Monday, August 31, 2009

Wild Things, You Make My Heart Sing

On the first full day we spent up at the cottage, I awoke early and could hear Benny squeak occasionally, reminding me that he was anxious to start the day. I considered turning over and ignoring him but really I was equally eager to get out there and walk - cameras in hand.

I got ready and released the beast from his crate. Benny stretched while I scratched his back. He tossed off the previous night's sleep with a shake, and a wag of his tail. I opened the front door and we stepped out on the deck under mostly clear skies.

I immediately heard the call of the loon and cautioned Benny to wait, lest he get too far ahead of me toward the road. The loon was nearby and I wanted to try for a photo, but I was immediately distracted by the screech of a loud bird. I looked up to see the two Bald Eagle juveniles putting on an air show.

(please click to enlarge)

They were fairly high, though almost directly above me. I had difficulty finding the right settings on my camera and in retrospect should have probably used my older camera because of its zoom capabilities, but I kept on snapping until they flew off shortly afterward.

(please click to enlarge)

Ben and I began our walk up, over and down the hilly dirt roads which lead to a fair number of cottages on the lake. We took about a half hour to amble a mile down the road to another small lake across the way. Mosquitoes were beginning to find us at an alarming rate so we turned back home. The intoxicating smell of coffee greeted us. Frank was partway through his cup, and had already cast a few hooks off the dock. Our day was shaping up nicely.

We spent a bit of time keeping Benny company before we went out to do some fishing. Since the boat was headed that way, we decided to see if any of the eagles were back at their nest. The eaglets had returned and were patiently awaiting the adults.

The sun came at us from behind the birds but they made for some fine semi-silhouettes. (please click to enlarge)

Please keep in mind that these were taken at a fair distance, from inside a bobbing boat. It was challenging. (please click to enlarge)

Also challenging was this image taken later in the day while we were out on the lake once again. Picture that same bobbing boat, and me, crouched over with my elbows against my knees trying to hold as still as possible while attempting to capture a bird in flight. It's not a great photo but the adult Bald Eagle sure is an impressive bird. (please click to enlarge)

Eventually, we did see a loon pop up not too far from our boat and he allowed me to snap a shot before he dove under water once again. (please click to enlarge)

As the week unfolded, we were to see many interesting creatures - all beautiful in their own way.

Frank found a snake for me to photograph. (please click to enlarge)

Theresa called out to me while I was on the hammock to take note of a Great Blue Heron just across the bay. (please click to enlarge)

Frank spotted a playful otter swimming past the dock. (please click to enlarge)

I enjoyed watching the hummingbird drink from the feeder. (please click to enlarge)

There were dragonflies. (please click to enlarge)

Various kinds. (please click to enlarge)

Our last evening out in the boat allowed us a final peek at an eaglet. (please click to enlarge)

So ended a perfect week up at the cottage. (please click to enlarge)

This was a rather lengthy post. Please feel free to use the facilities. (please click to enlarge)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Where the Wild Thing Aren't

Earlier this month, we arrived at the cottage armed with information about how to feed Sugar and Spike during our stay. For those of you who may not remember these critters by name, they are the orphaned raccoon kits which were found under my deck this past April. They are now living outdoors full time but still rely on the kindness of their human friends to feed them. The trick is to fatten them up sufficiently to make it through the winter. Their evening meal consists of dry cat food and just about any scrap left over from our own day's meals. And fish guts. They really like fish guts - the heads, tail and innards left over from filleting the day's catch.

Early that evening we went to their feeding spot a few yards/meters away from the cottage, but still within its sight. We poured out their food and returned to the cottage. Not more than a half hour passed and one little raccoon ambled over to it and started eating.

I wandered out to him. He kept a wary eye on me but continued shoveling food into his mouth. At one point he came over to me and nudged my hand with his nose. That was it for our interaction for the night.

The following afternoon, Benny alerted Frank to some whining noises coming from the nearby tree. Glancing up, he saw these two adorable faces watching them.

There was a third larger and presumably older raccoon on a higher branch but he or she only presented us with a bushy, striped tail. It was an encouraging sight to see that they had hooked up with a more mature raccoon who might be able to teach them how to fish and hunt for themselves. Later that day, when I brought their food outside, Spike came bounding over to me, put his paws on my leg and looked straight into my eyes. The face that greeted me had porcupine quills on the left side.

We looked him over and he didn't appear to be in pain. His appetite was good but Frank decided to call his sister Theresa - the raccoons' adoptive Mom for advice. Her solution was to drive up to the cottage the next day, figuring that only she would be able to hold him while Frank took the pliers to the quills and pull them out. Spike allowed me to pet him and scratch his head while he ate.

Theresa arrived with her sister, Lisa the following afternoon.

Accompanying them were Luca

and Sambuca

- two adorable 10 week old (approximately) kittens which were found abandoned and brought to Theresa with their umbilical cords still attached. This is what they looked like when I first saw them in the middle of June.

Now they're bright, healthy, well-adjusted kittens which appear normal in every way, despite never having had a feline mother. Benny loved playing with them and they were used to Theresa's dogs, so they let him discover, mother and practically smother them with kisses. Benny was beside himself with excitement. This video, which is less than a minute in length will give you an idea of how they interacted.

Lisa's beautiful dog, Oona was much more placid and nonchalant about the whole thing.

Theresa also brought Hailey, who was the newest member of her adoptive family. Can you figure out what she is? Give it some thought. I'll keep on talking.

Hailey was just a few days old when somebody found her on her driveway. She was brought to Theresa who fed her every 45 minutes during the day and a bit less frequently through the night.

She was pink-bellied, hairless and incredibly cute. (The following three videos are less than 30 seconds each.)

She was fed with a syringe,

stimulated to assist with elimination

and kept very warm, wrapped up next to a heater. By the second or third day, she became more active, began to sprout whisker and started making vocal sounds. The second to last day we were there, she began to bloat a bit. Her energy level diminished some and her vocalization was softer. Her appetite was still good but she just didn't seem right. Sadly, on the last night we were there, she died.

She had a short, little life without great chance of survival, but Hailey the squirrel had most certainly been loved.

Back to Spike. Theresa was able to pull most of the quills out by hand while he was eating.

Only one was painful enough to cause him to nip at her hand but the rest, he hardly noticed. He looked as handsome as ever when she was done. I love how he tends to hold the bowl in place with one of his back feet while shoveling in food with the front.

Spike, despite being the shy kit early on, has become the more adventurous and affectionate one of the pair. He's been known to enter the cottage through an open window and dine on peaches which he robbed from the kitchen counter. Once, Theresa woke up to discover that he'd made his way into the cottage, and climbed into her bed to cuddle with her. He was right beside her, gazing at her and touching her face. He's also becoming destructive, having torn through a screen window or two. I have concerns that the surrounding cottage-dwellers won't have any idea that these two are semi-tame and they might fear their friendliness as a sign of rabies, but Theresa plans to let others know about Sugar and Spike so they can just let them be, and maybe even offer up a meal now and again.

It was a lovely, restful time spent with wonderful people and adorable creatures.

Stay tuned and in a few days I'll post some photos of some of the wilder critters we encountered.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Cottage Colours

A short while back, Frank and I spent a few days up at his cottage. The company was good, though the fishing was mildly disappointing.

The weather was mostly fine despite a strong summer storm which arrived just as we did - making a wet task of unpacking the car. However the sun shone for much of the rest of our stay.

We had a wonderful opportunity to see plenty of wildlife - some of which was only semi-wild. I'll post more about the creatures next time but today, just sit back and relax on the deck, dock or hammock. I hope you enjoy your visit.
Please remember to click on each image to enlarge.

We arrived to discover a couple of new additions to the lakefront - this pair of colourful hammocks, which I'd remembered from my childhood cottage life as difficult to maneuver. A first attempt at getting settled down in one of them was easier than I'd recalled. It was comfy. (please click to enlarge)

Very comfy! (please click to enlarge)

And they made for a colourful foreground against the beautiful sunsets we experienced most evenings. (please click to enlarge)

Like this one which was actually photographed from the boat as an evening of fishing came to an end. (please click to enlarge)

After the last worm had been sacrificed to the lake, we secured the hooks to the rods and headed back to the cottage under golden skies. (please click to enlarge)

And peachy mauve skies. (please click to enlarge)

Of course Benny was waiting for us faithfully. We tried taking him on the boat with us but he was like a canine pinball machine. He bopped back and forth between us, jumped from lap to lap, barked at each cast, bit the rods, almost jumped in the lake (again) and refused to settle down. So that was his first and last boat ride - for this visit anyway. (please click to enlarge)

Once we were back, and the boat was secured, it was time to sit back and enjoy a drink on the dock. (please click to enlarge)

So dangle your feet, or grab a chair and a drink, and sit back and enjoy the sky. (please click to enlarge)

It's as yummy as it looks. (please click to enlarge)

Goodnight! (please click to enlarge)

I'll be back in a few days with various animal photos. See you then.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

On the Western Front

Earlier this month, we celebrated our annual street party. Combined with a morning street sale, we've been partying this way every year since my sons were toddlers.

Some of you may remember our Hippiefest from last year, and Mardi Gras from the previous summer. This year, our theme was the Wild West.

Below are a few photos taken during our party. Please remember to click on each image to enlarge it. When you're done viewing these, you can click here to see the rest of them in a slide show.

Those neighbours who wish to participate, haul out tables and sell their treasures in a yard sale. This driveway belongs to my neighbour, Jayne. There were seven other homes who were in business by the time most of us were considering our first cup of coffee.

Wagon wheels, boots, steer skulls, bales of hay, a western saddle and a jail cell were among our party decorations. It helps to have a neighbour who works for a horse racetrack.

As usual, there was face painting, and as expected, there was Tyler doing his own thing.

I counted over 1,500 candies to fill jars of gum balls, jujubes, spearmint leaves, gummy worms, peach rings and gummy bears for our guessing games. Usually there's a mix of adult and child winners but this year the adults were luckier in the guessing department. A couple of them kindly donated their winnings to drooling kidlets.

Every wild west story has its shootouts and our party was no exception. Outlaws stood back to back, walked a few paces and then totally gave up protocol in favour of water fun. Remember to check out more photos of this water balloon fight along with everything else.

A handsome young cowboy. His name is Walker but he rode in on his horse.

Jailyn and Brynne rode in together. They know that saddle-pooling pays off.

A couple of outlaws - Erin and Jacklyn created a commotion while Squaw Jenn demands peace between all tribes.

Meet The Lone DeRanger. He wears a paper hat, paper shirt, paper pants, paper boots and paper spurs. He was arrested for rustling.

This is Old Wild Lloyd - wanted in 10 provinces. Dead or Alive.

You can't blame little jailbird Brynne for wanting to escape the likes of the two outlaws above.

Git along little wrangler.

Watch out for Calamity Jacklyn. She packs a couple of pistols and is a perfect shot.

Beautiful Squaw Jennifer sporting feathers in her hair.

As the supper bell rang, we chowed down with pulled pork, chili, beans, buffalo wings, salads and other dishes and sweets.

After dinner, Greg entertained us by strumming his guitar and singing.

Y'all come back now, y'hear?

Mosey on over to have a look at the rest of the Wild West photos right here.

I'll be back soon with some photos from our recent stay at Frank's family cottage.