Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Birding with Ralph Bell

Every May birders from the Ralph Bell and Three Rivers Birding Clubs descend on Ralph Bell's Farm in Greene County, PA for a day of birding, learning and friendship. We walk the country road in search of numerous species. This year the count was 72 of 74 (I forget), but most of the birds were identified by song.

Honestly, we are really there to share time with Ralph. Everyone adores him! He is 94, has lived on the farm his entire life, and he loves and knows birds. He keeps Purple Martin houses, Blue Bird boxes and has given his barn to the Barn Swallows. There are birds everywhere!

Here Ralph is teaching new birders about the evils of Garlic Mustard. Notice the women taking a whiff of this invasive plant.

On our walk we crossed several creeks and streams


easily found numerous wildflowers, like this Star of Bethlehem,

and we even caught a glimpse of the elusive "Rail Bird."

After much birding and strained necks

even by a four-years old

we broke bread and shared Cheetos before banding baby Bluebirds.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Moments at New River

Amazing. It has already been two weeks, two very busy weeks, since the New River Gorge Birding and Nature Festival. Ask any high school teacher what the job is like in May. Circle the wagons, my friends, there is A LOT to do! Add trips to the dentist to repair the tooth I broke in WV to getting the estimate and having my car repaired from the collision with a deer, also in WV, to numerous late nights watching some very intense hockey games and you have a woman with no time to blog. But, one who is a very happy Penguins fan! Whew! What a ride!

It is time to slow down and return to the mist in the mountains of West Virginia.

Meeting all of my blogging friends and new friends was the best part of the week. I'll know better next time to take more photos, but I did manage a few shots. I wish I had photos of everyone. Also, finally, sometime this week, I'll be adding links to to other blogs! Yea! A friend is going to help me understand all that html stuff - to me a language for another universe.

The unofficial Welcome Wagon at New River was the always smiling, ever joyous KatDoc.

Leslie, shown below, and Guy are great new friends even if they were cheering for the Washington Capitols.

Then, of course, there was guide extraordinaire, Julie Zickefoose.

She found us birds, and newts, and a Phoebe nest with eggs and, with hubby Bill Thompson and the other members of The Swinging Orangutangs, rocked the house!

I could not have hoped for a better birding festival. All of our guides were super and the people were awesome! Sign me up for next year!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Almost Heaven - The New River Gorge Birding Festival

The West Virginia rain and fog at the New River Festival, especially at a place called Muddelty, seeped through my skin and infused every cell of my being. Oh, yes. This is a special place. It was a treasure to experience this forest.

I attended the festival for only the last two days. They were two very wet days. Even though most of the birds looked a bit gray in the mist, they were amazing and I was blessed with many life birds. I will always remember a few moments with a Black and White Warbler, Northern Parula, Yellow Chat, Cerulean Warbler and Savannah Sparrow.

The forest oozed magic. I could almost feel the trees breathing. We saw Red-Spotted Newt, the nest of an Eastern Towhee with four eggs, a West Virginia White Butterfly and we heard the glorious bird songs echo through the woods.

We also saw something that still makes my heart ache. On one tree was nailed a sign. This beautiful forest is posted and scheduled to be destroyed, mined by mountain top removal. The earth weeps. Is anyone listening?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sitting on the Back Porch

My favorite place in the world, my back porch, is officially open for the season.

It is in the afternoon shade. The breeze is usually perfect. There are 18 feeders and two birdbaths within view. At this momment Handsome, my favorite Red-bellied Woodpecker, is on the walnut tree. And, since I've gone wireless, I can sit here and and blog. It is a good day!

I wish I could show you a photo, but I still can't download anything. My computer guy, Kaelon, can't visit until Tuesday evening so I won't be posting any new photos for awhile. Bummer. It is spring and there are things to share. The Dutchman's Breeches, Trillium and Wood Poppies are blooming. The Serviceberry Trees are at their peak!

Reading so many blogs about the New River Birding and Nature Festival has me VERY excited about meeting everyone. I'm looking forward to meeting fellow bloggers even more than seeing the birds. I'm sure we will enjoy a tremedous, birding adventure!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

Earth Week Televison

Have you noticed a lot of television programs scheduled to celebrate Earth Week? It is exciting to see the environmental focus. I'm not sure when Earth Day became Earth Week, but I'm not complaining.

I do plan to watch Frontline on PBS tomorrow night. The show is Poisioned Waters and explores the human impact on our water supply, especially from industry, urban sprawl and agriculture. It sounds enlightening.

I want to take a moment to share that I won't be sharing any photos for awhile. A mischievous spirit has taken control of my computer - again. I can access old photo files, but when I try to download new photos it says, "program not found." #*^&!!!

I've had enough! I'm going to buy a new computer, the Photoshop software, and pay someone to get my files off the old computer and on to the new! Wish me luck.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

This morning I went for a walk before anyone else in the neighborhood was awake. The still softness held the fragrance of yesterday's mowed lawns. Bird song was the only sound. The freshness of the day was as a dreamer imagines an ideal April morning. It was perfect.

I was still in my backyard when I heard a Northern Flicker somewhere in my neighbor’s trees. By the time I reached the hillside hayfield behind our property, I found him pounding away in a maple tree. Immediately, I heard my favorite bird, Handsome, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, pounding on a tree stump at the back of our yard. It was exciting to see both birds at the same time.

As I switched my binoculars from one bird to the other, Handsome flew off the stump and headed straight for the flicker. He landed on a branch about eight feet away from the larger bird. OH! What is going on here?!

The flicker continued his work while the red-bellied started talking, screaming, complaining as much as possible. Handsome did not appreciate being ignored. He flew 15 feet to my neighbor's roof, strutted to the metal rain gutter and began to pound. The echo vibrated through the entire valley! Gosh! It was loud! I worried my neighbor was going to step out to see what was going on only to find me spying on his house through binoculars!

Handsome achieved his objective, but his plan backfired. The flicker was more than mad! He was an angry, ticked-off woodpecker! He flew to the roof, chased my Handsome away, and began to pound the gutter even more loudly! I was grateful the pounding went on for only a few moments. Satisfied that the annoying red-bellied disappeared, the flicker returned to his tree. I returned to my hike and contemplated the territorial dance between two species of woodpeckers.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

April Birds and Snowflakes

Look who visited the feeders! This male Orchard Oriole is a new bird for Allhaven! He blessed us with a short visit Sunday, March 29. I took this horrible photo through a window to save a memory of the special occasion. In the original photo the tiny speck of a bird was barely visible, so I practiced cropping to make the bird as large as possible. It visited twice that afternoon, a few minutes at a time, before moving on.

To see a better photo of an Orchard Oriole visit the Cornel Lab of Ornithology website. http://www.birds.cornell.edu/

I was excited and lucky to see this bird. I wasn't even supposed to be home. I canceled plans to attend a Global Warming Conference so that I could enjoy a restful Sunday. I am grateful for my decision!

Do you find yourself torn between travel and staying home? I find this a challenging dilemma. I love to travel, attend workshops and meetings, see and learn new things while meeting new friends, but I hate to miss the visiting birds, to see who is blooming in the garden and to witness the trees change colors throughout the seasons.

I will be giving up a spring weekend at Allhaven soon to attend the West Virginia New River Birding and Nature Festival. I'm sure this will be an AMAZING weekend! I will only be there Thursday night through Sunday, but I am thrilled to be able to attend for even part of the week. I decided I could NOT miss this opportunity a few weeks ago. I made reservations, completed the paper work to take a personal day that Friday and even printed my MapQuest directions. New birds and new friends - I HAVE to be there!

But, before the weekend away, there is a lot to be done. I am using every minute of the less than perfect weather to use spring break vacation to spring clean my house. There is A LOT of spring cleaning! Most of my time has been spent in the kitchen scrubbing and prepping walls for new blue paint. I will finally open a paint can later today.

Other than being super busy with the cleaning, it has been quiet. Nice. Snow has greeted us each of the last two mornings. It seems wrong to wake to a blanket of snow on flowers and buds during spring break. We are lucky that most of the buds are very tight. I think we will still have Magnolia, Lilac and, most importantly, Serviceberry blooms.

The garden is calling, screaming for attention. I must finish this painting project before the days turn perfect for working outdoors.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall blessed Pittsburgh with her wisdom last Wednesday, March 25. And I, lucky, lucky me, was thrilled to be given a ticket to the sold out lecture! You can imagine my excitement to receive the additional gift of a ticket to a reception with Dr. Goodall. I was near levitation!

I could feel the electricity when I walked into the Mozart Room at Pittsburgh's Heinz Hall for the reception. Then, there she was! At the opposite end of the long, narrow room sat Jane Goodall at a tall table. She was surrounded by bright, umbrella lamps for a photo shoot. With perfect posture and a calm smile she greeted each admirer, signed a book, shared a few comments and posed for a photo. Then I had a revelation - everyone was able to have a photo taken with Dr. Goodall courtesy of Robert Morris University. The evening kept getting better and better!

I stood in line and inched my way across the room toward the patient gentlewoman. I passed on the drinks and hors d’oeuvers offered by waiters in cummerbunds. The only things I could think about were the articles I read and the stories of Jane Goodall and the chimpanzees of Gombe. Soon, this amazing woman, friend of David Greybeard, was in front of me. I had goose bumps. I was next!

I was in the presence of a spiritual powerhouse. She was very proper - very English - but this wisp of a woman radiates!

She signed my copy of Reason to Hope, something she has done countless times, but I bet not many fans commented on the use of the word "glorious" within the chapters. It was a short, sweet encounter. Yes! I had my photo taken with Jane Goodall. GRIN!

I will treasure the memory of her inspiring lecture and of meeting this woman who has dedicated her life to conservation and education. Is there any better calling?

Please visit The Jane Goodall Institute to learn more about her work, the chimpanzees, the Roots & Shoots program, and you can leave Jane a birthday greeting. She will be 75 April 3! Happy Birthday Jane!


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spring Renewal

It was necessary for me to be disconnected from cyberspace for awhile. I've done no blogging or even reading of blogs - and painful, little photography for a few weeks. There is a long and very boring list of reasons. Don't worry. I will spare you the elaboration.

This morning, it finally feels like spring. At last it is raining. The grass has brightened up and tree buds are beginning to burst. I feel like I'm bursting too. I'm ready to jump into spring! I'm also eager to catch up with my favoirite blogs. I have missed you!

Since I have no current photos to share, let's spend one more day in the sand and sun of The Gulf Coast. Breathe in the ocean air, feel the breeze kiss your cheek, listen to the gulls...

As we leave the beach behind to begin a new season at Allhaven there is a lot to share. First though, let me tease you with tomorrow's topic. I was blessed to meet an amazing woman last week. She is a spiritual being who radiates hope. Tomorrow - Jane Goodall.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Color on the Beach

Look at this face! A yellow eye with an orange orbital ring and an orange bill - stunning! Oh! I do need to mention the pink legs! The American Oystercatcher, Haematopus palliatus, is easy to spot moseying along the beach.

Ummm... Where's my lunch? There's gotta be a a tasy mussel around just under the surface. Ah... maybe even a juicey, tasty oyster just for me.


Monday, March 2, 2009

Back to Normal = The Good Kind of Busy

Life is back to normal. To clarify, I am just busy with school and home. I am no longer in fast-forward and supercharged busy. I do not plan a return to the supercharged state for sometime. Exhaustion is not where I like to live.

Saturday was marvelous! I presented two sessions at the Washington County Spring Gardening Seminar. I had a great time!!! There really is something special about getting a group of gardeners together to learn and share. The day could not have gone more smoothly and my sessions got great reviews – that is always a nice bonus. Some of the comments touched my heart and I am so very grateful to have had the experience. I am also grateful that the information I shared about habitat gardening was so well received. It was a very good day. I want to send a HUMONGOUS “Thank You!” to everyone who was there!

Tomorrow, as many on the east cost continue to shovel snow, I’ll share more Florida photos of birds on the beach.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Burr, it is a cold day. Every twenty minutes or so we have a break of bright sun between snow squalls. Birds are singing. Yes! The red-wing blackbirds have been back for 10 days and the juncos are still here. The days are getting longer which means I see some daylight - the therefore birds - when I get home from work.

I have made amazing progress on my massive to-do-list. It was easy! After my last post I told myself that there was no need to stress and that it would be easy to finish everything. I asked for ease and it was given.

All of the new appliances have been ordered, a new secretary will probably start one day this week, everything is ready for the seminar Wednesday, after a 2 1/2 hour Planning Commissioners’ meeting we will continue a discussion on land use next month, and my gardening presentation is almost ready. It only needs tweaking!

The sun is peaking through the clouds and my appointment book will not explode. I even took a few photos this morning!

Monday, February 16, 2009

What Happened to February?

Blogging has taken a backseat to living on the run. Not from the law. I’ve not gone over the edge – yet! There are multiple reasons for my absence.

Has there been a time in your life when it was easier to buy new underwear than it was to find a moment to do laundry? That about sums it up.

School is VERY busy, but it is all the other details of the last few weeks that make me feel like an old VCR stuck in fast forward.

Months ago I agreed to be a presenter at the Washington County Spring Gardening Seminar February 28. I’m a Master Gardener and I absolutely LOVE teaching and sharing all things gardening. It is my favorite thing. I’m confident the program will come together and be wonderful, but have I searched and organized slides for my new presentation? Nope. It is still in outline form. Ouch!

What will never come together is my dishwasher. It recently decided that it wanted to rinse dishes for the rest of eternity. It would not stop gurgling and spraying. The ageing Gaggenau was going to run until it killed itself. It has been unplugged and pulled from the kitchen. Bliss loves to explore the depths of the black hole that remains.

Add shopping for a dishwasher to my every growing, extra-long, must get this done right away, to-do-list. And, while running to what seams like most of the appliance stores in a 25 mile radius because, of course, this will be a special order for a tight space, I need to make the effort worthwhile. I’ll just have to pick out a new cook top, range hood and oven. The appliances in my soon to be updated kitchen are 43 years old. Let me repeat. They are FOURTY-THREE years old! The range hood hasn’t worked for a few years. It is time for new. I am going to stimulate the economy. I’m shopping! Then there is the installation….

With all this driving between stores, and school, and doctors appointments, while stopped at red lights, I can read a few paragraphs of our township’s Comprehensive Plan. Normally, serving on the Planning Commission only requires reviewing plans and attending a monthly meeting to hear developer presentations, review more plans and taken action on those ready for a vote. Of course, now, it had to be now, we are rewriting the Comprehensive Plan. Chapters 5-8 for THIS Thursday! Ouch! Yikes!

Oh, I don’t want to forget to mention a project I’ve been pulling together for months. I am organizing a day-long seminar with 12 speakers and breakout sessions for 300 participants. It is NEXT week. Everything is going pretty well, but MY SECRETARY QUIT! Ouch! Yikes! Say a prayer! She did the right thing considering a family concern, but I could sure use some help with registration. I’ll be interviewing for clerical help two days this week, not that I have the time, but maybe, just maybe, the new person will be able to work the day of the program. My fingers – and toes – are crossed. Oh my gosh! Just this instant I realize I forgot to cater lunch for the speakers! Insert scream here.

I miss blogging. I miss taking photos of the birds. I miss sitting in my favorite corner of the sofa reading my favorite blogs. I miss daily visits with writers with whom I feel a connection – even if it is in a cyberspace kind of way.

Know that I’m swimming my way out of this whirlpool. I just have to remember not to struggle to exhaustion. I’ll let the whirlpool toss me around a bit and go with the flow. The results of all this juggling will be glorious: a great conference, a fantastic lecture, a 10 year plan for the township, a new secretary and practically a new kitchen. It is an understatement to say that February has and will continue to be overly busy. Thank you for letting me vent and explore my exploding schedule in this very public way. Ahhh…. Breathe….

Now, where is the phone number for the caterer?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Florida Sun, Sand and Seagulls

Last Februrary I was in Florida. It was a last minute trip and only for the weekend, but a year later I can easily imagine the warm sun on my skin and the sand between my toes. There is something very special about being with the ocean. Sitting on the beach, feeling the breeze, watching the birds and breathing in the sea air - heaven on earth.

My Florida mission was to fit in as many experiences in to my few precious days as possible. The adventure started before sunrise. I headed for Honeymoon Island State Park and Caladasi Island State Park. I read that Caladasi Island was rated the number 1 beach in America by Dr. Beach and that both beaches were top notch places to look for seashells. I was looking for treasures and I wanted to get there just after daybreak!

While driving to Honeymoon Beach I saw this bird sitting by it's huge nest. I took the photo from my rental car. Can you id this bird? I'm sure it is a common shore bird, but I don't know what it is. If you know, I will appreciate hearing from you.

Also, let me know if I made any mistakes in bird identification anywhere. I might know most of my backyard friends, but shore birds are new to me. Also new was my camera. This was my first outing with my new camera and I had not yet started to blog. If I had known about blogging, I would have known to take a lot of photos - of everything!

I hope you enjoy the photos and a visit to the beach this week!

It makes sense that the first birds I saw as I walked toward the beach were seagulls. This Ringbill reminds me of myself, testing the water one toe at a time! I'm pretty sure this is a young bird living his first winter at the beach.

Okay gull gurus, help me solve this puzzle. Is this a Franklin's Gull or a Laughing Gull, or some other gull, and how the heck can you tell? There is a bit of a red tip on the bill, but don't the bills of both the Franklin and Laughing turn redish-orange?

That's enough for today! It is too stressful trying to figure out who is who and which gull laughs and which one does not! Good night, gulls!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

January Past

The first month of 2009 has passed. One twelfth of this year of our life on earth is over. Was it a month well-lived? Was it a month of accomplishment, personal growth, enlightenment, friendship, love, fun, or whatever you had hoped it to be?

Small steps and huge strides, forward and, sometimes backward, have been taken toward each of our individual dreams. Are we any closer to who we hope to become, to how we want to live in the universe?

I ask this, of course, because I ask myself. I have been, and will continue to be more mindful of daily choices. I am more aware of what I choose to eat, how I move my body, and like most everyone, each dollar that leaves my wallet. I celebrated with friends and the world on such an amazing Inauguration Day we will remember it into our next lives. All were precious moments for which I am grateful.

A glorious, well-lived month is after all measured in gratitude of joyous days, days measured in moments of work well done, love, fun and hope.

Friends, February is a short month. Live well.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Ray of Warmth

Yesterday was not a good day to be outdoors with a camera. We had a hard, freezing rain most of the day. When it turned to snow, well it started heavy then turned to a light but blowing snow. The snowing sideways kind of snow.

So in the search for a ray of sun I'm posting an older photo. Doesn't the sun feel good?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ice Day

School is closed. Everything is covered in a coat of ice and the freezing rain is still coming down. It is a very, VERY gray day. I've had a lot of trouble taking photos lately because there is no light. I hope that changes later today so I can go for a walk, maybe a slide, and take some icy photos. I'm not often home in the daylight and I'm looking forward to getting out there!

I did take one shot this morning when a raccoon surprised me in the walnut tree. The young thief was raiding the feeders. It was 7:45 and technically the sun was up, but look how dark it was - still is!

I'm hoping for a few rays of sunshine today. I'm gonna go take some vitamin D!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Scenes from the Weekend

The weather this weekend was bizarre. We went from a very odd 53 degrees to 13. The snow melted. The snow returned.

The birds

and the deer

and the red squirrel

were hungry.

The birds were also grateful for a heated birdbath.