NO FEATHERED KITES IN NEW ENGLAND – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Saturday: KITE

All the Eastern coast kits live down south, from Mississippi through Florida and out towards Louisiana. It’s not that we lack for hawks around here. We have both Golden (relatively rare as they prefer mountains to valleys, but sometimes you can spot them high above you, especially if are in the White Mountains in Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, or Canada.

No hawks, safe to feed!

We see a lot of American Eagles, especially along the Merrimack — a much wider, slower-flowing river with lots of big fish and pollution to make me wonder if people really eat those fish. Nonetheless, many people nearby have boats and fish the waters of the Merrimack.

Red and yellow finches

American Eagles are lazy. Rather than do their own fishing, they station themselves in trees along the river, waiting for someone to catch their dinner. Then they drop out of the sky, grab the fish and fly off. I’m sure they are mentally grinning. Note: Beaks don’t smile.

Nuthatch on the tree

Very few people have enough character to fight off an eagle’s talons for a fish. Even a really big fish. American Eagles are not the biggest of eagles. I think the Golden is at least twice its size and there are some eagles in Africa and Asia that are also huge. Still, the talons on our Bald Eagle are no laughing matter.

Cooper’s Hawk – The white chest is a major giveaway for birders

I wouldn’t mess with them. I’ve been gored by a Cockatoo who wasn’t nearly as big as even a very small eagle and I nearly lost my thumb.

Birds have a lot of power in a lightweight body.

It’s rather like arguing with a bear over a basket of berries you are carrying across the moor. You can get more berries. You can buy them in the grocery store. Meanwhile, the bear doesn’t need a credit card and like the eagle, he’s glad enough you did the berry picking. He can as take your arm AND the berries for a healthy, balanced dinner.

To put it another way, “Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away. Know when to run.”

Don’t run from the bear. Politely put down the basket and quietly stroll off. Don’t whistle. That might irritate him and an irritated bear is … well … an irritated bear. Even a small bear is a lot bigger than you are, so be nice, quiet, and go home. Light incense. Consider not scouring the fields for wild berries.

Cooper’s Hawk. Accipiter Cooperii. Jones Beach State Park, Nassau Co. NY.
Juvenile Cooper’s hawk in close flight during autumn migration.

The closest we have to a kite here is the Cooper’s Hawk and its close relative, the Sharp-shinned Hawk. Both of these small hawks used it live largely far from humans.

Until the arrival of bird feeders. Since both of these hawks are bird hunters and considered remarkable fliers when they discover a feeder and do their famous flap-flap-glide through forest and bushes — there are those who believe these hawks could thread a needle by flying through its eye — the scare the feathers from the birds.

Comparing Cooper’s Hawk and Sharp-shinned Hawk

For reasons best known to the Mourning Doves, they least terrified of these small hawks (listed as “kite-like” in my “Peterson’s” guide). Doves are not the smartest birds in the coop.

Regardless, a single passing swoop by one of the two bird-hunting hawks, and the birds are gone. They don’t just disappear for a few hours. They are gone for days and if the Hawks are active, as long as five or six days.

Which is what the Cornell Institute and Audubon Society both suggest you do if you find that the Hawks have become a problem. Which is to say you have actually seen them more than once. They are not easy to see, either. They are exceptionally skillful fliers. The diver between trees and hedges and in fact, when they miss, they are frequently crushed because they hit a tree chest first. I guess seatbelts would not help all that much.

Cooper’s Hawk

It’s not that we don’t believe every creature deserves its dinner, but most of us don’t want to be setting the table for this particularly gastronomic feast. We invited the birds to come and chow down, so when it’s obvious that we’ve set them up as someone else’s main course, it takes a lot of the joy out of the party.

We also don’t fly paper kites around here. The trees, abounding as they do with bird life and trillions of insects, have their own killer instinct and will happily eat your kite.

The last time I flew a big kite, it was down on Cape Cod. The wind caught it and over the waves, it flew. Eventually, I ran out of string. I had a couple of thousand feet of thousand-pound nylon cord, so it was far away. Way beyond the breakers and invisible.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

There was no way I could bring it home. The outbound wind was strong and had taken it way out to sea. We could not see it. I cut the string and let it fly.

I wonder if anyone found it and pondered where it had started? In case it was you, it was on a nearly deserted beach in November on Cape Cod.

SOMETHING TO GO WITH YOUR COFFEE? – Marilyn Armstrong

Doughnuts are not good for me. Or you. We know that. No matter how you slice and dice it, those yummy fresh-from-the-oven treats are nothing but fat, carbohydrates, and sugar, probably with a dollop of artificial flavoring. But gee golly whiz, there’s nothing like a couple of warm crullers and a freshly brewed cuppa joe on a frosty morning. Or, if you’re me, any morning.

75-downtown-21

I love my morning coffee. Much as I complain about the problems of getting old and being poor, retirement has a few perks. The biggest and most obvious is not having to go to work, not having to put up with the idiocies of bosses who know less about the job than the newest intern and base their impossible demands on a spreadsheet.

The other big perk is time. You don’t have to gulp your coffee in the car on the way to the office. Or drink horrible machine coffee in the office. You can brew your own, sit in a comfortable chair with the morning paper, a book, laptop or tablet and savor the experience.

Doughnuts are an extension of this top of the morning experience. As tasty as ever, you can enjoy them with your own or boughten coffee. Locally, the coffee and donuts emporium of choice has always been Dunkin Donuts. Unlike Starbucks whose “dark roasted beans” is a code for “burned coffee,” and whose donuts are clearly not fresh, Dunkin Donuts coffee is mm-mm good and the doughnuts are just out of the oven — at least until 3 in the afternoon.

A couple of times over the past year, in a fit of gustatory nostalgia, Garry picked up a small box of donuts from Dunkin’s to ramp up the quality of our morning coffee experience.

The first time I could barely contain my excitement. As I reached for a second forbidden but delicious doughnut, I discovered it was guarded by a militant-looking cockroach of considerable heft. One of the big ones who is obviously daring you to “bring it on.”

I took the whole box of donuts, roach and all, and dumped them in the trash. As far as I know, we don’t have roaches here. We have ants in season (like now, for example). Mosquitoes the size of sparrows and hungrier than sharks. Slugs and beetles of all kinds in the gardens and who knows what in the woods … but no cockroaches. So I fondly hoped this was an aberration. Surely our local Dunkin Donuts was not packaging cockroaches with the doughnuts? Tell me it ain’t so!

 

When Garry asked what happened to the donuts, I made some lame excuse like having knocked them off the counter and the dogs getting to them. Garry is a brave man, but he has two phobias: snakes and cockroaches. Both knock the Semper Fi right out of him. I chose to spare him the trauma.

Operating under the optimistic assumption that Dunkin Donuts wouldn’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t include cockroaches with their mouth-watering confections, I encouraged him to pick up a second batch a few weeks later.

I ate a couple of doughnuts. Garry ate a couple of doughnuts. And standing in the box guarding the remaining Boston Creme and Honey Raised, was General Cockroach. I think he had an anti-aircraft weapon strapped to his carapace.

I carried the box and its occupant to the trash. This time, though, I told Garry. He needed to know lest he spontaneously purchases a box of fresh donuts on his way home.

After Garry stopped shivering and muttering “I hate those things,” we agreed we’d take a pass on future purchases from our local emporium. There are plenty of other doughnut shops in town.  In fact, the only shops of which our town has more than enough are hairdressers and doughnut shops.

For some reason, we’ve lost our taste for doughnuts. I don’t think either of us has eaten one since.

Odd, isn’t it?

DESIGN AT DISNEY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

On my recent trip out West, we went to Disneyland in Anaheim, CA for a day. I was struck by the beautiful design elements and artistic touches I saw all over the California Park. There were also many California Craftsman style pieces as well as Art Deco, often in the most mundane places.

Walt Disney with a map of the original Disneyland

The park is dotted with artistic plant arrangements and mini gardens

California Craftsman style fountain. Similar to Art Deco style.

Pseudo Frank Lloyd Wright style building, with his iconic stonework patterns

My favorite – a total art deco pretzel stand! Gorgeous!

Closeup of a colorful mosaic over a bench

A larger section of the mosaic over a bench