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

-Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

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>

Monday, October 20, 2014

Another Notch On My Belt

     There are certain birds I can usually be sure of seeing when I head out my back door.  My Red Bellied Woodpecker and White Breasted Nuthatch friends being two of my favorites.  But it's that chance of seeing something extra special that has me captivated.  An occasional warbler or the Pileated Woodpecker.  And there's always the possibility of a new life bird. Since I'm still new to bird watching there are several I haven't seen before and last week I was thrilled to add another bird to my ever growing list.  The Brown Creeper.  They can be difficult to spot because they're well camouflaged, looking rather like tree bark, but this one stood out clearly against the lichen covered tree he was on and I got quite a good look at him.  What a cute bird!  They're small and they creep up the tree as their name suggests like a nuthatch but with a curved beak.  He brought my backyard species tally up to 29! Not to shabby for only 3 months.  I can't wait to see who I'll spot tomorrow. 
photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/skersting/11484264106/">skersting66</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

When Books Become Movies

     I'm going slightly off topic with this post because I'm still in the middle of my current book, Watership Down, and thought I'd talk a little about a movie I took the kids to see instead.  The first book over 500 pages my, now 11 year old, ever read was Here Be Monsters by Alan Snow.  He was so proud of himself for reading such a hefty book and his confidence soared.  It was terrific.  So. naturally when I heard they were making a movie based on the book I knew we had to go.  It turns out the movie, The Box Trolls, was only very loosely based on the book.  It was more it's own story set in the same world with a few of the same characters.  I wasn't sure how my son would feel about this.  When we saw the Percy Jackson movies, his favorite book series, the major plot changes really bothered him.  I know, I myself am often devotedly loyal to the original book and have become infuriated when movies deviate too much from the storyline.  I have even been known to yell at the screen, in the comfort of my own home of course.  This time however, the differences didn't seem to bother him too much, perhaps because they gave the movie a different title and didn't try to claim it as the same story.  All in all, it was a fun movie with great animation.  We all enjoyed it and I would highly recommend it.

Photo from: http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/files/2014/08/HereBeMonsters-200x300.jpg

Saturday, October 11, 2014

No One to Love

     I haven't found much time this week for blogging but I did manage to finish another book.  This was another romance by Lauren Willig, though a tad more serious than the Pink Carnation series.  The title was the Ashford Affair and while I didn't dislike the book, Lauren Willig being a talented story teller, I didn't enjoy it as much as the silly ones. The main reason being I just didn't connect with any of the characters.  Good characters are one of the most important elements in a great book. Writers spend a lot of time and some might even tell you blood, sweat, and tears, trying to create characters that feel authentic and that they're readers will fall in love with. The characters in The Ashford Affair were well written, I just didn't like them. Most of them seemed self centered and even the sympathetic ones couldn't hold my affections. So would I recommend the book?  If you like period dramas, you may enjoy this one, set mainly in Europe post WWI and Kenya Post WWII. It was a well told story. And perhaps you'll find a character in it in which to relate. Unfortunately I did not.
photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/angela7/284804261/">angela7dreams</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">cc</a>

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Untidy Endings

     My mom and I decided to do our own version of a mother/daughter book club last week so we selected a book and she listened to it on her way to and from work and I read the traditional version.  The book we chose was The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall.  It's a middle grade novel one of her co-workers recommended that has been quite popular with actual mother/daughter book clubs.  We both enjoyed it, especially because it was reminiscent of some of our childhood favorites like Little Women. We especially enjoyed discussing it as we went.  I think my mother and I could talk books until the cows came home.  One thing we were in agreement on was that the villain was thoroughly vile and neither of us were satisfied that she got what she deserved at the end.  The book is the first in a series so we can only hope there will be some serious remorse on the part of the children's nemesis in subsequent books.  I must say, especially after such a superior ending in Egg and Spoon, the conclusion can make or break a great book.  If there is a villain, a truly, vile bad guy, then said villain needs to be adequately punished or even better, they need to go through a glorious redemption.  In The Penderwicks I didn't feel that this was accomplished.  I guess I'll just have to read the next one to see what happens.  After all, the rest of the characters were delightful, and the story was charming, right up until the unsatisfactory finish.
photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/fliegender/571543296/">fliegender</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

Friday, October 3, 2014

Fencing Flickers

     I heard a lot of commotion out back this morning so I went to see who was making all the racket and I got to see something pretty cool.  Almost half a dozen Northern Flickers were cavorting from tree to tree and a couple were even battling each other.  They continued for a bit and then two of them faced off on a branch zigzagging their heads back and forth, clashing over territory.  I've seen lot's of birds defending their territory, Hortense the hummingbird was a mighty warrior over hers, Red Bellied Woodpeckers, nuthatches.  But the Flickers were mesmerizing. They seemed almost gentlemanly about it, bobbing and weaving like duelers at dawn.  If you want to watch a video of what it looked like click here.  My son is taking fencing at school.  Maybe the Flickers could give him a few pointers.

photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/dougevans/6167106784/">hulio82</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Vexing Hobby

     First let me say, vexing is on of my favorite words I've learned from reading Jane Austen and I'm thrilled to have an opportunity to use it.  Yes, I know I'm a nerd.  But moving on.  Bird watching for those not familiar with it, may sound relaxing and it can be.  However, lately I've found it frustrating at times.  I'm quite new to the venture and there is a lot I don't know.  I can identify a few birds by call but not many, and I still can't do a long distance ID.  I can't usually tell what type of hawk I'm looking at unless it flashes it's red tail at me.  In short, I'm quite the novice.  I wish I could carry around an expert in my pocket, and yes, I've heard there's an app for that but I'm not phone savvy either.  Sometimes I swear the birds are taunting me.  I know they're in the trees.  I can see them flitting about, out of range, or hear them call, but I have no idea what they are.  Sometimes it's easy.  I got a great look at a Pileated woodpecker today.  That was terrific. It's those times that keep me at it.  And the few times I see a new bird and am actually able to ID it.  As for the other exasperating moments, I guess I'll just have to study and remember to carry my binoculars with me where ever I go.  
photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/proimos/8618362879/">Alex E. Proimos</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">cc</a>