Wednesday, 1 March 2017

The Usual Crowd

On this morning's CBC Ottawa radio broadcast, a weather reporter declared that March came in like a wet lion. I would call it more of a wet lamb. We have mild weather and lots of rain. Much of our snow has melted away. The usual crowd of birds are now returning from their winter vacations. Their early morning songs declare that winter's days are numbered.

Red-winged blackbirds and cowbirds forage in mixed flocks.

Starlings are all business as they energetically probe the lawn for edibles.

A soft maple tree now resembles a scene from the Hitchcock film, 'The Birds'.

The same tree still provides my red squirrel with nutritious maple keys.

Last week on this maple, my screech owl was scolded by two nuthatches.

Ellie Mae and my knees will soon part company when Spring beckons us outside.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Two Guys On A Bench

Some years back, my talented crafting friend and former co-worker introduced me to the versatility of polymer clay. She used it to make beads for her jewellery hobby. Her creations are absolutely amazing and sumptuous to the max. My use of the clay, however, is geared more to the creation of small and whimsical sculptures.

Yesterday I finished another one. This time my subject is two men on a bench. They do not represent anybody in particular, just two random guys having a discussion. As I work the clay, their personalities develop. I imagine walking past them somewhere and eavesdropping on them a little. Are they related? I don't see a resemblance. I think they are about a generation apart in age. The older chap seems to have a hearing impairment but is keen (or polite) to follow the conversation. The younger man is wearing a sweat suit but also sandals, so I assume his costume is for comfort and not for jogging. And what are they talking about? Politics? Relationships? Health? Adventures from days gone by?

Each figure begins with a roughed out base over a wire armature.

Adding clay and shaping develops a unique little personality.

I fashioned a bench from popsicle sticks and posed the 'dolls'.

Feet with socks are next.

Shoes go over the socks.

All dressed, the guys are ready for a gab fest.

Yellow shirt's pectoral muscles are too feminine. Reduction surgery is scheduled.

"Try telling that to kids today! Well, they wouldn't believe you! They just wouldn't!"

"Uh, huh."

Friday, 3 February 2017

The February Scene

Yesterday, snow flurries were heavy at times. Late in the afternoon the bluejays were elsewhere and my little screech owl decided it was safe to risk exposure on his/her roost box perch.

My screech owl neighbour enjoys a peaceful rest on it's front porch.

It gazes up at flocks of crows heading to their winter roost location.

The snow does not melt on this well insulated feather coat.

Last Spring, when I first saw my resident red squirrel, I didn't think it had much of a chance at survival. The young animal's left hind leg was only a short stump. There were no older squirrels or siblings in sight so I presumed some calamity to it's family had occurred. I certainly didn't think it would last the winter. Happily, I was mistaken. The disadvantaged little squirrel has not only survived but is doing quite well. While it does not jump as well as an intact squirrel, it can still shuttle about tree branches with remarkable skill. I think it's a male and I've named it 'Timmy'. What a valiant little champion!

Timmy was moving some dried grass to a den in a nearby brush pile.

As he neatens his bundle, you can see his leg stump.

This rustic 'handicap ramp' facilitates feeder access.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Wrongfully Accused

In my previous post, I pointed an accusatory finger at a coyote as the chief suspect in the sudden disappearance of feral tom cat, Ginger Tom. I was wrong. My sincere apologies to the coyote, to his family and to his friends for any embarrassment I may have caused.

When I returned from a grocery run this morning, what did I behold? Sitting on my deck was the missing Ginger Tom. He appeared unharmed and in fact, was not even very hungry after his absence of almost a week. What was I thinking? I've seen this orange tabby in the neighbourhood for quite a few years. Sometimes he would be hunting in a field and sometimes he would be sitting a couple of miles away in a ditch, waiting patiently for a mouse. There are nearby dairy farms where he can likely score a dish of milk. His territory takes in miles and I'm sure he also looks for opportunities to pass on his genes. Ginger Tom has been around the block more than a few times and is nobody's fool.

Where have I been? That's for me to know!

You don't own me, lady, and yes, I'm a man of mystery!

Also being accused--rightly or wrongly--is my roost box visiting screech owl. As it tries to get some shut-eye before it's nightshift of hunting begins, neighbouring birds gather and hurl screams of, "Murderer, murderer, murderer!!" 

The screech owl was using a roost box and trying for a little sunbath.

But local bluejays had formed a mob and were intent on an eviction.

Come on out of there you low-down varmint! Your kind ain't welcome here!

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Watch Cat On Duty

...or, who needs a watch dog when one has a perfectly good watch cat?

In the Spring of 2014 my faithful sheltie dog, Henry, passed away. He had reached the very senior age (for shelties) of nearly sixteen. Because I'm now a senior myself, I decided it would be unwise to sign up for more pet responsibilities so I'm unlikely to replace him.

But I'm not without a furry informant. My cat, Ellie Mae, is handily filling that position. She has excellent hearing, and of course, first-rate night vision. Her suspicious nature verges on paranoia. She is ultra vigilant and certainly lets me know if anything is afoot.

Last summer there was evidence that she got into a skirmish with what I expect was a coyote. Wisely, she now spends most of her time indoors. At night while I sleep, she is always on my pillow and on top of my head -- a sort of deluxe night cap. Her two favourite daytime hangouts are padded cat beds, each one located beside a different facing window. With her tense body language and deep growls, she lets me know if there is anything unusual outside. I appreciate her snitching service.

Ellie Mae at one of her lookout stations. Halt!!! Who goes there!?!?

Late yesterday afternoon, she made quite a fuss about something outside. It turned out to be a runaway farm wagon. My neighbour was hauling two wagons in tandem behind his tractor. Each wagon was loaded with white plastic covered round hay bales. While turning the corner into his laneway, the rear wagon became unhitched and rolled across the road and onto my property. Thankfully, no one was injured and there was little damage, other than a dent in my young cedar hedge. This morning my neighbour removed the hay and then the wagon. Ellie Mae has settled back down but still remains vigilant. Thanks for the report, Ellie!

Ellie Mae was growling at something unusual on our property.
A red hay wagon had gone A.W.O.L.

On a sad note, feral tom cat, Ginger Thomas has been missing for several days now. He never became tame but since the summer, he has been a regular fixture at my back door for a morning handout. There are very large coyote/wolf tracks in the snow around my yard. Ellie Mae, you are wise to stay inside!

Friday, 6 January 2017

Garden Feature

This morning was sunny but bitterly cold. The thermometer failed to register much above zero degrees F. But I was delighted to find that my frozen garden had acquired a new feature.

As I prepared breakfast, I noticed an unusual movement in the view from my kitchen window. It was a fox. In the far end of my garden it selected a sunny but secluded spot, turned around a couple of times to make a little bed in the snow and then settled in for a morning's nap. It slept there all morning. Around noon when the sun's rays no longer reached it's bed, it got up and stretched, had a good scratch, a roll in the snow and then moved off to a sunnier location a few feet away.

To my eyes, garden features just don't get any more charming!

Furry ears point in the direction of my kitchen window.

Pawing the snow and turning around to form a bed.

Settling in to a sunny spot for a morning's sleep.

Afternoon shadows have crept over it's bed.

Time to stretch and follow the sunshine.

Ah yes, there is a warmer spot over there!

This is a good bedroom for a little fox -- very private.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

A New Zealand Gem

Only hours now remain of 2016 and old man winter is serving up an all day snow storm driven by a cold east wind. My thoughts turn to hot popcorn and a good movie.

On Netflix, I did find a gem -- a 2016 New Zealand film called, Hunt For The Wilderpeople. The stunningly rugged scenery of New Zealand's wilderness was reward enough, but the characters were all quirky and likeable. The story is based on the book, Wild Pork and Watercress written by Barry Crump. I chuckled throughout and whole-heartedly recommend this film to everyone. Guaranteed to leave you feeling warm and fuzzy!


Friday, 23 December 2016

A New Ginger Tabby

Well, it may not exactly be a tabby in the feline sense, but it does resemble a ginger tabby kitten to me -- except for the beak -- and for the feathers. But it does hunt mice and see well in the dark and is very, very cute!!

Over the years I've had the pleasure of watching gray morph eastern screech owls use my winter roost boxes but today I had my first tenant with a reddish tint. In my region, the rufous morph is less common. I don't know it's gender, but I think of this one as female. It seems larger than the slightly smaller males. To me, she looks like a pretty little miss with bleached tresses. I'm reminded of the old Miss Clairol ad -- "Only her hairdresser knows for sure."

Their common name of 'screech' owl is misleading. They do not screech at all, but call with a low, descending whinny and a muted trill. Lovely music to my ears!
The rather kittenish face of a rufous morph eastern screech owl.

There are tabby-like markings atop the owl's head.
We gaze into each other's eyes. Her's appears judgemental.'
From an old box on an old tree, she peers at something on the snow below.
What delicate blush work on those cheeks, my dear.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Br-r-r-r-r, Surprise!

Our winter solstice is almost here, so it was no surprise to wake up to a very cold morning. Minus 31 Celsius! The snow really crunches underfoot at these low temperatures. A fresh and clean sound. The air was very dry with little breeze and so not unbearable for the warmly dressed.

Because of this dry and cold air, the bird bath had evaporated quite a bit overnight. Still, the heating element kept the water tepid. This source of liquid is much appreciated by the birds for drinking and as in summer, the bowl needs to be cleaned and refilled daily. 

But the surprise, and a delightful one it was, came near the end of the day as the sun had almost set. From the entrance of one of my roosting boxes was the sight I had been hoping for since last winter -- the cute little face of a screech owl! My favourite feathered friend is back and will keep me in good company this winter.

The lemon yellow eyes of a gray phase screech owl scan for prey items.

He or she seems eager for the nighttime hunting shift to begin.

A cold morning regardless of which scale you prefer.

A pair of jays start their morning with a sunflower seed feast.

A tepid drink of water on a sub-zero day must seem like a luxury to wildlife.

The squirrel, with only a stump for a left hind leg, looks fat and sleek.

It's cardinal friend seems to be saying, "Hey, I want my turn at those seeds!"