Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Turkeys 2, Johnsons 0

We gave up on our turkey hunt this morning. Our change of tactics involved each of us going to a different location (where we've heard turkeys every day this season) and sitting on the ground in full camouflage with a shotgun (the way we used to hunt turkeys before we used a blind). We were really optimistic this was the morning that we'd get our birds -- and I was thankful it was above freezing since I would be sitting outside on the ground.

As it started getting lighter and lighter, we still weren't hearing any gobbling. What's up with that? I wondered, since I was sitting practically right underneath the trees they had flown down from on Sunday morning. I checked in with Mr. Johnson on the radio to ask if he was hearing anything where he was sitting and he confirmed that nothing was going on over there either. It was as if someone had just come in overnight and taken every single turkey out of that area!

I did hear one turkey gobbling from probably a half-mile away and across the river, but there was no way he could hear my calls and was going to come to me. Finally about 9 AM, we just decided to hang it up for this disappointing turkey season. It was such a nice day we decided to pack up all our stuff and go home and see if we could get my motorcycle in for an oil change this afternoon. So at least we'll get to take advantage of the nice weather with a motorocycle ride.

Here are a couple pictures from our turkey hunting adventure:

Mr. Johnson next to our hunting blind. This is the Double Bull Blind; it was kind of pricey, but we really like it. Lots of room inside for 2 people and all our gear and we can actually stand up inside too. It's pretty easy to get set up and take down too, plus the fabric is very heavy and stands up well to windy and rainy conditions.

Here's a picture of me looking like a camouflage Michelin man! I'm truly amazed how much fatter these multiple layers of warm clothing make me look!

However, the morning wasn't totally disappointing for me.....I got to see several yellow-rumped warblers (my first for 2008) and also got this great little video of a Brown Thrasher singing from the treetop (he's a little hard to see, but look right in the center of the video). Can you recognize any of his imitations?

video

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Knitting Projects

I haven't shown any knitting projects lately, so since I have nothing nature-related to report today (except that I saw a single junco in my yard this afternoon), this will be a post about a couple of knitting projects.

I finished these socks last weekend. It's nice that in Minnesota some of us are still wearing wool socks (and they felt pretty darn good this past week). I've been working on this pair since sometime in December, I think, and now they are finally done. They're a little stiff yet because it's a really tight knit, but I'm hoping once they get washed and dried the yarn will soften up a little bit. I really like these bright colors.

Here's a little project I started last week. You can probably guess that it's going to be a hat. I can see that my color choices for the llama are not ideal with that greenish color in the middle blending in too much with the turquoise main color, so I'm going to have to rip out a few rows and re-knit that section with a different color.

Do you like this design? You may have noticed a hat similar to this in one of Mel's posts a few weeks ago. I sent her an e-mail and she graciously located the hat in her closet and also one of Tommy's and sent me some great photographs.

Aren't they a cute couple? Here's what Melissa says about these hats: "Over here, that kind of hat (that covers the ears) is called 'CHULLO', http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chullo."

All I had to do was chart the patterns on graph paper, do a little math, grab some yarn and knitting needles and this is what happens when you're a knitting addict. I'll post another picture once I've completed the hat. Thanks Mel, for the inspiration.


It's back to turkey hunting tomorrow morning (our last day). We're changing our tactics and hopefully by this time tomorrow we'll have at least one free-range, antibiotic-free, organic wild turkey in the freezer.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sunday in the Turkey Blind

The wind died down overnight and there were clear skies and a half-moon as we hiked to our turkey blind at 5 AM today. It was still cold (around 30 degrees) but I had my blanket to wrap up in and we knew once the sun was up the day would be warmer.

We heard at least 3 turkeys gobbling right across the ridge from us, but were unable to call them over, so it was another long day of waiting for turkeys that never showed up. However, I had plenty of time for reading. Yesterday I finished "The Friday Night Knitting Club" and today I read "Tell Me Where It Hurts."







I still managed to work in a couple naps and by afternoon the sun had warmed up our blind enough that I was able to finally take off my gloves and knit a few rows.

For most of the day, we heard a woodpecker "sounding off" on the trees near our blind. I finally located who was making all the racket--it was a Hairy Woodpecker. I was able to capture this short video from the front window of our blind.

video

Before we left to come home, I walked over to the edge of the bluff to photograph the eagle's nest across the valley. The nest is in the top of a big white pine. I bet that nest was blowing at least 15 feet back and forth in yesterday's high winds.
When the adult eagle is not in the nest I can see something white sticking up that I think might be a chick, but I can't tell with just binoculars.

I'm so glad I finally found the location of this nest and have been able to get some photos and the chance to watch the eagles come and go.
Tomorrow's weather report sounds similar to what we had on Saturday (snow/rain mix, windy and cold) so I'm going back to work and will take Wednesday off instead when the weather is supposed to be warmer.

P.S. I just checked my stats and this is Blog Post #300!! Another reason for a celebration cake!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Happy to be Warm Again

I've got my furnace cranked up and I'm sitting in the sunny dining room window posting this blog. Most of me is finally warm again except for my toes and a hot shower should take care of that once I'm done here.

When we got to our turkey blind this morning, the temp was about 32 degrees and it was SNOWING! The winds were howling out of the N-NW at around 25-30 MPH (gusting to 45 MPH) with a wind chill of 19 degrees. I like to think I'm a reasonably sensible and sane woman, but this morning, I couldn't help wonder what the heck I was doing out in these conditions freezing my buns (and all other body parts) when I could have been back home cuddled up in bed with Sophie and Penny while Mr. Johnson (the die-hard hunter) froze all by himself. I guess some people will do anything for a blog posting!

Here's a little video I took from inside the blind around 6:15 AM. Those are our 2 turkey decoys you see out in front and you can tell from the audio and from watching the decoys how windy it was. If you turn up your volume and listen real close at about 21 seconds you will hear the turkey gobble.
video
We heard him gobbling for about half an hour but could also hear a hen with him. Shortly after 6:30, all became quiet and we never heard or saw another turkey the rest of the day. We left the blind to come home a little after 3 PM.

The day wasn't a total bust though. We were entertained by a group of fat gray squirrels running and playing near our blind. We did also spot this handsome fox squirrel all by itself. There are mostly gray squirrels in these woods so I was happy to see this fox squirrel and also capture his image.

On our way home, we saw a group of young deer out in a hayfield. In this short video you will see them come to a fence and then jump over to head across the road. Watch closely at the end and listen to Mr. Johnson's narrative!
video

Hope you all stayed warm today. Tomorrow's forecast is still for "unseasonably cold," but hopefully it won't be quite as windy. One thing I know for sure is that I won't forget my blanket tomorrow!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Just Miscellaneous Stuff

Because our turkey hunting season starts early tomorrow morning, Mr. Johnson and I decided to leave work early today so we could get our weekend errands taken care of and get our turkey blind set up so that all we have to do tomorrow morning is set out the decoys and wait for the turkeys to arrive.

While we were out in the woods this afternoon, I finally saw a few spring wildflowers starting to bloom. I didn't think to take my camera along and boy was that a big mistake! In addition to the wildflowers, there was a pair of bald eagles flying around and calling back and forth to each other the whole time. That would have made a really neat little video. My only consolation is that I'll be spending the next 3 days down in these woods, and I'm packing my camera tonight, so I don't miss out on any other photo ops.

While walking back to the car, I found some newly sprouted catnip and picked a little handful to take home for Miss Penny. Was that ever some potent stuff!

First Penny rolled all over it on her right side (note expression of "kitty bliss!")

Then she rolled to her left side to rub in this super smelly catnip.
Look at her messy face--all wet from drooling on the catnip and then rubbing on it. I finally took it away from her after about 90 minutes, but she's still laying on the carpet where it had been. I'll have to pick some more for her tomorrow before we come home.


Here's a ID question for the 'egg'-sperts: Do you know what bird laid this egg?
I found it on the front lawn this afternoon. I know it's not grackle or robin and I'm thinking maybe mourning dove? I can't think of any other bird in my backyard that might already be nesting and also lay an egg this size.


How much is that doggy in the window?
"uh-oh, I'm busted!" (she even looks guilty, doesn't she?)

This is one of Sophie's favorite places to lay in the afternoon sun. I was surprised the first time I saw her up in this bay window and immediately shooed her down. Now she sometimes hops up and lays on the little rug when she can't find a sunny spot anywhere else. As soon as she heard the camera turn on though, she was ready to take off (she's terrified by the camera). Goofy hound!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I'm Festival Bound

This afternoon I finalized my plans to attend the "6th Annual Potholes & Prairies Birding Festival" in June (as a member of the "Birdchick Posse!") Thanks Sharon!

Just so you know, I'm not a person who normally makes plans this far in advance, but I'm sure glad I did because I was able to snag one of the 3 remaining spots in the "Birds & Blossoms" tour with Julie Zickefoose.

(My registration form and check will go in the mail tomorrow morning)

I briefly thought about flying out there, but after checking on airfares with my local AAA advisor, we decided it would be more economical for me to rent a car (<$200 vs. >$300 for airfare and still having to rent a car in Fargo).

I guess driving will give me a better chance to do a little birding along the way if there's something interesting to see, right?

The festival is also going to have silent and live auctions at their Saturday night Birders Banquet and I'm donating one of my hand-knitted shawls as an auction item for this festival. Now I just have the difficult choice of deciding which shawl to donate!

June seems like a long time away now, but I'm sure the days will go by very fast (and hopefully gas will still be under $4 per gallon by the time I'm ready to make the trip).

If any of you are still interested in signing up for this festival, be sure to mention that you're part of the birding bloggers "Birdchick Posse" to be eligible for the group discount and remember to sign up before the early bird deadline of May 14th. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Turkey Scouting Morning

Our turkey hunting season starts next Saturday. We have been fortunate to obtain permission once again to hunt private land in the same area where we deer hunt in the fall. We are both hoping to get a turkey with bow & arrow this spring, but that will depend entirely on the weather and the turkeys. We spent some time out in the woods this morning trying to get a look at some turkeys and where they're roosting and also locating a nice level spot to place our blind. Mr. Johnson thinks he's got it pretty well figured out and here's the view we'll be seeing out of our blind next weekend.

The turkeys roost in the large white pines above this ravine. We heard a couple fly down this morning, but it seems they always head towards the river bottom and some pasture land before heading back up this hill and then out to unplowed cornfield that's behind this spot. We both agreed this morning that turkeys are so much harder to hunt than deer. Deer have pretty nice, predictable habits that they follow almost every day. Turkeys don't--especially in the spring when it's mating season. We'll just have to wait and see how things go, I guess. At least for now, the weather report sounds good for next weekend (no rain and temps in the upper 50's).

It was really foggy early this morning (as you can see from the picture above). Here's what it looked like walking across the cornfield towards the woods where our turkey blind will be.

Here's another foggy picture (just because I thought this little white pine has a beautiful shape and provided a little spot of green in a gray/brown landscape!)

At the edge of the woods, I just happened to catch some movement of a little bird low to the ground. I was able to focus my binocs and camera on this Song Sparrow. Isn't its camouflage wonderful?

We took the long way home by way of Mom & Dad's to pick up the milk cartons Dad's schoolkids had saved for me last week (for my veggie seedling transplants). Part of this route runs along a river and that's where I spotted a pair of kingfishers. Here's the one who was sitting on a fencepost closest to the road. I really enjoy seeing these birds.
Also on the power lines above the river, there was a small flock of Cliff Swallows. There is a concrete bridge over this river where they have nested in the past. The next time I'm down this way, I'll try to get some pictures of the neat little mud nests the swallows have built along the underside of this bridge. I'm sure they would have been much more active on a warm, sunny day than this cool, foggy morning.

On our way home, we finally spotted some turkeys: a big group of toms displaying for the hens. Mr. Johnson quickly turned the car around so we could go back and take a look at this show. I was able to capture this short video before the group dispersed.

video

There are two large toms in the foreground--they have the long beards showing. In the background, together are two "jakes" (the first year toms). You can tell a jake from a tom most easily by their tails. Look closely at those two birds in the background and you will see the center (8 or so) tail feathers stick up farther in the center of their tail "fan". On a mature tom, their tail looks just like a "fan" where all the feathers are the same length. When we're out hunting, what we're looking for is the "beard" that comes out of the center of the turkey's chest (only birds with a visible beard are legal for shooting in the spring). Ideally we'd like to get a big old, heavy tom with a long beard and big tail (and more meat for eating), but seeing as how we have the challenge of going with bow & arrow this year, we will be happy to take any legal bird. And maybe if the turkeys don't cooperate, I'll have a little time to check out the forest edges for migrating spring warblers and sparrows.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Staying Closer to Home

Here's a shocking sight we saw on our way home from work today:
I can already tell that other than a trip to St. Paul in May and a trip to North Dakota in June, most of my birding adventures will take place much closer to home this summer.

Fortunately we have fairly diverse bird and wildlife habitats within 20 miles of my home, so seeing a variety of birds shouldn't be too difficult. Why, just this afternoon after stopping to top off the fuel tank, I spotted a Bufflehead (my first ever!) swimming on a storm sewer retention pond near a major shopping center. Mr. Johnson was kind enough to pull over so I could get out of the car for a better look at this striking black and white duck.

Plus, there's no shortage of good birdwatching opportunities right outside my window. This bright yellow goldfinch caught my eye right away on this gloomy, rainy afternoon.

And look at how popular this little safflower feeder is:


So how about the rest of you: do you think your summer plans will change minimally or drastically based on the fuel prices?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Nice Wednesday

Well, it turned out to be a very nice day once the wind finally died down. I got home from work and decided I'd better get my garbage can potatoes planted before another day went by. Here's my "potato patch!"

I found these collapsible storage containers at Fleet Farm on clearance for $4 each. They're made of two layers of heavy duty fabric and hopefully they'll work for growing potatoes (I saw something similar in a gardening catalog). I've got them sitting around the cement base of my TV antenna tower. They will get good sun for most of the day and they're far enough away from my garden that any insects attracted to these potatoes won't bother the other vegetables in my garden.

Take a look at this:
OK, the sun was shining on this thermometer a little bit to make it 78 degrees, but our "official" high today was 73 degrees! This is the first time we've had a day over 70 degrees since last October (178 days according to the weatherman). It was so nice to be outside this afternoon wearing a short-sleeved shirt!

After supper, I was sitting at the table watching birds out the dining room window when I spotted this huge cottontail stopping by to feast on some corn. He's a pretty good-looking bunny, don't you think?

While I was watching Mr. Bunny Rabbit, look who else hopped into view....
WOW! Brown Thrasher! That's really big news! (at least for me it is). I had two nesting pairs in my yard last summer. It's nice to see this handsome birdie decided to come back for another summer.

After supper, we went over to the woods to check on whether there were any tenants in the wood duck house I built and put up last spring. No tenants yet, but I took the opportunity to put in fresh wood shavings and hopefully there will be a wood duck moving in soon as I spotted a drake and two hens at the edge of the little man-made pond in the vicinity of this wood duck house.

There were quite a few frogs over by this little pond. Here's a look at one little guy checking me out.

Enjoy the sweet froggy music (and listen for the pileated who lives in these woods too!)
video


Happy Spring Everyone!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Playing Catch-Up

It seems as though spring has finally arrived in my backyard. After watching snowflurries all day last Saturday, Sunday dawned cold, but clear as a bell. It was a wonderful day even though our high temperature was only 44 degrees. We got a little bit of yard clean-up done, I put up my purple martin gourds and tree swallow gourds, but as always, ran out of day before running out of chores.

Last night I talked Mr. Johnson into taking me out for a little birding drive after supper. We drove over to the flood-control reservoir a couple miles from home and found just a little bit of ice left in the SE corner, but otherwise all open water. We saw common mergansers, lesser scaup, canvasbacks, some gulls (herring or ring-billed, I couldn't tell for sure), but most exciting was a pair of American white pelicans at the far side of the lake. We then drove to my favorite birding place out in rural Olmsted county. There are many acres of CRP grassland here and it's also very quiet (far away from highway noise). We saw a pair of Northern Harriers and also a pair of Common Snipe flying around and making their "winnowing" noise. If you've heard this before, you know what an unusual sound it is. We also saw dozens of Eastern Wild Turkeys and heard a few Ring-Necked Pheasants (in addition to the usual red-winged blackbirds and song sparrows). Unfortunately, I was unable to get photos of any of these sightings.

Today was another sunny and warm day, spoiled only by strong winds from the south: sustained in the 30 mph range and gusts of 49 mph. On days like today, I can certainly understand why pioneer folk on the prairies were said to be driven mad by the wind.

The most annoying thing about the wind is the fact that debris from my disgusting neighbor's "junkyard"......

.......blows into my backyard

I'm going to wait till the wind dies down again and throw all this crap back over there!

And then I'm going to take some more pictures and plan to attend an upcoming township meeting to see what (if anything) can be done to force this guy to clean up his place. His place a total dump and has lowered the property value of our place and also our good neighbor who lives on the other side of this "junkyard." The most pathetic thing about this whole deal is that this neighbor is self-employed, specializing in.........HOME IMPROVEMENT!!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Seedling Progress

I'm starting to see more progress in my veggie seedling project. Since we've had a sad lack of sunshine lately, I've been turning up the thermostat a few degrees each evening and placing my seed tray over one of the heat register vents in an effort to warm up the soil. Some of the gardening magazines I've read suggest putting your seedlings atop a heating pad, but that would mean I'd actually have to dig through a closet to find my heating pad. Anyway, just a few evenings over the heat register have yielded some surprising results. Since my last report, not only do I have almost all of my broccoli sprouted, but I now also have the squash, zucchini, and two varieties of tomatoes making their appearance. The tomatoes are those little "strings" of white that you can just barely make out in the center of the seedling tray. Squash is the first row on the far left and zucchini is in the second row from the right (next to broccoli).

I'm still waiting on the peppers, cucumbers and one variety of tomatoes, but I haven't given up hope yet and, if the weather forecasters are correct, we're going to have a reappearance of the sun by Sunday.

Some of my sprouts were large enough for transplanting (broccoli & zucchini).

I sent a note out to some folks at work asking them to save their milk cartons for me. This has worked out pretty good, but I think I may have to leave another collection box near the milk vending machine location as I've only collected about 10 cartons so far and I see that I'm going to need many more if all of my seedlings sprout.


Even though it's a crappy, windy, rainy evening (and more snow/rain mix predicted for tomorrow), I was happy to see another sign of spring show up just a few minutes ago.

Chipping Sparrow - first one seen in my backyard for 2008!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Bluejay Buffet

I know I've shown you pictures of the bluejays at my window feeder before, but have I ever posted a movie? The activity isn't quite as frenzied as in the middle of winter, but I still had several bluejays visiting my window feeder tray this past Sunday morning. As soon as it warms up and I can put the window screens back in again, I put the window feeders away till next fall. As it looks now in the long-range forecast, it will be a couple weeks yet till "open window" weather is upon us, so the bluejays can still enjoy their peanuts right outside the window. Hope you enjoy this movie of a couple bluejays enjoying a peanut feast.

video

Monday, April 7, 2008

Butterfly Meeting

Here's an announcement for anyone in northern Minnesota interested in learning more about butterflies (wish I lived a little closer to Duluth!):

Butterfly Club Open House
Think Spring! Think Butterflies!

The Northern Crescents chapter of the NABA (North American Butterfly Association) is hosting an open house Tuesday, April 15 at the Gander Lodge at Duluth's Gander Mountain from 6:30 to 8:30 pm.

View displays, browse through butterfly books, talk to members about how to make your garden friendlier to butterflies, how to identify butterflies, which binoculars are best to use to see them, and how you might join in on the various club activities. This evening is free and open to everyone interested in butterflies.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Springy Saturday

Always when I think I'm going to take the weekend off and not post anything, I find some good stuff going on that I want to share. Yesterday afternoon (while on "poop patrol") I happened to notice this brave little white crocus. What a beautiful surprise! It's on the east side of my house and I'm amazed at what can happen after just a couple warm sunny days. (We had a high of 64 degrees today!)

When I was Photoshopping this photo, I did notice that the bunnies had already found and munched off some of the tender new leaves (pink arrow). I'm glad they didn't eat the flower though.

Other signs of life in this flower bed: daylilies are coming up!

Speaking of bunnies, here is what those hungry little critters did to the Nanking Cherry shrubs in my backyard.

These shrubs were very close to the trails that the bunnies took back and forth from the evergreen shelters they lived under and I guess the proximity to their homes made it easier than going all the way out into the yard to snack on corn. I'm not sure if these shrubs are going to make it or not. Too bad, because last year was the first time they actually produced fruit and the birds absolutely LOVED those fruits.

I've got some broccoli sprouts!

So far, these are the only sprouts in my attempt to start garden plants indoors, but I'm hoping the other plants won't be too far behind now.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Watching Birds Eat

Do you have any birdfeeders close enough to your windows where you can actually watch the birds cracking open the seeds? Here are a couple of short movies I took yesterday afternoon of a male house finch and a female cardinal working on safflower seeds at the feeder outside my dining room window. They really have to work to get those hard shells cracked open for the little seed inside. It's interesting to see how much more efficient Mrs. Cardinal's large grosbeak is at cracking the seeds than Mr. House Finch's small beak.

It was kind of windy, so you'll notice that adds a bit more to the entertainment factor for watching this dining experience (I liked watching Mrs. Cardinal's crest blowing around).

video
that yellow thing in the background is one of Sophie's flying discs--she leaves her toys laying all over the yard! The other brown things are corncobs that the deer and bunnies have eaten all the corn off of--yard clean-up chores planned for the weekend!

video

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Song Sparrow Wednesday

I went down to visit my Mom and Dad this morning and detoured down a couple back roads along the way looking for birds. Saw quite a few horned larks, but no other outstanding sightings (I was hoping to see some Tom Turkeys gobbling and displaying, but apparently they hadn't heard I was coming down for a visit and so remained conspicuously absent).

I did, however, find a nice area near an old quarry with several song sparrows singing their beautiful song in scrubby trees right along the road ditch. So without further delay, please enjoy these three short movies starring Song Sparrows (each featuring their own musical interpretation).

video


video

video

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Just Tuesday Stuff

I made it through another end-of-the-quarter with my job this week.....I don't think I've ever been so happy to see April 1st before. Since Sunday, I managed to get almost $100,000 of damaged and failed computer cards approved and sent back to the suppliers (big sigh of relief for me and the people I support). Now I can sink back into the regular, manageable work routine for a couple months (and even find some time for blog reading during the day.....life is good!)

So we had some nice sunshine today which melted almost all of the snow that fell again yesterday and overnight. It wasn't very warm, but it was above freezing for the afternoon, so I won't complain.

It's so great to see the sun all the way into the evening now. The only bad thing is what it reveals on my windows.....
Kitty doesn't seem concerned, but I'm almost embarassed to show you how dirty this big dining room window has gotten over the winter! I think I know what I'm going to be doing this weekend once the temps get back up into the 50's.

I did manage to find a fairly clean spot to get this nice picture of Mr. Cardinal glowing in the sunset.
He sure likes those safflower seeds and seems quite happy not having to compete with grackles at this feeder anymore.

April 1st also marks the end of the "Freeze Your Buns Challenge" where we tried turning the thermostats lower than normal for the winter. I was curious to see how the last 6 months (October through March) of utility bills compared with the same time period of last year. I set my programmable thermostat for 64 degrees in the daytime and 62 degrees at night (I kept it a little warmer for the dogs who were in their kennels all day while we're at work). Last year I ran it at 67 degrees while we were up, 62 degrees during the day while at work, and 60 degrees at night.

Here are the natural gas usage results:

October 2006-March 2007: 440 Therms used (average 73 per month) for a total of $440.11 (average $73.35 per month)
October 2007-March 2008: 446 Therms used (average 74.3 per month) for a total of $464.64 (average $77.44 per month)

I think the minimal increase was actually worth freezing my buns for. I don't know how much of a cost increase there was in natural gas from last year (but it must have gone up, right?) I also didn't do any further checking to find out what the difference in average temperatures was from last year to this year, although I'm pretty sure this year was much colder than last year. We also went through almost an entire cord of firewood ($165) in the fireplace, but that supplemental heat kept the furnace from running as frequently--especially on those cold weekends when we were home to keep the fire going.
NOTE: We also have a gas clothes dryer and gas water heater.

So as long as I was checking utility bills, I decided to check the electric bill and see if there was any noticeable difference (especially since switching to compact fluorescent bulbs in most of the light fixtures). These results were a bit more surprising because my electricity usage actually increased a little bit (maybe too much time spent on the computer every day??)

October 2006-March 2007: 3060 KWH used (average 510 per month) for a total of $432.35 (average $72.05 per month)
October 2007-March 2008: 3072 KWH used (average 512 per month) for a total of $445.56 (average $74.26 per month)

I keep two heated birdbaths plugged in all winter. I know that these use quite a bit more electricity--especially when the outside temps are at or below zero. But I just can't bear the thought of my birds not being able to find water in the winter--especially when I have so many of them visiting my backyard habitat, so it's a sacrifice that I've learned to live with.

So anyway, there you have it....if this post doesn't cure your insomnia, nothing will! At least I have a good idea now of my actual utility usage and also a good baseline for next winter's conservation efforts.