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February 29, 2012

Remarkable Slow Mo Eagle Owl

Hi,

As promised here is the remarkable high-speed Eagle Owl video. Please be patient!!! This video takes time to load... If you're willing to wait, click on the "YouTube" button for a larger size...

{It's important to credit sources whenever possible, but this hasn't been easy... It took some digging, but here is what I've got... I think this is correct, but if there are any errors, someone correct me... Thanks...

Photographer credits: Mark johnson from www.slowmo.co.uk and Andy Bilsborough from Turbary Woods, Owl & Bird of prey Sanctuary. The owl is named "Checkers" and was hand reared from the incubator and trained to fly to the falconers glove from an early age. He was only 6 months old when the footage above was shot. and he flies every day at the sanctuary for visitors.}

And that's it... A stunning snippet... On this one, I'll let the 1,000 frames/sec speak the 1,000 words and then some...

By the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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February 27, 2012

Home Brewing 101, etc.

Ah, the weather is nice, the birds are happy (lots of grackles), and Spring 'tis the season to prep for Summer beer etc. (I need to build another boat too, but for the moment, back to beer...)

Basically brewing only consists of seven steps

  1. Clean and sanitize all equipment. (i.e., wash and rinse as you would your dishes, and then sanitize using 1 TBL plainbleach per 1 gal. water... Rinse thoroughly with hot water.)
  2. Fermentable sugars are created by soaking malted barley (barley that has sprouted and been processed)
  3. The malt sugar solution is boiled and hops are added as a seasoning and as a natural preservative
  4. Next, the solution is quickly cooled and yeast is tossed in to munch on the sugars
  5. Yeast acting on sugars releases CO2 and ethyl alcohol
  6. Fermentation goes full cycle (about one week to a month or more...)
  7. Beer is bottled or kegged
And that's about it... So what starts as a kettle of hot water and steeping malted barley...

first steep 400 IMG_3874.jpg

Eventually ends up like this (here a stout...)

stout 300 IMG_3797.jpg

(By the way, that stout turned out exceptionally well. Not as good as the English Bitter, but close...)

Finally, this is what home brew looks like during fermentation. No heat is being added -- just hungry yeast munching on all them fermentable sugars... Yum!

By those pleasant feeders...

CapeCodAlan

P.S. Keep an eye on this blog for another neat book review and a phenomenal owl video!


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February 24, 2012

Owl in Slow Mo, War with the Seagulls, and Final Pestering on the GBBC...

Hi,

First off, there's a bunch of copies of a fantastic video (various qualities) out there of an Eagle Owl shot at 1,000 frames per second. I've sent an email to the company that released the piece asking for permission to use it. More on that copyright info as I get feedback. (In this day and age of the Internet and YouTube, copyright doesn't mean what it used to, but still, I try to play by the rules...)

Now, about them seagulls... I'm not a huge fan of the concept of 'nuisance animals' but the gulls have got to go. They are obnoxious brutes who frighten off even the crows -- this means war.

400_IMG_2368.JPG

The answer of course is to not feed them. But how to accomplish that? To feed the crows is to feed the gulls... Or is it? Earlier this week I began putting bits of suet into a standard tube feeder which is slung under the trellis. While the crows can easily worm their way to the suet, the hulking, awkward seagulls are pretty much out of luck. This is only a temporary test, but the secret seems to be revealed -- arrange/create a feeder that the crows can access that will either stump the gulls, or prove inaccessible to the idiots. Stay tuned -- this dust up isn't over by a long shot.

Lastly, here is just one more nag reminding you about turning your Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) report... To give you some perspective, here are the stats so far for 2012:

  • Total Checklists Submitted: 93,755
  • Total Species Observed: 609
  • Total Individual Birds Counted: 13,219,893

By the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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February 21, 2012

What About Your Backyard Bird Count Report???

Hi,

So have you submitted your Great Backyard Bird Count yet? Here's how ours broke down after 30 minutes of what I initially thought would be zipoid activity...

pg 2_2012_420_2012-02-22_003609.jpg

2012_420_2012-02-22_002944.jpg

Note the two hawk sightings... Let's just say that they were up close...

420 red tailed_blur keep__MG_3785.JPG

Not bad... We even had a visit from a rather unusual downy...

420_orange_MG_3793.JPG

Who knows why the orange undersides and eye stripe...

By those studious feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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February 19, 2012

Do It Yourself...

Hi,

Thought we might take a 'bird-less-traveled' track this time... Take a look at the pics below...

4 inches of foam_400_IMG_3771.JPG

400 light with hutch_IMG_3768.JPG

There's a common theme here -- that of doing it yourself. The top shot is of homemade brew, and the one below is of a glimpse into our dining area. Aside from cost savings and getting just what you want, there's something comforting in DIY -- "Yeah, I made it or put it together myself..." There's no buck passing here. Obviously, this isn't the first time we've discussed taking on a project without hands-on professional help... There was the shed, the trellis, a farm table, a birdhouse, and even a Shaker clock... (I really should finish that clock...) Years ago I bought 'Buehler's Backyard Boatbuilding', and was struck by the preface... Part of it follows...

Somewhere our culture seems to have lost that spark of imaginative energy that created it. I was thinking recently that I can't remember the last tree house I've seen. Why don't high school kids build 'rods anymore? And why do so many people stand around with their mouths open, afraid to try anything unless they first take a socially-approved class to tell them how?

How, in just a few generations, did this country's soul go from folks who walked, rode horses, and dragged wagons clear across our continent, to a majority who spend most of their time staring at teevees; whose feeling of self worth is based more on income than on personal accomplishment?

When I asked Mr. Buehler if I could quote that, he emailed back permission in a colorful sort of way. But he has a point...

What is stopping you from measuring out your own yard and house and making a scale model complete with trees, a pool, a shed, and whatnot? Maybe your architect already has all that info. (We got a copy when we bought this house.) Then there's Google earth. But once you have the dimensions...

To make things easy, you might consider modeling in one of the more common scales such as N, HO, S, or O (1:160; 1:87; 1:64; 1:48 respectively) and in doing so have access to existing accessories. Or, you can design/build to your own scale (I build all my boat models to 1:27 because they fit easily on the mantle or the bookshelf that way.) With model done, you can experiment with feeder/birdbath/birdhouse locations to your heart's desire. And you don't even have to be limited by medium -- use paper, plywood, clay, or software like Sketchup... The variety of choices go on and on...

Just thinking for myself, and hoping you're doing the same...

By the feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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February 16, 2012

Great Backyard Bird Count and Birds and Barometric Pressures etc...

Hi,

First off, don't forget that the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) starts tomorrow! It takes as little as 15 minutes and is quite enlightening... don't miss out!!!

Next up... Back on January 22nd, I started wondering about bird activity and the barometric pressure (and the weather etc.) Was there any sort of correlation? So for the last 25 days I've been making quick notes on feeder traffic, and today, I looked up the atmospheric conditions for those days using the wunderground site. What follows is more or less self-explanatory -- my location's weather charts (in color) for Jan and Feb followed by my own charts (black and white) for observed bird activity. Take a second and it should all make sense...

Jan weather 400 2012-02-16_112249.jpg

Jan activity 420 2012-02-16_124034.jpg

Feb weather 400 2012-02-16_112249.jpg

Feb activity 420 2012-02-16_124034.jpg

Wasn't that exciting? (Before I go further, just a word about these charts and this 'research'... The stuff above is wildly unscientific: the sample size is miniscule, the observations are subjective and uncorroborated, and the initial objective was a blur to begin with. That being said, about the best we have is a 'hmmm study'.) The only things I find even slightly compelling are the activities around Jan. 27 and 28; and Feb. 11 and 12 -- when the barometer tanked (or was about to tank), the birds seemed to be riled...

As I said, not very scientific, but fun nonetheless...

By the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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February 15, 2012

Something Different and Very Dangerous

Hi,

Every so often I try to take a break from the birds. (Correspondingly, what follows isn't from eBirdseed.com, but rather just from me.)

That being said, take a look at the two screen shots below...

400 2008 debt clock.jpg

400 2012 debt clock 2012-02-15_022841.jpg

Respectively that's where we as a country were in 2008 and now are in 2012 fiscally speaking... (Before anyone wigs out about, "Dubya did this!" or, "Obama did that!" understand that IMHO, both parties are culpable as Hades for this train wreck...)

That being said, what do those numbers mean? Well... A lot... We have taken an economic disaster that began under FDR (Social Security) and, by 2008, parlayed it into a cataclysm. And now, in 2012, it is virtually unspeakable, even by our "most wise" presidential candidates. Here are the facts no one will tell you:

  • Forget about the $15 trillion we call our 'debt'. That's roughly equal to our GDP (see second pic). While that isn't good, it's manageable in a sane world (not DC).
  • No, our 'debt' isn't the 800 pound gorilla... Look to the bottom right of the last photo -- that's $117,606,689,433,710; or $117.6 Ttrillion dollars... Those are our obligations to stuff like Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security, and there's no way to escape those obligations.
  • Of each dollar our federal government spends, $.40 is borrowed. Per day/week, we rack up $4 billion in interest payments alone.
Look, these numbers go on and on and on and on... (Just Google on 'David Walker' and brace yourself.) I'm not saying I know what's going to happen... But I just feel like we're getting into very dangerous monetary territory...

Nervous by the feeders...

CapeCodAlan

If you want to read more about this, google on: '"grand rants" trillion'.


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February 11, 2012

Ghost, Haunted Cat, and Birds

Hi,

The photo below is that of a 'ghost'. Just note the circled area and then try to spot the dancing apparition in that area in the subsequent video...

resized_ghost_2012-02-11_175432.jpg

Scary! Right? Not exactly... I first spied that last night when I paused to rethink something... My first reaction was the usual, "light off the bezel of my watch again..." except that no matter how I moved my watch the specter danced just the same... Ok... So it had to be a light off the street, except that the shades were down. At that point, for one fraction of a second I thought, "You know, this house has seen its share of tragedies", but then the skeptic in me regained control. Clearly this was more of photons than of phantasm. So I moved my arms around with no change. Finally I stood up, and poltergeist be gone. It was light bouncing off a whimsical pendulum wall clock Mrs. CCA and I made...

ghost clock 400 IMG_3742.JPG

But it was that split second of doubt that's so dangerous... That's how legends and goosebumps start. (On a slightly related note, it's easy to tell that those 'Bigfoot' expedition TV shows are a scam. Do you think anyone in his right mind would wander off into the night wilderness looking for an unknown beast without carrying a large firearm?) But I digress... On to our cat and his hauntings...

Toby sees a ghost 400 IMG_3739.JPG

That thar is Toby, and he's staring into the twilight zone that is our bathroom. Years ago, Mrs. CCA decided that Toby needed a bath, and he's never been the same since. I'm pretty sure he's forgotten the actual incident (Toby never got any fries with his Happy Meal), still, there's something eerie about that room...

My point in all this is simply to ask, "What about birds, especially the bright ones like the corvids?" Are they bedeviled by the 'bogeybirds'? Are they tormented by irrational nightmares and half-lit memories? What goes on in a crow's mind when the sun sets?

Wondering by those spectral feeders...

CapeCodAlan

P.S. This is my 850th post... Ta Daaa!


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February 9, 2012

Book Review: Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East

Cover_400.jpg

Yes, it's time for another book review, and quite frankly, I've been waiting for some time to contribute my 1/50th of a dollar on this subject -- I like dragonflies, but I wouldn't know a Blue-faced Darner from a Halloween Pennant. So here we go...

I'll follow my standard review pattern: (book logistics such as paper, binding, etc; the immediate and long-term ease of use; book organization; photography; and lastly an overall impression).

  • Book logistics:This 5.5" by 8.5" by 1.25", 32 oz. paperback field guide consists of 538 pages of quality glossy paper, On those pages lie over 1,000 photos, range maps, and illustrations plus the obligatory text.
  • Immediate and long-term ease of use: Grrr... I'll get back to the 'Immediate use' part of the review in my 'Overall impression' section below. As for the long-term usability of this work -- that's exceptional.
  • Book organization: This is the standard 'A+' from Princeton University Press (PUP):
    • There are 47 pages of intro, preface, table of contents, natural history of odonates, feeding, breeding, anatomy, blah, blah, blah...
    • Next comes the meats of the book: 115 pages of damselfliy descriptions and 352 dragonfliy descriptions. All told, all of the 336 eastern species are covered. Cool...
    • Each critter is described as follows:
      • Description (photos fall into the 'Description' or 'Identification' categories)
      • Identification
      • Natural History
      • Habitat
      • Flight Season
      • Distribution (when appropriate)
    • Appendix
    • Glossary
    • Index
  • Photography: Excellent as always, though a tad on the small side. (Then again, what can one expect from a field guide for the diminutive odonates?)
  • Overall impression: This is a wonderful book for the intermediate and avid odonates aficionado. If you know your way around the wee beasties, this is a must own. Unfortunately, for us new to the game, trying to find a just-spotted dragonfly out on the deck is nigh impossible. As in the case of the Petrels book, there needs to be some sort of location cross index. (Example: In MA, there are 124 possible dragonflies/damselflies that might be out on that deck -- I had to turn to the USGS site to find these guys.) I'd like to at least be able to narrow down my search to my state...

    All that being said, I can't imagine any serious backyarder not owning this book.

    Superb work Mr. Paulson...

Bookworm by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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February 6, 2012

Smorgasbord...

Hi,

Let's see... What have we got for this post??? There's a quick look see on a bunch of birds, an update on the shed, and of course, an update on our home brew...

400__grackles and redwings in rain_101_0185.JPG

This is an old photo, but it should give you some idea of today's activity -- grackles and robins galore... If only I could do a 'Vulcan Mind Meld' with one of those critters for just 30 seconds...

As for the shed... The roof is now pinned to the gable ends and the whole thing is pretty much buttoned together. I still have to drive a few over-sized screws, but In no time that stack of plastic panels will be transformed into an over-stuffed man cave. Oh goody... It just dawned on me, that if properly reinforced, that thing could be mounted on a sled, and come winter time, be dragged out onto one of the Great Lakes

Finally, there's the home brew. Here's the skinny:

  • Coopers DIY Lager: 10 days in fermenter, 5 wks in the bottle... Not bad. Probably on par with a Fosters Larger.
  • Coopers DIY Stout: 10 days in fermenter, 3 wks in the bottle... Ok, but it needs considerably more time in the bottles -- IMHO, 4 to 6 wks.
  • Coopers DIY Bitter: 10 days in fermenter, 2 wks in the bottle... Respectable... Very respectable... Imagine walking into a small pub in England and asking for a pint of bitter -- there you go...
At this stage, all three lack that creamy head, and feel a little "rough", but all are worth the effort. If nothing else...

Next time by those busy feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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February 5, 2012

Box Joint, Birdhouse, and Turkey Love...

For some time now, I've been longing for some method to quickly build custom wood storage crates -- crates for stuff like tools, winter storage, garage clutter, etc... They should be strong, but not ugly. The old military rifle boxes are about the right size, but they break the 'Ugly Rule' and are too costly to boot. Enter recycled lumber and the box joint (below).

resized box joint_IMG_3738.JPG

Please forgive the lack of sanding, but I hope you get the idea. Here's the Rockler jig used to create that joint...

resized and loaded_IMG_3737.JPG

What this all really boils down to is the ability to create neat, strong box-type stuff (like the birdhouse components above) really quickly once the jig is configured properly... Something to think about for the backyard, etc...

Lastly (and on a different note...) The photograph below probably says it all, but it seems that the toms are... Well, you know... The other day we had 21 hens and 7 males. The yard is a mine field of turkey doo... Grrr... I'm going to have to find a way to use that box jig to make a turkey pooper scooper. Like I said... Grrr!!!

400_toms_IMG_3731.JPG

By those well crafted but messy feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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February 2, 2012

Bad Beer and Vacuum Bagging Birdseed...

Hi,

First, the bad news... Earlier, I talked about brewing beer, and in that discussion I mentioned cleanliness... I guess I should have paid closer attention to myself -- one of my batches went bad (rotten egg smell), and I had to pour 6 gallons right down the drain. In brewing, there are three stages of prep to worry about: cleaning (no visible gunk); sanitizing (reduce the number of wee beasties to a tolerable minimum); and sterilizing (as in ready for surgery). Somewhere between stages two and three I blew it, and the mix was destroyed... If I had to guess, I'd say that my failure to sterilize the extract can itself was my downfall... Sooo... I cleaned up everything (bleach and steam are wonderful things) and started another batch. Time will tell...

beer and vacuum bag resized_IMG_3719.JPG

On to the seed front,.. Do you by chance remember my 2007 entry about buying in bulk and vacuum bagging as a way to save money and keeping feed for the long haul? Well, it just so happens that we ran out of the stuff today and have nothing for tomorrow... except for that bag from four plus years ago, (see pic above). After all this time, that is hermetically tight, utterly bug-free, and ready for action. That is why we buy in bulk and seal for later. (I do the same thing for my brewing supplies -- not only do I always have the required materials on hand, but it's much cheaper in the long run.) Just sayin'...

Prepped and cooking by the feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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