Archive for May, 2012

The Dead Squirrel Hare Scramble

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Start of the Hare Scramble

Motor sports are always popular in places where people have enough room to get into 3rd gear without immediately killing somebody, especially when lots of dirt is available.  We’re within hearing range of Hilltop Speedway, the big mud bog event is coming up in Killbuck, and every year, Marlin runs The Dead Squirrel Hare Scramble.

Travis Boyd

A Hare Scramble is a timed dirtbike race on a closed course, chosen to include a variety of obstacles and challenges.  The winner in each class is the rider who goes the farthest in a set amount of time. This year’s race lasted for 90 minutes, and the course wound around for a little over 2 miles in Marlin’s back woods. The winner is whoever makes the most laps, and crosses the finish line ahead of anyone else who happens to be in the same lap.

Jason Cox

This year’s winner was Jason Cox, shown above, who always seemed close to the edge of losing control, but never actually did.  (The race saw one casualty, but no fatalities—so far.)

Marlin Moore

Marlin Moore, who sponsors the race on his farm, came in first of two contestants in what was euphemistically referred to as the ‘Over 50’ class.  He also out lapped a lot of the racers in the general class (which was generously sprinkled with racers who looked like they could soon be eligible for the senior class).

Nate

After capturing the start, I walked about half the course backward, mostly avoiding the contestants, and trying to find interesting parts of the course that were well-lit.

Scott Moore

It was an intensely sunny day, that made for challenging shooting conditions. I took all the woodland action shots using a flash to brighten up the bikes, open up the faces, and to help bring down the bright spots in the background.

Marlin's Mascot

A larger set of images can be found in my photo gallery.

Avian Defense League

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

The house wrens and the robins have made common cause: against the squirrels.  It happened early Wednesday morning.

Robin

After I poured my first cup of coffee, I thought I’d see what the wrens were up to.  They were still around, not dancing quite so vigorously, but picking away at the nest.  A squirrel climbed up on the patio table, just a few feet from the bird house, and pretty quickly caught their attention.  They were both on it, and chased it off the table.  The squirrel climbed up into the pergola, and the wrens were fluttering all around, making a fuss.

After about 30 seconds, the squirrel headed straight towards the robin’s nest, where one of the robins, as usual, was silently and motionlessly roosting.  The other robin wasn’t in site.  The squirrel came right up to the robin, while I watched through the sliding door, and bumped it with his nose.  The robin exploded! it immediately whirled around, and chased the squirrel through the wisteria.  The robin didn’t immediately return to the nest, but instead flew around and around the pergola, yelling for the other robin to get back from wherever it was grubbing for worms. The squirrel headed back for the nest, and practically crawled inside it, apparently hoping for eggs for breakfast.

At this point, not really wanting nature to take its course, I intervened. I opened up the door, and probably didn’t need to make any noise.  Apparently operating under a guilty conscience, the squirrel took off like a shot across the top of the pergola and into  a nearby dogwood tree, followed closely by a robin, a pair of wrens, and some guy in a bathrobe.

Fairfax County isn’t too keen on firearms, but I figure I can get away with a sling shot. You never know when a groundhog might show up.  I don’t know if the squirrel saw what I was packing, or just couldn’t cope with all those feathers in his face, but he disappeared.

I have difficulty believing the squirrel won’t be back. They are clever, tenacious, and seem to feel no pain.  And they have bottomless pits for stomachs. I’ve been surprised to see the robins silently roosting away, and I haven’t found any robins egg blue shell fragments, so I have to assume the babies are OK.  Its been 3 days now, and the robins are still roosting.  The female wren is still decorating, and the male is singing about it. 

Why would you blow up such a pretty bridge?

Friday, May 4th, 2012

2009 photo of Route 82 bridge by Jay Heiser

My home city managed to make it in the news this week, for being the site of the most recent domestic terrorist incident that didn’t actually happen.  Although all of the apparent anarchists are at least one generation too young to remember when Cleveland could legitimately claim to be the greatest location in the nation,  their original plan was apparently to use Cleveland as a site to topple some highly visible symbol of corporate greatness. You know, like the umm…..well, yeah, you get the picture.

Apparently unsuccessful at locating an accessible yet visible form of corporate hegemony in Ohio, they decided instead on a very attractive high level bridge over the Cuyahoga River. While it isn’t exactly representative of economic corruption, it has become a well-recognized site within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  I guess anarchists are just as happy destroying big government and national infrastructure as they are blowing up big businesses.  I wonder what cable news channel 20-something anarchists watch.

Dedication of Brecksville- Northfield Bridge in 1932

Dedicated in 1932, this beautiful concrete arch span bridge is over 1100 feet long, and  It replaced an 1881 metal truss bridge, which after a recent restoration, is still around, and another prominent feature of the national park.  I don’t know if that little girl is still around. If so, she must be around 90.  I wonder what she thinks of all this.

(Image above from the Cleveland Memory Project, copyright Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.)

Suburban Wildlife

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Last year, Elizabeth bought I what I thought was a somewhat, how should I say this…over-engineered wren house. She asked me to hang it under the pergola on the back deck. It subsequently attracted some wrenly attention, but I couldn’t confirm that any avians occupants

June11-1440

As it turns out, the female house wren is…how can I put this politely? She’s a high maintenance little bird..  She expects that the male wren will carry loads and loads of heavy sticks to multiple potential nesting sites, all while singing like a canary at the top of his little lungs.  While he warbles away, she’ll inspect the foundations, and if she likes one of them, and she likes him, and if she’s you know, really serious about the whole thing, she’ll approve it. At this point, the male house wren is expected to continue hauling lumber, singing his little tail feathers off, and the female will line the nest with soft things. (For some of you, this might seem like a familiar story at this point).

This year’s nesting drama has been going on for awhile. I’d heard the male’s beautiful of waterfall of song for a couple of days, and noticed Saturday a week ago that he was starting to gather twigs and pull them into the bird house.  Then it seemed to go quiet for awhile. I figured that for a second year in a row, it just wasn’t going to work out for him.

Meanwhile, a pair of robins decided that our particular form of bloom-free Wisteria (Compson’s Fruitless, I believe), made the perfect environment for a nest.  Located only a few feet from my office window, but hidden by the wisteria leaves, a pair of robins very quietly, methodically, and undramatically began building a nest atop a 2×8, only 10 feet away from the wren house. I wasn’t even sure it was a pair of robins, because they both look exactly alike, and make the exact same noise. Which is no noise. 

Towards the end of the week, it was getting noisier.  Not from the robins. No, they had finished their nest, and were very quietly and methodically roosting. No, it was the damn house wrens. The male had definitely attracted a female, and by last Saturday, the two of them had worked themselves into a tizzy, singing, flying, shaking their tail feathers, and waggling their wings in a way that I could not honestly interpret as being anything but extremely suggestive.  Everybody in the neighborhood was subjected to this in your face display.  The sleek velvety catbirds thinking about returning to their mid-yard nesting bush were looking at the wrens out of the corners of their beady little eyes.  The family of crows that fill up the nearby birdbath with chunks of stale bread and nameless animal parts, they remarked on the wrenish display. Even a carolina wren, second only to the house wren in volume/mass, thought it was a bit over the top.

Things seemed to have reached a peak about the time I looked out the sliding door Monday morning during breakfast. The two house wrens were shaking their wings, their tails, they were singing, they were popping in and out of the nest box, and they were chasing each other around the pergola. They both flew down to the ground together, when suddenly, one of the robins, patiently waiting along the top of the pergola to relieve the other robin on roost duty, dropped onto the wrens like a ton of bricks.  Whomp!  Grateful peace descended on the backyard stage as the robins quietly resumed roosting, and the wrens left to lick their wounds. They recovered.

I can still hear the descending musical notes of the male house wren’s spring call from my office. It might be disturbing the unhatched robin babies, but I think it’s a pretty song.  What’s different now is that the female seems to have made her choice.  At breakfast today, I saw her carry in a few token tiny bits of straw, while the male continued to haul in trailer loads of nesting material. This morning, there was some long stringy thing hanging out the hole, and its gone now. I’m assuming its inside.  I think we can soon look forward to the pitter patter of wrenlet feet.