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June 18, 2009

Birds are Weird

So I'm minding my own business, knee deep in the thrilling world of Apache mod-rewrite directives, when I hear a soft, rhythmical 'plop'.

Plop. Plop. Plop. Plop.

I look around my office but the Savage Weiner Beast is fast asleep inside my sweater, which he pulled off the daybed. His head is inside one sleeve and the body of the sweater is artfully wrapped around his torso, leaving only his butt and one hind leg exposed. He is snoring softly into the elbow of my left sleeve.

OK. Dogs are weird too.

Finally I manage to extricate myself from the lurid charms of Notepad++ and decide to investigate. Trudge down the hall towards the kitchen sipping a cup of coffee along the way.


A flash of red catches my eye. My kitchen door has solid panels on the bottom. The upper half is a single, paneless window. Since we live in the woods, we had all paneless windows put in so the view of the woods and lake would be unobstructed. A large male robin is flying into the top window of my kitchen door, bouncing off, then flying over to land momentarily on the railing of the long deck outside the kitchen door before again hurling himself like a tiny missile at my kitchen door.

Plop. Plop. "You want a piece of this?"



I trudge back down the hall to my office, step over the dog's butt, and sit down. Doubtless it is only a matter of time before that cheeky male 'pecker commences to drumming for lady woodpeckers using my chimney as a sounding board. We're under siege out here in Western Maryland.

Nature is out of control. If that unbearably perky little ribbon snake living in my stone wall starts up, I'm outta here.

Posted by Cassandra at June 18, 2009 08:27 AM

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Maybe you should look into mod_block_bird.c or mod_it's_five_oclock_somewhere.c

At least Snasuage has sleep() debugged. =8^}

Whoops... Apologies for the residual geek seepage.

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at June 18, 2009 11:16 AM

Soft, rhythmical plop, plop, plop, plops around here herald the arrival of 2-ounce raindrops passing through 5,000 feet of dust suspended in the atmosphere, resulting in 4-ounce mudballs impacting at terminal velocity.

They keep the scorpions under cover, though...

Posted by: BillT at June 18, 2009 11:17 AM

Dang Bill,

Those plop, plop, plops stimulate a response composed of metallic ,particulate matter, returned to seed the clouds and smite the responsible hill&sand locust, I trust?

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at June 18, 2009 11:25 AM

I used to love the smell of rain in the desert when I lived in soCal. I wonder if it smells the same way in Kirkuk?

It was a wonderful, spicy scent - very faint but unmistakable.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 18, 2009 11:33 AM

Uhhh, spicy would be an interesting way to describe middle eastern desert/rain smell... :-)

Posted by: Pogue at June 18, 2009 11:44 AM

I was afraid of that.

In the high desert in California, it smells faintly of sage and juniper and ozone. I gather where you've been... not so much :p

Posted by: Cassandra at June 18, 2009 11:49 AM

Hmmm... Having never experienced 2-ounce rain drops, at least above freezing, I assumed that Bill was being allegoric.

Learn something new every day. Even at my age. =8^/

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at June 18, 2009 12:05 PM

In the high desert here, it smells faintly of dust and unburned jet fuel and sulphur and burning plastic and high-explosive residue and fried macadam and just a hint of airborne particulates from the septic field.

You might describe it as spicy in the sense that Secaucus at low tide is spicy...

Posted by: BillT at June 18, 2009 12:09 PM

That is not intoxicating, Bill. At least not in a good way :)

Posted by: Cassandra at June 18, 2009 12:14 PM

Intoxication is prohibited by General Odor Number One...

Posted by: BillT at June 18, 2009 12:44 PM

yikes! The wild things are rebelling! One nutty robin at a time...

Personally, I love the nutty little birds. I set up a feed in our backyard to attract them, even. In the beginning of spring it was awesome. We had robins, blue jays, cardinals, blue birds and these tiny cute grey things with white rings around their eyes.

Now, though, the wee birdies are all gone. In their place we have two very loud, giant hawks. Which are cool to watch, but lack somewhat in cuteness.

Posted by: Jewels at June 18, 2009 12:45 PM

Robins are famous for this type of behavior. One year we had a robin who constantly attacked the driver's side mirror of my car.

Posted by: Rex at June 18, 2009 01:47 PM

Birds are funny. I should know for since November of '93 I've shared my life with THIS KOOK. Who'd think that that little ball of fluff, could be such a trouble-maker.

Oh and I do miss the rain and its sweet praesaging scent. Having spent all my life in places where you get your weekly dousing, seeing this browned-out landscape is taking a lot getting used to.

Two days ago, we had a deluge of rain. Weird, because it was the first rain in over two months. The grand total upon our heads was a measly ΒΌ inch.

Posted by: Boquisucio at June 18, 2009 02:30 PM

IIRC, from my years in the High Mojave, the rain scent was essentially the creosote bushes opening every little pore they had, to greedily suck in the moisture.

I also remember waking up one morning after it had rained for two weeks straight to find the Central Corridor of the NTC covered in grass and wildflowers.

Then we fired up the tanks and went a huntin' OPFOR.

Posted by: Explosives-certified Right Wing Nutjob Retired Army Gun Nut at June 18, 2009 02:58 PM

And Boq - what'd you do that so embarrassed the beastie? Those are some seriously flushed cheeks!

Posted by: Explosives-certified Right Wing Nutjob Retired Army Gun Nut at June 18, 2009 02:59 PM

I really should stop blogging in my BVD's. Daddy makes him so ashamed of himself.

If only he could entertain himself THUSLY, maybe he could learn to live and let live.

Posted by: Boquisucio at June 18, 2009 03:22 PM

Considering that *dust* is a minor theme in this thread, I think this one would be more appropriate:


Posted by: BillT at June 18, 2009 03:36 PM

Yeah, those flying/nesting critters can cause a lot of homeowner angst, especially when they nest and poop in an alcove above the main entry way of my humble abode.

OWL statues do not work in discouraging their spring-time follies. I had to lay down some Tanglefoot goop on a 2x4 board. Apparently they don't like walking on that stuff and they tend to nest in the neighbor's alcoves. :)

Posted by: ziobuck at June 18, 2009 03:37 PM

While my Ball-o-Fluff doesn't dance like Snowball nor Frostie, it behaves very much like THIS. He does keeps us entertained.

BTW - As a young tyke, I used to sing that very song a lot. It is a classic Spanish children's song by a trio of TV Clowns. And yes, BOQ used to be one of those screaming rugrats. I had the honor of being selected to demonstrate the tastiness of TANG (their sponsor) in one of their shows in the Island.

It happened that my best friend's father had gone to Cape Canaveral on a visit, and bought back a couple of "Real" Astronaut uniforms. Since my friend and I went to the show in full Astronautical Regalia, we both were shoo-ins for the weekly Tang Informercials. I still have a picture of myself in that silver costume.

Posted by: Birdie-Boquisucio at June 18, 2009 04:25 PM

bt, you'd have gotten a kick out of seeing running water on top of the Mojave River riverbed a coupla years ago. I have the pix to prove it, too. Figured, given how many years it'd been since they allowed the river to be damned and the subsequent retreat of the water into the safety of underground waterways, I'd need them as proof someday. The broad ribbons of gold flowers covering the hillsides leading up to the NTC were truly breathtaking the following spring.

As to birds, we have hummingbird dogfight displays on an hourly basis around here. But when I lived up in the Mojave we fed the quail, wrens, mourning doves, whatever came around. The VES loved feeding them, but still holds a fear of the big ones from an unfortunate incident in a Yuma pet shop. In fact, Boq, when I called her out to watch the first of your vid's, she almost didn't sit down to watch when she saw the bird.

Posted by: DL Sly at June 18, 2009 04:59 PM

Snake in the stone wall? I wouldn't worry about that.

Back when I was a kid I lived in a very old house, the kind that can never be secured against vermin. For a run of a few years an Eastern Ring-Necked snake would take up residence in the basement in the spring. They're black with a small few-scales wide yellow band behind the neck. It came down there in the spring and had babies. They were the cutest things, abut 2 inches long and about 3 mm thick. We'd bring them upstairs and feed them mashed up cereal and milk in a bottle cap. They'd curl around your finger. Mom was brought up on a farm in the depression and the odd snake bothered her not at all, and Dad seemed non-plussed about the whole thing.

After a while they'd all disappear, mom and the kids both. It was a very educational thing for my two brothers and I. We looked them up in the Peterson's guide for Reptiles and Amphibians (Western Ring-Necked snakes look exactly the same, but the strip is orange).

So when you see that snake in the wall, consider the alternatives.

Posted by: RonF at June 18, 2009 11:59 PM

The ornithological visitors at "La Casa de Camo" (my rambling estate) tend to be annoying to varying degrees at times, too. Most recently I've been having to clear the open end of my sailboat's mast (where it sits on its trailer in the boat shed) of nesting materials; even though I had just taken it out for a day sail last weekend, the process of nest building was begun anew, but this time after I removed those I stuffed the end of the mast with bubble wrap.

I've also been afflicted with a repeat offender of a woodpecker. One of these days (if he comes back) he might become the recipient of a shotgun last...

Posted by: camojack at June 19, 2009 01:42 AM

Oh, I do miss the smell of rain in the foothills in SoCal. I love the smell of sage. So much so that I grow it in the backyard just so I can smell it.

And I'll take snakes over the centipedes, scorpions, and flying cockroaches we have here.

Posted by: Sly's Wardrobe Mistress at June 19, 2009 03:12 AM

I like the ribbon snake :)

He (I don't know why I assume it's a 'he', but there you have it) is cute and kind of perky. I was going to dismantle the wall he lives in months ago, but I didn't want to deprive him of his home. He comes out a lot when I'm gardening and will come right up to me - only a foot or so away - and just taste the air with his tiny tongue. He is fun to watch.

The only snake I really hate is a cottonmouth. They are aggressive and ill tempered snakes who will bit you for no reason other than that they are having a bad day :p

Posted by: Cassandra at June 19, 2009 07:06 AM

Cottonmouths will bite for *any* reason, including the reason of not having any particular reason at the moment.

They also lack the saving grace of tasting like rattlesnakes or making visually-interesting belts...

Posted by: BillT at June 19, 2009 08:26 AM

"bt, you'd have gotten a kick out of seeing running water on top of the Mojave River riverbed a coupla years ago. I have the pix to prove it, too."
That had to be quite a sight. Living in the desert must take a lot of getting used to. Personally, I enjoy living in the damp, humid, but very green, South. I love her lakes, rivers and streams. Her thick rich forests. The proximity to the Atlantic and the Gulf... and tomatoes! BLT's hmmmmm.

Birds. Well now, we lost a pretty big tree to a lightning strike a few years back. Due to its distance from anything, I've left it standing. Last year, a couple of Pileated Woodpeckers found it and took to drilling the dead tree for insects. I imagine they're still about although I've not noticed em recently. And we have a pair of Redtail Hawks who patrol the pastures, woods and yard from time to time.

Just yesterday Walkin' Boss and I saw a doe and her two tiny, spotted fawn in the front yard. They were making their circuit about 7:30-ish and when they discovered the contractors working on the Hun hovel's hail damage, it messed em up. So after a couple of moments of indecision, they did a 180 maneuver and back-tracked. I'll try to think of taking some pictures the next time the opportunity presents, if I can of course, and put some of these characters up on my iddy biddy ISP page.

Now snakes. They occupy a mighty useful niche in the grand scheme of things. They beat rats by a good piece in my book, so I usually give em right of way. That is unless Walkin' Boss finds em in her flower gardens, then I'll relocate em to a distant corner in the back pasture. Walkin' Boss does not appreciate snakes. For a couple of years running, she found a diamondback shed in a hedge near our house which fogged up her mirrored, Foster Grant, Aviators pretty badly.

As a young kid, into my early teens, I grew up near, hunted and fished in and around, the Okefenokee Swamp. And in all my time spent in the southern waters, I never had a serious, or close call, with a cottonmouth. Knock on wood...

My least favorite snake? That would have to be either the timber rattler, aka the canebrake round he'ah, or the copperhead. In high school a friend died from a timber rattler bite. He made it to the local ER, but still didn't make it. That just wasn't supposed to happen. Not in that way. Anyway, I've had bad karma with copperheads.

Rather than launch into any further methane eruption recollections, I'll just leave it at that.

Here's a pretty good site for any Jaw'ja folk (Cricket?) who might be interested in a website dedicated to snakes. This page shows the ones for which you ought to give a wide berth.

Sorry for being so windy.

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at June 19, 2009 09:07 AM

When we lived in SC we had diamondbacks everywhere.

I was always coming out and finding them in my yard. It made letting the boys out of play rather fraught, but I told them that when they went down to play on the marsh, to take a big stick and rustle it through the grass in front of them (the sea grass was so tall you couldn't get an unobstructed view of the sand).

I comforted myself with the thought that I'd never heard of anyone being bitten, so the chances were probably pretty remote unless you just happened to be unlucky.

As for me, I never had a single snake coil to strike at me. In fact, I chased a HUGE rattler out of my yard and back down to the water's edge by simply walking along behind it and making 'shoo-ing' motions with my hand. I just moved slowly and tried not to appear hostile, and the snake was perfectly happy to get out of my way.

We have copperheads here in the woods but I rarely see one. They seem to be very shy. I've seen black snakes like the one BOQ describes once or twice too. I just try to be careful when I'm walking in the part of our back yard that we've let go natural.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 19, 2009 09:19 AM

I just killed a rattler yesterday. That's five for this house in less than two years. I can't stand snakes. But their rattles and open-mouthed *final* pose make interesting additions to my craft projects.
As to cottonmouths and copperheads...I had my fill of those at Onslow Beach where I found them hiding under old pillows, wrapped around closet rods, and under bathroom sink cabinets in the demolished trailers after Hurricane's Bertha and Fran. Not too mention the black snakes that liked to live under my shed in the back yard.....
Did I mention that I don't like snakes?

Posted by: DL Sly at June 19, 2009 11:38 AM

Not even as an extender for chili?

Posted by: BillT at June 19, 2009 12:10 PM

Man, rattler meat freakin' reeks. Don't be putting that sh!t in my breakfast chili!! Or my dinner chili, for that matter.

Posted by: DL Sly at June 19, 2009 12:24 PM

You're supposed to *cook* it, first...

Posted by: BillT at June 19, 2009 12:31 PM

"You're supposed to *cook* it, first..."
Dang! *smacks forehead with open palm*

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at June 19, 2009 01:24 PM

Use to be a missileer in a silo in Tucson, AZ.

Our site had a snake stick. My crew members surprised me one day by bringing a P-O'd, 6-foot rattler in a box, attached to said snake-stick, into the control center from their topside inspection. (Did I say I had a intense loathing for snakes, ala Indiana Jones?)

Let's just say I was less than enthusiastic about the prospect of a poisonous snake getting loose somewhere in the bowels of a multi-million dollar missile (can neither confirm or deny it was nuclear tipped) complex. The crew members took out my wrath on that poor snake.

After killing and eating the snake, I had a new respect for those Special Forces "snake eaters".
BTW,...it didn't taste like chicken.

Posted by: ziobuck at June 19, 2009 01:36 PM

Like I said, you have to *cook* it, first.

Geez, even the Green Beanies know that...

Posted by: BillT at June 19, 2009 01:41 PM

So, Bill T, aka inner-Julia Child-wannabe, what's *cooked* snake taste like???? Another question, are you suppose to skin it first? :)

Posted by: ziobuck at June 19, 2009 03:25 PM

Depends on the snake. Rattler tastes something like sour iguana, but python tastes like crocodile, only stringier.

First, you skin it (unless you're also gonna make beer-battered snakeskin rings), clean it, then slice it into bite-sized chunks and either toast the chunks like marshmallows or use them in a stew with palmetto root and wild onion bulbs.

Do *not* use the fangs for toothpicks -- that's what the ribs are for.

Posted by: BillT at June 19, 2009 03:54 PM

"Do *not* use the fangs for toothpicks"
Save em, boil em, then JB Weld em on to the bill of your favorite ballcap. Sorta helps ya blend in at the monthly County Commission meetings with the politicos and the politico klingons.

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at June 19, 2009 05:16 PM

I don't care if it's boiled, parched, fried, toasted, scorched, scalded, saute'd, fricasee'd[sp], grilled, broiled, baked, seared, pate' or tartar....not just no, but HELL NO.

Posted by: DL Sly at June 19, 2009 05:44 PM

Silly goose -- *nobody* eats snake tartare...

Posted by: BillT at June 20, 2009 01:43 AM

For full details in snake tartare, see James Brolin in 'Capricorn One.'

Eldest CLU is nagging me to let him go on a gator hunt down south. I must look into it.

Posted by: Cricket at June 20, 2009 09:12 AM

I really should amend my statement to "Nobody in his right mind eats snake tartare."

Not twenty years after that "Capricorn One" scene, Brolin married Barbra Streisand, thus proving my point...

Posted by: BillT at June 20, 2009 10:40 AM

Yar wacha eat...

*shudders to think of diet that led to marriage with Babs Streisand*

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at June 20, 2009 12:48 PM


for Al Wilson fans...


Posted by: Cricket at June 20, 2009 01:02 PM

Heh, good one Cricket. I remember that tune. 1968 doesn't seem that it was that long ago. Does it?

Ok, it's Saturday afternoon, hot as heck here in Jaw'ja and Walkin' Boss has me heading to the stable to do some repairs on the fence, the cabinets in the stable, wash the horses, swat flies and avoid snakes en route... There will be beer.

To share the ambiance, I offer this tune from a little while back...

Posted by: bthun at June 20, 2009 01:59 PM

One morning, I was at the office before everyone else got there (I was covering the early tech support shift), and found that somehow, I bird had found its way inside (think it had gotten into the warehouse part of the building, and then into the office part when someone opened the second floor door...). It flew around the corner and done the long hall into an unoccupied open space, flying directly into one of the windows, stunning itself. I was able to pick the poor thing up, and I to pick off some sort of sticky stuff that was around his little feet. Surprisingly, he didn't struggle in my hand... Set him free out the front door.

As for snakes, I'm not a big fan. When I was little, when Daddy was stationed in San Antonio, the house my parents bought was in a new subdivision, and past our backyard fence was a very large undeveloped area. We would get scorpions in the house, and snakes in the yard. Daddy came home from a softball game one night to find a rattler coiled up on the front step. One other time, he came home to an unknown snake in the street in front of our house. He ran over it. Repeatedly. ;-) When I was in college, before Daddy was stationed at Ft. Hood, I would spend the breaks with one of my grandmothers. One spring break, I was staying with my Grandma here in the Austin area, and I was doing some yardwork, pulling weeds or some such from under the boxwood in the front of the house. I decided that it was time for a break when I saw the green garden snake...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at June 21, 2009 02:52 AM