Friday, May 29, 2009

This Could Be Me

So far, I've managed to keep myself out of my own blog, at least, visually. While crawling around on the web looking for information about To Kill A Mockingbird, I found this trailer from 1962. The last scene (minute 1:40) could very well BE me. I think it's my very favorite scene of the whole movie.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

MOCKING BIRD



 A Mockingbird landed on my deck yesterday. Then it flew to the top of a tree. I saw it return five times over the course of the day. Each time it threw its head in the air and sang and sang. I wished I had a recorder because it was fantastic vocalization. It sounded like a Chickadee, a Catbird, an Oriole a Cardinal and a Robin all rolled in to one. Once, I saw a male Northern Cardinal land on the same tree and they got a little snippy with each other over this high perch. The Mockingbird won. I used to see Mockingbirds every summer when I lived in North Bath. They frequented an apartment complex that sat in a wide open field. That's the kind of habitat they prefer, semi urban open areas. But, I had never seen one here in Phippsburg. I had missed them. My heart had always skipped a beat when I had seen them. It's not that they are overly attractive birds. There are many birds here that are much more elegant and classically pretty. But, when I was a kid I had a deep crush on Gregory Peck. I can still hear his voice as Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird. When the Mockingbird opens its bill to speak, I hear Gregory Peck. Once you've heard a Mockingbird sing, you'll never forget its voice. I'll never forget Gregory Peck, either.




Bird On A Wire



I am convinced that this is the same Sharp Shinned hawk that I posted a couple of days ago. It was in almost the same place on Rt 209, but on the opposite side of the road. The road runs along the edge of Center Pond and the utility lines travel part of the way then cross the road. The hawk likes to hang out on the wires, hunting. There are lots of small birds, snakes and rodents. The wires make a perfect place to sit and wait. I look for the bird every time I drive by there and most often am rewarded. Sometimes, it sits high in the oak trees that line the ledge above the road, but seems to prefer the wires once the trees leaf out. As long as I stay in my car, it knows I'm there watching, but doesn't seem too bothered by me. That's right: I didn't even get out of my car for these shots. And, only the hawk, God and I will ever know if I was in my bathrobe or not.



Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tree Swallow


I love Tree Swallows. They are so social and chatty. These are nesting in a box on Haskell Point in Phippsburg on Rt 209. They are notorious for nesting in Blue Bird houses. In this part of the world, there are far more Tree Swallows in Blue Bird houses than Blue Birds. I did see an Eastern Blue Bird on the Heron Cove Road last Friday, though. It was thrilling!














































This is a Sharp Shinned hawk. It was sitting on a utility wire not too far from the Tree Swallows. 'Sharpies' are notorious for picking off small birds in mid air. They are swift, deadly fliers and zoom like fighter jets after prey birds. Sharpies are easily confused with Cooper's hawks, but I'm pretty sure this is a Sharpie.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Enough with the birds!



The Osprey are fishing here in Totman Cove. I've seen as many as 10 at once so far this year. When the tide is low they are really busy. They are catching almost exclusively these sand dabs or baby flounder. They look like pink pancakes. Again, all of these shots I took in my bathrobe. If you see anything out there that you think I should photograph, call me and I'll come with my camera wearing my bathrobe. Promise.
























This is a Song Sparrow. They can really belt out a tune sitting high atop a tree. They are one of the very first 'song' birds to come back in the spring.

Monday, May 25, 2009

BATHROBE BIRDING



One of my favorite movies of all time is The Big Lebowski starring Jeff Bridges. "Dude" Lebowski, mistaken for a Los Angeles millionaire, is actually a time wasting slacker, a bum that never gets out of his bathrobe. I often think of myself as "the Big Lebowski." If a person shows up at my house unannounced, no matter what the time of day, I'm apt to be in my bathrobe. The seriousness of my intent can only be discerned by whether or not I'm wearing reading glasses, but not by my wardrobe. I've always got my camera by my side, too. So, I was able to get all of these shots without hardly getting out of my chair, never mind getting dressed. Now, I think that makes me very rich. Don't you? Of course, when that eagle blew in, I was on the phone with a friend and had to abruptly hang up. "OH CRAP!" I yelled and threw down the phone. Later, totally engrossed in the day's bounty of photographs, I neglected to call that friend back. I had left him wondering if perhaps I'd had a sudden heart attack or merely had fallen off my deck. Another reason I feel like a very wealthy person is because my friends usually love me enough to forgive my annoying self absorption.



Bald Eagle landing on rocks in surf












Ruby Throated Hummingbird

Great Blue Heron on rocks in front of house

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

WITHIN REACH




video

My son is a dedicated rock climber. He has climbed El Capitan six times. At 3300 feet, it’s the highest vertical peak in the United States. This is a video of him slack lining. It’s like tight rope walking, only on a line with play in it. The line is about 1 ½ inches wide. Rock climbers slack line to increase their balance, agility and core strength. My son is very good at it. His pants were falling down and his dog was barking in the background, but nothing broke his concentration. Concentration is everything in rock climbing. Reach is also an imperative. The ability to extend the arms and body to the next crack in the wall can make or break a climb. I’ve never measured my son’s arms, but I think they are longer than average. He has tremendous reach. My arms are short, so it wasn’t my genes or ‘the nature’ that gave him the reach. It was the nurture. My children are both very courageous people. They have each climbed beyond their own fears to do bigger and better things in their lives. As you can see in the photograph, my daughter wants to be an astronaut. Reaching for the stars or a crack in a wall takes guts. They have internalized the belief that nothing is beyond their reach.
The Christmas that I was seven, my father gave to me a set of tiny houses. They were painted bright, primary colors and came in their own mesh bag. After school vacation, I took my gift to school to the class Show and Tell. The little houses seemed pretty lame compared to what the other kids brought. But, I was proud of them because my father had given them to me. He thought they were great and so I thought they were great. Until I saw Yvonne Murdock’s pink pencil box. Yogi Bear was on the lid. It had a row of colored pencils in the rainbow’s spectrum. I loved that pencil box. I wanted that pencil box. So, when Yvonne wanted to see my little houses, I said only if I could look at the pencils in her box. She agreed. I didn’t dare take the pencils out, but carefully rolled them back and forth with my finger. Yvonne dumped the houses onto her desk then she stacked them on top of each other. When they fell, she stacked them again. One fell on the floor. Ignoring it she demanded, “Trade!” I wanted that pencil box so badly I could taste it. But I knew if I gave up the houses it would disappoint my father, wound him even. Yvonne snatched her pencil box making me jump. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears. “Here, take it!” Shoving the box at me, she grabbed up the houses and shoved them into the mesh bag. The pencil box was in my hands. Mine! Its pinkness tingled up my arms. I didn’t know what fainting was about, but I felt like I was going to. I spent the rest of the day carefully opening and closing the box and mooning over the pencils. I was so excited about the pencil box that I forgot about my father. His feelings had disappeared like fog. When I got home, carrying the box like the Gift of the Magi, I rushed to show him. “Look what I traded with Yvonne,” I beamed. Too late, I saw the curtain of disapproval lower across his face. I’d done something horrible; I was horrible. Glowering at the pink pencil box, he said “Return that to her. Bring back the set of houses.” It was not negotiable. That night, I cried into my pillow. I couldn’t look at the pencil box. The next day, I took it back to school and told Yvonne I had to have the houses back. She had brought them to school and surprisingly, didn’t argue, but exchanged them for the box. There was one house missing. When I got home, I didn’t say anything to my father; I just handed over the bag of houses. For a split second, I hoped that the courage it took to ask for them back would impress him. He said nothing. He opened the bag and took out each little house. One by one, he examined them. One by one, he placed them in a neat row on top of the door frame to the dining room. Neither of us said a word. They were never mentioned again. For as long as I can remember they stayed there, forever just out of my reach.

Monday, May 18, 2009

PEREGRINE IN PROSPECT


On Friday, I went to the Penobscot Narrows Observation Tower with my pal, Shirley. The tower is in the top of the bridge that crosses the Penobscot River from Prospect to the island of Verona. There is a parking lot under the old bridge and the new bridge. It's impressive to look upward to the bottoms of those two incredible structures. I was just thinking, "Geez, this looks like perfect nesting places for Peregrine falcons," when I heard a hawk-like vocalization in the trees. It wasn't a hawk sound I recognized. The source was this fantastic Peregrine falcon, the first I had ever seen. It was tearing at a bird kill which can be seen in one of the photographs with the feather in it's beak. Handily, the bird was over the cinderblock restroom building as I was nearly peeing my pants to see this incredible bird and to have the camera around my neck! I got more great shots than any one person deserves, but I'll keep them ALL! As if I wasn't high enough from that, then I got 470 feet high in the observation tower! I'll post photos of that after I've caught my breath.


FORT KNOX



I went to Fort Knox on Friday. Fort Knox sits on the Penobscot River in Prospect, Maine overlooking Bucksport. I had never been there before. Growing up, when my parents were referring to someplace heavily secured, they'd say "It's locked up tighter than Fort Knox." I always thought they meant this Fort Knox,
not the U.S. Treasury Mint. Both forts were named after Major General Henry Knox, America's first Secretary of War. Maine's Fort Knox was built between 1844 and 1864 from locally quarried granite. The dandelions were blooming, the sun was shining and it could not have been prettier. One of my fondest memories of nursing school wasn't about nursing school at all: it was of making dandelion wine with my classmates. This was not a sanctioned past time for young nursing students. However, on a bright, sunny day just like this one, we walked the median strip of Route 295 picking dandelion blossoms. We stuffed trash bags full until we could hardly drag them back to our car. Then we concocted the elixir that would become wine in a month or so. We were seventeen with loose, flowing hair and cut off denim shorts. We had ample attention from passers-by who honked wildly. I'm sure that there weren't any dandelions at Fort Knox when it was garrisoned. It was probably packed earth and not a green thing to meet the granite. But I would rather think of those seventeen year old soldiers making dandelion wine than loading guns with cannon balls.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Beef or Chicken?


This is a Hamburg chicken. No kidding. That's the breed. They were developed in Holland before 1700. He's a rooster and very showy. Seeing him running around in this field of dandelions was quite cheerful. He was crowing up a storm too, which was kind of annoying. I was working near where he was and it got a little hard to take. The golden weather vane is at the public library in Camden, Maine. The field is at Fort Knox in Prospect, Maine. It looks like a place a chicken would want to hang out.

Ferns In Cracks






These granite blocks are from different areas of Fort Knox on the Penobscot River in Maine. The blocks were laid circa 1850. The ferns have taken foothold wherever they could. I found them to be fascinating photography subjects. They are so delicate in contrast to the granite and fragile looking in the face of the conditions where they thrive.




Tuesday, May 12, 2009

GLAMOR & A TURKEY TALE







I’m not a glamorous person. I wish I were, and I’ve tried. I have had my share of sequined outfits and high heels. I even own a pair of Barbie pink high heels which I occasionally wear. But I always feel fraudulent, like a kid dressed up in her mother’s shoes and pearls. For one thing, I’m only five feet tall. My notion of glamor and that height don’t mix. I don’t think Audrey Hepburn was very tall, either. She would be my idea of a glamorous woman (dates me, doesn’t it?). She was probably also a multiple handbag woman. In the movies she had a different bag for every outfit she wore and I’m guessing she also did in real life. Actually, she wouldn’t have called it a ‘bag’ at all, but a ‘purse.’ I only have one handbag at a time, a large one that I beat to death. Then I replace it. The one I carry now is a leather backpack style. I call it my purse, but my daughter (a multiple purse woman) says nonetheless it’s a backpack. She says this with a disparaging sneer, too. I can’t really blame her. I know women who are very anxious about their purses being stolen in restaurants or theaters. They are vigilant and hyper aware of the whereabouts of their purses. Not me. I figure if anyone wants my wadded up old Kleenex, expired coupons and gritty Chapstick, they must be desperate enough that I would welcome them to it. My daughter should have a touch more regard, though. The contents of my handbags have gotten my kids out of many fixes in their young lives. I always had Bandaids, breath mints, hair ties, and a jack knife for cutting straws, fruit or string, among other things. I’ve been told that you can date a woman by how many life support systems she carries in her handbag. In which case, I’m well into my nineties. Honestly, I think some of those missing children on milk cartons are in my handbag. I’m sure I hear them occasionally crying in there, “It’s dark in here,” “I have to pee,” “When are we going home, etc.” I’m also reasonably sure that Audrey Hepburn didn’t carry enough gardening tools in her car to rival Home Depot, either. This time of year, I do. Like my handbag, this has often served me well in emergencies.
Today, I found a wild turkey on the side of the road that appeared to have been hit by a car. Fortunately, I was prepared; I had gloves, a tarp and pruning implements with me. Of course I did! Sadly, the bird was dead, very dead, but that didn’t stop me from taking its wings. It was like de-boning a colossal chicken. The wings are enormous and very beautiful. So, I couldn’t leave them there in the ditch to be shredded by a coyote or something. Could I? For the time being, I’ve nailed them on the side of my house high enough so the raccoons can’t get to them. I’ll have to figure out how to tan them and then what to do. Maybe the solution is in my handbag.

Renard, the French Kisser



CHIPPING SPARROW

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD ON HIGH

OH! THE COLOR!


The Ruby Throated Hummingbirds are here in droves! There are six of them zooming around our yard and feeders. They are engaging in the arcing mating dance. I've counted twenty two consecutive arcs for a single bird. The Baltimore Orioles are busy at the oranges and grape jelly. I've counted nine at once on a single magnolia so far! Fabulous, just fabulous. They have a lovely chortling song, but they also like a staccato chatter when they are too close to each other for comfort with food. The American Goldfinches are in full breeding colors. On the same tree with the others were twenty of them, a Rose Breasted Grosbeak (I'm hoping for good photos later - wish me luck!), a Black and White Warbler, a Yellow Rumped Warbler, a Chipping Sparrow, a White Crowned Sparrow, four Puple Finches, Juncos and Chickadees. Of course, there were the thugs of the bird feeders, too: Blue Jays, Mourning Doves and Grackles. I think they are really pretty even if they are hogs!


Monday, May 11, 2009

PHIPPSBURG PHOX


THIS is one of the foxes from my previous posts. Those youngsters were growing so fast that I honestly could not say for sure if it's one of them or Mom or Dad. I am sure it's one from that same den though, because of where I saw it. It is very skittish and a wonder that I saw it at all, never mind got shots of it!


Saturday, May 9, 2009

TURTLE TALES




Yesterday really was my day. I've been trying for a year to get a good shot of these Painted Turtles. "How hard could it be," you ask. "Turtles are really slow," you say. Well, let me tell you, when you want a good photograph or maybe to eat one, they are REALLY fast! This type of turtle is known for basking in the sun on semi-submerged logs. I don't know where they go on cloudy days, maybe to a bar with a big screen TV. You've got to have a long lens to get a close shot. That was my first problem last year. Once I had that solved, I had to wait for a sunny day and sneak up on them. That's where it got tricky. You can not sneak up on a turtle. No matter how quietly you walk, skulking along like an Abenaki hunter in buckskins, they can feel your footfall. The turtles in this photo are in fact, on alert. See how their heads are all up, looking for the noise source? Then, plip, plip, plop, plop, and into the water they go! They gave me such a headache I could have used some "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz!" No matter how long you sit and wait for them, they don't come back. I've done a lot of meditation while waiting for the Return Of The Turtles, to no avail. I've driven by these same turtles on this same log a hundred times. They idly soaked up the sun, taunting me. But yesterday, I finally got them! I observed that they werent' bothered by cars whizzing by, so I drove right up to them. They did not flinch! I kept the engine running and stepped out carefully, creeping around the body of the car like a cop with a suspect in his sights. I had two seconds, no more, to decide to aim for the heart or the head. I took both and the perps went down! So the question is, was that lazy man's wildlife photography since I drove up to them or was it patience, patience, patience?

DREAM WEEK - BIRDING IN THE BURG


I've had a dream week of Birding In The Burg! In three days, I saw more 'life birds' than some folks get to see in, well - in their whole lives! I saw this Bald eagle in my yard, a nestling Barred owl and its mom, TOGETHER no less, and this Red Bellied Woodpecker. Just so you don't think it's always easy for me or that I have some kind of magic birding mojo, I was Weeding For Dollars (what I call my gardening for money) when I saw the woodpecker. Yes, I obviously had the camera with me, even though I was working. Hey! You just never know so you should be ready. The owls I had to work for. Two weeks ago, I had come across the nest cavity. The hole looks like a heart to me. Awwwwww! I checked on it sometimes as often as three times a day. But, all I could see was Junior's butt sticking out of the hole. Yesterday, I got the same view. It was just about to pour down rain and I could hear thunder. I was losing the light I'd need for good shots. I began to make a high pitched, whistling noise, barely audible to the human ear. And voila! Junior came out to check me out. He flew to a near by tree and preened for a bit. Then, Mom showed up to see what I was doing to the kid. Then she joined him for a little nuzzle. And I got the shots! Suddenly, the skies let loose with rain and all three of us took off for shelter. Now this part you'll think I'm making up, but I'm not: When I got home I looked back in the direction of where I had taken the owl photos and there was a rainbow. Scouts honor.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

ARTIFACTS


Recently, I went on an archeological dig. Like most digs, I didn’t really know what I’d find, nor know what I was looking for. Like Justice Potter Stewart, when asked to define pornography, I figured I’d know it when I found it. And, like most archeological digs, there was a lot of time spent in the dirt doing tedious things without reward. I conducted my dig in Brunswick, Maine at the home of my grandparents, where they had lived for seventy years and raised my father.
My grandmother just turned 99. She never expected to have to leave her home, but she went blind and developed dementia. No longer safe on her own, I had to put her in a nursing home. She will never forgive me for that. Then I was faced with cleaning out her house.
I loved her house; it was like walking into a cocoon, always warmly familiar and unchanged. The furniture never moved; the wall art stayed the same. My grandfather had collected over 2000 books filling the shelves specially made to hold them. The music stand, where my grandmother had taught hundreds of children to play guitar, stood in the same spot, though arthritis had stopped her playing decades before. Her guitars stood sentinel and oddly, held their tune. Sometimes, I’d pick one up and strum it.
Born in the early 1900s, my grandparents were typical products of their times as children of World War One. After ‘The War To End All Wars,’ they lived through World War Two, The Korean War, The Vietnam War and the Great Depression. My grandmother also survived the German Revolution. They lived conservatively, even meagerly, though they weren’t poor. Saving money was their way of life. They fine tuned not spending to a thin wavering line between art form and illness. They may have been the founding fathers of the ‘Reduce, Reuse and Recycle’ campaign. Not a rubber band, piece of tin foil, string, plastic bag nor piece of paper that came into that house, ever went out. All of it was reused or saved in the event that it might be. They had good reason to believe in frugality, to scrimp and save in case they would need something later. Life had taught them that though times might be good in the moment, without warning, it would all go to hell.
My grandmother had declined gradually, but leaving her home was sudden. Fifteen years of depression, old age and blindness crept up and closed in around her. From the kitchen to where she slept, there were mere paths between piles of papers, clothing, plastic containers, dead geraniums, and god only knows what else. God, and now, me. Getting through it was a nightmare faced often by adult children. Additionally, for years my grandfather said if anything happened to him to check under the attic floor boards. Then, later, my grandmother said she had hidden a year’s income in cash in the house. I started in the attic which was full! I found bundles of letters from my grandmother’s family in Germany. Slammed across the fronts were censor’s stamps, swastikas and postage stamps bearing Hitler’s profile. Most of them had sections cut out or were struck through with black lines so the text couldn’t be read, letters sent from a war zone to the one person who got out. They are all in German; I don’t know what any of them say. But I can clearly read the ugliness on the outside. And sadness. I can only imagine the pain and fear that those letters caused my grandmother. My father always said that his parents didn’t love him. Yet, in the attic, I found packages of his school papers, drawings from when he was five. Who keeps that stuff if not a person who loves someone? It took me days to work through all the junk in the attic. Under the floorboards, I felt through the vermiculite insulation - for what? It took weeks to leaf through the books and sort through the piles, to examine the shards left from their lives. I found unfilled prescriptions for antidepressants. I found a stack of flight sickness bags from Iberia airlines circa 1975. I found 25 palm sized diaries cataloguing the day’s temperature, the price of chicken, the cost of fuel, but not one thing personal. I found Christmas cards from thirty years before. If I listed it all, it would be an endless enumeration of nothing. It was a terribly demoralizing, tedious archeological dig with no holy grail at the end. I had come to hate my grandmother’s house and everything in it, but I had to carry on. So, I commenced to the sewing room. The room was her sanctuary where she was assured of privacy. There was a large, built-in drawer stuffed full of hoarded fabric dating back to the early sixties. It was so tightly packed that it was the one place in the house where mice hadn’t traveled. I shoved my hand between layers to pull out a pile. Feeling paper, I pulled out a tri-fold brochure. Scanning the text and opening the folds, I shrieked, “Oh my God! It’s PORN!” Men and women were doing all kinds of stuff to each other inside that pamphlet; it was the hardest core pornography available! I had hit the mother load after all - my grandmother’s buried treasure!
I had hoped to find something that would make sense of the pain and confusion in my family. Or at least to find money. But, I didn’t. What I did get was this lesson: We are all going to leave things behind. No matter how old we get to be, we’ll leave when we least expect to. So, consider what you’ll leave, even if you don’t plan on going soon.
I hope my grandmother lives to be 100. I visit her regularly, but she doesn’t know who I am any more. There is a flicker in her eyes when I come, though. From deep inside, she still remembers to hate me. I wish she had died fifteen years ago, before her blinds were drawn against the sun, before I found her porn, while her house still smelled like cake.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

"Shake Your Booty!"


This is a Red Breasted Merganser drake. I took this photo last week from the pier in front of our house on Totman Cove. The drake had seaweed wrapped around him and it looks like he was trying to shake it off. Or maybe that was a deliberate fashion thing with him, since there were also Merganser hens present that he was trying to impress. Could he have been a Merganser in drag? He wasn't the only drake in town. Perhaps he was hoping for a shot on 'What Not To Wear.' I'm sure he would have gone with the original British version of the show, which is much better than the American one.
"Shake, shake, shake!"
"Shake, shake, shake!"
"Shake your booty, shake your booty!" To hear K.C. And The Sunshine Band sing this song, go here: http://www.rhapsody.com/kc-the-sunshine-band/shake-your-booty/shake-your-booty

Random for Fun

I think I'll occasionally post some photographs just for fun, like this Belted Kingfisher. I took this in Phippsburg about a week ago. I think he's interesting on this pole with all the wires. Competition wildlife photography does not allow any 'hand of man' to be seen in a shot. Too bad. This is really cool!















These are Trout Lilies. They are a native wildflower. Phippsburg has millions of them. I rarely saw them in North Bath only 15 miles from here.


















The American Lady butterfly, seen here on dandelions, was previously know as Hunter's Butterfly. It ranges from Nova Scotia to Mexico. This beautiful butterfly was originally given its name by the English aristocracy to honor an American of note in the early 1800s, John Dunn Hunter.
John Dunn Hunter, born c. 1798, claimed to have been kidnapped, then raised from infancy by Native Americans of the plains. He said he had been given the name "The Hunter" by the Native Americans for his skill at hunting. He said he never knew who his true parents were, so 'John Dunn' was the name he later chose for himself after that of a man who had been kind to him. With his proceeds from beaver trapping he funded his education and then wrote several books about his experiences with the Kickapoo, Kansas and Osage Indians. John Dunn Hunter eventually travelled to England where he became a darling of the nobility for his colorful background and interesting stories of life with the native Americans. He further ingratiated himself by gathering natural history artifacts, such as butterflies, from the United States to add to the collections of the English. It was eventually determined that his stories were fabricated when a Frenchman who was studying the idioms of the Native Americans discovered that John Dunn Hunter spoke none of the languages of those peoples with whom he had claimed to have spent his life! 'Outted' as one of the greatest conmen of his time, neither his former reputation, nor the name of the fabulous butterfly stuck. Each would morph several times, as is the nature of the butterfly,and the creative nature of man.