Friday, April 29, 2011

Peregrine Falcons at Nest Box on Telus tower.

        Since I have a link on my blog to web cams on a peregrine falcon nest box, I have some interest in what is happening. I don't check the web cams very often but I do know what's happening. There are two birds at the nest box now. They are busy moving pebbles around in the box. At this time we have no idea whether they are the same pair as last year. We do know that the first egg was laid May 1st last year and so are hoping that a first egg is laid around the first of May.

        After the eggs are laid there is a long incubation period where very little happens. Both birds take turns incubating so there is some coming and going. The exchange is made quickly so you have to be lucky to see it take place. This year you have a better chance at seeing the trading of positions as we have an external camera so you can see a bird that lands outside the nest box.

       Once the hatching takes place there's much more action.

       These birds are quite large and are spectacular fliers. They are the fastest animal on earth.
They are also a poster bird as they nearly became extinct because of DDT usage. They have been brought back from near extinction by a very active recovery program.

       So I hope that you check in on the peregrines from time to time and learn something about these awesome birds.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Computer Maintenance Phone Scam

          There are many scams on the internet and fortunately we are well protected from most of them.

          This week I received two phone calls from  scammers. It works like this. They phone you and say that they are computer maintenance and they have an appointment to fix your computer. They pick an easy topic and quote a good deal. They will fix the problem remotely but you have to open your computer where they specify so they can do the work. So you  open parts of your computer so these guys can get your pass words and get around security. They are then able to access your accounts no matter what they may be. They could also set up an identity using your information.

         I received two calls this week. The first one my wife answered and the English was so poor that she hung up and had no idea what they were talking about. My wife also answered the second call and this time she understood what was being said and quickly told them that they must have the wrong number as we didn't have any appointment for computer maintenance. When she told me about the second call I knew immediately that it was a scam as I had just read about it in the paper.

       So it's kind of creepy to know that the scammers have been so close to you.

       I hope that none of you gets taken in by this scam. We all have little problems with our computers. We all want things to be a little speedier. These guys promise you an easy fix. Beware.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

First Owl Egg Hatches

      I have had a link to the Ellis Bird Farm web cam which is focused on a great horned owl nest. The first egg has hatched! Someone was watching and saw a little owlet. Owls lay eggs every couple of days and start incubating when the first egg is laid. There is a wide variation in size of owlets on the nest and in hard times the youngest ones may starve to death.

      So for the next while there should be more to watch than just the female sitting tight on the nest. The owlets will be in the nest for a long time before they fledge so there's lots more to see.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Regal Visitor: Bald Eagle

       This morning for a few minutes I had a regal visitor just above my house. A juvenile bald eagle was making a few turns just above my house at a fairly low altitude. The eagle was about 200ft up and slowly made about 6 turns. It's somewhat surprising to see a bald eagle in an urban area but not impossible. I live in a small subdivision which is surrounded by other subdivisions. I do see bald eagles a few times a year but they are usually much higher and r probably on the spring or fall migration.

      Now some people will say, "Where's the picture?"  With my little camera you would have seen a small black bird in a big blue sky.

      So what was this bird doing in my neighborhood? It could have been using a thermal current to gain altitude. Heat from pavement may have caused a small thermal.  Maybe it had spotted a cat or small dog that looked like possible prey. Bald eagles also consume a fair amount of carrion which probably wasn't in my neighborhood. It's not likely that the bald eagle was migrating but there is a large ravine about 500 meters west of my house and the river valley is about three km north of my house.

      No matter what this bird was doing, it was a treat to see it right above my house.

      Bald eagles are large and impressive fliers. The bald eagle is the national bird of the United States. Many other groups use the eagle as a symbol. Then there's one of my favorite groups the Eagles. The bald eagle is also featured in poetry and songs. So it's a very influential  bird.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Happy Easter

To all those who observe and celebrate Easter:


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Never Doubt and Honest Man

        I have been known to put my mouth in gear before my brain. It usually results in something rude, dumb or wrong. I got my self into such a situation yesterday.

       Yesterday was skating day. About 15 of us skate on a regular basis and a rink staffer collects our three dollar admission before we go to the dressing room.

      Yesterday people were waiting in the foyer as there was no one to collect our money. A rumor sort of went through the group that the attendant said he wasn't going to collect today. There were "Ya right " comments and other ideas equally as derisive. Finally someone said , "Bob said the the attendant wasn't going to collect!" So since we were in rare form by then I said, "Bob is just torquing us." Now Bob is one of the quietest guys around and finally he told us that the attendant indeed had said he wasn't going to collect. So all our ribbing and joking was suddenly straightened out.

     So the problem was caused when the arena wasn't expecting us to come and skate. The ice wasn't ready. The attendant could think on his feet. He knew that his priority was to get the ice prepared. The hell with the money!

     So in the end as we were leaving the arena there was another  staffer  who collected our money to make things legit.

      So I learned that you don't doubt and honest man like Bob. If he says the guy said he wouldn't collect money that will be correct. After all the first guy didn't say he'd let somebody else collect money!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

On Line Bird Books

        If you've followed my blog for a while you will have noticed that I have many posts about birds. I have been interested in birds since I was very young. One of my posts details how my  Mom showed me  a beautiful mallard drake when I was about four years old. I've liked birds ever since although I get to spend more time on this activity since I retired.

       So needless to say, I have some bird books and have borrowed good bird books from the library. My Aunt gave me a second hand Taverner's when I was about five years old. Pieces of this book still exist in the family home.

      What I have discovered lately are some excellent on line sites for bird identification and information. Expert birders probably use these sites continuously. For the average birder these are excellent places to consult.

      I will give you links to two sites. I can describe both of them together. Both sites have a number of excellent pictures of each bird. Their descriptions are concise. What these sites have that books don't have is video of the bird. So you can look at the bird as it walks swims, flies or feeds. There is also sound recordings of the birds various calls. These are features that really add to your ability to identify a bird.

      I hope you will take a look at All About birds and What Bird.

      For those who are electronically blessed you will be able to use these features in the field and not have to come home and look them up on my computer. I hope that you will find these sites useful.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Peregrine Web Cam Link

       I have just set up a peregrine web cam link on my blog. So click on the link and it will take you to the peregrine web cam.

       This year we have set up a much better system so that you can watch a peregrine nest located on the top of the 101 m Telus Tower at Red Deer Alberta. We have installed 4 cameras this year. One camera is outside the box so that you can see the area outside the nest box. Last your you could tell that something was outside the box by the behavior of the birds inside. This year when the birds are changing sitting on the nest you will be able to see them outside the box. A second camera is capable of night vision so that you can see what goes on in the box at night. There are two regular cameras in the box so that we get more of a 3 D effect.

       So whenever you watch the web cam this year you will get a much better view. The color is also much better.

       So enjoy watching the peregrine falcons this year! They are an awesome bird.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Is Anybody Tired of my Snow pictures?

          In early March I did a post on last day of winter snow for skiing. I actually thought we would be finished with snow at that time. I expected that our snow would soon melt and disappear.Since then I have posted several times about snow storms, late snow, more snow and energetic spring storm.

         So today we are having another spring storm. We've received about 10 cm of snow. I took the pictures at 1:00 PM and it's been snowing off and on since then. Some of the snow has melted as it fell or we would really be slowed down.

         Usually by this time in April I have finished raking my lawn and am starting to work on perennial beds. I have usually ride about 100 km by now. The roads were dry enough a few days ago but I wasn't going to drag my bike over the snow bank to get it out of the shed.

        Our forecast is dismal until April 19?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Unusual Chukar Sightings at Red Deer Alberta

        Since the the spring of 2009 there have been sporadic sightings of chukars in the city of Red Deer.

        Chukars are a non native species to North America. They are native to central Asia and live in arid areas. The chukar is the national bird of Pakistan. Chukars were introduced to North America as a game bird species. They have done quite well in the central southern United States in the arid regions. They have been introduced to Canada on several occasions but did not survive as we have snow cover which covers their food source.

        Chukars are a very handsome bird. They have a red beak and very prominent yellow stripes along the breast. The rest of the bird is grey brown.

         In the spring of 2009 a chukar was found on the steps of our local news paper, the Red Deer Advocate. They got a nice picture but misidentified the bird.

        For the summer of 2009 chukars were seen along a park strip on the east side of the Bower subdivision. The winter of 2009-2010 found the chukars frequenting a yard the had ground feeders for birds. Two birds visited this feeder all winter.

          In the spring of 2010 a nest was found and young were seen on the park strip which had long natural grass. These birds were spotted many times in the summer of 2010. I saw them twice when I cycled through the area.

        In September of 2010 Chukars were observed on a strip of parkland on 30th avenue north of Save-on-foods.

       I didn't hear anything about chukars until today when someone phoned to say that they had chukar in their back yard. This yard is in the northwest quadrant of the city. The last sighting of the chukars had been in the southeast quadrant of the city.

      So speculation has it that these birds escaped from and exotic bird sale held near the Bower subdivision. My speculation is that these birds are able to survive by taking advantage of bird feeders throughout the winter. This winter was severe with long cold spells and heavy snow cover yet obviously these birds survived. So when you surmise that their natural food would have been well covered, one would have to suspect that they took advantage of feeders,

      I would like to hear from anyone who has information about chukar survival in this area or any other area.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Correction is Needed

        Now I admit that I am not the most precise and accurate kind of person around. I am not thorough and don't check my facts. My wife uses the "thorough" word all the time in reference to my cleaning performance.

         So one of my more careful thoughtful readers caught me in an error and politely told me where I was wrong.

         I did a piece on Unexpected Connections. In the conclusion I inserted a few lines from one of Roger Miller's songs. I didn't check the line. The line I put in, is not in the song. I made it up! Not on purpose! I just thought that "You can't ride a bicycle in a buffalo herd." was one of the lines. I've been singing this wrong for years!

       So thanks to my skating buddy Bob, for politely pointing out my error. Next time folks , don't let me get away with an error.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Devastation of Exclusion

          Today I met an acquaintance who I haven't seen very often in the last while. We exchanged greetings and the next topic which came up was "his hobby which has gotten out of control."

          His hobby is genealogy and he has become involved with the provincial group and spends much time on it. As many of you know  you can become totally absorbed in the research of your family history. I admit that I have more than an average interest in family history.

        We had a very pleasant chat and both had difficulty in leaving to go on with other obligations.

        He gave me a website to research to see if I could find more information on my family. I had looked at this website three years ago and had forgotten why I hadn't pursued it . I looked at the website today and put in some of my family names and all of them came back "No records found."  How devastating! It's like we don't even exist! Now I know I'm being overly dramatic. We are a large German family who came from Russia to Manitoba and then Saskatchewan. My great grandfather came with all of his adult children. We did a family tree in the mid 1980's and were able to discover 970 descendants. I was really surprised to see that we were not on this website.

       So being excluded lead me to some other examples of exclusion. I was a junior high school teacher for 37 years. My heart always went out to the little kid who was chosen last or totally left out of a group. Many times a kid came to me close to tears because their birthday was missed in the announcements on the intercom. That was always an easy fix. I would say we'll tell the office right now and a smile would return to the tormented little face.

       My Dad was born in Saskatchewan in 1912. In the early 1960's he wanted to travel to Europe so applied for a pass port. The reply he received was devastating. "Mr. Kline , we have absolutely no record of you!" My Dad thought that his Dad had forgotten to register his birth. My Dad at this time had filed income tax for almost thirty years. My Dad then had to scramble and find records from old school registers to prove his age. In due time he received his pass port. My Dad found the whole issue humorous but nevertheless he had been left out. In later research I found that his Dad was not at fault for forgetting to register him. The birth registrations in Saskatchewan from 1910 to 1912 had many omissions. Deaths and marriages were complete but some how the birth registrations were a complete mess.

      In relation to Dad's story he said , "That's why I never got a letter from the government to join the forces for World War II." If he hadn't applied for a passport he would have found the problem when his old age pension was due.

      So a pleasant chat on genealogy got me off on a tangent about the devastation of being excluded. Some people have enough ego to roll with being excluded and others are completely destroyed.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Unexpected Connections

        I started reading a book by one of my favorite authors the otherr day. I had accidentally found "Buffalo" by Grant MacEwan when I was doing the annual inventory for the Red Deer River Naturalists.

       I've got about fifty pages into "Buffalo" and find it one of Grant MacEwan's fascinating tales. One section cover the personality of the buffalo. They can be fairly placid and they can be one of the most fearsome animals you could ever meet. Don't get between a cow and her calf. Give old bulls a wide birth as  they are totally unpredictable. MacEwan does his research well and has excellent anecdotes to illustrate his story.

      This morning I had a long wait in a waiting room. I got talking to the guy beside me. He goes into remote areas as a relief ambulance driver. One of his stories was about his stint  at Fort Chipewyan before Christmas. There is a large herd of free roaming wood buffalo in that area. These buffalo missed the near extermination of the prairie bison and have continued to roam free. The ambulance had to regularly drive through Wood Buffalo National Park. One day they were following a mini van. A half dozen large buffalo bulls were on the road. These bulls own the territory and they were in no hurry to move. The minivan driver tooted the horn. One old bull sauntered over to the mini van , lowered his head and some how caught the fender and the next thing that happened the mini van was turned on its side. The driver of the ambulance asked if he should turn on the siren!!! My friend said don't you dare. This old bull is mad enough already.

      So rather funny how I'm reading a book on buffalo and somebody tells me of an interesting encounter with a buffalo. So it was an unexpected connection.

     After that I got thinking about a line in one of Roger Miller's songs. "Oh you can't ride a bicycle in a buffalo herd. You can't ride a bicycle in a buffalo herd. But you can if you want to. So I had a third connection to buffalo.

    This morning when I woke up this was a post I had no idea of making.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My Love Hate Relationship with Haircuts

         Today I had to get a haircut so that started me thinking about why I like and dislike haircuts.

         When I was a little boy my Dad cut my hair. He had a hand clipper which he probably bought on an auction sale for twenty-five cents. At their best, hand clippers were not technically advanced devices. A user had to really be coordinated or they would pull and I mean pull. As a little fellow I remember shedding lots of tears when I got a haircut. When I was a little kid twenty-five cents for a haircut was a lot of money so haircuts were done at home. My Dad gave a reasonable haircut but he only had one style.

         As I got older we got the odd haircut at a barber shop so we learned that haircuts didn't have to be painful and they looked a little different than Dad's. When I got to high school I usually used my own money to get a haircut and avoid Dad even though he had bought an electric clipper.

         When I lived in the arctic haircuts were a challenge. One settlement had a barber but he was dreadful. The next settlement we lived in my wife cut my hair. We had electric clippers and she tried her very best to do a good job. Her style of cut was worse than Dad's. It was in an isolated area so few people saw me and it was better than nothing.

       When I moved south again there were more choices. I would find a barber to cut hair but my wife would criticise the job. So to please the judge I went from barber to barber. You'd get some good haircuts and some not so good.

      So then my wife persuaded me to let her cut my hair again. This was when hair was long. She did a great job and had the right cut. In her effort to do the perfect job she took a long time. I would whine about the length of time she took.

       So I might say that I have been traumatized when It comes to haircuts. I like the feel of a new haircut but I hate going for the session for my concern of criticism. If I could stand long hair I would avoid haircuts altogether.

      Haircuts ! What a quandary!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Wow! I've Got Some Bare Ground in my Yard

       Yes bare ground! I can hardly remember what it is! So here is a narrow strip of bare ground at the south end of my house. One meter away from the house is still covered with deep snow. Towards the fence the snow is about 60-70 cm.(24 in.) deep.

        April 4th is very late for us to still have snow. Usually all of our snow has disappeared by this date. Usually I have started with the first gardening tasks which around here is raking the grass to loosen the thatch. When raking is done it's time to dig the vegetable garden. Yes, I dig it by hand. I don't have a large area but it does take time.

       I'm hoping with this much bare ground the snow will thaw very quickly. Like everyone else I look forward to warmer temperatures and seeing perennials start. On one side of my house the bluebells have broken through  the ground and a lily of some sort has emerged.

     So I feel like I've really achieved something with a bare strip of ground. It was a very long winter!

Friday, April 1, 2011

April First is Awesome

          I've always liked a good practical joke.  A joke that's funny, but not mean or hurtful.

          I can remember riding to town with my Dad and we passed a farm where the farmer had all his equipment lined up on the side of a hill. With my devious little mind I could see that some of this equipment could be released and it would roll down the short hill. I thought it would be funny to see the farmer find that his equipment had rolled down the hill.

          In our country school there was a standard April Fool's joke. We would take the gong out of the bell so that the teacher would not be able to ring the bell and call us into the school. Most of the time the kids and teacher enjoyed this prank. We usually put the gong in the teacher's desk drawer.

          When I was a rookie teacher in a one room country school I was a spoil sport when it came to the standard bell trick. I took the gong out of the bell before the kids got to school.

          Today's April Fool's pranks are usually in the media. I must admit that some of them are very clever. Today we had a weather forecast for a winter storm warning.  Many people thought that this was an April Fools gag. Surprise , suprise! That was our valid weather forecast.

         Today I looked around for some good gags on the Internet. I only found one and it was in a blog that I follow. It was rather neat as it followed the theme of the blog and was backed up with excellent photos.

          So I hope that you enjoyed some humor today that was funny, but not hurtful or nasty. I hope that each day you find some humor to brighten your day.