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August 29, 2011

Irene Damage

Hi,

Here's our 1st of two entries on Hurricane Irene and the effect on our homestead...

Ok, a resounding, shuddering thud and the following scene is not the way to start your morning amidst hurricane-strength gusts...

resized_tree on deck_IMG_3113.JPG

And this is how close we came to losing the kitchen...

tree by kitchen window_resized_IMG_3114.JPG

To put the damage in perspective mid-storm... (Also note the branch above the trellis 'cause it ain't going to be there much longer...)

tree on house resized_IMG_3119.JPG

Finally, here we are after the second branch was down... That one took out our birdhouse and crow feeder... Ah, there's nothing like half a ton of maple hurtling earthward to rearrange the bird accoutrement...

tree after second limb came down_resized_IMG_3142.JPG

And that's about it... We lost our power for 24 hours, had some roof damage, went through the disaster preparedness drill for real... (Just because I wear an aluminum foil hat doesn't necessarily mean that the the occasional disaster isn't staggering down Fate's Highway towards us! More about that next time...)

'Til then... Alive and well by the feeders...

CapeCodAlan

P.S. Heartfelt thoughts and prayers go to out to all who suffered in this storm, and especially to the 35+ lost souls and their families and friends... In the grand scheme of things, a lost maple tree, a one-day black out, and a dinged up roof is a blessing...


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August 27, 2011

Irene Begins on Cape Cod

Hi,

Well, if anything describes the day here on the Cape, the shot below does...

Before Irene resized_IMG_3085.JPG

Right now, it's blah, the birds don't seem very active, and we get the occasional sprinkle from the outermost rain bands of Irene. To be honest, I'm expecting an inch or two of rain and some strong wind gusts. That being said, I just watched a radar weather loop, and the storm made a sudden lunge to the east, so who really knows... We here in the Mid-Cape area could get off easy, or we could get our clock cleaned... No one really knows, so precaution is a 'duh!' must.

I've got a bunch to do in the next few hours:

August 26, 2011

More on Hurricane Irene, the Birds, Stats, and Common Sense

Hi,

I started writing this at 4AM, 8/26/11... (barometric pressure 1013...) It's now 3:38PM, 8/26/11... So if the info is dated, you know why. However the content is extremely relevant...

But first, the birds... As far as I can tell, so far, no change. The crows still arrive like clockwork at sunrise and afternoon demanding food. The smaller birds are doing the usual smaller bird stuff. (Oh how I wish that I'd been more 'Avian Observant' during our earthquake!) So far, so good.

Back to the weather... Take a look at the Irene-related pics below. These are screen shots from NOAA's web site. Interpreting these things is a bit tricky. (Well, except for the third...)

The first is of the probability for the Cape to get 58mph winds Thursday through Sunday... Not too menacing right?

72 hr_ 50mph resized_2011-08-26_025639.jpg

Next is a chart showing how it's most likely (43%) that we'll only get a strong tropical storm out of this thing...

Irene_chart_resized_2011-08-26_031009.jpg

In short, the numbers aren't looking too bad for Cape Cod. But here's where people get lost in the weeds -- lost in the stats... Look at the size of Irene...

Irene sat resized_2011-08-26_032300.jpg

Irene is huge. That's 400 miles of hurricane/tropical storm muscle just rolling along the Eastern Seaboard... Will N.C. get absolutely gobsmacked by this thing? Probably... Will Cape Cod be swept from this earth? Probably not. But the point is that all it takes is a single tree limb to ruin your day just like it did during the blackout of 2006.

So... Numbers be hanged. Use your head and your common sense. Wherever you are, listen to the authorities. Know where your shelter is and go to it when warned. For you backyard birders... Have you considered that your feeders and/or birdbaths might just become flying missiles during a blow? There's so much involved here, and the numbers and the Red Cross can only explain so much. Be prepared...

Ever watchful of the birdies, but stocking up by the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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August 24, 2011

Hurricane Irene Update...

Hi,

Well... Now it's starting to look like we (Cape Cod) might get a hurricane after all...

Irene_cone.JPG

So, here's what I'm going to do...

I'll keep an eye on the birds, the barometric pressure, the weather conditions, and 'live blog' (report) as best I can, when I can... (I've been through a couple hurricanes, and they can become hairy to say the least. To make matters worse, our computer room lies smack dab in the path of a humongous oak tree. So if things jump ugly, I'll be blogging from our basement and hoping that the cable service and casa remain unscathed.)

Right now, it seems to be a typical summer day, though the crows haven't been their normal pushy selves. My guess is that that is just a function of 68 degrees and steady barometric pressure of 1018.

Finally... Once again... Are you prepared?

This should be interesting...

Tidying the bunker by the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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Birds, Barometric Pressure, Earthquakes, Hurricanes, Etc.

Hi,

Oh this was going to be such an easy post -- a quick, 'Looks like we'll get a blow so I'll watch the barometer and the birds and keep you abreast of any unusual avian activity' post...

Barometer_resized_IMG_3084.JPG

And there's the barometer at the current Chatham 1018 hPa... Boy oh boy, I'll bet this is getting you all excited. (Like birds really care about hectopascals...) But then came 1:55pm EST... As always, I was working on the computer, and the table swayed... No big deal but definitely noticeable. Like so many souls on the East Coast, I just sat there and tried to figure it out. Was I dizzy? Had there been an accident? Had the furnace blown up? Nope... The only evidence of the earthquake was just a swaying cable before me. In all its majestic power and mystery, the earth had simply moved -- the crusted had ruffled itself ever so slightly, and we were there for the adjustment...

So... Between the earthquake and Hurricane Irene, it seems like this is a good time to remind you to prepare....

There, I've done my civic duty.

I'll get back to you with a report concerning the birds and the barometric pressure ASAP.

By the 'Danger Feeders',

CapeCodAlan

P.S. A word to the wise... Always carry a small flashlight and a pocket knife on your person. A $2 investment can save so much hassle...


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August 22, 2011

Birds and Design

Hi,

OK, enough with the cat suppositories stuff! (You pet owners have been warned...) Back to the birds.

No great secret that we talk a lot about woodworking here. (Just Google on 'eBirdseed.com woodworking' and there you go...) And over the years, it turns out that I have a slight, reluctant flair for design stuff. Nothing grand, but enough to get me into trouble. Consider the shelf and kitchen island below...

rooster in shelf supports resized_IMG_3076.JPG

Mrs. CCA and I designed and built those. She chose the colors and the 'chicken' cast iron shelf brackets in red wisely. The design effect reflects us, the house, and the Cape -- straight-forward, functional, and unpretentious. But it's the chicken that initially tripped me up... I still struggle with it. (Perhaps better on a chicken farm in Kansas? Maybe a chickadee instead?) Still, the bird gets the pass and contributes quietly to the space... Next up is the new farmers table...

table with birds resized_IMG_3075.JPG

See anything subtle there? Look again... Look at the bird carvings at the base of the vase. (More on the Shaker clock build and its big brother in a sec...) But IMHO, the birds make the table come alive. I can't put my finger on it, but there's something there... Once again, it speaks (to me at least) as 'Cape Cod' and 'home'.

front of tall clock_resized_IMG_3078.JPG

Now, about the clocks... The big guy at right will eventually be an 80" Shaker tall clock. (That's only the front...)The one above (20") will reside in my shop and will annoyingly remind me that I'm late for bed. I truly don't know how the theme of birds will play out in those, if at all. This is where it gets tricky... So much of design depends on light and shadow and appropriateness of statement and understatement. Maybe I should work a bird into the design. Maybe perfection is a thin, brownish watercolor sparrow perched on one of the knots in one of the tall clock's two re-sawn doors. Perhaps that will give pause... that soft 'yes...' Maybe... maybe... maybe. I really don't know.

All I do know is that I think I'll leave the 20" clock alone. I can see it in the shop as the sun rises and the shadows will be perfect -- no embellishments -- no birds, no nothing... Just stark Shaker in a concrete basement surrounded by, wood, glass, steel, and iron...

I think that design is going to work...

By the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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August 18, 2011

Giving a Cat a Suppository -- a Cautionary Tale (Part 2 of 2)

Hi,

So where were we?

rump_IMG_1336.JPG

Ah yes... That pic jars my memory... We had a sick cat (Daedalus), and the vet told us that I had to give the creature a prescribed-dosage suppository. (I warned that this story would be awkward, yet funny, but still have a very serious ending...) Onward...

OK... So my best friend Richard, sick cat Daedalus, and I found ourselves in a closed bathroom with a part of a baby suppository... (I should stop this blog right now and just walk away... That's how absurd that last sentence was...) The plan was to insert the suppository, and in doing so relieve the animal's 'tail-section congestion'. Yeah... Richard was to fend off the paws and lift the tail. I was going to hold the cat by the scruff of the neck and insert the glycerin 'thingamabob' in the 'target area'. But this is where it gets interesting... After my first failed attempt, it seems that Daedalus quickly grasped what I was trying to do and heard that banjo music from the movie 'Deliverance'. And with that, the cat somehow turned as one possessed (which he was) and stared at me for about one second... Never in my life have I been so in touch with another soul. It wasn't Homo Sapiens and Feline... Nah... This was pure Vulcan Mind Meld stuff, and Daedalus delivered two messages... "What the *bleep* do you think you're doing" and "I'm going to carve you up so much that even your shadow is going to bleed." And that was it. Freddy Kruger and Jaws and the Tasmanian Devil all exploded in a ten-pound bag of fur. True to his glare, Richard and I were in ribbons... Nothing was sacred, not even our faces. (I still think the cat was holding an additional grudge against me for having him 'fixed'... Oh, and cleaning cat scratches ain't no picnic either.)

The bottom line is that we took him back to the veterinarian, and it was decided that a bit of exploratory surgery was called for -- and the end result ($$$) was that the cat had eaten plastic and was completely blocked. Nothing but surgery could've saved him, which it did.

So, here's the bloodied and very serious lesson learned... When you have a sick animal and you take it to a vet, ask questions! Don't just glom along with the doctor. Ask for explanations... Use your common sense...

By the feeders...

CapeCodAlan

P.S. Daedalus never did look at me quite the same way as before the 'Suppository Incident'...


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August 16, 2011

Giving a Cat a Suppository -- a Cautionary Tale (Part 1 of 2)

I waffled about writing this post for a couple of days, but in the end, I stumbled upon the picture below and decided it was Fate telling me to go forward... (As in my post on death, I'll try to keep this light, though there is a bone-serious conclusion, so be aware...)

crow_tail_400_IMG_2914.JPG

Obviously this is a bird blog, but if you're reading this, you're probably an 'animal person', so this probably is closer to home than one might think.

Alrighty then... For those of you not familiar with suppositories, take a look at the shot above. Notice how the crow has turned his fandango towards the lens? Well... suppositories help that particular part of the digestive track function. Basically, for creatures like humans and cats, a semi-solid lubricant is inserted where the sun don't shine, and then the person doing the insertion immediately seeks counseling in another state.

There... Mechanics out of the way, here's my story...

We had a cat named Daedalus, whom we inherited from the roadside. Daedalus was an abandoned waif, and understandably so -- he just wasn't right from the git go. He was bow-legged, an entire fries serving short in the Happy Meal category, and more clumsy than a drunken Hollywood starlet. But worst of all, Daedalus suffered from chronic skitters regardless of the diet. Still, he was our pet, and we had to care for him as the years crawled by...

And after roughly three years, the fun began... Daedalus' #2 cat box habits ceased -- he was bound up tighter than Dick's hat band... Oh goody... We took him to a vet, who, after a perfunctory examination, prescribed part of a baby suppository. (The amount is important -- incorrectly dosed suppositories can literally be lethal!) Formalities out of the way, we were given our cat and told to head for the local pharmacy.

Now, let me stop this story cold and offer a bit of advice. IMHO, any time a doctor examines any patient and prescribes a home-administered suppository... well, just look out!

Anywho, to wrap this up and compel you to read Part 2, I'll simply leave you with this teaser... By the time this experience was over, the cat was fine, the family budget had been blown right out of the water, my best friend and I lost quite a bit of blood, and Daedalus never looked at me the same again.

Still traumatized by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan

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August 13, 2011

World's Finest Spaghetti Sauce

Hi,

Taking a quick break from the birds...

Well, here it is -- the world's finest spaghetti sauce...

resized perfect spag sauce_IMG_3044.JPG

Don't ask me how I came up with this one, because it was all pure serendipity -- a perfect alignment of Jupiter and The Age of Aquarius. (I prefer thinking of this as a fantastical piece of dumb luck.) Here's what you need to make this recipe happen:

  • A clean kitchen complete with a big ol' porcelain pot
  • One 24oz jar of Bertolli Italian Sausage Garlic & Romano Sauce (made with 100% Bertolli Olive Oil)
  • 1.5 pounds of 85% lean ground beef (the stuff for hamburgers)
  • One 8oz can of Hunt's Tomatoes Sauce
  • Eight or so scallions
  • A two-hand scoop of portobello mushrooms
Now, here's how to work the magic...
  • Brown the ground beef in the pot at a low to moderate heat
  • While the meat is browning, thoroughly clean and then slice the scallions and 'shrooms... Nothing fancy or fine in the cutting -- just hack and slash
  • When the ground beef is completely browned, drain off roughly 95% of the grease leaving only a dribble...
  • Dump all the other stuff into the pot with the meat and let simmer for 45 minutes or so... Stir occasionally...
  • Finally, avoid the temptation to season...

I have no idea why this concoction works... But if you make it precisely as described above, IMHO, this is as close to perfection as you're going to get. I think it can even stand completely on its own without pasta. Just a wedge of Italian bread, some spread, a cold beer, and then brace yourself for a long nap. There are worse things...

Stop by the feeders and let me know what you think,

CapeCodAlan


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August 10, 2011

Red-wing Image, etc...

Hi,

In case you missed it, in a recent pair of entries we got to 'talk legal' about birds and their feeding... (See: 'Kindly Feeder of Birds or Neighborhood Nuisance?' and 'Fallout From 'Kindly Feeder of Birds or Neighborhood Nuisance?' Post'.) For reasons both understood and unknown, I don't like to banter litigation. It just seems that the world is choked with too many lawyers, politicians, and lobbyists. To me, it feels like common sense and decency are being replaced by agenda and the courtroom. Anywho, it's at times like these that I find some solace in ancient images like the one below. (Oh, I don't stare at bird books for hours, but there is a glimpse of peace there.)

resized_400.jpg

I think the Red-wing is my favorite. (Though the Crow is rapidly moving up on the charts.) I'm sure I mentioned this in the past, but I'll reminisce again -- there are worse things than good memories. Back when I was a kid, I had an aluminum jon boat, and I'd row that thing for whole summers down in the local mud hole. I could spend an entire day in that boat just rowing and fishing and listening to the red-wings. There was something so right about it all. I belonged on that pond. The weather was always perfect. (My definition of 'perfect' is a bit more broad than others might choose.) Man oh man, did those birds make a racket. I miss them as I miss childhood friends; there's something numbing and terrible in growing up.

I'm just going to sit and think by the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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August 8, 2011

Fallout From 'Kindly Feeder of Birds or Neighborhood Nuisance?' Post

Hi,

Here's the deal... I posted a piece about a backyard birder and his feeding habits. Neighbors were complaining that he put seed on the ground, and that attracted all sorts of 'nuisance' animals such as ducks and geese.

Fine... So far, so good. But then, our ever-faithful reader Harry 'Gipper' questioned the veracity of the story. (See the comment on the above link.) Now that's fine too... I love debunking a good urban legend as much as the next guy, but in this case, the story happens to be true. (Again see the above link.) So, I went to the Bloomington Town/City Ordinance in question. (http://www.ci.bloomington.mn.us/pccases/s10000g10_09_02_10.pdf, pg. 27)

12_122.jpg

My next move was to contact the City Attorney, Ms. Sandra Johnson. After a brief introduction and explanation for contact, here is the email I sent her:

"The phrase that leapt out at me was "non-birdseed mixtures" (emphasis mine). Does that mean that if Mr. Brown had been using birdseed mixtures, he would not have been in violation of the law?

Also, believe it or not, this is an important matter on another front. Mr. Brown is quite correct... Birds do scatter birdseed mixtures onto the ground. And as I understand it, this could mean that everyone in Bloomington who feeds the birds using feeders above the 5' ground level could still be conceivably in trouble with the law for inadvertently ground feeding wild animals.

I look forward to your clarification on this issue and will publish your response."

And here is Attorney Johnson's prompt reply:

Thank you for your email. You are correct in your reading of the ordinance, with one exception. If he was using birdseed and nonetheless attracting geese, ducks, turkeys, deer or raccoons (or other wild animals) to feed on it in noticeable numbers, such would be a violation. The ordinance was re-drafted at least once at the direction of the City Council so as to narrow it. Staff worked with some local birdseed vendors to avoid the case where spillage would constitute a violation. So if the substance Mr. Brown had been placing on the ground was birdseed and it only attracted small flying birds and not wild animals- there would be no violation. It is important to note that all residents are verbally warned before any enforcement action begins.

I again contacted Ms. Johnson asking:

So, do I have your permission to include your exact reply in my syndicated company blog (http://eBirdseed.com/blog/)? And also, where can I get a copy of the of the re-drafted ordinance?

Once again, her response was immediate and to the point...

Yes you have permission. The ordinance you have is the revised version that exempts birdseed mix - unless or until it attracts wild animals such as geese, ducks, turkeys, deer and the like. The original staff draft strictly prohibited any feed under 5 feet. The City Council wisely rejected that version.

Lessons learned:

  • Bloomington City Attorney Sandra H. Johnson is a professional. Her responses to my emails were both immediate and relevant. If I had my way, Ms. Johnson would be promoted to the Federal level ASAP.
  • It's tough to legislate common sense. To me (as I said before), if a person is doing something that's driving the neighbors crazy, the individual and the neighbors should work it out between each other. Busy people like City Attorneys have far more pressing concerns than issues like feeding the birds.
  • My heart goes out to Mr. Brown. It truly does.
  • Hardware like feed trays under the feeders go a long way...
  • Finally, if my town were to pass such an ordinance, I too, could not feed the birds. Though our feeder is over 5', the blue jays routinely scatter the seed far and wide, and that routinely brings turkeys.
As I said before... Deep sigh...

By the feeders as long as they last...

CapeCodAlan


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August 5, 2011

Red-bellied Woodpecker Family

1_RBW_resized2.JPG

Regular readers may recall our previous posting back in June about the local Red-bellied Woodpecker family. Well they've stuck around all summer, and the mother and one of the offspring were flitting around the yard today and we were fortunate enough to get a few good photos!

Here we have both mother and one youth (don't know if it's a male or female) clinging to the bark of a tall old shaggy pine; mother, in typical maternal fashion, is trying to interest her recalcitrant child into actually pecking into the bark to find some tasty bugs. For all the interest shown by the youngster, she may as well have been coaxing him to eat the nice spinach...

Having been unsuccessful at the first attempt at teaching the youngster how to find food, she realizes he's just too skinny, relents, and pops a morsel in his mouth.
2_RBW_mother feeding youngster_resized.JPG
Mothers, including mother woodpeckers, are very wise. This one has decided that her young one needs some encouragement to get interested in this foraging for food business, so she proceeds to salt the mine, so to speak. She has taken a nut from the bird feeder and is caching it under some bark.

3_RBW_mother hiding food_resized.JPG
You just know her next words are going to be, "Honey, why not try looking under here?" Clearly, the ruse worked. The juvenile has found the hidden nut! Now he's got the idea!
4_RBW_young finding food_resized.JPG
5_RBW_resized.JPG

Mrs. Red-belly looks on proudly as her offspring gets into the swing of things. It's hard enough building the nest, laying the eggs, fending off predators, feeding and fledging the young; but it's a good day when they get to the stage where you think they just might make it in the wild, after all.

The youngster may be thinking that this foraging for food business may not be as difficult as he initially thought. And Mom's still around and good for a free meal or two if he needs her...

Applauding the achievement by the feeders,

Mrs. CapeCodAlan


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August 3, 2011

Kindly Feeder of Birds or Neighborhood Nuisance?

Hi, It was probably just a matter of time, if it hasn't happened already... An individual has been charged with ground-feeding birds, and in doing so attracting rodents and violating Bloomington Minnesota law... This is such a tangled issue. Consider the picture...

Six seagulls resized_IMG_2355.JPG

I'm just going to throw out some thoughts and go from there...

  • If ever there was a loud, messy, raucous creature, the seagull would be it. Do I stop feeding the crows because the seagulls sometimes raid their feeder?
  • Speaking of crows... What about them? They too can be a rowdy bunch. Do I stop feeding the crows? That would be a huge problem for me in that I've spent the last year or more studying crow behavior -- to shun the crows would be a major bummer.
  • And then there are the squirrels who will find food and raise havoc come the river Styx or high water...
  • Finally, there are the foxes, coyotes, grackles, and turkeys that gravitate to our feeders
I don't know what the answer is... I truly don't. If my neighbor was feeding birds and that drew rats, I'd be ticked. Who wouldn't be? Then again, I had two neighbors who refused to control their dogs. One animal destroyed part of our lawn, and the other tried to attack me on my own deck. And then there were other neighbors who liked to have that occasional loud party complete with fireworks. I find that kind of stuff galling if not downright dangerous.

I guess, the ultimate answer is simply to be aware of the concerns of those around us. Talking with neighbors and policing feeders probably isn't a bad idea either.

Deep sigh...

By the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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