Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

This Week’s Distraction – a Trumpeter Swan

Written by on February 06, 2012 No Comments

Yesterday, Mark and I threw a family birthday party for stepkid #4, which involved a bunch of cleaning, followed by the arrival of 4 kids, two significant others and my mom.  We drove to a local Mexican restaurant for lunch, had some birthday cake and opened a few lame presents.  By the time our highly sugared guests were shooed from the house, I had just enough time to walk around the lake with my 13-year-old female dog, Little Dipper.  The lake is only a wee bit frozen and looks like this.

A scene from our lake Sunday.

 Nearby, I saw a muskrat had come out for the last bit of sun and, well, I’m not sure what all a muskrat does on ice.  He or she did not care for my company for some reason and quickly plopped back into the water.

Muskrat chilling on ice.

Then I saw were these guys.  They didn’t seem to like my company, either, and kept flying right on by. 

Canada geese unwilling to stop in to say hi.

Nearby was the real surprise.  I had seen three swans on the lake from my distant bay window for several days and had assumed they were all mute swans.  We had a pair of mute swans nest on our lake this year and we very seldom see any native swans.  Yet there, hanging out with two mute swans yesterday was a trumpeter swan. 

Behind the two mute swans, a trumpeter swan.

Like most people who go visiting waterfowl, I took some whole, shelled corn with me, and soon the swans came over to sample some.  Clearly, the trumpeter swan had already been eating, so the corn was for dessert. 

Trumpeter swan forgot to wipe its mouth after its first meal.

The trumpeter stuck its mouth in the water, blew a few bubbles . . .


Trumpeter trumpeting in the water.

 . . . and cleaned its beak off.   Then it ate a little corn.

Trumpeter looking up from a bit of corn.

It didn’t eat for long, perhaps because corn is rather bland and my company equally so, and soon the trumpeter turned and floated away.

Trumpeter turning away.

 It’s a good thing I stopped by to say hi to the swans, because today, on my way home, all three of the swans were gone. 

And as a result, there is one less distraction from the ongoing task of marketing my book, From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds, about becoming a stepmom to those four kids I mentioned. 

The Rude Little Hawk

Written by on January 30, 2012 No Comments

I’ve only finished the first part of  Kathleen  Gage’s “Kindle Best Seller” webinar series, but already I’ve identified several things I’ve done wrong trying to sell books, one of which is the need to make it easier for everyone to buy my book.  So my crack web designer, Janet Lackey, updated things so you can find and BUY my book with the click of your mouse.  (Your computer mouse, not your pet mouse, please).  Please note that if you do book reviews, are a relative I’ve met at least once, or of celebrity status, I’ll even send you a book for free.  

Now Kathleen Gage’s “Kindle Best Seller” has some good advice for people wanting to sell e-books like mine, but the thing is, my computer is next to two big bay windows and I get distracted by birds and squirrels and even falling snow this winter because snow is rather rare this year.  As I was listening to some of Kathleen’s good advice, I saw this mourning dove sitting on the railing of my deck.  Doves show up daily and this one was awaiting an opportunity to peck at sunflower seeds amongst a dozen hungry squirrels.  I think he looked rather cute all puffed up.

Mourning dove hanging out on the rail of my deck.

Now, I’d seen doves many times, and soon went back to Kathleen’s webinar.  She was sharing some good tips and I was so engrossed that I didn’t see the gray flash that went by my windows a half hour later.  But I know there was such a gray flash, because when I stepped outside for some fresh air I saw a small hawk 15 feet from the deck eating a dove.  The nerve!

Small hawk munching on a dove pal in my backyard.

I turned to the hawk and said, “How rude.  I knew that dove.” 

The hawk looked at me, blinked and went back to plucking the dove. 

I ran inside, grabbed my camera and sat down on the steps of my deck, and– like most people would in the same situation — chatted with the hawk for a while. 

Juvenile sharp-shined hawk well into its evening meal.

I asked if dove tasted like chicken, and also, if his food would go down better with water or some other liquid?  In response, he plucked and slurped and wiggled his neck to get his dinner down. 

Feathers seemed to get in the way of a good meal.

We hung out together for a good five minutes before the hawk grew tired of my questions and lifted off with the remainder of his dinner in foot.  How rude.  First he eats a dove pal, then he leaves behind a big mess.

Hawk leaving a big mess behind.

The rude hawk landed in a tree on the edge of my yard, so I wandered after him.  I watched in amazement as, in the process of readjusting its position on a branch . . .

Sharp-shinned hawk with dove remains. Yuck!

. . . the hawk dropped the remains of its dinner to the ground.  The hawk looked down at the remains, looked at me, fluffed his feathers for a moment, and looked away.

Bummed hawk lost its meal.

He took a moment to preen, looked at me again, and then flew off, leaving the remains of the dove on the ground.  That’s gross AND rude.

It grew dark about a half hour later and so I was able to return to writing and marketing.  In the morning, three crows appeared in the yard to fight over the remains the hawk had left behind.   I looked up from my writing long enough to thank the crows for cleaning up the remains, and to ask out the window, “Perhaps you could use a pile of feathers?”

Swimming with a Great White Shark

Written by on December 30, 2011 1 Comment

In my younger days, I was fortunate enough to scuba dive with an occasional nurse shark and once, with a reef shark.  But I’d never stumbled upon a great white shark.   Over the holidays, I finally had a chance to be with a great white.

Close encounter with a great white shark.

The shark was pretty friendly, but at one point, it came right for me as if it had other intentions.  I threw myself backwards to get out of its way.

Shark attacking me.

Luckily, it didn’t make contact.  But then it turned slowly and came back towards me as if intending to attack a second time. 

Shark coming back at me.

I was sweating it big time, but thankfully, at the last second, he veered away. 

Great white starting to veer away.

Okay, so the truth is that I didn’t really get to swim with a great white shark.  The shark is actually a helium-filled shark my dad got for Christmas.  This is my dad with his shark. 

Dad after telling his great white shark to "Sit" and "Stay."

Dad adjusted the shark’s weight by adding or subtracting little wads of putty kept inside the slide mechanism under the shark’s chin.  The slide mechanism controls the shark’s up and down movements.  The rear fin powers the shark around the room.  You can get your own at

We think Dad liked his shark pal, as did Norma and the kids.

Dad flying his shark.

Mark liked Dad’s shark, too. 

Mark showing he likes the shark, too.

Luckily, Mark got his own airswimmer shark from his buddy, Ken.  In fact, you might say we were swimming in sharks this Christmas.  Not literally though.  And that’s just as well.

The Return of the Graylag Goose

Written by on November 21, 2011 No Comments

On Sunday Mark and I spent quality time with the four kids and some significant others munching on some delicious DeLuca’s pizza and drinking beer in honor of Kid #2’s birthday.  We made up for having fun by spending quality time in Home Depot on Sunday debating how to make smaller steps for Dusty, our 13-year-old dog whose short legs and chubby tummy have made it difficult for him to get up and down big steps.   We debated several designs, moved way too many sizes of concrete brick in and out and back in and out of Mark’s car, until finally settling on some lame setup that Dusty did not like at all.

Dusty recognizing poor craftsmanship when he sees it.

As a result of all our fun, it wasn’t until fairly late in the day Sunday that I was able to get out to take any photos of the migrating birds.  I hadn’t seen golden-eyes on our lake before and was quite thrilled to see the ones below even though they didn’t come close enough for a good photo. 

One golden-eye eying another golden-eye whose eyes are hidden from view.

I also got to see hooded mergansers on our lake for the first time on Sunday.  They were hanging out with the golden-eyes and didn’t come in close, either. 

Male hooded merganser (far left) and female (far right).

The coots came in close, though, so I got a decent photo of one of them.  Kind of a cute coot if you ask me.

A coot just offshore.

I was also lucky enough to see this grebe as the sun was setting.

Grebe with the sun setting on its beak, neck and back.

And this ruddy duck, which in the dim light looked more black than ruddy to me.

Ruddy duck.

But what really got me excited was the goose I saw.  You might remember seeing this odd-looking goose in one of my spring blog postings.  This is the one I accused of being a duck-eating goose but which was, in fact, just eating grass like every other goose.

Graylag goose in my neighbor's yard, circa spring 2011.

And you might also remember that shortly after I shot the above photo, I shot a photo of the graylag goose hooked up with a Canada goose.   And what was nifty about this siting is that the graylag is an Old World goose, meaning it’s usually found in like Europe, Africa and Asia.

Graylag-Canada goose couple, circa spring 2011.

So imagine my surprise when amongst a flock of geese Sunday evening after sundown, I heard the odd honking sound of a graylag goose and saw the pair, below. 

Graylag-Canada goose couple, November 2011.

It was a quite dark and the couple was not willing to answer whether they were the same ones I saw in the spring.  But I found it rather nifty to have seen a Graylag-Canada pair this weekend, en route to wherever it is they spend their winters.

The Hunter, a Poem

Written by on November 16, 2011 No Comments

The Hunter, by Amy L Peterson

Well son of a steer
I got me a deer
my smallest of wishes come true,
`twas easy to get
with which my car, which it hit
oh shittle de dittle de do.

Now my life was at stake
when I slammed on the brakes
`cuz the guy on my tail must so do,
then I heard from behind
a crunch and a grind
got little de diddle de do.

The cops soon arrived
to save my dear hide,
an ambulance driver came, too,
without dropping my drawers
my pain was no more,
they shottle that needle right through.

Next morning there stood
a head on some wood
no prouder a moment I knew,
`twas a ten-point delight
with a bumper and brights,
oh whattle I doodle with you?

The nurse, a real tart,
just stared at my chart,
said, “I cannot believe this reads true,
you’ve broken your back
and it seems that you’ve cracked
your noodle dee doodle dee doo.”

The doctor came in
and said with a grin,
“Ma’m I cannot believe this reads true
but in your twelve weeks to heal
you can eat Bambi meals
and twiddle dee diddle de doo.”

Through it all my boy cried
with his gun at his side
`cuz I’d promised to take him out soon,
for you see yesterday
was Opening Day
oh shittle dee shittle dee doo.

Trumpet Solo on My Lake

Written by on October 25, 2011 No Comments

Last Thursday was a windy, cold and rainy, but in spite of the gnarliness, the weather brought in some birdies that we don’t normally get to see.  Like this fella.

Trumpeter swan that dropped in for a wee visit last Thursday.

The trumpeter started trumpeting, and while I’m quite certain it was trying to attract the attention of another trumpter, it instead attracted the attention of Mr. Gawky, the mute swan.

Mr. Gawky all puffed up.

From the point of view of the trumpeter swan–or any other swan for that matter–Mr. Gawky’s puffed-up approach was not a friendly one.  But the trumpeter swan was up for the challenge and went after Mr. Gawky.

Trumpeter going after Mr. Gawky.

The trumpeter moved a lot of water while going after Mr. Gawky.

Looking good for the trumpeter swan so far.

But then Mr. Gawky reared up and the trumpeter swan reared up.

The two swans flare up at each other.

And the two swans went around in circles.

The two swans challenging each other.

The agressive, but no-touch dance continued…

Mr. Gawky seems to be getting the upper hand.

Somehow in the twirling and flapping, Mr. Gawky started going after the trumpeter swan.

Mr. Gawky going after the trumpeter swan.

And with that, the trumpeter ran off to the other side of the lake.

Trumpeter running across the water, about to get airborne.

It takes a lot to get such a big bird into the air.

Still running....

Finally, the big bird took to the air.

Trumpeter heading to the other side of the lake.

Mr. Gawky followed suit, the trumpeter took off and landed again.  Then both Mr. AND Mrs. Gawky approached all puffed up.

Mr. and Mrs. Gawkys going after the trumpeter swan.

Out-numbered, the big white bird took to the air again. 

Mr. Gawky bidding the trumpeter a final good-bye.

And with that, I said good-bye to the first solo trumpeter swan I’ve ever seen on our lake.  The visit lasted less than an hour. 

Good luck my feathery friend.

Trumpeter swan taking to the air again.

Get a new bay window, get an eagle free!

Written by on October 10, 2011 No Comments

 When Mark answered our ringing doorbell earlier this year he came face to face with Patrick Garvey, who offered to side our house for a price we couldn’t refuse.   We ran a background check, followed him home, and ordered a drug test.  Well, we thought about doing all that, but really, he seemed like a nice guy, seemed to know a thing or two about siding, and guaranteed our siding would stand up to at least a few good storms.  Besides, painting the outside of my house just isn’t as fun as it used to be.  So we hired him.

The Siding Man, Patrick Garvey, and his side-kick and wife, Jami, siding the side of our house.

The Garveys are nice folks and their attention to detail second to none.  One day, we felt we knew them enough to share our sad, sad story about our wee window problem last summer–you might remember how another contractor ripped us off in a very big way claiming they could duplicate our existing bay window and then saying they wouldn’t?  And that it was all our fault?  Well, Patrick said he does windows, too, and once again, he offered us a price we couldn’t refuse. 

Patrick with one window in, two to go.

 The windows were all in place on Friday.  They look like this.  Or is it a single bay window?  It’s so confusing.

The new bay window...s.

We have a great view of our back yard now and one of the first things we saw out our bay window(s) on Saturday was this fella. 

Big birdie outside our new window.

I stepped out onto the deck, ran down some stairs and took another shot before the bald eagle took to the air.

Bald eagle stopping by to say hi.

I can’t think of a better first view out a new bay window. 

I must thank Patrick and Jami for the fine work they’ve done so far, and for restoring our faith in contractors.  Next weekend, maybe you could send a golden eagle past our window–we haven’t seen one of those in a long time.

Tribute to Andy Rooney

Written by on October 09, 2011 1 Comment

This one is honor of Andy Rooney, the grumpy `ole writer who entertained us with thought- provoking editorials on Sixty Minutes  for a long, long time.  He is the consummate curmudgeon, the guy who says what’s on his mind, the old fart that I feel I might have something in common with.  Just get over the fact that we’re not the same gender, he’s almost twice my age, and he’s really famous in comparison to little `ole me.  Let’s focus on the fact that over the years, what he said often made sense to me.

Take the subject of shopping at the grocery store.  I dislike grocery shopping at all grocery stores—just going up and down the aisles is frustrating when there are people in my way.  And as Andy once bemoaned, the shrinking size of food containers and the rising cost of food adds to the frustration.

But I’m also really put off when I get home from the store and open up a box of PopTarts—for my ferrets, of course—and find the words, “I’m Sorry” inside.  I don’t like losing a contest I never knew I had entered.  But I’m also competitive, so I decided to see if I could win something, so opened a second box of PopTarts and was “Sorry” again.  You might imagine how sorry I was when the third box of PopTarts showed the same thing.  Luckily, we’re on our last ferret and she doesn’t seem to like PopTarts so I won’t have to be sorry much longer.  I’m betting that kind of thing irked Andy, too.

Sorry, so sorry.

I also get perturbed about the decline of the English language that text messaging has brought about.  We don’t laugh out loud anymore; we LOL.  We don’t say, “Oh my God;” we say “OMG.”  We don’t even say hello anymore; we say “Hi” because it’s shorter.  I don’t know if Andy commented about this.  He may not even own a cell phone with text messaging.  I don’t.  And I don’t plan on getting one.  Now that I’m reading my own writing, I don’t even like seeing the phrase “text messaging” in writing.

I also find it downright disturbing that the Oxford Junior Dictionary has dropped words like magpie, vine, beaver and canary to make room for mp3 player, voicemail, blog and chatroom.  Only the blog one is important and only because I have a blog.  But the overall message is frightening to me–that kids are more and more disconnected from the environment.  That’s one of the reasons why I do blog postings.  I always discover something I didn’t know or haven’t seen before.  That’s what writer’s do.  What Andy always did. 

Here’s what I discovered this weekend:  pied-billed grebes in the spring look like this:

Pied-billed grebe I photographed in the spring.

But in the fall, pied-billed grebes look like this fella, which I shot in my backyard this weekend:

Pied billed grebe with its winter plummage.

In fact, I can relate to animals more than people, and I wonder if that’s true for Andy, too.  I like just about any animal because they never say anything bad and are always happy to see me.  Well, except for Purrkins, the cat.  She reacts the way I imagine Andy Rooney might if he were to see me—he probably would lift his head up from his writing, blink at me like a cat, and go back to his writing. 

Purrkins lifts her head from her box and gives me a disinterested look.

I’m also guessing that if Andy had to chose between a cruise with a couple thousand old people and spoiled kids OR a free trip into the wilderness, he’d pick the wilderness and hope like heck he wouldn’t see anybody.  Including me.  Because I’d go for the wilderness every time.  Well, unless my dad wanted to go on another cruise.  We had a real good time in 2003.

Andy will have lots of time now to get away from people and hang with animals, or do whatever he wants.  But as I watched him walk away from the camera on Sunday and into retirement, I got a sense that he’d already lived a pretty good life so far.  He  always wanted to be a writer and was just that and a darn good one to boot.  He became as common a household name as some of the products whose packaging shrunk over the years, and that’s what all writers strive for until the public intrudes in their lives.

I hope Andy continues writing as long as he can, because there’s a lot of other things wrong with the world that we need a grumpy ole guy to help us see.  Not that any of us can do anything about all that’s wrong with the world, but we all feel better going, “Yes, he’s spot on again!” That’s why we like Andy Rooney.  And that’s why I’ll miss him on Sixty Minutes.

Mr. Squawky and Mr. Spearface

Written by on September 26, 2011 No Comments

Once upon a time about a week ago, Mark said he heard something in the back yard that sounded like a pterodactyl call.  Ignoring the thought that Mark associating a noise back to cave man time meant he is much, much older than I’d previously thought, I grabbed my camera, walked down to the water’s edge and saw this.

The cause of the squawking down by the water.

I got closer and took another photo.

Mr. Squawky is a blue heron.

I went around the willow tree for a better look.

Mr. Squawky hasn't seen me yet.

Then, he saw me.

Mr. Squawky looking directly at me and squawking.

I zoomed in on Mr. Squawky’s head.

Mr. Squawky staring at me.

I zoomed in on his long, impressive toes, too.

Mr. Squawky's long toes.

And even though everything pointy about him intimidated me, I stepped into the open for one more shot.

Mr. Squawky, still squawking at me. Check out that tongue!

Mr. Squawky flew off in a squawky snit after that. 

Now, while that was the last I saw of Mr. Squawky, two nights later, I looked out into the back yard and saw this.

A blue heron in my backyard.

This blue heron was a little more mottled in color than Mr. Squawky, and there was something about the way it stared at my brush pile that got me thinking.  I ran off to get my Audubon book about birds and learned that blue herons will eat small mammals, like voles, mice, shrews and chipmunks.  I’ve photographed each of those in our backyard before.  In fact, two chipmunks will take peanuts right out of my hand.

One of my chipmunk pals.

As illogical as it may be, I couldn’t stomach the heron eating one of my chipmunk pals.  So like most normal people, I went out onto my deck and waved at the heron to scare it off.

Heron leaving my back yard.

The thing about this heron is that it came back into the yard three more times.  And each time, I went outside on to my deck and waved my arms around.  I named this heron Mr. Spearface.  And I had to tell Mr. Spearface that eating my friends would put me into therapy but that he could hunt in the back part of the yard where I don’t have any friends.

Two nights later, Mr. Spearface heeded my advice and came creeping into the yard.  I watched him for a good few minutes as he slowly moved his way across the yard, stalking his prey like a cat. 

Mr. Spearface hunting at the very back of my yard.

He stopped moving and held still for a good five minutes before giving up, fluffing up his feathers and marching back out of the yard. 

Mr. Spearface on his way out of the yard.

I bid him adieu and better hunting next time, hopefully, somewhere else.

Farwell Ye Dog Days of Summer

Written by on September 17, 2011 No Comments

I don’t know about you, but I already miss the dog days of summer, just sitting in the sun and relaxing now and again.

Little Dipper chillin' out in the sun.

With temperatures dropping and Mark back to school, Little Dipper won’t be sitting outside sunning herself much anymore.  Poor thing.
I also miss sitting outside and watching birds fly around, like this hummingbird.

Hummingbird at my feeder.

Of course, not even the hummers had it easy all summer long.

Stinging nasty chasing a hummingbird away from the feeder.

We haven’t seen any hummers for several days now.

I also liked watching the occasional bird take a dip in our bird bath.

Red-wing blackbird taking a bath.

Of course, not even the red-wing blackbird had it easy all summer.

Red-wing blackbird bath interrupted by a baby starling.

We haven’t seen a bird take a bath for weeks now.

I also miss the ants that were in our backyard.  We had a huge ant nest.  But one day about two weeks ago, I looked outside and saw hundreds of them lifting off into the air.  Mark said they were leaving our backyard to mate and start a new nest somewhere else.  Like it could be better anywhere else.

Winged ants at the top of a weed in my backyard.

I’m thinking the world looked pretty large from an ant’s point of view.

Winged ant looking rather puny in the grass and weeds.

The object was to climb to the top of a weed or grass blade and take to the air.

Winged ant beating its wings, ready to take off.

Some ants were more hesitant than others.

Ant on the left preparing for take-off; ant on right airborne.

Some ants had a hard time getting off the ground.

Ant struggling to get to the top of the grass blade for take-off.

Like most people, I wanted to help the little ant.

Ant I helped take off.

But even the ants didn’t have it easy all summer.  This crow came along more than once to poke at the nest with its sharp beak.

Crow on the ant nest.

The crow poking the nest aggravated the ants and caused them to squirt their formic acid on the crow.  This helps kill the crow’s parasites.

Crow getting a spa treatment at the ant nest.

 So when summer ends, ants take to the air to mate and start a new nest, hummers and black birds migrate south, and birds that stay around all winter stop taking baths and go dirty for months at a time.  Farewell ye dog days of summer and all the critters that I got to see.  I hope to see some of you next spring.

As for Little Dipper?  Well, she’s adjusting to the end of summer just fine.

Little Dipper settling into fall snuggling mode.