Monday, February 29, 2016

Golden Eagle at Assateague Island, Maryland

All of these photos were taken by photographer Allen Sklar
at Assateague National Seashore in Maryland

At first, he thought it was a juvenile bald eagle, but he pulled out his bird guide and was astounded to realize it was a rare Golden Eagle...

Happy Leap Year!

Today is 29 February, and this date won't happen again until 2020.  I was born in 1956, which was also a Leap Year; and, as usual, I always spend a few minutes on this date wondering about children born on the 29th of February.  Had I been born today, instead of in June, would I be celebrating my 15th, or my 60th, birthday today.  Had I been born on this date, this would be only the 15th time I could have celebrated on my birthday. Of course, 60 actual years would have passed, but only 15 29th's of February.  The irrepressible part of my brain screams that I would be 15 only.  But I know the day counters would put me at 60 years...  Oh, well...  And what do you do if you were born on the 29th of February?  Do you celebrate on the 28th for three years, and then on the 29th, changing back to the 28th again?  Kids born on Leap Year Day get a really nasty deal when it comes to birthdays!
   Today is also known as Sadie Hawkins Day in the United States....  This is thanks to cartoonist Al Capp, who originated the Dogpatch comic strip.  The comic was set in the hills of Kentucky, and everyone was convinced that hillbillys had some really strange thinking patterns.  The richest man in Dogpatch was named Hezekiah Hawkins, and in November of 1937, readers of the comic strip met Hezekiah's daughter, Sadie.  Sadie was described as "the homeliest gal in the hills" and would soon be 35 years old. Hezekiah didn't want his only child to be known as "an old maid," so he organized the Sadie Hawkins' Day race.  If Sadie (who was very fast on her feet) could catch any un-married man before the finish line of the race, that man had to marry her - proclaimed her Daddy, holding a shotgun.  While this comic strip was published on November 15, 1937, the idea became popular, and Sadie Hawkins' Day became an established part of American life.  On November 13, from 1939 onward, females were allowed and encouraged to ask a boy, or young man, to be her date for a dance on 13 November.  After the end of World War II, Leap Year Day was also celebrated as Sadie Hawkins' Day here in America.
   Of course, with today's mores and standards, it is acceptable for any female to invite any male to a dance, party, meal, or whatever...   But it certainly was a shocker back in the 1930s and 1940s.

   We've had one of the warmest February's on record here in Boulder this year.  We had over 16 inches of light, fine, powdery snow fall early in the month, then temperatures in the 60s and 70s.  Last week we had 4 inches of heavy wet snow on Monday night, followed by more highs in the 60s and 70s (F).  While I've been writing this blog, on the last day of February, the sky has gone from bright blue, with a few high clouds, to a dreary grey.  The wind has picked up considerably - it was at 8 mph this morning, when I was walking dogs - to 30 mph, with gusts up to 58 mph.  Snow clouds have rolled in from the west, and are hanging on all visible mountaintops.  And the snow clouds are quickly enveloping the tops of the Flatirons, as I glance to the southwest from my bedroom window.  I can see snow accumulating on top of Bear and Green Mountains.  It seems very surreal.   Actually, it's like watching a heavy sea mist creep in over Assateague and Chincoteague Islands....   It's amazing what one can see, just observing from one's window.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Baby Goat Photos

Just because I think baby goats are cute...

Today, I'm a Grouch

I hate being plugged-in and turned-on.  With my computer, I can easily turn it on and off, and can switch web sites and I always try to keep the "Chat" turned off - when I'm on my PC, I'm concentrating on doing specific things, and hate being constantly interrupted by obtuse conversations.  I like straight e-mail, or speaking with a person face-to-face.  I dislike telephones, whether it's my land-line or emergency cell phone - but some people can't seem to grasp that fact.
  I was up at 5 this morning, and was on my way to work before 7:30.  I had several stops to make, and three sets of dogs to walk, which meant I walked about 15 miles all total today.  I usually take a 90 minute nap in the afternoon, so I can get up and go again in the afternoon and evening.  Today, my landline phone rang six times while I was trying to nap; and my cell rang twice.  Both of my numbers are posted on the National Do Not Call list, and were listed the day I received them, so I shouldn't be getting many stupid phone calls.  I looked at the caller identification for all calls - I was awake, because of the ring, after all.  I did not recognize a single number, name, or place that any of the calls were made from.  And that angers me.  I purchased the telephone itself, and I pay for the use of the wires and voice mail on the land line, and for the use of air-time on my cell.  Complete strangers call me and ask me who I am.  It's none of their business.  Why do I keep getting off-the-wall calls when I'm on the No Call List?
   I guess seeing the dead raccoon with it's head sticking out of the driveway culvert put me in a bad mood this morning.  I know that a lot of people don't like raccoons, but they were put on the earth (or evolved here) for a reason...  I told the guy who owned the house that he had a dead raccoon in his driveway, and his response was, "Good riddance!"  I told him the body was stuck in the culvert pipe of his driveway, and he started cursing.  Why blame the poor dead critter for dying in an inconvenient spot?  The man owns three dogs that are allowed the run of the neighborhood, and I thought he'd be happy to remove the carcass before his dogs decided to make a meal of it.   Oh, well....
   I was able to watch  a bunch of cottontail rabbits playing, and several male flickers trying to romance their ladies.  Saw several hawks flying and a group of about 100 Canada geese were flying northwest very early this morning.  he squirrels are beginning to chase each other like crazy in the trees, so mating season is upon us...  Just be careful about interrupting skunks - they spray like mad and have party orgies in the early hours.
   Be safe!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Island and Boulder Photos

Great horned owl pair in sister's back yard


Hoping to get back to daily postings, as my penance seems to be over...  We had four inches of snow fall early yesterday morning, and while a couple of inches are still on the ground in shaded and north-facing areas, most of it has melted.  I got up early yesterday to be ready in case the lady wanted to walk the King Charles Cavalier spaniels despite the snow.  It was still spinning down in the parking lot lights in my apartment area, and at the restaurant next door.  I had told the house-sitter that I would call at 6:05 a.m. to be certain she wanted to walk, and that all I needed was a yes or no answer from her, as I would need the next 10 minutes to put on my boots, snow coat, hats, scarf and gloves and get a block down the street, and across it, to the bus stop..    When she picked up the telephone, she sounded amazed that I was calling her (maybe she forgot?) and asked why.  I told her it was snowing at my place, and asked if she wanted to walk the dogs, as planned.  She said it wasn't snowing at the house - how could it be snowing at my residence?  I said, "We're two miles apart.  It can happen."  But she had to put on her coat and go out and look.  The only thing is, she didn't have her boots on, so she had to take her coat off, put her boots on, put her coat on again, and then search for her hat...  Needless to say, I missed the first bus.  I arrived there at 7;15 instead of 7:00 and she was upset with me.  I had a major headache by the time I finished walking the dogs under her directions.  I came home and took medication and went to bed.  Thank goodness it was the last day I had to be in her company....  I might have lost my temper and unloaded on her, and she would have no idea why I was upset.  She's just that ditsy.
  The sun came out nicely yesterday afternoon, and a lot of the morning snow melted.  I relaxed last night by getting out my Tiffany Glass coloring book and applying colors to a wooden sailing ship on the high seas.  I am so happy that I can purchase adult coloring books these days, and don't have to print line drawings off the internet anymore.
   Even though it's only February 24, we've had a week of temperatures in the upper 60s and low 70s, and our plants and wildlife are starting to believe that it's already Spring.  There were a pair of great horned owls in the pines in my sister's back yard this morning, and Rosie and I watched a male red-shafted flicker sing and dance and spread his feathers for his lady.  And another flicker was having the time of his life hammering away at a metal fireplace exhaust a few houses down.  The cottontails were out enjoying themselves in the sun, and sparrows were gathering twigs for nests.  I'm still not used to seeing blue jays in Boulder, but there were a foursome flying around the neighborhood this morning - it almost sounded like I was back on the east coast.  Bertie, one of the three identifiable squirrels that we feed, spent the majority of the afternoon sunning on top of the telephone pole between our apartment and Chez Thuy...  And a couple of the ravens are becoming accustomed to my presence - after I placed out some soft fruit for them this morning, two came and sat on the balcony and looked in the window while I was working at my desk.  Pretty soon I'll start placing food for them by the window - and I'll make certain that my cats are not on the balcony at that time.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Winter Views of Chincoteague and Assateague Island

The photos below were taken by Brian Patton earlier this week...
Looking towards the mainland

Main Street

Quiet yard and pines

Curtis Merritt Harbor

Misty statue on Main Street

The Assateague Lighthouse

Exercise and Exorcise

I've got a couple of excuses for not blogging daily recently - first, our elliptical trainer arrived three days earlier than expected, and I've spent the past three mornings with a "too caring" and frightened house- and pet sitter, who just might drive me to drink.  When we ordered the elliptical, it said "some assembly required" and, once the payment was accepted, the company said we'd receive it today, Friday, via FedEx.  It arrived Tuesday morning, while I was walking Rosie and Tess, and, luckily, the FedEx man delivered the 90-pound box to the door and inside.
   Upon opening the box, we found a wide variety of pieces packaged in styrofoam, bags and various types of cardboard cushioning.   There were 93 numbered parts, and most of them came in sets of two, four, six, or eight.  There were 213 pieces that I had to put together - thank the Gods that the manufacturing company included the 11 pieces of equipment needed to put the pieces together - so, I guess, really, there were 224 pieces in the box.  I have to admit that it took me about 7 hours to get the thing put together.  Two pieces were numbered separately, but were already connected, and that took a while to figure out; then pieces were shipped with bolts and washers in place, but they had to be removed and then fitted back to join other parts together.  The easiest thing was connecting the computer parts and confirming they were working correctly.  The thing that both Beatrice and I sweated over, for over an hour, was getting a single counter-clockwise bolt to sit flatly or precisely through two connected tubes and then screw into a large washer and finishing nut.  That took the longest of anything, and I broke three nails into the quick when the blasted bolt slipped several times.
   But, I got the elliptical trainer completely put together, following the instructions, with no extra parts, yesterday morning.  I thought that since I walk 5 to 15 miles daily, using the elliptical would be an easy thing to do.  Nope.  With the tension set at the lowest number, and using the moving hand grips, I'm lucky to get 5 minutes done on the machine.  So, right now, I'm doing my usual walking and putting in 5 minutes on the elliptical twice a day - once when I get up, and then while watching Jeopardy! at 6 p.m.  Beatrice's job requires her being on her feet for 4 to 8 hours each day, with a lot of walking.  She, too, is happy just to get 5 minutes twice a day on the machine.  Of course, we plan on lengthening our times on the machine, and, eventually, tightening the tension bars - but right now, we're happy that we had the money to get the machine and that we have the drive to use it.
   Of course it didn't help that I made a nice supper tonight - lemon-pepper baked boneless skinless chicken breast, four-cheese pasta, and glazed carrots.  There were no left-overs, I'm ashamed to admit.  And I plan on making another lemon pound cake tomorrow.....
   Tomorrow I have three houses to care for - walking the spaniels, walking Tess, and feeding, watering and penning (for the night) Chocolate and Blackberry, who are bunnies.  Tess and the bunnies are no problem.  Actually, the spaniels are no problem, either.  I have personal difficulty with the house- and pet-sitter of the spaniels.  There are three King Charles Cavalier Spaniels in the house.  A deaf female, who is oldest, and named Honey Bear; she's white with copper patches.  Henry, who has a heart condition, is a gorgeous golden brown.  Watney, the black boy with rust markings, is allergic to a lot of foods and the majority of things found outside - including grass.  The dogs walk wearing (what I call) extended figure-8 harnesses.  Henry and Honey Bear are walked together with a joining couplet.  Watney, who pulls, is walked singly.
    I met the owners, the dogs, and the house-sitter in early January.  The house-sitter was cold, and sat by the fireplace talking only to the husband; I sat and talked with the wife.  I was told that Henry was on medication for a heart condition, but that he was fine.  Honey Bear is deaf, but she is fine otherwise.  Watney will urinate on everything in the house, if he is not closely watched.  The house-sitter and I exchanged telephone numbers and e-mail addresses, and we went our merry ways.  I was told that I was being hired to help walk the dogs, as the house-sitter had recently had back and knee surgery.  I have to admit that the woman completely amazed me.  Other than in the cinema, on television, or in the comics, I had never heard a person bleat in real life.  This poor lady is afraid of everything - we arrived at a multi-use crosswalk, with huge signs on either side of the road stating that all vehicles must stop for those people using the crosswalk, be they pedestrians, bicyclists, runners, dog-walkers, school children, who ever - a car was going to turn onto the street which we needed to cross.  The car was 300 yards away.  The woman would not cross the street until the car passed us by, and no vehicles were in sight at all.  When I crossed the street before her - she bleated like a little lamb.  It was the most amazing sound I've heard in quite a while.  While walking, she informed me that we couldn't walk on the sidewalk on 19th Street, because the street was "too busy" and "the dogs would be killed."  The sidewalk on 19th Street is four feet wide, has a grass easement on one side, has a cement curb on the other; the curb is next to a four-foot wide bike lane, then there are the traffic lanes, and another bike lane on the far side of the road.  I kept Watney from consuming anything while we were walking, keeping him directly in the middle of the sidewalk, the first morning.  Yesterday she decided I needed a much shorter leash, so I "could keep better control of him," and I took it.
   Wednesday, the first walking day with the spaniels, we walked a little less than a mile and took more than 75 minutes.  Yesterday I was also told that I had walked both the dogs and her "too far."  That Henry had had heart problems Wednesday afternoon because I had over-tired him in the morning.  I asked what had happened, and she informed me that Henry took several naps during the afternoon, when he was normally jumping about.  I asked how that showed heart problems, and she just got all flustered.  Yesterday and today, and through Tuesday, I will allow her to choose our walking route.  I say I have problems with her....  she doesn't wear a watch and asks me what the time is every few minutes; she forgets things inside the house before we leave, and the dogs and I end up standing for 5 to 10 minutes while she locks and unlocks the door and goes in and out; after all that, she doesn't bring poop bags to pick up after the dogs, and then asks if I have any, and then acts completely surprised and amazed that I do have them in my pocket.  Today, her telephone rang while we were walking the dogs on the middle-school track.  Let me correct that.  I was standing, with Watney, in the middle of the school's track, while she let Henry and Honey Bear root around and chew on things in the grassy area.  When the phone rang, she jumped, pulled it out of her pocket, looked at it, and said to me "Ii don't know who it is that's calling.  I'll just ignore it."  As soon as she put it back in her pocket, it rang again, and we played the whole scene over again.  When it rang the third time, she said, "Oh, dear.  I don't know who it is, or the number.  But it might be important.  Maybe I'd better answer it..."   I really didn't care.  We were not moving and I was trying to concentrate on Watney and give him attention while the other two dogs were playing and digging in the grass.  She answered the phone on the fourth call, and just stood there repeating, "Hello?  Hello?  Hello?"  then looked at me and said, "Nobody's there."   That was rather obvious....
   And I have another four mornings of her inane conversation to survive.   I'll need an exorcism come Tuesday night!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Various Photos

Venus, a different kind of cat

Red squirrel

Old cypress knee in freezing surf

Siamese and German Shepherd

Clearing 3 feet of snow off the roof in Ouray, Colorado

Beach wrack on Sanibel Island, Florida

Odds and Ends

We're half-way through February in a new year, Thoroughbred foals are being born all over the country, horse racing enthusiasts are starting to talk about the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown in the United States, and the British Triple Crown in the United Kingdom.  I am looking forward to Saturday, the 20th, when Ziconic will make his racing debut.  Unlike his elder brother, Cozmic One, Ziconic seems to realize that racing, and going under the wire first, is the name of the game in his current life.  Cozmic One, the oldest son of Zenyatta (by Bernardini), has raced twice but not with his Mom's need to win.  In his first race, he finished last in a field of six; in his second race, he was seventh of nine contenders.  Cozmic One doesn't seem to be able to focus on his job.  Ziconic, the younger brother, by Tapit, seems to enjoy racing much more.  I'm looking forward to his race on Saturday.   Zenyatta, herself, is due some time in March with a second foal by War Front.  This foal is eagerly awaited, as her last foal (also by War Front) died from injuries in a paddock accident.  I hope her progeny can continue her winning ways.
   One of my four granddaughters, a pre-teen, has just won the National Cheerleading Team title with her squad.   She is certainly making her parents and grandparents proud.  I only wish my husband could be here to express his encouragement to her and the other participants.
   I can start collecting my retirement pay from working at Shands Teaching Hospital at the University of Florida in a few months.  They have given me the choice of a lump-sum payment, or a monthly stipend for the rest of my life.  The lump-sum payment is enticing, but I'd lose 30% of it due to federal taxes, and then there are state taxes, too.  I'm pretty sure I'll choose the monthly stipend over the lump-sum.
   I had to laugh this morning - I have on my calendar that, beginning tomorrow, I walk the DD dogs every morning for at least an hour.  Another woman is house-sitting, but she is recovering from a back and hip injury, so I'm to walk two of the dogs while she walks one.  I sent an e-mail to both the dog owners and to the house-sitter earlier today, asking for confirmation that the trip was still going to be taken, and stating the dates.  I also asked the house-sitter at what time she wished to walk the dogs each morning.  The house-sitter called me back, almost immediately, and said she'd visited the people and critters (3 dogs, 1 cat) yesterday, and that I had the dates wrong.  The family was returning on the 25th, not the 23rd...  I read her my three letters from the owner, which designated the dates each time - she looked her original contact notes and found she'd made a mistake - I was correct.  Then she asked if I could meet her to walk the dogs at 7 each morning, in order to avoid the middle school students.  I told her that I could, but that I would have to arrive later on the weekend days.  She asked why, and I told her the first buses that ran by my house on the weekend came by at 7:30 - there was an earlier one, but it heads east, while the dogs' home is west of me.  She was completely taken aback by the fact that I don't have a car.  She wanted to know how I got around, and I told her, by bus or by foot.  She was also amazed that I don't own a smart phone....
    I guess I live to the beat of a different drummer in more ways than one.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Island Views

Chincoteague Calling

I wish I could convey the yearning I feel each time I think of the Eastern Shore of Virginia.  The Teaguers used to say that a person "had Chincoteague sand in their shoes" if they kept returning to the island and ended up moving there.  I wasn't born on the island, but my Mother was, and her family ancestors have lived there since the mid-1600s.  Chincoteague was always my place to escape - and still is.  I'm sitting at my desk, gazing westward out my window and seeing the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, the foothills and Flatirons of Boulder.  I see beauty in them, and their rugged graciousness, but I don't feel the compelling (almost tidal) pull that I feel when thinking about, or looking at photos of, Chincoteague and Assateague Islands.  Island friends and family say that I have Chincoteague sand in my heart and soul.  I guess I do.
  Boulder, Colorado is a wonderful place.  I love my clients as an extended family, and I love all the critters I care for as if they were/are mine.  While in Boulder, and it's surrounds, I have come into contact with wildlife that I haven't experienced "up close and personal" before - but that also happened when my husband and I lived in Crows, Virginia.  I had my first experiences with groundhogs there.  Each place I have lived has allowed me insights to the natural world - walking into the back yard and finding a mountain lion crouched over a freshly killed deer,  watching groundhogs raid the vegetable garden, seeing bobcats and bears mark the trees in their territories.  I learn from each of these experiences.  I look up information on whatever weird questions pop into my mind regarding an animals' behavior.
   Mom and Dad told me to never stop questioning.  I don't think I have.  One of my biggest questions is, why do I have this compulsion to return to Chincoteague and Assateague?  Yes, my maternal family has lived there for over 350 years.  They were watermen and farmers.  Do I get all this yearning for the islands as an ancestral need or memory?  I love to hear the skree sound of a hunting hawk or eagle, but my heart bubbles with joy when I hear the cacophony of a flock of sea gulls squabbling over fish offal, or emptied clam and oyster shells.  All I know is that I want to smell the odors of the sea, of the salt marsh and hear the cries of sea-faring birds and hear the surf on the shore.  I can be happy in a forest, I can be happy in the mountains, I can be happy in a museum or reading history, I can be happy exploring another country and their culture - but I am only truly joyful on two islands off the coast of Virginia, in the Atlantic Ocean.  There is my home.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Random Thoughts

While I was blase regarding the Broncos win in Super Bowl 50, the following morning, I could not get Queen's song, "We Are the Champions," out of my mind.   And I would have loved to have been at the Broncos' World Champions parade in Denver this past Tuesday - but I don't like crowds anymore - and it was estimated that over one million people were along the parade route and at the Civic Center Park to celebrate the win.  Just looking at the huge amounts of humanity shown by the television news helicopter there was enough to convince me not to go.
   The Super Bowl advertisements were a disappointing lot this year....  I did like Helen Mirren's Budweiser commercial; I loved the Audi R8 ad; and I liked Christopher Walken's sock puppet.  I had hoped to see another fantastic Clydesdale commercial from Anheiser Busch, but was greatly disappointed there - a few seconds close-up of the horses mouthing their driving bits did not pass my love test.  Most of the ads this year were not humorous and some were just plain stupid.  At least that good defensive game was worth watching.
   I'm still having very vivid dreams, thanks to my anti-depression medication.  Yesterday morning I awoke totally convinced that I was living in my grandparents' house on Peterson Street on Chincoteague Island.  I stretched in bed, and then bounced up, ready to go out and ride my bike to the beach.  I was very disconcerted to look out my bedroom window and see the outlines of the Rocky Mountains.  I felt cheated, also.  Having awakened in an excellent mood, and being ready to go out and enjoy the sea air, the smell of morning marsh mud, and a delectable view - I was hit by the realization that a Chinook wind was blowing down from the mountains and that the island was 2,000 miles to the east.
   This morning I dreamed that I was in a huge house - part sales emporium, part haunted mansion - and I was trying to find all of the pets that I'd ever had in my life...  Collecting the hamsters, the bunnies, the chickens, the horses and the dogs was easy.  The cats kept running off to explore other movements of other creatures that were hidden in distant rooms.  It seemed like an effort in futility just before I woke up.  So, does the gathering of my pets mean that I'm too clingy?  Does it mean, as one psychiatrist said, that I'm too attached to objects?  Am I too attached to animals and not to humans?  I don't know and I don't care.   It's just good to "see" all my critters happy and healthy...

Monday, February 8, 2016

Super Bowl 50 Photos

The following photos are property of the National Football League:

The Mile High stadium in Denver, Colorado

Arriving for the game - What caught my attention in this photo is Tight End Owen Daniels' blue and white striped socks (he's in the lead).

Quarterback Peyton Manning during the warm-up

Chris Harris, Jr brings Cam Newton down

Von Miller strips the ball

The defense wraps up Cam Newton

Von Miller holds the Vince Lombardi trophy after being named Most Valuable Player in Super Bowl 50

After the game - three Mannings; Dad Archie, Eli, and Peyton