I saw everything BUT a snowy owl

Well, I wasted about a zillion gallons of gas and a good portion of my sanity searching for that damn owl. And no dice.
I think I saw everything but the owl.
In the three hours I was driving and looking, I saw:
American kestrels (15)
Red-tailed hawks (10)
Cooper’s hawks (2)
Great blue herons (2)
American crows (25)
Starlings (3000)
Pigs (50)
Sheep (30)
Cows (1,000,000)
Alpaca (10)
While investigating yet another white grocery bag in the distance, I realized there was a great blue heron right in front of me.
You’d think that a big white bird would be pretty noticeable in this kind of habitat…
A female kestrel

A few pics from yesterday, before my trek into the belly button of Ohio

A red-tailed hawk at a cemetery near the Oxbow
Our first towhee of the season
I love this one…
We don’t get too many squirrels around the feeders, although there are numerous nests in our trees. I guess all my native planting and “judicious laziness” when it comes to cleaning up the edges of our property lets the squirrels get their fill without having to resort to our feeders. I caught this one is mid-hop.

At the Oxbow: A pied billed grebe. (Thanks, Julie!)

And a great blue heron at the Oxbow, tossing a fish around.

And we have two sleepover guests tonight: Lucy the Peregrine and also our great horned owl. The Boar’s Head festival is running this weekend, and our former director did the performances today, and brought the birds to me so he wouldn’t have to go all the way back to RAPTOR. And I get to be dressed up like a 14th century falconer tomorrow and parade down the center aisle of Christ cathedral with a bird on my arm. And you know I will have to share THOSE pics with you!

I wish I could have shown you some snowy owl pics, but the birding gods did not smile on me today. And neither did the parenting gods…oh, no! I better get the kids out of the trunk!


The middle of Ohio is where it’s at

A fresh faced post from Circleville, Ohio. Hey, I am halfway to Whipple! Julie and Bill, come on down and we will jazz up Circleville’s nightlife.

The middle of Ohio is a little creepy. I passed through lots of small towns on the way, and it looked like no one was home in any of the houses…like everyone is at a Klan meeting.
And not much to do out here. Well, maybe cow-tipping. Or snipe-hunting.

I drove 80 miles, and I think I made maybe four turns. ZZZZZZZZ.

“Oh, Birding gods, smile on me tomorrow, and bring this rare, beautiful owl within photo distance.”
“Oh, Parenting gods, help me refrain from locking the kids in the trunk on the way home.”


I just read the sightings log at Cincinnati Birds, and there is a snowy owl near Circleville, Ohio.
Hmmm….do I risk driving with two crazy little girls for two hours to maybe see a snowy?

Two kids***two birding trips

Before my Mom brought Isabelle back today, I took Lorelei birding with me. I’m here to tell ya: Hanging out with one child when you are used to two is like a vacation. We had a blast today.
My little birder…at least today she was looking through the right end.
Geoff found a new nature preserve for me so Lorelei and I went to explore. Magrish Riverlands something-or-other. Lots of different habitat here: River, forest, prairie, pond and swamp.
Some pancake fungus for Pam.
Me and my shaaaaaaa-dow…
Not too many birds there today, but I bet it rocks during Fall and Spring migrations.
This is the swamp. Very cool. Can’t wait to see it green.

After trading the girls with Mom (Isabelle came home, Lorelei went to sleep over at Mom’s) I took Isabelle birding.

Lake Isabella is chock full of really old, awesome sycamores. This one reminds me of a star-nosed mole. Or a hand. Or an octopus.

Here’s it’s badge. Tree #1955. I would love to know how old it is. Anyone know if parks will let you look through its tree records?

I heard and saw a kinglet. This is a picture of where it had been. I’m not sure if it was a ruby or golden-crowned. Hard to ID a bird the size of a hummingbird in thick underbrush.

I also saw the first tree sparrow of the year. And yes, Julie…I KNOW this was a tree sparrow.

Dropped off a kid, gained a lifer

Isabelle is having a sleep over with my Mom tonight, and on the way to drop her off, we stopped at the Oxbow. What is usually a paradise of water birds was oddly, weirdly silent today. One lone kingfisher, and one lone great blue heron…
I was ready to leave in disgust when I saw “ducks” far off, beyond a chained-off section of the road (most of the Oxbow is flooded right now, due to all of our Christmas rain).
As soon as I saw the profile, I knew they were Northern Shovelers. (check out that link…my photos are not great)

Long bill, with a sloping forehead, told me what they were. Life bird number 111.
And at Mom’s later, her wild turkeys were out and about. We used to see 4 or 5 hens with 13 or so poults, but now, the poults that have survived are at adult size and the flock is at about 10.
Their favorite past time, it seems, is to take years off our lives by crossing the road in front of speeding cars.

There they are, in the distance, ready to scare the hell out of us.
Pretty blue truck: My brother’s. And he got it on eBay for a steal…just had to fly to Pennsylvania, pick it up and drive it home. I want one.

This old gray mare just ain’t what she used to be

I’m posting a bit late tonight, because I had to color my hair and wipe out the grays that want to peek out at my temples. Why is it that men look so distinguished with gray hair, and we just look tired?
I got my first gray hair when I was 22, and I seriously thought it was just due to stress, or just a quirky thing that would resolve itself. Young people are stupid.
Pictures from the past few days:
Our tree Christmas morning.
The girls were so cute when they came down at 7 am. Isabelle said, “My gosh! What’s happening here?”

Christmas Eve at Swami’s yurt. That’s Rachel (sorta-maybe-a-sister-in-law-someday) with Roxy, Swami and Swamette’s Shetland Sheepdog. Or maybe we should call her a Shetland Yakdog?
I couldn’t get all of the presents in frame for this shot. Let’s just say that my in-laws are very, very generous at Christmastime…and all year round, come to think of it.
I took the “long way” on Christmas Eve (Geoff and I took seperate cars so he could take the girls to visit their Great-great-great aunt Francis.
This is for Birdchick. She has mentioned to me that when she was still a Hoosier, she used to visit King’s Island. A very cool place, and if you are ever in the area, come see me and we will go ride some rollercoasters. Sharon, next time you are in Ohio, we will go ride the Beast!

Birds don’t have Christmas. I found this female house finch at my feeders. I noticed that as I approached to fill them, she didn’t fly away. She is suffering from mycoplasmal conjunctivitis. I was even able to put my finger under her belly and she stepped up like a parrot. She is effectively blind. I placed her back on the feeder and wished her the best. And then I cleaned my feeders.

Before everyone yells at me for not taking her in and treating her: It is possible to treat conjunctivitis, but you have to be a licensed rehabber, and it is thought that treating birds with this disease with antibiotics may cause strains to become resistant and then we would really be in trouble.

If you notice birds at your feeders that have swollen or crusty eyes, consider joining the House Finch Eye Disease Survey at Cornell.

A Christmas to remember

I have alot of images to show you, and stories to tell.
But for now, I want to brag and gloat for a minute.
My in-laws, Swami and Swamette (Jim and Rita) are awesome. They presented me with this today:
My very own Julie Zickefoose painting.
They asked Julie if she had any raptors (hawks, owls, etc.) and told her to choose one for me. And this is what I got…a beautiful red-tailed hawk: perched and in flight. And a touching inscription:

“A Red tail for Susan, because your spirits seem to match. J Zickefoose Christmas ’06”

I will now pause for you to give me a “HELL YEAH!”.

It’s not often my in-laws make me cry. But they did today. All I could say for quite a while was, “Th-an-an-ank you”.

A final bit for now:

We noticed a definite “Yak” theme this year.

I searched for yak-related products, and one of the items I knew Jim had to have was a nice big chunk of yak cheese. From Tibet.