Saturday, May 28, 2011

" Where Is God?" Pages Have A Beginning

Please keep in mind, pages are not posts but are provided in order from beginning to end.  Pages are found on the tabs on the header. The beginning of Page 1. is found with the tab in the header. This post revised on June 01,2011.

I know how and what I believe. Your belief may be different. As of  stats for today, readers of this blog come from very different areas of this earth.    Religious practices vary greatly. Possibly you believe a spiritual god does not exist and therefore cannot be sought or found.

Someone barely surviving each day may pray to God or curse their situation.  They may be fully occupied with trying to live as others die, leaving little if any room for a god.

If enough comments are made, I will post a summation of what readers have said in response to "Where is God".   If you want to remain confidential, tell me and your comment will not be published.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Follow Me...Stand Here and Look. Beyond the Stone Pillars

PHOTOS IN THE "FAVORITES" FILE OF MY MEMORIES…that is what this post is all about.  I will try to  add a different image every day or two for a few days more.  I am sure you recognize this place.  Stonehenge is a place we want to see again. We want to see all of the UK again, more closely and standing in a place to look beyond the common view.

                                                                                                          click for larger

Where is the famous circle of stone pillars?  Oh, it is here, just to the left.  We are standing in a large and beautiful open place, close to the ancient and more vast than a circle of stone. To the left is a reminder of life many, many years ago while behind us and far beyond is life today.  Stonehenge is more than a circle of stone. Sure, we have photos showing all of Stonehenge. The photo above is not the usual view and is for that reason a favorite.
added on May 27...


Here are other views from Stonehenge...coming next post is an entirely different subject and after that back to the last educational bird from the Clinch River Raptor Center.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Screech Owls Call and Brave Men Shiver

There is nothing quite like a first night in the woods at night, the fire dying down and the sleeping bag pulled up far enough to cover most of your face. You have heard sounds in the dark, in the woods around you but you know it is ok.  Everyone said it would be ok and nothing is going to get you.  Still, as you start to pass into sleep vaguely conscious of the woodsy noises, a sound cries out like a ghost.  It doesn’t take long to sit straight up in a sleeping bag when you are motivated..  Going back to sleep will take much longer.

If you only knew how tiny the creature is whose voice made your heart beat rapidly and put chill bumps on your arms…next time you will know.  Next time you will lay back and find deep peace and awe in the stars so bright.  That voice will again break the silence and you will smile, wondering how close or how far is the little screech owl.  You will feel special for having heard it and will listen for the owl to call again.

Hear the voice of an Eastern Screech Owl, the owl heroes of this post:  Cornell Labs, Screech Owl Call 

The brown owl shown here on the glove is Peanut, a 4 year old Eastern Screech Owl.  Peanut is an adult and full sized.  The photo was shot during an educational program for a group of school teachers, most of whom have not seen an owl up close if at all.  You see, the Eastern Screech Owl is not large but you can be guaranteed these birds have large voices.

This owl is named Sly and despite being gray in color is also an Eastern Screech Owl.  The owls come in both brown and gray colors.  What is Shy doing? Sly is hiding.  The owls are safer if larger predators and people do not see them.  One method of disguise is to straighten up like a stick and stand among the branches and foliage.  Sly is against a tree trunk but still blends in enough for you to see how the disguise works. 
Both Peanut and Sly are at the raptor center because they have bad eyesight.  Sly is blind in one eye likely from an injury and Peanut has limited vision.  We are not sure how well Peanut can see but we do know he keeps his eyes wide open when awake.  An owl on the prowl at night would have such wide eyes but it is not normal for daylight periods.   Both of these little owls are sweeties.  They have fine homes and are healthy and well situated.  Both are real heroes in educational programs.  Peanut would normally be in comfortable shadow on the perch rather than this light needed for the photo to be taken.

The next bird to be featured is a young Red-tailed Hawk.  His (her?) tail feathers are not yet the rusty red of the adult and eye color is light.  This hawk is a beautiful bird, being trained to take part in programs.  I will post on other things or musings of the mind a few times prior to putting the young hawk on this blog. When that time comes, you will agree this is a beautiful and elegant raptor.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Brer Rabbit Would Have Loved The Old Welsh Rose Bush

The next post will continue with raptors featuring Eastern Screech Owls at the Clinch River Raptor Center.

 For today, the post is about an old rose bush from Wales.
                                  A Delicate Welsh Rose
This rose photo is here because each year I take a photo in memory of my mother and in joy of an old Welsh creeping climbing rose.  The original bush is said to have come over with ancestors from Wales possibly 200 years ago although the date is quite uncertain. Known is that the bush was with my great great grandmother somewhere. Later, a cutting was planted in middle Tennessee where my mom grew up and while a child she planted her own from that rose. When married and settled, she took a fresh cutting to start a bush at the new family home where I was raised and disciplined with willow sticks. That bush was to reach 7 feet high and perhaps 10 feet across, a village for countless birds nesting there over the years. Not everyone likes huge thorny bushes on the property line; the bush was a joy or aggravation to the several neighbors who moved in and out over the years.  Being concerned with what would happen when my mother died and the place was sold,  a few cuttings were planted at our place.  Sure enough, the old home sold and the new owners removed the rose bush.  The birds found new places to nest and I don't go back to see the empty spot next to the property line.  Our cuttings did well and a much smaller  rose bush with a long history is here,  blooming just like the one in Wales did years ago.

Each year during blooming time I take photos of the fragrant yet delicate blooms. Writing poetry of its own style, each bloom comes forth asking to be seen and for its gentle and pleasing fragrance to touch the senses. Too soon the short lived blossom drops its petals like light pink snow around the bush.  At the peak, the bush is covered with blossoms and surrounded with the carpet of petals. That peak is now.

The creeper climber rose is quite hardy and is too aggressive a grower for many gardeners. Not being a gardener, I do not know better and am self assigned the job of reaching in, tying back and looping around the new canes.  New growth is flexible and complaint but the thorns are thorns, grabbing and sticking the flesh and clothing. “Whatever you do,” cried Brer Rabbit, “Don’t throw me into the briar patch”   I  have been to the briar patch... but not so accustomed to the thorns as was Brer Rabbit in Joel Chandler Harris’ Uncle Remus tales.  Brer Rabbit came out playing a briar whistle and I emerge a torn mess.  Still, the bush is better for it.
coming soon...
The next post will tell about the Eastern Screech Owl educational birds at the Clinch River Raptor Center. As a teaser,  I introduce screech owls with this bunch from June of 2010. These are not educational birds but a group of wild fledglings.  At the time two areas were full of Eastern Screech Owls with eight in one room. Another area was full of young Kestrel falcons. The Kestrels constantly wanted to be fed and the owls all took turns being comedians.  Sometimes, the group performed a Screech Owl circus, always starting with the group doing funny faces and poses. 

These birds were later released. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Barred Owl..not a Barn Owl and Not a Hoot Owl

Barred Owls are apparently doing well in the wild in the U.S.A and north into Canada.  Look at a map and draw a line up the middle of Texas into southern Canada:  Every place on the right has Barred Owls in the woods, hunting rodents at night and silently flying into deeper cover when people get close. They have better to do than pose for us and get flashlights in the eyes.   The far Northwest deep into western Canada is also home to Barred Owls.  Hear that hoo  hoo   hoo hoo hoo?  That hoot owl is not a Barred Owl and is likely a Great Horned Owl.  Barred Owls have a strange and different call.   Typically, it is described as  who-cooks-for-you, who-cooks-for-you-all.  I don’t believe it!  The call I hear is almost scary and strong and that owl is not cooking.   You can hear calls on the Cornell websites for different owls.  Try making an owl call.  Go ahead and do it.  You can sound close enough to a Barred or Great Horned owl to get an answer in the woods and that is neat.  Yes, practice your call and they will answer. Call and they will answer. It is a woods of dreams, owls and owl pellets.

This is Martha, a Barred Owl. That reflection in her left eye is a special eyelid called a nictitating membrane, an extra eyelid some animals have which helps clean, moisturize and protect the eye. You do not see this eyelid in the first photo. Even so, she is bind in that eye and could not make it in the wild. Her left eye does look slightly different in its reflections. She does very well at the raptor center and is a super star at educational programs. She was brought to the center in April of 2006. About 5 years old now, she is a youngster compared to Mildred the Red-tailed hawk in the previous post.  Martha does great with the ladies at the center and with the kids who clean the living area and bring her food. As for me..I get near and she makes loud clicking sounds with her beak, a sound that is scary the first time you hear it. (Most owls will make this defensive sound.)  Maybe she does not like my camera. Is it my looks?  Surely it is not my looks.   Whatever the reasons, she is saying, “Tom, go away now!"...and he goes away. At public shows, she is calm, does not click and is a fine owl willing to have her photo taken and lets her handler show off her ears hidden beneath thick head feathers.  She will turn her head around and it will be backward on her body to take a quick peek behind.  Other owls do this, too, having twice as many neck bones as we do.  We have the same number as a giraffe and they cannot turn their head all the way to the back, either.

These birds are strong and good hunters. See the  two talons while she is on a perch?   She has four like a hawk but owls prefer to put two forward and turn one to the back when perching.  Talons are made for fetching dinner and that is not hard to imagine. 

This hunter of the night flies from a perch over a field or through the forest trees making no sound as it passes right by to nab a tasty delight. This night hunter owl weighs how much do you think?  Strong hunter, spooky strange hooty sounds at night, flying with no sound on wings 38 to 45 inches tip to tip…you guess the weight, fair enough?.  The answer is below and unlike in the comics is not turned upside down.
Barred Owls weigh an extreme of 500 gm to 1050 gm with average being about 780 gm or 1 ¾ pounds for a female..  The females are the largest as is true with other raptors.  

Do you think you can sound like a chicken  and moo like a cow? They don't care to answer, do they.  Humm..go to the web and listen then practice those owl calls. Don't mind people giving you strange looks because you have the secret. In a nice mid-evening woods away from the traffic and people, let it loose!  This is a good time to try and you really might hear an answer.  If an owl answers, will it be worth it? Yes.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

There is a hawk on the telephone pole!

This post is about a Red-tailed hawk who is an educational bird living at the Clinch River Raptor Center.
                      Click photos for a larger view.

               This is Mildred and you may call her Millie.


She is a Red-tailed hawk who came to the rehab center in November of 1996.  She is now 16 years old, making her an elderly lady.  Her left wing was damaged and does not have full functionality, allowing her to take wing flap hops to a perch but she is not able to fly.  For most of her years living at the center, she has been a primary educational bird seen by countless children and adults over the years.  For that purpose, the handler wears a leather glove and Millie has jesses on her ankles. She stays on the glove while being a center of attention for her audience. The lady holding the hawk is Katie, a co-founder of the Clinch River Raptor Center. A mutual trust/respect has developed between the two, yet Katie must stay keenly aware of what is going on with the hawk and her surroundings at all times.  Audience members may believe the hawk is tame but this is not the case…her heart is still wild and this hawk is not part of a petting zoo.

Baby hawks are little dolls. I have not hand raised and cared for fledgling hawks…I am saying they are dolls because they are cute.  Those caring for the birds everyday might think differently and put me to work with the little hawks. "Tom, now see how easy it is!" Actually, it is not easy and the little birds are still cute

Juveniles miss a lot of the color characteristics of the adults.  For Red-tail hawks, the youngsters do not have the rusty red tail feathers which develop some time later.  Juvenile birds also do not have the striking orange/brown eyes of the adults.  See these photos and pick the younger bird by the lighter eye color.
Red-tailed hawks are widely distributed raptors, with ranges from northern Canada across the United States and south into Mexico. Summer ranges are to the north, winter ranges to the south and year long residencies somewhere in-between. Red-taileds are Buteos, members of the family of soaring hawks. In the wild, these hawks will be seen soaring or often
perched on a high pole or tree, taking in a good view of their territory.

The eyes provide vision much more acute than ours, allowing a high flying Red-tailed to spot a rat or other tasty delight and swoop in for dinner. Despite their size, these birds weigh from about 700 gms to 1550 gms ( 1.5 lbs to 3.5 lbs ).  Larger Red-tails are seen but are not the average.  Generally, males are up to 1000 gms and over that are the females.  Females hawks are the largest of the sexes. 

The educational Red-tail hawk shown here was injured while doing what is natural in the wild or from unfortunate intervention by people.  Swooping down after a mouse or rat the hawk might strike a fence and break a wing.   If barbed wire, the injury may easily cost the bird its life.   People are a leading cause of diminishing numbers of certain raptors, somehow justifying setting up the extremely cruel elevated pole traps or using hawks for target practice.   They will call almost any hawk a “chicken hawk” and go after these birds.   I suppose it might be difficult to convince a chicken farmer that to loose a chick is far better in the balance of nature than to go after the hawks.  Many farmers appreciate the raptors, including hawks and owls.  When permission is given,  rehabilitated birds may be released on farmlands and hunt rodents there.  What is the normal diet of a Red-tail hawk?  A days meal might consist first  of rodents, then birds, reptiles or insects.  At the rehab center, the normal food is deceased mice. 

How do kids react when they first see this wonderful lady hawk brought out on a gloved hand?  Ooohh!  Wow!  She must weigh 10 pounds!  Kids do the same thing you want to do reacting to this fine part of nature.  I was dancing in my sneakers the first time I was close to a large hawk or owl.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Mouse Without Its Head promised, the first bird from the raptor center. Click image for larger view.
Pixie was a beautiful American Kestrel, the smallest falcon breed of all.  She introduced me to the headless mouse just as she did with lots of people, children and adults.   Children did best and gathered close for the most part.  Mothers looked in awe or feigned a brave heart for the sake of their children.  Nature is as nature does and the head came off first, assuring a meal which did not fight back.  Held upright in the feeding glove, the head was also a natural first bite.  Note that mice come from a lab mouse house and are already deceased when served as dinner to the raptors. Crickets are part of the American Kestrel diet in the wild.

                                                                            click photo for larger view

Pixie came to the Clinch River Raptor Center in June of 1998.  She was not injured and if not held could fly away when out of her living quarters.  To control and otherwise protect the birds when part of an educational program, the birds have leather straps on their legs called jesses.   Smallish anklet loops may be used and longer straps attached when the birds are out and on the handler’s gloved hand.  In this next photo, Pixie is entertaining children at a summer camp ground. The jesses are visible.

If not injured, why was Pixie kept at the raptor center?  She was imprinted on humans.  She had been raised by people who thought they were doing the right thing. Instead, this caused Pixie to lose natural fear of people and lose much of her natural ability to hunt and survive in the wild.  The “good deed” of raising the little kestrel was ill advised and she could not be released after that.  Yet, Pixie had a good life.  Spoiled a little, she was hand fed each meal and got to go outside for that.  She was the first raptor I got to handle and feed and Pixie was a good introduction to the newbie I was.  She amazed me as much as the young lady in the background of this photo from an Earth Day event in 2009.   If I could find the girl in the photo, I have a print waiting for her.
February of 2010 was much colder than usual and the birds feathers were all puffed up to stay warm as they would in the wild.   Their homes are protected from rain but are not heated or cooled.  Pixie was found on the floor of her home of many years.  She was over 12 years old. The winter was too harsh for this elegant yet older lady falcon. A wonderful and beautiful little falcon she was, teaching many children and adults that she and others like her are important and valuable parts of nature.  With memories tugging, I remember that Pixie was the first to introduce me to a mouse without its head. This lady kestrel had imprinted my heart.

Male kestrel falcons have more blue than the females.  The American Kestrel is one of the few raptors gender identifiable by coloration.  With great horned owls and red-tailed hawks, for instance, the difference in male and female is determined by size.  The female is definitely larger than the male but coloration is the same.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Few

In this place of shade, ferns and moss, we are happy to have any flowers. Today, blooms show on  the rhododendrons in the woods.   

Monday, May 2, 2011

You Can Buy Bricks...The Hosiery Is Long Gone

I've read stories of how the families would be laid off work, pack up and move to another state, another town, another textile mill. They'd breathe the same dust, work the same machines and again the job would end. Pack up again, move back where they had been because work had come back to the mill...that was the cycle.

This textile mill made hosiery, I'd call it socks. It churned and spun and paid its help from 1906 for some 40 more years of layoffs, rehires. During that time the unions came. Some times got better I suppose. Ultimately it was a stubborn union on one side, unmoving management on the other and a strike too long. The factory simply closed. After 1967 nothing spun or churned and nothing was loaded on trucks for shipping. The families all went somewhere.

Shot at 18mm. The wide angle puts all in acceptable focus from the gate post 5 feet away to infinity.