“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”

-Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

Thursday, November 20, 2014


     This week I finished The Riddle Master of Hed Trilogy by Patricia Mckillip.  It's been around for a while, but it was one of the books I picked up at the book sale, and it came highly recommended by my mom so I had a feeling I was going to like it, and I did.  My copy had all three books bound together in one edition which made it easy to plow through and they are each relatively short.  I liked the first one the best.  It seemed to have more of a plot line than the last one which was called Harpist in the Wind and was much more cerebral than the first two.  After a while that started to wear on my patience, but overall I liked the books.  Riddles seem to be a theme in my house right now.  The current book I am reading is also about riddles.  It's called Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle by George Hagen.  It's a middle grade fantasy, my very favorite genre.  I'm not too far into it, but so far so good.  There are some very original ideas, though the orphaned child searching for a lost parent has definitely been done more than a few times.  In this one the boy Gabriel is linked to a young raven, also orphaned and both enjoy riddles.  People have enjoyed riddles for eons.  They certainly are popular in my house.  We've spent many a car ride taking turns trying to stump each other.  They tend to range all over the map with classic favorites repeated again and again, to ones that only make sense to my 4 year old, to some pretty tricky ones from my middle schooler.  The one I recently came up with that even stumped my husband was: When it starts getting warm I put more clothes on.  When it gets cold again I take them off.  What am I?  Well?  Wanna try your hand?  Or do you have a good one for me that I can use for the next car ride?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

When You Go With a Pro

     This has been far and away the best birding week of my life.  Wednesday I joined my mom and several other enthusiasts for a walk with Early Bird Nature Tours, which is run by her friend Larry.  We went hunting for loons.  Though we didn't see any, we did get several other really great birds, several of which were life birds for me, and even a Peregrine Falcon.  The next day I killed a lot of time out in the backyard and had my highest species tally for my yard to date, including a flock of blue birds, 5 different woodpeckers, ruby and golden crowned kinglets, and a yellow rumped warbler, apparently also known as a "butter butt".  The kids love that one.  After that day my back yard species count is up to 39.  Not bad for only 4 months.  Today though, today was the best day yet.  My oldest so joined my mom and I on another walk with Larry, this time at Longwood Gardens.  Our count for the walk wasn't as good as Wednesday's but we had a fabulous look at a Golden Eagle!  It circled about 40 feet over our heads for several minutes giving everyone a stellar view.  If I had been on my own I probably would have thought it was an immature Bald Eagle but the pros whipped out their books and confirmed it as a golden.  We were all pretty physched.  It was gorgeous.  Then at home I headed out back and it was a feeding frenzy.  The birds were going nuts over the fall berries.  The Red Belly was flying back and forth like mad, I got a great sighting of yet another sapsucker but then right before I was about to head in the Pileated swooped in to join the show.  It flew closer and closer, at one point only about 15 feet away.  I couldn't tear myself away.  Unfortunately it got dark, but you can bet I'll be back out there tomorrow. 
photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/jondavidnelson/14489162235/">Jon David Nelson</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Double Vision

     So, the other day I was out in the yard trying to close in on my Red Bellied friend with my binoculars.  I aimed at the spot I thought I'd seen him and thought Wait a minute, that's not a Red Belly.  It was in fact another Yellow Bellied Sapsucker, this time a male, but the super cool thing was I also had the Red in my sights as well.  They were right next to each other.  I'd been having a crummy day up until that point but what a turn around.  That double sighting perked me right up.  My mom told me I had "the woodpeckeriest woods" she'd ever seen.  I'm not sure that's a word but I think she might be right.  Thankfully we don't live in a log cabin or we'd be in trouble. 
photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/manjithkaini/2510622604/">Manjith Kainickara *manjithkaini.net*</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Halloween Horror Story

     I was going to write this last night but collapsed on the couch instead.  It was a fun but exhausting Halloween.  And as I watched the kids run from house to house it got me thinking.  I recently read a book called Facing the Monster: How One Person Can Fight Child Slavery, by Carol Hart Metzker.  It was not my usual fare.  I rarely read non-fiction.  But it is a topic that has been on my mind a great deal lately.  It was written more as a memoir of the author's experiences with her work as a Rotarian and how she was first enlightened as to the plight of so many children around the world and what she did and is continuing to do to help end such a terrible atrocity.  Unlike some other books about various causes this one did not make the problem seem too big to tackle, though it is rampant and the shear magnitude of enslaved children world wide is staggering.  Instead the author sought to encourage hope and show the reader how making even a small difference matters.  But be warned once your eyes are opened to what is really happening, not just in distant countries but right in your own back yard, you will never see things the same way again.  Simple things like trick-or-treating will hide a darker secret.  Such as most of the chocolate candy we all consume this time of year was produced not just with slave labor but CHILD slave labor.  Children who likely will never even get a taste of said chocolate.  So what is the answer?  Boycott Halloween?  Never eat candy?  No.  But be aware of where your treats likely came from.  Learn about the problem.  Speak out.  Write to companies and ask them to be responsible.  Demand anti slavery legislation.  Support those in the trenches fighting to end slavery around the world.  Because it still exists whether we're aware of it or not.  For more information or to track your slavery footprint visit slaveryfootprint.org and like Walk Free or Made in a Free World on Facebook.  
photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/imagensevangelicas/8321844602/">Imagens Evangélicas</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Whooooo's Ready for Halloween?

     I love owls.  I know they're trendy and tons of people are into owls but who can blame them.  They're amazing birds.  One of my favorite birding experiences ever was the time we saw an owl behind our house on my son's birthday.  A few days later we were able to call it and it called back and forth to my laptop from our oak tree before it swooped over our roof.  But owls are elusive and not easy to spot.  For some great examples of owls in hiding click here.  This time of year owl images are everywhere because they're spooky.  I've spent a good bit of my week getting ready for Halloween.  Making costumes, buying costumes and giant bags of candy, baking classroom treats and digging out decorations and trick-or-treat bags.  I'm sure I have plenty of company.  I haven't had much time for reading but I've managed to squeeze in a few minutes here and there.  In the spirit of the season of owls I'm reading a book of short stories by my friend Vonnie Winslow Crist called Owl Light.  The tales I've tackled so far are not too scary, which is good because I'm a bit of a wimp, but they have a slightly creepy vibe for sure.  Just right for Halloween.  Poems and charming illustrations by the author are interspersed throughout. I love short stories and these have yet to disappoint.  From the ghostly romance to the touching story of a grief stricken pair of sisters each narrative is beautifully told.  If you'd like to read an excerpt you can here and be sure to check out Vonnie's blog for all kinds of cool owl info .
photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/christopherlanephotography/8140397667/">Christopher Lane Photography</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Book Sale Gold

     What bibliophile doesn't love a good used book sale?  I know I sure do.  I recently came back from a local one with 2 bags full of books to fill up our new built in bookcases.  Most of them were for the kids but I managed to find a few gems for myself.  One of the ones that made it into the bag was Watership Down by Richard Adams.  I knew it was one of my mom's favorite books but somehow I had never read it. We usually have quite similar reading tastes, so when I saw it on the table I grabbed it.  I finished it this weekend.  My mom wasn't wrong.  It was wonderful, but unlike anything else I've ever read before.  I enjoy fantasy and have read books with anthropomorphized animals characters, such as Redwall by Brian Jacques, but this one was different.  Adams managed to make me feel just what it was like to be a rabbit. He ingeniously created an entire Lapine culture complete with it's own unique language and mythology.  I don't think I'll ever look at a rabbit the same way again.  It's definitely one I would recommend if you haven't read it.  Especially if like me you're a sucker for a well told story with a happy ending.
photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/emoglasses/200128273/">squareintheteeth</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Patience Rewarded

     I think the woodpeckers are my favorite.  Aside from Hortense of course.  Today they were especially active.  I'm not sure why some days are better than others but I'm convinced the birds know more than I do.  It rained over night so maybe the bugs were out.  Whatever the reason, within five minutes of walking out my back door I'd seen four different species of woodpecker.  The Northern Flicker was making quite a racket, while the Red Belly went to town on my back fence much to my chagrin.  Later while I was watching a downy and stalking what may have been a house wren, I saw the one I'd been waiting for.  A female Yellow Bellied Sapsucker!  I knew seeing one was a possibility around here, but until this morning it hadn't happened.  Every Hairy I saw I scrutinized to make sure that wasn't what it was.  I'm fairly certain this was a sapsucker though.  It was bigger than the nearby Downy and the pattern on it's back was more mottled than the Hairy and more conclusively it did not have a white belly.  Now all I need for the day to be complete would be to see a Pileated.  Though I'm pretty stoked even if I don't.
photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/normtownsend/4421284478/">Norm Townsend</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>