Tag Archives: Wildlife


Rabbits are okay. They’re cute and furry. I don’t have a garden so I don’t worry about them eating my vegetables. But I don’t love rabbits. Well, at least I don’t love rabbits anymore.

See, back in the 1970s I read Watership Down. Then I read the book referenced in Watership Down: The Private Life of the Rabbit [1]. Then I visited Watership Down (along with Stonehenge and Oxford) when I visited England the following summer.

So, my sudden fascination with rabbits caught the attention of folks who cared about me and for a few years I was given rabbits as gifts.

I’ve kept a few —

This is not a rabbit, but it has rabbits on it. Jeremy found the bit of white rock (it could have been from the White Cliffs of Dover as we visited those that trip too. It has interesting indentations that suggest it is a fossil of some sort) and painted Watership Down on the side along with a couple of rabbits..

watership down out of white rock

Then there is the green soapstone rabbit. I don’t remember where this came from, but I am pretty sure it was a gift.

green soapstone rabbit

I’m pretty sure I bought this one for myself. At least it looks like a rabbit.

brown fuzzy rabbit

Finally, I must have really liked the rabbits snuggling in bed, because I bought (or someone bought me) another rabbit from that line of pottery.

cute rabbit


When Dean first came to my apartment shortly after we met, I had all of these figurines (and more) sitting around. He must have really liked me to look past the bunnies everywhere and decide I was worth keeping.

These guys are going back into the knee-wall from where they’ve stayed for the past decade or so. Although, I kind of like the green one. Maybe he can stay out for a while.

  1. Actually a pretty good read. []

Birder Watching at Magee Marsh

Someone's lost bird list
Someone’s lost bird list
Chestnut Sided Warbler
Chestnut Sided Warbler

A year or two ago I saw a tweet by a fellow twitter birder / accessibility advocate about her trip to Magee Marsh in Ohio.  I kept it in the back of my head because we drive right by it when we travel to and from Illinois.

Then a few months ago I read The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik (on IB’s recommendation) and later saw the film based on the book.  I was interested in the characters,  especially the Maryland-based birder, Greg Miller — the one who worked at the nuclear power plant (played by Jack Black in the movie).  I googled his name and found out he moved back to Ohio and was active in Ohio birding.  His blog talked about the “Biggest Week in American Birding” festival which was planned for May — around the time the warblers were due to fly back to Canada.

Warbler season,  if not The Biggest Week,  corresponded with our trip to Oberlin to pick up Andrew,  about an hour from Magee Marsh.  I hoped to visit Magee and perhaps add a few warblers to my life list. Then Dean decided we should visit Illinois before the kids got out of school. This week did correspond with the Biggest Week and as we’d be stopping in Oberlin for the night to visit Andrew I planned on heading to Magee Marsh on our way to Illinois.

I mentioned this to the aforementioned birder/accessibility advocate and she made plans to meet me at Magee.


I didn’t really know what to expect, but knew that I’d be seeing a lot of birders. One of the funniest parts of The Big Year was seeing a bunch of people stare through binoculars at something in a tree. I wondered if I’d see something similar at Magee Marsh. I also knew that many of the birding folks I follow on Twitter were planning on being at Magee Marsh that week. Seeing some of the tweets got me really in the mood to go birding — something I’d not really done in years, except passively. I also knew that someone I’d hoped to meet someday, Sharon Stiteler aka Birdchick, would be around.


I did see a lot of birds, some new to me, some not. I only could identify a few. If  you’ve never been birding, one thing you need to be able to do is explain where a sighting is. I failed miserably. I saw something and mistakenly announced it loud enough for other birders in the general vicinity to hear me. I then tried to describe where it was and what it looked like. No one was able to follow my directions and there was an audible annoyed sigh when I said, “It’s gone.” (I saw it later and was embarrassed to find out it was a Baltimore Oriole. I know what they look like when I see the top of one, but this was from below. The orange of its breast was muted and looked yellow to me. I thought it was some sort of flycatcher.)

Deborah and me
Deborah and me

The birds were fun to see, some so close I didn’t need binoculars, but my favorite part was the birders. There were birders of all ages. I was surprised to see a large number of Amish birders, but it stands to reason — there are a lot of Amish in that part of Ohio.

I did see “Birdchick” but was too shy to say hello. I was not quite sure it was her, but when I saw tweets she sent prior to me seeing her proved she was just in front of me at the time. Next time I’ll make sure to say hello.

I really enjoyed meeting Deborah. We’ve been twitter buddies for years and have even spoken on the phone. She’s a lot more gregarious than I and she was not afraid to ask folks what they were looking at and ask for advice on what she was looking at.

This has rekindled a desire to get out and bird more often. I might even go on bird walks with other birders. In the past I wouldn’t add a bird to my life list if I didn’t ID it myself. I figure if real birders help each other ID birds, I can too. Now I need to get my verbal birding skills in order.

Here’s Deborah’s list of what we saw:

  • Wilson’s Warbler
  • Magnolia Warbler
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • Purple Martin
  • Blackburnian Warbler
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Great Horned Owls babies on tree limbs
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Great Egret
  • American Redstart
  • Northern Parula
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Black and White Warbler
  • Gray Catbird
  • American Robin
  • Canada Geese
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Nashville Warbler
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler

Strangely appropriate April Fools Day Prank

A while back I wrote about not being able to feed birds because of a rat problem in our neighborhood. I quit feeding birds (at ground-level) and we quit putting any food scraps in the compost heap. We’d not seen a rat all winter so thought we were good. Just now, however, I looked out the back window and saw two brazen rats eating grass seed under the ginkgo tree. I walked outside and noticed a rat-sized tunnel heading towards the center of the compost heap.

I went back inside and fired up the Internet to find a solution to rats in compost heaps. One of the links was “How to get rats and mice out of compost — 8 steps (with pictures).” I clicked the link and I scrolled down the page and was surprised to see pictures of cats, some sprawling, some playing peek-a-boo, among the pictures of rat-repelling suggestions. Surely this is a mistake, I thought, are just they going to tell me to sic my cat on the rats?

Then I remembered today is April Fools day and AdBlock is giving us photos of cats instead of ads.

Here’s a screenshot or three.

I am still not sure what to do about the rats in the compost. I guess we cannot compost anymore. Or seed our lawn.

At least we don’t have bears. Or porcupines.

Spec nest?

[Update 5.25.09] She’s gone and left two eggs in the nest. Husband tossed some balls off the roof and I heard that they landed very close to the nest. I suspect one landed on the nest because one of the eggs has a crack along the side. Oh well. It was fun while it lasted.

[Update] She’s sitting on the nest now, so hopefully we’ll have a brood. I can just barely see her from the kitchen window. Yay.

Robin with flower
Robin with flower
In the rose of Sharon bush

Last week I looked out the back window and saw a robin hopping around the back yard carrying what looked like a bunch of white paper in her beak. She hopped across the back yard, flew to a rose of Sharon bush and then onto the branch of the ginkgo tree, all the while holding onto the wad of paper. Then I thought that perhaps she was carrying a white azalea flower instead of paper — it looked the right size and we have a few white azalea bushes in the yard.

I posted it on twitter and got a few fun responses.

A nearly hidden robin -- look for the white bit. That's her with her flower.

About an hour or so later I looked outside and saw the robin again — she still had the azalea blossom in her beak. This time I saw her fly into the pink azalea bush and I suspected she was building a nest there and this was a new azalea blossom. I looked up robin nests on All About Birds, but saw no mention of robins using flowers to build their nests, although it said they might incorporate paper into their nests sometimes.

I posted on twitter again and someone wondered if it was stuck in her throat or maybe she was going to prom.

The next morning Dean mentioned that a robin was hanging out in the bush that kept coming back. He thought she might be building a nest. Sure enough, there she was — this time bringing long bits of grass with her each return trip.

a decorated nest
a decorated nest

That afternoon I couldn’t stand the suspense. I wanted to see if the nest had white azalea blooms in it. I waited until I was sure the robin was elsewhere and peeked in the far side of the bush — I could barely make out the nest, but it did look like it had some bits of white in it. I tip-toed around to the side nearest the nest and wasn’t disappointed. She had, indeed, used some white flowers to pretty up her nest.

I think this is the same robin that built a nest under the eave of the neighbor’s porch but abandoned it the day after mother’s day. I hope that she does raise a brood in her decorated nest, but I’m not all that hopeful. She returned the day after I took the photo of the nest, but I’ve not seen her since. Mabye she just likes building nests with no intention of living in them. I’ve heard of spec houses, but never spec nests.

Unfortunately, although the pink azalea bush looked like a great place to build a nest when it was in full flower — it might prove to be a poor choice once the flowers are gone because it is not hidden as well as it could be and is quite low to the ground.

[Apologies for the poor quality of the photographs. I took most of them from inside, through a window.]

A Christmastide Mystery

Once upon a time a family from a town not so far away left that town to celebrate Christmas with their far-away relatives. Just before they left, they threw a festive gala where lovely people brought many delicacies to the family. The family had no trouble eating the left-over delicacies, except for one bag of chocolate.

Upon their return to their cozy home, the family wondered what became of the bag of chocolate, for they had a taste for it’s rich, cocoa goodness. They searched high and low for the bag of chocolate the night they returned, but it was nowhere to be found.

The first clueThe next morning, when the mother was up bright and early, she noticed a golden bag on the back porch. What can that be? she wondered. On further investigation, she realized it was the bag that the chocolate had been stored in — and the bottom was chewed up.  But where were the chocolates?

p1020323Then the ever-vigilant mother noticed some clear plastic wrappers leading in a line away from the bag of chocolate towards the door. More of the wrappers littered the floor of the porch, near the door.

p1020324Now, how could that have happened? the mother asked herself as she looked more closely at the screened door.

A HA! She cried. The screen has been damaged!

No more chocolateA hungry woodland creature must have chewed through the screen, leaped up and stolen the bag off the table (where it had been left). Then this creature must have gnawed off the bottom of the bag, and tried to carry the chocolates out the hole in the screen door. Something must have gone wrong, and the poor creature ate the chocolates instead of taking them back to its nest as a Christmas treat for its family.

But what woodland creature could it have been? I suspect a squirrel. Once one gnawed through the screen door to get to our nephew’s pie. (Smart squirrel — that pie was really good.)

After dinner entertainment

Raccoon in treeA few evenings ago, after dinner, Dean called the kids to quickly come up to the dining room. They both complied, Clare from the living room where she was studying for a chemistry test and Andrew from the basement where he was playing a computer game. Dean pointed out the window and we all looked and saw a large raccoon on a low branch of the tulip popular, which stands on the easement about 15 feet from the house.

My first thought was rabies. Aren’t raccoons nocturnal? What, other than rabies. can cause an animal that is supposed to come out only at night, to be visible in broad daylight? Dean suggested it had been scared by another animal from its normal hiding place. It did look rather worried and while we watched, it climbed even higher in the tree. Clare ran for the camera to document our visitor and the rest of us scattered to different windows to watch.

Racoon climbing down treeAt first it continued its ascent of the tall tree, but after a while carefully climbed back down the trunk and slowly ambled over to the house, opened the garbage can lid and began biting at the garbage bag. I opened the side door and after it scurried away, pushed the lid down on the trash can.

Raccoon in garbageShortly thereafter Andrew looked out the window of our kitchen door and exclaimed, “It’s right outside the door and looked me right in the eye!” Sure enough there was the raccoon, precariously perching on the railing observing the humans who were observing him. Then it reached over, actually sneered in his raccoon way and opened the trash can lid again, with no trouble at all and began pulling at the trash bag with his teeth.

Forlorn and hungry raccoonThis time Andrew opened the door and the raccoon once again left. Andrew stood outside for a few moments and Clare noticed the raccoon had scampered across the street, possibly to find a garbage can without so many pests hanging around.

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Verizon, phone support & wildlife

So yesterday morning a Verizon FiOS guy came by and installed FiOS to our house. It went smoothly enough and the technician was nice enough. I guess my recent rash of Comcast issues has left me with a bitter taste in my mouth when it comes to cable techs. The Verizon guy did comment on the bird’s nest of telephone wires in the ceiling of the basement though. He thought it would be a problem, but when he hooked up the phones everything seemed to be working fine. He’d forgotten an extra HDMI cable, so returned about an hour after he left and hooked up our second HD tv.

At 2:30 when the kids weren’t home yet, I picked up the phone to see if I’d missed a message, and there as no dial tone. Here we go again, I thought. It was like it was Christmas Day and my favorite present didn’t work correctly. I’d had such high hopes in Verizon. I was about to call Verizon when Clare and Andrew walked in the door. Clare shouted that we needed to run back to school so she could turn in a permission slip and check for a NYC field trip with her art class. Andrew stopped me on the steps with the news that his shiny new fancy cell phone had been stolen.

Let’s stop here and review my reaction to that news. A good mother would have sat down and said something like, “Oh no Andrew! That’s terrible. I know you liked that phone a lot. You must feel just awful.” I am not a good mother. I closed my eyes, took a breath and said, “You’ll have to buy the next one – and it will be $150 instead of $50 this time.” What an ass I am! He obviously was hurting and I just made it worse.

So I took Clare to school to hand in her check and permission slip. On the way she wondered why I was so upset about the phones (Andrew’s cell and our Verizon issue). She said that if that’s what got me angry I was a lucky person – meaning, I suppose, that I had no real issues about which to be angry. Of course she had a point. She’s pretty cool that way.

When we got back home I did let Andrew know I felt sorry that his phone was stolen, and that he must feel awful. Of course it was too late, the damage was done, but perhaps it made him feel a little better. Maybe?

I then called Verizon about the phones being out:

Verizon (very cheerful male synthesized voice): Thank you for calling Verizon your Broadband and communications company! Para continuar en español la prensa 2. For Billing press 1. For Internet press 2 for everything else, press 3.

Me: [Pressed 3]

V erizon (very cheerful female synthesized voice): Please say or type your ten digit telephone number.

Me: 301-555-5555 (not really my telephone number of course – but I did tell Verizon the real one)

Verizon: Thank you! You said 301-555-5855 Is this correct?!

Me: No

Verizon: Oh, I’m sorry! Please say or type your ten digit telephone number again!

Me: 301-555-5555

Verizon: Thank you! You said 301-555-5555! Is this correct?

Me: Yes

Verizon: Great. Just wait a moment until I pull up your records.


Verizon: How may I help you today? Say phone for telephone problems, Internet for Internet problems or TV for television problems.

Me: Phone

Verizon: Oh, I’m sorry to hear that you are having phone problems. What is the problem? If you have no dial tone, say: No dial tone.

Me: No dial tone.

Verizon: Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Let’s see if we can troubleshoot your problem. Ok, many phone problems are because of faulty wiring…(at this point I was not paying attention because I saw medium sized dog trotting up the middle of the street. I wondered where its owner was. As the dog got closer thought, perhaps it wasn’t a dog after all. Maybe it was a huge opossum (it had no hair on its tail) or a coyote (it looked like a scruffy dog, but was not as big as I assumed coyotes to be)

Me: FOX!

Verizon: I think you said box. Is that correct? I’m afraid I don’t understand.


Verizon: Can you repeat that? I didn’t understand. Or press 3 for an agent.

Me: [pressed three]

Clare: Wow. Mom a fox. It’s trembling. What’s wrong? [grabbing camera and heading towards door]

Verizon (human male voice): Hello, how may I help you today

Me: No! Clare don’t go outside. It looks sick.

Verizon: I’m sorry?

Me: Oh, sorry. There is a scary looking animal outside. I’m calling because my phones have no dial tone.

Verizon: I see here that you just had it installed two days ago.

Me: No, it was installed two hours ago

Verizon: Hmm, let me run some tests. Hold on.

Me: OK. [looking out window and addressing Clare] Oh no, its on the porch. I need to call animal control. Maybe it has rabies.

Verizon: It seems that the problem is inside your house. There may be some faulty wiring. Let’s do some troubleshooting.

Me: Oh my God! It looks really sick. And scary looking.

Verizon: Do you think this scary animal might have damaged the phone wires?

Me: No, I need to call animal control. It might have rabies and I can’t because my other phones don’t work.

Verizon: Let’s do some troubleshooting…..

Me: Clare – where is it now?

Clare: In the backyard.

Verizon: If you need to go and call about this animal, I understand. Just call us back and say agent.

Me: Yeah, that would make sense.

So it turned out it probably has the mange (and not rabies) according to the “Wildlife nuisance” number I dialed. The very calm man on the phone told me not to worry, don’t feed it and call back if it was aggressive.

Note: I searched Mangy Fox on google and found that in July 2004 a mysterious creature was roaming Maryland. It turned out to be a mangy fox and not, in fact, a chupacabra

Note 2: Our phones now work. The tech came back and played with the nest of phone wires (he’d previously commented on). After a couple of tries it all worked fine. To be on the safe side, I opted for the wire insurance plan Verizon offers.


My daughter spied a fox in our suburban back yard this morning. Apparently it ambled across the yard and around the house. It’s sad that wild animals need to move into residential areas – their habitat is being taken over by humans. What do foxes eat anyway?