Sunday, March 28, 2010


After registering for the 10th annual "Shreve Migration Sensation" at 7:00am, I elected to start my birding day at a wildlife area with the humorous name of "Funk Bottoms." Here, off SR95, is an observation tower that overlooks nearly 2000 acres of flooded agricultural fields, filled with waterfowl of all sorts. The pools also harbored a busy population of muskrats, doing their spring cleaning and making repairs to their huts.From the platform, I had great looks though my spotting scope at Northern Pintails, Green-winged Teal, Northern Shovelers, Mallards, Canada Geese, a few Buffleheads, a pair of Hooded Mergansers, and more Ring-necked Ducks than you could shake a stick at. Here, too, I saw a leucistic Red-tailed Hawk, whose white wing patches had me scratching my head for a bit. I was lucky enough to see a single Sandhill Crane fly overhead. Of course, the wetlands was filled with hormonal male Red-winged Blackbirds (and only one female that I saw.) The only sparrows I was able to find were Song.

There were also quite a few Wood Ducks at Funk Bottoms, swimming, flying, calling with their funny squeaky whistles, and even one pair imitating Barn Swallows. Who needs a simple Wood Duck box, when you can nest here?
I know it's hard to see, but trust me, there is a Wood Duck drake balanced on the metal hook protruding from the barn, and his lady is resting in the small entry hole nearby. They seemed to be bonded to this site, and kept coming back to inspect it from all angles.
I even saw him perched casually on the wire to the right. A duck, perching on a wire - incredible!

On my way out of the drive, I was happy to find two of a flock of 20 or more Rusty Blackbirds, reported by a carload of birders who were kind enough to back up the lane and let us know about their discovery. Thanks! Ring-billed and Boneparte's Gulls, Eastern Towhee, Northern Cardinal, and the only House Sparrow of the day rounded out my list for the Bottoms.

Next, I stopped by Brown's Bog, but the icy boardwalk made me think twice about exploring this area. I'll have to return in warmer weather to see the pitcher plants and other specialty flora.
A brief stop at Shreve Lake yielded a Common Merganser, a Horned Grebe, my first Great Blue Heron of the day, and birder Su Snyder, who very sweetly shared her birds and her knowledge, but wouldn't let me take her picture. I'll get you another time, Su!

From Shreve Lake, I had planned to visit the Bald Eagle nest site, but somehow, I got a little, well - lost. Let's just say, one shouldn't bird and drive while trying to read a map. Something always suffers.

However, in my quest to find myself and the eagles, I did get some birds that I wouldn't have seen otherwise - a Killdeer, an American Goldfinch, molting into his summer garb, and a lovely pair of Eastern Bluebirds. I also saw this:
(Now you know who makes those plain Amish shirts, pants, and dresses.)

and this:

and this.Yes, people were stupid enough to drive through this flooded spot on County Rd. 1, despite the warning signs. I didn't think the water looked that high, but the current seemed quite strong. I elected to turn around and head back. I'm glad I did, since this little ovine family was only visible on my return trip back County Rd. 8.Doesn't that make you say "awwwww?"

After all the effort, and the cute overload, the Bald Eagle nest was a bit anti-climatic. From over a half-mile away, my look was limited to a tuft of white feathers sticking up from a pile of sticks. Not very satisfying. I have been spoiled by the close views I have had of our local eagle nest over the years. Instead of brooding, I turned my back on the eagle and my scope on yet another flooded field. I was rewarded with American Wigeon, my first Tree Swallows of the year, and a heard-only Northern Flicker.

This is always a good sign - other birders stopped along the road.
This is Cemetery Rd., and it is here that I found American Coots, Redheads, and a Ruddy Duck.

Along the roads, other several birds were added to my list for the day - American Robin, Common Grackle, American Crow, Mourning Dove, Rock Pigeons, a Cooper's Hawk, and a Turkey Vulture on the ground that I first thought was a turkey, until I realized it was eating a carcass while trying to defend it from two aggressive crows.

I had intended to attack the Wright Marsh section of Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area next, but after hiking back to a series of pools and levies, I noticed it was nearly lunch time. Over-ruled by my stomach, I abandoned the promise of more waterfowl, including rumored Tundra Swans, and drove back to the Shreve Elementary School, the hub of the day's events.

After lunch and a quick cruise through the Birders' Market, I settled in to hear this "rare bird," Jim McCormac, share his observations of the rare birds have recently appeared in Ohio, and his thoughts on which species might be next to show up in our state. (Fish Crow and Ash-throated Flycatcher were two of his top three, in case you were wondering.)
Before Jim's talk, I was able to see another Ohio rarity in person, this gorgeous Snowy Owl.
Isn't she lovely?

By now, it was 2:30pm. I had been birding since dawn and faced a 5 hour drive home, so I decided to call it quits. I missed a lot, it seems, and will have to return to Wayne County for more birding adventures, but even in the parking lot of a birding festival, photo ops happen.

In Amish country, bicycles are a common mode of transportation for birders
but I was more amused by the horse and buggy I found parked next to a row of cars and SUVs.
Did you ever want to peek inside an Amish buggy? I have, but after shooting one picture, I felt as though I was intruding and backed off.

Thank you, residents of Shreve, Friends of Killbuck Marsh, and the Greater Mohican Audubon Society, for inviting us to share your great outdoors. In the words of the Govern-ator, "Ah'll be bahk."

Saturday, March 20, 2010

How to Choose?

After mourning the loss of my beloved Grace for the last six weeks, I am entering the next phase of life for a Dog Mom - puppy fever. You know it when it hits you - the yearnings whenever you see a new puppy, the ache you feel when you hold one next to your heart, with its heavy warmth and its little snuffly baby noises, the urge to get back into obedience classes and learn something new - maybe I'll try clicker training this time. Trust me, puppy fever is a terrible disease to endure, and no one suffers more than a vet. Worse yet, there is no vaccination for this syndrome.

The only cure for puppy fever, and it is a temporary cure at best, is to get back into the game and start looking for your next dog. To that end, I am exchanging e-mails with Jane, she of Pups Will Travel, and yes, the breeder of the Famous Chet Baker, for help in finding a Boston Terrier puppy with my name on it.

These two little girls are not Jane's, but from a fellow BT breeder in Georgia. I think I'm in love, but with which one? All two week old Boston Terrier puppies are perfect.

How can a Dog Mom choose?
puppy 1

puppy 2

Who wants to toss in their 2 cents' worth?
Oh, the agony of a decision ...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Nature Report

From time to time, my mother and I call each other with "the nature report." It might be a new bird seen out the window, an 8 point buck in the back yard, or some interesting or unusual animal behavior. When Mom called me this morning at 7:30am with her nature report, I thought she might have seen the first daffodil of spring. Imagine my surprise when she declared, "There's a frog in my toilet."

My first thought was, "It's too early for April Fool's, Mom." My second thought was, "Blog-worthyl!" After she told me Froggy was resisting her attempts to flush him away, I knew I had to drive over for a little capture-and-release action, and of course, photos. It's all about the frog, erm - "blog," right?

I showered, dressed, and hurried off to the rescue. As I drove to Mom's place, I wondered whether I was about to rescue the frog from the toilet or my mother from the frog.

By the time I got there, Mom had trapped her unwelcome guest in a clean butter tub, with holes punched in the top for ventilation. Mom's not cruel, after all. I was disappointed that I missed the chance to take his picture in situ, so to speak, but Mom said he was escaping the toilet and she didn't want free-range frog in her condo. I resisted the temptation to reenact the event by throwing the frog back in the toilet. I settled for a photo of him in his plastic prison.

I figured only a tree frog would be able to hang onto the porcelain during a full force flush, and I was right. Say "hello" to Mr. Gray Tree Frog. Check out the suction cups on his toes.

I only got this one shot, since he was determined to flee. I prepared to turn him loose. "You'll take him to your farm, right?" asked Mom, hopefully.

"Nope! He lives here, so I'll put him on the dogwood tree right outside your door, Mom."
I spent the next few minutes getting up close and personal photos of this cute little guy. I love his jewel-toned eye. See his ear, right behind the eye?

He really blends into the lichen-covered tree bark.
He's camo-frogged!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

New Pottery Pieces

It's been a little slow in the pottery studio lately - bad weather has kept me away from the wheel and my general laziness has interfered with glazing the finished pieces I had at home. The cycle is turning, however. With spring in the air, my enthusiasm has returned. I'm back in class and playing in clay again.

Here are some recently completed pots.

From a workshop on faceting, my first piece. Don't ask me what you do with it, I have no idea.

chun plum on white clay

Actually, it's my second piece. I ruined the first one. Faceting involves using a taut wire (a cheese slicer actually works well for this job) to slice pieces of clay off the sides of the newly-thrown pot. If you cut too deeply, as I did the first time, you cut right through the wet clay.

The next piece went better. Using a wire coil, like the spring from a click-type ballpoint pen, you move your hands from side to side as you slice, leaving these wavy lines.

blue rutile on white clay

I shaped this piece basically square, then rounded it out at the base. It is a decorative salsa bowl, I guess. (Any small pot you don't know what to do with automatically becomes a "salsa bowl.")

I don't know what this is, either. It started out to be a pump dispenser, but the opening is too big to hold the cork/pump unit. Oh well, I like the "beehive" look. Maybe I can use that technique again some time.

goldenrod shino on brown clay

A project I am working on. I want to make a series of these small lidded crocks and fill them with homemade soy candles.Then, when the candle burns up, you still have a small crock to use for ... whatever.

texture kiwi on brown clay

I decided to make an urn for Grace's ashes, and this was the first attempt. It is too small for a Rottweiler, but my cat Manny fits purr-fectly. I was very happy with the shape of this piece, and the lid fits great.

The glaze is a new one for me, Mayco's "Green Tea." It has a nice semigloss finish, leading to a great feel in the hand, and I like the little flecks left by the brown clay. It really makes the final piece look like stone.

Another attempt at a larger urn, this piece decided to be a vase instead. Still, I think I like it.

green tea on brown clay

Finally, the piece my friend Holly has been waiting to see. Several months ago, she asked me to make her a salad bowl. "Just about 10 inches in diameter and 3 inches high," she sweetly requested, little knowing what she was asking. I was sweating and cursing, doubting my ability to get a bowl that large that wouldn't crash and die.

The first bowl looked pretty good until it warped in the kiln during glaze firing. Grrr - back to the wheel and bowl number two. This one was actually better thrown than the first one, but I was terrified to glaze it.

Here it is, Holly. It survived the kiln and I think it looks pretty good. It is just 10" in diameter, but only 2 3/4" tall. Do you forgive me the missing 1/4"?

chun plum on brown clay

I have a new cat stamp to mark my pieces. I like it better than the old one. This upside down view shows you the stamp, and the foot ring. Even that isn't too bad.

click to enlarge for details

I'll get your package shipped out ASAP, Holly! I promise.