birds

My niece, Kellie Hadlock is one of the happiest people I know. Kellie keeps happiness in her heart, and from there, it explodes into the atmosphere around her. Kellie has always been that way. Her laugh, her smile, her sense of humor, and her unending ability to be pleasantly surprised have made her personality one of bubbly excitement and happiness. Everything about life is exciting to her. I don’t know many people who as adults continue to be excited and amazed at all of God’s creation, but Kellie is just that. She is that person who wakes up and looks at the world, and says, “Wow!!”

Kellie has two pets, who fill her with joy every day…her bird, Peetey, and her dog, Leena. They keep her busy every day too. Peetey loves to sit on her shoulder and listen to her sing, which Kellie loves to do. Kellie is one of the worship leaders at our church, Word Christian Fellowship, but Kellie loves to sing all the time. She has been such a great blessing when she sings at church, and every time I hear, it brings tears to my eyes. Her songs are just so beautiful, and her voice is perfect. She plays piano at her house, and sings worship songs to God as often as she can, then she often posts them on YouTube, so others can enjoy them too. It is in her blood and in her spirit. Leena came into Kellie’s life as a tiny little ball of fur. She has grown some, but not really very much. Leena…a wiggly, happy little pup, has stolen Kellie’s heart…what Peetey left of it anyway!!

Of course, Kellie is all about her family. She loves each and every one of them, but her nephew and her nieces are her very favorite people ever. They love spending time with their Aunt Kellie, and they always have lots of great fun. I think that Kellie just might be everybody’s “favorite aunt,” but to say that might get me in trouble. Nevertheless, I call ’em as I see ’em. Kellie is so much fun to be around, that it’s like having a “friend aunt” or something. Today is Kellie’s birthday. Happy birthday Kellie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

These days, it seems we are all aware of what an emu is, probably due to the Liberty Mutual commercials that are out there, but in 1932 Australia, these were a nuisance bird. They were everywhere and they were not popular. In fact, they were running amok in the Campion district of Western Australia, and the public was very concerned. They had made several attempts to curb the growth of the emu population, including the Australian soldiers being armed with Lewis guns…leading the media to adopt the name “Emu War” when referring to the incident. While a number of the birds were killed, the emu population persisted and continued to cause crop destruction.

After World War I ended, the Australian government gave land to large numbers of ex-soldiers from Australia and the UK. The purpose of the gift was to take up farming within Western Australia, often in areas that had been counterproductive. When the Great Depression hit in 1929, these farmers were encouraged to increase their wheat crops. The government promised assistance in the form of subsidies, but later failed to deliver. In spite of the recommendations and the promised subsidies, wheat prices continued to fall, and by October 1932 matters were becoming critical, with the farmers preparing to harvest the season’s crops and threatening to refuse to deliver the wheat.

To make matters, the area was hit with the arrival of as many as 20,000 emus. This is apparently an annual event as the emus regularly migrate after their breeding season, heading to the coast from the inland regions. With the cleared land and additional water supplies being made available for livestock by the Western Australian farmers, the emus decided that the farmlands were a good, and closer habitat, and they began to foray into farm territory, especially in the marginal farming land around Chandler and Walgoolan. The emus began to eat and spoil the crops. In addition, they left large gaps in fences where rabbits could enter and cause further destruction.

When the farmers relayed their concerns about the birds ravaging their crops, and a group of the ex-soldiers were sent to meet with the Minister of Defense, Sir George Pearce. Something had to be done. Having served in World War I, the soldiers-turned-settlers were well aware of the effectiveness of machine guns, and they requested their deployment to fight this new enemy. The minister readily agreed, although with conditions attached: the guns were to be used by military personnel, troop transport was to be financed by the Western Australian government, and the farmers would provide food, accommodation, and payment for the ammunition. The farmers agreed and Pearce also supported the deployment on the grounds that the birds would make good target practice, while some in the government viewed the operation as a way of being seen to be helping the Western Australian farmers, as a way of staving off the secession movement that was brewing.

Sir George Pearce, who was later referred to in Parliament, as the “Minister of the Emu War” by Senator James Dunn, ordered the army to selectively thin the nuisance emu population…by large numbers. The “war” was scheduled to begin in October 1932, under the command of Major G P W Meredith of the Seventh Heavy Battery of the Royal Australian Artillery. Meredith was supposed to use troops armed with two Lewis guns and 10,000 rounds of ammunition, but the operation was delayed by a period of rainfall that caused the emus to scatter over a wider area. The rain finally stopped by November 2, 1932, and the troops were quickly deployed with orders to assist the farmers and, according to a newspaper account, to collect 100 emu skins so that their feathers could be used to make hats for light horsemen. On November 2nd, the men travelled to Campion, where some 50 emus were sighted. Unfortunately, when they got there, the birds were out of range of the guns. The local settlers attempted to herd the emus into an ambush, but the birds split into small groups and ran so that they were difficult to target. Nevertheless, while the first attack from the machine guns was ineffective due to the distance from the targets, a second round of gunfire was able to kill “a number” of birds. Later the same day, a small flock was encountered, and “perhaps a dozen” birds were killed.

The next significant event was on November 4th, when Meredith established an ambush near a local dam. More than 1,000 emus were spotted heading towards their position. This time the gunners waited until the birds were in close proximity before opening fire. The gun jammed after only twelve birds were killed and the rest scattered before any more could be shot. No more birds were sighted that day, so the decision was made to move further south, where the birds were “reported to be fairly tame.” The group had only limited success in spite of Meredith’s efforts. As the pursuit continued, it became apparent that “each pack seemed to have its own leader now…a big black-plumed bird which stands fully six feet high and keeps watch while his mates carry out their work of destruction and warns them of our approach.” In desperation, Meredith even went so far as to mount one of the guns on a truck. He was still ineffective, as the truck was unable to gain on the birds, and the ride was so rough that the gunner was unable to fire any shots, even if they had been able to get close. By November 8th, six days after the first attack, 2,500 rounds of ammunition had been fired. The number of birds killed is uncertain. One account estimates that it was 50 birds, but other accounts range from 200 to 500, the latter figure being provided by the settlers. Meredith’s official reported that there were no casualties among the men.

Summarizing the operation, ornithologist Dominic Serventy commented, “The machine-gunners’ dreams of point blank fire into serried masses of Emus were soon dissipated. The Emu command had evidently ordered guerrilla tactics, and its unwieldy army soon split up into innumerable small units that made use of the military equipment uneconomic. A crestfallen field force therefore withdrew from the combat area after about a month. On 8 November, members in the Australian House of Representatives discussed the operation. Following the negative coverage of the events in the local media, that included claims that “only a few” emus had died, Pearce withdrew the military personnel and the guns on 8 November.”

After the “Emu War” was over, Meredith compared the emus to Zulus and commented on the striking maneuverability of the emus, even while badly wounded. After the withdrawal of the military, the emu attacks on crops continued. Farmers again asked for support, citing the hot weather and drought that brought emus invading farms in the thousands. James Mitchell, the Premier of Western Australia lent his strong support to renewal of the military assistance. At the same time, a report from the Base Commander was issued that indicated 300 emus had been killed in the initial operation.

The killing continued periodically, with similar results. The Emu was just too fast, too aware, or too “lucky,” to be caught or killed. By December 1932, word of the Emu War had spread, reaching the United Kingdom. Conservationists protested the cull as “extermination of the rare emu”. Dominic Serventy and Hubert Whittell, the eminent Australian ornithologists, described the “war” as “an attempt at the mass destruction of the birds”. Throughout 1930 and onward, the farmers tried exclusion barrier fencing as a means of keeping emus out of agricultural areas (in addition to other vermin, such as dingoes and rabbits). In November 1950, Hugh Leslie raised the issues of emus in federal parliament and urged Army Minister Josiah Francis to release a quantity of .303 ammunition from the army for the use of farmers. The minister approved the release of 500,000 rounds of ammunition. The emu continues to thrive today.

Funny thing about Groundhog Day, it has a way of sneaking up on you. It seems like the older I get, the more I feel like winter lasts an awfully long time. So, when Groundhog Day finally rolls around, and spring starts to be on everyone’s mind. Winter is emotionally wearing and leaves us weary…especially as it nears the end. I always greet Groundhog Day with mixed emotions, waiting to see if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow or not. Oh, I know that Punxsutawney Phil is only accurate about 39% of the time, but it gives me hope each year that he predicts an early spring. It’s silly, I know, but it’s fun to anticipate anyway.

My husband’s grandmother, Vina Hein always had another reason to look forward to Groundhog Day…her birthday. If you took it seriously, the measure of “happy” could depend on whether or not a rodent in Pennsylvania saw his shadow or not, and of course, how much you liked winter. To be honest, I don’t remember if Grandma liked winter or not, and maybe as a child, she loved it, but I rather doubt that winter’s draw was as strong in her as she grew older. That seems to be the way of it. The older we get, the less we like the bitter cold of winter…at least if we have to be out in it. Nevertheless, I have a pretty good idea that Grandma rather liked spring better, because living on a ranch, spring brought so much new life. From baby calves to new chickens, to baby carrots, life begins anew in the spring.

I suppose that is why I like spring, and the Groundhog Day announcement too. Spring and the summer that follows it, are my favorite times of year. The birds chirping and the flowers blooming, remind me that with every winter there lies beneath the snow, the promise of spring and the renewal of life on Earth. Maybe that is why Grandma liked her birthday too. Today would have been Grandma Hein’s 110th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Grandma Hein. We love and miss you very much.

I’m not a huge fan of winter, but recently I saw something the mentioned how quiet it seems when it’s snowing, and I started thinking about the fact, that it really does seem quieter when it snows. I thought it must be some sort of illusion, or more likely, the lack of the Wyoming wind blowing, that made my world seem more quiet. Still, my curious mind had to find out exactly what the answer was. I’m not super into scientific experiments, but this seemed like a good one to check into. Maybe it was just me thinking about that, but maybe it wasn’t. Maybe other people wondered about it too.

As it turns out, it wasn’t just me…and the world really is quieter when it snows. That isn’t something you really see when watching a blizzard on television, and maybe there are some exceptions to the rule, but the reality is that snow absorbs sound waves. When it’s snowing, there’s plenty of space between snowflakes, meaning that there is also less space for sound waves to bounce around…so I’m not imagining it. The world actually gets more quiet when it snows. Bernadette Woods Placky, a meteorologist and director of Climate Central’s Climate Matters program says, “When snow falls, it does absorb some of the sound waves.”

To further add to the quiet, as snowflakes stack up, there is more space left between them, compared to the surface of liquids like water. “With all that space, sound is unable to bounce off snow as easily as it would off water,” Woods Placky says. As a result, the sound gets absorbed, and somewhat like the way a soundproof room absorbs the sound, so you can’t hear what is going on inside, the snow pulls the sound into itself, and we don’t hear it very well. Of course, things like less people outside and on the road also account for the quiet. Traffic stalls tremendously during and after a snowstorm, due to icy roads and the dangers it presents to drivers. Many animals, especially birds, also aren’t out as much. They have to adapt to snowy weather that makes their environment colder and their food more difficult to find. They hunker down to conserve energy.

Whatever the reason for the quiet we hear during a snowstorm, I have always felt like it was a beautiful thing. I don’t like the cold, and I don’t like the icy roads, but just watching the snow, fall quietly to the ground, and listening to the quiet that it produces makes it would of those wonderful experiences that you have to slow down and take the time to notice, or you will never have the full peace that happens when the world gets quiet.

Last night as my husband, Bob and I were heading out for our evening walk at about 7:15pm, we were met by a concerto of song coming from the pine tree in our next door neighbor’s yard. Of course, it was the birds settling down for the night, since it was heading into the evening hours. I was immediately reminded of the day of the total eclipse that Casper had just been in the center of. As the sky grew darker, the birds began hurrying to and fro in search of their places for the night. They began singing their evening songs, just as they were doing when we stepped out of our front door last night. Birds, of course, are programmed to begin bedtime preparations as the daylight starts to fade, unlike humans who might not go to sleep until the wee hours of the morning.

The concerto also reminded me of one of my sister, Cheryl Masterson’s favorite movies…The Sound of Music. Of course, the song they sang on that movie was The Hills Are Alive, and not The Trees Are Alive, but my imagination is allowed to make those little changes…basically taking a little poetic license, and change the wording a little bit to fit the situation. So, while I heard the melody of The Hills Are Alive, the words that sang out were The Trees Are Alive.

Since we began taking evening walks a number of years ago, we have found ourselves rather fascinated with the animal life around us. The birds flying here and there, with what appears to be no specific destination in mind; the rabbit with a broken leg that has managed to survive most of the summer, even though he can’t hop as fast as so many other rabbits; the dogs who are sure that we are their friends, even to the point of vying for our attention with the other dogs in their yard or next door; and even the deer, who stand and watch us, not moving unless we do something to appear to be coming toward them. They are all very interesting in the way they interact with people. The birds don’t seem to want to fly too far from their original spot to get away from us as we approach, almost as if they are saying, “I’m not scared of you.” The rabbits sit bravely still, hoping that we won’t notice them, sometimes allowing us to get only a foot or so away from them, providing we continue to walk along without stopping.

Animals are funny sometimes, doing things that almost seem like human activities, and even the wild animals who seem to want to interact with humans…from a safe distance, anyway. The mourning doves and other birds that like to look at us from their safe perch on the power lines or light poles above us, always strike me as funny. They know we are there, and they seem curious about us, but they don’t want to get too close, after all they aren’t stupid, just curious, as they allow us to share their space. And of course, there is nature’s version of Twitter…when a large group of birds flock to one tree, and everyone is tweeting at once…as was the case when we left for our evening walk last night.

Today’s solar eclipse will not be the first one I have ever seen, but it will be the first total solar eclipse I have ever seen. I most clearly recall the July 10, 1972 eclipse. It was a warm sunny day, and downtown Casper, Wyoming had set up a viewing telescope for those who wanted to have a look. Casper was not in the path of totality, so crowds were not an issue like they are this time. I find myself somewhat stunned that Casper is one of the best sites to view today’s eclipse. Casper isn’t usually a big tourist attraction, but today, we have found ourselves at the center of all the hoopla.

I’ve watched a movie about viewing a total eclipse, and people come away feeling…somehow changed after viewing one. My mind can’t seem to wrap itself around how that could happen, but I guess I’ll see how I feel afterward. For me, I think that if I feel a change it will be more because I think that the signs of the sky were placed there by God, to speak to His people. Many people may think that’s crazy, but it’s no more strange than to think that it’s accidental. The whole universe was created by God, so why wouldn’t He plan it’s every move.

So, the eclipse is over now, and I must say that the moments in totality were…amazing. The color of the atmosphere around us was not like the typical, dusk that everyone said to expect. It was different than that somehow. My son-in-law, Kevin Petersen thought so too. While we were waiting for totality, I tried to look at the things everyone said to watch for, and probably the most surprising to me was the eclipse shadows. I don’t know what I thought it would look like, but when I saw it, I startled my daughter, Corrie Petersen; my son-in-law, Kevin; and my husband, Bob Schulenberg. I shouted, “Look!! It’s the eclipse shadows!!” They are actually called Solar Eclipse Crescent Shadows. Well, my family thought I saw a snake or something, hahaha!! We also noticed, as expected, that the birds started their evening song ritual, preparing to go to sleep for the night. We might have heard crickets, but the people around us set off fireworks at that time, so we couldn’t hear that. We saw the sunset along the horizon, and afterward we had to laugh, because we all forgot to look for the stars. I caught a very faint glimpse of them in a picture I took.

Totality was an amazing experience, but I like most people think that 2 minutes and 26 seconds is a very short time. You simply don’t have time to see everything that there was to see. The cool air was, in reality, a welcome change from the heat we had been sitting in, but like the rest of the eclipse, it didn’t last very long. With the return of the sun, came the warmth of the sun again. Totality was over, and yes, maybe I was changed. I had experienced a total eclipse, and it was amazing. It was something I will never forget.

First Camerascan0027_editedI remember getting my first camera. I was probably 6 years old at the time. Once I got it, I was almost never without it. I can’t say that I took the greatest pictures in those days, but what I can say is that I was often behind the camera rather than in the pictures. That had its good and bad points to it. The good thing was that I took pictures of the things that held an interest to me. The bad part was that often, I wasn’t in the pictures. I had never really given much thought to that until we began looking for pictures to use in the slide show for my dad’s funeral. It was hard to find some of me with my dad. I felt quite sorry about that. in the end, we found enough pictures, but I started thinking about the years ahead. I knew that I needed to do something different.

Being a photographer is a wonderful thing, and I will always love to be a photographer, but I have learned that the photographer sometimes has to relinquish the camera and be in the picture. If you never do that, it’s hard for anyone to know that you belong to the group being photographed. While that isn’t always a problem, there are times in life when it is a problem…such as the time I mentioned before. Nevertheless, in my opinion, it is great fun to be the photographer. When I see the pictures taken by other photographers, I get great ideas for shots I want to take myself. Of course, there are just pictures that happen, and no planning could make them any better than the shot you got almost by accident. Personally, I love taking wildlife pictures, with birds in flight being at the top of my list. Those are among the most difficult to take. The birds are moving so fast that by the time you get the camera ready and focused, the birds are long gone. It is a type of shot that takes lots of practice, but one that is very rewarding once you succeed.Annual Picnic 3John Seagull

It’s strange to think that the hardest lesson for a photographer to learn can be to make sure you get in a few of the pictures yourself. You would think that would just be second nature to someone who knows the value of pictures. I’ve never felt like I am very photogenic, and maybe that is why I don’t feel such a need to be in the pictures, but after many years as an amateur photographer I realize what a folly that is. Good, bad, or ugly, I needed to be in a few of those shots.

Our FamilyThe other day, as my husband, Bob Schulenberg and I were out for a walk, I noticed that the crickets were chirping all around us. Now, I’m not a cricket fan, because they are, after all…a bug, but hearing them was not an unusual event in the summertime. On that particular evening, I guess I just noticed them more than usual. It was a beautiful summer evening, that was cooler that the really hot days we had been having, and with the crickets, it took me back to the summers of my youth. It didn’t matter if we were in the back yard or on a camping trip, the crickets chirping was just a classic summer sound. Then, when you add the birds and sometimes even frogs…well, it’s like going back in time to my childhood.

Summers in my youth were always carefree days with relatively few chores. We used to lay out in the back yard sunning ourselves, walk to the pool to swim in the afternoon, and then play games with our friends until it got dark, and sometimes even later. The sound of kids yelling, laughing, and talking seemed to be everywhere…like we were trying to live a year’s worth of life in three short months, because then school started again, and there was homework to be done at night. It left a lot less free time. Then, before we knew it, IMG_6794we were grown up, and our lives took on work and family obligations I wouldn’t trade my life now for those days, because lets face it. I love my life, but those memories are sweet, nevertheless.

I lived such a wonderful childhood. My family has always been very close. Our parents gave my sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, Allyn Hadlock, and me so many great memories over the years, whether in travel or just at home. I can’t fully explain just how blessed we were. We had all the same obligations as kids, that most kids have. We weren’t spoiled children of privilege, we were just blessed…and I’ll take blessed over privilege any day. We took evening drives sometimes just to look at the lights of the city from lookout point or Event Center Hill…although the Event Center wasn’t there then. My sisters and I called the city lights, spread across the valley where Casper is nestled, the Jewelry Box. I have seen them so many times that I can picture them exactly in my head to this day. Those were such glorious, carefree days, of crickets and evening drives, and sometimes I miss them. We didn’t realize then how blessed we were. We just thought all kids Dad and Momhad that kind of life. We later found out just how wrong we were. If I mention some of the things we did as kids, people seem surprised…like it was unheard of. Maybe it was, but my parents just showed us the things they liked to do, like going for evening drives.

Those days are long gone now. They live only in my memory files, to be brought out when something like the chirping of a cricket, the smell of a campfire, or a drive down the mountain cause them to come to the forefront once again. The memories are a little bittersweet these days, because both of my parents are in Heaven, but they still remind me of what a blessed childhood I was given, and they make me thankful for the wonderful parents God gave to me and my sisters.

IMG_3718Children are a curious bunch. There is so much in this world that is totally new to them. Things we take for granted as being average, or even boring, they find interesting, and children aren’t alone in this either. Animals can be just as curious about the things that people don’t even think about. Things like taking pictures of seagulls can have them looking at you like you are from outer space. I suppose they have seen enough humans to know what they look like. Then to see one with a camera up to their face, makes them think that this is some new creature. As I scrambled to take this shot of a seagull as it flew over me head, I had no idea that I had snapped a shot of him looking right at me, as if to ask, “What are you doing?”

Dogs are especially curious about things, and since they aren’t afraid to come near humans, they come and Dog and Camerastick their curious little noses right in the camera lens…and they are very likely to lick the camera lens…whether you like it or not. In a way they are like babies. The best way to figure out what something is, is to put it in your mouth…right?? Well, that’s just like a dog. If it’s cool enough for their human to have up to their face, it must taste good. Or maybe it’s a new kind of toy that their human bought for them. Maybe if they lick it and let their human know they want to play, their human with throw it for them. As funny as that sounds, the photographer probably isn’t so thrilled with that dog slobber all over their lens, but their dog is having a great time.

When it comes to kids though, they have a little bit more ability to get their hands on things. A wise parent knows that there is a time to kid proof your house. It doesn’t matter what it is, if their parents think it’s cool, so do the kids. And they don’t understand the concept of something being broken. They just want to see what it is.

My grand nephew, Jake Harman was very much that Curiositycurious little boy, when his mom or grandma was trying to take his picture. I can’t say that the picture turned out the way they had planned, but you must admit that it turned out pretty cute anyway. If I didn’t know what he looked like as a little boy, I suppose this picture could have been a picture of any baby, but it isn’t, it’s Jake. Jake was always a curious little boy, and I suppose that like most kids, that got him into a certain degree of mischief, but he was, in all reality just a normal boy, curiosity and all. And while the picture didn’t turn out as planned, it takes me back to when my first grand nephew was born. It was a new experience, and we were all curious about who he would become. Hmmm…curiosity isn’t just a quirk of children and animals. Even adults have that tendency.

IMG_6241IMG_6249Because Bob and I have been hiking for more than twenty years now, I have always thought that we were careful travelers through places that are home to the creatures of the forest. We don’t leave garbage behind, and we keep our distance when we spot wildlife. It is a show of respect for them, and most often, our distance creates a feeling of careful comfort for the wildlife we pass along the trail. Still, there are times when we inadvertently get a little close. It isn’t because we were careless, but rather that we didn’t see them and I guess they didn’t see us in time either. Most often this occurs with animals like chipmunks, squirrels, mice, or birds, but sometimes deer too. It is times like these that I realize that we are really interlopers in their world. Somehow, that never exactly occurred to me before.

While hiking the Centennial Trail in the area where it crosses the tracks for the 1880 Train, beginning at the Big Pine trailhead, and going to the Samelius trailhead, we came across several Ruffed Grouse. They were in the grass right beside the trail. We didn’t see them, and somehow we managed not to disturb them until we were just steps past them. Suddenly they were spooked by our presence, and we were spooked by theirs. The imageIMG_6349second they bolted, we were so startled that I tried to get the picture of them, and all I got was the turkey that had been there with them. The picture of the turkey in itself was kind of cool though, because somehow the turkey manage to be behind a small tree at just the right angle to be almost invisible to my camera’s eye. I had to look close to realize that I had caught anything in my shaken state.

It was then that I began to think about the fact that no matter how careful, or quiet, or respectful we are, we are still interlopers in their world, and it is still disturbing to them to some degree. True, the lone doe eating grass simply stood and watched us, and the bird intent on the worm it was taking back to its babies went about its business, and the mouse eating grass allowed us to pass by quite closely, and the frog sitting in the water puddle decided that he was not going to jump, even if we were very close by. They allowed us to be in close proximity to them, somehow trusting that we were not there to hurt them. Nevertheless, even with their guarded trust, they still felt like we did not belong there. We were still in their world, and they would prefer that we would leave.

This revelation will not change the fact that we like to hike, nor will it keep us from hiking, because hiking is IMG_6280IMG_6291what we do, but it does give me a new respect for the creatures who live along the trails we like to hike. I feel a new desire to somehow tiptoe through their backyard without disturbing them too much. I want to be the stranger that they allow to pass quietly through, even if they take a guarded stance, because I am not there to hurt them, but rather just to take a peek into their world. All we want is to quietly pass through and drink in the beauty that the animals may not notice any more that we do our own living room, because to them it is normal and everyday, but to us it is extraordinary.

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