Wednesday, February 27, 2008

New State Quarter

Have you been saving the state quarters? There's only 4 left to go for 2008 and then all 50 states will have a state quarter in circulation. There have been 5 minted each year since 1999. I have mine all displayed in the U.S. map folder and displayed on my dining room wall.

The newest quarter for 2008 is Oklahoma. The Spousal Unit got one yesterday and he got another one today and gave it to me. If you haven't seen it yet, here's what it looks like:

"Wow, is that a Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher?" I asked excitedly.

So, I googled "Oklahoma State Quarter" and found this really neat website that provides information on all the state quarters minted so far (and yes, it IS a scissor-tailed flycatcher).

In looking at all the quarters on my map, I found 8 more which featured birds.

Arkansas - Mallard
California - California Condor
Idaho - Peregrine Falcon
Louisiana - Brown Pelican
Maine - Seagulls
Minnesota - Common Loon
South Carolina - Carolina Wren
South Dakota - Ring-Necked Pheasant

It's been fun collecting these coins. Way back in 1999, it seemed like 9 years would take forever to fill this map, but the time has gone by pretty quickly and now there are only 4 spots left to fill.

So watch your change for a scissor-tailed flycatcher quarter coming to a convenience store near you!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Thank You Susan

Ooh, I'm so happy! Today in my mailbox, the package containing my beaded lanyard from Susan finally arrived. And it's so beautiful!
When Susan asked what colors I would like I told her blue and purple, or anything she had in her bead box. She wrote back and told me she had lots of blue and purple beads (lucky me!) It matches really well with my snowy owl t-shirt, don't you think?

Here are some close-up details of some of the special beads Susan used.

I love these little cobalt blue beads with birds in them. Susan said she did a "happy dance" at the bead store when she found these and I can understand why.

How about this cute little bead? You wouldn't find something special like that on a "made in China" beaded lanyard!

But wait.....there's more! Included in the package was this neat little zipper pull. And look at the special bead she added to this one too.
I have a black fleece vest that I wear at work (because I'm usually cold). I was just looking at the zipper today and thinking to myself that I should make a colorful zipper pull to add to this vest. How DID Susan know I needed one of these also?

Thank you Susan, from the bottom of my heart! I absolutely love them and will wear your beautiful creations proudly.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

National Eagle Center

This afternoon, my spousal unit and I visited the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, MN. A couple of other bird bloggers have posted about their recent visits to the NEC and even though I live less than 50 miles away, I have never been there.
It's quite a beautiful facility, located right on the Mississippi River in the heart of downtown Wabasha. There are live eagles on display at all times. Here's a couple of close-ups of Angel. She's 6 years old.

Just off the main lobby, there is a live eagle exhibit area where the eagles spend most of their days. The Center has 3 resident Bald Eagles: Harriet, Columbia, and Angel.

Here are a couple photos of Harriet.

They also have a Golden Eagle in residence. I don't know the name of that bird.....but it was quite magnificent also.

Here's a little video of Angel watching some eagles that were flying over the river outside of the Center. You can almost sense her frustration as she looks away from the window....she can see the other birds, but knows she can't fly out and join them.
The woman working there said that Angel sometimes gets quite upset when she sees eagles flying past outside. We could hear Angel calling and that's what drew us over to see what she was so upset about (I was too late to get a movie of her calling to the outside eagles).

The Center has a couple of outside observation decks and we were lucky enough to see several eagles outside--flying and perched in trees. Wabasha is located at the confluence of the Chippewa and Mississippi rivers, so there is always open water, making this area quite desirable for eagles and other waterfowl. We also saw several female Common Mergansers and I managed to also get a picture of this Common Goldeneye.

So if you're ever in the Wabasha area and have an hour or so of extra time, please be sure to visit the National Eagle Center. The chance to learn more about Bald Eagles and see them up close is definitely worth the small admission price of $6.00.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sunny Saturday

It's hard to believe we're enjoying our second sunny day in a row, and tomorrow's supposed to be sunny too. Hopefully this will tide us over through the possible winter storm the weatherman keeps talking about for Monday.It's in the 20's and hardly any wind today. The sun is so bright coming in the windows and my pets are soaking it up. I've even got some laundry hanging out on the line and it's actually drying pretty fast.

We visited the Fish & Pets store this morning. Ohmigosh, so many fish! Now I really want to add another larger aquarium somewhere in my house and give my guppies some new fishy friends.

After seeing all those nice clean aquariums at the store, I decided I'd better clean out my goldfish aquarium this afternoon. Their water was starting to look pretty murky and when I took the filters out I realized why. Yucky stuff! I took out 5 gallons of water and replaced it with clean. (Some of the old water goes for watering my houseplants, plus I'm taking a gallon of it to work for a co-worker's and my plants--good aquatic fertilizer!)

I dropped in a seashell I found in Florida years ago. I'm sure the goldies don't care, but I think it adds an exotic look to their home.
I like being able to see these beautiful, huge goldfish up close. Once the weather warms up and I get my backyard pond going again, these fishies are headed back outside for the summer.

Here's a little video of them swimming around in their tank. The little flecks you see floating around is their food.

I got a note in the mail today addressed to "Aunt Ruthie Johnson" from my nephew in California. How cute is this? My brother must be drilling it into little Charlie's head that Aunt Ruthie is nuts about birds.

Thanks for the note Charlie, you made my day!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Only 30 More Days

Did you know the first day of spring is March 20th? That's only 30 days away!! Even though it's only 4 degrees outside right now, it's a beautiful, sunny afternoon and I noticed some signs of thawing--on the deck......
and on the patio below where snow is melting and dripping off the roof......

(gotta remember to watch my step here tomorrow morning--my birdseed bins are right next to this icy spot!)

I've been inspired by some of the other gardening bloggers like Robin (Bumblebee), Barefoot Gardener (the queen of raised bed gardening) and Tracy (who posted links to seed catalogs the other day) and I've already decided that this year I'm going to expand my garden by adding one more raised bed and try to be more conscientious about pulling weeds and faithful to the idea of growing and preserving more of my own produce.

After looking at some on-line seed catalogs this morning, I also did a little "googling" to find out more about compost tumblers and rainbarrels. Gosh, that was so much fun I completely forgot about work for a while!

Here's the Envirocycle Compost Tumbler

I think this would be a little bit easier for me to work with and obtain good compost results than the composting box I have on the ground next to the garage (that I forget to turn faithfully). Plus the cost includes the price of shipping (which is rather substantial on a unit this large). I would really like to get one of these and if anyone has any experience or information they'd like to share with me, I'd really appreciate it.

I've been reading and hearing quite a lot lately also about saving water. Did you know you could use the rinse water from your washing machine to water plants? Now I'm trying to figure out what sort of bucket I could use to collect the rinse water as it pumps out of my washer.

We also have a gutter downspout on each corner of our house. Ideally, I need to figure out a way to divert the water from the downspout on the back of the garage out to the garden for watering purposes, which would still leave me with 3 downspouts where I could place rainbarrels.

They sure have come a long way from the old 55-gallon metal drum my grandma in Wisconsin used to have outside her house.....

I still need to do some thinking about the whole rain barrel idea because if it's raining enough to fill the rain barrel, then I wouldn't need to worry about saving water for the gardens since Mother Nature is already taking care of that, right? So if any of you have thoughts or advice on rainbarrels also, please feel free to share them with me in an e-mail or in my comments section.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sax-Zim Bog Birding Festival

Well, it's all over now (sigh), but years from now Lynne and I will still have fond memories of the weekend we spent at Mike Hendrickson's very first Sax-Zim Bog Birding Festival! I'm going to borrow a phrase from the old days: "A good time was had by all."

I got to Lynne's place in New Hope around 10:15 on Friday morning. After meeting her pets and her husband Art, we loaded her gear and we were off on our journey north. We made great time in good weather, so after stopping off at Subway for the new Chicken Florentine sandwich (you gotta try this one folks--it's as good as the TV commercial says), we took a little detour to Hasty Brook. Wow, what a great place....after seeing it for myself, I know why Lynne enjoys being there so much. (sorry, I never even thought to take a'll just have to visit Lynne's blog for that).

After the side trip to Hasty Brook, we resumed our journey to Duluth, checked in at the motel, and headed out to Meadowlands for the registration and welcome to the Sax-Zim Bog Birding Festival. Lynne and I both got a big hug from Mike on our arrival.....what a stress-filled week he had getting all the last minute details ironed out to make this festival happen. Here's Mike giving his "welcome to the festival" speech.

We also heard Dave Benson speak about owls. Dave is so knowledgable about owls and also a humorous speaker. If you ever have an opportunity to hear him speak, be sure to attend.....I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

After the opening ceremonies, we headed back to Duluth and our motel since our tour buses the next morning were scheduled to depart at 6 AM! (and it was about a 45 minute drive from Duluth to Meadowlands)

Our bus was a little delayed pulling out of Meadowlands, but we finally departed around 6:30 AM and not too long afterward, we were treated to a lovely sunrise over Sax-Zim Bog.

The bus drove slowly down the back roads as we scanned the trees for a Great Gray Owl and/or Northern Hawk Owl. As we were driving, we came across another bus group that had stopped and were watching for a Black-Backed Woodpecker. We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of that woodpecker as it flew across the road into the woods -- 1st Lifer for the day!

Next we were off to visit a bird feeding station at the home of a local family.

The little white arrow (above the man in the red coat & hat) is pointing at the bird feeding station

My words cannot describe how wonderful this place was! We were enthralled with the non-stop bird activity here: mostly Common and Hoary Red Polls, but also a large number of Evening and Pine Grosbeaks, as well as the more common birds: Black-Capped Chickadees, White-Breasted Nuthatch and even 1 Bluejay.

After reluctantly leaving the bird feeding station, we headed over to the other side of Sax-Zim Bog in search of a Boreal Chickadee. We heard it, but never caught of glimpse of the little guy. In this area, somebody had fastened suet and part of a deer carcass to a pine tree. The Black-Capped Chickadees were taking advantage of this bounty. We had also hoped to see Gray Jays at this suet station, but apparently they had the dates of the festival weekend mixed up and had gone elsewhere for Saturday.

Further down this road, we stopped and hiked in a ways to another area where the Black-Backed and Three-Toed Woodpeckers had been seen. Eureka! A very cooperative Three-Toed Woodpecker was working a pine tree right next to the road and we all got great looks at this handsome fellow.

After hiking back to the bus, we continued on to our next sighting: the Northern Hawl Owl. We were delayed only a short while to make a quick stop so everyone could add the North American Porcupine to their life mammal list. (Sorry, no pictures--this guy was in someone's yard behind some other trees and I just couldn't get a clear shot out the bus window and through the trees, but Lynne saw it too and she will verify that I'm not making this up!)

We headed out to the main road and soon spotted the Northern Hawk Owl near a farmyard. We were treated to several views of this owl soaring out across the fields and finally returning with a small animal in its talons. That was pretty cool. It was quite a ways off the road, but many people on our bus had big spotting scopes along and each of us got the chance to look through the scope at this handsome little owl.

Finally we headed over to Duluth for a little lunch and then on to view some seagulls at the garbage landfill in Superior, Wisconsin. These gulls looked quite beautiful soaring through the sky and we got some pretty good looks at them as they dipped lower toward the landfill. They were mostly Herring and Ring-Billed Gulls, but we also spotted the Glaucous Gull and someone saw a Thayer's Gull. There were also a few Ravens hanging around there too....I really like hearing their croaky-sounding calls.
I was fortunate to get this photo of the Glaucous Gull.

It was getting late in the day and with the Duluth Harbor frozen over and limiting other bird sightings, our trip leaders decided we should head back to Meadowlands to check in and get ready for the evening banquet.

Here's a picture of Lynne and me with Mike before the Saturday night banquet....don't you think he looks a lot more relaxed than the night before? He's already making plans for next year's festival which sounds like it will be even bigger and better than this year.

Lynne and I both both have that wind-burned, "hat-hair" look, but the really great thing about being at a bird festival is that everyone looks like this at the end of the day, so a girl doesn't even have to worry about how bad she thinks she looks! (besides we were too tired to care anyway)

It was fun to sit and review the day with all the new people we had become acquainted with on our bus trip. Our bus had people from all over: Wyoming, Illinois, California, Indiana, and of course Minnesota. We had good tour leaders who made sure that everyone got a chance to see the birds at each stop.

After our banquet (a wonderful feast of meatballs, ham, mashed potatoes with gravy, green bean casserole, coleslaw, rolls, and cake for dessert), we were treated to a very entertaining talk about birds by Laura Erickson. Laura even brought her little screech owl, Archimedes, to this event. Here's a couple pictures of Laura and Archimedes for your viewing pleasure.

Lynne and I left Duluth early this morning to head back to southern Minnesota where we had heard some bad wintry weather was moving in. We did have time though to make a stop over at Sand Creek to visit Deb, her kids and her dogs, and absorb the beauty of her country estate. Wow, what a place! She also gave us the tour of her new home that they're hoping to have ready to move into this summer. It was so nice to meet longer just a link on my blog roll, but a real live person! Our visit was short, but fun. Hey Deb, be sure and let us know when the housewarming party is next summer, so we can come back, OK?
Another photo op -- Deb, Starflower and Lynne

Saturday, February 16, 2008

What a Great Weekend.....So Far

Well, no pictures yet, but Lynne and I are having a blast here at the Sax Zim Bog Festival of the Birds. Lynne is such a wonderful person and I hope all of you have the chance to meet her in person some day. It was great to check in at the festival and get a big ol' bear hug from Mike Hendrickson.....he did a fabulous job of this festival and promises it's only going to be bigger and better next year! We saw lots of good birds today: evening & pine grosbeaks, hoary & common redpolls, three-toed & black-backed woodpeckers, glaucous gulls, and A PORCUPINE!

So stay and the rest of the story when I get home tomorrow.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sax-Zim Festival....Finally Here

Well, it's hard to believe that 24 hours from now Lynne and I will be sitting in the Meadowlands Community Center listening to Dave Benson speaking about "Owls of the North." It seemed like February would never get here when I registered for the Sax-Zim Festival of Birds back in November. Now the day is almost here and I'm almost ready. I picked up the Toyota Sienna from my local Enterprise rental this evening, my field guides are all together in a bag, bins and scope ready to go, organized some knitting projects to take along, and the spousal unit has been briefed in the fundamentals of filling the birdfeeders and feeding the guppies and goldfish. I'm planning to pick up Lynne at her place tomorrow morning around 10 AM and then we're off to the great white north country!

And even though the weekend will go incredibly fast, coming home on Sunday won't be too disappointing because we're going to take a little detour and visit Deb too! I'm so excited about getting to meet two of my blogging friends for the first time this weekend.

Lynne said she's bringing her laptop along, and hopefully the motel we're staying at will have a wireless connection so she can do a post while we're in Duluth. Be sure to check in for stories and pictures of our fun birding weekend.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Birds at the Window

My window feeder tray has been getting a lot of visitors this year. In previous years, I've only put peanuts out there for the bluejays, but this year (thanks to the Christmas gift from my Sissy), I have some really nice Winter Blend birdseed (from Wild Birds Unlimited). I can use this seed in the tray because all the seeds are hulled (no mess on the patio below). The blend contains mostly whole sunflower hearts, but also dried cranberries, nuts, and little suet balls. Of course, the bluejays still come and chow down on all the nuts, but when there's just sunflower hearts left, I have had lots of other birds stopping by this window tray. It seems now that it's been so cold, the birds' desire to find food has somewhat overcome their caution about coming so close to the house. So here are some pictures of visitors outside my window.


Mourning Dove (looks pretty comfortable, doesn't he?)

American Tree Sparrow

House Finch (partially leucistic)

Dark-Eyed Junco
And just for fun, here's a little movie of the chickadee snacking on mealworms at the window feeder.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Happy Monday

In the last couple weeks, I've received the "You Make My Day" award from both Loribird (from the Wool Room) and Maud (at The Yarn Nest--all the way from Finland!)

The instructions are to pass this award on to 10 other bloggers who bring me happiness and inspiration. I know that some other bloggers are also giving this award right now, but I think it's as much fun to get the award as it is to give it away to someone else also.

I would like to present the "You Make My Day" award to the following bloggers:

Richard (At the Water) - fantastic pictures of squirrels and bluejays, plus some pretty funny jokes too

Mary (Mary's View) - I envy her storytelling and writing ability, not to mention the great pictures she always takes--not just birds, but lizards, fish and her two sweet & cute Boston Terriers

Barefoot Gardener - There's always something interesting going on in her life plus she's a good and patient mom and I can't wait to see how her gardens grow this year.

Robin (Bumblebee) - She has Evening Grosbeaks at her bird feeders! She's teaching me about gardening and I'm teaching her about birds.

Monarch's Nature Blog - He's always got some fabulous bird or nature pictures and he's a great mentor for the the young naturalists

Jayne (Journey Through Grace) - She has great birds in her backyard that always pose nicely for the photo ops, plus her "glass half full" attitude inspires me to try and be a better person

Cathy (Looking Up) - Cathy has a lot going on in her life right now, so her blogs aren't as frequent, but when she posts they're wonderful....and her comments on my posts always make me smile.

Lisa at Greenbow - Lisa does wonderful things in her backyard garden and I'm inspired to copy some of her ideas in my gardens next summer. Plus it's already spring at her place--gives me hope here in the frozen northland.

Ruth (Body, Soul and Spirit) - I've learned a lot from Ruth's posts about nature and she's an excellent cook and inspires me to try new recipes using natural ingredients

Marsha (Marsha's Garden & Birds) - A fellow Minnesotan, it's always fun to see what critters and birds are hanging around in Marsha's rural backyard. And her posts about the swans back in January were fabulous.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Recent Projects

I want to thank you all for your kind words and encouragement after my "funky" post of a few days ago. I'm determined to get myself turned around by keeping busy with projects and the joys of starting new ones and completing old ones. So here are a few pictures of some of the things that have been keeping me busy (and keeping me from feeling "funky") for the past couple weeks.

New Projects

Yesterday I took a quilting class with one of my co-workers (she's an expert quilter and I'm always inspired by the quilts she brings to work to show me). We worked on the Butterfly Blooms (a strip club quilt). I managed to get five squares done during the 3-hour class time.

I really enjoyed this class, which was held at the recently opened Pine Needles Quilt Shop a few miles south of my home. Another surprise at this class was finding out that one my high school classmates works at the quilt shop, so were able to spend some time catching up on friends and family news.

Here's the Sweet Alyssum Shawl I started a couple weeks ago--inspired by Julie's posts about alpaca.

This beautiful yarn is called Shimmer (from KnitPicks) and it's 70% Baby Alpaca and 30% Silk. The color is called "Happy Dance" and I felt compelled to start it during the lowest point of my funk. I looks as though I will be able to knit the entire shawl from this one 440 yard skein. It will look much nicer once it's all done and blocked.

Projects in Progress

Here's the afghan I'm making for Lynne's sister Phyllis. Lynne says her favorite color is blue. It's been nice working on this afghan and keeping my own lap warm on these chilly evenings. The pattern is for a baby afghan, but I use worsted weight yarn and a larger crochet hook and the pattern works up as a nice sized adult afghan.

Completed Projects

Here's a pair of dark red superwash merino wool socks. I washed and dried them with my regular laundry and they came out of the dryer looking great. They are a gift for a special person who's looking forward to a birding festival next weekend....

This is a prayer shawl knitted from a free pattern I found on the Knitting Pattern Central website. The pattern used 2 skeins of Lion Brand Homespun yarn.

Here's a hat (also knitted from a free pattern at Knitting Pattern Central). The pattern uses a plain colored yarn and Noro Kureyon for the contrast. Kureyon is a neat yarn that changes color within the skein, so you get nice color changes in your contrast work without having to change yarns (you can see that the middle design of this pattern changes from orange to blue to purple and that's all in the same strand of yarn).
I modified the pattern by knitting a corrugated ribbing to emphasize the contrasting yarn a little bit more.
I really like the way the top of the hat is patterned.

And even though this isn't a project, I thought you might enjoy seeing this little movie of my old girl, Daisy. The snow stopped and the sun came out along with the high winds blowing all the fresh snow around, but as you can see, it didn't deter Daisy from her backyard explorations. She's still pretty spry for a dog who's going to be 15 years old in April.