Monday, December 30, 2013

The Birds

The Birds

After all my traveling this year. I did not get back to Zumba.  However, I did ride some, and I did take care of my commitment to volunteer at the Bird Treatment and Learning Center.

One of the education birds is a Peregrine Falcon, a beautiful bird.  He has a wing injury, as do many that are education residents of Bird TLC, and that does not allow him to be released.  However, he and his presenters are able to educate others about birds, this particular type of bird and conservation. 
The most majestic of birds, the bald eagle.  There are a number of them at Bird TLC, including a few right now who are waiting to molt burned feathers (Adak dump where they got burned).  Once they do they hopefully will be releasable.  Two education eagles at the center, Hal and Petra, are stars of the show.  They may have been in the program for a number of years, but they still have that "eagle eye" look. 
Bird TLC is a pretty fantastic place, not always fun, but always interesting. You just never know what you will be doing. Over time I've picked up an eagle twice, which has to be very high on the list of thrills … the power that you know is in the legs that you are holding … while they are flexing … the talons that can shred prey in a heartbeat … the breast rising and falling as it breathes … the beautiful feathers … the golden eyes … the hook at the end of the beak that could rip a hole in my latex glove and stab through my flesh … my heart pounds when I have the privilege to do this. I've picked up other birds, but nothing equals the excitement of handling an eagle. For me, they've not been fully healthy, which makes it easier for my first times. I don't know that I would be the winner of a confrontation with one that is healthier, but I have not yet learned to fear, only to respect, to marvel, to love what I am doing there.

There are a number of owls in the education program ... wise, photogenic owls.
I've helped administer meds, I've cleaned eagle mews, bird cages, changed papers in the bottom of them, prepared food fit for the most majestic of birds as well as the smaller, not quite as significant ones, I've watched as one has passed over, or had to be helped to release its suffering hold on life.

Don't even think of taking a piece of salmon from this young eagle.
Volunteering at Bird TLC is not always pleasant, but we are there to help injured birds heal and be released back into the wild, or to pass if necessary, to have rehabilitated but unreleasable birds find homes elsewhere including in the Lower 48, to care for the education birds, and to enjoy what we are doing.

This little guy is a short-eared owl, but don't be fooled.  Those aren't ears, just feathers.  The ears are on the sides of the head.  The joke's on us.  And this one is saying that to our faces. 
There is another piece to this world … and that is becoming a presenter of education birds. I've elected to try this path, and have embarked down it … taking the class, handling a bird and giving my introduction presentation. I'm excited to be doing this … because it's an opportunity many never experience … to present, to educate, to see the wonder in the eyes of those who are the audience.

Presenters have as much fun as those learning about the birds.  The Eagle River Nature Center hosted a day where many birds from Bird TLC were available so people could see them and learn about them and the organization.

It will take some time as the presentation process is quite involved and lengthy … presentation preparation, working with a bird, giving presentations before a number of folks, including the Education Committee, and your mentor, and having your mentor sign off on three specific presentations … a walk by (such as at a fair or conference), an informal and a formal presentation.

Magpies ... noisy, obnoxious, curious, beautiful.
And what may be the most difficult piece … learning to tie a falconer's knot. Let's just say I'm still working on that, but am certainly closer … continuing to practice, practice, practice. Good grief, how hard can this be? I'm not a knot tier. It's difficult!!! But, I may have it … ask me for a demonstration.

Many birds come and go at Bird TLC.  Of course, the best ending is one of a bird coming to the clinic, being rehabilitated and then released back into the wild.  But there's not always a happy ending, sad, but true.  Sometimes a bird dies and you don't even know why when it appears to be on the mend.  But you try to let it go with dignity and then go on to help the next one hopefully achieve the best life it can.

What I've learned is that I know nothing when it comes to birds, and specifically my bird of choice for my beginnings as a presenter. I did not choose a hawk or owl or falcon as many others in the presenter class did. I chose Kodi, a crow who has been in the education system for quite some time and that I'm quite familiar with because he lives part time at the Bird TLC Clinic. I've changed his newspapers, I've prepared his food. And he fascinates me because he is close to a raven (which I did not choose because it lives in the Valley and would be difficult to access for training and presenting).

Kodi is short for Kodiak, which is where he was found. He's smart, as are the members of the corvid family (ravens, jays, crows, magpies), he's beautiful with his irridescent black feathers, and he's interesting as a species. I expect to continue to learn, and hopefully present in the future. What a wonderful opportunity for me (and others who elect to volunteer or to learn to be a presenter).

Kodi the cache crow is always ready to turn a buck.  He'll take it from you and cache it in the jar.  He's quite the little money maker, and he seems to be aware that he's a star at Bird TLC.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The end of this trip ... and home again

Our last night on the road had been spent at a newly-remodeled motel ... comfortable, super-clean, and across the road from a lake.
Along the way we had stopped to purchase a special type of soda that Hobbs' friend, Bill, likes. It was kind of a scavenger hunt trying to find it as not all stores carry it. I think we ended up with 12 6-packs. Hobbs and I also visited a Packerland Store on the way as Bill's wife, Theresa, is a Packerbacker and he always likes to get her something as a thank you for all that she and her Bill do for him. (And I thought of baby Franklin, too, who needed a mini-cheesehead!!)

The colors have been beautiful nearly everywhere although they weren't quite at their peak in many places.

We stopped and dropped off the goodies at their house and made arrangements to meet at the Ford River Pub and Grill for their fish fry. Bill and Theresa are great folks, and it was fun to spend some time getting to know them. The fish fry wasn't too bad either!!! And there was a salad bar which is always a plus for me.

Good friend,Theresa.  Her husband, Bill, is camera shy.
 In between all of this we went and picked up a trailer load of sugar beets, carrots, corn and apples for the deer. If nothing else, Hobbs feeds the deer well.

How's that for a pile of sugar beets?

Next, a scoop of carrots.
Heading to the cabin.

The cabin, bigger than some people's houses.

Upstairs.  I slept in the bed on the left, right next to the chair.
 We also went out and put up a tree stand in one of the areas where he'll be hunting. I've never done that before, so it was an interesting project. We had to ride double on his four-wheeler and then pack things in probably a quarter-of-a-mile. It wasn't too difficult although there's sure a lot of brush and I nearly impaled myself on a broken branch. Aaaaagggghhhhh!!! But it was fun and I enjoyed the hike. We looked at his deer cam and saw there had been a few deer about eating the food he'd put out. They had not touched the pumpkin so we split it for them. Hobbs puts out good food for the deer and makes it easy for them to get to.

He had his trail marked and wanted me to see if I could follow it. He has a super sense of direction, but figured this would be good for night … just in case.

We had to bag apples and put things away prior to going out on the trail.

Packing in the deer stand.

Putting the deer stand together.

The only reason you can see him is the orange shirt. 
Then we went back out to the cabin and settled in for a few days.

On Saturday morning (October 12) Hobbs was up and making coffee. I'd slept up in the loft of the cabin where it was cooler (not next to the stove where he sleeps). He brought me coffee in bed, then it was time to wash up and do something productive.

I'd unloaded my new luggage Hobbs got me.  Hard-shell style.  We had finally gotten my suitcase from the Escanaba airport, three days before I was heading home. 

I'm sure the deer were watching from the trees as I put out carrots and sugar beets in my best outfit ... Halloween fleece pants and my Roswell alien museum tee shirt.  They could certainly see me coming.
 The whole setting around the cabin is picturesque. The cabin is large, two-storied, and sets on a meadow. Deer come in and eat and you would think you're watching a Walt Disney nature film. The trees are covered with brilliant oranges, yellows, golds and reds, with some fancy greens thrown in for comparison to what it was before the leaves began changing.

Look in any direction around the cabin and you have a photo of something beautiful and memorable.
Every color plays off another, adding all kinds of dimensions to photos.
I totally loved the area around the cabin.

There are four-wheelers, an old bus and van for storage, storage buildings and the best of all … an old tractor. I took lots of photos of the tractor because I kept trying to get the “perfect” photo.

My favorite vehicle around the cabin.

I think Hobbs brought me here to be his mule. We worked hard these few days and bagged carrots and some sugar beets and then I separated them out within the trailer so they'd be fairly easy to get to while he went out to check out some things.

Bagging carrots ... deer food.

In addition to bagging some of it, you have to store it away so the animals can't get to it.  They'll come right up to the trailer and have a deer buffet at night when you're not watching.

The sugar beets and carrots are all nicely separated. 

This is Hobbs' friend's machine.

I got to ride his friend's four wheeler.  Fun, fun, fun.
Hobbs has the stakes for the property line.  We went through some mucky stuff.

Saturday afternoon we staked some of the property we'd bought for his deer hunting. We got caught in a downpour and finally decided we needed to call it a day.

Hobbs uses this home made thing to pound the stakes into the ground.
Measuring the distance between the stakes.  We used a compass to keep the line as straight as possible.
Setting a stake.
Using the thumper to pound the stake into the ground.

As darkness fell, a deer showed up in the pasture. There goes that movie again.

A really mushy spot got Hobbs' four wheeler stuck.  The trick is to go as fast as you can, not stopping until you get to the other end.  I learned that from Hobbs.

He did get stuck.  But that's why you carry ropes and winches.  Was even fun dealing with the mud.
I rode hard and fast through the mud ... and did not get stuck.  Mud was aflying everywhere, even on me.  Was loving it.
Yep, there are some real ugly patches on the trail after it's been raining.  Some of it never dries out.
And there's something pretty to see in every direction.

On Sunday we rode two four-wheelers to do some looking around and see where he'd put up another deer stand and looked at the stakes we'd planted on the land. They're in a pretty straight line. And we drove in the truck to another place where he has a stand aleady up. This time we cut a tree and took it to use as camouflage so the deer couldn't see him up in it.

I got to cut down the tree.
He got to carry it.
I also had to photograph everything, even leaves on the ground.
Meanwhile, the tree was "planted" to help hide a view of the tree stand.
And I sat in the tree stand taking pictures ... of leaves, and so on.

Then Hobbs sat in the tree stand and I pretended to be a deer coming through the woods. I could not see him.  Ha ha!!

I had a great time … doing everything. I wouldn't go to the outhouse in the dark as there are bear and I used a pot … yep, primitive. But it was camping to a much higher standard than tents and sleeping bags on the ground. I liked the cabin a lot as it's very comfortable, and there's even entertainment. I heard “snap” in the night and early morning. Hobbs caught six mice in traps!!!  They keep him busy outsmarting them.  They like peanut butter and Mounds bars.

This young lady was enjoying the deer buffet I'd put out the afternoon before.

Come Sunday, we drank coffee, saw a deer in the pasture eating the sugar beets and carrots I'd put out, rode the four wheelers, and then went into town early.  We spent the night at a hotel since I had to be at the airport by 5 a.m. to try to  be on the 6:30 a.m. flight.

There's always an old barn to photograph.  They're some of my favorite types of  buildings ... you know there's a history behind every one of them.

We also stopped to visit the Sand Point Lighthouse that warned mariners from 1868 to 1939 of the spit of land extending into Little Bay de Noc at the entrance to Escanaba Harbor.  Congress authorized the lighthouse construction in 1864, shortly after the first railroad began hauling iron ore from the mines to the docks at Escanaba. 
 All went well.  We spent a nice night, I got on the first flight Monday morning from Escanaba to Detroit, as well as the second flight from Detroit to Minneapolis.  Then there was a bottleneck and I didn't make the first flight to Anchorage.  But I got on the second one, got into Anchorage about 12:40 a.m., and wouldn't you know it, my luggage beat me home!!!  That luggage traveled more than I did this trip!! 

I so enjoyed all the colorful foliage.  The trip was so worth any aggravation, large or small ... white deer, Soo locks, Valley Camp Museum, good friends, colors, cabin, regular deer, spending time with Hobbs.  All priceless.