Thursday, August 28, 2008

What a Day.

Hooray! A bird. Why do I say hooray a bird? Because Labor Day Weekend is fast upon us and Thresherman's Park is readying itself for the Thresheree. Now this is the area where I come to be made a fool of by Crows. This is the place the hawk, tentatively ID'd by Kevin and Sally as a Red-shoulder comes to hunt but as of today, there isn't a creature in the place.

Hey don't leave! It's all driving me crazy too. It's noisy and dusty and suddenly far too many people have descended on the park.

Okay, we're gathering a group of whatever these are. From the vocalizations and the pointy wings I'm thinking it's Killdeer. I realize I'm quite grumpy. Over stimulation by people and people things does it to me every time. This place in particular as my opinions are very different from the norm and then, well, I've become the Thresheree Photographer. (What was it thinking?)
On the other hand, any wild thing that allows me to watch it always makes me feel better and the place is usually full of wild creatures. And wildlife always does make me feel better. Why is that? No self-consciousness on my part?
I am being a little unfair but aren't we all often unfair when we're grumpy?

After all, the guys out harvesting sorghum are funny, and nice, and the process is quite fascinating. Sorghum syrup, for those who don't know, was one of the things our ancestors used as a sweetener. It's quite tasty and much better for us than sugar. What is happening here is the leaves are being removed from the stems as they interfere with the pressing of the stems which is how the sweet juice is procured. It's fascinating as that isn't even a sharpened stick. It's a piece of slat. If you have the correct move down, you hit the leaf at the joint just right and off it comes. It takes some technique and skill.

This is the sorghum mill, a real one that was moved here instead of being junked, and it's run by steam from a steam engine. You can see part of the engine on the far left. The juice is pressed out and boiled down to syrup using the steam. A similar process is used on the sap that makes maple syrup. It takes quite a bit of technique and expertise to run the mill and make the syrup so I think this is great. Here is a bit of human technical skill which is being handed down which is quite lovely. I admit steam engines are fascinating. They come in all shapes and sizes and as no one really uses them anymore the running of them also has to be handed down through generations. And it's no walk in the park. If you screw up you can find yourself in pieces on the other side of the barn.

And what have we here? These are separators, or threshing machines. They separate the chaff from the grain and they're run by steam engines as well. The idea is that at 11am on Saturday, all these machines will be threshing at the same time and break the Guinness World Record.

Now keep in mind that everyone of the separators is being run by a steam engine. Some here are the only example of their kind left in the world. Which often means the owner is nearly the only one left in the world who intimately knows how to run it. I give slack for things in which there is only one left and also for the few people left who know how to run them.
the much bigger originals that will be running the threshers tomorrow. There are 29 threshers and therefore there needs to be an equal number of steamers. Not really a problem as the Wade Brothers, owned I think forty of them. They were farmers who just couldn't stand seeing nifty stuff thrown away so they collected them up from all over the countryside when other farmers "upgraded". The Wades never threw ANYTHING away theirs and anyone elses.

Which leads to this. But in the scheme of things there really aren't all that many left in the no, that doesn't make me particularly grumpy.
Well this made me grumpy. It's parked where the turkeys often come out to forage. No turkeys today. And I admit it, I'm prejudiced against gas engines.

Here's an example. There are hordes of John Deere tractors in the world. Why or why must they be here? They aren't that old and quite similar to many things still in use.

It leads to this. And actually it leads to much more than this as all of these are owned by just one person. And soon everyone and his brother will be riding around on them all as they are remarkably simple to drive, not a whole lot of technique and expertise here. They'll be kicking up dust, making things crowded and scaring the animals.

Besides when you have those, you have to have these. Sigh. One thing does lead to another. Is human sloth at the bottom of it all?

Speaking of which, this really sets me off. They've gouged out more woods. Playing.

More of the same. You know what, THIS is actually what made me grumpy. It made me grumpy because it made me sad. For some people the woods is only good for playing with rock and dirt machines. There is no sense that it's alive or that living things live there or that they have any right to exist anyway.

So not being able to stand it anymore, I've escaped. And thank you, thank you, there are still a few birds in the world.

Look carefully, see the white patch on the wing. Definitely Killdeer. They're one of my favorites. They're ground nesters and the ones in which the dad pretends to have a broken wing and leads predators away from the family.
This time of year they're hanging together in family units which then unite to become flocks. And they're having a grand time, swooping, diving, circling and vocalizing. Killdeer are quite talkative. I think there is a constant state of letting everyone know were everyone else is.
They're beautiful to watch in flight.

But it's too good to be true, here comes another flatbed--and what, for good measure another gasoline truck both rumbling quickly in our direction.

The Killdeer chitter and then they are gone across the treeline for a little peace and quiet. I'm getting grumpy again.

Then an antique car appears out of the treeline. Wait just one minute, that break in the trees wasn't there yesterday. Hmmmm. Why not, I head for the break on the trees too. Aha! The neighbors alfalfa field has been harvested and I'm betting....I walk through the break and up the hill...

...from the plastic barrels this field will be a parking lot tomorrow. But currently it's sanctuary from the machines on the other side of the trees.

Then I hear them. It's the Killdeer and I've disturbed them. Some are in the air chittering and gaining my attention while others will be running low through the cover away from me...the predator.

They're fast, they fly high, then swoop down. Then up again in a crazy erratic eye catching, that's the point after all, winged dance.

Eventually landing further away and with no doubt, some relatives.

I must have looked at them too hard because off they got again, chittering louder and flying faster. Well as P.D.Q Bach is wont to say, "Fast is good. Loud is better. Fast and loud is best."

Drat, I was distracted and I've lost where they went.
Aha! There's one. Is he allowing me to see him so I'll leave the rest alone? One never knows.

He does know I'm watching and he's being alert to me but not taking off. And of course this is a country Killdeer. Though in reality he is plenty far away though perhaps the camera makes him nervous.

Yes, he is absolutely aware of me. I always wonder what the evolutionary advantage of those stripes are?
Still watching.

If I'm going to stare, he's going to stare too.

I don't know if you can tell from the photos but he has scrunched his head down, making his neck shorter.

He then bobs his head several times quickly. I suspect he 's triangulating the distance to whatever it is he's after. I've not been allowed to watch them hunt before. This is great.

He goes for something and then he's back into the pattern of searching. (By the way, these guys tend to go across the field in N/S lines. Is it magnatism or in this case I'm betting it's just the furrows in the field.

He continues the scrunch, bob, walk pattern.

Then once again gives me the stare. Okay, okay, I'll go. Thanks though. You made my day.

The sun is going down after all, and then I hear them. Far to the west, it's cranes. Sandhills are calling and the pair comes out of the sunset. Quite possible the ones I watched last week. They've gone to another spot to forage. Another field newly harvested perhaps and are returning to the cover of the pond across the way for the evening.

They are truly gorgeous in flight. Time stops for a few beats. Well that was the cherry on the top of today. Not such a bad one after all. It is getting dark, so it's down the hill, to the treeline and...
...there are five or six...? Chipmunks? They could well be. Or perhaps Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels? I'll stake it out soon before it gets this dark. Well, now we know at least part of the reason the hawk sits in a tree that overlooks this particular patch, now don't we?
Great day! Observed Killdeer hunting technique. Watched the cranes sail by. Saw the prey the hawk is after. Whatever might tomorrow bring?
Donegal Browne

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