Sunday, December 28, 2014

Saturday Afternoon Drama

I was sitting at the dining room table this afternoon working on a lace patterned knitting project that requires lots of natural light.  With 4 inches of new snow last nite, it's been a busy day at the birdfeeders right outside my window.  Without any advance warning from the bluejays, a Cooper's hawk flew in to try and catch some dinner.  It landed in the big oak tree right near all the birdfeeders.   Woodpeckers had no warning and had to "freeze" wherever they were until Cooper's finally flew away hungry again.....

This is a first year Cooper's Hawk -- you can tell that by its yellow eyes.  (Adults have dark rusty-red colored eyes).  It's cold out there, so the Coop kept one foot tucked up into its tummy feathers for warmth.

Poor little Downy Woodpecker didn't even have time to fly away and was just barely able to duck down behind the deck railing and hang on by two toes, hoping desperately that the hawk wouldn't be able to spot her.

Here's where the Cooper's hawk was perched in the tree in perspective to the Downy woodpecker on the deck railing.  Distance is approx. 10 yds.  The majority of my birdseed and suet feeders are concentrated in the area outside my dining room windows (for best photo ops!) and there are at least a dozen feeders on the deck and hanging in trees all around this big tree where the Cooper's hawk is perched.

I believe there are a nesting pair of Cooper's Hawks in our neighborhood.  I feel privileged to be able to see these birds up close.  The ratio of Coop's to songbirds is probably 1:200 in my backyard, so if they need to hunt here, that's fine by me.  I see the hawks fly into the backyard several times a day (if I'm home to watch them), but I believe the majority of times they fly away without ever catching anything. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Looking Back on 2014

I got a gentle "scolding" from a friend recently who's been missing my blog posts. So I decided I'd get one more in before the end of 2014. Working two and three jobs for the last few years has pretty much kicked my ass to the curb and left me with neither the energy or initiative to devote to weekly (or even monthly) blog posts. But for those of you not on Facebook or also missing my blog posts, I'll recap my 2014 with one picture for each month of 2014.

A beautiful January sunset

A February snowstorm was beautiful only to those who didn't have to worry about moving all the snow or figuring out how to drive in it! 

In March I took a trip to California to visit my brother.  It was nice to see green grass, water that wasn't frozen, and birds that wouldn't be back to Minnesota for a couple months yet.

April brought a few spring birds back to Minnesota, including this Robin who was determined to battle that "other" robin taunting him from the window reflection.

In May the colorful summer birds finally arrived.  They're the hope we hold in our thoughts and hearts during the long Minnesota winter.

Backyard critters enjoying June clover and other treats falling from the birdfeeder above.

A long July weekend in northern Minnesota gave me the opportunity to photograph this rainbow over Snowbank Lake after a brief late afternoon thunderstorm.
Thankfully we saw more Monarch butterflies this summer than last year.  An August Monarch took advantage of the Rough Blazing Star blooming in my backyard wildflower garden.

In September, this first year Cooper's Hawk was trying its best to catch one of the birds hanging out on my deck.  Unfortunately, no birds were caught, but I did get the chance to capture this awesome photo!

Fall colors delighted the senses in October.

Early one morning in November, this small buck showed up in the backyard to sample some of the corn we put out for birds and bunnies.

Happy Christmas from me and my pretty girl Holly the Pibble!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

On Being Nice

Three months ago, I started a new part-time job at a convenience store.  Recently at work, one of my co-workers commented on how "nice" I was.  I'm sure she meant it as a compliment, but since we're all working in the same store and for the same organization, I thought her comment was kinda weird and it gave me something to think about....

Here's the mission statement from our store:  "To serve our customers and community more effectively than anyone else by treating our customers, co-workers, and suppliers as we, personally, would like to be treated and to make a difference in someone's life."  Simple, right?  Kind of a variation on the Golden Rule and I like this idea. 

If I walked up to a clerk in the store only to have them speak to me in a fast and impatient way, I'd be really put off by that.  And sadly, I've seen and heard several co-workers who respond to customers that way.  Yes, I know we're busy and yes, I see there are 6 customers waiting in line, but can we not still show each customer a few moments of courtesy and kindness? 

Years ago (>15 yrs) when I worked for an employer that utilized "peer reviews" for our annual appraisals, one of my co-workers stated that I was impatient and difficult to get along with (she was an extremely sensitive person and I probably was).  Sadly, that review stayed in my personnel file and prevented me from transferring to any other work areas at that company, because no supervisor wanted a "meany" working for them.  I eventually left the company, but the comments in that review haunt me to this day. 

Now, lest you think I'm a truly lovely person, let me set the record straight right here -- I'm Not!!  If thought bubbles were visible, I would have not made it past my first week at this new job.  I see a lot of things that truly piss me off and it's hard to bite my tongue and be the person who comes in and pays for Funyuns & a 12-pack or Mountain Dew with their EBT card, or the person who comes into "my" clean bathroom and creates a shit explosion that I have to clean up, or the person who does a gas drive-off for $93 on a pump I authorized.  However, to counteract that, there are all kinds of nice people who come in and really make my day better. 

There's no way to know what some of these people are dealing with in their lives, we have lots of senior citizen customers who maybe don't have any family members nearby and are lonely.  We have truckers who are only an hour or so away from home, but end up spending the nite because they are at their maximum hours for driving.  Many travelers stop by our store in the middle of a trip:  to a funeral, taking their child to college, or returning from a 24-hour vigil at the hospital where a grandchild just had surgery.  It's my pleasure to take a few minutes to talk with them.  Maybe I'll never see them again, but hopefully they will remember their visit to my store and possibly stop in the future, or at one of our other stores, based solely on the fact that someone was "nice" to them at a previous store visit.

So yeah, I think I'll just keep on being nice (at least when I'm being paid for it....)  Simple to do and makes most everyone feel better.  And if my co-workers think I'm weird, well, I guess that's their problem.  I'm not going to lose any sleep over it, cuz I know when I'm the customer in any store, even if I have to wait, I'm always going to choose that "nice" cashier I had on a previous visit.

So I'll end this rant with my standard farewell for my customers, "Thanks for stopping.  Please come see us again!" 


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy 2014 Everyone! I hope all of you survived the "Polar Vortex" with no lingering difficulties. Minnesotans expect this sort of weather in January, but I feel especially bad for folks in other areas of the U.S. who don't have the resources to deal with extreme cold and snowy conditions. Earlier this week we hit -25, not a new record, but still TFC for most of us. Fortunately the cold snap lasted only a few days. Yesterday we had temps above freezing and some freezing drizzle early in the day which changed over to light snow in the evening. That soft ice coating on the trees caught and held the snowflakes quite nicely and we woke up to a winter wonderland. Here are some of the images I captured while filling birdfeeders earlier this morning. Hope you enjoy them from the comfort of your warm house!

The butterfly garden is waiting for spring -- hopefully only 4 more months!
Frosty asparagus remains
Highbush cranberries will be a tasty treat for robins when the come back in spring

These were purple coneflower blossoms last summer

Swamp milkweed -- seeds have scattered in the wind

 Kokopelli windchime still dances from a tree branch

The birds have picked all the seed from this small sunflower clean
Crabapples provide a treat for chickadees, cardinals & starlings
A lone oak leaf remains on this tree
Apples that didn't get picked provide a feast for bunnies & deer
Common mullein
A frosty apple ornament still hanging on the tree
Mountain ash berries -- we've found that deer love feasting on these!
Frosty evergreen
Enjoy the beauty of winter!