Wild Turkeys Visit

Ann was taking Scooter out the front door when she ran back inside and yelled "Turkeys in the driveway." I grabbed the digital camera, turned it on, and ran downstairs to give it to her. Then I went to the kitchen to look out through the garage to see the turkeys.


Three wild turkeys, two hens and a gobbler, were in our driveway just outside the garage. The gobbler was strutting and keeping an eye out for danger.

Then the scene turned into a Three Stooges movie. Ann yelled that the batteries in the digital camera were dead. I ran to the front door, got the camera, and ran upstairs to my office where the charger is located. I opened the camera, pulled the four batteries out, opened the battery charger, extracted each of the four batteries, and loaded them into the camera. When I stood up, the strap on the camera hooked around a drawer knob and jerked the camera out my hands. It fell on the floor, dumping the four batteries onto the floor. I growled some ugly expletives, put the batteries back in the camera, locked the batteries into the camera, and ran downstairs. I gave the camera to Ann and went to the kitchen to watch.

About 30 seconds later, the gobbler took off, followed by one of the hens. The other hen ran up the driveway towards the street, then back down the driveway and took off.

Ann got one picture. 🙁

Picture of Bushtit

Bushtit Psaltriparus minumus

Identification Tips: Bushtit

  • Length: 3.5 inches
  • Short bill
  • Pale gray upperparts
  • Whitish underparts
  • Long gray tail
  • Sexes similar
  • Some variation in plumage-coastal birds have brownish crowns, interior birds have brownish cheeks, some birds from near Mexico have black cheeks
  • Usually found in flocks

Scooter the Siamese Cat Is Still Spry at 22 1/2 Years Old

Scooter and I started the morning with our standard morning routine.

Scooter gets up at dawn and starts trying to wake me up. First, he sits beside me and stares at me, not believing that I can sleep while the animal kingdom is celebrating the sunrise. As his patience ebbs, he walks across my chest and jumps off the bed, trying to show me that we should be walking to the door. After several cycles of this, he walks across my neck, stopping when his butt is in my face. He has found that this wakes me up. If these techniques fail to get me up, he resorts to the Siamese solution: loud yowling.

I give in and get up. I’m not a morning person but Scooter has a strong will. After a stop in the bathroom, I put on some clothes and we go downstairs. I grab the outgoing mail and open the garage door. Scooter and I walk out together into the early morning. The sun is just coming up.

I turn on the water spigot to create a small stream of water that runs across the driveway. Scooter likes to drink his water from a stream, like his ancestors in Thailand. While Scooter laps up water, I walk up the driveway to put the mail in the mailbox and get the newspapers. When I return, I watch Scooter walk down the walkway (video) in front of the house.

Scooter wobbles and weaves as he walks. It’s painful to watch. He’s stiff and a little shaky after 22 years of cat life. He was in hundreds of fights before he retired from fighting and hunting, and he still suffers from the battle injuries. I can see the splits in his ears as he limps along (he has three wire rings around the bone in his right leg). I follow him and sit on the front steps to read the paper, keeping one eye on Scooter. I’m his guardian, concerned about the coyotes live in the woods behind our house. Scooter doesn’t hear well now – he’d be easy prey for a hungry coyote. Scootears2

Scooter’s nose works well. He checks the bushes on the edge of the yard like I check email. He gets a sense of all the critter activity from the smells. He slowly works his way along the border of the yard and the woods, sniffing and analyzing the scents. Then he drifts into the woods. I stand up to watch him carefully.

If he goes out of sight, I’ll follow to keep him out of trouble. He finds a bush about 10 feet into the woods that appeals to him. He sniffs and circles, sniffs and circles. Finally he backs up to the bush, points his tail at the sky, and marks his territory. But then Scooter alters our usual routine.

He blasts out of the woods in an old-cat run. He can’t run like he used to. He was about 10 when I first met him, but he was still a great athlete. When he really needed to cover some ground, he ran low, with his tail pointed straight back, his front feet grabbing the ground and passing it back to his hind legs with fluid, graceful power. A cat in a flat-out full run is a special sight to me, whether he is 7 pounds (Scooter), 100 pounds (cheetah), or 600 pounds (tiger). Young Scooter was fast enough to run down a rabbit, and he often did.

Now he runs on stiff legs with his tail pointed straight up. He can still outrun most humans. Seeing him feel spry enough to run makes me feel good and I laugh as I move towards the garage, where Scooter is yowling at the door, demanding that I hurry to let him in. I have a smile in my heart as I turn off the water spigot, walk into the garage, and open the door for the old warrior.

For more weblog posts about Scooter, click here.

Links to stories about Scooter:
Fur Flies,
Know Your Blind Spots
Scooter Rolls Past 104
Scooter the Cat Is 100 Years Old
Sixteen and Wise?
That Darn Old Cat
We All Need Nine Lives

Frontiersman Hugh Glass Came out of the Jaws of a Grizzly, Alive

From Outside magazine’s The Top Wilderness Survival Stories:

In 1823, Hugh Glass signed on with a crew of trappers heading up the Missouri River to Fort Henry, in southwestern Montana. Halfway to their destination, Glass, who was about 40, was tracking game when he stumbled upon a mother grizzly and two cubs. The bear reared up and dug her teeth into him, ripping off huge chunks of his flesh. His companions came down the path and shot the six-foot bear through the skull, and the animal collapsed on Glass. The hunters, thinking there was no way the man could live through the night, made him a bed out of a buffalo hide and waited for him to die. But the next morning, Glass was still breathing. The mission leader, Major Andrew Henry, decided that the trappers needed to move out of hostile Arikara Indian land and paid two men to stay with Glass in his final hours. But he held on. After three days, the men abandoned the unconscious trapper, taking his knife and gun.

Glass awoke and found himself alone and unable to walk. He began to crawl the 100 miles back to Fort Kiowa, through the heart of Arikara country. Inch by inch, Glass, who as a young man had learned from the Pawnee Indians how to live off the land, dragged himself through the scrub, getting strength by eating wild fruit and meat from the carcass of a buffalo calf killed by wolves. After six months, he shambled into Fort Kiowa and resumed life as a trapper. Ten years later, during a trip along the Yellowstone River, he was killed by an Arikara Indian.

Link The Top Wilderness Survival Stories

Nature in the Backyard: Coopers Hawk

Hawk2 I walked into the bathroom after our Siamese alarm clock woke me up. Suddenly a number of blue jays in the back yard started screaming – not their usual yelling and whining, but full-blown war screams. I looked out of the window and saw a Coopers hawk crouching in the yard while the blue jays dived bombed it and shrieked. I ran downstairs, grabbed the camera, and ran to the bay window overlooking the back yard. I snapped several photos, which didn’t turn out as well as I hoped because I was shooting through a window and the light at 7:15am was not sufficient. The first photo shows the Coopers hawk trying to avoid the diving blue jays. You can see the a bit of the prey under the hawk. Hawk3 The hawk has changed position in the second photo. When it flew away, I could see why it changed position: it had killed a Brown Thrasher and it repositioned the dead bird so that it was aerodynamic (head forward) so it would be easy to transport. Scooter and I went outside. All the birds were making noise and squirrels were clucking. The wildlife were alarmed. Is a Coopers hawk that eats a Brown Thrasher cannibalistic?

Does Parenting Change the Development of the Brain?

Research suggests that parenting affects the molecular development of the offspring’s brain, at least in rats.

A decade ago Prof. Meaney noticed that newborn rats whose mothers rarely lick and groom them grow up… well, there is a fancy biochemical description for it, but let’s just say that they grow up a bit of a neurotic mess. Pups of attentive moms grow up less fearful, more curious, mellower.

Prof. Meaney and his team then showed that this wasn’t a case of mellow moms having mellow kids and neglectful moms having maladjusted kids, as the DNA-as-destiny crowd would have it. When the scientists switch around the newborns so that rat pups born to attentive moms are reared by standoffish moms, the pups grow up to be extremely stressed out, nearly jumping out of their skins at the slightest stress. Pups born to standoffish moms but reared by attentive ones grow up to be less fearful, more curious, more laid-back, taking stress in stride.

Rearing, it turns out, affects molecules in the brain that catch hold of stress hormones. Licking and grooming increases the number of these receptors. The more such receptors the brain has in the region called the hippocampus, the fewer stress hormones are released; the fewer the stress hormones coursing through its body, the mellower the rat.

It turns out that all newborn rats have a molecular silencer on their stress-receptor gene. In rats reared by standoffish mothers, the silencer remains attached, the scientists will report in the August issue of Nature Neuroscience. As a result, the brain has few stress-hormone receptors and reacts to stress like a skittish horse hearing a gunshot.

But licking and grooming by an attentive mother literally removes the silencer; the molecule is gone. Those baby rats have lots of stress-hormone receptors in their brains and less stress hormone, and they grow up to be curious, unafraid and able to handle stress.

Mellow or Stressed? Mom’s Care Can Alter DNA of Her Offspring, By Sharon Begley, July 16, 2004, Science Journal, Wall Street Journal

Scooter Playing Possum

The Scooter cat gave me quite a scare today.

I looked in on him and he appeared to be dead. At his age (22 years human, 111 years cat), anything unusual worries us.

But he was just sleeping, illustrating one of the many advantages he has over me — the ability to sleep in any position.

International Paper to protect species in 5.5 million acres

International Paper has struck a deal with the U.S. Department of the Interior to conduct extensive ecological surveys and conservation projects to help recover imperiled aquatic species and restore their habitat.

The 10-year deal involves 5.5 million acres of IP’s forest lands in Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina.

The Interior department will assist IP in the project, which covers an area larger than the state of Massachusetts.

International Paper, which employs about 3,000 people in Memphis, is the world’s largest paper and forest products company. Businesses include printing papers, packaging, building materials, chemical products and distribution.

IP is the largest private landowner in the United States, with some 10 million acres of forest land. It is also the world’s largest seedling grower, producing more than 425 million seedlings annually.

The Southeast is the center of temperate aquatic diversity. Freshwater ecosystems there feature the highest diversity of freshwater mussels and temperate freshwater fishes in the world.
Nearly one-third of the 500 native fishes in those states are considered imperiled, and about 75% of the Southeast’s 270 species of mu

Link IP to protect species in 5.5 million-acre deal

Bear Protection Suit Available on Ebay

eBay item 3814121772 (Ends 15-May-04 10:23:19 EDT) – Ursus Mark-VI and VII bear suit set

Canadian inventor Troy Hurtubise spent 10 years perfecting the Ursus Mark-VI suit of armour, which is made of chain mail, galvanized steel, titanium, high-tech plastic, and liquid rubber.

The suit was featured in the National Film Board of Canada documentary Project Grizzly, which turned Hurtubise into a cult hero. It was also featured on Ripley’s Believe It or Not TV and in the Guinness Book of World Records, for the most expensive animal research suit.

Ursus Mark-VII eliminates the chain mail and is made from stainless steel, aluminum and cast titanium. It also features a built-in video screen, a cooling system, pressure-bearing titanium struts, protective airbags, shock absorbers, a robotic third arm, built-in regular arms and swivel shoulders.

The suits are unique because they were built totally out of Hurtubise’s mind, with no blueprints, drawings or schematics. Buyer of the suits will also receive video copies of all Troy’s tests related to the suits.

Link to photo


Alert: Cat Trespassing

I just saw a large gray cat walking across our back yard heading east. (Since Scooter the Siamese cat is too old (in our opinion) to defend his turf, I try to help him out. He gets really angry when another cat enters and marks his territory. If Scooter senses a cat on his turf at night, he can really create a ruckus, howling to get out and vanquish the trespasser. Not good for our sleep….)

So I went out the front door, ran around the west side of the house, and ran across the back yard. The gray cat is walking straight away from me — he could not hear me running up behind him because some strong winds are blowing through the trees, making a lot of white noise.

When I closed within 10 feet of the unwelcome feline, I let out my fiercest roar. The cat accelerated from zero to thirty in a flash and bounded into the woods.

When he was about 50 yards into the woods, he stopped to see what demon had almost snatched him.

I got a good laugh out of it. 🙂 And maybe Scooter’s territory will be off limits to that cat for a while.