Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Monday, April 30, 2007

Raven 1, Laura 0

One of the problems with spending so much of my life trying to educate the world about birds is that it sort of sets me up to be a know-it-all. And it's ever so easy for birds to prove how little I really know.

I have a lot of friends on Salon Magazine's Table Talk forum, and when anyone there has a bird question, it makes its way to me. Right after answering a spate of bird ID questions, I got two questions of more practical importance, and in both cases my advice sort of backfired. One woman was seeing a beautiful budgie at her feeder. The bird wasn't associating with the feral population of New York budgies, and was pure white, so it was almost definitely an escaped pet. I suggested that she get a cage and leave it open in the yard to see if the budgie, like Ogden Nash's Custard the Dragon, was just seeking a nice safe cage. So she went out and bought a cage, and voila! The budgie disappeared altogether. I hope that if it needs a home, it comes back.

Then, another friend was having problems with a raven picking at the stuff between her roof rack and the roof of her minivan. I suggested hanging some helium balloons up there. In my experience rehabbing, crows and jays were terrified of helium balloons, and I figured it was because nothing in nature acts the way helium-filled objects do, "falling up." So she got some nice shiny balloons and put them on her car. And here's what happened:
I found some helium balloons Sunday, in several colors. This morning, as soon as I got to work, I tied them to the roof rack of my minivan, one at each corner.

No raven for about an hour. Then he landed on the ground next to the van and walked around it a couple of times, all the while eyeing the balloons.

And then he flitted up to the rack, and walked around on top, cocking his head at the balloons. He inspected them for quite a while, pulling at the strings, tentatively pecking at the balloons.

He's already deflated the blue one - scared him when it popped and he flew off, but I think he figured out pretty quick why it popped, cuz he came right back and popped the yellow one.

The red one and the purple one survive. He appears to like purple, cuz that's the one he's admiring himself in now.

I guess he hasn't heard the story about balloons falling up confusing ravens, cuz it hasn't bothered this wiseguy a bit.
I wish she could have gotten video!! But I guess it's time to take my sign in, huh?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

And about that looking glass....

Windows cause such a horrifying number of bird deaths a year that it boggles my mind. I got to spend some time with Dr. Daniel Klem three years ago. He's the Muhlenberg College Professor who has spent much of his career systematically studying bird mortality at windows, and I was trying to make 101 Ways to Help Birds as solid as possible as I amassed information about preventing window kills.

I'm working on a project right now that touches on window mortality, and so I'm getting some of my pages regarding the book back up on my website, starting with #6: Make your windows safer for birds. My original hope was that the book would be fully illustrated with color photos, and this section in particular would have been more valuable with photos illustrating some window treatments.
Window at the EPA lab in Duluth. This window used to kill bazillions of birds during migration along the North Shore, but now the kill has been reduced to just about zero. This netting was purchased by employees, and is held in place by bricks on the roof.
Windows at Quarry Hill Nature Center were designed to angle downward. Reflecting ground instead of sky and trees, they've reduced bird strikes significantly.

Window at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has exterior netting to protect birds, and dramatically reduced kills.

Rowe Sanctuary in Nebraska. These exterior screens were designed by what is now the Bird Screen Company.
Above and below--a zoo's windows now covered with CollidEscape. This exterior film (the kind used to put advertising on bus windows) is expensive but extremely effective. Sales benefit the Fatal Light Awareness Program.

These photos and more are on my website, on the 101 Ways to Help Birds #6: Make your windows safer for birds. I'd been trying to keep birderblog filled with useful links and photos, and in the coming weeks will be getting more of that information back up on my own website.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Through the Looking Glasses

Maple branch tips scrape the window glass
Branches alive with warblers
Vivid angel birds
Resurrected canaries who gave their lives in mines
Saving us from our own poisons.

Right eye against my spotting scope, left tearing in the wind
Bufflehead drake’s head up, down, jerking back,
Scooting forward, red feet pattering.
Singin’ and dancin’ in the rain. Please! Please! Please!
Trapped in the moment.
Female watches an approaching eagle.
Gazes far beyond me to eggs, ducklings.
Trapped in tomorrows.

Aspen cavity
Black emptiness suddenly fills with a little face.
Hot yellow eyes meet the cold hard stare of binoculars
And retreat.

Scarlet Tanager—click! Gotcha!
An image on a glass screen, anyway.

Great blue heron
So close I can hear it breathe.
Concentrating on movement below the surface,
It doesn’t see me.
Too close to focus with binoculars
Unless I step back.
Yet too far to fathom.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Bad news from coast to coast

You know that myth about ostriches, that they hide their heads in the sand so they don't need to face reality? On days like this, I wish I were a mythical ostrich rather than a conscious person. First I read about algae killing seabirds, sea lions and dolphins on the California Coast. Then I find out that this year Wood Storks had ZERO nesting in Corkscrew Swamp.

We need to do something before it's too late.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Nice day for a Warbler Walk

It was cold this morning, but there was no wind on Park Point, providing some lovely birding conditions. And, thanks to my poor promotional skills, few people know about the warbler walks so we had a nice, small group of just 6. We didn't have any warblers, but had some really lovely sightings.

Canada Goose
American Wigeon
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Ring-necked Duck
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Common Goldeneye
Red-breasted Merganser
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Bald Eagle
American Kestrel
American Coot
Ring-billed Gull
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Northern Flicker
American Crow
Common Raven
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
European Starling
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Sparrow

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Lovely break in Port Wing

I drove out to Port Wing yesterday for my annual Woodcock Walk with Photon. We stopped at the Roy Johnson Wetland en route. Spring is here!
No, the loon is not holding hands with the swallow.

By the time we got to Port Wing, my eyes were really tired, and then I fell asleep watching TV with my mother-in-law. When I woke up, Photon and I headed down the driveway, but for the first time ever on a nice, fairly calm April evening, we had zero woodcock. There were Spring Peepers, Chorus Frogs, and Wood Frogs calling, which is always lovely, but it seemed weird to not pick out a single woodcock where usually I have at least three or four. I can hear four Ruffed Grouse within a half mile or so of her house--that's good news, at least.

This morning, I headed out for a bit of birding at the Port Wing sewage ponds before I headed back. A pair of Bald Eagles is apparently nesting somewhere near--they flew over my mother-in-law and me, and then (I think it was the same pair) were perched in a big dead tree at the end of Kinney Valley Road, but they took off before I could snap a photo. It was cold--there was ice on the stream that crosses Kinney Valley Road--but the sun felt lovely and something about Tree Swallows chittering fills me with joy and restores my soul.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

First warbler walk!

Our intrepid group!

This handsome Northern Flicker let me photograph him through my spotting scope.

Our Spring Warbler Walks got off to a rousing start today. My very first spring of birding, in 1975, I was out every day searching on my own, and amassed a season list of 40 species--we beat that in just over 3 hours today! I was having trouble with my eyes--that will probably give me problems till this stupid Bell's palsy goes away, bAnd we started a new tradition--on Tuesday mornings we're going to stop at the Willard Munger Inn for a little continental breakfast after our jaunt. Of course some people have to leave early, but this gave us a nice chance to sit down to some coffee, Belgium waffles, and conversation.
Distant Common Mergansers. The male (left) is scratching his face with his big red foot.
This is at least the third year that this goose has nested on this beaver den.
This Pied-billed Grebe stayed too far for great pictures, but it was a cute little guy.
Two Killdeer were hanging out with us.
Afterward we had brunch at the Willard Munger Inn

Here's our list of 42 species for the morning:

Canada Goose
American Wigeon
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
Common Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Greater Yellowlegs
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Belted Kingfisher
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Crow
Common Raven
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch

Monday, April 23, 2007

Duluth Warbler Walks start tomorrow!

American Redstart -- Western Waterfront Trail 2006 Warbler Walk

Tomorrow's the day! Our twice-weekly warbler walks are starting! Every Tuesday from now through May 29 we'll be covering the Western Waterfront Trail in west Duluth, meeting in the parking lot past the Tappakeg Bar (across from the zoo on Grand Avenue), at 6:30 am. Some people arrive later than others, and some people have to leave early--the whole thing is very informal and fun. I heard a Yellow-rump down my block today, so things look good for spotting something good tomorrow!

Every Thursday from now through May 31 we'll be covering Park Point, meeting at 6:30 at the huge parking lot by the recreation building and soccer fields.

I'm going to be spending a couple of weeks out of town starting after our May 5 trip, so for two weeks, the trips will be led by Larry Kraemer.

These trips, the main little service I provide for Duluth Audubon Society, are free and open to everyone. I usually go out whether it's raining lightly or threatening, but not if it's pouring. But please don't call me to find out if a trip is taking place. My husband and son don't appreciate the phone ringing at that hour of the morning!
Yellow-rumped Warbler -- Park Point, 2006 Warbler Walk

Sam Cook's column yesterday

Yesterday, Sam Cook's column in the Duluth News-Tribune was about how "two people who pay close attention to matters of the Earth" viewed progress on the environment. The two people he selected were geologist John Green and me. Read the article here.

Max the Maggot back online

(On edit March 7, 2012: I just removed Max the Maggot from my webpage. It will soon be available exclusively on Amazon Kindle Direct.)

I just added The Curious Adventures of Max the Maggot to my Story Index. As you may or may not recall, Max is a spunky but polite little maggot who saves the life of Vanessa Redtail after she has an unfortunate encounter with a weasel, and learns about life from peeking out behind the neck feathers of a Red-tailed Hawk. The story follows his life from egg to adult. Many children find this scene particularly appealing:

Now where to? Max sniffed the air. Something smelled wonderful! He headed off toward the captivating smell. A moose! A big, dead, luscious, putrescent moose! With a bazillion flies just like him all gathered, feasting and buzzing and having a jolly time.

If the flower fits the bill...

Today's LiveScience has a cool story about flowers evolving to fit bird and bat "snouts." Check it out!

I've been lucky enough to see some pretty cool hummingbird bills:

Sword-billed Hummingbird (Ecuador, 2006)
Green-breasted Mango (Costa Rica, 2002)

Broad-billed Hummingbird (Arkansas, 2006)
Green Thorntail (Costa Rica, 2007)

Volcano Hummingbird (Costa Rica 2007)
Gray-tailed Mountain Gem (Costa Rica, 2007)
Cinnamon Hummingbird (Guatemala, 2007)

Earth Day 2007

Today's For the Birds script:
This year’s Earth Day marks something of a sea change from recent years—so many people are suddenly fired up about the issue of climate change, many ignited by the documentary An Inconvenient Truth, that we seem to be having the kind of widespread and serious discussions about the quality of the earth’s environment that we had back in 1970, the year of the original Earth Day.

I was a freshman in college then, and played a minute role in the planning of the University of Illinois’s first Earth Day celebration. Working with the idealists who got the ball rolling awakened my own environmental awareness and sparked my own idealism.
Portrait of the artist as a young idealist (1969) (Well, it's my prom photo from high school. But I don't have a single photo of myself from my entire freshman or sophomore years in college, so it will have to do.)

And that was an excellent time for idealists—there were both plenty of clear and obvious dangers associated with the environment AND plenty of honest, well-informed, articulate and passionate people willing to speak out about them. Rivers such as the Cuyahoga in Ohio were literally catching fire. Soapsuds floated up from the little creek in my neighborhood in a Chicago suburb from the heavy phosphate load from detergents. Within hours after any snowfall, a black sooty crust coated snow piles in cities and suburbs both. Peregrine Falcons had been obliterated from the entire continent east of the Rocky Mountains. Bald Eagles and Osprey were no longer successfully breeding and so rapidly disappearing. Even without 24-7 news and the Internet, there was plenty of time on the nightly news and plenty of space in newspapers and magazines for these disturbing stories to be covered. And back then, balanced reporting meant that reporters tried to find out the actual truth rather than give both sides of every argument equal time and space and credibility. In the case of pesticides, there were enormous pressures by the chemical industry to force such corporate magazines as Time and Readers Digest to ridicule and dismiss Rachel Carson and her work, but the vast numbers of objective scientists whose research backed up Carson’s words were still able to speak out and be heard above the financial interests of the time.

By 1970, much of the debate was pretty much over, and all that was left was to get legislation hammered out that would actually solve some of the problems. We were in the middle of a conservative Republican administration, yet the national consensus was so huge that environmental issues were truly non-partisan. After all, everyone, regardless of party affiliation or political beliefs, needs clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. So even with the Vietnam War raging and other pressing national and international issues in the Watergate era, Congress passed and the Nixon Administration signed into law the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act, established the Environmental Protection Agency, banned DDT in the United States, lowered the speed limit, established fuel efficiency standards for automobiles, and required automakers to start manufacturing cars that drove on unleaded gasoline.

These laws were extremely effective, making huge changes within years and even, in some cases, months. And so naturally there was a collective sigh of relief. We’d had our national house-cleaning and were ready to kick up our feet and take a break.

But even the tidiest house gets messy if you don’t keep up with it. We started producing new pesticides. Congress provided a loophole so that SUVs and minivans could be defined as light trucks and thus didn’t need to comply with the same emission or gas consumption guidelines as passenger vehicles. And by the 1980s, we were simply no longer enforcing the environmental laws with nearly the same vigor as we’d done in the 70s, even in some cases watering down regulations. We’re still better off than before 1970 in many ways, but we’re again losing ground every day.

But on this Earth Day, 2007, I’m hopeful for a repeat of 1970. It will take hard work and sacrifice to change things. But the combination of the increasingly obvious deterioration of the environment right now along with honest, well-informed, passionate, articulate spokespeople speaking out for our planet may very well precipitate a new national focus on protecting this planet that every one of its inhabitants, human and animal, depends upon, from our first to our last breath.
Listen to the program here.

Birding with Bell's Palsy

Even though I like to think I'm no longer vain about my appearance, I'm not emotionally prepared to post photos of myself with Bell's palsy. It's interesting karma that I'd develop a Dick Cheney sneer when I'm trying to smile--I've said enough nasty things about him over the years that it's funny that my mouth suddenly looks like his. Funny, but singularly non-photogenic.

I still can't whistle, which has been very frustrating--I didn't realize how very much I use whistling to call Photon and communicate with my neighborhood birds. My left eye can't blink easily, and doesn't close quite all the way so needs to be taped down when I'm sleeping, and my vision is starting to be rather blurry--not a pleasant development during spring migration, but when WOULD blurry vision be a pleasant development?

We humans use our faces for a lot of communication. Once when I was a licensed rehabber I cared for an Evening Grosbeak who had head injuries from hitting a window. Apparently she suffered some nerve damage to the skin muscles on half her head. Songbirds don't use facial expression for communication, but they do raise and lower their facial feathers in part for the same purpose. This poor bird's feathers were loose and raised on one side, and she couldn't control them. Blue Jays and some other crested birds raise and lower their crests to show how territorial or non-aggressive they are. Watch a flock of jays at a feeder or bird bath--their crests will all be plastered down unless a stranger or potential predator shows up. Once I was speaking in Wisconsin with my education Blue Jay Sneakers when another speaker showed up with an education Great Horned Owl. Sneakers took one look at it and up her crest went! But I went on speaking, and when she looked at me, down it went again. She glanced at the owl again, and up the crest went! Back to me, and down went the crest. Up-down-up-down-up-down! It was one of the funniest things I've ever seen.

So avian or human, we're supposed to have body language to show others what's going on inside our heads. But with this silly Bell's palsy, I'm not doing that so well right now. My case is milder than many--my face isn't drooping for one thing--so I haven't freaked out anyone so far, despite the disconcerting Dick Cheney smile. Whatever else my expression may say to you, just remember I promise not to shoot you in the face.

From the archives: Bird Tapeworms

I'm trying to locate some old "birderblog" posts about my cat, "Cat," which a couple of people have asked me to repost. So far no luck finding them, but I did come across this old post which I thought was worth reposting:

Back when I was rehabbing and studying nighthawks, several of my birds had tapeworms. I could pick out the perfectly rectangular, pearly cestode fragments in the droppings, and naturally I made a pair of earrings out of them, though since I was no longer teaching junior high science, I didn't have too many opportunities to wear them. I sent one tapeworm in a little vial of formalin solution to humor columnist Dave Barry, who put it in his Holiday Gift Guide for 1994. I hope I won't get in trouble for violating copyright, but this isn't on the net elsewhere that I can see, so I'll quote it here:
Bird Tapeworm

This is the perfect gift for the person--such as your immediate supervisor--to whom you would really like to give an intestinal parasite.

This is an actual tapeworm. It came from a bird, and it was sent in for reasons that we still do not totally comprehend by Laura Erickson, who wrote a book entitled For the Birds: An Uncommon Guide (published by Pfeifer-Hamilton). This book contains a lot of amazing information about birds, including the fact that they get tapeworms. In fact, according to Erickson's book, a single duck can contain as many as 1,600 tapeworms, which explains why ducks always seem so cranky.

Erickson told us that the tapeworm she sent us came from a nighthawk named Bullwinkle. She didn't tell us the tapeworm's name, so we've been calling it Roger. Roger is only about the size of a grain of rice, but he has a lot of personality considering that he's dead and floating around in some kind of chemical solution. We talk to him a lot about things that are on our mind.

"Roger," we say, "can you believe some guy wants $100 million a year just to play basketball?"

Roger doesn't say much--he's not a big sports fan--but he's a good listener, which is more than you can say for a lot of people. Plus you can put Roger in your pocket and carry him anywhere, which means that not only do you always have company, but you also have protection against assault by violent criminals. ("Get back! I have a tapeworm!")

Unfortunately, nighthawk tapeworms are not available in stores. If you want one for yourself or that special someone on your holiday gift list, you'll have to use the technique that Erickson used to obtain Roger: "You sit around and wait for the nighthawk to go to the bathroom."

You will do this if you really care.
Please don't copy/paste this and send it to people you think want to read about intestinal parasites because I already feel bad ripping it off from Dave Barry, who after all wrote it and deserves full credit. (Well, just send them the URL for this post--that way I'm the one who accepts full blame for ripping off his writing.) I hope he won't get mad that I've quoted it here, but his accepting the tapeworm in the first place, naming it Roger, and then writing about it is one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me.

The only thing that could possibly happen that would be cooler would be if some parasitologist one day were to name a cestode that infects nighthawks after me. Gary Duke, my advisor on my doomed Ph.D. project, and I tried to identify the tapeworms infecting my nighthawks, and I sent him some that he was going to get analyzed, but unbeknownst to either of us, he was already starting to suffer from early-onset Alzheimer's and I don't know what happened to the samples. The only tapeworms infecting Common Nighthawks that I could find in the literature were Hydropsalis climacocereus and Metadilepis caprimulgorum, though I found records of others in other nightjars. Wouldn't it be lovely to one day read in the literature about Hyropsalis ericksonius or, even better, Metadilepis laurai?
This is the postcard that started the whole thing. It was his endorsement of my first book.

This is the postcard he sent when the tapeworm arrived.
This is the endorsement he sent for Sharing the Wonder of Birds with Kids.

These postcards represent 30% of my Dave Barry Postcard Collection,but 100% of The Tapeworm Collection.

Air or water quality--how to choose?

Here's a story from today's New York Times, about the hydroelectric dams in Oregon. They've damaged rivers badly, but now are being defended as "green" energy.

Climate Change Adds Twist to Debate Over Dams

Published: April 23, 2007

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore., April 19 — The power company that owns four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River says the dams provide a crucial source of so-called clean energy at a time when carbon emissions have become one of the world’s foremost environmental concerns.

But the American Indians, fishermen and environmentalists who want the dams removed point to what has happened since the first one was built nearly 90 years ago: endangered salmon have been blocked from migrating, Indian livelihoods have been threatened, and, more recently, the commercial fishing industry off the Oregon and California coasts has been devastated. They say the dams are anything but clean. They say the river is a mess.

“Should we have to sacrifice water quality for air quality?” said Craig Tucker, who is coordinating efforts by the Karuk tribe of Northern California to take down the dams. “Should Indians and family fisherman be the ones who have to sacrifice to address this problem?”

Whether the power company, PacifiCorp, wants to keep the dams because they improve air quality or simply because they are inexpensive to operate is not clear. But emphasizing an environmental argument that touches on climate change has added a new wrinkle to the longstanding debate over dam removal in the Pacific Northwest. In a region where plenty of residents measured their “carbon footprints” long before green became the new black, PacifiCorp is suggesting that righting one environmental wrong could lead to another, one that could affect people more than fish.

Read the whole article.

In 101 Ways to Help Birds, I tried to make some sense of our energy dilemma by discussing the impact on birds of every way we produce energy and how we distribute energy. The ONE way we produce electricity that doesn't harm birds at all as far as I can tell is solar--which is of course the one way that individuals could become fully or at least much more independent of energy companies, so is the one technology that I'm seeing the least discussion of. No matter where or how our energy is produced, it's CRITICAL--for climate, for birds, and for ourselves and our children's futures--that we conserve energy.

Speaking of which, on the drive home from Wisconsin Friday, I took my time and had nice tailwinds, and between Rhinelander and Ashland got some pretty nice gas mileage in my Prius.

Yep--that's 61.3 mpg going 126 miles! Of course, that wasn't just the tail winds and my speed (I was going 52 mph except when cars were approaching--then I'd speed up to 55 till they passed). There was also a nice gentle downhill stretch as I approached the lake. But the mileage for the entire 236-mile journey was 58.8, which was still pretty darned good. When we drive at the slowest speed that is safe, courteous, and convenient, we save energy, money, and even wildlife, which is much easier to avoid at slower speeds. If a great many people got into the habit of driving at the slowest speed that was safe, courteous, and convenient, we'd save vast resources of energy which would be an important step in limiting climate change and lowering our dependence on foreign oil without adding to the habitat loss and pesticide and fertilizer contamination associated with massive corn production for ethanol. And we'd also lower our subsidies for crows and other scavengers by reducing the free calories on roadsides. Which, by the way, would also be good for our own health, since those dead deer rotting away on roadsides don't just disappear, and many of the bacteria involved in putrescence are dangerous for us. Avian and mammalian scavengers carry loads of bacteria from carcasses to parts unknown. And houseflies and other insects carry them right into our kitchens, too.

Reducing our driving speed really and truly has a huge array of advantages for us and for the natural world. Many people don't want "Big Brother" to regulate us. That's fine with me, but then it's high time we started regulating ourselves.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Photon has an adventure

Photon and I headed out to Rhinelander on Thursday, to help pitch for WXPR. We always have a great time at the station--it's an absolutely wonderful community station, completely worth a 9-hour round trip drive to help support. This time I actually bought a membership, too--at the $75 level I got the coolest imaginable premium--Beethoven's Nine Symphonies, by Josef Krips and the London Symphony Orchestra!!!! This is the exact same version Russ got back in 1969 or so, as one of those introductory offers to join a big record club. So it's the one I memorized, learning every movement's every note. I must have listened to each record dozens of times, and to the Fifth, Sixth, and Ninth Symphonies each at least a hundred times. And now I can hear them again! First thing I did when I got home was install them on my iPod, and I've already listened to my Big Three twice each.

But when I was in the studio Thursday afternoon, since it was pretty warm in Rhinelander, someone propped the outside door open without realizing Photon was there, and she decided to take a little walk. I came out and she was nowhere to be found! So Mick Fiocchi and I headed out to look for her. I turned toward a little patch of woods near the station--that's the kind of place she loves to check out. I tried to whistle, but this damnable Bell's palsy makes that impossible. She wasn't in the woods across the street, so then I walked behind the building where I saw something that looked like her and started calling. That's when a sweet couple called me over. Photon had apparently seen their little dog through their apartment's patio door, and knocked on the door! They found it funny that a cute, friendly little dog was paying a visit, and when they saw her dog tags called the phone number. Russ answered, of course not having a clue what was happening, and so when they told him they'd found his dog, Russ said, "But she's in Wisconsin." To which they of course responded that they were in Wisconsin, and told him where they were. So he called the station to tell them Photon had been found, but meanwhile I'd found her myself. So then I had to call him to tell him the prodigal puppy had returned.

Photon is always fun at the station--she greets people, does her tricks ("Road kill!" "Not happy road kill, tragic road kill!" "Oh, no! Mommy's got a gun--BANG!" "Wave bye-bye!" "Dance!"), and when she's not off having adventures, lays down quietly in the studio with me. But for Photon, Dog of the Northwoods, it's not exciting being stuck indoors, even at a lovely station like WXPR. So I promised her we'd have "such larks, Pip!" as soon as we were done.

She got to play with Mick and Karen Fiocci's excellent Golden Retriever Gus that night, and next morning we headed back to the station for a little reception. And after that, it was time for REAL fun. We stopped at the Powell Marsh where she got to go for a little swim:

I saw the most peculiar thing there--what looks like a "mixed marriage" between a Trumpeter Swan and a Canada Goose. They were pretty far out, so I didn't get any good photos, but they were sleeping and then preening right next to one another.
Of course, Photon paid them no mind. We saw Sandhill Cranes, Ring-necked Ducks, Green-winged Teal, Northern Shovelers, and a few other birds, heard a few Spring Peepers and Wood Frogs, and lots of Chorus Frogs. It was a lovely little respite from real life. The cranes seemed totally spooked by me--I guess my Dick Cheney smile put fear in them that I'd shoot them in the face. Oh, well.