A new season, A new bird

When I was a kid, well, really until my late twenties, I knew a new season had arrived based on obvious clues:

CLUES FROM THE WEATHER

Spring: It’s going to stop snowing any day now. It has to. It can’t go from 78 and sunny one day, to 36 and dreary the next. Wait, yes it can (see fall weather).

spring snow

What spring looks like in Denver
(Image courtesy Warren Brown via Flickr)

Summer: Someone please find me a shade tree. STAT. I think my skin is melting off.

I thought an image of my skin melting would be too icky, so I used this pic instead.

I thought an image of my skin melting would be too icky, so I used this pic instead.
(Image courtesy Steve Hankin via Flickr)

Fall: Uh, oh. It’s gonna get cold. Any day now. And it will happen like this: Monday – 70 degrees, Tuesday – 64, Wednesday – 72. Maybe winter won’t come? Thursday – 74. Friday – 69. Saturday 28 degrees! HA! Take that beautiful fall weather!

Denver Snow

How I see fall and winter in Denver. (Like I’ve said before, I do exaggerate sometimes)

Winter: Did someone move Colorado to the North Pole when I wasn’t looking? *Reference same picture as above*

CLUES BASED ON THE SCHOOL YEAR

Fall: Crap school is starting. How many weeks until my next break?

back to school

Image courtesy USAG – Humphreys via Flickr

Winter: At least we have two weeks off for Christmas. And they won’t expect us to do any work the two weeks before either. It’s like a whole month off!

advent calendar

How a kid sees the month of December
(Courtesy Rene MT via Flickr)

Spring: A week-long break for what? I don’t know. Just to celebrate spring? I’ll take it.

spring break

Image via Daniel Ramirez via Flickr

Summer: Utter and complete, joyous freedom!

(Courtesy Craigfinlay via Flickr)

(Courtesy Craigfinlay via Flickr)

CLUES FROM TV COMMERICALS

Spring: In three months I’ll be able to ditch the mittens and go to the pool and have water gun fights just like the folks on TV. Until then it’s just cruel to show people having summer fun. Oh and don’t forget to do your Christmas shopping.

Pool

Image courtesy David Goehring via Flickr

Summer: Why are you already advertising notebooks and colored pencils? It’s July for crying out loud. I hate you Wal-Mart. And by the way, school supplies can make great Christmas presents too.

Colored pencils

Image courtesy Luxt Designs via Flickr

Fall: It’s Christmas time! Really? I thought it was the end of October. All right, put away the scarecrow and pumpkins. I didn’t really want to give thanks anyway.

Christmas in October

Image courtesy Jo Naylor via Flickr

Winter: Now that Christmas is over, there are still more things to buy. And they’ll be on sale. Really, you should just start shopping for Christmas now.

Christmas ad

Image courtesy e r j k p r u n c z y k via Flickr

Now that I’m a bit older, I notice more than the clues above. I notice the little things–small details that my self-absorbed, youthful self never noticed. It’s funny how once the world stops revolving around you, you notice more of the world around you.

In the spring, I never noticed the first shoots of green emerging from the earth, or the first ladybug babies snacking on aphids. My younger self only noticed the obvious. It was getting warmer and lighter.

In the summer, I never noticed how certain perennials thrived in the 100 degree heat, while others wilted and browned. My younger self noticed it was hot.

In the fall, I saw the leaves turn and knew it was getting colder.

But now I have a new way of knowing fall is here. In addition to the fact that it’s cold, sometimes snowy, and apparently already Christmas, I know summer is behind us because of a small migratory bird. A bird that I never noticed before. In all honesty, I didn’t notice many birds when I was young, and probably could have only identified five that lived in Colorado.

But as I grew older things such as birds started to interest me, so I studied up on all the little guys that frequented my feeder.  The one I’m talking about today is the Dark-eyed Junco.

Snow Junco

These little guys arrive in Denver every fall and hang out under our feeder or our shrubs happily eating millet or whatever else they scrounge up. And then, one day in  spring, they all take flight and head north or to the mountains for the summer.

Last Monday, the first teeny, tiny snowflakes fell in the city. It was the same day I noticed the first pair of Juncos in the backyard.

That night I asked my husband to guess who I saw in the backyard. With some prompting (they come every winter, I’m talking about a bird, with dark eyes and their name begins with J) he finally got it.

My younger self would have relied on the snowflakes to know fall was here and winter was coming. Today, I don’t need the flakes. The Juncos are fair warning.

What are your favorite clues the seasons are changing? Do you notice things you never used to? Are you finished with your Christmas shopping? Do you exaggerate how cold or hot it is? Are you secretly happy when the back to school commercials begin? Please, share your thoughts!

Less Wordy Wednesday – A conversation between seals

Here comes Less Wordy Wednesday! Today I’m featuring a group of critters who popped out of the water to brighten your day. See the captions below to find out what they’re really thinking or saying to each other.

We’ll start with one of my favorites–the seal. These photos were taken in La Jolla, CA and by the number of pics I’ve posted you can tell they weren’t camera shy.

fuzzy seal

Oh, great. Look over there Stella, Bob’s having trouble pulling himself onto the rocks. Am I going to have to help him … AGAIN? Jeez, I just got dry.

climbing seal

I can do this. I can. I just wish everyone would stop staring. It’s the kelp. Yeah, it’s the kelp’s fault. It’s just so slippery. Hey, is Leroy laughing?

laughing seal

Bob, buddy, you’ve gotta hit the gym. Maybe do a few push-ups or something. You’re like a limp fish over there. Even the mollusks are laughing at you.

Another character that was all too happy to pose for the camera, although we were a little fearful, is the Louisiana Alligator.

Scary gator

I’m not hungry, just bored. Lean a little further this way…

Um, this was not taken with a zoom lens. We were in a small boat out in Cajun Country and our guide reassured us that it was too cold for the gators to eat (it was February). Right after that he informed us the gator could be in our boat in seconds if he really wanted to. Very reassuring. I will say he didn’t move at all, I’m not even sure he blinked. Different from the ones we’ve seen kayaking in Georgia and the Carolinas, but that’s a whole other story.

And now, the best for last. They’re not really the prettiest creatures and they’re not really hard to come by. The experience was just so bizarre I had to include it. The carp at The Spillway in Pymatuning State Park, PA.

spillway sign

carp

I love bread. Me too! Especially when it’s devoid of all nutrients! Hey, does anyone up there have Twinkies? Ooh, yeah. Or Cheetos. Those are my favorite.

This is an actual attraction listed in my travel book. People flock here to toss bread to the carp that have found themselves hanging out in the spillway. The carp become so thick that ducks supposedly walk across their backs trying to nab a bite of bread. We did not get to witness this, but it was still somewhat entertaining.

Bread is sold along the highway and even at the local liquor store. From what I understand, a few years back the parks people became concerned with the nutritional deficiencies that could be caused by eating loaves upon loaves of Wonder Bread. They decided to install those pellet machines, where you can by a handful of pellets for a quarter. Well, I guess the people were not having this–they wanted to toss bread and bread alone.

Thanks for checking out my photos!

I’d love to hear what you have to say. Any interesting animal encounters? How about your own caption for the gator or seals? Or leave a comment with anything else that jumps to mind 🙂

Being a squirrel momma: a tale of hope, love and exhaustion

I was inside lounging on the couch, sipping a cool glass of ice tea, when my husband stopped his yard work and bounded into the house, beet red and sweaty.

“Oh dear, it looks hot out there,” I said, squeezing more lemon into my tea.

“Why, yes it is,” he said, wiping the sweat from his brow. He turned and pointed to the pine tree. “But, you must come quick. There is something you have to see.”

My fingers loosened on the lemon, letting it slip into the glass. Whatever could it be?

I followed him to our big pine tree and the baby squirrel squirming just below it. Upon seeing him I knew exactly what I must do: search the Internet for exactly what to do.

Isn't he a cutie?

Isn’t he a cutie?

First I needed to try to reunite him with mommy. I scooped him up, warmed him, and set him near the base of the tree.

I waited. I drank more tea. I waited some more. Then I had a glass of wine. Where was she? I had another glass of wine and cursed the terrible rodent mother. Now it was dark and my squirrel was still an orphan.

I had called all of the animal rehabbers in town and everyone was full. So I plucked up the little bundle and sent my hubby out for supplies.

That night, I slept in the spare room with Pinkie. I named him that because baby squirrels are born with light pink skin and don’t have fur yet. Hence, they are called pinkies in the squirrel loving community. You’re impressed with my creativity. I know it…

I woke up every two hours to hydrate Pinkie with Pedialyte, using a 1cc syringe. I don’t have an actual picture so here is a recreation:

Okay, so it's a stuffed animal and a lemur. It's the best I could do...

Okay, so it’s a stuffed animal and a lemur. It’s the best I could do…

I also helped him potty. I was going to recreate this, but I thought I would spare you the horror.

And I made sure his shoebox was half on the heating blanket, and half off in case he needed to roll away from the heat. I was doting, what can I say?

So, it looks a little cramped. But you get the idea.

Yes, his shoebox looks a little cramped. But you get the idea.

In the morning I tried to reunite momma and baby again. But momma never came.

When it was dark, I went out to get puppy formula. Everyone online recommended Fox Valley formula, but that had to be ordered and then delivered. There was no time for that!  He’d been without nourishment for over 24 hours now, and that’s significant amount of time when you typically eat every few hours.

Well, Pinkie must have been famished because he loved it. No, I can’t read squirrels minds. But he made squeaking sounds when the syringe was pulled away and fought with his still rubbery fingernails to bring the syringe back to his mouth. So, I’m pretty sure it was at least palatable.

I woke up every two hours to feed him, and by morning I was exhausted and fully appreciative of all the momma squirrels out there, even Pinkie’s degenerate one.

My next step, besides trying to convince one my cats to foster this thing, was figuring out what to do about work. Not only would they frown on an infant squirrel in my office, I required more than a couple of hours sleep each night.

Pinkie after one of his late night feedings.

Pinkie after one of his late night feedings.

So, I called the only person left who I thought could help, an independent rehabber I’d met a couple weeks prior during a marmot rescue (another story for another day). I knew squirrels weren’t really his thing, but I thought he might know someone who could help­—and he did.

My husband and I packaged up Pinkie and headed north.

“You know,” I said to my hubby, “this woman will likely be crazy.” I stroked Pinkie along his tiny back. “I mean, how many people do you know running a squirrel orphanage out of their house?”

Twenty minutes later we were there. It looked normal enough, though the neighbors’ stares lingered as we walked up the driveway with Pinkie’s shoebox.

At least five and a half dogs greeted us at the door. The back room housed a variety of creatures including a toothless cat. Outside, chickens frolicked with bunnies. According to the woman, a raccoon she had rescued years ago still lived under her deck. It was both frightening and endearing at the same time, so many animals coexisting in one house.

Pinkie’s new home was already set up with lots of cozy blankets. She looked him over before setting him in the glass enclosure. Over the phone she’d been concerned about his survival—young little pinkies usually don’t fare so well. But, after seeing him, she was confident he was going to make it.

I left Pinkie that afternoon and never contacted the woman again. I don’t know if he made it or not. It was easier that way. It’s easier to picture him all grown up, hopping with the bunnies and taunting the toothless cat. It’s easier to think I did the right thing, that I helped save a little life.

How I picture Pinkie today.

How I picture Pinkie today.

**Disclaimer** There are many websites that provide guidance on caring for baby squirrels. The best thing for a baby squirrel is to be with its mother. A baby squirrel is very fragile and requires meticulous, constant care to thrive. In my case, I tried to reunite my squirrel with his mother and then tried to find a rescue group with staff trained in animal rehabilitation. Unfortunately, I was not able to do either of these things and so I took it upon myself to care for this squirrel. I did extensive research before I began feeding my baby and I was still terrified I might hurt the little creature. That being said, I felt I had no other choice. I would either be a foster mom or this little baby would die. Please, if you find an orphaned baby squirrel try to reunite it with its mother. There are resources online that will give you pointers on how best to do this. If this doesn’t work,  try to get your baby to a licensed/trained rehabilitator. This will be the squirrel’s best chance at survival. Lastly, in some states, it can be illegal to keep and care for a wild animal.