Archive | June, 2008

Lazy Bird Blogging

30 Jun

Pygmy Nuthatch

Pygmy Nuthatch

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird


The Raven’s Song

29 Jun

Raven near my house

The raven caws behind my house.
Is he singing a song of love to his mate?
A harsh, discordant song of love.

Bird Art

28 Jun

Periodically, I come across some amazing bird art that I have to share with you all.  This week, a couple of artists have fallen into my lap.  The first is Kate Wilson.  She draws amazing little birds in amazing little situations.  Enjoy! {Click}

Incognito by Kate Wilson

My husband went to a Music Festival in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania last week.  He brought me home a couple of prints by an artist he has long admired.  I love that he thought of me and my interests while he was off celebrating his birthday (45 – yikes!) in a way that made him incredibly happy.  Roger Dean created the artwork for many Yes albums (among others) which is why he was at a Progressive Rock Festival.  {Click} I couldn’t find the one Greg got me on the website so I took a picture of it — it’s called The Old Bridge.

As always, feel free to share with me your favorite new bird artists and I’ll keep my eyes open for more to share!

Something stinks.

27 Jun

One stinky mama and six stinky babies.

I and the Bird #78 – Summertime Birding Adventures

25 Jun


Summer time and the living is easy — for teachers.  We teachers just spend the summer kicking back, eating bonbons, and getting pedicures.  So, of course, I volunteered to host I and the Bird in the summertime.  Sure, I’m busy with sipping my ice cold iced tea by the cabana but I figured I could squeeze it in between reading that great summertime novel and supervising the pool boy.

And now, back to reality.  Sure it’s summer and I’m not working but my two kids need a chauffeur, my husband expects to be fed regularly, my house is a disaster area, I’ve got to plan for next year’s batch of kids, kitchen/dining room remodel isn’t finished, the backyard landscaping has been designated for me to manage, and did I mention my house is a disaster?  I know:  whine, whine, whine.

Yes, I do have the summer off and yes, I am enjoying it to the fullest.  Still, I’m not above taking a shortcut here or there.  So, when I learned about Wordle, I was ecstatic.  This is great, I thought, now I don’t have to be clever and come up with a witty theme for I and the Bird #78.  I can kick back, relax, and let  Wordle to the work for me.  (Maybe I can squeeze in a pedicure, after all!)

So,  Wordle works like this:  you take some text (like, say a whole bunch of posts about birds submitted to the world’s favorite birding carnival!) and you tell  Wordle to make it pretty.  And, it does.  You can fiddle with the fonts and colors until you are happy with it and bob’s your uncle (or something like that!).   Wordle is a free service and comes with no strings (that I’ve been able to see!).  You can take your  Wordle results and use them as you will — make t-shirts, make postcards and send them to all your friends and relatives, needlepoint a pillow for your Aunt Clementine, sell them on street corners, or whatever.  That’s pretty cool.  They’ll even let you use them to illustrate a Blog Carnival!  🙂  Oh, and rest assured I have absolutely no affiliation whatsoever with Wordle except that I think it’s pretty cool and I read the FAQ which is how I know all that stuff.

But, without words, Wordle art is a picture of a polar bear looking the other way in a snow storm (as my unartistic 5th graders used to say to me while staring at a blank piece of paper).  So, I am extremely grateful to the contributors to this edition of I and the Bird. You’ve seen their words as art — now go read their posts — see if you can figure out who contributed which words.

IATB #78’s Hard-working Contributors:


Can you believe the third anniversary of I and the Bird is here already? Three years of the best bird blogging on the planet deserves something special so instead of talking about birds (boring!) let’s talk about ourselves! For the first anniversary, Mike asked everyone to write about why they bird, blog, and/or blog about birds. For the second anniversary, he urged everyone to summarize why their blogs were must-read material. After all this time, Mike has another question, one that he hopes the hundreds of contributors we’ve had over the years will consider and confront: Why are you still bird blogging? Don’t take this question the wrong way! We want to know what wonderful experiences/insights/interactions bird blogging has rendered unto you over your weeks, months, or years of micropublishing.

What makes this anniversary edition of IATB even more exciting is that it’s being hosted by Charlie Moores, the second-ever host of our favorite blog carnival and someone who helped shape this collaboration from the very beginning.  So write a post on your blog tackling this pointed question by Tuesday, July 5 and send your link to Mike (mike AT 10000birds DOT com) or Charlie (charlie10000birds AT googlemail DOT com) for the July 7 edition.

Wordless Wednesday – First Shiner

25 Jun

First Shiner

Ruby Tuesday – A Photo Shoot

24 Jun

I had aired this quilt out in the backyard and then I dropped it on the floor when I brought it in (isn’t that how everyone cares for their fine handcrafted quilts?).  Ruby (AKA The Queen of Comfort) wasted no time in getting comfy on it — until, that is, I reached for my camera.

Ruby Tuesday Photo Shoot

Do we have to do this now?  What?  What do you mean?  I am relaxed.

Ruby Tuesday Photo Shoot

This is my relaxed look.

Ruby Tuesday Photo Shoot

Did you hear a squirrel?  I better go check.

Ruby Tuesday Photo Shoot

Fine.  I’ll lie down them.  Look at how relaxed I am.  Just lying here being relaxed.

Ruby Tuesday Photo Shoot

Fine, then.  Is this better?

Ruby Tuesday Photo Shoot

You let me know when you’re done, would you?

Ruby Tuesday Photo Shoot

Did you hear a squirrel?  I better go check.  Seriously, I think I heard one.

Ruby Tuesday Photo Shoot

I’m sooooooooooo bored!

Ruby Tuesday Photo Shoot

Oh, I love you too!

Ruby Tuesday Photo Shoot

Can I please go chase squirrels now?

A nice walk in the woods

23 Jun

I am trying to take a daily walk for exercise.  I have managed to take exactly one daily walk* and I can’t say as I got much exercise.  My first mistake was taking my camera long for the trip.  Oh dear, never a good plan to stop and take pictures along the way when one is trying to get one’s heartrate in the aerobic area.  On the other hand, there is that adrenaline rush when one sees (or hears) something special.

My walk was ruined by the fact that I did, indeed, hear something that lured me off course.  I was walking along the road that goes through the golf course and I heard some kronking.  We have a pair of ravens here so I wasn’t surprised.  But, then I heard some more kronking that sounded different somehow.  Lower, raspier, less polished.  I knew immediately what it was . . . BABY RAVENS!  And, I was off.

Raven family

They were fully fledged but Ravens stay in family units for awhile.  I saw four, I think.  I couldn’t get very close without leaving the path (into the very wet grass) and risking scaring them away.  There was an adult in another tree kronking at this group.  It was really special.

So, then I continued along the cart path until I got to a large manmade pond.  There was the most amazing sound.  Listen:

I knew what it had to be but didn’t expect to see it.  But, I got lucky.

Noisy Frog

Doesn’t he look like he wants a kiss?  Sorry big guy, I already found my Prince Charming!  So, not much exercise but a wonderful day out.

*Oh, why have I only done one walk?  Well, I started walking on Wednesday morning.  But, Greg went out of town on Thursday.  I am not comfortable leaving for 45 minutes on a walk with the kids home alone.  I know that they’d still be planted on the couch in front of TV with their eyes glazed over and drool on their chins when I got back — they might not even notice I was gone — but I just can’t do it.  Greg gets home Monday (I’m writing this on Sunday night) so, I hope I’ll be walking again soon!  Can you hardly wait to see the pictures?

A good day at the feeders!

22 Jun

Yesterday was about the weirdest weather day I can remember.  We are under the influence of an unusual weather pattern.  For whatever reason, hot, dry air is swirling up to us from the desert southwest.  Our temperatures are crazy hot and our weather is just not acting normally at all.  Yesterday, I was working on my computer and the kids came running in the house saying, “It’s raining!”  Remember, folks, this is California.  We don’t get rain in the summer.  We get 3 months of nearly solid torrential rain and that has to last us all year.  I figured a neighbor had lost control of his hose and was spraying over into our yard.  I walked outside and it was like summer in Texas.  It was raining at my house but not across the street.  Up above us was one tiny little black cloud. It was 90F and raining in my driveway. We stood out in it and enjoyed it for the 3 minutes it lasted.

Later in the day, we headed down into Santa Cruz to visit The Birdfeeder.  The drive was memorable.  First of all, I was an idiot to drive into Santa Cruz on a beach day.  It was 110F in San Jose and half of that city decided to go to the beach.  The second reason it was memorable was that there were a lot more than one little black cloud in the sky.  There were lots and lots of them and I could see it raining down over the Monterey Bay.  Except for the vista of the bay spread before me, it looked like driving through the southwest.  And, then, the lightning started.  Now, again, we don’t get summer storms here in California.  I know some of you are sick to tears of summer storms right now but they just don’t happen here.  My kids couldn’t remember ever having seen lightning before — they were thrilled.  I was thrilled for them but also very worried.  We’ve had 3 wildfires in this county already this year (the last one looks like arson and 15 homes were lost along with countless big animals that rescuers couldn’t get to in time).  Lightning isn’t our friend — and, in fact, it sparked off 14 fires.  Thankfully, none of them got out of control.

Photo by
Star Lit Lotus

All of which is a long way of saying that I got birdseed yesterday.  I have been a bad and neglectful birdfeeder lately.  I haven’t deserved the wonderful birds I’ve been seeing lately.  So, I had to fix that.  This morning, the pgymy nuthatches got me going.  They were begging for food.  So, I brought all the feeders in and cleaned them and refilled them and hung them.  Yay me.

Clean & Refilled feeders

Well, they were clean!
Well, they WERE clean!

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

Handsome boy
Black-headed Grosbeak (June 2007)

So, all my birds are happy again.  In fact, Mr Black-headed Grosbeak brought Mrs Black-headed Grosbeak in for a snack today.  She was too skittish to relax and eat but she was there so that was a real treat.  Last year, they brought their fledgling in, too.  I feel as if the birds rewarded me for my hard work.

Weekend Wordsmith: Storyteller

22 Jun

The art of telling a story to children is complicated.  Telling a story to anyone is complicated but telling a story to children is more so.  Children are at once eager to believe and suspicious.  They want to be swept up in your words but they don’t want to seem foolish either.  There are amazing storytellers.  I am not one of them.

When I tell a story to children, I usually forget to plan ahead.  My stories start out well but I don’t know where I am going with them and I end up in trouble.  How can the ogre escape the trap laid by the villain?  I don’t know — it’s a darn good trap but I already made the kids fall in love with the ogre.  I rarely want to use a storytelling moment to push children into an understanding of the harsh realities of the “real world.”  Good storytellers plan ahead.

When I tell a story to children, I usually forget to have a point.  The best stories have a message, a meaning, a theme, a moral.  My moral may change as the story goes along — I start out telling a story about how good children go to bed on time but suddenly it’s a story about a clean room being a good thing and ends up being a story about how doing what your mother tells you to do is always the right choice.  A little ambiguity goes a long way to ruining an otherwise good story.  Good storytellers have a message.

When I tell a story to children, I usually forget to make it funny.  Kids like funny.  Kids listen to funny.  Kids remember funny.  Funny is hard though and serious is a bit easier — at least for me.  Good storytellers are funny.

When I tell a story to children, I usually forget to make it familiar.  Children love stories that seem familiar with a twist.  There is comfort in the familiar.  They know what will happen (or do they?) but don’t know how we’ll get there or what will happen along the way.  Good storytellers build on the familiar.

When I tell a story to children, I usually forget to savor it and enjoy the telling of it.  I forget that my enjoyment in the telling will translate into their enjoyment in the hearing.  Feeling rushed is a reality for parents and teachers but not one we should pass along to our children during story time. Good storytellers enjoy telling stories.

Storytelling is an art and a craft.  I hope to be a good storyteller one day.

More works by Weekend Wordsmiths.
All content written by Liza Lee Miller unless otherwise noted.
© 2008, Liza Lee Miller. Creative Commons License