Monday, January 10, 2011

2011-01-08 "Squirrel tree'd a cat" and Snow Bunting pics

Happy New Years Y'all!

I use the southern contraction and inflection because Judy and I started our year with black-eyed peas on New Year's Day as always. This tradition started for me in Texas in the 50's when the entire neighborhood went over to our drunk neighbor salesman's apartment on New Year's Day to eat his black-eyed peas. He welcomed visitors and kept the pea (actually they are beans) pot on all day. The adults got more than the peas, but everyone could walk home so it was cool. Mom and Dad never drank much (if at all) anyway. I will always remember this guy because when I was a child he gave me samples of what he was selling. I got lots of empty cans (with lids even) and boxes of grocery items. These were free fun playthings. I wish I had a few today. They were just like the real products, but empty. Mom always kept the tradition going. My brother and I have always done likewise. You are supposed to eat black-eyed peas on New Year's Day for good luck throughout the year. I have no idea what might happen if I do not eat them, but why mess with the "Balance of Energy in the Universe"? (My term for a philosophy I have). I admit that life has often been more challenging sometimes than what I want -especially lately- but I just cannot imagine what might happen without black-eyed peas! Life is good! Keep the balance!

Fully intestinally functionally (the peas start you off right - pardon me, but you gotta get your s**t together), we started 2011 with sightings of Horned Larks and a flock of Snow Buntings at a local Oakland County site referred to us by our good friend and birding lucky charm Ed Lewandowski. Thanks again Ed!
What a great way to start the new year! These birds only come down to our area during winter and are hard to get for my new list keeping. (I note I am a firm believer in eBird - not only does it allow me to maintain personal records, but it also helps Cornell University to compile an impressive database of the birds in the USA!)

I got some great views (great mental pics - snap, snap, snap) of Snow Buntings through my new Christmas binoculars (Thanks Judy!!!), but by the time I had exchanged the binocs for my camera, they were spooked by a car and left.

It was a great New Year's Day (if I exclude the football losses by the two Michigan teams I recorded while we were birding. I purposefully did not listen to any news or scores after we got back so I could watch the games, but wound up deleting both of them before halftime).

Anyway the 2011 story continues.

Friday January 8 was a great day!

The story starts while I was having morning coffee. Judy came down fresh from her shower, and with wet hair was starting to get on her coat to go outside. "Why?", I asked. "There is a squirrel in the tulip tree and a black cat hiding in the bushes. I am going to scare the cat away."
Without belaboring a point, I mentioned that it was in the low teens outside and the squirrel could take care of itself. She finally accepted that.

Not too long after, I noticed that the cat was in the tree and the squirrel was nowhere to be seen. Did the cat get the squirrel?  Were Judy's concerns realized? Nope. Now the cat was "tree'd". And no, I was not about to call the fire department to help out a feral cat that eats my birds!
It soon got much better. The black squirrel ran all the way from the back of the yard, climbed the tree with the cat in it and just taunted the heck out of him. The squirrel actually went up and down the tree several times, then also went up and down the adjacent tree - all of the time staring at the tree'd cat with the cat staring back. This went on for about 15 minutes. What fun! I almost "busted a gut" laughing at the cat's situation. "Come and get me you stupid cat!"

The cat was frozen. After the squirrel tired of the game, he ran back across the yard to his buddies. He and two other black squirrels raced each other up and down trees in the back for sometime. I can only assume he was relaying his adventure and they were laughing all the way!
Once the squirrel left and the cat got over its initial fear, it worked its way down the tree with short calculated leaps from branch to branch and eventually backed down the main trunk and dropped to the ground. This took quite a long time. Then, the cat made a beeline (catline?) for the squirrels in the back. Or so I thought ...

What I did not realize was that there was another - larger, darker-colored - black cat in the vicinity. It chased the formerly tree'd cat to the back while the squirrels went up their favorite trees. The cat formerly known as "Tree'd" went up a tree in the back with the larger cat in hot pursuit after him. I guess the new name of the cat in discussion here could now be "Tree'd Two" and qualify as a potential cat rapper. I have no idea if he ever got down from there, but his more experienced chaser very quickly backed down the tree and left and I got bored. Exciting morning!

Anyway, y'all expect some birdie talk here. I was just so happy that a feral birdie villain was subjected to some ultimate humility (intra- and inter-species!) I wanted to share.

In the afternoon, we went back to the Lark/Bunting location and I finally got a few decent pics. So here's the pics:

Horned Lark flies in for landing

Snow Bunting flies in and Horned Lark decides to belly-ski (a nice term for "crashes").
Good example of distracted flying! Do birdies text? Or maybe he was just looking at a fancy new bird for the flock. Wow! ... Huh?

Here are more pics of Snow Buntings and Horned Larks. These are really cool birds! (Well actually they ARE really COOL birds; we do not see them except in the winter. List them now or wait for next winter ...)

 Thanks for reading! I hope you liked my first "ramble" of 2011! Hey, if you did, please comment on this post or email me at and I will put your name in the drawing for an autographed copy of a first edition of my first book. (Hey, Bob Tarte, look out! Well - maybe not immediately ...)

Happy New Year!
"Dr. Bob"

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