Monday, May 31, 2010

Alaskan wildlife, or should that be "wild life"?

Backpacker shoots, kills grizzly in Alaska park

In a wilderness area of Denali National Park.

No mention of the size of the bear, but it took nine (9!) .45 caliber slugs from the guy's pistol before the bear turned and walked into the brush. Yes, Rangers did find the bear the next morning dead.

But this sentence makes no sense to me:
Park officials are determining the justification for the shooting. It's legal to carry firearms in that area of the park but illegal to discharge them.

1- If the hikers are telling the truth, it's clearly a justifiable shooting.
2- It's legal to carry but illegal to discharge? WTF? Are you supposed to throw your gun at any threats?

Memorial Day, 2010

Thank You.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Love him or hate him, The Nuge makes a point

Sometimes a celebrity uses his or her status to say/do the right thing. In this instance, Ted Nugent makes a statement that resonates with me as Memorial Day approaches.

Every day is Memorial Day
We owe America's warriors who gave their lives for freedom
We owe it to these brave Americans and their families to win this war with our honor intact, not to telegraph to the enemy when we are packing up and leaving the battlefield. I'm no military tactician, but announcing when we are leaving the battlefield is analogous to putting an ad in your local newspaper to let all local punks and thugs know when you are going on vacation so they can plunder your home.

I stand with most Americans demanding a victory strategy, not an exit strategy.

When we commit our troops to war, we must make a commitment to them and their families that we will achieve total victory through the application of total war.

You got that right, Ted!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Aerie Report, May 29, 2010

A somewhat cooler yet still sunny day here at the Aerie as we start the Memorial Day weekend. The temperature only got up to 81 degrees this afternoon. They ( and AccuHunch are still talking upper 80s for Sunday and Monday. If it gets that warm on Monday I may have to set out the old lawn sprinkler and put my chair beneath the spray.


Terry and I spent some time selecting and packing the clothes we want to take on our cross country adventure. We purchased some Rubber Maid bins that will fit nicely under the queen-sized bed in the trailer in which to place our "stuff". We each got three but so far I've only filled one while Terry has managed to fill two. I guess polo and T-shirts just don't take up much room. We thought we were going to a place that would be cooler (I mean Fairbanks, the Yukon, etc. they're w-a-a-a-a-y up north, right?), but after Rev. Paul's comment the other day, I checked the Fairbanks weather and--DAMN!--it was in the 80s there too! Good thing the trailer's AC was inspected and repaired. And that we will be visiting several glaciers along the coast--if they don't melt between now and then!


Otherwise, it was a quiet day today. Tomorrow we'll travel down near Jersey Shore, PA to visit Terry's cousin and my bud, Joe. He and his wife are moving out of New Jersey ti a home near I-80 between Williamsport and Jersey Shore. He wants to borrow my log splitter so we'll bring that down to him so he can play with it all he wants until September 1st when I'll want it back.

Absolutely no plans for Monday except for barbecuing some burgers and maybe some corn on the cob. Tuesday, June 1, we'll be getting into nail biting time. I'll be heading up to get the trailer and bringing it down here on Thursday for a six day test run and provisioning at Ives Run.

If I Only Had a Brain!

The best song parody I've seen in a long while comes from the pen (keyboard?) of The Great Reader: JihadGene.

If I Only Had a Brain!

Go on over and take a peek and see if you don't agree.

Three Holy Men and a Bear.

This came over the transom from my buddy Joe--a new transfer from NJ to PA:

A Priest, a Pentecostal Preacher, and a Rabbi all served as chaplains to the students of Northern Michigan University in Marquette. They would get together two or three times a week for coffee and to talk shop. One day, someone made the comment that preaching to people isn't really all that hard. A real challenge would be to preach to a bear. One thing led to another and they decided to do an experiment. They would all go out into the woods, find a bear, preach to it, and attempt to convert it.

Seven days later, they're all together to discuss their experience.

Father Flannery, who has his arm in a sling, is on crutches, and has various bandages on his body and limbs, goes first. "Well," he says, "I went into the woods to find a bear. And when I found him I began to read to him from the catechism. Well, that bear wanted nothing to do with me and began to slap me around. So I quickly grabbed my holy water, sprinkled him and, Holy Mary Mother of God, he became as gentle as a lamb. The bishop is coming out next week to give him first communion and confirmation."

Reverend Billy Bob spoke next. He was in a wheelchair, with an IV drip in his arm, and both legs in casts. In his best fire and brimstone oratory he claimed, "WELL, brothers, you KNOW that we don't sprinkle! I went out and I FOUND a bear. And then I began to read to my bear from God's HOLY WORD! But that bear wanted nothing to do with me. So I took HOLD of him and we began to wrestle. We wrestled down one hill, UP another and DOWN another until we came to a creek. So I quickly DUNKED him and BAPTIZED his hairy soul. And just like you said, he became as gentle as a lamb. We spent the rest of the day praising Jesus."

The Priest and the Reverend both looked down at the Rabbi, who was lying in a hospital bed. He was in a body cast and traction with IV's and monitors running in and out of him. He was in real bad shape.

The Rabbi looks up and says, "Looking back on it, circumcision may not have been the best way to start."

Wasted Opportunity

The Mets wasted an opportunity last night. They could have picked up a road win in Milwaukee as the Brewers just let the darn thing lay there for 8 innings as Johan Santana had his way with the hapless homies allowing just three hits in 8 innings of work. Unfortunately the road team (the Mets) acted like they didn't want the game either getting eight hits--six of them singles--off Yovanni Gallardo in nine innings.

Santana ran the Mets shutout innings to 35 (team record is 42 back in 1969) before reliever Ryota Igarashi, fresh off the DL, gave up a two-run, walk-off home run to Corey Hart in the bottom of the ninth. Final score: Brewers 2, Mets 0 (Details here.

The Mets still have the worst road record in the National League at 6-15 (the Orioles 6-20 is the worst in the majors) and the Brewers still have the worst home record (7-15) in baseball. They play again tonight.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Aerie Report, May 28, 2010

The last two days have been 3-H days here at the Aerie: Hazy, Hot and Humid.

We did not get the record heat on Thursday we were told was a possibility, but it was hot enough as it got up to 87 late in the day. None of the T-storms showed up to cool things off either. They all swept past far to our east ending up in the NY-NJ area around 6 PM.

Today had all the makings of another scorcher but the weak front that moved through late yesterday kept the temperature to a mere 80 degrees. Still, the humidity started off around 70% and dropped down to just 60% late this afternoon. Once again, the widely scattered showers missed us almost completely. I say almost because we got about 10 drops around 1:30 in the afternoon and Terry, who was east of here driving home actually had to put her wipers on for a short time. Granted they were on the intermittent setting, but still....

We'll get one more "cool" day of around 80 before Sunday and Monday head back close to 90. After that, however, we'll be back to highs in the 70-80 range and lows in the 55-60 vicinity.

Just get rid of the humidity and I'll be happy. Cutting grass this afternoon was no walk in the park.


I did see another--or maybe it was the same--garter snake while cutting the lawn today. It was all bright and shiny as if it had just shed its skin. (Last one I saw was dull and drab with scales covering its eyes that were nearly opaque.) It slithered off into the tall grasses on the edge of the lawn where I do not cut. I wished him(?) happy hunting in his search for crickets and worms.


Yesterday I booked six nights at Ives Run Campground (a Corps of Engineers facility on Hammond Lake) via the government website: Terry and I thought it would be easier to gear up by bringing the trailer down here rather than trying to bring all our stuff up to the Bolt Hole. We could have parked it in the Aerie's driveway, but with the number of dump trucks going up and down this road lately (windmills and gas lines) things are a bit cramped on the 1 1/2 lanes. Not to mention dusty. Besides, by using the campground (with its water and electrical hook-ups, we'll be able to test things out before we actually hit the road on June 9th.

I was pretty impressed with the reservation system for national campgrounds at You can pretty much search for federal facilities in any state, near any town/city, or by the name of the facility. You can see what sites are available, what size they are (an important factor when you've got a large RV/motorhome/trailer), what kind of hook-ups they have, what amenities they offer, and more. Then, once you've made a choice, you can book your stay paying by credit card.

So I'll be heading up to the Bolt Hole next week to haul the trailer down to the campground on the 3rd of June. Then the fun of packing up begins. Not that we haven't already started....

Who are these guys?

So. The Phillies went into the big Citi to face the Mets in a three game set scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The Mets were five (5) games back in last place in the NL East while the Phillies were in first place. (Since there are five teams in the NL East, it was kinda crowded!)

The Mets had 35 year-old knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, a "new" Japanese immigrant (legal) in Hisanori Takahashi and big Mike Pelfrey going to the mound. They were backed up by a bullpen that has seen a huge number of innings of work in this young season.

Going into Tuesday’s games, the Mets bullpen had made 151 relief appearances, the most in the major leagues. And Manuel has used two setup men — the left-hander Pedro Feliciano and the right-hander Fernando Nieve — in 27 and 26 games, which placed them first and second in the National League in that category.

The Phillies lost all three games. Not just "lost" but they got shut out In. All. Three. Games. Each of the starting Mets pitchers went deep into the game (Dickey and Takahashi pitched through 6 innings while Pelfrey tossed 7 innings.) The "over worked" bullpen slammed the door in all three games as the Mets won 8-0, 5-0 and 3-0.

The current standings show the Mets in third place just 2 games back of the Phillies and 1/2 game behind the Braves. The Phillies are on the road against the Marlins while the Mets are playing at Milwaukee. The Mets have five (5) game win streak on the line but they have been terrible on the road. (They are 6-14 on the road vs 19-9 at Citi Field.) The Phillies are 13-10 at home and 13-10 on the road.

If the Mets really want to be contenders, they are going to have to pick up their game on the road. Tonight would be a good time to start. The Brewers are 19-28 and 8 1/2 games back in the NL Central. Better: They are just 6-15 at home. Even better: The Mets have Johan Santana pitching tonight.


Different Birds at the Aerie

Last evening after dinner I was sitting in the living room when I heard a loud "THUMP" against the glass. I figured a mourning dove or a robin had smacked into the window and got up to see if I had to remove its body from the deck. (Yeah, it was that loud.) Chester beat me to the window and was perplexed as was I for nothing lay upon the deck at all. Thinking that perhaps the bird had enough energy to flutter over the side, I went out to take a look. That's when I saw the bird fluttering its wings as it clung to the drip cap over the French doors heading out to the deck.

Not a robin or mourning dove at all, this was a cuckoo. No really, a Black-billed Cuckoo. I reached up and took it in hand to check its wings which seemed fine, but it certainly had a bit of a concussion. It was dazed and a little blood ran down its beak.

I set it on the rail under the covered porch and kept an eye on it for a while. It took a few moments but it cot its feet under it and proceeded to stand. Then it voided a fluid all over the deck rail, turned so its rear was over the deck and voided a broken egg onto the deck. Now I felt really down. This was a nesting female who had just had to abort one of her eggs because the impact of her flight into the glass had been enough to break the shell. Still she was looking better.

I let her sit on the deck hand rail and made no rapid movements that would startle her as I went back inside. A half hour later, the rail was empty. I went out to check and found no bird on the deck anywhere and none laying on the ground below. Apparently she recovered enough to take herself off to who knows where.


This morning I was standing on the deck thinking I had to cut the lawn...again...when a bright blue bird flew across my line of sight. Aha! I thought. My Indigo Bunting is back! WRONG! As it landed on the wires and faced me, I could see the rusty band of color that formed a bib beneath its chin and the white of its belly. This was a male Eastern Bluebird. I often see them on the edges of the fields and pastures just a few hundred yards down the hill, but they seldom come up to the Aerie. This may have been the second or third I remember seeing in the yard.


When the lawn was done and Terry had come home from another of her sewing club meetings, I was telling her about the Bluebird and lamenting the missing Indigo Bunting. Moments later, as we stood on the deck admiring the newly cut lawn, a flash of blue again moved across the opening and alit on a branch on the edge of the clearing. This time it WAS and Indigo Bunting. Then he started to sing and there was no doubt that he was home--especially when he moved to the very tippy top of the aspens and continued to serenade us.

These little gems of the bird world have been regulars in the yard since we started to build back in 2006. A male would sit high atop the aspens and sing its heart out as the sun rose over the hill and hit those branches first. This was the first to appear in 2010, however, and I was beginning to wonder if they would return. They prefer abandoned fields but maybe the one in the back end of the property and the power line right of way running along side the house are enough to keep them around.


Three birds; each "different" from the normal customers around the Aerie; each welcome to return any time (sans the smashing into the window thing, of course)

Quote of the day

"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters."

Noah Webster
(10/16/1758 – 05/28/1843)
US writer

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Birding Tioga County:
Rails-to-Trails Pine Creek/Darling Run

I took a brief walk with two friends along the rails-to-trails along Pine Creek this morning. We started at Darling Run parking area and walked north to the Rt. 6 overpass and then headed back.

Gary had warned us that there might be bugs, but I believe even he was surprised to find that a large mayfly hatch last night had a multitude of large light green flies as well as some large dark brown flies resting on the trees and shrubs. Whether they normally hawked insects out of the air or not, there was a lot of swooping going on. Even a chipmunk seemed to have got into the act as it climbed some of the shrubs to--presumably--go after mayflies. Every time a branch quivered under its weight, a dozen mayflies took wing.

One of the highlights of the day were the half dozen or more Baltimore Orioles moving up and down the shores of Pine Creek. WE spotted at least four active nests high in the sycamore trees. Then there was the Common Merganser family consisting of mom and 7 or 8 little ones who were having a grand old time running across the surface of the water and diving. Could they, too have been feeding on mayflies? Or were they just displaying youthful energy? (Well, all except the one that decided to hitch a ride on mom's back.)Finally, after not seeing any Bald Eagles at the nest across from the parking area when we arrived, we spotted two adults that landed in a tree right next to the path and then three young on the nest further down.

All in all a pretty good morning in which we spotted 31 species according to my list.

Location: Pine Creek/Darling Run, US-PA, Tioga

Observation type: Traveling Count
Observation date: 5/27/10 Distance covered: 1.5 mile(s)
Start time: 8:00 AM Area covered: N/A
Duration: 2 hour(s) 15 minute(s) Elevation: N/A
Number of people in party: 3

Calm, clear morning with temperatures in the 60s. We walked from the parking lot north to the Rt 6 overpass and back.

Many Baltimore Orioles along the creek. We saw at least four nests.

A mayfly hatch (large flies, some pale green others dark brown) had all the birds (and even a chipmunk) gorging on the bounty.

Canada Goose
Common Merganser
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Spotted Sandpiper
Chimney Swift
Belted Kingfisher
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Kingbird
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
American Redstart
Song Sparrow
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch

Total species reported: 31

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Aerie Report, May 25, 2010

An exceptionally warm day here at the Aerie. The bright sunshine and lack of a breeze brought the temperature up to 87 degrees late this afternoon. The official high was just 82 which, while above the average for the day was well below the record high of 89 degrees. I have to assume the weather station is over at the Corning-Elmira airport and they interpolate temperatures for our area from that station and a few others. "Interpolate"...that's a fancy assed way of saying they make an educated guess.


It's supposed to be even warmer tomorrow and we just may set a new record. Terry has a group of her lady friends coming over in at 10 AM for some stitching and lunch. I was thinking of going out but may just hunker down in the basement where the temperature is a cool 64 on even the warmest days.

The heat will break on Thursday, they say, when a front moves through with a chance of T-storms. After that we'll be in the more reasonable/seasonable 75-80 degree range for a while.


The lack of any breeze is unusual for the Aerie. Normally a still morning will become 10-15 mph breezes by afternoon as the ridges heat up. Not today and not anytime in the last three or four days. It's brought the windmills to a near standstill. I've only seen them turning a couple of hours each day. And when they are standing still, the three on the opposite hill are, as often as not, pointing in three different directions. I sure hope that who ever is buying the power from these turbines has a back-up plan.


Standing on the deck this morning I heard a sweet, loud, repetitive bird call coming from the trees a short distance away. I finally isolated the source and saw that it was a male Baltimore Oriole perched near the top of the aspens. It continued to sing as it moved from tree to tree for about ten minutes before moving to the edge of the field on the back end of the property and finally disappeared from hearing. I believe this was the first Oriole I've seen in the yard. Alas, this poor boy didn't seem to get any response to his calls and so has probably moved on. A beautiful bird in its bright orange plumage. I wish there were more of them around the Aerie.


14 days to go.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Aerie Report, May 24, 2010

Not much to report on today. The weather was superb. Mostly sunny with a light breeze out of the south and temperatures ranging from 58 to 74 degrees. (The forecast had been for closer to 80 but the cloud cover which moved in between noon and 4 PM kept it down.) The humidity was high, however, and that meant plenty of early morning fog in the valleys and even an unpredicted spritz around 3 PM. Well, it was "unpredicted" but my taking the Tundra to the car wash probably made it inevitable.

Speaking of the Tundra, I spent an hour cleaning out the back seat and straightening things up. Discovered that somewhere along the way one of the bolts anchoring the rear seat belts had gone AWOL. Since I wanted to go do some shopping for auto fluids (transmission, brake, oil, etc.) anyway, I stopped at the hardware store to get a replacement. I was unable to get the matching bolt out so as to make my job of getting a replacement that much easier--and making the missing bolt that much more a mystery--so I had to sorta guess as to the size. First choice, a 7/16 by 3/4, was nearly the right diameter but the threads were too coarse. The second had almost the right threads but it still wouldn't fit. That's when I realized I needed a metric bolt. Luckily they had a few in stock and after trying a 12mm with a 20 thread, got the match I needed in a 10mm-20.

Off to Wally World for the fluids (cheaper there), a window squeegee, an extension cord (50' of 12 gauge), and some other odds and ends. Wally carries just about everything and it's not even a Super Store. Two items they did not have were road emergency reflectors (the triangle kind) and flares. I'm pretty sure I can get those from Auto Zone which is just down the block. If not, then NAPA should carry them. Gives me an second excuse to go down the hill tomorrow.

The first excuse? I stopped by the Allstate office because I realized our auto insurance bill will be due on July 31 and we will be somewhere in either the Yukon or British Columbia. While talking with our agent about how to make the payment, he suggested I go paperless and also have my payment made directly from the bank online--at a savings of almost 15% annually. Now I may be slow, but with three cars and a trailer on the insurance.... So tomorrow I go down with the checking account number in hand and we set up the account online.

While I was running around, Terry was making arrangements with the campground in Fairbanks (actually in North Pole) to have some prescription medications sent there for her. She's got enough on hand to get her to July 20th or so but will need her meds refilled to complete the trip.


Before going out this afternoon, I built a little wattle fence along the back edge of the onion patch so as to discourage any wandering raccoon or bruin from walking through the plants. Yeah, it's a reaction rather than prevention at this point, but only a few look to have been bent over.

While working on the fence, I saw my first snake of the season. An 18" garter snake, it was sunning itself on one of the rocks that form the planting bed's wall. I felt sorry for the poor thing. Its was so dull and gray that its yellow stripes could barely be discerned and even the scales over its eyes were nearly opaque. Clearly, this was a snake in need of a sharp-edged stone so it could begin shedding its skin.

Speaking of critters, the robins nesting on the corner logs of the garage have hatched at least two chicks. I climbed up to do a check when I did a walk about this afternoon. Momma robin sat tight when I walked past but flew off when I stopped to look back. Since she had left the nest--to squawk at me from the trees--I felt it was okay to climb up and reach in to determine if there were eggs. I didn't feel any eggs but there were a couple of squirming little bodies down in the nest cup. Not wanting to disturb Momma too much, I climbed down and left without attempting to get an accurate count. There's most definitely two, possibly three, babies in the nest. I should be able to get a better count in less than a week when their big mouths will be up above the edge of the nest looking for the next worm.


I would be derelict in my fan duties if I did not mention that the Mets took two out of three games over the weekend from the *ptui* Yankees. In the two games they won, Jason Bay--formerly of the Red Sox--went 4-for-4 (scoring 3 runs) and then 2-for-2 (both home runs). Is it any wonder he got plunked later in the second game? Sure, it was a 78 mph curve ball, but that only provided deniability to the Yankees. Face it. It was intentional. Hell, if it wasn't, it should have been! Bay's batting average is now up to .307 for the season.

Yeah, yeah. I know the Yanks are 26-18 and in second place in the AL East while the Mets are under .500 at 22-23 in fifth (last) place in the NL East. I would like to point out, however, that the Yanks are SIX (6) games out of first behind the Tampa Bay Rays, while the Mets are just FIVE (5) games behind the Phillies. (The Mets start a three game series against the Phillies Tuesday night in CITI Field.)

The Mets announced today that right-handed pitcher John Maine has tendinitis in his throwing shoulder and will be sidelined indefinitely. Maine threw just five pitches--walking the only batter he faced--in his last start on Thursday against the Nationals before he came out of the game when the pitching coach Dan Warthen and manager Jerry Manual saw something in his delivery they didn't like.

With Oliver Perez in the pull pen for the time being, two-fifths of the Mets' starting rotation has been shelved. Hisanori Takahashi and knuckleballer R.A. Dickey will try to pick up the slack.


Oh yeah: 15 days to go!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Aerie Report, May 23, 2010

Got up early this morning thanks to the birds and after breakfast left the Bolt Hole to return to the Aerie. We enjoyed a nice leisurely ride though some beautiful farmland as well as historic Clinton, NY (named after New York Governor DeWitt Clinton who was instrumental in the building of the Erie Canal) and Hamilton, NY (home of Colgate University) along Route 12B and then down Route 12 to I-81 and Route 17 west. The speeds are slower but the distance is close to 20 miles less than other routes between the two places.

The sun was out nearly the entire way until we got within 20 miles of home when we hit a few of the widely scattered showers. We made several stops along the way for fuel, coffee, leg stretch and some shopping at Lowes in Sayre, PA (needed some storage bins for clothing and gear to fit under the bed in the trailer). The stops resulted in a nearly 5 hour ride but they were worth it.

The cats were extremely pleased to see us and our opposable thumbs. See, they can't open the cat food cans and had run through all the dry food we had left out. The poor dears were in danger of wasting away! Since they got fed late today, perhaps they will let us sleep late in the morning? Nah, never gonna happen.

Down to 16 days before we set out!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Bolt Hole Report, May 22, 2010

After I finished the deck staining (Hoorah!) on Friday morning, Terry and I drove up to the Bolt Hole to do inventory of the trailer and get it prepped for our Alaskan adventure.

The weather here int he northlands is beautiful. There's a fairly stiff breeze blowing, only a few high altitude cirrus clouds, and a temperature reaching into the upper 70s and low 80s. The breeze has been helpful in keeping the black flies in check. Not so much the deer flies, however. There's a slight (30%) chance of some showers tomorrow but we'll be on the road home soon after breakfast.

I cut the grass around the cabin this morning while she did some cleanup inside the cabin and began the inventory process. We were both surprised to see how much of the material/equipment we needed was already on board. It's been several years since the trailer went anywhere except to PA for its annual inspection and we haven't had any real camping experience since our last run to Colorado Springs. Even that was just four days out and five or so days back with a five or six day layover in Monument, CO--a few miles north of the Air Force Academy along the Front Range--as our destination. This Alaskan sojourn will be closer to 75 days in total--43 of them with the Good Sam Club crew touring the Alaskan Highway, Alaska, and British Columbia. The balance of the trip will be on our own as we stop just northwest of Chicago for a couple of days on the way outward bound (the DIL's parents are there), in Portland, OR for a weekend (son and DIL), and again in Colorado Springs for four or five days (good friends who have their own hot air balloon--hope the weather cooperates!). I've calculated we'll be on the road for approximately 12,000 miles.

But driving is not our only means of seeing things. Some time will be spent in the air (flying in the country north of Fairbanks and hot air ballooning just west of Pikes Peak), and some on the water (ferries to Juneau and Mendenhall Glacier, stern-wheeled paddle boats on the Yukon, and halibut fishing out of Homer).

We'll be leaving the Bolt Hole to head back to the Aerie in the morning. The poor kittehs are probably hoarse from trying to get us to come out of the bedroom and feed them. They would be happy to know that even without their wake-up call, we were out of bed at 6 AM today.

Only 17 days to go before we start!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Deck staining, redoux

The weather was so nice today I felt it would be a shame to waste it. It could have been a Top 10 Day if the temperature hadn't soared into the 80s. With no breeze, those low 80s--in the sun--felt more like 90s. In any event, this morning's sunshine was more than enough to dry out the deck rails and balusters on the west side of the house, especially since much of it was on the inside under the covered porch. It took me a little over 4 hours to finish the staining there. That leaves only the small porch at the front door which shouldn't take more than 2 hours to complete. I should be able to do that before noon tomorrow.


Terry and I have been trying to squeeze in a quick trip up to the Bolt Hole so we can do an inventory of what's in the trailer and what's available in the cabin for our Alaskan trip. If I can get the staining done in the morning, we could leave after lunch and be back late Saturday. (Got to be home on Sunday so she can watch the final two hours of Lost.) Even if the grass needs cutting--and I will only do the big rectangular section on the west of the cabin and in front of the barn and garage--I can do that while she's going though the closets.

19 days to go!

Special Olympics and Audubon

Terry returned form the Special Olympics even around 2:30 this afternoon. She reports that there were some 250 participants form around Tioga County, each with a college or high school buddy and many with their parents. Translation: There were a lot of people there.

And they had a beautiful day for the event. Cloudless, sunny skies with temperatures in the high 70s /low 80s. Along with the track and field events, there were several participatory attractions such as the one she spearheaded for the Tiadaghton Audubon Society. Terry had found line drawings of numerous common birds online and printed them off before making several dozen photocopies of each. These were offered for to the Olympians to be colored. Terry and her assistants, Sue and Evangeline, also had bird books, binoculars and other bird watching paraphernalia on hand to use as examples/inspiration.

Terry said that those that came to the table were enthusiastic in their interest in birds and crayon art. Most took their works home with them but a few wished to have their renditions added to the "gallery" started when Evangeline hung up a picture of a flicker she had completed. And a few wanted to take several blank drawings home with them so they could work on them at their leisure.

The only problems Terry reported had to do with the good weather! The sun threatened to burn the ladies running the event and melt the crayons. Luckily, they were stationed near the first aid pavilion and were able to requisition some ice to keep the crayons solid.

She came home with several ideas has how to make the Tiadaghton Audubon Society portion of the Special Olympics even better next year.

Birding Tioga County:
Rails-to-Trails Bike Path west of Rt. 287

We had a beautiful day for walking the bike trail today. At 7:30 AM it was 55 degrees, no breeze and not a cloud in the sky and while the temperature rose to 70 degrees over the next three hours, there were still no clouds or breezes.

Six of us started out we had a great day viewing birds. There were scads of Alder Flycatchers, Yellow Warblers, Catbirds, Canada Geese, Red-winged Blackbirds, and other species. Only a few birds could be grouped as "one-offs"--that is only one of that species showed up. The Broad-winged Hawk, Green Heron, Baltimore Oriole, American Redstart, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak come to mind. We were a bit surprised that there weren't more hawks and Turkey Vultures in the air as the conditions seemed perfect as the morning warmed up for them to be soaring.

In any event, I came up with 41 species this morning. Here's the report:

Location: Rails-to-Trails Rt 287 W (Just west of Wellsboro, PA)
Observation date: 5/20/10
Notes: Gorgeous morning. No clouds. No breeze. Temp from 55-70.
Lots of flycatchers and yellow warblers present along the sides of the trail.
Number of species: 41

Canada Goose X
Wood Duck X
Mallard X
Green Heron X
Turkey Vulture X
Broad-winged Hawk X
Killdeer X
Spotted Sandpiper X
Solitary Sandpiper X
Rock Pigeon X
Mourning Dove X
Red-bellied Woodpecker X
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker X
Downy Woodpecker X
Alder Flycatcher X
Eastern Phoebe X
Great Crested Flycatcher X
Red-eyed Vireo X
Blue Jay X
American Crow X
Common Raven X
Tree Swallow X
Cliff Swallow X
Barn Swallow X
Tufted Titmouse X
White-breasted Nuthatch X
Veery X
American Robin X
Gray Catbird X
European Starling X
Cedar Waxwing X
Yellow Warbler X
American Redstart X
Common Yellowthroat X
Song Sparrow X
Swamp Sparrow X
Northern Cardinal X
Rose-breasted Grosbeak X
Red-winged Blackbird X
Common Grackle X
Baltimore Oriole X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Aerie Report, May 19, 2010

Bright and (way too) early this morning I headed northeast to Sayre to get the Tundra a thorough check-up and oil change while Terry headed south to Williamsport to have the Jeep's oil changed and a leak around the sun roof taken corrected. (Her Aveo got its oil changed yesterday right here in Mansfield.)

After explaining why I wanted things gone over with a fine tooth comb (got a 12,000 mile trip hauling a trailer coming up guys!) the mechanic at Williams Toyota did just that. Oil change, rotated and balanced tires including removing a bunch of hardened mud that had been causing some vibration in the steering (damn muddy roads!), checked all hoses, checked and topped off all fluids, replaced the air filter (damn dusty roads!), and replaced the cracked serpentine belt.

I got a spare air filter--just in case--and kept the old serpentine belt (they didn't have another in stock) to serve in case of an emergency. I asked about a fuel filter but was told that it's not on the line but inside the tank. Usually they just back flush it. If I get to the point it needs to be replaced, I'm in a whole 'nother world of hurt.

Slowly, but surely, I'm putting together the "emergency" kit you should have for such a long trip. I still need to get some emergency reflectors and flares, a couple of quarts of oil, some engine coolant, and transmission fluid to go in the kit. I hope to never use any of this stuff, but you never know.

Terry's visit to Van Campen Motors was almost as productive, they made the oil change, but then had to completely dismantle the sun roof to correct the blockage that allowed water to get into the dome light. That took over an hour. That and the complete washing of the Jeep when they believed they had fixed the leak. Gotta test for leaks somehow. Anyway, she got her oil changed, the leak fixed and a clean car all for the price of the oil change.

And she brought home a box of Mr. Sticky's buns. Mmmmm Sticky Buns!


Speaking of leaks, the showers were supposed to end early today. They didn't. Oh, they weren't heavy at any one time, but what they were was persistent. Thinking they had finished, I went out to cut the dandelions at 2:30 this afternoon. The showers returned at 2:50 and continued to spritz me off and on for the remainder of the cutting.


There's something unsettling about the long, skinny, pale white/green/yellow stalks of dandelions sticking high above the darker green of the lawn/dandelion leaves. The hollow stalks have reached high to produce their puff-ball seed heads. Reaching upward so the slightest breeze can carry the tiny seeds on their parachute to a new, fertile site. The rains had pretty much washed those seeds off the stalks' tips. Today, there were just the stalks reaching for the sky. And I cut them down. Unmercifully.


After starting the day around 46-47 degrees at 6 AM, it barely got up to 60 degrees around 2:30 this afternoon. They say, that it will be 80 degrees and sunny tomorrow. Maybe Annie is in town.


Speaking of tomorrow....
I got an email from Gary about a bird walk along the rails-to-trails bike path along Marsh Creek west of Route 287. Since it's supposed to be a nice morning, I'll be meeting him there. At 8 AM.

Terry will be going to the Special Olympics being held at Mansfield University. She and a couple of other gals from Tiadaghton Audubon Society will man (woman?) a table to entertain some of the participants with bird drawings that can be colored.


20 days to go!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

We need more Chipping Sparrows!

The Chipping Sparrow, one if not the smallest of the sparrows is rather nondescript. it's not terribly colorful except for its bright rusty cap. It's got no fancy colors or striped breast. It doesn't have a rousing song like the Song Sparrow or White-throated Sparrow.

No, the Chipping Sparrow could be just another LBJ (Little Brown Job). Except, as I discovered this afternoon, it likes to eat Dandelion seeds.

A Chipping Sparrow perched on a Dandelion stalk

Chipping Sparrow--saying grace?

Chipping Sparrow pausing before its meal.

Chipping Sparrow eyeing up its selection.

Chipping Sparrow digs into its tucker.

Chipping Sparrow takes a breather.

Chipping Sparrow with two seeds in its bill.

Makes me wish a horde of Chipping Sparrows would descend upon my lawn just as the sea gulls did upon the fields around the Great Salt Lake. Lord knows, there's enough Dandelion seeds to go around!

Alaskan (and post Alaskan) Plans

When I took an 11 AM break yesterday to feed the kittehs, I also made a phone call to book passage on a one day Arctic Excursion for Terry and I with the Northern Alaska Tour Company out of Fairbanks. They had several one day adventures available including two that were a combination of drive/fly, but the one that seemed most "educational" was the Arctic Circle Native Culture Adventure. The tour starts at 5 AM and you return to Fairbanks around 7 PM. It will be a long day but a rewarding one, I'm sure.


Rev. Paul, who is Way Up North in Anchorage has said to give him a call when we are in town. (That'll be July 11th, Paul. Keep the date available.)


Got word from our friends in Colorado Springs that they are saving a weekend for us on our return leg. Even if the weather isn't good for any ballooning, the margaritas will flow like water as we catch up with one another.


Only 21 days until we start!

Speaking of Aerie Weather

A fine rain started falling around 4 AM. The sound of water dripping in the drain pipe (and the hooting of a Barred Owl--"Who? Who? Who cooks for you all?") woke me up at that time, but I managed to fall back to a fitful sleep until nearly 8 AM. This weekend warrior stuff can produce some seriously stiff muscles!

4AM. That was the original rain forecast before they started to hedge their bets with the earlier times. Looking at the radar it seems we could have had earlier rain IF we were just 30 miles west of here. Some darker greens mixed with yellow and even red passed through Potter County much earlier. We, who are just east of Route 15 on the other hand, were in a slot of light rain and scattered showers. It's a little after 9 AM, 43 degrees, and still spritzing off and on. That might last all day which will give me a good long nap time before the Photography Club meeting tonight. (I will have to stir a little so as to go vote in the primary for Governor--if I can figure out where the polling place is. There's a definite dearth of voting literature in the mail around here.)

I've said it before, weather forecasting in the Northern Tier is a spotty proposition. So many hills and valleys do their own thing; create their personal micro-climates that it's difficult to make a pinpoint forecast. The steep slopes can cause storms to be sliced and diced until they're dispersed. You can watch it happen on the radar. You can also see isolated T-storms move through the valley parallel to the ridges that form the Northern Tier of PA and Southern Tier of NYS remain intact--as long as they stay small.

It's a fascinating--and, at times, frustrating--phenomenon.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Morning calls.

It's bad enough that the cats serve as our alarm clock every morning (usually at 6 AM!) but now, with the night time outdoor temps in the 50s and the windows open wide, the birds have joined in. If the morning call was offered up by the melodious sound of the Wood Thrush singing a duet with himself, I would have little to complain about, but today it was a pair of Blue Jays (complaining that the feeders weren't out yet) and an Ovenbird and its "Teacher! Teacher! Teacher!" Reminded me of the first day of classes with the new sixth graders.

Almost Done!

After checking the hour-by-hour forecast last night (30% chance of showers by 4 AM Tuesday morning) and again this morning (30% chance of showers by 1 AM Tuesday morning), I thought I'd give staining a shot. Nearly all the surfaces to be stained were vertical and, given more than six hours to dry (no way was I working past 7 o'clock!) they should be okay. It's not like anyone is going to walk on the balusters before they get a chance to dry completely.

I got started just before 9 AM when the temperature reached 52 degrees and worked steadily all day finishing the east end of the deck and then all the inside of the rails and balusters by 5 PM. Another full 8 hour day.

All that's left now are the two 8' sections under the covered porch (inside only--that'll take 2 hours, max) the stoops at the front door (maybe 1 1/2 hours), the steps up to the big deck (only four so it's not much--say an hour), and the small section between the steps and the house (awkward to reach, not hard to do--say another hour).So, one more 8 hour day will suffice. Unfortunately, that may not be until Friday.

The rain showers that were supposed to start at 1 AM Tuesday, are now forecast (40%) for 8-9 PM Monday night and lasting through Wednesday. So it will be Thursday to dry out (and cut the dandelions) and Friday to stain.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

At Colton Point" Pink Lady Slipper

Luckily, flowers are usually A) nearer at hand B) relatively stationary.

There was a small group of Pink Lady Slippers under a few white pine trees along the west rim of the Grand Canyon of PA. One had already been either picked or eaten. Another was just barely ready to open. One was just right. Unfortunately, I only had my 75-300mm lens with me. Even cranked down to 75mm and set to macro, I had a difficult time focusing upon the delicate flower.

Pink Lady Slipper

At Colton Point: Scarlet Tanager

One of the frustrating things about trying to photograph spring migrants is that they are often high in the tree tops flitting about searching for insects and caterpillars. They seldom come down low enough to pose nor sit still long enough for you to get a clear focus upon them. Even when they do sit still long enough, focusing upon them is difficult because of the newly emerging leaves. Even auto focus telephoto lenses in the range of 300mm are often too short.

This Scarlet Tanager sat still long enough as it sang it's heart out on Saturday morning at Colton Point. I had a chance to snap a couple of photos but even with a 300mm lens, the darn thing was way up there and the results are less than desired.

Scarlet Tanager

Aerie Report, May 16, 2010

A definte candidate for Top Ten day today. It started cool and a little cloudy but after noon it was warm and sunny. The high got up to around 70 with just the slightest of breeze blowing. I'm getting quite the farmer's tan as I work outside in short sleeves.

I managed to get another 8 hours of staining done today although I had to wait until 10 AM for the temperature to get above 50 degrees. Some 36 balusters and 5 posts plus all those little 4" sections of two rails between them were all done from the top of an 8' step ladder. And my quads are telling me that it was a chore. But I did get the front of the deck finished. Now there's only the 10' section on the east ends of the deck to do and the inside of the entire thing. The forecast is for some slight chance of showers starting at 4 AM on Tuesday morning so I've got until 4 PM tomorrow to get as much done as possible before my window closes until Friday or so.

There's something disconcerting about working at the top of a ladder and leaning over as far as you can with no real hand holds to reach the surfaces you want to stain so you don't have to go up and down too frequently to move the ladder over and having vultures circling overhead. Waiting.


Got a call this afternoon from the "Wagon Master" of our Alaskan trek. He just wanted to talk about our trip, gather some information about the optional activities (Yes to the halibut fishing in Homer. He'll try to get a boat for a group--it's cheaper. No to the rafting trip in Denali. Clarification as to the Arctic Circle flight/drive--book it yourself, ASAP.) and impart some thoughts about what to bring and what not to bring. I let Terry do the talking since I was otherwise occupied.

Just 23 days to go!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Aerie Report, May 15, 2010

A productive day at the Aerie. And a beautiful day, too. Clear skies with temperatures starting in the low 40s and working up to the mid-60s.

It started with our Saturday morning bird walk over at Colton Point State Park. bolstered by a few actual campers and the Grand Canyon Photography Club, we had 14 people attend. We all enjoyed a leisurely walk along the west Rim of the Canyon as we struggled to identify the clearly heard but difficult to see warblers high up in the trees. A few birds made our task easy by flying down low and sticking around in one spot long enough for us to make a positive ID even if they didn't pose long enough for any photos. I ended the day with a list of 27 species:

Location: Colton Point
Observation date: 5/15/10
Notes: Beautiful morning. Clear, little breeze, temperature rose from 45 to 57.
Number of species: 27

Ruffed Grouse X
Turkey Vulture X
Bald Eagle X
Sharp-shinned Hawk X
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker X
Hairy Woodpecker X
Pileated Woodpecker X
Eastern Wood-Pewee X
Blue-headed Vireo X
Red-eyed Vireo X
Blue Jay X
American Crow X
Red-breasted Nuthatch X
White-breasted Nuthatch X
Brown Creeper X
Hermit Thrush X
American Robin X
Chestnut-sided Warbler X
Black-throated Blue Warbler X
Yellow-rumped Warbler X
Black-throated Green Warbler X
Blackburnian Warbler X
Ovenbird X
Hooded Warbler X
Scarlet Tanager X
Chipping Sparrow X
Dark-eyed Junco X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(


One couple who were camping over at Ive's Run, happened to be from Washington, New Jersey--the one in Warren County--which is where I used to do my hunting. We talked about a variety of things including trailer camping, places to bird in PA and NJ, and the beauty of this area of PA in general. They expressed concern that they were outsiders in a group that pretty well knew one another already, but I think they fit in quite well with their interest in birds and photography. They were there because the had seen Gary's pictures on Flicker and had been emailing him for a few weeks.


After the bird walk, Terry and I went up to Camping World in Bath to look around and pick up some items for our up-coming trip. Looking at the prices of the trailers, they had on the lot, I've got to agree with Terry when she says we got a Cadillac of a trailer at a Volkswagon price. These things are not cheap--even used.


Back at the Aerie by 1 PM, I got to work on doing some staining. In nearly six hours on the west side of the deck, I got 26 feet of balusters done on three sides. Since this side has the most uneven ground and required my propping the step ladder up with flat rocks every time I moved it, I feel I accomplished quite a bit.

Tomorrow I get to work on the front or northern side of the deck. While the ground here is pretty flat, the bottom of the balusters is close to 10 feet off the ground. This will put me at the very top of the ladder to reach the top of the balusters. Then I'll move on to the short 10' section on the east end of the deck. If I can get those done tomorrow, I can work from the deck surface on Monday to to the one side of each baluster and the inside of the bottom rail which will be a much easier task. I'll need to keep an eye on the weather, however. I need at least 12--and preferably 24--hours of drying time and showers are forecast for Tuesday.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Aerie Report, May 14, 2010

Holy Moly! The weather quacks were right on the money today--except for the high temperature. They said we would have some heavy rains this morning and we did as a line of T-storms moved through. However they said it would only get to 74 this afternoon but it got up to 81 under the sunny skies. Should their forecast hold true through the weekend, it looks like I might just get the staining done after all.


The rains we've had have certainly done the onions I planted a world of good. Every single set has now sprouted and nearly all of them are a good six inches tall. And the strawberry patch is growing like weeds! Flowers everywhere and some young strawberries are already forming. A few are the size of a thumbnail already. I've got June bearing and ever-bearing plants in there so while we will get some, the birds and mice will get a lot, too. That is, if Don and Adam aren't here to pick them. They are going to stain the logs and put stone on the front of the walk-out basement. Both tasks need warm weather with 50 degree nights so they may not get the job done before we leave. (I'm not as picky about the staining of the deck as Don is. As long as the nights are above freezing....)


For the $12 mil a year the Mets are paying him, you'd think Oliver Perez would be a major league pitcher. The way he's pitching, however, he'd be lucky to survive a go-round down in Williamsport against the Little League teams that show up in August for the World series. Tonight's line: 3.1 innings, four (4) home runs (2 by Dan Uggla who has 4 RBI), three walks, five Ks, and seven (7) earned runs. Used to be you could get the Good Ollie as often as you got the Bad Ollie. Seems like they're both showing up in the same game now. Time to get him out of the starting rotation and figure ut what the heck is wrong.


The good thing about that bad Mets' game is I can go to bed early. Tomorrow's bird walk is at Colton Point SP again. That's a 45 minute drive west of here. Since the walk starts at 7:30 AM, I've got to get up early to get breakfast at Mickey-D's.


That hummingbird that showed up a few days ago has been a regular at the feeder. Today he brought a date.

Heard a couple of different warblers and thrushes in the woods this morning so it should be a good day at CPSP tomorrow. At least the winds can't be as bad as last week when they were whipping the tree branches about under 30 and 40 mph gusts.


Ordered a bug screen for the Tundra today via Amazon and it's already being prepped for shipping and should be here early next week. They say it's easy to install. We shall see!

Also made arrangements for the Tundra to get an oil change and a thorough pre-trip check-up as recommended by the Good Sam Club. I'll see about getting some spare belts and hoses, too--just in case.

We checked out the CB radio this afternoon. I had installed it a couple of weeks ago and used it to monitor air traffic the last time I went up to the Bolt Hole but, while it seemed to receive calls just fine, I never tried to make any. Mark had a couple of hand-held CB radios that can be plugged into the cigarette lighter (they also use AA batteries--eight (8) of them, which I was short on) so I put Terry in the Jeep and we talked back and forth a bit.

Just 25 days to go before we hit the road.


Just one word about politics. The ads are starting to get hot and heavy for Senator Specter. Especially the ones with President Obama touting how Specter will work hard for his constituents here in PA--just as he has in the past...when he was a Republican. Right! The primary election is next Tuesday. As some wag put it in a comment on another blog, Wednesday's headline should read "Specter Fades Away." When you've turned your coat once, NO ONE trusts you. Sestak should beat Specter on Tuesday but even Sestak will not win in November. He'll have bucked the Democrat's choice (see Obama stumping for Specter) and will still have that "D" after his name at the polls. This off year, that is not a good combination.

Just for the smiles

Came to me via email this afernoon:

You can't read this and stay in a bad mood!

1. How Do You Catch a Unique Rabbit?

Unique up on it

2. How Do You Catch a Tame Rabbit?

Tame way

3. How Do Crazy People Go Through The Forest ?

They Take The Psychopath

4. How Do You Get Holy Water?

You Boil The Hell Out Of It

5. What Do Fish Say When They Hit a Concrete Wall?


6. What Do Eskimos Get From Sitting On The Ice too Long?


7. What Do You Call a Boomerang That Doesn't work?

A Stick

8. What Do You Call Cheese That Isn't Yours?

Nacho Cheese.

9. What Do You Call Santa's Helpers?

Subordinate Clauses.

10. What Do You Call Four Bullfighters In Quicksand?

Quatro Cinco.

11. What Do You Get From a Pampered Cow?

Spoiled Milk.

12. What Do You Get When You Cross a Snowman With a Vampire?


13. What Lies At The Bottom Of The Ocean And Twitches?

A Nervous Wreck.

14. What's The Difference Between Roast Beef And Pea Soup?

Anyone Can Roast Beef ....

15. Where Do You Find a Dog With No Legs?

Right Where You Left Him.

16. Why Do Gorillas Have Big Nostrils?

Because They Have Big Fingers.

17. Why Don't Blind People Like To Sky Dive?

Because It Scares The Dog.

18. What Kind Of Coffee Was Served On The Titanic?


19. Why Did Pilgrims' Pants Always Fall Down?

Because They Wore Their Belt Buckles On Their Hats.

20. What's The Difference Between a Bad Golfer And a Bad Skydiver?

A Bad Golfer Goes, Whack, Dang!

A Bad Skydiver Goes Dang! Whack.

Now, admit it... at least one of these made you smile.


Support bacteria. They're the only culture some people have.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

This is definitely cool

A tour of the Space Station.

It's amazingly cluttered--just like a teen's room.

Aerie Report, May 13, 2010

It rained a goodly portion of the night; not a hard rain but a slow, steady, soaking affair. However, this morning at cat alarm time (6:00 freakin' AM) the sun was rising over the ridge and the sky was blue. That promise of a gorgeous, Top 10 day faded by noon when the wind shifted 90 degrees and clouds started to arrive from the west southwest. Some showers returned by 3:30 PM with a promise of more overnight. There may even be a few T-storms in the mix. Most of the heavy rain seems to be passing just to our west and north. All that is supposed to end early on Friday and the weekend is forecast to be a sunny and warm one. If that's true--and since the next forecast rain is Tuesday, I may be able to get some staining done on Saturday afternoon and all day on Sunday. That should wrap up the deck for this go round.


I went out on the deck at noon to chase some squirrels off the bird feeders (a career activity if there ever was one) and got buzzed by a Ruby-throated Hummingbird--the first I've seen this year. He--for it was most definitely a he--might have been complaining that I had not put HIS feeder out yet. I quickly mixed up some sugar water and hung a feeder on the deck. By dinner time, he had located the free meal and was taking advantage of my largess.

The Robin family nesting on the corner of the Aerie must have a clutch of eggs. When I walked over there after dinner, the Mrs. sat tight without making a move or a sound while the Mr. squawked at me loudly from the nearby trees. I had planned to climb up and see if there were eggs, but opted instead to let them be. The chilly weather has been hard enough on them.


Natural gas development has had quite the impact on our little section of Pennsylvania. Tioga and Bradford counties where most of the work is underway have added over 4000 new jobs since January. As more leases are developed those numbers could go higher. Between drilling and pipelines this area is booming.

Support services, too, have been on the increase. Everything from the business at local eating establishments; rentals of housing and equipment; local stores; etc. has increased. A new Tractor Supply opened a little over a month ago. Sheetz, a regional chain of gasoline and convenience stores has announced plans to build a new facility on Route 6 in Mansfield. A new hotel is nearly completed in the new business park at the junction of Routes 6 and 15. Lowes has broken ground on old Route 15. The Mansfield town offices and police station are moving into new quarters. And the University is expanding with new facilities and dormitories being constructed.

At this rate, we won't recognize the place when we get back from our summer trek.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mid-day Report, May 12, 2010

Foggy, misty, drizzly day here at the Aerie. The rain that moved in yesterday from the southwest, prevented the temperature from dropping overnight but that same rain has prevented the temperature from rising much today. It's barely made it to 48 degrees, "up" from 44 at 6 AM.


I've said it before, but you can get quite a list of bird species just by looking out the window. During lunch a Great Blue Heron flew over. Afterward I watched a Rose-breasted Grosbeak flit about in the trees while a pair of Towhees scratched at the seed beneath the feeders. The usual crowd of White- and Red-breasted Nuthatches, Chickadees, Juncos, Tufted Titmice, Goldfinches, Downy Woodpeckers, Purple Finches and red-winged Blackbirds fought for time at the feeders when the squirrels would let them in. The Robins and Flickers could care less about the squirrels and hunted for worms, insects and ants where ever they pleased.


Because of the rain that was falling at dusk, I left the feeders outside last night. Big mistake! Something--probably a bear--came to visit, emptied both stick feeders and dumped the tray feeder. It didn't come up on the deck, however, which is a shame. I figure its paws would have left some nice muddy prints on the new stain. At least what little damage it did do was easily fixed.


Two things I pondered about in yesterday's post--my driver's license renewal and the information packet from Good Sam--ave been solved.

After checking Terry's new license, we realized that although we both got our first PA driver's licenses in October of 2006 when we surrendered our NJ licenses, her renewal came two months prior to her early May birthday and is set to expire the day after her birthday in three years. My birthday is in September. My current license expires the day after that event. I should get my renewal in the mail sometime in mid July--when I'm in Alaska.

Speaking of Alaska--There was a big package in today's mail from Good Sam that included a copy of Milepost 2010 (THE definitive guide to the Al-Can Highway) and a guide book for, and the official day-by-day itinerary of, our scheduled Caraventure.

The page on what spare parts to bring for your vehicle creates a little concern...not much, I figured this was going to be a l-o-n-g road trip over some iffy roads so their suggestions are just about what I figured as well as one or two head slap moments, as in, "Of course! Why didn't I think of that?" I've got to take the Tundra in to get serviced and checked out so I'll ask about some extra filters and such at that time. Also will have to get a bug/debris screen to protect the grill/radiator.

Then there's the photocopy of the customs pamphlet that describes what you can and can't take across the US border (in either direction) and what you need to have in the way of insurance, proof of ownership for camera and computer, etc. Never had to answer any questions except those dealing with alcohol, tobacco and firearms (weapons) before. Then again, I never took my "third home" across the border.

Time is growing short awfully fast!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Aerie Report, May 11, 2010

The wind shifted overnight and was blowing lightly out of the southwest this morning according to the windmills on the ridge. A few hundred feet lower the breeze was swirling in all directions but mostly 180 degrees opposite of what it was doing at the windmills.

It "only" dropped to 34 degrees overnight here, but says it got to 28 where ever they do their measurements. (I've an inkling that it's over at the Elmira/Corning Airport; some 25-30 miles to the north and much, much lower.) The also said it was going to be raining by around two o'clock. They were close. It started here around 3 PM and has been falling on and off with even a few thunder-booms thrown in for good measure. As for the temperature, it never got above 44 degrees before the rain came and caused it to drop back into the 30s.


Needless to say, there was no staining done today. Won't be any done tomorrow, either. And with more rain forecast for Thursday, there probably won't be time for the wood to dry out and then the stain to dry out (about 1 1/2 days for the former and a full 24 hours for the latter) until Sunday or so.


I spent the day with a computer copy of Trailer Life 2010 Campground Directory Navigator plotting out our route and stops for this summer. While the trip is centered around a Good Sam Caraventure up the Al-Can Highway and into Alaska, there's the matter of getting from Pennsylvania to the rendezvous point of Dawson Creek, BC and then getting back from the end of the guided tour at Prince George, BC. Along the way, we'll be visiting the daughter-in-law's parents northwest of Chicago; my son and his wife in Portland, OR; and, hopefully, some friends in Colorado Springs, CO. Those little side trips aren't actually much out of the way, but the visit times will make this trip nearly 75 days and 12,000 miles long.

In addition to plot our course and picking out the RV Parks/Campgrounds I would like to stop at each night, there are a few other things that need to get done. Terry made a list of galley items that she will need to stock the trailer and also cooking utensils she wants to make sure she has on hand. I've gone through the traveling tool box to see what I've got and what I need to add. We also made a list of what needs to go along in the way of personal hygiene, health and first aid materials. We've both given thought to our traveling wardrobe and I've got a pretty good idea of what I'll be bringing.

There are still a few items we need to buy: portable gas grill like those you see at tailgate parties, gas canisters for that grill and for the Coleman lantern as well as mantles for the lantern. Things like that.

The truck will have to go over to the mechanic to get the oil changed, fluids checked, belts inspected, etc. It's coming up on 40,000 miles.

Then there's the problem of my driver's license. Terry got a renewal form about two months ago and has already renewed hers. I got my PA license a week after she did (snafu on some papers on my part) but I have yet to get a renewal form. It expires the end of September so it's not really a huge issue as we'll be back in PA by 1 September but it's annoying. How come SHE got hers but I haven't? We'll see if we can rectify that tomorrow.

Yeah, I'm getting antsy as the day of our departure is now less than a month away. There seems like a lot to do and so little time to do it. Still, I'm waiting on others to supply needed information/materials that could make my life easier. Good Sam has yet to send the hard copy of the daily itinerary and information as to what we need to have on hand and what we can expect. (Aside form needing a CB radio--which I've gotten--I've little idea what it means to caravan with a group. This is totally new to us.)

Monday, May 10, 2010

More Adventures in Deck Staining; Part 1

Well hallelujah! It DID get up into the 50s today. Of course, it took until after 3 PM before it did get that high, but I'll take it!

I was even able to do a little staining on the rail of the deck once the temperature crossed that 50 degree line. I managed to do the top rail's surface and sides all the way around the deck. I really wanted to get that much done before tomorrow afternoon's rains come. That wood has been washed and scrubbed and was super porous as a result.

The stain is Honey Brown by McCloskey (same folks that make the deck wash). I chose the Honey Brown because of the shade shown on the can and because the stuff we use on the logs is also called Honey Brown--that's by a different company, however and is most definitely a BROWN, albeit a light brown. McCloskey's Honey Brown came out of the can more of a Honey Mustard--that is it went on with a definite yellow tinge; mush more yellow than what was shown on the sample. I wasn't too pleased with that but figured it will protect the wood so I can live with it. Especially since it dried much less yellow than it went on wet. Besides, in a couple years when it has to be done again, I can always get a different, slightly darker shade. You can always go darker. It's going lighter that is difficult.

While I was doing the staining, Terry--who had returned from visiting her Mother and Daughter in New Jersey--washed the rail on the little front door porch and prepared dinner. It was too late to do the that rail once I had finished the big deck's rail so that will have to wait. At least the dust and grime have been removed.

Oh, dinner? Stir fried vegetables and shrimp. With a nice big slab of Mom's cherry cheesecake for desert.

Clear skies and no wind this evening. It's going to get cold again. The rain (1.5 inches of it) won't get here until late in the day. Plenty of time for the stain I just applied to dry. Especially since the wood just soaked it up like a sponge. Still, the low morning temps and the impending rain mean I won't be staining tomorrow or even Wednesday. If the rain ends Wednesday early, I might get to do some more staining on Friday. It all depends upon the unpredictable rain.

Another cold morning
plus some fly-by action

A mere 28 degrees at 7 AM this morning, but there was a bit of a breeze so it was warmer--by a degree or two--in the valley. It's supposed to reach the mid-50s this afternoon before dropping into the high 20s again tonight. Unless it gets a bit warmer during the night, it's not good weather to do the staining I have remaining on the deck rails and balusters no matter how dry it remains. And it won't be dry long. There's more rain heading our way Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. At least the pastures have got to be loving it. I swear you could watch the damn grass grow if you had the patience to stand still and concentrate on it for just half an hour. I know my onions are going nuts. They've shot up six inches in the past week.


The clear skies and light breeze allowed the helicopter to be flying about this morning shifting the sensors for the 3-D imaging they are doing for gas exploration. It's a bit odd to look down upon the helicopter as it picks up and moves bundles of sensors from sites below the Aerie; almost as weird as looking down on the backs of soaring hawks and vultures. Still, it's kind of exciting as well--in a voyeuristic sort of way. I wouldn't mind flying with the guy as he makes his rounds to get a bird's eye view of the surrounding area.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Jeez! I hope not!

I just had a terrible thought. You don't suppose that the reason it's so cold might be because that stupid groundhog that poked out form under my shed saw his shadow, ducked for cover and proclaimed that there should be another six weeks of winter, do you? I mean, I haven't seen him since. There can't be anything to that old fable. Can there?

Mets lose. Weather still cold.

The Mets lost to the Giants today, 6-5. They fell behind 4-0 when starting pitcher Oliver Perez walked 7 and hit one while throwing 98 pitches in 3 1/3 innings. Way to go Ollie! (Actually, he only gave up two hits. The Giants were smart enough to not swing at the crap he was tossing up there. They got four more walks--and another hit batsman off the Mets relievers.)

The Mets actually came back to lead 5-4 in the seventh. They also got 10 hits on the day...which isn't that bad. Problem is that once they had men on base, they struck out--14 times including the last five outs of the game. That's way too many Ks.

The Mets' loss was the first in Citi Field since April 21. They had won ten straight at home. They get a chance to start a new streak tomorrow night when the square off against the Washington Nationals.


The 30-35 mph wind gusts whipped papers around the field and helped the winning home run )a two-run shot by Aaron Rowand) get over the fence in New York. The wind also blew a steady 20-25 mph here at the Aerie. And the sun never showed up until the stratus clouds started to show breaks around 4 PM. Those breaks weren't large or numerous until much later--around 7 PM they became cumulonimbus--but those gaps allowed enough sunlight through for the temperature to "jump" all the way up to 42 degrees.

Now that the sun is setting and the clouds have pretty much disappeared, I'm bracing for a very cold night. The record low according to is 25 degrees. They are forecasting 27 as tonight's low. Of course, they also said it might reach 50 degrees once the clouds cleared around noon....

Chilly night and morning at the Aerie

The winds are finally starting to die down here at the Aerie. They blew all yesterday afternoon and through the night with gusts up to 50 and perhaps even 60 mph. It's a wonder we didn't suffer any power outage. The deck chairs and even the grill moved across the newly stained--and somewhat slick--deck and only stayed on the deck because they wedged themselves against one another.

The rains that washed in with the winds were carried horizontally against the windows and even under the covered porch against the sliding door. While the trees in the area were lashed back and forth through 30 degree arcs. A few small, dead snags went down but caused no damage.

The temperature, too, went down; down to 30.9 degrees. That resulted in a brief snow flurry or two over night that left some accumulation on the deck and truck. There wasn't much, however, as the wind swept it away.

I had left the bedroom windows cracked open a few inches during the afternoon and found it was 56 degrees in there when I went to go to bed. A little too chilly for my taste. So they got closed and the heat turned on in all but the workshop. All thermostats are set for just 62 degrees, so it didn't take long to warm the house up.

It's still completely overcast, sunless and just 34 degrees as I write at 10 AM.

The good news is that the forecast is for clearing skies. We shall see. The forecast high is for the upper 40s--that's some 20 degrees below the average for this date.

The bad news is that, with the dying winds and clearer skies, the low tonight is forecast for 27 degrees. The record low is 25.

Yeah, it's "weather" and not "climate" but still....

We are getting as much daylight now as during late August. I hope this isn't the weather we can expect in August! Then again, Terry and I will be in Alaska and British Columbia in late August.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

More Mets than you care to watch.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal posted an article about the differences between Yankee fans and Mets fans. (Yankees Fans Are From Mars... by Sophia Hollander)

Among other things discussed was this:
Male Mets fans were 43% more likely than Yankees fans to drink beer. They also drink more in general: the percentage of male Yankees fans who said they don't drink was almost double that of their Mets counterparts (30% to 16%).

For a simple explanation as to why Mets fans drink more than Yankee fans one has only to look at the last five Mets games.

I mentioned (The Mets...*sigh*) the three game series in Cincinnati in which two of the three games went into extra innings and all three were decided in the final at bat of the winning team. (That is they went right down to the wire.)

Last night, the Giants came to Citi Field and took the Mets to bottom of the ninth tied 4-4 when catcher Rod Barajas hit a 2-run, walk-off home run to win the game. It was his second home run of the night. (He also hit a solo home run in the ninth inning of the middle game in Cincinnati--the only game the Mets won there. Barajas now has 9 home runs and 17 RBI for the season in just 82 at bats.)

Today, Barajas got the day off, in part because he got dinged on the hand in last night's game and performed his heroics with a hand he had trouble getting the batting glove on and off. His back-up is Henry Blanco. All Blanco did was go 3 for 5 including a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th inning to win the game.

So that's five (5) consecutive games in which the score was tied in the ninth inning and three of the five went into extra innings. Is it any wonder that the Mets fans drink a little more?

It's also five consecutive games in which the starting pitcher did not figure in the decision--even though they may have left the game with the Mets ahead. They probably are drinking a bit more now as well.

Birding on Saturday, May 8, 2010

It rained hard last night as a strong cold front threatened to sweep through the area. Got a few thunderstorms out of it, too. The front did not cause the temperatures to go down, however and it was above 55 degrees when I got up early this morning to go birding on the other side of the county at Colton Point State Park.

Why my buddy Gary and our friendly ranger girl, Audrey, thought we should expand our horizons and head up to Coloton Point instead of sticking with Hills Creek SP is a little strange. CPSP is tent camping only and precious little of that. Leonard Harris SP across on the other side of the Grand Canyon has RV camping--and little of that at this time of year. To get from one to the other is an arduous task. You have to drive north to Route 6 and then back south to get to the sister park--in all it's about 15 miles.

Anyway, we (Gary, Audrey and I) showed up at CPSP at the appointed hour and were joined by Bonnie--a gal who has been a regular at our Saturday walks at HCSP. The rain, which had fallen heavily at times as I drove west, stopped and we took our little walk along the west rim of the Grand Canyon. The wind wasn't bad at the start but soon became a problem as it tossed the upper reaches of the trees about making it even harder to spot the small warblers that were the reason for going to this area in the first place. The small birds also had a tendency to hunker down out of the wind and their lack of song and movement made location and identification that much more difficult.

Still, we managed to get a few warblers and vireos as well as a Scarlet Tanager and several Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. My entire list as compiled by eBird:

Location: Colton Point
Observation date: 5/8/10
Notes: Cool (55-57 degrees), overcast after heavy rains. Strengthening winds out of the northwest.
Number of species: 21

Ruffed Grouse X
Turkey Vulture X
Mourning Dove X
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker X
Northern Flicker X
Eastern Phoebe X
Blue-headed Vireo X
Red-eyed Vireo X
Blue Jay X
Common Raven X
Black-capped Chickadee X
White-breasted Nuthatch X
Hermit Thrush X
American Robin X
Gray Catbird X
Black-throated Blue Warbler X
Black-throated Green Warbler X
Ovenbird X
Scarlet Tanager X
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) X
Rose-breasted Grosbeak X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(


After we ended our walk at Colton Point, I had some time to kill before heading back to Hills Creek for our annual Tiadaghton Audubon Society picnic. I decided to go over to nearby Darling Run on Pine Creek and do some more birding at a lower elevation. Here's the list I made while walking the rails-to-trails from the parking lot north and then south.

Location: Pine Creek/Darling Run
Observation date: 5/8/10
Notes: Very windy (30+ mph gusts higher) Partly cloudy. Temps between 57 and 61 degrees.
Number of species: 24

Canada Goose X
Mallard X
Common Merganser (North American) X
Turkey Vulture X
Osprey X
Bald Eagle X
Broad-winged Hawk X
Belted Kingfisher X
Eastern Phoebe X
Eastern Kingbird X
American Crow X
Tree Swallow X
Barn Swallow X
Tufted Titmouse X
White-breasted Nuthatch X
American Robin X
Gray Catbird X
Yellow Warbler X
Common Yellowthroat X
Song Sparrow X
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) X
Red-winged Blackbird X
Common Grackle X
Baltimore Oriole X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Several firsts of the season (Orioles, Kingbird, King Fisher) but nothing brand new.


At 11:30 AM it was time to hit Hills Creek for some lunch. By then it was windy as all get out and you needed a third hand to hold onto your plate, eat your food and keep your hat on! At least it wasn't raining anymore. (That would come later in the afternoon. When the winds clocked 50 and 60 mph gusts at the Aerie.) Eleven of us gathered at the day use area to share in our morning sightings and a hearty snack of hot dogs, chilli, potato salad, HOT coffee, cherry pie and zucchini bread.

Terry brought the zucchini bread, of course. She had had an EGA meeting at Wellsboro in the morning and was heading to New Jersey to spend Mothers' Day with her Mom after lunch.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Busy as a ....

World's biggest beaver dam discovered in northern Canada
Researcher Jean Thie said Wednesday he used satellite imagery and Google Earth software to locate the dam, which is about 850 metres (2,800 feet) long on the southern edge of Wood Buffalo National Park

They've been building this structure for 30-40 years and it's still not done. (Must be a government project.)

Also gives me an excuse to post this:

Adventures In Deck Staining, pt.. 5: Results

The staining of the deck surface is finished and it has already gotten its first test. A brief but heavy shower moved through before dawn this morning and dropped a considerable amount of rain on the area.

Here is what the final color loks like and how the water beads up on the oil based stain.
Water beads up on the newly stained deck.

The cedartone stain gives a rich appearance to the deck surface. Unfortunately, when I started I thought to do just the surface and so didn't use the deck wash on the rails and balusters. Now I can see that they need to be cleaned and stained as well. This will require some care in shielding the deck surface from overspray. Don't want to have to do the surface again!

Front Deck after staining.

Side Deck after staining.

The stain is from Olympic and was chosen because of its color as well as the reputation of the company. I'd take the whole "5 Year" thing with a huge grain of salt, however. I last applied the same stain almost 3 years ago and, between the ice, snow, rain and strong sunlight the deck is exposed to (sometimes all in the same day!); plus the birds, squirrels, bears and raccoons the deck certainly needed a new coat.

The stain I used on the deck.

I'll be starting on the rails and balusters as soon as I can get some wash and rig up a protective shield. (And after I take the kitties' to the vet and cut the grass.)

Adventures In Deck Staining, pt.. 4

The first thing I did was crawl about on my hands and knees to pry as much crap from between the boards as possible. Then I sprayed on some deck wash...
...and rinsed it off with the garden hose. It will foam a bit under the pressure of the water. The stuff smells like bleach and is caustic. Don't use a sprayer that has metal parts or it will corrode the metal. Don't get it in your eyes, or on your clothes. Rinse off any plants or skin with which it comes in contact. Yada, yada. yada.

If the deck wash sits for too long, it will really lighten the surface and make it tough to get a uniform final color. Of course, if there are areas that are dark with mildew, you have to let it sit for a long enough time to kill off the stuff.Just be aware that you will have a very light area when your done. Even two coats of new stain may not get it as dark as the rest of the deck. But, by golly, it will be mildew free!

Here's what the deck looked like when I got done washing it.

Front deck. It's 10' wide ad 36' long.

Side deck. "Only" 8' wide and 16' long.

Notice the dark "foot prints" in the side deck view. This is where I made a mistake last time I did the staining. I brought the stain to a hard edge and overlapped my next section. Instead, I should have feathered the edge and back stroked the stain into the previous section. (And, of course, worked fast enough so the edge never dried out.)