Archive for July, 2008

Cascades du Herisson

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

I had the opportunity to visit the Cascades du Herisson in the Jura Mountains of France when I visited there a couple of years ago. It was in early spring and the buttercups were in bloom – very beautiful. The entire area consists of multiple waterfalls – “cascades” in French – some small and some from dizzying heights, as this link from YouTube shows.

The idea was that my friends thought I’d like to get a good bit of exercise before I left for my flight back to the US the very next day. I agreed! Well, I had my exercise all right! If I recall correctly, the entire walk one way took a good 3 hours, taking time to picnic, take photos, and not hurry.

At times the path is very easy, at other times quite steep and strenuous. Because some of the pathway is stone steps hewn into the mountainside, my knees took quite a battering and it was a good couple of weeks before they felt normal (we walked BACK the same route!). Many of the stones at that season were also wet from rain and cascades mist, so they had to be walked carefully in places. But it was worth every ache.

The air was fantastic, the natural beauty breathtaking.

At the end of the walk, there was a gift shop and a small restaurant, where we sampled the local mountain cheeses and bread. Yum! Nearly every mountain village in the Jura has its own distinctive cheese, and sampling them is a wonderful pasttime.

So, after such hearty fare, we made our way back the route we came, thoroughly happy and satisfied – and very tuckered out.

I’d like to say that I slept like a baby on the flight back, but I never do sleep on these long hauls. Nevertheless I filled the time with memories of my dear friends – and the sights, smells, and sounds of all I experienced on this walk and many others.

Feathered Vistors.2

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

In addition to the usual birdfeeder species, we also have larger feathered visitors. Wild turkeys abound in these foothills. This family had a morning route that took them through my front yard and into the vacant lot next door.

They look a bit prehistoric and not very quick on the uptake. They start out with a dozen or so hatchlings, which dwindles to about 3 or 4 by the time they get big enough to survive a year. But it’s always fun to see them casually moseying through the tiny police department parking lot in my town and see the reaction to tourists who come through on weekends.

There are the usual scrub jays also. These fellows were hungrily clamoring for food from their parents, who were flying themselves ragged to feed chicks as big as themselves. Ah, parenthood…
And what birdfeeder would be complete without the regular vistations by another sort of feathery-tailed species? Argh!

Well, squirrels are just doing what comes naturally: eating what’s easiest to get first!

All the World is Charlie’s Stage

Monday, July 28th, 2008

All my parrots have certain activities they like more than others: Chipper likes to hang out/chew/have fun with his books; Pippin likes to nest or shred things; Sam likes to chew on his foot toys or forage for treats.

But Charlie! He likes most of all to SING!!!!! He came with about 5 “default” songs – mimics of wild bird calls very badly done – that used to drive me crazy. Fortunately, Chipper taught him better songs.

So now Charlie sings with zing.

Charlie also uses objects in his cage to amplify or “improve” the acoustics of certain trills – in this case a treat cup. When outside the cage, he uses the inside of stainless steel bells for special effects. Perhaps he knows these are special riffs that must be heard in the best way to be fully appreciated.

So, without further ado, heeeeeere’s Charlie!

Feathered Vistors.1

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

My wildbird feeder sees a lot of traffic in all seasons.

This flicker, though, was a real surprise, since they eat insects and suet and are not known to eat at seed feeders. I had an opportunity to watch this fellow for a couple
of minutes. What I realized is that he wasn’t after the seeds – he was playing. He’d furiously dig his long strong beak into the seed dispenser holes and vigorously stir up the seeds inside. He did this for a some time and then flew away.

My returning annual black headed grosbeaks are a lot of fun. The parents in the spring from their migration from their southerly wintering grounds. Then they work hard while they raise a clutch of very cute babies. Here are two of them who have learned the ropes of eating out of a sunflower dispenser. They are not as flighty as smaller finches, so I usually can get a shot of them now and then.

And then there are the Stellar’s Jays that screech and carry on loudly. They are strong fellows, whether adult or young. This fellow is a young one who is in the act of begging for food from his parents. The black headgear on the young looks really silly. They look like punkers with mohawks and you just cannot take them seriously!

Charlie Molts

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

Charlie has decided that it is a good time to molt.

Lest you think I never vacuum (admittedly, not my favorite pasttime, but I do it every week!) this pile of feathers is just a two-day accumulation.

Everywhere I walk in the living room, there are little drifts of creamy gray cockatiel feathers and down clusters.

You’d think he would look rather tatty and nearly featherless, but he’s got plenty left. While he is out of step with everybody else’s molting period, I think he’s got good timing. What better occasion to shed some extra warmth than during a heat wave?

Sam’s Going Green

Friday, July 25th, 2008

Sam, apparently, felt he should do his part to help the planet by going green. It helps that he IS green to start with, of course.

He’s checking out the bag of paper recycling here to see if he can re-use anything interesting.
Apparently he found something: a cardboard box that has a fun texture and
an enticing interior.

Sam seems to approve the use of cold water and safe detergent without fragrances and dyes. But he really doesn’t care to help me with hanging up the wet laundry – he gets bored with it. But he’s hanging in there….cheering me on, maybe?

Well, it’s all in a day’s work – and it wasn’t that difficult, really!

You Scratch My Back, I Scratch Yours…

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

I’ve noticed over the years of watching blacktail deer, that they often groom each other after eating. I believe this serves a practical purpose as well as a social one: removing parasites, ticks, and debris is a smart move. But I think it’s also a strong bonding ritual – at least, among the does – that seems to be shared by many species.

The right doe is “Old Mamma,” and you can see plainly where she broke her right hind leg 3 years ago.

Here she is slightly dazed, it seems, from how good her grooming feels!

You can also see how thin they are getting – as the good stuff dries up, so does the extra winter and spring fat on their bodies. The only green stuff that grows wild around my place is blackberry bushes and the very unloved star thistle that not many animals will eat.


Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

This is another view of Lac Annecy in March. (It’s really hot here, so images of snow and coolness seemed in order.) The day I took this photo, the wind was very strong and made the water ripple. You can see how fast the water in the Canal Thiou was running into the Lac here.

There is another interesting landmark: The Basilica of the Visitation, and home base of the Visitation Order of nuns, founded by Saint Jeanne de Chantal and the more well-known (among Catholics) Saint Francis de Sales.

I enjoyed walking up a steep hill to get to the imposing church and the surrounding old buildings.

But that type of trekking does whet the appetite and makes for thirsty returns. So back to the creperie for a light repast. As I sat inside and watched the sun set through the windows, I loved how the light shown through these beer glasses. It summed up the end of the day: mellow…

Unexpected Vistors

Monday, July 21st, 2008

I had three visitors come by early this morning. I would have missed them entirely, except that I had gone out of the house about 1/2 hour earlier than usual. I saw a furry something climbing up the plum tree….

What do you know? Three young racoons! I’m sorry the photo is so blurry – I didn’t have the time to see if I was focusing near or far. But look closely and you’ll see three masked faces staring at you.

And then a last look by the most curious one of the trio, before they all disappeared. (The other two were piled on top of this fellow.) I wonder where their mama was?

Summer Siesta Time

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

Another hot summer day. While I paint and try to stay cool, all the birds take naps.

Chipper is molting heavily, so even when he’s not napping, he’s in “energy-saving mode.”

Hope you’ve had a good weekend and that you’ve had enough siestas to power you through another week.