Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas colors

Merry Christmas!

Hope you had a great one.

Here's some Christmas color for you.  

Northern Cardinal- There's a hidden water bowl
that keeps the winter grass fresh and green.

Northern Mockingbird in Possumhaw bush
The little bushes are unnoticeable in the summer,
but in the winter their bright berries stand out.

The mockingbird ate a berry before taking off!

 A Chipping Sparrow eating seeds.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Odds and Ends

We finally got to have our Thanksgiving dinner last Monday since we were waiting for cool weather.  The freeze killed my tomatoes, peppers, and many other leaves.  It felt like winter weather had finally arrived.  Thanksgiving day in Austin was about 80 degrees which makes cooking turkey, and eating a heavy meal less pleasant.  I cooked the turkey breast in my slow cooker for about 7 hours, and it turned out great.  I recommend this way of cooking turkey breast, and here's where I got the recipe.  We also had mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing, green bean casserole, and cranberry sauce. Yummm!

I am participating in The National Arts Program with 2 pieces on display at the Mexican American Cultural Center until Dec 29th.  I am showing Vain Raven, a painting that was in my previous art show, and a new mixed media painting/sculpture called Flyways.  The show has about 200 pieces of art made by City of Austin employees and their family.  The gallery is really fun because there are pieces of art on every subject made by kids, professionals, and level in between.  If you live in Austin, I would encourage you to stop by to see all the wonderful art.

I've found a new form of entertainment identifying African Animals on zooniverse!  Snapshot Serengeti is a Citizen Science Project that gets normal people to go through photos taken by motion censored cameras set up across the Serengeti.  The photos are real photos mostly of wildebeest, zebra, and gazelles, but occasionally you get a lion, elephant, or other crazy animal.  It's like a game, but better because you never know what the next picture be, and your actually helping a scientist.  So far, I've found 2 elephants, a hippo, one male lion, an aardvark, a baboon, a secretary bird, a few warthogs, giraffe legs (they're too tall for the camera), a few hyenas  and a one jackal.  My favorite pictures are the animal butts!

Pictures that I've Collected!




Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Favorite Birds

As you know, I love looking for birds, and I have a lot of favorites; I have favorite birds in different categories, and from different birding places.  It may be easier to say which birds are my least favorite, but that doesn't sound like much fun.  Some of my favorite birds are listing for your enjoyment: diurnal bird of prey = kite, flycatcher = phoebe, favorite owl = burrowing owl, yard bird = chickadee, sparrow = field sparrow, and favorite shore bird = plovers of any kind.  Even with this long list, I have missed many other favorites.  I am actually happy to see just about any bird and find endearing characteristics in them all.

Wake up, you Canvasback, I want a picture!
Mueller Park, where I frequently walk the dogs, has two sets of ponds that are winter homes for a few of my favorite ducks, including Canvasback Ducks.  The male canvasback is beautiful with a dark cherry head and neck, a bright canvas white back, and black breast.  Canvasback are long billed, and long bodied, athletic and yet graceful.  Canvasback are usually seen in bays and inlets along the seashore so the fact that a family unit has taken up winter residence in Austin, Texas is a bit strange.  Their irregular choice of home makes seeing them all the more special.  Mueller is also winter home for Ring-necked ducks, Red-head duck, Northern Shovler, Ruddy duck (a favorite of Jacob), Gadwall, and Bufflehead (also favorite).  

Canvasback females and juveniles 

What a beauty!

Ring-necked ducks, canvasback, and coot


Pied-billed grebes are a year round resident at the Mueller Ponds and are winning a place on my favorites list.  They are not brilliantly colored, super cute, or graceful, but their spunky attitude makes them dear to my heart.  Like a small terrier that thinks it is a pitbull, they drive at larger birds, race across the pond, and have a loud honking voice in contrast to their puny size.  Over the year, I like to think that I get to know them; I have seen a mama on a nest, hatch-lings with bold black and white markings, and triumphant adults pop up from underwater with a fish in its bill.  I find that I am looking always looking for the small brown bird that thinks it owns the entire pond, and makes me laugh.

What's your favorite bird or birds?  
Pied-billed Grebe

American Coots

 A Pair of Pied-billed Grebe

Doggies wait in the car after a nice walk
while I take duck photos.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Book Report

In September, I picked out about 40 books from a collection that the Nature Center couldn’t continue to store. I wrote about the book collection in a previous blog post called Old Books.  Since September, I have read several of the books, and here are a few that you might also enjoy.

The title of Sally Carrighar’s book One Day on Beetle Rock is what first piqued my interest, and although there are no beetles in the story, the book is a very wonderful experience.  Beetle Rock is a high elevation valley that is home to the animal characters of the book.  Each chapter allows you to become a different animal as it forages, struggles to survive, and interacts with other animals over the course of one day.  Ms Carrighar helps you look at the world as the animal does with the senses that it relies upon to survive.  Some people may not like the human emotion that the author gives the animals, but I enjoyed connecting with the animal’s stories and lives even if it is fantasy. I also think this short book would be a great to read with children between he ages of 6 and 10.

Blue-wing Teal and many other water fowl were
effected by chemicals intended for insects.
Silent Springs brought awareness of the
widespread use of chemical pesticides.
Silent Spring is book that really opened America’s eye to the dangers of using chemical pesticides, and lead to many changes in policy and public thought about the use of chemicals.  I knew that Rachael Carson’s book was important, but I actually had no idea what it was about.  Since, I was born after the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts much of the book was a history lesson.  I couldn't believe that we sprayed thousands of acres year after year with such dangerous chemicals. It seem so unthinkable to kill everything with such far reaching chemicals.  Silent Springs is not a fun read, but I do recommend it as a history lesson and an example of positive change when people become aware of threats around them. 

William Beebe was an explorer in the early to mid 1900s. He was a naturalist who studied birds, explored jungles, pioneered sea diving, and wrote books of his adventures.  Beebe’s books are easy to read, very descriptive, and offer little glimpses of people who live in the wilderness he was exploring.  I like going with Beebe into the jungle or diving down in the ocean; his books are a lot of fun.  Since, Beebe’s work is old you can get many of his books for free for e-readers; barnes and nobles for nook, amazon for kindles, and project gutenberg has 2 William Beebe books.

What have you been reading?  What should I add to my reading list?