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New CD from The Rain Crows: "Dream of Flying Dream"

Friday, May 31, 2013

It's here! Woo Hoo!! "Dream of Flying Dream" is out, just a year after "Looks Like Rain." We're so excited about our new CD baby. It's hard to characterize The Rain Crows' music, but if I had to say how the CD's differ, I'd describe our first, "Looks Like Rain," as Americana-infused pop.

"Dream of Flying Dream" is more organic, folkier, more acoustic; undeniably Americana in theme and approach. We're singing about birds and old barns and dreams and big skies on this one. Most of these songs have come right out of Whipple, Ohio. All are original, written by US.

I think the new CD will speak to you, as someone who loves nature. But go see for yourself. Look just to the right of this post, on the sidebar, hit the button that looks like this

 and give a free, no-strings-attached listen to each of the tracks on the album(s).  Please note that clicking on this picture isn't going to've got to look to the right, in the sidebar, where it says Buy the CD. 

You can pay with PayPal and I'll send your CD out, First Class, that same day. Or you can send a check. Full instructions on the order form. 

That box turtle song everybody loves? First track on the album, "Little Soldiers." 

photo by Shila Wilson

Pick him up, carry him across!

Wildflowers with Dog

Thursday, May 30, 2013

It starts with the domestic phlox in the cemetery. When it blooms, we know to look for the wild kind of phlox. 

We've selected the tame creeping phlox for brilliant colors, that groovy magenta. But oh, look at its long-stemmed cousin, the wild blue phlox, Phlox divaricata. 

You can see where we got the colors. There are hints of rose in these. 

Others, a pure innocent lilac blue.

Shila and Diane, who is visiting from Nashville, have joined Chet Baker and me on a wildflower safari, taking a time-honored route carefully chosen for maximum flower and beat-up-building potential. The date: April 21, 2013. Yes, I've just gotten around to grabbing these photos. It's been quite a spring.

Oh how I love the Church in the Wildwood with its belfry worn slightly cocked.

She's still being cared for, though nobody can afford to do much with her siding and paint and roof.

My father used to sing "Church in the Wildwood" when he took us driving in the country around Richmond when I was growing up. You never knew how many "come's" he was going to sing. 

"O come come come come come come come to the church in the wildwood
O come to the church in the vale.
No spot is so dear to my childhood
As the little brown church in the vale."

That, and his arrhythmic style, made it a real challenge to harmonize along with him. 
but we tried. And always laughed when he'd sing a few more "come's" than we were ready for.
It was good training for later...

Chet Baker makes a full site inspection, including the iris bed still surrounding her foundation.

He crosses back over the stream just above a little waterfall

and realizes partway through that the water's deeper and colder than he'd thought it would be.

Ooch, that's freezin' the pork and beans!

 Brr! Glad to be out of that!

Time for a sultry dog yoga stretch in the sun.

He kicks out and holds for a few magic moments, first one leg, then the other...

then accompanies Shila in search of perfect gauzy spring light. No matter, I've already found it. I'm blown away by the budding elms and amused by the greens in this photo. Who ever decided on that particularly icky pthalo green for road signs? A color certainly not found in nature.

Ahh, spring. This has been my favorite spring in memory. Long and cold and slow, none of that 90's in March stuff we endured last year. And no warmup and budburst followed by April snowstorms. No feeding baby bluebirds in the boxes because their parents can't find caterpillars in the snow.  Everything coming out when it's supposed to, maybe a week or two late, but what's wrong with prolonging such a beautiful season? Yes, it's been an exemplary spring. And I'm enjoying every minute of it.

Turned the air conditioner on yesterday afternoon. I guess it's over now. These next few posts will take us back.

The Arts of Birding, Hog Island Audubon Camp

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I have an announcement to make.

There are still a few spaces left in "The Arts of Birding," a creativity camp held at Hog Island Audubon  Camp in Maine, from June 23-28, 2013.

Bill and I will join writer and Pulitzer Prize nominee Scott Weidensaul as well as expert bird photographers to shake loose your creative mojo.

Fresh off a Writer's Workshop at Glen Helen in Yellow Springs, Ohio, I have a whole lotta inspirational stuff prepared. I can help you unfreeze your creative side, whether you'd like to write poetry, essays, make a nature journal, field sketch, or paint watercolor.  Bill can talk with you about photography, writing songs and how to best present your creative output for publication.

The camp will be relaxed, superfun, and centered around morning birding and afternoon creating. Nobody's going to demand to see your field sketches, read your poetry or clap for your recital. 
Just birds, fun, thinking, and creating.

Superb looks at grassland and marsh birds guaranteed.

Arctic terns, those graceful long-distance record-holders, practically circumnavigate the globe every year. And they come to coastal Maine to find safe island nesting refuges, thanks to Project Puffin's efforts.

Cool mossy forests beckon, fragrant with spruce and fir, the songs of black-throated green and parula warblers sifting through the needles.

You'll awaken ungodly early to the blub and thrum of lobster boats, but you won't really mind. You'll be starting another day on Hog Island.

Phoebe fell in love with Hog Island. She and Liam will be there, too.

Handsome Eric, who fixes and builds anything that needs fixing or building, will row you where you need to go. Eric rowing a wooden dory does a lot for me.

 Guillemots, an iconic Hog Island species, patter and flap to get out of our way wherever we go. It's good to be in a place where there are small auks everywhere instead of pigeons or starlings, you know?

This is the place to sharpen your photoskills. Bring your best camera and lens and learn from David O. Brownwhose "Fragile Legacy" project was just highlighted in the New York Times two weeks ago. Who spent 7 years with The Cousteau Society. 

To linger in a place where these scenes are your view.

Harbor seals laze on offshore islets, as do the big "horseheads," or gray seals. Seals. I still can't get over it, and I've been there four times.

We learn by seeing why gulls need to be controlled on offshore nesting island. Here, a herring gull takes an Arctic tern chick, while a laughing gull looks on. So far, the laughing gulls, rather recently pioneering in Maine, are behaving themselves. Wish I could say the same of herring and great black-backed gulls.

Birding alongside experts sharpens everyone's skills. Jane and Bonnie home in on a grassland sparrow.

Peter Vickery called in a Virginia rail for everyone to see, and it came out duking. I would not want that rail mad at me. Oink, oink, oink, oink, oink.

I got two life butterflies last year: bronze copper and Harris' checkerspot. This Long Dash was in the camp garden.

What was that about writing and creativity and photography? Pardon me, I'm too busy lolling in soft moss deep in the forest. Creativity will come naturally in a place like this.

A low-hanging northern parula nest woven in the in old man's beard lichen delighted the entire camp. Perhaps the best-documented parula nest ever.

We were there for fledging day. Oh, my. Never thought I'd see THAT.

So. Field trips to amazing habitats all morning, workshops in the afternoon. Free time built in for creating. Janni's amazing cooking. I mean, just having somebody cook delicious things for me three meals a day? On an offshore island in Maine? I'm there.

This just in: I'll hold an afternoon sketching workshop with live raptors brought to the island by my old friend Hope Davis, a wildlife rehabilitator. That is going to be awesome.

Liam, Phoebe and Ayla walk on water.

Lest I forget: We boat to Eastern Egg Rock to see the Atlantic puffins that, but for Stephen Kress' and Project Puffin's ongoing project to restore and manage Maine's nesting populations, wouldn't even be there. It's an amazing story, one he'll tell. We can heal what we've broken. It takes decades and lifetimes of commitment, but we can restore such little particolored miracles to the sea islets. And go see them, and marvel.

I'm hugely looking forward to working alongside Scott Weidensaul again. Here, he's telling what he knows about cecropia moths. Which is a lot. There's pretty much nothing about natural history that Scott doesn't know.

Sit on the porch, breathe the salt air, hear the osprey's sharp whistle overhead.

Watch for the waxwing--they're nesting.

Listen for the sweet song of the yellow warbler--they are, too.

Full steam ahead for Hog Island! Come join Scott Weidensaul, Bill Thompson III and Zick, among others, from June 23-27, 2013, for The Arts of Birding.

If you're willing to share your experience afterward, there are even a few scholarships available to help defray your costs. Check it out here!

Everything Happens at Once

Sunday, May 26, 2013

One of the things that makes me delirious about spring is that everything happens at once. It would be nice, for instance, if the orchid collection that's crammed into the windows of the east bedroom would bloom from, say, November to February. The gray months. Could use a little color then. But noooo. It's got to go absolutely bonkers when? In late May. When, to be quite truthful, I need blooming houseplants the least. I mean, I'll take them; I love them, but come on. They're tropicals. They could bloom any time. Why do it when the roses and perennial beds are going crazy too?

But look at this. It's ridiculous. Encyclia cordigera, stinkin' up the place with clove scent wonder, in the forground. Three different Phalaenopsis, including little red Lava Glow. A Cattleytonia. A pink and yellow Encyclia/Laeliocattleya cross called Pixie. Pink Australian rock orchid, Dendrobium kingianum, with impossibly fragrant tiny purple flowers, way in the back. You walk in the bedroom and it hits you like a wall of mixed tropical fragrances. It's DIVINE. But why in late May?

Because. That's what they say. Because.

More. A white Dendrobium phalaenopsis in the foreground. Iwangara "Apple Blossom" just to the left. A giant blush pink Phalaenopsis, two other Phal's, two slipper orchids (Paphiopedalum) about to burst, and good old Psychopsis mendenhall "Hildos" dangling two yellow kabuki lobster guys off to the left border. Those same stalks, blooming since June 2008. Amazing, amazing, all of it. They like me. I like them. The rare ones that die I toss out and I rarely think twice about it. That means they and I weren't meant to be. The ones that live, live and live well.

Bill Thompson Jr's grave out in the orchard. Geepop. S.B. To Bill, Dad. Those are purple coneflowers and field daisies. And the broad-leafed paler plant in the left foreground is a royal catchfly, a super rare Ohio native that somehow has deigned to grow for me, here, where it's needed. It bloomed last year, its second spring, and I hope it will bloom this year, too. I saw one taller than me in Dayton a few years back, and bought three tiny seedlings on the spot. One has lived. That's a victory. Still no sign of the gazillion rose gentians I seeded on the bare ground. Kind of holding my breath on that one.

And in the nest boxes, six Carolina chickadees snug in their mossy nest in the house out by the oilwell, the same one that raised titmice last year. 
Some better developed than others, but truly only hours apart in age. Hours make such a difference in birds.

In a bluebird nestbox by Geepop's grave, a bluebird pellet. A hard beetle elytra (wing cover) encased in indigestible bugbits. This is not a dropping, but a regurgitation event. Just like owls do, so do bluebirds make pellets of things they can't digest and pass any other way.

In the side yard, another brood of lovely bluebirds. Tree swallows pierced their first clutch, so these birds moved to the side yard box and are raising five young. The tree swallows, seemingly satisfied by routing their neighbors, laid six eggs in the box next door, then mysteriously abandoned them (unheard of) and moved to a martin gourd in the front yard. They're copulating like mad and building another nest while six perfectly good pink eggs lie cold in the first one. I've never seen the likes of it. For all I know the incubating female tree swallow was killed, and this is a new one starting over with the same male. I'll never know.

Judging from the gabillion questions I get on Facebook, there are a lot of such weird bird goings on this year. Abandonments. Disappearances. Piercings. Things like that. I'm saying "I dunno" a lot.

It seems that this is the spring that I realize that having almost 3K friends on Facebook has become an actual, demonstrable liability. That many people translates to a lot of questions. A lot of requests for help with baby birds, bats, injured wildlife. What do I do? Should I remove the nest, throw out the cold eggs, feed the baby bird? What do I feed it? How often? Where do you get the food? How do I find a rehabilitator near me?  How do I keep this baby bird away from my cat? Can you take this baby robin?  How do I keep finches off my hummingbird feeder? How do I keep woodpeckers from pecking holes in my house?  Where are all my hummingbirds? My husband sprays our lawn. Will that hurt my bluebirds? Would you take this for me? It's hurt and I don't know what to do. Ack. As if the phone ringing all day long weren't enough, there's now a fountain of Facebook and email messages, too.

I'm not a veterinarian. I don't run a wildlife rehabilitation center in my spare time. I never did. I can't fix snapped bones, suture wounds, put broken turtles back together. I can't take wildlife in when I'm traveling constantly. Even if I weren't traveling constantly, running a wildlife rehab center is not my career objective. It's not even close to my idea of fun.  I would love to pass the job of Sole Owner and Operator of Wildlife Problems Hotline to someone else. It was a job that came by default, by putting myself out here as some kind of factotum, I guess. By having this presence, this Googleability, by showing myself feeding bats and festooned in fledgling birds. And as anyone could have predicted, it's gotten way out of control, because one person can only do so much all at once. So I'm left with answering what I can.  It all takes time. It goes back to everything happening at once in spring. Thousands of things, tugging at my sleeves all day long. My things, their things. Everything. All needing attention. If I sit down, something might die. I'm chuckling as I write this, but it feels all too true.

 Sorry for the rant. I get frustrated because I can't help everybody at the level they want me to help, and this time of year my heart gets run over about ten times a day, along with the turtles and the birds. The guy from Athens who called and left a message about a cat-grabbed hoary bat with a broken wing, and then never returned my call. The baby hawk wandering around a front yard. Should I just shoot it? the wildlife officer asked. Return call. Please don't shoot it. Call me back...The turtle found in pieces in West Virginia. They all haunt me.

I think about disappearing. I do, each morning...Changeable weather, changeable skies, and my running route is never the same from day to day. I love it because it's empty but for Chet and the birds and the occasional deer bounding across the road. I can hear myself breathe.

 Healthy bluebirds, who lift my heart:

Back in the yard, Rio Samba has fifty flowers. Fifty. I can't get enough of gazing at her, burying my face in her blossoms. We've had this rose almost 20 years and it just gets bigger and more beautiful each year.

It's a color changing rose, going from yellow to coral to deep pink as it ages. Excellent choice for an inveterate color junkie with a touch of ADD. Oh look! A pink one! A coral one! A yellow one! This one's red! All on the same bush. Like those crazy Burgess Nursery plants that claim to have pears and apples and cherries all on the same tree! Right.

Doesn't cut worth a darn, usually wilts like wet tissue paper when put in water. A mandala rose, meant to be loved while alive, I guess.

She grows where she's planted. Oh, to be a rose.

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