Chickadees hang out for a drink

This is my favorite, a lot going on. Besides the wing stabilizer and the fact that
 the bird is drinking, notice you can see him through the clear ice. Also look
how it clings to both sides of the icicle. I suppose they do it but I have never 
seen a bird cling with its feet in opposition like that,
April 23, 2017
This year for the first time I was at the East Pole long enough to justify putting out a bird feeder. I hung it off a corner post on the deck and it was there and full most of the time from the middle of December until the end of March.
In that time there was a constant flurry around it. At first maybe a dozen chickadees began hanging out. In time redpolls discovered it and a couple dozen of them came over. Interspersed with them, a couple of Pine grosbeaks stopped by every day and one day a hairy woodpecker showed up.
My presence didn't seem to deter them a bit. A couple of times they almost hit me as they flew around. My chopping block was almost directly under the feeder and even that activity didn't discourage activity around the feeder. It is so quiet in the woods, I could hear their wing beats overhead as I wrestled with firewood and they flew back and forth.
Note the drop of water from another icicle at upper left.
In all it mesmerized me at times and I would discover I had stopped doing whatever my task was and I was watching the interactions among the various birds.
Then one day something new happened. It came about around the middle of March, a time when I have mentioned the temperature on the porch sometimes reaches 80 degrees in the sunshine. I had finished my work for the day and poured three fingers of an expensive scotch over a handful of compressed snow and settled into my deck chair to sip the whiskey and watch the birds. In that heat snow on the roof had begun to melt and icicles formed along the eaves. It took a while to focus on the fact that some of the chickadees were landing on the icicles, clinging to them and staying for a moment or two. At one point I noticed a couple of drips falling off the tip of an icicle and it was in that
Note two drops falling. My friend Gretchen Small was
inspired by this photo to paint the picture at left.
observation I realized the chickadees were drinking the meltwater on the icicles.
Over the next few days I sat out there for several hours with my camera in my lap, watching them drink and sometimes even forgetting to lift the camera. In the process I was able to capture several good photos of this phenomenon. I posted a few of the photos on the Birds of Alaska facebook page and one of them got more than 200 likes and the other about 150. It seemed few if any people had observed this activity by chickadees.
Artwork by Gretchen Small
I found it so interesting, if rain hadn't appeared in the weather forecast, I'd probably still be out there photographing drinking chickadees. I've posted some photos here that show different ways the birds approached the icicles in order to catch a drink.

The sun also sets

A chickadee catches a drink from a melting icicle while 
two drops get away from him.
March 19, 2017

Eighty degrees in the sun on the deck. Comfortable chair, boots up on the generator box, five feet from the feeder. A mediocre scotch in hand with a tight-fisted chunk of snow to cool and temper it mixed with a few birch chatains to give it that woody flavor.

Action is brisk at the Chickadee Singles Bar as we all wait for the grosbeacks to come by for their afternoon set. One even landed on my boot.
You know, I write a lot about the birds, but I am not a real birder. I mean if somebody says there is a tufted titmouse in the neighborhood, I am not going to grab my binoculars and camera and race out the door. I like the ones who come to me, the ones I feed, and the few individuals I recognize as I watch them and try to decipher what their behavior means. Think about this. It is so quiet in the woods I can hear their wingbeats as they flutter about and the clicking of their feet as they land on the plastic feeder rim.

They have been checking the ventilation holes under the eaves, I think for nesting spots and it makes me glad I took the time to put screening over them when I built years ago. It's not that I wouldn't love to entertain a nesting pair or two, but I would rather not have them tearing into my insulation. The other day I watched one explore the whole front of the house, even once clinging to the siding. How I wished I had had a camera when it perched on the fin of the killer whale decoration on the door.
A couple of days later, a good one, almost 80 degrees again.

So I watch them now, the day's work done, a big chunk of the wiring project completed, even a light hanging over the kitchen, and firewood packed away. I split and stacked three sledfuls and brought out one for the next 24 hours. And, satisfied, scotch in hand, I can relax and enjoy the sun while it lasts.

I had an interesting revelation today. Someone came out to that neighboring cabin I can see these days. Whoever it was didn't stay the night and I got the idea he was just checking on it. The same thing happened last weekend.

I got to wondering why, and if anything were missing would I be the chief suspect. Giving it some thought, I realized there is probably nothing in that cabin I would want. I did a mental inventory of this place and realized I really have everything I could possibly want. Short of a hot woman or a couple of sitcom DVDs, nothing. I have it all. How many people can say that? If this keeps up I might need another bottle of scotch, though, but no need to break into someone's cabin on the off chance I might find one. I can afford a trip out and a good one if need be.
My friend Gretchen Small says the chickadee drinking
in the photo above inspired her to paint this picture of a
Swainson's thrush.

The sun is heading into the trees now, so it might be time for a little dinner and a movie. I am thinking Moulin Rouge, the new one with Ewan MacGregor and Nicole Kidman. Did I ever write about the night I chatted with her for a few minutes online, just a couple of days before her marriage to Keith Urban? Honest, I did. Jokingly I told her I had this great script with a part prefect for her. I could almost hear her mind snap shut. I told her I was only kidding, but she only came back a little way.

Well with dinner and a movie in the near future, I am guessing the following applies.

With two more weeks to go, I think I am going to have to go out for another bottle of scotch. This one lasted 30 years. I might as well pay the money for a good one for the next 30.

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Interesting quotations

My dear Mr. Frost: two roads never diverge in a yellow wood. Three roads meet there. — @Shakespeare on Twitter

"The mark of a great shiphandler is never getting into situations that require great shiphandling," Adm. Ernest King, USN

Me: Does the restaurant have cute waitresses?

My friend Gail: All waitresses are cute when you're hungry.

I'm not a writer, but sometimes I push around words to see what happens. – Scott Berry

“The rivers of Alaska are strewn with the bones of men who made but one mistake” - Fred McGarry, a Nushagak Trapper

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. – Franz Kafka

We are all immortal until the one day we are not. – me again

If the muse is late, start without her – Peter S. Beagle

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums of money to get rid of. – Shirley Hazzard

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper.—Jackie Faber, “The Wake of the Lorelei Lee”

If you attack the arguer instead of the argument, you lose both

If an insurance company won’t pay for damages caused by an “act of God,” shouldn’t it then have to prove the existence of God? – I said that

I used to think getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial. – Eugene O’Neill

German General to Swiss General: “You have only 500,000 men in your army; what would you do if I invaded with 1 million men?”

Swiss General: “Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice.”

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.—Gloria Steinem

Exceed your bandwidth—sign on the wall of the maintenance shop at the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done.—Patricia Monaghan

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world.—Brett Arends

It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way.—Andrew Jackson

3:30 is too late or too early to do anything—Rene Descartes

Everything is okay when it’s 50-below as long as everything is okay. – an Alaskan in Tom Walker’s “The Seventymile Kid”

You can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own science.—commenter arguing on a story about polar bears and global warming

He looks at three ex wives as a good start—TV police drama

Talkeetna: A friendly little drinking town with a climbing problem.—a handmade bumper sticker

“You’re either into the wall or into the show”—Marco Andretti on giving it all to qualify last at the 2011 Indy 500

Makeup is not for the faint of heart—the makeup guerrilla

“I’m going to relax in a very adult manner.”—Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti

“Asking Congress to come back is like asking a mugger to come back because he forgot your wallet.”—a roundtable participant on Fox of all places

As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her.—me again

Hunting is a “critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison.”—a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting

Each day do something that won’t compute – anon

I can’t belive I still have to protest this shit – a sign carriend by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stared at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. – Meg Chittenden

Life should be a little nuts or else it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together—Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in “Rumor has it”

You’re just a wanker whipping up fear —Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio announcer

Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are—Michelle Obama

Things sports announcers say

"… there's a fearlessment about him …"

"He's got to have the lead if he's going to win this race."

"Kansas has always had the ability to score with the basketball."

"NFL to put computer chips in balls." Oh, that's gotta hurt.

"Now that you're in the finals you have to run the race that's going to get you on the podium."

"It's very important for both sides that they stay on their feet."

This is why you get to hate sportscasters. Kansas beats Texas for the first time since 1938. So the pundits open their segment with the question "let's talk about what went wrong." Wrong? Kansas WON a football game! That's what went RIGHT!

"I brought out the thermostat to show you how cold it is here." Points to a thermometer reading zero in Minneapolis.

"It's tough to win on the road when you turn the ball over." Oh, really? Like you can do all right if you turn the ball over playing at home?

Cliches so imbedded in sportscasters' minds they can't help themselves: "Minnesota fell from the ranks of the undefeated today." What ranks? They were the only undefeated team left.

A good one: A 5'10" player went up and caught a pass off a defensive back over six feet tall. The quote? "He's got some hops."

Best homonym of the day so far: "It's all tied. Alabama 34, Kentucky 3." Oh, Tide.

"Steve Hooker commentates on his Olympic pole vault gold medal." When "comments" just won't do.

"He's certainly capable of the top ten, maybe even higher than that."

"Atlanta is capable of doing what they're doing."

"Biyombo, one of seven kids from the Republic of Congo." In the NBA? In America? In his whole country?

"You can't come out and be aggressive but you can't come out and be unaggressive."

"They're gonna be in every game they play!"

"First you have to get two strikes on the hitter before you get the strikeout."

"The game ended in the final seconds." You have to wonder when the others ended or are they still going on?

How is a team down by one touchdown before the half "totally demoralized?"

"If they score runs they will win."

"I think the matchup is what it is"

After a play a Houston defender was on his knees, his head on the ground and his hand underneath him appeared to clutch a very sensitive part of the male anatomy. He rolled onto his back and quickly removed his hand. (Remember the old Cosby routine "you cannot touch certain parts of your body?") Finally they helped the guy to the sideline and then the replay was shown. In it the guy clearly took a hard knee between his thighs. As this was being shown, one of the announcers says, "It looks like he hurt his shoulder." The other agrees and then they both talk about how serious a shoulder injury can be. Were we watching the same game?

"Somebody is going to be the quarterback or we're going to see a new quarterback."

"If you're gonna play running back in the SEC you're gonna take hits."

"That was a playmaker making a play."

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