Sunday, March 29, 2009


It was 6:00am. I thought I heard an unusual noise outside the office window, so I crept quietly to the curtain and pulled it aside and ....he was BUSTED!

Oh my, these creatures are so clever! I know it's not such a clear video -- it was still dark outside and I didn't want to use the flash and scare him away -- but the raccoon was SO smart. If he put any weight on the ring at the bottom of the bird feeder, the feeding holes would close, and he'd be out of luck.

So, you may be able to see that he is hanging on, with one paw holding on to the hole and the other one holding on a bit higher...not touching the wheel at all! He cleaned out sunflower seeds from half the feeder!

So much for the creature-proof bird-feeder that cost all of $100!!

We put it lower so that the squirrels couldn't reach it from the tree and thinking that if the raccoons could reach, they would hang on to the wheel and not be able to get to the seed. This was one BIG raccoon!

Back to Square One!!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Oh, Those Beautiful Birds!

I love spring -- especially around our place! We are blessed to live near a long, wooded ravine, and it's a hive of activity at this time of the year. And because we are so close to it, the huge trees at the foot of our garden are frequently a stop-over for some beautiful birds.

Here are some recent sightings -- in trees and at our new bird-feeder:
Here is the female Cardinal enjoying the sunflower seeds

And the male Cardinal followed quickly after her, as he usually does!The Blue Jays don't stay around very long -- a little more nervous than the Cardinals. This one hovered over the bird feeder for a minute, but then I scared him away taking the photo.

I'm really excited about this sighting. It's a Northern Flicker; about 14 inches from head to tail. They came last year in pairs, but he was by himself this time, and sat in that position for over an hour. He's very identifiable by the black 'bib' under his neck, and the red stripe across the back of his neck.

When I tried to get closer with my camera he too flew away.

This, though, is by far the best sighting so far this spring:

He's a hawk! Oh, what a deadly beak he has! I believe, judging by his colour and that striped tail, that he's probably a Broad-winged Hawk. They are usually at least 18 inches tall, and can have a wing-span of over three feet: the 'whoosh' that he made as he flew away was incredible.

He, too, sat there for the longest time, and it was interesting that not once, during that hour or so, did we see a squirrel in the garden. They were no doubt huddled in their nests somewhere trembling with fear. There have been lots of baby squirrels around recently which no doubt attracted Mr Hawk's attention.

Finally, another great sighting:

As you can see, it's not my photo -- but it could have been. By the time I got my camera out, this Pileated Woodpecker was gone. But he looked just like that and in that same position. They are usually 18 or more inches tall -- a lovely sight!

Here we are, living in the middle of the city, (albeit in a quiet, wooded neighbourhood) yet we frequently get to enjoy these beautiful birds -- what a blessing!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Canada Blooms!

So I have been really good. I have kept my promise not to complain about winter. I didn't moan -- just made great exclamation once-in-a-while about the amount of snow we had; wouldn't you?
But look!The snow's just about gone, and here are the first true signs of's even been too cold for the robins until this last week.

But DOTH (daughter of the house) and I were not content with these few signs.When a friend told us about a show taking place at the Toronto Convention Centre this weekend, we just had to go!

It's called

You can read about it here

It's a multi-coloured extravaganza; multitudes of the sights, sounds and smells of spring and summer; a warm, healing balm to melt the 'frozen' soul!

Here are some sights we feasted our eyes on:

While we were at the exhibition, we bought a new bird-feeder. This will be our third in three years. The first one the raccoons destroyed. The second one, the mourning doves monopolized and scared all the birds away. The new one is squirrel-proof and also is designed so that it is impossible for larger, heavier birds -- and squirrels -- to settle on.This is it -- you can read about it here.

You'll no doubt be seeing some great bird photos in the near future!

Look at the trees, look at the birds,

look at the clouds, look at the stars...

and if you have eyes you will be able to see that the whole existence is joyful.

Everything is simply happy. Trees are happy for no reason; they are not going to become prime ministers or presidents and they are not going to become rich and they will never have any bank balance.

Look at the flowers - for no reason.

It is simply unbelievable how happy flowers are.


Finally -- my sister recently posted to her blog this photo of what is probably the world's largest seagull. She spotted it in San Diego. Not to be outdone -- outside the convention centre we managed to snap what I am sure must be the world's largest Blue Jay:

He's about as authentic as that seagull. He's probably 15 - 20 feet tall and as solid as the wood he is pecking at.
The significance is, of course, the fact that the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team plays just around the corner from the convention centre, at the Skydome, now known as the Rogers Centre --

seen here with the CN Tower beside it (the world's tallest free-standing structure; although I understand there is a building under construction in Dubai that will soon surpass it).

All in all, we spent a great day at Canada Blooms!

And we can't wait until Toronto blooms!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Can You Guess What This is?

Well, thanks for all the great guesses! But you were all wrong :)

Let me ask you:

is it the footprints of a three and four-toed sloth? No!

Is it the footprints of a cockroach? No -- thank goodness!

It is the product of DOTH's (Daughter of the House) over-active mind!

It is water splashes on the stove-top that happen to look like minature footprints. It really was a bit strange that they landed exactly like that (the sink is right beside the stove)

DOTH thought it would be something interesting to post on my blog.

Obviously NOT!!

Here's a close-up

What do you think?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Empty Nest Syndrome

The magnificent chalk sea cliffs at Flamborough Head, which project far out into the North Sea, provide a perfect habitat for migrating birds to breed as they pass by the headland. (Turn on the sound for the video above and you'll get a good idea of the noise level -- of both birds and wind!)

The nooks and crannies make ideal nesting sites, and birdwatchers come by the droves with their trusty binoculars hoping for a rare sighting among the over 100 different species of birds found nesting here throughout the year. For avid bird watchers there is a list of the birds that can be found at Flamborough and nearby Bempton, here.

In 1985, over 600 nests of gannets were counted. The gannet has a 6 foot wing span! For amateur ornithologists, the favorite is usually the elusive puffin, known for their brightly colored beaks, and their penguin-like appearance -- although they are not of the penguin family but are of the auk species. Their short wings enable them to swim under water, and in the air they flap their wings rapidly -- up to 400 times a minute! Every visitor to the headland hopes to catch site of one; even better, get a photo of one!When we were there in 2007, we had a couple of rare sightings, but only from a great distance, so I had to be content with this is beautiful rendition of Puffins at Flamborough Head drawn by my artistic sister, Chris.

But I did find this short video on You Tube -- a lovely, lone puffin preening himself on Bempton Cliffs.

Decades ago, birds' nests were ravaged by 'climmers' (climbers). From May to July, gangs of men could be found risking life and limb to gather seabirds eggs from their nests in the cliffs.
They would drive an iron stake into the cliff top, and then one man, attached to a harness would be lowered down the sheer cliff wall. He would have two linen bags slung from his shoulders in which to put the eggs, and his hat was filled with straw to protect him from falling rocks! Amazingly, very few accidents were recorded.

During peak periods, between 200 and 400 eggs per day would be gathered and used as a means of supplementing the climmers income and diet. They were sold for patent leather, food and to egg collectors.

By 1850 a much more damaging activity had become popular -- tourists had taken to shooting birds for sport. This caused a drastic drop in the number of nesting birds and ultimately the Seabirds Preservation Act was passed in 1869.

Climming continued until 1954 when it finally became illegal. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds now owns much of the cliffs where climming was once practised.