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Watching American Idol

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Phoebe and a (real) silk camellia, Asheville Botanic Gardens, May 2005

Another night devoted to a grinding band rehearsal, 7:30 to 10:30, working out arrangements and harmonies for our gig coming up Saturday. Phoebe was bumming because we wouldn't be able to watch American Idol together. Strangely enough, I was, too. I mean, I know it's better to actually sing with a real band, no matter how obscure, than sit like a dolt watching people who are hoping someday to sing with a real band, but still...
I fell into watching American Idol innocently enough. Phoebe, nine, had heard enough about it at school that she decided she wanted to watch it. She pulled my arm and begged me to sit down with her. I couldn’t resist her, as much as I wanted to. It was midway through last season; Bo and Vonzell and Carrie were in full warble. We rooted for Bo and Vonzell, but we liked them all, really. They could sing rings around anybody else we knew.
As the competition wore on, Phoebe began to look forward to Tuesday and Wednesday nights, and so did I. The show was ridiculous, silly and overly dramatic, but watching the contestants’ personalities and professionalism emerge from the glitzy dross was actually interesting.
Another season has started. This time, Phoebe corralled the whole family into watching the preliminary auditions. Two excruciating hours later, I was wondering just what we’d seen. Each contestant had the same frightened but eager look you see on a pound puppy’s face—when he hopes against hope that you’ll open his awful cage and take him home. They were so young—sixteen, seventeen, twenty years old. They were so sweet. A few of them had IT—breathtaking talent, even starpower. But most of them were not ready for prime time. That’s not a crime, unless you’re auditioning for American Idol.
The famously ruthless juror and show creator Simon Cowell made a fine point of crushing the hopes of those not-quite-readies. One slender, ectomorphic young man with a delicate, quavery voice was advised to shave and become a female impersonator. Another impossibly sweet, pink-cheeked boy, obviously sheltered from reality until this precise moment, sang in a high, operatic falsetto. Simon told him he sounded like someone’s old auntie.
We squirmed and howled on the couch, in an ecstasy of agony for the contestants. We hollered invectives at Simon. It was a Demolition Derby for human souls, and we couldn’t tear ourselves away. In another age, we might have crowded into an arena to watch bear-baiting, or dog fights, or lions released on a prisoner.
“Mommy, would you let me audition for American Idol if I wanted to and was old enough?” Phoebe asked.
“If you were good enough, honey, sure.”
I bite my lip as I say it. I’m not going to tell her she can’t do anything she wants to. But I’m hoping that she won’t be good enough. Some things, it’s better just to watch, cuddled in between the people who love you.

Nature Fix for a Dumb Monday

Monday, January 30, 2006

I always think I'm going to get so darn much done on Mondays, but usually I wind up multitasking so frantically that I get little bits of a bunch of things accomplished. Emails fly madly, the phone rings; I rush around like a gerbil. Today I figured I'd better check my rapidly filling engagements calendar before I double-book something. I'd had a creepy little feeling for a week or so that there was something funny about April 20. It's like having a strange feeling that you've forgotten something, and then there's that moment when you realize you've left the casserole on the roof of the car--and you're already hurtling down I-95 at 70 mph. So I braced myself, and confirmed that I had indeed booked myself for a talk in Washington D.C. and an art opening in Albany (where I have a painting to show) on the same day. D'oh! Casserole's all over the pavement.
After sending some lame emails and phone messages around, I finally decided that the thing to do would be to fulfill my commitment in D.C. and (very reluctantly) miss the opening, because, while it would be terrific to see my friends there, nobody was actually counting on my being at the opening. Then I'd drive straight from Washington to Albany to see my artist friends who would be gathering there for the weekend. It'll be punishing, but not punishment enough for being such a knucklehead.
Had to clear my head. Felt the woods calling. That's the only thing that fixes me when stuff like this happens. I stick my nose in Baker's shoulder blades, take a deep snort of his sweet dog smell, and head out with him. He's my jester. He's absolutely serious about taking Scooby back around the Loop another time. I'm not encouraging it, one bit. If he wants to do it, fine, but I don't think Scoob has another Loop in him, do you?
The pair of redtails that always scolds me when I near the overlook was together, and circling low today. That's a real spring sign. The woods was softly lit with high, diffuse sun, that's hinting of changes in the weather very soon. But for today, it was lovely again, in the upper 50's, and I was out in just a long-sleeved denim shirt and vest. It's been a long time since we've had a January this mild. I went from turmoil to bliss faster than you can say "Speeear!"
Chet and I paused briefly on a rock over the shining stream, and I wished I had a picture of us there, so you'd feel you were on the hike with us. Then I remembered the trick of holding the camera up and shooting oneself, which works a lot better when you have long arms. But I got a nice image that could be captioned, "Happiness is a Warm Puppy."
We hiked hard, doing three major climbs, and it felt wonderful. On the way back up through our old orchard, I heard the commanding roll of a pileated woopecker drumming--from very close by. I froze and figured out where it was coming from--a dead ash with a hollow bole. Creeping forward, I pre-focused on the most likely part of the trunk, and took a picture that actually includes the bird, though I hadn't yet found it. Do you see him?

Against all odds, he hitched around into view, and I got him in the act of drumming. This close, it sounded just like a machine gun!The trees I've seen them drumming on are mostly quite dead, and they resonate like a guitar top. This one even has a sound hole!

And then, he posed for a moment before flying off. He never seemed alarmed at my presence. What a gift. Zick, all better.

Cowbell Sunday

Sunday, January 29, 2006


Phoebe, Liam and I started the day with brunch at the historic Blennerhassett Hotel in Parkersburg, WV. Such a gorgeous place, nice food, but we were really there for the music--Bill's Sunday gig playing jazz with his uncle Bruce DeMoll and drummer Chet Backus (not to be confused with Chet Baker, dog). The kids adore going there, and the staff couldn't be nicer to them. One of my firm beliefs is that kids truly appreciate nice restaurants; that they need never set foot in a McDonald's or Chuck E. Cheez, and that if the kids are properly brainwashed, their parents never need to, either. Phoebe is famous in her class for once bringing a sack lunch to a McDonaldLand birthday party, and for shrinking back from the Happy Meal she was given on a class field trip. Success!
The light was killer beautiful, and we devoured the shifting cloud shadows on the drive to Parkersburg. Here's a view along the county road to our house. I never tire of seeing the light playing on this little pond--the one where I released Fergus, the bird-eating bullfrog, as a matter of fact! Yes, those trees are in bud. Everything is budding. Crazy weather, but I'll take it.

Bill played real purty, and it was so nice to listen, sip tea, and go through set lists looking for forgotten tunes for our band rehearsal this afternoon. We got home just in time to greet the rest of the band and settle in to rehearse. It was a marathon of running through tunes new and tunes forgotten, more than three hours of hard work. We dusted off some dandies, worked up some new cover tunes, and introduced three new originals, courtesy Bill and Andy. By the end of this, our second rehearsal, I finally felt my voice coming back, feeling reliable again. Baker kept his station on my lap. His coat is so smooth and sleek he feels like a polished ebony carving--a warm one.
He got hold of an old drumstick that I was using to beat on a cowbell. I got a fever, and the only cure for it is MORE COWBELL. Bill demands that I play cowbell (which makes sense, I guess, because everyone else's hands are busy with instruments), but then he laughs at me when I do it. Which doesn't seem fair.

Suet's the Big Deal?

8 cardinals, a junco, and a bluebird--just a small part of the morning crowd.

Somebody told the cardinals, who told the bluebirds that there was really good stuff on our front porch. I think it was the juncos who spilled the beans. Today started out dark and dreary, but the front porch was hoppin'!
Every winter is different. Last winter we had eight bluebirds and no more than five cardinals who developed a taste for suet dough. This winter I have trouble counting all the cardinals. It's spectacular. They all listen and watch for the door to pop open at about 8 AM, and practically run into me in their haste to gobble this delectable stuff.Here,the song sparrow who's trying out his songs under the bedrom window every morning is joining the fun.

I multiply the recipe (1 cup peanut butter, 1 cup lard, 2 cups quick oats, 2 cups yellow cornmeal, 1 cup flour) times six every time I make it. So it takes a 40-oz. jar of peanut butter, plus an additional cup, about a third of a large bucket of lard, 12 cups of oats. I always wonder if people look at me buying two large buckets of lard every time I go to the store and scratch their heads. It makes a jarring contrast to the arugala and sprouts, that's for sure. Roger Peterson used to go in the Old Lyme CT A&P and buy a half-dozen bags of Cheetos. He'd throw them in the water off the Old Saybrook causeway, hoping to lure black-headed gulls in close enough to photograph. Same thing. He said he got weird looks, too.

The kids both like to help me measure and add the dry ingredients, but everybody disappears when it's time to stir it all together. It takes a lot of strength to mix it as it's setting up, and we've broken a couple of wooden spoons trying. I've got my drill down and can get the big batch done in under an hour now. Sometimes I wish I didn't have to make so much, but then I look out the window and realize that it's not much effort for the beauty it brings to our doorstep.

Snuffle of the Penguins

Saturday, January 28, 2006

These are king penguins, but hey, I was lucky to have a Zick painting of any penguin!

We spent the evening on the couch with the kids, watching March of the Penguins. Like its predecessor, Winged Migration, parts of it bugged me. I wanted badly to know how an emperor penguin stores food to feed a chick for two months while its mate is away, stuffing itself on fish, squid and crustaceans. Does it manufacture the food, from fat stores? Well, apparently, the male penguin, who has fasted for 5-6 months, is able to keep the chick alive for up to two weeks after hatching on a curdlike substance he secretes in his esophagus, like pigeon milk. But then the picture gets muddy. When the female comes back from her march across the ice, having been gone for the entire 8-week incubation period, she's got a bellyful of fish and other sea life. Does she somehow preserve an enormous crawful of food for two months, doling it out bit by bit while the father penguin's out fishing? I have a hard time understanding how this would be possible, but must find out. The National Zoo's website had the best information I found, but I still don't get how a penguin can keep fish and squid good in its stomach for a couple of months, if it's feeding its chick by regurgitation. It has to be digesting it, and then producing the food, like a pigeon does. Arrgh. Need to know.

Beyond my typical just-gotta-know attitude, which pretty much ruined Winged Migration for me, I was taken by surprise by this film; it snuck up on me and I had to go get my own personal box of Kleenex. The penguins' struggle just seemed insurmountable. The likelihood of one mate's getting killed, which would force the mate who stayed home to leave the chick to starve, was crushing. That the male emperor penguin memorizes his newly-hatched chick's voice, and then finds that chick two months later by voice, killed me. And the baby penguins pushed every maternal button I possess. They are cute on the rocks, those things. I'm continually amazed that the concept and execution of cute crosses so many phyla. Wonder if a penguin would think a human infant or Boston terrier puppy was cute?
Here's a little gentoo for you. That's all the penguins I've got, for now.

The dark-phase giant petrel that made an unannounced cameo to kill penguin chicks (nobody needs to know what kind of bird this is, I guess, just that it's a very bad bird) was a special thrill for Bill and me and a terror for the kids. Phoebe and Liam had their heads under the covers more than once during the movie. No wonder; as the penguins huddled together under vicious drifts of blowing snow, their mother was blubbering quietly away, covered in a drift of used Kleenex.

Bringing Scooby Home

Friday, January 27, 2006


Baby Chet with New Scooby

I'm getting kind of sentimental about the end of our game, Moving Scooby-Doo. Scooby-Doo started out as a yard toy, one that Chet liked so much he punctured. Here's a picture when both Chet and Scooby were new. When we started on a walk one day, Chet brought Scooby along, for a surprising distance along our trail. When he finally lost interest and left the ball lying along the trail, the idea for the game was born. This hike takes 45 minutes if we hustle quickly. I thought it would be a good challenge to see if Chetty could move the ball in stages until he got it all the way around the Loop. And, on the 25th, it seems we're within striking distance of our goal. One more walk will do it.
The worst part was getting the ball past where a bunch of semi-tame dogs roam. If they hear us creeping down the nearby trail, they open up a salvo of barking, and once a couple of them came out to meet us. Moving Scooby is a noisy game--I cheer Chet on to longer and longer carries--and it was hard to encourage him in whispers. But we did it. Chet seemed to understand that we needed to get it up and out of the stream valley and away from the dogs, and he carried it up an enormous slope in only two relays.
Liam came on the penultimate hike, inspiring Chet to new records for long-distance carries. He'd run ahead, then wait and call.
By now, Scoob was pretty careworn, and was in real danger of being destroyed before he got home. Whumpa whumpa whumpa! Chet would shake him from side to side, ripping a big hole in him and occasionally getting the whole thing over his head.
Our last hike was the 26th of January, when Chet finally succeeded in bringing Scooby home. He was as excited as we were, alternately posing, head high, and shaking the tar out of Scoob.
Seeing the house gave him wings, and he dashed to the finish line.
You'd think, having carried this thing almost two miles over hill and dale, that he'd be tired of it, but he played for the next half-hour, parading the ragged scrap around the yard and showing it to everyone.
There's probably nothing a Boston terrier won't do for a little praise.

Nobody Can Cuss like a Titmouse

Thursday, January 26, 2006


I do a bit of songbird rehabilitation, and have done it all my life. When I was a kid, I had no idea one had to have state and federal permits to handle wild birds. I just cleaned up what the neighbor's seventeen cats wrought, replacing baby birds in nests, trying to set broken wings, raising those who had been orphaned. I learned a lot from my father, who was raised on a farm and knew so much about how to nurture creatures. We came up with a formula, fed through an ear syringe, that raised a nice, fat mourning dove when I was in high school, because Dad knew that pigeons feed their young by regurgitation, and we went from there.
Now, I have all the pieces of paper that make such pursuits legal, and while I don't seek out busted birds, they come to me through a variety of channels. Either I find them or people know someone who knows that I might be able to help. I got a call on Sunday, January 15, about a titmouse that couldn't fly. The couple who found it suspected a window strike, but the limp wing and the fact that many of its upper tail coverts were missing led me to suspect that a cat was responsible for the injury. Later, they mentioned that they have two free-roaming cats, but that the cats didn't kill birds. They were the nicest folks, so I let that statement go, and allowed as how a sharp-shinned or Cooper's hawk might have done the deed. One thing I know--a window doesn't grab birds from behind. And a hawk isn't likely to leave its prey on the porch and then ask to come inside. Free-roaming cats. Agggh. Sorry, but evidence suggests that even the fat, innocent-looking ones kill birds.
So this titmouse was bright and active but reduced to scuttling around on the floor of his cage, his left wing hanging. I wet him down thoroughly and examined him, finding massive bruising above the left scapula, but no obvious breaks or bruising in the wings. And almost went deaf as he cussed me up and down. In a wing exam, I manipulate the wing bones and listen for crepitation--the sound of broken bones rubbing on each other. With this patient, there was no way I was going to hear it, he was so vocal! His wings checked out fine. If the scapula or shoulder wasn't broken, he might just be all right. And if the gods willed it, he'd be releasable. You can't mess too much with the delicate bones, muscles and nerves in songbirds' wings and get a functional wing out of it. I decided to keep him confined to a small cage, keep him as quiet as possible, and see what about 1,500 mealworms and a couple of weeks' rest would do for the injury.
There comes a moment in a bird's rehabilitation arc when you walk in and you KNOW he's ready to go. This titmouse was ricocheting off the bars of the cage, more every day, and I saw him stretch both wings up over his back. The droop had disappeared; he was eating us out of house and home, and he was hitting the sides of the cage so hard as he flew around that I knew it was time to release him before he damaged himself. You need to release them when they're sufficiently healed, but before they lose their wild edge. This picture shows both wings engaged as he shoots up from the floor of the cage.

So he got his flight test in my 10 x 10' aviary this morning, and passed it. He clung to the screen, wanting out!

I wanted to release him in the front yard where he could see all the feeders, and the other titmice coming to them. I wasn't about to send him back where he was first injured, for obvious reasons. I figured it's better he start a new life on a cat-free sanctuary than hang out in his old haunts and risk getting nailed again.
So Bill snapped a couple of release day photos--I had to be having a bad hair day AND wearing my Sesame Street fashions, didn't I?
Man, could he cuss! Oh, I am such a glamourpuss.Trying to let the world's worst haircut grow out enough to be fixed. This shot should take care of any potential stalkers.

We took the titmouse out in the yard. He flew all the way across the yard, with a slight twist of the left wing, but he flew high and well, certainly well enough for a nonmigratory bird who moves from tree to tree in the forest. He rested awhile in the forsythia, where several juncos came to keep him company, then flew to the Russian prune hedge. I went out to try to get a picture of him fluffing, wiping his bill, and preening, and he flew right over my head, back toward the feeders (a distance of perhaps 50 yards), paused a moment in a little birch, then landed on the peanut feeder!
If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I'd never have believed it. What a guy. Has it all figured out within ten minutes of release. People should get on with their lives as handily. All the feeder birds spooked, and he rocketed into the woods with three or four other titmice. Not all rehab stories end so well. Now I'll be peering at every titmouse I see, wondering if it's him. O happy, happy day! Making the world a nicer place, one titmouse at a time.

Robins (and Warblers) in the Rain

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


The other day, as Liam and I came out of the public library (always a must when we're in town), we heard the celestial caroling of robins--a huge flock that was feeding in an American holly across the street. Two gifts. First, we're far enough south here in southeast Ohio to even have American hollies. We're the same latitude as D.C., though our winters are colder and snowier, and our summers not quite as hot and humid. But hollies thrive in sheltered places in town, and there are some perfectly magnificent specimens like this fruiting female. Second gift: January robins. Robins singing and choking down holly fruit.
They let me get pretty close with my tiny 10x zoom. I guess that's the third gift. Oh, it was sweet to hear robin song in mid-January, even as the rain pelted down.
Today, with both kids finally back in school for the day, I'm drawing warblers again for the New York Breeding Bird Atlas. I'm thrilled to be taking part, as the atlas coordinators and steering committee have lined up some terrific artists to illustrate this update of an already monumental work. Old friends like Mike DiGiorgio and John Baumlin, and artists I haven't met but already admire: Alan Messer, Dale Dyer, Sue Adair, Cindy Page and John Wiessinger are all contributing black-and-white illustrations. My dear friends Jim Coe and Barry Van Dusen are painting some color landscapes--surely a first for a breeding bird atlas!
Here's a finished drawing, a female northern parula pulling Cladonia lichen (or reindeer moss) for her hanging nest. On to the worm-eating warbler. I have it taking a fecal sac from the nest. There are all kinds of ways to confirm breeding birds, and seeing an adult bird with a fecal sac is one of the best. It's ironclad evidence of breeding, as one must hope they only take out their own kids' diapers.
Worm-eating warbler taking fecal sac from nest
We've got worm-eating warblers on our southeast-facing slopes. I've only found one nest, back in Connecticut. I watched it from a distance, and the young fledged successfully. The day they left, I crawled up the slope to it, and while examining an infertile egg inside the nest, I noticed that the entire nest seemed to be moving. There was a thick gray mat of bloodthirsty bird mites. Egad. Imagine sitting in THAT for two weeks. They swarmed up my arm and itched like crazy. I really dig drawing nestlings and fledglings. Thanks to lots of experience in rehab, raising baby birds, I feel close to them, and I like making believable drawings of them. (See the worm-eating warbler nestling with stern up, having just delivered the goods?) Too many times, I see artwork of adult birds at the nest, in which the adults are beautifully rendered, but the nestlings are almost like afterthoughts. They're birds, too, and paying close attention to their (admittedly somewhat blobby) anatomy, behavior, and expressions results in a better piece of art.
Brewster's warbler and hybrid fledgling in black raspberry
Here's another drawing, a Brewster's warbler feeding a fledgling. This is a hybrid between blue-winged and golden-winged warblers. Blue-winged warblers are thought to be wreaking the same kind of genetic swamping on golden-wingeds that mallards have on black ducks. Blue-wingeds are more general in their habitat preferences than the fen-loving golden-wingeds, and they're likely to be better competitors, so we're seeing more birds of hybrid parentage and fewer pure golden-wings. We've had a persistently singing Brewster's on our place two years ago. In Connecticut in the '80's, I found a rare Lawrence's (another hybrid of the two pure species) feeding fledglings with a female blue-winged. How I wish I took pictures then! But it's a pleasure to be drawing them now. With its lineup of artists, New York's breeding bird atlas is going to be a heck of a beautiful book. It's a thrill to be part of it.
Lawrence's warbler on apple

Phoebe's Bee

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Yesterday morning, while Bill was waiting at the end of our driveway for the bus to pick Phoebe up, she told him that all her friends were asking her when she was going to get a PlayStation. "You can tell them it'll happen on the Twelfth of Never," Bill answered. He pointed out to Phoebe that she reads real books, draws, hikes in the woods, plays basketball, and was about to compete in a spelling bee--all pursuits that might be endangered or negated by such a purchase. NEVAHHH!
The spelling bee was last night. The list of words Phoebe and I had been drilling all week was barely scratched. Nobody had to spell polarimetric, waterloo, knightess, bioturbation, or sniggle.
It was clear to me that the kids all knew how to spell the words. What got in their way was nerves. And it was equally clear that many parents had a lot more invested in this than might be expected. The teachers and school principal were doing their best to be fair to the kids, giving them a break here and there, to loud comments from some of the parents. "Do you people even know what you're doing up there?" one father snorted. There were two lengthy disputes, which had to be settled by playing the tape recording of the word just spelled. I was amazed. It was just an elementary school spelling bee! You'd think that each child eliminated from a round were going to be thrown directly into a rattlesnake pit. Most contestants left the stage crying. Yiiikes.
Of course, I loved the whole event, for mostly the wrong reasons. There was drama, there were uncomfortable silences, there were murderous glances, there were charged particles flying around. Yessss! Real human drama is so hard to come by. Most of us color in the lines like good pupils. These parents were baaaad!
Despite forgetting the c in punctual, Phoebe eventually won the fourth grade division. Whoopee! She got a pencil, a ribbon, and an unbelievably homely trophy (show me a beautiful elementary school trophy, I dare you!) But she loves it, and that's the point.
. She got a little boost to her self-confidence, and I learned to cackle--no--sniggle-- silently. Liam was less than amused. "Fee, can I have your trophy?" he pleaded.
When she demurred, he plopped down in a chair, saying, "I hate fourth graders. They get all the trophies, and all the pizza parties, and kindergartners get garbage."

We left in a hurry for the 7 p.m. spelling bee, leaving our dinner plates on the table. Phoebe was too nervous to finish her turkey burger and lima beans. While we were gone, somebody else was coloring out of the lines. Any guesses who??

Death,Owls, Water,Life

Monday, January 23, 2006


It POURED all last night, well over an inch of much-needed rain. I knew the stream would be spectacular today, and I could hardly wait to get out to see. Shila came out for a climb, fresh off a craniosacral teaching session in Cleveland, unable to resist the call of the cataracts we knew would be spilling over the rocks that were dry only yesterday. We weren't disappointed. We could hear the rush of water--such a spring sound--as we slipped and slid down the muddy slopes toward the streambed.
Chet was beside himself, so stimulated by the sight, sound and smell of the running water he could only run circles around it, dashing across the stream, wading in, pawing at the white rapids. He paused only to pose for me, and Shila caught the moment!
photo by Shila Wilson
It was like a wonderland for me and Shila, and we crept and stumbled along the slopes, which were slicker 'n snot after all the rain, taking pictures every few feet. The landscape was utterly transformed, and so were we--rapt within this surround-sound movie starring the swollen creek, Chet, and us. Our senses were sharp, and we found some beautiful owl bones, which I decided were the right size and heft to be barred owl bones. Preparing specimens comes in handy years later!

Further examination revealed that this bird had probably been killed by an avian predator, because the bones were not chewed as they would have been had a raccoon been the killer. They lay beneath a large hollow tree which could very well have held a barred owl nest. Perhaps a fledgling or sitting hen met its death at the talons of a great-horned owl, a species which only in the last four years has occupied our land. There's not much else that will kill a barred owl. And there's practically nothing other than a human that will kill a great-horned. In this photo, you can see its intact keel at the top, and two large talon bones to on the left, just above the Christmas fern, as well as long wing and leg bones.

The cave where Phoebe and Liam played with icicles only a week ago was roaring with water, which sprayed down off its ceiling, hitting the pool beneath with a great spatter. We continued along the creek and then cackled and slipped up the steep slope toward the Loop.
Passing through tall sumacs, we heard the clear, bell-like whistled tone of a hermit thrush, and saw it land in a treetop, saw the call issue from its bill, watched it raise and slowly lower its rusty tail. Oh, beautiful bird. Towhees zrrrreeeped from the black raspberry tangle. These are two species who don't stay with us every winter, but we're blessed with their presence this year. Even the female towhees have stayed, something I've never seen happen.

Halfway down the Chute path, we caught up with poor old Scooby-Doo, and Chet, for once, was delighted to carry him a record-setting distance, across the stream and up a steep wooded slope onto our land!
It's a piece of cake to get Scoob home from here...if we can keep Chet from completely destroying the ball before we get it home. He stopped briefly to nose at the foot of a tree, where there was a great splatter of fresh owl whitewash, and a disorganized owl pellet
The dark brown curved piece is a thoracic shield from a crayfish; the long "bones" are its leg exoskeletons. Squirrel hair is from another meal. It takes owls several days to work up a pellet, and they may contain remnants of several meals. Must feel good to get this out of your craw! Kagggh!

so fresh that the slime shone, and even still ran down the tree!
Owl slime--bleccch! But it's a beautiful thing if you look at it as fresh evidence!

We must have flushed the bird without knowing it. I was delighted to find the pellet composed entirely of crayfish exoskeletons, legs, antennae, lightly bound with gray squirrel hair: barred owl. So we found a late barred owl, and balanced it with a live one. There was a symmetry to that, that we found quite pleasing. While we meddlesome kids were solving this latest mystery, Chet was gutting Scooby-Doo. Caught at it, he apologized as only a googly-eyed Boston terrier can.

I am so sorry that I ripped this. It got hung up in my teeth when I was shaking it. And now I cannot stop ripping it.

Lots more happened today, but it's late again, and I need to wind down. Blogging is almost as much fun as hiking, but it keeps me up too durn late. More anon.
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