Saturday, May 31, 2008

First Save of 2008

Driving into work this morning, I saw a small box turtle on the road. He was in the middle of my lane, and I didn't see him in time to stop, so I carefully straddled him, then turned around to go back and move him off the road. For some reason, many people find sport in hitting a turtle, so I try to move every one I can find.*

*[When I say I do turtle rescue, I have to confess to a certain prejudice. I tried to save a snapping turtle once and he kept biting at me. Now, I limit my efforts to BOX turtles only.]

This was a fairly young guy, so I took the opportunity to lecture him on highway safety.

"Stay off the road, little turtle," I admonished. "It is a very dangerous place to be." I set him down on the grassy verge, taking him in the direction he had been heading.

As I turned back toward my car, I thought I saw the adolescent "eye roll." I definitely heard a sigh and a muttered, "WhatEVER."

Teenagers. You can't tell them anything.

Rejected, Protected

Just when I think I know everything there is to know about bluebirding, I learn something new. Today, for the third time in a row, when I opened the front of the nest box I was greeted with this image:

The first time I saw an egg out of the nest cup and up against the front panel of the box, I thought it must have been jostled out by mistake, and I gently rolled it back into place. The second time, I began to wonder if there was something wrong with the egg and it was being rejected, but I erred on the side of caution, and replaced it into the nest. The third time, it was obvious that Mama Bluebird doesn't want this egg for some reason.

This is the first time in 15 years I have seen a bluebird reject an egg. I haven't removed it from the box, just in case, but I highly doubt it will hatch. How does she know?

These are the times I wish I had a nest cam, to watch what was going on inside the box. I imagine Mama B struggling mightily to move this object up and out of the nest. "I told you -
umph, ha, oof - that I don't want - erg, hmmm, aah - this thing - huff, puff - in my - ooh, ow - nest. Now, stay out!"

On the other hand, Mrs. Tree Swallow has filled her nest with so many feathers, you can't see anything else. Just 9 days ago, I captured this image:

Today, this is my view:

Baby Tree Swallows, are you in there?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday Funnies: Pirate Jokes

When I was a kid, it was elephant jokes that tickled my funny bone. Later, I fell hard for blonde jokes. I'm still totally addicted to light bulb jokes. ("How many ____ does it take to screw in a light bulb?") But, the newest kick in the pants is Pirate Jokes.

I have a friend who professes to be part of a pirate crew. This is for him, and for the pirate in all of us. Arrrrr!

* * * * *

1) A pirate walks into a bar wearing a paper towel on his head. He sits down and orders a dirty rum. The bartender brings him his drink and asks, "Why you are wearing a paper towel?" The pirate says "Arrr - there's a Bounty on me 'ead."

2) A pirate walks into a bar, and the bartender says, "I haven't seen you in a while. What happened? You look terrible!"
The pirate says, "What do you mean? I feel fine."
"But, what about that wooden leg," says the bartender. "You didn't have that before."
"Well, you see," replies the pirate, "there was a terrible battle at sea. A cannon ball hit me leg, and the surgeon had to amputate it, but he fixed me up with this peg leg and I'm fine, really."
The bartender continues, "But what about that hook? The last time I saw you, you had two hands."
"Well," says the pirate, "there was another battle and we boarded the enemy ship. I was in a sword fight, and my hand was cut off, but the surgeon fix me up with this hook. I feel great, really."
"But," insists the bartender, "what about your eye? The last time we met, you had two eyes, and now you are wearing a patch."
"Well," says the pirate, "one day on ship I was looking up while some birds were flying overhead, and one of them pooped in me eye."
"How did that cause you to lose your eye?" asks the bartender.
"Well, you see, I wasn't used to me 'ook yet."

3) Why did the pirate cross the sea?
..... To get to the other tide.

4)What do you get when you cross a pirate and a zucchini?
..... A squashbuckler

Monday, May 26, 2008

Something Fishy's Goin' On Here

Sometimes, I love my job. One of those times is when a drug company or pet food company or lab service company invites me out to eat at some nifty spot. Of course, they invite 100 other vets, also, but that is just so I won't feel lonely! And, the price is right. If I listen to a short spiel about what they have to sell, they will feed me and entertain me and get me some CE credits, too. Faithful readers of this blog will remember the WEBN Fireworks show and river cruise, also a Continuing Education course, that I attended last fall. Yeah, life's tough in the vet med biz.

Last week, it was Antech Lab's
turn to spoil me. Dinner, two hours CE and free admission to the Newport Aquarium. Whoo-hoo! I'm so there!

The aquarium is at Newport on the Levy, an upscale shopping-dining-entertainment venue on the Ohio River, in Newport, KY. Seems like most of the best places to go in the Cincy area are in Kentucky these days, but you do get nice views of the Cincinnati skyline.

There were so many cool critters. Photography was tough; the lights were low, things kept swimming around, and of course, I couldn't use a flash, which would reflect off the glass (and would probably bother the residents, too). Despite all that, I managed to come home with some decent shots that I'm not too embarrassed to show you.

I don't know the name of most of these things - make one up if you must have an ID. Otherwise, just enjoy the pictures.

Some kind of ray swimming overhead in the tunnel.
Some kind of shark, ditto.

Blue starfishPink anemoneand green ones


Another kind of shark - white tip, maybe?
Shark being chased by other fish
Shark in the dark

A shark ray

Primitive looking, isn't it?

Some other kind of ray


The aquarium is awesome. Can you believe it? I'd never been. I only had about 30 minutes to look around, and I had to pack in as much viewing (and blog-prep) as I could in that short amount of time. I can tell I will have to go back and see everything I missed, including the aviary. Surely even I could get photos of birds that can't get away!

Friday, May 23, 2008


Thought I'd end your week with a happy tail, er, that is, tale. Monday, a Good Samaritan came by our practice with a lost dog she had found in her subdivision. The old yellow Lab was obviously a well-cared for and loved pet, and by her stiff gait, I didn't think she had wandered too far from home. She was dragging a long, worn-out webbed leash, with several frayed and thin spots, attached to her choke-chain collar. There was a rabies tag with an out-of state phone number, so we called the vet's office. The staff there informed us that the dog's name was "Emma," that she was 12 years old, had no serious health issues, and was current on her vaccinations. They also gave us the owner's name and the only phone number they had for her.

We started calling. We got a generic answering machine message, asking us to "Please leave a message." We did - several times - without a reply. Tuesday, we started calling again, same results. Meanwhile, the Good Sam called back. She had paid for an Internet search on the owner's name and came up with 3 different addresses. She was checking them out; could we please keep Emma another night? Of course.

"What did I do to deserve this?"

At this point, I am starting to fall for this old girl. She loves to go on walks, enjoys being brushed, knows several commands, and will lay quietly at my feet while I am charting or on the phone. She has ears which neither stand up nor hang down, but fly straight out to the sides, and has the funny quirk of trying to bury her dog food, piece by piece, in her blankets. I know somebody is looking for this dog - why haven't they called back?

Late Tuesday afternoon, we finally reached a person at the phone number we had been calling, only to find out this is no longer Emma's mom's number. Dead end. The Good Sam hasn't called back, either. When I walk Emma outside, she inspects every car, looks around, and sniffs the air. "This is not my home," she told me. "I don't live here. I have had fun visiting you, but I would like to go home now."

"Has my Mommy called yet?"

"I know, Em. We're trying to find your Mom."

"Has anybody called the shelter to see if she was reported missing?" I asked. No one had, but by that time the shelter was closed for the evening. Emma stays another night. I am seriously considering whether I could care for another large dog.

Wednesday morning, I asked again. "Has anybody called the shelter yet?"

"Oh, no, we forgot," came the reply. "We'll call now."

As soon as the receptionist hung up, I knew it was good news. They immediately dialed a different number and Emma's mom answered at the first ring. She was just about to go out and put up posters in her neighborhood. She arrived at the clinic in 10 minutes.

Was she glad to get her dog back? Was Emma happy to see her mom? A picture's worth a thousand words.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Drive In Movies

There used to be over 4000 drive-in movie theaters in the US. Now, there are less than 400. Thankfully, one of them is in Clermont County. And, they are showing the newest "Indiana Jones" movie.

I went tonight. What a blast! Remember this?

Now, it looks like this:

Sit back and enjoy the show. I won't spoil it for you by revealing the plot, the surprises, or the jokes. Later, when all have had a chance to see it, I'll tell you my favorite line from "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls."

PS: No, I could not stay for the 11:30pm showing of "Ironman." I'm old, I need my beauty sleep.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Disaster Averted; Dilemna Remains

Accck!!! (Charlie Brown shriek of agony) I have narrowly avoided a tragedy with my Purple Martins, but am not sure how this story will end. This morning, as I was getting ready for work, I was watching the martin colony from my bathroom window (my best bird-watching window.) I noticed the couple who occupy Gourd #13 were acting agitated, fluttering around the entry hole, perching on the arm of the gourd rack just above their home, and then fluttering around again. Just then, I spied a male and female House Sparrow. They were bringing nesting material into Gourd #13, a gourd which not 3 days ago held a martin nest. The martins tried to repel the invaders, but it looked like they were fighting a losing battle.

I gathered up my martin gear and stomped out to find out what the hell was going on. As I walked under the gourd rack, most of the birds flew off, and when I lowered the rack, those still in their beds left as well.

All except Gourd #13, which was rocking violently. As it came down to my head level, I could hear rustling and
flapping sounds from within the gourd. I froze for a moment, and couldn't decide what to do. As I started to remove the cap from the 4" diameter access hole, a HOSP flew out of the entry hole. I peeked inside and saw a dark body lying still in the back of the gourd.

I swallowed hard, took the gourd down, and turned it in my hand, trying to get enough light inside to inspect the damage. I was sure I was going to find a dead martin, or worse, a severely injured one. Just as I was trying to get up the courage to put my hand inside, the bird turned his head and looked at me with one clear, bright eye. It was an ASY male Purple Martin. He seemed comfortable in my presence, not distressed or anxious at all.

"Are you OK?" I asked softly. He thought about it for a second, then flew off through the entry hole, seemingly uninjured.

That damned House Sparrow had him trapped in his own home, and would have killed him without my intervention. I was sick over it. Anybody who still disagrees with my choice to trap and remove HOSP should have been there today. And, it's not like the HOSP needed that spot - there are at least 4 or 5
other empty nesting sites they could have chosen to use.

In retrospect, I should have plugged up the entry hole immediately, taken the gourd off the rack and opened it up inside a large, clear plastic bag. Then, I could have sorted out wanted from unwanted birds and done in the criminal. Now, I don't know what to do. The HOSP won't be deterred in their attempt to usurp #13 by this incident. The martins who live there are still at risk, as are the other 11+ active nests in the colony. The Tree Swallows are on eggs, the bluebirds' second clutch has just gotten started - all these families are in danger.

I left #13 plugged till I can get back and sort everything out on Thursday. There were no martin eggs, so they don't have to get in right away, and maybe I can divert the HOSP to another (empty) spot, where I will have a better chance at trapping them.

Wish us all luck! Updates later...

Edit: Checked my records - this gourd held 4 eggs on Sunday. No sign of them today. Damn! I haven't seen the HOSP on my place, but heard the nasty "cheep, cheep" of a male HOSP at my neighbor's house this afternoon. Stay there, you little creep.

In other boxes/gourds, the Tree Swallow 5 are fine and the second bluebird egg was laid today. That box has a sparrow spooker on it. One martin gourd with 5 eggs (safe), one with two new eggs, the rest are still just nests. Don't know if Mr & Mrs 13 will try to re-nest or not. It is early, they would have time if they care to try.

Chihuly Glass

Rooting around in my blog attic, I find these photos from Franklin Park Conservatory, in Columbus, OH, that I forgot to share with you after my visit in April.

As well as the many plants and exotic tropical birds that entertain you when you visit Franklin Park, you can get a taste of art as well. The Conservatory is the only botanical garden to own a signature collection of Dale Chihuly's art,
glassworks so exquisite as to take one's breath away.

Four pieces are on permanent display.

I think this is my favorite: Blown glass balls floating in a koi pond. Awesome!

For those fascinated by this art, the next showing of the full collection will be in 2009.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Walking at CNC

I'm so glad my office is close to the Cincinnati Nature Center. It's great to take a break in the middle of my day and spend an hour or so strolling the paths.

My eyes and ears got me a total of 24 species of birds in a one hour walk this afternoon. When I pulled in, I heard my first Eastern Wood-Peewee of the year. That and the Eastern Towhee were the only two "heard and identified, but not seen" birds of the day. There were lots of things I heard that I didn't identify, and one bird that I saw and still haven't figured out. I think it was some kind of female warbler. Best bird of the day was the female Summer Tanager. She had me stumped for a while. I got "female tanager," then had to hit the books to sort out Scarlet vs. Summer.

My Trip List includes two "Heard Only" species (peewee, towhee) and two "First of Season" birds, the peewee again and the tanager.

Turkey Vulture
Chimney Swift
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Peewee
Barn Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
American Robin
Magnolia Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Summer Tanager (F)
Indigo Bunting (M/F pair)
Northern Cardinal
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird (M/F pair)
American Goldfinch
House Finch

Of course, I have no bird photographs for you. I take pictures of things that don't move (plants) or that move very slowly (turtles, secure squirrels.)

Plant people, help me out. This is Dame's Rocket, right?

I always confuse this with phlox. I think that the four petals means it is a member of the Mustard family. True phlox, wild and cultivated, has five petals. That's right, right?

Some day, this tree is going to fall into Lotus Pond. Every year it seems to sag a bit lower. So far, a person can still walk under it, but one day, look out...

This squirrel was one of umpteen thousand that I saw today. Most of them were pretty skittish, but this guy was comfy and content to let me watch and photograph him from the bird blind.

These turtles in Lotus Pond were doing their best to warm up in the sun.. Too bad there wasn't much sun out today. See the bird box in the background, upper right? It is for Prothonotary Warblers, although I have never seen them nest here. I do see them nesting in a similar box on Powell Lake most years.

I wish you all walks in the woods.

Edit: Walked again at lunch on Tues and added these birds

Blue Jay
Baltimore Oriole
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Good birding!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Purple and Blue All Over

I spent some time sitting quietly under an apple tree today, watching all the action going on at the various nest boxes and gourds. The main goal was to sort out the ages and sexes of the martins nesting in the gourd rack. I am trying to figure out how many are ASY (After Second Year) birds and how many are SY (Second Year.) There were too many distractions to get a complete count, but I did get some photos to help you see the differences.

[Aside: The year the young are hatched and fledge is their Hatch Year. They migrate to South America for the winter, where they molt, and return the next year as subadult or SY birds. This is their second summer, or their first breeding season, and they are basically teenagers. They migrate again that fall and acquire their adult plumage, returning as adult or ASY birds.]

This is an ASY, or adult male Purple Martin. He's the easiest to sex and age - he's purple all over. You can see how the species got its common name. Isn't he gorgeous?

I have seen at least 3 ASY males so far this year, maybe more. (Won't everybody just line up and sit still for a head count, please?) Last year's colony was started by one ASY male, so at least two of these guys are probably my SY's from last year, all grown up and come back home from South America.

This is an ASY female. She has some purplish coloration on her head and back, but her breast and belly are pearl gray.

Another ASY female. An SY female would have a whiter breast, but the big key to distinguishing subadult from adult females is the undertail coverts (feathers under the tail.)

Here is a close-up of the undertail coverts in this ASY female. In an adult female, the feathers have a gray center. In a SY female, they would be all white. I haven't seen an SY female yet, so I don't have a photo of one for comparison.

An SY male. Subadult males look an awful lot like adult females, which is one reason why my census is going so slowly. Look for a dark throat and irregular purple blotches on the breast and/or belly to ID a subbie male. If you can hear one sing, that clinches the ID, since females don't sing, but there is a lot of noise in a martin colony, and it can be hard to tell who the songster is.

I have been a bit lax in my martineering duties so far this spring, and today was my first complete nest check. Imagine my surprise to find that all 12 of my main gourds have nests and three of those have eggs!

Martin nest.

Notice the mud dam in front of the nest cup, which is lined with green leaves. I find martins make these barriers in the larger plastic Super Gourds.

Martin nest with 5 eggs in a natural gourd.

I also have a pair of martins interested in a Super Gourd that is hung on a shepherd's crook (the one that was intended for tree swallows and where I trapped a starling.) I'm surprised they would choose to nest so low, but all the prime spots are taken. I have seen 3 different martins exploring the aluminum house, but as far as I can tell these are all bachelor subbie males.

[Aside: Most colonies end up with extra SY males. These boys hang around the colony, trying to usurp already attached females. Juvenile males are the same all over the animal kingdom, always causing trouble.]

The Tree Swallow couple has five eggs.
This is the best look I can give you of the female.

The male isn't shy about being photographed, though.

The bluebird couple has a new nest, which looks to be nearly complete.

I haven't seen the fledglings from the first clutch yet, but I got some great pictures of Papa today.

Please indulge my bluebird addiction:

One last photo of an adult male Purple Martin.

And, for the ultimate in nestbox cams, go here to see the Columbus, Ohio, peregrine falcons. Live streaming video of Orville and Scout's clutch of 4 babies.