Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Tomcat on a Limb

A tomcat calmly looked down at me one day from a limb of the oak tree behind my condo. This is a mature oak tree and he was up a good 10 to 15 feet in the air. Mr. Cat did not display any alarm at being so high. He, obviously a male, felt no alarm at my approach either. He probably figured that the older human who was checking him out wasn't about to scamper up the tree trunk to where he was. He was absolutely correct but a younger me might have tried.

We looked at each other for a few minutes, checking each other out. Guess he got bored with the lack of action because he then did a full body stretch and lay down along the limb resting his head on his paws. So I turned around and went back into my house to look for my camera, which I found in a most unexpected place – where it was supposed to be. Imagine that!

So with camera in hand I once again approached the oak tree.  Mr. Cat had not moved but his eyes opened as I approached and he kept himself focused on me as I got closer.  When I was close he sat up, swishing his tail slowly from side to side. He still kept his focus mainly on me but also managed to take quick looks around from his perch to see what else was happening around the tree.

After I took the photo he stayed put. Since he was posing I snapped a couple more shots to make sure at least one was usable (focus, tree shade, brightness of day, etc.). He just sat there, still looking around but always returning to focus on me.

Well it seems that he liked it up there. He had an excellent view of all the area behind the condos, and knew that any stray dog that showed up couldn't possibly get to him. Finally, he must have got bored again because he laid his body down and put his head back on his paws. The cat on a limb didn't even look at me anymore.

Turns out that wasn't the first time the perching cat had chosen to be a cat on a limb. He's been there a few more times over the last couple of weeks. Seems he lives with someone in the neighborhood who keeps him fed and out of harm’s way at night but turns him loose early in the mornings.

Sometimes just before the sun comes up you'll hear a racket from the roof (my condo is an end unit attached to 4 other homes). If you hurry outside and look up to the roof you will see Mr. Cat scampering around having a good old time. He'll run across the roof from one end to the other a couple of times, and then finally come down.

He gets down by jumping from the condo roof to the top of the patio roof. From there he jumps down to the 6 foot divider fence between my unit and the neighbors, then scampers down its side to the ground. What an athletic cat!

Sometimes he'll roam around on the ground for a while but eventually he will use his claws to climb the oak tree. Right up the trunk he'll go until he reaches the limb he likes to lay on. He'll walk right out and sit down on the limb surveying the area before lying down to take a cat nap. Guess all the running around on the roof wears him out.

That cat is high in the tree and seems to want to keep it that way. Thankfully, his roof scampers are not a daily occurrence. Most times he just calmly walks around the roof before alighting on the ground and heading for the tree.
(This cat was in the area for a couple of months then disappeared. He was well fed and groomed so someone in the neighborhood was taking care of him. Hopefully he went with his humans when they left the area. I never saw him again.)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Great Blue Heron - Article, Photos & Haiku

On one of my morning walks, on a path that goes nowhere, I was met with the sight of a Great Blue Heron ( Scientific name: Ardea Herodias). This rather large bird wasn’t looking at me instead all of its attention was focused on the water flowing under the tree branch he was sitting on. It was so intent on the waters near the shore of the canal that I was able to get quite close to the tree he was using as a perch.

The heron had his back to me as he perched on a branch of the half dead tree near the canal’s edge. The branch it was on jutted out over the water a good 3 or 4 feet but was up at least 6 feet from the path’s surface. The water in the canal was another 3 down from the surface of the path. What could the great blue heron possibly see from such a height?

Perhaps it was praying for guidance. If certainly looked as if that was a possibility after all it was hunched over itself as though bowing his head in prayer. Could it have been focusing itself to commune with a higher power perhaps asking for a bit of something to eat to appear in the waters close to shore?


We’ll never know the answer as it finally realized there was some other being, a human being of all things, making noises behind him. The bird took a look over his left shoulder at me as if to say “I see you now” then opened its wings, jumped off the branch and flew off.

5 Facts about The Great Blue Heron Bird

It is the largest and most common Heron in North America with a range from North America through Central American and the Caribbean up to the northern parts of South America along the Caribbean coast.

The bird is tall. When standing they can reach heights of up to four and a half feet (4 1/2 ft. or 1.4 meters) with wing spans that can reach six and half feet (6.6 feet or 2 meters).

The bird can fly well. For such a large animal it only weighs in at about 6 pounds. Once in the air they can cruise at about 30 mph (48 kph) and travel quite a distance before landing near some water to rest and re-fuel.

The blue heron can re-fuel on a great variety of provisions as long as the food is not plant based. Yep, this great big bird is a carnivore. It will eat anything that it can catch and swallow. The main meal is fish but it is also a great eater of mice and other small mammals, frogs and other amphibians, lizards and snakes, insects and other birds. In fact, a lady I was with told me she saw one near her home, which abuts a lake, eat a Muscovy duckling. Just stabbed down, flipped in the air and swallowed it.

Like most herons the great blue likes to feed mostly around edges of wetlands such as marshes and ponds. They will also patrol the edges of canals, estuaries, lakes and even manmade ponds (koi in the raw please). A little salt water fishing can be relaxing so don’t be surprised to see a great blue heron walking along a beach edge looking for a small fish or two.


Blue Heron Bird Part Two


The next day as I was taking my morning health walk I noticed from afar that there was something sitting on the canal side tree’s branch. Sure enough, once I was a bit closer, there was the Great Blue Heron perched on the branch. He looked like the same one from the day before but then again they all look alike to me. A tall bird in gray, blue and white feathers.



As I got closer, and pulled my camera out for a few shots, I noticed that the bird was no longer facing the water but instead was facing inland toward the path I was on. It sat there as though waiting for me to show up and letting me know that sneaking up on it was not an option.

The heron just perched there on the branch over the water. It had its eye on me the whole time and just watched me as I got closer and closer. What I noticed was that it seemed to be missing a leg as only one was showing. Wonder where that other leg had gotten off to?

It barely moved as I got closer although the slight breeze ruffled some of the chest feathers. It still stood there one legged with his orange eye locked on me. Must have been it realized I wasn’t much of a threat as at any time the heron could just flop off the branch and fly off.


Finally, when I was about 5 feet away it shifted his body and brought its other leg down. The other leg had been completely hidden up in its feathers.  When it brought its leg down the bird also shifted its position slightly and moved its head so as to bring its other eye around to see me. It seemed to be sizing up the situation and trying to decide what to do.

It finally decided I was too close. It unfurled its wings from around its body and with a jump it flapped up into the sky. Then cruised over to the other side of the canal where it walked along the edge for a while before taking off again and flying off.

That was the last time I saw the great blue heron at the canal or the tree. It may come back some day or it may have decided the pickings were too slim for the effort involved. Maybe, just maybe, it just didn’t like getting itself photographed either.

5 More Blue Heron Bird Facts

The blue heron bird is a partial migrant. When winter sets in, the herons in the cold zones will move south into more temperature areas then return back north when things start heating up. That sounds real close to the humans that flock down to the southern states come winter. Could there be a little blue heron genome in some of our human cousins?

Their neck naturally curves into an S shape. This gives them a rather stocky look. However, when grabbing for something to eat that neck will propel the head quickly to the target. They can also extend it when they are posing for females or fighting off rivals.

By the way if you are small enough to be considered great blue heron bird food being out at night won’t keep you safe. Turns out these birds can see very well in the dark and can pluck you out of the water or the grass easily.

Blue herons like to live. Their average life span outside of captivity is about 15 years. There have been documented cases of some of these birds living a few years longer even reaching into the early twenties.

There is a white form of the great blue heron generally called the great white heron. It is found mostly in Florida and south into the Caribbean. The great white heron is not a separate species but rather a white variance of the blue heron.



Dark iris, yellow eyes
See into shore side waters
Guide beak to small prey

Fish, frogs, crustaceans
Mice, ducklings, snakes, lizards, bugs
Tasty heron meals          
(Note: I have published this article before on a couple of article websites. Seems one of them has decided the article and photos belongs to them. I can't get my intellectual property off of their website although I'm still trying.
The facts I got off of various websites on the internet. I looked all over and have no clue which ones I used for the 10 facts above. I rewrote them, just like they rewrote their published works, to try and make them my own but they are just facts after all.)

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Progress - a poem

flowers peek among the trash
colors bold in the sun
striking a note for beauty
in land devastated to slum.
we stare in wonder
at colors seldom seen here
a child runs and tramples them
monochrome rules again

butterflies flutter by
glistening jewels in the light
flying among the weeds growing
in what once was a parking lot.
we watch the colors fly
reminded of the neighborhood new
a juvenile swings a stick
batters them into goo.

bird sings the joy of life
bright black with yellow highlights
sits on a branch
of a long dead tree.
we listen to its song
and see a forest green
a teenager appears, gun in hand
a bullet turns the bird to gore.

small street dog saunters up
shining eyes hopeful
looking for the company of man
someone to spend some time with.
we watch as it ambles along
thinking of yesterday's pets
a hood walks up and kicks it hard
broken ribs pierce lungs and heart - dead.

girl of fourteen
sweet and pretty
seems out of place
in this concrete jungle.
she brings hope briefly
that the mold can be broken
a pimp grabs her roughly
beats her to tears as we turn away.

all along this once pristine area
that man took for himself
natural beauty has been destroyed
shattered spirits stand by.
lives left without joy or hope
helpless in agony and despair
watching the destruction of home,

Once, a long time ago, when my rolling stone dad moved us back to Chicago, my family and I lived in a place very similar to this. It was on a few blocks with standing apartment buildings on the Southwest side of the city surrounded by devastation. Not good buildings, they probably should have been demolished but then where would the people go.
Street gangs ruled. Drugs were rampant. Pimps hawked their women openly a few blocks away. The people that were forced to live there because they could not leave were uncaring of just about anything. Real miserable place.
Fortunately, my dad's fortunes rose and we left that neighborhood for a better one on the North side after a few months.


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Waking Up - a short story

Early morning, stumbling through the house mostly asleep, heading for the kitchen and that desperately needed cup of coffee.

Thinking? Hell who's thinking when just moving from the bedroom to the kitchen without slamming into something occupies those sections of the mind that are waking up. Out of the bedroom, into the hallway, around the dining table - miss the chair - and finally into the kitchen. All of that within 10 seconds of climbing out of the bed, after the blaring of the radio alarm pulls you out of deep sleep.

Half awake and entering the kitchen. Find the coffee pot - is that it there? Turn around and head back to the entrance - turn on the light fool. A bright light shines, blink a couple of times and get those cobwebs off the eyeballs. There's the maker of the black elixir of wakefulness. Press the button and get the baby turned on.

Three quarters awake now and head back across the kitchen, pass the dining table and into the living room. Who put the living room table right in the middle of the living room floor? Wow, good thing I'm mostly awake now. A quick swerve avoids a nasty leg bruise. Hey, thought I was mostly awake now? Where's my coffee?
Turn on the light and head back to the kitchen. See the pot is almost full. Find the right coffee cup in the cabinet. For today, the souvenir cup that says Puerto Rico is the one wanted. Just in time the pot fills and the coffee machine stops its dripping ways. Pour a cup. Enjoy the bliss of hot coffee freshly brewed.
Drink the cup down and enjoy it all. Get some more but first let's open the blinds and see what is lurking beyond the window's glass.

Reaching for the cord, as countless mornings before this, I pull on it to raise the blinds up a bit.
Down it all comes. The blinds fly out of the window and slam into - well...... me. OUCH say I. Now I am totally awake with a bit of pain as companionship.
And so it ends. The kitchen window blinds have failed. After floating up and down with a tug on their cords for many years, they wore out, slammed into me and collapsed into a heap on the floor.