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December 31, 2011

Wet Hawk, Little Bird

Hi,

First things first... Happy New Year!!!

I'll tell you, things never seems to get dull around the feeders. Last night and this morning we had a good deal of wind and rain; thank goodness no more trees came down! But I did notice a very wet hawk who flapped into the neighborhood and into a tree across the street.

Once he got settled on a branch, he began to spread and ruffle his wings and tail, in what I can only presume to be an effort to get somewhat less waterlogged. He remained on the branch, feathers all articulated, for at least half an hour.

wet hawk resized_IMG_3545.JPG

Interestingly enough, the little birds of the area, the chickadees, the titmouses, the finches, et al, seemed to realize that the hawk wasn't a threat to them at that time, and they massed in the same tree, very close, just keeping an eye on him.

Small bird with hawk_IMG_3559.JPG

I stayed by the camera for a while waiting for the hawk to make his move, but he never did, even though the rain started again. The conclusion I came to is that he was either still too wet to seek more shelter, or he didn't care about the rain and wasn't interested in eating any of our little birds.

Regardless, a predator who refrains from attacking his prey seems a peaceful end to one year and an auspicious beginning to the new one.

Wishing you and yours a very joyous new year by the soggy feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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December 30, 2011

Boring Finches

Hi,

Well, how's that for a compelling title? "Boring Finches" sure sounds like it's going to be a barn burner aye? Well, here are those finches (gold and house...)

gold and house resized IMG_3530.JPG

Truth be told, I want this to be a boring post for a very good reason... I want people who are thinking about putting up a feeder in the backyard to understand how low-maintenance the hobby really is. You just locate the feeder properly, keep it clean, and fill it as needed -- easy breezy... In all seriousness, since you're reading this, odds are that you're not a 'bird nut'. If you were, you'd probably be pawing through the Cornell Ornithology site instead. And that's not to say that there's anything wrong with being a serious birder... far from it.. I'm just saying that most people I know who feed the birds do so for the momentary pleasure of it, and that, IMHO, is a good thing.

How did life become so complicated? As I sit here, I have four remotes: one for the TV, one for the cable system, one for the VCR, and one for the gas fireplace. Seriously, all I really want to do is watch the news; yet counting this computer and the watch on my wrist, I've literally got more electronic and computer horsepower within three feet than NASA had when they put a man on the moon. No wonder we like a simple hobby like feeding the birds.

By those peaceful, subtle feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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December 27, 2011

Goldfinch and Christmas Train etc...

Hi,

First off, hope you had a wonderful Christmas! (There... I said "Christmas..." Big whoop... In these times of hyper-sensitive political correctness, I have the gall to utter that often unpopular word... Life can be so cruel for some.) I digress...

Spotted a goldfinch on our deck feeder... Didn't have enough time to get the camera, but there he was just chowing down on a fresh stock of thistle seed... It was so cool in that the feeder has been there for weeks with zipoid for activity, and then, there he was. Why is it the little things offer such subtle rewards? If you've read this blog for any period of time, you know that I'm not a bird geek, but still, for just a brief snippet, there was a "Cool!" rush. There's something special about little birds partaking in our efforts... Ok, so I'm a wonk... so sue me...

Speaking of 'wonk', here's my holiday gift - an n-gauge railroad set...

For those of you not familiar with model railroading, n-gauge is 1:160 and is the bees' knees. In general, model railroading is like sailing, golf, shooting, boatbuilding, and crack cocaine -- fun and addictive as all get out. In the case of n-gauge, one can build his entire little village on a half sheet or full sheet of ply and then frame it with 1 X 4 and store it out of the way on its side... Doomed...

Let's see.. What else for XMas? Gloves are always welcome... I got yet another woodworking plane with a Buck Brothers blade -- superb... There was a 9 LED pocket flashlight which is off the scales... My brother gave me a book and a movie -- more wonk stuff... He also tossed in a case of Sam Adams, which won't make it through the winter...

And finally, I treated myself to a home brew kit, which is long overdue. Bud has been soaring in cost and plummeting in flavor. (Lest anyone chirps the mantra that Budweiser never changes its recipe... read this Brookston piece.) I figure I can make a quality case of beer for around $15... If I still have the touch for brewing, expect some pretty good recipes in the not too distant future...

All for now...

See you by those merry feeders!

CapeCodAlan


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December 22, 2011

Flicker Photos...

Hi,

We've got a relatively quick post for you today... (You see... I can hold my tongue when I put my mind to it!) But at least we've got some nice shots taken by Mrs.CCA...

First up... a nice pic of the back of a local...

400_GREAT shot of back_OK_DSC_0049.JPG

Next, a suspicious glance...

looking_400_P2235415.JPG

Trying to get settled on a polywood roof... (Good luck!)

400_resting_IMG_3471.JPG

Tough to spot...

Hiding in the trees_400_IMG_3457.JPG

I love this! They don't call them 'Flickers' for nothing...

400 yellow flash_IMG_3452.JPG

And that's it.... Simplicity...

By those beautiful feeders!


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December 20, 2011

Splitting a Laser Beam... Getting Feeders (and everything else) Plumb, Level, and Square

Hi,

400 autumn trellis_1.JPG

No telling how many times we've looked out at our trellis (and feeders) and felt a subtle sense of reward --- everything is visually so right with the things. What should be straight is straight; what should be a smooth curve is a smooth curve. (I know I've talked about this before, but things like plumb and square bear repeating ad nauseam.) Nothing foreshadows a final shoddy build like a warped beginning. The heart just isn't in it for the entire build when the start is flawed to the eye. Take a look at the clock case below...









400_laser_IMG_3492.JPG Now is that cool or what?!? Granted, the floor isn't perfectly flat, and as soon as we move the brute, perfection will try to slip away, but a variety of those flat, felt, anti-scratch furniture pads will take care of the rest and let the project half that red light yet again.... The point being that if you buy a few levels (torpedo, line, 24", laser, bubble -- about $50 worth), and spend some time and thought, you can do some remarkably true work be it a tall clock, a mailbox, mounting a painting, or even putting up a feeder... Little things mean a lot...

As always, by those upright feeders etc...

CapeCodAlan


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December 17, 2011

Thumped Hand and Wild Turkey Doo Dee

sledge 400 hand IMG_3442.JPG

Crud... It's been one of those days... The picture above pretty much says it all.

You see, it went this way... I was outdoors working on that downed maple, trying to split it up/cut it up into planks when I 'miss directed' a hand sledge into my left paw,. Can you say, "pain"? That was one of those bone-smashing numbers -- hurts my soul's shadow. Anywho... It looks like about two thirds of the back of my hand is swollen and turning purple... My guess is that I broke something and the best cure is to work harder. (Doctors and I have a hate/hate relationship...)

Next day... Swelling is down, but there is a noticeable lump... Probably a broken bone or bone chip... Hey! At least it's on my left hand which offsets the jutting broken finger on my right. Think of it as gory in stereo... Anyway, to finish up on yesterday's activities... I'd really lost my mojo when it came to jumping ugly on the maple, but the bazillion turkeys left behind their calling cards, and those needed to go back to the woods where they belonged in the first place.

Many locations deem turkeys as nuisance birds and I can see why... They over-run the feeding area, they're incredibly stupid, they can be aggressive, and they really need Pampers... So... I spent the next hour with a lump on the back of my hand that looked in profile like a mouse resting on a small hill... all the while using a shingle to fling turkey crap into the bark beyond...

Grumbling with a bag of frozen rice on my hand... Still... I'll be by the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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December 14, 2011

Free Shipping

420 FREE SHIPPING.JPG

This is going to be a short post because the topic dictates its brevity... (I'm miffed right now so I won't waste words... Unfortunately, I can't use the words that I want to use, but here goes...)

Take a look at the pic above... In case you can't read that, it basically says that eBirdseed.com always offers free shipping right to your door. If I was King of the World, that's the way all companies would operate... period. Just use eBirdseed's online store or call Brooke at 1-866-324-7373, and bang... job done.

Let me explain... Many moons ago I used to be a pretty fair beer brewer, and now I want to get back into the hobby. My equipment is gone and I need to buy another set plus a beer ingredient kit or two. No problem right? I'll just hop online and get what I need (pun intended...) Problem freaking solved. But nooo!!! I have to play the 'shipping and handling' game; I either have to fill in the stupid online form just to get a quote, or call and then futz around to get a quote. I don't want that hassle. And I don't want to order a crock pot only to have to drive to the derned Sears in the mall (12 miles away) to pick it up! Just let me choose what I want, I'll pay with a credit card or PayPal, and my gear will be delivered to my door. Why is life so difficult???

To understand the phrase, "Time is money...", a person really needs to work for himself or herself. Unfortunately, I've spent hours I really can't afford trying to get a simple price on a beer kit... Arggghhh!!!

There... I'll get off my soap box now, and relinquish my crown...

My advice? Find the retailers who offer free shipping and use them. (Which is what I ended up doing for my suds...) Is anything really free? I doubt it, but neither is my time or patience... Since you're reading this, my counsel during the gift-giving season (and beyond), is to call Brooke, or go to the eBirdseed.com store, and make it short and sweet... Then sit down, crack a brewski, watch the birds and enjoy...

Simplified by the feeders...

CapeCodAlan

P.S. I'll keep you posted on the beer recipes... I used to make a red ale that was better than anything you could buy in the store...


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December 13, 2011

Shaker Clock Continued...

Hi,

400 with levels_IMG_3437.JPG

The weather is starting to cool (27F last night...) Time to get back to the shop... The Shaker tall clock build (right) progresses rather nicely, though there is some twist in it. I knew this had to happen -- the old pine boards just had too much warp and boogaloo in them to build anything anywhere near true... Oh well... If the Shakers could live with it, I guess we can. (Why is it that folks fret over things like cabinet work, putting up feeder posts, designing and building bird houses, or even fussing with an encryption contests?)

Anywho, there's the build as it stands now... Note the levels (red arrows...) Those levels are there to help truly flatten the base level and plumb. The case sits gingerly upon a sheet of glass and shims have been added to make the levels happy. That done, lines were drawn around the base and top to give true flat planes.

Once the carcase is copacetic, the shelves will be put in place and leveled. Glue block supports will be added to reinforce the case and shelves. Then off to the top -- that will be.a rectangular affair that will slip over the case and house the actual quartz time movement. Finally, the doors will be added and umpteen coats of stain/varnish will be applied.

All for now...

By the feeders...


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December 11, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy holidays... Sort of...

Well, here it is, Christmas tree, birds and a fish...

400_Mini Christmass tree on table_IMG_3406.JPG

Happy holidays etc... It's not that I'm anti-Christmas or anything, and I'm certainly aware of the Christmas-bird connection... Jeez, just look at the song 'Twelve Days of Christmas'...

  • Partridge in a pear tree
  • Two turtle doves
  • Three french hens
  • Four calling birds
  • Six geese a-laying
  • Seven swans a-swimming
Yeah... I know... turkey... doves of peace... I get it... It's just that for me, the holiday has been blown way out of context... I understand Christians wanting to celebrate the birth of Christ... I really do. (Mrs. CCA is a devout Christian.) But my problem is that what started out, IMHO, as a time of reflection and love, has somehow turned into neon and naughty underwear. Anyway, as a sort of reaction to all this, I've become a sort of minimalist Scrooge. I don't want a Lexus with a bow on top. I don't want a holiday 30 pack of beer. (A regular 30 pack will do just fine thank you.) I don't want a 'Santa Bowie Knife'. (Does anyone really think that Jesus would be packing a monster blade?)

So that's it, call me a wet blanket. (In full disclosure, I'm also an anti-holiday person in general... To me, New Year's and St. Patrick's seem little more than excuses to get blasted, Easter is a great time to sell those nasty marshmallow peeps that everyone bites the heads off of, and the 4th is that rare night when you can launch bottle rockets at your reluctant neighbor's house and the police will look the other way... And don't even get me started on Halloween!)

My solution to all this is to buy online and skip the mall. If you want, buy something here, or go to Amazon. Whatever...

Come December 25th, I'll probably dim the lights, put on the Carpenter's version of Ave Maria, and pause... 'Till then, I'm going to keep looking for my 'Bah, Humbug!' hat...

By the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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December 7, 2011

Exceptionally Cool, Free Astronomy Software

Hi,

You know, every so often, I've wondered, "What star is that?" (Truth be told I've taken several cracks at astronomy because I find its math interesting...) But I've never managed to crack its language and notation... until now. I rarely recommend software because people have such a hard time time downloading it and installing it. Here's a rare exception: Stellarium. (Keep in mind that you acquire, install, and use software at your own peril! However, Stellarium seems about as benign as anything I've run across.) Anywho, a couple of nights ago I spotted a particularly bright object in the cloudy sky and used a cheap camera to take a snapshot just for the fun of it...

moon and Jupiter_2011-12-05_221547.jpg

Granted, the thing was blurry, but there it was... But what was it? (And no, the thought of UFO never crossed my mind.) As usual, I rummaged through the Internet and found a ton of sites basically designed by astronomers for astronomers. I had all but given up when I found the Stellarium SW, (below and below...)

Stellarium Jupiter_1__2011-12-07_231912.jpg

Stellarium Jupiter_2011-12-07_231912.jpg

Is that sweet or what? Meet Jupiter...

As for the Stellarium program... It's painless to install (you just need to know your longitude and latitude -- easily obtainable off the Web), and its interface is intuition itself. You can look from anywhere on earth (or other planet), each star and planet has its own info box, you can adjust the date and time, blah, blah, blah... Seriously, if you're a backyard person (and I assume you are if you're reading this post), you should really check this out...

Looking up by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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December 4, 2011

Book Review: "Wildflower Wonders"

400_cover_2011-11-26_021448.jpg

This is truly a gorgeous book. Aside from the informative text and marvelous photographs, the book itself is a simple masterpiece of printing. On the small side for a coffee table book, it still has heft and gloss. The paper for the pages is of decent weight to encourage flipping through; and not unimportantly, it smells good. Oh, not like wildflowers; it smells of good ink and high-quality paper, as a book ought, in these days of e-readers and Kindles.

Beyond that, what a book! If you're any kind of gardener, or even simply like seeing pretty garden flowers, you will enjoy this. The author, Bob Gibbons, wrote this almost as a travelogue, outlining prime wildflower areas in over four dozen locations on five continents (nothing listed in South America, and unsurprisingly, nothing in Antarctica).

"Wildflower Wonders" is divided into wildflower sites on each continent. There is a heavy emphasis on European locations, with over half the sites described being on that continent. That said, it would be difficult to point to any of the published European areas to leave out, in favor of wildflower areas in other world locations to include. (One might be sorely tempted to try to bring some of these beauties into his or her own garden, but that would necessitate contacting the USDA...)

The book is laid out by continent and region. Each section starts with a thumb-nail sketch, including location, reasons to visit the area, best times to visit, and protected status. Several pages of information--geographic, climatological, biological, and historical--follow... This may sound very dry and overly-scientific; however, it's anything but! The body of each section is really a compendium of what makes each particular area a natural wildflower site. Well-written, interesting, and just enough information to pique the interest.

Oh, yes, and the photos. Nothing I say would do justice to the lovely photos--not just of wildflowers, but also local fauna and an amazing variety of geographic details. But the flowers are the stars of this show. Author and photographer Gibbons justifies his world-renowned reputation with the images included in this book. And really the only way to understand this is to get the book and look for yourself.

Easy to pick up, browse, read all the way through, or just enjoy the photos, this is one book that you'll be glad to keep in your favorite reading spot, whether it's by the comfy chair, on the bedside table, or in the magazine rack in the reading room. I highly recommend Wildflower Wonders, and congratulate Bob Gibbons for creating such a beautiful book.

By the feeders and the bookshelves,

Mrs. CapeCodAlan


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Red-bellied Woodpecker, Benign Hobby, etc...

Hi,

I watched a Red-bellied this morning...

400_nice_DSC_0054.JPG

Not this one... (I was too slow on the camera, but a Red-bellied none the less...) He (or she) was absolutely remarkable -- the beak was perfect, the colors were stunning, and the flight back into the treeline was like watching an ice cube float up from the bottom of a glass...

Later on, I watched some crows grapple with a handful of old chips -- it was 'Harpo Marx/Edgar Kennedy' funny... The crows of course won, but the discombobulation was worth the price of admission...

And that got me to thinking... "What other hobby offers such serenity, beauty, ease, and humor as backyard birding?" No, really, stop and think... In my case, I collect tools, mess with boats, cook, clam, fuss with math and astronomy, write, study musicians like Ella, Louis, Karen Carpenter, Brian Wilson, etc... Each has their merit, but in one way or another, each takes real work. (You try finding a quality video link to the Carpenters' 1974 Budokan version of the Beatles' 'Help!') You might like to travel, embellish the wardrobe, roll in style... Whatever... Those are fleeting things, expensive thing, things of great preparation and passing reward...

I don't know, I really don't... But speaking strictly for me, I'll keep my modest birds -- they never grow old...

Content by the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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