wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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Great Blue Heron

Blue herons don’t have a dark patch on their shoulders, but this one does. I think something (like an eagle) tried to grab him and he got away. Not unscathed, but he’s alive.

I once saw a heron circle around and around, going higher and higher, until he was nearly out of my sight. In the airspace below him, an eagle was doing his best to climb higher as well, to get at the heron. I think herons must have lighter bones and probably a lighter body in proportion to the wings. They can outdistance eagles  and stay very high up in the air until the danger has passed.

I suspect that this one was caught napping and was attacked at ground level. Somehow he managed to escape the eagle’s clutches, and he lived to tell about it.


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Owl Pellets

I found these pellets (not poop, and most likely from an owl) on my driveway yesterday. Thanks to the many trees, we have a lot of owls in the neighbourhood.

When the rabbit, mouse, or rat populations get too high, the owls show up in greater numbers and stay until those populations are down again.

By the way, did you know that while rats and mice belong to the order rodentia, rabbits do not? They belong to the lagamorpha order.

You might think that owls are greedy, eating the whole animal from head to toe (and they literally do start at the head), but they have it all figured out. The crunched up fur, bones, and claws are  cast out in pellet form. In plain English, they throw up the parts they don’t want to digest. This is sometimes called casting.

In the pellets below you can see that the owl probably ate something with gray fur. A few bits of bone are showing in one of the top left pellets.

If you think this is a rather  disgusting way to eat, consider how we might tackle a piece of meat with our knife and fork. We cut around the bone and we cut away pieces of fat and gristle. The owl, lacking a knife and fork just does this job in a different way, but the result is the same. The unpalatable parts are discarded.

You might not give a hoot about this info, but owl bet you learned something. 😉


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Hard Work

It is herring time on the coast of B.C.  The herring migrate to certain parts of the coast to lay eggs (spawn) close to shore.  It is the ideal time to catch them for their roe.

The seiners didn’t have far to go to set their nets this year. Less than a half hour’s run from town, they put their huge nets in the water  and encircled the schools of herring with a huge  purse seine net.

The small skiff helps anchor one end of the net while the seiner runs around in a circle, unrolling the huge net into the water. The white floats on the top of the net help us to see where the net is. Their job is to keep the top of the net afloat. The bottom of the net has heavy lead rings tied to it through which a line passes. It is like a drawstring that closes the net so fish can’t escape through the bottom.

In the photo below, the red  boat has already closed its net. Seagulls circle, hoping to lunch on unfortunate escapees. The boat next to the red seiner might be a packer, standing by to take the load onto his boat and then to market.

The herring could be scooped out of the net with a huge brailer, like a long-handled fish net, or in some cases, the herring are sucked out of the net and onto the packer or into the hold of the seiner with a kind of (very large) vacuum that slurps up the fish and seawater and pumps it all into the hold of the waiting boat. The seawater is pumped out of the boat leaving only the herring behind in a big strainer.

To unload them, the process is reversed and water is added to the hold to enable the vacuum to suck the herring out of the boat.

 

The boat on the right side of the photo has just paid out the net in a circle to try for a catch of herring. See the white floats?


The farther boat in the photo below has hauled a catch over to the boat. You can see the seagulls going crazy with the feeding opportunities it provides for them.

Fishing for herring is hard work. In late February and even in March the weather can be raw and brutal, especially on the water.

I took the photos of the seiners from the deck of my house, so they are quite far away. The very next day, I took the photo below, of the same view, but the boats are not visible through the snow clouds. I hope no one was fishing that day.

I like to eat pickled herring, but I’ve learned that the food herring are caught in the winter (maybe November) when they are fattest.  In the spring roe fishery, the herring are skinnier and are caught mainly for their roe, highly prized in the Japanese market (at least prized by the older generation). I’ve heard it suggested that the younger Japanese generation prefers McDonalds. Not much of a choice, to my mind.

In case you are wondering what happens to the rest of the herring after they are stripped of their roe … fish fertilizer.

 


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Woodpecker Line-up

Woodpeckers seem to like our area. Maybe the attraction is all the rotten wood of broken limbs and stumps left behind from wind damage or logging. It all provides a smorgasbord of insects for them. Sometimes these pileated woodpeckers  really get into their work, hammering at the wood, and the chips just fly off the decaying trees, exposing insects who were enjoying a nice decaying breakfast only to become breakfast themselves.

Red-shafted flickers basically do the same thing, but they don’t have the long beaks the pileated woodpeckers have, so you won’t see the chips flung quite as far afield. Flickers are happy enough to drill holes and do small-time chipping of wood, all in an effort to expose insects. Of course, if there’s a suet block around, they’ll take the lazy way out. It’s like having pizza delivered once in a while instead of cooking from scratch.

The sapsuckers don’t care about rotten wood so much. They like to peck holes into healthy trees (frequently being responsible for the eventual demise of the tree) and wait for the sap to fill the holes with the sweet liquid they love. Insects are attracted to the sap and often become dessert for the sapsuckers. The insects are also taken to the young when it’s nesting time.

 

The woodpeckers in my line-up are getting smaller. I’ve tried to line them up from biggest to smallest. This one is the downy woodpecker, another suet eater, but he likes bugs he finds in wood too. One thing I’ve learned about the downy is that they have a very loud voice for such a small bird. I once stood below a downy’s nest. The young birds stuck their heads out of the hole in the tall tree snag and shrieked so loudly I had to cover my ears. It wasn’t that they were afraid of me and they were screaming for their mother. They were just screeching at her to hurry up and bring more food. The only time they stopped was when they had a full mouth. At least they had “some” good manners and didn’t talk with their mouth full.

And then there was Harry the hairy woodpecker. He was most elusive. I was coming along a small road from a lake where we’d been trout fishing, and Harry flitted from tree to tree, keeping away from my camera. Once he stopped for a rest I zoomed in and got the only shot I could. I didn’t see if he had any red on top of his head, but in many other respects (except for the longer beak) he looked very much like a downy. He was much quieter though.

So there’s the line-up of the possible perpetrators of wood damage around here. Please be sure he’s the right one before you accuse an innocent woodpecker of the damage to your yard. I’ll try for fingerprints (or maybe beak prints would be more useful) next time for a more positive I.D.

PS   Be on guard if your house has wood siding. They’d be happy to check it out for insects like the pest control guys do, except the woodpeckers don’t fix any holes they leave behind.


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Late for Dinner

My reward for going outside to sweep off the back deck was to see the pileated woodpecker fly in and land on the nearest tree. I hurried inside to get my camera thinking the same thought I always have at a time like that — Should I stand here and enjoy the sight of the bird, or should I maybe miss out and have him fly away while I go get my camera. I took a chance that he’d still be there, but I was in a hurry to snap any photo I could get. Haste makes waste, they say, and sure enough, the photos were not as sharp and clear as if I’d taken the time to take a good steady picture.

But he does look like he’s about to fly away any second, doesn’t he?

 

And he did. Right over to the birdfeeders where all was empty. I was running late with  the refilling of the feeders and now I would pay for it by having the woodpecker fly away. He looks shocked at the empty cage where the suet block is usually kept. I don’t think he’s crazy about the seeds, but he must have wondered why I hadn’t replaced the suet.

As he wondered what to do, he noticed the truck tire so close to the birdfeeders.

“Yikes! It’s the invasion of the human truck drivers. Looks awfully close to the feeder. Maybe he won’t see me if I stay hidden behind this post.”

Seeing his dilemma, I brought out more suet and more birdseed as soon as the coast was clear. He had already left, but I’m sure he’ll be back.


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On Retreat

Ahhh! Peace and quiet, and even a ray of sunshine as a bonus. What a lovely moment’s reprieve from Mrs. Flicker’s bickering.

Uh-oh! I may have spoken too soon.  I was SO enjoying a moment on my own.

You say she wants me to get home and help with the dishes? Can’t you see I’m on retreat?

You’ve got a nerve, taking her part. You go back and tell her …  tell her …. Oh, heck! Tell her I’ll be there in a minute.

And like Mr. Flicker, I’ll be away for a few days on retreat, quilting up a storm. Back soon.

Meanwhile, check out my website for more about my books. Three of them with love and drama on the west coast of British Columbia (The Wind Weeps, Reckoning Tide, Marlie), more love and drama on the Baja Peninsula (Orion’s Gift), and a love triangle in postwar Europe (Julia’s Violinist).

Find out more at http://www.anneli-purchase.com


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Groundhog Day

The weather gods must have heard me saying all we get is wind and rain – and okay, a little bit (a lot) of snow – so they decided to send us something different just for a bit of variety.

Is it ice for the birds to put in their drinks?  We could have a party for the birds! Maybe these are tiny marshmallows for their dessert?

Then so many of these icy particles came down that it was way more ice or marshmallows than we needed for the party. And all this, just a day after I noticed the “daffy dolls.”

Things got serious when the wind came up at the same time, causing chaos at the bird feeding station.

Oh, where is spring? I hear many of the Canadian groundhogs saw their shadow today and we’ll have six more weeks of winter. Others disagreed. I hope the others are right. I like to cheer for the under hog.

Please visit my website if you need more winter reading until spring comes for keeps.

http://www.anneli-purchase.com