Friday, March 29, 2013

Time well spent

(K. Showing off medals for Spelling Bee 2nd Place and swimming medals, cheered by B.)
March has found me busy taking care of my grandchildren--getting them off to school in the morning, picking up the kindergartener at 11:30, and tending him in the afternoon, and picking up the fourth-grader at 3:30.  I arrive at their house by 6;15 as the parents leave for work that early.  I get the kids up, dressed, fed, teeth brushed, hair combed, faces washed, and allow them to watch a little TV if they are ready early.  Then we pile in the car for school.  I stand outside with the kindergartener until the bell rings and the teacher comes to lead them inside.  Most parents do that with these little ones.  It's hard to leave them on the playground until you see them safely in the teacher's care.  I prepare lunch at home for the little guy.  In the afternoon, along with play we practice letters, numbers, reading and math.  He likes school and we make a game of it.  After school, I prepare fruit snacks and help the kids get started on homework.  The parents arrive home around 4:15 and I'm pretty much spent and ready to go home and relax.

This schedule has allowed little time for everyday housework, let alone projects.  And I reward myself with birding outings even when I should really stay home and clean the house.  But this is temporary.  I can catch up on housework later on.  The schedule will be so much easier when both boys are in school all day in August.

But April will find me busier than ever.  The kids are on a year-round schedule and they are "off-track" for the whole month of April.  They will be back in school for May and June, and then off-track for July and half of August.  Having both of the kids full-time presents extra challenges.  I will no longer have even those couple of hours in the morning to myself.  And I will need to establish a routine to keep the kids occupied and interested.  We also have to keep practicing certain math and reading skills every day.

It's hard at my age to have the energy I need to do this right.  But I do it anyway, though it leaves me exhausted.  I look at this not just as a responsibility or duty, but also as an opportunity to give these kids some valuable one-on-one time and to help them grow mentally and emotionally as well as physically.  If that's not time well-spent, I don't know what is.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

"Primo" the Peregrine Falcon gets released to the wild

Primo was hatched last summer in the nest box atop the JSM Building in downtown Salt Lake. Soon after fledging, he flew into a 17th story office tower window and fell to the ground. He somehow survived the accident, and subsequently spent many months in a rehab facility in Colorado. Finally, ready to return to the wild, he was brought to Utah and released at one of my favorite places, Antelope Island. As one who had followed the peregrines from the time they were just eggs in the nest box, through hatching, growing and fledging, I really wanted to witness this release.

 About 40 people showed up in the freezing weather to witness the event. It was worth it.  Here are some of my photos of the event.
 Primo is a little excited at his first look at his new home

 Even an intrepid hunter is capable of occasional cuteness.

 Finally, the launch. The woman who had the privilege of releasing him was a volunteer who had apparently spent long overnight hours watching the injured bird.
 There he is, just visible above the mountains on his first flight on the island.

 He perched for awhile (see way back there?) on a corral fence and finally flew off out of sight. Good luck little Primo. I hope I see you again on one of my visits to your home.
 About 40 people gathered to witness the release. Most of the people here closely follow the nesting of the downtown peregines. The DWR officials there and other volunteers were asking if any of us might be able help "chase" or follow the young new falcons when another new family fledges downtown in a few months.

Incidentally, we were told that the rehab facility that took in this falcon has a policy of as little human interaction with the birds as possible.  The cage is large enough for the birds to fly around.  Live food is released into the cage and the falcons must hunt and kill their own food.  It is particularly important that the falcon show an ability to hunt for its own food before release to the wild.  Yet still we worry whether it will be able to do so in its new environment.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Salt Creek Again

I wanted to get up there before the Tundra Swan migration had passed us.  Watching the grandkids every day makes my time limited during the week.  And the weekend just didn't work out for me.  So, I took off Tuesday after the parents got home from work.  The nice thing about daylight savings is that the sun goes down later and you can make trips to locales even an hour away.  Well, more like 45 minutes.  It gave me time to spend an hour just taking in the sights and sounds of the swans and still make it home by sunset.  I can't express how soothing it is to watch and listen.  I took a few pictures at the start and then just sat quietly soaking up the ambiance.

Also saw many hundreds of Canada Geese, mostly in the fields, many paired off. Also Sandhill Cranes, lots of ducks (Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Mallard, Ruddy Duck, Gadwall, and non-duck American Coot, were all I could name). Great Blue Herons, many gulls and one Golden Eagle.

Tundra swans with pintail ducks and coots.
 Canada Geese in the fiels.
 A peaceful place to spend an hour.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sandhill Cranes

I took a trip to Antelope Island today -- the first time since November.  The bad weather has kept me away, but now the snow is melting and the roads are open, clear, and dry.  Antelope Island was popular today with lots of visitors. I stayed longer than I had intended. Not a lot of birds and scarce wildlife, but stunning views and gorgeous weather. Traveled the back roads going home, looking for swans and geese.  Not much luck with those, but found some wonderful Sandhill Cranes.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Serendipitous Photos

I made another trip to Cache Valley yesterday searching for the Snowy Owl, which at this point hasn't been reported for almost a week.  Perhaps he has gone north with the slight hint of warming temps.  I spent hours in the haze over the wetlands--the sun trying to shine through made the scene almost blindingly bright.  I took no pictures of the hundreds of geese, nor the ducks, hawks, larks, or heron. Instead I took only shots of the bleak yet beautiful landscape all around me.

Going through my photos later, I found two I had taken of two sides of the same tree.  On a whim I tried fitting them together, and they joined almost seamlessly.  I could not have aligned two scenes more perfectly if I had tried.  And that's what I will share from my trip. Two photos joined side by side to provide a serendipitous panoramic view of the wetlands at the Benson Marina, Cache Valley, Utah.

Today the temperatures are warming still and rain is now falling instead of snow. It will take a long time to melt the four-foot deep piles on the sides of the driveway, but the thaw has finally begun.

Nope, I didn't see the owl, nor the blue jay in Smithfield.  I met some nice birders and we exchanged phone numbers in case either of us got lucky spotting the owl.  For trips like this, I need some new equipment: a spotting scope.

Friday, March 1, 2013


March is coming in like a lamb this week.  For the first time in a long time, not only are the predicted high temperatures above freezing, the lows are even mostly above, too.  We are seeing more sunny days, which have been few and far between so far in 2013.  No major storms are on the way

I've settled into a new routine with getting grandchildren into school and picking them up--spending the afternoon with the five-year-old where we spend a little more time working on letters, numbers, and so on.  It's good for me.  It has forced me to be up, dressed, with hair and makeup more or less done before leaving the house at 6:15.   This makes me feel more energetic about tackling projects or just housecleaning and getting out for errands.  It's been good.

A five-year-old can ask more questions per minute than you might be ready to answer.  I try, though some of them are a bit hard.  He's beginning to wonder about me and worry that I'm alone.  His parents have explained, but he wants to hear it from me.  Who is your husband?  Where is your husband?  Why did he die?  And lately, Get another husband, grandma.  And when I ask why.  Because you don't have one.  Hah!  I realize that's mostly the reason for getting the first two husbands. 

I'm happy to have this new occupation.  It's an opportunity not only to give the little one an extra boost with school studies, but also to influence these little guys and also make some memories. 

The schedule will vary with a few weeks in April when the kids are out of school, and then six weeks in the summer when I'll have them both all day.  They are on a year-round school schedule which makes for some strange school break periods.  About mid-August they will both be in school full time and I won't have the midday pickup and afternoon tending of the kindergartener.

The fact that I can provide the daycare and carpooling for the kids is a big help to the family, I know.  But it gives me peace of mind, too, knowing the kids are well looked after and are happy.  This early schedule means both parents are home around 4:15, shortly after the kids are home from school, and the family can have hours together every evening for dinner, homework, television, play.  I know how much they appreciate it. 

As the weather gets better, everything gets easier.  I look forward to small things like not needing to wear coats. But this is Utah, and we aren't finished with winter.  There will still be snowstorms and driveway shoveling.  But at some point, the snow gives way to rain and more sun.  Some of the trees are showing red-tipped branches and tiny leaf buds are appearing despite the unusually cold year.  Some summer birds are even returning earlier than expected.  I will start some seeds indoors this week in the belief that spring really will come.