Fine Feathered Friends – July 06th

Last week I saw a large, bright yellow bird trying to do a “carrier landing” on the hummingbird feeder. My assumption was that it might be a yellow-headed blackbird, since that’s the only large, bright yellow bird I’ve ever seen around here.

Wrong.

Yes, it’s bright yellow with some black highlights on the wings.

At first there were two of them, fighting over the feeder. I was amazed and figured they would both fly away as soon as I went near the window.

Nope, they were too busy fighting. Two males? A male and female? I don’t know, they were too backlit at first to see details, but the body shape was definitely new, not something I had seen before around here.

Amazingly, after the one flew off, the other completely ignored me, which gave me time to grab the good camera and move right up to the window with it. And yep, he was cleaning out the hummingbird feeder.

Well, that explains why Little Bastard has been in such a bitchy mood. Aside from the feeders being empty, while he’s a bully when it comes time to scare off other hummingbirds, this dude’s about ten times his size and just ignores him.

This dude hung out for several minutes, up close and personal, so there are lots of pictures to plug into the Merlin Bird ID app from Cornell University. (Highly recommended!)

It’s a Hooded Oriole. Yes, YOU! Busted.

What a gorgeous bird! What a great sighting on a day that had it’s share of shit coming in from left field! Thanks, bird dude!

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Filed under Birds, Critters, Photography

I Got Home!

To find that after almost five weeks of watering the lawn at about 25% rations (twice a week instead of four times a week, for 8 minutes instead of 15), the lawn is turning brittle and brown quite nicely.

Good thing that it’s been in the 90’s and low 100’s and dry as a bone, too!

If it were my house I might be making changes in the landscaping, but it’s not. I’m sure the owner isn’t particularly happy, but thems are the rules and they seem to be enforcing it. I’m not planning on getting fined.

Now we just need to wait a couple of days and see if our somewhat obsessive wearing of masks and keeping as distant as possible from others at Baycon was effective. There are already reports of four COVID cases, but not necessarily in areas or panels we attended.

We’ll see. Whether or not we come out of his clean will have a lot to do in the final decision of whether or not to go to Chicago in September for Worldcon.

Fingers crossed…

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Filed under Fandom, Health, Photography, Travel

I Saw Fireworks!

We’re out of town, and I wasn’t thrilled by the idea of going to hunt for a local fireworks display, not knowing the areas, neighborhoods, parking, and so on. But there’s a third floor balcony on the hotel, looking out over the freeway toward the bay, so I figured there was a chance that some of the local communities might have displays that we could see. A few other folks from the remnants of the con thought the same, and we weren’t disappointed.

It might have been from a couple miles away, but it still beat what we’ve had for the last couple of years. I’ll take it!

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I’m Having Fun Here!

Baycon is much smaller this year than it has been in past years. I don’t have any official numbers, but I would be surprised if there are 30% of the normal, pre-COVID attendees.

Ah, COVID! There’s a big chunk of the problem. No Baycon in 2020 or 2021, and this year we’re on a different holiday weekend than normal. No wonder.

But I’m having a great time anyway. Good panels every day. Masquerade tonight. Some filk concerts. Got to meet and chat with the artist Guest of Honor. And so on.

And I can wander the convention space looking for odd or interesting things to take pictures of!

What’s not to love?

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I’m Eating Here!

On only the second trip in three years, at a con for the first time in three years, comfort and convenience are key. I knew that my usual routines for healthy eating might have to take a sabbatical for a couple of days. But the first day and a half was just BRUTAL on my dietary control.

So today I wanted to do better. Let’s start with a healthier breakfast. Forget about the hotel breakfast buffet, which not only cost $40 but also seduced me into eating enough food to feed a small battalion. Today, let’s go to that great little mom & pop family place a couple blocks down for just an omelette…

Holy guacamole, Batman!

I couldn’t do it, couldn’t finish. Even with that whole “Catholic, family of eight kids, clean your plate at all costs, starving children in China” condition from birth, I was going to explode and/or die if I had tried.

But it cost less than half of what that hotel buffet did, so, winner winner!!

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I Got Here!

First science fiction convention in three years!

Well, this isn’t at the con, it’s where we had dinner. But it’s very photogenic.

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I Can Go!

Hit my critical deadline (by the skin of my teeth), got to go out in public for a business lunch for the first time in YEARS (what was that all about?!), and I passed this test, so now I get to go to my first science fiction convention in about three years.

Ending June strong!

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Reality Isn’t What It Used To Be

Playing for five minutes as I brought the security camera back in.

I knew it would do that, I just didn’t know how easy it would be. The next time I have more than five minutes to play (which I believe I have scheduled for early 2024 right now) I’ll have to play with doing it better, or better yet, weirder!

(If I find a way to open a portal into an alternate dimension, I’m outta here!)

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Filed under Photography, Silly Shit

To Catch A Thief

We have a couple of hummingbird feeders out on the back porch, and aside from the hummingbirds, other critters love that sugary water as well.

A couple years ago, the squirrels climbed the porch supports and tried climbing across the vines to get to them. This succeeded in ripping the vines to shreds (it will take years for them to grow back) and smashed the crap out of a couple of feeders (which were never designed to hold the weight of a hyperactive squirrel) but there was so much damage to the vines that there’s no way for that particular problem to repeat.

Ants are always a problem, but since I got new feeders with the built in moats at the top, the ants are held at bay as long as I remember to refill the moats every couple of days. It’s been really hot and really dry and my memory is often distracted, so sometimes the ants get a feast, but that’s on me.

This week we have a new problem.

I had serviced the feeders on Sunday (I only fill them about 20% full and do it every week or two, otherwise the syrup tends to get icky) but noticed one of them was almost empty yesterday, with a great deal spilled out onto the ground. (Yet another feast for the ants until I descended upon them like the Avenging Angel of Death With the Watering Hose, despite our drought.) The feeders don’t normally leak like that unless they’re being seriously disturbed. But what was disturbing them?

Some of the really strong winds can do that and make them start to spill as the feeders get swung about. But the winds have been calm.

The squirrels could do that. But they really don’t have any way to get up there and they’re pretty well fed on the bird seed already.

The house finches? I’ve seen one or two over the years try to make a “carrier landing” and grab onto the perches at the bottom of the feeder, but none of them could drain a whole feeder in one or two days doing that. Plus, they can’t actually eat any of the hummingbird food, their beaks are too large, so even if they think it’s a great idea, it doesn’t work and they give up quickly.

Then I was walking through the kitchen and saw a FLASH of incredibly bright yellow with black accents. A really BIG freakin’ bird. Not condor-sized freakin’ big, but definately crow or raven sized. It went right by the window on the porch, hit the feeder and latched on, swinging like a chandalier in an earthquake, trying to get at the food. That was never going to happen, and a second later when I stepped over to the window to get a better view, it was gone just as fast as it had come.

Oh…

Remember this guy?

I’ve seen these Yellow-headed Blackbirds a handful of times here and they’re now my number one suspect for the hummingbird feeder thieves.

It was blind luck that I happened to see it on Monday. I don’t have the time to sit around and wait and hope to get lucky again. I’m going to have to be more clever.

I moved one of our Nest security cameras out to the back porch, hoping that any motion would trigger an alert. That’s not going to work. They’ve got a very wide angle view and even eight feet from the feeders with three or four hummingbirds flitting about and feeding, they never register the motion or activity. Rabbits in the yard? Ignored. Three squirrels stealing bird seed? Zippo, nada. Me going out to take the trash or get a soda from the spare fridge? I see that my shaved head looks even more stupid from above, but that’s not helpful.

I’ve got some really nice, old-fashioned HD “palm” cams and tripods that can record for a couple hours at a time. Maybe I’ll clean up the mess, refill the feeder, and set up a couple of those right next to the feeders. At worst, maybe I’ll get some nice video of the hummingbirds?

Or catch a bright yellow thief?

After all, I don’t have anything better to do with my time… 🤯😵

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Filed under Birds, Critters

No Context For You – June 27th

One thing that came out of some reflection on the nature of the world last week was that I’m not using any time for recreational reading.

That seemed to be a serious problem. Since most days it seems like I’m skating on thin ice to begin with, what harm could it do to MAKE that time for myself to read for a half hour or so?

So I am, and it seems to be working. Not every day, but most days. With the Hugo Awards coming up and voting due in August, I’m working my way through this year’s nominees, and where necessary, the previous works in a series that lead up to this year’s nominated work.

This is a good thing. I highly recommend it.


The other thing, of course, is wishing a happiest of birthdays (it’s one of those) to the long-suffering wife. I hope you got what you wanted for the day and it didn’t suck.

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