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Friday, March 23, 2012

Unrequested Egg Report

I know I do not own the only chickens on the planet, and I know they're only hens, but damn it is fun going outside each day and finding the day's yummy output. It is even more fun having eggs to share with friends & acquaintances.
My Black Copper Marans, Godiva and Dove who lay chocolate colored eggs

My Marans are interesting. Godiva and Dove's eggs are darker than when they first began to lay, but I now doubt they'll ever get as dark as their breed is famed for. One of my Marans lays medium sized dark eggs, but the other Maran specialized herself in the laying of large, fat, ROUND eggs; darkly speckled. The dark speckles are the color the entire egg should be if they were laying 'true' to breed. Oh well! Getting speckled eggs makes me feel like I'm collecting eggs from wild jungle fowl.

Lovely fat, round, chocolate speckled egg
So this is what a dozen of my hen's eggs look like. On the far left are Lucy, the wild Americana hen's, turquoise eggs. Lucy's eggs are the largest of the flock. The medium chocolate colored eggs - 6 of them - are from my pair of Marans. The remaining four pinkish beige eggs are from my dainty Faverolles hens, Adele and Babette.
Chez Claire Eggie Ensemblé
Do you have a strong stomach? If not, you're done reading. Really. Stop.

A couple of days ago, one of my Marans produced an amazingly scary egg. At first I thought the egg was dotted with insect eggs on it, but research revealed the tiny pimples were just calcium beads. Happily, the little beads easily scraped off the egg. Thank heavens! The dots really grossed me out although they are only the result of over production of calcium. My over productive feathered darlings! Oh yeah... I love my adorable, fractious chickies!

GAK! A truly scary looking egg, but easily scraped of offending calcium nodules

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Man Flies Like Bird

OK, this is AMAZING. The man, a Dutch Engineer maintained true flight, with his home made birdie wings, for more than 60 seconds. If he'd done this prior to the Wright Brother's first flight, we'd all be strapping wings on our back so we could fly to the grocery store.

Unfortunately, shortly after the Dutch Engineer celebrated his victory flight, a stray cat caught and ate him. RIP brave bird-man!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Birdie Blitzkreg in die Oaks Faire

Last Sunday morning, the Hens - of the human persuasion - mentioned how chock full o' berries the Hawthorn tree was. I told them I was not looking forward to the b'jillion volunteer baby trees that were going to invade my yard. As far as I could tell, the Cedar Waxwings were forsaking my yard and ignoring their duty- eating the Hawthorn Berries.

How wrong I was! On Tuesday morning I heard a THWOP on the living room window. Looking out there were at least 75 Cedar Waxwings - more than I've ever seen in the tree all at once - wolfing down berries - a birdie Blitzkrieg.

Cedar Waxwing Invasion

For a half hour the huge flock flew onto the tree, as usual, beginning from the tree top. Only when the top branches were bare did they move lower, then lower... and lower.

All agreed, the Hawtorn was having a vintage year
After about an hour, the Waxwings took off and I thought the cropping of the Hawthorn was done for the year. I was wrong. Wednesday morning I woke to a chorus of bird song. When I went outside to let my hens out, there were flocks of Cedar Waxwings zipping through the air, each flock holding at least a hundred birds each. The Hawthorn attack was in full Blitzkrieg motion - berries disappeared as I watched, and photographed the action in amazement.
The wet head look is in this season
It rained and that didn't stop those wet headed Waxwings. They kept going even though their little topknots were a little droopy. After a couple of hours the they were - first time in my memory - in the bottom quarter of the tree, gulping berry after luscious berry.

"Huh... so where'd all the berries go?"
By 11AM the Hawthorn was visibly bereft of berries. The few remaining Waxwings hunted what few dozen berries were left. I have never seen the Waxwings so low in the tree before - some of them were only about 3 feet from the ground, nabbing those last few berries. What hungry birds! No clue why so many birds this year. Did the crops fail in the far north causing more Canadian Waxwings to drop further south than usual? Or was it coincidence so many birds just happened to invade my neighborhood this year?

And they striped their cupboard bare
In the photo above, dead center, and looking like a squarish smeer, is a web stickie for the window, and just below it is a hawk sticky -both state of the art and neither kept waxwings from colliding with my picture window.

The Waxwings weren't the only birds busy either. Over in the Trident Maples by the back fence, at least 25 American Robins sat. Although I did see a few of them eating Hawthorn berries, they were far more interested in the dark blue ivy berries that cover the Ivy-From-Hell that overgrows the wooden fence on the south side of my property. Stupid Ivy! I'd be happy the Robins eat the berries except I KNOW they will be dropping colon-treated ivy seeds all over the place - if you get my drift. It's always sad when good birds meet bad invasive species.

My yard squirrel was at work too, trying to get berries before the Waxwings could suck them all down.

Squirrel: "Damned competition... bet those buggers are all Canadian Waxwings too. Stupid immigrants..."

Poor little fluff butt: I didn't have the heart to inform it that all the local Fox Squirresl are immigrants too. Sensitive subject you know.

The other immigrant competition

Monday, March 12, 2012

Hen Party, 2012

Hens and Hens:
Robbie, Barbara, Ingrid, Nancy, and Rhonda
HEN PAR-TAY! The last Hen get together was in 2010, and you know, a hen ought not go that long without chatter and a little scratch. So today Hens drove up for a weekend. The Hen of the year is Ingrid, who not only quite recently suffered a suddenly appendicitis attack, but is joining the Peace Corps. She told us she is dutifully learning Spanish and expects to be assigned to a South or Central American country where her years of running and heading up her own successful pest control company will be a valuable asset. Ingrid said she plans to blog during her Peace Corps stint and I for one can't wait to read what she'll be up to.

Ingrid: our Hen of the Year
Ingrid has two beautiful & accomplished daughters, one of whom is currently working for Obama's legal team, and being a student at Georgetown University is a classmate of Sandra Fluke. There! You now know several topics of discussion taking place over the weekend. Actually, am surprised a certain windbag of a talk show host's ears didn't explode after we got through discussing his ugly views.

More Hens, in no particular order.

Hen Robbie
Hen Nancy
Hen Barbara
Hen Rhonda
Some other broad, with orbs floating around her noggin'
We enjoyed seeing what our families are up to in photo presentations on my living room TV screen via a computer hook-up. The hook up allowed seeing everyone's families via on-line photo stashes and flash drive hook ups. The pix fest ended with a look at our Hen Parties through the ages (as saved on this blog actually).

Hens invade my Kitchen
And when the hens got hungry, it was time to chow down on Robbie's breads & fruits, Ingrid's luncheon meats, Rhonda's gourmet sodas and beers & cheeses, Nancy's superlative roasted beet salad, and other hen imported fancy foods - Rose Jam being my pick of the lot - cheese, cheese and more gourmet cheese! Barbara brought eggs from her flock of feathered hens, for all us human Hens to take to their families. She also brought along some goose eggs - which makes this hen's greedy heart sing. Whew! Hope I got everyone in there as to who brought what, but it all boils down to a surfeit of tasty treats for all.

A sampling of why Hens eat like the Queens they are
Late Satuday Afternoon
Ingrid recently celebrated a birthday so Robbie brought her a DELISH chocolate cake. The cake contained no gluten, being composed of almond meal, cocoa and other wholesome ingredients. I asked for an explanation of 'why no gluten?' and found out Robbie's teen daughter and one of Ingrid's daughters have Celiac (SEE-lee-ak) disease. Ms. Uninformed here was floored! Was clueless what the gluten hubbub is all about until now & I must be wearing orthopedic shoes, because I stand corrected!

Ingrid blows out the candle on her birthday cake
Saturday evening was the usual Hen chat fest. Soon someone casually mentioned it was nearly 1 AM, and next thing you know, I was literally ordering the other Hens to roost! First of all, I forgot the clocks had just sprung forward an hour, and well, let's face it, this hen is no Spring chicken and she needs her rest.

Sunday morning the Hen festing began refreshed and renewed. Robbie ran orange after orange through a juicer and added Ingrid's blood oranges so we could enjoy what is now our traditional morning Hen elixer, freshly juiced citrus. I served up a HUGE artichoke, roasted pepper and herbed goat cheese quiche made with my hen's eggs (you know, the kind with feathers).

Breakfast time - cause we were
famished from Saturday's feasting
Hens, in their jammies,  lolling around Sunday morning
The Hens decide to venure into the wilderness that is my backyard
Sunday we managed to find even more stuff to discuss and share with each other. Then we took our group photos in the back yard. I was pleased the Hens assisted me in shifting my chicken coop to a new spot in the yard, as it's been stuck in place for more than a couple of months now. Thanks for help my dears!

See you next year Hens!
Robbie, 'moi', Ingrid Rhonda & Nancy
So our 2012 Hen Party was a great success. I later found out one Hen, Robin of Vacaville would have attended if I hadn't left her off the notification list I sent out prior to the weekend. A Hen tragedy, I can tell you! Will be more careful at our next Hen Party, and hopefully it won't take another year for us to get around to one.

Friday, March 02, 2012

A Few Birds, One Rude Coyote

Felt like seeing some birds this morning so I headed out for a big loop drive. I take Sunrise onto Kiefer Road that crosses over a little bridge at Blodget Reservoir. Until I checked a map, I thought the spot was just a mucky area. Reservoir? Really? I think of it as my own personal stash of Tundra Swans. Here below is the view from the ensie bridge.

View of Reservoir over my spotting scope
facing the swans in the photo just below

Only through binoculars or scope can you see the birds

Tundra Swans; unseen in the foreground,
Greater Yellowlegs and Wilson's Snipe

My next stop is closer to the Kiefer Landfill. Today there were loads of livestock, I think Sheep to graze the grass, and goats to eat any shrubbery.

Sheepies and Goats

There was an airshow going on overhead; the odd Northern Harrier, and 2 different amorous pairs of Redtailed Hawks. One pair was being harassed (or maybe I'm wrong and they were doing the harassing) this Rough-legged Hawk.

Had to photoshop a bit to even see this Roughlegged
Hawk's underwing pattern - a bit of it anyway

After watching some Redtailed Hawks flying at each other with their legs fully extended, I went right on to Jackson Road, left to Dillard and left again onto Meiss Road. That's where last week Don and I viewed a Prairie Falcon and Ferruginous Hawk - no such luck this week on the Hawk front. Did notice that the year's first Frying Pan Poppies; last weekend they were non-existent.

a few Frying Pan Poppies

I looked for Grasshopper Sparrows and Burrowing Owls, but no such luck yet. Loads of Savahnah Sparrows.

Shot this Savannah by a Kiefer Road Pasture

At the end of Meiss Road, its right onto Ione Road, then right again onto Twin Cities Road. Loads of oaks & Lewis Woodpeckers, a host of raptors: Red tailed & shouldered, Ferruginous, Rough-leggedhawks Hawks, Northern Harriers, Prairie Falcons, Kestrels and Merlins. Driving on Twin Cities I took a right onto Desmond Road and found myself looking at a massive flock of wild Snow Geese. Crummy shot here, but the birds were quite a distance off. I spotted at least one nice blue phase goose, but no way I could accomplish a shot of it.

View of Snow Geese flock

I decided that at 4.17 a gallon of gas, I'd gone far enough for one day. I headed back, hitting a few odd spots along the way. For example, on Michigan Bar Road I managed the best photo to date I've managed of a beautiful Lark Sparrow. I recall they used to be so exotic to me, and now I see this species at least a few times a week.

An amiable Lark Sparrow

I haven't said much about Michigan Bar in the past but it is beautiful and full of great country birds. I only did a quick drive down to its bridge and back. As I came back over the bridge I spotted my first California Quail of 2012 - a cock and a hen out for a stroll.

Shot taken through my car's windshield

They both took off when they realized I was there. I followed the cock to his little hiding spot where he hunkered, quite certain the evil, fat human couldn't see him. Right!

You can't see me!

Hum... well maybe you can - I'm outta here!

I made a v. quick stop at Sailor Bar where for once, the Common Merganser hens were close enough to get reasonable pix of. Love the sharp demarcation between their rusty heads and their nun-gray bodies. Live to get a photo of Red-breasted Merganser hens like this.

Common Merganser Hens at Sailor Bar's dabbling duck spot

Earlier today I saw the Mute Swan - way far off - on Kiefer Road. I was tickled to see no less than 3 mute swans near a housing complex just off Sunrise Boulevard; exotic and oh-s0-pretty.

That's one elegant little swan

In the same pond were numerous American Widgeons, a ton of Coots and several nice floatillas of Ring-necked Ducks.

Lovely Ring-necked Ducks

Totally enjoyed my little Grand Tour. Loads of birds, and one mammal; a coyote that I'd spotted, not far from a dirt stretch of Kiefer Road. The coyote stared at me glumly, then trotted on.

Turned tail and headed off
Woman? You still staring at me?
In retrospect. That was one rude coyote.

Want something to stare at? I'll give
you something to stare at!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Sneaky Hen: an Update

Ahhhh HA! The omlette plot thickens! Apparently, it's not that Lucy stopped laying, it's that she found a nice place to hide her eggs. A place I only happened to spot this morning. Mind, I've looked under the Toyon bush many times, just not in front of the Toyon, under its spreading limbs. Note to self: If you're going to hunt Easter Eggs, do it right!

So, I'm up, a half dozen of Lucy's eggs. Hum... I think a nice quiche is in order.