Thursday, December 29, 2005

A tight fit

My society finches don't seem to mind the small quarters of their travel cage. Here's a photo of 5 of them squished into their food dish for the night.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Two blind pets

This little cutie is Lizzie, my sister's blind daschund, that I babysat a few weeks ago. Lizzie has been blind for a few years and appears (to me) to be clueless and sad much of the time. Now the sadness may have just been due to the fact that her beloved Mommy was away for 5 days. But I think the cluelessness is perpetual. This photo shows her with her ears "inside out" and she doesn't even seem to know that she just needs to shake her head to straighten them out. Or maybe she's just trying out a new look.

The photo below is of White Boy, my blind society finch. White Boy never seems sad. He spends much of his day dancing and singing, just like his brothers. The rest of the time he spends fluttering around the aviary until he bumps into something that he can grasp. For months I avoided making "furniture changes" in the aviary for fear of confusing him. But I found that changes didn't seem to phase him much. He's very adaptable and manages to find food and water no matter where the dishes are placed. That being said, last night I moved all of the birds from the aviary into cages in preparation for our migration to south Florida in a couple of days. Now, I'm not sure if he has found his water bottle. So a couple of times today I grabbed him (which he hated) and placed his beak to the water bottle (which he loved). I'll continue to do this a few times a day until I'm sure that he can locate it by himself. When we arrive at our winter home, the birds will be moved from their travel cages to large cages and we'll go through the whole process again.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

the first day of Christmas

When Pup2 yawned her way to life this morning, she had no idea that she would later be facing off with the big dog.

Pup1 is a bit more nonchalant - Big dog? Yea, whatever.

But things started looking up for Pup2 when she received her first Christmas gift of the season.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Stretching their wings

It's been awhile since I posted photos from the aviary. Here are a few of my finches flexing their muscles.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Royal terns

The birds at our feeders weren't deterred by the pouring rain here today. Nor did it stop me from wandering outside with my camera when we saw 6 buffleheads near our dock. But, they flew away before I could take the photo. So instead, I'm posting a photo that I took last week in Florida - 2 Royal Terns. Cute aren't they?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


The average beach walker might think "aren't those shells pretty!"

But this unfortunate bird who has one clamped onto his toe might think differently...

Monday, December 12, 2005

For the Bats

You know how it goes when you're surfing the web, one site leads to another then another, and the next thing you know you're reading an article about the benefits of bats and how to build a bat house. Maybe your meandering surf path never ended up here: , but mine did & I decided that we needed a bat house. I copied the plans and casually mentioned it to my agreeable husband who said he would build one ... when he had the time.

Hmm, time to check ebay. And yes, they had some listings for bat houses. A few clicks later & one was on the way. As per the instructions we mounted it on a building near water (our boat house) facing south. It was a bit tricky putting it up ... 2 legs of the step ladder on the boat and the other 2 legs of the ladder on the dock. Always safety conscious, I stayed on the ground where I could make the 911 call if necessary.

Hello bats, goodbye mosquitos!

Saturday, December 10, 2005


While sitting on the beach Thursday evening I thought about a chapter in Frank McCourt's book, "Tis", where he wrote about his plan for a perfect evening, enjoying three of his favorite things simultaneously: lemon meringue pie, ginger ale and a play (or movie, can't remember which). The plan didn't exactly pan out for him and he ended up eating his pie in the bathroom of the theater.

This is what brought that story to my mind: three of my favorite relaxation activities are knitting, yoga and bird watching. And here I was sitting on the beach, spine perfectly straight in a half-lotus position, knitting a scarf, and watching the shore birds skittering in the beach foam. What could be better than this? Maybe having my husband sitting beside me .... with chocolate.

I was the only person on the beach until a man with a glass of wine (why didn't I think of that?) walked by and said "don't be alarmed if a big bear type animal comes lumbering along". I replied "OK", continued my activities and promptly forgot his warning until this (photos below) showed up beside my ear.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

more Don Pedro Island

Another day of shooting photos that I'm still unable to download to sister's computer. So, again I searched her computer for some photos to post, and found these two: An egret on top of her screened porch & a beautiful sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A walk on the beach

Walking on the beach this morning, I noticed 2 things:

  • It's always farther than it looks
  • When it comes to beach houses: the bigger & more extravagant the house, the less likely it is to be occupied (except by the construction workers that are there to make it bigger & more extravagant).

I took a lot of photos, but can't seem to get sister's computer to recognize my camera, so I searched her hard drive for some nice Don Pedro Island photos. And even though she's not much of a bird person, I found some nice photos of a great blue heron on their dock, and also one of an immature great blue heron.

Monday, December 05, 2005


I'm vacationing on beautiful Don Pedro Island, Florida. Those that know me are probably asking "Vacationing from what? You're whole life is a vacation!" Actually, I'm sort of working here. I'm babysitting my sister's 3 dogs while she and her husband are away. One of the pups, Lizzie, is a "special needs" baby. She's blind and almost deaf, but when it comes to email writing, she's quite prolific as evidenced by the email that I received from her last month -

Hi Sue,
It's Lizzie here - I thought I'd write a quick note to say how excited I am that you'll be coming to Florda to take care of me. I'm currently writing an essay on my typical day so you know what to expect. I should have it done by the end of the day.

And, as promised, she emailed her essay to me by the end of the day:
My typical day… by Lizzie

I sleep in a cage. Mom calls it a “condo” because she thinks that makes me feel better about it. When I wake up I want out… OUT I said. So I cry and whine until Mom gets up. I try to wait until she’s awake, but sometimes she sleeps past 6:15… lazy girl.

Mom opens the door, picks me up and carries me to the kitchen where she feeds me and my brothers. Keil eats like a PIG, he’s done in seconds. I like to savor my fine dry dog food. As soon as Keil and Ben are done eating Mom opens the door and lets them go downstairs on their own. She then waits for me to finish and carries me down the stairs. She takes me out the entrance by the barbeque grill. And if the boys have wondered off she calls for them to come over in the same area. Sometimes I hear her mumble about the boys wondering too close to the street. One time Keil went way down the street toward the bridge and mom was mad at him for days! But I digress…

I’m quick; I know what I’m outside to do. I poop, then pee… but don’t rush me, sometimes I poop again. I then get a lift upstairs where Mom helps me find the water bowl and then I lie down for my first nap of the day. If mom watches the morning show on TV I nap on her lap, but now that she has high speed internet, she puts two pillows on the floor by her feet and all three of us nap there. The clicking of the keyboard lulls us to slumber.

When I awake… usually around 9:30 I might start to wander. That can only mean 2 things… I need to pee/poop, or I need water. If I didn’t drink earlier, that usually is what it means. Mom has a big gold cup with my name on it that she often brings to me to drink out of. It’s easier for her than leading me to the water bowl. If I still wander, it might mean I need my second pee/poop break. What… you don’t poop 3 times before 10 AM???? Mom always gives all 3 of us treats when we finish our second bathroom break of the morning.

Once that’s done, I usually settle in for my next nap. If it’s sunny and nice mom has the living room doors wide open and I find a sunny spot to lie down. Meanwhile Ben is spending all of his day following mom’s every foot step and Keil is barking at the passer-bys… until mom puts his barker collar on him. Mom always takes the collar off at night once we settle in to watch TV, but in the morning, if he starts barking, she puts it back on him again. That dog just does not learn!
Editor’s note: If Keil barks with the collar on, it will eventually empty, and need to be refilled. To refill, take the blue canister with “citronella” on it and while holding it upside down firmly insert the nozzle in the hole in the top of the collar. It will only go in the hole with the circle ring in the middle. The other hole is the sprayer.

Sometimes I wake from my nap and find a new place to nap; it’s usually just feet away from my first spot… no point in tiring me out. If I wander too long Mom assumes the same as paragraph 4… and out I go again. Mom is always guessing when I have to go to the bathroom. The boys are a little more obvious. They go stand by the door. I would do that too, but I can’t find the door. When the boys stand by the door mom will just open it and let them go down. Sometimes Keil won’t go unless she goes with him… I’m not sure if he’s afraid to go by himself, or if he just wants mom’s company. Sometimes she tricks him by starting down a few steps, he runs ahead and doesn’t notice that she has stopped and came back upstairs. I never said he was a smart dog.

The day goes by until it gets close to 5 PM. That’s when we think we should get dinner… well Ben thinks closer to 4 PM would be better. But mom makes us wait until at least 5, and she tries for 6 but sometimes gives in to the whining, jumping, and overall nuisance behavior. We all get fed, and then mom lets the boys go out and carries me. This time I poop and pee, I seldom poop twice after dinner, it just seems wrong.

Once back upstairs I look for a place to nap, once it gets dark mom closes the doors to the outside. Even though there are screens she complains of a little bug called a no-see-um. Apparently they go through the screen and annoy her. The rest of the evening consist of waiting… just waiting until mom decides to sit down for the night to watch TV. In the new leather chair she pulls the ottoman close. I get the lap, Ben gets to sit beside her leg, and Keil cuddles on the ottoman. If I fidget while I’m on her lap that means only two things… water (thank goodness for the gold cup at her side) or it’s bathroom time again.

Mom and Dad try to stay up until 11, but Ben likes to go to bed earlier. So about 9:30 or 10 he stands by the door and looks longingly at mom. Sometimes she opens the door, lets him go out and then he goes to bed by himself. I’m not sure if he really wants to go to bed or just wants the treat we always get at bedtime. When it finally is bedtime, mom and dad shut off the TV, that click is our clue, but if that isn’t enough mom shouts “last call”. We know what that means. The boys climb downstairs while I get a ride down. We’re usually quick at last call, because we know we get a treat when we go to bed. The boys sleep on the blanket that’s in the bedroom, and mom puts me in my “condo”.
Editor’s note: The condo will be in the guest room when you arrive. The purple blanket in the living room is what the boys sleep on. It’s in the bedroom at night and I drag it to the living room during the day.

We sleep through the night awaiting our morning meal. As you can see, we lead a simple life, sleep, eat, poop, pee, drink, treats, lap time… that’s all there is to it. The more lap time, the better.

PS I eat poop. Mom hates it. So when I’m outside she watches me and yells if I start to sniff toward a poop. I play deaf. So she follows me around and taps me on the butt if my nose gets to close. Sometimes I ignore that too. This is all very fun for me, and sometimes she’s busy watching the other dogs and I’m quick. Score one for me.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Crooked little house

I took this photo on our way to Raleigh Thanksgiving Day. It brought back a childhood memory. Remember this one?
There was a crooked man,
And he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence
Upon a crooked stile;
He bought a crooked cat,
Which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together
In a crooked little house.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A flicker, again

This blog has no shortage of flicker photos, but I thought that this one framed by the autumn foliage was too pretty not to post. Yep, there are still leaves on the trees here at Lake Gaston, NC. Falling fast, though.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Gouldian finch aviary

First of all, let me just say that if I'd known that hubby was going to be hanging outside of the aviary with a camera I would have combed my hair before "bird chores".
I've raised many different kinds of finches in the past, but this photo (sorry for the blurriness), shows why gouldian finches are my favorites. Not only are they beautifully colored, they're also curious and friendly. It's no accident that there aren't any society finches in this photo. When I walk into the aviary, the society finches scatter and keep their distance. The gouldians come on over for a little visit.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The common loon

Yesterday was our first loon siting (kind of) of the season. First we heard it. Then hubby saw it, pointed, and I turned just in time to see the ever-widening water circles that he left when he dove. We waited. And waited. And when he surfaced far from the place where he dove, hubby again pointed, and again I looked just in time to see the water circles. We waited and waited & never did see where he surfaced. Amazing divers, those birds. But today I saw him (or another one) swimming near our dock.
The photo above is one that I took last spring of a common loon with his beautiful summer plumage. I wasn't close enough to take a photo today, but he looks much different in his "winter coat".

Monday, November 28, 2005

10,000 Robins

OK, 10,000 robins is an overstatement, but 500 robins might not be. And 200 robins defininetly is not an exaggeration of what we saw on Friday. As we watched, flocks of robins flew into our trees in groups of 20 to 50 at a time. They would stay for a few minutes, fly off, then another group would replace them. This amazing scene lasted about 30 minutes and we haven't seen any robins since. In fact, we rarely see robins here. Maybe the occasional one by the roadside, but almost never on our wooded lot.
So, why is my photo of the day Pup2 and not these robins??? Well, it's a bit risky handling a camera when bird watching from a hot tub, so as a second choice I'm posting Pup2 snuggling in her blankies on a chilly day.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The juncos are here!

Now that the weather has turned cold here in North Carolina, we have sunk to a new low in "bird watching wimpiness". Most of our watching is done while we're sitting in the hot tub on our deck. When we start to see dark objects dropping from tree limbs almost straight down to the ground, too fast to be a falling leaf, we know that the juncos have arrived. Those cute little guys in their batman capes are some of my favorite winter visitors.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Shades of purple

I've been breeding gouldian finches for about 4 years and until recently I've seen just 2 breast colors - white and purple (dark purple for males & pale purple for females). This photo shows a purple brested female in front, a white breasted male in the middle, and a purple breasted male in the back.

There is a third breast color, lilac, which is paler than the normal purple breast. I'm assuming that the young male in the photo below (and he's definitely a boy - sings all the time!) is a lilac breasted gouldian.

His breast color is even paler than that of his sister, shown in the photo below.

It seems odd that I've never had this mutation show up before. I haven't added any new birds to my aviary in 3 generations (bird generations, that is). Also odd is that the breast color of his mother (photo below) changed dramatically after her molt this fall. Until she molted she had a purple breast, just like her daughter in the above photo. Since her molt, it seems to be a mottled mix of purple breast and white breast.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Reflection ...

I don't know if this great blue heron saw any fish in the lake, but he could certainly see himself!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The woodpeckers & the hawk

Strolling with Pup 1 yesterday, I heard two birds calling loudly to each other in the woods. When it comes to recognizing bird calls, I'm admittedly a bit weak and I couldn't identify the birds by their sounds. But I figured if I watched closely I might see something interesting. And I did. It turned out to be a pair of pileated woodpeckers. I just love those birds and we usually only see them a couple of times a year, although we often hear their hammer-like pecking in the distance. I picked up the pup and hurried home for my camera and binoculars. I managed to snap some not-too-great photos before they "flew the coop" with a red-tailed hawk following them. Unlike the woodpeckers, the hawk landed nearby and posed nicely for some photos.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Taking it easy ...

I have a comforter (really thick, really comfortable, really flowery) that my grandmother gave me when I was in my teens. Without getting too specific, that was about 30 years ago. She also gave similar ones to my sister and my 3 cousins at the same time. When I pulled mine out at a family reunion out a few years ago, they all remembered them, but not surprisingly, theirs had all gone missing somewhere along the line.

This is not a comforter that gets put away in a closet and forgotten. I use it often. Most evenings I pull it out along with about 6 pillows and Pup 1 and I snuggle in front of the television. After hurricane Katrina, I gave a lot of thought about things that I would take with me if I ever had to evacuate, and Grandma's comforter is definitely on my short list.

For the last month I've used it many afternoons for my lazy bird watching. (The birds aren't lazy, I am.) We've had no shortage warm sunny days this fall and many afternoons I've spread the comforter out on our dock and spent some time looking up. When these vultures started circling directly above me,
I decided that I must be lying a little too still.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Even though our daytime temperatures are still in the 70s, this squirrel seems to be checking out his future winter home.