Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Work. Work. Work. OUCH!! MMMM!

We had a couple of dead trees that were leaning toward the house and needed to be removed. My buddy (Terry's cousin) Joe came up this morning to lend a hand.

Before we got started, however, Joe pulled out his box call and gave a series of clucks hoping to get a gobble in response. Not today. Should have been here on Sunday morning...Oh. Wait. No hunting on Sundays. (The turkeys are fully aware of this law. Or at least I am convinced they are.)

The hand that was needed was on the end of a rope to assure that the trees didn't hit the house as they came down. Both trees (one white birch, the other a gray birch) were well and truly dead having been either girdled by the previous owner of this lot when he attached a light to the white birch and then held the electric wires in place with some pretty stout nylon cord or damaged when other trees fell and scraped the bark off. Neither could be climbed to attach the rope so we spent some time with a monkey's fist trying to toss the rope over limbs about 20' in the air.

Having accomplished that on the gray birch, I notched the tree about 2' off the ground and made my back cut. Damn tree didn't follow directions and fall up hill as I had planned but instead fell parallel to the slope. At least the rope did keep it away from the house.

The white birch fell pretty much where we planned and the light bulb in the fixture didn't even break. We did dislodge a robins nest built abo0ut where the light fixture was but it didn't hold any eggs or young. In fact, I saw that robin hauling long weeds to build the nest Monday morning and it was still damp from construction.

I gave Joe a tour of my gardens--soon to be supplemented by the acorn and butternut squash Joe brought with him--and he finished his coffee and went on his way after promising to return before I head into the hospital so we can mount the mowing deck on the tractor so, when the time comes, he can come up and cut the grass. He refuses to consider using the push mower.

When Joe left, I pulled out the push mower and went to work mowing the grass and dandelions. An hour-and-a-half later (and about 2 miles) I was finished with the lawns and pretty much anything else for the day. My left knee was sending signals loudly and clearly and my right was in total sympathy.

After lunch I did manage to hobble enough to 1) install the window AC in the master bedroom (I already put the one in the guest bedroom in. It's where I'll be sleeping post op.) 2) drive down to the polling place to cast my vote in the primaries and 3) stop at the liquor store in Mansfield for a nice, big bottle of Jim Beam.

The temperature has risen to 84 on the deck at 3 PM. It had been 82 when I left to run errands at 1:30. The truck thermometer hit a high of 88 while I was on Route 6. It's too damn early for these temperatures. Especially since we had a hard freeze and high temps of just 45 two weeks ago. Oh well. We may get some T-storms this evening...and tomorrow afternoon...and Friday afternoon. Might as well get used to it.


On a little bit of a down note:

Terry and I rounded up the cats yesterday to clip their claws. Things went reasonably well for three of them. (If you count having to close all doors, chase and play hide and seek reasonable.) Miss Kitteh, had other ideas. After a lap or two around the livingroom, diningroom and kitchen, she went up onto the loft. We followed. She jumped off the loft to the couch. We finally corralled her and got her nails done but things weren't quite right. Rather than leave immediately--as the others do--she wanted to cuddle in my lap.

When I put her down near her lunch bowl, she limped away to her bed and stayed there all afternoon. We would spend time petting and prodding her but, while she seemed to enjoy the former, the latter produced no reaction. No broken bones that we could tell.

When terry pulled out the dust mop to do the floors, Miss Kitteh sped off to the basement and wasn't seen again until this morning when I went down and found her huddled in a drawer of the TV stand. She sped up stairs as best she could with a gitty-up in her hitch but still would not eat. She's been curled up on the couch in Terry's sewing room all day. (Except when the noise of the lawnmower had her disappear to the basement again. She hid in the utility room this time.) She purrs and licks our hands when we pet her but she has no interest in roaming about the house or eating.

What ever her problem may be, we will give her another day or two before taking her to the vet.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Aerie Visitors

We had some visitors at the Aerie this afternoon. I had just finished watering the garden at 4:30 PM when I heard a crashing and grunting in the trees less than 40 yards up the slope and saw a black bear. It stayed put as I collected all the bird feeders and brought them inside. The bear stayed put and even laid down in the powerline right of way. I thought something might be up and wondered if it might be a sow with a cub.

Turns out I was right. about 15 minutes later, the sow and her TWO cubs came down the hill and into the yard. One of the little ones was a very pale cinnamon cub. Not an albino--I don't think--but a very, very blonde bear.

As you can see, they didn't stay in the yard long. Moma heard the dishwasher going through its cycle and, I assume, the chugging sounds made her shy away from any lengthy investigation. They wandered off back up the hill and disappeared--for the time being.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Deck Birds, May 13, 2013: Part 2

Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Purple Finch

Another harbinger of spring is the appearance of the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. We get quite a few stopping by on the way north to their nesting grounds but we also hang on to a few as well. In fact, I've had three or four males hanging around lately with their lady friends so they must be nesting somewhere near. The male's bright white underside with the rose-red bib can be seen from some distance and the black and white flash of their wings and tails also helps spot them in the brush and low trees. The females on the other hand...well, they are camouflaged quite well. The better to hide while tending the low nest. Given that the males also incubate the eggs, sit nearby and sing to their mates, however, must give up the location to predators fairly often.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (female)

Purple Finches are present through out the year, but they take on a real, eye-popping hue in the spring and early summer. More red than purple the males can be pretty easy to identify. The one thing not shown in these two pictures is the bright red patch on their rump just above the tail and between the wings. The similar House Finch lacks that patch and has a more distinct brown triangle around the eye as well as some brown striping along it's flanks. The Purple's song is a lively one heard anytime during the day and lacks the whiney ending of the Goldfinch.

Purple Finch

Purple Finch

Deck Birds, May 13, 2013: Part 1

Monday was a pretty blah day around the Aerie. It started out bloody cold with the deck thermometer registering 29 degrees and, while it warmed up a bit afterwards, it never got very warm--or sunny, and spit snow from time to time. The bird feeders got a pretty good workout as a result. While the numbers of birds at any given time have dropped due to migration and/or nesting duties, the variety still remains. On any given day I could gather a list of 20-25 species while looking out the window or standing on the deck. Not all of them come in to feed, of course. Robins, towhees, crows, ravens, vultures and the like either stay out in the yard or are merely passing by out in the ether.

I decided to snap a few pictures Monday morning to document some of the birds that do come up on the deck. The windows have recently been pelted by sleet, snow and rain and I've not cleaned them yet, but still, the photos seem to have come out pretty well.

I'll put these in two posts because there are a lot of them and that might slow the loading process.

Part 1: Chipping Sparrows, American Goldfinch and Blue Jay

Chipping Sparrows are the smallest of the sparrows but what they lack in size they more than make up for in energy and volume. They are constantly on the move searching for seeds on bare soil and in the lawn. They can contest a good hunting ground with the best of them and you can see some pretty good aerial dogfights among rivals for a good patch of turf. They're steady--and loud--trill in the early morning light can be confused with a Dark-eyed Junco but is ever so slightly faster, higher in pitch and louder.

 Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

One of the magnificent gems of the bird world, the male American Goldfinch's transformation from olive drab to bright, bright yellow marks the beginning of spring. The only problem with them is the little whiney tilt at the end of their lilting song. Otherwise, they'd make lovely caged singers.

American Goldfinch

 American Goldfinch

The bullies of the yard are the Blue Jays. They will chase/scare all other birds off the feeders with either their size or noise. Some have learned to imitate the calls of hawks to frighten the little birds even more. They rob nests of eggs and hatchlings but eat their fair share of caterpillars and bugs. Their bright blue plumage is present even in the deep days of winter when everything and everybody is much more drab.

Decision Time

Yesterday (Tuesday) morning was spent at in Corning, NY at the Guthrie Orthopedics Center discussing and scheduling knee surgery. It wasn't easy and I was a bit hesitant to do so, but I've opted to have both knees replaced at the same time and my physician/surgeon has agreed to perform the procedure.

We're working on (read: "waiting for the insurance company to okay") getting a 3-D printer construction of my joints so two sets of blocks can be manufactured to act as templates for the knees when it comes time to do the actual cutting. This procedure is costly but less so for dual (bi-lateral) surgery like mine. It also reduces the time on the table (from around 5+ to 3-1/2 hours), chance for infection, and any possible misalignment of the new joints. It also increases the life expectancy of the new joints as a by-product of getting things lined up better.

Getting two knees done at once will reduce the total cost of the procedure. (There's only one booking of the OR, hospital stay and anesthesiologist for example.) There are some increased costs of having to stay in the hospital a couple of extra days and then go to a rehab center for another few days before going home, but compared to two trips to the OR, two hospital stays and two anesthesiologists...there is a savings in there somewhere.

One big downside is the recuperation timetable. I literally will not have a leg to stand on for quite some time. Even with rehab it could be six weeks before I'll be able to drive and so will be pretty much at the mercies of my sweet, lovely, long-suffering wife. (This will, undoubtedly cost me dearly.)

The surgery is tentatively scheduled for Monday, July 15th. There will be numerous appointments, physicals, pre-ops, etc before then.


Came home after the doctor's visit and chose to push the lawn mower about for two hours doing terrible damage to the dandelions bold enough to stick their pretty yellow flowers up just a tad too high. I'm not kidding myself, however. Short of taking some full strength Round-Up to the bloody things they will return. I did read somewhere that they are actually good for the lawn in that they will draw nutrients to the surface from way down deep. If you've ever tried to dig a mature dandelion out of the soil with an intact root, you can easily believe that. The average adult plant's root goes down some 9-12 inches. Not as far as some other plants like Queen Anne's Lace, but still pretty impressive.

After two hours of pushing the mower about, I'd harvested several bags of clippings for the mulch pile and reminded myself why I went to the doctor. As it was cool enough to not break a sweat, I did not have a pint+ of ale to rehydrate. Instead I went right to the bourbon to act as pain killer while sitting in front of the tube to watch NCIS and NCIS: LA.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Squirrel! White squirrel, that is. Really.

So. Terry and I were on our way over to Darling Run on Pine Creek Gorge this morning when we saw this little guy on the road just down the hill from the Aerie.

White squirrel on the road.

I've seen it before--three times in the last three years--but this was a first for Terry. We had driven past and it had jumped up into a tree alongside the road. I turned around in a driveway and got my camera out. I was surprised to see that the squirrel had returned to the road and stayed there as I drove very, very slowly back toward it. Fearing it would bolt if I got too close I stopped about 20 yards away and snapped the photo above through the windshield. With schmutz on the glass and facing into the sun, I wasn't really positive it would come out so well.

Opening the door as quietly as possible, I hoped to get a better picture but the little bugger sensed something was up and went for the nearest big tree--an ash. Well, I walked over anyway and it sat in the fork of the tree giving me the evil eye. I snapped a few more photos--the best is the one below--before giving up and returning to the truck.

White squirrel peeks from an Ash tree.

We've had a totally black squirrel in the Aerie's yard before but it only appeared for one year. This white one--or its offspring--has been around for at least three years. I couldn't clearly see if the eye was pink,dark red or a more normal black. Pink or red would indicate albinism while a black eye would simply be a melanin deficient critter. It looks a bit red in the second photo. Either way, it's pretty cool.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Our Week

So. What else have we been up to besides birding....


One really negative note: Last week and again today, my knees proved problematic as we walked around the lake at Hills Creek. I did see the orthopedic surgeon on Wednesday and discussed options vis-a-vis shots or surgery. We left things in the air as I needed some time to weigh those options.

Today convinced me I need to go for the surgery. It's been only three weeks since my last cortisone shot and already the pain is up there in the 8+ range. Sometimes even reaching 9+ on a scale of 1 to 10. Sigh. I'll be calling the surgeon's office on Monday to make arrangements. It can't be done until at least three months after the cortisone shot which means mid-July at the earliest.(The cortisone interferes with the adhesive used to cement the new parts in place.)

I'm going to see if I can get the Doc to do a two-fer. Might as well get them both done at the same time. He's a bit reluctant but says the insurance companies love the idea. I've heard for folks who have done both at once and also one at a time. The former say it's the only way to go. The latter admit it drags the inevitable out but also say its good to have at least one leg to stand on. (I've also heard of at least one person who had the first knee done and then balked at having the second operated on. It was more than she could handle.)


Terry and I also visited the ophthalmologist on Thursday. It's been two years for me but my eyes haven't changed and no new prescription was needed. Tests for glaucoma and macular degeneration were negative, too.  Terry needs a new set of specks as she has lost some vision in one of her eyes. She has had some signs of glaucoma but this time round the tests showed some improvemend on that front. Nothing hinting at macular degeneration for her either. She should get her new glasses in a couple of weeks.


Friday was Terry's birthday. We celebrated by going out to dinner at Timeless Destination in Wellsboro. Good food, good service and nice atmosphere.

She's had lots of cards, a few phone calls and even posts on my Facebook page of best wishes and such and appreciates each one. 


On something of a plus side, Terry's knee has been feeling better...most of the time. The possible, non-dislocated medial meniscus tear has been behaving itself and she's walking far better than I am. Then again, she's not been so foolish as to go hiking on uneven terrain such as one finds on some of the trails around the Hills Creek lake.


The birds have succeeded in eating all the sunflower seeds I purchased last fall. (That would be 10 bags of 40 pounds each.) It's not surprising considering the number of Goldfinches and Purple Finches that have been around this past week. A rough estimate would put those numbers at around 100 for those two species alone. The Chickadees are still here, albeit in smaller numbers than in winter. Other newcomers have made up for it, however. Common Grackles, Brown-headed Cow Birds, Eastern Towhees, and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks have certainly eaten their share. I may have to go visit Agway for a couple more bags.

Birding at Hills Creek State Park:
May 4, 2013

We had another great day for birding at Hills Creek State Park today. The conditions were perfect with comfortable temperatures, clear skies and no wind to speak of. Lots of people showed up, too. While we racked up a respectable number of species in 2.5 hours, the actual number of birds was a bit disappointing and there were areas that should have had birds that didn't. Maybe some have moved north--or haven't gotten here yet from the south--or maybe those that were around were setting up housekeeping. Whatever the reason, this could be considered a good day and not a great one on the bird front but certainly a great morning to be out.

Here's today's list as reported to eBird:

Hills Creek SP, Tioga, US-PA
May 4, 2013 7:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Protocol: Traveling
1.5 mile(s)
Comments: Beautiful clear morning. 40 degrees at the start, 60 degrees when we finished. Very calm.
34 species

Canada Goose X
Mallard X
Double-crested Cormorant X
Great Blue Heron X
Osprey X
Bald Eagle X
Red-tailed Hawk X
Ring-billed Gull X
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker X
Downy Woodpecker X
Eastern Phoebe X
Blue Jay X
American Crow X
Tree Swallow X
Black-capped Chickadee X
Red-breasted Nuthatch X
White-breasted Nuthatch X
Brown Creeper X
House Wren X
Eastern Bluebird X
American Robin X
Gray Catbird X
Brown Thrasher X
European Starling X
Yellow-rumped Warbler X
Black-throated Green Warbler X
Eastern Towhee X
Chipping Sparrow X
Song Sparrow X
Dark-eyed Junco X
Northern Cardinal X
Red-winged Blackbird X
Brown-headed Cowbird X
American Goldfinch X

View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S13985728

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (http://ebird.org)