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Backyard Wildlife

9 May

Recent sightings from my kitchen window in Maryland and from a recent visit to Ohio.

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My Friend, Flicker

21 Mar

He visited us last year and he’s back this year. We had first been alerted to his presence by a persistent tapping, audible inside our house, oddly enough louder in the basement than elsewhere. It took us a while to determine that a Northern Flicker had been pecking at our chimney cap. This morning I finally caught him in action. One video records his rat-a-tat-tat. The other records a call he sends out. Can’t explain his behavior but it is amusing nonetheless.DSCN3777

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Northern Flicker
Northern Flicker

(Mis)Adventures with Rufus

14 Feb

Rufus in the Snow
Brad and I have partitioned part of the house off, allowing Rufus access to the kitchen, the downstairs hallway and our bedroom. We used a room divider to block access to the living room and dining room but we should have been a bit more strategic in its placement. Sure, we blocked access to the living room and dining room, but the door to the upstairs rooms was wide open and still accessible. I never dreamed Rufus would venture up those stairs on his own, but that is exactly what he did the moment my back was turned. I went up to retrieve him but he most decidedly did not want to go back downstairs. I coaxed and cajoled but he was not about to budge. To make matters worse, Baxter and Lulu had climbed to the top of the stairs, watching and listening to the show, effectively helping to convince Rufus it was not a good idea to go downstairs. I finally resorted to leashing Rufus to take him downstairs, after having shooed Baxter and Lulu away. I’ve since repositioned the barrier to block access to the staircase as well.

I wish that had been the only drama of the day.

Later in the morning, I decided to take Rufus for a walk in our neighborhood, despite the fact that many of the sidewalks had not been cleared. I sensed he was yearning for some exercise and I myself enjoy nice long walks. We both set off in high spirits.

Rufus’ spirits were a bit too high for me. He tugged at that leash, pulling me reluctantly along at a pace faster than I felt safe on ice covered sidewalks. Our neighborhood is quiet and there were not many cars out on the road so I decided to abandon the sidewalk and walk in the middle of the road. It had been cleared of snow and was dry and there would be ample warning of a car’s approach for us to move off to the side.

And then I lost hold of Rufus’ leash.

I must have been shifting it from one hand to the other when it slipped from my gloved hand. I saw it fall to the ground as if in slow motion. But that dog was not walking in slow motion. He just kept trotting along turning his head this way and that, ever curious about his new surroundings. I tried to catch up to no avail. I called out his name and he ignored me. I don’t think he even knows what his name is yet.

We were going uphill and I was running out of steam, short of breath and beginning to panic. All I could think of were the words uttered by a shelter staff member: “If you let go of his leash, you will never get him to return to you.” I continued to call for Rufus in vain. Then I just plain yelled for help into the neighborhood. Maybe someone somewhere could help me corral my dog. I realize now how stupid that would have been if someone had responded. The dog surely would have run away if approached by a stranger.

Nearly at my wit’s end, I desperately sought a tactic to lure Rufus back. I thought, maybe if I throw a snowball in his direction it will distract him. I stopped and bent down to pick up some snow. Rufus stopped too. I walked slowly, cautiously, as quietly as possible towards him. I bent over and grabbed him gently and firmly and heaved a huge sigh of relief, ever thankful for the ambling nature of dogs. And oh so grateful that a car had not approached during our moments of separation.

We returned home and I nearly collapsed with exhaustion. I am sure I have never been so scared in my whole life. Today, Rufus’ owner learned some very good lessons quite the hard way. Now she is researching obedience classes so that he can learn some lessons as well.

Pack Out

19 Sep

The scene at around 3:30 p.m.

Our stuff getting loaded onto the truck.

Lulu inspects my now empty office.

The pack out went well today. A crew of six arrived a little after nine a.m. They were polite, efficient and professional. And, as it turns out, it was the same crew that moved us in to this house nearly two years ago. I recognized some of the faces. And they recognized the elliptical exercise machine—unarguably, the single most challenging item we’ve ever had moved. The crew did not take a lunch break, though they did take a couple of coffee and smoke breaks. (They brought their own coffee, we provided hot water and sugar.) They were done and driving down the road with all our stuff by 4:30 p.m.

We locked Baxter and Lulu into our bathroom during the move. I visited them now and then to see how they were doing and they were not happy campers. Lulu was fussing and fidgeting about, trying to head out the door. Baxter laid low and lurked in the corners of the room. He must have been hatching his secret escape plan. Near the end of the day, he did dart out of the room. He was so startled by the empty rooms (nowhere to hide under or behind!) that it was an easy feat to nab him and return him to the kitty hideaway.

Now the house is so empty our voices are echoing off the walls. We halfheartedly unpacked the welcome kit and I heated up leftovers for dinner. Lulu has found a way to deal with the new development. She has been leaping up to incredible heights, chasing after the nails that have been exposed from prints that have been removed from the wall. She’s also spent part of the evening playing like a kitten with a little seed pod that was tracked in from outside by one of the movers.

As for Brad and I, though all we did was sit around and watch the movers work all day, we were both exhausted by the time they left. I suppose a lot of the exhaustion has been building up over these last few days as we’ve been preparing for the move back home. Add that to the fact that I did not sleep well last night on the govt. issue bed with govt. issue pillow, sheets and blankets. Oh dear, it will be a long, long time till we can sleep in our own bed again.

Seventh and Final Port of Call: Stavanger

11 Jul

We sailed south, past Bergen to the town of Stavanger situated at the mouth of the southernmost of the west coast fjords. Stavanger had a humble beginning as a medieval fishing village, then experienced an economic boost in the nineteenth century due to a lucrative fishing and canning industry. The town’s prosperity was boosted even further when oil was discovered off the coast in the 1960s.

The old town center, Gamle Stavanger, consists of a few streets with some well-preserved whitewashed clapboard wooden houses situated along narrow cobblestoned streets. Bright flowers decorated the quaint white houses. We visited the Canning Museum in Gamle Stavanger as well as a worker’s cottage furnished on the ground floor as in the 1920s and on the first floor as in the 1960s. We sampled some delicious homemade waffles and coffee at the cafe on the ground floor.

The skies were gray and a few sprinkles here and there reminded us of the constant threat of rain. We enjoyed walking through the old town, around the harbor and in the lively and trendy commercial quarter north and west of the harbor. We climbed the fire watch tower for a nice view of the rooftops of the city, visited the maritime museum and had a light lunch in a coffeehouse where we had a nice conversation with the barista who hailed from Leeds, England.

In late afternoon, the rain finally came down. We were tired and ready to head back to the ship anyhow. Hard to believe our cruise is almost over! Tomorrow we we spend the day at sea as we make our way back to Amsterdam.

 

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Sixth Port of Call: Olden

10 Jul

Another small village at the head of another fjord. The main attraction near Olden is Briksdalen Glacier which can be reached by hiking 3 km from the “mountain lodge” (really a huge souvenir shop complex) about a half-hour drive from Olden. It felt cool at the beginning of the hike and I bundled up but with the slight incline up the mountain I warmed up pretty quickly and began shedding gloves, scarf and layers. The trail was quite scenic with moss covered rocks, brilliantly colored wildflowers, rapids, waterfalls and even a small group of goats off to the side. About halfway along the trail we spotted the glacier, then past markers noting where the face of the glacier had been situated in 1700s, 1800s and 1900s. When finally we got to the end of the trail we were a bit disappointed. A small lake of glacier melt prevented us from actually touching or standing on the glacier which itself looked rather puny! You expect a glacier to be massive in size…this one looked like an unfortunate pile of snow wedged between a couple of peaks. Oh, I don’t mean to sound too jaded…it really was a lovely invigorating hike.

 

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Embarkation in Amsterdam

3 Jul

Our ship sailed at 4 p.m., giving us the morning for explorations in Amsterdam. The weather was gorgeous plenty of sunshine, blue skies and pleasant temperatures. It was my fourth visit to Amsterdam, Brad’s second. We’ve already visited the main sights so were happy to just stroll along the canals, soaking in the sights. By lunchtime it was time to begin making our way over to the ship. After a short taxi ride and a brisk check-in we were onboard and ready to sail.

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