Friday, July 31, 2009

Mother or Smother?

For some reason with this third clutch the Robin has been sitting on the nest a LOT more past the hatching stage than she had with the others. This poor baby looked soooo uncomfortable wedged between his mother and the edge of the nest (that's the top of his head facing out). I think maybe it's because it's been so rainy and cool, she's been trying to keep them warm. She's started to lay off a bit now and they should be fledging in a few days.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

11 Years - Welcome to our Home!

Today marks 11 years since we moved into our present house. Sort of hard to believe, although like many things, in some ways it seems like yesterday, in other ways it seems like we've always lived here.

For me this was a fulfillment of a lifelong dream to live in the country. I haven't been disappointed. I love the seclusion, the wildlife, the fresh air and open spaces. I can't see any other house from anywhere in (or out) of my house. I love that.

I am completely in love with this area as well, and it has grown enough that we have many major stores and restaurants within 20 minutes of us, but since we are in the protected Oak Ridges Moraine and the Greenbelt, there won't be any development up here. And yet, we are within commuting distance from Toronto.

When we picked this house we had looked at many in an area of a half horseshoe around Toronto (West to North). Our house was in our top limit of the half horseshoe, but we're glad we ended up here, as a North-South commute is much preferable to any East-West route.

We had specific things we wanted in the house layout-wise, we also wanted some land but not too much. Of course, we had the dogs uppermost in our minds. We managed to get a big house but not too big, on a beautiful piece of very private property surrounded by empty property that we didn't have to own. We saw many houses, some with more land even, that were just too close to neighbours. If two neighbours have 10 acres each, what possesses them to build their houses right beside each other? We saw a surprising amount of that. We saw a beautiful, absolutely gorgeous new house, done just to our taste but no matter how hard we tried to work it out, the land just would NOT work for the dogs. So we pried ourselves away from that and settled instead on a house that scored high on all the things you can't change (quality of construction, basic layout, lay of the land, privacy and location) and scored low on the things we could change (can we say d-a-t-e-d ? - although we're not sure what date!). One of the early workers in the house described the decor as "Italian Cowboy". That really did fit! We've done a TON of work on the place and the result has been incredible. We got rid of a pool, fenced 2.5 acres with 5 ft. chain link. Most rooms were completely gutted (to the studs) and we've had trees cut and landscaping completely redone front and back. Still more to do, but we've definitely redone at least two-thirds, inside and out!

11 years! And at least 5 more to come. Maybe we'll finish it by then!

Front of the house. A line of 4 giant pine trees were removed, that were almost coming into the front door. All new landscaping, new windows, new roof, new garage doors.

Our view out the back, from our porch.

Looking up at our "house on the hill" from the back of our property.

The porch off of the living room. New siding on the addition, new walkway, porch, sliding door, planters, landscaping. Kennel building right beside on the left, painted to match the siding.

The new "everything" in the back. To see what it was like from the same vantage point "before".....look below....

Can we say red?

And this picture above

Was taken here.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


I left the feeders where they were and yes, if you feed them, they will (eventually) come! The feeder in the front particularly is attracting the type of birds I want. The feeder in the back is attracting bigger birds and there was a woodpecker at the suet cake today, so all is well!

I had a bit of a time trying to identify the second little yellowish bird pictured here, it had no head markings and I couldn't match it to any small yellow variety. I sent it off to my bird guy, and it's a female American Goldfinch. DUH! I didn't realize the males and females were so different. Google Amercian Goldfinch and all the images are of the more colourful males and that's the one I know. I'm learning!

The resident chipmunks are faring very well with the feeders, they can't reach them but they spend a lot of time picking up seed underneath them. I'm having a bit of a problem with the chipmunk in the front, he spends his entire day under the feeder and is getting quite possessive of it. Every now and then he'll run up the tree and stare longingly at it. Then, I saw him actually chase off three different small birds from the feeder. At first I thought he had just chosen that time to run up the tree and it startled the bird, but he did it again and again. It was obvious he was being very deliberate about scaring them off, you could almost see him shaking his little fist at them! Unfortunately, his threats work and they don't come back for quite some time.

Male American Goldfinch.

Female American Goldfinch.

The guard chipmunk under the front feeder.

The chipmunk in the tree, eying the feeder (that he can't reach). Mine, mine, mine, mine!

The chipmunk in the back making a break for his home under the porch after filling up under the feeder. He has to be faster than a speeding bullet, even with cheeks overloaded with seed, as the dogs go out back and chipmunks are fair game!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Joan's 90th Birthday

Friday, July 17th was Joan's 90th birthday. I picked her up on Friday, she would spend the weekend here, with a family birthday celebration planned for Saturday.

For anyone who knows Joan, they know what a wonderful person she is and how much she meant to many in the Sheltie world when she was involved with the dogs. She was an amazing mentor to many well known breeders who went on to their own successes. Not only did she possess a wealth of knowledge, she was very free in sharing it and absolutely never made anyone feel in any way inferior. She was just as happy witnessing the success of others as she was with her own success. I think the uniqueness about her talent and ability to mentor, teach and encourage was that her own personal success in dogs was in no way tied to her own ego, feeling of self worth, need for attention or whatever similar things that seem to be the case with so many. In any event, in this part of her role in furthering the breed she was one of a kind, and very lucky were the people who benefited.

It's no surprise that she is a similar class act in all the other facets of her life and I am truly lucky to have her as a mother-in-law and as a friend. The night before the party, I was doing her nails. She wanted to know who would be there, so I named everyone who would be coming. She looked at me and said "That's a lot of people". I said "I know, but you don't turn 90 every day". To which she said "Thank GOD !".

On the way here on Friday, she was so excited that she was going to be seeing the dogs. Some things never change and of course this is a highlight for her as it would be for anyone whose dogs had been such a big part of their lives. The dogs adore her and it doesn't matter if they haven't seen her for quite a while, they never forget her. Netta, our discriminating bi-black, is her constant shadow and Joan's favourite.

On Saturday, once we were ready and had a few minutes before people were set to arrive, we turned on the TV and found that a re-run of Westminster was on. It was the Hound Group and the Beagle was on the table. Terry and I weren't sure how well Joan could see the TV when she commented "nice front"! When the Wire haired Dachshund started to move, we all three said "Wow"! at exactly the same time, then shared a chuckle at that. Some things don't change!

The afternoon celebration was a huge success. It went wonderfully and Joan really enjoyed the day, and being surrounded by her closest family. The last time we had all been together in the same group was 10 years ago for Joan's 80th birthday celebration.

I know there are people who read this blog that think very highly and fondly of Joan. I've included some pictures from her weekend visit and her special 90th birthday celebration, so that her friends can share in this milestone in her life.

A big greeting from the girls, Tiffany, Netta and Holly.

Netta and Tiffany vying for Joan's attention, Tiffany is caught in mid-wag.

A one on one with her special girl Netta.

Joan with three of her four sons. John, Terry and Gord.

Some of the other guests, James, Sandra, Paul, Michael, Deborah and Cheryl.

The guest of honour.

Pre demolition.

Joan amongst her sons. (John, Joan, Terry, Gord).

Joan's nephew Michael, and her sons.

Later !

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Feeder Failure OR Guess Who's NOT Coming to Dinner?

I've been enjoying watching the birds around here and trying to get good pictures of birds, inspired by the robins who are on their third nest in our carport. So, I decided to put up some bird feeders. This way I could see the birds up close, maybe get a few good pictures and do them a service as well. Off Terry went to the store, coming home with about $100 worth of feeders/seed/suet. We got a hopper style feeder and tube style feeder, just to give them a choice. We also set up a hummingbird feeder but that leaked so badly, we took it down. Next year we'll get another one, different design.

Anyway, we carefully set up our feeders, one in the front, one in the back, in areas we could see them and possibly get some decent pictures. We followed all the suggestions about where to hang them, etc. We didn't hang the suet right away, we didn't want a stampede!! Then we sat back and waited. And waited. This was Saturday, and we're pretty much still waiting. I must admit we did have one grackle and one black-capped chickadee, both at the tube feeder in the front. And, our clever chipmunk figured out there was something raining down from above when the feeder swayed in the wind, and he climbed up the tree and jumped onto to the feeder, only to fall (quite a ways) to the ground. While he seemed unharmed and it released more seed for him, he didn't try that again.

So, stampede be damned, we hung the suet. Still nothing. In my searches on Google, I came across suggestions and also reasons why birds might not be coming to the feeders. One site said it might take as long as two weeks for the birds to find them. Or, they might already be very well fed (I'm thinking this is probably true here). I did find one person on one of those Q/A sites who was asking "how do birds manage to find feeders?!" and then relating how he had hung a feeder and within an hour, had 10 birds feeding from it, wow, how incredible and easy!! How DO they do it??!! (That's what I'd like to know...)

I'll give it two weeks and if time doesn't work, I'll try moving them around. I'm sure eventually winter and starvation will assist me! In the meantime I guess I just have to try to be patient. Patience isn't one of my strengths!

The feeder in the back. Looks inviting, no? Absolutely no action on this one. The suet feeder is hung on a nearby tree. Ditto.

The feeder in the front. This is the one the chipmunk did a header off of.

In the meantime, I did get a few bird pictures the old fashioned way, sneaking up on them and hoping for no obstructions.

Our robin today on nest 3 of the season. There are three eggs this time. This is one bird who likes what we have to offer!

This little robin fledgling was from a nest at my sister's house. Seems everyone has robin's nests this year. He's just a few days out of the nest in this picture, sitting on her back fence.

Same guy, different pose. I like this one because of the "baby fluff" you can still see on the back of his head.

I saw this bird in the small garden at the nursing home where Joan is. This is a nice, lush garden but on a very busy street and is just teeming with birds. I had never seen this bird before and it was so beautiful. It's a Cedar Waxwing. Click to enlarge to see the dripping red "wax" on it's wing. I had to make a fool out of myself in front of residents and visitors to get this picture but I really like it.

And when the birds just won't co-operate, I still have the deer. I took this buck and doe shot last night.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sugar's Ball

One of things the younger Shelties around here enjoy is playing with a big ball. Well, they actually enjoy chasing Sugar playing with the big ball, because Sugar's the only one who actually touches it. The others just chase and bark, but they love it just as much!

The pale pink ball Sugar used to have met its demise under a lawn tractor, so this season I bought her a new ball, exactly the same type and size, but bright yellow with colourful splotches on it. In true Sheltie fashion, she immediately alerted us to "something different" in the yard!!...before she realized it was just another ball despite the different colours.

As a younger dog Sugar would catch sight of her ball down on the lawn, run to it full speed and push it around the property all on her own, with entourage in tow, while we sat back and watched. At that time we had another dog who loved pushing the ball around too, and if she got there before Sugar, as she often did, you could see Sugar's face just cloud over until opportunity came her way again.

I made a short little video just with my camera of them playing which shows Sugar pushing the ball around "soccer style", also playing "catch" back and forth with Terry. You can see Sugar very deliberately pushes the ball back to him. Roxy (sable) races all around, tongue hanging out, barking her head off, the other blue is Sizzle, Sugar's dam. Sizzle is 7 years old but loves a good game and always joins in with the younger girls.

Finally, Sugar's nose got stubbed on the ball and she can't stop sneezing, always a game-ender, much to the disappointment of her buddies.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Robins or Rabbits??

The robin is madly building nest number three!! In exactly the same place as the other two. In one day it's almost half finished. I've taken each nest down after they've been used as although I know they will reuse them, they haven't been in very good shape (the roof above them isn't perfectly waterproof...and we've had A LOT of rain). Once it's finished I'll put some duct tape up to divert water from dripping into the nest, as I did last time.

Two clutches are normal but three is pushing it. Maybe because the first clutch didn't make it past hatching she feels she can fit another one in under the wire. Or, maybe she's fooled by this lousy weather cold spring and summer we've had so far! She is moving it along though, there wasn't anything there yesterday.

The second nest in particular had a very solid mud cup to it and as it was built when it was quite dry, I wonder how she pulls it off as I can't imagine a bird being able to carry much dirt/mud at one time and I don't see robins being able to work up a good "spit" either! They do round out the nest with their breast, puffing it out and kind of rolling/rubbing in the nest to get the perfectly round bowl-like finished product. I've watched her do this and it's quite an art.

Here we go again!