Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Crime Too Close for comfort.

     At 2:00 AM last Friday morning thieves took two dirt bikes and a quad from my neighbor Barb's  garage.

     Now for the rest of the story!

     We have a security light at our front door. It goes off and on during the night for various reasons. Seldom do we get up to see if anything is amiss. At 2:00 AM last Friday morning my wife did get up to look out. She noticed someone standing at our corner. The guy appeared to be looking around as if looking for something. My wife came back to the bedroom to get me to look out. By the time I got there the guy had disappeared. We also noticed that the light was on in Barb's garage. So my wife said the guy looked clean cut. We debated phoning the police but somehow thought that it was unnecessary. I also said, "Well Barb probably forgot to shut the light off." So we went back to bed. 

     On Sunday morning I asked another neighbor if he had seen anything early Friday morning. He hadn't seen anything but he told me then that Barb's garage had been broken into. 

    The bad guys had found Barb's car window down a tiny bit. They entered the vehicle and took the garage door opener and so entered the garage and took the loot. 

    On Friday Barb didn't go to her garage and didn't drive her car.. After supper she was going to go to the store and found a mess in the front of her car. She couldn't understand why the mess. Then she noticed the garage door opener gone. She checked the garage but didn't notice anything missing. The bikes and quads belong to her son and the bikes and quad went in and out of the garage. Just to be sure she phoned her son on Saturday. He said that the bikes and quad should be in the garage. 

     So the wheels turned very slowly and finally more than 24 hours later it was discovered that there was a theft.

    Meanwhile my wife and I felt very badly that we hadn't reported the person on our corner. Just maybe he or his friends may have been found and questioned in the area.

    So this was a crime that was close and so far away in many ways. There are the what ifs? There's the feeling of being too trusting. There's the feeling that it could have been me for some strange reason.

    So it's a wake up call for our community to join together and be much more aware of what is happening in the neighborhood.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Spring Bird Count : Day Two

     Today was my second session of spring bird count. Today I counted at a location called Slack's Slough. This is about 150 acres of water and then about 150 acres of riparian area. The soil around the slough is fairly alkaline so the general area has grass which grows under these conditions . Of course, there are no trees or brush. Most of the water's edge has a heavy growth of reeds. There are very shallow areas suitable for waders. 
The whole slough is rimmed by a heavy reed  bed.

    As you look across the slough there are 100's of birds. There is a wide variety of species. Since the distance is great and the reeds are thick there is a challenge to see some of the birds you hear. A good scope is really needed as further out I can not see the colors. I know that there are three species of grebes out there but I cannot identify which is which. I was lucky to find a beautiful Amereican Avocet right by the parking lot when we arrived. 
There are a few trees in some areas.

     So I picked up 17 species and hundreds of individual birds. It was a very pleasant two hours sitting on a viewing stand.

My friend Mike who called out the names of the species for me to record.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Spring Bird Count

     This weekend is our spring bird count at Red Deer , Alberta. I count in a area that I have done for about 35 years. Part of the area is the ravine shown in An Evening Bike Ride.   It's about 150 acres and has a lot of old growth forest. Piper Creek winds back and forth in the ravine bottom.

     I usually find  12 -18 species and 60 - 100 birds. I'm sure there are more species and if I had enough time and patience I would find them. For example, I know there are Downy, Hairy and Pileated Woodpeckers in the area. I have seen Brown creepers but only every five years or so. You hear many Warblers but they stay in the canopy and unless you're really lucky you can't see them. I am not confident enough to identify them by sound. 

     Today my friend Mike came with me. When I bird I find them by sound more than anything else because this area is heavily forested. Mike and I like to visit. Since we are both in our seventies and somewhat hard of hearing we talk quite loud. I'm sure the birds heard us coming from a long way off and fled to safer areas. 

     We did find 16 species in 2 1/2 hours. We walked about 5 km (3 mi.)
Red, the birder taken a long time ago.

    We are also supposed to count any plant that is in bloom. Since birds don't pose too well and my camera is limited, I do have some flower pictures. I took these last year and didn't have to repeat them again this year.

Buffalo Bean (Thermopsis rhombifolia)
Early Blue Violet (Viola adunca)

Saskatoon Berry (Amelanchier alnifolia) 
Fairy Bells (Disporum trachycarpum)
      I apologize for not taking a picture of the dandelion!!!

      The weather was beautiful so we had a very pleasant morning.

Friday, May 25, 2012

An Evening Bike Ride

      I have been posting on cycling lately so I thought it was time to actually give you a ride. In our city of 100000 people we have around 80 km (50 mi) of bike trails. All of my riding is done on these trails.

Then I enter the bike trail and wind through the trees in a ravine.

Over a handsome foot bridge.

Then out of the ravine

Winding trails on the flat
Across another bridge on a more open part of the ravine.
Winding under the power line for three Km.
A two km straight stretch beside a busy road.

    Then I retrace some of the trails and I'm home again. 
     I find a 10 to 20 km bike ride in the evening to be a nice finish for the day.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Did You Ever Fall into Your Compost Bin?

    Well, I unfortunately fell into my compost bin a few days ago.
    Now before you can say, "What an idiot!" I can explain. Before you say, "Well, he'd make good compost!"  I have a reason. So I've covered all the bases for the "smart mouths."

    I was preparing a fence for painting the other day. The compost bin is close to the fence so there was not much room to maneuver. I was backing up and some rotten wood under my foot squashed and the next thing I knew I was falling backwards and very lucky for me I landed squarely in the compost. Now at first I thought , "Good , nobody saw me!" Then I thought , "How am I going to get out of this place?"  My feet were hanging over the side of the bin. I was in the bin. How was I going to get my feet under me? Well, I did get out in a few seconds.

    Now for the explaining. In a previous post I told how that I had been diagnosed with seizures. These are not the seizures with uncontrollable shaking. For seniors some of the being confused and not responding correctly  is due to seizures. There is a part of your brain where the activity is more rapid than normal. Now these seizures aren't a problem for me but the neurologist insisted I go on medication and I'm not going to argue with her. She says whether I have a driver's license or not. The biggest problem is the medication. They give the same medication for seizures as they do for schizophrenics and bipolar disorder. It doesn't make you feel very good. I have problems with balance on the stuff and that's why a fall. It also slows down your reaction time . So by the time you get your feet in gear to prevent falling into the compost bin, you're in the bin!

     However, I will take the medication if it prevents me from becoming confused or worse. I also know that I can't just stop taking it. There is a protocol for going off the medication.

    So there's my explanation. There's my reason. I also smelled like compost for the rest of the day. So my advice? Try really hard to stay out of the compost bin.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Golden Eagle: Close Encounter

      At one time I taught some outdoor education to middle school students. Mike was the leader of the team. We were always on the look out for suitable locations for field trips. Of course, we always had to quality test the location and maybe we were looking for a good excuse for ourselves to get out into the Rocky Mountains in an area called Kootenay Plains.

      We had looked a a site that we called Whirlpool Point Ridge. It looked like there was a long ridge that went up to a peak. So on a Saturday morning we drove to the area prepared to scale the peak. A huge Golden Eagle gave us a close look as it was sitting in the top of a very large spruce tree.We were able to park along the highway. We didn't find a trail so just went off in the general direction of the peak. We found the beginning very steep and had to scramble to get to the ridge. After that the ridge walk was pleasant with only the odd steep part. For the last 300m (900ft) to the summit it was very steep and required scrambling. This means using hands to maintain balance. By this time we could see that someone had built a cairn on the peak. Each man picked his own route through the large boulders. Mike is much faster than I am  and summitted before me. I happened to be watching as he made the summit. I saw his arms go up and he appeared to dodge something. Then I saw a huge Golden Eagle rise over the summit and cairn just a meter over Mike's head.

     After this major surprise we pieced the scenario together. The eagle had been using the cairn as a perch which gave him an awesome view over the valley below. Mr Eagle had been flying up to his perch from the other side of the ridge and did not see Mike until he reached the peak. Mike could not see over the peak until he got to the top. So these two creatures surprised themselves far out in the wilderness when they met simultaneously at the top of the ridge. .

     We discovered that the peak was only the end of a ridge. From the road it looked like a summit. A ridge continued on for several km. Of course, we had to continue. In  places the ridge was only a meter wide and steep drop offs on either side. You don't want any wind in a situation like that.

     We led many field  trips up Whirl Pool Point Ridge after that. I made it to the top one more time. Only the most fit students made it to the top. Sometimes it was just too windy to go to the top.

    The story we talk about most is the time Mike had a close encounter  with a Golden Eagle. We never saw another Golden Eagle in that area after that.

    I was so moved by this experience that I wrote poem.

             The Summit

  Panting grunting exhausted man
  with relief and excitement reaches the
    hard won summit.

   The Eagle, cruising updrafts
   rises to light on a favorite possession,
    the pinnacle.

    Startled climber...Eagle surprised
    to find his high altitude perch occupied

   Eagle veers wildly , dives down
   the opposite cliff 
   and screams his escape
   to the valley below.

    The unsettled intruder has again
    missed the photo opportunity of a 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Web Cam Updates

    As you know I have three links at the top of my blog for web cams. Two are for a Peregrine Falcon nest and one is in a beaver lodge.

    The beaver lodge web cam has been a disaster. More has to be learned about beaver activity for a web cm to be successful. The beaver keep on mudding up the camera and filling the hole made by the camera. I guess the beavers can tell there is a hole in the lodge and they try hard to plug the hole. As a result I will take off the link for the beaver web cam.
Beaver out enjoying a delicious green lunch.
Photo by Judy Boyd

    The Peregrine Falcon web cam is much more successful. They have laid three eggs and that's all there will be. The eggs should hatch about the end of May or early June. There is an excellent chat room on this web cam site. One of the ladies who lives right next to the tower has taken a great interest in Peregrine Falcons. she's a walking encyclopedia on these birds. She goes out of her front door and looks up to the top of the tower with her field glasses. This chat room is very active and the moderator is excellent. The Telus Tower is 100m ( 300ft) high. The regular maintenance crew hauls up the nest box and other gear. They attach the cameras and plug into the power source at the top of the tower. The platform on the top of the tower is about  4 or 5m (20 to 25ft) square.  It can get pretty windy at that altitude and it's amazing to see the birds cope.
300 m not counting the tower on top.
Photo by Judy Boyd

    So there's some good and some bad on the web cam front.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Happy Mothers' Day

       Happy Mothers' Day to all Moms and in particular those Moms who follow my blog. On this day I hope you find appreciation, admiration and love from those you care so much about. I also hope a few treats and kind treatment are thrown in to your day. 

      I am fortunate to have had two Moms. I had my Mom for 34 years and one month. I had my step mom for 30 years and 5 months so it was close to 65 years. I can say that I was fortunate.

     My Mom was born in 1914 and died in 1973 at age 59. My Mom had a very hard life as she married a farmer and she was not from the farm. The farm was primitive so water came from rain barrels in the summer and blocks of snow which melted in a barrel beside the stove in the winter. Clothes washing was a difficult and long chore. The little house they had was cold. To complicate matters she had three children in two years and two months. There are many things my Mom did for us because she loved us . Mom usually read to us before we went to bed. The four of us would snuggle into the bed and be completely engrossed  in the story she read. When she was finished we went off to bed. My interest in birds comes from my Mom. Yes, she got angry once in a while and freaked out but then most people do. My Mom cared very much about us after we left the house. When she got daughter in laws she welcomed them to her family and was proud of them. Grand children were a bonus to her. 

    I got my step mom in 1975 and she died in 2005. We were adults when we met her and had an adult relationship with her. She did care for us and welcomed the grand children. She was very astute as when my Dad was nearing nursing care she talked to his four sons and had us on her side. Then she could say to my Dad, "The boys say..." It worked like a charm.

    So I feel fortunate that I had two Moms who first of all put up with me and also loved and cared about me.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Harley Feud Fades with Passage of Time

       When my brother and I were about 13 or 14 in the early 1950' we asked our Dad if he would buy us a motor cycle. The answer was pretty easy for Dad and he also took the opportunity to tell us in no uncertain terms that he didn't want us to get a motor cycle. 

      This set back didn't stop us from dreaming about getting a motor cycle. Shortly after Dad's refusal and lecture we saw an ad in the paper for a motor cycle. It was about 80 km away and was the closest motor cycle available. We gathered enough money for the machine and one Sunday afternoon went with a few friends to look at the vehicle. We tested it out and road  around the block a couple of times. And then, as is characteristic of 14 year olds, we bought it . It  was a Harley Davidson 80. With 14 year olds, what you see is what you get. 

      We had a lot of fun taking the motor cycle back home. Everybody had a turn riding the new machine. About half way home we looked at each other and said , "But Dad said we couldn't have a motor cycle. "   In a matter of seconds we had a solution . We would put it in the bush on an isolated part of the farm. 

     We got home and found the selected bush and parked the motor cycle in the trees. 

      With such an exciting machine nearby we would go out and have a little ride everyday. 

      Time went by and one day my brother drove one of the vehicles out to have a ride. When he came to start the truck to come home the truck wouldn't start so he drove the motor cycle home. I guess the suspense of being caught was too great and he decided to end the suspense. Dad  came out of the house and was speechless. He did find out the barest of details which were only 50% right. He also took a test ride so he was incriminated   and we were sure we could keep the great machine.

     While the motor cycle was in the bush Dad had been working in that area and had noticed strange single wheel tracks. Someone had also reported seeing a motorcycle on the local road. Dad had gone into the local Credit Union and the manager said, " Hey Emil, did you know that your boys took all their money out of the Credit Union?" Dad had no idea about this. So when the motorcycle ended up in the yard everything fell into place. Dad had been busy and had not got around to an investigation of all these clues. 

     We became excellent mechanics as the motorcycle was ancient and needed constant repair. Maybe that was because we always wanted to find out how fast the thing would go. The speedometer didn't work so we had to have a car follow behind to get the speed. It's a wonder we survived.

    Interest in the great machine soon faded and we sold it to a kid we knew. The kid didn't have any money but convinced us he could pay. The kid got about 75 km down the road and as usual the great machine died.

 The kid left it in the ditch and came back the next weekend to pick it up and of course, it was gone. Did the kid pay us? No. 

    Now my brother and I had to live about 40 years not mentioning this part of out lives when Dad was around. We would be reminded of our wrong doing. By the time Dad was eighty he was talking about this event. By the time Dad was ninety he was laughing about our escapade and thought it was a joke.

    So with the passage of time the feud faded away. I'm not sure if you want to wait quite so long. Dad was about 40 when this happened and it took almost forty years for the anger to die away. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cycling Season Starts

       Skating season finished last Tuesday. so what comes next? Cycling! Actually for me cycling started about a month ago. April can be an excellent month for cycling or terrible. This year was so so. I got in about 80 km of cycling.

      As I've described in a previous post, I do at least 1000 km of cycling per summer. Our city has an extensive system of bike trails. All my cycling is done on the bike trails.

     I cycle by myself. I find it easier to concentrate on the trail and travel at my own pace. You can travel in your own little world. However, if there's any reason to stop and visit, I won't miss it. Tonight I stopped to see if I could find the frogs at the side of the trail. 

    Along with the thrill of cycling comes the headache of flat tires. I haven't had a flat for six years so this is my year. I had a flat a few nights ago and walked 5 km home! I think the only solution is to buy a new tire and tube. Safety is an issue. As you see I wear a helmet and have worn one for twenty one years. It's also important to keep the bike in repair . I hit speeds of 55 kmh (downhill that is)and you don't want something to happen at that speed or any other speed. I have a fair number of road rash scars.
Red, the mechanic , in action.
Do you think I'll make it?

     So I'm off to set my goal of at least 1000km for this summer. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Telemarketers: Let's Get Rid of Them

      A few minutes ago I received a call that said name and number unavailable. I did not recognize the number and  I was not familiar with the area code. I did not answer the call. They did not leave a message. Does this sound familiar to anybody?  Sometimes we can get two or three calls a day.

     I Googled the call I just had and found out that it's a scam. They want to lower your credit card interest rate. All you have to do is give them your credit card number and they will do the rest!!!!

    In Canada they have established a do not call list. I put myself on the list. I still get telemarketer calls. There are loop holes in our law. Telephone surveys are legal so that means make a little survey and then sell. Enforcement of do not call is a sad joke so the bad guys will see if they can get away with things. Canadian do not call laws do not apply in the U.S. So calls can be made from the U.S. and our do not call list has no authority.

    Sometimes I tried talking to the caller and trying to waste their time. Most of the time they were only too willing to visit. Questions like how's the weather there and where do you live were pleasantly discussed.

    Now recently I  learned that I can use a feature on my phone and block unwanted callers. Most of you probably know this as I'm usually far behind in these little technical features.  Not all phones have this feature. Now I block every telemarketer. I can block up to twenty numbers. Once I hat twenty I should be able to take the first numbers off as  they usually don't use the same number for very long.

    So all who dislike telemarketers block their numbers on your phone. I'm sure if we all get together we can put them out of business. Just more calls in your dinner hour.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Ice Skating Finished for the Season.

       Last Tuesday was our last skate of the season. We started skating on the first Tuesday of September and finished on the first Tuesday in May. It was a most enjoyable season.

Ready to go.
      In our city we have senior skating twice a week at one of the local arenas. Seniors are anybody 50 plus. We skate for an hour and then it's time for coffee and a good visit. The skating groups are very supportive of one another. We have a picnic in June  which gets the group together once in the summer.  

     We have from 10 - 20 skaters of various ages and abilities. Our oldest skater is 89. 
Still a strong sporty skater at 89.

      So I will get busy with looking after my yard and garden to keep me fit and out of mischief.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Working at the Casino

       For the past few days I have worked a shift at the Casino on behalf of a non-profit group that I am involved with. I have previously posted on "hooked on Casinos" where I maintain that non profit groups depend  heavily on Casinos for funding.

     In Alberta a nonprofit organization can be "given" a Casino to work at for two days. Over the two days thirteen people are required to cover all shifts. The two days will give about $25000 for the organization. My shifts started at 7:30 PM and ended about 2:30 AM. I find the work interesting as there's always something new to learn. Working with your team and the adviser is fun. The system set up to operate the tables is amazing for the sets of checks and balances that regulate the flow of cash and chips. Both nights we balanced exactly.

    The casino consists of slot machines and gaming tables. Charitable groups work on the gaming table aspect of the casino operation. For gaming tables chips are used for the play. A player buys chips at the table to play the game. Somebody has to tightly control the cash and the chips. That's where we come in. Let's say the  casino has $200000 in cash. They also the same value of  chips. Groups provide a banker, manager, cashier and chip runner. An extremely capable advisor tells us exactly what to do. All this is done with computer transactions. I was a banker...the guy who looks after all cash and chips. When I start the previous banker transfers all chips and cash to me. I give the cashier about $10000 to pay people who bring chips for redemption. When more chips are needed at the tables I also fill out chip orders. The tables need more chips when players take their chips and cash them in. The banker gives the chips to a "chip runner" who takes the chips to a table that needs chips. The manager supervises and relieves other workers. So the operation works very smoothly under the expert advice of your advisor. At the end of my shift I had to balance the cash with the chips. An able advisor really makes you look good. Also at the end of my shift I trans fer all cash and chips that  were in play to the count room which does the official count. 

     Now the group puts their time in so that they jump though some hoops to justify getting a bundle of money for the charity. Two and a half year later we get to do this all over again.