Big Sister is Watching You: From A Year Ago

black cat looking down from shelf

Mewsette is Watching

Mewsette likes high places. This shelf is nearly nine feet off the floor and used to hold some larger trailing houseplants that got a lot of sunlight from the window at the top of the stairs. Now it holds Mewsette. When the first plant landed loudly on the floor and turned into quite a mess, I moved them all to other places.

She’s discovered she can launch herself from the top of a small armoire and will sometimes spend the entire day up there, especially in the winter when heat rises and is trapped in the corner I imagine it’s quite cozy. I knew she liked to be up there, but the first few times she decided to spend the day there I ran around the house in a panic trying to find her.

Jelly Bean will sometimes venture up there with her, but for all their swaggering neither Mr. Sunshine nor Giuseppe will try it. I’m not unhappy about that.

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To see more daily photos go to “Daily Images” in the menu and choose “All Photos” or any other category.

All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used in any way without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Live Animals

three black cats around cat carrier

Live Animals?

You can see that Giuseppe is asking where the live animals are. And why I need more when I already have several perfectly good live animals. They are not ordering a live human, but perhaps they should consider it, since there is only one human is she is sometimes woefully inadequate. Even Mewsette looks a little perturbed, though Jelly Bean is just sort of hanging out because that’s where the action is.

They looked carefully inside the black thing and did not see anything at all. Perhaps this human is playing a cruel joke on them.

Anything I add to their environment becomes a prop, even if it’s unintentional. They explore everything, that’s their job. In this case Peg Bowman brought back the carrier we had used for Skeeter when we took him to the vet, and I had no other place to put it at that moment than on that table. And because the Feline Inspection and Quality Control takes their job very seriously and will drop everything to perform their duties at a moment’s notice, the carrier was immediately covered and surrounded by cats. I left it there for a few days waiting for a good shot. There was a second from today, different; perhaps I’ll post that tomorrow.

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To see more daily photos go to “Daily Images” in the menu and choose “All Photos” or any other category.

All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used in any way without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.

 


A “Reorganization Sale” at Portraits of Animals at Carnegie Antiques

photo of gift shop

View of about half my shop, art, greeting cards and even a few crocheted things.

In the next few weeks I’ll be completely reorganizing my shop in Carnegie Antiques, taking home things that haven’t shown any interest and heaping up things that have, moving furniture in and out and restocking with new framed art and packaged sets of cards.

matted black and white photo of feverfew

Feverfiew Field, matted black and white photo © B.E. Kazmarski

The sale will be this Saturday, February 18, between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

I’ve moved my greeting card printing to a new printer who uses new paper stock which doesn’t match the older stock. Select individual greeting cards will be $1.00 each, reduced from $2.50.

All matted photos are $2.50, reduced from $5.00.

Everything else is 10% off the price that is marked including other individual greeting cards and sets, crocheted pawprints and flowers, tote bags, framed and unframed wildlife, nature and flowers prints and anything else you can find there.

Carnegie Antiques outside

What you're looking for on West Main Street.

Carnegie Antiques and Portraits of Animals are located at 423 West Main Street in Carnegie, PA 15106.


It’s the Great Backyard Bird Count!

sparrows in shrub

Sparrows waiting in line.

Right now, as spring approaches and birds are beginning to migrate, pair off and settle into their new summer homes, it’s a really exciting time to participate in this international citizen-science event, February 17 through 20. All you need to do is watch your bird feeder and take a few notes.

birdwatching cats

The "baby" Fantastic Four

I can see from the number of people who reference my articles on backyard wildlife, backyard birds and bird feeding that many people maintain bird feeding stations of all sorts and enjoy watching, photographing and identifying the birds that visit their yard, neighborhood or favorite outdoor area.

chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

I truly enjoy sharing my enthusiasm for the lives and welfare of these special little residents of our yards and neighborhoods, and I might also add I’m eternally grateful for the work they do in my back yard and elsewhere in constant and vigilant pest control—and in keeping generations of cats amused and active so long as I keep the bird feeders full. I’ve included photos of bird species common to most of the USA and Canada using my feeders, as well as my cats enjoying the view.

What is the Great Backyard Bird Count?

cooopers hawk

Coopers Hawk, a major predator!

The GBBC is one of several programs led by the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, the Audubon Society and Bird Studies Canada which combines the enthusiasm and knowledge of everyday people with these organizations’ scientific capabilities to track bird populations and activities. A few other annual programs are the Christmas Bird Count, Project Feederwatch and eBird. The participant simply follows a simple set of instructions in how to count, track and report your data and it’s added to the data from millions of other bird lovers, all serving the purpose of real science in biology and conservation.

mourning doves

Mourning Doves

For instance, you choose a consistent period of time up to one hour to watch the activity at one of your feeders, and try to do this at the same time each time you observe, recording how many of which species showed up. Beyond that you can track other data such as the physical appearance of birds, unusual activity, information about your feeders and weather data.

downy woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker, male

Keeping the timing consistent helps to obtain data that’s easily compared from one observation to the next over the period of time you are observing. For this event, it’s four days in a row. For the Christmas Bird Count it’s a one-time event, though you can count in many different areas if you want, and for Project Feederwatch it’s for an entire season, November to April. Limiting the amount of time you watch helps to ensure you’re not counting the same birds over and over in one counting period.

And if, as I am, you are concerned about all the articles citing declining songbird species and putting the blame on cats in general, especially stray and feral cats, this is one of the most important ways the numbers of bird species are counted, by citizen scientists who get involved and report their data—so get out their and count your birds!

Don’t have a feeder, don’t know your species, don’t have the time to count all four days—don’t worry

sparrows at feeder

Sparrows at feeder.

Birds are everywhere, and the data is compiled in so many different ways that it doesn’t really matter if you’ve never fed your backyard birds, or if you only know one species for sure, or if you can only participate in one portion of the count. Part of your reporting is to describe this. For instance, if you only know what a blue jay looks like, you give your count for the total number of blue jays, and also note that other birds were present but which you could not identify. All the data is gathered and segmented off into the area it can best be used taking into account your additional descriptive information.

What do you do with your data?

american goldfinch

American Goldfinch, male, winter phase

Well, in the olden days we actually used to keep track on paper and, get this—mail it in! How old-fashioned, and how did anybody get anything done? Now you can still use paper, or you can use a combination of paper and electronic submissions, or you can do it entirely on whatever device you use that has internet access, wherever you are.

goldfinches with thistle feeder

Goldfinches, thistle feeder

And you can also watch the data change in real time as checklists are tallied. The counting just began on Friday morning and by 9:00 a.m.  the total number of individual birds counted was already over 16,000—check for yourself right now!

Like to get to know your birds better?

dark-eyed junco

Dark-eyed junco, "Snowbird"

I grew up knowing maybe four bird species well enough to recognize them when I saw them. But later, walking a trail in the woods, sitting in an abandoned pasture, hearing the birds sing as they flew about I felt as if I was a visitor to a land where the natives were friendly but I couldn’t speak the language.

male cardinal

American Cardinal, male

So I got Peterson’s Guide to the Birds of North America, and set about focusing on individual birds and flipping through the images to see what they were, then reading the descriptive copy for more details. It started out very tediously, but in a surprisingly short time I had gotten to know my local birds well enough and gotten to know my book well enough that matching the bird with the image and learning the details became as easy as finding a word in a dictionary, and suddenly I could speak their language and no longer felt like a visitor to my beloved woods and fields.

female cardinal

American Cardinal, female

I have several other identification books in addition to Peterson’s, but I purchased that one first because it seemed to be what everyone used and I also found it was referred to in articles about birds. It uses careful illustrations of birds, and while there are many guides that use photographs the illustrations are often much more clear in learning species identification. Getting one bird to pose for a photo at the right angle in the right light at the best distance to get clear details for a photo is nearly impossible—trust me! Trying to get all the birds in a book in the same way is a heroic quest.

song sparrow

Song Sparrow

A skilled illustrator will choose the pose and posture most universally identifiable for a species so that no matter what season or time of day you see your bird, even if all you see is a silhouette and vague color bands on the wings for instance, you’ll be able to piece together the details and identify your bird.

white-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

In addition, the big three organizations mentioned above offer LOTS of information for regional bird identification on their websites and for download including illustrations, photos, posters, videos, recordings of bird calls, descriptions of nests and anything else you might need to correctly identify your chosen bird. The more information they offer, the more accurate your reports will be.

Don’t worry, be happy!

house sparrows

House Sparrows

Don’t be intimidated by what others know or what you don’t know, and don’t be impatient that you can’t tell a song sparrow from a chipping sparrow. We all started somewhere, and all of us who watch birds are somewhere along the spectrum from knowing, maybe, four birds to being able to identify by one note of a song.

red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

And most of all, have fun with it! If you go to the GBBC site, you’ll see tweets from humans on how they are participating and what they see, the counts for birds and checklists increasing, town and city names increasing on the list and photo galleries filling up with birdwatchers’ photos. It’s what got me involved all those years ago, even before we had the internet to use for access, reading a magazine article about Project Feederwatch and feeling as if I was a part of something much bigger than myself.

birds and squirrel at feeder

Birds at feeder with Buddy.

In fact, sometimes it’s even more fun if you get a bunch of friends together and compare your data or count together. You can all argue about what bird that was and how many there were, arrive at a consensus and have lunch on a lovely February afternoon.

tufted titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

Links

Great Backyard Bird Count

Cornell University Lab of Ornithology

Audubon Society

Bird Studies Canada

European starling

European starling

Resources

In addition to those listed below, find your local chapter of the Audubon Society or other outdoor organization such as the Sierra Club or National Wildlife Federation. Many animal shelters also have a wildlife rehabilitation program and carry information. In addition, most communities or regions have local environmental organizations that offer information and sponsor guided bird walks, and also participate in the bird counts as a group.

CAROLINA WREN

Carolina Wren

Links around Pittsburgh, PA

These aren’t the only organizations around, but they are the ones I’ve used as a resource and many can be used to find chapter closer to where you live if you’re not in Western Pennsylvania.

Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania

Sierra Club, Pennsylvania Chapter, Allegheny Group

Venture Outdoors

The Widlife Rehabilitation Center of the Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania

Regional Environmental Education Center/The Outdoor Classroom

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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.