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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 3, 2014

    Auto Emergency Kit

    420_ 2014-02-03_121428.png
    (Photo from: the Washington Post)

    Okee Dokee... Not much new with the birds. (If you just: situate the feeders properly, keep the feeders clean, give the birds clean water, and keep the little buggers fed, backyard birding is pretty simple.)

    (Before we proceed, I hope this entry will be the shortest long post you'll ever see on this site. It will consist of a couple of links and a simple list. It literally shouldn't take more than a few minutes to scan, yet if you want, you can spend days on the subject. Here we go...)

    So what of the shot above? I believe that is from Atlanta last week and might just serve as a good jumping off point for this post. (Given the season, I'll stay on topic and talk about winter, but all seasons should be met with the following sobriety...) About a week ago, a ton of people got basically stranded in their cars in Atlanta. (This is a topic that is dear to me because I've been twice stuck in the middle of nowhere in a vehicle that just didn't want to work.) First, here's an excellent article by Edmunds on how to make your own vehicle emergency kit. Secondly, here's my adjunct list to compliment Edmunds'... Again, this shouldn't take long to read...

    • Check your local laws concerning flares...
    • Those silver emergency blankets are handy too...
    • A hand-crank flashlight (example) never needs batteries...
    • You can buy a nice multiple screwdriver (example) for under $10...
    • Inexpensive socket sets abound in places like Harbor Freight...
    • 12 large trash bags... (They even can be used as gaiters...)
    • I'd suggest pencil and paper...
    • Long-life energy bars or MREs... Hard candy goes a long ways too...
    • As best as you can, always carry water on you vs. storing it in your car... Storing it can lead to freezing and rupture... However, if your commute or journey involves distance, be sure you have plenty of the stuff...
    • Tent.... Don't laugh. I remember one night so foggy that the visibility was less than the end of the hood of the car. The only safe option was to get off the road as far as possible, grab the bug-out bag, and head for the hills ASAP... You can get a decent tent off Amazon that takes up little space...
    • Hand warmers...
    • Over-sized set of sweats and a pair of athletic socks...
    • Simple insulated rubber boots...
    • WD-40...
    • 550 paracord rope...
    • Cat litter...
    • Small tarp...
    • Gorilla duct tape...
    • $ Change and bills...
    • Collapsible snow shovel...
    • A way of making fire...
    • Long electrician's cable ties...
    • Plain knit cap/ski mask and ski gloves...
    • Poncho w/ hood...
    • Medication...
    • Soap...
    • Cheap rain outfit...
    • Solar recharger for phone...
    • Certainly one of the most important is a picture of loved ones -- that can keep you going when all else fails...

    I know, I know, I know... How on earth will you ever store all that stuff in the trunk? Well, those lists should simply be touch-points for you -- a sort of mental nudge that hopefully will get you to thinking. And secondly, once you do make up your mind as to what you really need, filling a couple of contractors buckets certainly shouldn't be too arduous a project. If anything, finding a way to organize the gear is the big hassle...

    Starting to snow...

    Two more storms to go within the next five days... Prepped by the 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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    November 12, 2013

    Typhoon Haiyan and what You can do to Help

    420_HAIYAN.JPG

    (Photo from NASA)
    It's unreal really... The typical EF3 to EF5 tornado lasts minutes and covers miles at max. (Consider Huntsville...) And we all understand the horror that follows... Now, imagine a storm of that strength 300 miles wide that lasts four hours. Toss in a 20' storm surge, and you have Haiyan... This may be the most powerful storm in recorded history, and there aren't a lot of words to describe it (at least not from me...) Who knows what the death toll may finally be? It will probably exceed 10,000, and with the disease and trauma that follows... Once again, beyond words...

    Here's how you can help... I guess all we can do is donate and pray...

    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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    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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    December 14, 2012

    Sandy Hook...

    No pictures in this post...

    Just thoughts... Aside from a severe chemical imbalance or tumor in the brain...

    Fox News says they have confirmed 26 dead, 20 of which are children at an elementary school... A few days ago, it was a mall shooting... Then there was Columbine, Virginia Tech, the Aurora theater, postal shootings...

    How did an ever-growing number of our fellow citizens get so warped? What the Hell is happening here? Some things are obvious:

    • The traditional Judeo-Christian values concerning the value of life have been gutted...
    • We have become horribly desensitized... Just spend two hours watching the SyFy Channel on any Saturday... It's a lock that you will see people being torn to pieces, and probably puking. This is what 10 year old kids are watching... And then there are the video games, the magazines, the Web, the gross 'reality' shows, the alter ego social networking realm, shock radio... It goes on forever...
    • We have become a society that craves media attention regardless of content... We release our own porn flicks, broadcast our children fighting on the lawn, 'Tweet' the obscene, hope to go viral on the Web no matter the banality or vile nature...
    • Because of laziness and intellectualism, we have lost sight of the common sense of manners, discipline, and unselfishness... Just walk through the food court in the local mall, and listen to the foul language that teenagers (and younger) are throwing around for all to hear...
    • The traditional American nuclear family has been blown out of the water...
    • We are so self absorbed it's not funny... As the kids' TV show from back in the 1970s taught, "You're the most important person in the whole wide world..."
    It just goes on and on... Not much to say... The only advice I can offer to some depraved, self-absorbed loser who would contemplate such an act is this: At least show a shard of humanity and just pull a Kurt Cobain... Leave the innocents out of it...

    CapeCodAlan


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    August 28, 2012

    Zombie Apocalypse and General Preparedness...

    If you're ready for a zombie apocalypse, then you're ready for any emergency. emergency.cdc.gov

    There! Do you see that?!? Do you see that?!? I've been warning you for years that our society has been going to Hades, and our economy has been lilting down the River Styx, but you wouldn't listen would you??? Oh, all the signs were there: 'Bad Moon Rising' by CCR... Reality TV... Lady Gaga in her meat suit... William Shatner singing 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds'...

    The world has become little more than 'Rocky Horror Picture Show', but for real... And now there's this from the CDC (a dot gov site BTW). Zombies! I'll bet those beggars can't even dance like the ones in Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' video... (At least Tim Curry could wear high heels... but I digress...) So, it's time to get ready for some disaster, and it might just involve that undead schmuck to your right, or just something like Hurricane Issac...

    You've been warned...

    By the prepped 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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    May 28, 2012

    Weather Warning, Virus Warning...

    420_BERYL.JPG

    Hi,

    Well, first, hope this Memorial Day finds you safe, thankful, and thoughtful...

    Onward...

    First, as I try to do every year, I remind you that bad weather can really ruin your day/week/month(s). See the swirling storm at the top of Florida in the pic above? That's Tropical Storm Beryl... Sooner or later you're going to get a storm like that or worse... Here are two sources (the Cape Cod Commission and the Red Cross respectively) that guide you to preparedness: http://www.capecodcommission.org/resources/coastalresources/EmergencyHandbook2010.pdf and http://www.redcross.org/portal/site/en/menuitem.86f46a12f382290517a8f210b80f78a0/?vgnextoid=92d51a53f1c37110VgnVCM1000003481a10aRCRD&vgnextfmt=default

    And as if a malevolent Mother Nature wasn't enough of a bad thing, there's always the jerk out there trying to mess with our computers... Check out this from Fox News, Google, and the FBI... (Don't be frightened by the picture -- it's just a harmless screen shot, but read carefully...) http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/05/25/google-warns-hundreds-thousands-may-lose-internet-in-july/

    All for today (and that's probably plenty!)

    By the feeders,

    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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    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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    June 4, 2011

    Emergency Preparedness Yet Again...

    Hi,

    Short post for you tonight... The photo below is from just a few days ago in Springfield MA...

    Springfield ok_2011-06-04_011710.jpg

    Tornado in Springfield rips through a neighborhood behind an office building, 1 June 2011
    Source: Matt Putzel
    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Springfield,_MA_Tornado_2011,_June_1.jpg

    As has been mentioned here umpteen times, better safe than sorry... So much of the Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard have just entered the hurricane season... And Cape Cod is long overdue for a beaut'...

    Once again, here is a fantastic, free guide for emergency preparedness... I can't recommend strongly enough that you download, print and follow it to the letter...

    Let's have a safe and happy summer... After all, the birds can fly away, but we can't...

    By the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan

    P.S. As always, The American Red Cross is there to help...


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    May 20, 2011

    Hurricanes and CDC Zombie Apocalypse

    Recognize that relic below? Yup, we're heading smack dab right into hurricane season...

    hurricane_resized_2011-05-20_052751.jpg

    Here's what NOAA Administrator Lubchenco and FEMA Administrator Fugate had to say about this summer:

    Officials are predicting an "above-normal" hurricane season this year, with up to 18 named storms and as many as six that could become category five hurricanes. It's too early, though, to predict whether any of those storms would reach land.

    Lubchenco said preparation is vitally important, and it only takes one storm to "wreak devastation."

    Fugate has his own outlook for this season.

    "I'll issue my forecast: Far too many people will not be prepared and will try to get ready in the last minutes when the hurricanes threaten their community, and won't have enough time," he said.

    Fugate urged people along the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf Coast to figure out now whether they live in an evacuation zone. He also warned against so-called "hurricane amnesia."

    "This is a problem along any of these areas where people forget (the) risk or feel that they have some sort of immunity because of the coastline, or the history, or the classic 'I've lived here all my life, I've never had a hurricane,'" he said. "If you live along the Gulf Coast, if you live along the Atlantic Coast, you have your notice: This is going to be an above-average season."

    Alright... So you won't embrace the fact that this could be a rough summer and that you should prepare... Fine! But, at least pay heed to the U.S. Government's warning of a looming Zombie Apocalypse...

    Get A Kit,    Make A Plan, Be Prepared. emergency.cdc.gov

    I kid you not... Just click on the shot above, and there you'll be -- welcome to "dot gov" and brain-eating zombies. (Pay no attention to the fact that zombie prep looks a lot like disaster prep.)

    Consider your self warned by the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    January 31, 2011

    Amaryllis Stop-Frame Video and Other Stuff

    For you frequent readers of this blog, you've noticed that I haven't been around much lately. This is a function of our new updated blog software. Anyone who's ever used a computer knows the frustration of updates and automatic updates and we have suffered right there along with you. Hopefully we've got everything working. Time will tell... But I just didn't want you to think that I had fallen off the edge of the earth. Expect a spate of posts to make up for lost time.

    So here is a video we made in the down-time of on Amaryllis blossoming. To be honest the blossom wasn't that great and ditto for the entire vid... But at least it's something.

    Part of the problem was that the plant kept growing, and as a result I kept having to shift the tripod around to keep up with it. Add to that challenge the issues of changing light, changing camera settings, a final sudden growth spurt and moldy blossoms, and we do not have perfection. Such is life... I did however learn a lot. (In particular, I learned that I'm even less talented with moving imagry than I am with still...)

    Let's see, what else is new? It looks like we're in for another large storm. Obviously, we hope you're prepared...

    And then there are the small birds... They've been particularly active... Lately we've noticed the chickadees, titmice, downy woodpeckers... I think we even had juncoes... In general the wee ones have been very hyper, particularly in the morning and afternoon. We seem to have this kind of hightened traffic just before a storm. Oh goody...

    Well, I'd better stop now and see if I can actually publish this post... Ah yes... Upgrades... And you thought you were the only one to get bitten.

    See you by those persistent feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    January 10, 2011

    Sanctuary

    resized_Bird house in snow_IMG_1904.JPG

    Note: Sorry for the delay. The blog hosting service we use had "issues" that required remedy. Anyway, this post is roughly a week old. Onward...

    "Sanctuary" - it's a warm word isn't it? For the last couple of days, I, like many, have been in a sad, sad funk over the tragedy in Arizona. Obviously, this isn't the first time we've been through these sorts of things: I remember when JFK, Bobby Kennedy, and Reagan were shot. All were bad times.

    Anyway, in the midst of my funk, I happened to glance out at our birdhouse (right) and saw a downy woodpecker slip into the domicile. No doubt it was simply looking for a roost to escape the winter weather. (I tried to get a picture, but the creature wasn't wasting any time.) And for just a brief few moments, there was a bit of respite, a break from the senselessness. I find that backyard birdwatching is such a subtle pastime - not all-consuming, but there when you need it... Life goes on...

    Speaking of life going on... Looks like we may have another storm heading our way. (Look out Cape Cod!) We're looking at Tuesday night through Wednesday night. 'Tis the season (to be miserable.) As always, we hope you are prepared...

    Better get this posted...

    See you by those feeders!

    CapeCodAlan


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    January 8, 2011

    Not a Day for the Birds

    I'm sorry, but I'm just not up for writing about birds right now. As you no doubt know, today Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head. While doctors are cautiously optimistic that she will survive, others were not so lucky - of the 18 shot, 6 are dead.

    What's happening to us? Since between 1950 and 2007, the homicide rate in the U.S. jumped 28%, and since 1900 and 2007, the rate increased almost 400%. Make no mistake about it... This is not a function of a more able and available news media reporting the same sad things... This is a function of a radically shifting culture. It seems as if we can't turn on the TV without seeing yet another horror consisting of a shooting, home invasion, or parental nightmare.

    If you're expecting great wisdom from this blog, you're about to be sadly disappointed. We all know the causes - constant exposure to glorified electronic hyper-violence, breakdown of the family, trashing of traditional values, blah, blah, blah... Maybe the person who murdered six today had a brain tumor... I don't know. But I do know this... Something has gone terribly wrong in our society and in the world today. It's as if technology (be it a Glock, fertilizer, chemicles, or jumbo jets) has, for far too many, appealed not to our best characteristics but instead to our darkest ids. I really have no idea...

    Thoughts and prayers go out to all affected by this tragedy...

    CapeCodAlan

    P.S. You know what? I do have an idea... The one thing the whack jobs of Columbine and Tucson, 9/11 and the Tokyo subway attacks want is to turn our lives inside out... Not here... Hope you enjoy the following...

    resized__MG_1101.JPG

    Just because vile behavior mortifies decent souls doesn't mean it changes them...

    See you by the feeders,


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    December 28, 2010

    Storm, Frozen Driveway, Contests and Privacy, Birds, etc.

    Well, the storm has more or less left us (current temp is about 19 F, and the winds are gusting in the 35 mph to 50 mph range.) And many souls who suffered through this monstrosity have more or less dug out. Still, keep in mind that danger lurks - specifically, frozen driveways/sidewalks. They may look clear, but that doesn't mean that ice isn't lying in wait. (Take it from someone who slipped and fell a few years back, knocking himself unconscious and breaking a finger in the process.) Here's a photo of ice in our driveway:

    resized_icey driveway 2_IMG_1773.JPG

    Look carefully and you can see that ominous glaze... Oh goody!

    On a completely different note... It's come to my attention that folks aren't crazy about entering contests for fear of giving out their contact info. (Four people that I know of have declined for just that reason.) There isn't too much that I can add beyond the standard eBirdseed.com privacy policy... We live in a strange time of phishing, identity theft, spam, hijackings, Wikileaks, China's hacking of Google, spyware, etc., etc., etc.

    My guess is that eBirdseed.com is about as safe as you can get. (Nowadays, even your snail mail and your trash are at risk... Deep sigh...) I'll see what I can do to think up a new type of contest perhaps using the USPS, a land line, or a winning code.

    In the mean time, here's a couple shots of storm-shocked birds...

    two bluebirds on branch with snow excellent_cropped.jpg

    chickadee finch downy cropped.JPG

    See you by the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    December 21, 2010

    Birds, Storm, New Cam, Contest, and the Holiday Gifts...

    Hi,

    Man, have we got a lot to cover... Let's get cracking!

    I guess I can group the first two subjects as one: birds and our latest Cape Cod storm... As you can probably tell just by their demeanor, the birds were none too keen on our surprise storm...

    resized_dec 2010 noreaster turkeys and crows.jpg

    And speaking of storm, here's the backyard...

    resized_dec 2010 noreaster_back yard_IMG_1645.jpg

    And our trellis...

    resized_dec 2010 noreaster_trellis_IMG_1644.jpg

    Alrighty then... Do you remember just a few days ago, I thought (that is, trusted the weather forecasters) that this storm was going to swing out to sea... Not so much. Truth be told, we got about four to six inches of the wet, heavy muck and suffered four brownouts. Oh goody...

    On a much more cheerful note, our new cam (below) arrived... Meet the Logitech Webcam Pro 9000. As the photo shows, it looks to be your standard webcam... I'll have to play some games to get it streaming live (not to mention the watertight, heated/vented housing), but all looks doable. Stay tuned for updates.

    resized_New logitech_9000_IMG_1664.JPG

    Now, about our word search contest... It's been brought to my attention by more folks than I care to think about, that people are simply reluctant to enter any contest for fear of being spammed, junk mailed, or pestered at home... Fair enough. About a year ago, the wife and I donated to a political party and have been hounded ever since. I really don't know how to speak to this issue except to offer the following company statement:

    This Web site does not utilize cookies which request any personal information or collect any information that personally identifies you or allows you to be personally contacted. The only cookies used simply aid the checkout process. The only personal information gathered is your shipping and billing information which is not stored unless you create an account. We do not share any personal information with any third parties.

    Finally, with your security and sanity in mind, let me informally offer this simple word of advice when it comes to buying a gift to the "un-giftable". Just buy an eBirdseed.com gift certificate. (And no, the boss didn't put me up to this - this is from the heart.) Just buy a gift certificate. Feeding the birds is a good thing and you won't have to fight the mall.

    There! I'm done for now...

    See you by the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    December 17, 2010

    N.E. Nor'easter Storm Possible? Yes But...

    Hi,

    Let this be a simple reminder for everyone who doesn't live on the moon... Winter is coming, and you should be prepared. For those on the east coast, get ready for a Sunday/Monday blow that probably won't happen. (See: Nor'easter Threat? Doubtful...For Most.) Still, a monster like the one below is just a "matter of time" away...

    Jan 2010 noreaster_2010-12-17_024853.jpg

    So in keeping with our tradition of keeping you updated on the preparations for the possible hurricane, twister, dam break, blizzard, terrorist attack, etc., here are three links you really should check out: Ready.gov, the Ready.gov kit, and our old faithful - the Cape Cod Emergency Preparedness Handbook. (And while you're at it, it might be wise to lay in a little extra for the birds just in case. We vacuum pack some just to keep it fresh and at the ready.)

    Let's see... What else? The birds have been steadily active, though skittish. We're not sure what that's about, but it could be the weather... The word search contest is wrapping up - better hurry! ... Oh! We ordered the new Logitech 9000 web cam (and 32' active USB extension cable) today and should have it by Monday. Expect almost relentless torment in the form of video and geek updates. Seriously, if I can get this thing working the way I think I can, you're going to be blown away.

    That should just about do it for now...

    See you by the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    November 1, 2010

    Buzz Kill

    Hi,

    Sorry about my lack of post over the last few days - the attempted bombing kind of knocked me for a loop... I was going to write about the effects of digital photography on the masses and how those effects reverberate throughout the art world. Heck... I even had a semi-respectable picture...

    resized with nut_DSC_0076.JPG

    But the near-miss terrorist attack put me off my feed... (Here's the deal, I have a background in engineering, technology, and weaponry - I won't go into the details because it would bore you to tears, but I know what I'm talking about.) Bluntly, Friday's failed attempt(s) were too derned close... The explosive du jour was PETN - one of the world's most powerful... The big question is, "What will happen when fanatics and flat-out loons keep acquiring the ever-advancing and ever-more-ubiquitous technologies?"

    I wish I had an answer for you, or had more to say, but I really don't. I do though have a few rhetorical questions:

    • Do we really believe Aum Shinrikyo, Jonestown, and 9/11 are the end or even the worst?
    • It's 11/2/10... Do our politicians understand what we're really facing?
    • Has the world seen its last mushroom cloud and if not will the nuke be fired in anger or by mistake, and by whom?
    Told you that this would be a buzz kill. But last Friday we got extraordinarily lucky (as we did with the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber and the Times Square bomber...) How much longer will our luck hold out?

    Sometimes there are events that push birding to background.

    See you by the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan

    P.S. On a happier note, there's always our word search contest...

    P.P.S. This just in... Four mail bombs explode in Greece.


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    September 30, 2010

    Nicole and Gliese581g

    Time for a "Birdie Break". (When was the last time we had a feather time out???)

    It looks like we've got more bad weather coming our way. Tropical storm Nicole is moving up the East Coast and there seems to be a potential of up to 10in. of rain here on the Cape. Oh goody. Here's a snapshot (thanks to weather.com) as of midnight Thursday that can shed some light on the situation. Yup, that green blob of rain is just meandering up the eastern seaboard.

    rain_resized.jpg

    And here's another image of the possible flooding ranges.

    rain chart_resized.jpg

    Like I said... Oh goody.

    As always we hope that you are prepared for an emergency.

    On to a more cheerful subject... Reports indicate that astronomers have found a possibly inhabitable planet - Gliese 581g. The planet is only a scant twenty light years away from us. And that means that if we decide to go there and poke around, we'll only have to spend the next 66,780 years cruising along at 20,000mph to get there. Still, who knows what we might find? (It's tough to wrap our minds around this because IMHO we're all soaked in the "wink and the nod" of sci fi and the Area 51 crowd.) Seriously, think about it from a somber biologist's point of view. Think about the stunning diversity of life on earth and then use that as a backdrop for what else might be (or might have been, or might yet to be) out there. Just imagine (if by some freakish miracle of technology) we discover squirrels on good old Gliese 581g... The philosophical/theological implications would be mind numbing - earth life is not a singular freak of the universe. I for one would love to meet E.T, even if he was just a bit of microbial wiggly. Quite honestly, I wouldn't feel so lonely in an existentialism sort of way... The following video speaks volumes.

    Trying to stay dry and wondering by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan

    And what of that word search contest?


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    August 31, 2010

    Prepping for Earl and Beyond...

    Hi,

    Just a quick post about what Earl might do to the East Coast...

    EARL_400_2010-08-31_135906.jpg

    Any questions?

    If you're in the path of this puppy, now is the time to PREPARE and make plans to get out of Dodge if need be.

    Stoic self-reliance is all well and good until your roof gets torn off and you realize that you have literally gone from the top of the food chain to the bottom... If the forecasters/authorities tell you to evacuate... Boogie!

    I'll try to watch the behavior of the birds for as long as I can, but if the time comes to exit stage left, color me gone. Meep! Meep! (Now that was a compound mixed metaphor!!!)

    See you by those well-stocked feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    July 6, 2010

    Bees, Bee Balm, and Heat

    Hi all,

    Well, so much for the hummingbirds... This was the wife's second day trying to get a video of them, and this was the result...

    Great shots of bees if you're looking for bees, but not so much if you want hummingbirds. Next time, she threatens to stand guard at the bush with folded tripod sans camera and whack the little buggers should they actually show up. (Just kidding, just kidding... Geez Louise, can't a soul blow or a little steam from time to time?)

    And blowing off steam is a good idea indeed... Today reached about 96 F, and even now (1:43 AM) it's 86 degrees in the house... A couple of random thoughts... First, if you really want to know the "heat index", look at a crow's beak. If the animal is panting, it's hot out. The more gaping the beak, the nastier it is. (Crows like dogs shed heat via panting.) Your weather forecaster is probably trying to guesstimate within a local radius of 15 miles and a time frame of two hours; the crow outside your window is telling you what it's like right now within inches of your front door. Crows may be many things, but they aren't liars... And in our second random-thought-but-related-to-the-heat department... Don't forget that there's a fantastic free manual online that discusses virtually every type of disaster that a person might encounter including heat waves. We'd say that that rascal is a "must have"...

    Hot and tired, but will still see you by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    Heat Wave, Turkeys, and New Gulf Disaster Bird Count

    Hi all,

    First off... We hope that you had a good and safe 4th... Thanks once again go out to all our veterans who make Independence Day possible...

    Onward...

    Yeah, the following from CNN is not what you want to read...

    "A heat wave of historic proportions could strike some Northeast states, with prolonged triple-digit temperatures possibly creating "a dangerous situation," the National Weather Service advised Monday."

    You know the drill - stay in an air-conditioned environment, keep hydrated, avoid strenuous activities, etc. One other consideration... Because of the increased demand on our electrical grid from air conditioners, try to cut down on unnecessary power uses for things like TVs, a ton of lights, long hot showers, the oven and stove (salads are good), coffee pots, etc. A blackout is the last thing we need.

    On to those turkeys...

    ma with poults_resizes_101_0502.JPG

    Kind of cute in a creepy sort of way... There's just something about those gobblers that gives me the willies... It's as if they're "ninja birds" or "Westworld birds"...

    And last but not least, the ornithological scope of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is finally coming into focus, and it reads like something out of a bad horror movie...

    In a Reuters' piece entitled, "Oil spill's toll on birds set to drastically soar" authors Steve Gorman and Ernest Scheyder write,

    "Despite the images of oil-soaked pelicans flooding the media in recent weeks, wildlife experts say the toll on sea birds from BP's Gulf Coast oil spill is smaller than was anticipated, so far.

    That is expected to change drastically for the worse." (Emphasis mine.)

    And to further brighten your day, the spill may be threatening up to one billion birds... There really is little to say... About the best we can do is offer a link so that you can try to help...

    See you by the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    June 23, 2010

    Gulf Oil Spill... Yet Another Update

    Hi all,

    So here we are...

    Look, I truly don't know what to write... Best estimates on bird kills, oil spilled in gals/day, long-term ecological effect, short- and long-term economical effect, human health issues, oxygen depletion??? I have no clue. No one does. We're officially in the Twilight Zone now. What the bleep, send in the UFOs.

    Look, I've struggled over this post for two days. I've tried to find upbeat, yet realistic ways to say the following... Speaking as an engineer, we may be in deep trouble. Don't hit the "Panic Button" yet, but warm up the hands. If the Federal Government doesn't unload a serious can of "whoop tush" on this disaster pronto, we may end up demolishing 1/3 of the American seafood economy from now until the 12th of Never. (And yes, someone has a solution... Enter General Honore...)

    No more words for now... More to follow.

    CapeCodAlan


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    June 5, 2010

    More Oil Spill Info, Red Tailed Hawk, and Woodpecker Nest

    Well,

    This is what it looks like...

    Oily bird with eye_resized_2010-06-05_034405.jpg

    And here's the projected path of this stuff. (Please forgive the poor graphics... You should get the idea though...)

    My over-priced $.02? Don't buy into the politics of this disaster... The liberals are going to blame Bush for drilling for oil even though President Obama signed a bill to expand off-shore drilling just before this disaster happened. The conservatives on the other hand, are going to trumpet the fact that the Administration was slow to act, and quick to pass oil rig inspections. And so the two agenda-blind camps will bicker to achieve selfish political leverage rather than actually act. Here's the skinny... For the most part, our elected officials are nothing more than greedy power mongers. BP is a lying pack of boorish corporate thugs. And who gets caught in the middle? The little people like you and me and the folks in the Gulf, and especially the little things like that bird above... that's who gets caught in the middle. I don't know... Maybe we're simply reaping what we've sown. Maybe if we spent the last 40 years focusing on conservation, developing alternative energy, recycling, engineering... maybe things would be different. But instead, we were preoccupied with more important things like "CB radios", disco, muscle cars, "Dallas", grunge and rap, and Lady Gaga. Maybe this entire environmental disaster is simply the result of a spoiled-brat social experiment reaching its rotten conclusion just as surely as it vomited out our politicians and our corporations.

    Onward...

    We had a magnificent red tailed hawk swoop through our feeders yesterday (with crows in hot pursuit). Thank heavens for the crows... If they weren't there to protect the feeders, our smaller birds would be toast.

    And finally, we have a nest of downys on the edge of our property... (Once again, sorry for the poor image... Hopefully your imagination will carry the day.)

    Downey in hole_resized_101_0383.JPG

    See you by the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan

    P.S. I apologize for the harsh, stuttering nature of this post. But all things considered, the rhythm seems appropriate.


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    May 25, 2010

    Oil Update

    Bird in oil resized_2010-05-25_152516.jpg To be clear, I did not take the photo above. The caption reads:

    (A young heron sits dying amidst oil splattering underneath mangrove on an island impacted by oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in Barataria Bay, along the the coast of Louisiana on Sunday, May 23, 2010. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert))

    Well gang, in a way, the photo above speaks volumes. (You can see the complete collection here: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/05/oil_reaches_louisiana_shores.html#photo5). But in another way much has gone unspoken. Thoughts...

    • The oil spill is now the size of Maryland and Delaware combined..
    • The gusher 5,000' down just started spewing a much heavier, darker oil. (Check out the BP spill cam.)
    • The dispersant being used, "Corexit" looks to be toxic. What's more, Corexit works by breaking the oil up (not removing it), and allowing it to sink. The idea is that the process will make the oil more biodegradable... But there is one problem... BP is applying the dispersant right at the source... Who knows just how biodegradable this goo will be in the blackness and cold of a mile deep?
    • Now there are rumors that something very, very bad is happening around the blowout preventer.
    • The White House is playing a cute game. On the one hand, EPA chief Carol Browner says that "We're In charge". On the other hand, the President's spokesman has made it abundantly clear that the operation is BP's "responsibility". If today's "top kill" stops the flow and a successful cleanup follows, the Administration is a hero. On the other hand, if that fails and the flow goes unabated until a relief well is completed at the end of the summer, it's all BP's fault... Cute. The simple fact is that as soon as we understood the magnitude of this horror, we should have applied the full force of the American military guided by the appropriate engineers. Our complete military effort could have brought to bear:
      • command and control
      • communication
      • raw man power
      • transportation
      • maintenance
      • on site 24/7 food and medical care
      The list goes on and on...

    • Few dare to ponder the worst-case scenario - the world's most damaging oil spill, unchecked in one of the world's most delicate ecosystems smack dab in the start of hurricane season. In the worst case, we may be talking about the Exxon Valdez times 10, 100... This could easily turn into a global ecological and financial disaster in a world that really doesn't need any more disasters.
    I'm sorry to keep hammering at this, but I believe it's that important. If Lady Luck looks the other way, much of the Eastern Seaboard may soon be rendered impotent. We may well be facing a catastrophe the likes of which this Republic has never seen.

    Holding my breath by the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    May 23, 2010

    The Gulf and a Green Heron

    Hi all,

    First off, please understand that what I write here is my (CapeCodAlan's) opinion, and not that of eBirdseed.com.

    There are two reasons that I keep writing about this oil spill. The second is because of the unknown and probably immeasurable carnage this will bring to our wetlands, and to birds in particular. That reason is obvious. But the first reason I keep returning to this disaster is what it could mean to this country.

    Here's the deal... The government isn't telling you straight up what our national debt is... (The politicians are a clever lot - they keep three sets of books: one for the dreaded debt/surplus which hovers around $12 - $14 trillion in the red), another for emergency funds (kiss that puppy goodbye), and one for our "obligations" like pensions, social security, medicare and medicaid. Let's see... The pensions/social security is already broke... But it's the medicare/medicaid that's the 800 lb gorilla in the room. Right now, that's beached at at least $60 trillion. (Please read: "The Tragic Birth and Impecunious Demise of the Greatest Generation". Be afraid.) The long and the short is that we simply can't afford a mind-bending cataclysm like the Gulf oil spill. We're already borrowing money to pay for the interest on the money we've borrowed earlier. The last thing we need is 6,000,000 gallons of oil loose around the Gulf, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, and Alabama. (Keep in mind I'm using six million as the amount right now... That's a best-case scenario. The amount may be ten times that much for just one month. The worst-case scenario would be 60,000,000/month for four months - a total of 240,000,000 gallons or 20 Exxon Valdez.)

    For the life of me, I don't understand why President Obama fails to call this a national emergency (on both the economic and environmental fronts), and bring in the military to supervise and aid.

    Anyway, we can't spend all our time on the Gulf. Suffice it to say that one way or the other that mess is going to affect you. Deep sigh...

    The photo below is that of a Green Heron. Yeah, I know it isn't very good, and Mrs. CCA made a game effort at getting some video of the bird, but it wasn't meant to be. At least the shape might look familiar...

    green heron cropped and resized_05-22-10.jpg

    I'm sorry gang, but my heart just ain't in it tonight... Read this... CapeCodAlan


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    May 18, 2010

    How to Help the Gulf Birds

    Hi all,

    Dori asked,

    How and where do you think we could start volunteering to help the clean up in order to try to prevent the slaughter of the animals involved in this? I would gladly volunteer some help if I knew where to contact. What organizations would you recommend we contact? Surely, there are enough Americans who are interested in helping that we could get something meaningful done.

    First, thanks for your question... It truly is a shame that it has to be posted under these circumstances... I would look at TBO (Tampa Bay Online). Also, Popular Mechanics would be a great resource... One of the things I've noticed is that this is a slow moving disaster. It may take years or even decades to find out the severity of this catastrophe. Another issue that seems to keep coming up as organizations call for help is a strong desire for folks trained in bird rescue. Once again, the links above would make a good starting point as well as the Cornell links below.

    One last thought... Today, the BP chief executive Tony Hayward had this to say about the spill...

    This is from the same CEO who called this mess "relatively tiny". Too bad 19% of all fishing areas are now shut down.

    Oh to be king of the world for just a day... I'd strap Mr. Hayward to a surf board and drag him the 100 mile length of the monster and then see if he still calls it "relatively tiny".

    Angry by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan


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    May 2, 2010

    Rescues!

    Saturday afternoon, we were called out on a mission of mercy. Our friends at Harwich Spirits Shoppe had discovered a baby bird on the back sidewalk of the store. They searched high and low to find the nest from which the baby had fallen, but couldn't find one.

    Uncertain of what to do, they called CapeCodAlan for advice. He, in turn, called me--I was out doing errands and was in the neighborhood of the shop, so I swung by to see if I could help.

    baby house sparrow_resized.jpg

    The folks at the store had put the baby in a small box with some shredded paper to act as a nest. CapeCodAlan had already called the local wildlife shelter, two towns over, for advice, and had received the suggestion that the nestling be brought to them for care. So I took the baby to them. Once they identified it as house sparrow (a non-native species considered invasive), they offered to have it put down humanely, but they made it clear that they would not raise it.

    That baby bird was too full of life for me to allow that to happen:

    Fortunately for the baby, there is another rehabilitation center on the Cape, and this one actually will take any wild animal in need: the Cape Wildlife Center in Barnstable. So from Orleans I drove that baby to Barnstable, where he received a warm welcome and promise of tender care. The prognosis: the baby is likely to survive and thrive. The folks there will get back to us with a progress report, and we will be notified when he is to be released into the wild.

    We gladly made a donation to Cape Wildlife Center. If you're feeling generous, please consider doing so, as well. You can email them to get information on how to donate.

    So we will keep you posted about the progress of this small fallen sparrow.

    And speaking of creatures in need of rescue, please keep in your thoughts and prayers the creatures that are and will be affected by the Gulf Coast oil spill. The Audubon Society has all sorts of information on how you can assist these unfortunate creatures, from donating to volunteering to rehabilitation of affected animals. Please give some thought as to how you can help.

    See you by the feeders, rescuing as many as possible,

    Mrs. CapeCodAlan


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    March 30, 2010

    Emergency Supplies, etc.

    Hi all,

    Well, the shot below sure ain't very pretty:

    dirty water in sink resized_101_0229.JPG

    Unfortunately, that's a picture of our sink (and its contents) after the town's yearly water main flushing. It offers up a harmless (yet ugly) reminder as to why you should be prepared for almost anything, anytime. The fact is you just never know. (Just look at the flooding in the Northeast.) Oh, I've ranted about this before, and I've suggested a very good reference manual that's free for the taking. But the subject matter simply cannot be overstated. Be prepared... Here are some additional thoughts from a guy who used to prefer zero degrees Fahrenheit at midnight over 68F in a recliner on a Spring afternoon.

    • Always dress in (and have access to) zippered layers.
    • Never roam without having a flashlight and a pocketknife on your person. For me, it's a Zeico "torch" and Leatherman Micra. Yeah, I can hear you from here, "Crazy old CapeCodAlan needs a flashlight and a knife when battling in the savage corporate world of cubicles and air conditioners." Alright Bucko, here's a real world case where my little survival duo saved the day and my dignity too... After work in that corporate world, I always used to stop off at the local 99 and relax with a beer. As the place was between the lunch and dinner crowds, it was a great way to quietly unwind. On that particular day, I felt the call of Mother Nature, and retreated to my "throne." But as I sat there, most indiscreetly indisposed, the lights simply "clicked" off. Hmmm... On the one hand, the problem might just have been an electrical glitch, on the other, the joint could have been on fire - in the ink of that Men's Room, there was simply no way to tell. Thankfully, I had my diminutive flashlight and "stall etiquette" was appropriately applied as well as the standard thorough hand washing afterwards. (IMHO, anyone who doesn't wash his or her hands after using the bathroom is a cretin who should be forced to live on the moon. But I digress...) The long story made slightly shorter was that that little flashlight made a big difference in what would have been at best an embarrassing situation, and at worst could have been downright dangerous. Say no more.
    • At some point, you may need to consider a weapon... Ugly but true. Consider Katrina... You're going to have to figure out that one on your own.
    • For some reason the Cape Cod Commission piece above doesn't mention hydrogen peroxide. I wouldn't dream of a first aid kit without it. Ditto for Betadine.
    • Practice! Even if you and yours just hunker down for the night in your living room with the lights out and the temp down, practice. Emergencies eat rookies for breakfast.
    • If you've done your homework, expect long periods of profound boredom during a crisis. What are you going to read? Did you pack a deck of playing cards?
    • Here's the rule my bud and I used to use when wandering off... Double the time you expect to be "out there", and half the stuff you're expecting to carry.
    • Always, always, always have umpteen sources of fire available. A flashlight only gives you vision. A fire gives you warmth, a frightening weapon, and most importantly, piece of mind.
    • Nurture "esprit de corps". That is, think like a United States Marine. You hold in your hand not just your own fate, but that of your family and/or friend(s), and vice versa. To break up the team is to endanger not just your cohorts, but yourself as well.
    • In this day and age, not being able to communicate and determine your location are sins, plain and simple.
    • Remember "PAHSW".
    • Have three emergency kits ready - one that you can grab and run, a more extensive one that will let you and yours hunker down for a couple of weeks if need be, and one for each vehicle. (Hint: Always keep a 3' length of hardwood 2 X 8 in the trunk of the car. I hope you never have to find out why.)
    • Make, frequently update, and keep handy two lists - one with "must have" docs and photos, and one with contacts.
    • A large duffel bag is a good thing.
    Well, that should keep you busy for a while....

    See you prepped and ready by the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    January 13, 2010

    Cardinal and Emergency Relief

    Hi all,

    400_another cardinal_DSC_0336.JPG

    Well, I thought I'd at least start this post off on an upbeat note before bumming everyone out. The pic above is obviously that of a beautiful cardinal... Oh for the serenity of that summer day last year.

    Watching the news now... It looks like the quake in Haiti has killed between 10,000 and 100,000 people... Fate's cruelty is stunning... What limited infrastructure that existed is now in ruins. The government building is rubble as is the UN. And the country is so poor that it doesn't even have the heavy equipment required to remove the debris. People are trapped, and many of those will die a painful, lonely, lingering death. The Red Cross has already run out of medical supplies. (For a more complete list of reputable aid organizations, check out this link). Anyway, if you have a couple of dimes that you can rub together... Oh man...

    See you by those somber feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    December 8, 2009

    eBirdseed Cam... It's Alive! Also Bad Weather Prep

    Hi all,

    Well, it's taken some time, but the eBirdseed.com streaming cam project might just be making a comeback. Richard at Birdhouse Spy Cam was nice enough to replace our malfunctioning Hawk Eye bird camera with a new one. It took a bit of fussing (at first the new cam wanted to only take snapshots every 5 to 10 seconds), but I think we're up and running again. Here's a screen shot followed by a quick video I took using the Mino to record the new streaming wonder in action. (Obviously, a video of a video is going to lack quality, but if nothing else, it at least proves that we're rolling again, and that we have an enormous cat to boot!)

    New cam in the kitchen_440.jpg

    Now all I have to do is find a way to route the video out of the house to the birds and at the same time be able to pull it back in to avoid severe Cape Cod storms and we're good to go.

    And speaking of storms, now is a good time to once again remind Cape Codders and non-Cape Codders alike about disaster preparedness... It's very simple... Sit down with family and friends and read this link and follow its advice regardless of where you live, or paint a bull's eye on your chest. (Ok, so that was a little harsh, but it's a word to the wise nonetheless... Pages six through nine are especially important!)

    Aside from the cam rising from the ashes, there's not too much new here. No wait, I take that back... The crows have taken on an unusual behavioral pattern. They simply sit outside the kitchen and complain until we put out something for them. It might be a treat or something they abhor. (Crows do not like lettuce or tomatoes!) Regardless, once they've gotten "theirs", even a tiny portion of "theirs", they calm down. Strange. Remember that post about crow brains, palliums, and self- and social-awareness?

    See you by the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    November 13, 2009

    More Stupid Cam Shots... Ida On The Way

    Hi all,

    First, here's another quick screen shot of a turkey at ground level. (Forgive the blurriness... We're expecting the remnants of tropical storm Ida, and I placed a glass jar over the cam.)

    turkey thru olive jar_P1010001.JPG

    And in order to truly automate the screen shots of a streaming video (I don't have frame-grabber software), I jury rigged our NovaBird motion-triggered camera such that it stared at a fluttering ribbon buffeted by a fan. (The ribbon curves gently in the bottom left of the closest monitor.)

    Nova with ribbon_400_P1010001.JPG

    For the life of me, I don't know why this kind of bird observation and photography guns my motor, but it does. There's something about the "remote", yet at the same being in the "middle-of the-action" nature of it. I guess that it's just one of those things that a person does for the good of the inner being...

    Aside from the turkeys and the crows, there wasn't much happening today. (Ya know, those turkeys really are bullies. It seems that they don't hesitate to charge anything that they perceive as being a threat - squirrels, crows, big critter or small... Thankfully, I've found the secret anti-turkey weapon - the menacing, descending-from-the-clouds comfy deck-chair cushion. Oooh... Scary!)

    Lastly, as mentioned before, we're working our way through the shards of Ida. Probably will be raining by morning. Looks like coastal Virginia took a pretty tough hit... Thoughts are with you...

    See you by the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    August 18, 2009

    Hurricane Update

    Hi all,

    Ok, not to freak anyone out, but there seems to be a storm heading towards the eastern seaboard (see little ol' Cape Cod sticking out of the east side of MA?)

    HURRICANE_BILL_PATH_400.JPG

    Now keep in mind that the hurricane might well veer out to sea and all we'll get (in New England) is some sort of "wind event". But... Just a reminder that New England (and the Cape) have seen this sort of thing before. Witness Hurricane Carol from 1954...

    Yacht club_400.jpg

    1954 Hurricane_modified_400.jpg

    The former shot (src: NOAA) is one of the Edgewood Yacht Club in RI, and the latter reflects the sad state of Lower County Road by Allen's Harbor in Harwich MA (src: Mom). All told, Carol killed roughly 70 people.

    Sooo... Early preparation ain't a bad idea even if Hurricane Bill proves to be a no show. Nothing like being proactive. You know the drill... Stock up on batteries, reliable flashlights, water, canned goods and non perishables. Know your exit routes and emergency shelters. Have medication and contact info for all. Keep an emergency radio and cell phone at your fingertips - even in the dark. Blah, blah, blah...

    This has been a public service announcement from the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan

    P.S. If by chance we do get the storm, stay tuned to this blog as I'll try to live stream the puppy!


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    Hurricane Bill and New Crow Video

    Hi all,

    First off, it looks like the first major storm of the season is starting to develop and the eastern seaboard may take a hit. So, once again, here's info that you should take to heart. Please, even if this storm fizzles out, be prepared.

    Alrighty then, that out of the way, what have we got?

    (Using your best "Strother Martin" voice...) What we have here is a crow (or murder thereof) unwilling to pose or co-operate for a videeo camera. Yes, yes, yes, he's cute "cake walking" around the tripod, but it seems that the three-legged aluminum beast keeps the two-legged, feathered corvidae at bay as it were. Popcorn is tempting, but not that tempting. Truth be told, crows are tough to photograph - they're incredibly skittish of humans. (There's umpteen reasons for this, and I promise that I'll touch on that the next time I have a "coffee-table" non-bird post. No doubt you're all going to love a gun history/safety entry.) But for the moment, the crow above exemplifies the nervous behavior of crows. Still, it would be fun to get photos and videos of the little beggars without bugging them. So here's what I propose... I'll make a camera stand such that it will have stations for camera mounts for both the NovaBird and the Flip Video. True, it will take the crows a bit of time to acclimate, but I think I can make it happen. Stay tuned...

    And in the mean time, regardless of where you live, be prepared.

    See you by the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    May 19, 2009

    Totally Not Bird Post

    Hi,

    I'm sorry... But I'll warn you right up front that this post has nothing to do with birds, and it has no pictures. Nope... But I've fretted over this entry for days, and here it is...

    Monday, there were three school shootings in America... Did you even hear of any? I won't go through all the horrid details of the shootings, but in LA, a 15 year old took a shot at a teacher, then shot himself in the head. 'Nuff said.

    I wrote about this this type of stuff before, but it certainly bears another look...

    Here's where I'm at... Sunday night I was trying to wind down, and switched to the Sci Fi channel and muted it. I was hoping for some campy junk and got something entirely different. The movie consisted of a mutant freak in a monster truck hunting humans. Yeah, yeah, yeah... I know what you're thinking - it was just another gore flick. Except that it wasn't. The best description I can offer of the emotional impact of the movie was like watching a dog get run over by a car... for real.

    Look, I'm no shrinking violet... Trust me... I've been around the block a few times. But that movie crosses a line. That imagery is the stuff we feed our young people, and it no doubt plays a role in the savagery of school violence and beyond.

    What to do?

    • Talk with your child/young adult.
    • Watch what they watch.
    • Listen to what they listen to.
    • Play the video games they play.
    • Read what they read.
    • Get to know their friends, both virtual and real.
    • If you see a problem, don't turn away... Get professional help.
    • Finally, stop being politically correct and grow a spine! There are behaviors and media you wouldn't accept from me... Why should you treat a young person any differently?
    The bottom line is that something is going horribly wrong in our culture. Doubt it? Sit down and watch the Sci Fi channel on any Saturday 9PM ->...

    Like I said, I'm sorry... 95% of this blog is devoted to birds, neighbors, friends, and family... But three shootings and that movie demand comment. I'll happily return to birds ASAP.

    See you by the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    April 29, 2009

    More Bird Video... Also Swine Flu

    Hi all,

    First off, I thought you might enjoy this video of a grackle marauding a chunk of suet. No wonder we have to put out suet cakes every few days.

    That clip was shot with our little Flip Video camera. (If you're a back yard birder, and want a cheap digital solution for your video needs, I'd vote for the Flip. It's small, shoots for 45 minutes at least, and cheap. Today, a Flip and a tripod will probably set you back about $100.)

    Onward...

    Concerning the swine flu... Being a "germaphobe", maybe I can speak to this... (Keep in mind that I'm not a doctor and have no medical degree, but what follows is simply a repeat of what the media has been reporting for days.)

    • Don't panic. The authorities keep telling us to avoid a mad dash to the emergency room, and they're right. If you're the average healthy adult and you're not feeling up to snuff, give your doctor a call and let him or her offer direction.
    • In general, influenza viruses are of particular concern for the elderly and the very young. Once again, the Center for Disease Control is warning that any flu-like symptoms in those two age groups deserves immediate medical attention. If you have to head for a hospital ASAP, so be it.
    • Be proactive! If you have symptoms, act! Follow the steps above appropriately and promptly.
    • Stay clean! Did you know that there's a proper way to wash your hands? A good hand washing takes a solid 60 seconds and plenty of flowing warm water and soap. (A health care pro taught me that.)
    • Keep your hands away from your face.
    • Wash your hands whenever you use the bathroom. (I keep one of those small antiseptic bottles on my person at all times for use when I leave a bathroom or a mall or wherever just to be double safe.)
    • Do not eat when handling stuff that John Q. Public has touched. One of my old bosses was a math teacher, and he swore that he had a 100% chance of getting a cold if he snacked when grading students' tests.
    • If you don't feel well, follow the steps above, and stay home. Don't take your problem to work or the ball park and then give it to someone else. Again, let the medical experts decide when you're ready to face the world again. (Now would be a good time to talk with the boss about telecommuting,)
    • For heaven's sake, cover your face when you cough or sneeze. Try to keep paper towels handy, and throw them away after each use. Coughing in your hands and then grabbing a door knob is just plain dumb.
    • Never sniffle! When your nose runs, it runs for a reason. Your body is trying to rid itself of nastiness, and sniffling only makes the situation worse. Sniffling takes that nastiness and drags it down into the dark, warm (98.6F), wet chambers known as your throat, sinus passages, and chest. (To hear some people sniffle and snort, it's a wonder that they aren't growing mushrooms inside their body cavities!)
    • Watch for school closings. In general, use common sense. Likewise for travel plans.
    • Sleep. Exhaustion equals weakness.
    • Avoid sick people. Duh.
    • Cook food thoroughly. (And no, you can't get swine flu from pork. Still, cook all food regardless. Ditto duh.)
    • Lastly, as stated before, don't panic. Every year brings a new flu... without exception. If the current projections are correct, this year will be significantly less severe than the last few.
    You can read more about this (and glean from the real experts) by visiting the Red Cross site.

    See you by the feeders and be well,

    CapeCodAlan


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    April 3, 2009

    Binghamton

    Rain 002_400.jpg

    The photo above seems so appropriate for 4/3/09... Another day, another slaughter - this time in Binghamton, NY.

    Not exactly sure what to say... Obviously, thoughts and prayers go out...

    OK... So I'm not going to write about birds today. I'm just too sickened. But I will write - not because I want to but because I should. And there are two reasons I should write about this savagery:

    Reason 1: Believe it or not, I have a limited bit of training in the field of crisis intervention. Granted, it's just a two-year degree, but I was (and am) qualified to man a suicide hotline as I type this. Here are my insights (for what they're worth) into the "ballistic" personality...

    • In general, people who flip out tend to think that a particular person, group, or culture has wronged them terribly. The thing to watch for here is the sincerity in the individual - you'll know it when you see it. These people don't smile and don't blink when they express their "righteous" anger. Their logic may be flawed, but their rage is pure and deep, and they'll stare right through you.
    • Should a friend or loved one seriously change fundamental behavior, keep your eyes open. The gal who's been gregarious all her life, but suddenly goes silent is dealing with issues. Likewise for the guy who's always kept to himself, but suddenly won't shut up...
    • Listen to threats.
    • Significant changes in sleep or eating patterns may indicate a problem.
    • Be thoughtful of folks who lose a job or go through a breakup. Worse yet, be particularly thoughtful of the individual who suffers multiple personal disasters at a single time.
    • If you know of someone taking medication for behavioral problems, help them stay on their meds.
    • You parents out there, keep an eye on the company your child keeps, and stay in touch with his teachers. Most importantly, talk with your child.

    Reason 2: I know of what I speak... I know of hard times... I know of haunting a food court just to score leftovers. I literally sold the shirt off my back one night in a Boston subway just to get back to Cape Cod... I've looked down the barrel of a gun held in anger and contempt... Hard times and hitchhiking ain't for the faint of heart... Look, most people (myself included) can take almost anything... But then there are a few who snap, who go "ballistic".

    Bottom line? I don't know what happened at Binghamton... I don't know if anyone does know (or ever really will know for that matter). Maybe the shooter had some sort of medical problem... I really don't know. But going forward, I think we need to keep two things in mind...First, we need to be aware of our surroundings, loved ones, neighbors, and co-workers. When people change significantly, something is going on and discussion is in order. Beyond that, we have to recognize that these are tough times - a rare few of our brethren are going to teeter on the abyss...

    There, this post is done, and I'd just as soon move on.

    See you by the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan

    P.S. As if moving on was that easy... The breaking news this morning is of four police officers being shot in Pennsylvania...


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    March 27, 2009

    Flooding, Hummingbirds, and Good Film Fun

    Hi all,

    FLOODING_400.jpg

    First off, please keep in mind the flooding that's occurring in parts of North Dakota and beyond. (Hence the public domain picture above.) To help out, you can contact the American Red Cross here. And remember, this disaster won't end when the news coverage stops; flooding will continue for at least a month.

    Have you checked out the hummingbird migration progress? We haven't seen any yet, but we're looking. (That reminds me... We've got to get our feeders ready for the Ruby-throated. And we're also going to have find a better way to photograph the creatures. No doubt that will mean that I'll have to start messing with stuff like shutter speeds and aperture, so expect blurriness, underexposure, and absolute white. You've been warned.)

    One last thought... A flicker was on the feeder today. It was such a beautiful thing, and the bird was right in the sweet spot of my normal camera setup. Unfortunately, I didn't have the camera setup "set up", and so this post will close not with a stunning flicker shot, but rather with a lame-o DVD rental suggestion. (I'm sorry, I just should have gotten those closeups... However, you can still see some great bird and wildlife pictures by accessing our eBirdseed.com photo library link below...) Now about those film suggestions... Parents, take a look at the old "Sherlock Holmes" movies (Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce). Yeah, the flicks are campy and contrived, but kids (and adults) love that stuff. Doubt it? Just look at the success of NCIS and the Harry Potter series... Just a thought...

    See you by the feeders, (I'll be the one wearing the deerstalker hat and brandishing a magnifying glass... Great Scott!)

    CapeCodAlan


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    February 11, 2009

    Emergency Preparedness Revisited, Sparrows, Crows, etc.

    IMG_2517_400_cropped_sparrow in house.jpg

    I was going to write a post on the sparrows rediscovering the birdhouse, but given the twisters in Oklahoma, a quick reminder on emergency preparedness might be more appropriate.

    It was around 50 degrees F today. A week ago, it was 10 degrees. Obviously, swings in temperature can cause severe weather. The northeast should see some pretty high winds over the next day or two. Given that, this preparedness booklet is valuable indeed.

    What else? Well, back to birds of course!

    IMG_2527_crow cropped with pretzel.jpg

    Forget about the sparrows, after I started this, I got the photo above. (This is turning into a bit of a hodge podge isn't it? Onward!)

    There's something about crows that just busts the wife and me up... They have that funny "Inspector-Clouseau-Lurking" walk... They're incredibly bright... And man oh man, do they look funny eating pizza and pretzels. I wonder why it is that we anthropomorphize? It's late, but I'll throw out my own theory...

    We tend to grant human-like attributes to non-humans as a way of "cheering on" our highest ideals - Freud's "super ego" at work, if you will. Unfortunately, according to Mr. Freud, humanity also has a very dark side - the "id". The id is the part of the psyche that wants you to slow down as you pass a car crash just to take a quick look. And when it comes to animals, the id expresses itself as "anthropodenial" - the tendency to deprive animals of any human-like characteristics such as the ability to fear or feel true affection. Once those traits are out of the way, terrible animal cruelties occur. My guess is that the trick is to rationally balance anthropomorphism with the anthropodenial... That is, balance the super ego with the id.

    Ah heck, I could rant about this stuff all night. (I'm going to make that psychology degree pay one way or another!) But I think we've had enough topics for one day.

    Be safe, and we'll see you by the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    January 4, 2009

    Godzilla, Birds, Wind Farms, and Sobering Engineering

    godzilla_400.JPG

    I just wrote a slightly facetious post in my personal "Grand Rants" blog about how a Tennessee coal ash dam rupture caused the unleashing of Godzilla.... I say "slightly" because no one really knows what will happen when 2.5 million pounds of barium gets loose as it did Dec. 23 last. (See: The Birmingham News, ABC News, Green Daily, and Scientific American.)

    So what has this got to do with birds? Quite a bit actually. Back in November, I wrote about the proposed Cape Cod wind farm, and got some comments both on and off this blog concerning bird hits. My point then (as it is now) was that the world is a rough place, and that this country had better get its "ducks in a row" pronto when it comes to energy generation and conservation. By way of explanation, let me backtrack...

    On Jan. 28th, 1986, I was in my second year as an engineering student and bracing myself for yet another class in 4th semester physics. Once the class assembled (we numbered about half a dozen), someone announced that the space shuttle Challenger had blown up. Instinctively, we turned to our prof (a brilliant and wise man) and expected tears, but what we got instead was a sobering lesson in objectivity and "large-scale" thought. His message was as clear as it was somber - we were to become engineers, and we had to come to grips with the large-scale ramifications of large-scale projects like Challenger... No matter what, both good stuff and bad stuff is going to happen. The trick is to max the good, and min the bad.

    And now we as a culture face that sort of a large-scale, sobering issue when it comes to wind power.

    I can't speak for eBirdseed.com, and I certainly can't speak for you... But I can speak for myself... Quite frankly, I'd rather experiment with wind power and birds than face the absolute catastrophe in Harriman.

    Thoughtfully, see you by the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    September 17, 2008

    More on Hurricane Ike, and Crows and Squirrels as Warning Signals

    Hi all,

    Before we get started, here's another quick reminder that Hurricane Ike absolutely devastated a sizable chunk of this country, and well over a million people are in trouble... If you want, you can use the information below to help out.

    • Web site: The Red Cross
    • Phone: 1-800-REDCROSS /1-800-257-7575 (Español)
    • U.S. Mail: American Red Cross National Headquarters 2025 E Street, NW Washington, DC 20006
    Also, keep in mind that our backyard bird photo contest continues and doesn't end until September does. You can see the current entries in our eBirdseed.com photo library

    Onward...

    sunbathing squirrel_1_resized.JPG

    Yup, he looks fat and happy. It seems that he's eaten his fill and just settled down for a bit of sunbathing. Notice how he uses the lid bungee as a sort of safety belt. What a gas!

    The next photo is that of a squirrel trying to steal an ear of corn. All you can see is "The Claw". Good stuff.

    The claw_ resized_DSC_0263.JPG

    And on a related note... Both the squirrels and crows have become quite good at acting as alarms for the other birds that there's a predator in the area. In general, when we hear a racket kicking up out back, we know that there's a hawk, fox, coyote, or cat around and that it's time for us to pick up the camera and slowly ease towards a good shot for a photo. I don't even try to go out on the deck anymore. Instead, I just ease into position in the kitchen or living room and see what I can see. Over the last few days, we've had a large Red-tail, and a couple of appearances by a fox. We didn't get any decent photos though - either the creatures were moving too fast, or the camera decided to automatically focus on the wrong thing. Grumble, grumble, grumble...

    See you by those blurry feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    September 15, 2008

    Ike Info, and Don't Touch the Feathers!

    Hi all,

    Before we get started, once again here's a gentle reminder that our neighbors in Texas (and beyond) took a pretty big hit from Ike... The Red Cross contact information follows:

    • Web site: http://www.redcross.org/
    • Phone: 1-800-REDCROSS /1-800-257-7575 (Español)
    • U.S. Mail: American Red Cross National Headquarters 2025 E Street, NW Washington, DC 20006
    Onward...

    Back in June of 2007, we took a good close look at a feather. Well, here's another one.

    turkey feather_entire_400.jpg

    But that's not a very detailed photograph. Here's a close up... PICT1214_close up.JPG

    Jeez... This was to be such a simple issue/post... Mention a feather... Toss in a few snapshots... Well, nothing in life is easy. Just a tad of searching on the Web warns of the dire legal and health risks of picking up feathers....

    From what I can glean, it takes special licenses to handle feathers of virtually every ilk, and the officials aren't fooling around. (Read that: "You can drive like an idiot on the highway right in front of the police, and at worst you'll get pulled over and have to pay a ticket... But pick up a chickadee feather in your backyard and lookout!")

    Add to the threat of legal trouble the matter of health issues. (The experts say that feathers need to be picked up with gloves, placed in Ziploc bags, frozen for 2 months, then microwaved for 30 seconds or so... I kid you not.)

    So... In compliance with the law, my massive feather collection (5) have properly been disposed of (thrown outside where I found them), and I have literally scrubbed my hands down with rubbing alcohol. (Seriously, I do that several times a day regardless - I'm an anti-germ freak.)

    Enjoy the pics above, 'cause I ain't going down this road again...

    With a deep sigh, see you by the feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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    September 13, 2008

    Hurricane Ike, End of Summer, etc.

    ike from space.jpg Hi all,

    This is what hurricane Ike looks like as seen from space. Pretty rugged, isn't it? Obviously, the conditions on the ground look pretty rugged too. According to news reports, roughly 3,000,000 are without power, and many will stay in the dark for at least two weeks. With that in mind, here is the contact info for the American Red Cross:

    • Web site: http://www.redcross.org/
    • Phone: 1-800-REDCROSS /1-800-257-7575 (Español)
    • U.S. Mail: American Red Cross National Headquarters 2025 E Street, NW Washington, DC 20006
    Onward...

    Well, the Summer is over and our orioles are gone. Bummer. The end of the season also forebodes the departure of the hummingbirds. We'll leave the nectar feeders out through the end of this month to make sure that even the stragglers have plenty of energy, and then take them down, clean them, and store them away. But what of our eBirdseed.com hummingbird cam.

    Indeed, what do we want to do with our hummingbird cam? Let's see... We have some choices.

    What do you think?

    See you by the feeders...

    CapeCodAlan

    P.S. Don't forget our September '08 Bird Photography Contest!


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    September 9, 2008

    Cheap Gas (Sort of...)

    Hi all,

    I decided to give the backyard birds a break and touch upon the wallet for this post. Not to worry - you can still enter the backyard bird photo contest. That doesn't end until September runs out.

    speedqueen in driveway_resized again.JPG

    Well, there she is... Our pride and joy... If you haven't seen her yet, well there you go...

    So what on earth does a 700lb boat trailer combo have to do with cheap gasoline?!? As it turns out, everything... Here's the explanation...

    Mrs. CCA and I had to drive out approximately 100 miles to retrieve the boat above. (I'll rough the numbers, but the stats are spot on.) On the trip out we averaged around 20 MPG and that cost us roughly $20 at $4.00/gallon. But the return trip was to be far more interesting. Because I'd never driven a trailer before I was hyper-careful about not exceeding 55 MPH and allowing plenty of slow braking room (not to mention slow acceleration). And what was the return-trip fuel cost towing 700 lbs? About $14.

    Yup... Read that about a 30% gasoline savings while towing a 700lb load just by using conservative driving techniques...

    And by chance should you ease off the gas, carpool, and/or go to the market with your neighbors... Who knows? 50% savings? 60% savings?

    Just some thoughts...

    See you by those thrifty feeders,

    CapeCodAlan


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