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Playing with the Canon G-11

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Well, I was having such fun exploring the macro capabilities of my new camera, the Canon G-11, it was hard to get off the porch. I've lost track of which of these photos are whose. Probably most are Phoebe's.
A Gerbera daisy. Woweee.

More gladiola naughty bits.

A fabulous painted rose from a birthday bouquet from our friends at Lakeside. Those guys do it up right.

A 20x zoom got me up close to a very cool stained glass window on The Owl House. Dunno why it's called that, other than the owls all over it. Bet Susan would like to install a window like this! I like that he looks so cranked off.
Macro and wide angle both. Here's a whole house.

And here's my little family, everyone in focus. Heck, the whole scene's in focus!

I've asked Phoebe when she becomes a supermodel, just to send the money home. And not to take it seriously; just do the shoots and send the money home and save some for your education.

Gawrsh, Bill's on the iPhone. Whaddya know.

More Bacon Bits, these by Phoebe:

overlong toedynails, I know, I know. I'm going to clip them this week. It's just our favorite thing to do. Can't you tell?

And a pebbly rough jellybean nose. If you're seduced by these photos, click for a product description of the Canon G-11.

If you decide to buy the camera, I'd be much obliged if you use this link to do it. It gets you to B & H Photo's page, where you'll find the lowest price and best service for your purchase.

A psychedelic paisley fishy in a sushi restaurant (not, fortunately, slated for the platter.) Hot news flash: now identified as a mandarin goby (really a dragonet) Synchiropus splendidus, by Myamuhnative and Tai haku. Thanks, folks! It's native to the Indo-Pacific Ocean.

Like many gorgeous ocean reef fish, the mandarin dragonet is heavily collected, heavily traded, and has lousy survivorship in captivity. It takes a specialized diet of copepods and often starves to death in captivity. Sigh. One more reason I could never keep a saltwater tank--too many sadnesses in the getting. Good luck, little dragonet. Looks like you're at the end of your biological road, in a sushi restaurant somewhere in Ohio.

And a couple of happy little monkeys.

Every once in awhile you meet a dog you could just scoop up and take home, no questions asked. Nugget is such a dog. A ChiWeenie (chihuahua x dachshund), saved from a pound when he could fit in your palm. A rare dog, cuddler supreme, with a terrific sense of humor and a coat like satin. He smelled like sunshine, like someone else I know.

Having grown up with a beloved but dour little dachshund, I think Nugget's sense of humor and joie d'vivre comes entirely from the chihuahua side. I highly recommend the combination!

He is thoroughly doted on by our wonderful friends Beth and Kevin. As he should be. One of the luckiest little dogs I've ever met. From the pound to the lap of love. It was so great to hang with them, such lovely people. They understand about dogs, and why we need them around. They also completely understood why The Bacon had to accompany us for our week at Lakeside. Thanks to Wendy for finding us a place that would waive the "no pets" rule.

It was a good thing Chet Baker was waiting for me back at our cottage. Kevin and Beth would have had a prime suspect in Nugget's sudden disappearance otherwise.

In other news, Ohio Wildlife Center just called with news on Dee Dee the big brown bat. Remember HER?!? Well, she's still in rehab, having refused to fly or flown only weakly until just a couple of weeks ago. But now she's flying well and will be transferred to a flight cage tonight. Then she's got three weeks of conditioning before she can be released.

They've got her rations cut to 10 mealworms/day but she's still 23 grams--way heavy for a big brown bat. Pregnant? Only time will tell! I really hope she's not pregnant, because if she delivers, she'll have to be kept until the baby starts flying. Arrrgh. But she and Darryl were very close, and she was housed with another male bat at OWC until May, and she probably mated last fall too, so all I can say is stay tuned!

I can't tell you how happy this makes me, to think that out of all the bat troubles, Dee Dee might once again flitter across the Marietta skies. Keep your fingers crossed for her.

This is me, getting my dogfix. I need a dogfix about every ten minutes. Pass the ChiWeenie! Hold the mustard!

The New Camera Yahoo's

Monday, July 26, 2010


The first photo I took with my new camera.

We spent last week at Lakeside, Ohio, giving talks for their summer Chautauqua. This thoughtful man brought something nice along with him, as Father Time decreed that I would trudge a little farther into my fifth decade on July 24.

That somethin'-somethin' was a new camera for me. You see, when we visited Yellowstone National Park back in June, I left the park a little souvenir: My Canon Digital Rebel XTi, the faithful workhorse that has been delighting you all for the last four years. We were watching a peregrine and her chicks on a distant cliff, and there were bighorns nursing their lambies, and an Audubon's warbler close by, and I got excited and started pulling out optics and scopes and digiscoping stuff and in the kerfuffle I left my poor Rebel with its wonderful wide-angle lens on a low stone wall. And though we realized it right away and raced back 20 minutes later, that was enough leeway for somebody to steal it. What...a...fleepin'....bummer. Yeah, I reported it immediately at a nearby ranger station, and I reported it to Xanterra, the concessionaire at Yellowstone, but nobody ever turned it in. They took it home instead. Sure hope they liked my larkspur photos, the rat finks. I mean, what kind of creep could download photos of my kids and a bunch of wildflowers and bison and not want to return the camera to its mom? I just can't think about that.

Luckily I still had my newer Canon Digital Rebel XSi with the 70-300 mm. image-stabilized telephoto lens, so we finished out the trip shooting like mad as usual. But oh, I missed having two cameras, one for landscape and one for wildlife. I felt naked without having a camera on each shoulder.

Fortuitously, at that very spot, a semi-pro photographer had excitedly shown us his Canon Powershot G-11, the Cadillac of point-and-shoot cameras. He told us that every National Geographic photographer carries one; every pro working the Olympics has one. They use it for crowd shots, grab shots, everything. It has 10 mpxl with RAW capability; is crazy fast and sharp, and it's a delightful little chunk of metal in your hands. It was clear this guy with his big howitzer lenses was nuts about his little point-and-shoot.

So that's what Bill gave me for my birthday last week, a Canon G-11. And I started hitting that shutter button and every time I put it down Phoebe grabbed it, so we'll take you on the test drive together.

Wide angle. Everything's in focus. Chetty's watching for passing doggehs he can snorf at.

I missed my garden so much I brought it with me. Oh, look. Gladiolus bits.

Oh, and look. Grains of zinnia pollen.

See, I've never had macro capability, much less a camera that figures out when I need macro capability and automatically switches to it. I had the lens practically touching the flower for these shots.

The whole bouquet. Nothing dresses up a sunporch like homegrown glads. There's Chetty's leash, too. Whenever anyone said "walk," he'd dance out and grab it off the table and put it on the offender's knee. Oh, I love a talking dog.

The Canon G-11 has crazy MonkeyCam capability. You can swivel the big, bright LED screen so it faces BACKERDS, and you can point the camera right at yourselfs and see what you're shooting and get fabulous, hugely flattering pictures like this.

Oh, look. Phoebe's contact lens. She took dozens of dreamy self-portraits, as a newly minted teenager will. She turned the LED viewfinder around, stuck the camera in her eye and took a photo. I think she has 16 eyelash mites.

Mether. Take a picture of me, Chet Baker. Here, I will pose for it. And then let's go for another walk. I like walking on the lead here at Lakeside. It makes me feel important, and many nice older people stop and ask if I am one of those Boston Bulls. I like being called a Boston Bull.

I see you are still playing with your new toy. I will give you one more pose. But I hope that you know we could take much more interesting photos outside, if we went for a walk. A WALK. I am sending you a mental picture of us taking a WALK.

I think that if I concentrate hard enough, you will take me for a WALK. Hmm hmm hmm hmm. Walk, walk, walk, walk, walk. Picture of me and you going for a walk. Hm hm.

All right, Chetty. We'll take you and the Canon G-11 for a WALK. Until Thursday, arribaderchy. And happy birthday to me! Thanks, babe. Bitchin' birfday present.

Astute readers (and that means all of you) will notice that there are hotlinks to these products right in the text. Hit a blue link, and it will take you to B&H Photo's product description page for that camera or lens. Decide that you want to buy it right then and there, or come back later and buy it by clicking on my link, and I get a little bitty kickback from B&H. It won't cost you a cent more; in fact, I've done all the research for you and found the fabulous cameras and lenses and the lowest price and best service around. It'll just help buy Baby some shoes.

Orphaned Birds: To Love or Not to Love?

Thursday, July 22, 2010


I got a thoughtfully posed question from a reader named Kathleen on June 22. I started to write my typical three-paragraph reply, then decided to save it for this post. It was that good a question, and it's something that's always in my mind as I work with these birds.

Kathleen wrote: The rehab centre I'm at has a policy of being as hands-off as possible with the animals to prevent socialization to humans, and we do our best to find same-species nestmates or role models, or barring those, at least a mirror to keep babies company. Julie, I've been reading your blog for a long time, and it seems like you take the opposite approach, being very hands-on with the young ones. Do you find that the babies you raise still go right back to being wild once they're on their own? Are they any different from young birds raised the way they are at the centre I'm at?

My answer:
Thanks so much for asking the question, Kathleen, and for asking it so thoughtfully.

I just got back from cuddling two lost wild turkey poults to sleep--they were inconsolable until I held them against my chest. They were cold and distressed, having been without their mother since before dawn, and I sensed that they needed not solitude but warmth, darkness, and a cuddle. So I held them to my chest and their strident peeps turned to purrs. Their eyes closed and they drifted off into a deep sleep, their dear little heads drooping. Two lice crawled up my neck and into my hairline and I dug them out and squished them but kept holding the poults close to my heart. It was like the silence after turning off a smoke alarm, so thick and lovely. Even so, I had spent the entire morning trudging the woods looking for their mother, and at that moment I was waiting for a call back from a breeder so I could place these birds with an heirloom bronze mother turkey. While I waited, I rigged up a heat lamp in the corner of their tank. They need to grow up as turkeys, not as imprinted people-turkeys. I know that much about turkeys. You don't fool around with waterfowl, raptors, or gallinaceous birds, or you're likely to end up with an 18-pound gobbler trying to mate with your knee.

Songbirds are different. I've been raising orphaned songbirds since 1982, and have had quite an array of foundlings successfully find their way back to the wild despite having had loving care from humans to start their lives (or restart them, after losing contact with their natural parents). Birds I have raised have paired with wild birds, raised their own young, and returned to visit in successive years. Cardinal, catbird, cedar waxwing, rose-breasted grosbeak, mourning dove, wood thrush, phoebe...the list goes on. Having been a small-scale rehabber, I have rarely had the good fortune to be able to group young of the same species or place them with conspecifics who will raise them as some larger rehab centers do. So I indulge myself, giving them the same kind of unfettered love I give my children or my domestic pets. I name them and I murmur to them. And when the time comes to release them, I kiss them on their heads and sever our ties very gently, over a period of weeks or even months. Three ruby-throated hummingbirds I raised stayed around the yard for a month and a half after release, coming back for feedings for three days, and after that simply visiting with me. They all migrated on schedule, and all three returned the following spring, resplendent in full ruby gorgets. They still knew their names, but there was no denying that they were full-fledged members of the hummingbird tribe, having flown across the Gulf of Mexico twice and found their way back to my doorstep. I'd call that a successful release.

Having done this for 28 years, I don't believe that refraining from becoming emotionally involved with the birds one raises; refraining from naming them or stroking them or murmuring endearments to them keeps them from identifying you as their mama. I think it's OK, and even desirable, to openly let an orphaned bird or animal know it is loved. I think the clinical approach is just a thin, semantic mask for a bond that must be present in order for a human to devote herself to the care of an orphaned bird. We're in hazy territory, I know, but I strongly believe that even a hummingbird needs to know someone cares for it and loves it. I believe they do better when they are loved. I don't think it hurts to sneak a nuzzle now and then, nor do I believe it shows disrespect for their wildness, as I've been admonished. Do you carry it around like a lapdog? Of course not. You feed it and show it you care, and leave it to its own devices in between.

I maintain that it is difficult if not impossible to keep from bonding with a bird you're feeding on the half-hour all day long. I don't know how it works for you, but that bond is what keeps me going, what allows me to turn my life completely upside down in service to a half-ounce bird, feeding it dawn to dusk, shopping at the grocery store in the middle of the night so I can be home to feed it. Why deny it exists? There's no need to get anthropomorphic about it, but why be coldly clinical about it? I suspect that such hands-off policies are aimed squarely at a rehabilitation organization's viewing public, so that these wild animals are not treated as or perceived as pets. I understand that and fully support it. They aren't pets. They're wild creatures slated for release and independence in their natural habitat. When one has a visiting public for which to model behavior, it's best that wildlife rehabilitation be presented that way.

But it's not how I work, and I'd submit that there are many ways to skin this cat. We're all working toward a successful release, but with songbirds, I believe we have the luxury of being a bit more relaxed about the imprinting issue than we do with raptors, waterfowl or galliniformes. Working alone or with the help of my daughter, I have been able to indulge my maternal instincts, shower my charges with love, and still keep in mind that they are ultimately wild and will return to the wild. Do my foundlings leave more slowly? Doubtless. And I believe that every minute, hour and day that a bird has to develop its flight muscles, foraging and survival skills and devote to simply figuring out how to live wild gives it an advantage over one that is simply abandoned when the rehabilitator thinks it's time. Release is a very dicey thing. Knowing when a bird is truly able to be self-sufficient is a skill that takes awhile to acquire. I'd doubt very much that most rehabilitators have the luxury of following an orphaned mourning dove along its path to independence for 60 days, as I did with Libby.

She found her own kind; she billed and cooed and preened with a same-age juvenile dove; she stopped landing on our heads; she became wild and wary and finally, while we were away on vacation, she left, perhaps for good. Or perhaps not. I look for her every day, and should I be blessed enough to lay eyes on her again, I'll know her, just as I knew the hummingbirds, the waxwing, the cardinal, the phoebe, the grosbeak and the wood thrush. It is a magical thing to be a bird's mother, to love it fully and to let it go, and to see it return of its own free will until it doesn't need to any more.

So, Kathleen, I can't say how it goes for the birds raised at your center, never having witnessed their release. I can't say how they differ from the birds I've raised. While they may not go "right back" to the wild, I can say that most of mine make it, having had the luxury of letting their instincts kick in slowly on their own, with full backup from their earthbound mama. I encourage them to linger, keeping food around at all times, but their wildness inevitably takes over, as they learn to take cues from the wild birds all around them. I go from Mom to just another human unit to be avoided, until that magic day weeks, months or years after release when I am approached by a free-living wild bird who comes up for a moment, just to say hello. For the months of effort and concern I've expended on its behalf, there could be no sweeter benediction.

Temporary Turkey Mom

Sunday, July 18, 2010


In my previous post, I introduced two wild turkey poults that had gotten separated from their mother and siblings. What to do with them? I couldn't leave them out for the hawks and raccoons.
The turkey poults ignored chick starter, both dry and soaked, no matter how I pecked at it with my finger and offered it up to them. So I scrounged a dish of mealworms from my ancient beetle bin and Nelly bar the door--the chicks fell to and the worms were gone in seconds. Wow! and whew. Feeding them is always the thing. I hoped they would pick up the chick starter mash with the worms, but they carefully shook the food off the worms before downing the live treats. They weren't dumb. They considered the commercial chick starter simply a kind of odiferous mud to be carefully shaken off their delicious mealworms. They pecked at but refused sowbugs and cucumber beetles, which were likely too armored and distateful, respectively, to bother with. Mealworms it would be.

Once they were fed I figured they might stop peeping. But they were cold in the air-conditioned house and they wanted their mama and the peeping continued, louder and more plaintive even than before. It was driving me to distraction. On an impulse I knelt down and gathered them up and held them under my neck, against my heart. This is something almost all women seem to do with young things. Women just know what to do with baby creatures; they scoop them up and snuggle them up under their chins, against the heart. And the poults' eyes closed and the peeping turned to a purr and their dear little heads drooped and they fell fast asleep.

So I called to the kids. "Get a good movie, sit down on the couch. You have a job to do." And I gave Phoebe one turkey and Liam the other and while the babies slept in their warm hands, I settled in to think about what I was going to do.

Truly, the only time they were quiet was when they were being cuddled. They obviously enjoyed it. When the kids would open their hands, the poults wouldn't jump out; they'd cuddle down closer. They felt safe next to a beating heart, no matter whose.

What a sweet family I am blessed with.

I fished out a 20 gallon long tank with a screened cover, found my reptile heat lamp and some aspen shavings and set them up in the living room. Young turkeys need to be warm--90 degrees or better--and they calmed down when they felt the soothing heat of the lamp. They calmed down a little. But they were still darned loud, trying to keep in touch with their mama, wherever she'd gone. Peep, PEEP PEEP? Peep, PEEP PEEP?

Repeat ad nauseum, until you want to leap out of your skin. I have an overactive maternal instinct, and I have to say it drove me NUTS to be unable to soothe them. It took me right back to Phoebe's colicky days, and Liam's ear infection years.

That's it, little turkeys. Go to sleep. Go to sleep.

Even though they dozed beneath the lamp, the only thing that truly soothed them was being cuddled, so the kids were happily busy and quietly hoping they could name them and keep them.

I made it clear that these turkeys were only on loan. No turkeys, thank you very much. I'd read enough to know that raising wild turkeys is a full-time job if they imprint on you as their mama. And I have a couple of those (full-time jobs).

Not only that, but if the turkeys get to thinking they're people, next spring you have a hen flopping down in front of you, tail raised in invitation, or (worse) an 18-pound gobbler trying to mate with your head.

A quiet moment, preening emerging wing feathers. Turkeys this young can fly a little! It's amazing.

I hit the Web, finding the Southeast Ohio Poultry Breeder's Association. And there I found a contact phone number for their annual poultry shows, and the kind woman I reached there found me a breeder of heirloom bronze turkeys--not the big, super-dumb white butterballs that are about the only commercial turkey raised, but turkeys that look and act more like turkeys ought to. Of course, they're rare as hen's teeth, but some people still raise them. And he lived not far from my house! So I called his cell phone and left a message for him and listened to the poults' peeping for four more hours until I wanted to pull my hair out (they'd woken up and eaten a few more times and but they were still sad and lonely for their mom). Finally I called him again and got him. And he said he'd take them.

Hallelujah hallelujah. I was limp with relief. They wouldn't grow up wild, but they'd be safe, and they'd have a turkey mama who looked right, sounded right and felt right and did all the right things, and they'd have foster brothers and sisters. He said he'd try to release them when they were old enough to fend for themselves. "Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't," he said, obviously having been in this predicament before. But maybe they'd have a chance to reconnect with wild turkeys. It beat being coon food, which is where they were headed when I picked them up. And that was the best I could do for them. When I fed them one last time and dropped them off on his doorstep at 8 pm, heaving a huge sigh of relief and reveling in the quiet, I reflected that it was a day well and oddly spent. As are many of my days. Caring this much about birds gets you into some weird fixes. But you learn, you live, you learn, with the wild things leading you all the way.

Little Lost Turkeys

Thursday, July 15, 2010

You all had a little preview of this post in Phoebe's birthday post. Thanks so much for all your wishes and compliments on my little faunlet. But I want to ask:

Why does amazing bird stuff keep happening to me? I have enough to do keeping up with the birds that get into trouble on our 80 acres, not to mention the five calls a day from people all over the state wondering what to do with theirs.

I don't think it's a coinkydink.

I think birds know where to come when they're in trouble, that's what I think.

They wandered into the yard at dawn on June 22. They were peeping, a strident peep-PEEP PEEP? that sounded a lot like a tufted titmouse's spring song, but unvarying, insistent. I couldn't identify nor place the sound, and it bothered me until about ten AM. It circled and circled the yard, coming from nowhere and everywhere at once. I didn't have time to chase it down.

I was busy--about 15 people were here for a field trip, a special visit to Indigo Hill, right on the heels of our trip out West. We'd been home from our two week trip for only a day and a half, and I'd done ten loads of laundry and hung them all out, and Bill had mowed and weedwhacked and the kids had helped with the laundry and raked the hay on the lawn. Thank the Lord I'd cleaned the house before we left, telling it to stay nice while we were gone. And I was showing 15 people around the gardens and bonsai collection and Bill was setting out to try to show them a Kentucky warbler when he called back to me and said, "Here's what's been peeping." And these two little wild turkeys not five days old came stepping out of a trumpetvine tangle, calling and calling, and they wandered, wide eyed, toward us.

Arrrggghhh. You don't want little lost turkeys wandering up to you. Because then they become
your problem.
They couldn't find Mom; they'd been trying all morning and here it was noon and they were tired and hot so they settled for the nearest big slow- moving things they could find. This instinct to follow in young galliniformes is very strong. Although they pick up their own food from hatching day on, their lives depend on staying close to their mothers. Mom knows what to do when danger threatens; Mom's there to shield them from sun, rain and hail; she shows them good things to eat and where to drink, and she takes them up in the trees to roost under her wings at night.

Of course I began to worry about them the moment I laid eyes on them; I was magnetically pulled to help them. We let them wander around the yard for another two hours while we entertained, but all the while I was brooding about what I could do for them. So when the time came for our guests to leave I explained that I wouldn't be accompanying them down Newell's Run as I'd planned. I had turkeys to tend. I needed to find their mama. Being birdwatchers, they understood. We all have our priorities.

I Xeroxed some county road maps and sent them on their way with thanks for their understanding. They left with a real sense for what a rehabilitator's life is like--it can turn on a dime and usually does when you least expect it. When you're wired the way I am, suddenly being presented with a wild thing in need is kind of like getting a flat tire. Driving on isn't an option.

Before the group left, I recruited a few volunteers and when the turkeys headed out into the open lawn we sprinted to cut them off. I nabbed one as it zigzagged wildly, then huddled by my shoe (awww!) and the other darted into the rose hedge (rats!) where it took a few more minutes and some thorny abuse to my arms before my fingers finally closed around its downy little body.

I put them in a pet carrier with a dish of water and some chick starter, which they ignored. Oh, crap. Now what? They were peeping and peeping...So we waved everybody good bye and I donned my field clothes and set out for a two-hour walk around our property with the pet carrier under my arm, two shrilling baby turkeys inside it. I figured if I couldn't find their mom, she might find us by the loud location calls. I took my very best turkey hunting dog, Chet Baker, and told him that if he found a turkeh he was not to chase it but to wait quietly by me. He said he would. He walked just in front of me, quiet as a mouse, watching and sniffing, staying close and alert. Good boy, Chet.

A good dog is a joy, a gift, a blessing.

But after two hours all Chet and I had found was two cast turkey feathers, shining bronze in the green. The forest was silent. I was soaked with sweat and branded right through my long pants with stinging nettle welts. Note to self: Columbia "Titanium" zip-off pants are useless in the forest. You might as well be in hotpants. You might as well not wear any pants. Just waltz out there naked. They're too thin to stop stinging nettles. They might stop a halt, feeble or newborn mosquito. But maybe not.

I came back exhausted and thoroughly overheated, with two very hungry and tired little turkeys that were all my problem. Now I had to figure out what to feed them; what to DO with them. To be continued...

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