Monday, March 29, 2021

Spring has Sprung

What a difference a month and a half makes. We have gone from frigid temperatures and snow from storm Uri to spring green showing up in the form of new leaves on most of the trees and green grass and clear blue skies.

I had a flock of cedar waxwings visit my bald cypress today. I'm not sure if they were eating buds or bugs but they stayed there for quite a while and I got some nice pictures of them. It would have been nice to have the sun at a different angle but you take what you can get. At least the birds were so engrossed in what they were doing that they ignored me. Cedar waxwings are usually flighty and difficult to capture "on film". They were also much less vocal than I am used to. I love the sounds cedar waxwings make but they were pretty quiet today.

What birds have you seen recently?

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Snowy Valentine's Day Great Backyard Bird Count Pictures

Because of the pandemic, my city was already planning on one part of its Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) event being virtual, but due to the weather, all of it was moved online. I hosted two livestream sessions. One on Friday, February 12 where I gave background on and how to participate in the GBBC. We added a livestream on Saturday instead of heading out in the weather for socially distanced guided bird walks. In this livestream, I chatted with a member of the Fort Worth Audubon Society about her birding experiences and we discussed several local birds featured in photos provided by another resident. You can find both of these videos on my personal Facebook page.

These images are from today. Click on them to enlarge them. Even though I have only been counting from inside my house and the bad weather, I think I have counted more species than I have ever counted during a four day GBBC and we still have Monday to go. I have seen at least one of each of the following birds: American Crow, American goldfinch, American Robin, Blue Jay, Carolina chickadee, Cedar waxwing, Dark-eyed junco, Downy Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Gull sp., House finch, House sparrow, Lincoln's sparrow, Mourning dove, Northern Cardinal, Northern Flicker, Northern mockingbird, Pine siskin, Red-bellied woodpecker, Red-tailed hawk, Ruby-crowned kinglet, Tufted Titmouse, Turkey vulture, White-winged dove, Yellow-bellied sapsucker and Yellow-rumped warbler. There are other birds that can be around my property this time of year, but I think this is pretty good. In fact the bird in my last post showed back up for me to count. If I do not get a correct guess in the comments as to what it is, I will add another photo and identify it after the GBBC is over.

If you have not gotten a chance to count birds for the GBBC this year. If you are cooped up because of our strong winter storm in Texas, take some time to count the birds. Merlin is a great, free app for android or iOS that helps greatly with bird identification. The count runs through Monday, February 15, 2021.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

2021 Great Backyard Bird Count Starts Soon

This year's Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) starts in less than a week. Join this fun, citizen scientist project for a minimum of 15 minutes at a time, whenever you have the time on February 12-15. The goal is to count the birds that you see and record your data for scientists to use in their studies.

To get ready, find your binoculars and grab a birding guide to help you identify any birds you are not familiar with. There are several good birding field guide books and apps you can install on your phone or tablet. A camera can also be helpful for identification.

I will be doing a livestream on Friday, February 12 at 10am to provide how to information and hopefully answer any questions viewers may have. I will post a link a few days before the livestream in the discussion tab on my City's GBBC event page.

While I have not seen them for a couple of weeks, I had some new visitors to my yard for a month or more recently. The photo in this post is of one of the pair. Can you identify this bird as it plays peekaboo in my bald cypress tree? (Click on the images to see a larger view.) If you can or have a guess, please write it in the comments.
After I see a correct ID, I will add a photo that shows more of the bird.

I hope you get a chance to join my GBBC livestream and/or participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count this year. Making time to observe nature, whether from in your home or outdoors, is good for your mood. So do something positive for yourself and the birds and join in the fun.

Update: While I had not seen the yellow-shafted northern flickers for a couple of weeks when I wrote this blog post, they did show up to be counted during the GBBC. I have added the second photo to this post so you get a better view of this bird as it pops out of hiding to say, "Here I am".

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

C Stein Solo Show - "4 Seasons" in Mansfield

The four images in the collage above evoke feelings of each of the four seasons much like the eight photographic art pieces of mine do at The Flying Squirrel Coffee Co. in downtown Mansfield. Like the photos in the collage, the images in my first solo show include different types of digital manipulation. Some of my original photographs lend themselves to a lot of manipulation, others not so much.

"4 Seasons" will be up through the end of February, so if conditions are right for you to venture out for a cup of coffee, check it out. (Flying Squirrel also has pickup or delivery that you can order online.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Design This - Bulk Keychain Order

I have an easy open, music note keychain listing in my EclecticSkeptic Etsy shop from which you can order one of four available keychains or up to all four. I received an inquiry late last year from someone wondering if I had a supply of keychains such that they could order them in bulk. I generally only make the number of items I have shown in a listing but often do have additional supplies on hand to be able to make more. In this case, my prospective customer wanted a lot, 35 to be exact!

I knew I had enough gemstone beads in the appropriate size, however I had to check my stock of charms, keychains and headpins to see if I had enough of those too. It turned
out that as long as a mix of gold tone and silver tone keychains would satisfy, I would be able to fill the request. I relayed this information and was pleased to find out that would be ok. We discussed the time I would need to be able to create 35 new keychains, a ship by date and what discount I could offer on a bulk request like this.

After getting the details nailed down, I set up a custom listing and got to start on the order after I heard the cha-ching from my Etsy seller's app. I selected all of the materials I would need and began to assemble the keychains. I took two work in progress pictures that I have included here as well as a photo of the finished product before I packaged them up to send off.

You will never know if an artisan can create exactly what you are looking for if you don't ask. So, send me a note if you are interested in a specific creation or multiples of something you see in one of my shops.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Here's Hoping 2021 Lets Us Turn the Corner to a Brighter Year

May the dark clouds of 2020 give way to rays of sunshine for 2021.

Hope is on the horizon in the form of a vaccinations for Covid-19. We need to maintain our composure so that hope is not dashed however. I have noticed changes in the reporting on administering the vaccine that have given me pause. Just before any approvals, there was a set of guidelines created for who should recieve the vaccine first, second, etc. There were also concerns over whether enough people would step up and take the vaccine to make a difference in the pandemic. Then we had several days of reporting that certain hospital workers were getting vaccinated, then frontline police and firefighters and some nursing home residents. From what I can tell, not all medical professionals, first responders or nursing home residents have had the opportunity to be vaccinated in my area but that process is being worked through. Front line workers in the first group to receive vaccines are supposed to also include teachers and grocery store workers as well but I had not heard anything about how those people are being identified and offered sign ups yet. Then all of a sudden just a day or so ago, the reporting seemed to indicate that a stampede of people not in the early groups may be forming to try to get to the front of the line. I hope that is not the case.

Don't get me wrong, I am glad to see a ground swell of interest in being vaccinated. That is great. Remember however that those who were given the first Pfizer shots are due for their second shot in less than a week in order to be on their way to maximum immunity. They need to be assured of supply. While I am looking forward to being able to be vaccinated, based on supply and the ranking group I belong to, I fully expect it to be more than a couple of months before my turn in line shows up. We all need to take measure of what groups we fall into and be patient if we have to be so that the process does not turn into a melee. Success will also hinge on our ability to continue to wear masks, wash our hands frequently and practice social distancing while the population is being vaccinated.

While careful navigation is likely still needed in the weeks and months to come, my hope is that some sort of normalcy returns through our efforts so that we can look back at this time next year and say 2021 was a happy year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

A New Twist on Putting out Seed for the Birds

Some flowers ripen into seedheads that add interest to the garden. However some of these same flowers will bloom again if you remove or deadhead them. Additionally, the seedheads can provide food for wildlife you want to attract to your yard. One such flower in my gardens is coneflower. I have tried a variety of treatments to try to achieve all three benefits. This year I tried a new approach that has been very successful.

When my conflowers developed dried seedheads, I clipped them back to where they looked like they might bud out again. This left me with a huge pile of seedhead stalks. I poked a few of the shorter ones into the ground under my birdfeeder. I gathered handfuls of the taller ones and pushed them into the ground around and partially supported by a teepee style metal trellis in my back garden that is not too far from my birdfeeder. I liked the way the seedheads looked all bunched around the base and my trimmed coneflowers in the front garden did have a small rebloom after the pruning. Now, would I actually see any birds visit my seed art?

It took a while for the right birds to show up. In December, American goldfinch began filtering back into the area. They have really been enjoying the coneflower spread I set out. The first picture in this post is one of the first birds I saw eating from the seedheads. There are a bunch of goldfinches in the second photo. How many do you see? Tell me in the comments. You can click on the image to see a larger view.

What have you done or can you do that is outside the box to support wildlife in your yard? I definitely plan to recreate my coneflower feeding station next year.