Monday, April 28, 2008

Hail, Hail

Screwy late-April weather, even for the Midwest: 75 degrees. Then 35 degrees overnight. Then sunny. Then big clouds. Then pea-sized hail (pictured, in the grass); within 10 minutes it's sunny and all gone. Now 60 degrees, partly cloudy, with strong chilly wind. Never a dull moment.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

His Lordship

"A spectacular crow-sized woodpecker," says the Peterson Guide. It's rare to see pileated woodpeckers on suet, but pairs live here year-round and come to dine and entertain me from December to May, and again from July (when they train their sons and daughters to eat suet) to September (when the parents take a much-deserved vacation). They live for up to 12 years, and dwell in "singles" apartments in hollowed-out trees. The male has a red "mustache." They all scream for joy. The well-known cartoon woodpecker was modeled on a pileated woodpecker. Photo taken today!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Bird Migration News

Seen yesterday: a Yellow-Throated Warbler. My first! Now he's gone. So spring migration is finally in full swing.

Spring's first hummingbird this morning at 7:30. In 2007, first sighting was on April 12.

Anticipated soon: Baltimore oriole and Rose-Breasted Grosbeak. Pictured is last year's male oriole, on the suet. It was May 6. He and his mate mostly drank from the hummer feeders. The orioles stayed two days so I got a photo. Last year's grosbeaks stayed so long I'd hoped they'd settled, but they moved on.

To be fair to everyone else sighted around the food and water today: Pileated, downy, hairy, and redbelly woodpeckers; white-throated sparrow (with the unmistakable song!), chipping sparrow, jay, cardinal, bluebird, crow, chickadee, nuthatch, pigeon, towhee, and cowbird. The cowbirds just got here. The juncos went north last week.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Biggest Quake in 40 Years

Bed was quaking like it was strapped to a motorbike. This woke me up. Must be I had a bad dream, I thought, but I was wide awake and it kept going. Stuff started squeaking and clinking. The clock said 4:40 a.m. "This must be -- an earthquake!"

Checked beneath the bed just to see if anybody was playing with my perceptions. Nothin there but the rifle. Looked out the window to see if other lights in the hills were snapping on. Didn't see any. Then I did what I learned to do when Nature is reminding us who's boss:

1. Put on shoes.
2. Find purse, load it with medicines and checkbook.
3. Sit tight in the room with strongest walls and least windows.
4. Remind myself where are the shutoff valves for water and propane.
5. Switch on TV or radio.

On TV, there was only Cops, so I went online to see if anybody knew anything, but it was too soon, and then at 5:00 a.m. the newscasters came on and said it had been a 5.2 Richter scale earthquake centered 100 miles east of here.

I've felt one other quake, in 1989. That one felt like a truck passing in the street; didn't last 20 seconds. This one was larger and lasted about 40 seconds. Aftershock at 10:15 a.m. Felt disgusted (what, is this quake stuff going to ruin my day??).

Biggest quake since 1968. Exactly on 102nd anniversary of San Francisco quake! Fortunately not big enough to create fatalities. Of course we'd all heard about the New Madrid Fault line that made a horrible quake in 1811, when the Mississippi River flowed backwards and killed about everybody on it. But this wasn't even the New Madrid Fault, it was another, smaller one where Illinois meets Kentucky.

Just a reminder for us all of who is the boss.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Sprang Chickens

Ready to buy? $2.19 apiece at Dickey Bub's. They sell them every spring, for one week. Well fed and warm under a big light they were peeping like it's goin out of style. The initials stand for chicken breeds: RIR = Rhode Island Red; BO = Buff Orpington; RSL = Red Sex Link; click on the link if you think I'm funnin' you. Also called Red Stars. What is it in my brain always makes me so happy to see baby birds, fawns, kittens -- any kind of babies? "Heavy Breed" means they're good for both eggs and meat.