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Sunday, February 19, 2006

What a peaceful day it was. Our favorite neighborhood playmate McKenzie came over, and she, Phoebe and Liam spent the entire day counting the spare change that had accumulated around the house over the past two years. Honest, I didn't put them up to it; they wanted to do it! Soon Phoebe's floor was dotted with piles of coins. Each pile had been painstakingly counted, and if the piles got stepped on or kicked, the effort was for naught. Liam had to dump some excess energy in a safe place before being allowed to walk across the floor/minefield.
Chet, of course, took full advantage of this situation. I don't know if this is a breed trait, but this Boston terrier cannot bear to see anyone absorbed in anything, whether it be reading, counting change, wrapping presents, or taking photographs, while reclining on the floor. He identifies the focus of your attention, then simply sits on it. So Chet alternated between dragging toys in and chewing them atop the coin piles, or simply plopping himself on the coins. He so wanted to be a part of the process, but having no fingers, had to use his butt.
no, that's not a Boston pup asleep behind Liam, but the place-holder I bought Phoebe a year ago, when we were waiting for Chet to get old enough to be picked up...

The kids were amazingly patient with him and worked around him, quickly sequestering counted piles where Chet couldn't sit in them. When it came time to put the coins in rolls, I came in to help. McKenzie would count, while I started the rolls and handed them to the kids to finish filling. When all was counted up, they'd sorted and rolled more than $316.50! Each kid got a $10 roll of quarters for a good day's work.
note Chet, chewing a stuffed toy on Liam's chest, and the assortment of toys Chet brought in throughout the afternoon.
I've been amusing myself lately by tracking two of my commentaries on NPR's Most E-mailed Stories list. This is the first time I've had two commentaries air in the same week ("Blogging: A Boon or Blight to Marriage?" aired Monday, and "Bird Watchers Begin Great Backyard Bird Census" aired Thursday. "Blogging" was crazy--it hung in at #3 for the first two days, bopped down to #11, went back to didn't drop out of the top 25 until Sunday (today). I think that was because it got onto four or five major blogs, and there was a snowball effect as people heard about it and then checked it out. Meanwhile, "Bird Watchers" got as high as #4, and is still on the charts at #15 Sunday night.
Both were Editor's Picks on the NPR home page. Pretty heady stuff. NPR gave both Bill and me a link to our blogs, and mine has gone from picking up around 25 new readers each day to adding more than a hundred. If you're new, welcome!!
Today, though, I let the computer sleep while I worked on three drawings I'd started several weeks ago but never got time to finish. These are for the New York Breeding Bird Atlas. Here's a female blackpoll warbler, incubating.

Here's a northern waterthrush, feeding tadpoles to its young. Northern waterthrushes often nest in the upturned rootballs of wind-thrown trees. Thus, the roots protruding from the soil. The tadpoles came from an observation I made in Connecticut, where I was amazed to see a northern waterthrush catching wood frog tadpoles from its perch on a stump in a vernal pool.

And here's a Louisiana waterthrush turning her eggs. Their nests are very cleverly concealed in earthen banks. They stuff wads of wet, muddy leaves into an existing hole for a foundation, and they make a porch of wet leaves that then dries and is quite strong. I watched a pair build their nest and almost succeed in raising the young to fledging before a predator clawed them out of the bank near the Chute some years ago. I was heartbroken. I'd been so careful to keep a great distance, and only watch them through binoculars...but when there are 20-odd feral cats roaming the area from the nearby shanty, it's really only a matter of when they're going to find the nest. Another reason I must find a way to buy that land.

Charlie is never happier than when I'm working at the drawing table. He hangs out either on my shoulder or right by my left elbow, where he will be handy should I reach over to tickle him or preen the feather sheaths off his head. He's amazingly good about leaving my books and art materials unmolested, which is more than you can say for most parrots. He understands, I think, that sitting on the drawing table is a privilege which can be revoked for bad behavior. For my part, having his bird consciousness so close is a part of my creative process. If I forget to go fetch him when I first sit down at the drawing table, he lets me know! Parrots are excellent at letting people know what they need. AWK!!!

and extremely good at giving people what they need, too.


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