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Who Pooped on the Dingus?

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Most of the time, all you find is clues. Found this pellet atop a haybale. It's what a cardinal looks like when it's snatched in the night, swallowed and pulverized, thoroughly digested. This is what's left. 

Screech-owls like cardinals. 

I've had some screech-owls in my care, with varying rates of success. Some of them make it, and some of them don't. Nothing good happens when a screech-owl meets a car headlight or grille.

But the thing is to keep trying. I was worried about this one, but with expert care at the Ohio Wildlife Center, he got his eyesight back and I got to release him on a peeper-loud spring night, got to watch him beat his beautiful wings and fly to the top of a tree, then look around fiercely at the very place he'd been found hit. He was home, and he was good to go.

That was the best. 

Then there was this little character, who thought it would be a good idea to roost in a load of steel pipe somewhere on an oilfield lot in Texas, and woke up in a parking lot in Marietta two days later, dehydrated, freezing cold and hungry. Fed him up on white-footed mice and let him go on our sanctuary. Best I could do, since I didn't know where he'd come from.  All these owls have made cameos on this blog over the years. I'm just too busy to go hunt up the links. That's what the search box is for!

There have been a couple of lost babies, which thanks to summer festival travel commitments, I had to pawn off on OWC. But I got to feed them in between. 

Yep, that's a big blob of owl poop on my stomach. Perc of the job. 

 I think my favorite of them all was the wild red-morph that Phoebe spotted, perched just off our driveway one winter night, and took me out to see. She led me through the dark yard by my hand. Turned on the flashlight. There he was!! I brought my big rig and got exactly two shots as she held the flashlight on him. He never budged. One was blurry, and one was this. THIS.

All of which is an amusing way to say I knows screech-owl poop when I sees it. 

I was unpacking my Subaru of tons of original art, books, road snacks and clothes on December 11, having just returned from a superfun book tour in CT, MA and RI. Down by the back door, there stands this adorable, odd little lawn sculpture. I call it the Dingus. It was made by our friend, Lower Salem artist, jeweler and sculptor Mike Trembly.  It was an impulse buy, and I'm so glad I bought it. It makes me smile. Today, it made me gasp.

I did a double-take when I spotted the puddle of whitewash on its base. I knew right then that there had been a screech-owl a settin' on the finial.

By Dec. 26, he'd been back several times.  Who pooped on the Dingus? 

I chortled with joy each time I found a new sploot. He was making a real mess of the Dingus! I could just see him sitting up there, hoping a mouse would run underneath, never suspecting there might be an owl atop the dingus. No one expects an owl atop the Dingus!! Boom!

Except the Science Chimp, and Corey and Phoebe. We wuz gonna find out, because we are all card-carrying Science Chimps. Phoebe and Corey, headed for Silverback status. Corey got here Dec. 28, only two days after this splootfest, and he had that trailcam set up practically before he got out of the car. He set it to Video, let it run for a night, and brought the card in, all excited, only to find that we couldn't open the videos on any of our Macs, new or old. Incompatible format. D'oh!!!

Phoebe was undaunted. She took it to the Bird Watcher's Digest office and uploaded the videos onto her aunt's PC, then did some kind of hocus pocus to get them onto her Macbook Air. And she brought that laptop home and plopped it in front of me. And being a master of short film, she made a little video of what happened next. 

This is what I saw. Which will help explain my extreme excitement, captured in Zick Reaction, just below. I put a little of Corey and Bill's KitchenMusic in the background just for fun. It seems to capture the joy.

This is another video of him just a settin' there. At one point he turns his head, and those eyes light up the night. And I scream again.

 You're going to have to forgive me, and, as always when dealing with an excitable Science Chimp, turn your sound down. Because I am definitely NSFW (not safe for work).

Her Daughter Sets a Laptop in Front of Her. You Won't Believe What This Mom Does Next!

And it just doesn't get any better than that. Thank you once again, Corey, for the music and the videos.  Thank you, Phoebe and Liam, for lighting up my life and switchboard, every day. And thank you, Owl, for poopin' on the Dingus.

Turkeys in the Straw, Geese on the Levee

Thursday, January 26, 2017

In our birding safari, we proceeded from the Harmar Bridge in Marietta, Ohio, to the Levee, where Canada geese gather to stare out at the river, poop, honk, and wait for the people who feed them. This gentleman liked their lineup, and got down low to photograph them. It's not often I see people doing the things I do.

Several photos taken, he strode off.

I swung the lens around just in time to catch another smooch in progress. My goodness those young people do a lot of smooching.

I'm sorry. I can't help it. It's just so sweet. I'll leave you alone now. I'll go photograph somebody else. 

I found some hipsters taking pictures of each other. 

They were extremely skinny, and the guy had a big ol' bee beard. Somebody please explain to me the big ol' bee beard thing, especially when it's paired with super skinny cigarette pants and knit hats. I don't get it. Nah, that's OK. There's no explaining fashion to me. Fashion left me in the fog years ago. These people clearly know what they're doing. I'm wearing the same dung-colored clothes I've always worn.

We walked toward the confluence of the Muskingum and the Ohio, where it's legal to feed ducks and geese (they don't let people do that on the Levee. Too much poop.)

There was a young musician practicing guitar there. What a nice thing to see! On this murky warmish day, people were out doing interesting things. I love walking around Marietta. It's waking up in so many wonderful ways.

And there was Greta, Queen of the Levee! I love seeing my good old friends. She was looking strong as always. 

A pretty good looking black duck...but I had a feeling it had mallard genes, or it wouldn't have been sleeping on the levee with me standing right there. 

A sleepy mallard drake peeked at us, then closed his eye, then peeked. His eyelids are white. I explained to Liam how birds can sleep with one half of their brain at a time, and keep the other half engaged and peeking around for danger. I think I do something like that, too.

I was searching the levee's earthen slopes for a familiar shape. 

Mr. Lonely! the hybrid goose (Canada x Chinese swan-necked) who I saved from entangling monofilament back on Nov. 3, 2016. 

photo by Dorothy Lowe

I always fancy he remembers me. He looks like he does. I was pleased to see his feet healthy and unswollen once again. What a guy, what a goose. I love his spirit. 

He showed me how well his feet work. 

The next thing we did was drive across the river. We were driving along the flats in Boaz, WV, just across the river from Marietta, when we saw a zillion dark specks in a cornfield. 

We piled out of the car at an historic cemetery to get a closer look.

Ivy climbs the old oaks, and yuccas mark the graves.

I love cemeteries. Without this one, there'd surely be a housing development there. But such old cemeteries represent sacred ground, and nobody wants to mess with the people sleeping there.

We peered out of the trees at the massive flock of wild turkeys feeding on waste corn.

When they finally clumped together to adjourn to the forest, I counted 72--my largest flock ever.

I would not be surprised if this spectacular abundance of turkeys is a direct result of the periodical cicada brood of the summer of 2016. Every poult that needed something to eat got it, in spades.  The biggest flock I'd ever counted until now was 17 years ago, during the last cicada outbreak, and that was 41 hens and poults right in our meadow. And they were all eating cicadas.

Our last bird of the day was a rattling kingfisher, somewhere in the mists on the mighty Ohio.

Well, the time has come for another fiddle tune from the Talented Mr. Husic and the Talented Mr. Thompson.

This KitchenMusic tune comes with snap peas AND cauliflower, and a girl eating that cauliflower! Here's "Squirrel Hunters!" I love this one because Bill and Corey are nice and loose from an afternoon of sledding with Liam and Phoebe. I did not partake, for shingly reasons. I could not imagine sitting on a plastic sled, bumping over frozen ground at a high rate of speed. I may never be able to imagine that again.

 Please pardon my hillbilly hollering at the end. I get excited. I love having live old-time music in my kitchen!!!!! WOOOOO!!!

Foggy Day, Fiddle Tune

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


Every once in a great while we go down to the river just to look for birds. We used to do that a lot. Now we seem to need an excuse, like having Corey here for a New Year's visit. But when we do, we find the birds were out there waiting for us, anyway.

Whipple Flats produced a young red-shouldered hawk. I know, it doesn't look identifiable, but there are obvious clues that might not immediately present themselves unless you've been seasoned by experience. The two species in contention for this buteo ID are red-shouldered and red-tailed. First, it's sitting on a power line, something most redtails are too large to do comfortably. The red-shoulder's small feet and short toes fit better than a redtail's on such a small-gauge perch. Second, those blobby, heavy streaks all down the front of its breast are typical of a young red-shoulder.  A redtail, even a young one, usually has a clear white or buff upper breast, with finer streaking across the middle of the belly. Third, it's got a small, fine bill. Fourth, the tail seems short and the bird overall compact and cobby. A redtail would look more elongated and much more massive. And it wouldn't be sitting on a wire! For those who are wondering, the call between broad-winged hawk and red-shouldered is much closer and more difficult to make. For the purposes of this ID, we are safe in assuming that all the broad-wings are in Costa Rica by January. Red-shoulders stick around, hence their folk name, "winter hawk."

We didn't have to give our second raptor of the day a second look, other than to ogle it. An adult bald eagle beats its way up the Muskingum. Fantastic. I love the impossibly long arms of the sycamore in the foreground. And I still can't take an eagle sighting for granted, no matter how much more frequent they are.

We got out to bird Devol's Dam, only to find it hopelessly fogged in. Waiting around didn't help. The rivers stayed foggy all day. 
Bad for birding, good for photography.

If Corey couldn't find any birds, there were no birds to be found.

I buy Phoebe's outerwear (Eddie Bauer) at the Eddie Bauer Warehouse in Columbus. The really nice stuff that winds up in the warehouse tends to be in wild colors. We're good with that.
I like imagining those colors against her hair when I'm holding up a prospective purchase. 

Corey and Phoebe are standing on the oldest existing hand-operated lock in the country. The system of locks that segment the Muskingum River are still operated by hand-cranking, and I've seen the guy come out and do it, when I've locked through in my Wee Lassie canoe. It's so cool to see a human being turn a crank to singlehandedly open the giant gate to drain the lock chamber. It's even cooler to be in a canoe and sink quickly down along the algae-slimed sides of the lock, or rise up as the water rushes in (if you're going upriver). 

Canada goose tracks in old mud below the lock.

Hey. Act like you're birding, even though the fog's too thick.

We walk across the Harmar railroad trestle to Marietta. Liam looks back to see if I'm still back there. Yes, slow as usual, drinking in the sight of you all.

I'm trying to capture the enormous old sycamore I love so well, that threatens to grow completely over the Marietta end of the trestle, and is succeeding.

Out at the confluence of the Muskingum and the mighty Ohio, a raft of Canada geese shelters one redhead duck, near the right end of the main flock.

Bill stops to read a sign next to an old engine, something my dad would have done. He's framed by crabapples.

I feel so lucky to spend time with these people, lucky that we all love watching birds on foggy days, walking around Front Street, and so many other things.

If they mind being followed around by their personal paparazzo, they haven't said anything. I think they like reliving these moments, too.

Seems like time for another fiddle tune from Corey and Bill. For your foot-stomping pleasure, here's "Coon Dog." I could listen to these fiddle tunes all day, or forever, while the cauliflower burns in the pan.

What Gets Me Through

Thursday, January 19, 2017


Over the years, I've come to realize that this blog is not just my journal. It's my family's journal. 
I don't write as many posts as I used to, and when I'm otherwise occupied, I may not be able to get three posts out in a week (always the goal). I try to make what I do manage to post worth reading: for me, for my family, and for you. There is a good bit of perfectionism going on, because a writer has to satisfy herself first, before opening the door and putting it out for readers. 

When my blog is the only writing I'm able to fit into an overstuffed life, I try to make it good.

Corey and Phoebe returning from the Meat Pile, where he's put a trail camera set to snap away for a few months.
Note Meat Bowl.

I've just finished a cool book by Elizabeth Gilbert called Big Magic. It's about kindling one's creative flame. Shila gave it to me for Christmas. I'm savoring it slowly, munching on a few chapters at a session. It's full of underlined passages, exclamation points and notes--signs that its message is sinking in. I hope to pass some of that good fire on in talks and workshops in 2017. 

For years, I've been collecting quotes from writers. One that's sticking with me lately is by poet Grace Paley. 

 "The best training is to read and write, no matter what. Don't live with a lover or a roommate who doesn't respect your work. Don't lie, buy time, borrow to buy time. Write what will stop your breath if you don't write."

Come on, Mether.  You need to walk faster. I am not going anywhere without you, not even home.

Write what will stop your breath if you don't write.  OK. I choose to live in gratitude, because living any other way is not an option. And the thing that's keeping me focusing on joy of late is having Phoebe here with Liam for a month's midwinter idyll, she fresh off 6 months away, first in San Diego and then Panama. Bringing Corey into the mix for ten days kicked it up a couple notches, and carried me through a hard time. I don't like to think of where I'd have been without the kids around to talk with, laugh with, feed,  be fed by, photograph, and watch. 

The hard time included mid-December surgery (nothing scary, but painful) complications (painful, inconvenient, but healing nicely) and, for good measure, a case of shingles, blossoming right through the surgery site (ow ow ow. Ow!).  Happy New Year! You're grounded for a month! Maybe two. Shingles: We'll get back to you on that. We like it here, gonna hang around awhile. Basically, the shingles virus, which has been sleeping in my spinal ganglion since the day John F. Kennedy was shot, woke up and raced to the torn-up tissue at my surgery site to have a great big party. Recognizing the suspicious blisters, we caught it within 40 hours with Acyclovir, or I shudder to think what I'd be going through. Followed up with a vaccination once the vesicles dried up. And now I'm bathing it in apple cider vinegar, and that seems to be getting through. Anyway, it's not fun. If you haven't had a shingles vaccination yet, please get one. The government has just bumped the age limit for getting them down to 50 (it was 60). The vaccine will cut your risk of developing shingles by 51%, and believe me, that's a percentage you want on your side.

As is my wont, I like to wait to see how things are turning out before saying anything. A month in, I can see that things are going to be OK. I'm still weak, still don't feel like hiking, much less running, and I'm struggling to catch my mojo, which has wandered off through the muddy winter woods, walking faster than I can right now. I can see it from here, though! 

Back to better things. I don't mean to fawn on these kids, and I try not to embarrass them. I just mean to celebrate all the good they bring to my life. It makes me happy to get out in nature with them and shoot with my telephoto, as if they were frolicking deer (my usual subjects when I can't get any humans to frolic for me). 

More from that rare sunny New Year's Day walk!

Liam waits in ambush.

Corey and Phoebe pause for a little canoodling in gorgeous sidelight. Liam, bombing the photo.

We all read Reader's Digest. And laughter IS the best medicine. Dr. Liam is in the hizzle! That kid has all his dad's funny, with his own odd twist. I can't get enough of him.

He climbs aboard a tractor, the bigger twin of our old Massey 35. I think about how very different this strapping lad's life would be if this were 1917, or 1957. He might have to know how to run that thing, know all the implements, know what a PTO is, and what needs to be done with it. He might need to know when the hay is ripe, and what the weather will be doing in the coming week. Nowadays, hardly anybody needs to know that stuff, it seems. I still want to know that stuff, still want to hang out with people who know. I wonder if he ever will.

We double back to check something out and little Mr. Set in his Ways Chet Baker wants to head for home instead. So Phoebe carries him.

Good boyfriend: loves family dog

Chet's getting triple the love he usually does.

Love keeps us all going.

Phoebe and Corey spot and catch a New Year's Day bullfrog! Who's ever done that in Ohio? That frog should be sleeping in the mud.

Maybe he wanted some of that love, too. Ah, the blues in this photo, and the reds.

If all this weren't enough, there's music, sweet sweet music. I captured three of Corey's fiddle tunes on video, and I wish I'd recorded all of them. Suspect there will be other chances. I love the communication between Corey and Bill, whose backup guitar style is likely something the old-time music world hasn't seen. But it works so well! The synergy between these two musicians is palpable. Yes, I'm glad to have these videos. I go back and watch them, listen to the music flowing out of those guys, and remember how it feels to have an old-time band in your own kitchen, with the cauliflower sizzling in the pan.

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