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Ramblings

Friends and I recently went on a wild goose chase to look for a rare visitor from northwest North Americarare to us though people a little north and east have seen flocks of a hundred this winterBohemian waxwings. Cedar waxwings have been around too, so you may need to check the bird book to see the differences. Bohemians are a little bigger, plumper looking, have more white and yellow on the wings, rusty coverts and are grayish instead of tan overall. They both eat crabapples and other fruit, including from our native dogwoods and other fruit bearing shrubs. We didnt see these birds, however, only a tree sparrow and a late hermit thrush for novelties, but we found a nice place to botanize in the hunting-free Cook Mountain Preserve. The many unknown oaks and other trees and shrubs were fun to see, and limestone outcrops promise some different spring wildflowers. This winter there has been an irruption of northern birds whose fruit crops must have failed at home. Weve had a couple of redpolls eating our hulled sunflower seeds (everything likes them, and in a pinch, you can eat them), sort of sparrow looking but with dark red spots on theirpolls. Pine siskins are another small seed-eating visitor, very stripey like some sparrows but with yellow showing on their wings when they fly. Pine grosbeaks are a fructivorous bird common this winter a little farther north. They are a plump, heavy beaked bird that unfortunately often hangs out in the road, picking up gravel to help with digestion. Like crossbills, which have not showed up this winter yet, boreal birds are often too tame for their own good. They dont seem to have be afraid of two legged mammals and their four wheeled brethren genes. Some people often have the spectacular evening grosbeaks most years but I think they are more common this winter. Snow buntings glean from farmers fields, flashing their white wings when they take off in flocks. All of these birds are related, in a family that has three different kinds of beaks: gross (big) beaks, short, sharp canary-like ones, and crossed bills. Northern shrikes, a totally different kind of animal, are around more too. On a nasty night like this onecold and windyI always am impressed that even the tiniest birds can survive out there without a down sleeping bag (wait a minute). Redpolls have a leg up, along with crossbills, as they have a pocket part way down the esophagus which holds hastily snatched seeds for midnight snacks when they need some more calories to fuel their half ounce bodies. They regurgitate (I guess), crack the seed coats and eat the insides. REDUCE YOUR USE: I wont argue about whether the climate is warming or not. I believe what 160,000 mountain glaciers are saying worldwide, and what the two mile long ice core in Antarctica tells climatologists. There are a few glaciers that are increasing but scientists know why. So what can we do to feel as if we are doing our infinitesimal part in the gigantic problem? This will have a monthly hot tip. In case you havent noticed the pattern, I try for the first issue of the month. The first tip was Slow Down!on the highway. Save up to 23 percent if you have a boxy vehicle. 2. Not many people have to use a dryer. They are easy in some ways, but my mother, who raised four kids using cloth diapers (one of the biggies that can now be avoided) used a solar dryer and so do I. It is easy for me as I am not working, but heres what I do: line dry in summer, often between rain showers, which are good for free exercise too (but often things dry faster than in a dryer). In the winter I use racks down cellar in the furnace room and in the bathroom upstairs. They add a little needed humidity to the house. One clothes rack is from a local hardware store, the rods covered with plastic so they dont mildew, and there are fifteen of them, offset so you can fit on an incredible amount of stuff. Things dry overnight, its free, and you dont have to listen to that awful gobbling electricity noise. Its easier on the clothes too. Dryers cost the country 6 percent of our massive greenhouse gas production and up to $200 a year for a family.

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