Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Perigrine Falcon Web Cam Set Up At Red Deer

         A few days ago the Red Deer River Naturalists together with Telus and Alberta wild life set up a webcam to watch a perigrine falcon nest over the breeding season. Red Deer River Naturalists(RDRN) paid for the camera. Telus installed the camera on their 100 meter tower. Alberta Wildlife designed a box that would keep out predators .

        If you click on the link you will go to the RDRN website which will have a link to the webcam and information about perigrine falcons. There are many people coming to the site. Perigrines attract much interest as they were very close to extinction and now are slowly coming back with a little help from us. The perigrine in it's own right is a very interesting bird because of it's amazing feats of flight and being able to hunt and take prey in the air.

       As I am a member of RDRN we were quite surprised at the interest in thee perigrine falcon and are quite happy that we set up the web cam. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New Trick for a Jack Rabbit

       I seem to be writing on jack rabbits fairly often. It's not because I particularly like jack rabbits or that I am an expert on them. It's just that the things are becoming much more common in my area and you see them several times a day. Sooner or later they do some trick and give me something to blog about.
      I was delivering papers this morning and visiting with my neighbor, Duane. As we were talking a jack rabbit bounced across the close and into Duane's yard. Then Duane told me his jack rabbit story.

    A few days before Duane had set up a sprinkler to water a very small area. He came back around the corner of the house to move the sprinkler and found a jack rabbit right beside the sprinkler. Duane stopped to observe the rabbit and noticed the the rabbit was drinking from the sprinkler. The rabbit watched the sprinkler oscillate and caught drops of water as they fell. Quick thinking Duane, went to the house for his camera. He also called his wife, Mavis,  to see the action. Mavis's comment was "unbelievable!"

     Not much is known about rabbits consumption of water. It's thought that they get most of their water from dew on the grass. Much of jack rabbit habitat is on arid prairie and they can be very far from bodies of water. I have seen them on new thin ice stamping their feet as if trying to break the ice to get at the water. They are  are also making a rather loud growling kind of noise as they are beating on the ice. Experts think that they see their reflection in the ice and think it's another rabbit and they are  trying to be aggressive and chase the other rabbit away.

      No matter what, this jackrabbit trick is a first for me and also for Duane and Mavis.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

It's Chickadee Fee Bee Time

         Anywhere there are chickadees, people will be familiar with the clear drawn out Fee Bee sound that chickadees make when they are indicting an interest in mating. Alberta has 4 species of chickadees, but the most common one in our area is the black capped chickadee. We have some boreal chickadees and the odd time we will see a mountain chickadee. The other chickadee we have is the chestnut backed chickadee.

       This morning as I was delivering papers at 6:30 AM, a couple of chickadees were doing the fee bee thing and it was a bit of a competition. They also called at the same time so there was a slight harmony. I stood and listened and enjoyed the pleasant morning music. I did not see either bird.

     I have watched chickadees in the same situation. They seem to be saying to any female chickadee who will listen, "Come over here and see my house." I observed this one time as two were calling and a female came by and looked at the first situation. There was fussing by both birds. She then left and went directly to the second bird and looked at his potentials. She also left him. The males seem to pick a nest loction, start excavating a nest cavity and then say, "Oh I need a mate to help me with this."

     All the activity and pleasant sound make for  pleasant part of spring. People who have lived all their lives in chickadee habitat are very familiar with the sound, but maybe not so familiar with all the activity. Next time you hear the pleasant sound take time to see if you can watch what the birds are doing.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Unhandy Handyman

       Yeah! That's me in the title. I can freely admit that my aptitude is totally lacking when it comes to handyman efforts. I don't know which way to turn the wrench! I never found a board that I could cut straight I accept that characteristic and can live quite happily with it.

       However, my wife has a completely different perspective. Whenever anything needs repair, she immediately thinks of self repair and gets into high gear. . And her repair man is me.

        On Tuesday the central vacuum motor quickly slowed down and stopped . The motor had burned out. So my wife quickly thinks that old Red can rapidly instal a new motor in no time flat. My wife is the manager, shopper and  supervisor of the whole project. It just works better that way. First, she phones all businesses that sell electric motors and gets a price. Then she wonders about gaskets, seals or whatever on the top and bottom of the motor and phones everybody back again. Now the motor prices varied widely and the advice on the seals...gaskets varies again so that sets her off on more research. Then what about the black rubber hose that connects the exhaust to the motor. This rubber hose seems to be attached with 14 kinds of super glue and it will not come off so that  it can be attached to the new motor.

      Now three separate trips are made to figure out  a solution to the gaskets and hose connector to the new motor. Finally, these problems are solved and then she can order the new motor. I am her "backer upper" on the solution to these problems as I am the handy man whose going to take all this apart and put it back together again. She does not trust my ability and she has very good reasons to not trust my mechanical aptitude.

      Why not just call the repair man and have something done fast and dirty. Solution proposed, and work done, and away we go! My wife isn't made that way. She has to fix things herself. She doesn't trust repair men and thinks they will always over charge her. So the unhandy handyman is always called into service.

     So after much research and trial and error the motor will be replaced and run better than ever. You can see that I have a pile of connected parts and a tangle of tools. All of this will pass.

    I'm not asking for sympathy. I certainly hope you appreciate my ineptitude and get a chuckle out of it. If you want to feel sorry for somebody, you can feel sorry for my wife who has to put up with me and is driven to fix all of her own problems independently

Saturday, April 10, 2010

More Rockin Language

        A few days ago I posted a piece which gave the backgound to some of our everyday sayings. Many of the common statements we use have interesting origins which reach back many years. Today they are commonly used and make our language expressive and interesting. They rock our speech up a bit!

     If you ever watched television programs on the "dirtiest" jobs you will know that in order to tan animal skins it was necessary to collect large amounts of human urine. In order to collect the urine families would all pee in a pot and then once a day the urine was taken and sold to the tannery . If that was the only money they had on which to survive they were called "piss poor." The people who could not even afford to buy a pot in which to collect urine were the lowest of the low and "did not have a pot to piss in."

      The floors of the houses of the poor were often dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. So the phrase "dirt poor" indicated the status of the family. The wealthy, on the other hand , had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they would spread thresh (straw) on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on , more and more thresh was added until when the door was opened the thresh would start slipping out. A piece of wood was then placed across the entrance to prevent the loss of the thresh and became the "threshold."

        When a family could obtain some bacon they felt quite special. When visitors came over they would hang the flitch of bacon. It was a sign of wealth that the man could "bring home the bacon." The family would cut off a little of the flitch and share it with their guests and then they would all sit around and "chew the fat."

       Bread wa divided according to status. Workers were given the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family received the middle and the guests received the top , or "the upper crust."

      You can probably think of many other day to day sayings we use and may wonder where they came from.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Red DeerRiver Vistas

       April the fourth, Easter Sunday, was a good day for a walk because a huge delicious Easter dinner was in store for me. My wife and I decided a walk along the banks of the Red Deer River would be the perfect exercise to prepare for Easter dinner. When we got to the river we found the trails wet, muddy, slushy and snow covered so the walk was limited.

      I had decided to take my camera just in case something interesting was encountered.
Something interesting was found. At Red Deer, the Red DeerRiver is basically a mountain stream with steep banks.

For some unknown reason I thought the house at the top of the distant ridge would make a great picture centered by the river. The white house is barely visible. The guy has a billion dollar view as the house is about 2 kms away. The 2 kms of river is braided with islands and at most times there are tremendous numbers of waterfowl.

This stretch of river has some areas of small rapids. In the distance the river runs out of room and has to make a sharp left turn.

A couple of hundred kms from here the Red Deer River becomes a classic prairie river with a well developed valley and high banks. It is then running through the badlands around Drumheller , Alberta.

For a super canoe trip, this river is tops. The rapids are not challenging and the stream is fast. Most of the time you do not see any evidence of human activity...just you and the river.

So later on, the dinner was enjoyed and the exercise was valued.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Beauty of Tundra Swans in Migration

        On March 27 and 28 I was treated to the awesome beauty of tundra swans (cygnus columbianus) flying over my district. The  mornings were both dark gray overcast so the brilliant white of the birds was sparkling as they flew towards the north. The striking color is just as noticeable under a clear blue sky as well.

        Tundra swans pass through Alberta in late March or early April  to their nesting grounds on the Arctic coast. They will rest and feed here for a short time, but keep on pressing north always landing on frozen over lakes and ponds. This is the condition they find on the Arctic coast when they begin nesting. The whole reproduction cycle is successful by a mere number of days. Egg incubation, maturation of young until they develop their flight feathers leaves very little room for error. The young must begin fall migration with very little flight experience.

      Tundra swans can be hard to distinguish from trumpeter swans(cygnus buccinator). Trumpeter swans are larger than tundra swans and nest in northern Alberta. The tundra swan has a small amount of yellow on the bill. It is difficult to tell the difference between  the species out in the field. Their voices are also different, but again you have to be experienced to recognize them.

      So once again I have the exciting experience to see tundra swans in migration. Just so trumpeter swans and you don't think I'm biased, I also enjoy the larger trumpeter swan as well. The trumpeter's will hang around on local ponds for a while so they can be observed at a more leisurely pace.