Tag Archives: birds

The Priesthood of the Disposal of Unwanted Critters

Good morning Everyone!

Have you every noticed how there are hierarchies all around us? A simple example is standing in line – The first person in line goes first, the second person gets to go next, etc.  And there are even a few of us who will, on occasion, step forward to correct a person who dares to challenge the hierarchy by cutting in line.  Such an event follows the principle of proportional palatability  – the chances of being corrected, and the violence used in said correction are directly proportional to the amount of time spent in line and the importance of the item the line is for.  The same chances are indirectly proportional to the palatability to the group psyche of someone barging in front of everyone else.

At our house, we have hierarchies too.  This morning the Priesthood of the Disposal of Unwanted Critters was called to action.

The first and foremost High Priest of the Disposal of Unwanted Critters is Mark.  If he is home, the hierarchy stops there.  I’m not sure where the rule is set out – in the United States Code, the Code of Alabama, the Eleventh Commandment, the United Nations Charter or the Code of Hammurabi – but somewhere it says that the male of the house shall remove all unwanted critters, dead or alive, from the household if he is at home.  It makes perfect sense to me and Kayla, although Mark may not agree.  Unfortunately, unwanted critters are notoriously inconsiderate, and they do appear when Mark is not around.

When it comes to killing and removing spiders and roaches, I become the High Priestess of the Unwanted Critter Department.  And I hate killing spiders and roaches – not because I think they deserve to live in peace, but because deep down I know that at any minute they can grow taller than a house and kill me along with all that I love or, even worse, actually fly (roach) or run (spider) on me.  I was over 40 before I ever killed either a roach or a spider – and that was only out of desperation because Kayla and I were alone.

As High Priestess, it is my privilege to delegate certain removal tasks, and Kayla is in charge of the Removal of Birds Killed by the Dogs.  We had such an incident this morning – I let Darwin and Mandy out, and they both shot over to the far corner of the deck, where I heard a scuffle that lasted about 1/2 second.  I called both of them back sharply.  Darwin arrived with a feather hanging from his lip (commonly known in criminal justice circles as a smoking gun), and Mandy trotted up afterwards.  The poor mocking-bird that had, alas, strayed from its normal habitat was lying on its back with its feet straight up in the classical dead bird pose.  Kayla showed up right afterwards, having heard the scuffle, and performed her duties as Head Acolyte competently and thoroughly.

I was kind of shivering with the willies, and asked her what we were going to do with the bird.  She kind of rolled her eyes, then told me to get her some paper towels.  Taking the paper towels, she gently lifted the bird and placed it in the dumpster, after not so gently admonishing both dogs about killing the bird.  Neither dog was particularly upset by being admonished, which is on par with most canine corrections that involve any member of the Priesthood besides Mark.  (And yes, for all grandmothers concerned who may read this, I did have her wash her hands extremely thoroughly after she came back in, paper towel or no.)

And that was the excitement at our house this morning!  Anything happen interesting at yours?

Have a great day!


Science, Gone to the Birds

Good morning Everyone!

While I was out walking Tyra today at 6:30 a.m., which due to the time change my body still unhappily believes to be 5:30 a.m., the entire area was covered in fog.  Not the thick, can’t see in front of your face fog, but the kind of fog that softens the lines of the trees and the road and the lake around you.  If you don’t have to drive in it, it is beautiful.  But, strangely, the new moon, which was still out, was sharp and clear in the sky above – yet surrounded, from my earthly perspective, by fog.  I wonder how it did that?

The birds were wide awake already also, singing their hearts out.  I didn’t hear the woodpecker (the only sound I would have recognized besides a crow’s caw), but there were multiple songs in the woods around me, which made me wonder why birds sing in the morning.  I looked it up, and alas, because there is no definitive answer and none of the existing theories are particular attractive to me, I don’t have a good answer for you.  I am choosing to believe that the birds sing in order to greet the day, until the scientists make a final decision otherwise (and I’m sure they will).

It is fascinating to me, though, the mysteries that still exist for us in nature.  Just using the bird song example, mankind has known for centuries, if not millenia, that birds sing in the morning.  Even so, in the year 2012, we don’t have a definitive answer as to why.

One of us could try just asking the nearest bird that would stand still long enough to hear us, but I can just imagine that conversation:

Person:  Hello Bird.  Can you tell me why you are singing this morning? 

Bird, named George (all in bird language):  Hey, Fred, get a load of this dude!  It almost looks like he’s trying to talk to us. 

Fred flits over for a minute:  That’s silly.  Everyone knows humans can’t talk.

Person:  Are you trying to tell me something? 

Betty Jean, from the nest:  I think he is trying to talk.

George:  He may be, but it’s not coming through.

Fred:  Hey, you want to have a little fun? 

George:  What do you mean?

Fred:  I could start to dive bomb him like I thought he was threatening Betty’s nest.  I bet I could have him running in six seconds!

George starts laughing:  That’s a good one.

Betty Jean:  Fred, don’t you dare!  He isn’t bothering us.

Person pulls out notebook and writes.

Fred:  What’s that he’s doing?

Betty Jean:  I think its called writing.  I nested in a bush near a window one year, and they … um… write… in two ways – the way this guy is doing it and somehow by hitting small black rectangles and watching a white big rectangle while they do so.  I’m not sure why, though. 

George:  Oh, that part’s easy.  Humans have the worst memory in the universe, so they have tried to cope by …. I think the word is “record” things.  

Person turns to leave.

Fred:  Hey, guys, watch this! I can make this human freeze in one move.

Betty:  Fred, you better behave.

Fred: No worries, Betty.  In fact, I’ll probably make his day by doing this.  

Fred flies down to five feet in front of Person, who immediately stands still, watching. Fred hops around, doing bird things at random, like singing, cocking his head and watching Person, poking his beak in the ground, and making Person turn in a circle slowly by hopping around him in stages.

Betty and George smother giggles.

Fred calls up from the ground:  I can do this for hours, and the Person will stay right there and watch.  Silly, isn’t it?

Betty:  Oh, that’s funny, Fred, but George, dear, I’m hungry.

George:  Okay, Betty, I’m on my way.  Hey, Fred, enough play for now; we’ve got work to do.

Fred, reluctantly flies back into the woods.

Person recedes in the distance, scribbling notes the whole way.

Another victory for science!

Have a great day!



Good morning everyone!

I may have already had a full Monday type Monday morning (you know, the type where everything is discombobulated around you, none of the material you need for everyone to get out of the house in an orderly fashion such as notes for school, book bags, and other such paraphernalia was in the right place, including the precious doctor’s note explaining that Kayla missed Friday at school because she was running a fever and you end up slamming cupboard and closet doors – at least they’re closed!  See, On Cupboard Doors and Closet Shelves ), but the birds outside are completely oblivious.

In the trees at the edge of the court, there is a symphony of song birds greeting the sun.  (I’d be greeting it, too, if I had to sleep outdoors last night; it got down in the 20’s!)  The volume of sound is really astonishing, and if I had more time and it was about 40 more degrees warmer, I’d love to sit down and just listen for a while.

There even is one brave bird sitting on the fence chirping at intermittent intervals.  I think he or she is part of the brave family of birds that nests in the huge rosebush in the back.  Most of the hatchlings, at least three, didn’t make it three years ago, because Mandy and Darwin found them, thought they were really interesting chew toys that squeaked, and Kayla and I couldn’t get out there in time.  After one more year of growth, though, the rose bush was out of the dogs’ reach and some member of the same family (I assume) comes back every year to build its nest.  I really wonder if the principles of natural selection shouldn’t weed this family out (after all, building your nest in the middle of a yard with three dogs who are very interested in sounds, sights and smells is not the safest place) but I’m glad those principles haven’t done so so far.  I like the idea of the sheer stubbornness it takes to come back to a place to claim it as your own even after someone much bigger and larger has tried to chase you away from it.  Now, of course, with the bigger rose bush with corresponding bigger thorns and better height, I believe the nest will be quite safe.

Is there a moral there somewhere?  Probably, but I’m too busy hunting my shoes and my cell phone so I can get out of the door to think through it more deeply – maybe you can come up with one?

Have a great Monday, everyone, or at least a better one than I am having so far!


The Sooty Tern

Hi Everyone!

Here is the latest picture I have completed in art class.  It is a pastel portrait of a bird called “the sooty tern”, which I learned about during our trip to Key West in March.

The sooty tern came to our attention because the only nesting colony in North America is on Bush Key, one of the islands that make up the Dry Tortugas National Park, where Fort Jefferson is located.  (It is not an endangered species; it has a lot of nesting places in tropical areas, even a few in the Pacific around Baja California in Mexico.)  However, in the course of our tour of Fort Jefferson, we learned quite a bit about the sooty tern, which really is an amazing bird.

Sooty terns can stay aloft for years at a time!  They can do this first because of their light, aerodynamic body, which means they can fly without spending much energy, but also because, for some reason, the sooty tern does not need deep sleep.  In fact, nesting may be the only time some of these birds ever land.

They are very noisy birds;  in Hawaii, the name for the sooty tern is  ‘ewa ‘ewa  which means “cacophony.”  Their normal life span is between 30 and 40 years.

I hope you enjoyed the combination nature lesson/art show!

Have a great weekend everyone!


Why are the birds so happy? Don’t they know it’s morning?

Hi Everyone!

It’s morning again, and I am still trying to shake off the tiredness that comes just from having to wake up before 6 (or 7 or 8 ) in the morning, in between rescuing various articles of clothing from Darwin this morning – so far I have rescued a shoe (in time to prevent damage) and a sock (already crippled for life, but just as a matter of principle I don’t think I should let him keep it.) 


But outside, even with the windows shut, I can hear the many birds that inhabit the woods around our neighborhood chirping at the top of their lungs.  It’s a pleasant enough sound, but it does cause me to wonder, WHY DON’T THEY EVER SLEEP IN? 

Exhibit A: The Rooster That Crows at Dawn

If you are up early enough (and I try very hard not to be) they are even happier and louder immediately before sunrise.  WHY?  They don’t have to be anywhere at any particular time, although all that foraging for food certainly does take a lot of time, but always are up at the (pre-)crack of dawn anyhow.  They must have a lot of the foraging done before noon, because by that time of the day, at least our suburban birds have grown for the most part silent, except for the occasional red-winged black bird that likes to sit on telephone polls and make sporadic cries all afternoon.  The mocking birds will occasionally get into a spat around mid-day too, but other than that it gets pretty quiet. 

The Red-Winged Blackbird; Photo by Alan D. Wilson

Are they able to get up so early because they get to take a nap mid-day?  If that’s the case, how do I sign up for the whole mid-day nap thing?  I lost the right to take a mid-day nap somewhere around kindergarten and would really like to re-claim it at some point!  I kept begging Kayla to hold onto her nap privileges as long as she could when she was in pre-school and kindergarten, but alas, like most short-sighted 5 and 6 year olds, she couldn’t wait until she didn’t have to take one anymore!  The birds get to keep nap time; why can’t I?   

 All of which proves yet again that I am NOT a morning person.  I’m not the only one  – I suspect the Owl inherited the night because he didn’t hold with all this bright and perky morning stuff either!

The Great Horned Owl, taken by Peter Manidis (AKA falxius)

Have a great day everyone!


Earth Fare, The Longest Walk, General Von Bissing and the Birds

Yesterday’s dog paw prints having faded into a nice light glaze all over our dark wooden floor, it is time to move on to other topics of conversation, although, for the record, No-no and Bad Dog kept up quite a trail of things for me to rescue yesterday, also!

  • Earth Fare

This weekend, Mark and I had the chance to go into an Earth Fare supermarket for the first time.  Earth Fare labels itself as “the Healthy Supermarket.”  The label “organic” is pretty much standard throughout the store.  It had a large selection of teas – I got a tin of berry green tea for Christmas, so I have been trying some different teas from time to time – I can brew one cup of tea, add 1 teaspoon of real suger and have a small treat for the cost of 1/3 point on the Weightwatchers system.  Its produce section, which was all organic fruits and vegetables, looked really good too.  We bought a few of them, some dry roasted cashews (the store sold them in bulk containers and you scooped out what you wanted), a fresh-baked loaf of sour dough bread and some wheat crackers.  The finishing touch, though, was the discovery at the check-out counter that the store sells what I consider to be the very best apple juice in the world – Martinelli’s Gold Medal 100% apple juice.  Kayla agrees with me.  Mark and I bought 16 bottles on Sunday; we are now down to only 4.  If you ever come across this apple juice, you really need to try it! 

  • The Longest Walk

I walked into Kayla’s bedroom the other day, to note the pairs of shoes scattered throughout the floor rather than sitting in the closet, and started to wonder irritably why it seemed so hard for her to walk the two feet from where the shoes were to the closet to put them in there – until I walked into my bedroom and noticed the three pairs of shoes I had sitting on the floor in our bedroom by my bureau drawer rather than in my closet.  The longest walk for both of us appears to be the path from the bedroom to the closet door.  I really should do better, since No-no and Bad Dog have been known to snatch shoes to chew when no handkerchiefs, socks or other items of clothing are available.   Other long walks for me appear to be the walk from the kitchen counter to the trash can with the empty diet coke can, and the walk from wherever the clothes were folded to the place where they are supposed to reside normally. 

Have you ever lost the TV remote and spent thirty minutes looking for it rather than walk the three feet over to the TV to turn it on?  I did that the other day.  I used to think it was just an amusing peculiarity of human nature but during this latest TV remote search I realized it has now become a necessity.  About 15 minutes into the search I walked over to the TV to turn it on manually, only to discover that, while I could turn it on and off manually, I was completely unable to do anything else without the remote.  There wasn’t even a channel switch!  That added a new urgency to the search for the remote, which was ultimately discovered underneath a couch cushion. 

  • General Baron Von Bissing and the Birds

General Baron Von Bissing was the German (well, really Prussian) military governor of occupied Belgium during World War I.  As such, he was responsible for ordering the executions of dozens if not hundreds of individuals, and the deportation of thousands of Belgians to Germany to work in forced labor situations.  (I am researching his life as best I can, in my copious free time, in connection with a book I would like to write.)  I was looking through the newspaper archives of the New York Times last night (they go back to 1851, and articles from 1851 to 1922 are in the public domain, ie., they are free) and came across a one paragraph article about a peculiar order of the general’s.  In the middle of the occupation, General Von Bissing issued an order stating that the “artifical blinding” of song birds was forbidden in Belgium as a “cruelty” that would not be tolerated.  Now, it’s not that I disagree with the sentiment, but for that practice to bother a military governor who acted as he did with respect to people just seems odd.  I also wondered why anyone would want to deliberately make a song bird blind and why that was a big enough problem in the middle of the war to require an edict of its very own. 

Well, that’s enough for now.  I need to complete a “discission” (Kayla tried to say “discussion” and managed to blend the words “discussion” and “decision” instead) with Kayla about the necessity to get her hair and teeth brushed quickly at this point.

Have a great day everyone!  

Have a great day everyone!