wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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Leftovers?

Same tree. Different bird. Same watchful eyes.

This is a good perch. I see this from my window as I look out towards the bay. I can’t resist trying to get a photo, even though it’s quite far away. I zoom in and try not to shake the camera as I press the shutter. It’s not perfect, but he (or she) is recognizable.  He’s got a great view of the beach and any activity that may signal food.

“Any leftovers?” he asks.

The herring fishery is as good as over, most boats having caught their allowed quota, but the feast for the scavengers is just beginning. Dead herring litter the beaches here and there, and strands of kelp and other seaweed have skeins of herring roe stuck to them. It all makes a tasty and healthy snack for seagulls and eagles.

I thought I’d try some of the herring myself. A friend working on a seiner gave us a few herring mainly for bait, since it isn’t the ideal food fishery time. The fatter herring are fished for food in November. But since these were so fresh, I fried a few fillets in the pan. They have a lot of little bones, but it’s so worth it to pick them out as you eat. They were delicious.

Of course they had to be cleaned up a bit first.

I feel a bit guilty about eating them. See how they are looking at me with reproach?


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Herring Provides for All

The seiners wait in the harbour for the signal that the herring are fat enough, with a high enough roe count, to allow the roe herring fishery to proceed.

Rafts of sea lions are waiting too. They will take advantage of the herring being “rounded up” in the purse seines of the big boats. Many herring “escape,” right into the waiting jaws of these huge mammals.

Some of them like the fishy smell coming from small power boats and are trying to investigate up close.

Seagulls wheel around the seiners trying to grab any herring that swims too close to the surface.

This immature eagle is about to find out that the beach will be full of bounty as roe and herring and bycatch float ashore. These foods provide much-needed calories for the eagles especially at their nesting time, which happens very soon after the herring fishery. Healthy eagles will have healthy chicks.

And let’s not forget that as much as we scoff at seagulls and their shrieking habits, they are the janitors of the beaches, cleaning up every bit of mess.

Once the carnage has been cleaned up, the animals have to scrounge what food they can until next year’s feast.


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Six Weeks?

On February 2, Punxsutawney Phil, the official groundhog weather forecaster, dashed back into his burrow because he saw his shadow, and thus predicted six more weeks of winter.

“Ugh! You’ve got to be kidding me,” says the Steller’s jay.  “Six more WEEEEEEKS!”

I felt the same way, and have been waiting (im)patiently for spring to come, and today I realized that six weeks must soon be up.

March 16 should be the last groundhog-predicted day of winter. So I expect spring to happen the next day.

One more week!

I’ll be looking for signs of spring for my next post. Are you finding any where you are?


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Fish Foolery

No, we don’t eat bananas with our trout, but it’s there to show the relative size of the fish.

You’d think it’s easy to be smarter than a fish, but have you ever tried to catch one that didn’t want to be caught? You might be surprised how wary they are, and if you try to lure them to bite a hook, you’ll learn that they are choosy too.

Fish basically eat insects, and each other’s babies. Nasty little critters, aren’t they? And yet, when I’m lucky enough to get one onto my dinner plate, they don’t taste nasty at all. The trick is to get them there.

So I’ll defer to the Captain, who has been trying for a lifetime to outsmart a fish. He loves the art of tying “flies” (lures made with fur and feathers and other components), to suit the mood and appetite of the fish at any particular time. Appetites change with the season, the temperature, the weather, and a few other factors.

Assuming you have a fishing rod and a boat to get out onto the lake to try fishing, here are some things the trout might look for. What we are trying to do is to create a lure (a fly) that simulates something the trout might be attracted to. We need to be a little bit mean, and hide a sharp hook in this “fly” to catch our dinner.

When flying ants are hatching, the trout love to make a meal of them near the edge of the lake where the swarms of newly hatched ants are crawling on the overhanging branches and often drop into the water. The simulated ant below has wings made of window screen mesh.

Another favourite food of the trout is the nymph dragonfly. The eggs are laid near aquatic plants in the quiet waters near shore. Sometimes in as few as five days, the eggs hatch into the nymph stage of the dragonfly. This is when they are often picked off by trout. The nymphs who survive, split their skin up to twelve times on their way to adulthood (rather than sitting in a cocoon to wait for development to be completed), and this series of molting can take up to four years. Once adulthood is reached, the dragonflies mate and the female lays eggs. Both male and female dragonflies only live about four or five months after mating.

Below is a dragonfly lure simulating the nymph stage. The nickel is placed in the photos to show the relative size.

 

Below is a shrimp “fly.”

And of course there are leeches in many of the lakes. Not nice for swimmers, but lovely for a trout’s meal.

And this nasty little critter, below, is a bloodworm, the larval stage of the midge fly. It lives in the shallow lake bottoms and can give people or animals a venomous bite that hurts like a bee sting.

When the bloodworm changes to the pupa stage of the midge fly (Chironomidae) it floats up to the surface of the water, and then in the next stage it turns into a small fly.

In the above flies, the one on the left has a white bubble that floats the pupa to the surface where it rests for a while until its wings dry and it can fly away (if a trout doesn’t snap it up first).

 

Trout have no scruples when it comes to eating other fish’s babies.  Here are some of the lures made to look like minnows used to entice them to bite.

But now comes the lure that I find the most fun. It is made from a small piece of rabbit fur. Yes, rabbit fur!  Made to look like sculpins and bullheads, fish that stay near the bottom, these lures have an amazing action that simulates that of these bottomfish.

 

Here is a short video showing the action of one of these lures.


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Bald Eagles

I saw an eagle land in a tree below my house, so I went out onto the deck to take its picture.

Then I zoomed in on it and got a close up of it, but had no place to steady the camera and just took my chances.

In a second closeup, I saw that he had his beak open and I could see its tongue, but I see that the photo is quite small on the blog, so if you want to see the eagle’s tongue, you’ll have to click on the photo to make it bigger. Even so, it will be hard to see.

These birds are much bigger than they look. If you had one sitting beside you with its wings spread out, tip to tip those wings could span 8 feet. The bird might weigh about 14 lbs., the size of a small turkey. 

Anyone walking a small dog or worse yet, letting it run around in their backyard in eagle territory, had better watch out for it. They make a nice snack. Although eagles are not water birds, they will do what they have to do to procure food. I have seen an eagle with a loon in its beak, dragging it across the surface of the water as the eagle swims with one wing paddling like a lifeguard saving a drowning person, until it got to shore where it cold devour the bird. I have seen it do the same after swooping down to pick up a coho salmon just below the surface of the water. They are incredibly strong birds.

At this time of year, the herring come close to shore to spawn. This means a bounty of food for the eagles. You can see these birds showing up in the tall trees near the beaches in greater numbers to await the arrival of the herring. 

Eagles are not totally scavengers, but they are like a cleanup crew of a different kind. They are opportunists and will eat what is already dead, but they pick off sick or injured animals, whether they be land- or sea-birds, small mammals, or fish.  A crippled duck won’t suffer long with eagles around.

This is why you will often see eagles high up in a tree. They observe a large area, watching for stragglers in a flock of birds, or any weakness in animals small enough for them to pick up.

 

This raccoon may have been sick, injured, or dead, and became an eagle’s meal.

“Hmm…. There must be a little morsel left.”

 

“He’s messed up my nice white head feathers, but it’s worth it. What’s a bit of blood when you can fill your boots like this?”

“Just a few tidbits left. I hope I can still fly up into that tree with my stomach so full.”

 

Once when I was playing with Ruby, our late springer spaniel (then a small puppy), in the backyard, two eagles had been sitting unnoticed by me, in a nearby fir tree. They swooped down low across the yard, heading for tiny Ruby. I ran for Ruby and spread out my arms to provide an “umbrella” over her, and the eagles lifted up like two jets making an aborted landing. If I hadn’t been out there with her, she would have been eagle food that day.

 

So take care if you live in eagle country and have small dogs or cats. 

 


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Beach Walk

After months of wind and rain, followed by at least a week of snowy blasts, the sun let us know that it’s still up there. It lit up the white hills and said to us, “Come out, come out. I’ll warm your back as you walk on the beach.”

The Captain and I took Emma to the beach on the east side of the spit, where the morning sun was warmer and much of the snow was gone.

Emma loved it, but then she saw something that stopped her in her tracks. “Whoah!” she said. “WHAT is that large woman doing out there in this icy water?”

She wasn’t swimming much — more like bobbing in the waves. She didn’t seem to mind the cold.

To her right, was a very relaxed sea lion head. I looked back at the woman and saw that what I thought was a head,  was really the sea lion’s flipper.

A whole group of them lay on their backs, enjoying the morning sun. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d had a breakfast of kippers. It’s that time when the herring come in close to the beaches to spawn. That makes the sea lions happy, as well as the eagles and sea gulls, all of whom love to eat the herring spawn and herring bodies that wash up on the beach for a wonderful smorgasbord.

Everybody (except the herring) is happy these days.

Don’t forget to visit my other blog, https://annelisplace.wordpress.com/2021/02/12/the-trap/

Also, please visit my website to find out more about my books and my copy-editing.  http://www.anneli-purchase.com/


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Love, Love, Love

I wish I knew how to make the mouth move and dub in the words, but this is Ellie, my sister-in-law’s dog, wishing everyone a very happy Valentine’s Day. Be good to each other.

I’ve been asked what breed Ellie is, so I’ve added this bit. She’s a Coton de Tulare.  Related to Bichon. 

A word of kindness never hurt,
It costs us naught to say it,
So why not give it generously,
It's easy, don't delay it.

We never know what kind of day,
And worries others have,
A loving word, a smiling face,
Could be a healing salve.

Don't do it 'cause it's Valentine's,
We need to supersede it,
To make the world a better place,
God only knows we need it.


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Chilly Days

With a switch from southeast, the northwest wind brought that breeze that smells like polar bears. It breathed on the local hills and shocked the birds who had thought wind and rain were hard enough to endure.

(Bird pictures taken through my dirty windows. Sorry.)

Cold and hungry, they search out any source of food. Sure I have suet out, and the birdfeeders are always topped up, but something more is needed today.

Saskia, the pine siskin, catches a few rays of sunshine, out of the wind.

“Ahh! That feels so good on my feathers.”

She sits on a fir cone and decides that she likes the one next to her better.

“It’s a stretch,” she says, “but so worth it. Yikes! Nearly fell off.”

Orson (top left) mutters, “I don’t see anything.”

Saskia calls to him (bottom right), “Come on down here, Orson. Plenty of cones over here. Great bunches of them!”

Brother Sasha’s found a good one. “But whoah! The blood is all running to my head.”

What a showoff he is! “There’s plenty of cones down here,” Saskia calls to him, “and you don’t have to be an acrobat to get at them.”

“Ooh! Yum! Kind of like sticky caramel candies. I’ve got a good one here.”

The nights have suddenly gone cold,
If we don't eat, we won't get old,
With sunny rays, though they are rare,
The cold is easier to bear.

The fir trees shelter from the breeze,
And we can find the cones with ease,
Inside them is a sticky snack,
We eat them fast and then come back.

Our squirrel, Lincoln, loves them too,
But kindly he has left a few,
The polar wind is such a beast,
We hope it switches to southeast. 

A few more days of icy toes,
And then we hope that winter goes,
Around the corner, spring awaits,
Take heart and let's hang in there, mates.


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Carving the Bird

It’s not a turkey that needs to be carved, but Fletcher the Flicker is getting creative as he dines on a snack of suet at the feeder.

“I’m going to carve you into a little duckling. Who knows? It might improve the flavour.”

“Oops! What was I thinking? I’ve eaten your bill, my little duckling.”

“Hmm! You’ve got a problem there, Fletch.”

“Well don’t just sit there and criticize, Orson. Do you have any bright ideas?”

“I guess not. Unless he’s gone to think about it….”

“Well, Fletch, I … er … let’s see …. For one thing, his bum’s too fat.”

Fletcher closes his eyes and counts to ten. “Lord give me strength.”

But then Orson has an idea.

“You pick away under his chin – that will help – and I’ll pick away at his fat tush. And by the way, it’s great working with you, Fletch. That snarky starling is not nearly as nice as you are.”

“I’m keeping my distance when he’s around. Get a load of that spearing beak and those mean, beady eyes. Not to mention that grabbing set of claws he’s got. No, Sir! I’m not doing anything to draw attention to myself. No sneaking a bite while he’s there.”

Fletcher carves a duck of suet,
Asks his friend for help to do it.
Orson's happy to oblige him
Least he knows he won't get bludgeoned.

Snarky starling, meanest birdy,
Doesn't share, and oft plays dirty.
Orson spends his time with Fletcher,
Both are happy, yep, you betcha.


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The White Stuff

“Eh? Orson? What’s that you said?” That Oregon junco knows everything that’s going on around here.

It's a chilly wind today,
My fur coat is on to stay,
I'm so happy to be warm,
With the temps below the norm.

“If you’d pay attention, Lincoln, you’d know there’s been a big change in the weather.” Him and his big fur coat. He probably hasn’t even noticed. But just look at Emma. She’s still trying to figure it out too.

Look now, Lincoln! See the ground,
See the flakes fall all around?
Food will be more precious though,
Covered as it is with snow.

“Sheesh! This is just like in the movies where Bambi says, ‘Mother, what’s all that white stuff?’ and she says, with her soft, stunned voice, like some naive housewife out of a 50s sitcom, ‘Why … it’s snow!'”

Emma snarfs in deep, long sniffs,
White stuff gives off special whiffs,
Did a raccoon pass by here?
Did a rabbit scratch his ear?

Licking, tasting flakes of snow. 
Tries to bite it, where'd it go?
Funny flakes of wetness fall,
On her head and over all.

Emma gives her coat a shake,
Leaving just one lonely flake,
Sitting on her pointy nose,
Then into the house she goes.