Tag Archives: birds

Red-Tailed Devil Vulture

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So, here’s another bird that I saw at the Renaissance Faire south of Atlanta.  This bird was laying in wait for me. I’d not seen it at all until I was walking out the door over which it was perched.

My first reaction was that it was a hummingbird, but when I inquired of the bird handler nearby, I told them I thought it could be a red-tailed devil vulture.  The way it was looking at me, I could have believed it…it looked like it was hoping I’d drop dead so it could devour my corpse on the spot! Do you see how it was eye-balling me?!?!?!  And look at those talons!!!!  I suppose that if he discovered I was still breathing he would have punctured my heart and finished me off!!!

Seriously, though…does anyone know what kind of bird this is?

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1865, Jefferson Davis, president of the fallen Confederate government, was captured with his wife and entourage near Irwinville, Georgia, by a detachment of Union General James H. Wilson’s cavalry.

On April 2, 1865, with the Confederate defeat at Petersburg, Virginia imminent, General Robert E. Lee informed President Davis that he could no longer protect Richmond and advised the Confederate government to evacuate its capital. Davis and his cabinet fled to Danville, Virginia, and with Robert E. Lee’s surrender on April 9, deep into the South. Lee’s surrender of his massive Army of Northern Virginia effectively ended the Civil War, and during the next few weeks the remaining Confederate armies surrendered one by one. Davis was devastated by the fall of the Confederacy. Refusing to admit defeat, he hoped to flee to a sympathetic foreign nation such as Britain or France, and was weighing the merits of forming a government in exile when he was arrested by a detachment of the 4th Michigan Cavalry.

A certain amount of controversy surrounds his capture, as Davis was wearing his wife’s black shawl when the Union troops cornered him. The Northern press ridiculed him as a coward, alleging that he had disguised himself as a woman in an ill-fated attempt to escape. However, Davis, and especially his wife, Varina, maintained that he was ill and that Varina had lent him her shawl to keep his health up during their difficult journey.

Imprisoned for two years at Fort Monroe, Virginia, Davis was indicted for treason, but was never tried–the federal government feared that Davis would be able prove to a jury that the Southern secession of 1860 to 1861 was legal. Varina worked determinedly to secure his freedom, and in May 1867 Jefferson Davis was released on bail, with several wealthy Northerners helping him pay for his freedom.

After a number of unsuccessful business ventures, he retired to Beauvoir, his home near Biloxi, Mississippi, and began writing his two-volume memoir The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (1881). He died in 1889 and was buried at New Orleans; four years later, his body was moved to its permanent resting spot in Richmond, Virginia.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Artillery barrage and mines created immense noise. In 1917, explosives blowing up beneath the German lines on Messines Ridge at Ypres in Belgium could be heard in London 140 miles (220 km) away.

Screamin’ Pink Meanies…

You wouldn’t usually expect to see exotic birds at a Renaissance Faire. I certainly didn’t.  But at the Georgia Renaissance Faire two weekends ago, we saw several. An aviary had been created there that was raising money for the care of the birds, I think. There were numerous beautiful birds and I shot several photos that I’ll share in the next few days.

I’m not a “birder”, but my wife is. I must confess, however, that birds can be among the most beautiful of the creatures in nature.

This particular bird (I can’t recall it’s name) was the star of the exhibition. He seemed to delight in hanging by his beak and then screaming at the top of his little birdy lungs!  He even posed for this first picture for me…and I’ll include a second so you can see him hanging by his beak while screaming (I will spare you the noise, which I didn’t record).

Here he is posing and seemingly smiling at the camera:

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…and here he is screamin’ his little pink head off while hanging by his beak…

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This rascal was L.O.U.D.!!!!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in London, in 1671, Thomas Blood, an Irish adventurer better known as “Captain Blood,” was captured attempting to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London.

Blood, a Parliamentarian during the English Civil War, was deprived of his estate in Ireland with the restoration of the English monarchy in 1660. In 1663, he put himself at the head of a plot to seize Dublin Castle from supporters of King Charles II, but the plot was discovered and his accomplices executed. He escaped capture. In 1671, he hatched a bizarre plan to steal the new Crown Jewels, which had been refashioned by Charles II because most of the original jewels were melted down after Charles I’s execution in 1649.

On May 9, 1671, Blood, disguised as a priest, managed to convince the Jewel House keeper to hand over his pistols. Blood’s three accomplices then emerged from the shadows, and together they forced their way into the Jewel House. However, they were caught in the act when the keeper’s son showed up unexpectedly, and an alarm went out to the Tower guard. One man shoved the Royal Orb down his breeches while Blood flattened the Crown with a mallet and tried to run off with it. The Tower guards apprehended and arrested all four of the perpetrators, and Blood was brought before the king. Charles was so impressed with Blood’s audacity that, far from punishing him, he restored his estates in Ireland and made him a member of his court with an annual pension.

Captain Blood became a colorful celebrity all across the kingdom, and when he died in 1680 his body had to be exhumed in order to persuade the public that he was actually dead.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The largest item found on any menu is roasted camel which is still served at some Bedouin weddings and was offered by royalty in Morocco several hundred years ago. The camel is cleaned and then stuffed with one whole lamb, 20 chickens, 60 eggs, and 110 gallons of water, among other ingredients.

…and the Cardinal?

Double click for a larger version
Double click for a larger version

Did you hear the one about the bird feeder and the cardinal?  Nah, me neither.  But I just thought I’d share this picture of a cardinal I shot about a week ago on our bird feeder.  Pretty birds…one of my favorites!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1994, in a ceremony presided over by England’s Queen Elizabeth II and French President Francois Mitterand, a rail tunnel under the English Channel was officially opened, connecting Britain and the European mainland for the first time since the Ice Age.

The channel tunnel, or “Chunnel,” connects England with France, 31 miles away. The Chunnel cut travel time between England and France to a swift 35 minutes and eventually between London and Paris to a mere two-and-a-half hours.

As the world’s longest undersea tunnel, the Chunnel runs under water for 23 miles, with an average depth of 150 feet below the seabed. Each day, about 30,000 people, 6,000 cars and 3,500 trucks journey through the Chunnel on passenger, shuttle and freight trains.

Millions of tons of earth were moved to build the two rail tunnels–one for northbound and one for southbound traffic–and one service tunnel. Fifteen thousand people were employed at the peak of construction. Ten people were killed during construction.

Napoleon’s engineer, Albert Mathieu, planned the first tunnel under the English Channel in 1802, envisioning an underground passage with ventilation chimneys that would stretch above the waves. In 1880, the first real attempt was made by Colonel Beaumont, who bore a tunnel more than a mile long before abandoning the project. Other efforts followed in the 20th century, but none on the scale of the tunnels begun in June 1988.

The Chunnel’s $16 billion cost was roughly twice the original estimate, and completion was a year behind schedule. One year into service, Eurotunnel announced a huge loss, one of the biggest in United Kingdom corporate history at the time. A scheme in which banks agreed to swap billions of pounds worth of loans for shares saved the tunnel from going under and it showed its first net profit in 1999.

Freight traffic was suspended for six months after a fire broke out on a lorry in the tunnel in November 1996. Nobody was seriously hurt in the incident.

In 1996, the American Society of Civil Engineers identified the tunnel as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  President James Garfield could write Latin with one hand and Greek with the other hand simultaneously.  (I feel like a chump….I can’t write either with any hand!!!!)

…from the Birdies

Double click for a larger version of the image.
Double click for a larger version of the image.

I enjoy playing golf.  I’ve not played a real round of golf for nearly a year and a half, if not two years.  That’s not good, but my golf buddies all live about 2450 miles away.  My game has, I’m sure, totally fallen apart.  Sometimes I debate whether or not I should even keep my clubs or get rid of them.

But I do remember how the game is played.  It is interesting that in golf, there are names for taking more shots than “par”: bogeys (which is not a flying airplane, but taking one more shot than you should on a hole), double-bogeys (taking two shots more than you should), etc.  But what’s really interesting is that taking less shots on a hole than “par” are named for feathered beings: birdie (one shot under par), an eagle (two shots under par)…and well, if you are three shots under par on a single hole, well, let’s just say that you must walk on water in your spare time.  Why birdies?  I don’t know!  Why not call them after breeds of hogs: Duroc, Berkshire, etc.?

I have had some birdies in my life – even an eagle or two.  But I find it is much easier to shoot birdies with my camera…like today’s photo.  This, I believe, is a house finch.  We often see gold finches, too.

My wife, who has really gotten into birds, was pointing out to me that the male gold finches change colors as it gets closer to mating season.  There were two on the feeder just yesterday.  One was still fairly brownish, but definitely had color, and the other was a bright yellow.  She told me that the males get more colorful and attractive as mating season gets closer and closer.  I hadn’t known that.

Maybe young guys who are looking to impress a fine young lady in the hopes of getting her to marry him could take a lesson from the birds.  Pull those pants up so they aren’t hanging down below your rear, and show the young lady that you respect her by respecting how you present yourself!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  one hundred and fifty years ago (1865), the final campaign of the Civil War began in Virginia when Union troops under General Grant moved against the Confederate trenches around Petersburg. General Robert E. Lee’s outnumbered Rebels were forced to evacuate the city and race westward.

Eleven months earlier, Grant moved his army across the Rapidan River in northern Virginia and began the bloodiest campaign of the war. For six weeks, Lee and Grant fought along an arc that swung east of the Confederate capital at Richmond. They engaged in some of the conflict’s bloodiest battles at The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor before settling into trenches for a siege of Petersburg, 25 miles south of Richmond. The trenches eventually stretched all the way to Richmond, and during the ensuing months the armies glared at each other across a no man’s land. Periodically, Grant launched attacks against sections of the Rebel defenses, but Lee’s army managed to fend them off.

Time was running out for Lee, though. His army was dwindling in size to about 55,000, while Grant’s continued to grow–the Army of the Potomac now had more than 125,000 men ready for service. On March 25, Lee attempted to split the Union lines when he attacked Fort Stedman, a stronghold along the Yankee trenches. His army was beaten back, and he lost nearly 5,000 men. On March 29, Grant seized the initiative, sending 12,000 men past the Confederates’ left flank and threatening to cut Lee’s escape route from Petersburg. Fighting broke out there, several miles southwest of the city. Lee’s men could not stop the Federal advance. On April 1, the Yankees struck at Five Forks, soundly defeating the Rebels and leaving Lee no alternative. He pulled his forces from their trenches and raced west, followed by Grant. It was a race that even the great Lee could not win. He surrendered his army on April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Court House.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Somewhere between 50% to 75% of drunk drivers who have their licenses suspended for DUI convictions continue to drive without a license.

Painted Bird

He’s b-a-a-a-a-c-c-c-k-k-k!  Maybe you’ve been wondering where I’ve been the past 2 days (I missed making blog posts!), but probably you didn’t wonder at all.  Anyway, I’ve been busy and we’ve been out-of-town for part of the time.  But, I’m here now and you’re stuck with me again as I resume my daily photo blog post to share what’s going on in my life.  Aren’t you thrilled!?!?!?!

I don’t know if there are any other species of animal that are as widely or brightly colored as birds.  I supposed that fish may rival them for color and variety, but a beautifully feathered bird is truly a delight.

Saturday evening, my wife and I attended the 80th birthday party for a dear friend, one of the founders of Triad Systems Corporation, the high-tech company I worked for from 1977 through early 2003.  It was a most wonderful and delightful party as I got to see many friends and former co-workers that I’d not seen or spoken to for, in some cases, decades.  It caused me to realize how much I love all those folks and all that we shared as we, quite literally, grew up together in the work world.  It was a special company because of the moral, ethical and professional approach that the founders instilled in the company and the employees.  We were a company, but even more, a family who genuinely cared for and loved one another.  Even when we had differences (and they were sometimes strong ones), we treated each other with respect.  It was a unique place and I will cherish those people and experiences for as long as I live.  My only regret is that the party last night had to come to an end and we had to part ways again.  I wish we could have just stayed for the rest of our lives.  There wasn’t nearly enough time to talk with all those I wanted to talk with, to catch up and share our lives once again.

Enough of that…the party had a safari theme.  Not just with what some of the guests wore, but exotic animals were brought in, too: a zebra, lemur, tropical birds, and believe it or not, a 26-year old elephant that carried in the birthday boy himself!  I had taken my camera to shoot pictures of my friends (and to send a copy of them all to the birthday boy as a reminder of the celebration!) and so I got pictures of some of the animals, too, including the bird that is today’s photo post.  They were so colorful….I just couldn’t resist!

One of God's works of art...painted by God Himself!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1974, Cass Elliot, otherwise known as Mama Cass of the singing group “The Mama’s and the Papa’s” died in London.  She was a heavy woman, and though there were rumors that she died while choking on a ham sandwich, the official autopsy said she died of a heart attack brought about by her obesity.  What a great sound they had!!!!  I enjoy their music even to this day.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: remember those long, drawn-out Monopoly games?  The world record for the longest Monopoly game is 1,680 hours – and in case you are wondering…that’s 70 DAYS!

Questions I’d Answer If I Could Fly

Who hasn’t dreamed of flying?  I suspect we all have.  I wonder why that dream is so widespread?  Perhaps it is because we have souls caged in bodies that long to be free and fly.

Most of my flying dreams are really pleasant.  I often dream that all I have to do to fly is to just think about floating and then my body will begin to float up to the ceiling, the top of a tree, or wherever I desire to go.  Alas, I’ve never YET been able to make it work in real life.  Maybe some day…who knows???

Today I’m sharing another picture I shot at the Grand Canyon.  Just after we got to the edge on the south side of the canyon, we pulled out the cameras and started shooting.  As we shot, there were some large birds that were circling and rising on an updraft.  They looked as if they were enjoying themselves immensely.

As I watched them, I couldn’t help but wonder if when a bird perches on the edge of the rim or on a tree above the canyon and then they push off with their tiny feet and spread their wings…I wonder if they ever get nervous when they look down.   I wonder if they ever worry that “This time my wings won’t work,” or “This time gravity will be too much and I may plummet thousands of feet to my death.”  I suspect they never think about that, but what do I know?  Does a bird that is flying across the canyon worry that they’ll tire out before they reach the other side?  Again, I don’t know.  Perhaps we get so used to doing what we do that we all take it for granted – birds included.

Anyway, as I shot pictures all day, I was nearly paralyzed when I’d get close to the edge, or even when I’d be out on a railed-in precipice and the wind would come HOWLING across the outcropping.  It is terrifying.  I don’t think I’d do well as a bird…that is, if they have such fears.  Such are the questions I’d answer if I could fly.

Would a bird be afraid to take off from here? I would be!!!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1972, Bernice Gera, baseball’s first woman umpire, called balls and strikes in her first game as an ump.  She resigned a few hours later.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: when collecting poisonous and non-poisonous mushrooms, they should never be collected together as some poisonous mushrooms can contaminate with the slightest touch.

Winged Flight

Today I beheld a wonder!  Every time I see it, I am amazed and transfixed!  It seems that every fall/winter here in the wine country, once the grapes are harvested and the crush has taken place, there are massive flocks of birds that fly in amazingly dense groupings over the vineyards.  I suspect that they’re harvesting whatever was left on the vines or on the ground, or that they’re feasting on the stems, seeds, etc., that are the byproduct of the crush that are arranged in long rows upon the ground to compost and be used as enrichments to the soil for the coming season.

I don’t know how these thousands upon thousands of birds fly in such tight formations.  Today, there were thousands and thousands flying in one huge flock.  I couldn’t even begin to capture the entire flock in the camera, even with the shortest focal length I could manage on my camera.  But, I took pictures anyway.  There are times they fly so tightly packed and turn so sharply that they appear like some kind of fractal design dreamed up and programmed on a computer – and when they do this, the shapes twist and turn, rise and dive, operating freely in a three-dimensional world.  As I listened to their chirping and cheeping, I knew for certain that they are full of joy!!!!  As I watched them, I thought of this poem about the joys of winged flight…

Be still, my soul, in silence hark

To raptured sons of pure delight

From spring-birds on their winged flight,

The mellow flute of meadow-lark

With sequent notes rings clear and light,

And breaks the spell of Winter’s night’

Oh, join in song, my soul!

The red-wings on the brown marsh gleam,

Their intermingled pipes are heard

In golden concert registered;

The peoebe haunts the woodland stream,

One listening brooks its song’s conferred

And sweet the cadence of its word;

Oh, join in song, my soul!

The grass-finch in the twilight sings

The somber song of closing day,

He sings the passing sun to stay;

The white-throat sparrow’s carolings

Reflect the joy of runaway

From unloved climes, a bird’s hurray,

Oh, join in song, my soul!

The robins and the blue-birds call,

The very cheeps rich melody,

The echoes mock the chickadee;

The God of Spring hath sent them all,

And in their tuneful harmony

My future Spring sings out to me;

Oh, join in song, my soul!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to capture one of their “fractal”-like moments, but this photo of a very small group of the birds will help you understand how many there were!

“Look at the birds.  They don’t need to plant or harvest or put food in barns because your heavenly Father feeds them.  And you are far more valuable to Him than they are.” – Jesus, Matthew 6:26

The Joy of Winged Flight

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: On this day in 1936, the first edition of LIFE magazine hit the stands and instantly sold out.  The cover photo was a picture of an obstetrician slapping a new-born baby on the behind with the caption, “LIFE begins!”

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: ENIAC, the first electronic computer, appeared 50 years ago.  The original ENIAC was about 80 feet long, weighed 30 tons, and had 17,000 vacuum tubes.  By comparison, a modern desktop computer today can store a million times more information than ENIAC did, and operates 50,000 times faster!