Category Archives: Birds

The Dreaded Post-Christmas Pounds

People are not the only ones who put on a pound or two over the holidays. It happens to our pets, too.
This morning the Captain took Emma, our field cocker spaniel, to a nearby farm to hunt for ducks. This photo is from yesterday, when we were just out for a walk. Ducks were everywhere.
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Ruby, the springer spaniel, was upset that she didn’t get to go. Nearly 12 years old, she’s almost completely deaf now, but she still knew she was being left behind. She felt better after I gave her a little treat and pulled  her doggie bed right beside me by the laptop.
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Last night when the Captain was getting things ready for this morning’s outing, he hauled out the little neoprene vest I made for Emma a couple of years ago.
“You’d better try it on her,” I said. “She’s put on a couple of pounds.” (After all, it’s just after Christmas).
Sure enough, it was VERY snug.
“You can’t have her wear that. She won’t be able to breathe.”
I looked high and low and luckily found a piece of left over neoprene  (from the old wet suit that I had used to make the vest).
I cut a 1 1/2 inch strip the length of Emma’s suit. It didn’t take long to cut the suit and sew in the strip. With a zigzag stitch and the piece butted up to the edges it was easy to insert a strip. No need to overlap neoprene to make a seam. Just laying the edges snugly side by side and zigzagging them together works fine.
You can see the post I did about the original vest a couple of years
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Here she is in the original vest.
I was going to take a picture of Emma in her expanded vest to put at the end of this post, but I was shocked to learn that she came home without it.
It’s lost! Somewhere out there in the brambles it got hooked up, the velcro parted, and there the vest stayed.
In the next day or so we’ll have to launch a search party for it.

Wind and Rain

Yesterday, on a rare sunny day I was coming home from town when I had to make a quick photo stop. The mist and cloud formations across the bay were ominous, warning of the next weather system coming in.

*Warning* Wet camera lens was an ongoing problem.

I turned the camera back towards town. The spread of the clouds stretched along the far hills. In the water is a long row of posts that has been there ever since I can remember. Not sure what purpose they once served, unless it was a  navigation guide. The posts still stick out at high tide and warn boaters of the bar.

As you can see below, some posts still show in places where the bar is farther below the surface, and the trunk of a long-dead tree is hung up on the gravel. This is not where you want your boat to end up. Seagulls and a heron sit on the log like sentinels warning of hazards to navigation.

After a slightly deeper stretch of water, the bar comes up again and continues into the bay. A river flows along the side of the bar that is closest to us (at the bottom of the photo), while the water beyond is a shallow bay that is a mudflat at very low tide. If you want to bring a boat up the river, you need to know where the channel is or end up with seagulls sitting on your hull.

The sandbar is a popular place for birds to dabble and sun themselves. Sometimes you’ll find ducks and geese there; sometimes, like this day, seagulls.

The sun came blasting through the clouds for one last look at me. I clicked the camera as I looked back into its blinding light, knowing I might not see this light for days ahead.

This morning I see that I was right. Looking out my living room window, I saw what was behind those first clouds I saw yesterday – a blast of southeast duck weather.

It’s a good day to stay home while the Captain goes duck hunting.

*****

Winter on the coast is wet,

Wind and rain is all you get,

Sometimes there’s a glimpse of sun,

Just five minutes, then it’s done,

Back we go to wind and rain,

Hope by spring I’m not insane.

 

A Flicker of Light

Sitting in the dark in my living room at about 6:30 this morning, I was surprised by the contrasting colour of the two levels of clouds — one layer of light gray and one of very dark gray. It gave me the shivers to think of the wind and rain that were coming our way.

I was not disappointed. It blew and dumped rain on us. Once the moisture had been thrown into our faces, the clouds lifted (that’s not the same as going away) and the sky brightened up.

The flicker looked up from his perch in the black walnut tree and called to his buddy who had just flown away, “What do you think, Dear? Is this it for today, or is there more coming? Should we find a more sheltered tree to peck on?”

 

Flicker eyes the roiling sky

Shakes himself and gives a cry,

Shudders at the force of storm,

Sodden feathers, not the norm.

Hoping sun comes shining through,

Flicker asks, “What will I do?

If the next storm is as wild

While I’m wishing it were mild.

Friends will fly away from here, 

I’ll be left alone, I fear.

Wait! I see a glimpse of sun.

Surely I’m the happy one.”

The Wild Winds Weep

The wild winds weep

And the night is a-cold

Come hither, Sleep,

And my griefs unfold.

I wish I could claim this poem as my own creation, but I can’t. It is from a poem called “Mad Song,” by William Blake.

I was quite taken by this poem when I wrote my first novel of a coastal drama in which the wild weather played a significant role. That is why I used “The Wind Weeps” as my title.

I’m not trying to persuade you to click on the book cover image at the side for the free download of that book, but if you do, remember book two, “Reckoning Tide.”

It’s just that today the weather is so wild. The wind is crying out there,  whipping up the waves, just as it is in parts of my book.

Driving past Point Holmes on my way home from shopping, I stopped to take a few pictures. I had to hang onto the car door tightly so it wouldn’t rip off. A torn rotator cuff on a person is painful, but on a car door it would be  expensive  – so, also painful in a way.

It takes  a good stiff wind to give these waves foaming, frothy tops. In the photo below you can see a smooth line near the bottom of the picture. That is the paved boat launch ramp. No one is using it today for obvious reasons. No way I’d want to be tossing around in a small boat out there.

Even the little songbirds were looking for shelter. They swarmed in small clouds to and from the beach. Some flew in to land on the rocks and logs, but my photo doesn’t show the tiny birds well. I enlarged the photo to have a look (as you may be able to do by clicking on it), and I counted at least twelve small birds. It’s a tough time for them.

Those mountains in the distance should be clear and sharp. It is only around noon, but the sky is dark and full of raindrops flying sideways so the far shore is fuzzy and the mountains just a haze.

It’s too stormy out there for me. I think Emma has the right idea.

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Redheads

“Yikes!” This guy was caught red-handed – well, maybe more like red-headed – vandalizing the maple tree. Just look at the holes he’s put into the bark! I guess they make great toeholds for him.

Who would think there is something inside that bark that makes it so enticing for him?

“Hold on,” he says. “I think I can hear something wiggling around in there.”

“Mmyeahhhh … worth having a poke around.”

“There he is! I can feel him in there. Tasty little morsel … if I can only get him out of there. I’ll follow it up with a slurp of syrup from the sap.”

“Yum! That was good, but what a lot of work for a snack. Gotta take a breather for a sec.”

“What’s that you say?” He’s shocked that I’ve questioned him. “Holes in the bark? So what? There’s tons of them. What’s one more?”

“But don’t you see that if you keep going around in a circle you’ll soon ring the tree?”

“So…?

“Well, the sap has to go up and down the tree to keep it alive.”

“But I’m a sapsucker. Duh! It’s what I do!”

“I don’t know how much more of this I can take. I held so still for her when I saw she had her camera.  But enough is enough.”

“I’ll pose for this one last picture and then I’m off. I can always come back later, when her arm gets tired, or her eyes hurt from squinting against the sun, or – hee hee – when her battery dies. All that zooming really eats batteries. 

Now. Where was I? Oh yes, continuing on this line of holes my buddies and I were working on last week.”

What’s in a Name?

Dunkirk, Zurich, Malta, Glasgow, Cleveland, Devon, Rudyard, Harlem, Jordan, Belgrade, Amsterdam-Churchill, Havre, and Manhattan. These are names of places all over the world, but they are also names of places in Montana.

On our way home we stopped for the night in Zurich. Not Zurich, Switzerland, but Zurich, Montana. It’s a tiny farming community where the people drive their ATVs down the middle of  the road if they’re taking their trash to the local garbage dump. You just have to slow down and wait until they make their turn into the dumping station up ahead on the left.

Then you can continue on to the little gem of a community park where they kindly allow campers to stay the night for a mere  ten-dollar fee for electricity. Such a peaceful location.

The community hall was not in use the day we were there, camped in the corner.

The view from my trailer window is of black cottonwoods that whisper as they drop their last golden leaves. The only notably loud sound was made by the pheasant who cackled enthusiastically before taking wing out of the creek bed beside our trailer.

I thought it odd that Montana has so many names that duplicate other places in the world, but on looking more closely at the map, I saw names of a completely different sort:  Poplar, Wolf Point, Plentywood, Buffalo, Cat Creek, Musselshell, Rattlesnake, Lodgepole, Sleeping Buffalo, Whitewater, Crow Rock, Grass Range, Forest Grove, Roundup, Deer Lodge, Cut Bank, Sunburst, Sweetgrass, Fox Crossing, Chinook, Gold Butte.

Montana names are such fun!

 

Montana Fields

We try to get out to Montana every year in October for some bird hunting and photography and hiking. This year, we arrived to about an inch of snow. While it is beautiful, it is quite chilly. The good thing about it is that rattlesnakes don’t like cold weather so I didn’t have to worry as much about Emma and Ruby getting bitten.

You may remember Emma as a puppy four years ago. We had great hopes that she would someday become a good flusher and retriever of game birds.

She hasn’t disappointed us. In spite of being quite small, this English field cocker spaniel is full of energy and her cuddly nature takes a back seat when it comes to finding birds. Nothing gets away from her.

If you thought the prairies were only boring grassy fields, you couldn’t be more wrong. The coulees are full of prickly shrubs, birds, and small animals. A fat hare came tearing out of the shrubs here and just as I was about to snap a photo, my battery died.

But later I caught this mule deer running away from all the commotion. I traipsed along behind the Captain and Emma as they did their pheasant hunting thing, hoping for something interesting to photograph, and I saw something the deer had left behind last year — an antler shed. It was only the second time I had ever found one and I was quite happy about stumbling across it.

After the snow from the day before, the mostly clay ground was “wettish,” and while we had heavy clods of mud on our boots, Emma’s feet were getting harder and harder for her to pick up. Besides collecting many burrs in her fur, she had huge clumps of clay on her feet. Here she is getting them soaked off, just before I took the comb and scissors to her curly ears to remove the burrs.

She is usually so energetic, we weren’t sure this was our Emma flaked out on the couch after the day’s outing.

It was Ruby’s turn to go out today, but she is sick. We think she drank some bad water. This has happened one other year and we have given her some meds that we hope will fix her up in a day or two.

PS Now, two days later, Ruby is feeling much better. We are so relieved.