Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Feeding Time

I mentioned the Flying Squirrels come as soon was we put the peanut butter out.

They've become habituated to our presence, so much so that they will eat out of our hands.

Our friend Barb should have put peanut butter on both hands, as there is a squirrel on each trunk.

They do like their peanut butter. Click the link and watch the upper right as another one flies in.


So why? Why do we feed the critters in our yard? Why pay for food for animals that could easily find their own? And why risk injury and disease by feeding them directly? And why do we feed some critters and not others? Why is it ok for bunnies to eat our plants, but not deer or voles? Why do we get annoyed when squirrels eat our bird food?

For me, I simply enjoy watching them. And of course, taking pictures. And given that we Americans spend over three billion dollars on bird food a year, I'm clearly not alone at this.

Helen Macdonald has some ideas as well. I stumbled across her piece while wandering the web, which is what got me thinking about this.

What do you think?

Rise Against Hunger

Imagine that the entire crowd at the Thanksgiving NFL game of your choice were dead by Sunday.

Sevety-thousand or so people.

That's how many people die of hunger or hunger related causes every three days here on planet Earth.

I did not know this until I volunteered to pack some food one recent Friday at my office.

These may be people in famine areas such as Ethiopia. Or it may be people in Haiti who have not recovered from the destruction caused by earthquakes. Or it may be people in Puerto Rico who were devastated by a hurricane. Or it may be homeless people in your town.

More than 20 thousand people a day. Because they don't have food.

Staggering. Truly staggering. And preventable.


This bag, of rice, soy, and dried vegetables, provides enough food for six meals.

We packed enough for over ten thousand meals that one Friday.

That sounds like a lot. And we spent the greater part of the day doing it.

But if more than twenty thousand people a day are starving, that's not enough food for half of them for one day.

We filled 47 boxes with meals (I was the packer, and I filled them all, counting each packet).

A drop in the ocean.


Our office wasn't the only one to participate in this campaign, and combined we packaged over thirty thousand meals. A big number, but still far from what is needed. The good news is that we are not the only organization that does this. Nor is this the only organization working on solving hunger.

Our meals were sent to International Care Ministries in the Philippines. 


Consider this you enjoy your Thanksgiving meal.
And how we get to a place where everyone can enjoy such a repast.

And do what you can to help.

Look Up In The Sky

I do all the time. And was rewarded with this view as I returned from lunch one day at work.

A sundog, and part of the 22° halo.

And a contrail with its shadow is a bonus.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Choosy Possums Choose ...

Most nights we put peanut butter out to feed the flying squirrels and opossums that call our yard home. The squirrels usually show up immediately. The opossums wander by on their own schedule.

But tonight when Patty went out with the peanut butter the Virginia Opossum was already here. So, moving very slowly, she reached out with some peanut butter, and Oppie ate it. Very cool.


While Patty was doing this I was cleaning up after dinner, and when I walked in to the living room I saw her standing very still by the tree. The angle from the living room hides the platform Oppie is sitting on. But looking closely I was able to the Oppie's tail. So I grabbed my camera and, again moving very slowly, walked outside to get this shot. Fortunately I was able to get close enough without scaring Oppie off.

She has a habit of feeding critters.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Winter is Coming

More of those birds which only show up in our yard when it get cold.

These winter visitors include ...

A male Purple Finch. Similar to the House Finch, a year round resident in this area, the Purple Finch has a purple wash across its entire body. These birds breed in Canada and spend the winter in the US, mostly east of the Mississippi River. But some prefer California.

A Fox Sparrow, the Red (Taiga) version. This population is also a Canadian breeder, which spends the winter in the US, again east of the Mississippi. There are four distinct populations, and the other three spend the winter out west. It is possible that these populations represent more than one species.

A Hermit Thrush. While technically not a 'winter bird' we only see this bird in our yard when the temps go low. And it is the only spotted thrush to be found in US in the winter months.


Now is a great time of year to put out food for birds. We fill our feeders and are rewarded with non-stop activity. And the birds appreciate the food during the winter months. And it is a great opportunity for citizen science.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Yard Critter of the Week

The Wild Turkey.

Highlight of many a meal this week.*

These visited this one morning as I was getting ready to go to work.

 But just as I spotted them they spotted me.

 And they made their way out of the yard and into the woods.

All but one, which is safely ensconced in our liquor cabinet.

It may be a "full moon effect" type observation, but they seem to become scarce just around this time of year. Reappearing in the yard after New Years.


Our first two years here we had Wild Turkeys visiting the yard on a regular basis, often daily in fall and winter. This past winter and throughout the year we've seen noticeably fewer visiting. Those first two years it was not unusual to have flocks of twenty or more birds at a time, and one day we had three flocks converge in our side yard. Over sixty birds that day. Lots of gobbling.

The birds have still been visiting. And we see them in the area, up and down our street, large flocks and small. But no twenty bird flocks in our yard this year.


* Not us though, we're having ham. Which is not a bad thing as, to quote Homer Simpson, "I enjoy all the pork products". [Update: we're having turkey and ham! Woo hoo!]

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

For Very Small Values of "Best"

While sitting on the living room couch watching TV (Highly Questionable to be specific) the motion sensitive light came on in the side yard. A common occurrence around this time of night that usually means a Virginia Opossum has come to call.

But not this night.

This night brought a new yard mammal.

A Gray Fox.

It did not stay long, pacing back and forth outside our living room, looking into the dark, away from us. And then gone. I had no time to get a 'real' camera, and used what I had, my iPhone. It was dark and the beast was in constant motion. And thus I got a bunch of crappy images. As I had my iPhone in 'live picture' mode it took a short video with each image. And the image you see here is a single frame extracted form that video, which is of much lower resolution than the associated still image. And this is the best such frame. Like the title says, a very small value of "best".

But it is still proof that we saw it. And should it come back I'll be ready with a 'real' camera. I hope.