Friday, 28 April 2017

Bird-y Update, And Deer


Since my post last week about bird visitors to our new, very small bird feeder, I've had lots of chances to try to get some better photos of them, and even a video. No, I didn't find my camera instructions. I just winged it. (Pun not noticed until re-reading!)

I found that I could get my camera to focus on the birds rather than the window screen if I made sure the outside object was in the centre of the picture. Now I have a convenient reason to procrastinate some more on looking for that darn instruction booklet.

As mentioned in that other post, there are two groups of birds who dominate the feeder. I'm fairly sure they are just common starlings and blackbirds. Both of these birds are plentiful here and you'd think I would have known what they were. As it turns out, in the case of the starlings, I was seeing lots of what I thought were new-to-me birds but they were actually just young versions of what I know as starlings. They are covered with light spots -- quite fetching, really. I am used to seeing plainer, darker starlings.

I borrowed this photo from Wikipedia, because my starlings wouldn't sit still. But my guys look a lot like this - black base coat, spots, yellow swords for beaks, and pinky-orange legs.


 

And the blackbirds? I'd never seen them up close before. Turns out they are't black, as I had thought, but irridescent, with dark blue heads and greenish backs. Their eyes are piercing yellow, and kind of give me the creeps. Their grey beaks are strong and pointy.




We also have some little yellow finches in our back yard. The males are bright yellow and the females are more of a yellow-grey. The day I took this shot, there were seven of them in one tree -- one male and, apparently, his harem. You're going to want to enlarge this one, and even then you might have trouble picking out the birds, they are so tiny and blend in (except for the male). (You can click on the photo to enlarge, or you can enlarge your whole screen by pressing Control and "+" until you get to a size that works for you.)


Just like playing Where's Waldo, except without the striped shirt to make the search easier.



On a different day, from a different window, a different shot -- enlarged:

Hmmm ... Mr. Finch is mighty blurry ... sorry!


There are several chickadees who also come to the feeder, usually when the bigger birds aren't around. I love to see them and hear their distinctive call. It makes me feel smart to be able to identify one bird and its song beyond a doubt.

Here is one little fellow who arrived when there was nothing left in the feeder but the smell. Don't worry, I filled it again right after taking the photo.


Mr. Chickadee is blurry, too ... it must be going around ...


 
I also managed to get a video of some of the starlings and blackbirds at the feeder, from our upstairs window. It wasn't quite the mayhem we had last week; are they learning manners, I wonder? or maybe not quite as starving as a week ago? And yeah, you can see all the bird poop on the deck and railings. I've had work deadlines, so for now we still have a "poop deck" although not in the usual meaning of that phrase.



video


And here is a blackbird talking while eating. Tsk. They have an easily identified squawk, as you'll hear at the end.


video


And while not bird-related, I will leave you with this shot. These deer seem to be the same mama and two babies that came to -- and through -- our yard last year, but the babies are big now. Here they are in our back neighbour's yard. It wasn't until I uploaded the photos and looked at the closeup that I saw what one deer had been looking at so intently through the window. See the white blob in the left window pane? If you enlarge the photo you may be able to see that it's a cat. The deer watched the cat (and the cat, I presume, watched the deer) for quite some time before the deer moved off on their morning rounds.


It looks like an untamed jungle there, doesn't it? In a month it will be a solid wall of leaves, giving both us and our neighbour summertime privacy.


That's it for another Friday. Let's hope our vision isn't as blurry as some of these wildlife photos. Wouldn't it be cool if we could just "Control/+" in real life to see things better? I'd buy one of those.

Have a good weekend!



Monday, 24 April 2017

Poetry Monday ... With A Warning

It's Poetry Monday -- started by Diane at On the Alberta/Montana Border, and picked up by Delores at Mumblings, and celebrated here at Procrastinating Donkey -- pull up a chair and join us.

You can read, comment, critique, or add your own poem at any participating blog, or at your own -- just leave your blog address in the comments to let us know where to look.

Today's poem was the result of ruminating on two incidents that I experienced a couple of years ago, within a month of each other. This is the poem I mentioned writing awhile ago but didn't want to post because I felt it was too dismal. I said I'd post it on a day when we all need a good cry.

Well, I don't know about you, but I've been in a bit of a blah, bleak mood the last week or two, so I'm ready to put it out there. But I certainly don't want to bring anyone else down, so this is fair warning: read at your own risk.

Spreading misery instead of cheer. Way to go, Donkey.



*****



Three Souls

I

"You got any money?"
A harsh voice, startling me.
A stranger: tall, rangy, vacant eyes.
"Sorry, I don't carry cash."
Almost the truth: two dollars in my pocket. Heart hammering.
Not keen to be bullied into giving any amount.
He erupted with a curse, and "I had nothin' to eat since the morning. I need some money."
I wondered if swearing would turn to striking.
Wondered why he was asking for money for food on an empty street
After all the food shops were closed.
He strode away, cursing me loudly.

Later, I wondered what he'd have said, or done,
If I'd offered him the banana from my work lunch.
It didn't occur to me.
Too scared to think.
Too worried by his anger.
And, to be honest,
Too upset by his expectation
That all he needed to do was demand,
And he would be given,
And forgiven.
Would my two dollars have been enough
To make him less angry?

II

"Excuse me, could you spare a couple dollars?"
A gentle voice, dignified.
A stranger: tall, rangy, too dark to see his eyes.
A cold night, outside the grocery store.
"I don't have enough money for my rent," he added.
"I just need twenty-five dollars, and my landlord will let me stay."

Five dollars in my pocket.
Five dollars from my hand to his.
"I'm sorry it's not more."
"Thank you; bless you," he said quietly.
Later, leaving with my groceries, and with items for him,
He was gone.


III

I know hunger will make rough edges,
And corrode the soul.

And I know that addiction serves a purpose:
Dulls the senses, dulls the hurt, dulls the emotions.
(Did addiction even have anything to do with anything?)

And, further, I know that giving is better than withholding
Even if the gift is -- or seems, at times -- mis-spent.

And I know that conditions shape us, and our parents shape us,
And exposure to the elements and mental illness and being out of a job
And physical pain and not enough warm clothes and -- god, there are so
Many hard things that shape us -- being ridiculed, being bullied, being ignored,
Being invisible, being passed over, being rejected, being beaten ...

But even knowing all those things,
Why ... why ... why
Was it so much easier to give to the second man
Than to the first? 





 

Friday, 21 April 2017

Bird-y Things

I haven't been walking regularly the last couple of months, but whenever I do, my camera comes with me. However, over the past year I've exhausted most of the even-slightly-interesting natural features along my walking routes. That means that most of my pictures are repetitions of ones I've already posted.

But I do have one to share. Earlier this year I mentioned we were visited by a female pheasant. Well, a few weeks ago the male pheasant showed up. Here he is in our back yard:

Busily eating whatever bugs are awake when there's still snow on the ground

I saw the female again (well, a female, at least) just a couple of days ago. From watching the male fly away a few times, I believe they may be living in a small wooded area a couple of streets away.

Moving on to other birds now, the ones that are more common to our back yard ...

After one snowstorm I felt very sorry for the flocks of smaller birds which I was starting to see in our area (presumably having migrated here thinking it was spring, and getting a snowy surprise), so on impulse I bought a small feeder which holds a block of seeds in suet, and hung it from our back deck. My thinking was (1) I would have quicker access to it there, as opposed to putting it in the trees at the edge of our yard, (2) it would entertain our cats, as it is just outside the basement window where our cats spend some of their time, and (3) it would also entertain me because it's right outside our kitchen window, where I spend some of my time.

Well, that was good thinking -- as far as it went. What I forgot was that birds tend to poop ALL THE TIME, even in the middle of eating or while waiting to eat. Little devils. So now our deck is liberally sprinkled with white splotches. Fortunately, last summer we moved our barbecue to a different spot on the deck, because it used to be right where all the splotches are now.

I also didn't count on whole flocks of birds fighting over the feeder. It's just a little feeder, but we've had dozens of birds in the yard at once, some lining up on the deck railing, and others jostling instead of lining up, and dive-bombing each other with open beaks, and pushing each other off the feeder, and, in general, acting like hooligans. At times it feels like we're in an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

Mostly we are getting starlings and another bird that's either a blackbird or a grackle -- I'm still trying to identify that one because they are fairly similar to my untrained eye. But sometimes we get a chickadee or two, and I've occasionally seen a little yellow finch. And when the feeder first went in, it was the bluejays who found it first. Now they are nowhere to be seen. The starlings and blackbirds/grackles are just too numerous and persistent. So I'm thinking of getting another feeder to offer Niger/thistle seed to the tinier birds, and maybe one for peanuts for the jays ...

This is how it begins, isn't it? One feeder ... then another ... and before you know it you're eating crackers for supper because the birdseed purchases have blown the budget.

By the way, I'd love to be able to show you some photos of the birds at the feeder. But my camera always focuses on the screen instead of the birds! I need to find the instruction manual (oh dear, probably a two-week project) and see if I can override auto-focus.

Hope you have a restful weekend and don't have to dive-bomb anyone in order to get your food :)


This is one kind of bird we do not have to worry about finding in our yard. Ever. But isn't it cute? (photo by Pixabay)






Monday, 17 April 2017

Retreating in Pants

Poetry Monday is here again! Started by Diane at On the Alberta/Montana Border, picked up by Delores at Mumblings and open to anyone who wants to take part, either in the comments on any of our blogs, or on your own blog. Leave us a comment if you'd like us to come have a look at your offering.

This week I've been spinning my wheels trying to come up with a topic.

I spun them so long that I ran out of time. So I'm borrowing from Ogden Nash, whose poems I enjoy because of his dry sense of humour and ability to rhyme almost anything.

Here are two of Mr. Nash's poems, which, on consideration, may be related. This, the day after Chocolate Bunny Day, seems to be a good time to ponder the implications for my own waistline.


Poem 1:

Nothing Makes Me Sicker

Nothing makes me sicker
than liquor
and candy
is too expandy


Poem 2:

What's the Use?

Sure, deck your limbs in pants,
Yours are the limbs, my sweeting.
You look divine as you advance . . .
Have you seen yourself retreating?
 


*****

In related news, my walking has not been going awfully well. When I had the bronchial bug, I did not get out at all, and last week I managed only three days, with shorter than usual jaunts. Ah well, another week is coming.

But when I was out and about, I did get a couple of photos I liked.


Mr. Black Cat sometimes shows up when I get to this point in my walk. He's very friendly.

He doesn't really have two heads, nor a large bottom.


I wish I were as sleek as this cat. I am rationing my Reese's peanut butter chocolate bunny carefully so that -- hopefully -- I will not have to always ask myself how I look retreating in pants.

Have a good week, my friends :)


Friday, 14 April 2017

Care To Dance? Mind Where You Step.

 

In the early years of logging in Europe and North America, trees were often cut during the winter and then dragged to the nearest river in the spring. With the rivers usually at their highest levels then, due to snow melt runoff, the logs would be floated downstream to the nearest sawmill where they would be cut into lumber.

To help keep the timber moving smoothly in the water, workers would walk or run on the tree trunks while using a pike pole to push logs into position. This required great agility and was the inspiration for a folk song written by Canadian Wade Hemsworth, called "The Log Driver's Waltz."  Hemsworth was "...struck by how much the sight of log drivers at work resembled dancing." (click here for Wikipedia link with more information)

 In 1979, the National Film Board of Canada released a series of vignettes about our country, and one of these was an animated film based on "The Log Driver's Waltz." It is a delightful short film set to Hemsworth's song, performed by Kate and Anna McGarrigle, and The Mountain City Four. It used to play occasionally between programs on our national TV station, which is where I first heard it long ago. I was so happy to find it again a couple of years ago on (where else?) YouTube.

It's a wonderful waltz, with sweet animation, and well performed. Enjoy!

(Note: The word "birl" is an old Scots word meaning "to revolve or cause to revolve" -- and used here, "birling" means "to cause a floating log to rotate by treading on it." Source: Wikipedia link above))




 

Lyrics (from genius.com):

If you ask any girl from the parish around
What pleases her most from her head to her toes
She'll say I'm not sure that it's business of yours
But I do like to waltz with a log driver

[Chorus]
For he goes birling down and down white water
That's where the log driver learns to step lightly
Yes, birling down and down white water
The log driver's waltz pleases girls completely

When the drive's nearly over I like to go down
And watch all the lads as they work on the river
I know that come evening they'll be in the town
And we all like to waltz with the log driver

[Chorus]

To please both my parents, I've had to give way
And dance with the doctors and merchants and lawyers
Their manners are fine, but their feet are of clay
And there's none with the style of my log driver

[Chorus]

Now I've had my chances with all sorts of men
But none as so fine as my lad on the river
So when the drive's over, if he asks me again
I think I will marry my log driver

For he goes birling down and down white water
That's where the log driver learns to step lightly
Yes, birling down and down white water
The log driver's waltz pleases girls completely
Birling down and down white water
The log driver's waltz pleases girls completely

***********

I hope your weekend involves music, or dancing, or both :)


Monday, 10 April 2017

Mistress Green Eyes

It's Poetry Monday!

Started by Diane at On the Alberta/Montana Border, picked up by Delores at Mumblings, and open to one and all to participate either on your own blog, or on Diane's or Delores', or right here, in the comments. If you post it on your own blog, leave us a link in the comments so we can go check it out.

April is National Poetry Month in some parts of the world (which I knew, but forgot because of the bronchial ick). This means it is your patriotic duty to leave a line or two! (well, depending on where you live) ... It can be your own or some favourite lines from a poem or song. Anything, people! Work with me here!

Or you can just read and enjoy. Or, alternatively, read and leave a ...er ... constructive ... comment.

Oh, heck, you can even get up and do an interpretive dance if you want. But we'll want to read about that in the comments also. Preferably with a photo or a link to YouTube.



Today's poem is the story of how we came to have the cat who most recently arrived to live with us. Recently doesn't mean recent. It just means she's the last in the long line of cats who have shared our home. She's unlike any other cat we've had. You must obey all her special rules of engagement or else she will mangle your person, and she can't be around our other cats because of her very territorial temperament. It takes two of us and a boatload of courage to clip her claws. The vet has to wear leather gloves to her elbows when the cat goes in for her periodic steroid shot (kitty has allergies, in an ironic twist for all those out there who are allergic to cats).

But we manage.

Here she is:


Oops! That's the Cat-a-saurus view.


HERE she is:

Just hanging out while Donkey blogs. Or tries to.

 


Mistress Green Eyes


One spring day, while walking,
I met you first my dear.
I bent to pick you up, and
You boxed me on the ear.

The lady in her driveway
Said you'd been hanging round;
But when I asked the neighbours
No owner could be found.

You ate my kitties' kibble
And drank and drank and drank.
And cowered in the bathroom
Beneath the toilet tank.

You didn't like the menfolk;
You'd had a scare, we guessed.
And even with the ladies
You seemed less than impressed.

As days turned into months,
And months turned into years,
You slowly learned to trust us
And let us scritch your ears.

Those years have also taught you
The fun that toys can bring --
The rapture of a catnip ball,
The quick delight of string.

You're still a feisty feline;
We keep one eye on you.
You're apt as not to bite us
If you think it's good for you.

And yet, you're always close by,
Where we can both be seen;
And if we're not together,
You're parked halfway between.

For five years now we've loved you;
No longer "new" - you're Home.
And now, my Mistress Green Eyes,
You're even in A Poem.



 *****

Friday, 7 April 2017

My Guilty Secret

Have you come across the YouTube videos of "Simon's Cat"? This is a series of cartoon videos by Simon Tofield, a British animator, who based the character of Simon's cat -- who remains unnamed -- primarily on one of his own four cats.

It is clear that Simon has watched his cats very closely because he has captured the habits, demeanor and qualities of cats perfectly in his videos: ever-hungry, ever-curious, playful, and pretty much completely self-centred. Simon's cat takes these to new levels, mind you, and can do a few things that regular cats cannot, like use a baseball bat.

This is, I believe, the first Simon's Cat video made for YouTube. At least, it's the first one I ever saw. I know, I know -- that's not necessarily the same thing. But it appears less polished than later videos, and was uploaded in 2008. I include it because it contains the aforementioned baseball bat. It's a bit more violent than some of the later videos ... re the baseball bat ...






Anyone who's ever had a cat knows how they love boxes. Here is the perfect example of what happens when a cat finds a box.






And although it's really hard to pick a favourite from the many Simon's Cat videos available, I think this is the one I'd have to choose. Simon's household has acquired a kitten, and the mannerisms of the new baby feline, plus the interactions between Simon's cat and Simon's kitten, are spot on ... and hilarious.






If you liked what you saw, you can find more at Simon's Cat home page. The author has also introduced a series of questions and answers in video format (part cartoon, part vet interview) to help cat owners better understand their cats' behaviors.

... And yes, now you know one of my favourite pastimes ...  my guilty secret!

Happy Weekend, from a Simon's Cat fan of the most intense kind :)






Monday, 3 April 2017

The Right Questions

In my travels around the internet -- here I am, with my flying goggles and cap:

Zoom! ... (courtesy of Pixabay) (yes, I know that's not a donkey) (try finding a donkey in aviator gear)

-- I sometimes sign up for emails from sites where I have previously found intriguing, helpful, reliable information, figuring that more of the same cannot hurt my brain. I am well aware that, as I age, the ol' brain cells are dying off faster than they're being replaced, so I am paddling hard, upstream all the way, to try to at least even out the flow, if it cannot be reversed. I believe I may have mixed a few metaphors there, but -- Tempus Fugit! -- I cannot stop to untangle the mess. Also, my bronchial ick is still affecting my thinking. Onward.

One of the weekly emails I receive is from BBC.com and is called "If You Only Read 6 Things This Week." Generally I find at least one of the article titles is interesting enough to pursue.

This week the title that I could not resist clicking on was "The Snack That Changed The English Language" and it was about the role of pies in history and from that role the ways that we now use sayings about pie to describe things, such as "humble pie," "easy as pie," and so on. While it was a half-decent article, it also made me a little gaggy because there was a photo of a sardine pie with the fish heads all poking out of the pastry. Now, savoury pies (including fishy ones) are not tops on my list of Pie I Dream About. That category is reserved for dessert pie such as apple or mincemeat (which in our household is about half raisin and half pulverized cooked roast beef, which makes it sound like a savoury pie but trust me, it's not).

Anyway -- to keep on doggedly trying to get to my point -- at the bottom of that web page there were a number of links to other articles, and THIS IS WHERE MY INTERNET AIRPLANE/CANOE HAS BEEN HEADED, for the purpose of this post. Finally.

The article I really wanted to talk about today is from BBC Future, an offshoot of BBC.com that provides in-depth coverage of science, health and technology. 

BBC Future asked "a series of experts" what they thought were the grand challenges that matter in 2017. Here I would like to offer my opinion that some of the "experts" are not what I would have in mind when asking about the most important challenges facing the world -- for example, the last question in the list below is provided by the former corporate vice-president for research and development at General Motors, so it is not surprising that he has come up with this take on what the grand challenge is. That's not to say that the question he poses is not important; however, it does make me wonder how the contributors were chosen and why.

Be that as it may, the questions posed are interesting and diverse, and have made me think, which, as I have already stated, is never a bad thing.

Here they are, and here is where you can read the entire article, in case you are interested in a bit more information on any or all of the questions (it is not a long article):

How can we avoid resistance to antibiotics?
What can we do to conserve water -- especially in the face of climate change and urbanisation?
How do we fight "fake news"?
In an interconnected world, how do we fight global disease?
How will we deal with overpopulation?
How will the era of big data and artificial intelligence shape our health?
How can we safely use gene editing technology in humans?
How do we make cities more sustainable and pleasant for the people who live there?
How can we keep extending our life expectancies?
How can rapidly developing regions grow effectively?
How can we better inform people about natural disasters?
Car ownership continues to rise worldwide -- how will we accommodate this?

However.

I find it highly interesting that nowhere on that list has anyone said "How Can We End The Suffering Caused By War?" or "How Can We End The Suffering Caused By Those Who Crave Power?" which I see as basically the same thing. How about simply "How Can We End The Suffering Of The Innocent?" This comes to mind more forcefully than usual as news reports surface of four famines that are on the verge of ravaging Africa (Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia) and Yemen. For more on that, see this article from the New York Times.

I don't know whether the leading minds in the world find these questions too impossible to answer, making them turn to other, more solvable questions, or whether BBC Future didn't ask the leading minds but rather conveniently available ones.

I don't know the answers, and I'm not sure I know the right questions, but I think we have to figure out the latter before we can figure out the former.

Welcome to my brain, where the air and/or waters are often turbulent. Mind the splashing if you get too near the paddle.

*****
It was in thinking about the impending famines that my poem for Poetry Monday came into being. I thought about the famines that have taken place over the decades of my life. The one that pierced my heart the worst was the Ethiopian famine of 1983-5. Our first child was born in 1983 and the true cost to the most helpless of the citizens - the children - disturbed me deeply as I compared our baby's life and ours to the suffering of those souls.


Chance

The men have guns.
The women have babies.
The babies have nothing: No food. No water. No future.
Again.
And again.
And yet again.
And there
But for the grace
Of birth place
Go I.

*****

Don't forget that Diane at On the Alberta/Montana Border and Delores at Mumblings are also writing poems for Poetry Monday. If anyone wants to join in, feel free to leave your poem in the comments at any of our blogs, or on your own blog and leave us a note in the comments so readers will know where to find you.