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Posts Tagged ‘Birds’


My young nephews invited me to join them at the picnic table for an adapted version of BananaGrams. Every word we created with our letter tiles had to have something to do with the animal kingdom I was instructed. Photo by Adam Sherman

Everywhere we go, there they are: Animals that is. Even on vacation.

Some dogs, like some people, me incl uded, are quite content to spend their vacation on a raft. Photo by Dennis Forer

Some dogs, like some people, me included, are quite content to spend their vacation on a raft. Photo by Dennis Forer

My dad started a wonderful family tradition 50 years ago—a week or two spent in the same place at the same time each year. As the family has grown and moved away from home, this annual August trek has become a mini family reunion while on vacation.

Prince is my sister’s family’s golden retriever. It’s hard to say who enjoys the mountain-air morning runs more, Prince or my sis. Those outings always end with Prince madly splashing into the swimming hole and begging to be sent into the deep on water retrieves. Prince also likes to retrieve the rubber rings used in the game of Muckers, which is much like Horseshoes. Each year, we set up our Muckers pit behind our cabins and have an all-ages guys-versus-gals tournament; however Prince must watch the game from the cabin’s veranda. Otherwise, it would turn into Prince’s own game of “Catch Me and the Rings If You Can.” Give him a bed and a dog chewy something, and he’s content all the same. Photo by Adam Sherman.

Sparky is my brother’s family’s dog. He’s small but mighty in charm and character. Family vacation came as a relief for the little guy: He’d had a hard school year, what with two of the three kids in his family going off to college and all. Here at last, his pack was united. Photo by Adam Sherman

Our stay in cabins on a river in the woods almost always includes a few dogs of our own. Other families have vacationed with cats and ferrets.

When I was young and on vacation here, I spent the largest part of each day at the stable, waiting for my turn to ride one of the for-hire trail horses.  Wilderness pack trips and promises of great fishing in the cold lakes of the back country were then one of the main draws to this rustic 1920’s-era “resort.” Dad and I took a lot of those rides back in the day.

One thing that has remained constant at our family vacation spot for 50 years is blue jays. If the warm sunshine in your face doesn’t wake you when it stretches above the mountains in the early morning, the blue jay conversations just inches from your sleeping bag will. Photo by Adam Sherman

Much-younger, my siblings had their own kind of animal fun watching fat chipmunks and shimmery blue jays  scatter after bread crumbs. The once bustling stables were abandoned long ago, and the tack room and hitching rails have gone to weeds. But a sturdy new corral is home to a couple of overweight donkeys that come hee-hawing to the fence whenever someone with a carrot or sugar cube stops by.

Youngsters in ours and other families pester parents to take them on walks “up to where the donkeys live.” For me, the little long-eared fellows evoke Dad-and-me memories of following along behind a string of mules packed with supplies for forest rangers at lookout stations and Boy Scouts at high country camps.

“Mr. Donkey, just because my sweater is green like an apple does not mean you can eat it! Let me have my sleeve back, and I’ll give you a carrot!,” I said to this sweet long-eared fellow. He’s gone a tad “sour” from all the handouts he gets from vacationing kids – and yes, adults, too.  Now corralled, this donkey and his partner used to roam the resort at will. Since the warped doors on the old vacation cabins don’t always close tightly, these clever donkeys would use their long noses to wedge the doors open, tip-toe up the rather rickety stairs, go inside and binge on human sweets and treats. Photo by Adam Sherman.

“Mr. Donkey, just because my sweater is green like an apple does not mean you can eat it! Let me have my sleeve back, and I’ll give you a carrot!,” I said to this sweet long-eared fellow. He’s gone a tad “sour” from all the handouts he gets from vacationing kids – and yes, adults, too. Now corralled, this donkey and his partner used to roam the resort at will. Since the warped doors on the old vacation cabins don’t always close tightly, these clever donkeys would use their long noses to wedge the doors open, tip-toe up the rather rickety stairs, go inside and binge on human sweets and treats. Photo by Adam Sherman.

My nieces and nephews appear not to have my horse-crazy genes, but they do smile sweetly when the donkeys’ soft lips and bristly chin hairs sweep across their small palms as they offer treats. Family dogs aren’t always so enthused by the donkeys: Sometimes they growl a grumble or hide behind the person nearest at hand.

Watching the kids and donkeys interact again had me thinking about how entwined animals are in our lives, even when we’re away from home.

Butterflies float through our mountain forest vacation spot but infrequently. This beauty took a breather on a corner of the riverside beach. Back home, my mom’s husband’s family has a renowned butterfly garden; hence he gave this visitor a hearty welcome. Photo by Dennis Forer

My cousin’s husband had his camera slung over his shoulder while walking near the river the morning this bird of prey passed overhead. There’s an eagle’s nest not far from where the photo was taken, so we assumed this was an eagle. Once we had the photos in hand and could enlarge them to look at details, it looked to be an osprey – probably out fishing for breakfast. No matter the type of bird, it doesn’t get much better than snapping a photo as it soars against a cloudless blue sky before the heat of the day sets in. Photo by Dennis Forer

Most years, while we’re on our family vacation, there’s some kind of bear activity in camp. Generally that involves midnight raids with bears climbing on top of chain-locked dumpsters and straining to get the lids off. The noise they make is the worst of it.

However, last year, on the bittersweet final night of our vacation, a bear ripped out a screen and climbed into a nearby cabin. The bear had its way with the refrigerator and most things in the kitchen. Meanwhile, the woman sleeping at the back of the cabin jumped over the veranda and ran to safety. The bear was later trapped and moved to a distant section of forest.

Here’s how my youngest niece, Sara, who was age eight at the time, told the tale, which appeared in her school’s newspaper.

A BEAR STORY

“I went on an adventure to Trinity Alps Resort with my family. It is an adventure because you are in the wilderness. When we went on walks in the wilderness I found chipmunks. We had three cabins in a row this year: We had Sierra, Santa Barbara and Sacramento. My family was in the one Sacramento. Everybody in the family comes to Trinity Alps Resort.

“Our last night at Trinity Alps Resort the bear was out! My mother woke me up to show me that the bear was out in the garbage can. I was so scared I had to go in the room with the roof. I was sleeping out on the veranda which has a roof on it. But there are other openings all around you.

“Guess what? The black bear actually got into a cabin. It tried to open the door. But instead he broke apart the window. The lady’s name was Sharon. So she heard a noise in the kitchen and then she went into the kitchen and she saw this black thing on its two hind legs and then she realized that it was the black bear! So she ran to the veranda and she jumped over the veranda.

“Then she ran over to my cousin Mikayla’s cabin and she told Mikayla’s dad all about it. Then Dennis, Mikayla’s dad, drove Sharon to Jim’s house. Jim is the kind of person who keeps everybody safe and keeps things straight. So Sharon slept the rest of the night. The bear got into the cabin at 3:00 in the morning before the bear got into the garbage can about 4:15 in the morning. My dad was in the bathroom about 4:45 shining a flashlight in the bear’s eyes.

“There is a cabin called Napa and the person who is staying in Napa which is Mrs. Jansen. She gets freaked out because there is like a little path where the bear comes and goes. I was selling jewelry there, too. In the morning we went to go look at the cabin. At Mikayla’s cabin I got a Hershey Bar. You might not want to read this at night but the chocolate part won’t scare  you as much as Mrs. Schuler [Sara’s teacher].”

Her teacher commented: “Good suspense. Now that’s a scary bear story!“

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It being Easter, let me introduce my blue-egg-laying Ameraucana chickens, Teddy,
Georgie, Frankie and Alex. My sister nicknamed the four-hen flock Sisters in honor of a 1990s television series

Ozzie, the rooster and two of the hen Sisters, Teddie in the middle, and Frankie, the white one, on the right. These Ameraucana hens are not as inclined to set on their eggs as much as some breeds. In spite of Ozzie's persistent pestering, my Ameraucanas have no offspring. Photo by Adam Sherman.

we used to watch together on Saturday nights. The show, “Sisters,” was about four sisters born to a father who wanted boys; hence their names.

I collect a few things: cobalt blue glass, decorative pumpkins, Santas and home-made Easter eggs. I enjoy inventing tasteful ways to combine them. In this photo, taken by my son, the contrast of the blue bowl and the pastel eggs is heightened by the angle of the late-morning sun. And by the way, these aren’t decorative eggs, they’re the real deal; all two dozen plus, courtesy of our four hens. Photo by Adam Sherman.

Hens that lay blue and blue-green eggs are actually called Easter Eggers in poultry circles. The secular part of our family’s Easter holiday includes decorating a few of the Sisters’ eggs to add to our collection. But we’re spared the dip-and-dye step, because they’re already so pretty in blue.

The Sisters’ have been blessing us with all manner of eggs of late. We thank them for each and every gem. Hens Alex, Teddy and Georgie are a mix of intricately designed sorrel, gray and brown feathers. Frankie’s different: She’s a wheaten color — but stands out mostly because of her antics.

She was the first to start laying when they were young; the first to escape the day the coop gate blew open; the first to inspect the new hen house; and our rooster’s favorite. Frankie’s one smart chick: She’s figured out if she roosts early enough in the evening, she can avoid the attentions of the always-ready-at-sunset rooster. I’m convinced Frankie’s the one that lays the torpedo-shaped eggs as well.

Ameraucanas are not as inclined to set on their eggs as much as some breeds. In spite of our rooster, Ozzie’s, efforts, the Sisters have no offspring.

Buckeye hens share nesting and hatching duties on a clutch that includes eggs from each. Buckeyes are a historic poultry breed in danger of extinction. The roosters are said to possess a range of sounds, including one that sounds like a dinosaur’s roar. Perhaps that's what hampers their popularity! Photo by Janet Herring-Sherman.

My friend Stacy has hens more than happy to set. Hers are a heritage breed known as Buckeyes. She currently has three Buckeye hens that insist on setting on the same nest at the same time. They appear not to care whose eggs are whose.

These personable hens share the maternal duty of gently rolling and repositioning the eggs to make sure they incubate nicely. Looks like they engage in chit-chat, too. I wonder if the chicks will imprint and bond with one or all of their moms?

Since Buckeyes are reputed to be as good as or better than cats at mousing, it would seem they’d be a popular choice for country and suburban dwellers. Not so.

Buckeyes are a threatened species on the conservation list compiled by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. Since 1977, this organization has been working to keep 180 historic breeds of livestock and poultry from extinction.

Perhaps that’s why these Buckeye hens are so very earnest in their mission to hatch out chicks with burnished red plumage and comical personalities like their own. Even if it takes a village.

A handsome duck dropped in this week. Literally. Right onto the railing of the deck that backs our house. We had the good fortune to be sitting nearby when it arrived. If I hadn’t seen this drake myself, I’d swear this was a photo of a perfectly painted decoy, or a watercolor. Photo by Adam Sherman.

Living in the mountains near a forest, we’re treated to animal sightings pretty frequently. This one was unusual because it occurred just a few feet away from us.

My husband, Jim , and I were watching TV just before sunset when he suddenly became very still and told me not to move. He didn’t want any motion to startle the duck that had just landed on the railing of the deck right outside our tall windows.

At that point, I couldn’t see the duck and thought perhaps Jim was playing a belated April Fools’ trick.

Then, the partially metallic-green head of a male duck came into view. Its webbed feet walked purposefully along the railing.  About 18 inches behind him, along came a female, wearing feathers in more muted tones.

She followed his every move. A few times the drake stopped, turned to face her and kind of pecked at the air around her head. I worried she’d loose her balance and fall. Jim reminded me she could fly.

A new variety of bird seed mix filled the feeder on the deck’s corner, and we think that’s where the pair was headed. We never found out, because a hawk buzzed by and the ducks scattered. I’m guessing the drake was in the courting stage, because once his mate starts to incubate her dozen or so eggs, he’ll leave her to it and join an all-male flock.

I’m puzzled as to the type of duck this is: When compared to images of Mallards and Wood Ducks, it doesn’t quite match. Wonder if ducks lay colored eggs?

Have a very  blessed  Easter.

And did you know that the Bible contains 138 mentions of animals, according to http://www.christiananswers.net/dictionary/animals.html?

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nationalgeographic.com

utahbirds.org

THE WATCHER

We experienced a falcon fly-by last week. Sunday this fine fellow soared past again, then perched on a high branch of a madrone tree nearby. For hours (exactly as long as it took the Packers and the Steelers to play the Superbowl — go figure!) he watched the oak savannah below.

Good thing our chickens are safely housed  in a large, but wire-framed, coop.

“The Peregrine Falcon became an endangered species in many areas due to the use of pesticides, especially DDT. Since the ban on DDT from the beginning of the 1970s onwards, the populations recovered, supported by large scale protection of nesting places and releases to the wild.” _ Wikipedia

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