Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Birds

I'm too tired to write much tonight--it has been a big day what with opening all those presents and being married for 34 years and all.

We got an unusual snow storm on Christmas Eve which made driving to church interesting for me and terrifying for our Caribbean guests. The snow stuck around for part of today and that meant the birds could see the seeds I put out for them and they seemed to be hungry today! I saw 12 species without even going outside, and another one when I took a short walk around the neighborhood.

I broke my trusty little camera the last minutes we were at my mom's in MI, so I was disappointed to miss some shots the last few days. It served me well for 5 years. Lucky me, I got a new one under the Christmas tree! It was the same kind I had before, which is good, because I liked that brand/kind/size (Casio Exilim). I'm anxious to try it out on my backyard birds, because the quality is lots better than the old one.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice 2009

I participated in Birdstack's Winter Solstice 2009 Bird observation today. I wore my binoculars around my neck as I walked to work and someone asked me about them. I mentioned what I was doing and they wanted to know if the Christmas Bird count had become now the Winter Solstice Bird count. I told them that that is a different thing altogether, and perhaps the person was making a comment about modern society's current fad to remove all the religious terminology from everyday vocabulary items.

Anyway, I did see a few birds today and made my list. I wish I could have used yesterday's list, because there were even more birds in my backyard yesterday.

I like birding in the winter--I can see the birds because the leaves have fallen off the trees.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Another Birding Post

We just got back from a short three days in Michigan to visit my mom and other family. It was COLD! My mom has turned into a little bit of a birder in her old age, and she faithfully refills her feeders. While there we saw American Goldfinches, Mourning Doves, House Sparrows, a Northern Cardinal, and some others. We also visited my Aunt and Uncle, and they had even more at their feeders: Downey Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Dark-eyed Juncos. I took a walk in the park and saw a Belted Kingfisher up in the tree above Fish Creek.

Today seemed like a good birding day in my backyard. The leaves are off the trees, so I can see the birds easier. I recored 10 species in just a few minutes, including a House Wren and Ruby-Crowned Kinglet. I hope the birds are that cooperative tomorrow, since it is time for the Birdstack Winter Solstice count:

Birds of the Solstice

Baby Isabella talks about "bird food" and watches the birds with me--that is a lot of fun. I got a nice bird book from my sister for Christmas. I'm sad to report that I lost the nice "How to Identify Birds" book that I just received from my father-in-law--I left it on the plane--so sad! I really wanted to finish reading it.

And another bad thing happened on this trip--my camera (which I received exactly 5 years go) got wrecked as we were leaving. I must have leaned against the rental car while brushing the snow off and cracked the display. Oh, well, I was wanting a new camera anyway!! :-)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Candy Cane Wreath

I got the pine branches for free at Home Depot, the trimmings off of someone's Christmas tree. I attached them around a wire coat hanger with green florist wire, then added a bow and candy canes.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

High Chair Makeover

I've been doing all sorts of things to get ready for our granddaughter coming to spend Christmas with us. The latest was to dig out the old wooden high chair and give it a make over.

As for the chair, I cleaned it carefully, washed the fabric retainer belt, and put wood cover up oil on the blemishes. The tray was more of a challenge. It took two coats of stripper to remove the rest of the old finish, then Gary sanded it with three levels of sandpaper, then I oiled it with mineral oil as you would a wooden cutting board.

It doesn't look perfect, but it isn't too bad, and of course, baby looks cute as ever in it.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

And Then There Was One

Often there was a pair of Inca Doves that came to feed with the larger group of mourning doves each morning at my house. The last few days there has just been one Inca Dove--that makes me sad.

This morning the rest of the leaves fell off the trees in our back yard and suddenly I can see the birds a lot better. Today there were lots--cardinals, tufted titmice, three kinds of doves (the above two plus white-winged doves), a warbler and a Carolina wren all in the back yard within a few minutes of each other.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

What Is Wrong With This Picture?

You guessed it--papayas do not grow where it snows. That, and papayas should not grow in my compost pile. And don't forget that it isn't supposed to snow here either. Another sign of global warming??

This poor blog isn't getting much action these days. I'm mostly posting at my Family News site, and I guess Facebook took some of my blogging steam away too.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Yet Another Way to Cut the Cheesecake

Yesterday I baked two cheesecakes for the Thanksgiving dinner at church. This was my first time to try pumpkin cheesecake. It was pretty good, but the gingersnaps I used for the crust were kind of strong and almost bitter.

For years I've been trying to perfect my cheesecake attempts, including how to cut them cleanly. It isn't easy, and today I tried a new method using thin florist wire.

I set the cheesecake on a pedestal made from a bowl. This enable me to pull the wire completely downward to cut thru the crust.

Don't worry--I washed the pliers first.

Disappearing Diving Duck

Well, I think it was a duck, but I'm not even sure of that. Twice this month I've seen a water bird sitting alone in the middle of a small pond, mottled brown in color, smaller than a mallard and quite shy. Both times this bird has dived straight down. I patiently wait and wait and wait and wait, and the bird never reappears! Logically that can only mean that it dove down, swam to the rushes and then resurfaced where I could not see it.

Anybody have an idea what bird that might be?

I need a bird-identifying buddy!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Buckeye Butterfly

Another beautiful butterfly held still long enough for me to photograph it while I was out for a lovely walk at the state park this afternoon.

I also saw a nice assortment of birds, including a new one for my life list, a buff-bellied pipit.

We've been enjoying exceedingly wonderful weather this past week. Tonight a cold front came through with heavy rain just as I had to drive to the airport to pick up Gary, but we arrived home safely.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Confusing Fall Warbler

I sure wish I had some more know-how on bird identification. I'm not up to taking an ornithology class or anything quite like that, but I wish I knew what to look for when you can't hold a bird in your hand for detailed study.

Today I had to drive Rachel to another field trip, this time a dairy farm in Plano, so I passed the time at a nearby city park. It was a crummy park by all accounts, but there was a small wooded creek off to the side. I pushed my way thru the honeysuckle that was taking over, and was able to do a bit of bird watching.

I saw a yellow-rumped warbler. There was also a strange duck all my himself (maybe herself) who dived straight down and I never did see it come up! I have no idea where it went or what kind it was! There was also a sparrow with very clear gray and rust strips across its head, and a lightly streaked buff-colored bib, and a notched tail. Maybe Savannah sparrow?

Now that my patio door has been replaced, and now that the leaves are falling off the trees, I'm hoping to start seeing a few more birds in the back yard. On the other hand, the wooded lot behind our house is now starting to be developed, so I'm afraid the beep, beep of heavy machienery is going to scare all the wildlife away. :-(

Friday, October 30, 2009


This afternoon and evening there were three (!) foxes hanging around our deck and back yard. No wonder I can't get any birds to come to my feeders--the foxes (and squirrels) are eating up all the food! The photos aren't that good because it was nearly dark, but these guys were only 10-15 feet away at times!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What's Your Marital Status?

I joined a thingy online today ( and I had to laugh when I got to the question in the Profile about marital status. There was a drop-down list with these choices:
  • (blank)
  • Single
  • De Facto
  • Partnered
  • Engaged
  • Married
  • Divorced
  • Desperate
I thought it was pretty funny, but on the other hand, it does say something about life these days.

Speaking of getting married, we are looking forward to a wedding this weekend. I wanted to give the bride a piece of my mother-in-law's lovely pottery, but I didn't know which piece, so I sent this photo to the bride and asked her which one she liked.
Ain't technology great??

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Today's Nature Walk

After lunch at church I talked Gary into going to Joe Pool Lake with me for a while. The weather was lovely--especially after so much rain. The birds at the lake:
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • American Crow
  • American Coot
  • Mallard
  • Red-winged Blackbirds
  • a rust and buff colored bird I couldn't identify
  • two other birds I heard but couldn't identify

Plus mourning and Inca doves in the back yard.

I did get a couple of nice butterfly photos, and there are still some wildflowers, but I wasn't able to identify this one--6 foot stems!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

U2 Concert

I know it is hard to believe, but Gary and I attended a U2 concert last evening. It was the first and only rock concert I'd ever attended, unless you count the Amy Grant concert that was held after a Rangers' game many years ago. I'm not an absolute huge fan of this band, but I do like a few of their songs, and it was nice to hear them in person.

Or more to the point, I've had a new experience. :-)

The major reason I talked Gary into this outing was so that he could see the new Cowboys' stadium. It is huge! You can see my short online album about the stadium. The food prices were high, there was a beer cooler every 40 feet, and the toilet I used sprayed water everywhere. Other than that, the place was impressive.

My observations about the concert:
  • The opening act, MUSE, was terrible.
  • If you want to hear a concert, don't go to a football stadium. The acoustics aren't that great.
  • If you want to hear the music, buy a CD. Apparently concerts are more about having an experience, and less about hearing music.
  • The multimedia, and especially the light show, was dazzling.
  • Rock concerts are a great place for people-watching. My analysis of the demographics: lots of 30 year olds, a good number of parents with their teenagers, a few families with their younger children, a few pregnant women, and 8 people with gray hair, including one of the band members.
  • Dress code: women--lots of tight jeans, lots of cleavage, a few little black dresses, and lots of high-heeled boots. Men: jeans, sweaters, nice shoes. I was expecting more people in grubby jeans, tee-shirts and athletic shoes.
  • I was disappointed not to see the stadium's famed HUGE screen in action, but I guess that is because the band has its own elaborate spaceship stage.

Speaking of the band's screen, it was very interesting from a technology point of view. It was shaped like a loop that went over the band. It was made up of many small hexagonal shaped panels that either fit tightly together to make a solid screen, or separated (each piece being connected to an expando lattice structure that either held the pieces tight together or slightly apart. This photo shows them when apart:

The multimedia and light show was impressive. And it makes you wonder how they move all that equipment and structure from one place to another. They must employ a massive crew to do the logistics. Here is a collage of photos showing some of the light show.

I guess I should end this lengthy post with two more photos:
I was there:

And here's a horrible photo of the band:

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Fall Creatures

Lots of interesting creatures in the back yard, even if the birds are few.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Internet Bird Collection

Since it is open to amateurs, I signed up at the Internet Bird Collection. I've uploaded one video (and it seems like the sound didn't work), and two photos:

African masked weaver
(14 second video)
Hemprich's Hornbill

Not that my photos are all that great, but still, it is fun to contribute.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Birds of the Fall Equinox

Birds of the Equinox

Mr. Ringer has organized the equinox bird lists up on Birdstack--go take a look (click the banner above). And join us for the next event in December.

I had the flu last week--no, it wasn't bird flu, but it might have been swine flu. I felt lousy all week, but did manage to go to the Ft. Worth Botanic Gardens on Friday, though I tried not to get too close to anyone. The weather was PERFECT, and here's the few birds I saw during the day:

Around the place:
  • crows--lots
  • grackels
  • hawks, but I couldn't tell which kind
  • rock doves--a million
At the Botanic Gardens:
  • robins--two
  • yellow-bellied sapsucker--one
  • superb starlings--yes, they have a pair living INSIDE the greenhouse!
At Cedar Hill State Park
  • some ducks
  • kildeer--3
  • great white egret--3
  • peeps--a pair of fast moving ones on the beach

I also saw a possibly new bird, but I really needed some help with the identification to know for sure. It was a small, thirsty blond sparrow playing in the fountain at the gardens.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Cards Update

I think it has been a while since I posted any of my greeting card photos. I've done a few new ones lately and added them to my online web album here.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Being Tourists in Ethiopia

I'm home from work this week, sick with the flu. I have enough energy to do about one thing per day, so today I organized and posted a few more of my Ethiopia photos. I think you'll have to agree that we saw some beautiful places while being tourist for three days. Click here to see the entire album.

(The best way to view the album is in Slideshow mode, using the F11 key to get to full screen. Press F11 again to get out of full screen.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Birds of the Equinox

Today wasn't a very good day for birding, but I tried anyway. I guess the birds hide when the weather is rainy. I've just recently set my birdfeeders back up, and slowly I'm getting some visitors. When the sun came out briefly this afternoon I saw in my backyard:
  • 2 cardinals
  • 2 Carolina chickadees
  • 1 tufted titmouse
  • 2 mourning doves
  • 1 white-winged dove

I also saw a couple of crows earlier in the day when I walked to work.

This evening I talked Gary into a short walk in the park, Lakeside Park to be more specific. We saw the usual domestic ducks who were mad at us for not bringing bread. The only bird of note that we stared at for 20 minutes turned out to be a green heron. I had a hard time identifying it at first because it was scrunched up on a branch in a tree with the sun backlighting its silhouette. It looked like a football with a beak and legs. When it eventually flew across the pond it looked twice as big as it had.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Maybe if I sit quiet she won't notice me.

This morning I worked like a "banshee" (Gary's word) to move a woodpile from spot A to spot B in order to tidy up the back yard and make it easier for Gary to mow. Turns out I disturbed an entire ecosystem that had set itself up since that tree fell down.

And this king-sized grass hopper seems to be missing a leg, so I had to take his photo too. After a week of rain, it seems like the plants and animals have sprung to life, including some mushrooms I've never seen before. (Don't worry, I won't eat them.)

I Need to Get Back to Birding

I've been neglecting this blog lately. I have been posting some on my family blog. I guess I just haven't had too much to say lately that wasn't family related.

My birding has suffered a serious setback in that the seals on the double paned glass on BOTH sides of the patio door have broken so they are a steamy mess. I can't see a bird unless the door is open! I need to get busy and get that replaced. And this isn't the first time we've replaced that sliding patio door for the same reason.
Birds of the Equinox
Anyway, looks like Birdstack is doing its semiannual thing, so I need to see what birds i can scare up. I need to get my bird feeders set back up too, buy some more seed, and find a pole to hang the humming bird feeder from. I've pretty much ignored the birds since returning from Ethiopia (and my birding marathon there) because I've been so busy helping my chickadee build her own nest. But most of that is in place and she's no longer needing our help now, so I'm going back to my birding and cardmaking and blogging habits/hobbies. And I've got some reading to catch up on, too.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Birding at the Ballpark

I don't really know for sure if these two birds were Common Nighthawks or a Lesser Nighthawks, but they definitely were nighthawks of some kind. I saw this pair all during the game at Rangers' stadium, buzzing madly above the game, snatching up moths and other insects. There was also a big moon, very beautiful, and perfect weather. (The photo below is stolen from the internet.)

When I mentioned to Gary that I saw some birds, he said, "Yes, there are 9 Bluejays down on the field. And Marlon Byrd is here too." Yes, he's an oaf.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New Clothes?

When I did the laundry on Saturday my favorite shirt came out with a hole in it. When I put my favorite nightgown on last night, I noticed a tear in it. And today when I put my cell phone in the pocket of my most comfortable pants, it slid through the hole in the pocket, down my leg, and landed on my toes.

I wonder if it is time to go shopping? Nah, probably not. After all, I have more shirts, another nightie, and other pants. I just need some new favorites.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Time For Sleep

I'm off to bed soon, but had to post this photo of the beautiful bird that I didn't see in Ethiopia. But Andrew did, and he wrote to brag! It is the white morph of the African Paradise Flycatcher.

In other news, Gary is enjoying cold weather at the Puget Sound for a week, while I'm still sweating here in Dallas. Rachel's kids start school tomorrow, and Andrew and Laura have applied for her green card. I'm still working on posting my Ethiopia photos, and for my trouble, Google has informed me I'm using up too much of the cloud and will not have to start paying $20/year! Here's the link to my latest album.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Eating in Ethiopia

Injera is the staple food of Ethiopia. We ate that, and lots of things from lots of cultures. Click here for photos.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Left Out

Wow, I've been neglecting this blog in favor of my family blog.

Time for a small gripe: I'm feeling a bit sorry for someone because she didn't get invited to a wedding that many of her friends went to. True, she wasn't really close to the bride, but she did know her and she was part of the group that this woman used to hang out with. She made comments like: I wish I could have been there, but they said they didn't have enough money to invite me. I wonder what to buy them for a gift? Just because I wasn't invited doesn't mean I can't buy them a gift. Wow, they posted photos on Facebook already--looks like I missed a good one.

She is such a giving and generous person that it hurts to see people treat her selfishly. (Though from their point of view I'm sure it wasn't selfish; it was just the way it had to be.)

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Birding in Ethiopia

I had such a good time birdwatching while we were in Ethiopia. My son joined me when he could--that was fun too.

I ended up tentatively identifying 83 birds--all but one were new ones for me. To see my full Ethiopia list, check here.

I took photos of as many as I could, and with a crummy camera, that isn't' easy. But click here to see my online album of Ethiopia birds.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Jungle Safari Cake for Isabella's 1st birthday party

We're back from our wonderful trip to Addis Ababa and I'm starting to deal with laundry, mail, and photos. Here is the first album. Click on it to see larger photos and captions.

I'm planning to post about our trip mostly on my family blog, so set that to your RSS feed if you want to keep updated.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

My Brother

The nest is a bit emptier; my younger brother passed away last night. I'm glad I went to Michigan last week to see him before it was too late.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

I've Hit a Stone Wall

This photo is for MaHoyt, the side wall of the barbershop. Click on it for a better view.

I haven't really hit a stone wall, maybe just a snag. It is less than a week before we leave for Ethiopia, and I feel like I"m getting sick! Sad.

If anyone reading this wants to see photos of my Michigan trip, I've posted two albums. You can find the links here.

Monday, July 06, 2009

I'm Home

I'm too tired to write a decent post, but I did think this photo was a good illustration of what I saw in my small hometown (from which I've just returned)--the new and the old. In so many ways it felt like nothing except me had changed in 40 years. But then, lots of folks have these little dishes sitting on their homes and businesses, so I guess something has changed.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Oaf Child

Yesterday, as I was driving past the high school, I dutifully slowed to 20mph as the flashing light instructed, in spite of the fact that we all know school is not in session. But it turns out there were a couple teenagers leaving the building because one of the started to cross the road in front of me, dropped to the ground in my lane, and did a pushup before completing his journey to the other side.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A New New Testament

I kind of pride myself in making something out of nothing, but in this case, we could hardly say I started with nothing.

Rachel wanted to buy an NIV NT, but it need to be one with larger than micro print and smaller than a fortune to buy. Turns out we had an old NIV on the shelf with the glue disintegrated. I removed the NT and added a cover made of card stock, and bound it with a heavy-duty stapler at the office.

She says she's going to use this NT to read along while listening to the digital NIV NT that she got for her birthday.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Mr. and Mrs. Red-bellied Wooodpecker

Today I repeatedly saw this male woodpecker break open a sunflower seed and then feed it to his mate. That was sweet, don't you think?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

It's So Hot...

...even the cat is drinking ice water.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

If It Weren't for TV Sports...

...Gary would never get a nap.

Or, TV news. Or TV movies.