Friday, December 6, 2013
Lego Robotics, since when did that become an after school club? I'm not sure when it started but it's a brilliant idea. Kids love legos and robots. So why not merge something they love with math and science-reasoning. This year's project theme in Colorado is Natural Disasters, a very fitting one. The kids build a robot, they give a presentation, and they do a leadership/team-building activity in the competition. Three schools decided to build robots that involved saving animals and contacted me for a presentation. It was fun helping out the kids and even better, I stumbled on the world of Lego Robotics.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
That's when the wimpy little bulldog becomes a snow flyer. She leaps and bounds and soars around the yard. She ignores the snow and the cold. She only has eyes for the squirrel.
So our dog becomes a new beast, a snow flyer. In the photo below you can see her bare little tummy turn pink and despite the cold she flies. Reluctantly, I call her in, I can't have my snow flyer turning to snow.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Douglas Reservoir is north of Fort Collins and recently there were reports of a Pacific Loon so Emily and I packed up last weekend to find it. The access points to the reservoir are on both sides via a long gravel road but the birds seemed to all congregate on the northeastern side which is accessible only by foot paths. With the foothills looming in the background, we found our first lifer of the day, a flock of sparrows and finches had our lifer American Tree Sparrow. After identifying all the sparrows and goldfinches, we went in search of ducks and loons. We found the large group of gulls and picked out a few ducks and then we saw the loon. It was different from the other birds and after making size comparisons and getting the right light we made the ID, our Pacific Loon was in the bag. It was a great morning birding and even Daisy dog had a chance to explore the reservoir berm with us as well. Can't wait to see what else Colorado has in store!
|Birding our lifer American Tree Sparrow|
Monday, November 25, 2013
We live by Troutman Park, a cute little community park with two ponds and a great view of Horsetooth Mountain. Mostly the ponds only host manky Mallards but sometimes we have a few more interesting residents like this flock of Canada Geese.
So far life in Fort Collins is proving to be quite beautiful.
Friday, November 22, 2013
Above is my family at Thanksgiving last year. I know we won't all be able to break bread together on Thursday but I will see everyone, stay on the farm, and spend some time with my family over the course of an extra-long weekend. I am beyond excited!
Home is where the light streams through the pine trees. Home is where Black River snakes through the Lowcountry. Home is where the food is home-cooked and every ounce comes with mom's love. Home is Great Horned-owls calling at night, deer in the corn fields, and Wood Ducks on the river. Home is sandy soil and red clay mud. Home is where my family lives and has lived for generations and generations. Home is a beautiful piece of South Carolina where my family comes together at Thanksgiving each year to give thanks.
I don't live in South Carolina but that doesn't mean it's not home to me. On Tuesday, I'm heading home and I can't wait! There's nothing better than going home. I know I won't be moving back anytime soon but I can visit, I can remember, and I can feel at home when I'm there.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
The Warbler Guide by Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle is a massive volume of information on our favorite colorful songbirds. The book is heavy but compact and the Northern Parula calling on the front cover will ask you to pick it up again and again. I like the icon structure for each species. This gives valuable information in a concise manner. The sonogram information at first may seem intimidating but a primer on how to decode the information is included in the beginning of the book.This book is one-of-a-kind and unlike any other specialty species guide I've seen. Each species is given a detailed account. The book's cover species, the Northern Parula, has over 30 full-color photos to help decipher the small details. The Distinctive Views section, which has very detailed close-ups of parts of each species, is my favorite because it really hones in on the areas that will lead to a successful identification.
I highly recommend picking this book up for your birding pals this year. The Warbler Guide will not disappoint the birder that loves warblers and also wants to delve a little deeper into their identification skills. For a sneak peek and some added reference guides, Princeton University Press has many resources on the website to give you more insight about this ground-breaking warbler guide.
This review copy was provided by Princeton University Press.
Monday, November 18, 2013
Everyone has a spark bird or birds in my case. I became a birder in the spring of 2007. I had just moved to South Florida and started working at Green Cay Nature Center. As part of my job I knew I would need to hone my birding skills beyond the very limited knowledge that I had previously been bestowing to young kids. So I started every morning to take a walk around the boardwalk and identify the birds.
|Missing Migrants by Charley Harper - inspiration for my tattoo.|
At first I thought this daunting task of learning all the birds would be overwhelming but I learned quickly and something really magical happened. I found that birding relieved my grief of recent break-up and become meditative in a way I had never experienced. It was the warbler family that really transfixed me and made me into a birder. The warblers are my spark birds and I thought it only fitting to ink a few on my skin this year to commemorate my birthday. I have always loved Charley Harper's artwork. I find the simplicity of his lines but the intricate patterns of his work to be visually stunning. Thanks to ELark, I was able to take my warbler idea and put it to life.
We found a great tattoo artist named Shawn Hebrank online and I found out he would be in town for the weekend, so I shot an email over and by the next day we had an appointment. Emily was so kind to give me this permanent artwork for my birthday/Christmas present. What better present than one I will keep with me for life!
The best thing about Shawn, other than his friendliness, is that he really does pay attention to the details. He worked tirelessly over getting all the right colors and shapes correct and referenced the Charley Harper Missing Migrants print that I brought along. We reworked the Northern Parula so it could fit the design and Shawn was great at making sure that every beak color and wing bar was perfect. I couldn't have asked for a better artist!
If you're in the Fort Collins, CO area, you can get your own Shawn Hebrank tattoo. He will be moving here in January and will be working at Tribal Rites. This is a great tattoo shop across from Colorado State University. All the staff seemed really friendly and they even allowed many rounds of Sibley trivia as Emily tried to keep me distracted through the painful parts.
Friday, November 15, 2013
The Swetsville Zoo is right outside Fort Collins near Timnath, Colorado. This bizarre "zoo" is the work of Bill Swets. He creates each sculpture out of scrap metal and they are on display for anyone that wants to visit free of charge, donations accepted. This zoo is filled with whimsical dinosaurs, alien-like creatures, and funny works of art - all fashioned from metal.
The Poudre River flows right by the property and allows scenic overlooks. Swets has even incorporated the river into his artwork with funny looking creatures hauling in big catches.
The Swetsville Zoo is a nice pitstop of you're traveling along the I-25 corridor or happen to be out near Timnath. Stop awhile, bring a picnic, and enjoy the whimsy.
The best part of Swetsville Zoo is the unique local artwork. It's a breathe of fresh air to see art with such comedy.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Back in 2004 I was living on Jekyll Island, Georgia and though not a birder, I saw my lifer Brandt. It was found in the adjacent soccer field of my workplace by a visiting birder and stuck around for three weeks. I've thought about that Brandt over the years and wondered when I would see another, this time in the scope of a birder's eye. That moment presented itself when a Brandt was reported on Hout's Reservoir near Loveland, Colorado.
Just like my previous Brandt, it was an easy spot. This time I didn't even need to park the car before seeing it by the lake's edge with three Canada Geese. The group seemed a little wary of my presence so they went into the water but keep near the shoreline. I spent some time watching them paddle out to a structure on the lake before leaving.
It was a beautiful morning and good to see an old friend again. Thanks little Brandt for making my day.
Monday, November 11, 2013
Our little Bulldog loves her backyard and now that we have leaves, she is quite content. On a sunny afternoon she can be found lazily loafing about in the leaf piles. She's a sweet little rescue pup and I am so glad she came into our lives.