Archive for July, 2016

Niagara Falls – Part 2

July 29, 2016

to continue … it’s Wednesday, June 29. We’re in Niagara Falls on the American side, exploring the sites – This sign gives you a big picture of the area and the layout of the Falls:

overhead view of American Falls and Horseshoe Falls

overhead view of American Falls and Horseshoe Falls

You see American Falls in the center and Horseshoe Falls on the left. We were at the number ‘1’ area earlier, that I just blogged about – where the Maid of the Mist loads and unloads, where we walked up alongside American Falls in our blue raincoats and took the video…

After lunch we walked over the bridge to Goat Island

Bridge to Goat Island

Bridge to Goat Island

out to Terrapin Point (# 3 on the map)- right up beside Horseshoe Falls

Walking to Terrapin Point

Walking to Terrapin Point

We’re approaching the Falls now…

Horseshoe Falls ahead

Horseshoe Falls ahead

You get the best views of the Falls from the Canadian side. But on the American side you can stand right alongside the cascading American and Horseshoe Falls.

American Side of Horseshoe Falls

American Side of Horseshoe Falls

I took a video

The walks are slippery.

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Looking right you see American Falls and the bridge that crosses the Niagara River into Canada.

American Falls

American Falls

Walking back. It’s fun to people watch

Fashionistas

Fashionistas

Captured one last video of the Niagara River and Horseshoe Falls

Crossing the bridge back from Goat Island.

Where's the crowds?

Where’s the crowds?

Sure picked a good time to visit Niagara Falls, hardly any crowds. Judging from the entrance to the Maid of the Mist, lines can swell to Disneyland proportions.

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The trolley cars are fun

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Especially when the lines are short and you can find a seat at the Trolley stop.

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Hey look! Giant worms.

Special Attraction

Special Attraction

Aw, cute.

Okay, so I suddenly find myself out of photos and videos of Niagara Falls – American side. We didn’t cover every special attraction but we absolutely couldn’t pass up the Haunted House.

Niagara Falls Haunted House

Niagara Falls Haunted House

Seeing it reminded me that Megan had never been in a Haunted House. When I was seven or so, I went through a Haunted House, and I remembered it as one of the most exhilarating experiences of my childhood. David and I had to take Megan through this Haunted House to remedy the depravity of her childhood. We had no choice as parents, here, as far as I was concerned.

We’re going in now. (Signs are posted that photography is allowed.)

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Shhhh! Walk softly … Be very afraid

Are you scared yet? David leads the way…. he’s so brave…

Blink your eyes fast while watching this next exhibit

‘Psycho vision’

Uh, well maybe 55 years ago this Haunted House might have spooked a 7-year-old. (Doubtful?)

But, then, as I was about to exit the Haunted House, I swear, a ghost grabbed my i-Phone and shot this video …

Let me outta here!

Okay, time to drive over the bridge through Customs to the Canadian side …

Niagara Falls – American Falls

July 24, 2016

Don’t you just love it when people go visit a place like Niagara Falls, take about 600 photos and videos, and then feel compelled to share their wonderful trip with you? But what the heck. You get to experience it vicariously on the backs of someone else’s dime and efforts to get there – which for us, David, Megan and I, meant driving 250 miles to the Salt Lake Airport, flying into Buffalo, NY, arriving at 11pm – renting a motel in Buffalo, renting a car the next morning, driving to Niagara Falls. We wanted to experience both the American and Canadian sides of the Falls, so we first rented a motel on the American side.

Just to flesh out the experience of flying, at the get-go in Salt Lake, in the security line, David got his pocket knife confiscated. He turns to me all annoyed since I’m the one that Googled ‘Can you take pocket knives on airplanes’ in the car getting to the airport and reported “Yes, you can honey” and read aloud all the detailed descriptions of size of blade, showed him the photos, it had to fold down, etc. But then after his knife was confiscated and we were in line at a kiosk to buy stamps to mail it back to us, I got onto another site that clarified that indeed, in 2013, the FAA had approved folding pocket knives on planes, but after blowback, had repealed the decision. I had obviously read a 2013 post. It cost $6.80 to mail the knife back, but the lady running the register, from Estonia or somewhere, would only let us buy $6.00 worth – “I need the stamps” she said. Great. No problem. David put our address as both the sender and recipient and sure enough the thing got delivered.

Thus, Travel Tip # 1: “Leave pocket knives behind no matter what you read on the Internet.”

Travel Tip #2: “When it’s time to board the plane, screw the lid tightly on your water bottle before putting it in your backpack.” Of course, you’re in such a frenzy gathering up all your stuff and securing your position in line to make sure you can grab what might be the last space for your suitcase in the overhead compartment. Good news, we had overhead space. Bad news, why was there a puddle of water under Megan’s backpack on my seat? I reach in her pack and pull out the empty plastic water bottle. OMG! Quick! Grab all the contents – movies, paperback book, journal, stuffed animal, sweatshirt, pens, cell phone and charger – now the pack is empty except for the puddle dripping through the bottom onto our feet. “Here, honey!” – I shove the pack into David’s arms. “What do you want me to do with it?” he says. “Give it to the Stewardess!” David jumps up and disappears – returns from the lavatory five minutes later. He had turned the thing wrong side out and dumped what was left of the water, wiped it as best he could. It was still soaking wet. Megan and I fly the whole way with a wet empty backpack nestled at our feet, its contents strewed across our seats, all of it drying out.

Oh, and by the way. (Travel Tip #3): The airlines no longer nestle those nifty folded barf bags with built-in ties in the seat pockets in front of you. So when you’re overcome with the urge to hurl you have to flag down a stewardess. (How many on that flight besides Megan suffered from flight anxiety?)

Good news and good news: Although Megan felt the urge to hurl through most of that 2-hour flight from Salt Lake to Minneapolis, she didn’t. The other good news: We had snagged ourselves, free from Delta Airlines, a right fine hamper-sized waterproof bag with handles, perfect for stowing a whole trips’ worth of dirty clothes. Albeit on the flight we now faced the additional challenge of keeping the bag in barf position while avoiding knocking the movies and other contents of Megan’s pack off our seats to seemingly Timbuktu since we didn’t have enough leg room to bend over and pick them up.

Flight barf bag - our first free souvenir

Flight barf bag – our first free souvenir

We dumped the dirty contents of the bag directly into a laundry basket when we arrived home. I’m saving the bag for future use – like maybe as a hamper on our next camping trip. Or a car barf bag, in case the whole family and the dog on a road trip all come down with food poisoning and/or nasty bug at the same time.

I could write a detailed blog by itself just about passports. First, you need an agreed-upon plan for managing your passports. Besides checking their expiration dates months before your trip, also find a safe and secure place to stow them while traveling, but also not so secure to where you can’t find them at Customs. I zipped my and Megan’s passports into a secure pocket in my purse. Which is where I also shoved my boarding pass. So when I whipped out my boarding pass at check-in the passports flew out and landed at David’s feet. “What the heck! Put those in a safe place!” Hey, they were in a safe place. He took over the job of managing all the passports, which reduced my stress tremendously. Now, no matter what, if they get lost it’s his fault. No tips for you on passports, other than: “Be cognizant and hyper-anxious at all times as to the whereabouts of all passports. Put one person in charge of them so there is no question as to who’s to blame if they get lost.”

On the drive now, from Buffalo to Viagra Falls. Uh, Niagara Falls. (My computer auto corrects to ‘Viagra’ when I misspell Niagara as ‘Niagra’)

I don’t know what bridge this is but I like the picture.

Must be going over the Niagara River?

Must be going over the Niagara River?

Hey, I was stressed here, okay? – taking photos, trying to relax a little, had we left something back at the motel in Buffalo? Where’s our phone charger?? Megan do you have your phone? Did I leave my book on the bedside?…

We decided to spend our first full day at American Falls, or at the American side of Niagara Falls. We’re watching that “Maid of the Mist” boat loaded to the gills with folks in blue raincoats. (It’s coming and going with a corresponding boat loaded with folks in red raincoats.) The boat lingers for several minutes right at the base of the Falls. Must be a thunderously wet, but exhilarating (perhaps, if you’re not buckled over the sides with sea sickness) experience.

"Maid of the MIst"

“Maid of the MIst”

The one with red raincoats is right at the Falls now:

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We’re in line now, alongside a large group of, Mennonites??

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contemplating whether to take that “Maid of the Mist’ boat to the falls. We decide just to pay to get on the upper viewing deck. What a fantastic view:

View of Niagara Falls from American side - notice the walkway that leads to the falls

View of Niagara Falls from American side – notice the walkway that leads to the Falls

Oh, a boat is returning.

Blue Maid of the Mist returning from the Falls

Blue Maid of the Mist returning from the Falls

We decide to go down and take that walk along the shore up next to the falls. We arrive near the dock just as the masses of folks in blue raincoats are getting off the boat. Gee it would be nice to be wearing those raincoats when we’re up next to the falls… No problem! People are taking them off and tossing them in the recycle bin. Hey you paid for those! Great. We pull three of them out of the trash, what the heck, put them on …

Megan and David - outfitted for the mist

Megan and David – outfitted for the mist

We merge with the blue crowd off the boat walking the misty path that leads you alongside American Falls. Along the way I’m humming that low-toned “HarUmmmm-Um, HarUmm-a-rum-a-rum” song from the ‘Wizard of Oz’ movie when Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Lion, with his tail sticking out, dress as Guards, and merge with the group of Guards marching into the Witch’s castle, to rescue Dorothy.

There, you see the Falls thundering ahead…

American Falls at Niagara Falls

American Falls at Niagara Falls

We’re as close as we want to get now … here, I took a video

Granted mostly all you see is mist. That’s Niagara Falls, Canada, across the River.

There’s lots of touristy things to do in Niagara Falls. Here you see advertised the Discovery Pass combining five major tourist attractions saving ‘up to 29%’ in price:

'Unforgettable memories at an unbelievable price'

‘Unforgettable memories at an unbelievable price’

Maid of the Mist, Cave of the Winds, Niagara: Legends of Adventure Theater, Gorge Discovery Center, Aquarium. You know, if you have time…

Plus, this attraction:

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Can’t believe David passed that up looking for a place for lunch. We ended up having lunch at the Rainforest Cafe:

Megan nestled comfortably with her bench companions

Megan nestled comfortably with her bench companions

Next to the Apes: (Not to be confused with the ‘Alps’)

We have to shop for a t-shirt or some kind of souvenir. Hey, let’s check out that huge Made In America Store.

Heading toward souvenir city

Heading toward souvenir city

That building is so huge, the stuff they sell could even be made right there. Perhaps there’s a clothing factory in those upper stories and other manufacturing/packaging businesses as well?

Ascending the stairs to the Made in America Store, with a patriotic skip in our step.

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Checking out the clothing racks. How do you get more American than this shirt!

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Made in America for sure, could’ve even been made upstairs!

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Made in Bangladesh?

Okay, well uh, guess I kinda got off track seeing as I have maybe, 40 more photos of the Falls alone. Plus video. Actually I’ve only covered the first 1 1/2 days of our 7-day trip. “Oh, please don’t put us through this, Jody” you say?

What, you want to make the trip yourself?

Robins – Part 3

July 16, 2016

On Sunday, June 26, I watched a female robin building a nest in the honey locust tree in our back yard. I captured a video of it and blogged about it in Part 1 of this series, meanwhile, of course, getting distracted, and down right obsessed, with the yellow warblers pooping on our front door step (Part 2)…

I kept watching the robins. Sure enough the mother was still brooding through this past Tuesday, July 12. I would usually just get a view of her tail above the nest:

Her tail is hard to see

Her tail is hard to see

Since eggs hatch after 14 days I thought maybe they were hatched by this past Tuesday. A few minutes after I took that last photo, I saw mom fly off the nest, shake herself off, hop around with the dad a bit, and then return to the nest:

Mom takes a break

Mom takes a break

Get the circulation going!

Get the circulation going!

Dad was hopping around just a few feet away from her.

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Back to the nest now!

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We’ve been listening for the ‘chirp-chirp-chirping’ of baby birds. This morning I watched the robins in the back yard, Dad maybe, hopping around. But I didn’t see any activity on the nest. No brooding mother, no adults flying with worms to the nest. No chirping. No activity at all. Oh boy.

I got a ladder and climbed up to the nest – captured this photo. Awwwww.

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Come to think of it, I did run 3 magpies off the deck this morning. They hang around here a bit – fly into the top of our giant spruce and make a racket. Thought I’d do a little research on magpies. Sure enough, they regularly prey upon the eggs and nestlings of other birds, especially song birds. (Of course, magpies are regularly preyed upon in turn, by hawks, owls and ravens.)

Magpies are part of the the Corvid or crow family. They are super common throughout the northwest, however, mostly absent in the eastern US. Here is a link with a photo of a magpie and more interesting information about magpies. They mate for life. They are considered one of the most intelligent animals in the world, the only non-mammal species able to recognize itself in a mirror test. (So those warblers pecking at our reflective front door kick plate thought they were pecking at … another warbler??)

Oh and by the way, according to the article in the above link, the longest-living Black-billed Magpie on record was at least 9 years, 4 months old and lived in Idaho (near our back yard, perhaps?).

Magpies walk with a staggering strut and will band together to mob a raptor. They can also kill small mammals such as squirrels and voles. They are nest predators although eggs and nestlings make up only a small portion of the birds’ overall diet. They eat berries, seeds and nuts, and lots of insects too. They use scent to find food, an unusual trait for birds, which generally have very little sense of smell.

Another interesting trait of magpies is that they have been known to grieve and hold funerals for fallen friends. In this article, animal behavior expert Dr. Bekoff, of the University of Colorado, reports an encounter with four magpies alongside a magpie corpse – individually pecking at it, flying off, returning with some grass and then laying it by the corpse, then standing vigil together for a few seconds, then flying off one by one. This ritual has been seen repeatedly in magpies, ravens and crows.

So did those three magpies mob that robin nest? Hmmm. Seems like a good explanation. Are the robins grieving their loss, too?

So, no baby robins after all. Oh well. Haven’t seen the yellow warblers around lately, either.

Although there’s ample evidence in our flower garden of a thriving slug population.

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There now. Doesn’t that cheer you up?

Robins, Warblers … Part 2

July 13, 2016

So I thought I was done telling this warbler story, you know, those little yellow birds, quite cute actually, flitting around right at our front door, leaving droppings on the stoop and making a huge mess.

When David, Megan and I were first discussing how to deal with the warblers, we decided an owl might scare them off. But where, pray tell, do you find an owl? Download an owl photo off the internet? Print it out and tape it to the front door? I had considered that option.

Then David scrounged up Herbert, our life-like wooden jointed cobra snake, from the basement. He set him out there right against the front door and, sure enough, Herbert has done the job.

Herbert, admiring his reflection

Herbert, admiring his reflection

The birds quit their ‘peck-peck-pecking’ out front but are still regularly spotted in the back yard.

Except, it’s been unnerving opening the door to Herbert, having him out there 24/7. He constantly startles us; we’re just never quite prepared for the sight of him.

Then there’s this problem of people stopping by. This past Sunday I spotted an old friend charging up our walk to the front door. I wanted to stop her, warn her about Herbert, but she backed off the step with a start and inquired about the snake as soon as I opened the door.

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I’m just not keen on having to calm visitors and explaining the ‘snake-vs-pooping warblers’ situation to everyone who knocks on our front door. We really have to come up with another way to scare off the birds.

Enter, uh, the Universe, I guess. Because later Sunday afternoon Megan and I decided to park by the Snake River in Idaho Falls and walk the greenbelt. I swerved toward the curb into this parking space in the shade. Noticed a small stuffed animal sitting along the curb there, but what’s the harm in running it over, I want this spot!

We climb out and Megan looks under the car, hey, mom look! It’s a little baby owl! Seriously. We retrieve it and I suggest we leave it in the grass in case whoever lost it comes back looking for it. No. Says Megan. We can use it to scare the warblers! Oh! You’re right Megan! It was in great shape other than a few tire marks and, well, it’s eyes were a bit scratched up:

Maybe Winslow can do the job!

Maybe Winslow can do the job!

First thing yesterday morning Megan made sure we relieved Herbert of his duties.

"Herbert has to go, mom"

“Herbert has to go, mom”

Although Herbert’s done a good job it was just too creepy making eye contact with him every time we opened the front door. Enter: Winslow

Winslow's scratched up eyes make her spookier!

Winslow’s scratched up eyes make her spookier!

Herbert’s a gentle snake, though

What to do with Herbert?

What to do with Herbert?

It just seemed a travesty to exile him back into his dank corner in the basement. Let’s let him loose to explore the house a bit…

Oh boy, he’s in the poinsettias!

Master of disguise

Master of disguise

Better keep an eye on him, he’s wily. Where’d he go?

Peek-a-boo

Peek-a-boo

Herbert meets spider.

Herbert makes a friend

Herbert makes a friend

Spider has been living in the potpourri ever since last Halloween when he escaped the box. I blogged about spider here, our new permanent house guest who’s taken up residence in the downstairs bath.

Oh boy, Herbert’s headed up the stairs… Man he moves fast!

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Straight to Megan’s bedroom. No Herbert, it’s not gonna fly, you posing as one of Megan’s stuffed animals

Bedtime disaster

Bedtime disaster

Herbert makes another friend. He has big dreams

Herbert finds a mate

Herbert finds a mate

No, Herbert, you are not falling in love and starting a family. And certainly not up in Megan’s bedroom!

Herbert needs a purpose. We could give him a new assignment. OUTSIDE. I know! He’s great at scaring off the birds, let’s see if he can keep the birds from eating the tomatoes!

Herbert finds a new calling

Herbert finds a new calling

There. He looks happy now.

As for Winslow, she’s been on her watch for 24 hours. It’s a kinder, gentler creature now that greets you at the front door.

Winslow saves the day

Winslow saves the day

And we aren’t startled opening the front door…

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No more explaining to frightened visitors.

Of course, now we’re on high alert for that ‘peck-peck-pecking’ sound. When do yellow warblers migrate south for the winter?

Robins, Warblers and ‘Herbert’

July 9, 2016

Two summers ago, in 2014, we had robins nesting in a honey locust tree in our back yard. I took lots of video on August 3, 2014, the day the hatchlings fledged, and blogged about it. Here is a link to the blogs.

This summer the robins are back! Nesting in the same place. I was out in the back yard on June 26 and witnessed robins building a nest, in the exact same location, at the intersection of two low hanging limbs. I shot a couple of videos:

The female chooses the site and builds the nest, while the male might help gather nesting materials (depending on his mood?).

Or lead the female to a resting place when he sees she needs a break …

Who's got the beer?

Who’s got the beer?

A new nest is built for each brood, and in northern climes the first clutch is usually placed in an evergreen tree or shrub, while later broods are placed in deciduous trees (this must be this family’s second clutch?). It takes from two to six days to build the nest, with an average of 180 trips per day to find materials.

Building a nest is a lot of work!

Meanwhile, a cutesy chatty pair of yellow birds shows up. I think we just have one pair of these, but they surely have made their presence known. At first we’re like, “Oh, cute!’ when one would flutter up against our back kitchen window. Then flutter up there again, lingering, as if admiring it’s reflection. Then over the course of a day or two the window gets all mucked up – the birds were fluttering, lingering, and then apparently puking on the outside of our kitchen window. It became creepy and Megan started banging on the window to scare them away. I was out there with windex scrubbing off the mess.

Then we were hearing this ‘peck-peck-peck-ing’ on our front door starting first thing early morning. It was creepy too. One of those dumb yellow birds again! I’d quick!, open the front door, but of course, it was gone. Now the birds were fluttering, pecking, puking and pooping – right at our front door.

I went out there with a bucket of soapy water and scrub brush and scrubbed it off. But then within a day or two it was a mess again. Here – I took a photo:

Yuk!

Yuk!

The little yellow birds were standing on our doorstep admiring themselves in the reflective kick plate, pooping and regurgitating on their reflection. Hey, whatever floats your boat, birdies. Noooooo! We had to do something.

I was constantly complaining to David about it – “Look, honey, there goes one of those yellow birds!” as it flits past the front window.

A while later I notice our vegetable scrub brush quarantined in a glass by the sink:

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“What’s this doing here?” I ask David.

“Oh, I used that brush to scrub the bird poop off the front stoop…”

“Ewwww! I scrub potatoes and carrots with that brush!”

“Yeah, well thought I’d help you deal with the bird problem …”

I walk to the front door and open it. Ahhhh! You’re kidding!

Hello

Hello

“The snake just might scare the birds away,” says David.

He had brought that wooden jointed cobra snake we bought in Mexico about 8 years ago, up from the basement.

It startles us every time we open the front door.

Hi again

Hi again

As for those yellow birds, I did finally capture a couple of photos of them. At the back sliding door, since that snake did scare them away from the front door:

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My sister Lisa, an avid bird watcher, identified them. ‘Yellow Warblers‘. I did a Google search on Warbler behaviors and couldn’t come up with anything remotely matching our experience. It’s simply ‘be as annoying as possible to the Caraher’s’ behavior.

As for the robins, David captured a photo of her yesterday – roosting on the nest.

July 8, 2016

July 8, 2016

You guessed it. The female sits on the eggs too. (While the male checks out the local bird baths? I dunno…) The eggs hatch after 14 days, and the chicks leave the nest, fledge, two weeks later. While the chicks are still young, the mother broods them continuously. When they are older, the mother will brood them only at night or during bad weather. (You know, out of sheer exhaustion.)

As for the front door situation with the warblers, ‘Herbert’ seems to have solved the problem. I pulled into the driveway the other day to witness a neighbor backing away from our front door. She had come over with her granddaughter to deliver some cupcakes and I heard her say “Honey, I don’t think it’s alive.” Luckily I was able to explain the situation as to why we have a life-like cobra roosting on our front doorstep.

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I guess I should consider us lucky that we still have mail delivery. Although we haven’t received any UPS packages recently.

Overall, we’re one bigger happier family with the robins, warblers, Herbert and all. Although Herbert still startles me when I open the front door.

I'm your Huckleberry

I’m your Huckleberry

He’s pretty much going to stay there as long as those warblers are around. I’d like to preserve our vegetable brush for scrubbing vegetables.