Eat Local

Front Yard Cooper's Hawk

Front Yard Cooper’s Hawk

This morning, both Anne and I were leaving for work at about the same time. Before we each jumped into our respective cars and headed out, we stopped to converse for a bit, all the while standing out front on the sidewalk. While we were speaking, we both noticed a steady stream of some sort of stuff that was gently floating down from above. It was falling from our front yard maple tree. At first, I thought that they were leaves or bits of leaves that maybe some squirrel was ejecting from its burrow. It is fall now, but the particles seemed too small to be whole maple leaves and they floated way too slowly to be falling leaves. Then I wondered if the falling particles might be sawdust, like the stream of falling sawdust that is created by a carpenter bee as it chews its way through wood, but what ever it was that was falling, it was too large to be sawdust. We moved closer to investigate this phenomenon and try to figure out what was really coming down.

What we found was a pile of tan and grey feathers scattered across the pavement. Looking up, we saw that more feathers continued to rain down upon us. Then we spied their source, a raptor eating breakfast on a branch. We both tried taking iPhone pictures of this bird, but I knew that that wouldn’t work out too well. So, I went back into the house to get a real camera and took the above photograph. It turns out that the raptor was a Cooper’s hawk. We see them routinely in the neighborhood. They mainly eat birds and must really appreciate all the avid backyard birders in the neighborhood, what with the large number of birdfeeders around. The prey was a Mourning Dove that was likely plucked off the peak of our next door neighbor’s roof. They like to congregate there in the morning and I can regularly hear them cooing.

Bikes, Birds and Brunch

We launched earlier than yesterday’s crack of noon, for today’s bicycle ride. We wanted to beat the heat. We rode though Forest Park, which was more crowded today than it was yesterday. The Tour de Cure was running down Lindell Boulevard and there was another cancer related charity event, a walk that was circling the Muny Mile. With some slogging, we made it through the park and on towards Tower Grove Park. Halfway around Tower Grove, we elected to head over to Local Harvest for brunch. Rather unusually, it was not crowded. I found out later that the restaurant has reduced its hours to just the weekend. This might explain why it wasn’t overflowing, as is normally the case, other people might have thought it had closed altogether. After brunch, we circled the other half of Tower Grove Park. We saw the Green Heron in one of the lily ponds in front of the Piper Palm House. He looked to be a yearling, he was smaller than normal. Returning to Forest Park, we saw the egret next. He was fishing in the lazy section of river that flows through Steinberg Prairie. I was having trouble getting a good picture of him, because he kept disappearing behind an island, but then the Blue Heron swept in and flushed the egret back out into the open for us. The Red Eared Sliders seemed oblivious to the whole thing.

100 Mergansers

100 Mergansers

100 Mergansers

On Saturday, Anne and I finished the League of Michigan Bicyclist’s Lakeshore West Tour, picked up our car, loaded the bikes and then drove north to the cabin for a couple more nights. Bubs and Harry were as happy to see us again as we were to be off of our bicycles. He had ridden 366 miles in one week. We all ate dinner together, along with Karen that night. Sunday was a rest day. We did little more than pack. We did take Harry and Bubs out to dinner for his birthday at the China Cate, a little hole-in-the-wall off of Ashman. This was a belated birthday dinner for Harry. Not even the workers there could explain why the place was called ‘Cate’ and not the expected Gate.

Sunday night was a restless night, which after a week of sleeping on the cold hard ground was surprising. You would think that sleeping in a soft warm bed, even the ‘Valley Camp’, would be more restful than a sleeping bag in a tent. So, we woke still bleary eyed for our big 800 mile drive from the Soo to Saint Louis. Having two drivers yesterday was a blessing. Anne had to serve onto the shoulder once to avoid a family of turkeys that were marching across the road near Grayling. They were not the usual variety of turkeys that are routinely found on the I-75 SUV Speedway. Later, further down state, the tire warning light came on and repeated refilling of it did not solve the problem. We pulled off the highway at Marshall and found a rather dilapidated looking service station that pulled another nail out of the offending tire. We were back on the road again within the hour. Without further incident, but after seemingly endless miles, we arrived home safe and sound.

Work today and tomorrow offers a brief respite and a wee bit of time to allow me to pivot for my next trip. Later this week, I’ll fly to Seattle on business. Hopefully, I’ll get to see Jay and Carl while I’m there. The photo with this post is a picture of about a hundred mergansers that were cruising down the beach, when I went down there to say goodbye. It was a bit grey and foggy, but still quite a sight to behold. The mergansers are in the foreground. Those are just sea gulls in the background.

Look at Me Girls, Look at Me

Male Yellow-Shafted Northern Flicker

Male Yellow-Shafted Northern Flicker

Saturday afternoon, when I was bicycling in the park, I came upon the above pictured flicker. He was perched atop a street light and was easy to find. (You can tell that he is a male, because of the black malar coming off his beak.) First, he would call out, wicka-wicka-wicka, then he would pound his beak against the aluminum street light housing, rat-a-tat-tat. Then he would pause and I could hear another male flicker, not too far off, repeating his message, wicka-wicka-wicka and then rat-a-tat-tat. After the other bird was done, this little guy would begin the call and response again. It wasn’t until after several rounds of this that I realized that the other male flicker was at the adjacent street lamp, just fifty yards down the road. I never saw nor heard any female flickers, but they had to be there, because why else would these two dudes be strutting their stuff?

A spring or two ago, Anne was in the classroom, but the window was open and it was a beautiful spring day. Just outside, a male cardinal was perched on a tree branch, singing his heart out. It sounded like who-it cheer, who-it cheer, cheer-cheer-cheer; cheer, who-it-who-it-who-it-who-it; wheat-wheat-wheat-wheat. Anne whistled back to the bird and then interpreted for the class, look-at-me-girls, look-at-me-girls, look-at-me-girls, look-look-look. One sad individual asked her, “Where did you learn to speak pigeon?” I say sad, because not only was he unable to distinguish between a cardinal and a pigeon, but he failed in his hometown, which is also the home of the Saint Louis Cardinals.

One last spring story, this one is from the plant kingdom. I got up and out of bed this morning early enough to beat today’s rain and go for another bicycle ride in the park. There were no wildlife encounters on this ride, but I did hear a number of interesting, if unidentifiable bird calls. This spring story comes down to what I saw, while climbing the last hill on the way home. There was a green sheen on the raised tread of my bicycle tire. The green was from the pollen that all of the plants and trees have been busily pumping out. Today’s rain ought to give some momentary relief to all of the allergy suffers in town. Oh by the way, they are also forecasting snow for tonight.