Thursday 31 March 2016

New Neighbours

We have quite a lot of crows in our immediate area. Every day that I walk they are constantly in view, on the ground, in the trees, sitting on telephone wires and posts. They wake me up with their thundering raucous voices and they stalk around our lawn with the confidence born of a perhaps too-healthy self-esteem. When I want to get in my car, I find myself sidling hastily to the driver's side door, almost bowing in their direction and most certainly humming cheerfully so they think I'm not intimidated.

But I like them a lot anyway. Corvids - the family of birds to which crows belong - and here I quote Wikipedia, "... are considered the most intelligent of the birds, and among the most intelligent of all animals, having demonstrated self-awareness in mirror tests (European magpies) and tool-making ability (crows, rooks) -- skills until recently regarded as solely the province of humans and a few other higher mammals. Their total brain-to-body mass ratio is equal to that of great apes and cetaceans, and only slightly lower than in humans."

I might add that some humans strike me as having a slightly lower total brain-to-body mass ratio than crows, great apes and cetaceans, but that would be a topic for another day.

Actually, some days I feel dumber than any of those myself. Just now, when I looked up that Wikipedia article (found here) I realized that what I've been calling a "crow" could be any one of a dozen specific birds. But since I've only ever heard them called "crows", that's what I'll continue to call them.

For a short video on crows using tools, go here.

While searching for the above video, I also found this article on raising baby crows which made for entertaining reading (please excuse a bit of colourful language).

And here is a podcast on an 8-year-old girl who makes friends with crows (warning: about 25 minutes long).

All that to get to my point for today: we have a "crow couple" building a nest in a tall evergreen behind our house. It's close enough to see the crows quite clearly from our upstairs window. Two weeks ago I began to notice them busily carrying materials for the nest into the highest and most dense part of the evergreen.

Here's the tree after last week's snowfall:

Slightly obscured by the deciduous trees at the back of our property ... when the leaves start coming out I fear we won't be able to see the evergreen any more. But in the meantime, I'm keeping a close eye on the nest builders.

 And here's a close-up of the top of the tree, taken a few days later when the snow had melted:

See that dark spot smack in the middle of the photo? That seems to be where the nest is - at least, it's where the crows enter the tangle of branches with their building materials, and - I assume - their tiny hammers and saws. Because they're tool-users, right?
And that is my favourite tree at the moment, and why. Stay tuned for updates, assuming the new neighbours cooperate and I don't fall out the window while taking photos.

What birds do you like to spy on in your part of the world? Do they pose nicely for pictures or do you have to take dire steps to get photos of them?

Wednesday 30 March 2016

Looking Up

The previous post was all about poor Donkey and her terrible struggle to overcome the Arctic-like conditions she had to endure on her daily January walks up the big, big mountain.

Now it is March. The days are warmer, the light is brighter, and the walk is less daunting, less of a "J" and more of a huge rectangle and sometimes more of a shape you would never, ever find in a geometry or any other book. Today I took my camera with me and got some "looking up" shots - treetops against a beautifully blue sky with fluffy clouds. Don't worry, I didn't trip and fall and break a hip while I was looking up.

(I'm not quite sure if these will be made bigger if you click on them or not - I'm just learning this stuff - but it can't hurt to try. Let me know what you find out. And does anyone have trouble reading the small print captions? If so, let me know.)

Soon there will be leaves, but not yet.
Some branches are lacier than others. Maybe those are the girl trees.
This evergreen appears to be rocketing towards the right, with a very wide vapour trail.
Power lines. Proof I was walking on a sidewalk, not in a forest.
It was a perfect day to take pictures with a point-and-shoot camera.
I think this one got a bad scare. Or has static in his hair.
Pussywillows? I'm not quite sure. I thought they were icy droplets at the time. Bad eyes.
Snow-white birches mingling with their less-showy friends.
Lots of cones on this very tall old fellow.
No trees, but see that blurry speck at six o'clock? A bald eagle - one of two - looking for supper. I got a little nervous when he/she circled right overhead. When I started walking again, he/she realized he/she was no match for a donkey and flapped lazily away. I'm working on getting a better photo. So far I have five shots of grey cloud cover and nothing else, not even a wing tip or a beak. Try, try again ...stubborn ... you know the drill.

I not only looked up, I looked down ...

That's water, not sky ...

... and around ...

Lichens and moss on a low-lying limb.

I'm not sure what's happening to the branches on this guy. Any thoughts?


Usually my walk is thirty minutes long but it feels like twice that. Today I was gone for seventy-five minutes ... and it felt like no time had passed at all. With all the stopping and gawking and ambling and meandering, my heart and lungs didn't get much of a workout. But my mind and spirit were full to overflowing.

Next time, one more tree - my favourite at the moment, and why.

Tuesday 29 March 2016

Procrastinating Donkey Climbs a Hill

A couple of months ago, I decided it was time to finally, seriously, lose some weight and change my health for the better. So I started to walk each day, outside with Mother Nature, where it's cold and snowy and windy in mid-January, because this is Atlantic Canada, and I don't have a treadmill.

Usually my walk looks like a large rectangle with my home as a dot in the center. But on really cold days I take a shorter route that looks more like a "J", where the bottom of the J is my house and the top of the J is the place where I get to turn around and head home.

Here's what my route J looks like after I get around the curly part of the letter and start up the long bit:

Exactly* like this, but with more snow. A long, hard climb that stretches out forever in front of me.

Now, normally I watch the ground in front of me when I'm walking, especially in the winter, because I'm getting old and I don't want to fall and break a hip and go to the hospital and die. Because that's frequently what happens with old people. It's not clear whether it's the broken hip or the hospital that causes death, but I don't want to test the system to find out. And, really, does it matter? Either way - dead.

So I watch the ground - mostly - but every now and then I like to look up to see how I'm progressing.

So ... trudge, trudge, trudge, look up ......... trudge, trudge, trudge, look up ... etc.

After I trudged for what felt like a long time, and looked up, here's what I saw:

Okay, what I saw is that more trudging is in order. Trudge, trudge, trudge. Look up.
And again:

More trudging. Trudge, trudge, trudge. Look up.
What the heck???

Are you seeing what I'm seeing?
That's right - NO PROGRESS.

 But, of course, finally - eventually - after a long time - about 10 minutes - I did reach the top of that J, because I'm determined to get healthy. Stubborn like a donkey, right?

Here is exactly* what it looked like from the top:
And walking home, downhill, was a whole lot easier. It was almost as easy as falling down. I did not fall down, because I was watching the ground, because of the business about getting old and the hips and hospitals and so on. But coming home was pretty easy. Because, number one, it's DOWNHILL, and number two, instead of having snow and cold and wind and a Himalayan mountain to climb, at home I have warmth and a couch and chocolate.

I think I know why the weight loss is not going well, despite my determined walking.

Next time, there will be photos I took myself with an actual camera I own, and there will be more than two pictures in total. It will be a big improvement, maybe.

*And by exactly, I mean not even close.

Any tips for sticking to an exercise program, anyone? Alternatively, any tips for resisting chocolate?


A Donkey and A Blog

Once upon a time, I thought I'd never have a blog.

In 2011, I set up a Google account under the name jenny_o so I could comment more easily on other people's blogs, and with the account came the option to start a blog - but commenting was all I wanted to do - or had the time for - then.

But over the years, the thought of writing kept nagging at the back of my mind ... and some nice people encouraged me ... and then somehow I was seriously considering it ... and then I was thinking up a name for "my blog" (how did that happen again?) ... and opening the Blogger Dashboard ... and ticking some choices ...

And here I am - Procrastinating Donkey.

"Procrastinating" because it's one of my less lovely but well-known attributes in real life. And maybe it will serve as a warning that posts may not be regular. And "Donkey" because a jenny is a she-donkey, and I do have a soft spot for donkeys (and share their tendency to be stubborn, which is really more of a refusal to enter into something we know is beyond our capability. Or just contrariness. Some days it's not clear.) 

Like a donkey, I am short and kind of round. Unlike a donkey, I like to make stuff, read, and eat chocolate. I'm hoping that I'll learn some new things here.


This is not me. But it's short, round, and a donkey. And free.
Thank you, public domain photos.