Sunday, January 30, 2011

Book Review: Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival

From tiny golden-crowned Kinglets to insects with antifreeze, this book covers almost everything!  That sounded like an advertisement, but it was a great book.  I found it in our library at the park and read it when I needed a break from other projects.  It didn't take very long--the reviews are right when they say Bernd Heinrich is a talented science writer.  I've read another of his books, last summer on my own time...Mind of the Raven.  That's also a book I would recommend.  I liked it so much I took it to Washington with me, reading it on the plane and on the ferry rides.

This book explores the worlds of small animals, including insects and amphibians, to discover how they survive very cold temperatures during the winter to emerge in the spring ready to continue their lives.  The Kinglets are the highlight of the book because they are so small, but are able to survive New England winters.  They are tiny birds, weighing no more than two pennies (a few ounces), with nothing but feathers and body fat to get them through 16-hour nights in the freezing temperatures.  They actually eat frozen catepillar larvae during the day, all day long, to build up enough energy to survive the winter and keep themselves warm.  They, along with animals like squirrels and other birds, huddle for warmth and shiver to keep themselves warm.

Bats and mice enter torpor, where their body temperatures are very low, but not so low as to freeze to death.  They can't be too warm either, because that would make them shiver, and that uses too much of their energy resources.  Basically they would die of starvation.

Bears hibernate all winter without eating, drinking or using the bathroom.  In humans, toxins build up too much for us to be able to do that.  Also, it's thought that bears don't age as they hibernate...wouldn't that be great for us?  Their cubs are born and the sleep right through it!

Anyway that's a small sample of the animals described in this book but I thought it was great.  I've had fun this winter watching Dark-eyed Juncos and Juniper Titmice, wondering how they are able to hop around in just their feathers when I have several layers on and all I want to do is get inside and stay there!  They eat all day and huddle at night--they also fluff out their feathers so there are extra layers of warm air trapped, to protect them from the cold.

I've just picked up another book from the visitor center to read--The Animal Dialogues by Craid Childs.  I just started it but it looks promising!  I'm also trying out a couple recipes from cookbooks we sell so I can write review cards on those...that's the part I'm really looking forward to!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Christmas Bird Count 2010

This year Dead Horse Point was added to the annual Christmas Bird Count.  I was nervous and Dave isn't too familiar with a lot of the birds here so we spent a couple days here at work quizzing each other and studying.  We studied pictures, names and birdcalls.  Dave can now look at a picture and say, "Hey! That's a White-breasted Nuthatch!"  When I said "you're right!"  He responded with "I know a bird!"  This conversation took place at True Value when we were looking for a bird feeder.  We ended up with a suet feeder and a black sunflower seed bell to start with.

We hiked the Rim Trail by ourselves and identified a Loggerhead Shrike, Juniper Titmouse, Dark-eyed Junco, Ravens and Crystal even spotted a Northern Goshawk, that we had to look up later.  We used binoculars and watched the birds for a few minutes at a time.  My favorite are the Juniper Titmice.  They're so cute!  ...and curious/friendly little birds that actually came up to us pretty close.  One jumped on top of a cairn while we were watching it.  Just as I was saying, "Oh look, it's sooo cute!"  It took off toward Dave and flew into the tree behind him.  I'm not repeating his reaction to that one!

Note:  I did NOT take this picture, the NPS did, but I wish I had.  I've got a picture of one but it's far away and still on my camera.  This is the Juniper Titmouse.  Isn't it cute!!

The NPS took this picture as well, but this is what ours was doing.  Perched in a tree watching the world go by.  Or watching for insects.  Anyway we had to dig out the bird book and figure out what it was.

We learned a lot, had a good time and got some good hiking in. We also added Scrub Jays and Pinyon Jays to our list.  Didn't actually see the Pinyon Jay but we heard it so it counts!

Monday, January 10, 2011

New Cottage

This is the "cottage" I just moved into!  It's got tons of trees, a big yard with a garden and a storage shed in the back that's almost as big as the "cottage" itself!  It's all one space, with the kitchen, living room and bedroom all together.  The bathroom has a door of course, and the bedroom is in its own corner so that helps, plus I can add a curtain or divider for a little more privacy!  My cat also moved in.  She likes it, but she'll be even happier when she gets to go outside in the spring.  Due to the lack of bed, she had to be creative in finding her own hidey-hole.  It's now either the closet behind the clothes or between the couch and the heater.

We decorated it up really nice.  Took my old landlord's couch, entertainment center, coffee table, dishes, silverware and decorations.  Ordered a bed and a kitchen table with chairs so soon there will be some furniture in there.  I'm taking my sewing class again this winter and will hopefully be making some curtains.  The carpet is dark green and the walls are on the yellow/off white side, so I think they should be maybe sage green.  The kitchen curtains should be a little brighter with a Southwestern design to go with the other kitchen decorations I think.

Here is the "living room."

Sorry for the dark, bad picture.  My phone isn't the best camera but it works.  There's also not a lot of light in there, which is both good and bad.  The only thing I would really change is the kitchen stove.  I'm so used to gas stoves and I think they are easier to cook with because you can see how high the flame is.  Electric stays hot longer and I tend to either burn things or boil them over.  I'll have to get used to it and do some more experimenting.  Our next recipe to try is going to be Pho--a Vietnamese noodle/broth dish so that may be the real test.  I've also got stuff to make Miso soup--Japanese.  We made egg rolls one night and ended up burning those--too hot of oil, and the oil was old.....