Friday, July 31, 2015

My Private Dancer

Burlesque Curious Turkeys
Although I blushed, it only took one Blue Heron Burlesque to have me hooked on a show more decadent than anything HBO offers. And its leading dancer knows...I like to watch...

Slow Circling Osprey
Box Seats for the Family From Canada
Merganser Stage Manager Prepping for Show
A bunch of turkeys grazed through on my commute to work this morning. Not the tourists passing logging trucks at reckless speeds, but literally, wild turkeys. My commute consists of walking outside with hoses for several hours before returning to tap out stories on my keyboard. Evidently, word is spreading about Blue Heron. The turkeys are curious.

The coyotes left me a prank call next to my pile of uprooted knapweed -- hairy scat. I wasn't amused. But then I found a note. It read, "I know you like the show. Meet me by the pond. Bring tea. ~BH." I knew it was Blue Heron because it was initialed in chicken scratch. Bring tea, eh? Well, I'd bring my camera, too!

Expecting a private show, I was surprised at the gathering. An osprey flew in circles overhead like a news chopper, craning his neck to see the pond log stage. The Canada geese had box seats on an island and I was surprised they let their children watch. Didn't they know this was risque? Tail feathers will certainly shake!

Blue Heron posed cool as ZZ Top, blue feathers bold in daylight, casting me a wink, I'm sure. A merganser, his stage assistant, I believe, floated around the log. The morning lighting was set low and sultry, promising a day that would heat up. Tina Turner began to sing, Private Dancer. Well, in my head, she did.

Maybe I've embellished my story (I wish I was making up the part about the coyote shat), but Blue Heron was my private dancer this morning and any old music will do when he bathes, shakes and dances. Maybe I blushed, maybe I didn't. But I took photos and whooped loud enough to startle tourists driving on HWY 95 with the windows rolled down.

Enjoy the show!

It Begins

Full Plunge

Surfacing a Wet Bird

Strutting the Log Stage

Shake That Blue Booty!

Shake, Shake, Shake

Fluffing the Bustle

A New Move -- The Elegant Dip

Full Monty Shaking

Gettin' Down

Wing Peep Begins

Wow! Nice Feathers!

Shoulder Shrug

The Full Peep

What's This?

Flying to a Secondary Stage (Near Box Seats)

Showing Those Feathers Again

And That Concludes the, the Show!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sky Divers

Morning Commute
Watering a Happy Pie Pumpkin Plant
Belted Kingfisher
Second Sky Diver of the Day
The Water Cannonball
Enter the Red Tailed Hawk
Swarmed by King Birds
Duck! No, Not a Duck...Duck! It's a Charging King Bird
Grinning Grenny (Me, Too!)
It's 7 am and Todd is pulling out of our driveway to go play Santa. He says that delivering for Fed Ex makes him feel like he delivers happiness to some of his customers. One business in Sandpoint even gave him a Santa-with-a-moose coffee mug.

An hour earlier I started frying sausage links and watering according to my plan that follows early morning shade. As breakfast progresses, I pull hoses and sprinklers every 15 minutes to a new spot. By the time Todd leaves, I've progressed to pulling weeds while I continue to water.

With 20 spots and two sprinklers it takes me three hours, giving me ample time to pull stray lawn weeds, cultivate my garden plants in rotation (the never-ending weeding of organic gardening) and tackle patches of knapweed one blasted taproot at a pull.

Of course my eyes drift to the skies or pond.

The great blue frontier overhead is bustling. Now that juveniles are getting the hang of wings, flocks of geese fly low through the valley. The first osprey I've seen all summer hovers over Elmira Pond and I don't dare run inside to grab my camera. I don't want to miss this moment.

He doesn't dive.

Armed with my camera, I weed until another sky diver appears: the belted kingfisher. His wings beat faster than an ospreys, but both birds are similar in their approach -- hover, watch, dive. Kingfisher makes almost as big of a water cannonball as an osprey does. He gets whatever the osprey had passed over.

While talking to my squash plant -- yes, I talk to my plants and no, they don't talk back -- I twist off my first yellow crook-neck of the season. That will go well with pork chops on the bbq tonight. I hear the alarm chirps of the Eastern King Birds, a magnificent gray and white fly-catcher.

They are considered aggressive and I have a blurry shot to prove it. Geez, I was just taking photos!

Eastern king birds will grab a hold of predator birds and ride them like a paddle-board surfer on Lake Pend Oreille. Their alarm has me looking up and this time the sky diver is a red-tailed hawk, a dark brown morph. Looking at his battered wings and tail, I'd say he knows who is "king"  of this pond sky. Three kingbirds swarm him and drive the hawk away from Elmira Pond.

The osprey doesn't return. Maybe he's heard the bad rap about the king birds, but in truth, I've never seen them tackle either the osprey or kingfisher. They must discern their sky divers and realize that fisher birds don't threaten their kingdom.

Strangely enough, neither do they swarm the dogs who cheerfully join me my last half hour of watering as I quit weeding, lured by birds into watching blue skies and still pond. My grin is as toothy as Grenny's.

Nothing like a morning of physical work and sky diver wonder.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Blue Heron Burlesque

Home Sweet Home
Easy Chairs
Who Knew?
He's a Hot Bird
Taking the Plunge
Looking Coy
Tail Feathers Like a Bustle
Final peep Show
Big-screen television at home is the west-facing window that Todd and I often watch while eating dinner. It's not unlike an old married couple dining with Jeopardy turned up loud enough to hear the wheel crank. Instead of guessing at vowels, we guess at birds and bugs.

Welcome to life on Elmira Pond; home sweet home.

What we lack in cable entertainment, we make up for with live performances viewed from our easy chairs under the old apple tree. You might be surprised at the sophistication Elmira Pond attracts. Already this year, we've had A Day at the Opera and New Drama on the Pond.

We also get some bawdy shows; our very own outdoor HBO.

Like someone's Gram accidentally tuning into Game of Thrones, I found myself muttering, "Oh, my!" I had no idea that my knight in blue feathers, Blue Heron, had a different kind of act, a full body burlesque.

It all began with a bowl of popcorn and me staring at the big bird who was standing on his preening log. Preening is as risque as the birds get on Elmira Pond, and you see a fluffed feather here and an under-wing flash there. In mating season, the male hooded merganser pops a hood on his head, but that's as exciting as it gets.

Today, Blue Heron is hot, hot, hot!

I don't mean sexy, I mean, the poor bird is panting. The heat has been unusual this summer and the sun beating down on his blue-grey feathers got him ruffled. He opens his frog-impaling beak, thrusts out a long tongue and pants heavily.

He seeks relief, striding down the log that remains under water. He gets to his belly and does something I've never seen him do before -- he sits in the water like a chicken on a nest. He splashes and dunks, getting soaked. I'm reminded of the scene from Flashdance when Alex releases the water on her hot stage dance.

And dancing is next. If only we had a hurdy-gurdy for accompaniment!

Blue Heron sashays up the log and shakes like a dog (or like Alex, in Flashdance). He fluffs his tail feathers like a bustle and boa, shaking his booty. No feather is left unshaken. He dances on legs as spindly as spiked high-heels and believe me, I'm thoroughly entertained.

Or maybe, I'm easily entertained. Anyhow, pond burlesque tops anything I've seen lately on TV.

Blue Heron's final act is a peep show. With wings slung low, like a woman's gown draping off her shoulders, he stands on the log to face me. He reminds me of a flasher except this is one long flash. He stands fully exposed, daring me to turn away. I blush...snap a photo...and leave.

Linking up with Abracabadra for photo-story-telling fun on Wordless Wednesday. Dirty bird photos by Charli Mills. Rated F for feathers shown.

BREAKING NEWS: Blue Heron returns in My Private Dancer! 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Finding Zen Near Canada

Love, Leaves & a Waxwing
Zen Like a River
Never Stop Seeking
Go With the Flow
Birds in the River
Ripples Feel Good!
A Happy, Unleashed Grenny Seeking River Zen
The Right Kind of Pit
Blackened-Cajun Pork Chops, Served River Side
Flock of Cedar Waxwings Seeking River Zen
Yellow Tail Tip, Red Wing Dots 7 Black Mask
Settling in to Watch the River Flow
Research & Dinner Along the Moyie
Hungry Fly-Fisherman
Flight of the Waxwing on the Moyie River
I have found my zen.

Between Elmira Pond and Eastport Border Crossing into British Columbia, Canada is a 92-mile tributary of the Kootenai (in the US)/Kootenay (in Canada) River. The Moyie River behaves as one would think it should -- it flows south out of Moyie Lake in Canada into the northern US.

The Moyie River enters the Kootenai River a few miles east of Bonners Ferry, Idaho becoming part of a Pacific Ocean watershed that is anything but typical. Named for the Kootenay Range of British Columbia, the Kootenay winds south out of Canada and into Montana just northwest of Glacier National Park. In the US, it's called the Kootenai because, well, we don't use the metric system or British Standard English, and tomorrow is independence day and I suppose we have to exert our independence through contentious spelling.

It's one river with two names spelled differently.

If that's not goofy enough, the river itself decides to veer course and reenter Canada and regain its original spelling. By this time, the Moyie has joined forces and returns to its native country, too. The Kootenai...pardon...the Kootenay then winds southwest and flows into the largest river to feed the Pacific Ocean -- the Columbia.

No wonder early explorers, including Dave Thompson, gave up ever finding the mythical western sea -- the rivers in this region flow up and down the glacially scoured valleys of the Northern Rockies for hundreds of miles with nary a hint of westward direction . The Kootenai Tribe...Ktunaxa, wonder spelling is an issue...were the first to not care which way the rivers flowed and just went with the flow, living and fishing in isolation for hundreds of years.

I'm fairly certain the Ktunaxa found their zen here, too.

It's been so blasted hot that I've had to escape Elmira Pond, returning by cooler evening to water my gardens. Gone are the luxurious mornings I spent outside weeding, digging dirt and watching birds. I've felt lost having to leave my home by day. It disrupts my routines, interferes with my writing flow and leaves me feeling disconnected.

Until I found the Moyie River. When Todd announced that we'd go fly-fish the Moyie again, I jumped into action. I finished my online tasks, wrapped up my client project for the week, put on my swim trunks and tee-shirt, grabbed my research for my current WIP, packed a picnic meal and loaded up dog tie-outs, a duct taped camping chair, briquettes, mosquito repellant, camera and a change of clothes.

I was ready in five minutes, surprising the Hub who normally complains of me taking forever. I wanted to return to the Moyie, but I was also in a camping mood. And day-camped we did.

In Bonners Ferry we bought cherries (not as good as the Peach Man's) and cold Mike's Strawberry Lemonade. We knew which roads to take by this time and quickly arrived at Meadow Creek Campground, a US Forest Service spot with 21 campsites on the Moyie River. We found only three sites open (being Thursday prior to the big Fourth of July weekend) and we claimed a forested site on the river.

Todd fussed with his stoneflies, line and reel while I unloaded, set up and paid $6 in a drop box for the campsite. I staked out the dogs, much to their dismay, and to look at my rented piece of the Moyie River. There, beneath gurgling waters that I had photographed the weekend before, I found a broad, flat rock that fit my bottom and down I sat in the water.

Currents pushed around me and I extended both legs finding a comfortable position that allowed me to become one with the flow. Water rippled over my submerged knees and tops of toes as if I had become part of the river. It wasn't cold, just barely cool. I sat watching the Moyie River, drinking a cold Mike's with the afternoon sun dappling my hair and back through the pine boughs.

I found my zen in the Moyie River.

All afternoon, I rotated from campground table-cum-desk to river (with dogs on leashes). Every time I sat I felt peace. This definitely beats the heat! Even the initially gruff camp host didn't dampen my day. He dropped in like someone walking into your house. I felt like saying, "Knock on a tree first, buddy!"

He eyed my dogs and I was glad I had them on leashes per campground rules. He said he was confused about my date of departure. I explained that we were local and just here for the day. He informed me this was a campground, not a day use center. I argued back that I paid for my campsite and nothing in the rules said there was a minimum time for daily use. He shrugged and said, "Guess not!"

He turned friendly after that, discussed western history with me, patted both dogs and told me I could let them run loose. I pointed out Grendel's scars and neck punctures and said the dog had a bad rap with bears. That's when the camp host told me there were no bears in this area! Oh, I love the Moyie River! The Pack River can keep its grizzlies; I'll sit here all summer.

The only downside was that my fearless fly-fisherman returned to say it was too hot and he didn't want to stress the fish. We only catch-and-release trout so we care about their ability to recover from being caught. I invited Todd to my personal place of zen and we sat in the Moyie with the dogs.

Though we paid for the campsite, Todd wanted to fish further upstream as it cooled off and we both decided that the Moyie Crossing picnic site would be a better place to barbeque because we could use briquettes instead of having to build a campfire. I will definitely return to my place of zen and gladly pay $6 to sit in the river again. Next time we could bring the tent.

We finished our evening at Moyie Crossing and I found the look of zen reflected in Grendel who finally got to run off leash and play in the river. We were all entertained by Cedar Waxwings who live  their zen getting tipsy on ripe fruit and watching the Moyie flow from old bridge pilings. This time we sprayed against mosquitoes and dined on blackened-Cajun pork chops and cherries without donating blood to the buzzing pests.

It's never too hot, too late or too unusual to find your own zen.