Wednesday, May 31, 2006

5/31/06 Mid-week bunny fix

Happy Feet

This photo of Cricket shows a pose that is very familiar to bunny owners. When a bunny is feeling particularly content and safe they will stretch all the way out with their feet behind them. A bunny can't get away quickly when they're in this position; in fact my big guys scrabble and slide around on the floor for a bit before they manage to get upright.
Bunny people call this "happy feet" and think of it as the ultimate form of bunny relaxation.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

whorled leaves reading group

Just in case you haven't already checked it out - have a look at the whorled leaves blog (linked also on my sidebar) where I'm a member and occasionally post. Whorled Leaves is a great community of thoughtful readers that look for inspiration from the natural world and from good books about the natural world.

Each member has a chance to suggest books for the upcoming month. July is my month and I've just posted my selections. Have a look and please participate there also with your ideas.

Monday, May 29, 2006

In praise of Viburnums

A garden without a viburnum is akin to life without music or art. - Michael A. Dirr

Viburnums, like this Linden Viburnum (Viburnum dilatatum) are my favorite woody shrubs. I love the way they bloom and are smothered in a veil of creamy white. The tiny flowers attract a nice variety of insects and in a good year they are covered with bright red berries in the fall. Their habit is upright and somewhat stiff; mine are massed in a group of three along the property line.

We moved these as mature plants when we put in the pond and just this year they seem to be coming in to their own again in leaf and flower, although they are in a more shaded location. We also used to have a doublefile viburnum, which was drop-dead gorgeous in bloom (but sterile), unfortunately that one did not survive the move. In its place, I've repeatedly planted another favorite viburnum: Smooth Witherod (Viburnum nudum) that has gorgeous pinkish/purple berries, but I can't seem to keep them alive. Of the two planted last fall, one is clearly dead and the other is struggling and has only managed to put out a half-dozen leaves. I'll have to decide what to replace them with; I'm thinking about a Cranberrybush Viburnum (Viburnum trilobum) which has a more *wild* habit, but beautiful fruit that is loved by birds.

If there is room for yet another plant in your shrub border, there is sure to be a variety of Viburnum that will suit your site - and the birds and bugs will thank you. :-)

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Blushing peony

With a few flowers in my garden, half a dozen pictures and some books, I live without envy. - Lope de Vega

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Along the Navesink

Marine Park, Red Bank NJ

I went to the river today hoping for a breeze - summer seems to have arrived overnight. With summer in NJ comes overbearing humidity. Yuck. There was enough wind for a few sailboats to be out and many families were at the marina for probably the first time this season, readying for a day trip on the river to Sandy Hook or NY Harbor. A few kids were crabbing from the dock - seems a bit optimistic to me so early in the season. I was surprised to find barn swallows here, twisting and turning low over the water between the moored boats. I got only one pic before a swallow flew too close for it to have been an accident - it perched on the railing of the boat in the foreground and chittered at me for a moment. Once I backed off, it flew from the railing to the underside of the stairway leading down to the dock where it had made a nest over the water. Quite a surprise!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Do you hear what I hear?

This story on NPR today made me chuckle - the things teenagers will do to confound adults! I know that I hear birdsong better than non-birders, simply because my ears are *trained* to hear what distinguishes one birdsong from another, but this story reminded me that not all birders are able to hear all birdsongs. As we age, our ability to hear high-pitched sounds decreases. In my mid-thirties, I can hear the very high and thin notes of a flock of cedar waxwings, but as I age I will likely lose this ability to hear their "seeeeeee" notes. The high upslurred notes at the end of a Blackburnian's song are also hard to hear if your ears are less sensitive.

Small flocks of cedar waxwings accompanied the dog and I on our evening walk today. They were congregating in the black locust trees in the neighborhood, attracted by the many insects, I guess. I've also noticed that hummingbirds seem to have a fondness for locust trees, at least the ones in the grove at Sandy Hook's North Pond.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Spring pond pics and new friends

I gave in and let my husband add a few koi to our pond last week. I'd been adamant about not wanting koi because I'd read that they'll tear up and root around in all of the pond plants. Yet, he convinced me to give it a go and so we did. I picked out a nicely-colored gold and yellow koi who has been hiding under the waterfall since we brought them home. This white butterfly koi in the photo, on the other hand, is a show-stealer! It swims on the surface showing off its lovely long fins and stealing your attention from the less fancy fish. Another of the koi seems to be slightly off-kilter or crazed; it swims along the bottom of the pond and twists itself against the creases in the liner and occasionaly jumps out of the water!

I mentioned earlier in the week that the locust trees are blooming. They've now started dropping petals everywhere; mostly in the pond, it seems. The effect is pretty, even if it does require a daily skimming with the net. Last year around Memorial Day I had lilies blooming, but this year it will be later because I only just replaced the plants that died over the winter. The plant at right is Parrot's Feather, which the new fish seem to enjoy munching on. I bought a small plant to provide some cover for the fish, knowing that it will grow and spread by mid-summer. It's an interesting plant in that the feathery foliage closes up late in the day.

We've also attracted another frog to the pond. At least I think this is a different one than the one we found when we did our spring clean-up. This one seems a bit smaller and greener than the last one. Late in the afternoon I find him peeping at me from between the rocks under the hosta plants and mint that line one side of the pond. I'm not sure what he's finding to eat. I hope his presence isn't the explanation for a few fish that have vanished in the last few weeks. Very seldom do I find a fish floating; they just disappear. Last summer we had *issues* with a very large bullfrog eating our goldfish. I never would have believed his mouth big enough until one afternoon when my husband called me to the pond to see him with the fins of my husband's favorite blue ryunkin hanging out of his mouth! We were able to remove the fish from his mouth (ahem!) and relocated the bullfrog to the farm pond around the corner. That poor fish was never the same again, and I found him floating a few weeks later. Anyway, I enjoy this guy's company and hope he will behave himself here.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

5/24/06 Mid-week bunny fix (a bunny's eye view)

Missy is snarky even when half-asleep

Freckles is cautiously optimistic

Boomer's sleepy contended glance says it all

Cricket is ever watchful and alert

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Watercolor iris

I'm going to spend this evening visiting all those blogs that I've been neglecting the last few weeks. I've missed all of you and am anxious to get caught up with all that's been going on in your lives. I offer in place of a nice photo today this *photoshopped* version of a pic I took the other day.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Cinnamon fern

Cinnamon fern grows in wet woods and is good cover for small woodland creatures. Books say that hummingbirds sometimes use the fuzzy young fronds to line their nests. I found these growing on Saturday between visits to Dora at the vet's in a quiet county park.

I like to visit this park because of the variety of habitats. The entrance, with its lined walkway of sycamores, attracts nesting Baltimore and Orchard Orioles. The scrubby fields used to be good for Blue-Winged Warblers, but Saturday I found only one singing his lazy "Beee-buzzzz" song. The dark, wet woods have Wood Thrush and Ovenbirds and many Common Yellowthroats. Most importantly, it is quiet there. No soccer fields, no playgrounds, no bike bath, no planned and managed *open space*. Just nature, without any amenities or improvements.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Staying busy

I spent today looking for things that would make me happy. This is what I found:

1. Many emails from my friends with kind words about Dora. Thanks friends!
2. My husband weeded the Rose of Sharon bed - that was long overdue and looks nice now.
3. Boomer was playing with his measuring cups this morning. Silly boy!
4. We went out and bought some new goldfish for the pond. My husband let me pick out the ones with the most freckles that he knows are my favorites (shubunkins and chubby ryunkins who swim funny). It's great fun to add new fish to the pond because the others are so interested in the new guys! They always do this thing where all the fish swim around the perimeter of the shallow end in a long line with the new fish in tow. Fun to watch! We also bought a new waterlily called, "Colorado" that should have apricot-colored blooms. I need to get out and take some pics soon.
5. All of the black locust trees (also called yellow locusts) in the neighborhood are blooming beautifully and filling the air with their sweet fragrance. The flowers are white and hang in large clusters. There's a nice pic at the link above.
6. A Merlin zoomed through a flock of starlings this afternoon while I was planting petunias in the front yard. I would not have spotted the Merlin if the starlings hadn't given its presence away with their strange alarm squawks.
7. Our vegetable seedlings are doing well and haven't been decimated by the critters yet. I need to take pics of the fortress my husband built around the veggie garden. My husband is so much like his dad, he has to do everything in a *big* way.
8. We had a fabulous thunderstorm in mid-afternoon . With huge white puffy clouds and the sun shining while it rained. Like a fool I stood in the rain looking for the rainbow - I know it was there just over the horizon.
9. I looked in the chickadee box expecting the babies to have fledged. Instead, I found at least five sleeping babies, all in a huddle. Very sweet!
10. As I write this Freckles is having her *play time* in the office. She doesn't get out often enough, so she is kicking up her heels like a bunny fool. She makes me laugh.

As good a day after as I can ask for.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Dora's gone to the Rainbow Bridge

My sweet Dora passed away today. The poem below is one I found in a nice little book called Life Prayers. I send along a handwritten copy with my bunnies any time they go to the vet's. It is a prayer for healing written by Elias Amidon.

Friend, you lie quiet,
watching the dawn light color your heart,
dreaming of healing for your hurt body
laying there unanswerable to your will.
You breathe deep and your breath has two sides:
inside and outside. You are on both, being breathed.
The future approaches. You will heal or
you will go back to being God.
Which will you do?

Oh by all that is beautiful--
May it be that you live!
May your body heal happy and whole!
May energy fill and delight you!
May we join the dance your presence gives!
May you live!

And if you die?
Oh dear self, by all that is beautiful,
Know you are Safe! Everything is All Right
Forever and Ever and Ever!
The most wonderful, exquisite, familiar
Truth is what is True, and welcomes you.
It will be very easy.

You lie quiet now, praying.
A great healing is coming
and you want to be ready.
The colors of your heart blend
with the light of the morning.
You are blessed.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Robin on nest

Beloved of children, bards and spring,
O birds, your prefect virtues bring,--
Your song, your forms, your rhythmic flight,
Your manners for the heart's delight;
Nestle in hedge, or barn, or roof;
Here weave your chamber weather-proof.
Forgive our harms and condescend
To man, as to a lubber friend,
And, generous, teach his awkward race
Courage and probity and grace!
--Ralph Waldo Emerson, Birds, 1867

I was surprised to find this robin nesting right under my nose and wonder how many times I walked by without noticing her there. The babies have since fledged and I hear them begging to be fed from the low shrubs around the yard. I often see one of them in the vegetable garden, where the dirt is moist and full of worms.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Mister Mimic

"Other migrants come and go, but the catbird comes with the violets and stays for the late asters, and virtually all the time he is here he contributes to the gaiety of his neighbors. He is here now, and he is in fine form, celebrating the sunshine, jeering at the rain, demanding attention and deserving it.

He is our northern "mocker," cousin of the brash mockingbird of the more southerly regions, and he has almost all the real mockingbird's talents. He seldom uses them all, however, particularly the talent for sustained song. For he is a clown, an unregenerate mimic with what might be called a keen sense of the ridiculous. A phrase or two of sweet song and he must pause, as though to say, "Pretty, huh? But now listen!" And he will make a complete mockery of what he has just sung, finally jeering at it. He has an operatic voice, but he uses it for scat singing.

And he likes an audience. He picks a nesting site near a house, by preference, and he will offer all kinds of vocal inducements to get human attention. Once he has it, he opens his bag of tricks. A show-off, no less, an adolescent with no self-consciousness whatever; a bird who seems to have the character of a party cutup. He is as capricious as the weather, and that may be why we like him.

The robin is sedate, the oriole is a serious fellow, the blue jay is a blustering egocentric. But the catbird is a quick-witted entertainer who seems to find life a vastly amusing enterprise. Nothing completely dampens his spirit, and his world never seems to be going to pot. The only time we resent him is when we can't rise to match his mood, and that, after all, is our fault, not his." - Hal Borland, Sundial of the Seasons, 1964

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

5/17/06 Mid-week bunny fix

Missy, Peanut, and Freckles - Spring 2003

This is an old photo, but a favorite and typical of how I used to find these three in mid-afternoon. Snoozing in a pile with little Peanut in the middle of his two *big* girls. Peanut passed away later that year and nowadays Missy and Freckles live apart, but share play times once in a while.

Dora has been back at the vet's since last Friday. I brought her back because she wasn't doing well at home. She's not doing much better there, but they are taking good care of her. I visit every day and bring her special things, like fresh raspberries and dandelion flowers, to tempt her to eat on her own. The vet says he is seeing a little improvement each day, but I can't see it. She seems to be having good days and bad, like a rollercoaster. I'm hopeful that there are many good days ahead for her. Enough of the bad.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (more singing lessons)

A new yard bird today! I don't keep a written yard list, but am happy to add a new one to the *list* anyway! Lots of people get grosbeaks at their feeders, but what a surprise it was for me to pull into the driveway from work and see this guy feeding on stray sunflower seeds beneath the feeders. I've never even spotted them in the neighborhood before, but guess I could easily have missed them because their song is so similar to a Robin's. I called my husband on the cell phone and told him to come to the kitchen window to see it. I woke him from a nap, but he was excited to see it anyway. I love spring migration and its many surprises! I didn't have a chance to take a pic, but found this pretty one on originally uploaded by RicKarr.

"The evening was calm and beautiful, the sky sparkled with stars. Suddenly there burst on my soul the serenade of the Rose-breasted bird, so rich, so mellow, so loud in the stillness of the night, that sleep fled from my eyelids. Never did I enjoy music more." - John James Audubon quoted in For the Birds: An Uncommon Guide by Laura Erickson.

Erickson describes the grosbeak's song as "like a Robin who takes voice lessons. [The song] is a long, rich warble. Robins sing long sentences, the words often three syllables - Rose breasted Grosbeak sentences can't be broken into distinct words as easily." For the Birds 5-29

In Bird Lore (1901) Emily B. Pellet describes the grosbeak's song as a musical, "You're a pretty bird. Where are you?" I think of it like a Robin's, but in a deeper, more tenor voice and listen for its sharp "kick" call note.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Phragmites at North Pond

The air is like a butterfly
With frail blue wings.
The happy earth looks at the sky
And sings.
- Joyce Kilmer, Spring

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Photo of mom for Mother's Day

My brother calls this a *cheesecake* shot. I don't know when or where it was taken, but love this pic of my mom long before she was a mother. She loved the beach so I imagine this was taken with the ocean or a lake nearby.

I was a little kid when my mom passed away and never had the chance to know her as anything other than my *mommy*. Sad really, when I see the friendships that my girlfriends have with their moms now that we've grown up. I rely on my brothers and old photos like this for glimpses into the person she was.

People tell me I look like her and my dad always said I had some of her mannerisms - one thing I know is that I could never look as good in a bathing suit!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

NJ Audubon World Series of Birding

Great Egrets and Black-Crowned Night Herons at Plum Island

I love World Series Day! I've been participating with the Century Run team for Sandy Hook Bird Observatory for a number of years and always have a good time. The last few years I haven't been able to bird the whole day because of other things going on, but in my experience the hours from dawn until noon are the best, anyway. It was very foggy and damp when we started out at 5:30 this morning, but the weather had cleared by noon when I left and it turned out to be a beautiful day.

The following is the trip report sent via email by the team leaders and a few pics from the day.

SHBO Century Run Team at Plum Island

"The SHBO Sandy Hook Century Run today tallied 131 species between 5:30 am and 8:30 pm; much better than we anticipated given the rather weak migration this week and the dominance of easterly winds. Our day started off with a nice shorebird flight over Plum Island with 200+ Least Sandpipers, dozens of Black-bellied Plovers, Semipalmated Plovers, Greater Yellowlegs & Short-billed Dowitchers, 4 Lesser Yellowlegs, and 8+ Solitary Sandpipers. Our only Little Blue Heron, Black Skimmers, and Black-billed Cuckoo of the day were here also.

Chestnut-Sided Warbler

The Locust Grove was quite active with passerines today, highlights including a calling Alder Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Vireo, numerous warblers with a female Bay-breasted being the standout. A vocal Least Bittern was calling from the east end of North Pond. Lots of diurnal migrants overhead with flocks of Eastern Kingbirds and Blue Jays predominating.

Dare ya to find the snoozing Nighthawk!

The Raccoon Alley area had a perched and oblivious Common Nighthawk, 6+ Blue-headed Vireos, Yellow-throated Vireo, Warbling Vireo (scarce migrant at the hook), Blackburnian Warbler, and Canada Warbler.

Scarlet Tanager

Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrows must have been migrating today: we saw 4-6 in the spartina marsh at Plum Island and there was another individual in the thick upland grass adjacent to k-lot.

Magnolia Warbler in Poison Ivy. My favorite pic of the day.

After comparing notes at dusk and getting a sneak peak at the "Sandy Hook Platform Onlies" bird list, we have a preliminary total of 150 species for the hook today, including 23 species of warbler and a fly-by Mississippi Kite that passed the migration watch around 4:30 this afternoon."

Final standings and more info on the World Series is available here.

Friday, May 12, 2006

International Migratory Bird Day

I missed a story on the way home from work on NPR about International Migratory Bird Day, but checked their website this evening and found a lot of wonderful links there. I've only been listening to NPR (WNYC 93.9) for the last year or so and wonder why I didn't start listening sooner. Love them! Their website is great, too. A wonderful diversion for a few hours if you have the time. The link to today's story and other interesting bird-related links can be found here.

The image at left is this year's poster by Radeaux and celebrates the theme of the boreal forest as the "bird nursery of the north". Click on the image for more info.

I'll be out tomorrow doing the "World Series of Birding" with Sandy Hook Bird Observatory. The weather doesn't look too promising, but hopefully we'll get plenty of birds. We're meeting at 5:30 a.m. and will bird until dark. I doubt that I'll last that long, but we'll see!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Another book to look for

A dear childhood friend passed along a recommendation for this new book written by one of his colleagues at Bank Street College in Brooklyn. It sounds like a relevant read for anyone who is a caregiver or is concerned with the issues of aging parents. Another one to look for on my next stop at the bookstore.

I wish that I had done some reading last year when I was caring for my dad. I'd imagine that many of the difficulties we faced are commonplace to families adapting to a parent who can suddenly no longer live independently due to illness. I also like to keep a list of books that make helpful gifts for friends facing difficult times. Once I've read this one, I may pass it along to a friend or two in need.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

5/10/06 Mid-week bunny fix

Boomer and Cricket enjoying late afternoon leftovers 5/9/06

The bunnies are taking advantage of a sudden windfall of usually restricted greens like kale and dandelion that Dora is leaving behind each day. I tried to snap a pic of Cricket as she grabbed this piece of kale right out of Boomer's mouth, but my flash was too slow.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Another of the rose kin

The black chokeberries (Aronia melanocarpa) are blooming beside the pond this week; the red variety is said to be attractive to birds, but the black certainly is not. Last year's dried up berries remain on the plant, uneaten. The small, pinkish-white flowers have the characteristic 5 petals of the rose family.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Please share carrot recipes!

So. I brought Dora home from the vet this evening. She started eating some on her own and making pooties. The vet felt it was safe to let her continue to recover at home. His instructions were to give pain meds and gut motility drugs every 12 hours, encourage her to eat, and syringe feed her as necessary. Giving her meds is not easy and syringe feeding her is impossible - she stresses out too much. I have to sit on her and hold her down to get the meds in her. I'm spoiled by my other bunny who comes running for her twice daily meds, I think. I've forgotten how difficult this can be with a rabbit. I've put a smorgasbord of favorites in front of her, but all she will eat is carrot tops. Not much of the carrot itself, just the tops. She's turning her nose up at her old favorite - apples. She'll nibble politely at red cabbage. Romaine, green-leaf lettuce, endive, dandelions, kale, parsley, cilantro, dill, arugula - no go. Just carrot tops. So. I bought 5 bunches of organic carrots to get us through 'til the morning and am overloaded with carrots. I have a friend who makes a scrumptious carrot cake, I can add a few to chicken soup with matzo balls. What will I do with all these carrots?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

More views from Sandy Hook

I just can't seem to get enough beach plum pics - the dunes at North Pond are covered with it. Poison ivy grows like mad out there too and is just starting to green up some in this view from below the hawk watch platform. In the near distance is an occupied osprey platform and behind that is the Verranzano Bridge which connects Brooklyn and the rest of NYC to Staten Island.

Today was my volunteer day at the Sandy Hook Bird Observatory; lots of people around, but few birds from what I heard. Quite a few of the visitors today were new birders who I love to talk with - their enthusiasm is great and spring migration is a perfect time to pick up binoculars for the first time.

Somehow I forgot to bring my camera with me today, so I missed the chance to photograph the white-crowned sparrows and the hummingbirds that are coming to the center's feeders. Chipping sparrows have been moving through my yard, but I haven't seen a white-crowned yet. I've also had my hummingbird feeder out for a few weeks at home, but haven't had any, yet. For some reason, I can't seem to attract them until mid-July.

Here's another shot of the Yellow Warbler from Friday. I heard one of these singing this afternoon, but he was hidden in the foliage of a hackberry tree.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Dora update (with bad pictures)

Dora is still at the vet's and will be for a few more days. So long as she continues to improve, I hope to bring her home on Monday evening. My vet recommended surgery on Thursday because she hadn't shown any improvement overnight and wasn't responding to medicine. With other bunnies that have had bouts with GI Stasis, I've always been very conservative and waited it out. I was terrified of the surgery. Somehow with Dora I was brave enough to take my vet's advice and allowed him to perform the surgery, called a gastrotomy.

If you happened to read the link in my last Dora post, you might remember that this surgery is considered by many vets to be a last resort. My vet doesn't agree with that, and feels it should be done sooner, rather than waiting until the bunny is at death's doorway. So, he opened up her stomach to remove the mass of food and hair and fiber that she couldn't pass on her own. As it was, her stomach was bloated to twice its normal size and was putting pressure on her other organs. That's why she wasn't eating or pooping and was so painful.

You wouldn't know it from these pics, but Dora is improved today. She was doing normal bunny thiings like washing her face (in the photo above left) and scratching her ears (at right). She ate a little bit of salad and pooped some for the first time since Tuesday. She still needs to be syringe-fed and is getting fluids and pain meds (you should see the size of her incision!), but the docs thinks she is on the mend. Good news!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler and Beach Plum

Yellow Warblers are a common wood warbler that can easily be heard singing from woodland edges and marshy, wet areas. They nest along the small stream that borders the farm fields up the street. Their song is easy to recognize; I learned it as, "Sweet, sweet, sweet, I'm so sweet!" I spent a few hours today at Sandy Hook looking for migrants that the winds had brought our way. I found many beautiful birds, but none were so cooperative as this little one who was busy feeding on the flying insects attracted to the blooming beach plum. He was even nice enough to pause and show off the reddish streaks on his breast.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Michelle's waterbabies!

Michelle is a fellow bunny-lover (remember pics of her French Lop, Tink?) and we've been chatting about our fish ponds lately. She lives down south so her pond plants are way ahead of anything happening around my pond. I've been wanting to post some current pics, but it looks so barren out there, still. The perennials on the pond's edge are up and growing, but other than a few volunteer water lilies (yay!) there is nothing but algae. Well, no more algae, actually. We turned on the filter and uv light last weekend, just before we got to the *pea soup* stage after the complete water change we did a few weeks ago. My tiny little goldfish look so lonely and vulnerable out there!

Michelle's koi look very robust, don't they? And look at the size of those lily pads! I'm jealous. The plants she calls weeds are Parrot's Feather and provide cover and spawning surfaces for fish. Parrot's Feather is tender, so I have to buy it new every year, whereas Michelle thinks she is overrun with it because it doesn't die back in her warmer climate. I have that problem with mint around my pond; it finds its way into every nook between the rocks and grows with abandon. I yank it out by the handful, which only seems to make it even more vigorous.

Michelle says that she has one koi that she can pet! My little guys are not quite that friendly, but they do like to swim around my legs and nibble on my toes when I'm in the pond cutting back the plants. Mostly I think they're interested in whatever I stir up along the bottom as I wade through the water. Silly fish.

Thanks, Michelle, for your email and sharing a pic of your waterbabies! I needed the distraction from my bunny-worrying. You're the best!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

5/3/06 Mid-week bunny fix (sort of)

Dora is at the vet's tonight.


I took the afternoon off from work and brought her in to the vet because she's been acting *off* the last day or two and not eating like she should and not pooping. Bad news for a bunny.

The photo at left is her in her hospital cage zonked out on pain meds. I visited her tonight after my final meeting with students and brought a special salad with her favorite veggies and her toys. All of which she ignored. I hate to leave a bunny in the hospital, especially one as sensitive as my Dora, because being away from home causes its own problems. So a bunny who was not eating well is now not eating at all because she is timid and fearful in an unfamiliar place and is zonked out on pain meds. Pain medication is important for a rabbit who is ill, so I should be glad that my vet is willing to give it, because many vets do not routinely give pain meds to rabbits. Even after spay/neuter procedures - can you imagine? I have to convince myself that the she needs to be there, even if it means that she will get worse before she can get better.

She is being treated for GI Stasis and needs subQ fluids and injectable meds. I've done those things at home with other bunnies, but not with a bunny quite like Dora. She's only been with me for 6 months or so and will not be handled. I can pet her and kiss her and play with her, but heaven forbid I even think about picking her up and she bolts. No way can I hold her down to give her shots, or hold her still for subQ fluids. So I left her there tonight, hoping that the meds will do their work and get her digestive system working properly, so that I can bring her home with me.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Singing lessons (for Linda)

My ears are much better than my eyes at identifying birds. My distance vision is not good and I'm too vain to wear my eyeglasses other than when I'm driving. I find glasses especially uncomfortable with binoculars. Because I have trouble spotting the movement of birds, I've come to rely on my ears more than my eyes and have tried over the years to develop my knowledge of bird songs. It's a handy skill to have (and a good way to impress non-birding friends) and is easy to do if you're an auditory person like me. I've always learned best by listening and in school was often reprimanded for *daydreaming*, when in fact I was paying close attention with my ears rather than my eyes.

In the spring I like to *warm-up* my ears to warbler song by listening to birdsong cd's. This way I avoid the frustration of hearing birds that I can't see while still knowing who's out there singing. I like to play the cd's at bedtime and usually fall asleep to their sweet seranade. I also make a *cheat sheet* that I carry with me when birding to help me distinguish between certain birds that I have trouble with. My favorites are the "Peterson's Birding by Ear" and "Peterson's More Birding by Ear".

My friend Linda at work wants to learn about birds and I've offered to bring her along on a spring walk. She's dissuaded by the early hour and suggests we have brunch, then bird, and finish up with some shopping. We have a running joke where she *sings* a bird song that she heard that morning to me and I'm supposed to tell her what it is that she heard. Somehow all of her *songs* sound the same. This morning she saw a cardinal and I tried to teach her its song as "Tear-tear-tear." With her Brooklyn accent it turned into something unrecognizable, but we'll keep working on it.


Wouldst thou know the lark?
Then hark!
Each natural bird
Must be seen and heard.
The lark's "Tee-ee" is a tinkling entreaty.
But it's not always "Tee-ee" -
Sometimes it's "Tee-titi."
So watch yourself.

Birds have their love-and-mating song,
Their warning cry, their hating song;
Some have a night song, some a day song,
A lilt, a tilt, a come-what-may song;
Birds have their careless bough and teeter song
And, of course, their Roger Tory Peter song.

The studious ovenbird (pale pinkish legs)
Calls, "Teacher, teacher, teacher!"
The chestnut-sided warbler begs
To see Miss Beecher.
"I wish to see Miss Beecher."
(Sometimes interpreted as "Please please please ta

The redwing (frequents swamps and marshes)
Gurgles, "Konk-la-ree,"
Eliciting from the wood duck
The exclamation "Jeeee!"
(But that's the male wood duck, remember.
If it's his wife you seek,
Wait till you hear a distressed "Whoo-eek!")

Nothing is simpler than telling a barn owl from a veery:
One says, "Kschh!" in a voice that is eerie,
The other says, "Vee-ur" in a manner that is breezy.
(I told you it was easy.)
On the other hand, distinguishing between the veery
And the olive-backed thrush
Is another matter. It couldn't be worse.
The thrush's song is similar to the veery's,
Only it's in reverse.

Let us suppose you hear a bird say, "Fitz-bew,"
The things you can be sure of are two:
First, the bird is an alder flycatcher (Empidonax traillii
Second, you are standing in Ohio - or as some people
call it, O-hee-o-
Because, although it may come as a surprise to you,
The alder flycatcher, in New York or New England,
does not say, "Fitz-bew,"
It says, "Wee-be-o."

"Chu-chu-chu" is the note of the harrier,
Copied of course, from our common carrier.
The osprey, thanks to a lucky fluke,
Avoids "Chu-chu" and cries, "Chewk, chewk!"
So there's no difficulty there.

The chickadee likes to pronounce his name;
It's extremely helpful and adds to his fame.
But in spring you can get the heebie-jeebies
Untangling chickadees from phoebes.
The chickadee, when he's all afire,
Whistles, "Fee-bee," to express his desire.
He should be arrested and thrown in jail
For impersonating another male.
(There's a way you can tell which bird is which,
But just the same, it's a nasty switch.)
Our gay deceiver may fancy-free be
But he never does fool a female phoebe.

Oh, sweet the random sounds of birds!
The old-squaw, practising his thirds;
The distant bittern, driving stakes,
The lonely loon on haunted lakes;
The white-throat's pure and tenuous thread-
They go to my heart, they go to my head.
How hard it is to find the words
With which to sing the praise of birds!
Yet birds, when they get singing praises,
Don't lack for words - they know some daisies:
"Onk-a-lik, ow-owdle-ow,"
"Cheedle, cheedle chew,"
And dozens of other inspired phrases.

Got that, Linda?

Monday, May 01, 2006

Books for plant geeks

When I was a newly-minted master gardener I went out and bought two great reference books so that I would sound smart when answering questions on the helpline or during community events where we volunteer. My dear friend Debbie likes to tease me that I am never able to answer any of her gardening questions. She says that my answer is always the same, "but I don't grow that." Which is true; she and I have very different tastes in plant material.

I guess she thinks that I ought to know everything there is to know about plants. The fact is, most master gardeners are just people who have an interest in gardening and are willing to volunteer their time. We're trained in certain aspects of horticulture, but we're not expected to know everything. Most of us have a particular interest or area of expertise, but the rest of the time our answers come from books. Knowing where to find answers is important.

Two books I use often are "Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs" and its companion "Manual of Woody Landscape Plants". Michael Dirr has many excellent horticulture titles, but these are the most popular. The first contains lovely glossy photos and minimal information on care; the second volume is much more detailed (and intimidating) and includes info on propagation, culture, pests and diseases, and landscape value. It also includes Dirr's personal comments and growing experiences with each species covered. His comments and growing tips are the most enjoyable part, in my opinion.