Saturday, April 30, 2016

Mission Accomplished

My adventure started peacefully enough.  Dale and I were sitting next to a placid pond in the early morning, cameras ready and sketchbook on the dash.  The still springtime air was filled with the “Kaa-leee e” from a few red-winged blackbirds and several coot were bickering over who had rights to which lady coot.  Far off a sapsucker drummed out his beat.  Life was good, if a little serene. 

Suddenly I hear another sound, one all too close – crackling paper in the back of our car.  BUT no one is in the back of the car.  Inside and out we had the pond to ourselves – we thought! 

Then it dawns on us.  There is a mouse in the car … or a RAT.   We were sitting so quietly he decided it was time to rearrange his digs a little.  Drat!  What would the little beastie get into?  Chew a nest into our cold weather cloths stored back there?  Join us for lunch in our lunch box?  Or, worse yet, add a few electrical wires to his belongings?

During our lunch break we pull most of our stuff out of the car.  We have jackets piled on top of the car, boots on the ground, satchels here and there.  No sign of the mouse, but he has lots of places to hide. 

Back in town I look for a catch-em-alive mouse trap.  Needless to say, I’m hoping it is a mouse, not a rat.  I have to settle for a package of two snap traps.

I figure our uninvited passenger joined us the day before when I left the car doors open in a woodsy spot while I was sketching.  Or maybe there is a way to get in when all doors are closed and no telling where we picked him up.  I’d rather it be a deer mouse than a house mouse and certainly want a mouse rather than a rat.   

When we get home we take all our cold weather cloths and food into the house, except for a couple of nuts and an apple core.  I don’t want him starving to death in some hard to reach spot!  Towards evening I bait the two traps with peanut butter and put one on the floor in front where Dale admitted he’d dropped a few nuts and they have disappeared.  The second I put it back near where we heard him rummaging. 
Before bed I go out with my flashlight and peer it.  There he is!  A cute little deer mouse with big black eyes.  Very much alive.  By morning he is still very much live, but both snap trap triggers are licked clean.  Dastardly little fellow!

Night two:  I set the traps with more care, trying to set a hair trigger.  Why is this MY job?  Dale puts on a sneaky smerk and says, “Because you are so good at it!”  I established my reputation several years ago and he has never let me forget it. 

The mouse’s nest building is obviously progressing.  Our roll of paper towel is now tattered and torn apart.  I leave it hoping it would keep him from tackling the car seats. 

Morning:  The little snip!  He licked those snap traps clean again.  I refuse to use those awful sticky traps.  They should be outlawed.  But I really need to do something.  I know he is still in there somewhere.  The apple core disappeared so has a couple peanuts.  He doesn’t like cashews.  I give him another apple core.  We go on a longer shopping expedition and come home with a $6.99 plastic catch-em-alive mouse trap.  Full of hope I set my new trap.

Night three:  Darn!  He is a smart little fella.  I actually got up at 3 AM to check the trap.  I was worried the mouse was caught and might be getting cold.  No such luck.   I check it again in the morning.  The trap sits there undisturbed, even with that yummy smear of peanut butter at the back of it. 

The next evening I ‘chummed,’ that is a fishing term for throwing out tid bits of bait, hoping to get the fish to feed.  I put three tiny dots of peanut butter near the trap and hope.

Morning:  Success!  Mission accomplished!  The trap is shut and heavy.  

I already have a jar ready and waiting.  Dale has punched holes in it; we added a little food and some paper towel for him to hide in.  We have already decided to return him to where we are quite sure he hopped aboard.  I didn’t want him becoming a permanent resident at home.  Perhaps it is a ‘her!”  I don’t need her and ten babies becoming permanent residents at home!! 
A couple of hours later the little mouse is on its way.  We unceremoniously dump it out in good habitat near where we think it hopped aboard.  Once on real ground, off it bounds, right towards a tumbled of old wood.  Boy!  That little mouse has quite a story to tell its friends. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Quick Sketches

It's been about three weeks since I posted.  Spring is just too nice a time to year to be sitting at a computer.  This posting will be brief -- just a few of my recent sketches so you can see what I am up to.

The first one is of Mt. Hood in northern Oregon.  It's a 'car sketch,' i.e. I painted it while Dale was driving on the interstate.  The blush of springtime was just too pretty to ignore, and Mt. Hood is still covered with pristine snow.
Spring comes early to western Oregon.  Bumblebee queens overwinter is protected spots.  As soon as the weather warms, they are buzzing about looking for a good location for their new colony.  Often they use an old rodent hole.  She'll raise the first brood and then she'll have helpers to assist with subsequent broods.  
A red-tailed hawk perched in a maple.  I sketched this when the maple was in full bloom.  The tree was full of blossoms and the leaves just unfurling.  

Ravens know it is spring too.  We often see them soaring together.  I envy their ability to play in the sky.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Promised Memories

Lunch stop near Moose, WY (9/20/89 Grand Teton Natl Park.

This is a follow-up to my post, "On the Art of Field Sketching."  At the end of that post I promised more field sketches and the memories associated with them.  I've purposely picked older sketches since I posted a lot of the newer gems on my blog.  I'll get right to it. 
June 1977
Here is one from my first journal.  The sketch isn't much to brag about, but I'm immediately transported back to my solo night on the top of Pine Ridge near Prineville, Oregon.  I'd always wanted to spend a night alone in the 'woods.'  The spot I picked wasn't woods, but rather the wind swept top of a ridge in the high desert of eastern Oregon.  It wasn't a long hike in, maybe an hour of slow, steep climbing.  Once on top I found a snug spot somewhat sheltered from the wind by boulders, and next to a gnarly ponderosa pine.  Supper that night was a steak grilled over a little fire (see the hand held grill I'm carrying), raw carrots and bread.  Probably an apple too.  I remember the carrot, but not the apple.   I look at the sketch and I know immediately I was wearing the knit hat my parents brought back from Europe.

The high desert is chilly at night, but I knew that. The one heavy thing I brought was a good sleeping bag.  No tent.  During the night a great horned owl flew into the tree above me and hooted.  What more could I ask for?
Early 1990s:  I already had the scan and didn't even go to my notes for an exact date.

I'm just over a slight rise in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone.  Even though I'm relatively close to the road, I'm out of sight and feel as though I have the whole, wide-open valley to myself.  Just moments after dropping into my own little world, I realized I was not alone.  Mr. badger -- he was big, I do think it was a male -- was watching me from his pile of freshly dug dirt. 

Badger turned and dug some more, great gobs of dirt flying into the wind.  Soon he turned to watch me again.  I hadn't moved.  He watched and watched and finally decided to nap a little while he half kept an eye on things -- my chance to sketch.  In my mind I still see the dirt on his nose and the wind ruffling his long hair. .... and the delicious feeling of being one with nature.
1997:  Yellowstone -- By now I was writing better notes.  These are only slight edited:

            1:45 PM:  Arrived at sandhill crane nest just south of Twin Lakes. Some of last night’s snow still clings on the north side.  She sleeps lightly, frequently glancing about.  She watches warily as a bald eagle soars over.  Three Canada geese behind her crane their necks tracking the eagle.  The sandhill is pulling reeds into the nest.
2:05 PM:  She (?) stands and bugles several times.  Her mate has arrived.  Both bugle.  This small valley resonates with their calls.  The “arriver” reaches down with its long bill and gently rolls the pale, lightly mottled egg.  One egg:  large and shiny as if wet.
            One crane passes nearby pieces of tule (bullrush) to the other;  the second crane tucks it into the nest.  Three or four pieces and that’s enough.  As the first crane walks off, it picks up and tosses more pieces of reed to the crane on the nest.  The new crane rolls the egg again and starts to settle down onto it.  Ouch!  That position isn't quite right.  He (?) stands again and attempts to turn.  He is standing on his own foot!  First it must untangle its toes, then settle down again.  With his back to us, he tries again, but that isn’t right either.  He (?) stands and pivots to the right and settles for a third time.  Better. 2:20 PM:  He preens on the nest.  Still one dab of snow unmelted on the nest.  More is falling, but it’s not sticking. 
            2:25 PM: Stands, then eases down and sits on his (?) elbows and looks around.  I think he is trying to find a solution to this lumpy problem. 
            2:30 PM:  Still sitting on his elbows.  He(?) is pumping, sort of deep breathing?
            2:32 PM:  She just laid an egg!  Damn.  I missed the actual egg laying by a hair.  I was busy drawing her head.  I looked back to the crane and saw she was standing over two eggs. The new one is a little darker and perhaps has just a tad of blood on it.  Damn!  Damn!  Damn!  I should of, could of, seen that egg pop out, but of course I’d never get any drawing done if I watched every single moment.  And Dale was taking a break (napping) too. 

Next day:
            I’m still kicking myself for yesterday’s lapse in brain function.  My gray cells weren’t firing on all four cylinders.  Both Dale and I made a faulty assumption that the new crane on the nest was the male and it didn’t cross my mind to reconsider it .. and then I didn’t bother to wake Dale when the crane sat there on her lower legs evidencing unusual behavior. 

Oct 2001:  Itasca State Park, headwaters of the Mississippi, Minnesota:

I look at these leaves woven together and remember how the ground at Itasca State Park was carpeted with leaves.  They were still dry and crackled when I walked on them.  Many still hung onto their fall colors.  I'd been living in the West and almost forgot how many deciduous trees grow in the Midwest. We camped there hoping to hear loons calling.  We did see one loon, but it didn't call.  It was the leaves that were memorable. 
Mar 13, 2010:  Lagoon Campground, Oregon Coast, Oregon:

We've come to Lagoon Oxbow again, hoping to find the great blue heron.

"Too many dogs (2) and people (6) today, but other birds were good to us.  I was phising some wrentits ('phising' is birder talk for making little squeaky noises).  When I decided to try a new sound, a quiet "click", as if I was saying giddyup to a miniature horse.  Zoom!  I got dive-bombed by a midget.  It took me a few minutes to verify I had upset a rufous humming bird.  I didn't think he would have come north yet, but there he sits in a gnarly shore pine.  Many years ago the top broke out of the tree and now a tangle of branches has grown a-new.  His favorite resting spot is a thin wisp of a twig.  He fluffs and calls, and flutters his wings; then flies off, soon to be back.  I'm sketching quickly and then I'll move off to finish the details. "

.... isn't that a wonderful tidbit to remember!

This little 'field sketch' is an odd one.  I was watching Cornell Lab's live web cam of a great blue heron nest.  Their camera was so good I sketched a series of the herons and their nest.  To me they still qualify as field sketches.  I may have been much cozier sketching in front of my computer, but it was still life happening in real time in front of my eyes.   I was closer to the nest than I ever could be in the wild.  I ended up writing two blog posts about the nest (see April 2012). 

On my last sketch I wrote:  "End of my day -- nearly 3 AM for the herons.  They are sleeping now, but often busy during the night -- preening; egg rolling; even; copulated again.  Female on the eggs.  The male's plume is straight up because he has his head tucked while he sleeps.  Time for me to sleep too."