Friday, February 27, 2009

Pussy Willows and Skunk Cabbage!

Petey and I headed out to the Co. Park for a two hour hike in 60 degree weather. It was threatening rain, but actually balmy out. What a welcome surprise after the past couple of months of fridged weather. As always when it isn't perfect weather.....we had the place to ourselves! If you go out in all sorts of weather it enhances the nature experience, everything looks completely different from the day before. That's what keeps me coming back everyday...the view is always different. We saw three beautiful Adult Red tail Hawks, three Yellow shafted Flickers, Pine Siskins, Gold Finch, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Juncos, Chickadees, and three tom turkeys. Petey started to chase the turkeys and I called him off and he came! So proud of my boy! Watching Petey's joy today, while he was out there running in fields, jumping over fallen trees, and trailing game made my heart sing. He turns the worst of days into great fun. I am never sorry for having made the effort to take him for his run, no matter how tired or crappy I feel. We both benefit greatly from every hike we take together. Today while on the fields, every so often Petey would run back at me and start to spin circles, four or five at a time at lightening speed, I started to tell him to SPIN every time he did them, I think he got the word connection. It's really funny to watch him lose his head in joy! Life is so simple when you share it with a canine companion. He actually smiles, its contagious...then I'm smiling. When we got to the top of the park, I remembered to check the willow bush as we do annually every Spring, and sure enough there were catkins out! A sure sign of impending Spring...for me it is going to come on fast and furious from here on in. Unless you spend the Winter out in the woods it is easy to miss the stubble signs of the most glorious time of the year beginning. For a lot of people when they see traditional ornamental flowers in bloom that is when they think Spring. For me it's pussy willows and the skunk Cabbage poking it little red flower out of the muddy banks of streams, and today....I saw the first skunk cabbage! Monday there was nothing there, and today...they have started to push up from the rapidly defrosting stream bank. They are the first flower to bloom, there waiting for the Morning Cloak to come out of hibernation with a meal. I'm so excited....I am only days away from hearing a Spring Peeper!!!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


As I sit at my kitchen table watching literally hundreds of birds feasting on all the food I put out for them this morning I'm drawn to thinking about what our nation is going through. For the first time in many decades our country has a struggling economy. It is the first time my generation has had to cut back and learn to live a simpler life. I for one think this is a good turn of events. Not that I want to see anyone lose their home, I'm think in terms of those that have lived beyond what they should have since day one. As one who never stops looking at animals and their infinite wisdom on how to survive, they always have to struggle, their entire lives are from one struggle to the next. Food, shelter, water, outwitting those that prey on them. What makes humans think that they shouldn't struggle too? Believe it or not, we are part of nature, or were meant to be, before we decided it was our god given right to destroy our planet. We have become a nation of people who think we have a right to fulfill all of our wants instantly. I've become guilty of this as well. Wants aren't needs. We don't need fancy cars, big T.Vs and huge homes. We simply need a roof over our heads, a warm bed to sleep in and food to fill our bellies and enough money to pay for it. We all need to learn to live with in our means. It's an age old concept that most people in the USA have forgotten. We are so busy watching the rich and famous on TV that we forget, that isn't most of us. Few people think twice about cutting down trees to build a home, but doing so, we make many others homeless. That tree may be a home and food source to many animals and birds, that are then forced to move, and moving for them means fighting for territory, learning where to find food in a strange neighborhood. Why don't we feel for their struggle? The birds that are in my yard today are a mix of those coming from a Winter spent in a warmer climates and those that came from a colder climate to spend the Winter here where there was more food available to them. Red wing blackbirds and Pine Siskins make up the huge flocks today. Both species having an easier time today because I choose to buy them food and sacrifice wants of my own so they can live another day with out so much struggle. They still need to keep themselves safe from predators and tonight find a warm place to sleep.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bucket List

I just returned from a very nice hike with Petey. It was snowing and no one else was in the woods. We had the place to ourselves....true peace and quiet and time to reflect. The only birds I saw were Golden Crowned Kinglets and a Brown Creeper.

During my lovely walk, I had time to think and came to a happy discovery. I am coming in to a time in my life where I can pursue some interests that are just for me. I spent my first twenty five years growing up and learning to survive on my own, the next twenty five raising my family and now I'm coming into a time where I can finally dive in to some of my life passions. I hope that I get another twenty five years to do it all! Thinking about the next stage in life is very exciting, and made me really happy today. Last week my chiropractor was talking about her bucket list, all the things that she wants to do before she dies, and it made me think...why don't I have any dreams and goals? I want a bucket list too! I found that I do have dreams and goals, now that raising my boys is almost over, they were all just covered in cobwebs. When you are so busy raising a large families and putting all their needs ahead your own, you put yourself on the back burner, and you can lose yourself. I did lose myself during the early years of parenting, and had no time alone, until I gifted myself with my Weim Uno. He helped me to get back out hiking, alone. I'm so drawn out in to nature everyday, it's such a part of my life, like eating, sleeping, breathing that I get very depressed if I go too long with out my daily fix.

My bucket list so far, I want to bird/nature watch on each of the continents. I would like to see each of the whale species possible, so trips would include the Sea of Cortez, and the Arctic. I want to see a sea turtle lay its eggs. All the trips will hinge on how well we retire...with the current state of the world...might now happen in this lifetime! These are goals that will happen, get my wildlife Rehabilitation license, and personally take in and help a couple of wild animals return to the wild each year. Volunteer at a wildlife Rehabilitation Center, where there are opportunities to help educate the public about wild animals and birds. Volunteer at Corkscrew Sanctuary or another place like it, leading nature/bird walks through the mangroves a couple of days a week. I also found out today....that there is only one other subject that I am as passionate about as nature....DOGS! I went to my first ever AKC dog show...I had a blast! I felt completely at home, and now all of a sudden I am thinking maybe, as I enter the early empty nest part of my life, before we can retire....I might like to get involved in the dog show world to some capacity. It was immensely exciting to find out that there are a lot more fun experiences out there waiting for me in this life....I just have to get out there and and follow my heart! My life does not have to end just because my sons are on their own, I can have another lifetime. I will go back to my humane society and volunteer, and NOT take home any dogs, I can do far more by spending time walking the dogs at the society every week, then taking one in for good. Bucket lists for everyone! Just do it!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Uno, Howard & Mason

I truly believe that each dog we share our lives with comes to us to teach us a life lesson. Not all of us are attuned to what the lesson is, especially at the time you are living with your companion. For some reason, we don't think much about the possibility of losing our dogs at a young age, and maybe not at an old age either...I've not been fortunate to have my soul dogs live to ripe old ages as most of my parents dogs did , so I'm not completely sure that this holds true for me or not. We just expect them to always be there waiting for us. So when they leave us at a young age we are left confused and devastated.

Uno, Howard and Mason, were not easy dogs, not that any dog is easy! They were adopted, other peoples throw always, not because they were bad dogs, just became inconvenient for their owners when their lives changed and they could no longer cope with them and make the sacrifices necessary to keep them. I am glad that it was me who was able to take them in, to give them a good home for the duration of their lives. They each gave me far more then they took. Uno was a high strung crazy boy of seventeen months when he came to live with us. To say I adored him would be an understatement. He was my ticket to freedom. After having given all my time and attention to being a mother for ten years, and not treating myself to the gift of owning a dog for all that time, Uno came into my life when my youngest went to Nursery School. I had been looking for a 18 month old Red Male Doberman through rescues, and not having any luck getting one that would fit with my young growing family. At a neighborhood BBQ, I had mentioned to a friend that I was ready to adopt. A week later she left a message on my answering machine telling me if I wanted to take her Uno for a trial and see if it worked out, she would love for us to take him in. He was a gorgeous Weimaraner out of Champion parents who they co-owned with the sires breeder. My friend was in the process of a divorce, so Uno had never been socialized, trained and didn't have the active life like that breed demands, he also was not going to be able to be shown....because he didn't like strangers touching him. After a month, they signed him over to me. I now had another hiking partner. I could go into the woods again...ALONE! I was in heaven. I have been afraid to hike alone for my entire life, so having a large dog with me, enables me to get out there with little fear. Uno was a really good boy in the house, never an accident nor was he a chewer. He also didn't leave the yard. He became completely devoted to me, to the point of obsession. He was not a good family pet, his world revolved around me. Lucky for him I was a stay at home mom, and he had my undivided attention while the boys all were in school. We got out hiking a few days of each week, and he always kept me in his line of sight. His prey drive was insane,he managed to kill off most of the boys small pets in a few months time. He could grab squirrels, jumped on deer,chased bears, attacked fish,frogs and even earth worms. If it was fair game to him! He would have made someone an awesome hunting dog. Hikes were never peaceful, as he was always crashing through the woods after potential prey. He was a complete piece of work and I loved him dearly.

After a few years, while I was volunteering at the local human society, I saw a sad old G.S. Hair Pointer sitting in the back of a kennel, shaking. Poor pathetic old man Howard. He was skinny, covered with kennel sores and fatty tumors, he was completely deaf too. I had to get him out of there. Well pathetic lasted about five minutes after he came home to live with us! He was a crazy nut job! Had severe OCD and so hyper he drove us insane on a daily basis. He would spend entire days pacing around our home. He was about twelve, we figured he would last about a year, nope not with all the fun he was having at our home! He wasn't about to miss the most fun he had his entire life. At one point during his stint with us we thought he was on his last leg, so I started cruising and happened upon Mason. Howard's ailment which we thought was a stroke, turned out to be an ear infection, he was back to normal very quickly.

Mason was another Weim, three years old and his owners were having issues with him and his litter mate brother fighting, the brother was dominant, and they were having their first baby and decided they didn't want to deal with the dogs any longer. Mason was a sweet guy, also not too well socialized or trained. He had also had a minor seizure that the prior owners put off to stress from the constant aggression from his brother. Well little did we know, it wasn't minor at all, it was full blown epilepsy, which we learned all about, starting thirty six hours after he came to live with us. I wanted to return him immediately and my hubby thankfully said...NO, you took him and you will deal with him. He was right. My hands were very full, three large dogs all with major issues....YIKES what had I done to our already chaotic lives? Mason also developed another problem after we put him on meds to control his seizures....he was food obsessed. He ate himself up to 113 pounds. He was obese. I was able to get him down to 99# but it was a daily battle to keep all the food in the house put away. He was also...a poop eater.

It was a crazy year and a half that we had all of them together, for the most part Uno was the boss and no one messed with him, but he was never again really happy. He had to share me. I think it wore him out, he seemed to stress about me giving either of the other two any attention. Here I thought that I was giving him playmates and I was actually turning his world upside down. Howard spent his entire last year completely incontinent and then started losing his bowels. His hind quarters were getting really weak from arthritis. My Dad had passed during the middle of Howard's decline, and neither hubby nor I had the heart to do anything about Howard's worsening condition during all the sadness of losing one you loved so much. I had become a slave to the dogs, seizures, constant poo and pee clean-ups, food stolen off of counters, out of closets,even hot pots off of the stove. Two neurotic dogs and a seizure dog, this is the world my hubby thinks back to when I talk of adding another dog. I seem to forget all the bad and look at the positive.nHoward finally got to a point that he was no longer having fun, and we decided it was time. Our household was much more peaceful, and smelled much better, the boys could again have their friends over without being embarrassed. I thought we had many more years with the two Weim boys, but that was not meant to be. Six months after Howard was PTS, Uno developed a slight cough. My sons thought he was doing it for attention, I took him to the vet a couple of times and they could find nothing wrong with him. Summer came and he was kenneled two times and after the second stay came home very thin. I took him to the vet and demanded they do an X-Ray of his lungs, I knew in my heart something was very wrong with him. Well I was right....he had a huge mass in his lung. I was completely devastated, there was nothing we could do except keep him comfortable. I had expected him to live to be fourteen like his mother. I went home, and started researching dogs and diet, and put him on a canine cancer diet. My mom cooked him his first batch of food. How I wish that I had looked into what was in kibbles before it came to this point. Uno loved his new food and only missed one day of eating before we put him down. He also went on short hikes until a week before. The day of his last hike, he had seizures that night, so we knew the cancer was in his brain. Horrific time for me. That week I smuggled Mason out of the house for our first hike alone. The song Dust in the Wind was playing on the radio as we arrived at the park....I was so sad, I couldn't keep from crying, my time with my beloved Uno was almost over. Mason....seemed VERY happy. His life was changing for the better. He was allowed to sit up front in the car instead of the way back. The last three days of his life I carried his 80# body up and down the stairs so he could sleep with me. It was amazing that he kept going when he was so sick. He never even had an accident in the house. I quit my volunteer time at the hawk watch so I could spend every available moment with him. I invited all his friends over to visit, even his prior owners. Everyone poured their love into him. I took him to work with me the last two days, he slept on his bed as I gazed my eyes on him for my final hours. Everyone told me I'd know when it was time, and they were right,while at work with me, he stared strait into my eyes with a pleading look, he had enough, it was if he spoke to my soul. We brought Uno to the vet with his favorite blanket, he went very peacefully while looking deeply into my eyes. It was a privileged to have shared his life. I brought the blanket home and Mason smelled it, looked at me in horror and ran away. He wouldn't come near me for the rest of the night. He seemed depressed, so we all began to dote on him. He flourished with all the attention. It was fall, so I could take Mason everywhere I went in the car. He had a new wonderful life, and we discovered, he was the sweetest dog we ever owned, he could smile. He had smile muscles. We had never noticed this about him. We all fell in love with him. Peace had come over our home. We had one sweet good dog. Well it didn't last. I remember trying to remain in a good frame of mind for New Years because my Dads 2nd anniversary was on January 6th. New Years eve we were all sitting around and I had Mason's head on my lap, just loving him up. Our friends asked about his seizures, and I said he was over due by a couple of weeks, his seizures came about every three months, severe full blown gram-mals, up to seven in a episode. January 2nd we woke up, kids headed back to school after Christmas break, except for my oldest son who was in college, it was apparent that Mason was not right....he didn't jump up on the door handle to let himself back in after doing his business that morning. Hubby let him in, and I took one look at him and said....he is going to have a seizure...and he did..... and they never stopped. After twelve hours of hell my poor baby had to be PTS. It was one of the most horrific days I've ever lived. My heart was smashed in to pieces. I would never be the same again.

What the three boys taught me besides patience, was to no longer trust traditional dog care. Although I always leaned towards the Peace Love and Tofu way of raising my sons, I didn't fully do it for my dogs. I had learned a lot about immunizations because of Mason, and I stopped being a GOOD owner, and started refusing to vaccinate every year. I also wouldn't give him heart worm meds, nor put any flea or tick preps on him. But I never questioned his diet. Trusted that the people making kibble must know what they are doing. After Uno's cancer diagnosis, I began my research in to canine diet. Funny thing is...all my other pets had always been fed Species Appropriate diets. Even my turtle Pee-Wee hat I got at only eight years old...wasn't fed turtle food, that is why I had him until I was 36 years old, if he had been fed the commercial food available back in the late 60' he would have died with the millions of others that suffered for their entire short lives. What my three crazy dogs taught me most of all...was to question everything, what we feed them, how we exercise them, their quality of life, what we put into their bodies, what training methods trainers use, that don't feel right, all in the name of trying to be a good dog owner. Knowledge is available to us all and when we know better, we should do better!

My Petey has benefited from all the knowledge I gained by knowing and loving those three dogs. His life has been very different because of them, and so has mine. Thank you Uno, Mason and Howard for being my dogs, I wish that I had done better for you all. You were all loved.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Birding Bonanza!

This morning I headed out to look for a couple of Long Ear Owls that the birders from last night had given me a tip about. They were right where they saw them yesterday! Just a beautiful pair of birds. I went back to Oil City Road to look for the Sand hill Crane several people have seen over the last couple of days, no luck. I did get to watch a couple of muskrats and a nice Rough legged Hawk. Later in the afternoon, I was driving near home and pulled over to look in a recently flooded marsh area, and there were 3 Snow Geese! Terrific find. In with them were several hundred Canada Geese, around 3 dozen Pin tails, dozens of Mallards,Black ducks, a pair of Wood ducks, and a Gorgeous Male Common Merganser. Still later I took Petey for a loop at the Co. Park. Not much out, a few Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Golden Crowned Kinglets, heard a Robin and also a Pileated Woodpecker. the pond I heard something strange, it didn't sound like any bird I've ever heard, listened as it got closer, almost sounded like a dog, and then I realized it was in the air, I looked up and there were a pair of Tundra Swans flying right over me! What an end to a Birding Bonanza Day!

I found my feeder bird sick Crow dead in the side yard. He was moving very slowly yesterday, I knew it wouldn't be long. I hope that the food I provided helped him have at least some comfort during his last weeks. He was covered with growths, must have had some sort of cancer. I will leave his body were it is, and hope some other animal completes his cycle.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Nature Show

My backyard is a nature show everyday. Feeding the birds is a way to treat myself to great entertainment daily, while sitting at your kitchen table drinking your morning coffee. How much more fun it is to watch all kinds of birds, gray squirrels, red squirrels and chipmunks then the depressing morning news. Talk about a way to start your day happy, upbeat and full of positive thoughts. This morning we had our usual twenty something group of young turkeys that we have been hosting for a couple of weeks. They know there will be cracked corn available and have added our home to their daily fores for food. Most days they show up around 8am. Perfect timing for me on work days, I can watch them for a few minutes before I leave for my stressful commute. Yesterday Hubby and I had been discussing with son number two about the lack of Toms in our flock of Turkeys and all of a sudden from across the street four full grown very large, handsome Toms came in and started strutting their stuff for all the girls. The big boys control the prime feeding spot where most of the cracked corn is, everyone else leaves a wide birth for them. Their breeding colors of red and blue on their heads are already becoming darker and more intense. One of the most amazing things I've seen turkeys do it take off in flight! They are huge birds and can easily fly to get away from potential harm in a moments notice. Turkey Facts from Sibley's field guide: Males are up to 46 inches in height and weigh up to 17 pounds(My son the hunter has had them up to 25 pounds, guess its all the corn!) Females: 37 inches and 9 pounds. They are found in flocks of up to 60 birds in open woods with fields and clearings. Usually in Oak or Beech woods. They are omnivores eating nuts, seeds, insects and salamanders.

In the last two days, the flock of Pine Siskins and Goldfinch have grown in numbers to around one hundred birds. This being the Great American Backyard bird count weekend, I'm enjoying watching them all day as I keep track of all the numbers and species of birds that I have visiting the feeders. I expect the Siskins to be leaving any day now, and we might not have another irruptive year for a decade or more, this is my first year in all my life that I've had such huge numbers of them. Thy started arriving in our area way back in October. I saw my first large flock up in Cascade Lake Park on October 13th, shortly afterwords birders from all over the North East were reporting the same thing. Numbers of Red Wing Blackbirds are increasing as I sit here and type. There was also a welcome surprise of a fox sparrow yesterday. The turkeys are gone and there are at least a dozen Gray Squirrels her emptying the feeders at an alarming rate. Yesterday a Chipmunk awoke from his Winter Slumber to eat for a bit. For me...Spring has sprung.

Later...trip out to Oil City road at dusk for Short Eared 4 and saw a bunch of my birding friends from the Hawk Watch, nice way to end the weekend.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The 12th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count is Feb 13-16th!

This is a count I have participated in since the first year. It is fun and easy. The first few years I had my dad do it with me. He would send his reports up from Maryland, because he didn't have a computer This weekend makes me sad that he is no longer with us. My passion for birding came from him. I do the count all four days, great excuse to sit at my kitchen table and watch birds for as long as I want to!!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What Petey has taught me.....

I have posted an article that came from the Parade Magazine. It is written by Cesar Milan. Although I don't ascribe to most of his training techniques for typical family pets who have no serious issues, I do like a lot of what he has to say about dogs and what they can teach us. The article is posted at the bottom of the Blog.

You would think that after close to fifty years of sharing my life with dogs, I'd be some sort of expert. The truth is, when Petey BURST into my life on January 12, 2007, I found out very quickly....that I knew NOTHING. Nothing about training, nothing about drive, nothing about working dogs, nothing about temperament, nothing about good vs. bad breeders,nothing about health testing a sire and dam should have, nothing about anything that related to my dream dog that I waited twenty three years to acquire. It was scary at first having this crazy, active, high drive Doberman puppy who started gaining a half a pound a day, that was expected to be around one hundred pounds at maturity, I was worried that I was in way over my head. Everyday was a new adventure. To say I was overwhelmed those early weeks and months, would be an understatement. Be very careful what you wish for, you might just get it! I wanted a Doberman, and I got one! His lines and breeding make for a dog that isn't for the faint hearted, he is no Labrador or Golden Retriever. He is a highly intelligent, cocky and manipulative boy. He isn't afraid of anything. Nothing unhinges him. I've never had a dog like him before. Petey pushed me in to reading every book that I could get my hands on about dog training. What I learned immediately...was that training had changed drastically in my life time, and some how....I didn't know that there were much more humane ways to teach a dog how to live in a human world. How I wish that I had learned all of this before my three rescues came into our lives, how much better our years with them would have been. What Petey immediately taught me is, I needed to step up to the plate and train him, he demanded it! I had gotten away with very little training for all of my other dogs, I was way too lazy with all of them, well it was very evident very quickly that was not going to work with this boy. He would have run our house if he had half a chance, I promised my hubby as we drove to pick up our ten week old puppy, that he did not want...this dog would be different, I will raise him right, he will be a good dog. As soon as Petey's immunulations would protect him, we went to positive puppy training classes,a whole new world was opened up for him and I. Everything I had been doing that I had learned in my past, that wasn't working, except to beat Petey down, was stoppped. How wonderful to not say NO every thirty seconds! How wonderful to put baskets of toys all over the house, to give treats for good behavior! Puppy-hood became FUN! Not easy but not misrable. I continued on with training classes with different methods, and will go back again at least a couple of sessions a year, maybe Agility next. The second lesson that Petey taught me was, ALL dogs are good, the problem is we humans make excuses and mess them up. We don't take the time to teach them good house manner and proper behavior. We make excuses about their pasts. They know how to be dogs,they live in the moment and we need to learn their language and train them in such a way that they understand, respect and love us. I found relationship based training methods really fun and easy. I love clicker is the first training method I've ever liked. Petey at 28 months old, is still a work in progress, and I get the feeling that with a dog as smart as he is....I will need to train him for the rest of his life, he likes to learn new things and if his mind isn't engaged....he is sure to make my days miserable! I do agree with Ceser's three rules, exercise, discipline and then the love! Having your dog live his life in that order really does work best. They are dogs, and it IS what they understand.

The Dog Whisperer:
What Your Pet Can Teach You
By Cesar Millan

Publication Date: 01/11/2009
I am honored that so many people look to me to help them enjoy more fulfilling relationships with their dogs, but the truth is that the dogs themselves have been my teachers. The most valuable lessons I’ve received have come from animals. Here are some of the ways dogs have helped me become a better, happier, and more-balanced human being.

Live in the moment.
People often wonder how I get such quick results with the dogs I rehabilitate. The answer is simple: Dogs live in the moment. They don’t regret the past or worry about the future. If we can learn to appreciate and focus on what’s happening in the here and now, we’ll experience a richness of living that other members of the animal kingdom enjoy.

Nurture a balanced life.

I tell my clients to follow this simple rule with their dogs: Offer exercise, discipline, and affection every day. Do the same for yourself. We humans are happier if our routines include physical activity, a sense of structure, and the opportunity to give and receive love on a daily basis.

Trust your instincts.

Animals don’t care about words. They recognize that what’s really going on in any interaction is beneath the surface. Many of us have lost touch with this all-important instinctual part of our natures. By paying attention to nonverbal cues such as body language and energy, we can learn more about our friends, our loved ones, and ourselves.

Be direct and consistent in your communication.

Many of my clients only intermittently enforce rules, leaving their pets confused about what is and isn’t acceptable behavior. Great relationships, no matter the species, begin with clear and consistent communication. This is a lesson we should carry into other areas of our lives—with our family, our friends, and at work. Remember: We teach people how to treat us.

Learn to listen.
Make the time to lend an ear to those you love or those who want to transform their lives. But don’t try to fix their problems, and don’t take their problems personally, either. A great leader is also a great follower and knows that everybody counts.

Don’t hold grudges.

There’s a remarkable lack of conflict in dog packs. That’s because members resolve the situation when disagreements arise, then move on. Imagine what our world would be like if we dealt with our conflicts before they escalated out of control. Holding onto negative feelings tends to make them multiply and prevent us from moving forward.

Live with purpose.
When dogs are bored, they develop issues ranging from anxiety to aggression. But when given a job and a way to contribute to the pack’s well-being, they turn around almost immediately. All animals—including humans—have an inborn need to work for food and water. Ask yourself how you can contribute more to your job, your family, and the world around you. You’ll feel much better about yourself if you earn your food and water, too.

Celebrate every day.

For a dog, every morning is Christmas morning. Every walk is the best walk, every meal is the best meal, every game is the best game. We can learn so much by observing the way our pets rejoice in life’s simplest moments. Take time every day to celebrate the many gifts that are hidden in the ordinary events of your own life.

Cesar Millan is the author of “A Member of the Family” and star of the National Geographic Channel’s “Dog Whisperer.” Photo courtesy of Michael Reuter.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Harbinger of Spring!

Those of us who spend a great deal of our lives wrapped up in the cycles of nature know that sightings of certain birds mark the beginning or the end of a season. This morning under my bird feeder were two beautiful Redwing Blackbirds. They are the start of the Northward push of hundreds of species of birds that all of us birders eagerly look forward to. It will be with a heavy heart I say goodbye to my Winter feeder birds, especially the Irruptive Pine Siskins that have spent their Winter heartily eating the expensive Thistle I've provided for them. It is getting close to the time where they go from just trying to find enough food to survive to a time of abundance and family raising. Although I love living in the northeast,because all of our seasons are so evenly spaced, Spring and Fall are my favorite times of the year. There isn't a day that goes by that you don't see dozens of different kinds of birds. I especially love the Spring because once quiet forests come alive with bird song. Warms my heart....something wonderful to look forward to the next couple of weeks as it all unfolds.

Later on....
It was such a gorgeous day that I rushed home from work, put on my hiking boots and took Petey out for a quick hike, it was dark by the time we got out of the woods at the Co. Park. So lovely to hear the streams all running full force again.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The great melt

It's looks as though the great melt is on. The unseasonably warm weather has broken up the ice on the River up at Cascade Lake Park. The pond is too soft to walk on already. I don't think there is enough Winter left for it to refreeze deep enough to support much weight. Two Barred Owls continue to call to each other,must be getting really close to nesting now. Not much else out to see today on our slushy, slippery walk. I think Petey was truly completely enjoying himself, as several times he ran back to me and did zoomies and then launched himself into a half dozen really fast spins...really funny to watch him. He never fails to crack me up several times each day....well maybe not Sunday morning while sleeping in, when he banged me with his big head in the nose and cracked the cartilage! The rest of the walk was quiet until we got close to the parking lot and there were four Robins feeding on a Sumac. Nice to see them doing so well after spending a long Winter too far North. Not long now and all the migratory birds will be winging their way back North...Yippee, I can't love love SPRING TIME, lots of creatures out and about...never a dull moment!!!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sense of Wonder

Fourteen years ago my wonderful hubby gave to me a very special gift for Christmas,an original out of print copy of "The Sense of Wonder" by one of my favorite authors, Rachel Carson. Those that know me well, know I am a confirmed book-aholic. In my mind there are few gifts that rate higher for me, then a well thought out book. Most of my books are nature books and field guides, besides the several hundred children's books I collected while my kids were little. Reading has always been a favorite pastime for me for my entire life. As a young mother, I read to my four sons every night, it was such a wonderful way to end our days. As a child it is how I gained most of my knowledge about animals and the natural world. I love having field guides to ID the flora and fauna for where ever I have traveled and will travel to someday! That gift from my hubby with its message is still precious to me fourteen years later Not a year goes by that I don't annually read it cover to cover. It is a short easy read, lots of pictures, but does magical things for me every time I open its pages. It reminds me to "keep alive my Child's inborn sense of Wonder and renew my own delight in the mysteries of the earth, sea and sky." Rachel Carson was a very special person who's time on earth was way too brief, she died of cancer at the age of fifty-six when I was only five years old. During her short stay among us she wrote many books about her beloved sea, which she had a Summer home in Maine on an Island. Every Summer when we return to Maine I can't help but think about her, and her writings, I look at the ocean with different eyes since reading all of her books. She was a poet as well as a scientist, naturalist. She is one of my hero's. Rachel's most important work was "Silent Spring" it was a pioneer work, written in 1962, on pesticides and what they were/still are, doing to our earth. It was written well before anyone knew about them, and that what they were spraying on their farms, in suburban lots and parks was poisoning the earth and all it's creatures, including us. Her writings have inspired me to be more more conscious of every chemical I use,outside as well as in my home, including typical household cleaners, shampoos, make-up, even what I choose to use on my Petey. I have found, nature knows best, the closer we stay to her wisdom, the better and healthier our lives will be. So far so good! Thank you Rachel for having touched my life so deeply and kept my sense of wonder alive well into my middle age.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

My Children

I've been a very lucky women to be entrusted with four beautiful sons to raise and love. Early on I decided that I would enrich my children's lives with nature. Being outside is what I'm most comfortable with, and I could easily follow my heart and spend quality time with my boys. I spent my first pregnancy hiking and being outside, lots of sun shine and fresh air. I had my first case of poison ivy when I gave birth to Jason, from the reaction of the nurses hearing I had been out hiking, I knew, I was not typical. I know my labor and delivery were easy because of my lifestyle. Our first home was on the Ramapo River. The river was our backyard. We were treated to sightings of otters, muskrats, mink and lots of ducks and geese on a daily basis. Of cause I fed the birds, several feeders adorned our deck. Jason went on his first hike at only three weeks old. We took him up to Claudis Smith Cave in Harriman State Park, which was a hike we could do from our home. His first water experiences were in the river, not a swimming pool. Soon after his birth I created a Nature Box for him out of an old wooden wine box. I filled it with objects from nature that were interesting to touch and look at. I added more as he grew. Once he was walking we took him to hiking places often where there were always lots interesting things to see including deer, right up close and personal. We had a fish tank and my turtle Pee-Wee and he learned to love and respect them. During his first year and a half took him on several vacations to different states, all nature centered. When Jason was a year and a half old we decided to move to a bigger house as a brother for Jason was expected in the Spring. Although the home we purchased was not in the location we had hoped to find, it was larger, affordable and had a couple of features that I knew we would have lots of birds passing through to feed. One feature was that it was located on a seasonal stream, and the other, it was between two habitats,wooded mountains and fields. We lucked out that our side yard is a wildlife trail, deer, bear and other creatures use it daily to cross from one habitat to another. The back of the house faces South,and has lots of large windows so it is always full of sunshine. Our homes location has never disappointed me even after twenty years. I added a large pond, lots of natural planting for food. My sons have grown up watching birds and animals from its windows every day of their lives. Over the last two decades, many of their friends have come to our home, and most that had no appreciation for birds, have left saying things like....Wow! I never knew birds were so beautiful, colorful or that we had so many kinds living right here. They sit with me at the kitchen table, and I identify the birds for them. They know me as the nature mom.

The earliest education I gave my sons was not to teach them things like the alphabet or colors from books, it was to take them outside and say things like, look at the Cardinal or the Blue Jay and then ask what color it was. What letter does bird start with. All the while doing what I loved best and mothering them at the same time. I took them for long bike rides on country roads, walks in beautiful parks with ponds,lakes, streams, armed with nets and buckets, we took home frog and salamander eggs and watched the miracle of them hatching into tiny beings, who we let go right back where we found the eggs. We caught snakes, toads, turtles, salamanders and examined them, always careful to put them back where we found them. Everyday of the year there was something new to see and do in the outside world. We had a small menagerie of furry and scaly pets at all times, I taught the boys how to properly care for their charges, how important it was to give them the best life possible. I would bring our pets into the schools and share them with the other children. We visited farms, zoos, aquariums, museums and the Catskill game farm was a biannual trip for us. I had the rare opportunity to be a kid again. To get back my sense of Wonder about all things alive and the natural world. Raising the boys this way has been a pleasure, every day a adventure.

We had only one income for all those years, and thankfully neither Bobby nor I had any interest in possessions, cars, clothing, jewelry or keeping up with the Jone's. We spent all available cash on many vacations every year. My father once remarked that we are always away, why don't you stay home once in a while and give your kids some stability once in a while! I laughed thinking, why would I want to just stay home?? We camped and rented tiny cottages in beautiful places. We took the boys to beaches, lakes, on islands, out in the ocean to birding, whale watching. We saw many sunsets, sunrises, ate tons of different foods and enjoyed each others company. For me raising them was like living a dream. I was getting to do what I loved best everyday. As the years have gone on, our vacations into Nature have really blossomed, in the last couple of years the boy have been to Costa Rica, the Pacific Northwest, California and now this coming Summer, Yellowstone National Park. I hope that after their childhoods are said and done that they have enjoyed it all as much as I have. It has been a joy to mother them.

In my first few years as a mom, I am thankful that when several older friends and family members told me to enjoy my kids to the fullest, that raising them would be over in a heartbeat, for once in my life....I listened. Their words still echo in my head, you can have a clean house and an orderly life when they are gone...for now get out there and just be with them and enjoy the moments. I have and I am grateful for each one.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

My View

I have a yard full of birds today happily feeding on the bounty that I have spread before them. There are no less then twenty Cardinals filling my apple tree with their crimson spender. Christmas in February. I never tire of the privilege of watching the feeding creatures. Everyday brings a new sense of Wonder. I regress back to a ten year old who can't get over just how magical everything in nature is. Even a common Starling seen up close is a work of art. For me, there isn't anything more beautiful then a living creature or an object out in nature. No painting or sculpture could ever make me as excited as seeing even a simple house sparrow, a newly sprung mushroom, a beautiful stone, a small patch of moss or a tiny lichen. My laptop sits on the corner of my Kitchen table window, which has a cherry wood feeder that hubby custom made for me, it spans the width of the window. That feeder brings birds, squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, opossums and even bears a glass pane away from my eyes. Everyday I am treated to the most amazing show I've ever seen. It changes seasonally as the creatures come and go during migration, nesting and feeding in other areas. I could never again live in a house that didn't have direct views of all the goings on in the natural world, I need this to feel alive and part of the natural world.

My Carolina Wrens continue to sleep in our breezeway. They are very cute and endearing and I hope in the Spring that they decide to continue on here and raise a couple of broods of babies like they have done the past few years. I have a variety of birds houses just for them, as the male likes to set up house keeping in several locations, and his mate gets to choose her favorite. Their cheerful song is a welcome alarm each morning.

Despite a very snowy day, Petey and I got out snowshoeing for an hour. Not surprisingly were the only ones up at Cascade Lake. Petey did a lot of zoomies, trying to show me just how happy he was to be out running around in the fresh powder.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Eagle Mania!

Spent nine hours yesterday with a wonderful group of birders counting Bald Eagles on the Hudson River. We started the morning at the look out by the Bear Mountain Bridge and ended the day at dusk at a eagle roost in Croton on the Hudson. Incredible day filled with 159 sightings of Bald eagles, adults and immatures. I also was lucky and got another life bird! That makes two in a month....which in the north east rarely happens to me! The bird was White Winged Cross-bills, and we watched about a dozen of them atop a tall pine eating the seeds of the pine cones. Stunning views of a beautiful bird. Terrific day spent with like minded people, some of my fellow hawk watchers from Mt. Peter and a few people from other birding groups. to meet Cal Vornberger who is a wildlife photographer. His book The Birds of Central Park is incrediable! He was at two of our stops. Check out his work:

White-Winged Crossbill

A medium-sized finch of the boreal forest, the White-winged Crossbill is adapted for extracting seeds from the cones of coniferous trees. It moves large distances between years tracking the cone crop from place to place.

* Stocky red or greenish finch.
* Black wings with two large white wingbars.
* Short, notched tail.
* Thick, curved bill with crossed tips.

* Size: 15-17 cm (6-7 in)
* Wingspan: 26-27 cm (10-11 in)
* Weight: 24-26 g (0.85-0.92 ounces)

Sex Differences

Male red or pink, female yellow-green.

Song is a series of trills interspersed with chirps and warbles. Call a very dry, rapid "chut-chut-chut-chut.?

Petey met up with his doggy friends in the Co. Park and went for a Trail Run with his daddy! They had a fantastic time.