Invasion of the Turkey Vultures

Spring is here, although it’s been a bit of a stuttering start so far. We had sleet and snow Wednesday and Thursday, but today is a beautiful, sunny day and the the new accumulations are nearly gone. What was really interesting this week was a sudden influx of birds, which unfortunately coincided with the brief winter-like storm. There were white-throated sparrows everywhere, scrabbling around on the ice trying to find food. I put out some bird seed and they devoured it like a starving mob. Along with the several dozen sparrows, I also saw what I think was a rose finch sneaking in to grab some seeds. There was also a fat robin walking very close to the cabin — apparently too cold to fly, just sort of stumbling around, who didn’t even have enough energy to go after the seeds. If a robin can shiver, that’s what he was doing. I could just imagine him saying, “What the #$%^^&, they told me it was springtime up here!”

Toward evening on Thursday, we started to notice some eagle-sized birds soaring around the place. I got out the binoculars and looked at one perched in a tree nearby, and it looked just like this, complete with the bald, red, wrinkled-up beak-face:

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I looked in our bird book and concluded that it was a turkey vulture. (My phone isn’t good enough to get a close-up so I copied that picture off the internet.) He flew off to the west and settled in another tree, and I then noticed that there were several of them gathered in the general vicinity.

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You can see six of them in the picture above, but there were probably twice that many. They weren’t making any sounds at all, just sitting in the trees looking things over. They kept that up for ten or twenty minutes, and then they all flew off together toward the west and I didn’t see a single one again that day. I’ve seen a couple since, but not the big group. They fly very quietly and are graceful in an odd sort of way, kind of bobbing along on the air currents while barely moving their wings at all. The bird book says they are the champions of the bird world in terms of soaring ability. It also says that the bald beak-face is an adaptation for scavenging, since they are scavengers only and do not eat anything live.

So, it wasn’t actually an invasion, and I’m relieved to know that they won’t be attacking us up here as long as we remain alive and kicking. (I just called it an invasion to make the article seem more interesting. Sorry for the fake news — I must have been infected by our Tweeter-in-Chief.)

Anyway, I just though this sudden profusion of birds was interesting, especially the turkey vultures, which I don’t recall seeing before. Maybe they only hang around here in the early spring on their way to someplace else. In the past, we wouldn’t be up here this early, so this was just one more delight from our first full winter season on Lake Superior.

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A Thousand Bingos! (Talk About a Dubious Accomplishment)

Way back in about 2011 or so, my son Brian invited me to play a new game called Words with Friends. I was immediately hooked on it, even though he lost interest after a few games. Since then, WWF has been a constant part of my daily routine – I constantly have something like 16 to 20 games ongoing. Here’s a tip of the hat to my family and friends who have done and continue to enable this addiction – the stalwarts, Matt, Mary, Ellie, Barb, Nick, Jerod, LeAnne, and John (also known as the evil Duckter J), as well as some random players I’ve connected with occasionally.

One really cool feature of the game is that it keeps track of your game stats. Thanks to that feature, I became aware that I was closing in on what I consider to be a fairly impressive accomplishment. As in Scrabble, the game that WWF was based on, there are bonus points awarded if a player uses all seven letters in a single turn. In players’ lingo, this is known as a Bingo. A while back, I noticed that my Bingo total had reached 900. Silly as it may seem, that really made my spine tingle as I began to dream of reaching 1000. After all, doing almost anything one thousand times seems like a really big deal, does it not? Well, maybe not, but if there is a sign or a web page that actually TELLS you you’ve done something a thousand times, that’s big, no?

OK, so most of you won’t get it. After all, what it really says is that I’ve wasted an incredible amount of time doing something really useless. But I don’t care. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time and NOW I’VE DONE IT!!! A THOUSAND BINGOS!!!

WWF Screenshot

All you other WWFers out there, the gauntlet has been thrown down. Beat that, if you can! (I’m sure there are millions who already have, but I don’t really want to hear from you. I’m in dream land.)

I’ll post again when I get to two thousand. Three thousand may even get me into the Hall of Fame, if there is such a thing. If not, maybe I’ll invent it.

A Bridge to the Twentieth Century

For the last several weeks, I’ve been walking around in the front yard wondering what to do with the huge piles of logs and branches left behind by the men who cut down our unfortunate threat trees. Eventually, I hope to reuse as much of the debris as possible, either for firewood or some other useful things. As a start, I used some of the pieces as borders for footpaths while also collecting a lot of the brush into piles. Then I got the bright idea to use two of the leftover stumps as supports for a bench. I nailed three long pieces to the tops of the stumps to form the bench seat. As I continued to lay down borders in the newly open area created by the felling of the trees, the new path I was creating led itself directly to the west side of Paul’s Creek. Naturally, this led me to decide that I needed to build another bridge across the creek.

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Those who didn’t know my father, Paul, might think that these creative tree recycling ideas were coming out of my own brain. In fact, all I was doing was channeling my dad. He did a whole bunch of things just like these, using fallen trees and branches to build stuff rather than buying lumber. (He also bought a ton of lumber to build stuff, and also often saved used lumber when he had to tear down some of his projects. Guess who has a bunch of used lumber stored in the garage for future projects?) In other words, I am becoming my father, just as the old adage goes. Every day I seem to be more like him.

But anyway, back to the story. Why did I need to build a bridge across the creek? To get to the other side, of course! As you’ll see in the photos, some of the logs were quite large and required a great deal of effort to move. In true Paul fashion I had to do it all completely by myself. The only tools I used were a pry bar, relying on the ancient inventions of the wheel and the lever to get the logs in position, a hand saw to cut the bridge deck pieces, and a hammer and nails to hold everything together. (I also downed a fair number of Ibuprofen tablets to deal with the resulting aches and pains and put on a few Band-Aids to cover various cuts.)

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Once I built the bridge, I thought maybe I should give it a name. I just finished watching the Masters (congrats to champion Sergio Garcia!) and naturally enjoyed seeing the players walk across the famous Hogan and Sarazen bridges. I myself walked across the famous Swilcan Bridge at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, as documented elsewhere on this site. My new bridge won’t be so famous, of course. I thought of a few ideas, including Bridge to Nowhere, Bridge to the Other Side, Paul’s Bridge, Dave’s Bridge, Saari Bridge, but none of those seemed to capture the spirit of the thing. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks – this bridge is a connection to my dad, who was born in 1913 and died in 1997. It’s a bridge to the past, a Bridge to the Twentieth Century.

I have three fine sons, Matt (not to be confused with Matt Davidson), Nick, and Brian. If any of them are reading this, I’m sure their eyes are rolling. I used to roll my eyes when my dad was building benches and bridges out of recycled trees, too. But I have some advice for the lads – you might as well embrace this silliness, because it just may be your future.

Now, on to the rest of those fallen trees and branches. Maybe another fifty paths, twenty benches, a dozen bridges …

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