The Joy of Home Winemaking

Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
July 2001

Starling Experience, July 10

More Birds, July 15

2001: | Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | July | Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec |

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Starling Experience
Tuesday, July 3

Denny woke me this morning at an early hour to inform me that there was a bird in the house.

Indeed there was. A young starling was fluttering against the glass at the side door, aiming for the sunlight outside. Our plan was to have Denny go out the front door and carefully open the side door so the bird could get out while I closed off the doors to the first floor.

On his way around the outside of the house the bird took exception to me and headed for the basement where I found it trying to get through the glass block windows. I turned on the lights in the laundry room and sure enough, it flew in there, thinking it was heading for the sun.

Eons ago when I was a kid we had a pair of parakeets who were forever getting out of their cage. Mom once snatched one out of the jaws of the cat. I was tall and quick and became adept at snagging the mindless little critters. You'd think after one near-death experience they would have stayed where it was safe, but no. They were parakeets.

A wild starling is another matter. One once lived for a few days up in my office before we found it and it was hecky-darn catching it. Even the cats gave up. I finally got it tangled in a curtain and got it out. There is still bird poop on the curtain rods.

With that in mind, I grimly pursued the bird. Luckily, it fell exhausted in the laundry tub and I was able to grab it.

It seemed unhurt, certainly could fly, its legs looked OK, so I don't think Dover brought it in. It may have well come in the day before and spent the night in the basement. Starlings are curious birds.

So I took it outside and let it go. With an ungrateful squawk it flew for the neighbor's walnut tree and vented for a while.

Sunday the bird of the day was a grackle. I was picking the second batch of pie cherries from the tree when a grackle landed on the top branches and watched me pick. It seemed a little odd for the bird to be so tame. I suspected it was young.

Later, peeking out the window I saw it pluck a cherry from the tree and land on the lawn with it, trying to get the pit out. The cherry wasn't ripe, so the poor thing abandoned its quest and lurked sadly among the ferns, until a parent bird came by. The young bird immediately went into baby bird begging mode and pestered till the parent pitted a ripe cherry and fed it. I noticed that the young one watched very carefully. These birds are smart.

Other grackles came and had a nice time eating the leftover cherries. I always leave the less perfect ones on the tree for them.

Noticed a few robins in the currant bushes, so I'd better pick those pretty soon if I want any for us.

Other birds in the news: I switched on the noon news yesterday to catch the weather and saw some footage of roosters. Hmm, I thought, that sounds familiar, and turned the sound up.

Sure enough, it was the Rogue River Rooster Crow (or Rouge River, as the announcer pronounced it), the only festival held in the tiny town on the Rogue River where my father lives on Oregon. So I called him up to pass on the information that I had seen Rogue River on Minneapolis television. He seemed glad to hear from me but blase about the coverage. Ho hum, another Rooster Crow festival. My favorite was a bird labeled "Kro Jack"

So that's the news. Our horrible heat and humidity wave is over. We almost turned on the space heater Sunday night but opted for more covers instead. That's Minnesota weather for you. Currently it's sunny and warm, not too humid and all right with the world, or at least the bits I can see.

Almost forgot: yesterday was our anniversary ((that's not the part I forgot)) so Denny came home early and we went to see a movie (*gasp* goes the audience, knowing Denny and I rarely go to movies) and saw SHREK. It was wonderful. Loved it, highly recommend it. Still a few awkward things about computer animation but the characterizations and art were well done and the voices superb. Plus, it "sticks" the ending, as they say in gymnastics (or at least the announcers say it). I liked it as much as CHICKEN RUN so that's saying a lot.

Take good care of yourselves, my friends, and have a happy, sane, safe 4th of July.



More Birds
Sunday, July 15

Parking at the St. Paul campus is always interesting. I don't have a contract parking place, being part time. Usually I park in the State Fair parking lot, but occasionally they close it for a few days (especially during the State Fair,) and I park elsewhere. This year I discovered that I can find a modicum of shade for the car in an alternate lot, so I've been parking there.

This has given me the opportunity to watch people from the Raptor Center exercise recuperating owls and hawks in the huge grassy quad.

I stay some distance away, of course, because I don't want to frighten the birds. It takes two people to fly a bird. One holds the bird while the other one pays out a line (which is attached to the bird's leg) from a big reel and makes sure there are no kinks or complications. They check the wind and all that, then the handler (wearing seriously thick leather gloves) readies the bird and tosses it up into the air, trying to give it some loft. The bird takes off and flies as far as it is able on the leash.

The humans run after it to give it a little more leeway, but ultimately the bird reaches the end of the line and lands. They can't get up very high, so there is not danger of the bird crashing, but it can't be very satisfying.

The reeler then stands while the handler follows the line and goes to get the bird. Owls do not take well to being fetched. They hop away and fuss when approached to be recaptured. There seems to be a technique of getting the bird to engage the glove with its talons, then the handler turns the bird upside down and gently gathers in the wings before they make the trek back to the center of the quad and get ready for another flight.

Hawks seem to adapt better to the process. They don't like being caught, either, but seem more resigned to it. A few of the smaller hawks will actually ride the glove like a tame bird, though they won't hop up to do it.

For land bound me, even the short flights seem like a miracle. I'll stand for several minutes, watching landings and take offs. Sometimes they will have two or three teams out there, flying the birds in different directions, strengthening their muscles and endurance. Gorgeous.

Eventually they wrap the birds in towels or tee shirts and carry them back to the Center and I go on into work. The day seems to go better if I get to see them fly.

Last week at the end of the day, I had another surprise. One of the underground sprinklers had broken and was acting like a spring on the edge of the grassy area. It had made a nice little stream that ran though the grass and into the loose shrubs and ground cover. Wading in the stream was a large young hawk. It was much closer than I get to the captive hawks but I still couldn't tell what kind of hawk it was because of the immature plumage. It was big enough for a red-tailed hawk.

I watched it as it waded in the little stream and drank. It splashed a little like a little kid would. Had it spotted the water from the sky and come down to drink, or had it been after one of the squirrels or gophers and the water was a bonus?

It was certainly a bonus for me. I watched from behind an oak for a few minutes, then went on down to the car, very pleased.

Happy summer to you all,


Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
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Copyright 2001 by Terry A. Garey.