Despite being the middle of the day, there were still lots of Canada Geese and Wood Duck on the water as well as a few Mallards, Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Ducks, and Buffleheads. I only spent an hour yet between the parking lot and blind, I saw 21 species. The list:

Location: Marsh Creek/The Muck IBA
Observation date: 4/17/09
Notes: Mid-day observation from the parking area to the blind at The Muck. Some breeze, temps around 55-60 degrees. Clear.
Number of species: 21

Canada Goose 20
Wood Duck 16
Mallard 2
Green-winged Teal 2
Ring-necked Duck 4
Bufflehead 2
Great Blue Heron 1
Turkey Vulture 2
Killdeer 2
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 2
American Crow 2
Tree Swallow 5
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
American Robin 3
Common Yellowthroat 1
Song Sparrow 2
Swamp Sparrow 4
Northern Cardinal 1
Red-winged Blackbird 7
American Goldfinch 3

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Gorgeous day at the Aerie!

It's another beautiful day here at the Aerie. Yesterday afternoon the sun, shining from the west, drove the temperatures up both inside and out. Outside it reached 63 degrees at 3:00 PM and, upstairs in the master bedroom it was 67 degrees when we went to bed at 10 PM. The thermostats are set at 63 degrees in all zones of the house--two in the basement, three on the main floor and the one in the master suite. The radiant floor system in the basement and the first floor make even that low setting very cozy. (Although when we have company stay over, we usually jack the zone the guest bedroom is on all the way up to 65 or so.)

The fireplace can really heat up the first floor and the loft when it gets going. It's gotten up to 74 or 75 degrees on the first floor when the fire has been going good. It's a bit warmer in the loft under those conditions. Since the master suite's door is always closed to keep the cats out, it's still relatively cool in there.

The major glass front of the Aerie faces west northwest so it captures much of the late afternoon sun to both light up and warm up the interior. The eight inch thick log walls on the main floor, the poured concrete (sandwiched between styrofoam) foundation of the walk in basement and the R-38 roof insulation do an excellent job of retaining the heat. Luckily, when things finally do heat up during the summer, the near constant breezes here on the hillside at 2100 feet can keep things pretty comfortable. Only the master suite lacks sufficient cross ventilation and requires the use of either a fan or--when things really get warm--a couple of hours of window mounted AC. The AC, applied for two hours or so just before bed, is usually sufficient.

Okay, why all the talk about HVAC systems? We are coming up to the close of the heating season, believe it or not. Only several overcast, drizzly, depreasing days in succession will cause a major use of the heating system. That means we will be getting less and less propane delivered. The April delivery was a third less than the March delivery which was a third less than the February delivery. (All deliveries took place in the first week of the month and, therefore, reflect usage on the previous month.) The bill paid on April 8 was fully half of what was paid on February 8. And that is very, very good! Last year our last delivery of the season was on May 8. That held us until November despite using propane to heat water for laundry and washing and for cooking on the range.

So, as I said, it's a beautiful day here at the Aerie with goldern sunshine promised for the next day or two and temperatures in the 60s forecast. I do believe I'll head out for another walk. Later.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Winnie, the Red-bellied Woodpecker

I mentioned Winnie our resident Red-bellied Woodpecker in a previous post and even presented a photo or two of her way back in the winter (a couple of weeks ago). At first she would come in take a seed and retire to a skinny dead snag on the other side of the yard where she would hull the sunflower seed and eat the interior. But she became more comfortable with the nearness of the house and also became brassy as hell. Now when she swoops in, it's to chase everyone away and hold them at bay. Then she'll settle down and eat seed after seed.

The way she swoops in is reminiscent of Errol Flynn in Captain Blood swinging from one ship to another to appear on the deck rail from below, survey the deck proper and then lay waste to those present. (Or when Flynn, as Robin Hood (The Adventures of Robin Hood), appears on that massive oak limb in Sherwood Forest and says to the Archbishop, "Welcome to Sherwood, my Lord.") But her attitude once on the tray is all Jack Nicholson in The Shinning ("Here's Johnny!")

"I'm baaaaack! Now scram!"

"Okay, now...Nothing to the left of me."

"Nothing to the right of me..."

"Time to eat!"

Short walk at Colton Point

Terry and I dropped my Tundra off to have it's bed spray lined (Rhino) this morning over west of Wellsboro and instead of heading home right away, we continued west bound to Colton Point State Park and the west rim of the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. The place was completely empty when we got there. There were no cars at any of the parking areas and it stayed pretty much that way the entire 1.5 hours we walked around looking for birds.

Turns out that birds were pretty sparse, too. Even counting the Tree Swallows (down at the bridge over Pine Creek on the entrance road) and the Wild Turkey (along the side of the same road about a mile or two from Rt. 6) we were able to find only 14 species. Some, however were quite abundant. Turkey Vultures, for instance, were taking advantage of the sun striking this western slope and the fine breeze that blew up the slope to soar and soar and soar. I'm sure I under-counted them as they moved mback and forth up and down the gorge; sometimes high above the trees and sometimes way, way below the lip of the canyon.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers were also abundant. They could be heard hammering on dead snags, tapping lightly on living wood, screaming at one another and generally having a grand old time in the woods.

No sign of any warblers yet, but that isn't surprising. The trees haven't yet burst their buds so there's no insects for the warblers to feed on. A week or so of weather like we had today (sunny and a high of 61 degrees) and the tree flowers will be present followed by the leaves. As it is, there's an increasing hint of red (maple) and green when you look at the forested slopes.

Anyway, here's the rest of a rather unremarkable list from today's walk:

Location: Colton Point
Observation date: 4/16/09
Notes: Cool (42-45 degrees) morning on the west rim of the Canyon. I'm sure I under-counted both the Turkey Vultures and the Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers as both species were all over the sky and the forest respectively. The Turkey and Tree Swallows were seen on the way up the road from Rt. 6.
Number of species: 14

Common Merganser (North American) 2
Wild Turkey 1
Turkey Vulture 9
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 6
Northern Flicker 1
Eastern Phoebe 3
Blue Jay 1
American Crow 3
Common Raven 5
Tree Swallow 6
White-breasted Nuthatch 2
Hermit Thrush 1
American Robin 7
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) 5

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Blue Jays

Blue Jays are frequent visitors to the tray feeder on the deck. They are also proud bullies that come swooping in and terrorize all the other birds with their raucous calls. They are pretty good mimics, too. Sometimes the Jays will sit in the trees and give off the cry of a Red-tailed Hawk sending all the smaller birds into a panic. The Jays then come in to the feeders and enjoy a quiet meal.

Yesterday morning, this fella showed up pretty much by himself. (He came back later, I'm sure, as part of a group of five Jays that sent everyone running.) He came in, scared all the little finches away and terrorized a Mourning Dove, and then hopped on the tray and started to feed.

"And stay out!"

"Yum, sunflower seeds! And they are all mine, I tell you, MINE!"

As I shot one picture after another, he looked up at the sound of the camera. (Even a digital can make a clicking sound, if you want it to---or are too lazy to read the manual and learn how to turn it off.)

"Did you hear something? I could have sworn I heard something?"

As I wasn't making a great deal of movement on the other side of the glass, I can only assume he heard the camera and turned to see where the sound was coming from.

"I was right! There's some guy in there with a camera!"

"I'm ready for my close-up, DeMille!"

I'm telling you, with a head tilt like that he could become President!

Soon after this photo was snapped, he got his comeuppance when Winnie, our resident Red-Bellied Woodpecker came to get some sunflower seeds. She's about the same size, more belligerent and far better armed than the Blue Jays. And she tolerates NO other birds on HER tray!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Trapeez Act

This morning dawned (if you could call it that) with a fine misting rain falling. Prospects were not good for a walk in woods and fields and I had determined my blood pressure didn't need to have me attending any "tea party", the closest of which would have been in New York State which needs more of an enema than a tea party. Anything to clean the a$$holes out of Albany.

Anyway, I decided to play around with the camera a bit and see what could be seen from my windows and porch. I ended up with over 150 pictures about a quarter of which were squirrels. Squirrels are like government free loaders. Their nose is always in the trough and they never even say thank you to those of us that provide. Like this guy on my deck tray feeder.

Occasionally, the squirrels do provide something in return. Sometime it's in the form of meat. Sometimes it's entertainment. We've had as many as 14-15 Eastern Grey Squirrels at the feeders at one time during the winter. Today there were "just" six plus a Red Squirrel. (Normally I try to play "Navy SEAL and Pirates" with the Red Squirrels but not today. I was feeling magnanimous. I also need to practice more. The darn things wear kevlar vests under the red fur. I'm sure of that!)

One Grey Squirrel must have strayed for the circus. While it's not unusual to find a squirrel hanging from the telephone pole that serves as a feeder support and reaching out to grab sunflower seeds from the feeder, this guy had something else in mind. First he leaped up onto a hanging feeder and then the fun began.

The lip of the feeder is juuussst about wide enough for his hips. Maybe.

But that's okay because he's gonna hang by his back feet from the perching rail.

Once he's hanging out, he realizes that the snacks are at the wrong end!
Time to exercise those abs, my friend!

It's uuuuuppppp to grab a seed and then
doooowwwwn to eat it.

Uuuuuppp and dooowwwn.
Dooowwwn and uuuuuppp.

That sh*t can wear you out pretty fast!
Better to just let the blood rush to your head!

"Hey, look! I'm a bat!
I must be 'cause I'm starting to see stars."

My Eagle Encounter

I mentioned yesterday that I had spotted a couple of Bald Eagles over at Ive's Run/Hammond Lake. The first was an immature bird that flew overhead as I was getting out of the truck. The second was a mature adult bird sitting on a snag just ten or fifteen yards off the road back to the campgrounds. When I stopped the truck and backed up to snap its picture, I could see it was getting nervous. It leaped into flight a split second before I snapped the photo. It wasn't until I looked at it today that I saw the crow that must have been sitting in the pine to the right.

The Eagle didn't go very far. It flew down the coastline to land at the top of another snag just behind the pumping station. I managed to snap a couple more pictures at a range of about 120 yards. This one came out best, in my opinion. I especially like the house hidden on the hill in the background. I didn't even notice that when I was taking the picture.

The third Eagle was soaring over Rt. 287 near the road cut through the rocks. It, along with a Red-tailed Hawk, was a beneficiary of a breeze blowing from the south and up the slope. I do love to see the big birds soaring. Such an effortless means of flight.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

More Bird Walks

I went on not one, but two bird walks today.

The first was along the bike trail in the Lambs Creek Recreation Area. I started at the same spot as yesterday but took the trail south back toward Mansfield. That meant crossing the fields, run north-south and walking along the east side of the fields...between the fields and Tioga River. Not much in the fields (except Robins, Canada Geese and...well, that's about it. But on/in the strip of woods along the river and in the river itself was a different story.

The highlight of this walk was the presence of the Belted Kingfisher. There were three of them flying about the river near the old/closed bridge that linked up with Lamb's Creek Road. My report to eBird:

Location: Lambs Crk Rec Area
Observation date: 4/14/09
Notes: Cool and overcast with light breeze. The temperature was around 42-43 degrees. I started at the porta-potty on the road to the boat launch off Route 15. Followed the bike trail south toward Mansfield (crossing the open fields to get to the west side of the fields near the old, closed bridge to Lamb's Creek Road). When the bike trail came out at the boat launch road again, I followed it back to my vehicle.

Number of species: 25

Canada Goose 12
Wood Duck 2
Mallard 1
Common Merganser (North American) 2
Great Blue Heron 2
Turkey Vulture 2
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Mourning Dove 1
Belted Kingfisher 3
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Eastern Phoebe 1
Blue Jay 6
American Crow 8
Black-capped Chickadee 8
Tufted Titmouse 3
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
American Robin 34
Song Sparrow 20
White-throated Sparrow 2
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) 2
Northern Cardinal 5
Red-winged Blackbird 20
Common Grackle 1
American Goldfinch 4

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

The second walk was over at Ive's Run/Crooked Creek. With the Belted Kingfishers present at Lamb's Creek Rec Area I wanted to see if the Ospreys were back, too. I parked at the bridge just inside the entrance from Rt 287 and walked the Railroad Grade Trail for about a mile until I reached the fields maintained by Fish and Game as food plots. Oh, and the Ospreys are back. I saw three of them over Crooked Creek. They may have been staying away from Hammond Lake because 1- the water level is only now back to bank full after being drawn down all winter, or 2- that's where the Bald Eagles hang out. (I saw three of them too.) The report on this walk:

Location: Ive's Run-Crooked Creek
Observation date: 4/14/09
Notes: Cool (43-45 degrees) and overcast with light breeze along the railroad grade trail.

I parked at the east end of the Railroad Grade Trail and walked westward to the fields managed by Fish & Game. The Eagles were split: one immature flew over as I parked, then one mature adult and one immature were seen as I was leaving on Rt. 287.

Number of species: 24

Canada Goose 14
Wood Duck 2
Mallard 9
Ring-necked Duck 9
Osprey 2
Bald Eagle 3
Mourning Dove 2
Belted Kingfisher 3
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Eastern Phoebe 1
Blue Jay 7
American Crow 3
Common Raven 1
Tree Swallow 2
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 8
Black-capped Chickadee 8
Eastern Bluebird 3
American Robin 9
Field Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 5
White-throated Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 2
Red-winged Blackbird 15
Common Grackle 15

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

The total distance of both walks was around 4 to 4.5 miles.

And I got the onion sets planted when I got home. Not many. I put in just 48 little sets.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Gardening report from the Aerie

On the way back from my bird walk today, I stopped at Arnot's Building Supply and picked up half a dozen or so 2" x 4"s and some two foot wide hardware cloth. (That's galvanized wire mesh for the uninitiated.) The idea is to construct covers fro the onion sets I want to put in. I want to make sure there's no chance of squirrels, turkeys or other critters helping themselves to the young onions before they get a chance to grow.

When I got home I used two of the 8'-long 2" x 4"s to built two frames measuring 32" by 24" and covered each with the hardware cloth. I took them outside and started to open the bags of top soil I had stacked at the planting bed with the idea of creating several rows of rich soil in which I could place the onions. Unfortunately, when I opened the plastic bags, I found the top soil to be extremely wet...too wet to plant anything in. So, I changed my plans.

I opened all the bags of top soil at each of the three planting beds and scattered the wet soil about the surface. In most cases, it created a 1 to 2 inch deep cover. Raked smooth like it is, it should dry out pretty darn quick and I'll get the onion sets in the ground tomorrow afternoon...before the predicted showers arrive. (The morning will be for another bird walk. I'll start at the same spot but walk south along the bike trail.)

Oh, and I stopped at Cooper's Sporting Goods and picked up my fishing license and a couple of boxes of ammo. Trout fishing season starts here on Saturday so I might bring a rod with me when I lead the bird walk at Hills Creek State Park.

Morning Walk

I took a little walk this morning along the bike path at Lamb's Creek Recreation area just north of Mansfield. Parking along the road to the boat launch, where they have the porta-potty set up, I walked north along the bike trail some 0.75 miles to where the trail intersects the boat launch road and then walked back along the road. This is the area I wanted to walk yesterday but the wind kept me away. Today there was no wind to speak of and the sky was mostly clear with only a few mare's tails moving south.

I managed to spot 21 species and made an effort this time to actually count the numbers of each. I'm sure I've under-counted the Song Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds and the American Robins. Some that flitted ahead of me along the edge of the trail may have ducked behind me when I wasn't looking and I assumed the ones in front of me were birds I had already seen. In any event, the three species were all over the place.

By the same token, to have seen only one Black-capped Chickadee, one European Starling and one Goldfinch seems odd. They are the three species most likely to hang around in sizable groups.

Here's my report:

Location: Lambs Crk Rec Area
Observation date: 4/13/09
Notes: Cool, clear morning with only a slight breeze. Temperature was between 34 and 38 degrees.

Number of species: 21

Canada Goose 8
Wood Duck 2
Turkey Vulture 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 2
Downy Woodpecker 3
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 3
Blue Jay 1
American Crow 5
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Tufted Titmouse 1
American Robin 27
European Starling 1
Cedar Waxwing 8
Field Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 17
Northern Cardinal 1
Red-winged Blackbird 15
American Goldfinch 1

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

These are punny!

Are you a Star Trek fan? If so, you might find these Star Trek Groaners over at Miss Cellania's to be worth the time.

An example:

Question: What did Picard say as Data struggled to repair the Marclosian Stitching Machine?
Answer: "Make it sew."

Clean-up crew

Here's another good reason to keep the area under your feeders clean. Not only will it prevent bird diseases, rodent infestation, raccoon and opossum visitations, but it might discourage the ultimate clean-up crew from making your place a nightly visit.

This fella showed up at 8:45 PM and stayed around for three hours. The flash going off and my pointing a million candle power flashlight at him made him a tad spooky but after retreating to the hillside for a few minutes to assess the situation, he would come back down and start licking up the seed hulls and whatever else he could find.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Evening report

A quiet day here at the Aerie.

We spoke to our son (Eugene, OR) and daughter (Linden, NJ) wishing them both a Happy Easter. You might say it was a coast-to-coast moment as Rick was on the phone while I was IMing with Jessica.

Terry made a nice ham with scalloped potatoes and asparagus for dinner. Side dishes included deviled eggs, farmer's cheese and home made apple sauce. The left over ham and asparagus ended up in a dinner omelet.

The temperature got above 41 for about 30 seconds at 2 PM before retreating again. It'll drop down to the very low 20s overnight which is why I spend a little time moving more firewood into the garage and why I'm currently sitting before a fire in the fireplace. The cats are enjoying the warmth as well.

Oh, our night visitor is back---and I'm not talking about Ahmal. I did mount a game camera outside that is aimed at the bird feeder area. It started flashing before it got full dark. When a few flashes went off in quick succession, I assumed we had more than just a mouse triggering the camera and, sure enough, the flashlight revealed the bruin had returned. By the number of flashes I've seen, I should have quite a few pictures of him in the morning.

It would be nice to know where he holds up during the day. It can't be too far away if he's here so promptly after sunset. Then again, black bears can travel 10 miles in a day just searching for food. I know I can protect the garden (once I get around to planting things) from rabbits and perhaps deer, but to protect it from raccoons and especially bears would be a monumental task.

A story in the paper today about the start of trout season next Saturday which reminded me that I have to purchase my license. I also want to look for some ammo as well so I'll probably go to Cooper's Sporting Goods down in Mansfield tomorrow to look around. (Turkey season starts on the 25th and I'm hearing them in the back field most mornings. Of course, they won't be there after the 24th. Damn flock of literate turkeys!)

Easter Morning

Happy Easter all!

I--not being the church going kind any more--had planned to take an early morning walk along the bike path at Lamb's Creek Recreation Area outside of Mansfield this morning, but when the Chester, the alarm cat, went off at 6:30 AM it was a mere 24 degrees outside. With the promise of 15-25 MPH winds out of the NNW,the prospect of walking a trail that borders the eastern side of wide open fields suddenly lost its appeal.

Still, it's a gorgeous morning here at the Aerie. Our feathered friends have come to partake of our bounty and I've already seen nearly a dozen species from the comfort of my living room chair: Mourning Doves, American Crows, Blue Jay, Dark-eyed Junco, Black-capped Chickadee, American Goldfinch, Pine Siskin, Purple Finch, White-breasted Nuthatch, American Robin, Downy Woodpecker...the usual suspects.

It sure beats the furred company we had last night. I now bring in all the feeders and take the tray feeder off the front deck rail and put it on the deck itself. It hasn't stopped the raccoons. Last night one was on that tray feeder sucking up the few seeds that were still there after the birds finished and the wind blew away most of them. I heard the tray rocking a bit and noticed Shadow and Chester were interested in something out there. When I flicked on the outside light, the 'coon was undeterred at first but then moved off under the Adirondack Chairs and down one of the deck support posts. (How it got his rotund body under the bottom rail--only 4" above the deck is a mystery.) As I watched, I saw him peek over the rail from the outside as if to see if the coast had cleared. He returned when the lights went out and I moved away from the window.

I was curious as to why the 'coon was on the deck when there's an ample supply of seed on the ground where the feeders hang. Thinking there may have been more raccoons over there, I shinned my million candle power flashlight in that area. Nope, no raccoons, just a black bear laying sprawled out over the seed. I thought earlier this year that it was a small bear. Now I'm not so sure. It might have seemed small after a winter of sleeping, but stretched out on the ground, it seemed big enough to have been our visitor from last year. He stayed in the spotlight right up to the time I slid the door open and then beat a hasty retreat up the hillside. He came back an hour later to snack some more.

Well, that's the report for this morning. I'll be back later. Right now there's a melee going on outside with Goldfinches, Siskins, Juncos all fighting over the sunflower seed. I must go out to negotiate a peaceful settlement.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Hills Creek State Park

Another Saturday morning bird walk at Hills Creek State Park and today's was special. We had a pretty large crowd that included some die-had campers that were staying at the yurts and a newspaper reporter from the Williamsport Sun Gazette. After last night's heavy rains, we were blessed with a clear, crisp morning and lots of birds. Before we even left the parking lot at the park headquarters we had spotted a dozen different species including a Palm Warbler. The prize of the day was a White-winged Crossbill that took to flaunting itself once it was seen. It just stayed around for the photo-op. At nearly the same spot we came across a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker working on a snag, of all things. It wasn't going to get any sap out of that particular tree but maybe it had some insects to disgorge or, perhaps, it was excavating a nest site. On the lake we had a Common Loon, Common Mergansers, Hooded Mergansers, Buffleheads, Wood Duck, American Wigeons, Mallards, Pied-billed Grebes, Lesser Scaups, and, of course, Canada Geese. There was a horde of American Crows going through their mob routine and as we snuck up, an owl flushed from the trees. Unfortunately, no one got a good enough look to identify the species other than to say it was bigger than a Screech Owl and smaller than a Barred Owl so it's not on my list for the day.

Anyway, here's my report as posted to eBird:

Location: Hills Creek State Park
Observation date: 4/11/09
Notes: Crisp, clear morning after heavy rains. Temperature between 38 and 43 degrees. Wind out of the north at around 15 mph with gusts up to 20 mph.
Number of species: 33

Canada Goose X
Wood Duck X
American Wigeon X
Mallard X
Lesser Scaup X
Bufflehead X
Hooded Merganser X
Common Merganser (North American) X
Common Loon X
Pied-billed Grebe X
Great Blue Heron X
Turkey Vulture X
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker X
Downy Woodpecker X
Northern Flicker X
Eastern Phoebe X
Blue Jay X
American Crow X
Common Raven X
Tree Swallow X
Barn Swallow X
Black-capped Chickadee X
Tufted Titmouse X
White-breasted Nuthatch X
Brown Creeper X
American Robin X
European Starling X
Palm Warbler X
Song Sparrow X
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) X
Northern Cardinal X
Red-winged Blackbird X
Pine Siskin X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Friday, April 10, 2009

Wow! Just...WOW!

These girls ARE an alternative energy source.

They are The Kings Firecrackers

Photographed at a halftime show for USNA basketball. Watch the audience reaction to some of the action.

(First seen by me at Theo's place.)

What could possibly be wrong with this?

It's not a climate bill, it's a full employment opportunity for trial lawyers:

Climate bill could trigger lawsuit landslide

Self-proclaimed victims of global warming or those who "expect to suffer" from it - from beachfront property owners to asthmatics - for the first time would be able to sue the federal government or private businesses over greenhouse gas emissions under a little-noticed provision slipped into the House climate bill.

Environmentalists say the measure was narrowly crafted to give citizens the unusual standing to sue the U.S. government as a way to force action on curbing emissions. But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sees a new cottage industry for lawyers.

"You could be spawning lawsuits at almost any place [climate-change modeling] computers place at harm's risk," said Bill Kovacs, energy lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

This is NOT unintended.

And those computer models of climate-change have been so darn accurate, too. /sarc

(h/t Hot Air)

Dealing with Pirates

The Exurban League has Obama's response to the recent pirate activities.

Obama Reaches Out to 'Moderate' Pirate Community

(h/t Hot Air)

Jon at Exurban League also answers the question of how he would deal with the bloody pirates: Vikings.

Sounds good to me.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Signs of Spring

Last fall, just days before the first snow and freeze up, Terry and I spent an afternoon burying a bunch of bulbs and corms in the wooded area on the hillside and in the garden. Now that the snow has finally disappeared and the frost is leaving the soil, some of those bulbs and corms are starting to poke their green little snouts above ground and produce flowers. (Some of the pictures aren't quite the best. I had the telephoto lens on the camera and couldn't get far enough away to be sure of a focused picture.)




In the flower/perennial/herb beds:

Daffodil nods to the strawberry.

Tulips are just breaking ground.

The tulips are on the northeast side of the house nestled between the ell of the garage and the living area and seldom get any sun until very late in the day. This is also where the snow shoveled from the driveway or drifted off the roof ends up. That might go a long way to explaining the slow appearance of these plants.

I've been diggin in the garden

It was a beautiful day today so after I finished planting a flat of marigolds and a tray of lettuce, "watched" on the computer as the Mets blew one to the Reds, went down the hill and got my "new" glasses (slight improvement over last year but there's some astigmatism) from the optometrist, And delayed long enough, I finally went outside to dig in the dirt. It was time to turn over the two large beds that will host most of our veggies this summer.

The one on the side bank made with flatties (stone) was filled with sifted soil last summer, covered with peat moss, grass clippings and some hay straw. Turning it over was a breeze as the soil was nice and loose. Every shovel of soil turned up two or three huge earth worms which was a pleasant sight. Unfortunately, the clayey soil beneath all the organics was soaking wet. If I had squeezed a handful, not only would it have held to ether easily but it would have given up water like a sponge.

The other bed is the 8' x 16' one that I built using landscape timbers. It still needs more sifted soil but the bank I'm "mining" is still too wet from the showers we've been getting. I have a good two or three more wheel barrows from the compost heap but I'd like to add five loads of the subsoil first. Anyway, this bed also got some grass clippings last fall as well as peat moss. Very little straw went in this one, however. There were not quite as many earthworms in this bed, either. Still, it turned easily and will make a fine garden bed.

The bags of top soil will be used in the beds when it is time to plant. I'll make troughs for some of the seed, fill them with top soil and then plant the seeds (beans, spinach, broccoli, lettuce) in the top soil. Other seeds (zucchini) will be sown in mounds of top soil.

So much for a perfect season...

Last night I mentioned how my Mets jumped out in front 2-0 against the Reds only to fall behind 4-2 at the end of the frost inning when Mike Pelfrey got nailed for a three-run homer. The Mets did make a comeback, however, in no small part due to Pelfrey's determination. He gave up no more runs and only five hits in his five innings of work. When he left the game, the Mets had jumped out in front 5-4 on a three run fifth inning. They would tack on four more runs in the top of the seventh and hold on for a 9-7 victory. Rodriguez made the bottom of the ninth interesting by allowing the bases to get loaded (2 walks and an infield error) with just one out. He and the Mets got out of the jam without giving up a run.

Today they sent Oliver Perez to the mound. The man is inconsistent but was deadly against left handed hitters last year (1.59 ERA to lead the NL). So what happens? He gets hammered by the Reds young, left hand hitting first baseman, Joey Votto (3 for 5 and 4 RBI including a three run homer) and ends up yielding eight (8) runs in 4.1 innings. Perez gave up 5 walks and 5 hits but also got 7 strikeouts. (I did say inconsistent, right?) The bullpen did not give up a run again, although O'Day did allow two inherited runners to score in the fifth.

So it's off to Miami to face the Marlins who are a perfect 3-0 (okay, so it was against the Nationals) over the weekend.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

This and that.

Not much to say today. Woke up at 6:30 AM and found another dusting of snow on the ground (it continued most of the day but melted as it hit the ground). The high for the day was 43 degrees late this afternoon when the sun briefly made an appearance.

Terry returned to the Aerie arriving home around 3:00 PM. Whatever attacked here system has cleared and none of her friends have reported any problems. We suspect it was some sliced carrots and celery that we had out for guests on Saturday but did not re-immerse in the brine before she took it to snack in the car on Monday. (I don't eat much rabbit food and discarded the remaining stalks when Terry said she was ill. Even the rabbits haven't touched them so far.)

I spotted some Flickers mixed in with a flock of Robins on a lawn down the hill when I went for the mail this morning. With a temperature of just 28 degrees at the time, I don't think they were finding many worms or ants. There was also a group of Turkey Vultures and a Red-tailed Hawk, a few Crows and Blue Jays, and lots of LBJs (Little Brown Jobs) flitting along the road edge.

Back at the Aerie, we've had nothing but the same old, same old. The Red-bellied Woodpecker continues to come to the feeder tray. Blue Jays, Pine Siskins, White-breasted Nuthatches, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Purple Finches, Mourning Doves, Goldfinches (more yellow every day), and Dark-eyed Juncos. We had more of the snowbirds (Juncos) today than at any one time all winter. They were everywhere. I thought I heard a wren out in the thickets but that's one that is hard to spot unless he's right at the top of a shrub.

Did I mention Grey Squirrels? I counted eight at one time today. We've had as many as fourteen during the winter. The Chipmunks seem to have decided to go back to sleep until things warm up again. They were out last time it got close to 60 degrees but I haven't seen any for two...maybe three, days. As far as I can tell, bringing the feeders in each night has discouraged the local Black Bear and the Raccoon posse. And I haven't seen the Opossum since the night a little over a week ago when Julie shot out the door to chase a Cottontail Rabbit and ran right passed the startled possum.

I'll be planting some marigold seeds into six-packs. Last year we planted marigolds around the perimeter of the herb and flower gardens and they seemed to deter rabbits and other critters from chomping on the plants. Even back in New Jersey, the marigolds I planted were the one plant that never got chewed. Day lillies, hosta, tulips...all lollipops to rabbits and deer. But not the marigolds. I'm hoping the plants will be large enough to transplant into the ground when we get back from our trip to Oregon. Some time around May 25th or so.

It write about the idiocies of Washington, D.C. (Black Caucus loves Cuba, the White House science adviser loves atmospheric dust to combat glo-bull warming, the treasury secretary thinks he can run everyone's business despite not paying his own taxes, etc.) and elsewhere but have spent so much time commenting on others' blogs that I've run dry.

I'd write about the Mets but despite jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, Mike Pelfrey gave it all back with interest in the bottom of the first. (4-2, Cincinnati). Antacids are the drink of the night. Pelfrey did redeem himself giving up no more runs in the next four innings and left with a 5-4 lead after five innings. It's in the hands of the bullpen now. Pelfrey may still get the win.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

This and that.

The cats let me sleep in until 7:30 AM. When I rolled out of bed I found the ground dusted with snow and the morning temperature of 23 degrees turned out to be the low for the day. It got "up" all the way to 33 degrees this afternoon but the sun never made an appearance. The winds were blowing out of the northwest at a pretty steady 20 MPH with gusts into the 30 MPH range so it felt a good deal colder whenever I stepped outdoors. With snow flurries much of the day, it sure didn't feel like baseball season. More flurries are forecast for tonight and again on Wednesday night. Wednesday's high will be about the same as today's--the low 30s. We should be getting back to near normal on Thursday although the forecast is for a little below the mid-50 average temperature.

Terry called from her mom's to say she's sick as a dog. She felt fine when she left here and right through her dinner party with her friends but woke up during the night with chills and vomited several times. It could be a flu or it could be food poisoning. She had to cancel her luncheon date with our daughter and curled up beneath the covers all day eating nothing but mom's chicken soup. She'll stay with her mom again tonight and, if feeling better, will come back to the Aerie Wednesday afternoon.

I kept the fire going in the living room all day to raise the house temperature to a toasty 70 degrees. Our propane delivery yesterday was for just over 110 gallons which isn't bad for the entire month of March. (Propane heats our home and hot water and runs the dryer and stove. January we used about twice that amount.) I guess you could consider that a sign of our impending spring.

I spent the day scanning 35mm slides into a digital format. Most of today's slides came from 1979 and 1989. You might say I went back in time 20-30 years. Some pictures from my days at Seton Hall (graduate school) and then from a family vacation up through Wisconsin (Hayward's Fishing Hall Of Fame), Minnesota (Duluth and the iron mine country, Grand Portage) and circling back through Canada along the northern shores of the Great Lakes Forts William and Henry on opposite ends of that stretch).

All I can say is that my picture taking back then was really poor. The worst thing about using film is that you have to wait to see the results so if your traveling, for instance, if you screw up a shot, you wouldn't know it until you got home and got the roll developed. When you see the results, it's way too late to go back and take it over again. Today, with most digital cameras, you get instant feedback and the cost of "development" is negligible.

Scanning slides can be a tedious chore. Especially when you're not sure you want to save a particular slide. I say scan them all and be safe. Getting the slides dust free is a task too. Even stored in the original little boxes from Kodak, they still have dust, water marks, finger prints or scratches from previous viewings. The dust can be removed with a camel hair brush and a small puff of air. The water marks and finger prints are almost impossible to remove and forget about the scratches. They are there to stay.

I've now scanned around 1000 slides and haven't even started on Terry and my two big cross country trips of 1976 and 1993. Each of those have their own separate boxes and the slides probably total over a thousand easily.