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Outrageous Birds of Volcan Arenal

Saturday, February 28, 2015

 Black-cheeked woodpecker

I would love to claim to be a fabulous bird photographer. Nope. What I am is a decent photographer with a fabulous photo op. All these photos were taken on the grounds of Arenal Observatory Lodge in Costa Rica.  They've done it up right, with gorgeous, well-tended plantings of hummingbird-attracting flowers and some strategically-placed snags and perches.

Scaly-breasted hummingbird. It's rather dull in color, but it has a powerful lisping chirp with which the males advertise their presence from a dead twig.

Black-cowled orioles

Golden-olive woodpecker in cecropia...see him down on the stem?

Hepatic tanager, a Neotropical migrant that makes it up into the American Southwest. I've grown to love this bird's unusual dried-blood red, severe toothed bill and slightly mean face.

Great curassow, male.

And his fabulous mate. These turkey-sized birds are usually the first to go when people colonize primary forest. They're tasty. Seeing curassows generally means you're in a reserve where hunting isn't allowed. But nowhere in Costa Rica is hunting allowed. It's a concept...

  Coatimundi.  You may wonder how I got these fabulous photos. Am I that good? Nope. What's good is the setup.

All these creatures are wild and free-living, but they're being brought in by what must be one of the most wonderful and imaginative feeding stations I've ever seen.

The whoosh of wings, and two turkey-sized great curassows flump down on the feeding table, scattering tanagers and oropendolas alike. 

Now THAT's a feeder bird!

This just don't happen in southeast Ohio. Maybe if I put out bananas and papayas, I'd get curassows? Worth a try. Just crazy enough, it might work.

Color for Winter-Weary Eyes

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Just a few photos from Costa Rica, where I am now listening to what makes the rainforest a rainforest, and hoping it clears for the midday activities.

We've been at Arenal Observatory Lodge for the last couple of days. This lodge sits in the shadow of a huge volcano, that plays peek-a-boo with everyone, fan-dancing in and out of clouds in the most spectacular way. And occasionally, as in the 1960's, it explodes, makes a new cone out its side, blurps boulders and lava and kills 87 people. Arenal's been quiet since the early '90's, and I felt reasonably safe sleeping on its flank, except for violent winds that kept blowing the outside furniture around.

The view from La Fortuna. 
It would be hard to forget that you live beneath a volcano.

In the town of La Fortuna I found color for my winter-weary eyes in the gardens and the streets.

A painted wall held a variety of bird of paradise flower, and some tiny selaginellas.

I already like my group, merrily photographing what's growing on a wall. 

Plato tipico de Costa Rica. Food is nice here.
Don't look for rich sauces; everything's served up plain but tasty.

A beautiful lake along the way. Oh, how I've longed for green. And blue.

Everywhere we went, beautiful, glowering Volcan Arenal looked down on us, with disdain or benevolence, none could tell.

I snapped photos out the bus window as we rolled along.

and the light went golden, all of a sudden, the way the evening falls near the Equator.

Mayan beadwork from Guatemala.

Yes, I did. Three of them, the three to the right--aqua, purple, orange/green.

America could do with even a wee dram of the color that pops off every surface here. 
Hope this has been therapeutic. Grabbing Internet where I can to check in and give you a hit. :)

Ellen's Back!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Longtime readers will remember Ellen, the stunted doe who first appeared in our yard in the winter of 2008/09. It felt like forever, but she finally showed up for the first time this winter on January 29, 2015.

You can read how she got her name (her last name's Barkin) here. 

She looked absolutely terrible in 2012/13. See her here. 

I think she looks great in 2015.

Whew!! She's back, and she survived the fusillade. I always sweat hunting season, worrying some bored hunter is going to shoot my precious crooked doe, thinking she's a tender yearling. She is anything but. 

Ellen usually has her child of the year with her, often a buck. She's barely larger than he is, but she makes beautiful children.

We know Ellen by her funny crooked face and the odd set of her ears (she's to the left, above). 

She usually pushes her child around when there's corn to be had. But she's a lot gentler with this button buck. She doesn't strike him; she just nudges him when she wants him to move over.

Bill says it reminds him of the way I kind of shoulder Liam aside when I'm cooking and he's hanging around getting between me and what I'm trying to do. 

Just a little "Move along, now, son." 

The Dog Dish Birdbath continues to be a huge hit. I dump it out and refill it with hot water every day.  No thanks to the mourning doves and starlings who aren't satisfied to drink from it, but feel they must crap copiously in it.

The cold has clamped down and the feeders are hoppin'.

And Ellen's coming in every day, and all is right with my world.

This photo series taken February 16, 2015.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The feeding station isn't just for birds. Gray and sometimes eastern fox squirrels, opossums, chipmunks, raccoons, cottontail rabbits and white-tailed deer all partake of the offerings here.

I put out enough corn to constitute a treat for the deer who know about it. Maybe four cups a day. I enjoy watching them come in so timidly.

Here's Boss Doe, snow on her coat. She's looking a wee bit pregnant, a bit rounded.

Please don't miss her eyelashes and face whiskers, the longest of anyone's. She's also got some impressive white chin whiskers.

The bucks are looking a little disconsolate, now that they're dropping their antlers.

Besides the slightly Roman nose characteristic of bucks, he's got a nice pedicel scar just above his eye.

Pedicel scar, a little closer. Pretty how the snow is frozen in mid-descent by my wonderful Canon 7D.

I'm greatly encouraged to find a high count of 30 cardinals at the feeder so far this year. Last year I had to work to find seven! I will probably never know what happened to the cardinals in 2013-14, but many people reported steep declines.

30 will do. Favorite cardinal shot in some time. Look at the snowflakes clinging to his whiskers. It's a whisker post.

Yes. I'm looking at you. I'm the Seed Lady. You know me.

All these photos are taken from my drafting stool, just looking out the studio window. When we bought the house in 1992, there was no studio. And there were no trees or shrubs. No birches, no spruces, no arbor vitaes. Nothing had been planted near the house but for one dahlia, and a trumpetvine that had sprung up and climbed up under the shingles. That, we eventually got rid of.

Everything else we put here, and all the wildlife has come in because of it. This is just the span of an hour or so on February 16, 2015.

As I watch and shoot photos, two deer come in. One looks familiar, very familiar. Barely bigger than her yearling son behind her. I know that doe.

It's ELLEN!!

this taken 1/29/15, her first appearance this winter. Hi baby doe!

My Horny Valentine

Thursday, February 19, 2015

I apologize for the title of this post. It is not in keeping with my always-ladylike mien, but I couldn't resist. At this point I'll do about anything to get people to click on a blog link. And it will all make sense as you read on.

February 14, 2015. The cold front currently making Ohio as cold as a welldigger's ass was coming. I could feel it winding up to something awful. Which turned out to be temperatures dipping near zero. But this Valentine's morning, it was a balmy 26, and I decided to get me and Chet out for a long run/walk/ramble/expotition on my new favorite road.

Yes. That is a barn with a hex sign, and a very old log cabin down in the holler. Riches.
The road is frankly terrible if you're in a car, but OK if you're in running shoes or paws.

We bundled up; Chet in double sweaters and me in more clothes than I should have worn. 
This is what Chet looks like in double sweaters. He feels very hangdog until we get outside.

 The temperature slowly rose to 38 on the ridge of warm air before the cold front, and just as quickly plummeted as the wind picked up. I dehisced, then reapplied layers. I needed all those clothes again by the end of the outing.

Chet was just as glad to have two sweaters on, too. Besides, the back scratching he gets when I peel them off him is so divine. A tiny film of Chet running:

Do not miss the tip of the Tennessee turd-tail in Photo 3.

We had a wonderful run. We were nearing the car and it was still bearable outside. I didn't want to go home yet. Something urged me to take a tiny deer trail off the road, that I could see led through tall sumac to a mowed path through an old field thick with goldenrod and more sumac. It looked delicious down there.

I walked right over it the first time, going out.

And coming back, Chet stopped briefly to sniff it, and because I always check out what Chet checks out, it materialized for me, too.

See it yet?

Ah. This is fresh. Before the last snow, but not long before. No mouse or vole has found it. It is perfect.

I would very much like to have this for my own, but I am already doubting you will relenquish it.

You doubt correctly, Chet Baker. This is my horny Valentine.

Bless the unseen hand

That guides me off the dirt road

to the cast antler.

It's something to hold

This perfect spire of cold bone

Not one soul has touched.

This find has sparked a kind of fever in me for searching for sheds, as people familiar with the quest call them. Night before last I was out at dusk, looking in a deer yard for sheds. I need to wait until the snow has melted. I'll never find a white antler under snow. 
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