Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Birding - American Kestrel

“The hawk with talent hides its talons”

American Kestrel - While birding the last several days I have seen several American Kestrels.   The American Kestrel is the smallest falcon in North America.  Most Kestrels breeding in Canada and in the Northern United States migrate south for the winter, but some are year long residents and do not migrate.  

Friday, December 18, 2009

Backyard Butterfly Photography - Butterfly House

"If nothing ever changed there would be no butterflies" - Unknown

While I won't be able to photography butterflies this winter, I will be able to provide habitat to attract more butterflies this spring.   I am working on a couple of butterfly houses that I will post pictures of soon.   Garden Gate Magazine offers plans for the butterfly house on their website.  The house gives butterflies a resting place or protection if a storm passed through.  I stained my boxes, but many people believe that by painting them a bright yellow, pink, red, etc that more butterflies will be attracted.   You also need to install bark to the inside so the butterfly feels like it is resting on a log.

Humor for the day - Requesting a three day pass

An Israeli soldier who just enlisted asked the Commanding Officer for a 3-day pass.
The CO says "Are you crazy? You just join the Israeli army, and you already want a 3-day pass? You must do something spectacular for that recognition!"
So the soldier comes back a day later in an Arab tank!
The CO was so impressed, he asked "How did you do it?"
"Well, I jumped in a tank, and went toward the border with the Arabs. I approached the border, and saw an Arab tank. I put my white flag up, the Arab tank put his white flag up. I said to the Arab soldier, "Do you want to get a three-day pass? So we exchanged tanks!"

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Great Gift Ideas - Gifts for Photographers

Great Gift Ideas for Photographers - I plan to continue my tradition of supplying a list of gift ideas for photographers.  This list is put together mainly of items I use, have friends that use, or items that I want to use.  I hope this list helps to put a smile on the face of the photographer in your family.  If you have any questions or comments please do not hesitate to email me.

1.  Panasonic FZ35 Camera. ($310-$325) -  I bought a FZ28 to supplement my SLR in January and now I seem to use it as much as my SLR.  The FZ35 is the newest version and is receiving rave reviews.  There are

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Birding - Screech Owl Nest Box Installed

“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” - Maya Angelou

A few days ago I posted a blog about plans for a DIY project to build a screech owl house and wanted to give an update.  I built three owl nest boxes over the last couple of days with the help of my uncle and the use of his wood shop.  I installed the first one today and will install the other two in the next few days.  

I did make a few couple of improvements to the plans.  First on the back I angled the top of the board at 45 degrees to shed rainfall.  I also "etched" the inside of the box under the opening to roughen it up a bit.  This will make it easier for owlets to climb to the opening (if using rough lumber this will not be required).  

I stained the outside of the box with a light color stain to keep the home cooler in the summer and installed about 2 inches of wood chips in the bottom of the box to keep the eggs from rolling around (installing wood chips is recommended for cavity nestor's). 

Humor for the day - A Polish immigrant went to the DMV to apply for a driver's license.
First, of course, he had to take an eyesight test. The optician showed him a card with the letters:
'C Z W I X N O S T A C Z.'
"Can you read this?" the optician asked.
"Read it?" the Polish guy replied, "I know the guy."

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Birds and Birding- Great Blue Heron

“When despair for the world grows in me, and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be -- I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought or grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” - Wendell Berry

Friday, December 11, 2009

I'm a Coot, not a Duck - American Coot

“Be like a duck. Calm on the surface, but always paddling like the dickens underneath.” - Michael Caine
Click here to read more

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wild Hogs of Ferral Hogs and their impact on Wildlife

(This Photo Taken at Cades Cove in GSMNP)
“An ungrateful man is like a hog under a tree eating acorns, but never looking up to see where they come from” - Timothy Dexter

The first true Pigs were brought to the United States by Hernando de Sota to the Atlantic Coast of Florida in 1539.  The First "Pure Russian" wild boars were brought into the US by Austin Corbin. They were released into a 20,000 acre enclosure in Sullivan County New Hampshire in 1890. Wile Hogs or Feral Pigs are now estimated to have a population in the Unites States of about 4,000,000 with 2,000,000 living in Texas.  They are found in 39 States and 4 Canadian Providences.  A sow reaches breeding age at about 7 or 8 months and can be responsible for about 1000 piglets in a five year period.  (Assuming 1/4 the piglets are breeding sows).  

Wild of Feral Hogs compete with deer, turkey, and other wildlife for food and habitat.   They have also been known to spread diseases and parasites to wildlife and farm animals.  They have also fouled water sources for wildlife and humans and cause their rooting causes excess erosion.  Studies are currently underway to quantify the damage to crops and wildlife in several states in the southeast.   National Parks such as the Great Smoky Mountain National Park have hired wildlife technicians to trap and shoot wild hogs.  While hiking the Appalachian Trail this past year I saw half a dozen traps, primarily in the southern half of the trail.  

A great blog with information on Wild Hogs can be found here.

Humor for the day - Ol' Fred had been a religious man who was in the hospital, near death. The family called their preacher to stand with them. As the preacher stood next to the bed, Ol' Fred's condition appeared to deteriorate and he motioned frantically for something to write on.
The pastor lovingly handed him a pen and a piece of paper, and Ol' Fred used his last bit of energy to scribble a note, then he died. The preacher thought it best not to look at the note at that time, so he placed it in his jacket pocket.
At the funeral, as he was finishing the message, he realised that he was wearing the same jacket that he was wearing when Ol' Fred died.
He said, "You know, Ol' Fred handed me a note just before he died. I haven't looked at it, but knowing Fred, I'm sure there's a word of inspiration there for us all."
He opened the note, and read out loud, "Hey, you're standing on my oxygen tube?"

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mushroom and Rotten Log

(This Photo taken along the Appalachian Trail)
"You must grow like a tree, not like a mushroom”- Janet Stuart

Mushroom identification can be tricky because there are so many types of mushrooms.  I have a field guide that I use to try and identify mushrooms but you have to constantly practice.  I also use this website from time to time.  I started studying wild mushrooms about a year ago but with the drought locating mushrooms was tough.  This year they seem to be just about everywhere.   If you are interested in viewing more mushrooms, you can visit this flickr group.

Todays Humor - A Ole Miss Student called her boyfriend and said, "Please come over here and help me. I have a killer jigsaw puzzle, and I can't figure it out or how to get it started." Her boyfriend asked, "What is it supposed to be when it's finished?" The student said, "According to the picture on the box, it's a tiger." Her boyfriend decided to go over and help with the puzzle. She let him in and showed him where she had the puzzle spread all over the table. He studied the pieces for a moment, looked at the box, then turned to her and said, "First of all, no matter what we do, we're not going to be able to assemble these pieces into anything resembling a tiger." He took her hand and said, "Second, I want you to relax. Let's have a nice cup of hot chocolate and then............," he sighed, ..... "Let's put all of these frosted flakes back into the box."

Monday, December 7, 2009

Owl Nest Box and Habitat - Easy Project

A wise old owl sat on an oak; The more he saw the less he spoke; The less he spoke the more he heard; Why aren't we like that wise old bird?

Screech Owls are my favorite bird to photography, but are difficult to spot.   I am in the process of building a couple of Screech Owl Nest Boxes and Barred Owl Nest Boxes.  I do not plan to bother the owls during their nesting process, but I do hope to attract more owls to the area. 

While hiking just under 2200 miles on the Appalachian Trail this year I only saw a few owls and never had the opportunity to photography them.   I imagine I probably walked right by several without even knowing they were there.  I am getting better at spotting owls, but it takes time to train your eyes to look for them.   

We have a few rainy days ahead so I thought I would use this time to work on the project.  I want to build a couple of owl nesting boxes.   I am going to start with building a Screech Owl Box and wanted to share the link for the construction plans of the screech owl box.  I will make a post in a few days on the status and hope to give updates over the next year on the status of the box.

For more information on Screech Owls as well as other species please check out these links.
1.   Owl Box Blog - Great entertaining blog on Screech Owls and Backyard Birds
2.  The Owl Pages - Page with numerous links to information on owls as well as links to sites that sell owl boxes if you are interested in purchasing a box.
3.  Owl Cam Video - This blogger installed a cam in the owl box and posted a "best of" video at the end of the 2008-2009 season.
4.  Screech Owl Vocals.   Call 1    Call 2

Humor for the day - There was a family that had a parrot that was always embarrassing them by cussing and other stuff like that.
So one day the boy took the parrot and stuck him in the freezer.Two hours later the squawking stopped.
The kid checked the freezer and the parrot said, "Okay I'll stop cussing, but I have one question".
The boy said, "What"?
The Parrot asks, "What did the turkey do"???

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Appalachian Trail in Virginia

“You cannot be wimpy out there on the dream-seeking trail. Dare to break through barriers, to find your own path.” - Les Brown

The Appalachian Trail in Virginia is challenging both physically and mentally.  Around 560 miles of the Appalachian Trail traverses Virginia.  Grayson Highlands in Southwest Virginia is considered to be one of the top three day hikes on the Appalachian Trail.

Humor for the day - Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other man pulls out his phone and calls emergency services.

He gasps to the operator: "My friend is dead! What can I do?" The operator in a calm, soothing voice replies: "Take it easy. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead."

There is a silence, then a shot is heard.

Back on the phone, the hunter says, "Ok, now what?"

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Outer Banks North Carollina

“Celebrate your success and stand strong when adversity hits, for when the storm clouds come in, the eagles soar while the small birds take cover”

The islands around Cape Lookout are known to have bothersome raccoons so I thought I would outsmart them by camping on Shackelford Banks which has no trees, therefore, no raccoons.    My plan would have worked to perfection if it wasn't for the lightening storms that frequented me all three nights.  Shackelford Banks does have some scrub bushes, but they are essentially no taller than me so I tried to stay hunkered down most of the time.   The storms on the third night were as intense as anything I have ever encountered and actually turned my 5 day trip into a 4 day trip.  This was the view I woke to the final morning.   I had to pack up quick in order to kayak the three miles with the tide.  

Humor of the day - A noted heart surgeon was having a formal party. Shortly before the guests were to begin arriving he was told that all the bathrooms were backed up and not flushing. Quickly he called a 24 hour plumber listed in the phone book. The plumber arrived quickly and within 15 minutes told the surgeon that all was well. He gave his bill to the heart surgeon and the surgeon exclaimed, "$900! You were only here 15 minutes! I'm a heart surgeon and even I can't charge that much"! The plumber quietly replied, “Neither could I when I was a heart surgeon".