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April, 2008 | Scuff Productions

Black Headed Grosbeak visit

Bloged in birding,Pacific Northwest by mark Wednesday April 30, 2008

For the first time this year, and we ALWAYS eagerly await their arrival, a Male Black Headed Grosbeak was at our feeders this afternoon for a bit. They are the KING of territorial singing….going on for long trilling melodious calls morning and evenings at the very TOP branch of the tallest tree in the neighborhood. Their visits are ALWAYS TOO short…..they leave sometime in August going back to Mexico for the easy life.

We have seen our first ANNA’s Juvenile out near the Current Bush flowers on a damp morning, Rodger got a great shot:

And this male Rufous showed great colors against the Maple Racemes:

With Sunny Skys on the way all week next week, temps approaching 70, night temps upper 40’s, WE are living the high life with nature exploding everywhere.

NOTE: I picked the first Rhubarb harvest today! I see Rhubarb Cake coming up Monday night swim nite dinner, eh?

The REAL world though: Karen and I went down Springville Road…..a windy little highway heading to Beaverton off of Skyline. During the SOLV Cleanup last weekend for Forest Park…..they had 75 volunteers, picked up 4800 lbs of trash, 30 tires, and picked thousands of invasive Garlic Mustard Plants. Somehow, all the bag pickups along 2 miles of Springville were forgotten. So that was our morning…….picking up the bags of garbage people throw out of their cars onto the side of roads that are in the forest. Who does this? How, WHY does it happen? There were two bags of animal bones found in the ravines.

At least I got to come home to seeing a beautiful bird enjoying life on the feeder.

Animator vs Animation

Bloged in humor by mark Monday April 28, 2008

Courtesy of Alan Becker, I”ve learned how little imagination I have.

A Click on the little stick guy, takes you to his site. There, if you’re not afraid, you’ll watch him at war with some animation software…. Does he survive?

Animator vs. Animation by *alanbecker on deviantART

I’m exhausted.

Bird Watching – a love / hate bird

Bloged in birding,Nature,Pacific Northwest,Passerines by mark Sunday April 27, 2008



When we first arrived in 1996 and saw these I expressed my fascination with this intelligent, aggressive, beautifully shaded bird and a few neighbors said, “Well, uh, just wait a while, and see if you still feel the same……….” Twelve years later, I know what they were feeling.

They are here year round. Even more successfully than squirrels, these birds are known to found their stashed nuts/seeds at about a 75-80% recovery rate. Their vocabulary is quite remarkable….loud screeching to call in their family members, low caws to warn of a predator, hawk-call imitations sometimes known to clear out bird feeders so they have it to themselves when they arrive, and even MORE behaviors showing a smart animal is here. They can empty a feeder by getting jowls full before they leave, then storing the captured seed in nesting sites, and any other tree irregularity. So, yes, you have to LOVE the beauty and intelligence you’re watching at work.

But I said Love/Hate relationship. Just by its behavior of emptying feeders, they can be annoying but really they have evolved enough to nest, get the young fledged just about the time the fabulous songbirds are arriving for summer nesting. By the time songbirds are laying eggs, the Jays are now a full flock family of 3-5 or more birds that predate on the songbird nests. They can eat the eggs OR the live young…………. SO, involuntarily, I feel a little resentment when they are filling up out there on the deck, hauling food of to chicks just WAITING for my pals, the grosbreaks, finches, warblers, etc.

Whew! If you think nature is boring, you’re not looking closely enough.

The birds I REALLY dislike are the cowbirds that fly up here from the pastures / fields below just long enough to lay their own eggs in other birds nests. They’re entirely parasitic, so much so, that sometimes they’ll return to the nest they laid the egg in, and if they find the poor bird they invaded has gotten rid of their egg, they may destroy the other eggs to this bird will lay again…and hopefully raise the cowbird young. You can read more here: “The Cowbird

When I see THESE guys coming to feed, I can’t help but get up and get rid of them…………

On a higher note: SONGBIRDS ARE still arriving. House finches are here in big numbers now filling morning air with melodious trilling, rolling, musical calls. American Goldfinches are arriving in breeding color:

I know we’re not up to the numbers we will be in just 2-3 weeks yet, but we’re getting there. So, all in all, our bird population consists of:

Cooper’s Hawk –
**The last sighting was spectacular. He/She perched high in the cedar tree near the feeders instead of down at feeder level for the first time that WE noticed. A little junco got fooled, didn’t see the hawk, and landed on the deck. That hawk so masterfully, silently, and quickly was diving at that bird, grabbed, and turned in flight to coast off into the forest. Whew!

Band-Tailed Pidgeons (two pair)
**These clumsy big birds land on the feeders that are too small for them….flailing wings and all, they’ll feed a while. Our “local” gang count is now up to three.

Mourning Doves (two pair at least)
Anna’s Hummingbirds
**Confirmed now: We do have some fledgling Anna’s. Yeah!
Rufous Hummingbirds
**Feeding volume has grown from .1 quart daily to about .7 now, so they’re still arriving (also, the cold temps encourage more feeding too)

American Goldfinches – Have had a few males showing up, but the first joined pair were together feeding just last night.
Red-Breasted Sapsuckers
Downy Woodpeckers
Hairy Woodpeckers
Pileated Woodpeckers
Northern Flickers
**latest: TWO of them argued at the suet feeder….these are simply gorgeous spectacularly colored birds.
Stellar Jays – Yep, sometimes in a gang of 5-6.
Ruby Crowned Kinglet
Varied Thrush
**Is it the cold that is making us see them longer than usual, or are we just seeing northern migrants passing through?
American Robin
**A behavior we haven’t seen is happening….A Robin has begun feeding underneath the feeders…. .he/she is acting completely indifferent to everyone feeding down there except the Mourning Doves. The robin is aggressively going after the doves when they’re around. I gotta Google that behavior.
Pine Siskins
Black-capped Chicadee
Chestnut-backed Chicadee
Red-Breasted Nuthatch
American Crow
**They’re so much bigger than all the other birds, it’s startling when they’re on the deck.
House Finches
**As noted, gorgeous calling songs.
Purple Finches
Yellow Rumped Warbler
Spotted Towhee
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
**They’re finishing up the first batch of young, and doing mating dance/flights again where the white sidebards under the wings look quite nice.
And we await:
Evening Grosbeaks
Black Headed Grosbeaks * favorite….the most fabulous mate calling aroundblckhdedbrsbk
Hermit Thrushes

And I KNOW there will be others……………………….I haven’t learned them all yet, especially all the sparrow types.

Oh well………………………..

Australia Explains How American Presidents are Elected.

Bloged in Bush,Political by mark Friday April 25, 2008

I am becoming more and more convinced, the days of a Democracy have been gone a while.

As I’ve watched the 2008 Primaries roll along, I, and most people I know have resented what we’ve seen as more and more indifference by our “rulers” and the corporate managed Media to what I hear being said by the citizens.

Thanks Peter Mc for referring me to this, we finally got to see something worth watching in this election season. Make sure you stay for the LAST sound-bite…………. you’ll KNOW what I mean when you hear it, and no one I know, at least, will disagree with the claim made by this Australian Information Bit.

WELL ? I hope you share this video………………..

Chevrolet 1941-1948. Car-in-ravine Mystery solved

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Wednesday April 23, 2008

Neighbor Dave Sayler has solved the mystery of “what” car it is down in that ravine far below the house. It actually is sitting inside the boundaries of Forest Park. Now almost buried, this little tip of respect it will get, may be its last before it disappears. Dave went to the big Portland Car Swap a couple weekends ago and compared photos he’d taken with what he saw.

He determined it is an old Chevrolet, probably between the years 1941-1948. As I looked at these old beauties restored, and thought about the time in U.S. History these were made, I began to romanticize what life that little old car buried now in the ravine led. Here is was at it’s best:

It was driven around up here before good roads were here. It was driven around up here before Forest Park existed. When it was new, the only time the land that Forest Park is on was logged. Walking those trails now, you still see the last of those dying huge stumps falling away. The last time an old logging road was used was while it was still fairly new. So could it be, that the teenager took Dad’s new car out to that old remote and abandoned logging road, got the car stuck in winter muck, and had to walk home. A couple of days later, a tree or two collapsed around it, and the car was doomed to rest there forever.

Here are more evidence Dave captured:

the tailight:

On the restored car:
the fender:

a romantic old profile?


So what would it have been worth now had it been saved?

THANKS, DAVE for the pictures from the Swap Meet!!!!!

Ah, life was more interesting BEFORE people sat on couches watching a glass tube maybe?

Hummingbirds – Feeding on Cold Weekend

Bloged in birding,Hummingbirds by mark Monday April 21, 2008

The spring has been SO cool, wet, gray, I began to question whether many hummingbirds were coming back to nest….after all the Rufous populations are declining some in recent years. We LOVE their short stay here….how could you not?

Every Northwest spring however, often more than once, will face a duel with nature who attempts to bring winter back. When that happens, the value of feeding hummingbirds shows fabulous returns. It can literally save some lives. In the evenings, every bird in your neighborhood will try to take in as much as he/she can….they aren’t built to store food…the weight would interrupt their rapid flight.

When hummers first arrive, territories are set up by the males, who want to control every feeder. But in COLD evenings around dusk, a “truce” is often agreed upon, and survival needs take over. These are the evenings we see the rare event of “double dipping” at the feeder…sharing one port if the feeder is croded:

It’s a grand thing to watch:
Still, the little males are SO desperate to be “the one” whose genes survive. They are still beautiful as they scan for invaders:
Or defend a feeder:

Last year we captured this little male still cleaning off his tongue?

MORE later………….

So, at least ONE positive this weekend was seeing so MANY little birds, and it was thrilling. They ARE here, and more coming. I learned a few things, or got reminded of some at least.

If you’re intrigued, here you can read a well written scientific article about these birds from the Smithsonian at: “MIGRATORY BIRD CENTER

One concern we have………our orchard bees (Mason Bees) we’re just hatching in our last sun days, and since then……………we wonder. Will they survive and come out for all the blooms we’re getting now ……. in about 3-4 days when the temps should be back to normal?

Growing plants, Spring. What’s the weather forecast?

Bloged in garden,General Home Life,Pacific Northwest by mark Friday April 18, 2008

I took pictures of baby plants greening things up all over the yard that are up on their own. We’ve planted nothing. I had so many pictures, I knew I could only post a few of the nature showing up out there. I was amazed and invigorated. Surprised was I to realize our little plant-print is beginning to show itself even though from a distance glance, parts of the place still have a winter look.

But the perennials are hardy. Still, I had a little digital session to record April Plant looks around here…maybe so I can compare next year to this. Why would it matter? I’m WONDERING what they’ll look like after this weekend if the weather forecaster’s worst case pans out:

Lows – maybe a record low for this weekend, about 30 up here.
Moisture – SNOW (measurable) expected over 500 feet….up to 3 inches.

Even more than that, the Mason Bees have been coming out earlier in the week….then it has turned cold. ALL the blooms are here to feed them and they had to go back in to hibernate through the cold. I cleaned out the woodstove already, but hauled wood in this afternoon.

I WAS surprised at all the growth! There are SOME herbs ready to eat. I have come to LOVE the FRESH herbs for cooking all these next few months as much as anything we harvest in that little space:




Lovely French Fennel

Lovage…I don’t have to buy celery anymore for 4 months:

Green Onion

Rhubarb….1st pick in about 3 weeks?

Some favorite spring blooms are out or just beginning…… Thanks to Nancy’s donation, two currant plants are in peak bloom, and the Elderberry flowers are just budding:

This Ornamental Tree will be a cloud of white if it survives the pelting hail and snow (first strong hail just blew through here):

One of the ornamental plums is almost in full bloom:

Not all of our baby trees did so well this winter….the hemlock looks weak….it’s strong beautiful FIR that grows all around us so I don’t know what’s wrong with this spot it’s in:

The Sequoia we brought in either changes needle color in the winter, or it’s not healthy…but MAYBE it’s the season….I’ll hope for that:

No matter what happens, I brought out our $20 greenhouse (oh what a beauty it is):

and will have some lettuce, etc….started in their by next week. I’ll have some starts from the nursery IN the ground.

I hope it warms up so our little Orchard Bees will be around for the soon to bloom Apple Trees. Oh well…. that’s gardening in Oregon. You just have to have a little faith.

As I’ve written this, the skies have dropped a little hail storm, and it actually IS snowing out there. Our first snow shower has happened.

Worthy Books:

Bloged in BOOKS worthy of a Read by mark Friday April 18, 2008

I have gotten worthy reading material from others, and once I did, decided I too would note when I have read something I truly loved, or felt it had content that needed attention. Here’s my latest loved book:

Bill Holm
I know, I know. Fabulous poetic writing, Minnesotan, Icelandic, sometimes I wondered if this would hold my interest. It did. THIS book, is fabulous if you have ANY connection for any reason to life in any small American town:


This is a collection of his thoughts on families, family history but there’s more. “The Music of Failure” was one of the most inspired things my spirit’s felt for a long time.

I am enjoying a light read of Dan Savage‘s columns packaged into: “The Commitment“, the story of he and partner Terry’s 10 year journey into a marriage…… this involves their 6 year old adopted son. Savage is an entertaining writer, from Chicago, and this is enjoyable topical reading. Almost makes me think an adoption would have been okay …… when I was much younger.

—-I’m about to read the new book of Chris Hedges, the rebel Presbyterian author ….who’se been exposing the fundamentalists for what they are: American Fascists.

That was his last book I read and loved. The new one I’ve ordered: I DON’T BELIEVE IN ATHEISTS . This directly explains how the new Fundamentalism and Democracy are in a collision course.

I hope I hear from someone about your new favorite read.

Ode to a Bushtit

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Wednesday April 16, 2008

We spent a wonderful evening in Lake O with cousin Nancy M and cousin Nancy P (who was visiting from Seattle). They and I are all about the same age……..and all from that little ranching bit of S.E. Oregon. We always have a good time when we’re together. Nancy M is creative and beginning to pen a few thoughts and I thought this little “ode” pretty fabulous:

What’s in a Name?
(Ode to a Bushtit)
A twittering bevy of bushtits
just settled on my suet.
An unfortunate name, bushtit.
What kind of smutty excuse
for a name is bushtit?
No matter, it is a favorite
of my backyard birder friends.
Miniature puffs of sociable grey
with jaunty beaks and turned up tails,
an amicable jolly crowd.
Being a bushtit precludes
being the object of a love poem.
Nightingale, now that’s a romantic name.
Larks, doves, even mockingbirds
inspire poetry.
But for everyone’s favorite
chattering bit of fluff —

To a lovely speck of nature we always welcome. Yes, a tribute to such a favorite tiny little bird we periodically see arrive in flocks lightly “cheeping” all together, feeding on the suet. They are delight when they arrive.

**AND. We watched a pair of Yellow Rumped Warblers at the suet yesterday. Another tiny bird that is beautifully marked, and not often seen. It is more commonly seen farther north….another bird liking to go to Canada for safety, eh?

**AND. We have seen a little male American Goldfinch dressed out for mating as soon as his girls arrive….seems he’s setting up a territory right near the feeder:
Even though we’re still too cool to quit whining, a sure sign of spring are the racemes formed by the maples for pollination leading to the creation of the millions of helicopter Maple seeds:
Yes, all the big maples are now flowering………….. Hostas are breaking through the ground, I “must” believe there will be a bit of warmer spring in our future somewhere. Current forecasts are calling for a possible record breaking low-temp by Saturday morning with a dusting of snow up here. Whew!

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