Saturday, February 28, 2009

Raptors Love Company

Hi, Friends.

I'm back in Canada again--this time, Quebec City. You may remember that when I visited Ottawa a few weeks ago, I learned of Ben, the puppy who had been mutilated and then left at a shelter. Listening to CBC on this trip, I discovered another story that might be of interest to you. This time, it's about an eagle out there looking for a little camaraderie (and maybe a fox or two). Here's the story:

Winnipeg's visiting eagle has landed early CBC News

A wild bald eagle that visits Winnipeg's Assiniboine Zoo on its northern spring migration has arrived earlier than usual.

It is the third year in a row the magnificent, white-headed bird has paused to visit the zoo's captive eagles, zoo officials said.

The visiting eagle and the zoo's four bald eagles repeatedly call back and forth to each other, flapping their wings in excitement, as the wild bird flies around and over the eagle exhibit.
Usually, the visit occurs in early March. The bird has also extended its weeklong stay. Zoo staff say this year the eagle has stayed in the area, perching in nearby trees, for about two weeks.

Each March and April, several hundred bald eagles migrate north along the Red River Valley, passing over Winnipeg and the zoo. But this particular mature bird stops to spend time with the locals.

The visiting eagle also does not hesitate to land inside the uncovered Arctic fox exhibit to pick up a fish or piece of meat, with the frenzied white foxes or zookeeper David Curtis only a few metres away, according to a zoo news release.

There is some concern the hungry eagle may try to seize and fly off with a fox, although the foxes usually retreat underground when the large bird swoops near.

Zoo curator Bob Wrigley recently published an article in International Zoo News on the migratory habits of local wild bald eagles, and the remarkable longevity and breeding of the zoo's senior pair. The wild-born individuals, believed to be about 45 years old, are still raising chicks.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Afloat on Snow

Hi: 26°F
Low: 14°F
Conditions: Winds and snow subsiding overnight. Total expected
accumulation: 24 inches.

One of my favorite essays is "Afloat on Snow" by Robert Kimber. There, he talks about the leveling effects of winter weather--the way a good snowfall can blanket the landscape, smoothing out its contours and making previously unaccessible places navigable by skis and snowshoes.

The area around our house can be a trecherous bogland of cedar most of the year, so Kimber's idea appeals to us greatly. We love our snowshoe expeditions deep into the heart of the woods, where you never know what a clever canine naturalist might find.

In the past 24 hours, we've received about 20 inches of snow. So today seemed as good a day as any to test out Kimber's theory. Ari and I set out with snowshoes, ski-poles, and a pocketful biscuits to see what this most recent blanketing has brought us.

Our adventure began with the traditional happy snow dance:

Once that was done (or at least the taller of the two of us decided it was done), we put on our investigatory hats. There was a lot to see, like our neighbor's mailbox, which had definitely been blanketed--to the point, in fact, that it was barely identifiable as a mailbox at all.

Much about the landscape, in fact, had changed entirely. These otherwise familiar pine trees furled under the weight of this storm, becoming foreign entities in the forest.

Our favorite--and much used--path became unpassable under this same weight:

And that got us thinking.

If you can be afloat on snow, you can also sink within it. For every bobbing surfer up top, there's bound to be bottom dwellers and schools of swimming creatures deep below the surface, right?

Apparently so. And at least one of those winter flounders has four legs and a tail.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Botched Bird Count

Hi: 32°F
Low: 21°F
Conditions: Winter Weather Advisory posted until 10:00 a.m. tomorrow. 14 inches of snow and considerable drifts expected.

This weekend marked the 12th annual Audubon Great Backyard Bird Count. You may be familiar with the event from past blog posts here, including our send up of Audubon and our daily tally contest last year. You may even remember our urgent and enthusiastic reminder about the count issued in December, after we completed our Christmas count.

You may, in fact, remember all of those things. You would be perfectly reasonable in assuming, then, that the authors of those postings would remember the actual Backyard Bird Count. If you made such an assumption, you’d be right—but only partially so.

It seems that one of us (and in spite of what the caninaturalist thinks, I really don’t think there’s any reason to mention names here) blithely flew to Chicago to attend a conference and completely forgot about the much-anticipated count. She met with publishers and authors, listened to poets read their work, and dined at great restaurants. She reunited with old friends, made some new ones, and even got to see a team of huskies race down Michigan Avenue. In other words, she had a great time. And it never, never, NEVER occurred to her that she was supposed to be counting birds.

That is, until she received an email from Marigold, Goat Philosopher asking how the caninaturalist count was going. I’m not going to lie: she felt shame. You may recall Marigold was our bird counting champion last year, besting humans and dogs alike. You may remember a few gauntlets were thrown down as a result of this victory, and promises were made that DWB members would have the last word this year.

It seems those bold assertions may have been made in vain. But not for lack of trying on the home front.

While that certain someone was living the life of letters in the Windy City, the rest of her pack was making a valiant (and unbeknownst) effort to complete the count at home.

Leila Tov led the charge, staking out prime real estate at our feeder window. It’s tiring work hanging from a window frame, though, so Ari offered to spell her after a few hours.

She was soon joined by Mouse, who also agreed to lend a paw.

The husband kept their tallies each day.

And when the delinquent certain-someone returned home, one very brazen (and smug) cat made sure she saw the list.

I’m not proud. And I am embarrassed. I’d say better luck next year, but at this rate, who can say for certain I’ll get my act together by then?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Hi: 40°F
Low: 26°F
Conditions: increasing clouds; wintery mix by nightfall

Break out the bikinis and mai tais: we're having a heat wave here in Central Maine! It may not seem like much to our Southern friends, but here in New England anything above freezing is awfully exciting for humans and animals alike.

Many of the four-footed creatures in our area use this heat wave as an opportunity to stretch out their legs, move around, and even get a snack or two. Knowing this, Ari and I set out to see who might be on the move. We found plenty of deer, squirrel, and feral cat tracks, which is what we expected. But we also found some impressive surprises, too.

These are moose tracks. You can tell both because of their size and the division between the two branches of their hooves.

Ari took a good long time sniffing these tracks. And you could tell by watching her that she was impressed by whomever left such enormous foot prints. Her ego got the best of her--just for a moment--as she tried them on for size:

But it was pretty obvious to this furry Goldilocks that these tracks were WAY too big.

So we continued on our way, and that's when we found the most exciting thing we've seen in weeks:

Can you tell what these are? They don't have claws, so they aren't canid. And they're bigger than Ari's feet--at least the fronts one are (way bigger, in fact). But for all that size, this animal hasn't broken the surface of our fragile snow (which is more than this human and her 45 lb dog can say).

We'll give you a second or two to guess. After you've settled on yours, scroll down a bit and see if you're right.

Can you guess?

Are you sure?

Did you pick. . .




This guy?

If you said bobcat, you're right! We've had one in our neighborhood for about a year now. We saw him this summer, when he made the mistake of bullying a fox kit (mom and dad were not happy--and it showed). We haven't seen him since, but these telltale tracks are all the evidence we need: Mr-Giant-Where'd-My-Tail-Go seems to be here to stay.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Overdue Meme

Our good friend, Maverick the Salty Pirate, tagged us in a meme a while ago. We have no good excuse for taking so long to get to this, and we hope we won't be forced to walk the plank in punishment.

The rules for this meme are these: go to your photos and pick the fifth photo in the fifth file. Here it is:

I don't know exactly why I took this picture, except that I have a minor obsession with the caninaturalist's ears. I also like that you can see how her hair gets all crimped when it's damp out.

The provision of this meme also asked us to tag five other bloggers to participate. We know this one has been around a little, so instead of tagging anyone in particular, we'll just invite anyone who hasn't participated to post their photos. Be sure to let us know when you do--we can't wait to see them!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Brave Ben

This week, I left Ari curled up in front of the woodstove and headed to Ottawa, Ontario, home of the National Archives of Canada. But today, no one is talking about dusty old files from the nineteenth century. Nope. They're talking about this guy:

Meet Ben. He's a lab mix who is making headlines across Ontario today. More importantly, he's a guy with a heartwrenching story and an admirable spirit. Ben arrived at a Quebec shelter late last week with his four littermates. His 'owners' claimed that his missing front leg was a birth defect, but the shelter vet soon discovered that someone--either as an accident or deliberate act--cut off most of it. Remarkably, Ben has remained a playful, friendly pup in spite of this cruelty and the discomfort that comes from a shattered bone in his shoulder.
The SPCA is accepting donations for a surgery that will hopefully undo some of this damage and make him more comfortable (although, obviously, no one will be able to replace his paw and forearm). After he recovers, Ben will be looking for a permanent home.
Even if you're not able to donate to Ben's cause, I hope you'll read his full story by clicking here.
Take good care, dogs. It can be a mean world out there.