Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Freckle belly

chihuahua belly

The big brown "freckles" on Pup2's tummy reappear each year while we're here in Florida. When we return home to Lake Gaston, they fade away. I guess she does more sunbathing down here than she does at our house in the woods in North Carolina.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Society finches cuddling

society finches

Wouldn't the world would be a better place if we were more like society finches?

society finch

Society finches love to crowd together in a nest at night. Instead, I gave them this fuzzy tent, so they don't make more little society finches. But last week an egg appeared. I assumed that it would get bumped out of the tent long before it hatched, and I was right. The next morning I found it broken on the cage floor. So far they haven't tried again.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Party conversation

We attended a party at our neighbors house tonight and met a couple who were visiting from Wisconsin. They mentioned that they would be in Florida for a couple of months, but needed to get back to Wisconsin by April, to get the bird houses ready before the purple martins return. In my opinion, this is how to make a great first impression!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Breakfast of champions

chihuahua jumping

This photo of our pups really shows the difference in their personalities (and appetites). Pup1 (in the background) waits patiently for her breakfast. Pup2 is not patient!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Alligators of the Everglades

Here are some more photos from our trip to the the Everglades last Friday. We saw 136 alligators that day, so as you might expect, I came home with quite a few alligator photos.

There were warnings posted "Stay at least 15 feet away from alligators". Impossible to do when the alligators were in the road (above photo) and the road is only about 10 feet wide and stepping (or in our case, biking) off the other side of the road might land us right on another alligator.

We saw lots of babies, like the one in the above photo. The photo below is Alligator #52. He was the biggest one that we saw - looked like he'd just eaten a small child.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Don Pedro Island

I love Don Pedro Island! It's a small island off the west coast of Florida, accessible only by ferry or boat. We just spent three days there - I am fortunate enough to have a sister who is fortunate enough to own a home there. It's a nature lover's paradise - beautiful beaches, lots of birds and not many people. We walk along the beach everyday, zip along the sandy roads in a golf cart and eat the most delicious fresh fish meals, thanks to my brother-in-law. Did I mention that I love it there?

don pedro island turtle

Our turtles at Lake Gaston don't look like this!

Foraging for breakfast...

Got one!

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Everglades

We spent the day in the Everglades National Park at Shark Valley. About 75 miles from here but well worth the drive. We had visited there last year, took the tram ride around the 15 mile loop, walked up the observation tower, saw tons of alligators and birds and absolutely loved it. This year we skipped the tram ride and rode our bikes around the loop instead, which was definitely a better way to view the wildlife. We counted 136 alligators. We didn't count the birds - just admired and photographed them (a lot).

So far I've just included three of the photos - a Wood Stork, a Purple Gallinule and the crow that stole my peanut butter sandwich from my bike basket while we were on the observation tower.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


I have hand raised a number of gouldian finch babies and they have grown up to be wonderful, friendly little pets. Even after they are weaned and move into the aviary, they often fly to me and land on my shoulder or head when I enter the aviary. Lana, the white breasted gouldian finch in the above photo, was not one of my hand-fed babies, but she's a friendly little girl just the same. In the aviary she would often fly to me to play with my hair or shoelace. Unfortunately in our Florida winter home there is no aviary and the birds have to spend a couple of months in large cages. My tame birds are allowed out of their cage every evening because they readily hop onto my hand and let me put them in their cage when it's bed time.

Lately Lana has indicated that she really wants to come out and hang with us. Anytime we walk near her cage she hangs on the cage bars and chats with us. So, last night I opened up the cage to give her the chance to come out for a visit (hoping that her cage mates didn't all decide to hop out with her). When I opened the cage door she took a couple of tentative short flights around my head, then back into the cage. After awhile she came out for some real exercize, flew around with my tame gouldian finch, Daytona, and ended up hopping into his cage with him. As I expected, she didn't readily hop onto my hand to be transferred back to her own cage - I needed to dim the lights and grab her from the perch. Didn't seem to bother her though - tonight she came out and we went throught the whole routine again.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Pillow talk

Pup1 loves pillows and blankies - and she knows some comfy padding when she sees it...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Toy Story

chihuahua shopping

Pup2 loves toys! Yard sales are full of these little stuffed animals for 25 cents or less. And I guess it's a sign of our age that we often comment on how many stuffed animals children have these days (we only had one stuffed animal each when I was a kid, yada, yada, yada). But that doesn't stop me from buying dozens of these a year for our 5 year old puppy-child. The above photo shows her at a yard sale picking out some toys for herself.

I've tried a few systems for keeping her daily toy selection "fresh". Here's a game that was a lot of fun (for both of us) for awhile. Each night when she went to bed in her crate, I would put gather up her three toys du jour, hide them in my secret hiding place, bring out three different toys and hide them around the house. Then she would get up the next morning and run around like a crazy pup looking for the new toys. Each day was like Christmas for her. Well, all good things come to an end, and this game ended when our impatient little pup refused to wait until the next morning for her toy hunt. One night she went to bed, gave me enough time to hide the new toys, then whined until I let her back out of her crate. Of course, once she found her fresh toys, there was no getting her back into bed for awhile.

chihuahua toy

Time for a new game (photo below). Now I keep a pile of toys in my closet and each morning she jumps in and chooses her three toys for the day. Much contemplation and careful thought go into her decision each morning. She knows that once she brings out three toys, the closet door gets closed.

chihuahua toy closet

Monday, January 16, 2006

Rocking turtle

When I saw this turle, it reminded me of an exercize that our yoga teacher uses to torture us. Lying on our stomachs, we lift our legs up,bend at the knees, grab our ankles and with our back arched, rock back and forth. With his hard shell, my guess is that this guy can rock back and forth with much less discomfort.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Lady With the Alligator Purse

Remember this cute book?
Well we didn't see the lady or the purse, but we did see our first alligator of the season. And a full-blown sighting it was! Most of the time we just see the eyes and snout sticking out of the water, but this guy (probably 7 or 8 feet long) wasn't afraid to show off his big leathery body and appeared to be enjoying the sunshine.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Palm sounds

palm tree

A couple of years ago, our neighbors wanted to get rid of a couple of palm trees. I can't remember why they no longer wanted them, but we were happy to take them off their hands. Our little south-facing patio was in full sun most of the day and more shade was just what we craved.

As we expected, the new palm trees have pleasantly shaded our patio. What we didn't anticipate was the beautiful sounds that the palm fronds make when they blow in the breeze. It's just so pleasant! And today we had the added bonus of a serenading mockingbird.

sunrise through palm tree

This photo (above) is one of our beautiful sunrises. One of my New Year's resolutions is to get up in time to see them.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Missing the worms

Last year I made a promise to my husband that when we made our next annual trip to Florida, I would bring fewer pets. Of course, I did not mean the pups, so this meant selling or giving away some of my gouldian finches. And although I did sell a few and give away more than a few, I don't think my flock population decreased at all due to the summer baby boom. So, just like last year, the rear third of our minivan was filled with bird cages.

But this year, in a half-hearted attempt to "travel light", I didn't bring my mealworm colony. And I miss them. So does Liz, our little back porch pet lizard. Last year I tossed her mealworms & she would gobble them up. Liz of this year is smaller than Liz of last year and probably could use a mealworm feast once in awhile.

And when I baked an apple pie today, I thought of the worms - they love apple leftovers. If they were here, I would have given them this pile of peels & cores and by tomorrow, only the seeds would remain.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Goldilox & the three pets

This little chair was too big..

but this little chair

and this little chair

were just right!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Winter break

At home in North Carolina, my husband and I do quite a lot of volunteer work. Here in Florida, much less. Our only volunteer work here is our Mondays working with Habitat for Humanity of Collier County. Most of the volunteers are retirees, and we love it when we are joined by various groups of college kids. Today we welcomed a group of kids from Kansas City, Mo.

I really admire these kids who give up their vacations to do this work. When we were in college, our breaks from school were "all about us" - going out, sleeping late, getting sunburned. It never occured to us to use our time and energy to help others. The photo above shows some of the kids working on the roof - a job I never volunteer for. I spent my day safely at ground level installing door knobs.

Here are some of the finished homes.

Friday, January 06, 2006

After spending quite a few hours fishing & coming up empty handed, my husband declared our little Florida lake "fish-less". This osprey proved him wrong.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Passing the time

On our recent drive to Florida we decided to pass the time playing Birdchick & Cinnamon's travel game. But here's the thing - we saw zero eagles, not too many hawks, and way too many vultures. And what about those vultures flying overhead ... how are we supposed to know which side of the road they're on? Or do they only count if they're not in flight??? And what about those 2 great blue herons that I saw? I think they should count for something. Anyway, after the whole stretch of Route 95 through South Carolina we were both scoreless. All of our hawk points erased by those darn vultures!

Around the Georgia border, hubby moved to the passenger seat, closed his eyes and said "You watch, I'll be the rabbit." As for me, I switched to a new game - looking for cheap gas (yeah right) and a Dairy Queen at the same exit. No luck with that game either.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A few little tricks

Shortly after Christmas each year, I pack up my finches for our annual trip to Florida. Trying to catch them as they fly around the aviary is one of my least favorite bird chores. The trust of these friendly, curious birds which I've built up over the year is eradicated in a just few minutes, as I swoop a net around the aviary trying to catch them in mid-air.

But over the years I've learned a few tricks which help make this task a little easier. First, I move their stack of travel cages into the aviary, cage doors open and sprigs of millet spray inside. Usually this will lure some of them right in. This year was no exception - a bunch of them hopped into the cages, but as soon as I walked into the aviary to close the cage doors, they flew back out. No dummies, these birds. I tried sitting quietly in the aviary, hoping they would go back into the cages, but no luck. I caught exactly one gouldian finch this way - my tame finch, Daytona, who would have hopped on my finger and let me put him into the cage anyway.

Onto my next trick - I gave them their bath bowl (photo above) which I had withheld all day. They love bathing and in no time at all they were splashing around. When they are soaking wet, they don't fly as quickly and are much easier to catch and I was able to catch about half of them quite easily.

Trick 3, and this never fails, is to turn down the lights and just snatch them from their tree branches in the dimness. They don't see well in the darkness and usually won't try to fly. Unfortunately my aging eyes don't see well in the darkness either and I'm thinking that if my eyesight continues to decline, this method will be useless to me in a few years.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A Christmas Eve Tradition

If you weren't a skier in the 1960s, you may not recognize this mode of transportation for getting to the top of the slope. Rope tows could be evil to those wearing a long scarf or a "stocking cap" as we called those really long hanging hats that we wore back then. If something made of yarn so much as brushed against the rope, the rope would "grab" it and start twisting. With a hat or mittens, this wasn't so bad ... you were just left with a cold head or hands. But a scarf tied around a neck, now that could be deadly. My parents owned this little ski area for about 10 years of my childhood. Luckily we never saw a death by scarf - everyone seemed to heed the "No scarves" warning signs.

This is me a few years later on a nice spring day. As you can see, I learned to relax. I still love spring skiing - to be able to enjoy the sport without freezing my toes & fingers is very nice indeed. But we've lived in North Carolina for 8 years and now I only ski once a year. Each year we spend Christmas at my parents' house in upstate NY and every December 24th the family members who aren't working spend the day on the slopes. So I don't get to choose the weather for my ski outing. This year we were lucky - temp about 35F. To most skiers, that would seem quite warm, but I take no chances. Each year December 23rd finds me at Dick's Sporting Goods buying those little disposable toe warmers and hand warmers. I love them!