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March 18, 2014

Two Murders in a Murder, Part 1

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Hi,

Sorry it's been so long but I've been working on this for a while... I thought I'd take a break from the usual and write a short story based on our experiences with crows. Know that none of the following is beyond our experiences (except the murder stuff) and certainly within the realm of entertaining fiction...

He dropped her with a blow to the head that destroyed his precious Martin guitar. But he finished her off by cracking her skull with the neck of the instrument 'Pete-Townshend style'. It wasn't easy -- she put up a Hellacious fight and the damned crows kept dive bombing him throughout. But he got it done, dumped her in an old well with the shards of the guitar, and covered over the opening with a pallet. He went inside for a drink and to retrieve his .22. After that, all it took was one lucky shot, and the crows were gone minus one. The murder dispersed, he threw the crow in after her, and then sat on the ground and wondered what had happened...

The day started so typically -- he was hung over and Brooke was studying her precious crows. He still had the ancient Jeep to fix and the hood was up. She had to continue her post doctoral work on corvid behavior. She was sure that crows had some sort of relay system to pass along news of food or threat. It was her theory that had led them to this remote spot in Caribou Maine, and by damn, she was going to prove it. She'd been feeding them and memorizing their calls. She practically was one of them. Besides, all her classes were Internet recorded and delivered, and the Jeep's electrical system just needed new wires for the distributer cap. All he had to do was make a call into town and wait... All was so typical... Isolated... What could go so horribly wrong?

By those spell binding feeders...

CapeCodAlan


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March 4, 2014

Leg

420_leg_IMG_7299.JPG

No, it's not very pretty is it? There used to be a bird attached to it, but that's all over now. My guess is that hawk made a kill and decided that our front porch was a good place to disassemble its meal.

This sort of thing is one of the problems I have with backyard birding -- ultimately, it can be absolutely gruesome. While songbirds' songs can be beautiful and chickadees' flights can be popping and quaint, there's always another side. There are window bird hits and cats and broken wings and droppings and... well... in this case just a leg.

When all is said and done, there isn't much to be done but weigh the good against the bad. Either we want to witness and even participate in nature or we don't; and that goes for all nature. This is going to sound strange coming from somebody who's been at the game for many a year, but I'm beginning to wonder about it all... Is the stunning worth the suffering?

I don't know... I think I'll just go listen to 'What's it all about Alfie?'

By the melancholy feeders,

CapeCodAlan


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February 7, 2014

Common Toxins Ignored...

Sorry for the lack of bird reporting, but the following is important, human-wise...(Not to worry, I've been working on two bird book reviews.)

Last time I spoke of automotive preparedness in case of becoming stranded... I thought that now I'd covered all the bases... Nope... As this passage from the BBC points out:

"Officials also asked residents not to use petrol generators or cooking grills indoors to heat their homes after at least 20 people in the Philadelphia area were taken to hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning."

 photo COpoisoning4202014-02-09_062251_zps32a3fe88.jpg

  • Yup... As the graphic above depicts, carbon monoxide (CO) (and carbon dioxide (CO2) poisoning too) are killers. Think about it... At least 20 people in the Philadelphia area alone were sickened. During winter, how big a problem is this nationally?
  • I can't speak to CO personally (aside from losing an old schoolmate to it) but I can personally address the following...
    • Paint: Many moons ago a friend and I spent a winter morning painting the interior of a house. Around noon time, a friend stopped by to check on us. Thank heavens she did -- the house was closed tight and we weren't aware that we were high as kites. We had absolutely no idea the damage being done, and the next morning the headache was quite stunning.
    • Epoxy: This is another sneaky material. It feels rather benign, but continued unprotected exposure typically results in a life-long allergy to the stuff. Here's a great manual for safe epoxy usage.
    • Acetaminophen (Tylenol and others): How dangerous could an over-the-counter drug be, right? Well, when used per directions, it's fine. But... When used in excess, it toxifies the liver and kills you in a matter of days or weeks. Lesson of the story? Follow the directions and talk with your doctor.
    • Polyester resin: like epoxy, this is commonly used in woodworking and boat construction. For me, the fumes are nauseating, and like paint, who knows what it does to the brain...
    • Fiberglass: Ah the ubiquitous fiberglass... Peple use it everywhere -- from cars to boats. And nothing looks better than a good sand job, except that small glass dust particles can mince your lungs and mucous membranes
    • And finally, there is marijuana: No doubt many folks will have a kitten when I say this, but the idea of inhaling smoke (any smoke) just sounds like a bad idea.

    And there you go... my two cents...

    By the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    February 2, 2014

    Rainhandler Final Update

    Alrighty then... We've got a lot to talk about, and not a lot of time -- auto emergency supplies, bird feeding gremlins, gutters... I'm going to have to take these a post at a time... But let's look at the last first...

    Some time ago I mentioned the distastefullness of conventional gutters -- the cleaning, the requirement for complete removal for facia painting, the clogs, the dents, etc. So I finally decided to try the Rainhandler gutter system. That puppy takes the water run-off from the roof and scatters it harmlessly to the ground below. (See the link above.)

    Time to give the Rainhandler its last ratings... (I think from here on out, I'll just refer to the Rainhandler as 'Rh'...)

    Here's what the world looks like with out the Rh:

    Not using 420 IMG_7111.JPG

    Yup, that water will just seep down into the ground, nuzzle up against the foundation, and crawl its way inside. Now here is an Rh section of the house. Keep in mind that this area has a serious foundation crack.

    in use 420 IMG_7112.JPG

    Simply put... Leaky basement bone dry... Epilogue conclusions...

    • The Rh holds its own. It's good with regular rain, and even snow and ice don't seem to render it completely useless.
    • I don't think the Rh could ever compete with a well-installed and well-maintained gutter system 100%. IMHO, if you've got the time and money, gutters are the only way to go. (Have fun cleaning those buggers though... especially those ice dams in the winter.)
    • I'd wouldn't suggest using an Rh over a doorway without the use of the manufacturer's 'Doorbrella'...
    • Installation is hyper-easy and actually kind of fun...

    All said and done? I'll never install a conventional gutter again. It's just a matter of diminishing returns. In my experience, the Rainhandler gives 95% of the performance of a traditional gutter system with 95% less hassle -- no brainer..

    By the ever improving feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    January 26, 2014

    Things to Think About When Buying and Using a Small Generator

    I420 MG_3145.JPG

    Ah yes... I remember the day I took the above picture. "Wind event" Irene had just blasted through Cape Cod (notice all the downed leaves) and in doing so took down the electrical grid for a day or so, and I was prepared... here's how:

    1. First find out what you need for power. I anticiipated running a refrigerator, a small light, and a small ceramic heater. I used a chart like this to estimate our requirements. (I believe we need about 4,500 watts, so we bought a 5,000 watts continuous with a 5,500 watt surge supply.)
    2. Be aware that you will need a "real" extension cord and not a $3.99 supermarket special. Because the cord will be carrying serious power and amperage from the generator,you'll probably need something like this. The best way to choose a cord is go to any of the Big Box hardware stores that sell generators or construction compressor... they can offer advice. In general, two of these always comes in handy.
    3. Other extension cord stuff.
      • How long a cord do you need? For safety purposes it is absolutely critical that you get the generator out of the.house and into the Great Outdoors. Generators can not be used in the basement or in the garage. To ignore this rule is to die.
      • The common lengths usually 50' to 100'.
      • Do you need any special plugs for devices like the fridge and the stove?
      • How many splitters/heavy power strips are you going to need?
    4. Time to buy the generator, and here's how I buy... I look up generators on Amazon, and click on one... I start rooting around to see what other customers view after viewing the one you selected. Look for LOTs of good customer reviews. Once you make up your mind, check for free shipping.
    5. What else will you need? Wheels? (Generators are heavy suckers!) How about oil and gas? (Be sure to buy a few bottles of gas stabililzer! Without stabilizer, gas only lasts about a month before it goes stale.) Will you need tools for assembly? Get two funnels with bendy spouts and mark each 'oil' and 'gas.' And of course, you'll need new gas cans.
    6. Folow directions when adding gas and oil, and starting...
    7. Don't let the machine sit idle for months .. Practice with it.
    8. Depending on your neighborhood, you may need to chain it to a tree or a bumper....
    9. Try to mount on level earth.
    10. When not running, store in a shed or use a cover.
    11. Keep gas out of the house and garage or basement, etc. Use your head.
    12. Don't wait for the last moment!!!
    13. Finally, use the Web -- there's a ton of good info out there.

    In general, we expected to spend about $700, so it is an investment, but peace of mind is a neat thing..

    By those well lit feeders.

    CapeCodAlan


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    January 24, 2014

    Cold Weather Gear Reviewed

    outfit_ 420 2014-01-24_062313.png

    Given our recent cold snap (it's now 5 degrees F), I thought I'd do a review of the gear in my "Cold" post... (Note: While I like to buy a lot of stuff from Sportsman's Guide because they have good prices, I strongly recommend that you do your own research and address your own particular needs... Maybe L.L. Bean or Bass pro is a better value for you...) Take a look at the pic above and consider MHO of the lettered components...

    A: The boots have worked out exceptionally well so far, but that's only after a couple of seasons... Granted I only paid about $15 dollars for them in a package deal, but if they last three years, I'll be happy. Even in single-digit temperatures, the boots did a fine job. (But I'd expect that from snowmobile boots.)
    B: The pants/bib are great with one caveat -- one of the suspender strap buckles has alread broken. I can fix that, but at least they are warm. (The bib was part of the package deal mentioned above, so they also cost about $15.)
    C: The jacket is a Fall/Spring item which is little more than a thickly insulated wind breaker. But as is often preached, the secret is putting on layers and not sweating. I use that coat with two or three zippered sweatshirts and am never cold.
    D: The gloves failed miserably. They cracked, and at twelve degrees my hands were freezing. (Supposedly the gloves were rated to -20.) In retrospect, the next time I'll probably go the route of the guys in the ski patrol who buy the insulated leather construction gloves and treat them with Sno-Seal. Like I said, you can do your own research and find your own devices.
    E: Ah, the all important hat... When I can , I like to buy military surplus, and this hat was no exception. Rabbit lined and just wonderful.

    There is one piece of gear, not listed hear, but it deserves mention -- cheap vented workshop goggles. Dang those puppies keep the blowing snow out of the eyes and keep the upper face warm! Who'd have thunk it? Those and a balaclava should do the trick.

    And that's about it... Experiment for yourself, and find the equipment you need and go from there. Nothing to it really...

    Warm by the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    January 16, 2014

    Son of Dank (Birds etc. and the Barometric Pressure...)

    420 blur feeder DSC01609.JPG

    Ya know... The first time I looked at that photo, I thought that even by my lowly standards, it was destined for the scrap heap... But then I thought again and it dawned on me that that was what the weather actually looked like. It is what it is. And more thoughts followed... Take a look at the barometer below...

    420 barometer DSC01611.JPG

    At the time of the strange behavior, the air pressure had dropped a whopping 15 millibars. Maybe my whole idea about birds getting the blues wasn't so crazy after all. So I started digging and found the following:

    "A new study from Western University's Advanced Facility for Avian Research (AFAR) proves through experimentation that birds can predict changes in the weather by reading the rise and fall of barometric pressure."

    Ummm... It looks like birds do indeed sense pressure change. (Note that engineers avoid a phrase like "proves".) But what of that?

    There is a great danger in becoming overly sentimental and anthropomorphizing -- wishing that my buddy 'Crowley the Crow' actually gets down in the dumps in sloppy weather. He might be uncomfortable, but how his grape-sized brain interprets that sensation into emotion is a horse of a different wheelbase. Still... Dogs can obviously feel emotions like happiness, sadness, fear and shame. (If you doubt 'shame', watch a dog give a big "technicolor yawn" and then see what he does afterwards.) So what about birds. Some of them clearly have the cognitive oomph... Why not emotions even if they are just basic?

    Taking it one step further, (and using the corvids as an example) how do we bond with the bummed buggers? Give them some suet laced with Mother Nature and play 'Shanty"? I always find Ella, Nat, and Louis work for me... Maybe I can play 'You've Got Mail' or 'Moonstruck', point the TV at the window, and let them have a good cry... I don't know...

    Just thinkin' beside the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    January 7, 2014

    Mending Snow...

    420 driveway IMG_6847.JPG

    I thought quite a bit of Frost's poem, 'Mending Wall', while shoveling us out a couple of nights back... And frankly, I was going to name this something like, 'The Tao of the Snow', but I got tangled up in that universal thing relative to time and balance... (I wonder about temporary Tao, but that's a horse of a different wheelbase.)

    So 'Mending Snow' it is. Really, all a bare winter driveway equates to is access to commerce, pleasure, sustanance and peaceful sleep. Yeah, we can scarf our mail, but you get the general idea. But that's all pedantry -- all mechanics. And this is where feeding the birds comes in. A one-eyed zombie can feed birds and shovel snow. We can plod through the usual steps and not feel, look, but not see, listen and not hear. True, there ain't much to spice the cubicle or office no matter how many 'Motivator' posters we put up. (I'll stay on topic and stick to snow and shovelling from here on out though IMHO, birding and hefting snow walk the same sublime road not taken.)

    Those couple of nights ago, the thermometer held at six degrees F,, and it was beautiful, man, just mesmerizing. I've come to the subjective opinion that redistributing snow is at least 50% meditation -- a sort of 'mending walls' with nature. I'm not as young as I once was (but not as old as I might become...) Still, shovelling the driveway, walkway, porch, deck, and pathways to the feeders was a blur -- sort of a sweatless excercise. At times I stopped to watch a twenty-something neighbor attack a driveway, and pondered just how long he could keep up the pace before he blew his back out.

    I can't put my finger on it, but there is something in the outdoor activities -- something serene that moves at just the right pace, something that mends... Beats me...

    By the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    January 3, 2014

    Riding the Storm Out...

    420 riding the storm out IMG_6845.JPG

    Well, it's been quite a 24 hours -- prepping they yard for the soon-to-be nor' easter, testing the generator, shoveling the driveway twice (with another pass yet to go,..), watching for flooding, etc.Soon, I'll have to shovel again, and make sure that the birds have food and water. Thank heavens we were prepared.

    All told, not too bad here at the homestead. So far we've kept our power, removing the snow has been easy, and (for me) the temp has been a balmy 27 degrees. (You'll probably hate my guts for what I'm about to say, but I look forward to the upcoming cold snap. Ahh, give me zero and then toss in a good 20 mph gust. One can always layer up for the frigid, but you can only strip just so far for the heat without getting arrested.)

    Time to wax the spoon and expose the driveway once and for all. Besides, the birds are waiting... And to be sure, the crows are going to be delighted to see me... ,

    By the serene feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    December 8, 2013

    Sorry for the Interruption and Common Sense about Holiday Spending...

    First off, I apologize for being away so long. That tree encyclopedia review really took the wind out of me... Aside from that, tomorrow we embark on an epic cruise from Florida up to the Panama Canal... And not only do we have to prep for that, but we also have to teach our housesitter in the ways of the birds...Given the fact that he's a seasoned taxi driver from Boston, and a cross between Mr. Rogers and R.P. McMurphy at least I know the house is safe. (Not so sure about our reputation in the neighborhood or even if the neighborhood will still be standing...) But there you go... Onward!

    Here's where I get to rant againgst the season... I've been watching commercials ad nauseum (aka until I puke) for everything fom naughty pajamas to fake chirping birds Will this never end? People are getting into fights in the stores... How did life become so shallow, senseless, and difficult? What's it all about Alfie? Anywho... Here's my wildly over-priced $1/50... Just buy that special someone an eBirdseed.com gift cert or subscription...

    gift cer.jpg

    sub.jpg

    Keep in mind that my boss never prompts me to write this stuff... My griping against the holidays just comes naturally for a cranky guy like me. Spend 15 minutes on the eBirdseed site and the seasonal hassle is over. After that, if anyone gets snarky because he didn't receive his fake bird as a gift, punch him in the mouth, crack another beer, and yet again fire up "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"

    Off to warmer climes for a bit... Expect very regular updates from the ship...

    Best.

    CapeCodAlan


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    November 26, 2013

    N.E. Weather Alert...

    I imagine you've heard about this upcoming storm... but just in case...

    brewing storm 420  2013-11-26_085459.jpg

    (Image from NOAA)

    Guys, this looks to be a big sucker. So, are you ready? (I know, I harp on preparedness, but storms like this kill.) With that being said, here are two sites for preppers:

    • Getting ready for the road...
    • Getting the home ready...
    As for Cape Cod, it looks like we're in for a wind and rain event. I guess I know what I'll be doing this afternoon...

    Better get busy... How about you?

    By the bunkered feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    November 21, 2013

    Repairing Damage...

    Remember the post that described the damage done to the gazebo by those zombie crows? Well, the fun has only just begun. Earlier, I had to worry about a crack in the basement wall...

    420  before_IMG_4967.JPG

    Well... ... ... That's nothing that some Rain Handlers, time, sweat, bruises, hydraulic cement, and spray flexible rubber sealant can't fix.

    420_ after IMG_5854.JPG

    Yeah, I'll probably apply a second coat of sealant, paint it gray with some pool paint and call it done, but I digress...

    Back to the gazebo... I am not one easily vexed. Yes, the crows and the squirrels have had their jollies with the thing... But that doesn't mean the fight is over... It just so happens that there are new duct tapes out there,,, I've done my research and it looks like Gorilla makes a nasty little product that sticks to most anything, and can't be pried off with a crow bar. (Get the pun?)

    Stay tuned by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    November 16, 2013

    Why I Love Cape Cod

    Reason eleventy million and twenty seven: in late autumn, even the water garden flowers are still blooming. True, it may just be the top part of the stalk, but they are definitely blossoms!

    _400 red flower.jpg

    And the whole water garden is still thriving, even though we have had two solid frosts and an inch of snow in the past few weeks.

    And they're not the only ones still blooming. Our hardy Cape winter roses still abound by the roadsides, colorful geraniums are still gracing sunny spots on porches and in flower boxes, and we have new-growth grass still coming up in the lawn.

    The birds are feasting on autumn's bounty and topping off at our feeders; but it's time to start thinking about putting out the suet for the colder nights that are not too far off. But in the meantime, I'll stay here on Cape Cod and count my blessings.

    Grateful by the feeders,

    Mrs.CCA


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    October 28, 2013

    Mending Hammer

    Hey!

    First off, apologies go out to Robert Frost for my cheap thievery of his title of 'Mending Wall'... Hopefully, the tone of this post will be similar...

    In keeping with the backyard theme (not to mention woodworking.), how about fixing that old wooden-handled hammer? The odds are pretty good that if you own an older home, or if you're in possession of older tools, you have one of these loose-headed rascals... (Note: While this may be obvious, we often dwell in the state of denial, and you really need to accept the fact that a faulty hammer is a dangerous thing indeed. Either make it right, or throw it away.)

    Alrighty then... I'm not going to reinvent the wheel -- there are a number of Web sites that explain the mechanics of attaching a hammer head onto a handle. (Google on: "hammer head wedge"...) But I do have a couple of tricks up my sleeve -- aridity and epoxy. Take a gander at the tool below.

    420 hammer side IMG_6549.JPG

    Now it's okie dokie... And here is the business end all happy...

    hammer end 420 IMG_6550.JPG

    Let's start with aridity... The dryness of the separated handle is critical... If it comes from a humid setting, you're in trouble from the git go -- wood absorbs moisture and swells. If you put the handle on at that point, sooner or later the wood will dry out and the head will come loose. Bottom line? Find a dry location to store the handle for a couple of months... There's no sense in putting the head on when the shaft is just going to shrink later... Dehydrate that sucker!

    Next... Pretty much follow the directions from the wedge manufacturer, with one exception -- prep for epoxy application. (Oh, you're going to love this... Here is an excellent site for a free book that discusses the usage of epoxy.) Epoxy is one of the miracle adhesives of the 20th century and this is the coup de grace in this repair process... To make it happen, you need to:

    1. Scrub the contact pieces -- that is, rough the handle top and take a wire brush to the head's socket. Clean 'em up good!
    2. Next, slather everything with un-thickened epoxy
    3. Once all joining parts (including the slot for the wedge) are saturated, give them a good dose of thickened epoxy and then slam them all together once and for all...
    4. Set the hammer aside for a week and you're done...

    And that's it... you have a perfectly functional hammer... You might even use it to mend a wall...

    Thrifty by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    October 23, 2013

    Crow, Picture, Historical Perspective...

    420 IMG_6379.JPG

    Yup, there he is... Bro' crow from the local murder... How on earth did I become a member of his family? Yet there he is,.. Just waiting for food that will no doubt come... Beyond words...

    On a vaguely related note,,, Have you ever noticed the quality of pictures that we as a culture are creating/digesting? True, above is a tiny image of a crow... So what? Click on the link below to see our entire photo library. In just a couple of centuries, we have gone from hand-painted portraits to phone cameras... We mention 10, 20, and even 40 megapixel resolution like we're busy and ordering a pizza delivery... What would Ansel Adams say if he could have access to this kind of technology? What could he have created?

    IMHO, the historical perspective is frightening...How do we visually communicate, and what do we communicate? In psychology (and sociology), there is a scary correlation between communication and thought level... As you read, so goes your thought process, and right now, we read at the 7th grade level.... Small wonder our Congress has an approval rating of 10%. And when it comes to photography, no wonder that Mapplethorpe is respected...

    Wondering by the feeders...


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    September 24, 2013

    Yard Cleanup and Beating the Bummer

    Below is the before and after of a bummer... (I'll explain what the 'bummer' was in a sec...)

    cropped resized 420 BEFORE IMG_6089.JPG

    cropped resized 420 after IMG_6090.JPG

    Alrighty then, about that bummer... Three days ago I had just finished painting the fascia boards and was cleaning up. Normally, when I'm working around tools, I have laser-like concentration, but the work was over and all I was doing was absent-mindedly carrying an aluminum extension ladder back to its home, when... When I tripped, and promptly did a perfect one-point landing using my face and the earth and the edge of the ladder. I never even got my free hand down.Thankfully, nothing was broken but my pride, but that sort of thing isn't supposed to happen to me. It happens to frumpy 19 year olds who don't work out and who have absolutely no innate natural grace. True, I'm not 19, but I do work out and have more than my fair share of grace... Except for that ladder moment when my mind was elsewhere and my face was dripping red. That was literally a bloody bummer.

    How to overcome that sort of ego busting event? Back in the day when I was working on my psych degree, I had a prof (Dr. Douglas aka 'Bill') who maintained that the best way to beat the blues was to take on a small task and complete it. Do something as trivial as cleaning out a drawer, but do something and finish it. Hence the 'before' (top) and 'after' (below) yardwork pics.. Yeah, it's just a small patch of the back 40, but I got the job done without shedding nary a drop of sweat or blood. And that my friend is how you beat the bummer.

    By those rewarding, depression thumping feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    September 21, 2013

    Throwing Your Hat Over the Fence... Building a Boat or Whatever...

    Teal three pics 420.jpg

    Before I even get started, I want to say one thing -- just because this post (and others to follow) will be about boat construction, that doesn't mean that it's all about boat building. Far from it... In the past I've built bird houses, a trellis, a feeding tray etc. (you can Google on those...) But the focus never was specifically about just one construction project. Nope... As I document the creation of different 'things' (like this boat), I'm really just guilting you to get off your duff and build something for yourself. If I can build a boat, you can built a birdhouse. You get the idea.

    Alrighty then... What have we got above? It's a Teal I built years ago. It's not a big deal really. I plan on spending 40 hours and about $100 - $200 dollars on her. As boats go, IMHO the Teal is the ideal first craft... The plans are available from the link above as is a book "Instant Boats" with a chapter that describes the build. The Teal is a superb calm-water boat, great for rowing and relaxed sailing... I'm using two sheets of 1/4" AC ply along with the usual lumberyard stock. More about the materials as construction continues.

    Next time I post on this, I probably will have ripped one of the sheets of AC into three equal-sized strips of 16" (minus saw kerf) for the sides. I'll occasionally keep you updated from there...

    But for now, I've ordered my plywood and in doing so have tossed my hat over the fence. Now I have to climb the fence. So what's your fence?

    Busy as always,

    CapeCodAlan


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    September 16, 2013

    Gutters and the Rainhandler...

    UPDATE

    420 rainhandler in action IMG_6020.JPGThought I'd try something a tad different today. I'll do a completely subjective thumbnail review of various gutter systems including the Rainhandler..

    First, about conventional gutters... Having a ton of experience with these suckers, I have a few observations on the four breeds...

    • Firstly, there is vinyl... Hate the stuff. The sun breaks it down, the cold cracks it, and errant yard guys smash it to smithereens.
    • Next, galvanized steel is okay, but still no great shakes... Sooner or later it rusts, it's more expensive than aluminum, and can be tough to work...
    • Speaking of alumium... That's my fave... Rust-proof, can be undented, cheap, light...
    • Finally, enter copper, etc... If you've got deep pockets, have a blast...
    And then there's the Rainhandler... I guess it's alright -- it does disperse water away from the foundation as advertised and thus avoids basement flooding. However, I do have one concern -- how will the RH work in the Winter? The company's FAQ says that the RH takes snow and ice in stride, but color me skeptical.Time will tell... As for the doors and walkway, I think I'll stick with the old fashioned...

    One thing is for sure -- it's cheap, and easy to install and easy to take down, so all is not lost no matter what.

    By the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    September 14, 2013

    Crow, Garage, Garden, and Roaming the SD Cards...

    I really wasn't intending to write this post this way. but go figure... I looked at the SD card and this was the first shot I saw... Not bad for a crow...

    crow full size IMG_5972.JPG

    (Click on the above for a full size image...)

    After the crow, pretty much else was free form... Have some rot...

    420 four by six out IMG_5945.JPG

    Have some not rot... (Almost done... Here is a great example of reverse engineering BTW -- the original was some sort redwood and pine -- the replacement was pressure treated and PVC. The next owner will never have to worry about this.)

    420 new four by six IMG_5946.JPG

    And then there's the garden...

    IMG_5897.JPG

    (Click on the above for a full size image...)

    The BBQ/water garden are in the foreground, the trellis et al are in back... Fun to look at... Worth the effort... The birds love them anyway...

    And so it goes... Just random thoughts wandering through a camera's memory card...

    By the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    September 11, 2013

    New Gutters and Tips for Home Improvement

    First off, many apologies for being tardy with this post. Normally I like to post every two or three days, but this one has taken six. Hope that the pics below will explain a bit...

    front 420 IMG_5980.JPG

    back with rain handler 420 IMG_5977.JPG

    Yup, I've been tearing off our old gutters, repairing and re-painting the fascia board, and then replacing the gutters. The top shot shows the front freshly spackled and half painted (arrow). The second photo is of the back sporting a new 'Rainhandler' gutter. (The 'Rainhandler' is a sort of a Venetian blind type of gutter system that disperses roof runoff and changes it back into droplets. Obviously, it isn't intended for walkways or entry points, but otherwise, it presents a quick, easy to install, cheap,and leaf-free gutter system.)

    Over the years, I've worked as a carpenter, plumber, cabinetmaker, etc., and along the way I've adopted some basic philosophies... For what it's worth, here are my $1/50...

    • Don't be afraid to reverse engineer... Some time back I addressed rot in the garage frame. I ended up replacing some of the old pine 4 X 6 with new pressure-treated stock, and swapping out antique trim with modern, rot-proof PVC boards. There is a place for aluminum and stainless hardware, epoxy (like WoodEpox), new paints, etc...
    • Face the music... Denying the nature or severity of the problem leads to half-baked 'solutions'. Find out what is intrinsically wrong and fix it.
    • If you don't know what you're doing, find a good contractor... Ask neighbors, friends, family... Check with Angie's List, ask for references...
    • Recycle... Some of the gutters out back will probably end up seeing a new life out front; there's nothing wrong with that...
    • You don't always need to buy new materials... Look around for recycled construction material suppliers. The backsplash behind our kitchen sink used to have another home. Last I checked, tile doesn't go bad...
    • Act! This is the toughest of all -- getting off your duff and having at it. Don't be sidelined by the one-eyed brain bandit (TV), or your fears.

    I'll get off my soapbox now...

    By the feeders (and the paint, and the ladders, and the saws, and the hammers, and the...)

    CapeCodAlan


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    September 4, 2013

    Time and Birds

    For some reason, I was going to write this post about time. Time is defined as:

    "a nonspatial continuum that is measured in terms of events which succeed one another from past through present to future".

    Okay... We had just lost power only to have it return minutes later, and I had to reset the clocks... I guess that was the impetus... I don't know... Anyway, here are the five or six clocks that simply inhabit our kitchen alone.

    420 Clock 1 IMG_5939.JPG

    420 Clock 2 IMG_5942.JPG

    420 Clock 3 IMG_5943.JPG

    420 Clock 4 IMG_5944.JPG

    420 Clock last with chicken IMG_5940.JPG

    And I was going to talk about the ubiquitous nature of the stuff -- time... You feel it in nature, human experience, song, math/physics, etc. But it was the last shot that got me... Right in the middle of what might have been a rare, decent post discussing time, was a chicken! How e.e. cummings...

    What is it with theses birds or more accurately, birds in general?!? I looked around the kitchen, and these the things are everywhere... There's a bird carving by the sink, Eagle Brand Condensed Soup, Birdseye canned goods, a bird cam, bird binoculars...

    And that's just the stinking kitchen... The house is crawling with more bird carvings, bird books, bird art, bird tapestries, bird seed, bird bird, bird, bird... Arghhh! And I'll bet you dimes to donuts your abode ain't all that different...

    What's the fascination??? Maybe it's just the fact that birds are the only creatures that can do something we can't do... Dogs can run, we can run. Snakes can slither, we can slither. Fish can swim, we can swim.... But birds can fly unassisted, and the best we can do is make an immediate 'splat' sound. Maybe that's what generates such a fascination with us -- they are the only sizable critters on earth who can do what we cannot... What are we experiencing? 'Wing envy'?

    Confused by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    August 24, 2013

    Hawk and Car on Fire....

    Yeah, that Red-tailed just got spooked of by a jay...

    feet_ 420_IMG_5831[1].JPG

    It doesn't exactly break my heart that the hawk got chased away -- they have a nasty habit of using our feeders (no matter how much protective shrubery we provide) as an open buffet... Thank heavens for the crows and jays...

    I especially like this shot... While blurry, still the eye is beautiful...

    420 eyes_IMG_5832[1].JPG

    Finally, here's a good reason for being prepared... even in your car. Yesterday, this 40 year old Volkswagon 'Thing' decided to break down and erupt into flames quite close to the homestead... No one was hurt, but the owner was understandably upset...

    420 car in flames_IMG_5878[1].JPG

    Ahhh... I remember when I burnt a car... (Screen goes all 'swirlly' now...)

    I was a young buck then, and had a Chevy Vega (a car with an aluminum block engine and a reputation for being... err... delicate (read that 'crap'...)) I pushed it to get to college on time and it boiled over... After classes, I tried to hobble it back home and then reluctantly discovered that without radiator fluid, the sucker would go up like a torch. Funny the sensation of watching your car burn -- a weird mix of loss and at the same time a feeling of the superiority of mere flesh over the mechanical...

    Anyway, my heart truly does go out to the owner... He had to deal with the police, the fire department, and today he'll have to talk with his insurance agent... And then there's either the arduous task of either replacing it or worse yet trying to rebuild it... Not fun, and I know...

    By those never dull feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    August 5, 2013

    Pots, Toad, and Water Garden...

    We've got a lot to cover, so let's just get started...

    First up is strange tale, one of great beauty and unimaginable tragedy... The beauty lies in the lobster pots and buoy below. We bought these off a young man who was trying to thin out his own personal cache of lobstering gear. That's all well and good, but his background with the local waters was far from rosy. He was on the scalloper "Twin Lights" when it overturned and finally went down... one man was lost. The next time you hear Patti Page sing "Old Cape Cod" and think of the quaintness of the Cape, please remember this story...

    Pots_400_IMG_5846.JPG

    Check out this little dude! Caught him out of the corner of my eye in our garage. He's about the size of a penny... We safely wrangled him and put him back into the great outdoors, fuzzy foot and all. (Man oh man, I hope we don't have a polliwog problem developing in the attached!)

    toad 420_IMG_5848.JPG

    Finally, there is our junk yard water garden. Seriously, I can't think of a better use for an old grill than this. Just clean it up, put in a hunk of heavy pool liner, fill it with water, put in a bubbler, plunk in some rocks, stuff it full of whatever bizarre water plants your local nursery suggests, and leave it alone. I believe these are perennials, so let December have its way... And the birds love it! The only caveat is to be sure that there's enough stone and veggies to keep the birds from drowning...

    Water garden 420 IMG_5840.JPG

    By the busy feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    July 31, 2013

    Hawk Photos

    Hi,

    Time for more pics. This time, shots are of a Red-tailed courtesy of Mrs. CCA... Enjoy...

    420_ first of five_IMG_3304.JPG

    420_ second of five_IMG_3304.JPG

    Here is a crow buzzing a hawk...

    420_ third of five with crow _IMG_3304.JPG

    420_ forth of five with fingers _IMG_3304.JPG

    Finally

    420_hawk with feet.jpg

    Neat or what?

    By the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    July 22, 2013

    Uh Oh... Serious Rot in the Garage Door Frame...

    Alrighty then,

    Welcome to a homeowner's nightmare. The pic below is that of the partially removed rotted framework of a garage door.

    Where to begin? Well... Note the arrow -- it points to the hole in the concrete created by the builder when he set the vertical structural carrying timber into the muck some 40 years ago... (I've already hacked away the rot there...)

    420 beginning_IMG_5799.JPG

    Next, the hole is completely cleaned out, and the last of the rotted trim (right) has been cut away. (One of the greatest tools ever invented is the multi-tool! Love that sucker for fine plunge cuts!)

    420_ cleaned out and rotten trim cut away IMG_5801.JPG

    And this is where it stands now...

    420 Quikrete with arrows IMG_5802.JPG

    Here's a rundown by the arrow letters:

    1. the aforementioned hole has been filled with Quikrete®...
    2. the area below the red dotted line will be cut away, and new, pressure-treated timber will be installed using the latest structural wonder glue/goo...
    3. the missing long trim will be replaced with goo and PVC boards... (Take that ants!)
    4. finally, the short face trim will get the same PVC/goo treatment...

    It's all pretty simple really -- just rip out all the rot and rebuild from there. Remember the cardinal rule for owning a home... No matter what, there's nothing that ridiculous amouts of time, money, sweat, blood, and profanity can't fix.

    By the repair...

    CapeCodAlan


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    July 7, 2013

    Green Heron Pics...

    Thought I'd try something new this time... Rather than run my pie hole (which is the usual modus operandi) I'd just show some pics... No doubt that you're breathing a sigh of relief...

    400_young in leaves.jpg

    400_young in profile.jpg

    stare_400.jpg

    400_young_gh.jpg

    400_young tall.jpg

    creep_400.jpg

    squawk_400.jpg

    Many thanks to Mrs. CCA for the shots...

    By the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    June 24, 2013

    Power Outages... Are You Ready!?!

    Yeah, I know I harp on preparedness, but it seems like everytime we turn around, yet another large group of our fellow citizens is being put out (or flat-out killed) by Mother Nature...

    I took the following screen grab off the 'Breaking News' RSS feed...

    storms power out 2013-06-24_231853.jpg

    That's over 100,000 Americans left hanging in the lurch... I hope they were prepared... I've spent way too much time here linking into '.GOV' sites, and Red Cross sites, and the USGS sites to yet again offer advice on how to get ready for for the unexpected... If you don't know how, you can either Google on 'ebirdseed preparedness' or simply check out the aforementioned links...

    And that's about it for tonight. (We just had a band of storms go through, and there may be another on the way...)

    As always, be safe, and I'll see you by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    June 23, 2013

    Lamps and Gazebo

    420 lamps done_IMG_5624.JPG

    Well, as you can see, those lobster pot lamps are done... It wasn't that big a deal, and the only real challenges were boring the longitudinal hole and finding the right shade..... (Mrs. CCA spliced the rope, but has quite a bit of marlinspike experience.) They came out well, but we may sell them and start using real buoys... Now, about the new deck ornament...

    gazebo 420 done IMG_5623.JPG

    Remember that gazebo skeleton? Well there it is all done... Not a bad project, but care and time was required. The only real problem was stretching the canvas onto the frame, but we worked around/through that. We especially like the light at the top, the bars for a possible series of privacy bars, and the mosquito netting. All told... pretty cool!

    I don't know... Some people shy away from simple projects like these (or setting up feeders or building a boat...). And that's too bad.... It's fun, you learn stuff, you make stuff on the cheap... You get what you want...

    Anywho... There you go... Easy breezy...

    By those feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    June 4, 2013

    Goldfish Crackers, Not...

    fish_420_IMG_5534.JPG

    I was going to write a cute piece about the antics of the crows... the way they demand their snacks... the way they ruffle their wings in excitement or anger... the way they dunk their food. I was going to write that. But to be honest, my heart just isn't in it... No, society and politics permeate all...

    In case you've missed the little issues of 'Fast and Furious', the New Black Panthers, the IRS, the DOJ, and Benghazi (and the odds are pretty good that you have missed that stuff because you've been too focused on the next episode of 'Dancing with the Stars'), the fabric of America is being torn to pieces. We have yet again an American president with the unprecedented gall to look the American people in the eye, split hairs with words, and say that there is no "'there' there"... (Why not just throw in "is" for the fun of it?)

    We are no longer a government of the people... We are a government of the rich, powerful... lawyers, and lobbyists... and worst of all, we are a government of the almighty media who 'sooey up' their versions of our dirty political machinations right along with our 'Dancing with the Stars'... What could go wrong?

    So much for the crows... Here's where I think the Founding Fathers went wrong... When they penned the Constitution, they never anticipated such a morally bankrupt, common-sense deprived, entitlement-crazed citizenry. They designed a societal blueprint for the mores of 18th century Americans. They never could have dreamt of people becoming rich and famous solely for broadcasting their sex acts on a global network of computers. They couldn't have dreamt of millionaire and even billionaire athletes and performers. The Founding Fathers never could have conceived of a Republic bent on absolute suicidal government entitlement spending... No, for all that insanity, far better to watch 'Dancing with the Stars'...

    I'll leave this post with the following dire and prophetic song by Paul Simon -- 'American Tune'...

    Next time I'll stick with the crows and the Goldfish...

    By the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    May 19, 2013

    Tornados and the Upcoming Hurricane Season...

    Watching the news now... It looks like OK, IA, and KS are taking a beating from an outbreak of twisters... Hope they're prepared. (If I lived in that area, I'd make sure I'd have quick access to an underground bomb shelter, even if I had to dig it with a spoon.)

    Thoughts and prayers go out to them...

    For those us in the North East, things aren't looking great for the summer... Here's a prediction from WeatherBell...

    2013 hurrican season 420_2013-05-19_190712.jpg

    I've babbled on way too much about disaster preparedness, but once again, here is a great link on the subject...

    Getting ready by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    May 13, 2013

    A Drier Backyard?

    I don't know how it came to pass, but the other day folks from the town showed up to finally address the drain on the road beside our house.The pics below pretty much tell the tale...

    Before:

    lake before.JPG

    After:

    no lake_IMG_5478.JPG When I say "address the drain on the road beside our house", I actually mislead -- back in the day the town placed it on our property, which isn't necessarily a bad thing -- 'tis the cost of being a good citizen. But what was a pain was that it didn't drain properly which caused the rain to pile up and saturate our lawn as the top photo shows. (The previous owners in fact suffered basement flooding because of this.)

    But miracles do happen, and out of the blue the town showed up, removed the old one, gave us back a small chunk of lawn (complete with new rich soil), and a new street drain. Coolness... Now, we'll see how the new drain holds up...

    As I said, I don't know how this serendipity came to pass... Did a highway inspector notice that during even moderate rain and snow, we had a navigable lake beside our domicile? Did a neighbor get tired of needing a captain's license to drive down the road on those less than arid days and complain? Maybe one of the selectmen lives on that street... Who knows? But maybe the takeaway should be that things can actually get done if folks just speak up...

    By the hopefully dry feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    May 8, 2013

    2 AM Post Hole and Post Holes How To...

    new squirrel feeder_420_IMG_5475.JPG

    Howdy,

    Thought I'd take a look at two related concepts relative to the title about post holes: one in the philosophical (oh God!) and one the mechanical (Whew!) Here we go...

    So anyways, sometime around 2 AM last night, I decided that our broken squirrel feeder post had to be replaced... This should come as no surprise to those who know me -- I'm a night owl/insomniac who appreciates the stillness of the night. So with the proper prep work done (more on that in a bit), I turned on the spotlight and ventured back into my old haunts. There's an amazing peace and beauty to the night -- a calm and a fine mist (indistinguishable except through a porch light.) There's a time to reflect (I'm reminded of Hoffer's ' Working and Thinking on the Waterfront', and Frost's 'Mending Wall'... Perhaps the ideal background music would be the wafting of the Warwick/Bacharach/David master stroke, 'What's it all About Alfie?') But that's my thing. The night was as unspeakably beautiful as quahogging on a waning, raining, winter afternoon. (Which stirs the Platter's, Twilight Time'...)

    But that's all warmth, fuzziness, and distance. How the Hell do you plant the freaking post in the ground? Step by step:

    1. Gather your weapons of backyard carnage:
      • Open can of beer... (If you choose to sink the post late PM/early AM, you'll need to have that to convince the cops (who may well show up) that that you're simply inebriated and not trying to vertically bury the corpse of an anorexic wee person...)
      • Shovel...
      • Post hole digger...
      • Tape measure...
      • Four foot level and torpedo level...
      • Flashlight if working at night...
    2. Figure out where you want the post... Remember the "Five Five Rule"... At least 5' off the ground and within 5' of shrubs or other protection...
    3. Dig the hole using the post digger... The excavation should be about 2' deep at least... And be sure not to hit a gas line, electrical line, water line etc. When in doubt, call someone like DigSafe.
    4. The diameter of the hole should be at least the thickness of the post plus another 2" on each side. So a 4x4 requires a minimum of an eight inch diameter pit...
    5. Scrape the rich top soil off the target area and set that aside -- you'll want that later so that you can replant grass...
    6. Carefully plop the post in place and begin the back filling. Don't get too persnickety about whether it's plumb -- just use the torpedo level to keep it in the ball park.
    7. When the hole is about one quarter full, use the end of the handle to firmly pack down the soil. Repeat this process using the longer level as you go... Don't be afraid the push the post around and then re-tamp mercilessly Note! Do note hit yourself in the face with the shovel blade or shovel foot rests!!!
    8. Finally, replace the top soil, grass seed and water...
    9. Mount the feeder appropriately
    And that's it... The zen of backyard maintenance...

    By the well thought-out and plunked feeders...


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    May 4, 2013

    Ghost Hummingbird and Very Real Snapping Turtle

    050413_humm feeder_400.JPG

    Alright, don't give me any guff... I swear there was a hummingbird at the feeder just a few moments before I took the shot. (Stupid birds...) Have you noticed that missing nice shots seems to be my forte? And I'm not saying that the ones I do get are any great shakes either, because they're not. But dang, when I think of all the cool stuff I've seen in this world, my lack of photographs is stunning. Long ago, I vowed to carry a camera on my person as religiously as I carry my knife and micro flashlight. (I wear both bolo style, and put them on along with my pants in the morning and never take them off except for showers....) But did I follow through with that vow? Nooo... So I have no actual proof of the UFO I saw, or of the card game I played with Big Foot... (Just kidding about the latter.) But at least Mrs. CCA did get a picture of this gal...

    Snapping.JPG

    We saw this behavior last summer -- a snapping turtle (the same one I assume?) lurches out of the local mud pond, lumbers a a few hundred yards to the woods beside our house, digs a hole, lays her eggs, and then plod back to the pond... Yeah, it's going to be one of those summers.

    Walking gingerly by those absent feeders

    CapeCodAlan


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    April 25, 2013

    A Glimpse of Birds...

    blurry turkey buzzard_101_0423.JPG

    Lousy picture aye? Well, sort of... I think there are two turkey vultures there, but there may only be one... Just a glimpse, but there is something memorable...

    One of my earliest memories is that of watching a seagull when I was in kindergarten. I decided to watch it until it was out of sight, which is what I did... (I still struggle with the alphabet... I wonder if that was what the teacher was teaching while I was bird watching?)

    So be it... I was just walking by the window and a black bird flashed by. It might have been a crow, or perhaps a grackle... Just a glimpse... but an exceptional memory...

    When all is said and done, no matter what, we leave this world with just memories. A person might own a fur-lined bidet and a limo with a platinum steering wheel... When we take our last breath, the only things we truly own are what's between our ears -- To borrow from the song, "These are days you'll remember... Never before and never again..." Choose your days and memories wisely....

    By the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    April 16, 2013

    Terrorism... The Beat Goes On...

    Hi,

    No pics today -- not in the mood...

    As you no doubt know, two bombs went off at the Boston Marathon, maiming umpteen, injuring 176, and killing three... Too close to home -- Mrs.CCA works in Boston and heard both bombs go off... One of the bombs was detonated in the building next door from where the wife used to work... I have a close friend who runs the marathon, and now I can't reach him

    I certainly can't speak for eBirdseed.com, but I can speak for myself. On 9/11/2001, I was appalled. But not now... Just pissed.

    Thoughts and prayers...

    CapeCodAlan


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    April 13, 2013

    Garage Door Repair and Wood Butchery at its Finest... Don't Look...

    Yeah, I'm at it again -- butchering the snot out of homestead and wood fiber to save a buck and thumb my nose at wasteful living... (We have to feed the birds somehow, right?) Enter the poor garage door below...

    420 before_IMG_5277.JPG

    Basically, the door had a 'wardrobe malfunction', slipped a nut, and gravity took over. (forgive the analogy...)

    So here's what we have to work with... (Gotta love that duct tape nyet?)

    with tape_420_IMG_5276.JPG

    Like I said, this isn't gonna be pretty. I should have taken care of that panel when I replaced the others (in white...) But noooo, I pulled the old, "I'll get around to it when the cows come home in a hail storm...." Gee... Look at the weather and hear the "moo's"

    So it will come down to the old, "Panel Replace Rumba"...

    1. Cut the pre-painted marine ply to fit... (At least I was proactive up to the painting...)
    2. Use a router to cut away the molding that holds the panel in place... (Don't forget the fence for the router!)
    3. Pop the rotted panel out and replace with the new panel complete with glue and thin strips of molding to hold in place...
    4. Paint...
    5. Wait for next disaster...
    And that's the way it is... By the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    April 6, 2013

    Gun Locks and Gun Safes

    38 with lock_420_IMG_5264.JPG

    Taking a break from the birds...

    Rightfully so, a lot has been said about new firearm legislation, and way, way, way too much has been uttered by either: people who don't have a clue, people blind by agenda, or slug politicians prostituting themselves for votes. Here's the skinny from a political agnostic who grew up with firearms...

    No one is going to argue the point of gun safety... But the question becomes, "Is the gun above safe?" That's it. "Yes" or "no"... To many in the public and in Congress, the answer is "Yes". Too bad they don't know what the Hades they're talking about... There are a number of answers with one final encompassing one...

    • Well, I guess if you live in a safe rural area, and there are only small children around, it's probably safe to store the gun like that...
    • If you live in the typical residential area and have young adults around, that gun lock is a joke... (Anyone with a clue can cut through that in seconds... Anyone care to bet that I can't cut through that lock in 60 seconds?)
    • As for high-crime areas... That pretty blue cable is just a convenient carrier for the bad guys. What do you think? Do you think these guys are stupid???
    The sad thing is that too many in our society look at the pic above and think all is well... It isn't... IMHO, the only real answer is a true gun safe bolted to the floor and alarms.

    Safe by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    April 1, 2013

    Good Birdhouses Make Good Neighbors

    Well, Robert Frost said something like that, anyway...

    So we do have new neighbors moving into our birdhouse out back. Last year it was unoccupied, but this weekend it got a thorough once-over by Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow.

    Once they were satisfied with the size and location (close to food, water, and shelter)...

    mr sparrow2_400.jpg

    ...they started moving in with twigs and feathers galore.

    mr and mrs sparrow_400.jpg

    mrs sparrow2_400.jpg

    Hopefully they'll raise a healthy brood of little ones, and we'll have the pleasure of watching them fledge--perhaps we'll get some video of them!

    And speaking of neighbors, our Red Tailed Hawks are back from migration and have been seen scouting the area for likely nesting sites. We never did discover where their nest was last year; we only knew it was somewhere quite close. The likelihood is that they'll use the same location this year... but you might say we're keeping a hawk eye on the situation.

    hawk_400_IMG_3306.JPG

    Nesting by the feeders,

    MRS. CCA


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    March 25, 2013

    A Few Subjective Words on Knives

    Hi,

    In keeping with our woodworking and outdoors-person themes, I figured I'd take a break and opine on one of my hobbies: knife collecting. (I know, I know, I know -- I collect everything from knives to timepieces to woodworking tools to antique lumber... So sue me for being guilty of loving quality. If I had 'deep pockets', I'd collect Martin guitars, and you'd never hear from me again.) Anywho... wandering thoughts on cutlery...

    Check out the pics below...

    420_knife_IMG_5199.JPG

    420_thick_IMG_5203.jpg

    Before we really get started, a note on staying legal... Do NOT underestimate the severity of knife laws!!! Law enforcement doesn't mess around with knife possession... Review your local laws and talk with your police department. Repeat... Reconnoiter your knife laws -- the authorities enforce knife laws like they handle drunk driving. You've been warned.... On to the images and thoughts...

    • First up, if you want to have some reasonable chance of staying alive in an ugly street situation, a knife is like breasts on a bull -- useless. The thugs are charged with the grandeur of crack cocaine, crystal meth, bath salts, and PCP... If you try to use a knife to defend yourself, odds are that you've brought a knife to a pit bull fight -- it ain't gonna be pretty.
    • On that happy note, there are a ton of knife styles... In the first shot above, from left to right we have:
      • a small half hawk bill --- built tough with nice big rivets, quality Chinese stainless, cheap...
      • a tactical folder -- I can't break it...
      • a full hawk bill with a marlin spike... once again, heavy rivets and good stainless steel...
      • a heavy survival knife -- very simple, nice and thick, full tang...
      • a classic fixed-blade hunting/camping knife with a full tang...
    The second picture gives one the idea of the thickness of the blades -- anywhere from one to 2.5 mm... Notice any redundancies? Heavy stainless (preferably 440 or AUS), beefy rivets, full tang...

    If you're new to knives, a good source for info is Cutlery Corner on TV and the Net... a little goofy, but they know their stuff...

    Wrapping up... As my high school teacher used to say, always carry a small pocket knife... Especially when ice skating... You figure it out...

    If you have questions, ask.

    Handy by the the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    March 21, 2013

    Bird Butt... It's a Booty-ful Thang...

    Bird Butt_420_IMG_5192.JPG

    Oh, this is going to be one of those posts...

    Now, take a look at the photo above... For birders, that's probably as bad a shot as one could take, but for backyard birders, it's incredibly rewarding -- a wee feathered flying creature has decided to take up occupancy in a house I slammed together over the course of just a couple of nights. It's late, and snowing that mid-March wet stuff, but I know of at least one bird who's snug, safe, dry, and warm. No doubt he (or she) is asleep with a full stomach...

    If you're just a lurker to this blog, (and even if you are Ms. or Mr. Fumble Fingers) you really should try this backyard birding thing including building houses and feeders. There's a strange, sort of subtle emotional return on your investment of time and money -- you actually did something to keep another being alive. Stop and think about it... You really get to look out the window and see something fly around, and that's partly because of your help. By my way of seeing things, that certainly beats sitting on the sofa and watching the next episode of, "Who Wants to Dance with the Latest American Millionaire's Butt"

    Alrighty then, it seems we've come full circle on the butt theme, and it's time for me to sign off...

    By the feeders, and I don't take that subject sitting down...

    CapeCodAlan


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    March 17, 2013

    Sparrow (and Chickadee) Checking Out the Birdhouse...

    real_410_sparrow in bird house.jpg

    Well, it's getting to be that time of year... Not only did the sparrow reconnoiter the 'house but so did at least one chickadee. (Remember how we discussed making this domicile back in the Dark Ages?)

    When it comes to building a birdhouse, the Web is crawling with plans, so I won't go into more details... But in general, if your back forty has room for a birdhouse, you really should build a few and put them up -- adds to the experience.

    So what else is new? Not much. (Which is a good thing...) The hawk(s) seem to have re-discovered our feeders and are dining appropriately... The squirrels crows do their best to warn, but the carnage is not rare. Deep sigh... Little birds need to eat, big birds need to eat, and the beat goes on...

    Finally, stay tuned for (of all things) a couple of gun reviews.(Not my first...) I'll look at the Ruger 10/22 and Henry Survival Rifle... Don't expect the usual gun-geekish, trivia-soaked, self-absorbed historical blah blah blah... Instead, I'll offer up just plain old coffee table chatter about our experiences with the firearms... (At this point, I'm pretty sure I've ticked off every reader on the planet...) Just stay... You never know what this blog is going to do next...

    By the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    March 12, 2013

    Boring... Titmouse and Grackle...

    tufted frozen 420 IMG_5177.JPG

    grackle on fake limd_420_IMG_5179.JPG

    There... Is that boring or what? This post in fact, will prove to be so boring that it could gag a maggot off a gut wagon... (Am I being too subtle?) I know I've mentioned this before, but it deserves mention yet again -- backyard birding has to be one of the least involved, most benign, understated hobbies on earth... Oh sure... You can blow a grand on a complete ski rig, and spend hundreds per day hitting the slopes (and possibly trees) and be happy... for half a dozen times a season... Fine... Backyard birding is inexpensive haiku, tanka, the sound of one hand clapping in a world gone stark raving mad... Birds offer the slightest of respite...

    About that world... My God, aside from the birds, look at the culture around us... 'Seventeen' magazine is targeting girls as young as 12 with at least one article suggesting that sex is a drug (including threesomes...) North Korea is threatening a preemptive nuclear strike on the U.S, and the President of the United States incredulously quips that "We don't have an immediate crisis in terms of debt," (America borrows $.40 of every dollar it spends, and racks up four billion dollars per day in interest payments on our debt... Crisis??? Naw!)

    But in one way shape or form, you know of all these problems, if only in your gut. They have even become tedious... even boring. The sun will rise tomorrow, and we'll simply have to make the best of it... But that brings us full circle right back to the boring titmouse and the boring grackle... At least those are beautiful... harmless... mundane...

    Yawning by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    March 11, 2013

    Stupid Squirrels

    upside down.JPG
    Ah yes... The dreaded squirrel... For the life of me, I'll never understand why people hate these guys... True, they 'swipe' seed, wreak havoc if they get inside a house, they certainly don't have the beauty of birds, but the vermin do offer up one feature that few birds can match -- humor.

    Here on the back forty, to a great extent, we've eliminated much of the larceny by giving the rodents their own feeder, and keep the buggers out of the mansion by careful maintenance of the vents, etc... Still, the show must go on... And so the squirrels cavort, raid, and offer themselves up as food ("La viande du jour") for the predators that roam the yard. (BTW... Yesterday, we had a gorgeous fox meander through the backyard... exceptionally cool.) Still, I guess I could make things even more entertaining by creating this sort of obstacle course...

    Sigh... What's the point? Squirrels are here to stay, and we might just as well get used to them and enjoy them best we can...

    By what's left of the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    February 14, 2013

    Debt, Insanity, and Birds...

    I was just watching Fox News, and they announced a new daily debt rate increase from the Congressional Budget Office... We are now racking up $4.8 billion in debt per day instead of the old $4 billion/day... Here are a couple of screen shots that I took to roughly corroborate...

    try again cropped_First_2_10 screen shot_suz.jpg And...

    feb 14_v2.jpg

    Those two screen shots are from April 11th, 2012 to February 14th, 2013 -- 310 days... By my calculations, that amounts to roughly $3 billion per day,... Given the growth rate of that debt, $4 billion/day sounds ballpark, and for all intents and purposes, we have to apply that to the interest on national debt alone....

    How could this happen??? Even Dubya and Obama can't bloat the government that fast... No they couldn't/can't but the exponential growth in the compounding interest on our debt can... When I speak about exponential growth, just think of cell growth in galloping cancer...

    It's way too easy to get glassy eyed when it comes to large numbers, and I keep trying to find new ways to impress upon you the magnitude of the situation... Think about this... The Apollo space program that put a man on the moon back in the 1960s cost a total of about $25 billion... that's for all of it... from the beginning launches to the first man on the moon in Apollo 11 to the near disaster of Apollo 13 to the final moon walk of Apollo 17... All of it cost $25 billion dollars in 1960s dollars... That's roughly $25 billion spread over a decade, and that was gaspingly expensive!!! Well, taking into account inflation, what cost $25 billion in the 1960s would cost $180 billion today... Obviously, we can't afford another moon program today... BUT, we whir through $180 billion every 37.5 days just servicing our debt at $4.8 billion per day... That's right... Given past experience as a fiscal reference and re-directing our debt payments to NASA could fund an entire new lunar landing in just over a month. But we can't re-direct those interest payments... And what's more, we're not even able to keep up with them...

    Scared yet? Keep in mind that we just suffered through a week of terror caused by an ex-cop who felt licensed to kill because he believed a police force had done him wrong, and before that a looney who held a child hostage for a week in a bunker, and before that a self-absorbed moron who dyed his hair to look like 'the joker' and then shot up a theater, and before that...

    Yes, it seems like our government and fellow citizens have lost their collective minds...

    Two thoughts... First, things are crazy, but there is magnificent solace -- just watch the birds... Watch the swoop, the gregariousness, the flash, the humor... Secondly... All is not hopeless... We are, after all... after all... We are still Americans...

    Trying to get some rest by the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    February 4, 2013

    Doves in the Morning... At the Zoo...

    I'm not sure why it's so calming for me, but I do like watching doves...

    Doves at dawn_420_IMG_5057.JPG

    It's not that they're particularly rare... But then again, neither is a $20 bill. (If anyone owns a rather paltry twenty, feel free to send it to me -- I have a soft spot for the plain...) No, IMHO, doves are cool -- they land cool, they sound cool, they aren't menacing, they don't leave dinosaur-sized droppings all over the lawn like the turkeys do... Naw... I'm down with the doves in a most subdued way...

    Funny how some people (moi) emotionally categorize birds... I think of doves as a fond footnote; crows as close friends; red wings as old, old compadres; blue jays as rascals, sea gulls as humongous rats with wings...

    And so it goes... Kind of reminds me of the old Simon and Garfunkel tune, "At the Zoo"...

    The monkeys stand for honesty,
    Giraffes are insincere,
    And the elephants are kindly but
    They're dumb
    .

    I'm telling you, I'm telling you, I'm telling you... Someone should be selling tickets...

    As always, by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    January 31, 2013

    Crow Friend...

    friend 420 IMG_5066.JPG

    Handsome little rascal, isn't he? Kind of a buddy... It's tough to move around the house without drawing his attention... I always wonder what he thinks... what he feels... (FWIW, back in the day, I wrote about crow brains...)

    But have you ever really thought about this?

    • Crows are extremely loyal -- I watched a murder of them turn frantic and daringly protective when one of their crew suffered a window hit -- astonishing camaraderie...
    • If you read the link above, (and its links) you'll find that crows are the only non-human creature that can make tools out of non-native materials... That's a big deal -- cognition-wise, that easily puts them in the ballpark with the great apes...
    • When abandoned crow chicks are adopted by humans, they do learn to talk... Stop and think about it...
    Given the above and my experiences, I'd guess crows are functioning at the intellectual level of a five year old human... But there's so much more than that -- there's the maturational level, the social level, the physical level, the emotional level...

    The crow in the shot above spent several minutes just standing on that crook, and I don't think he was there just for the food... (He had abundant access to seed and suet...) No, we had long periods of eye contact... What was he (she?) thinking? What was he feeling?

    We all know that dogs can sense sorrow in humans -- that's been demonstrated a million times... My gut says that that creature, that crow, could sense that I was crying because of my recent loss... He was my company...

    With my friends by the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    January 27, 2013

    When Your Best Friend Dies...

    Hi,

    First, I apologize for being a couple days late with this post...

    If you've been reading this blog for any period of time, you know that I stress not only the bird aspect of things, but also the importance of family and the young... Right now... I want to speak to the young amongst us... So, to you young of heart...

    This Saturday, my best friend, Gerry, died... I was prepared for this... Not only did I know of his terminal brain condition, but I also spent two years of my life studying psychology including crisis intervention... Too, my dad passed years ago... Yeah, I had/have the defense mechanisms in place...

    Thoughts...

    • I could spend countless words describing Gerry... But that wasn't his way... He liked to write for Grand Rants, but when all was said and done, he was a pretty humble... Humility is a good thing...
    • Life is a wonderful, magnificent thing, but it comes at a cost... As my late friend Carol used to say... "Hey! This isn't a dress rehearsal..."
    • Life does end... Think about things and make your days matter... Gerry served in the Air Force and the NSA... He became proficient in computer stuff... Later, he worked for Digital Equipment Corporation. While at DEC, he came up with the crazy idea of creating a national database for lost/missing/stolen children. He worked with John Walsh for a year... Think of the thousands of lives he touched... Gerry made his days count...
    • Think for yourself... Back in the '70s, Gerry had the audacity to enjoy the Beach Boys and the Carpenters...They weren't 'hip', but Gerry could hear the intrinsic good, and he was right.
    • Crying is good... so is laughing... Remember the good stuff... Gerry had a million funny stories like the time he had a run in with the KGB... Absolutely hilarious...
    • Learn from the life now gone... Gerry was exceptionally kind, but was a hardliner when push came to shove... That trait has changed me...
    • Let go, but never forget. When a person (or pet) dies, it's game over... Let go. A death is sad, but a death and a ruined life is tragic... That being said, there's a wise old saying from the continent of Africa -- "A person isn't really dead until he's forgotten..." Let go, but don't always keep in the heart...
    • Don't be afraid to seek help... You're going through one of the toughest things in life.. Repeat... Don't be afraid to seek help....
    • Heal... The sun will come up tomorrow... Move on... That's what the late loved one would have wanted...
    • Stay busy and accomplish something... Clean a drawer... organize a closet... write a letter... Nothing succeeds like success...
    • Beware the 'Bogey Man' of a loss -- the little trigger that will break your heart all over again... For me, it might happen years from now, when the store in the mall plays 'In My Room' by the Beach Boys -- that was Gerry's favorite... That one is going to hurt...
    • Chose your friends wisely... I remember vividly the first time I met Gerry... It was late December 1996 when JonBenét Ramsey was murdered... I was sitting in an Uno's in Framingham MA, and turned to the man beside me and spontaneously expressed my disgust at the murder and the way parents parade around little girls like movie starlets (harlots?)... Gerry turned to me and shook my hand... He talked about a lot of things, and it didn't take me long to see that he had his head on straight and had been around the block a couple of times...
    And that's it... There are preparations to be made, travel, tears, laughter, and moving on...

    Best,

    Alan

    P.S. To read more about Gerry, you can check here...

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    January 23, 2013

    Cold

    Here in the North East, weather has been a bit chilly...

    420 cold IMG_5047.JPG

    Some thoughts on staying warm when you wander out to feed the birds, watch the birds, clear the feeding areas etc... (Having lived in Caribou Maine, I think I can bring some experience to the table here...) Take a look at the photo below...

    420 outdoor gear IMG_5049.JPG

    Many of the secrets to serenity in cold weather lie in that pic... Thoughts...

    • Okay, let's start at the top... Good cold-weather head gear with ear protection is essential... I like the military surplus stuff...
    • Next up is the jacket... Believe it or not, that's a relatively light weight coat... More on that in a bit...
    • As I don't put them to hard use, I tend towards relatively inexpensive ski gloves....
    • Bib pants... These are critical... Again, more about these in a bit...
    • Good snow boots... Must have good snow boots! If you can afford them, Sorels are the way to go...
    But here's the skinny on staying warm, (and jackets and bib pants too...) There are only three things to worry about in cold weather: raw skin meeting cold air, driving wind, and moisture. That's it -- control those and you control the elements. On the other hand, if any one of those gets to you, you're in a hurt locker... Thankfully, modern materials like Gortex can stave off much of the assault. Beyond that, I always dress in zippered layers of sweatshirts covered by a light coat -- the trick isn't so much staying warm as it is not overheating... The same applies for the bib pants -- a couple layers of sweats underneath goes a long way... Finally, a ski mask and goggles will complete the outfit...

    I like to think of it as creating my own micro environment, complete with a series of zipper thermostats... Maybe I should make some gators???

    Warm by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    January 21, 2013

    Stubborn Camera and Cardinals in the Snow...

    Well, there you go... I set up a $600 camera, set it to 'magic automatic', and got the following...

    bad 420_cardinals in snow_IMG_5046.JPG

    And that's not the only blurry mess... There were half a dozen or more such abominations... How can that be? I looked carefully at the pics and there was absolutely nothing in focus. Here's the only decent shot...

    420_cardinals in snow_IMG_5046.JPG

    While it's not the stuff of the cover of National Geographic, at least the birds are somewhat recognizable... My question is this... "What on earth was the camera looking at?" My hunch is this: as we move closer and closer to true artificial intelligence, we may completely overlook the issues of artificial common sense and artificial common courtesy. As we take these baby steps towards towards silicon gray matter (as in the 'smart camera'), we may in fact be developing a very bright prig. What happens if the first truly intelligent machine that's self aware is a jerk? Is my camera showing the very earliest signs of the terrible two year old who has finally grasped the almighty, irrational, and petulant word, "No!"

    Look, we were all warned about 'Future Shock', but I didn't think it would start with a stubborn camera...

    Banging my head against the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    January 18, 2013

    Nuisance Birds and Turkeys...

    One of the toughest questions I get concerns the so called "nuisance birds"... Some people don't like grackles, some don't like seagulls, some people don't like crows, and in my case, I don't like turkeys -- no small wonder when you look at the shot below...

    420 too many turkeys_IMG_5020.JPG

    All told, there were roughly 25 of those things on the lawn, and they weren't wearing diapers. After their appearance, just trying to feed the birds is a delicate dance around the droppings... No, I don't like turkeys...

    So what to do about the nasty birds (and squirrels, and...)? Well, we can change feeder types to customize what creatures get fed... we can move to a higher quality seed so that less gets pushed aside and ends up on the ground... we can use better seed storage methods... But in the end, at best, you can only have limited success, and since most municipalities forbid the use of nuclear weapons, the implementation of unbridled slaughter is verboten.

    Here's the advice I always give concerning nuisance beasties... Follow the steps above, and if that doesn't work, grit your teeth and bear it.... Look, you started this standoff. You wanted to see Mother Nature in all her winged glory. The problem is that Mother Nature isn't all bluebirds, lollipops, and happy creatures dancing on the lawn. In fact, M.N. has a ton of warts, including turkeys who don't even have the decency to do it in the woods... Deep sigh... IMHO, unless you have rats trying to tear your flesh, or 'gators in your pool, I'd suggest that you acquiesce... Give up...

    Doing the 'Rest Stop Ramble' out to the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    November 30, 2012

    Contest Revisited, and Rambling...

    Alrighty then... Let's harken back to that yet unsolved August 29th contest... Once again, here's the prize pic (soda not included...)

    resized IMG_4603.JPG

    And here's the hint...

    The mystery couple first signed with 'Magic Lamp' records before signing with A&M... And yes, I still want the link to the actual video of the performer's working their wizardry with the piece mentioned in the contest link above..
    .

    The bottom line is this... This isn't that tough a challenge... All it will take to solve this puppy and win is to be the first to do a few Googles and sending an email to me, capecodalan@ebirdseed.com with the appropriate link... Easy breezy...

    What else is new? Not much... About the only real revelation is my decision to avoid the back yard at almost all costs. The turkeys have completely riddled the place with their own special 'presents'. I'm starting to think about non-lethal ways to convince them that they are 'gobbla non grata'... I may resort to the dreaded 'far flung falling comfy cushion from on high'... (Turkeys are extremely stupid, While a two ton truck doesn't faze them in the least, a floating bit of foam spiraling down on their empty little craniums Frisbee style will scare their snoods off.)

    In the mean time, I'm trying to figure out how we can feed the birds from the deck and still offer them the protection of the trees... Maybe some rendition of the old fashioned clothes line pulley system? But then there's the water issue... Hmmm...

    Puzzling by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    November 21, 2012

    Happy Thanksgiving... A Different Perspective...

    TG sky 420 IMG_4894.JPG

    Given the content of this post, the somber pic above seemed appropriate...

    I'm going to skip the 'birds/home/garden' theme tonight -- my heart just isn't into it...I've never been the sort who fawn slobbering, but over the last few days I've learned that an old chum killed himself, and my best friend is gravely ill...

    So my Thanksgiving message to you is probably best expressed by Don Henley in his song 'In a New York Minute'...

    You find somebody to love in this world
    You better hang on tooth and nail
    The wolf is always at the door

    ...

    You better take a fool's advice...
    Take care of your own...
    One day they're here...
    Next day they're gone...

    This Thanksgiving, say your say and make your peace... Tomorrow is promised to no one...

    CapeCodAlan


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    November 13, 2012

    Sandy and Preparation...

    First, not too much to report on the bird front... We clean the feeders as required, fill 'em, and the birds arrive. As hobbies go, this is certainly one of the least tiring...

    Onward...

    About Hurricane Sandy... The FEMA pic below speaks volumes...

    Sandy destruction.JPG

    Everyone knew this storm was going to be a monster... (I wrote about it here...) And unfortunately, many people were unprepared. So now the cries go out... "Where's FEMA?"; "Where's the Red Cross?"; "Where are the cops to stop the looters?"

    I'm sorry, and I'm not being callous, but we all saw this thing coming, and all of us should've known that guv'ment can't be all things for all people all of the time. That's just common sense. The Web (including this blog) is packed with info on how to prepare. If you have problems getting onto the Web, the local library has the info. If you can't get to the library, you can always call the operator and ask for the Red Cross number... But the point being that folks should be ready for this sort of thing... I was half expecting Sandy to travel another 100+ miles north, then jag left, and rip my roof off... What then?

    Aside from the link above, there are basic skills that need to be learned... Here's just one...

    Why don't people prepare for two weeks with no home? Families frequently spend a week or two camping in rather harsh conditions. (I used to work with a man, who, with his buddies would take a week off from work, bundle up, put a few supplies in their backpacks, and wander off into some God forsaken forest for a week. That was fun.) All this stuff isn't that difficult... Anyone can walk into an Eastern Mountain Sport store or ask on line, and there will be a ton of experts who will be able to prep you for a week or two roughing it. (And yes, even if you live in a city, there's always a place to bug out to... Been there and done that...)

    I don't know... It's just sad to watch people literally crying because Big Brother didn't show up, and they were left helpless... Let the authorities take care of the elderly, the infirm, the mentally incapable... The rest of us are capable grown ups... We should be ready for this sort of thing for ourselves and our little ones. Are you ready to home school for a week or two? Are you ready to telecommute whenever possible? Do you have extra socks and gloves? Books? Toenail clippers? Games? Do you have a decent tent? How's your insurance? Are all important docs, pics, and files digitized and safely archived in multiple locations? What about photos of all possessions and property? Do you have separate flood insurance. Do you have a way of defending yourself? Should push come to shove, do you have the equipment and the know how to subsistence survive for a month or more? We do.

    Again, my heart goes out to those who weren't ready, and you can contribute to the Red Cross here... But... We all knew Sandy was coming sooner or later... And everyone knew that even if the insurance was up to date, it might take weeks or more for checks to be issued... let alone finding the contractors who could start putting it all back together again...

    Ever ready by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    November 5, 2012

    Flicker and How to Electrocute Yourself...

    Well... That's an interesting title for a post! I'll get to the electrifying part of this entry in a bit... But First the Flicker...

    "I'm hiding..."
    01_hiding.jpg

    ""You can't see me..."
    02_hiding.jpg

    "You found me!"
    03_hiding.jpg

    Now... About frying oneself... Speaking as an engineer, and someone who has spent three years in electronics labs and countless hours huddled over boards and motherboards, I have some degree of expertise here... There are two types who get bitten by electrons doing their happy dance -- the novice and the experienced... I fall into the latter group. As I've mention to you before... If you don't know what you're doing, call an expert. And if you do know what you're doing... FOCUS!!! And it's that lack of focus that almost got me crispy last night... I was cutting a 120V line in the living room all the while thinking about how I was going to wire the basement... POP! SPARKS! UPS GOING OFF! I had absentmindedly cut into a live line, and the only thing that kept me from potentially walking the Streets of Glory was a penny's worth of plastic insulation on my cutters...

    So... Whether you're an old hand at electrical work, driving, flying, or whatever... Focus or else...

    Still alive by those colorful feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    October 15, 2012

    Report from the ground from Las Vegas:

    Hi all, Mrs. CapeCodAlan here.

    While New England is in the throes of autumn, I thought you all would like to know that glorious temperate weather reigns supreme here in Las Vegas. Sunny days with cloudless blue skies and gentle breezes are the norm here at this time of year, and I must say that I could definitely get used to this! While all the south-bound birds have winged their way off of the Cape for warmer destinations, the hummingbirds are still here in Vegas in full force.

    This fellow has been in turn serenading me and checking me out for the past few days as I relax poolside, enjoying the hospitality of my sister. He's quite brave, and shows a great deal of interest in my iPhone as I film him singing his screechy little song.

    I tell you, I really could get used to this!

    Lounging by the pool by the feeders...

    Mrs. CCA


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    October 13, 2012

    TV Mount Update... Color it Done...

    Hi,

    Here it is in all its glory...

    420_done_IMG_4694.JPG

    Hints from the 'wood butchery trenches' when it comes to mounting a TV...

    • First, if you're mechanically challenged, call a pro. (We sold our old set to a fellow who tried to mount his 40" and gravity took charge. Ouch...)
    • Studs matter... They really do. If you're putting up a really heavy television, you'll have to cut away the the drywall to expose the required 'two by' studs and sister the puppies and put in a spreader. You cannot over-build the support for a heavy unit.
    • In our case, we had good news and bad. The good news was that the screen weighed only 10 pounds. The bad news was that I had to secure to a bookcase panel with no studs behind it. Fortunately, I had studs on the side and could 'toenail' screws a 3/4" ply panel into the studs using a simple Kreg system combined with lots of construction adhesive and reinforcement screws...
    All told, the process wasn't that bad... But care and over-engineering are clearly called for...

    Knee deep in sawdust by the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    October 10, 2012

    Crow Video and Life with Alfie...

    Hi,

    Our video got me to thinking...

    Not too much there is there? Just a bird eating... But to borrow from Burt Bacharach/Hal David... What's it all about Alfie? The bird stuffs his beak and his gut... Later, he'll use some bird branch bathroom... Beyond that, there's work, 'romance', staying warm, sleep, and not croaking. Maybe the crow finds some way to have feathered fun and social stuff, but that's about it... Forgive me if I sound like the woman below...

    What is it all about Alfie? Religion? Suppose you're not religious? (I doubt that the crow ponders the stuff of God...) What's left? Personal accomplishment? A successful breeding? Wealth? In my case, music is a passion, but even that passion goes just so far...

    So Mr. Crow, what's it all about Alfie???

    Thinking by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    October 6, 2012

    Home on the Ever-Changing Range and Installing Reluctant Wall-Mounted TV, etc...

    Hi,

    Sorry for the delay... To borrow from the great movie 'Rockie Horror Picture Show', "Madness takes its toll". ("$5 please...")

    Anywho... The birds are doing great... We've got a downy in the birdhouse by the trellis, the blue jays won't shut up, and the crows are being their usual jerk selves.. (Now how's that for a 15 second summary of life here???)

    As for the human haunts themselves... Well... We replaced a garage back door today... That was fun...

    Next up is the TV mount...

    installing wall mount_400_IMG_4661.JPG

    Here's the deal... That mount has to be secured to a wood panel that is the back plane of a cabinet unit, and there ain't a 2X in sight. Because of the chimney, we're talking a foot gap of nothingness behind the panel... Oh goody... I thought of coming in from the airy nether regions of the studs behind and boxing my way forward, but that would be buttered ugly on ice. Seriously, I'd have to cantilever the box itself using bolts, heavy timber, epoxy, and a profanity-laced afternoon that would embarrass Howard Stern... No... Instead, I'm going to reinforce the face of the panel itself, try to secure it to the ever reclusive side two by, and blame someone else if the whole thing decides to make sudden and violent love with the floor...

    By the busy busy busy feeders,

    CapeCodAlan

    P.S. Don't forget our contest!!!


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    October 1, 2012

    Obscure Bird Recipe Book, Kevin Bacon, and Success...

    Ever seen this before?

    bird recipes 420 2012-10-01_005845.jpg
    I doubt it,.. That's a 1975 edition that sports such concoctions as 'Finch Fries' and 'Nuthatch Nibble'... While this little booklet is still available on sites like Amazon, I doubt that it's won any major awards. But that's not the point of the story...

    The point is that my wife's mother's friend indirectly gave that to me -- a sort of 'Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon' thing. Let me explain... "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" suggests that we're all indirectly related by just six acquaintances... Doubt it? How many times have you participated in the following type of conversation?


    Parent 1: "Oh! Your son went to XYZ university? My daughter went there too! She loved Prof. Egghead.
    Parent 2: "Now isn't that a coincidence... My son used to talk about Prof. Egghead all the time..."

    See what I mean? So now Prof. Egghead is connected to the two parents... And so it goes.

    Getting back to the book and its scope of contact, it's remarkable how many people make contact with this blog, the photo library, the live streaming cam, etc... Twice my mother has come across an old friend in the grocery store and the usual familial pleasantries have been exchanged, only to have the friend blurt out, "He's not CapeCodAlan is he?" (Thankfully, my mother has in each case replied just as I would, "You mean to say you actually read that thing?")

    But before I let a tiny amount of recognition go to my head, I won't consider myself successful as a writer until I can walk into a bar, and loudly proclaim, "I'm CapeCodAlan", and suddenly have people buying me beers... Until then, I'll just have my bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich and read my obscure bird books...

    By the feeders and the lit section... See you again Cuz...


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    September 28, 2012

    Now HERE'S a Boring Post!!!

    backyard 420_IMG_4645.JPG

    You know what... Every so often, there ain't a lot to report. Oh, the weather is cooling, the birds in general have been a bit off their seed, and the crows have become more vocal than ever... Aside from that, the pic above pretty much says it all. (Geez Wally, do you think that the fact that even the squirrels are leaving their feeder unfinished bodes ominous???)

    But there are worse things than goof-ball crows and a parade of chickadees... I mean, nothing is perfect here (far from it), but I have yet to place a bet on how long I could stick my tongue in an electrical socket, or wake up in bed with my sister. (Alrighty! Understand that, a.) I don't have sister, and b.) I wouldn't go to bed with her... Jeez Louise, you guys just can't take a joke...) But back to the steady state around here... The birds seem perfectly happy and the backyard is firing on all cylinders... Boring!

    What else? Well, the sconces are done and looking Billy Crystal 'marvelous'... Next up are the two bathrooms... In the photo below, you can see the micro-narrow sink under the larger obstructionist one above.

    small b420_athrm_replacing sink only 800_IMG_4636.JPG

    So the drain holes don't match up, and the water connects are corroded and the wrong size, and the mounting system is completely different... But seriously, what could go wrong, and besides, plumbers aren't that expensive are they???

    Time for my meds and bed...

    By the feeder...

    CapeCodAlan

    P.S. Don't forget our contest!!!


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    September 23, 2012

    Old Pics... The Dangers of the Digital Age

    420_IMG_0916.JPG

    Nice snap isn't it? I stumbled upon the four year old shot of the orioles on that trellis while milling about the hard drive. But be honest... This business of 'stumbling upon' images isn't unique... I'll bet you've used umpteen digital cameras, and you have umpteen2 photographs. But how often do you go back and really enjoy them?

    There's a tremendous danger in this new technology of imagery (and beyond) -- the loss of specialness. We fire off pictures (and emails and blog posts and MP3s and...) with a rapidity that would make Emily Dickinson swoon. Consider the contrapuntal duet below...

    Speaking as a closet music aficionado and vocalist, that is a remarkable performance, but you've probably never heard of 'Small Potatoes'... Thankfully, the Web is loaded with this stuff, but the problem is just finding it, or finding the time to find it. That being said, you might want to roam through our

    eBirdseed.com photo library... You never know what you'll stumble across...

    As always, by the feeders trying to separate the wheat from the chaff...

    CapeCodAlan

    P.S. Don't forget our contest and hint!


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    September 17, 2012

    Sconces and Multi-Media Center...

    Hi,

    In keeping with the 'domicile and yard' feel of this blog, I thought I'd clue you in to my latest agony... project... of installing a couple of sconces above the old fireplace. In the pic below, you can see where they'll be located. (A painting will hang between.)

    location in red_420_IMG_4620.JPG

    The only real problem is that I'll have to work in this spider-infested network, and I suffer from the world's worst case of arachnophobia... (I wonder if the board of selectmen would mind if I introduced a flame thrower into my basement? I mean, what could go wrong?)

    web 400 IMG_4624.JPG

    But the bigger picture is this... While I'm making merry with those eight-legged bustards, I might as well turn the entire corner of the living room into a multi-media center...

    Entire corner for media center_420_MG_4625.JPG

    Here's the plan Stan... The clock will go, the big TV/rolling stand will be sold to cover the cost of a newer, smaller unit. (Anyone want a two year old 40" LCD TCL setup??? We'll make you an offer you can't refuse...) The new one-eyed brain bandit will be mounted to the wall roughly where the clock is now, but will be able to swivel in and out and sided to side as well as tilt for improved viewing. That puppy will be attached to a computer/DVD/cable system stored in the existing bookshelves for total sensory participation. (Yeah, I'm getting carried away, but I've got to convince Mrs. CCA...) Toss in some 5.1 speakers, and football and the 'knife channel' never sounded or looked so good... Yeah, yeah... That's the ticket...

    By the spiders and the sawdust and a deliriously happy Mrs. CCA...

    CapeCodAlan


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    September 11, 2012

    As Imperceptibly as Grief... Fall Projects...

    Hi,

    As the title implies, I refer to a poem by Emily Dickinson... Here it is:

    As imperceptibly as Grief
    The Summer lapsed away --
    Too imperceptible at last
    To seem like Perfidy --
    A Quietness distilled
    As Twilight long begun,
    Or Nature spending with herself
    Sequestered Afternoon --
    The Dusk drew earlier in --
    The Morning foreign shone --
    A courteous, yet harrowing Grace,
    As Guest, that would be gone --
    And thus, without a Wing
    Or service of a Keel
    Our Summer made her light escape
    Into the Beautiful.

    And that's about it... The temp right now is 56, and the projects are piling up... I have to put the shutters back on the windows. (I had to remove them when we installed the new windows.) And with the windows comes tile work... First, I had to re-create a 40 year old tile in wood... Ta da! A little tinting and you'll never know the difference

    fake tile_420_IMG_4586.JPG

    And then there is the kitchen back splash... At least I can use real tile there. (Note that one section has already been cut to fit and glued in place using a barbell as a wedge.)

    backsplash _420_IMG_4615.JPG

    But there's other stuff... Rip off the gutters and paint the house and then replace the gutters, replace a toilet, replace a sink, fit two more shades, start a few more batches of beer, replace a door, build a landing, start building another boat...

    By the busy feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    September 7, 2012

    Moth in Window, But What is It?

    window moth 420.jpg

    Hi,

    Beautiful, isn't it? But what is it? Welcome to a real life detective hunt in that as of this moment, I have no idea what the little guy is, but I intend to find out before this post is over... Let's go...

    Alrighty then, let's start with what we know:

    • Apx. 1.125" across...
    • Spotted on Cape Cod...
    • Appeared in late summer...
    • Gray in color -- might be some sort of tree moth given the bark-like pattern on the wings...
    So, my series of Web queries follows, complete with results:
    • "cape cod" moths: There are a bunch of sites talking about a problem on the Cape with 'Winter Moths'... And the pics look promising... This might indeed be a 'Winter Moth'...
    • wikipedia "winter moths": Bingo! looks like we have the culprit -- Operophtera brumata... (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_Moth) ... The dreaded 'Winter Moth'!

    Well that was easy, wasn't it? (Unless of course I'm wrong...)

    By the inquisitive feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    September 6, 2012

    Random Photos... Random Thoughts...

    Hi,

    The other day, I had reason to try to undelete some files off an SD card. (And that's a tricky process...) In no particular order, I found the following and thought it might be interesting to 'Rorschach' the shots...

    I like the one below... The blurred wings kind of remind me of DuChamp's 'Nude Descending a Staircase'... And for some reason, that leads me to Bela Fleck and the Flecktones' 'Next'...

    wings in motion 420_MG_4449.JPG

    Onward...

    Here are a few items I (or Mrs. CCA) picked up off Craig's List or at yard sales... We've got two (of four) perfect Cherry timbers for a total of $12. There's also a $25 12" bandsaw, and nine high quality clamps that sold for a total of $10... Those should have cost $275, $150, and $100 respectively. What are people thinking?

    420 clamps and cherry_MG_4509.JPG

    Ah... Good old Don the squirrel... Always posing and try to steal seed... What a rapscallion...

    420 squirrel__MG_4436.JPG

    The photograph below shows our old picture window... Notice how much light was blocked by the mullions and transoms...

    old picture window 420_MG_4466.JPG

    And finally, this is the replacement puppy... Kind of reminds me of working with my dad (he was a home builder and master electrician...) I was just a kid then, but I loved seeing a job come together...

    420 picture window_MG_4484.JPG

    By those ink blot feeders...

    CapeCodAlan

    P.S. Don't forget my 'Hate my Guts' contest...


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    August 19, 2012

    Sunday Hummingbirds

    For you viewing pleasure, a few minutes of hummingbirds at our front feeder.

    Notice the difference in the way the various birds approach the feeder, and then how they hover, and the way the camera captures their wing beats. It really is amazing.

    This is our most popular feeder; I end up cleaning and re-filling it pretty much every other day, if not oftener. Note the level of nectar in it at the beginning of the video versus at the end. Those little birds can suck down a LOT of nectar!

    Of course, it helps that the feeder is stationed next to a pot of very red geraniums, and that the vine growing up the post is a lovely honeysuckle. No wonder it's so popular!

    Enjoy.

    Mrs. CapeCodAlan,
    By the feeders...


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    August 18, 2012

    Picture Window Revisited and LED Lights...

    Hi,

    As promised, here's our new picture window (hidden behind the new tab top curtains...)

    homestead 420 IMG_4566.JPG

    The window doesn't have all the muntins of the old one, so the look is much more open and airy for the room. We're going to have to do something about the glass in that we've already had two bird hits... But time, dirt, and sun catchers should speak to that.

    As for the living room itself... Eventually, we'll get rid of the over-sized furniture and replace that with less obtrusive fodder. One new feature we already love are the new LED lights. They use nine watts of power, have the illuminating power of a 65 watt incandescent, emit a soft white light, contain no mercury, last a gazillion years, and perhaps best of all give off extremely little heat. We paid $16 for each of ours, and will never go back. While $16 sounds like a lot I'd guess that they'd pay for themselves within a couple of years in electricity savings. To find the right LEDs for you, I'd recommend searching Amazon, checking out the products with the most good customer reviews and then taking action. like I said, we'll never go back...

    By the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    August 16, 2012

    Zippy Hummingbird

    Hi,

    Here's a quick post...

    Thought you might like to see a curious hummingbird checking out our new picture window!

    Note the slightly visible bubbling birdbath fountain in the background...

    Stay tuned for a later post where the actual window is discussed in full...

    By the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    August 12, 2012

    Twilight Sky, Replacing Tile...

    Hi,

    420 pretty_IMG_4543.JPG

    Thought I'd throw in this twilight shot... Sad reminder of the diminishing of summer and time in general... Sigh... In no time many of us will be freezing and blowing out our backs shoveling snow so long as we're lucky...

    Onward...

    The bathroom tile still has to be replaced, and here's the start of a replacement...

    420 wood IMG_4547.JPG

    The plan is to sand the hardwood blank to shape, and then prime with something like Bin. (I really don't think I need to seal the pores of the wood -- it's is just too dense to fuss over with sealing putty.) Once the primer is secure, we'll color match the tile and fiddle a semi-gloss poly into a not-too-embarrassing replacement.

    Here's an earlier tile fix...

    fixing tile_420 IMG_4563.JPG

    A smidgen of 'White Out' and that puppy disappears...

    Resigned by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    August 2, 2012

    Broken Tile... It Never Ends...

    broken tile 420 IMG_4526.JPG

    This is how it begins...

    Well, above be the challenge fellow homebodies and wood butchers... Replace a tile damaged in the recent home renovation/window replacement. "No problem!" you say? "Quick fix!" you say? Yeah, well, not so fast Skippy. These tiles haven't be in production for 40 years, and for good reason -- they're ugly. And even if I could find them, just buying one probably would be cost prohibitive. So what's the plan Stan? (Funny, I thought you were Skippy... Anyway...)

    My plan is to reproduce the tile in hardwood, and then paint it to the appropriate ghastly color. It will take careful milling, then priming, painting, and finally, some sort of varnish/polyurethane/lacquer/shellac, etc. After that I'll stick the sucker on the wall and woe be to he who questions it.

    Of course, the other option is to tear the entire bathroom apart and remodel it, but that will involve not just tile work, but also plumbing, and I prefer my disasters one at a time. Let me fix the busted tile, then move on to the curtains, then re-shingle one side of the house, then remove the old wheelchair ramp installed by the original owner, then replace the deck, then replace the back door, then rip out the main bath, then re-paint all the ceilings, then publish my first sci fi book, then finish my Emily Dickinson book, then build my bucket boat (the 'Surf'), then build an airplane, then start my book on Karen Carpenter's tragic life, then...

    You see... This is why little things like replacing a tile are such humongous deals -- everything is so intertwined with everything else. Whether it's the shingles which have to be replaced, or the books that must be completed, it's sort of an all or nothing package.

    Make it all happen or die an abject failure... It really never ends...

    By the bathroom and the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    July 30, 2012

    Turkeys, Crows, etc...

    420 turkies on six by_IMG_4513.JPG

    Yeah, ya don't see that in your backyard everyday... Nine of the nasty looking buggers with another three beyond the camera's reach... I often wonder that if people got to know turkeys up close, how many would devour the bird at Christmas and such. If you could see what they leave on the lawn and how closely related they are to the velociraptor, you might choose a more savory meal like pizza, pork, or haggis. Look... I'm not trying to start a fight with the Turkey Farmers of Canada (or any such affiliated group...) I'm just saying that turkeys are filthy disgusting beasts and that Randy Newman should compose an ornithological version of "Short People" for turkeys... that's all... Jeez Louise...

    Let's see... What else? The crows have continued their pushy ways demanding food unrelentingly. Here's a youngster screeching for a peanut from his mother...

    420_ feeding_IMG_4520.JPG

    I guess the big picture is that if it gets hot enough, long enough, even the birds begin to look like drunken relatives who have long overstayed their welcome... Ahh, we'll keep feeding them, and I'm going to take a shower...

    By the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    July 29, 2012

    Time for Thought...

    IMG_4322.JPG

    Just went back through my post drafts and found this... Beautiful...

    Look... Truth be told, Mrs. CCA and I got some bad news a few days ago, and I'm kind of numb... We're talking the phone call you never want to get...Why is it that the most noble bear the hardest challenges? Still, the battle rages on and my money is on the champ...

    Amidst all this, this is a time to think about what gets us by day to day... We all struggle -- we all have our trials. As the book title goes, "No one gets out alive". And for us, it was those stupid birds that brought laughter -- crows with left-over chicken. Who knows, but we laughed... The human condition -- someone should be selling tickets.

    By the somber feeders

    CapeCodAlan and family...


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    July 24, 2012

    Ok... Enough with the Heat

    98 resized_IMG_4499.JPG

    Yeah, 98 stinking degrees at 3PM... Enough already. Last week when we replaced the windows, the temp was the stinking same -- 90 - 100. Since we lost our massive shade maple tree, the summer has been brutal. Add to that no AC (our electrical system is already red line), and we've been sucking sirocco ever since -- ergo you've got the recipe for one cranky blogger. (Before you give me hooey about your temps, remember I'm on Cape Cod, and our heat isn't just humid -- its saturated with hot, moist salt air -- the kind of stuff that would make your shadow sweat and Patti Page move.)

    I was talking with my old buddy Don from Michigan today, and he said that it was so hot that he couldn't scratch his backside without busting perspiration -- good description. You know... I've studied this global warming stuff from here 'til eternity... I've looked at all sides. All I can come up with is that yes, the climate is changing, but it's always changing. I don't know the percentage causality anymore than I know what the odds are for rain here on the Old Homestead a month from next Tuesday...

    Too hot to debate...

    By the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    July 21, 2012

    eBook Review: "The Beauty of Birds" by Jeremy Mynott

    Hi,

    First thing... Thoughts and prayers go out to all those folks affected by that maniac in Colorado... Sickening...

    Onward...

    If you've been reading this blog for any time, you might remember that I've composed a number of Princeton University Press book reviews, and by and large, my only real complaint was that their publications were paper-based only -- no more. Enter this post's electronic title -- "The Beauty of Birds". (However, remember this is a 'Princeton Short' -- a collection of essentials from the original full text: "Birdscapes: Birds in Our Imagination and Experience"...)

    Obviously, some of the the old review process has to change (book logistics such as paper, binding, the immediate and long-term ease of use, organization, photography, overall impression, etc...) Not only will the book itself be considered, but also the electronic delivery system. Consider the interface...

    capecodalan bookshelf.jpg

    And...

    420_DEAD PARROT.JPG

    Here we go...

    First... As for the tome itself -- it's wonderful. Reading this thing is like sitting down at the bar of the local pub and buying a beer for the pleasant stranger sitting beside you who just happens to be a bird/history wonk. The text flows effortlessly, even irreverently for 30 plus pages... You've got everything from black and white prints to color prints to poetry to Monty Python to the naked human form. Just look at the table of contents:

    • Beauty and the Beholder
    • Volga Delta, 25 May 2007
    • Signs of Life
    • Image and Imagination
    • Colour and Form
    • Art and Nature
    • Notes
    • Acknowledgements and Permissions
    • About the Author
    • Related Titles
    For $3.00, this is the best beer you'll ever buy.

    About the new "e interface" -- very good. It's very simple (though it can be a tad snarky on the copyright issue), and offers the simple things that folks such as myself long for: the ability to search, make notes, and bookmark. Like I said, that's a super cheap $3.00 beer. Here's a list of the side tabs:

    • Contents
    • Search
    • Notes
    • Bookmarks
    • My Settings
    Absolutely... Princeton University Press is on to something with their 'Shorts' and at a ridiculously low price. Hopefully, they'll simply stick with their existing interface, and then simply plug in new content...

    The "The Beauty of Birds" is available directly from Princeton, or from outlets such as Amazon.

    Go forth and buy...

    CapeCodAlan


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    July 18, 2012

    New Windows, Rain, Heat, Food and Seed Prices, etc...

    Hey!

    First up... I apologize for the lag since the last post -- new windows, renovations, and heat take their toll. That being said, the new windows are in and the interior treatments have begun...

    420 picture window with shade_IMG_4494.JPG

    Here's a screen shot from the eBirdseed.com streaming cam as seen from the new kitchen window...

    New window streaming cam screen shot_420_2012 first hummingbird.jpg

    Excuse me while I notice that it's raining!!! Yay!!!

    Onward...

    This country is facing a serious drought emergency, and you should be aware... Expect veggies etc. to spike in cost towards the forth quarter of 2012... Canned goods are good things... Also vacuum packed and frozen meats go a long way... And don't forget your feathered friends -- buying in bulk now and vacuum packing seed will save money later... word to the wise. (We just started discussing buying an old freezer for storage, and purchasing bulk seed by the hundreds of pounds... Hmmm...)

    By the busy feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    July 11, 2012

    Out with the Old and In with the New

    Despite the heat of the past few days, we've been working with our friend/contractor, Bill, to get our new windows installed. This entails ripping out the old windows (original to our nearly 40-year-old house) and replacing them with high-end double glazed energy-efficient swing-and-clean new ones. And the new ones are beautiful!

    420 out with the old and in with the new_IMG_4442.jpg

    As you can see above, the new window on the left (still with stickers and protective plastic) provides a beautiful contrast to the old window on the right. The new one is guaranteed for life! On the other hand, the old one is quite frankly rotting... Bye bye!

    The install process itself is grueling but not particularly difficult--if you're an engineer, mechanic, woodworker, or such. Being unskilled labor, I've been standing around and doing what I'm told; everything from plugging in extension cords to pounding out the old windowsills. The actually work is being done by Bill and CapeCodAlan, and I'm ever so glad to stay in the background on this; my fingernails are in shreds already, and we're just over halfway done. And the hard part is yet to come...

    Replacing the big front picture window is going to be the task of the day tomorrow. And it's going to be a doozy!

    Chewing my nails by the feeder,
    Mrs.CapeCodAlan


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    July 6, 2012

    Summer Garden

    Well, Independence Day has come and gone, but summer is still here, and with it, high temperatures, thirsty birds, and dry gardens!

    Regarding the thirsty birds, we've been making sure that all four of our birdbaths are filled at all times. The crows, in particular, make this a sometimes unpleasant job, due to their preference for dropping their food into the water, and not fishing it all out. Cleaning the birdbaths thus becomes a chore, especially when the gummy bread residue clogs up the little pump we have to keep the water moving. That's just nasty.

    birdbath_400.JPG

    On the other hand, I guess mid-summer is breeding time for green herons. We got a magnificent shot of one of our local males, and lo and behold, his legs were almost scarlet, rather than their usual yellow. This apparently signifies readiness to mate. And what girl wouldn't be impressed by those gams!

    green heron3_400.JPG

    Given the hot temps, it's been vital to keep the garden watered, unless we want to see wilting lavender, hydrangeas, day lilies, and hosta. But we've been assiduous in keeping enough water going, so we're still enjoying the beautiful blossoms and scents of the season.

    daylilies_400.JPG

    lavender etc_400.JPG

    And the birds, squirrels, rabbits, and other denizens of the neighborhood are enjoying it as well.

    By the feeders,

    The CapeCodAlans,


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    July 2, 2012

    Clouds

    Hey...

    Thought I'd take a break and mumble on incoherently about clouds and the sky for a while... (I'm a firm believer in mastering a wide spectrum of virtually incoherent mumblings... {Yeah, 'mumblings' is a real word native to England... Its French equivalent is 'bafouillage'... The things you learn on a stupid bird blog...}) Anywho, here's a rainbow sort of... Note the carefully crafted red outline... Ummm...

    420_rainbow_IMG_4344.JPG

    storm warning 420_IMG_4340.JPG

    The shot above is an interesting one -- I've noticed a lot of bird activity when these types of clouds gather... Those circumferences (to borrow from Emily Dickinson) are dangerous to be sure... But my gut says that there's more to it -- more to the reason as to why the grackles and red wings scatter... Do they feel change in air pressure? Do they know that soon the air currents aren't going to be flyable? Do they just want to call it an early day and go watch Cavuto? Who knows...

    Anyway... That's my take on clouds...

    By those feeders...

    CapeCodAlan

    P.S. Within the very near future, expect a review of some exceptionally cool ebook stuff.... You don't want to miss this!!!


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    June 29, 2012

    Heat and Dostoyevsky

    Hi,

    Well, first, I was going to show you another photo of a crow panting, but it was too hot today to take the image... Instead, here's an old one from a cooler time...

    420_DSC_0194.JPG

    Without our maple tree and no AC in the work areas, I am getting absolutely baked... Oh goody...

    Onward...

    Check out the print screen below...

    420_903_2012-06-29_233955.png

    900+ entries on this blog??? Yup... At 300 words per pop, that's 270,000 words... Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment 'only' consisted of 211,591 words. As for the pictures, including our library, we've got 10,000 shots. Lewis Carroll on the other hand only produced about 3,000 images. Dostoyevsky and Carroll -- what a couple of wimps... ;) Serious, over the roughly six years I've been posting, that boils down to about a post every 2.4 days, which fits right in with the boss's initial request of a post every 2 - 3 days... At least that is pretty cool...

    With the melting crows by those prolific feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    June 27, 2012

    Boating Safety...

    Hi,

    Well, tis Summer, and tis time to hit the waves... Being a twice-tried drowning expert, I thought I might throw out a quick bit of advice concerning boating safety... (Besides we get this kind of weather with little warning...)

    resized storm_IMG_4339.JPG

    First, go to the United States Coast Gard Boating Safety Resource Center and read! Having memorized that site, the rest should be gravy, but here goes...

    • First, know yourself... No one is as good on the water as he thinks he is. That's why there are so many dead seasoned sailors and fishermen.
    • Next, know your boat... No one's boat is as dependable as he thinks it is, especially in surprise conditions like this...
    • Buy the best PFDs available. Buy the ones that you and your guests want to wear. Price is absolutely no object. Buy a PFD that you'll look forward to wearing and wear it from sand to sand -- that is, wear it from terra firma to terra firma. And always wear a PFD when on docks!
    • Don't drink and boat. Duh!!!
    • Always file a float plan with several sources and follow through.
    • Never be without communication and location. (Another "Duh!!!)
    • Be polite... There are a ton of people out there who are beginners.
    • The air temp on water will probably differ from that on land -- pack an extra set of sweats and a knit cap, as well as dressing in zippered clothing. Be ready to be cold or hot depending on the Gods. Also, uncle Charlie's straw hat might just come in handy...
    • Water and snacks are critical...
    • Did you forget your medication?
    • Suppose you have to go to the bathroom or get seasick?
    • Do you have rope and know how to use it?
    • A carry flashlight and sharp knife are musts!
    • Camera?
    • Are you keeping dry stuff dry? Really?
    • Do keys float?
    • Sunblock?
    Just use your head and BE SAFE!

    By the dock and the feeder...

    CapeCodAlan


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    June 24, 2012

    Montage

    Hail hail rock and roll!

    Time for something different...

    I'm including seven pics, that when clicked, expand to full size... I've known of this functionality for some time, but hesitated to use it for two reasons: a.) Because, I didn't know (and still don't know) how the images will appear on the newer devices like netbooks, tablets, and phones... and b.) I'm not sure if my boss is going to have a kitten when I start loading large files onto his server. Time will tell. Regardless, there is always our photo libray (below) and you can always contact me if you want a full size photograph...

    So let's see what we've got... First up, an oriole looking mean...

    cropped_IMG_4322.JPG

    Have a downy...

    cropped_IMG_4318.JPG

    Oriole creeping...

    cropped_IMG_4319.JPG

    Oriole with blurry tail feathers...

    cropped_IMG_4320.JPG

    A poor shot of a downy as it checks out the bird house...

    cropped_IMG_4330.JPG

    I like this one -- a downy landing...

    cropped_IMG_4331.JPG

    And finally, grackle moms feeding youngsters...

    cropped_IMG_4336.JPG

    By the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    June 22, 2012

    Panting Crows, Pouring Water

    Yeah, it's crow-panting hot...

    panting_420_100_4324.JPG

    The last few days have been absolutely miserably hot (and I used to live in Arizona...) But, rain is on the way -- you can smell it...

    As for the birds... Now is the time to pay special attention to the bird baths and feeders. I'm not sure why, but the birds have been emptying our feeders like crazy. It might be that it's just too hot for folks to go outside to refill, or maybe the youngsters are out and about... Whatever, do your best to keep the winged ones cool and full...

    I'm going to sign off for now... (Don't worry, I promise to be back as my usual verbose self, but for the moment, it's just too hot...)

    Off to listen to Ella and Louis in 'Porgy and Bess'... "Summertime and the livin' is..."

    Melting by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    June 20, 2012

    Heat Warning...

    Hi,

    The thermometer below pretty much says it all for at least the eastern part of the United States...

    HOT.JPG

    Thoughts...

    • First, be safe... This kind of heat can kill...
    • Look out for your neighbor, especially the elderly... Hydration is a great thing...
    • Birds need water too... Don't let the poor things pant...
    • Unfortunately, our electrical grid is pretty much maxed out... Don't let your air conditioner run until you get a chill... If you don't need it, turn it off...
    • Do you really need all those lights on?
    • Don't lollygag in the shower...
    • Turn off the boob tube!
    Blah, blah, blah... I'm a master of the obvious -- take care of yourselves and others including the birds...

    Melting by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    June 17, 2012

    Not so Stupid World, Crows, Fraternities, etc...

    420 use this_IMG_4307.JPG

    Hi,

    Sorry I was so snippy in my last post -- it's just that bad days are... well... bad... Anyway, the world isn't completely stupid... (There... That's as contrite as I get...)

    The pic right is of the top of the shooting tripod that I thought I had glued (epoxied) into a useless monolithic abomination. Note the red arrow at the bottom -- that's the gearing into which the epoxy crept and in doing so locked the entire sucker up tighter than Dick's hat band... Nothing sweat and a gift for obscenities couldn't fix. Now about those crows and frats...

    Below is a crow partaking in some pretty simple leftovers... Not a huge deal right? Well, yes an no... It has become ritual for the corvids to haunt us at certain times of the day, or whenever we have food. O.K., I admit that I'm partially to blame for that -- I don't like to stuff my face knowing that just yards away there's a hungry wild animal that I've happened to know for the last year or so...But now there seems to be some sort of involuntary joining process -- I am a member of the murder, and my dues are due on a bi-daily basis (at best) whether I like it or not.

    420 IMG_4278.JPG

    I'm not sure what the bennies are beside the crows' guarded trust and an ongoing songbird predator alarm system...

    Years ago (back when I was an engineering student), I was asked to join a special fraternity, and after giving it considerable thought, I turned the offer down -- I knew too many who were just as deserving as I, but faced different circumstances. Besides, as the saying so famously goes, "I wouldn't join any club that would have me as a member..." But this time, with these birds, it seems that I don't have a choice...

    As always, but sometimes reluctantly, by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    June 15, 2012

    Stupid World, Poults, etc...

    Hi,

    First... Here they are... A new generation of gravy and stuffing accomplices...

    420 SEVEN poults with circles IMG_4280.JPG

    As best I can tell, there are seven of the little buggers in there... Here's a better look...

    420 seven poults withOUT circles IMG_4280.JPG

    So the turkey population thrives on Cape Cod... No doubt that all turkeys (and fox and coyotes and wombats and Big Foots) in the greater New England area will flock to our backyard in pursuit of the worlds finest litter box...

    Does it seem like I'm having one of those days? Do I come across as a tad 'snippy'? "Why, how could that be?" you ask incredulously... "How could the forever Pollyanna CapeCodAlan have a bug up his backside???"

    I'll tell you how Bucko... In my eternal search to find/make just the right equipment to photograph birds, I created the tripod abomination below...

    420 stupid tripod_100_4297.JPG

    I was going to cut the turned wood adjunct off at the middle saw mark and in doing so have an almost perfect work of art ready for a camera mount -- we're talking hours of planning and effort -- we're talking Mona Lisa here... But nooo!!! Our old buddy/nemesis Captain Epoxy crept into the mechanics of the thing and poof! What should have been a master stroke is now just a... Umm... Deep breath... Suffice it to say that if I go back down into the shop, and find the thing an animated, prancing three-legged taunting demon, I won't be surprised...

    Stupid tripod, stupid turkeys (they really should wear diapers), stupid world...

    Fussy by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    June 10, 2012

    Crested Flycatcher

    Hi,

    Some exciting news on the Great Crested Flycatcher front. We had two flycatchers visit yesterday, and by visit, I mean completely scope out the trees, the feeders, the birdhouse, the trellis, and pretty much the whole yard. Even though nesting season is pretty much over, and even though flycatchers are notorious for nesting in tree cavities, these two seemed pretty interested in the birdhouse.

    420 coming in for a landing_IMG_4259.JPG

    That blur on the right of the photo above is flycatcher #2 flying up to check out the birdhouse (#1 had already checked it out thoroughly, but was thoughtless enough to fly back to the trees before I got the camera out).

    420 looking around IMG_4260.JPG

    She seems to like the view, and appreciate the proximity of the treeline to the house--not too close, not too far!

    420_hmmm IMG_4261.JPG

    "Oh look, there's a nice feeder right over there, too. Honey, maybe we should stick around here for a while!"

    I hope they do stay for a while--their call make a nice counterpoint to the orioles' "Cheer, cheer, Peter!", and their yellow and olive and rust coloring is a pleasing contrast to the orioles' flamboyant orange.

    Adding another avian family by the feeders,

    Mrs. CapeCodAlan


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    June 7, 2012

    Bird Update, Home, Epoxy, Marlinspike, Blah, Blah, Blah...

    Hi,

    Bird-wise, there ain't much new to report here all feeders are clean, and baths are full, and the birds just seem to be delirious... Lots of crows, rubies, grackles, rabbits... the usual happy dancing creatures...

    On the home front, we'll be getting new windows soon... Oh man, aside from working out, when was the last time I did manual labor??? Expect tales of woe and shattered vertebrae...

    Started a new collection of fids and a marlinspike... These are the tools required for any kind of decent rope work around the house or yard. (See this example of a Turk's Head on our walking stick/monopod...) I'll wait to go deeper into the subject of making these tools,

    In order to actually make the large marlinspike, I first sandwiched a piece of teak between two pieces of oak using thickened epoxy. (Thankfully, I remembered to pre-saturate all mating wood with unthickened epoxy beforehand to insure a good bond... Nothing like having hardwood come apart and fly at your face off a 500+ RPM lathe!) Here's the 2&1/4" by 16" blank complete with centering marks...

    420_glued_100_4261.JPG

    Next up is the turned piece, complete with a coat of epoxy for protection... 420_ tuened done 100_4271.JPG

    And finally,.. Done... Ultimately, it measures 2" by a foot, and sealed in epoxy and bee's wax... Not bad...

    420_fini_100_4275.JPG

    Ultimately, skills like general construction, proficiency with glop like epoxy, and rope work can only ease the challenges of backyard life...

    By the busy feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    June 3, 2012

    Epoxy, Birding, Backyards, etc...

    Hi,

    You know... There are times when even the casual backyard birder has to call out the serious adhesives... Be it a trellis, or a walking stick/monopod, there are times when only the best adhesive will do -- enter epoxy. Consider below...

    420_glued_101_4257.JPG

    That's two pieces of oak sandwiching a piece of teak. Those are two wood types notorious for their dislike of sticky stuff... So why do it? The purpose of this senseless exercise is to glue up a blank to ultimately make a marlinspike. (The marlinspike's little brother, the fid, is the brown cone-shaped object resting on the hammer...) And it's the job of the marlinspike/fid to create the Turk's head knot that's on the aforementioned monopod that's used by the casual birder... Yeah, the feeders can get this involved!

    Onward... The bottom line is that if you're serious about making outdoor stuff, nothing beats epoxy for its strength, waterproof nature, and gap-filling ability... And here's how you use it...

    1. First read this free book by System Three... If you read that simple text, understand and implement all the safety precautions, and practice just a little, you'll be close to being an expert right out of the blocks...
    2. Buy quality stuff from a company like West, U.S. Composites, Raka, System Three, etc... Expect to pay about $100/gallon including pumps. (Rugged quality ain't cheap...)
    3. When it comes time to actually glue wood, clean and sand/scuff the bare bonding surfaces thoroughly and then soak them with mixed but unthickened epoxy. (Expect a mess... See below...)

      420_pre_wet_IMG_4257.JPG

    4. Next, thicken up some of your mixed epoxy using the manufacturer's wood flour until you have a toothpaste-like slurry...
    5. Now comes the fun part... Slather that slurry on the work areas, and don't be cheap...
    6. Finally clamp with moderate pressure (epoxy doesn't like to be squeezed out of its joint if you know what I mean) and leave it alone for a few days...

    If you've done everything right, you'll have an unbreakable joint and will have destroyed a t-shirt and perhaps a pair of jeans in the process...

    Kidding aside, coalesce some epoxy, pressure-treated lumber, stainless bolts and screws, and a bit of time, and you'll have a picnic table that will last you until at least 2032... That's not shabby...

    By the bullet-proof feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    May 27, 2012

    Memorial Day Weekend

    Hi,

    I got a deeply disturbing email today from a veteran friend regarding an email he received from a friend... The gist of the email to my veteran friend suggested that some use this holiday to "celebrate war", and that birds too could can exhibit bravery, compassion, loyalty, etc... Ummm... That's all quaint and warm except that it's both profoundly stupid and grossly flawed reasoning. It's stupid in that no one in his right mind celebrates war, and the reasoning is warped because birds didn't end slavery, demolish Nazism, or stop ethnic cleansing. IMHO, we observe Memorial Day as a time to reflect on the sacrifices made, to consecrate the blessings achieved in blood, and to say thank you...

    I'd like you to take a moment and look at the picture below... Stare into his eyes...

    420_Horace Barton Speakman_with_gun.JPG

    That's a photo of one of my uncles... He was born in 1920 and died by his own hand in 1945. He was wounded while serving as a machine gunner on a B24 Liberator. From what I've been told, he never did get over his injuries and chose to end the suffering.

    Again, look into his eyes... His skin tore and burned just like yours might... His bones broke just like yours might... And his mind no doubt went wild in horror, just like yours would. But there was a terrible cancer upon this earth, and he rose to try to help excise it.

    Have a safe and happy holiday, and if you could be so kind and respectful, amidst the car races and the hot dogs and the beer, stop for just a moment and think of my uncle's face. He never got to have a career, children, or grand kids... He never got to earn his college degree or celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary... He missed out on 50 Thanksgivings and 50 Christmases... He never watched humans on the moon, listen to the Beatles, or fuss with the Internet... Gone baby gone... Just meditate a prayer and whisper a soft, "Thank you..."

    With that, thanks to all who serve, active and reserve... Thanks to the past, present, and future members of the United States Marine Corp, the United States Army, the United States Air Force, the United States Navy, and the United States Coast Guard...

    Standing very quietly by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    May 23, 2012

    Buying a Used Tool...

    Hi,

    Yup, it's that time of year -- time to fix up the deck, build a few bird houses, make some lawn furniture... You know the drill... As a moderator for a couple of boat building forums, and a renowned wood butcher, I often come across the question, "How do I buy a decent used power tool?" Well, here's my wildly over-priced $.02... But first, take a look at the band saw below...

    420_10 inch_480_100_4198.JPG

    Not bad aye? I picked that up off of Craig's List for the meager sum of $25... Sounds oh so cheap and easy doesn't it? You too could be churning out bird houses faster than a jack rabbit on Viagra churns out baby bunnies... Ummm... Not so fast... Step by step, here's the actual work involved in buying such a machine with no post-purchase remorse...

    1. First, you have to deal with reality... What do you really need? How much can you afford? How mechanical are you? What's your time frame look like?
    2. OK, so now that you're buying wisely, the next question becomes, "Buy what?" Using the band saw above as an example, I had two choices: buy it new or buy it used. As this is a backup for my heavy-duty saw, I chose cheap money and waited...
    3. Once you've found a possible treasure, do your homework! Are there spare parts available? What do commenters on the Net say? What does the thing weigh? (The Web is a wonderful thing...)Instant Boats' forum is fantastic as is the 'Old Wood Working Machines')
    4. When buying used, I go by several simple criteria:
      1. Does the beast work? If the answer is ,"No...", run away.
      2. Is anything broken, cracked, twisted, missing?
      3. Can you get the manual?
      4. In general, how does the tool look... Has it been abused? Maybe it was left out in the rain? Move all shafts and feel for slop. What does the cord look like? Use your noggin...
    5. If you have to buy new and are just a hobbyist, buy cheap. Go to your local Big Box and buy junk... It will get you by...
    6. The next step up on the tool scale is a moderately priced unit for $30o -- $500 ... Expect not so junky, but little more...
    7. Now here is the route I'm starting to go -- Back in the '40s and '50s, America turned out some superb stuff. Really, all you have to do is do your research, buy "old", and replace bearings, belts, motors, blades, etc... But for short money and some time, you can have a superb tool.
    8. Lastly, if used tools don't float your boat and you have deep pockets, you can buy "Large..." A decent stationary tool will go for about $1,500 to $2,000. To each his own...
    With that, I'm signing off to go to work on my 'new' band saw...

    By the feeders and standing in sawdust...

    CapeCodAlan


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    May 20, 2012

    A Mother's Work Is Never Done

    Hi,

    At least during nesting season, it's not... Here's one of our resident titmice, about to pop back inside the hollow branch and feed her babies.

    400_titmouse.JPG

    She's been constantly ferrying back and forth between the nest in the front yard and the feeders in the back yard, with occasional trips to the treeline to pick up bugs and such. She is one hardworking mama! And each time she approaches the nesting cavity, we can hear the cries of the youngsters hoping for food. In fact, it was their noise which tipped me off to the presence of the nest in the first place. Last year that cavity held a nest of downy woodpeckers. This year, it's the titmouse family. Next year... who knows? Maybe a family of flycatchers, who are notorious cavity dwellers.

    Oh! And speaking of flycatchers, our great crested flycatchers are back!

    400_flycatcher2.JPG

    I can't help but think they're nesting somewhere in the neighborhood, because I hear that distinctive "Peeeehp! Peeeehp!" so frequently these days. And yet they're so very difficult to spot. It took me nearly 10 minutes to stalk this one and get two (two!!!) decent photos. And he was in the big oak tree, basically right in front of me.

    But that's okay. Because, when you're this cute...

    400_flycatcher.JPG

    ...you can pretty much blend in wherever you want.

    "Ma Nature's lyrical with her yearly miracle: Spring, Spring, Spring!"

    Watching the miracles by the feeder
    Mrs. CapeCodAlan


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    May 13, 2012

    "News" and Hummingbirds

    Deep sigh... Check out the headlines below from aol.com news...

    420 aol.JPG

    Okay... Let's see what we've got...

    • Woman attacks with a sledgehammer...
    • Sex workers have a shootout...
    • A naked unicyclist...
    • Alien abduction...
    In all fairness, I don't know what aol page I stumbled upon -- I'm a news hound and comb all sorts of news sites, so I don't know if this was the aol main news page or not... But for me it really doesn't matter... I, wonder, "Is this the best use of bandwidth by a major media outlet???" How about...
    • The role of union influence in government...
    • The validity of Bill Gates' assertion that we are destined to have a robot in every home...
    • The rise of radical Islam in Northern Africa...
    • An explanation of what/who 'derivatives', 'bundlers', 'venture capitalists', and 'speculators' are...
    ARGH!!!

    Sooo... In keeping with a lower blood pressure and an acid-free stomach, here are a couple of hummingbird pics...

    420 wings forward hover IMG_4152.JPG

    420 hover IMG_4153.JPG

    I promise I'll give you a more 'wordy' post next time, but for now...

    Om by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    May 11, 2012

    Spring Occurrences: Orioles, Hummingbirds, and Little Birds Fluttering against the Windows...

    Hi all,

    First... news on the oriole front -- they're here, and they're here hungry! Like zombies lurching around craving brainnnsssss, these guys are insane about the grape jelly and the oranges, and will stop at nothing, including squabbling with siblings, to get some.

    400_new oriole trio.JPG

    And speaking of the grape jelly, our local crows are not above doing an occasional air raid on the oriole feeder to get some for themselves. They perch on top of the trellis, scoping out the area to make sure no humans are watching, then zoom up to the feeder, wings flailing wildly, grab at the jelly, and return to the trellis. We can now see purple stains from blobs of jelly on the top span where the crows retire to eat their gleanings.

    400_crow looking for jelly.JPG

    Beyond those guys, our hummingbirds have finally arrived. And once again, they've come en masse. As we reported last week, they've been at the feeders almost non-stop, so be sure to tune in to the streaming cam--you're pretty much guaranteed to see someone show up every five minutes or so... Like this guy: (See link to cam below...)

    400_hummer and reflection.JPG

    Perhaps the strangest appearance though, has been the little birds (titmice and such) who seem absolutely possessed with the notion of getting into the house. They flutter at the windows and create quite the distraction. I've read that they may be males seeing their reflection and trying to fight off a perceived rival suitor, but then again, they might in fact simply be looking for bugs... Who really knows? All we know is it drives the cat absolutely bonkers--what fun!

    By the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    May 8, 2012

    Another Great Photo Gone...

    Hi,

    Take a look at the pic below...

    420_motorola_IMG_4138.JPG

    There... Does that look so tough??? Those walkie talkies always work... period.

    Here's the backdrop to this post...

    Yesterday, there was a beautiful oriole just splashing in our front birdbath -- it would have made for a fantastic photo. I grabbed my monopod/Kodak and set up what would have been a remarkable image... except that the batteries (or electricals on the camera) were deader than Julius Caesar... (It turns out it was the batteries...)

    So why can't we in America make good stuff like we used to? Motorola (note the name on the walkie talkies) has long been known as a fine American product. Henry rifles are simply superb. Case, Kershaw, Buck, Leatherman, and Ka-Bar are all excellent and reliable as well. So putting aside cheap cost, why are we continuing to buy cheap junk from China when we can make (or at least assemble) quality stuff right here? All the savings in the world will never bring back the lost oriole...

    Anyway, the photograph is gone, and we're stuck with a manufacturing society who doesn't even know who it is anymore... Oh, for a camera I can grab as reliably as I do my Motorola...

    By those senselessly frustrating feeders...


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    May 6, 2012

    Just a Spring Day

    Hi,

    There is a rule of thumb on Cape Cod, as iron-clad as these rules get, that one should NEVER plant before May 15. While I am aware of this rule, and usually abide by it, I'm hoping that Mother Nature will not penalize me by sending a killing frost within the next nine days!

    You see, after a few weeks of rain and chilly weather (I'm not complaining too much, we definitely need the rain!), we finally are blessed with a beautiful Sunday in May. Sunny and about 65° with clear blue skies and a soft breeze off the ocean, it's a perfect day to do a little gardening. Earlier in the week I had purchased some geraniums and petunias from the garden center at our local Shaw's market, and as always, having a myriad of useful pots in which to occupy said plants, I set out on this beautiful day to create some colorful planters to add to the ambiance of the garden which already abounds with blossoms.

    The lily of the valley is in full bloom, and this year we have a few shy stems of blue snowdrops mingled with them.

    420_blue snowdrops.JPG

    I have always loved the combination of red geraniums and deep velvety purple petunias. The sharp scent of the geraniums cuts a bit of the sweetness of the petunias, and the combined aromas have always meant Spring to me. And for me, there's not much better than red geraniums and purple petunias in a big cobalt blue planter. This is nature in all her glory, in miniature, my friends.

    420_blue pots.JPG

    As CapeCodAlan had mentioned in previous posts, we now have our hummingbirds back for the year, and they are so active around the feeders! If you keep the streaming cam open, you'll likely see at least one female and two males visiting the main feeder every five minutes or so. And the oriole feeder is up and full of jelly and oranges... if the hummingbirds are here, we know that the orioles aren't far behind! And the butterflies are starting to show up as well. Alan snapped a quick photo of one of my favorites, a Mourning Cloak, sunning itself on our deck railing a few days ago.

    420_mourning cloak.JPG

    All in all, it's been a beautiful Spring so far, and a lovely Sunday in particular.

    Oh, and by the way, I bought a gun...

    See you by those feeders in Paradise on Cape Cod.

    Mrs. CCA

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    May 2, 2012

    Hummingbirds Captured... Arghhh!!!

    Hi,

    Check out the following...

    Print screen.jpg

    and...

    Print screen1.jpg

    You know, there are times when bird watching takes on its own certain snippiness -- its own distinct 'ticked off' attitude... The last couple of days have been like that... All I wanted was to snap a couple of cute shots of the countless hummingbirds (you really should be watching our streaming cam) and post them here. That's all I wanted. But would they sit still and let me take a lousy photograph or two? Absolutely not. (There are times... especially in the afternoon... when those ruby-throated little buggers will land on the deck railing and break out their tiny unicycles and tiny tubas. They're partial to riding to the beat of Polish beer polkas... And they ride and play and have a great old party until I try to unleash a camera, and then, "Poof!", they're gone... I'm just one photo away from a PhD in animal science... But nooo...)

    Speaking of beer, the new beer closet is running at capacity... That's kind of cool.I don't know what I'm going to do come the summer months... (Most brew recipes aren't exactly designed for heat...) But still, it's nice on a rainy day to opt for closet beer vs. no beer..

    What else is new here?

    • Well, it looks like we need a new toilet. (I should actually document that process because because sooner or later we all need to fix the loo...)
    • The yard chugs along most happily... The rabbits are out there, the birds are singing and playing the tuba (arghhh!) And in general we just keep on keeping on...
    • The shop is fine except that I accidentally sanded one of my knuckles off...

    By the frustrating and boring feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    April 29, 2012

    We Have Hummingbirds!!!

    Hi,

    Just a quick post to let you know that the hummingbirds have arrived on Cape Cod...

    2012 first hummingbird420.jpg

    Is that little dude cool or what? Obviously, that isn't the greatest photo of all time, but there he is... Actually that's a screen shot from our eBirdseed.com streaming Web cam, so you can watch too...

    Enjoy!

    Prepping the sugar water...

    CapeCodAlan


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    April 28, 2012

    Potpourri of photos Including the Great Flicker Hunt...

    [Note from CCA... I just found this post unpublished... Oops!!!] Hi,

    Alrighty then... For some time I've been piling up pics for you, and of course not publishing them... Rather than responsibly and dutifully issuing them one at a time along with its own post, I decided to empty the SD and dump them in your lap... Ain't I a stinker??? (If you 'Google' on any of the subjects below along with 'ebirdseed and blog', you'll be able to find more info...)

    First up... The 'Great Bird Hunt...' I'd been trying to photograph this flicker for far longer than I should have, and finally in a fit of frustration, abandoned the Canon for the monopod and a cheap Kodak... We're talking foul language and flying pixels, but I won!

    flicker_420_IMG_4104.JPG

    I wasn't sure what the next bird was (told you I'm no ornithologist!) I recognized the female cardinal, but not the female red-wing... D'oh!

    female red wing and cardinal_420_IMG_4120.JPG

    There! Now take a look at the feast below!!! Home brew, 'snausage', and crackers... Somewhere there's a cardiologist smiling...

    homebrew_420_IMG_4042.JPG

    Ah... The new bird house in action...

    new bird house_420_IMG_4076.JPG

    For you woodworkers, you might want to pay special attention to the shot below... If you need to round stock (for stuff like spars, masts, or walking sticks), use Dynamite Payson's technique (I don't know where he got it from) and make your own rubber covered drum that will chuck in a power drill... Then just turn a belt sander belt inside out and use your common sense... Sweet!

    rounding mast_420_IMG_4088.JPG

    Have some Turk's Heads knots...

    turks head handle_420_IMG_4083.JPG

    Lastly is the wife's trail kit... And yes that is a real pistol, and yes, she has a license to carry that concealed, and yes, she knows how to and will use it if there's no other way.

    wife trail kit_420_IMG_4110.JPG

    Phew! My memory card feels so much lighter!

    By the feeders...


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    April 24, 2012

    Monopod, Turk's Head Knot, etc...

    420 entire mono__IMG_4100.JPG

    Well, here it is (left) -- the finished monopod... It's pretty much as predicted, though a bit more refined than my drawings... But the important things are that: it works, it's light, it's quality, and dag nab it, it has that elusive default 'use-me-first' presence... If you have any inkling towards birding (or walking or hiking or...) you need to make one of these for yourself.

    Below, check out 'up close and personal'... ... ... the neat Turk's Head knot used to accentuate (and strengthen) the top of the staff... .........

    I'm so very sorry... Time out... Time out... I've been fighting this post for half the day, and now I've learned that someone very special in the family has passed... I can't explain at the moment... But I give you my word... As soon as things settle down here, I promise that I will post on this character -- a sort of cross between Norman Rockwell and Hunter S. Thompson...

    If I do my job, one of my next entries will leave you both laughing and crying at the same time... Until then... here's to you Rocky... May the 'Yellow Rose of Texas' carry you on your way to the Streets of Glory...

    Weepy and extraordinarily grateful by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan

    Turks head 420_100_4065.jpg


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    April 21, 2012

    Book Review: How to Be a Better Birder

    'Bout time for another Princeton University Press book review, and as always 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. Here we go...

    cover done__2012-04-21_143904.jpg

    • book logistics: This little softback is roughly 6" by 9" and consists of 192 pages of standard-quality paper. The font is fine... I find it to be perfectly acceptable as a read.
    • ease of use: Couldn't be better -- read the intro, table of contents, and the first chapter, and you've got the gist of the book under your belt -- sweet!
    • book organization: Speaking of the introduction/TOC...
      • Introduction
      • Chapter 1: Advanced Field Identification
      • Chapter 2: Birding by Habitat
      • Chapter 3: Birding by Geography
      • Chapter 4: Birding and Weather
      • Chapter 5: Birding at Night
      • Chapter 6: Birding with a Purpose
      • Chapter 7: Vagrants
      • Chapter 8: A New Jersey Case Study
      • Chapter 9 Patch Listing
    • photography: Like the print and fonts, this is perfectly serviceable. (How much can Mr. Lovitch do with 6" by 9"?)
    • overall impression: With one caveat I thought this book was fantastic. And that caveat is, IMHO, the title is poorly chosen -- this should be a starter book for all birders. To his great credit, the author has poked the sacred cow that is the traditional field mark system and introduced a 'whole birding' system that works in conjunction with the traditional field guides. Bird appearance alone does not the best identification make. A birder needs to ask questions such as, What tree was that unknown in? What's the weather like right now? What's the terrain like? He also wisely suggests that the observer take the time beforehand to do a bit of research on the Web, in the books, talking with locals, contacting forestry types and preparing for what might very well be out there tomorrow.

    All told, super work delivered by an informal mentor -- highly recommended...

    By the bookshelves...

    CapeCodAlan


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    April 19, 2012

    New Neighbors and Careful Economy...

    new_ 420_IMG_4053 (1).JPG

    Well, that didn't take long! You know, it's rewarding really... A few nights ago, that house was just some scrap sitting in a garbage bag. (Seriously, I was just going to throw it out.) But now it's a perfect home in an ideal location for a family of little chickadees. (Let me talk that back a bit... I think the final tenants are black-caps -- that dwelling has seen a ton of views.)

    It's my fault really, but I look at stuff like bird houses (and boats and tools and cloths and cabins and...) as a sort of mild challenge to frugality and cleverness. I mean, what does it take to make a birdhouse? Call a lumberyard, a hardware store, or even a supermarket and ask if they have any scrap wood. Trust me, one of those places will have scrap galore. Beyond that, Lord knows the Web is choked with bird house plans. And old tools are everywhere... After that, it's all sawdust, pounding, and cussing. (I reign supreme in the latter.) Kidding aside, that's it -- get off your duff and go make something. But make something of quality and efficiency.It really isn't all that tough, and the rewards are remarkable...

    By those stingy but well-crafted the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    April 17, 2012

    Trees, Hummingbirds, and Turkeys...

    Well, as CapeCodAlan noted previously, it was a busy weekend, what with the tree planting and all...

    Since we lost the big maple last fall, we've been trying to figure out what the lack of shelter is going to do to the yard and the wildlife. So far, we've noticed that the birds are a bit more cautious around the feeders, and that it's sunny all day long. (The inside temp is already starting to climb...)

    Hence, the flowering crab. We chose the Sargent Crabapple, which will provide shelter for the birds, but won't grow big enough to crash down on the house in a storm... We also like the fact that it will flower in the Spring and will bear fruit that the birds (and other creatures) enjoy later in the year.

    I'm also extrordinarly pleased with our other tree, the dwarf weeping cherry. It's started to blossom already, and looks lovely. We planted it in a area between the house and the deck, where I'll perhaps add another bird bath and some low-growing plants for ground cover. It's already settling in well.

    400_weeping cherry detail.jpg

    In other news, we've been standing by the hummingbird cam, ready to take a screengrab of our first visitor. However, despite the evidence of the migration map, they just ain't here yet. And that actually correlates weill with previous years: the rubies generally don't show up until mid-to-late April, so at this point, I'm expecting them any day now. Just keep wathcing the live cam--they'll be here, they'll be here!

    400_no hummingbird.jpg

    And what post would be complete without a great photo of some of our tom turkeys displaying their masculine attributes? This was taken back in February, but aren't they just magnificent? I expect we'll be seeing Mama turkeys and poults running around pretty soon.

    400__turkeys in love.jpg

    All in all, it has been an auspicious start to a lovely Spring season. Here's hoping Summer is even better!

    See you by those tree-shaded feeders,
    Mrs. CapeCodAlan


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    April 15, 2012

    Backyard Chores and Invisible Turkey...

    Alrighty then... What have we got here?

    Let's start with a snapshot of a bunch of work that needs to get done...

    New trees_ six by_420_IMG_3952.JPG

    The above shows the new trees (arrows) just begging for a fresh home. It also reminds that the large maple pieces need to be slabbed, the shed foundation that longs for its final block enclosure, and the 16' 6x6 cedar beams eager to become part of the landscape. (Can you say "Bengay"?)

    Around here, nothing gets done without the help of a turkey or twenty... Bet you can't spot him...

    420_hiding_IMG_3957.JPG

    If you look carefully at the center holly tree, you can almost make out a dark gobbler... The next photo shows him as he emerges. Care has to be taken around these creatures in that surprising one might provoke an attack. (Oh goody!)

    Out in the open_420_IMG_3958.JPG

    Finally, the trees are going in... (It's important to take into consideration the size and bird/feeder location... We spent considerable time picturing how the birds could best use these additions to better access the buffet...) The first in is the flowering crab apple...

    transplanted tree_420_IMG_3960.JPG

    And here is the second (red arrow), a dwarf weeping cherry... Good stuff -- small, yard friendly, inviting to birds, no raking, away from the septic, attractive...

    second tree planted_420_IMG_3980.JPG

    Just another weekend on the homestead...

    By those busy feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    April 10, 2012

    New Bird House, Monopod in Action, etc...

    New house_420_IMG_3950.JPG

    I like to think of the construction techniques used to create the above abomination as 'Slam Dash' -- I had the scrap and a few minutes, and I went for it. I used a simple box I built while practicing making finger joints (and stuck together with a waterproof polyurethane glue...) then ripped a back support and bottom, drove some screws, drilled a few vent holes, bored an entrance, slapped on some linseed oil, and she was done. If only mounting was that easy...

    The picture above was taken using our new homemade monopod. After working with the mono, I'll rarely resort to a tripod unless I need a granite-solid platform and have the time to set it up. Granted, the monopod takes a bit of dexterity (you may end up riding it like a stick horse, but that doesn't take long to learn... Besides, the 'pod makes for the perfect walking stick... (BTW and FWIW -- a 5' long staff with a 1/2" long pointy bolt stuffed in the end might also make for a formidable defensive weapon out on the trail.... Just a thought...)

    Getting late, so I'll wrap this one up...

    As always, by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    'Gator Golf News etc...

    new HEADER 420 2012-04-10_132510.JPG
    (Contributing photographer Bruce 'Hole In One' Gibson)

    400 2012-03-27_15-07-55_42.jpg

    Before I get to the bird stuff, I thought I might just throw in my unwanted, ignorant, and wildly over-priced 1/50th of a dollar concerning golf... You know, I never really understood golf. (The fact that I only traded blows with the so-called 'sport' a few times and was KO'ed in all bouts probably doesn't invigorate my objectivity... but like Carl, I digress...) The pic above speaks volumes as to what I perceive to be very physical proof of the asinine pursuit of this pastime. My idea of a sport is something along the lines of Frisbee or leisurely jogging down at the local track -- at least there's some aerobic activity involved. Golf on the other hand is at best (as so famously has been said) is a good walk ruined... and that's on a rare good day. No, more typically, 'club and dimpled ball' are fraught with lightning strikes, heat exhaustion, depression, suicide, divorce, bankruptcy, and sudden dismemberment by one of the course 'hazards' like the scaly brute above. Now, before I leave this topic to touch on birds, please allow me to be proactive and suggest how I would make golf sane. (For me anyway...)

    I'd keep the game roughly the same. (I mean who doesn't see the reward of using a wildly expensive club to scoot a small ball into a slightly-less-small hole from long distances?) But, every third green would have a Hooters with bullet-proof walls and windows. Cheating and lying would not just be tolerated out on the links (as it currently is), but instead would be wholeheartedly encouraged -- anything to speed up the crypt-like pace. Better yet, if I had my way, my golf bag would contain more than clubs -- it would contain large caliber firearms to kill the derned reptiles. In fact, all said, the best approach would be to get rid of the clubs and balls entirely, and just carry guns. And when I'd yell, 'Fore!', people wouldn't just duck, they'd hit the dirt because they knew that that meant I was about to uncork my .44 magnum on one of the beasts. My gentleman's pursuit would be reduced to little more than a crazed drunken dash from green to sand trap to yet another Hooters blasting big toothies en route all the while hoping not to get shot by the following party. Now there's a sport even Ernest Hemingway would endorse!

    Ah crud... I've used up all my bird time with you... But at least here's a couple of shots that Bruce also took of Sandhill Cranes at the Habitat Golf Course in Valkaria, Fla...

    420 Bruce_2012-04-08_10-13-23_241 (1).jpg

    420 group bruce 2012-03-20_08-28-49_815.jpg

    Sometime remind me how with just a few tweaks (chainsaws and flamethrowers) we could make the America's Cup more engaging...

    By those never boring feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    April 4, 2012

    Texas Tornadoes and... Reluctant Rubies...

    Hi,

    Before we talk birds, here's a reminder about the Texas twisters from a couple days ago...

    Texas twister_420_2012-04-04_234507.jpg

    Credit: This photo was taken by a NWS Storm Survey team in Lancaster TX on April 4, 2012. It shows EF-2 tornado damage that occurred in parts of Lancaster on April 3, 2012
    .
    According to various broadcasts, that while miraculously no one was killed, 600+ houses were either damaged or destroyed. Here's a link that offers 'how to help' info...

    Onward...

    no hummer_with cup__420_IMG_3937.JPG

    Well, we still haven't seen any hummingbirds yet, but they're definitely here. (Just check the hummingbird map...) Hence the lonely feeder to the right... (Note the green cup above the actual feeder -- that's filled with water and acts as an effective ant trap. I should think that making one of those with a liter soda bottle, a couple of threaded spacers mated with two long matching threaded screw eyes. Toss in a couple of washers, some sealant and a bit of creativity, and you should be good to go... Anywho... Our rubies aren't here yet. We'll wait...

    By the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    April 3, 2012

    Dam Building Crows and Twisters in Texas...

    Hi,

    Before I get to the crows, I have to admit that I'm distracted by what appears to be a sizable outbreak of tornadoes in the Dallas/Fortworth Texas area... Here is the National Weather Service link... I hope this isn't as bad as it looks... Thoughts and prayers...

    As for the crows... Yesterday, I set out some bread for them, and unfortunately the right lower section of the crow tray had a pool of water... I avoided the water, but later, when I went out, the crows had built their own little fence at the shore of the pool...

    420_dam_IMG_3933.JPG

    No great surprise given crow brains, but still fun. (It might be anthropomorphism on my part, but I can only imagine the thoughts of the corvids as they built their small dam... "Moron human needs to drill drain hole!")

    I'm going to sign off now and keep an eye on TX...

    By the feeders, but watching the news...

    CapeCodAlan


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    March 31, 2012

    Epoxy for the Beginner...

    Hi,

    broken push stick 400 IMG_3931.JPG

    "What in the name of Sam Hill is that a photo of?" you might ask... Well it's the remainder of my favorite table saw push stick that got trapped in a batch of epoxy. Let me back up...

    If you really, really need an adhesive for wood (and other materials too) that will face the rigors of the outdoors, there is no substitute. And there are other reasons for choosing epoxy as well:

    • Epoxy is easy on the fumes, so it probably won't make your house burst into flames. (Nonetheless, be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions!)
    • When used in conjunction with the appropriate pump system, epoxy is easy to prep.
    • Applied appropriately, epoxy is strong -- gruesomely strong.
    • No other adhesive has the gap-filling properties of epoxy.
    • Epoxy can be used both as a glue (discussed here), and as a wet-out resin for fiberglass.
    • When used with the proper fillers, it can act as a glue, a fairing/smoothing compound, and a filleting goo.
    Yup... Epoxy is the wonder glue, and it's often used in demanding jobs like bridge and aircraft construction. But how does the average backyard birder actually use it to glue something like wood? Here's how...
    1. First, you need get the right epoxy for the wood... Epoxy works with almost all woods -- the exceptions being exotic oily stuff like teak. Just ask the manufacturer beforehand.
    2. Buy quality epoxy like Mas, West, System Three, and U.S. Composites For example, I use U.S. Composites 635 resin with a medium-speed hardener. And don't event think about those $5 syringe jobbers at the CVS. Those are for hobby applications. You're looking for the standard two-part epoxy resin/hardener used in boatbuilding etc.
    3. Buy a gallon. With pumps, fillers, shipping, gloves, masks, eye protection, etc., expect to pay about $100 -- $150. That may sound like a lot, but it's some of the best stuff on earth. Just don't let it freeze and it may be the last glue you'll ever buy..
    4. And here we go, off like a herd of turtles! First make sure your bonding surfaces are dry, bare, scuffed, and clean. You want to be working at a minimum of 65 degrees F. See instructions.
    5. Practice by pumping the minimum amount of resin and hardener into a throw-away plastic tub and then mixing for several minutes.
    6. Next, slather the surfaces with the unthickened glop and leave it alone... Pour a bit of the stuff into a seperate container for a followup coat or two and then add your thickener into the original tub. (I use a wood flour, but each maker has his own adhesive thickener.) What you want is a 'peanut butter' consistency.
    7. O.K... Now look at the parts to be secured... Usually, the unthickened epoxy has soaked into the wood, and a second, or even a third coat is required. Epoxy is slippier than a greased eel, so you want to be sure that the wood is truly saturated.
    8. Once that's done, securely mate the two pieces, preferably with hardware like screws or bolts. Be careful not to crush the two members together -- you can squeeze out the epoxy and create a weak, 'starved' joint. Now, just let it sit. I like to give my work a good week to really set.
    And that's about it... Here's an exceptionally good resource concerning the use of epoxy: http://www.systemthree.com/reslibrary/m_published-literature.asp...

    I'll be down in the shop making a new push stick, and hopefully you'll be repairing that rickety old picnic table once and for all...

    CapeCodAlan


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    March 29, 2012

    Homemade Monopod (Part 2 of 2)

    Hi,

    Well, here it is -- the monopod I mentioned last time, all spruced up and almost ready for action...

    400 pod ready for epoxy IMG_3930.JPG

    True, there is still suff to be done:

    • the top black swivel/tilt mechanism has to be epoxied and pinned cross-grain into place
    • the handhold in the staff itself has to be fitted for Mrs. CCA's grip
    • a dash of accoutrement (like woven leather or cord handle) should be installed
    • the pointy dirt jabber has to be installed at the earthy end of the stick
    • it's going to need a few coats of a varnish
    • the wife mentioned a lanyard... we'll see

    And that's about it -- as easy as a project can get.... If you think any of the steps described here are 'uncharted water', no problem... Just post a comment and I can walk you through...

    By those Shaker feeders...

    CapeCodAlan

    P.S. FYI... Here's an epoxy link every backyard enthusiast should have: http://www.systemthree.com/reslibrary/m_published-literature.asp

    P.P.S. We still ain't seen no stinking hummingbirds!


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    March 26, 2012

    New Cam Position, and Homemade Monopod (Part 1 of 2)

    Hi,

    First of all, take a look at our new hummingbird feeder relative to the eBirdseed.com streaming cam... Little better ay? (Will look better still when I get around to cleaning the window...)

    Now... about making that monopod... In general, a monopod is really just a tripod with one leg. It also makes for a dandy walking stick... (See photo below...)

    What project would be complete without one of my hideous, out of scale drawings...
    420 monopod drawing_2012-03-26_172810.jpg

    Monopods are very popular with birders for obvious reasons... What follows then, is a rough outline for making such a beast and then a few pics showing the build process so far...

    1. Rip a 2 X 4 square such that it's 1.5" X 1.5" and about 5' high... (This will be shortened to fit Mrs. CCA)
    2. Round the stick to a 1.5" in dia.
    3. Find a way to attach a standard tripod camera attitude mechanism (up/down, left/right,tilt) to the top of the stick cutting the height appropriately
    4. Bore a 3/16" hole in the bottom end of the 'pod and screw in a 1/4" X 1" bolt along with a dash of syringe epoxy... Be sure to leave about 1/4" of the bolt shaft sticking out
    5. After the epoxy dries, cut the bolt head off and grind the remaining stub to a point -- this will be the pointy end that sticks into the ground
    6. To mount the camera attitude mechanism, cut the top assembly off a cheap tripod keeping about 1.25" of the height adjustment shaft... (See photo below)
    7. Bore a hole into the top end of the stick just big enough to hold the shortened height adjustment shaft and and some epoxy
    8. Next-to last-step: Make a handle up by the non-pointy end out of appropriately placed old boot leathers secured with epoxy and a herringbone stitch or a series of Turk's head knots
    9. Finally, just slather on three coats of varnish and call her done -- a great walking stick/monopod ready for action
    Here's the progress so far...

    Soon to be sacrificed tripod...
    tripod with cutoff point_400_IMG_3918.JPG


    Square stick as it came off the saw... Best_Stick on saw _ 400_IMG_3915.JPG

    'Pod blank readied for rounding... stick with lines_420_IMG_3917.JPG

    And that's all for today...

    By those hectic feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    March 24, 2012

    Bird Cams...

    Hi,

    First, here's a reminder that the hummingbirds are on their way, and we hope you have your feeder(s) ready. We do...

    411_2012-03-24_125440.jpg

    The photo above is a shot of our public eBirdseed.com live cam... (Looks like I need to clean the window, and reorient the cam so that no indoor light can get between the lens and the glass thus causing bounce back...) Still, a glimpse of a hummingbird is still a glimpse of a hummingbird...

    Onward

    Below is a neat screen shot of Cornell's livestream...

    411 hawk_2012-03-24_142222.jpg

    This Cornell cam (and a very nice one at that) shows a Red-tail (male?) waiting to be relieved of his egg-sitting duties by his mate. It's fascinating to watch the male bring fresh bark and whatnot, and then leave it to the female to fuss with the nest. If I knew more and had the patience, I'd try to catch the actual hatching, but that could be a tall order... Again, the Cornell streaming cam is here...

    By the CRT,

    CapeCodAlan


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    March 22, 2012

    Tracking the Ruby-throated Hummingbird Migration etc...

    Hi all,

    First off, many thanks go out to Lanny Chambers of St. Louis, Missouri for his permission to use the screen grab below of his 2012 Ruby-throated Hummingbird 2012 migration map...

    420_MAP_2012.JPG

    (Check out Lanny's hummingbird homepage here...)

    My guess is that we're running about a week or two ahead of the 2011 pattern, because of our unusually mild winter... (According to Lanny's map(s), 2011 Connecticut had its sighting on April 5th, and this year it looks to be around March 20...)

    And so with that, are you ready for your own rubies??? (How many times have I harped on you folks concerning getting your feeder/bird bath equipment ready for the Spring? Honestly... wink.JPG) O.k., one more time...

    To clean a feeder, use a solution of one part plain bleach to ten parts water. Be sure to thoroughly rinse with hot water before using. (Here's more info...) And the standard formula for sugar water is 1 cup of cane sugar to four cups of water... Refresh this every week or so...

    And there is one of ours on our streaming cam just waiting for first guests...

    400 spring 2012 .JPG

    Alright, so it's a tad high... we'll work on that...

    By those sweet feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    March 17, 2012

    Killing a Bald Eagle...

    Hi,

    Tough subject tonight -- that of killing eagles for religious purposes... The fellow is a Bald Eagle...

    credit_400_2012-03-17_231455.jpg

    Here's the situation as I understand it... The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently granted a permit to the Northern Arapaho Tribe allowing it either to kill (or capture and release) two bald eagles in 2012. (You can read more here...)

    What follows are my own over-priced $.02...

    It's pretty easy to see both sides of this issue... On the one hand, the killing (or even trapping) of such a majestic creature seems a profound shame. On the other hand, Native Americans do have their eons-old religions. (Besides, who am I, a descendent of the transplant Europeans who hunted the Bison to near extinction, to preach?)

    I'm not about to pontificate on this one... But I can hope... As is the way of the world, all things change, and perhaps that includes even the oldest of traditions and beliefs... Maybe the hunt is part of the ceremony and things can't change... I don't know... But if there is a way to take the required sacrificial elements without actual killing, I hope that that is the path they choose...

    Thinking by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    March 15, 2012

    Spring is Almost Here... Groan... At Least We can Talk About Feeders...

    Look at that... Look at that stinking temperature...

    temp_400_IMG_3901.JPG

    Here it is March, and we're already in the 60s... Imagine what August is going to be like! I blame of course Mrs. CCA, who single-handedly wished this miserable weather upon us. Somehow, a simple calculus escapes her and her sun-worshiping ilk -- a person can dress in layers to warm in the cold... the converse isn't true. Arghhh...

    Onward... About them feeders... The following descriptions for each pic read left to right...

    400_From left one_IMG_3904.JPG

    The ball on the left is in fact a net bag containing nest fibers, etc. The birdbath on the railing is particularly popular with the robins. (The crows prefer to drop their food in the ground-level bath and leave it there...) The domed feeder supplies homemade suet for the bluebirds. In the background, you can see the squirrel feeder...



    400 From left two_.JPG

    Next up is a little suet feeder I put in the trellis so that the crows could get to it, but the seagulls couldn't...



    400 From left three.JPG

    Here's the post on the deck railing for the hummingbird feeder, the usual flat crow tray, and the thistle feeder...



    400 From left four.JPG

    And finally there's a blurry shot of yet another ruby-throat feeder as well as the standard model...

    All set and ready to go... Are your feeders ready for what will no doubt be a blistering summer???

    Grumbling in the yard...

    CapeCodAlan


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    March 10, 2012

    Red-wings, Grackles, Emily Dickinson, and Birdhouse Construction Techniques...

    Hi,

    Yeah, I know... I'm packing too much into a single post for the better welfare of human or beast... Tough... Here we go...

    First up, a neato video I shot of red-wings and grackle...

    This so much reminds me of the sublime poem by Emily Dickinson...

    I'll tell you how the Sun rose --
    A Ribbon at a time --
    The Steeples swam in Amethyst --
    The news, like Squirrels, ran --
    The Hills untied their Bonnets --
    The Bobolinks -- begun --
    Then I said softly to myself --
    "That must have been the Sun"!
    But how he set -- I know not --
    There seemed a purple stile
    That little Yellow boys and girls
    Were climbing all the while --
    Till when they reached the other side,
    A Dominie in Gray --
    Put gently up the evening Bars --
    And led the flock away --

    (Yup, I've referred to this poem before -- excellence never wears out... There's just something about the way Ms. Dickinson describes a mass of birds taking flight...)

    Anywho... About the birdhouse... 'Tis the time to build those puppies and get them out there... Pictured below is a soon-to-be avian domicile constructed using box (or finger) joints...

    box joint resized IMG_3897.JPG

    It isn't pretty, but it will keep the pin feathers dry... Now is the ideal time to practice some basic joints on some scrap, and slam together a few houses... Before this one is done, I'll add a sloping roof, bore an entry and drainage holes, scuff up inside and out for little claws, and secure to a tree with that big honking cable tie (available at plumbing and electrical supply stores.) And that will be it...

    There... Emily and birdhouses in one sitting... I should have worked in some Ella...

    By the feeders!

    CapeCodAlan


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    March 7, 2012

    Goodnight Songs of the Red-winged Blackbird and Friends...

    Hi,

    Be warned, you may have to turn up your speakers a tad, but the important thing is to listen...

    Neat or what?!? Some are most definitely red-wings, and the others are probably starlings.. Growing up, I spent eons rowing around the local mud hole listing to that... And, for more than a few times, when the fish weren't biting and and the sun was setting, I'd row out and toss my 1/3rd cement block over the side of my stupid little aluminum jonboat, curl up on its lumpy floor (I didn't mind the valleys of the external stamped skids, but the athwartship internal flooring supports were killer...) Still, listening to the above was how an extraordinarily lucky 10 year old got to go to sleep...

    When I signed onto this blog, I never promised to be a bird expert -- far from it. And I've lived up (or down) to my word... But I do have a 'feel' for these animals that I think few others do have. (God how it frosts me to watch 'experts' net, band, and then manhandle them for the camera... IMHO, netting and banding is 90% ornithology... Manhandling for the camera is 90% human ego...)

    I digress... Sorry this is a sore subject for me...

    By those melodious feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    March 4, 2012

    Strange Sky and Hummingbirds

    strange resized_IMG_3887.JPG

    First thing, we've been having some blah weather here (can't decide if it really wants to rain...) Sundown today produced the sky above. It was one of those weird things as if a storm had blown itself out. Probably this was the tail end of the cells that produced those terrible twisters in the Midwest... To help, you can contact the Red Cross here...

    Onward...

    Are you keeping an eye on the Ruby-throated Hummingbird migration? Right now, they're in the Gulf states, but soon... We expect ours around mid April, but time will tell... You can track them using hummingbirds.net. (Keep in mind that you can also study previous years using that site.) I wonder how this strange winter weather will affect their migration??? Hummingbirds won't be the first to be confused...

    By the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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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 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 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 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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    January 30, 2012

    Just Another Day... Memories...

    Hi,

    Meet a couple of cardinals. (Or is it a cardinal couple?)

    resized female cardinal IMG_3715.JPG

    resized male cardinal IMG_3713.JPG

    Yup, I've talked about this before... You set up the tripod, do your thing, maybe get a bird photo, and then go on with your life. But, (as the song goes) these are days you will remember...

    Memoies of the mundane are funny things... For me, the first that leaps to mind is the boring oil change. I don't know why, but when I started this post, I searched my soul for typical memories, and the 'oil change' came up. Ditto for my apartment in Natick, and flying a kite. (Welcome to ADD.) Certainly, there are a ton of them, but perhaps the earliest memory was that of a seagull... I must have been in the first grade, and I spotted a gull out a classroom window and decided to watch it until it flew completely out of view. I don't know how long I watched it, but eventually, it reached the point beyond my eyes... I still wonder about the creature... Did it live a long life and have many chicks? Did it meet its fate at the bumper of a car, or the cold of a winter? In all its time aloft, what did it see? How high could it fly, and did it ever reach its highest altitude just for the sake of smiles and giggles?

    Anywho... I ramble... The point is that we remember things even for a lifetime...some as mundane as an oil change, and some quite remarkable like a distant seagull... 'These are days you will remember...'

    By those hopefully indelible feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    January 27, 2012

    Intro to Home Brewing and a Question About Book Reviews...

    Header_resized_IMG_3708.JPG

    Ain't they beauties? Those are 20 of 30 750ml bottles of home brew just waiting to head for dark storage.

    Alrighty then all you adults... As promised, I'm taking a day off (sort of) from the birding theme and focusing on another aspect of cooking: beer. (Here are my posts on making chowder and bread.)

    First up, a quick overview... Why home brew? There are a bunch of reasons: you like to cook; you want a higher quality beer than the stuff in the stores; saving money is always cool; it's nice to be able to tailor your own beer; etc.

    So where do you start? That depends... If you want to get serious in a hurry, buy an equipment kit that includes a primary fermenter, secondary fermenter, bottling bucket, hoses, bottles, capper, caps, ingredients, hydrometer, thermometer, long spoon.. etc. Midwest sells a nice beginners package for about $200. I wanted to ease my way back into the hobby, so I settled for Coopers DIY setup for about $125. Coopers is a respected Australian brewery, and their DIY is simple and produces a decent beer. (Note on the bottles... I vastly prefer reusable plastic P.E.T. bottles -- no capping -- just screw on.)

    General/subjective observations about the actual brewing process:

    • After you decide what rig you're going with, order it and then hit the home brewing forums and start at least lurking -- knowledge is a good thing.
    • When your gear arrives, open it and start reading... Don't even think about starting that night..
    • Cleanliness is absolutely critical.
    • Watch the temp of your wort... It matters.
    • Be patient. If you rush your brew or its aging. Bad things happen to those who can't wait.
    • Children and pets have no place around an active brewer. There's too much wet glass and hot fluids for something to get under foot.
    • Keep a journal. (Years ago I created the finest red ale known to humankind only to lose the slip of paper that held its recipe. Sob!)
    In general,just follow the directions and use your head, and your beer should be at least okay.

    On a different note, if you're a regular reader of this blog, you may have noticed a number of reviews of bird books from Princeton University Press. And that's fine because, for the most part, the books focus on the birds of the U.S. But now I can start reviews for birds beyond the States... the Indian Subcontinent for example. Would you like me to review those sorts of books? Let me know via a comment or email me at: capecodalan@ebirdseed.com.

    See you by those feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    January 25, 2012

    Shed Update and Recording Bird Activity and Barometric Pressure Experiment

    Hi,

    Well, the shed build is coming along nicely... Here, the roof support timbers are installed...

    Shed with support rafters installed_400_IMG_3704.JPG

    And now the roof itself is in place...

    shed with roof on_400_IMG_3706.JPG

    I still have to secure everything, but you get the idea... Truth be told, we're the third owner of this wee building, and is does show its wear, but there's nothing there I can't fix. {Why is it that we as a country (or China, or Japan, or Russia, or South Korea, or Australia, or Germany, or...) can't come up with a 20-year plastic home like these sheds for disaster, famine, and refugee victims? They'd have to be 12 volt, small, have outdoor plumbing... But all this is do-able... Imagine a semi-permanent home for $100... Native Americans, Thoreau, and Eskimos all thrived on less... Anywho, Rubbermaid came up with a fairly good design... If they still made them, I'd recommend one to a friend in a heartbeat.

    Let's see... What else? Ah yes, bird activity and barometric pressure... A post or two ago I wondered about the possible correlation between these two, and decided that some sort of informal, simple, non-scientific, experiment was in order... Here's what I came up with... Each day, I'll watch the birds for around 15 minutes at 1pm. Based on my highly subjective analysis, I'll note their feeder activity on the kitchen calender. After a month of this, I'll go back and look at the barometric readings for those days and see if I can spot a pattern... Obviously, any correlation is suspect unless it is screamingly apparent that it is out of the norm... (I'd get nervous if a sudden violent drop in pressure coinciding with crows and seagulls trying to get down with their bad selves and doing the 'electric slide 'together...) Still, we might have something to mull over...

    I'm telling ya' that backyard birding is more fun than watching a five-legged turtle trying to juggle 5.5 M&Ms...

    By the feeders and the shed...

    CapeCodAlan


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    January 22, 2012

    First Real Snowfall on Cape Cod, Cardinals, and Barometric Pressure... Part 1 of 2

    resized_clean_IMG_3700.JPG

    Hi,

    Well, it took until January 21st, but we finally got a decent snowfall -- 6" to 8". Not a huge deal because we were prepared. (Are you prepared?) (It's also nice to have a generator and extra gas at the ready.) But I digress... The snow was liveable, as was the dig out... To borrow from Dorothy Parker, I dislike shoveling, but I take rewarding contentment in having shoveled...

    About them birds... I saw the most beautiful cardinals (male and female) in the snow-covered trees this morning. They were something right out of a $3.95 Christmas card. But did they hold still long enough for just one pic? Of course not... Personally, I've found that birds are to photography as paper cuts are to a thumb. So no, I didn't get any images... You'll just have to take my word for it...

    Yet again, the feeders continue to be uneventful. It's almost disconcerting. The birds feed in the morning, eat a light lunch, and then snack before nest. I keep wondering if this kind of act has something to do with barometric pressure. (And I'm not the only one...) Sure enough, the following is from birding.com:

    "When hurricane winds rip roofs off buildings and toss mobile homes, what happens to the birds? Birds are very sensitive to changes in air pressure and know instinctively to take shelter. A sharp drop in barometric pressure alerts them that a big storm is on the way."

    So... That begs the question... "Can I correlate past strange bird activity with unusual local barometric patterns?" Well, because of the need for experimental redundancy and third-party corroboration, the answer is, "No, but this is curious..." Stay tuned for next time...

    By those mysterious feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    January 18, 2012

    Book Review: "Petrels, Albatrosses & Storm-Petrels of North America"

    Alrighty, then... What have we got here? Why, it's another bird book from Princeton University Press...

    400 cover_2012-01-18_131910.jpg

    When I do these reviews, I like to look at the following factors: book logistics such as paper, binding, etc; the immediate and long-term ease of use; book organization; photography; and lastly an overall impression... Let's get started...

    As for logistics, this 10" by 7.5" by 1.75" book consists of 520 pages, 975 pics/figures, and 66 maps. It's well-bound in cloth, and the paper is high-quality. This is 'library grade' stuff.

    When it comes to use, I openly admit that the first thing I do is crack one of these tomes open and try to find a particular piece of known info. I my case, I wanted to see the petrel types that frequent the New England coast... I couldn't find a quick list... The best I could do was make a fast thumb through and look at the maps as I went... A more prolonged study showed that the author lists the North American ocean currents, and then provides a list of birds that inhabit those currents. It's then up to the user to look up each bird. (More on this later.) Beyond the reference issue (and I'm not sure how the e-book version handles this), Mr. Howell is remarkably thorough... Taxonomy, flight patterns, molts, wing spans and body masses -- you name it and he has covered it.

    Concerning book organization... This is where standard Princeton University Press shines. Here's how it breaks down per bird:

    • Bird Number (P1 -- P40 for petrels); (A1 -- A11 for albatrosses); (S1 -- S19 for storm-petrels)
    • Identification Summary
    • Taxonomy
    • Names
    • Status and Distribution
    • Pacific (and/or Atlantic)
    • Field Identification
    • Similar Species
    • Habitat and Behavior
    • Description
    • Ages similar
    • On the Water
    • Molt

    What good is a photographic guide if it doesn't have good photographs? Not to worry... This one knocks it out of the ballpark...

    Finally, my overall impression... This book is extraordinary in its depth... As far as I know, there isn't another one like it available... The table of contents is fine. The index could use a bit of fleshing out, but for me that's not a deal breaker The maps could be more extensive, but that's nothing to lose sleep over. IMHO, the only real weak point in this book is the lack of a simple table for quick reference of 'region to bird' including page numbers... But even that can be solved with a cup of coffee and a few minutes cross referencing ocean currents with birds. I'm just going to take a bit and generate my own local list.

    All told this is obviously a 'must' for seabird fans as well as all serious birders. Mr. Howell's work would also be at home with those who live on any briny coast, with fishermen, in libraries, schools, and waiting rooms... You get the idea...

    As always, by those feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    January 17, 2012

    Around the Homestead...

    Hi,

    As I've mentioned umpteen times before, so long as you locate your bird feeders properly, keep them clean and full with quality seed, and provide fresh water, backyard birding is pretty much a hands-off hobby... If you're not familiar with any of the steps above, please feel free to:

    • Google on this blog for instructions
    • Ask a question via the comment field
    • Email me at CapeCodAlan@eBirdseed.com
    • Call us at 1-866-324-7373

    So, around here, it's 'gaze baby gaze...'

    On to other more domestic stuff...

    First off, we have our n-gauge train on our dining room table... Both seem to be aging well... (Who knows what we'll do with the train...)

    400 table with train_IMG_3689.JPG

    Speaking of aging... Here's our third batch of home brew snug and dark. Give it about a month and it ain't bad... (Stay tuned... Sometime I'll write a 300 word post on how to brew beer for the first timer...)

    400 covered fermenter_IMG_3691.JPG

    Beer maturing...

    bottled in white_400_IMG_3692.JPG

    Next up is the tall Shaker clock... The mock-up cardboard 'hood' (the wood enclosure that houses the actual clock mechanism itself) rests about midway... The final assembly height of the hood will match that of our hutch...

    400 clock hood mock up_IMG_3690.JPG

    Here is the board that will be used to make the hood... I'd guess it's 125 years old, checked, painted, and loaded with iron nails... I glued the checks back together, the old paint will be carefully stripped, and the board will be cut to shape using a blade that can handle both wood and ferrous. -- time consuming but beautiful when done properly...

    hood wood resized_IMG_3695.JPG

    Outside to the shed! Work goes exceptionally well... All looks square, level, and plumb... Right now, the ridge beam is in place, and all that remains is to put in the 2 X 6 roof reinforcements and to install the roof...

    shed with ridge beam and two by sockets_400_IMG_3693.JPG

    400_two by six_IMG_3694.JPG

    One small problem -- the 2 X 6 timbers we bought don't seem to be the standard 1.5" by 5.5", but rather a true 6" wide... Nothing a table saw can't fix...

    And that's about it from here on the back forty... Happy birds and projects galore

    Always busy by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    January 14, 2012

    What Value Contentment?

    Hi,

    Just 'watched' (glanced and typed actually) the Pats blow out Denver... For a New England guy, it might have been an orgy of chest thumping and, "Who's your man?!?", but not for me... Granted, there's nothing quite like watching Gronkowski thunder his way through the opposition (though that diving catch in the end zone is the stuff of Orr and Bird)... Still, there's something missing... Consider a screen shot I took last night...

    41 smiles in a week_resized_2012-01-14_051451.jpg

    All I wanted was a list of the bird/backyard pics I took over the last week. I was expecting a dozen or so, but instead, there were 41... That probably represents seven or eight times in the last week that something moved me to the point of dragging out the camera/tripod and then taking five or six photographs...

    So how does a frenetic series of pigskin plays relate to a bunch of cruddy feeder photos? Here's how (at least for me.) Last night's Patriot's antics were fun, albeit fleeting; but the backyard moments were more subtle... peaceful... content... And for every ten seconds of ' Brady Magic', I'll bet there were 60 seconds of feather and down serenity, and unlike adrenaline, serenity lingers a long time...

    By those feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    January 12, 2012

    A Couple of Updates on the Shed

    Hi,

    Not a lot to report... It has been an unusually warm winter here on Cape Cod. (Having said that, it probably will snow 10' deep tomorrow...)

    The shed build goes relatively uneventfully...

    doors on_400_IMG_3676.JPG

    Obviously, I need to get the ridge beam and roof on, but that's just a matter of time. The structure being thrice owned, I'll have to refine here and there, but all told, we're pretty happy.

    It's interesting to note that the turkeys find the shed 'captivating'... They flocked around it, which at least suggests that they remember that once upon a time the building was not there. (I always thought of turkeys as idiot dinosaur spawn who spent half their lives just trying to remember where they were 15 minutes ago, and the other half trying to find our lawn so that they could do their 'business.'.) But apparently not so... Maybe a more accurate ratio is 40:60...

    And that's the update on the shed, turkeys and all...

    See you by the feeders and the storage facility... but be careful where you walk...

    CapeCodAlan


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    January 9, 2012

    Serendipity

    Every so often, a person just gets lucky... The day before yesterday, I walked into the kitchen and there were birds everywhere -- downys, robins, the ubiquitous little brown birds... And by the time I got the camera set up... zipoid. (I almost wrote a nasty post about the birds' propensity for frustrating photographers...) But not today... Today, the birds cooperated...

    resized_two_banner_IMG_3666.JPG

    IMG_3664.JPG

    That second shot contains a bunch of robins on the ground as well as a couple of downys on the feeder... Nothing fit for the cover of Nat Geo, but fun nonetheless...

    While we're in the 'Serendipity Department', check out the cherry boards below...

    416_Cherry_resized_IMG_3527.JPG

    Well, Mrs. CCA did it again...

    On her lunch break, she headed off to a local estate sale and promptly called me that she might have found something... It was a dark reddish wood that was really heavy for $10 total... I thought she might have come across some 2 X 6 stained fir, but she stuck to her guns and claimed that it was cherry... So she bought it all for $10 and brought it home... When I opened the car trunk, I almost had a kitten --

    Those are four planks of pristine, clear, finish-planed cherry:

    • (2) Six foot by 1&7/8" by 5&5/8"
    • (2) Six foot by 2&3/8" by 8&1/4"
    That's around $300 worth, and almost priceless in its intrinsic heirloom quality. What on earth are we going to make out of those? How to best utilize such a precious find? This is stuff of the bucket list...

    And finally, there's our ongoing shed project... Not exactly cheap, but a windfall used...

    walls up resized_IMG_3671.JPG

    Sometimes you do just get lucky...

    By the feeders looking for another four-leaf clover...

    CapeCodAlan


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    January 6, 2012

    Finches and Bluebirds and Sheds, Oh My!

    Here's a fun montage...

    If you look carefully, there are seven bluebirds/finches circled... Very cool...

    400_seven_IMG_3606.JPG

    Next up is a nice bluebird shot... A second glance will reveal that the bird is not only flicking the seed into his mouth, but also that you can see his reflection in the plexiglass...

    400 open beak_IMG_3587.JPG

    Have some color...

    House finches on feeder_400_IMG_3596.JPG

    What a fantastic expression... (Can you say, "Someone get me some mealworms!"?)

    400_side shot_IMG_3599.JPG

    And finally, there is the shed... In the pic below, we're fitting the bottom... Looks like we're going to need a couple of sheets of plywood...

    400_IMG_3608.JPG

    The shed flooring above is only roughed in place... We'll have to remove it, square and level it, and then put sheathing over the 2 X... Oh goody...

    And so it goes here... Happy birds, relatively mild weather... Work in the yard... There are worse things...

    By the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    January 3, 2012

    Birds, Shed, Beer, Train... Homeward Bound...

    Hey now!

    Is that a title or what? Onward!

    First the birds... All are 'systems go" here... feeders are clean and full... water is fresh and warm... birds are fat and happy... Just take care of your feeders, and the rest is sanctuary.

    What else? Well, New Years has passed and we (Mrs CCA and I) hope you're taking advantage of sales, football etc... But there's something else haunting us -- for want of a better phrase, 'a need for back to the basics'... To that end, we got off to an early start and picked up a used Rubbermaid 'Big Max' shed. Below is the 'foundation' almost complete...

    400 2 by 4 flooring support 100_0716.JPG

    Perhaps, just once and for all, we can get that garage cleaned out!

    Next stop... Beer Land! As I've mentioned before, I used to be a pretty fair home brewer... Time to go back to the fundamentals... Commercial beer has become so expensive and so 'bleck' that a reasonable soul has little choice but to brew his (or her) own. Below is my second batch -- a stout. My first was a lager, and the next will be an English bitter... The hobby takes time, practice, a thick skin... But it's like making chowder or bread... Just hang in there...

    400 stout fermenting_100_0718.JPG

    Here's a particularly cool shot of the very active froth of a primary fermentation... (The smell is wonderful!!!)

    400  foamy stout fermenting_100_0710.JPG

    And finally there is this -- a simple N guage model train. I've wanted one of these since I was a kid. (I used to build in HO -- 1: 87, whereas N is smaller at 1:160 scale.)

    400 first model n train_100_0717.JPG

    Regardless, the mind boggles at the possibilities... I was thinking of setting up/securing a complete local diorama on a 36" by 72" sheet of plywood, and encasing it in a closeable box suitcase-style. It could be stored on edge and come each December unfolded and plopped upon the dining room table for all to swoon... Just a thought...

    I'll be regressing by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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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 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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    November 29, 2011

    Boring...

    zip_400_IMG_3389.JPG

    Yup... How's that for ho hum? Truth be told, the birds are on best behavior. The weather is warm, the birds sing and eat, and all is peaceful with the world. (Just watch -- next week Bigfoot will crash the backyard and then be struck dead by an asteroid...)

    I guess there's always the matter of a new/used shed yet to be assembled, and a new chainsaw that has yet to tackle the big logs behind the house, but that's all rather boring. (Detect a theme?)

    I suppose I could shout another warning about the Euro and the global economy, but that is probably wearing thin...

    Naw... I think I'll just put this one to bed early... All is cool with the birds and the rest will work itself out... Then again, winter is just a whisper away... Are you and your birds ready?

    Snoozing by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    November 22, 2011

    Outdoor Bird Cam, Crows, Woodworking Trick, Etc.

    400 cam with Ikelite_IMG_3384.JPG

    Well, that was the idea -- I'd mount the streaming cam in the old waterproof Ikelite housing, and put that outdoors. Granted, I'd have to dig a trench for the wire, house the wire in a system of PVC pipe for burial, snake the wire through a 4 X 4 mounting post, plumb the whole mess into the homestead... After all that, I'd have no guarantee as to the effect of wild temperature swings and camera performance... Nope... Not gonna happen... Wouldn't be prudent. So, for the moment at least, the link below is the best streaming cam shot I've got...

    Beyond the moving picture machine, things around here have been slow bird-wise. (Part of the problem no doubt has to do with all the activity that's going on as we try to repair all the downed-tree damage..) Still, we feed the feathered ones, and they eat. I do however, continue to notice one behavior in the crows that seems to cross at least a couple emotional boundaries -- whether they're frustrated or excited, they ruffle their wing feathers. Is it a single behavior for two sentiments? Am I missing a nuance that separates two different types of movement? Perhaps the birds are incapable of feeling the difference between frustration and excitement... Who knows?

    Lastly, here's a neat little trick I learned while building a canoe -- use tire inner tubes as giant rubber bands/clamps for unusual shapes and for joints that want to slide around. Here's that Shaker tall clock being bound together for fitting and eventually gluing and nailing... Pretty clever, no?

    clock_IMG_3385.JPG

    Happy Holidays!!!

    By the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    November 20, 2011

    Taking Tests, Perceptions, and Birds...

    About our last contest... I got a lot of feedback on that one, and quite honestly, some of it wasn't very encouraging. People seemed to give up without even trying... That's too bad, because the answer was right in the title of the contest... "eBirdseed.com Speed Contest is Here and Now!". I even said this was a "sub one minute contest". Yet folks tried to dive into the details and got lost. They missed the big picture. Here's another example of this phenomenon... What's wrong with the following?

    This is a classic test of perception...

    Read the sequence of numbers carefully and

    and see if you see an error... any error:

    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

    Man oh man oh man, is it easy to get lost in the colors and the fonts or what? Truth be told, there's nothing wrong with the sequence. The only real problem is the duplication of the word 'and' in the instructions. And so it was for the contest -- the answer was there in the title but so easily skipped -- find a way to translate 2096 characters into a recipe in less than 60 seconds. 20/20 hindsight says there must be a converter or translator; and so there was.

    In general, misdirection and inverted perception are nothing new... And so it goes with birds... A couple of weeks ago, I was working with a knowledgeable friend in the backyard, and when we got our usual turkey invasion, he gushed that one must have weighed 30 pounds. (Wild turkeys rarely exceed 20 lbs. The hen in question was more like 15.) When my friend spooked the thing, it flapped off at an estimated speed of 60mph. (Once again that was an overestimate. Turkeys have a top speed of about 45mph, and this one wasn't doing half that.)

    The bottom line to all this (contest, birds, or UFOs for that matter) is that perception can be exceedingly persuasive. (I wonder how many 'Rare' bird sightings are legit'?)

    I think I'll be by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    November 17, 2011

    We Have a Contest Winner!

    fireworks.jpg

    Well, we have a winner! Kathy K. won. (She won a previous eBirdseed photo contest back in Oct. 2008.)

    Kathy was quick on the draw and realized that all those ones and zeroes could easily be converted to plain old text using an online converter. (I checked... There are converters out there for every imaginable language and numerical expression.) So not only did she win a boatload of delivered birdseed, but she (and you!) also bagged a killer recipe... And here it is: all that binary converted into the following...

    3 eggs, 1.5 c sugar, 2 c flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon, .67 c oil, .25 tsp salt, 1 tsp vanilla, 3 pears chopped, .5 c raisins, Walnuts (opt). Mix all together, and bake in a 9 X 12 pan at 350 degrees for apx. 45 minutes.
    Congrats to Kathy; your prize will be shipped out shortly. And thanks to everyone else who mulled over the puzzle...

    By the demystified feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    November 15, 2011

    eBirdseed Streaming Bird Cam Update, and About that Contest...

    Hi,

    Well, the old eBirdseed.com streaming cam isn't looking so hot right now...

    scrn shot_2011-11-09_133916.jpg

    Time to make a change... Granted, the window could use some washing, and the sun wasn't cooperating, but still... The cam is focused on a now-vacant hummingbird feeder, and where's the fun in that? No, it's time to get a cam outdoors. The problem of course is to get video 'out there' without destroying it. Here are my concerns:

    • I need a good housing that will stand up to a drenching or two (or three... or...) At the same time, it will also have to endure countless blizzards. In that respect, I'm leaning towards my previous 'mailbox solution' -- modifying a standard mailbox and using that as a housing. The problem is that I'm not in the mood for setting up a thermostatically controlled enclosure. On the other hand, I'm not about to sacrifice our Logitech 9000 Pro either.
    • The USB extension cable may not be designed for elements -- that would dictate shielding it in PVC pipe and burying it... Yech.
    • Then there's always the issue of the mount itself... Do I want to go through the hassle of making a long-lasting mount for a short-lived project?
    So here's the plan Stan... I rummaged through Amazon, and found their most popular/ cheapest Web cam (~$4.50 inc. S&H) and ordered two. They'll just be plopped on top of a tripod and see how they deal with the cold. (No rain or snow...) Sometimes, science isn't pretty.

    Onward... About that pesky $195 contest... I'm 99% sure that I know what I want to do, but the problem is that it's insanely simple and at the same time terribly offputting. The person who sets aside the intimidating and deals with the problem can solve in less than one minute. The individual who freaks at things that look scary will walk away disheartened. Probably the best way to handle this is simply to work as a team... You need someone who can solve problems by thinking outside of the box snicker snack...

    Next time, the contest... Be ready...

    By the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    November 11, 2011

    Finishing Unfinished Business

    Hi,

    Back around my 800th post, I mentioned that I wanted to do something special for the event... I never did. That got me to thinking about other things I've promised along the way and never followed up on. (Yeah, I know... I finished off that last sentence with a preposition... tough.) Anywho, here are two projects that go unresolved: the streaming eBirdseed.com Web cam refinements, and that pesky encryption contest from long ago... One thing at a time...

    First, here's a screen shot from our streaming Web cam mid-day.

    scrn shot_2011-11-09_133916.jpg

    Not very exciting is it? The original plan was to house the cam in some sort of protective enclosure outside (see the link above), but that sort of fell by the wayside... Maybe it's time to re-visit that idea... The first step is to find the acceptable operating temperatures for the camera (a Logitech Webcam Pro 9000). Bummer that the Logitech manual and site doesn't have that info; I put in a tech request for same. We'll see.

    Next up... that nasty old data encryption/decryption contest... Truth be told, it really isn't that nasty, and offers tremendous insight into the ease of data encryption. (Whether or not you know it, you're probably using some form of data encryption as you read this -- your banking, credit cards, and medical records all use this stuff.) Anyway, all it takes to win this is a brief bit of learning and then doggedness... Alright... Your silence (and the silence of those who read two other blogs) concerning this contest has been deafening. So, it's now closed... I need to simplify the contest, and at the same time change the rules and prizes. How about this? I can boil it down to a 30 second solution, change the rules as to who can enter (previous winners will be allowed), and up the ante on the prize. Let me mull it over... But in the meantime, here is the single lump sum prize for that future lone winner...

    • Black Oil Sunflower - 10 lb - $24.19
    • Cracked Corn - 4 lb - $14.02
    • In Shell Peanuts - 6 lb - $28.50
    • Large Striped Sunflower - 4 lb - $17.98
    • Nyjer - 20 lb - $47.48
    • Peanut Pieces - 5 lb - $19.55
    • Safflower - 7.5 lb - $22.04
    • White Millet - 10 lb - $21.40

    Total Retail Value: $195.16 delivered right to your door in the continental U.S. only... (Value may vary with supply.)

    Now there's something to ponder...

    Tidying up by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    November 7, 2011

    Gift Ideas in eBirdseed.com

    Hi,

    Given the time of the year, I thought I'd do something a little unusual and wander around eBirdseed.com looking for gift ideas... (This blog was never meant to be a running advertisement for the company, but rather a place where backyard birders could meet and exchange ideas of all sorts. Still, eBirdseed itself offers good fodder for a post or two or...)

    So, what would I buy that 'special someone' if I had birds on the brain?

    • I guess first up would be a feeder, but that would be a function of the birds in the target location and the required feed... Well, it just so happens that WhatBird.com has you covered... Combine that info with our feed charts numbers one and two, and you're well on your way. Just pick the appropriate feeder -- keep in mind that if the recipient is young or infirm, you might want to vacuum seal 'serving size' portions for the birds... Not only does vacuum packing make the seed more manageable, it also preserves it.. The birdseed below (left) is perfect for one of our feeders. (The wild rice on the right was a gift from friends, and is still good after 2 -3 years... need to look up that recipe again...)

      vacuum packed 400 IMG_3375.JPG

    • Alrighty then... Now that you've got feed and feeder, what else? For sure, you're going to need a place to hang it. No prob... We have a number of mounts. Just remember the 'Five Five Rule' - keep the feeder five feet off the ground and within five feet of some sort of protection from hawks, cats, etc Beyond that, a squirrel baffle is a wonderful thing.
    • Finally, a book is a must. I strongly recommend Sibley
    I don't know... If all of the above is too much, just buy a gift certificate or subscription, and call it done... Works for me... I'd say just get in there and start shopping the easy way.

    By the feeders and not elbowing through the mall...

    CapeCodAlan


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    November 5, 2011

    Are You Ready?

    Hi,

    Just stepped out on the deck and took a quick look at the sky and the squirrels...

    sky_400 IMG_3371.JPG

    A couple of things struck me -- the sky and the air have that "ominous" feel to them, and the squirrels are particularly fat and furry this year... Oh goody,.. Sounds like a mild winter... Not! So, here's a quick rundown in no particular order of the things you might want to be doing now:

    • Stock up on birdseed and suet. Make sure the seed goes in a rodent- and bug-proof container. We've been known to vacuum pack the seed.
    • Clean the yard of fallen branches, etc.
    • Clean the bird feeders and birdbaths (and ready the birdbath heater...)
    • Consider alternative communication options... Last year, we lost both our land-line service as well as cell service. Lesson learned... We now keep a pair of Motorola commercial walkie talkies charged.
    • Prune your trees to avoid downed branches/downed power lines?
    • Read and follow a good disaster preparedness manual. (Here is a great one from the Cape Cod Commission... Note, this is a lengthy download, but it's well worth it.) We try to have a month's worth of supplies on hand.
    • Always carry a flashlight and a pocket knife on your person (unless the knife is prohibited by law.). A Boy Scout pocket knife or a Leatherman Squirt is sufficient. Ditto for a simple one-LED keychain light like the Streamlight Nano and a couple cards of spare batteries -- that will keep you out of the dark for days if not weeks when judiciously used.
    • Prepping your vehicle for a storm emergency
    • Making sure you can get to your feeders and birdbaths after a big snowfall... Remember that birds need water and high-energy food, especially under winter duress
    • Lastly, consider a generator along with a heavy-duty extension cord, gasoline stored out of your domicile and garage, and a safe ceramic heater. (If nothing else, think of how much money you've got tied up in your frig and freezer right now...)
    Things to think about by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    November 2, 2011

    What do these Photographs Have in Common?

    Hi,

    Recently I've been a little busy on the home front. Aside from having two more trees down, there's still work to be done around the estate itself...

    First there's the aging dining room ceiling light... 1970's chic... Out with the old, and...

    old dining room light 400 IMG_3344.JPG

    In with the new...

    new light 400 IMG_3350.JPG

    Actually, the light isn't all that new. Mrs. CCA picked it up at a consignment shop for a song. (Why don't people do their research before they sell stuff?) Unfortunately, I had to reinforce the attachment point (leaded glass is heavy) which meant crawling around in the attic, but beyond that, the wiring wasn't all that different from the torchiere I discussed a couple of posts back -- just a hassle... Up close...

    New lamp_up close resized_IMG_3349.JPG

    Onward...

    Next up is a couple of shots of the before and after drama of splitting about 4' long by 2' dia. downed maple... Here's the split getting started...

    400 Big maple split starting_orig_IMG_3360.JPG

    Two hours, a broken splitting maul, a broken ax, and a fractured wedge later... Fini... A bit more battle, and we'll have two massive slabs ready for air drying in the basement. After a few years, these will be trued up, flattened and yield heirloom boards...

    400 Big maple split_orig_IMG_3361.JPG

    Finally, a little hairy woodpecker on our feeder...

    downey_ 400 IMG_3356.JPG

    So what in the name of Sam Hill do all these things have in common? Well... It took me a while, but I finally figured it out... For me, they all reflect accomplishment, peace and future. I'm looking at a bird carving now... There is a serenity in conviction of imagination -- determination -- home...

    By those subtle feeders...

    CapeCodAlan...


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    October 31, 2011

    Two More Trees Down... At Least the Birds Are Happy

    Hi,

    Sorry, but I've only got a short post for what are obvious (Nor' Easter) reasons...

    outside looking south_400 IMG_3339.JPG Here are the same two trees down (with the massive maple -- a victim of Tropical Storm Irene in the foreground...) Oh goody... Two maples and a rock-hard cherry that all have to be parsed, then split (by hand) lengthwise for lumber.

    back with drain problem 400 IMG_3341.JPG

    In our "For What it's Worth Department", one rule stands tall -- birds like a bit of shrubbery around the feeder -- it provides them with protection from predators like hawks. We just wish that this temporary "protection" didn't have to come at the expense of two fallen trees.

    Off to deal with the insurance company and the Conservation Trust that owns the property that housed the trees that crashed our party...

    By the feeders if I can make it...

    CapeCodAlan


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    October 27, 2011

    Rain, Crow, and Me...

    crow in rain 400_IMG_3320.JPG

    Hi,

    The photo above seems apropos for the day -- grey, rainy, chilly, overcast, blustery --- fit for bacon and eggs, Emily Dickinson, Karen Carpenter, and clamming. (I wonder if crows get the blues on days like this, or perhaps better put, I wonder if crows become introspective? They certainly are intelligent enough for the process.)

    Anywho... What to do? Well, there's the usual work... Beyond that, I guess I'll finish up my workout, clean (maybe later), write some emails, moderate a couple boat building forums, perhaps fire up the crock pot, ... (Ya know, it's too bad that I can't hit the mud flats -- fresh littlenecks steamed in white wine, some garlic paste, and butter would be killer tonight.) And then there's always the shop projects... Right now, I'm:

    • building a tall Shaker clock to match the hutch
    • making a Shaker wall clock for the shop itself
    • fixing a tiny round end table
    • hacking together a bunch of birdhouses
    • slowly prepping to build another boat
    • trying to keep the shop itself clean... (losing battle)
    • making room for the maple lumber that will air dry in the basement
    • sharpening/repairing all my chisels and planes (we're talking at least 100)
    • pondering how I'm going to take care of a bit of rot in the fascia around the front door
    • someday hoping to re-do the bathrooms, and re-shingle, and replace the windows...

    Jeeze Louise, No wonder rainy days and Mondays always bring me down... (Sorry Karen...)

    By those dreary feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    October 25, 2011

    Blue Jay and Motion-Activated Cameras, Etc.

    blue jay__02 DSC_0037.JPG

    Hi,

    Not too much to talk about tonight, so I thought I'd dig out an old photo from the archive. The one above is from 2007 (gasp!) Kind of fun though. I used the now defunct NovaBird motion-triggered camera to take the shot. Unfortunately, both the camera and the manufacturer are now belly-up, but it was a blast while it lasted. (I'd guess that I got at least 10,000 pics out of that cam. Oh well...)

    That gets me to thinking... I wonder what else there is out there that performs the same basic function, and how the pictures compare... Here goes...

    I'm going to use my time-tested method of product searching by looking on Amazom, and finding the 'most customer reviewed'/'best customer reviews' to see what I can find. I guess I'm also going to want to see some photographs as well. I'm hoping for something with the same focal distance and resolution as the NB (20" and 2MP respectively.)

    • First find is the 'Bushnell Trophy Cam': I've worked with Bushnell before, and they're a respectable optics company.... This one is weather proof, the quality of the 8 MP pics is good, it can handle the night, the Trophy Cam comes in a number of varieties... Al told, not bad for apx. $160 $260.
    • Primos Truth Cam 35 Camera: This takes 3 MP images and has a 1.5 second trigger speed. The picture quality looks good. Once again, there are several models. Suggested prices range from about $150 to $250.
    • The last rig I'm going to look at is the 'Cuddleback Attack IR'... Same kind of story as the ones above -- long battery life, simple to use, takes a ton of color pics, weatherproof. In this case, it takes 5 MP shots, but that should be fine.
    All told, I'd say it's pretty much a tie... In my case, I'll rummage through Amazon and find the best price (I'll bet I can drive it under $100), best customer reviews, and best warranty. (I'm not worried about taking gazillions of pics, video, or year-long battery life. I just want something that's rugged, delivers a decent shot, and doesn't require proprietary software.) "Mission Control, we have a starting point."

    And that's about it -- a quick, impromptu glance at the newest remote, movement-triggered cameras. After I figure out the details, all I have to do is talk with the boss...

    As always, by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    October 23, 2011

    Occupy Hawk Street

    The red-tailed hawk family that took up residence in our neighborhood last Spring has been lying low--until recently.

    Just this morning, we came home just in time to hear a murder of crows raising a huge ruckus just up the road. Being inquiring types, we grabbed the camera and trotted in the direction of the brouhaha. What we found just three houses up the road was an old oak tree with at least a dozen crows hanging around, and a red tail sitting calmly and admiring the view.

    hawk on branch_resized.JPG

    Every once in a while, a perched crow would launch off its branch and dive-bomb the hawk, zooming perilously close to the raptor before veering off and re-settling back at or near his original perch.

    hawk crow_resized.JPG

    The hawk tolerated the aggressive behavior for about 10 minutes before deciding he had had enough, and he suddenly took to the sky in an effortless move.

    flying away_resized.JPG

    Needless to say, the crows followed from a cautious distance; but the hawk seemed to have had enough of the mob for a while, and he easily outflew his attackers. They milled around for awhile, but without a target they lost their purpose, and ultimately most of them made for other areas; only our own locals stayed around, satisfied that they had protected their territory, and now loitered in our trees in hopes of garnering a treat of stale potato chips, or (even better) old taco meat.

    They were suitably rewarded.

    crow with bun_resized.jpg

    Guarding the skies by the feeders
    CapeCodAlan


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    October 20, 2011

    Crow with Rib, News, Bird Count, People and Animals

    crow with rib_400_IMG_3270.JPG

    Like Fox New's Shepard Smith and his sedated bear falling on a trampoline, I just have to have my crow with rib shot.... The flesh is weak.

    Though this is a bird blog, it seems to me that it would be unfitting to fail to mention the death of Qaddafi... From the video I've seen, it looks like he was wounded and beaten, and then eventually shot in the head. Personally, I hope his torment lasted a full two minutes -- the length of time it took for Pan Am flight 103 to fall to the ground in Lockerbie Scotland. (Click here for a particularly sickening account of what those poor souls on 103 went through.) Looking forward, who knows what's going to happen in Libya (or Iraq, or Afghanistan, or...) But as for today, I've had worse.

    Onward to the Great Backyard Bird Count... Yup, it's on its way... This is from the GBBC October 2011 eNewsletter:

    The next Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) takes place Friday, February 17, through Monday, February 20, 2012. We're looking forward to it and we hope you are too! The National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, with Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada will keep you informed of all the latest developments as the big event gets closer.

    What's next? Ah yes, people and animals... Consider Terry Thompson... Here is a person who had 56 wild animals on his farm. Fifty six... Why? Well, at this point it looks like he was breeding them for sale. Great... I have a radical idea -- leave wild animals alone.and get a life. It's one thing to feed the birds (which we should do seeing how humans have thoroughly overrun and trashed their natural habitat), but it's entirely another to have lions and tigers in Ohio.

    Enough for today...

    By the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    October 18, 2011

    Turkey Update and Looking Forward

    Resized_three turkeys_IMG_0783.JPG

    Well, so far, the best count for the turkey population in the neighborhood is 21, and that's from Mrs. CCA. It will be interesting to watch the predator (like the coyote) numbers increase as the food supply climbs. I just hope that I don't have the 'cycle of life' unfold in our backyard. But if it does, it does -- not much to be done about that.

    Onward...

    Sorry I'm late with this post... (It's been five days since my last.) This is number 802 and I've trying to think of cool new ways to bring birding info to you. Obviously, we already have this blog and Facebook, but what's next? I feel like some new conveyance is in order... Then again, maybe the problem isn't the messenger, but rather the message... Maybe I'm just too boring... (Sometimes, I bore even myself.) You know, in retrospect, the entry I got the most feedback from was the UFO post. (The survival piece did well too...) Maybe I should talk with the boss about more contests... Maybe we should increase the prize on the old encryption contest... How high do we dare go with the prize???

    Need to think about this and talk with the boss...

    By the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    October 13, 2011

    The Soft "Whoop" of Friends

    400_DSC_0099.JPG

    I learned to walk head-down in my not-too-distant youth, roaming the local woods and bogs at night. I used an alternating pattern of 'x' amount of steps looking at the ground to 'y' amount of steps scanning for obstacles before me, depending on light conditions. The better the light, the more I watched my footfall. In daylight, my vision is almost always earthbound.

    And so it goes... In feeding the birds, including the crows... Lately, as I've returned from the crow tray, I've heard the gentle, "whoop, whoop, whoop" as crows' wings sweep over my head. This is not trivial. Crows are exceptionally wary creatures. Rightfully, they fear humans. (When I bought my first gun, the instruction booklet blatantly stated that shooting crows was good because they were 'nuisance birds'.) But over the years, the crows have learned to trust us. They aren't pets, and they're not stupid animals. Far from it... If I had to guess, they probably have the human equivalent IQ of that of about a six-year old. (See 'Crow Brains'.) I've seen firsthand how incredibly loyal to each in the murder. Somehow, it feels like we've become friends.

    This is so strange for me, and I really don't know what to make of it... I put out scraps for them, and they warn of hawks... They display a clear sense of ire or humor... Impatience or gratitude... Fear and trust... And somehow, I find myself right in the middle of them.

    One thing is for certain... When they fly so closely over my head that I can hear the wing flap, there's a bond. I trust them not to badger me, and they trust me not to turn and kill them. Remarkable...

    By the feeders...


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    October 12, 2011

    Black Pepper Bread

    Last time, we were plinking... this time, we're cooking. (The birds haven't been very exciting lately. One of the things that I really enjoy about backyard birding is the 'low-hassle factor'... Keep the feeder(s) clean about once a month, and then put quality seed in them. Done. Look out the window when you have a chance, and there you go -- cheapest entertainment there is.) Onward to baking bread...

    This here is the world's finest black pepper bread machine recipe... (This formula was more or less from West Bend for their 3/4 lb 'Just for Dinner' product.)

    • 1/2 cup of very warm water
    • 1 tablespoon of margarine
    • 1&1/3 cups of bread machine flour
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • 1 tablespoon dry milk... (I've used a gentle splash of light cream with success.)
    • 1 teaspoon of of dried minced onion... (I used onion powder and lived to talk about it.)
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt... (Sea salt works.)
    • 1/4 teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper... (I'd go a smidgen heavy...)
    • A hint of garlic powder
    • 2&1/4 teaspoons (1/4 oz. package) of fresh bread machine yeast

    The work in progress...

    Black pepper bread resized_IMG_3256.JPG

    And here's the result...

    Done_Black pepper bread resized_IMG_3256.JPG

    This is exceptional eating... If you want to go goofy, serve this up in tandem with fresh littleneck clams steamed in white wine, a dab of garlic, and an accompanying dollop of real butter... Streets of glory...

    By the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    October 10, 2011

    Shooting...

    Well... bet you didn't see this coming... (And what follows doesn't necessarily reflect the views of eBirdseed.com... This is strictly CapeCodAlan talking.)

    And while I'm talking, I think I'll pontificate... Don't ever dream of going near a firearm without proper training and certification. Trying to handle a gun without thorough training, sober and mature approach, and a heap of respect is like trying to climb a telephone pole and re-wiring your house -- I promise you, it ain't gonna' be pretty. And when your training is complete, just remember what my father taught me: "The gun is always loaded!" and "Don't point anything at anything unless you intend to kill!")

    Yeah, I'm a gun person. So is Mrs. CCA... If you've been reading this blog for a bit, you know I grew up in the outdoors, and that included firearms. (As I write this, I worry over your reaction. One of my former bosses bewailed, "Oh my God!" when I mentioned that I was a Life Member of the NRA.) But here goes...

    Anywho, the wife and I went shooting today -- target practice as always. For me, it's been a long time, but still, at least I didn't stink up the range...

    400_target_2011-10-10_222952.jpg

    That's from about 40', open sights, poor shooting glasses, and ear muffs that kept bumping the stock. With decent equipment and even a cheap scope, I can probably shoot 2" at 50 yards with a break-down .22 rifle. Similarly quasi-respectable results with a pistol. Not bad...

    But getting back on the birding track... Watch the following video. (I took this with the range directly behind me -- a shot can be heard obviously downrange and away from us.)

    This club has been in existence for at least 50 years, and conservation is an absolute. The pond is nice and clean for swimming. Fishing is strictly 'catch and release'. It's an ideal place for kayaking, picnicking, or canoeing... And the birds are everywhere.

    Good day, good people, good wildlife awareness... Hope you think about talking with your local gun club... You might be surprised.

    On the range punching paper and picking up... Peace...

    CapeCodAlan


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    October 8, 2011

    The 25% Observation

    Hi,

    Resized_bluejay eating kibble_IMG_1703.JPG

    Yeah... I wanted a crow/blue jay pic, but all I could find was this old 'Blue Jay Eating Chinese Food' shot. Not that I dislike jays or Chinese food, but this wasn't what I was hoping for... Like I said -- I wanted crow and jay. Onward...

    What follows is uniquely gross, and hopefully just a figment of a particularly skeptical mindset. Here goes.

    The other day, I put out some old ham, and came in to watch for a sec... Fine... Crows descend on ham and that's the end of it... Fine...But I think something happened that lodged in my craw, and I only now can toss it out in the hope that someone can shed light upon my observation/hallucination. Here, with statistical certainty is how I would break down the events:

    • 100%... I was watching the crow feeder/tray.
    • 75%... The tray was quickly emptied. (There might have been bits of ham left on the tray.)
    • 100%... A Blue Jay flew over the tray and let slip... ummm... Let's just say that the jay should have been wearing diapers. (Told you this was going to be gross.)
    • 30%... When the jay 'did his business' at least some of it landed on the crow tray. (At the time, I thought, 'classy', but I wasn't sure he actually hit the tray.)
    • 100%... One of the crows returned with a beak full of already-pilfered ham and deposited it in the tray.
    • 99%... That same crow flew off with his package of ham now dripping white. (And no, it hadn't been raining.)
    So... (After we all take a shower...) What happened? Well... My observation was/is riddled with 'maybes'. All told, I'd give it a 25% chance of being accurate... But suppose it is? Is it possible that corvids like the jays and crows have some funky (vile) symbiotic relationship going on? Does the bacteria or enzymes of one bird help the other to digest food? Is there some sort of territorial marking going on? Or, as the stats suggest, did I simply blow the observation in the first place...

    And I sweat blood for umpteen years earning my engineering degree for what?

    As always... By the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    October 3, 2011

    5th Year/800th Post and a Crow with Ham...

    Hi,

    5 years_800_entries_2011-10-03_035517.JPG

    Okay... So, it's 796 posts -- close enough to 800. But I passed the five year mark with eBirdseed.com back on 9/28/11... Arghhh! Let's see... Roughly speaking, that's...

    • One post every 2.28125 days.
    • At 2&1/2 hours/post that equates to 2,000 hours.
    • My 300 words/post adds up to 240,000 words total. (By comparison, Fyodor Dostoyevsky's 'Crime and Punishment' is a measly 203,000 words. {And yes, I did use both MS Word and Word Count Tool to check good ol' Fyodor.})
    You get the idea... (Wow! I've got to mull those numbers!)

    But for the moment, as promised, here's that crow with ham...

    crow wit ham resized IMG_3217.JPG

    Happy, happy crow!

    Since 2006... By the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    September 29, 2011

    Bird Update and Splitting Wood

    Hi,

    Well, at least the anarchy below provides shelter for the birds, squirrels, and stone wall panthers (aka chipmunks).

    400_800_looking west to east_logs on ground_IMG_3199.JPG

    In general, the birds seem to be 'ho-hum' concerning the loss of the maple. I guess that's a good thing. I wish I could come to rest so easily with the vacancy. There's something almost tragic in the loss of a large tree...

    Of course, come next summer, the house is going to get absolutely baked without the shade of the maple... Today, a friend mentioned that now would be a good time to install solar panels... I think he might just be right and will look into it. At first glance, I think we're talking $30K, but let's just see. There's a ton of homework to be done...

    But back to the tree (above). As far as I can tell, it's going to cost apx. $500 to have that beast milled, which simply ain't gonna' happen. So the alternatives are to chop it up and burn it, or split it by hand and use it for lumber. Bluntly, the former is completely unacceptable, and the latter sounds mighty sweaty. So be it the latter. I'll keep you posted though this probably isn't going to be pretty.

    Pensive by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    September 25, 2011

    Stump, Logs, Firewood, Furniture, and Birds

    Hi,

    400_looking North to south_logs on ground_IMG_3198.JPG

    Take a look at the image above... What to do with the remnants of tropical storm Irene? Essentially, we're facing a 'maple' quandary on five fronts:

    • There is the stump itself... I guess we could cut it off at dirt level, and have the remains ground away. Ughhh...
    • Note all them thar logs... 21st century 'wisdom' dictates that all those guys should have been ground to flakes days ago. Once again... Ughhh...
    • There's always the option of chopping the lot up into firewood. In fact, some of the smaller stuff has been taken away for the hearth. (IMHO, better that than chipping it up into oblivion.)
    • My first real choice though is that of at least milling the logs. Take a look at the beast below keeping in mind the vertical yardstick as a size reference...

      400_Trunk_looking east to west_IMG_3194 with yardstick.JPG

      It doesn't take much imagination to see an heirloom blanket chest or table hiding in there.

    • But what of the birds? Now we come full circle back to the stump... Mrs. CCA and I think we want to leave the stump, and turn it into perhaps a pedestal for a birdbath. Then again, it would make for a super-strong housing for a birdhouse pole. Maybe it could house a small water fall for the birds...And so it goes -- circle of life... My money is on the birds.

    By the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    September 22, 2011

    Tree Down... Now What?

    Well, it only took a few hours...

    True to form, the Tree Co. showed up early -- a day early actually, and did a fantastic job. (You can see the 'before' here.)

    tree_gone_2011-09-22_164457.jpg

    But now the fun begins. Somehow, I've got to get most of those logs out of the yard -- supposedly a friend is going to cut them up for firewood. Beyond that, in theory, I'll take a shot at milling the big guy (18" in diameter by 6' in length). I want to split the trunk into a series of slabs, air dry them, and eventually turn them into heirloom pieces of furniture for both the wife and I and for the previous owners who planted the maple 40 years ago. Oh goody. However, not being one to unduly dwell on the dark side of a project like this (though I do reserve the right to be realistic), I think I'm up to the task... But what to make? I'm thinking blanket chest and maybe a jewelry box or two.

    Time will tell... I'll keep you posted.

    CapeCodAlan

    P.S. The crows are already back, but they do seem a bit confused with the disappearance of one of their 'main perches'.


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    eBirdseed Friday Webcast of Downing of Maple Tree

    UPDATE: It's happening now!!! The great folks at Tree Co Inc suggested getting it done sooner rather than later, so they're taking care fo business right now!

    Hi,

    Just a heads up...

    This Friday 9/23, (8:00 - 8:30 AM EST) we're going to have the pros (Tree Co. Inc.) come in and take down the tree below.

    Maple about to be taken down_resized_2011-09-21_184300.JPG

    Unfortunately, because of Hurricane Irene and disease, the tree has to go. But at least you can watch some of the action on our live streaming Webcam, and, I'll (or Mrs. CCA) will try to watch this blog and the eBirdseed Facebook wall for comments.

    In the meantime, I've got to clear a path to the tree (move the boat), make a template for chainsaw cut length, and figure out if I really want to try to mill six feet of the trunk itself. (Let's see... 18" in dia. by 6' in length weighs how much?!?)

    Bracing myself by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    September 19, 2011

    Night Terrors and Flying Things in the Dark

    Hi,

    Well, this is a cute pic ain't it?

    night terror resized_2011-09-19_011315.JPG

    That's by Goya, and is entitled 'El Sueño de la Razón Produce Monstruos', or, 'The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters'. Searching Wikipedia for 'night terror' will take you to that image.

    What prompts this post was the very-recent occurrence of not one, but two back-to-back 'night terrors'. (If my old psych major memory serves me right, the armchair definition of a night terror is that it's sort of a nightmare on steroids. It's rare but highly memorable, often accompanied by screaming, punching, and kicking. Also, the heart rate can go through the roof. A night terror is to a nightmare what a pneumonia is to a common cold.)

    My first night terror occurred back when I was in my 20s... I was being chased by the famous, mounted headless horseman. I was so scared I awoke trying to scream, but could only grunt in a gasping sort of way.

    Tonight, the first consisted of a disastrous explosion (a cross between a huge tree limb falling and a shotgun blast) followed immediately with me being in my pitch-black basement shop with my shoulder wedged against the door, and some large winged thing stomping on the stairs on the other side. To make matters worse, I'd left my pocket flashlight and knife on the workbench. I distinctly remember trying to decide whether to open the door and try to fight the creature in complete darkness, or to keep the door closed and simply try to hold the fort.

    The second NT this PM consisted of a flying fairy that wanted to get in my face and not leave.

    So why do we have these horrors, and why do they so often involve flying things? As for the former... who knows. 'Experts' say that the cause could be anything from excessive passivity to over aggressiveness to bad sleep habits. And the latter? There are some plausible explanations. Maybe we're born with a fear of flying things from an evolutionary standpoint... Perhaps flying is considered a super-human ability that can turn super-sinister... Then again, maybe the brain is just bored during sleep and decides to go on a bit of a tear with the psyche... Who knows? But I do know one thing -- the most terrifying movie I ever saw was 'Jeepers Creepers', and that winged thing was as bad as bad can get...

    Yup... Horrific death from above in the darkness... That will do it...

    Sleepless by the feeders and looking up,

    CapeCodAlan


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    September 16, 2011

    Harry's Ghost Bird

    Hi,

    Well, our old friend and commenter Harry "Gipper" Morris has absolutely outdone himself... Take a look at the photograph he took of the image left behind after a non-lethal bird hit on his glass sliding doors...

    Cropped_full_size_Harry_Gipper_Morris_Ghost Bird_P9150017.JPG

    Copyrighted photo used with permission of creator, Harry "Gipper" Morris

    Click on image to enlarge

    Unfortunately, this isn't the only photograph of this type -- Google on: 'bird strike window' and then look at the 'Images'. However, it still Is very impressive. Here's Harry's explanation of the event...

    The photo is real and it's all mine. I took it. It's in the original format directly from camera to computer, and unaltered in any way. Looking more closely at the image this morning, I think the image came about from oils in the bird's feathers combining with a thin film of dust on the window (glass door) which left such a perfect image of the bird on impact. I produced a similar "whitish" image when I pressed my finger on the glass near the bird image. The brightness, or whitish color, came from the sun at low declanation (5:30pm) refracting through the oils on the glass, back to the eye or camera lense. This morning the image is still there but only in faint grey tones.

    My guess is that Harry is right on about the oil coming off the feathers and leaving their mark. That alone speaks volumes about the force of the collision. Though estimates vary widely, window hits possibly account for 100 million to 900+ million dead birds per years. (And here's a great series of suggestions regarding this problem from the Humane Society.)

    So many thanks go out to Mr. Morris for this remarkable image!

    By those wondrous feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    September 10, 2011

    Viva Las Vegas Hummingbirds!

    Hi all, Mrs. CapeCodAlan here.

    Well, last week I fled the vicissitudes of hurricane season on Cape Cod and ended up in a most unlikely place: Las Vegas. Yes, Sin City itself beckoned me and I answered the siren song. Sounds wicked, doesn't it? Actually, my sister invited me out for a visit, and I went.

    Sis and brother-in-law live in a lovely neighborhood in north part of Las Vegas, and I was almost surprised at the amount of greenery, not just in their neighborhood, but everywhere! Being a long-time resident of moist, green New England, the amount, variety, and beauty of the plant life in what I assumed to be barren desert took me completely by surprise.

    joshua tree.jpg


    And closer to home, life was just as lush and varied. I was aware that, west of the Mississippi, the variety of hummingbird species increases dramatically: our single eastern species, the Ruby Throat, is beautiful and charming, but it's really nice to see some different little dudes. And believe me, these western little dudes are just as inquisitive, just as brave, just as feisty as the most daring Ruby Throat you've ever encountered!

    in tree.jpg


    Sister has several nectar feeders hanging in her back yard, and attracts several types; I tentatively identified Anna's, Calliope, and Black Chinned at her feeders. In fact, one brave Calliope had staked out a particular bush in the yard in close proximity to one of the feeders. He would hang around that bush all day, guarding his feeder and singing what I presume to be a territorial song. Interestingly enough, Sis and I were the only ones who could hear the song. Brother-in-law couldn't hear it at all.

    And this fellow was brave! You could walk right by him, or even right up to him, and the most he'd do is re-locate himself to a twig a few inches further away. I had to admire his pluck. It certainly made for great photo opportunities!

    calliope close-up.jpg


    He was a charming fellow, and I hope he will be around next time I visit. Perhaps he'll have a family by then.

    All in all, it was a wonderful visit, but I'm very grateful to be back home on my beautiful, humid, salty Cape Cod. There truly is no place like home!

    See you by feeders across the country,

    Mrs. CapeCodAlan


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    Review of "The Atlas of Birds"

    Cover_resized_400.jpg

    Hi,

    So far I've reviewed the following from Princeton University Press (PUP):

    And Mr. Unwin's book hasn't broken the trend -- great stuff. That's not to say that I don't have a couple of nits to pick concerning this work, because I do, but when all is said and done, this is a wonderful piece...

    On to the picayune and I'll get back to the bigger picture in a second...

    • When I received the book, the printing process had folded over the corners of a number of pages, and consequentially, they hadn't been cut properly. For me, this is a non-issue, but if I bought the book as a gift, I would have returned it for a pristine copy.
    • I spotted a couple of errors in the atlas such as the number of times Shakespeare mentions the bird 'Chough'... If that sort of thing 'derails your train', then the decision to buy or not buy this book is the least of your worries.
    • This tome is loaded with references (over 150), but lack of corroboration of sources makes this old engineer antsy. At least 40% of Mr. Unwin's citations are from a single (and very well-respected) source -- BirdLife International. Corroboration might have been better, though, in the real world, that may not even have been possible.
    Alrighty then, small stuff out of the way, on to the heart of the matter. This is a remarkable work. 'The Atlas of the Birds' approaches the subject in eight parts (plus intro, acknowledgements, photo credits etc.):
    • Introduction To Birds
    • Where Birds Live
    • Birds In Order
    • How Birds Live
    • Birds And People
    • Birds Under Threat
    • Protecting Birds
    • Bird Table (including indices and sources)
    What makes this book special is its layout -- its organization. Everything is in a two-page format, part by part... Let's say that you're interested in bird migration; all you need to do is use the index, check out 'How Birds Live', turn to pg. 80 ('Flyways') and there you go. Like clockwork, pp. 80 and 81 have nice graphical representations of the global bird routes along with descriptions, a pie chart, tasteful photos, etc.

    So who should buy this book? Who will really read it? The answer is everyone. (Believe it or not, this is where I may truly tick off both the author and publisher...) Here's the deal... This book is ideal for the bird lover, the student who wants to learn how to write, and the coffee table. It's perfect for the auto repair shop, the doctor's office, and the dentist's office. You name the interested or idle moment and this book is perfect. But here's where I think it really shines -- in the bathroom. I don't say that in the least derogatory -- just the opposite. Whether we like to admit it or not, some of the most meaningful reading is done in the privacy of the 'loo'. Before you jump ugly on me, know that Mrs. CCA had the same first impression, and also some of my most treasured books are in the powder room. It is what it is...

    Time to wrap this up... 'The Atlas of Birds' is a must. While a few of the numbers may be open to interpretation or confirmation, Mr. Unwin has nonetheless done himself proud.

    By the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    September 6, 2011

    Rain

    Hi,

    Not sure what the birds think of the rain, but I can guess...

    rain on deck_resized_IMG_3168.JPG

    If you watch crows long enough, you might notice that they seem to ruffle their feathers when they're unhappy. If they arrive, and if I fail to put out food (or if I put out non-meat food), they become stand-offish and huffy. Their agitation is demonstrated by the herky-jerky scapulas -- a sort of bug-eyed bird version of Rodney Dangerfield adjusting his tie and shirking his shoulders, "I don't get no respect... no respect at all." (I wonder if crows have a sense of humor... After all, the corvids are some of the smartest creatures on earth... But I digress. Back to the subject of rain...)

    Me? I love the rain. Oh to be out on the clam flats now, or in a rowboat in the rain. There's a peace there, a solitude, an unresolvable escape from the daily hoary... And even if a person is housebound, there's always Carole King's 'Tapestry' or the Carpenters 'Love Songs'... Do birds feel serenity?

    Quiet by the feeders..

    CapeCodAlan


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    September 4, 2011

    Drunken Bee and New Crow Tray

    Hi,

    I couldn't help but think of the following Emily Dickinson piece when I took this shot...

    yellow jacket_IMG_3149.JPG

    I taste a liquor never brewed --
    From Tankards scooped in Pearl --
    Not all the Vats upon the Rhine
    Yield such an Alcohol!

    Inebriate of Air -- am I --
    And Debauchee of Dew --
    Reeling -- thro endless summer days --
    From inns of Molten Blue --

    When "Landlords" turn the drunken Bee
    Out of the Foxglove's door --
    When Butterflies -- renounce their "drams" --
    I shall but drink the more!

    Till Seraphs swing their snowy Hats --
    And Saints -- to windows run --
    To see the little Tippler
    Leaning against the -- Sun --

    "When "Landlords" turn the drunken Bee
    Out of the Foxglove's door --"

    That just kills me -- high on nature. This little fellow looks (and acts) like he's bombed. Then again, in this heat, the sugar water may have fermented a bit (either that or he's on a sugar high...) I wonder what the world would be like from the perspective of a blasted bee? Inquiring minds...

    Let's see, what else?

    Ah, there's the 'new' crow feeder... I had a spare piece of 1 X 12 pine, and a length of 1 X 1. I just tossed in some stainless screws and some weatherproof glue, and presto, a new platform is born. (Note the watchful crow...)

    New crow tray and crow_resized_IMG_3164.JPG

    (BTW, note the two monster cable ties used to reinforce the top of the support post. Those are a 'must-own', and can be purchased at plumbing and electrical supply stores.)

    Time to go...

    See you by those patched feeders if the bees don't get me...

    CapeCodAlan


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    September 1, 2011

    Forlorn Crow, Forlorn Crow Feeder

    Hi,

    As promised in the last post, here are some thoughts about bird equipment survival during a strong storm... (I was going to include info on 'people survival' but I've done that to death already... Google on 'eBiirdseed prepare' and brace yourself.)

    gray crow resized_IMG_3147.JPG

    The old fella above doesn't look so happy does he... Wonder why? Could it be that his always-reliable 'crow feeder' below got smoked?

    Crow feeder destroyed_resized_IMG_3146.JPG

    Thoughts on future feeder and bird house designs... Given their demise (the bird house is off to the left out of the picture), both units held up exceptionally well until a honking big branch fell on them. Still, I'll make changes in the future designs...

    • I'm going to start seriously exploring 'poly-wood', -- a man-made, virtually indestructible plastic. There are pluses and minuses to poly-wood:
      • It can be worked with ordinary tools
      • It's relatively impervious to the elements
      • Poly-wood can be secured with standard stainless fasteners
      On the downside...
      • It's expensive
      • There are no glues for synthetic wood
      • It's heavy
      • Birds' claws can't take hold of it, so it will have to be grooved or a perch will have to be mounted
    • I've got to do a better job of making the birdhouse cleanable... The breaking away of the bottom exposed a number of old nests... Shame on me.
    • Speaking of 'breaking away', look at the 4 X 4 post in the shot above. See how it split away at the top where the post was set in. I always worried about that kind of a failure. In the past, I thought of using a stainless pipe clamp to 'collar' the area. Guess what I'll do in the future?

    That should do it for now... I still have to put the garage back together again after the storm, repair the crow tray, change the oil in the generator and store that away somewhere, blah, blah, blah...

    See you by those ever busy feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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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 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 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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    July 31, 2011

    Birds Known and Unknown (and Teaser Book Review)

    Hi,

    Ah yes... Bird identification for the slightly-less-than "avid birder"... (That would be me. Don't get me wrong -- I like my birds, but I'm just not one of those hard-core birders who can spot a bee hummingbird hiding in a thicket at 75yards.) So onward to the first two obvious suspects...

    Tough to miss this guy -- a bluebird. Still, the thing is a beauty...

    bluebird on wire_400_IMG_3003.JPG

    Next is the downy... I don't know why, but these critters just put a smile on my face. Maybe it was the fact that I really didn't see too many of these growing up, but still, the visitation by a downy always stops me in my tracks. (Man oh man do they love their suet!)

    downy_400_IMG_2999.JPG

    Alrighty then! Things start to get murky for me here... I think this is a house finch or a purple, though I'd just name it a 'McEnroe Bird' (because of the red headband) and be done with it. Somehow, I don't think Cornell, Princeton University Press, or David Sibley would agree with my naming process. Nomenclature aside, he is one funky little dude.

    maybe house finch_400_IMG_2992.JPG

    I'd group the last picture into our "LLB" ("Little Brown Bird") category and move on. Unfortunately, the lexicologists amongst us would have a hissy, so here goes... I'm going to say that it's one of the following:

    • Chipping sparrow
    • Song sparrow
    • Swamp sparrow
    • White-throated sparrow
    • House sparrow

    nuthatch or finch_400_IMG_2997.JPG

    I don't know... By my eye, it could be any one of those. I just like to watch 'em.

    Normally, at this point, I'd sign off, but I do want to give you a heads up concerning a book review I've been working on... The text under the glass is, "The Atlas of Birds" by Mike Unwin. This is a respectable project. Overall, it's an impressive work, but quite frankly, I'm starting to struggle with some of the stats and sources... Let me keep thumping away and see if the problem isn't on my end... I'll keep you updated...

    By the feeders (I think that's what they are...)

    CapeCodAlan


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    July 28, 2011

    Let's Build a Birdhouse, a Boat, or Something!

    Hi,

    Well, 'tis the time to start thinking about building birdhouses, roosts, etc. As I already have my hands full in that department, I thought I'd just throw in some basic woodworking math that will come in handy regardless of the endeavor...

    Might as well cut to the chase -- how to handle that age old dilemma of, "What's the cheapest purchase of wood for a given need? (Do I buy a 12' 1X6 or a 6' 1X12? What happens when I start ripping lumber/sheet goods? How do I calculate the effect of the blade kerf etc.?") Alrighty then... Here's your answer short and sweet:

    1. Draw out what you want. In the pic below, I'm anticipating ripping a sheet of 4X8 plywood into three equal widths ("X") for the sides of a boat...
    2. 48 inches cut into thirds.jpg

      Since the total usage will be three "X" and two saw kerfs, the fence setting on the saw needs to reflect this equation: 3X plus two kerf (or blade widths) equals to 48"

    3. Next, I measure the blade thickness (with the saw unplugged) to give me the kerf. In my case, that equates to 1/8" or .125"
    4. So... 3X plus .250" is going to have to total 48"... Or 3X = 47.75"... Or our mystery width "X" is 47.75" divided by three... That is "X" is 15.91667". Wonderful... How do I measure .91667" and set the rip fence accordingly??? Check the table below...
    5. 128ths_resized full screen.jpg

      (Click on the above to see full screen...)

      It turns out that 15.91667" is pretty close to 15 & 29/32". Set your fence to that, and you'll be well nigh to spot on... When you're done, just re-set the fence to the narrowest slice, and a couple clean-up passes will make all equal with only a smidgen of sawdust to tell the tale....

    And that's it... I use this sort of calculation on virtually every project ... from crow trays to water craft.... Hope this make sense...

    I'll be by the feeders making sawdust...

    CapeCodAlan

    P.S. If you really want to have fun, pick up a digital caliper from one of the woodworking outlets to measure the kerf... Yee haw!

    P.P.S. Don't tell Mrs. CCA, but I've started building another boat... As long as we keep this on the 'hush hush', I don't think she'll notice a 16' sailboat taking shape in the garage...


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    July 26, 2011

    Capturing a Hummingbird

    Hi,

    First off... No, I didn't physically capture a hummingbird nor did I even try to. But I did try to snag one at our Live eBirdseed.com streaming cam. That's far easier said than done. But check out the pics below... The first reflects utter failure... The creature was right there a fraction of a second before I hit "Print Screen", and then, 'Poof!"... No bird...

    400_none_2011-07-26_150348.jpg

    The next shot is a little better... Granted, the subject was flying away, but still, I got something...

    gotcha_resized_2011-07-26_150931.jpg

    And finally, an almost respectable image via lightning fingers and dumb luck.

    gotcha_2_resized_2011-07-26_151641.jpg

    Who knows why this sort of diversion is so much fun... I guess it's probably like fishing -- part skill and part happenstance. It's all too obvious that the results aren't that grand... But once, I'd like to come up with something akin to our 2008 photo contest winner Kathy K...

    Kathy K_resized_2011-07-26_233205.jpg

    One can dream...

    By the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    July 24, 2011

    Crow, Grackle, Clock, etc...

    Not too much to pass along from here... The weather has finally cooled, and we're at roughly 70 -- 80 degrees...

    Before I forget it, just a word to the wise... A couple of days ago, we looked out and saw a crow panting. (I wish I'd gotten a snapshot, but I was too busy making sure that the creature had enough water.) Like dogs, birds perspire (dissipate heat) by panting and salivating. This is a very big deal. Here's a fellow in less calamitous straights...

    trellis_IMG_2968.JPG

    And then there's the grackle... Interesting to watch him... He hopped around the bath for a bit, and then went right for the fountain itself. I wonder if the water is cooler there, or being moving, perhaps cleaner?

    grackle drinking from foutain IMG_2966.JPG

    And finally, there is the clock... What started out as a prototype for the tall Shaker clock has taken on a life of its own.

    powerpoint_400_.jpg

    The dimensions are a bit tough to see, but all told, we're looking at 20" tall, 7 & 7/8" wide, and 3 & 3/8" deep. I'm planning on a 5 & 5/8 face with 2 & 3/4" bob. It won't be tretty, but it will be done...

    By the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    July 20, 2011

    Mailboxes, Woodworking, etc.

    Hi,

    Got a full plate today, so we might just as well take a look at the pic below, and I'll explain as we go along...

    Cramp_Pinch_Wixey_Mailbox.JPG

    Let us see then... By the red letters:

    • "A": Last winter, yet another of our mailboxes got popped by a plow. So now I have two. One will become a well-ventilated duplex birdhouse for the shade, and the other will be the overdue outdoor camera housing for the feeders. I can't cool it for the summer, but I can heat it for the fall and winter. Should be interesting.
    • "B": That little black ring is a piece of 0.150" spring steel that has been bent into a loop complete with pointy ends. The idea is that it can be used for clamping two mitered boards together for gluing purposes.
    • "C": Ah, "cramps". Like the 'pinch clamp' above, cramps are an 'old school' way of clamping a miter from the outside. Just rip a couple of right triangle wood strips with equal 3/4" legs, glue the hypotenuse to each side of the carcase, let the glue dry, and then clamp as shown. (Next time, I'll be careful not to let the cramps get so close to each other.)
    • "D": Ever want to really "dial in" a saw -- get a really accurate angle on the blade? Meet "Wixey WR300". How did we live without this sort of calibration device??? Just plunk it on your tool's work surface, turn it on, zero it, and then let its magnet clamp onto the adjacent blade or fence. The LCD shows you the angle between the two. I've already used it to calibrate my table saw and radial arm saw. The band saw, drill press, and joiner are next. While it's jittery and fussy, for $30, this thing is simply a "Must Have" for anyone who has a shop.
    • "E": Finally, there's the old standard, "The Complete Woodworker" by Bernard E. Jones. While obviously dated, this tome is superb. If you can pick it up used for a couple of bucks... Go for it -- the skills inside are both timeless and invaluable.
    • Gotta run,

      By the feeders,

      CapeCodAlan


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    July 18, 2011

    Rabbit, UStream Update, etc...

    Hi,

    Let's see, what have we got here? Well, obviously, first a small rabbit...

    young rabbit_resized.JPG

    No great surprise there. It's halfway between baby and adult... To be completely honest, I hate to look at helpless little things like young rabbits. Just seeing them makes me think of cars, dogs, hawks, coyotes, etc. I know, I know, I know -- it's Nature... But still, I'm uncomfortable being a spectator. What's next? Ah yes, our UStream live streaming cam...

    ustream_mon_resized_.jpg

    Since I installed this, I've just taken it for granted... I hooked it up to a dedicated HP I rebuilt, and let her go. Oh, I'd check in on it from time to time using another system just to be sure that it was still visible to the world, but that was about it... Today, I took a peek-a-loo and discovered the cam wasn't broadcasting. D'oh! My mistake -- We've had a few brown outs, and I didn't check the system... Long story short... Should you by chance be surfing along and find the stream is down, please feel free to comment any post (I filter all comments) or just send me an email at: capecodalan@ebirdseed.com...

    Well, that's all for today...

    By the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    July 17, 2011

    Another Hummingbird Photo, More Bird Carvings, Etc.

    Hi,

    More summer joy...

    save 400_hummingbird on monarda_IMG_2926.JPG

    Obviously, the shot above is of a Ruby-throat -- beautiful thing. Note the Monarda from which it is drinking... (More on that in just a bit...) Next, we've got yet another batch of colorful bird carvings...

    425 four schmelke and me unfinished hummer_IMG_2935.JPG

    Sorry for the small size, but if you squint, you can probably make out the following from left to right...

    • Indigo Bunting
    • Cardinal
    • Downy Woodpecker
    • Wren
    • Goldfinch
    • Kingfisher
    • Painted Bunting
    • Yellow Warbler

    Just to give you folks who either don't collect bird carvings, or aren't from the Cape Cod area... The artisan who created these is F. Schmelke -- a local talent who's known for good renditions at exceptional prices. Every time Mrs. CCA happens upon Mr. Schmelke in a local crafts fair, she buys several of his carvings at a time. Word to the wise...

    Finally, about that Monarda... If you carefully look back up to that last picture, in the middle... That's the hummingbird carving (it's tough to see) I've been working on with the organza wings cut to length but not shape... I think we can get a silk flower and secure the Ruby's beak in it for a most interesting display piece...

    'Till next time, see you by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    July 15, 2011

    Just a Nice Day...

    Let's see,

    Nothing too earth shattering here... (Although Princeton University Press did send me another book to review -- "The Atlas of Birds" by Mike Unwin. That piece is going to take some time to review -- It's not a field guide but instead is an actual Atlas that discusses bird diversity, behavior, and conservation. I'll keep you posted on the progress of that review.)

    The weather was almost ideal here today --- dry, cool, windy. That might have had some influence on the remarkable activity we saw around our feeders and yard... Below are a threesome of orioles fussing over the jelly and orange...

    400_orioles bickering_IMG_2917.JPG

    My guess is that the one on the left is a young'un who still struggles with the concept of feeding oneself...

    However, the hummingbird seems to have no such troubles...

    400_hummingbird on monarda_IMG_2923.JPG

    And so it went... A baby rabbit found the wife's garden a great place to take an extended meal... The hawks were out... The crows were being their usual pushy selves... All the ubiquitous "little black birds" flitted about...

    All told, just a nice day...

    See you by those uneventful feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    July 13, 2011

    The Jelly Eaters

    It never ceases to amaze us that the orioles come back to our yard annually. Spring after spring, soon after the hummingbirds arrive, we see that first brilliant flash of orange and black, and hear that first clarion call of, "Peter, Peter, cheer, cheer!" When we see and hear that, we know that spring has truly arrived.

    And by the time July rolls around, we have whole families of orioles: adults who know where to find the jelly bowl and how to land gracefully in just the right position...

    summer oriole.JPG

    ...and the juveniles, who are just trying out their wings, and have not yet completely mastered the art of landing where they want to, or sharing their place at the feeder.

    Of course, as you can see the orioles are not the only jelly-lovers. When you can't get pizza or popcorn, why not settle for some grape jelly?

    Waiting by the feeders with some peanut butter and bread,

    CapeCodAlan


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    July 4, 2011

    Cooper and Dogtime.com Syndication

    Cooper_P7270025(1).jpg

    Wanted_resized_2011-07-04_225506.jpg

    Yeah, you probably didn't see this post coming... What's a dog have to do with backyard birds? Well, nothing, and something as it turns out. About two years ago, this blog went into syndication on the Amazon Kindle. (We were one of the first 400...) And Dogtime.com was one of the first (and only) to pick us up. So it only seems fitting that every so often, I should make some mention of our four legged friends... Besides, dogs are cool!

    Anywho... That's Cooper, my best friend Gerry's dog... Speaking of Gerry and dogs, the following story begs to be told...

    Gerry (and his last dog, "Copper") was pulled over for a speeding violation. Copper being the excitable type, made a great ruckus during the stop... At some point during the "drivers license, and registration please" proceedings, Gerry tried to admonish his pet by snapping, "Shut up Copper!" Short story made even shorter, the police officer thought that Gerry was telling him to shut up, and things started to go downhill from there... (It was one of those, "'OMG moments --- 'This strapping patrolman thought I was telling him to shut up!") Gerry scrambled, and produced the animal's inoculation papers including the dog's name, and all was cool. The cop let my friend go with just a warning and a chuckle...

    But anyway... That's the story of Cooper, Copper, Gerry and syndication... If you can help find a good temporary crib for Cooper, let me know post haste...

    CapeCodAlan


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    June 30, 2011

    eBirdseed.com, Facebook, Our Newsletter, Hummingbird Wings, etc...

    Hi,

    Well, here it is -- the not so new eBirdseed.com Facebook connection...

    I'm telling ya', ya' gotta' check this out! Go ahead and "Like" us... Don't worry, we won't clutter your wall...

    Let's see... What else? I just checked out our newsletter... If you don't get it, you should. There are all kinds of sales and discounts to be had as well as some interesting birding insights. (Did you know that fireworks can be lethally startling to birds?)

    In another vein, I got an interesting email from long-time reader Harry "Gipper" Morris concerning my hummingbird carving... His idea was to simply outline the wing, metacarpals, etc. in wire -- that is to say, skip the fabric entirely. And that may well be a stroke of genius. I'll have to mock up some prototypes, and a lot will probably depend on the wire used and its color, but there's real potential there. Thanks Harry!

    Funny how things work out... I intended to write a lot more about birds, (or even about an ancient, horrid sci fi flick -- "The H-Man". But for some reason, my eyes started tearing and burning in a rather extreme fashion. (The only time I've ever had a more severe reaction was when I was swimming in an over-chlorinated swimming pool... Oh well... Nothing that cucumber eye masks can't handle...)

    Anywho... At least we can offer up a nice hummingbird video...

    By the feeders (if I can still see them),

    CapeCodAlan


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    June 28, 2011

    Farm Table Finished and Happy Dancing Creatures

    Hi, Well, the table is fini...

    Finished_IMG_2870.JPG

    Should you decide to take on a similar project, here are a few thoughts from first idea to last coat of finish...

    • Number one... Figure out what you want! It's amazing how many people leap into a build (boat or furniture) with a blurred goal in sight. The end result is awkward (at best) changes on the fly. Do your research, and if you have to, make a scale model... Never forget the Golden Rule... In the end, light and shade matters!
    • Consider leg kits. We used Osborne Wood Products, Inc. and were extremely pleased with their service.
    • If you're going to work with old wood as we did, beware warping, cupping, dry rot, etc.
    • Speaking of old wood, don't sand it to the point of destroying the patina.
    • Keep in mind too that wide planks of any age will swell and shrink. Take a look at the peg/slot arrangement below for the mating surface between the table tongue and the breadboard slot..

      slots_resized_IMG_2872.JPG
      All too often, wood like this either moves or it splits.

    • Choose your chemicals wisely... We like fresh, high-end stuff for glues and finish...
    • And when the project is done, sit back and enjoy -- that is, don't sweat the small stuff...
    • Finally, beyond furniture... Just a few words on our happy creatures dancing, (obvious CCR reference)... Yesterday, I looked out the kitchen window and saw the largest menagerie of backyard critters... At a single moment, there were: squirrels, a chipmunk, mourning doves, a catbird, a red-wing, a black-cap, a crow, a hummingbird, and a Bigfoot. O.k., so I made up the Bigfoot part... But you get the idea... Quite a sight...

      By those feeders...

      CapeCodAlan


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    June 24, 2011

    Summer and Bird Families

    Summer started out dingy and gray. The past few days have been mostly rainy and cool here on Cape Cod. But we were able to snap a few photos (some good, some not so much) of some of our local bird families.

    First up, our resident Red Bellied Woodpecker (not to be confused with the lovelorn Flicker who kept pounding on our chimney back in April) has clearly been raising a wee one. He is now in the process of teaching the youngster how to find food--and it's a fascinating process.

    First, he gets a good big peanut from the feeder.

    red belly papa_resized.JPG

    Then he flies off to a tree and wedges the nut in some bark. Then he calls to the youngster and encourages him to find the nut. It'll be interesting to see when the young one graduates from trees to the feeder.

    red belly papa and young_resized.JPG

    Next, we have our usual raucus family of orioles, frequenting the orange-and-jelly feeder we keep filled especially for them. (And the catbirds. And the woodpeckers. And an occasional cardinal... Oh, heck, everybirdy loves the stuff!)

    However, the orioles love it. A lot. The practically dive right into the jelly bowl, and they really don't care who's standing there taking pictures. Case in point:

    oriole eating_resized.JPG

    And more particularly, this:

    oriole eating_closeup_resized.JPG

    We frequently see three, four, even five youngsters squabbling over who gets to eat jelly. And it's vastly entertaining to watch them learn how to hop from the pole to the feeder and edge their way to the jelly bowl. They learn fast!

    So that's the early summer report. Hopefully, the weather will brighten up some in the near future.

    See you by the feeders with an umbrella,

    CapeCodAlan


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    June 21, 2011

    Bird Video and Shaker Clock Update...

    Ah summertime... Time for the birdbath... Check out the oriole, bluebird, and sparrow...

    I've always wondered why birds use birdbaths... Obviously, they like to drink from them, and I've read that it helps them cool off by washing away some of the oil on their feathers that keeps them warm in the colder months... I guess that all makes sense, but quite frankly, at times it seems like they are playing. (BTW... The idea of animal play is compelling... Here's a good starting point... on the subject. Anyone who has watched crows knows that they have a great sense of loyalty and intelligence... Could it be that birds in general can experience "fun" and "joy"?)

    Moving on...

    The next project will be the tall Shaker clock...

    resized_400_2011-05-27_131555.jpg

    It will have to be 80" to match the height of the hutch. Also, I think I want to make the access door have a glass face which opens into a set of curio shelves... (Thick glass shelves maybe? Internal lighting maybe?) There probably will be a lower, finger-groove drawer which when removed will expose 50 pounds of lead on the clock's bottom as a steadying ballast. Believe it or not, I intend to dovetail the entire carcase together (by hand) using half-blind dovetails. By a quick, rough estimate, that will be 200+ dovetails, or 400+ pins and tails... Not a problem... I'm faster by hand than I am with machine... (I will have to look up the proportions of traditional Shaker dovetails though...)

    Now... As for the 'mechanism' I think we want high-tech... (It will make for a great contrast...) Maybe something like this...

    DIGITAL FACE_resized_.JPG

    This project is right around the corner in that the farmers table is almost done, and I'm already selecting the boards for the clock. Expect another fast build with plenty of updates...

    By the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    June 19, 2011

    Post #750 Hummingbird Model, Table, etc...

    Hi,

    In my last post, I mentioned some of the reasons I keep writing these things. In the comments section, old friend and faithful reader Harry "Gipper" Morris suggested another reason might be that of the sake his (and I assume others') readership. Excellent point Harry... Excellent point... But he also asked,

    "BTW, did you ever finish that humming bird carving you started working one a while back?"

    Funny you should ask that Harry... (For a more thorough understanding of our comments, just take a look at the last post and the exchange that followed...)

    So... What of that model? Truth be told, I've been thinking about it... But it's not easy to catch one of these rascals in inanimate material...

    hummingbird translucent win_resized_IMG_2819.JPG

    For the hummingbird model, what I wanted was something light, organic, essential... Something that gently depicted the thing as if we'd left the screen door open and it furtively buzzed in to take a quick drink. Also, I felt it a shame to completely cover the wood grain -- I wanted that alive too... This is what I have so far...

    Hummingbird model_in jug_resized_MG_2836.JPG

    Obviously, the beak isn't epoxied into place yet so the bird is drooping, but that's an easy fix when the time comes. As for the wings and painting,... Well... Those issues have garnered considerable thought... Regarding the wings -- I think I'm going to use the top photo as a sort of guide. Some sort of translucent glass complete with the outlines of the primary and secondary feathers. (Maybe thin gallery glass or polymer clay?) But no matter what, the wings need to "float". Ditto for the body... Perhaps watercolor paint or pyrography for the torso? In any event, I'm getting into techniques I've never explored before, so it will no doubt get interesting. (The phrase, "Practice first!" leaps to mind...) Depending on how it all works out, the table below may become its final home.

    Table with unfinished hummingbird_resized_IMG_2838.JPG

    Concerning the table... The underside floating cleats of the table are finally in place, and the end bread boards are coming down the home stretch. All seems remarkably flat and square... (The real miracle is that the wide boards haven't split...) After the ends are fini, all that's left is to loose-clip the top to the skirt and hand it off to Mrs. CCA for tidy up. Let's see if our luck holds...

    If I'm not in the shop, I'm by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    June 17, 2011

    Post Number 749... Why I Write About Birds...

    Hey,

    Well, the next post is #750, and I got to thinking, "Why do I keep writing these things?" Take a look at the screen shot below. (Sorry about the size...)

    random shot_resized_2011-06-17_161429.jpg

    That shot is of from our UStream live bird cam... Pretty serene isn't it? Now, let's see what was on the news today...

    • Well, people were actually having fist fights to get into court today to watch the Casey Anthony trial.
    • They're still talking about the Vancouver riots after the Stanley Cup Finals. The riots lasted four hours, did well over $1,000,000 in damage, and injured 100 people including one near-fatal stabbing.
    • Sixteen people were shot dead in Syria... (The Middle East in general is a horror show...)
    • In a hopelessly moronic and failed sting operation, the U.S. BATF sold guns to Mexican drug cartels and then lost track of those guns...
    • The entire European economy is a mess, and they're rioting in Greece...
    • Anthony Weiner...
    So I write about birds, politics, and wine... Work on computers, and build boats and furniture... Look out number 750...

    By the feeders

    CapeCodAlan


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    June 15, 2011

    Long Forgotten Blue Jay Photo...

    Hey,

    Back in the day of actual film, it used to be that photos had value... But now, with digital cameras, we (or at least I) just pound out the pics to our hearts' content, dump them on the computer and go out for more. Look at the Jay below...

    resized_DSC_0593.JPG

    Not bad, right? There's a little action in the blurry foot, there's plenty of sharp detail, it's a great close up... With a little attention, this isn't a bad shot at all... In the old days, I would have had this printed, and taken it to show off to my co-workers at the office. But in fact, was was probably just one of almost 600 taken by our now defunct NovaBird automatic camera in a single-day shoot back in 2007. Truth be told, I probably looked at it for one second on the initial review of the pictures (593 shots equates to 593 seconds which equates to almost 10 minutes just in the first pass). Later, I probably gave it another few seconds in my second perusal of probably 300 survivors (15 minutes). And finally, I winnowed it down to a handful. But the point is that I've only spent perhaps ten seconds looking at that photograph before I choose something else, and 'Poof!" it was gone from memory.

    We're entering a strange time in history... In the "Digital Age" there is such a preponderance of stuff out there that it almost becomes moot, lost, meaningless... Yet, at the same time, so much of it still is out there... Just ask Representative Anthony Weiner...

    So here I sit with over 10,000 bird photos... To give each just one minute of attention, that would take 167 hrs or seven days of 24 hr non-stop focus. At the rate I'm going, that number could swell by a factor of five or even ten times. And I got into the game late... Today, the average teenager has access to digital imagery if by no other means than the cell phone... Think about what that means for the way we as individuals and a culture process special moments and special memories...

    See you by the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    June 13, 2011

    Moon and Other Stuff

    resized_moon_IMG_2031.JPG

    Slow days and slow nights now... We had a nice moonrise earlier, but I didn't get a photo of it... Hope you don't mind one of my archive pics...

    Let's see... What else? What's going on with the birds? Not much really... We refresh the feeders daily and babysit the crows, but no great drama. They (the birds) seem to be perfectly happy with their feeders, water, suet, houses, etc. All told, our yard and environs looks to be a pretty good gig avian-wise. And the fact that we've got a conservative trust next door probably doesn't hurt either...

    The farmer's table build proceeds rather nicely... All that needs to be done with that is fasten the underside cleats, attach the expansion springs, and then it's off to the finish team (Mrs. CCA).

    (Like wow man... This is an incredibly boring post! I have a fantastic joke to liven things up... But if I told it you... Well... Let's just say that the boss would skin me alive and then he'd really get mad. So let's not go down that road!)

    So I guess that's about it... Keep your feeders and sundries clean and well stocked, and life goes on... There are worse things...

    See you by those uneventful feeders...

    CapeCodAlan

    P.S. I would have told you about the conclusive video proof that I now have of recent sightings of both Sasquatch and Elvis, but I figure I've given you enough "Ho Hum" for a while...


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    June 12, 2011

    Bird Thoughts...

    Something isn't it?

    resized_ IMG_2494.JPG

    That's a local Red-tail taking flight... Amazing... But have you ever wondered what these things are thinking? Yes, we've talked about crow brains and bird souls... I'm talking real-world consciousness stream...

    At the moment of that photo, was it thinking hunger? Adventure? Irritation? Anger? And are some of the emotions/thoughts blurred together? (I've noticed in our cat "Toby", 'anger', 'frustration', and 'excitement'' all seem to meld into one particular set of behaviors that demonstrate themselves with the same dilated pupils and skin rippling.) Is this how it is for birds? We know that crows can recognize human faces, but what do they think? As we feed ours, do they think 'individual', 'good", 'food', 'relative' when they see us? Or are their thought patterns more complex? When I've thrown out my back in the shop, and my gait is slowed and awkward and my expression is of discomfort, do birds recognize discomfort and even feel empathy? (If I were a betting man, I'd say at least the crows do...)

    But who really knows...

    Birds and I thinking by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    June 9, 2011

    Solar Flare and Stockpiling Seed

    Hi,

    This happened yesterday...

    flash.jpg

    Though scientists think this solar flare shall have a minimal impact for us here on earth, there is still the possibility of electrical grid problems caused by EMF disruptions just as we had back in 1989 when one of these things caused a nine-hour power blackout in most of Quebec... Given that most recent flare (and a gazillion other current natural emergencies) I repeat my suggestion from long ago (June 21, 2007) that you consider buying in bulk and vacuum sealing. Why look, here is some wild rice that we've had for at least a couple of years...

    vacuum pack_IMG_2803.JPG

    The sad fact is that we're in volatile times... Gas and food prices are skyrocketing with no end in sight... Since long before 2007, Mrs. CCA and I buy in large bulk and vacuum pack everything we can afford, including grains like the rice above... We buy bulk suet and either refrigerate it or freeze it. (For that matter, our freezer is packed!)

    Look, I'm no fortune teller... The Middle East could calm down tomorrow... Oil drilling could open up... The economy could turn around... The cost of transporting birdseed could plummet... Etc., Etc., Etc... But I'm just giving you my own humble opinion (and not that of eBirdseed.com.) Just as back in 2007, I think now would be a good time to buy in bulk...

    Wearing an aluminum foil hat and stocked up by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    June 4, 2011

    Folding Wings and Flying the Light Fantastic

    Back on September 18, 2010, I talked about crows' ability to fly between narrow trees...

    cropped and resized_KEEP_crow flying through trees.JPG

    Well, here is a high-speed video of a Goshawk performing even more intricate maneuvers...

    Is that amazing or what? But how many times have we watched a chickadee flutter away at a 45° angle or watch a humming fly backwards. And speaking of amazing... Here is one of out titmice taking one of its first flights

    flegling_resized_IMG_2787.JPG

    Sorry that the pic is so blurry, but you get the idea... The point being that the creature has gone from egg to air in roughly 16 to 17 days... For me, that's absolutely stunning...

    Quiet by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    May 31, 2011

    Titmouse Video...

    Hey...

    First off, hope you had a pleasant weekend, and as always, most sincere thanks go out to our veterans... Without you, none of this would be possible...

    Thought you might enjoy a quick titmouse video...

    Please forgive the sound of the car going by... Still, if you listen carefully, you can hear the newborns chirping for "mom" and food. (Ahhh... There must be nothing better than the taste of a raw earthworm in the morning.)

    I wish we'd mounted the house a little higher. (You can see/hear the great caution as the parent enters and leaves the nest...) Still, this is our second or third year that we've had birds roosting there, so we must be doing something right...

    That's about it for now...

    See you by the feeders Cecil B...

    CapeCodAlan


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    May 29, 2011

    Book Review: "Avian Architecture, How Birds Design, Engineer & Build"

    Well, Princeton University Press has another winner on its hands...

    Cover resized.JPG

    In a word, this book is "magnificent". Its 160 pages are loaded with the kind of photos and artwork that we've come to expect from Princeton University Press -- exceptional. The font and printing are both clean and easy on the eyes. The table of contents cuts right to the heart of the matter by listing all 12 nest types, and the glossary and index are spot on as far as they go... I especially liked the occasional "Step-by-Step" guide for making a nest. With this book, I really think I could make a crude nest or two. (Granted, my nests probably wouldn't pass bird muster, but at least they'd be recognizable.)

    In short, this book delivers 100% of what the title promises -- the the design, engineering, and building of birds nests.

    I have only two regrets about Mr. Goodfellow's effort...

    First, while each nest-type section contains several case studies of the relevant birds and a brief mention of others that use that sort of structure, it's far from comprehensive. Simply put, if I look out the window and see a nest, I'd like to know what kind of bird built it and, conversely, if I see a particular bird, I'd like to be able to make a reasonable guess as to where the thing might be nesting. As daunting as that project might seem on a global scale ("Avian Architecture" discusses everything from the Ostrich to the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker..."), on the local level the project shouldn't be so bad. Consider Smithsonian Handbooks' "Birds of New England"... That contains a nice listing of apx. 500 species and each is listed with its own nest type... (For a simple example of this type of cross referencing, see my seed charts parts one and two.)

    My second wish is closely related to my first -- I wish this sort of cross referencing was built into an app for a hand-held device. That would be absolute killer for the field.

    But those two "Wish List" hopes aside, this work is splendid... Just splendid. And who would benefit from this tome? I can think of five groups...

    • The avid birder (duh)
    • The backyard birder (son of duh)
    • The young (this is an, "Oh cool!" effort)
    • The retired (remember, they were the generation that cut its teeth on "Mouse Trap")
    • And finally, any engineer, architect, or designer would flip over this thing (trust me... I'm an engineer...)

    Once again... Great work by the folks at Princeton University Press... This is an heirloom reference...

    By the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    May 19, 2011

    Farm Table Update and eBirdseed.com Ustream Hummingbird...

    Well, the farmer's table build continues pretty much without a hitch... Below, you can probably see the end breadbords ready to be fitted, and the flatness of the top itself... Not bad... Not bad at all... The lower spreader is temporarily on, and the whole shebang is waiting to be trued by matching the cross measurements from the bottom of the feet to the top of the opposing leg... When all is square and right with the world, glue will fly and the beast will be trussed into submission...

    table with spreader and temped clamped bread board_resized_IMG_2743.JPG

    Now, about that hummingbird... Here's a screen shot of one of the little beggars coming from our live eBirdseed.com streaming cam...

    resized_GOTCHA_2011-05-18_063146.JPG

    Pretty cool, no? From what we've noticed, we've had quite a bit of activity since they've discovered the homestead... The hummers seem quite skittish though... Maybe as the summer unfolds, they'll calm down... Still, they're fun, and available for everyone to watch for free...

    Guess that's about it from here...

    By the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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