Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

I wish a very Merry Christmas to all of you my dear blogging friends and followers. Cherish and enjoy your time with family and friends.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Holly Goes to School

Since the middle of October, we've taken Holly to the local PetSmart for her first Basic Obedience class. This was new for us too as we never took any of our three previous dogs to class -- Rick just had them trained for hunting purposes. Holly did pretty good with most of her lessons and the teacher told us that she was pleased with how much Holly had progressed since her first week at class. I was happy with her progress too -- especially since we started classes less than 2 weeks after Holly came to live with us.

Holly was the "big girl" in class -- all of her classmates were much smaller than she is. Here Holly's checking to make sure Buster didn't miss any treats. Buster was a rescue dog too. He was a really cute little dog.
Here Holly's checking to see if she can barge in on the game with Pickwick and Eddie. Pickwick was a very quiet little guy and somewhat trained when he came to class. His mom had already attended training classes previously with Pickwick's big brother. Eddie was a holy terror on his first night of class. He barked all the time and totally ignored his mom and dad. He really benefited from obedience classes and was quite a friendly and well-trained little dog by the end of class.

Here's Holly with all 3 of her classmates. See what I meant about her being a "big girl?" You should have seen how these little dogs all freaked out the first time Holly barked in class! (She has a really loud bark!)

Our final test was last Monday. I was a little worried about Holly passing, but she did just fine. She excels at "sit" and "down," so I knew we'd do fine with that. She even did well with "leave it," although Eddie snuck in and stole the treat from the floor that Holly wasn't supposed to have. Holly did fine with her "sit and stay" as I opened and stepped out the door. Then it was time for the part of the test I was really worried about: loose leash walking around the store. Holly gets really excited when we go to PetSmart and pulls so hard on her leash, but I had her outside in the afternoon chasing a ball for about an hour, so when the time for her walkabout finally arrived, she was pretty worn out and she did fine. Congratulations Graduate!

As long as we were in the school mode, I stopped at PetSmart on my way home from work the next day and signed Holly up for Intermediate Obedience class. We'll start back to school on December 12th. This class is going to be a lot tougher, but hopefully Holly (and, more importantly, I) will be up to the challenge.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Winter Treat for the Birds

My neighbor cut up a deer for one of his buddies today. I went over and asked him for the rib cage and he delivered it to me a couple hours ago. There's quite a bit of nice fat and meat still left on the bones, so this will provide lots of high energy food for the birds. I did this a few winters ago and the birds loved it! It looks kinda nasty, but the birds don't mind. Plus, none of my neighbors can see into my backyard, so no one else will be offended by this bloody carcass hanging in a tree.
And lookit where it is -- right outside the dining room window! As I'm sitting here at my computer typing this blog post, I have a fabulous view and can hardly wait until tomorrow when the birds discover this rare treat in my tree!

Holly got part of a tasty leg bone out of the deal too!

After I got my bloody carcass secured to the tree, I got a little bit more fall yard clean-up accomplished. The weather's been so mild lately -- quite unseasonable for the end of November in Minnesota. This little honeysuckle with a sheltered southern exposure has been fooled into thinking spring's on the way. Unfortunately, our forecast of rain and snow for tomorrow will certainly guarantee that these tiny buds won't be getting a chance to bloom this year!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Visit to the Dog Park

Holly's completed 3 of the 6 sessions of her first obedience training class. She's quite "exuberant" in class and tends to overwhelm her 4 other much smaller classmates. Since class is currently the only socialization event in her life, Holly's teacher suggested we try getting her out with other dogs more, so we drove over to the dog park on Tuesday afternoon. Holly had a good time investigating all the smells of other dogs that had been there previously.
On account of this being my first visit to the dog park, I had no idea we should have brought a toy and some water for Holly. Fortunately, Mojo and his dad were there with a couple tennis balls and Mojo was more than willing to have Holly chase along with him to fetch the tennis ball.

Mojo's only about 1 year old, but he was much better behaved than Holly. Mojo's dad had spent a lot of time training him and offered us a few tips for working with Holly also.

Holly and Mojo played well together and they were evenly matched in speed when chasing after the ball and coming back with it.

I thought they made a very handsome pair!

After we had been there for about 15 minutes, another couple showed up with their little black lab puppy. This was a very friendly little dog and wasn't shy at all about meeting Holly. She tolerated the little puppy very well too.

And a few minutes after the puppy's arrival, a couple of women arrived with their huge black lab. I heard one of them say the dog currently weighed about 100 pounds! This dog was even more out of control than Holly -- those ladies couldn't do anything with the dog. Holly didn't back down from this challenger and after a few growls and snaps, we decided that it was time to get Holly back in the car and head for home.

It was fun to see Holly playing with the other dogs in a larger space than her weekly classroom. I will definitely take her to the dog park again, but might try the one at the other end of town. I was not thrilled that this park had so much dirt right in the middle of it and Holly had to have a bath after I got her home to get her all cleaned up and shiny again. I've been past the north side dog park and that entire park is all grass -- no dirt. It's also a little busier than the south side park, but I'll try it once to see how we do there.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Weekend at Crex Meadows

On the last weekend of October, we took a trip to Crex Meadows Wildlife Area near Grantsburg, Wisconsin to catch the Sandhill Crane migration. We left early Saturday morning so we could be there in time to see sunset arrival cranes at their nighttime roosting areas in the refuge. We got there early enough to take a drive through the park and observe some other birds. At one area where we stopped, we got to see some Trumpeter Swans.

Trumpeter Swans can be seen at Crex most of the year (except winter), so we felt fortunate to be able to see them this close before their migration to warmer climes.

Holly isn't much of a bird dog, but she kept my seat warm in the car while I was out taking pictures!

About an hour before sunset, the cranes started arriving. We were at the wrong part of the refuge for the first part of this, but after driving around a bit more and seeing where all the other cars were parked, we did manage to catch quite a few of the cranes still arriving before it was too dark.

There were cranes everywhere! Here with "landing gear" down......

A group of cranes takes a walk across the marsh.

Here's a nice shot of a large flock in silhouette against the twilight sky. It's magical so see and hear so many Sandhill Cranes at one time!

Sunday morning brought another chilly and cloudy day, but we did head back out to Crex before the rain moved in. We saw a few more cranes and some waterfowl, but the biggest thrill for me was this flyover of a first year Rough-Legged Hawk.

I felt privileged to be able to capture these shots of this beautiful raptor who had made its migration journey all the way south to Wisconsin after being hatched earlier this year somewhere near the Arctic Circle.

Be sure to add Crex Meadows Wildlife Area and to your birding "must see" list on your next visit to Wisconsin!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

It's time!

I took the cage protector off my suet log a few weeks ago once the grackles left the yard and raccoons were no longer a problem. The woodpeckers loved having easy access to the entire log -- especially the bigger Hairy and Red-Bellied woodpeckers.

But look who I caught eyeing the suet log yesterday.......did you notice the top hole was completely empty?

Yupper!! And here's why! That big ol' crow beak can clean out a suet log in a quick hurry compared to a tiny little Downy woodpecker beak!

So right after I took these pictures, I went out and put the cage back over the suet log. I know the woodpeckers aren't happy, but at least it's not a crow feeder anymore!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Help Me Solve A Mystery

The other day when we were taking Holly for a walk, I found these strange things laying in the road.

There were several together in close proximity, but I've never seen anything like them before.

I'm thinking it's probably something that fell from a tree, but looking up I couldn't see anything like it on any of the overhead branches.

The middle is some sort of woody layer. The outside "prickery looking" kind of reminded me of deer fur. It was stiff, but not sharp like thistles (even though it looks sharp). The inside was short and soft too -- almost like velvet.

Have you ever seen anything like this before? I would have "googled" it, but I had no idea of how to begin describing such a thing for a google search. Please help me solve this mystery!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A New Doggeh!

I managed to make it approximately 3 weeks without a dog after dear old Sophie passed away and could hardly stand not having a dog at home after 30+ years of living with dogs! So, after searching the listings and interviewing several potential dogs, Holly came to live with us on October 7th! Here we are picking her up at Paws & Claws Humane Society in Rochester. (she's got her eyes on a shelter cat up on the counter behind us)

In case you're wondering, Holly's a boxer/pit bull cross.

The story I was told at Paws & Claws was that Holly (her previous name was Cali) was a surrender because there were some "differences of opinion" between her and the other older dog at her previous home. And after the two of them got into a serious "argument" (Holly still had some scabs on her face when we brought her home), Holly needed to find a new home where she was going to be the only dog.

She's a very sweet doggeh and quite attached to both of us already. It's comforting for me to have that warm furry body curled up next to me in bed at night. She even will crawl under the covers after Rick leaves for work at 3:45 and Holly and I get the chance to cuddle until my alarm goes off at 6:00.

She's a licker!

And even though she's a pretty big girl, she doesn't have any trouble curling up to fit the smallest spot next to you (or even on your lap!)

She especially likes laying on the pillows!

Last Sunday my family came over and Holly got to meet them for the first time. She normally doesn't beg at the table, but found that my nephew Ethan was an easy mark -- for begging.......

......and for kissing!

She likes Rick's big leather recliner, but since Kathy and Matt had already claimed it, Holly did the best she could to get her share of the chair.
At supper tonite, I found out that Holly likes broccoli! That's a first for any of our dogs.
And she very kindly and neatly pre-washed the broccoli dish for me too!

Holly's very interested in Penny and after an initial few days of hiding out, Penny has now become accustomed to having Holly around. We do keep an eye on Holly though, for fear that she'll want to play too roughly with Penny. At 15 years of age, Penny's rough-housing days are pretty much over.
We're getting lots of dog walking exercise again now and Holly takes advantage of every chance she can for a nap.
And now if you'll excuse me, it's time to walk the dog!!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Midwest Birding Symposium - Day 2

Friday, September 16th dawned clear and beautiful. Since we were still exhausted from our early morning departure and long drive of Thursday, we opted out of the 6:00 AM birding hike and slept in until 7:00. After getting ready and heading out the door, it was time to officially register for the Midwest Birding Symposium and check out our headquarters at the Den of Blogniquity.
The Den of Blogniquity was a pretty cool place. I also got the chance to finally meet some of my blogging friends face-to-face for the first time ever! In the back row is me (of course!) and Susan (Susan Gets Native). In the front row is Lynne (Hasty Brook), Kathi (KatDoc's World) and Nina (Nature Remains).

Photo by Ann Oliver

More candid shots from the Den of Blogniquity. It was a nice, quiet place away from the hustle & bustle of the symposium. I believe we were supposed to take time to sit down and compose blog posts from there, but honestly, I never got a chance, there was just too much other stuff going on that I wanted to participate in!
Susan and I having a photo duel. See the window peeker in the background? Participants at the symposium were invited to stop by and see what MBS Bloggers actually did. Unfortunately, I think we disappointed a lot of people because most of us weren't there very often.
Here's another look inside the Den of Blogniquity. I would like to take this opportunity to say "Thank You" to Bill Thompson, III for giving me the privilege of being an Official MBS Blogger at the Midwest Birding Symposium.
And before we knew it, it was time to head over to Hoover Auditorium for the opening ceremonies of the Midwest Birding Symposium.
While we were searching for the best seat, we ran into some blog fans. Here I am with Bill Ringer. Lynne told me Bill had e-mailed her prior to the Symposium and was looking forward to meeting here. When we saw him, he knew Lynne right away and then he looked at me (sitting next to Lynne) and said, "the middle-aged, tattooed, biker woman." I laughed out loud right there -- I had no idea Bill was one of my blog reading fans and it was really great to meet him!
Bill Thompson, III gave the opening/welcome message and since it was fairly certain that many of us would be seeing life birds during the symposium, he also gave us instructions on how to do the "Life Bird Dance."
Next was the keynote address from Kenn and Kimberly Kaufmann who talked to use about Birding Ohio's North Coast.
Kimberly did a great job with her talk. She's passionate about birds and birding and getting people of all ages involved in birding, which is a good thing as she's also the Executive Director of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory!
Then it was Kenn's turn to speak. His "Field Guide to the Birds of North America" is my "go to" bird book, so I was really happy to hear him speak in person. And what a nice guy!
Kenn and Kimberly were both such wonderful speakers and just genuinely nice people. You could just imagine yourself sitting down with them somewhere for coffee and pie and visiting about all the cool birds and birding adventures they've been on and it would be like you'd known them forever.
They had a special promotion for Symposium participants who would be willing to go out and get some new people interested in birding. I believe it was quite successful because Lynne told me later that day that she had gotten one of the last cards available.
At the back of Hoover Auditorium was the vendor booth of one of my favorite authors and artists -- Julie Zickefoose. Julie has brought along some of the original paintings that are going to be featured in her new book coming out next spring, "The Bluebird Effect." Julie also brought along her famous canine companion, Chet Baker! If I didn't get the chance to see any life birds during this trip, that would have been OK, because I got the chance to meet Chet Baker and have my photo taken with him! I was missing my Sophie an awful lot and Chet could sense that I needed a little doggeh love. He's one special pup!
One of the fun things we got to do at the Symposium was have our photo taken in front of a "green screen" and choose a special background. I chose to be a Bird Watcher's Digest cover girl. I think it turned out pretty neat.

After a tasty lunch, we headed back to Hoover Auditorium for an afternoon presentation by Alvaro Jaramillo entitled "Birding Outside the Box -- Birding Identification Like a Pro!" Alvaro was a great speaker and his talk combined birding tips and humor, so we had fun learning new things.

Lynne was able to get a few extra birding tips from Alvaro after the presentation also. What a nice guy he was! I hope I get the chance to go on one of his birding trips someday.
Whew, this day is just flying by! After supper, we headed back to Hoover Auditorium for the evening speakers. But before the speakers, there was musical entertainment by The Rain Crows (featuring Bill Thompson, III and Julie Zickefoose).
Then it was time for our evening keynote speakers. Dr. Bridget Stutchbury spoke of her work as The Bird Detective: Investigating the Private Lives of Birds.
Our next speaker was Pete Dunne who read an essay entitled, "The Old Man and the Plover" from his newest book.
Here's a look at Pete Dunne on the Jumbotron in Hoover Auditorium.

And finally our first full day of the Midwest Birding Symposium was over. Time to head back to the motel and get some sleep so we would be ready to head out for tomorrow morning's early birding events.