Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Retired? Multitasking--again.

As I mentioned earlier, we arrived back home at the Aerie around 6:45 AM. First order of business was to unload the car. We managed one trip into the house before being gang tackled by three pussycats happy to see someone with opposable thumbs capable of opening the can of food. Doesn't matter that the person caring for them had been here the day before, they were s-t-a-r-v-i-n-g! (Okay, the dry food bowl in the basement was completely empty. I'll give them that.)

Once feed and distracted, we managed to get the rest of the stuff in from the Jeep without having a cat head out the door or trip us.

Then we sat down to check our emails and the weather. Since it was already 67 degrees at 7 AM, and not a cloud in the sky, we figured the forecast for HHH (Hazy, Hot, Humid) would be on the mark. It was. it eventually reached 92.8 degrees by 6 PM. So it became imperative that I install the window air conditioner ASAP, which I did. Window fans downstairs and ceiling fans are on high. They're not really helping, but that AC unit.... Eight-plus years old but it started right up. Priceless!

Terry grabbed a quick 40 winks--she says while the Sirius 50's on 5 was enjoyable to listen too, she couldn't sleep to the music she knows so well since she wants to sing along with every song. I went down and got the mail. Most of which was for her.

When I returned, I gassed up the mower and went to work on the lawn. That was a long process since there had been so much rain over the weekend (over 3 inches in the gauge) and the nights since I last cut it (Tuesday, one week ago) were perfect for growing grass. It was wet. It was thick. It was heavy. And it was getting hotter by the minute.

It took me many emptyings of the grass catcher, a second tank of gas, several glasses of cool water and a l-o-n-g time to get the job done, but done it got! And I only saw one largish garter snake. After cutting the grass, I got out the weed whacker and cleared around the raised beds where the mower couldn't get in tight.

After lunch, I started the laundry (Terry had gone out to do some errands and grocery shopping) and took a shower. I then balanced the checkbook, paid some bills and wrote a few posts--this being the last for the day unless something amazing happens as I am about dead on my feet (which are still vibrating).

Tomorrow is supposed to be another scorcher with highs again around that 90 degree mark. After that the weather gets back to closer to normal with highs in the 70-80 degree range and nights in the low to mid 50s.

I've got to restack some firewood that fell/was blown over during one of the weekend's storms. Then there are a couple of newly fallen trees along the trail leading west of the yard that need to be bucked into smaller units. Even if they are likely to be past the pale for firewood. Call it "forest beautification."

On the availability of "ideal" husbands

Having just returned from one wedding and having three more to celebrate this summer, Terry suggested I post an email she received that seemed appropriate. I do so without comment.

While creating husbands, God promised women that good and ideal husbands would be found in all corners of the world.
And then he made the earth round.
That God - He's such a joker.

Home again, home again, jiggity, jig!

Back in the Aerie early this morning after being in Milwaukee yesterday for breakfast. Now, if you're flying that's no big deal. Even if you travel by car via GD Chicago, it's just 13 hours. But, if you decide to head NORTH from Milwaukee and cross over the Mackinac Straits before going to Toledo to pick up I-90 and heading east to through Cleveland and Erie, PA and thence on I-86 (old Route 17) to Corning, NY...well, THAT'S another ball of wax--and a whole bunch more miles and hours.

Departed Milwaukee after breakfast at 7:45 AM (CDT) Monday. Went north past Green Bay and east through the UP. At St. Ignace we crossed over the beautiful bridge to Mackinaw City and into the mitten portion of Michigan. We headed due south through Gaylord and then over to east side of the state and had dinner at a Cracker Barrel near bay City just north of Saginaw, MI. We required an hour nap when fog and eyeweariness got the better of me at 3 AM near mile marker 101 on I-86 east of Erie, PA. A quick breakfast at McDonald's in Mansfield so we had enough strength to face the kittehs when we got home and arrived at the Aerie at 6:45 AM (EDT) Tuesday. We lost an hour to the Gods of the Time Zone when we left Wisconsin and entered Michigan so total travel time hotel-to-home was about 22 hours. (Perhaps "lost" is the wrong word as they "loaned" an hour to us as we headed west. Just say the note came due.) (If we had our passports we could have headed east from Flint, MI and cut through Canada to Buffalo. That would have saved an hour or two.)

Terry did drive two hours after dinner and got us on to the Ohio Turnpike as the sun set. (She hates driving in the dark.)

The shoreline of Lake Michigan was beautiful. Holiday traffic thin to non-existent. Sirius radio's 50's On 5 provided the entertainment. The Jeep Compass performed admirably.

The weather cooperated, too. Earlier forecasts had mentioned a chance of significant rain. We saw none. The worst conditions started after we had gotten through Cleveland and sporadic dense fog popped up along the way. From midnight on, visibility was a challenge. That lasted right up to when we turned off Route 6 to head up the hill as the sun rose. Suddenly we were ABOVE the fog and the bright red ball of sun--harbinger of a bloody hot day--could be clearly seen.

Checking the weather today, I saw that much of Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri had a chance of severe weather including tornadoes. Family members were departing Milwaukee this AM to head to Lake of the Ozarks in southern Missouri and to Kentucky. Hope they are safe!

[ED: Any typos or grammatical errors in the above should be written off as caused by exhaustion.]

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Brian & Vicky Got Married: Some pictures

After everyone posed for pictures on the porch of the main building at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, we moved to an outdoor pavilion where seating had been set up under cover of the roof. Still we were outdoors and the weather, though chilly and threatening, cooperated. It was a mere 100 yards from the main building, but the bride was fashionably late.

The Judge & Brian await Vicky

When Vicky did arrive (and we could see her making her way down the trail from the main building, we were a bit relieved to see that she hadn't changed her mind at the last minute. Perhaps having her brother there to tow her to the altar helped.

Vicky enters on her brother's arm

The Judge read a bit of poetry, expounded on the importance and meaning of marriage and then got to the "I do" portion of the ceremony. There were some words said by each participant as rings were exchanged as well.

Vicky and Brian exchange vows

Then the pronouncement of "man and wife" was made and the happy couple paraded back down the aisle between the guests and back to the main building for the reception and pah-tay!

Newly married!

The wedding cake was unique and told the story of their first meeting. As newly minted CPAs, they had been given the unenviable task (by different firms) do complete and inventory for a company being sold. Normally a boring routine task, Brian came back to the office all excited about the gal he met while counting crates of Vienna Sausages (Hot Western Style) in a lonely warehouse. All he talked about to his co-workers (some of whom ended up in the wedding party) was about the dinner date he had made. That was five years ago in Chicago.

The wedding cake

Something clicked in that warehouse and on that dinner date for a year later they were sharing an apartment. The only thing the rest of us couldn't figure out (once we too met Vicky) was what the heck Brian was waiting for? Vicky, for her part says she wasn't in a rush for the formality of marriage. She had already been accepted as part of Brian's family and he as part of her's. A piece of paper wasn't going to make much difference. R-i-g-h-t!

The Knot was Tied

A lovely (if somewhat chilly) wedding ceremony was held yesterday evening at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center for Brian and Vicky. The legal portion of the ritual was presided over by a judge whose son is one of Brian's best friends. That friend could not be in attendance, however. As a captain in the USMC, he is on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan. About 75 friends and family members did attend and had a great time.

The "I Do" portion was outside beneath a hillside pavillion where, if you peeked through the trees, you could see Lake Michigan and, if you listened closely, you could hear the birds singing up as storm in the late afternoon hours.

The wrap around porch of the center served as the place for photos and premeal celebratory drinks. The catered meal was excellent, the cake was unique, and the 8 piece band plus vocalists entertained before, during and after.

Again, congratulations to Brian and Vicky.

Pictures to follow. When I get around to it.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Birding at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center

The northward migration is still going on here and there were plenty of warblers in the woods (which are just about two weeks behind the trees at Colton Point SP in Pennsylvania) to prove it. Ran into several American Redstarts that were nesting within a few yards of the trail. Rough water on the lake meant few water fowl up close and personal. (It was also a chilly wind so we didn't hang around the shore much.)

Location: Schlitz Audubon Center
Observation date: 5/27/11
Notes: Beautiful clear, crisp morning. Some wind off Lake Michigan.

Schlitz Audubon Center is a lovely place to go birding. Wish I lived a little closer!
Number of species: 30

Wild Turkey X
Double-crested Cormorant X
Spotted Sandpiper X
Ring-billed Gull X
Mourning Dove X
Red-bellied Woodpecker X
Downy Woodpecker X
Eastern Wood-Pewee X
Eastern Phoebe X
Red-eyed Vireo X
Blue Jay X
American Crow X
Barn Swallow X
Black-capped Chickadee X
White-breasted Nuthatch X
House Wren X
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher X
American Robin X
Gray Catbird X
European Starling X
Chestnut-sided Warbler X
Magnolia Warbler X
Black-throated Green Warbler X
American Redstart X
Canada Warbler X
Song Sparrow X
Northern Cardinal X
Red-winged Blackbird X
Common Grackle X
Brown-headed Cowbird X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)

On the Road: Day 3: May 27: Food, Family
and Birding in Milwaukee

Nearly 20 of us got together last evening for a dinner treat near where Brian and Vicky live. A nice called, County Clare Irish Inn & Pub at which we nearly completely occupied the dining room. The food was excellent and we all had a great time. Although we, rather selfishly, remained separated into the bride's friends and relations and the groom's. That will not be the case tonight! Actually, since the guests came from all over, this was sort of a chance to get together after lengthy absences. Now we can get to meet new folks and intermingle.


Last night we got a 3 AM phone call from our security company telling us that the power was out at the Aerie. The line of storms we ran into in Toledo swept through PA and NY on their way to the coast. Heavy winds and hail took down trees and powerlines in both the Northern and Southern Tiers. There was even a possible tornado in Tioga County--New York--just to the northeast of where we are. Schools, businesses and roads were closed while several thousand folks were without power this morning. I called the Aerie several times and could not get through to the answering machine which indicated the power was still out at 9 AM EDT, so I called Ann, our friend who is caring for the cats while we are away. I wanted to tell her that if the power was still out, she wouldn't be able to get into the house via the garage doors. She confirmed that she had already figured that out but not to worry, the dry food was dished out in copious amounts on Thursday so they should be okay. (She called back a few hours later to let us know that, sure enough, she couldn't get in but the good news was that the Aerie still stood. While there were plenty of trees down in the Route 15 corridor, the Aerie, being on the lee side of Armenia Mountain, was relatively untouched.


More folks arriving today and tonight. Grandma has already gotten here from NJ. Rick and Sandy were in Chicago area last night with her parents and should be here tonight. Joe and his wife, Pat, should be arriving today from New Jersey (they are driving) and Joe's sister Nancy will be flying in later. Brian's sister (Laura) and brother (Adam) are flying in from San Francisco today. And Laura's husband--another Joe--will be flying into Chicago and then on up to Milwaukee. As a commercial co-pilot, the first leg is work, the second is not.

It will be interesting to see how many folks are here tonight for the rehearsal dinner.


Meanwhile, the weather here in Milwaukee is great! The high during the day has been around 55 degrees but the warm sunshine makes it very, very comfortable. After getting t he storm reports from back home, Terry and I took a ride up the Lake Michigan coast to the place the wedding will be held tomorrow: The Schlitz Audubon Nature Center.

What a great place! Smack dab on the shores of Lake Michigan, this 185 acre facility has a beautiful welcome center, a variety of bird habitats, and miles of trails on which to enjoy them. We took one loop that carried us north of the welcome over to the east to the shore and then south and back to the center. We walked slowly enjoying all the birds, wildflowers and benches along the way. And, even though we were on the trail for two hours, we saw few people and covered only about 1/5 of the available forest area. I wish I lived closer, I'd be there once or twice a week. (A list of what we saw will be forthcoming.)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

On the Road: Day 2: May 26

The horrible weather (tornado watches and such) must have moved east during the night. There was a bit of crud showing on the radar screens around Chicago, but most of it was in shades of green instead of yellows, oranges and reds. As a result our trip today from Toledo to Milwaukee went rather well--weatherwise.

We stopped at the RV Museum in Elkland, IN to see what they had on display. We've passed the place so many times since it was built that we thought it was about time we dropped in to say hi. What they've got are some pretty nice antique trailers and motor homes. We even found one, an old Airstream, that was just Terry's size.

1958 Airstream. It's just 10 feet long!

Then we saw who donated it to the museum!

Don't personally know Ken or Petey, but Dad's brother George is unaccounted for, and Ken might be a cousin. I can't help but wonder what they've got in the rest of their collection.

After spending an hour or so snooping around the displays at the museum, we headed west again on I-90 and then I-90/I-94 through Chicago.


God! Do I hate cities!

The traffic was bumper-to-bumper for a good hour as we snaked through the south side past the Sox stadium. First there was a vehicle stalled and sitting in the slow lane (not the shoulder, mind you, but in the lane), then there was a big yellow school bus--with kids on board--stalled in the second lane. (At least that driver finally got the idea to turn the big yellow flashing lights on--after we passed. Still, even beyond those, traffic was extremely slow and still bumper-to-bumper. Why? Well, first they had the two express lanes closed--apparently to all but taxis and news vehicles. Then there was the crew of city/county involuntary residents in safety orange with an armed guard escort, a towed porta potty and a dump truck lugging a blinking yellow arrow telling everyone to scoot over lest one of the clean-up crew or their guardians be injured. At noon on Thursday.

Now I can't say for sure that this civic group was the cause of much of the horrendous traffic, but just passed the site at which they were laboring, things did start to improve.

Then we got to Milwaukee. The Marriott Residence Inn is right in the midst of the city and on the river itself. It's a lovely place and our room is certainly spacious and well appointed with a little kitchenette. There are indoor walkways to several mall-like complexes to the west, and the River Walk to the east. Unfortunately, there are several vacant stores in the malls and on the streets nearby (including a huge Borders bookstore) and that detracts from the setting. Besides, it IS in the city. and I HATE cities. But...the businesses that Brian and Vicky work for and with are in the city, just as the law firm my DIL, Sandy, works for is in a city (Portland, OR) so I guess they have a need to live in the damn places. If Brian can show me a couple of nice microbreweries nearby--like Rick did in Portland--maybe I'll mellow on this place.

BUT, if I EVER head west again, it will be via the UP of Michigan or Indianapolis, IN. I will never get within 100 miles of Chicago again! Mrs. O'Leary's cow didn't do enough, as far as I'm concerned. If more of the place had burned, perhaps they wouldn't have rebuilt.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

On the Road: Day 1: May 25, 2011

We left the Aerie at 8 AM this morning after seeing to the cats (a friend will be stopping by once a day to feed them while we're gone) and headed west on US Route 6. The trip as far as Smethport was not new to me, I but from there on, it was all new until we joined up with I-90.

We traveled through the Alleghany National Forest and on into the oil rich northwest corner of Pennsylvania. Numerous wells were visible from the road; their donkey headed pumps pulling oil from below ground to deposit it into 5000 gallon plastic (replacing metal) cisterns from which it will be picked up by tanker trucks. These aren't gushers, folks. Rather it's slow but steady retrieval of oil from below ground. Still, volume is created when so many wells are in production.


Sirius Radio, which came with the Jeep Compass, has long since been cancelled, BUT, they have a free trial week going on. We listened to music from the 1950s all day. And never heard the same song (by the same artist) during the entire time. So enjoyable was the experience, we may break and renew our subscription when we get home.


The weather along today's 450 mile leg was excellent--until we neared Toledo, Ohio. At that time, we could see a line of very, very dark clouds stretching across our path. We nearly made it through the line--lightening striking off in the distance in the north toward Lake Erie--when the sky opened up and it POURED. Visibility dropped to only a few yards and I slowed down considerably. And the temperature fell like a rock. The temps dropped from 78 degrees to 58 degrees in about 10 minutes.

We got through it and, on the west side of Toledo, found a motel room at a Comfort Inn.

It was 5 PM and time for dinner. While eating, we saw a weather report on the TV in the bar that mentioned tornado warnings for the very counties we had just been through. And they had photos of baseball sized hail from those same areas. Yikes!

And it poured while we were in the restaurant, too. Hard. With lightening. No hail, though.

Tomorrow we head west around the southern tip of Lake Michigan and then through Chicago and north to Milwaukee. It's about 320 miles to go. We'll gain an hour on the clock, too. We'll cross into the Central Time Zone when we get near South Bend, Indiana.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hitting the Road West

Terry and I will be heading to Milwaukee tomorrow morning. We've got two days to get there so we'll probably take the scenic route through PA. West on Route 6 until we hit Ohio. If we had more time it would be the scenic route through Michigan too. We've never been to the UP area. Another time. Anything to avoid Chicago's permanent construction zone on I-80/I-90.

Saturday is a wedding for Brian and Vicky. Terry's side of the family as it's her sister's boy getting hitched. Family and friends from Kansas, California, Oregon, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other points will gather in the couple's hometown for the event. They've been together for about four years now so it's about time! Both are CPA/numbers crunchers, so maybe they figured the math and determined it was to their benefit to officially unite. (That or Brian finally got it through his thick skull that he's not likely to do any better.)

Once we return, there's nothing on the calendar until the July Fourth weekend: another wedding--#2 of 4 this year. This one will be outside Portland, Maine. Still Terry's side of the family with cousin Joe's son tying the knot. David and Elizabeth now live together in the Pittsburgh area but her folks live around Portland, ME. Again, folks will come from all over the country to attend. He's a math whiz/teacher; she a special ed instructor(?). They've been together for nearly two years.

The weekend after the Labor Day weekend is yet another wedding: Danielle and Alex. She is the daughter of Terry's cousin Nancy (Joe's sister). Fresh out of med school and entering her internship. He (and here it gets a little shady) is either in the Navy or working with the Navy--on submarines. They'll get married in New Jersey. Then he goes on board ship, she goes into the hell of internship and they might get to see/speak to one another in three months--just in time for Christmas. Knowing her mom and dad, this could be a doozey! The only constraint being that there is a younger sister, and if you go all in on the first.... Then again, they didn't pay for college--scholarships, baby!

The final wedding this year (so far) occurs on Veterans' Day and involves my sister's daughter, Kristen and Rich, also in New Jersey. No big ceremony here. They stand before the Mayor on November 11 with only parents and siblings. Then have a celebratory reception on November 19th. Nice and simple.

Throw in several trips to and from the Aerie to the Bolt Hole, one SAGA convention for Terry in California, and clam bake in coastal Massachusetts, another brief trip (by Terry) to Dunkirk, NY for an EGA function, and there you have it. Sure hope the price of gas doesn't rise too much.

Night of the Unrest at the Aerie.

Bad night for sleeping.
  • Knee pains and back aches from the yard work I was doing yesterday.Caused me to do a lot of tossing and turning and twitching. Getting older is a bitch, but it beats the alternative.
  • Heavy downpours (but no T-storms) that rattled the trees and washed away a lot of the soil in that pile I have to sift yet. Looks like it's more stone than dirt now.
  • Wind rattling the bedroom door because the window was open.
  • A bird smacked into the window at 5 AM--the only window without a screen because that's where the air conditioner will go when we get back from Milwaukee next week. Rattled the window pretty good but there's no body on the ground.
  • And Terry snored. (She says I did too, but you never hear your own 'cause you're asleep.)
  • Then there's the chorus of bird calls at the same time. Loud and varied. If I didn't know some of the culprits, it wouldn't have been so bad, but laying there trying to both get back to sleep and identify the species doesn't work.
  • And, finally we come to the cats. I knew they were going to get their favorite for breakfast (Friskies Tuna & Egg), but how did they? And what's with the 5:45 wake-up call? Come on guys! You are going to sleep 80% of the day. At least let me have a couple hours during the night.

Just waiting to see if there's going to be anymore rain this morning and if the pile of dirt/stones will be dry enough to go through a 1/2" hardware cloth mesh. Clay tends to clump up something fierce when it's wet.

[UPDATE: The pile turned out to be 1/3 stone, 1/3 clay and 1/3 water. Not a good combination for sieving. Heck it stuck to the rake and shovel and I've got enough in the lugs of my boots to fill a 6" flower pot. I moved three wheelbarrows of this heavy mix just to get it out of the way. Then I called it quits.]

Monday, May 23, 2011

Aerie Flowers

The perennials in the flower bed adjacent to the parking area and in front of the main entrance, is often buried with snow when I clear those areas. Every spring Terry get the job of picking out the stones the snow thrower (or now the tractor deposit in the flower beds.

It doesn't seem to bother the plants. The Bleeding Hearts in the shadowiest part near the front door, are doing great! As is the Creeping phlox further out where it gets some sun.

The hearts are right where Don was stepping last fall when he did the stone work on the foundation. He avoided most of them but did crush one which we replaced this spring. Old, new, it didn't matter, they are all festooned with lovely pink and white flowers.

As for the Phlox. That was put in three years ago as six tiny 6" diameter plants. They now cover three, 2' x 3'areas, each comprised of two of those initial plants.

Bleeding Hearts in bloom.

Creeping Phlox

Not shown in these photos are the clumps of Salvia that will be sending up 18" tall purple spikes--much to the delight of the local bumble bee population! It's still green foliage for now, however. As are the Day Lilies, Hosta and other plants.

Aerie Yard Work

I've been taking advantage of the nice weather we've been having to do a little yard work.

Saturday afternoon I rolled out the tractor and combined several compost piles, leveled a patch of stone and earth, and generally stirred dirt leaves and uprooted weed plants. I tried to manually separate some of the larger stones from the heap so it will be easier to incorporate into a new garden bed.

I then turned my attention (and the front end loader) to carving out some steps in the slope leading from the yard to the driveway. The tractor helped, but it couldn't do the fine work I wanted it to do. Even it was foiled by the large number of stones in the fill soil. Time to get out the shovel and heavy Johnson bar again. I had a couple of pieces of 6 x 6 pressure treated timbers that would serve as the risers of the steps but not nearly enough to finish the job.
Sunday morning I thought I would get the pressure treated lumber at Lowes but they only had 12' lengths--which they couldn't cut for me. Way to long for me to haul home and I left my chainsaw in the garage. So I purchased 1/2 diameter rebar which I then cut into 16" lengths to anchor the 6 x 6 when I did get it. I then took the rest of Sunday off.

Well, except for potting up all the flowers Terry left using potting soil I purchased at Lowes.
Monday morning I got two 8' long 6 x 6s from Arnot Building Supply. Even 8' is longer than my Tundra's bed, but there's just a smidge of wood hanging over the tailgate. Home again, I cut two 36" lengths from one and another 36" length from the second. With materials already on hand, I now had enough for five steps. With a 6" rise and about 16" run, I would get almost all the way to the surface of the driveway. If I make the runs shorter, I would need one more step to get there. If I get ambitious enough....

I had five bags of red rock left over from the steps I built two years ago. They went into the top of each step. A layer of stone from one to two inches deep.

New stairs from yard to top of driveway.

Digging stairs into the slope produces a heap of debris. I set that aside to be sifted (a three foot square of 1/2" hardware cloth stretched over 2 x 4 frame) so I could use the soil in a future garden and the stones in a couple of low spots. Damn stuff is nearly 50-50 stone to clay. For every wheelbarrow of soil I was getting three or four 5-gallon buckets of stones--plus some larger ones I tossed by hand. So far, I've sifted out five wheelbarrows full of dirt and hauled it over to the "new" compost heap.

Debris pile from digging out the stairs.

As you can see, the driveway/parking area slopes quite a bit. And Terry's little yellow Aveo is awfully happy about something. Me? Not so much.

I've another half day of sifting and shifting soil and rocks about before this project can be called finished. Although there may be alterations made in the future. But I put in my 9 hours today with a break for dinner at noon. I quit at 5 PM and the showers that threatened all afternoon finally arrived at 5:30. Radar says they were much worse north and south of here. Saved by the curved hook on the western end of Armenia Mountain again! Now, at 7 PM, the sun is shining and the sky is blue.
I--and my back--are beginning to think Maynard G. Krebs was right about work.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Excellent Birding Morning

We had our Saturday morning bird walk over at Hills Creek State Park today. And a beautiful day it was! The sun was shining brightly with only a few cumulus clouds in the sky. There was hardly a breath of air so the lake was mirror calm--not that that helped. There were so many boats on the lake, the water fowl were tucked into hidey-holes somewhere out of sight. Only a Mallard, a pair of Common Mergansers and few Canada Geese with their newborns were about.

Still, the woods and field edges were alive with birds and bird calls. We (11 of us) finished the day with a total of 39 species; the best so far this spring and not bad at all for just two hours in the field. The "specials" today included a pair of nest-material-gathering Great-crested Flycatchers and one very loud and obnoxious but totally invisible Black-billed Cuckoo. Here's the rest of the list as posted to eBird.org

Location: Hills Creek SP
Observation date: 5/21/11
Notes: Bright sunny and calm day. Temperatures ranged from 55 to 65 degrees.
Number of species: 39

Canada Goose X
Mallard X
Common Merganser X
Great Blue Heron X
Red-tailed Hawk X
Spotted Sandpiper X
Black-billed Cuckoo X
Northern Flicker X
Eastern Phoebe X
Great Crested Flycatcher X
Red-eyed Vireo X
Blue Jay X
American Crow X
Common Raven X
Tree Swallow X
Barn Swallow X
Black-capped Chickadee X
Tufted Titmouse X
Red-breasted Nuthatch X
House Wren X
Eastern Bluebird X
American Robin X
Gray Catbird X
European Starling X
Yellow Warbler X
Yellow-rumped Warbler X
Black-throated Green Warbler X
Ovenbird X
Common Yellowthroat X
Eastern Towhee X
Chipping Sparrow X
Song Sparrow X
Dark-eyed Junco X
Northern Cardinal X
Rose-breasted Grosbeak X
Indigo Bunting X
Red-winged Blackbird X
Common Grackle X
Brown-headed Cowbird X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sun Out! Unexpectedly,
Grass Mowed, Wildlife Saved/Avoided,
Trees Shedding,

An hour or so after I made the last post (Water, Water, Everywhere) the fog lifted. I sorta like the fog. At least being in the clouds is better than being under water. Things do seem a bit colorless in the fog though.

Anyway, shortly after the clouds lifted above our roof, the sun actually started to peek through the holes appearing. (Did you know the sky is actually BLUE!?) A gentle breeze started to blow and I decided to give it an hour or so to dry out the lawn/dandelions before I got the lawn mower out.

I spent a tense hour and a half as the sun and clouds dueled for aerial dominance. The sun finally got the upper hand and gained ground although there were still a few very threatening, dark, ominous clouds about. Most of the real baddies seemed to be staying on the other side of the valley.

Since the lawn was so full of dandelions in flower and/or seed, I opted to use the bag instead of the mulch setting. The stuff was so dense, I could only go about 40 yards before I had to empty the bag. Made for some slow going but I added lots of organic material to the compost pile. I did avoid adding fauna as well as flora. Three snakes (two garters and a ring-necked), two wood frogs, and a very young American toad escaped the whirling blades of death to life another day. Fine by me as they are all insect eaters.

As I cut, the minor rain gods continued to have a little fun with me. Three times it showered. Never hard enough to make me quit--especially after I got wet from the first one--but just enough to be annoying. Of course, all that stopped when I finished mowing. THEN the sun came out for good. It's kinds nice. I could get used to it.

When I finished mowing, the air was filled with what I first thought were dandelion seeds being dispersed by the steady but light breeze. Then I realized that all the white fluff in the air was from the poplar trees and not the dandelions. The dandelions seeds are like tiny umbrellas with the seed where the handle would be. The poplar is more like a ball of very nebulous cotton. And there were a lot of them! I remembered seeing what looked like a white scum on the puddles along the edge of the roads in places yesterday. Now I realize that the "scum" was collected and soaked poplar fluff. On a dry day--such as this afternoon became--that fluff can gather in windrows and roll across a hard surface until it's inches thick. Get it wet and it mats up and--given enough water beneath it--will float like scum on a pond only silvery white. One thing about poplars: they are prolific! At times it appeared to be snowing.

Water, Water, Everywhere!

Just went out and checked the rain gauge. It says we got another 0.95 inches of rain since midday Wednesday. Not sure where AccuHunch gets its measurements (Elmira/Corning Airport?) but they say we had about 1.25 inches and have now surpassed the average May accumulation by a couple of tenths. Still 10 days to go! Their forecast for the rest of the month shows a possibility of showers and T-storms every day except Saturday (the 21st) and Tuesday (the 31st). Weather.com disagrees and says there 's a chance of PM showers on Saturday--as well as all the rest of their 10-day forecast. *sigh*

Currently it is merely foggy as all get out here at 2100 feet. It was somewhat clearer down at the post office.

Now, where did I put that cubit measuring tape?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Went Shopping Today at Cabela's

Drove south today to shop at Cabela's, but first I picked up my fishing/hunting buddy along the way. (He's 1-1/2 hours south of me, Cabela's was another 2+ hours beyond that.)

It rained off and on throughout our entire ride down and a good portion of our ride back to Joe's place. You can easily see the effects of all the recent rains as every river and creek we passed over was swollen.

We both wanted to look at pistols (which we drooled over but didn't purchase) and I wanted to see about getting a PSE Bow Madness XS compound bow. I've been shooting the same Jennings Lightning since I started hunting back in the early '80s and felt it was time to upgrade. The young man at the archery counter was extremely helpful in assuring I got the correct draw weight on the bow I selected and had arrows of the proper spine (stiffness) and draw length.

I got to shoot the bow before deciding that I, indeed, wanted to make the purchase--sort of like taking a car for a test drive. We had to reduce the draw weight down from 70 pounds to around 60 pounds before I was comfortable enough to cause the bow to "break." (That's when the bow's draw weight dramatically falls--in this case by 75%--so you can hold it at full draw while you aim/wait for the critter you want to shoot to stop.) I loosed 4 practice arrows down the short 12 yard range and was within two inches of the dot I was aiming at. Not bad. All four were to the left so I may have to make a slight adjustment to the sights, but that will be easy enough.

Of course, I also had to get some new arrows, field points, broad heads and a bow case for the new bow. Joe did purchase some smokeless gunpowder and large primers for reloading ammo.

Despite the weather, we had a pretty good day shopping and visiting. And we'll get to see one another again next weekend as we travel to Milwaukee for a wedding.


As I write this, it's raining again here at the Aerie. *sigh* 50% chance tonight, tomorrow and tomorrow night. But (there's always a "but") Saturday and Sunday are looking up! Only 30% chance of scattered T-storms.


Terry heads west tomorrow for a weekend EGA activity in Erie, PA. She'll be picking up two other ladies along the way, so the Jeep will be making the trip.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Still (mostly) Raining

It stopped raining for about an hour mid-day today. The sun actually made a (very) brief appearance and I can aver that Gollum was correct: It burns! It didn't last, however. There's showers and thunderstorms in the near future.

I took the opportunity to walk about and spy on the garden a bit. The beans and cucumbers have begun breaking the surface and should be making rapid progress as things warm up. And should the sun come out for a few days, I'll expect Jack to show up with his climbing gear. I'll let him too, provided he lets me have an egg or two from the goose.

The rain gauge I put out on Saturday held "only" 1.55 inches of water. I thought it might have been more than that but it has been a genteel rain versus the gully washers we had a few weeks ago. AccuHunch says there's another inch of rain on the way before we get a nicer weekend--and another wet work week.

The grass/dandelions need cutting but with the amount of rain that's just going to have to wait. As will the rest of the landscaping I would like to do.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Devious woman!

This comes from my older cousin in Florida:


Jennifer's wedding day was fast approaching. Nothing could dampen her excitement - not even her parent's nasty divorce.

Her mother had found the PERFECT dress to wear, and would be the best-dressed mother-of-the-bride ever!

A week later, Jennifer was horrified to learn that her father's new, young wife had bought the exact same dress as her mother!

Jennifer asked her father's new young wife to exchange it, but she refused. “Absolutely not! I look like a million bucks in this dress, and I'm wearing it,” she replied.

Jennifer told her mother who graciously said, ''Never mind sweetheart. I'll get another dress. After all, it's your special day.''

A few days later, they went shopping, and did find another gorgeous dress for her mother.

When they stopped for lunch, Jennifer asked her mother, ''Aren't you going to return the other dress? You really don't have another occasion where you could wear it."

Her mother just smiled and replied, ''Of course I do, dear.....I'm wearing it to the rehearsal dinner the night BEFORE the wedding.''

Primary Day

Today is/was (polls close at 8 PM) primary day here in Pennsylvania. Only two state wide slots for Judge are on the ballot, everything else was for county and local only. Commissioners, District Judges, Schools Supervisor (I think that was on there) were on the slate. Most slots were contested; that is, there were more candidates than there were openings, but there were a few that were not. I went down at 9 AM and was the only person besides poll workers in the place. Don't think it's going to be too big a turnout. (Terry has no listed party affiliation so she didn't get to vote.)

One thing that surprised us when we moved out here was the dearth of information about candidates running for office. Oh, sure, we got fliers up the wazzoo for the Presidential and Gubernatorial races, but there was precious little communication from the local folks. A few roadside signs, maybe a radio ad or two, but not much even in the newspapers. Of course, being in such a remote area as we are, there isn't but one local newspaper--and that's a weekly. The Williamsport (Lycoming Co.) paper and the one out of Elmira, NY focus far more on their immediate surroundings and report very little about what's going on in Tioga and Potter counties and towns. And not much short of a real juicy scandal will get them to do so. (There is one blog out of Coudersport in Potter Co. that attempts to keep the locals as well informed as possible, but even that is often not much more than ads, radio scanner reports, and obituaries.)

Unless you're into going to town hall and county commissioners' meetings (and you even have to do some searching to find out when and where they are!), you really do not get a good deal of information on the incumbents, let alone the hopefuls. As a result, you really need to pay attention to what little information you can glean from the meager sources and try to make an educated selection.

Any way. I went and cast my ballot today. Damned if it didn't feel like I was buying a pig in a poke though.

Redneck Lent

This came over the transom from a friend in Massachusetts. It's well past the Lenten Season, but this was too good to let rest until next spring.

Each Friday night after work, Bubba would fire up his outdoor grill and cook
a venison steak.

But, all of Bubba's neighbors were Catholic. And since it was Lent, they
were forbidden from eating meat on Friday.

The delicious aroma from the grilled venison steaks was causing such a
problem for the Catholic faithful that they finally talked to their priest.

The priest came to visit Bubba, and suggested that he become a Catholic.

After several classes and much study, Bubba attended Mass...and as the
priest sprinkled holy water over him, he said, "You were born a Baptist, and
raised a Baptist, but now you are a Catholic."

Bubba's neighbors were greatly relieved, until Friday night arrived, and the
wonderful aroma of grilled venison filled the neighborhood.

The Priest was called immediately by the neighbors, and, as he rushed into
Bubba's yard, clutching a rosary and prepared to scold him, he stopped and
watched in amazement.

There stood Bubba, clutching a small bottle of holy water which he carefully
sprinkled over the grilling meat and chanted:

"You wuz born a deer, you wuz raised a deer, but now you is a catfish."


First, today is Rick and Sandy's 2nd Anniversary. Wish they weren't all the way out there in Portland, OR. :-(

Good news is they will be with us in Milwaukee for Brian and Vicky's wedding over Memorial Day Weekend.


Not much happening here at the Aerie--except for fog and rain, that is. And, oh boy!, do we have fog and rain! It's been raining some since early Sunday morning and the forecasts say it will be raining off and on through at least NEXT Sunday. Oh, we may get a little sunshine, they say, on Thursday and maybe a little more on Saturday. But the rest of the time? Don't bet on it.

And it's been chilly, too. The high yesterday was only in the mid-50s. (AccuHunch says the average high for the 16th of May is 71.) The light breezes have kept things from feeling frigid but it's been really, really raw. At least things are supposed to warm up this weekend.

Needless to say, the rain has been excellent for the plants/shrubs Terry and I put in. Even the little burning bush I thought was dead has started to perk up. I guess they really mean it when they say it prefers slightly mucky soils. My carrots have finally broken ground and I wouldn't be surprised to see the beans and cucumbers pop up overnight. If those two get a little sunlight to warm the soil, they'll grow faster than the dandelions.


I could use a little of that sunshine. There's firewood to cut and some landscaping that needs to be done using the tractor. If I were to attempt the latter now, I'd likely tear up what little lawn I've got and leave inches deep ruts. Hopefully I can get out there soon.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rainy Day...of course.
but the Toshiba IS Running!

Been raining here at the Aerie all day. Well, almost all day. When it's not actually raining, I believe it's because the clouds are BELOW us...as they are right now. "Pea soup" is the proper phrase for the dense fog we are experiencing. The good thing about this rain? It's not the gully-washing, thunder-producing downpour it could have been. What we have is more a gentle (but persistent) rainfall. The kind that's sometimes referred to as an "Irish mist." Tell you what though, we keep getting rain like we've had for April and early May, and these hills will start looking like the Pacific Northwest. The trees will be festooned with moss draped over their branches.

And the temperature...we've been 5-10 degrees below average on the high side and about 5 degrees above average on the low end. We'll wake to 45 degrees and maybe see a high of 55 pr 60.


Don't know what I did, but Toshiba san is back working properly and swiftly. I took a chance this morning, started it up in safe mode with networking, and ran one more virus/spyware scan using the Norton software then downloaded a special super-duper add on from the Norton website and ran that too. When it finished, there were numerous items in quarantine/trash. I restarted Toshiba san and it's been running continuously since without a problem. Watched last week's episode of NCIS and then followed the Mets vs Astros game (Mets won 7-4). Been surfing the net since that ended while opening two browsers and several tabs. Things couldn't be better.

Knock on wood.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Rain, Birds and Computers--All are Problematic

Waiting on the rain. Should be here a-n-y m-i-n-u-t-e n-o-w. It's been threatening all day long but so far nothing but a slight misting every now and again. When it does arrive, AccuHunch is promising something near to 2 inches of rain in the next couple of days then scattered showers after that for the next week.

Almost makes you wish for a drought. Almost.


Birding was pretty slow today. Up at Colton Point the trees were indeed out in tiny new leaves and there were some warblers way up there hopping about, but things were so gray and overcast that the coloring couldn't be made out. And few seem to have been singing making song as a identifier a tad tricky, shall we say. With hardly a breath of a breeze and no thermal currents to speak of, even the vultures stayed home today. I came home with a short list from Colton Point SP.

I took a short walk along Pine Creek at Darling Run and got a second short list but this one included a couple of Bald Eagles and several Baltimore Orioles and King Birds. The fishermen in the creek didn't seem to be doing too well either. Of the 7 or 8 I spoke to, only one admitted to having caught a trout. This despite a recent hatch of mayflies that were still fluttering over the trail. Of course, the fishermen also had to contend with a flotilla of kayaks and canoes going down the river. Most of the boaters were smart enough to pass behind the wading fishermen.

When I get a chance to get time on line without crashing (see below), I'll enter my data in eBird and then post them here.

Oh, the Tiadaghton Audubon Society picnic was nice.


I've got some 'puter problems. Starting about a week ago, some gremlin crawled into the Toshiba laptop and started wrecking havoc upon that machine. It's crashing, freezing and generally locking up every few minutes while I'm online in Regular Mode. It's a little better in Safe Mode with Networking Capabilities but not much. I've tried everything I could think of including moving photo files over to the external hard drives to free up space, defraging the hard drive, and running a virus check using Webroot, Norton and Windows Defender. They all said things should be A-okay. Liars!

Looks like tomorrow I'll be heading out to see the Geek Squad. Of course, the problem with that is they also sell computers at Best Buy. I might decide to get the Toshiba fixed and then splurge on an upgrade. I mean, the current 110 GB hard drive and 2 GB RAM are adequate, but that 11.73 Ghz processor? Snails and slugs move faster. Oh, the temptation!

I flunked that test last time when the Apple PowerBook G4 went down. While it went out for repairs (new hard drive with all the data from the old one saved!) I ended up with the Toshiba Satellite. (Woefully underpowered, I might add.) Prices have fallen considerably since then and I could get a much nicer laptop--bigger, smarter, faster--for about 2/3 the price I paid for the Toshiba back then.

For now, I'm making do with the Apple PowerBook G4. I gots 'lectronics up the wazzo!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Electricity restored. (NY)
Yard Mowed. (PA)
Weather: Wet--again

Yeah! Blogger is back! (After 20+ hours of being bye-bye. Went down for maintenance and--as with a old car or an old home--they found more that had to be fixed.)

So, where was I.... Oh, yeah. Electricity at the Bolt Hole. Finished. Took me a couple of trips to the hardware store to get light fixtures to replace a couple of very, very old ones and I had to cut three holes in the sheetrock in the bedroom ceiling, but I found that junction box, ran the new wire to the basement, installed the new light fixtures, and made the new connections in the circuit board. And everything works! Next, I'll have to fix those holes in the sheetrock. It's always something.


I woke up this morning to the sound of birds and rain on the tin roof at 4:15 AM. After a half hour I figured what the hey and went down to have a cup of coffee and a couple of donuts (and discovered Blogger was still down). I could read blogs, but still couldn't post on this one or comments to anyone's. Worse, it seemed they couldn't post either so there wasn't anything new to read...except for Facebook.

Not in the mood for more than a quick check in with a few friends, I shut down the computer and did some real live housework. A lot of vacuuming a little dishwashing, and packing up some garbage to go. I'll still eventually need to do a lot of dusting and drag out the mop and really scrub the floor, but the place looks somewhat cleaner. By 10 AM the Tundra was packed and I was on the road home.

Although it was still drizzling when I left, by the time I got to Utica and jumped on the NYS Thruway, it had stopped. By the time I got to Syracuse, I had to put my sunglasses on. Turned out to be a nice ride home. I even stopped in the parking lot of the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge to stretch my legs eat my lunch and still made it home in a little over 4 1/2 hours. And, by not going more than the speed limit, I managed 19.3 mpg in the Tundra. The same as what I got going up. It was only those pesky trips to the hardware store and for groceries that dropped my mpg rating. :-(

Entering PA I couldn't help but notice the mountains of the Northern Tier had a distinctly hazy appearance. Looked down right Smokey Mountain-ish. I'm guessing that the high humidity and bursting tree buds (almost everything except the locusts seem to have come into leaf) have saturated the air so, despite the steady breeze blowing from the south there's a humid haze over the land. Radio forecast says a 40% chance of rain tonight with probability getting closer to certainty after 2 PM Saturday afternoon. You can feel it in the air.


Arriving at the Aerie, I took the opportunity to get out the lawn mower and cut the grass/feed the black flies. Actually, it was more "cut the dandelions." The "lawn" was a sea of yellow. Not as bad as some of the fields/vineyards I passed on the way home, but still quite yellow. Now, I like yellow. It's the color of Terry's Aveo. But on a lawn, it looks somehow out of place. Short of spraying the whole bloody yard with Round Up (or getting a couple of goats), however, I don't reckon we'll ever be rid of the pesky dandelions.

I was helped in getting the lawn mowed by the presence of another pest: the black fly. Kept me moving right along, they did. Yes sir! Always looking to keep moving and face into the wind, that's me! Didn't work, though. I still got chewed on. But I did get the lawn done in record time!


Tomorrow we have another bird walk at Colton Point SP. With the trees now in leaf, there's a good chance of seeing (or at least "hearing") lots of warblers. After, the Tiadaghton Audubon Society is having its annual picnic over at Hills Creek SP. At least that will be under a pavilion, which, given the weather forecast, is a good thing.


Speaking of the forecast: I just checked the weather.com page and there's a line of sever T-storms in Potter County ("God's Country") and on the western edge of Tioga County slowly heading this way. We're on the eastern edge of Tioga and they may just slip to the north of us. Even so, we will get rain. The 10-day forecast shows showers Every. Single. Day. Sure, some days they say only a 40% probability, but that's not too comforting. Ask any pitcher who faced Ted Williams when he hit .400 for the Red Sox.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Breaking News! Obi-Wan Kenobi is dead!

So says Lord Vader in this front page news item in The Galactic Empire Times

CORUSCANT — Obi-Wan Kenobi, the mastermind of some of the most devastating attacks on the Galactic Empire and the most hunted man in the galaxy, was killed in a firefight with Imperial forces near Alderaan, Darth Vader announced on Sunday.

In a late-night appearance in the East Room of the Imperial Palace, Lord Vader declared that “justice has been done” as he disclosed that agents of the Imperial Army and stormtroopers of the 501st Legion had finally cornered Kenobi, one of the leaders of the Jedi rebellion, who had eluded the Empire for nearly two decades. Imperial officials said Kenobi resisted and was cut down by Lord Vader’s own lightsaber. He was later dumped out of an airlock.

Go on over and read the whole thing...including the comments.

h/t Ed Driscoll posting at Instapundit.

Electrician At Large. DANAGER!

Made the drive up to the Bolt Hole today. And what a glorious day for a drive it was. The sun was out, the temperature in the upper 60s and low 70s, a slight breeze blowing to keep things cool--just beautiful. Almost wished I had a convertible, but that would look silly on a pick-up.

Found the cabin had not burned down in my absence (yet) and the grass, while green and healthy looking not yet demanding I get out there and mow. And that's a good thing. I'm only going to be here a couple of days and hope to get the electrical stuff all straightened out.

Got a start on it as soon as I unpacked. Put a new junction box in the attic from which I ran a line to the kitchen ceiling light and the second to the front porch light. Wired the kitchen light and it's switch and then the switch for the porch light--which I still have to purchase. As soon as I get that fixture, the wires that will bring juice to those two lights can be connected in the basement.

I also worked on getting the proper power for the hot water heater by putting in a 30 AMP double breaker and making the connection in the breaker box by taking out the breaker that serviced the old and unused water pump, and moving another breaker down in position.

The old water pump was in slot #1, Basement lights #3, and water heater in #5. (All slots on the left side of the board are odd numbers. The right side has even numbers.) Number 1 was first emptied (no need for the old water pump). Then #5 was disconnected (underpowered 20 AMP breaker for the heater). Number 3 was moved down to slot #5 and the new 30 AMP double breaker got installed in the #1 and #3 slots.) When done, I flipped the water heater's breaker and heard it come alive. A half hour later I had extremely hot water coming from the kitchen faucet so I must have done something correctly.

Early tomorrow, I head down the hill for some breakfast and then to get a light fixture fro the front porch. I thought the one we had was still usable, but, aside from the glass globe, that is definitely not the case. Once that light fixture is installed, I'll be able to power it up and test it out.

I'll also play with the circuit board again and pull out a double breaker that is currently set up to provide electric baseboard heat to the bathroom and upstairs bedroom. I never use the electric heat as it is damn wasteful in a drafty place like this. (The former owner--the one who installed the baseboard heat--had a fear of fire and would not use the wood stoves for heat.) One of the slots will be used to attach the downstairs bedroom to the circuit board. It's all wired and ready to go. The wire is run to the circuit board and is waiting for juice.

The other slot will--eventually--become the upstairs bedroom circuit. Just as soon as I find the damn junction box where the old canvas covered wire meets the new 12-2 wire. It's buried up there in the cathedral ceiling of the bedroom--behind the sheetrock. And with no juice running through it, there are now super special tools that will help me locate it. Aside from my utility knife, that is. Kinda like ice fishing, in a way. Except I've got to make my hole right where the box is. All the jigging in the world will NOT get that box to come to me if I open up the wrong spot. Should be fun.

Monday, May 09, 2011

I Could Get Used To This

We've enjoyed a run of fine days here at the Aerie. If you discount the brief but heavy showers that moved through the area late Saturday afternoon, there's hardly been a cloud in the sky. Over night the temperatures have fallen to around 40 degrees and during the day they have been in the 65 degree range.

As a result, I've been spending time putting seeds and plants into the garden. Several rows of string bean and cucumber seeds have been sown and sixteen zucchini plants have been put in. If we have any success at all, we should have plenty of beans for the freezer, cukes for pickles and relish, and cukes and zukes for salads and the dinner table. And, if the zucchini do their usual thing, there should be plenty for zucchini bread as well. Maybe even some to annoy the neighbors.

The lawn I thought I had done a good job of clearing dandelions from has sprouted a host of yellow flowers that bears witness to the fact that I was sadly mistaken. Perhaps I should start harvesting some for a foray into wine making.

All but one of the shrubs I put in are looking pretty good. The one exception is a burning bush. It's looking droopy every afternoon despite a heavy dose of water. Both burning bushes had the weakest of root systems when they came out of the pots so it doesn't surprise me too much. If it doesn't recover in a week or so, I may have to go back and make a claim against Lowes' one-year guarantee.

I had planned on heading up to the Bolt Hole early in the week, but with the weather so nice, I've postponed that trip until Wednesday. That will allow me to do a little more yard work and attend the Grand Canyon Photography Club meeting Tuesday night.


The cats have had assistance in their early morning wake up alarm system the last few days. One or more Hermit Thrushes have taken to adding their voices to the early morning cacophony. They, the Robins, the Towhees and a very persistent Yellowthroat make for quite a racket just outside the window at 5-5:30 AM. Perhaps these birds have also been waking the cats.


I've not been putting the bird feeders out and that has pissed off the squirrels. They've been coming to the door and window of the Aerie pretty much demanding I get with the program. This has excited--and provided entertainment for--the cats who race from door to door to window following the squirrel protest marchers.

Without the attraction of the feeders, the number of daytime avian visitors has decreased considerably. Either they are out foraging on their own or they've found another sucker source of seed.

So far as I can tell, the lack of spilled seed and/or forgotten feeders has also cut back on our bruin visitors. We've had nothing on the deck since I pulled the feeders on Thursday night. That's a good thing. Mr. Bear has got to learn to find his own source of food elsewhere. Hopefully it won't include beans, cucumbers, zucchini, and onions.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

We did another bird walk this morning. Today we visited Colton Point State Park on the western rim of the Grand Canyon of PA. The idea was to see all the warblers that typically stop off there as spring time rolls around but while there were numerous individuals of select species, things weren't as happening as we thought they might be. Most of the trees have yet to leaf out and the warblers typically like the young leaves and the insects they attract. We tallied only 18 species in a two hour walk along the canyon rim. The highlights included many Blackburnian and Black-and-white Warblers as well as a Red-eyed Vireo and a Blue-headed Vireo. Here's the entire report I submitted to eBird:

Location: Colton Point
Observation date: 5/7/11
Notes: First time at Colton Pt. this year. Mostly sunny with temps starting at 45 rising to 60 degrees. Many trees have yet to open their buds or are just barely starting...seems late.
Number of species: 18

Canada Goose X
Common Merganser (North American) X
Turkey Vulture X
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker X
Eastern Phoebe X
Blue-headed Vireo X
Red-eyed Vireo X
Blue Jay X
American Crow X
Tree Swallow X
Black-capped Chickadee X
Hermit Thrush X
Northern Parula X
Black-throated Blue Warbler X
Yellow-rumped Warbler X
Blackburnian Warbler X
Black-and-white Warbler X
Eastern Towhee X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)

More Plantings at the Aerie

I spent the better part of Friday afternoon planting six more shrubs along the edge of the Aerie's lawn. Two Spirea, two Lilacs, and two Burning bushes went in the ground with the help of the backhoe on the tractor. If I had had to dig the holes by hand, I'd still be at it. Lots and lots of rock, including one doozy that made me change the location of a planned hole because it was too freakin' huge!

Still have to do some seed planting but, after a morning of birding, I'm looking at some very, very dark thunderstorm clouds heading this way. We've already had a couple of very short but drenching showers--interspersed with bright sunshine, just to be interesting. Planting is off for today!

The forecast is looking good for the next few days--after 8 PM tonight. Once this front moves through, we should have mostly sunshine until Wednesday or so. The same is true up north at the Bolt Hole, though and I may opt to head up there for a couple of days to see if I can finish the rewiring. Or I could stick around and take advantage of the good weather to put some string bean, zuke and cuke seeds in the ground.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Bear Visitor at the Aerie--Again

I was a bit late getting the bird feeders in last evening. Instead of 7:30 or so, It's as more 8:30 when I went out to get them. And that was too late. Something had beaten me to the task. The suet feeder was gone and one of the stick feeders was on the ground with its top off and all the seed gone. The other stick feeder was still on the shepherd's crook, but it was empty also. As was the larger metal feeder hanging on the telephone pole. Since one of the shepherd's hooks was bent, I figured the culprit to be a bear. Again.

Later around 10:30, while Terry and I were watching an early episode of
on USA (yeah, it IS addictive), I thought I heard something on the deck and all the cats suddenly went on high alert--i.e. their curiosity got them to stare intently in the direction of the deck with their ears cocked for full reception. I grabbed a flashlight and sure enough, Mr. Bruin had come back to empty the tray feeder on the deck. He wasn't too concerned about the light but, discovering there was nothing in the tray, ambled off the deck and back to the spilled seed on the ground by the feeder station. There, he plopped himself down and started to wish for a full feeder instead of having to sweep up the food from the ground.

He's a decent sized bear. I was able to get an idea of his size as he leaned on the rail of the deck and looked over the side and as he slow walked past the sliding door to go back down to the yard. I would estimate he's about my size and would probably tip the scales at 225-250 pounds. But his snout is still elongated. I thought thin and pointy (more like a German shepherd's) snouts usually indicated a youngish bear. I couldn't be sure, but his coat was either matted with sunflower seeds (or suet) or he had several wounds on his flanks and back. There were distinctly lighter marks smaller than a dime in several locations.

I'll hold the feeders in for a couple of days and let the birds, chipmunks and squirrels act as clean-up crew to get any uneaten seeds off the ground. I'm down to my last bag of sunflower seeds anyway and this might help stretch things out.

So far having Mr. Bruin around is only a nuisance and I would like it to remain that way. I can excuse a few damaged/destroyed bird feeders. I shouldn't be leaving them out over night anyway.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Plantings at the Aerie

A beautiful spring day here at the Aerie. The sun was shining all day and the temperatures rose to around 58 degrees. More importantly, things were able to dry out considerably under the sun and a steady 20-25 mph breeze.

I went out to Lowes this morning to pick up some shrubs for around the Aerie. I got four Rhododendrons, two Burning Bushes, two Forsythias, two Spirea, and three Bleeding Hearts. I also picked up three bags of potting soil (32 quarts each) and two bags of soil modifier (1.5 cu. ft. each). As you might surmise, my afternoon was planned for me.

After lunch I dug four holes for the Rhodies just off the covered deck. Digging necessitated the use of a long handled shovel and a 16 pound steel bar. Have I ever mentioned that the hill (and consequently the fill) upon which the Aerie is constructed is stone and clay? The stone was hard and the clay was wet.

The four holes produced about four cubic feet of a mix of stone and clay--a 50-50 mix. I screened that to get the larger stones out and mixed it 50-50 with a bag of soil enhancer. The four plants went in, the mixed soil was placed around them and tamped down and then all four were given a generous drink of water.

It took almost three hours by which time I was a hurting puppy. My back ached. My knees ached. My arms ached. With luck, however, those Rhodies will grow to descent size and produce lovely pink blossoms in late May early June. Each currently has 5 or 6 buds that will open this year--and they are only about 16 inches tall.

Terry planted the three Bleeding Hearts near the front door. That area gets almost no sunlight which is perfect for these shade loving plants. We already had three there and they are loving it! There had been a fourth, but when we had the stone applied to the foundation last year, Don couldn't help but stomp on one and killed it.

Tomorrow I get to plant the other six plants. I think I'll get the backhoe out to assist.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Big Brother is Watching!

We've all seen it in use on TV shows. Government agents hit a few keys and they can pin point exactly where and which computer a suspect is using. Or they can trace a cell phone call to within a few feet anywhere in the world.

Well, I was recently sent a link to a site that can accurately locate me!

It's really unbelievable. I was surprised to learn that such technology was available to just anyone already..

You don't need a GPS, a tom-tom or tom cat or whatever ---

It uses your IP address and finds the exact location of any internet user in seconds. It uses a sophisticated time based algorithm to do so. Try it and find your own location on the earth.

Your location will pop up in a new window in about 10 seconds or so.
Click on the link below......


What the Hey?

(h/t Theo Spark)

I don't know, but wouldn't this make you want to go out a purchase a Scion. (Or go watch lots of Benny Hill videos.)

More Aerie Birds, May 4, 2011

Just a few bird photos from the backyard.

Red-breasted Nuthatch
The smaller of the two nuthatches in the region, this little guy is a darting piece of dapperness. It will swoop in to snatch a bit of suet or a sunflower seed and then head for the trees to eat its treat. Like it's larger cousin the White-breasted Nuthatch, it will forage along the trunks of trees looking for insects, spiders and their eggs by hopping down the bole of the tree head first.

Chipping Sparrow
The smallest of sparrows, this little bird sports a rusty red beret and a clean grey breast. It's a ground feeder and will be found scratching for seeds beneath the shrubs or along the sides of trails.

Eastern Towhee
This used to be called the "Rufus-sided Towhee" for obvious reasons. The bright red eye is a distinguishing characteristic shared by both sexes--which is good because the female is much more drab in appearance being mostly an earthy brown. Another ground feeder, it will scratch for seeds and insects by kicking both feet simultaneously. It has a very loud and distinctive song that commands that you "Drink your tea!"

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
This rather stubby, chubby robin-sized bird with brilliant black and white plumage with a bright red bib is a welcome visitor in the summer.

American Goldfinch
The male's bright yellow and black highlights make this a welcome and colorful summer visitor. Large flocks can be seen at feeders and along the side of the road where weeds have grown tall. We've so many that it looks like we've decorated our trees with yellow Easter eggs.

One other recent and notable visitor is the Indigo Bunting. One appeared on the deck yesterday as we were eating our lunch. It stayed only long enough to grab a couple of sunflower seeds before heading off into the trees. We've had them around the place every summer so there's no reason to believe he won't be back.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Birthdays. We got 'em!

Terry is celebrating her birthday today. She's "O my God!" years of age.

Her cousin (and my good fishing/hunting/all-around) buddy, Joe is also celebrating his birthday. He's five years younger than Terry. (For a long time, she thought he was a birthday present since they grew up just one block apart in Linden, NJ.) And, no, I won't say how old he is because you could then calculate how old she is and I would be in deep doo-doo.

Then Way Up North in Alaska, Rev. Paul is also celebrating a birthday today. I'm not sure how old Paul is but he is younger than dirt and probably closer to Joe's age than Terry's and is somewhere between. After meeting him this last summer on our trek to the 49th state, I can truly say he is good people. Too bad he's like 5000 miles away!

Monday, May 02, 2011

From the Aerie, May 2, 2011

Not much to report today.

The rains didn't come as predicted (that's a good thing). Seems the weather that was supposed to cause some drenching today broke up into isolated and widely scattered rains (almost) none of which hit here.

The sun actually came out for a few moments this afternoon (another good thing).

And, it seems, a group of Navy SEALS gave Osama bin Laden the old heave-ho from both this mortal coil and the deck of a U.S. warship. That's a Very. Good. Thing. Though I would have preferred a little old 7th Century justice in this case. Dragged through the streets. (Broadway in Manhattan would have been my choice.) Head on a pike. (Ground Zero is available.)

As to the last item:

Clarence Darrow once said, "I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure." (Earlier on Facebook I attributed a similar quote to Mark Twain but have been unable to verify that.)

Twain DID say, "I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying that I approved of it."


Terry spent the better part of the morning fielding phone calls from SAGA members wanting to sign up for the Smocking Arts Guild of America national convention. She had one of her EGA friends here to help enter data into the web site from people who had mailed their forms in to here. I set up a couple of spread sheet to keep track of the financial end of things once they had finished processing the information about classes and such. From 9:50 AM (a couple of early birds--registration didn't start until 10 AM EDT) until 1 PM the phone was ringing off the hook. Remind me to never, ever volunteer for a phone bank!

Now that the first day is over, things will slow down considerably. Many of these women wanted to be sure to get the classes they wanted during the convention and so were in a rush to get things done--yesterday. They didn't not want to be closed out of the classes. (As it was, by 1 PM five of the classes were closed.) Yeah, they could have done it all themselves online, but there were those with special vouchers and others that didn't trust (or understand) PayPal.

I should have either gone turkey hunting or to Cabela's. Maybe tomorrow.

Oh. Wait. Tomorrow (May 3rd) is Terry's birthday.

If I went to Cabela's tomorrow, she would want to go. And then I would have to buy stuff for her. (She got all the cool stuff from Cabela's last time.)

Okay. Maybe Wednesday!


Roads around the Bolt Hole continue to be in rough shape according to the pages of the local news sources. Oh, I could get there, but the route would be--shall we say--circuitous. I'm in no hurry, especially since the forecast for the next couple of days is rain, rain and--oh yeah--rain.


Well, that is all for now from this little bit of Heaven. Time for one more little toast to the Navy SEALS before I head off to bed. I read that they pulled a number of computers and flash drives from Osama's hidey hole--if you can call a mansion a hidey hole. Got to be some pretty nervous people in al Quida--and Pakistan. I wish them all a peaceful and long--a very long--sleep (well, maybe not peaceful).

Sunday, May 01, 2011

More Rain On the Way *sigh*

First day of May and it's shaping up to be just like April--WET! And cool.

The weather gurus are saying we'll get about 2.5 inches of rain this week (Sunday through Thursday). The average for the entire month is just 3 inches so we're off to a quick start! We got more than twice the average rainfall during April. The 10-day (weather.com) and 15-day (accuweather.com) show most days with a high temperatures of about 60 degrees and many of them only in the 50s. Oh, and they both show more rain next week.


This morning I went down to get the Sunday newspapers and saw that the Exxon station had a price of $3.94 for a gallon of regular. Haven't seen prices that high since immediately after the hurricanes hit the Gulf coast a few years back. Then it was the weather that caused the disruption of supplies. Once the weather ended and damage assessed/repaired prices came back down. Now, it's the fed printing money reducing its value and, of course, an energy policy(?) from the White House that's preventing the production from resources right here in the USA. Instead, we have windmills. And corn being turned into fuel instead of food and feed.


When I got back to the Aerie, I pulled out the lawn mower, checked the oil level, filled the gas tank and gave two slow pulls to prime the engine and one hard pull and the Briggs & Stratton engine fired right up. No excuse now! So off I went mowing the lawn. It was just starting to get scraggly looking but was at that stage where it was easy to mow. Doing it now should encourage better growth. besides. the forecast being what it is, I may not get another chance until next weekend.

Once finished, I grabbed the Round Up and went around spraying some of the dandelion, thistle, and other weeds I had spotted. It won't eliminate them, but it should thin them out a bit.

Then, it was on to planting some carrot seeds. The soil needed to be turned again since the very heavy rains after the last digging had compacted it a bit too much for carrots. That's a scene likely to be repeated this week, but what the hey!

Finally, I did a little tree trimming, removing a couple of oak and maple branches that were either rubbing against other trees or had been broken by delivery trucks or ice.

Then it was time for a late lunch as the drizzle started.

Followed by a book and a nap.


Terry was in New Jersey for a SAGA stitching class over the weekend. (Luckily, her little Aveo gets 35 mpg.) She had a good time with some of her buds learning new methods, drinking wine, going out to dinner, drinking wine, sittin' a stitchin' and--did I mention--drinking wine. Tomorrow, she and a few helpers will be occupying the Aerie to do some work in registering folks for classes at the SAGA national convention.

Don't know what I'll do during that time, but it won't be heading to the Bolt Hole just yet. Last I checked, the roads are still a mess up there from last week's storm. I could get there by a rather circuitous route, but I've a few time.