Saturday, April 26, 2008

Influx of robins like a Hitchcock horror flick

Les MacPherson, The StarPhoenix
Published: Saturday, April 26, 2008
What a strange week this has been with the freak snow and the stubborn cold and the invasion of Saskatoon by giant flocks of robins.

To see so many robins was almost creepy, like those early scenes in The Birds, just before the terrible peckings. The robins, too, seemed troubled, and for good reason. They fly south in the fall to avoid exactly this kind of weather. Now here they were, freezing their little red breasts off and wondering why their travel agent wasn't returning their calls.

No one did a census, but I suspect we had more robins in Saskatoon this week than people. They were all over. Reports came from every quadrant of the city of yards taken over by robins. From the University of Saskatchewan campus came grim tales of robin window-strike fatalities collected by the bucketful. The collective noun for dead robins, incidentally, is a bucketful.

On our street, there were so many robins hopping around that drivers had to slow down so as not to run them over. It was like driving among chickens in a farmyard, except if you run over a robin, you don't get a chicken dinner.

Our yard was like robin invasion headquarters. I counted more than 50 on the lawn and in the trees. They seemed to blow in with the foul weather. One day, there were none, the next day, they were the dominant species. If they went all Alfred Hitchcock on us, we would be in trouble. As it was, marauding neighbourhood cats were staying out of sight for fear of being swarmed.

Fortunately, the robins were not aggressive. Cold and hungry is what they were. Robins normally are long gone by the time we get snow and they don't come back until it's gone. This late spring snowstorm caught them by totally surprise. They didn't even pack a sweater.

Along with the cold comes hunger. Robins normally subsist on bugs, worms and berries. All three were in short supply last week. With the ground still frozen solid and covered in snow, bugs and worms were not yet in season. As for berries, we had nothing but the ornamental crabapples still dangling in the trees from last summer. They last as long as they do because nothing will eat them. Ornamental crabapples are perhaps the nastiest of fruits. I've sampled them. Once you gnaw through the Kevlar-like skin, the rock-hard contents are so incredibly sour that the slightest taste induces painful facial cramps.

Remember the movie Alien, when the creature's dripping, acidic blood dissolved holes through successive decks of the spaceship Nostromo? I'd have been happy to rinse my mouth with that stuff after tasting an ornamental crabapple.

Most years, the ornamental crabs finally drop off the trees the following spring, to be mulched up by the mower. That's why our lawn is so thin. It's partially dissolved by acidic crabapple mulch. This year the lawn will do better because there are no crabapples left to drop off. The trees have been totally denuded of their nasty, bitter fruit by starving robins. What this was doing to their stomachs, I could only imagine. I'd have put out some Rolaids for the poor things if I'd had any.
Once they'd devoured the last of the inedible crabapples, the robins were reduced to scratching snow from the ground with their scrawny little feet in a desperate search for any little particle of food. The only thing missing was Sally Struthers imploring viewers to send money. Too bad, because I'd have written a cheque right there.

Unable to help through a charitable donation, I looked around instead for something to feed the robins. But what? I had no worms to offer them. Not since my wife forbade me from ever again keeping live bait in the fridge. When she opened the little tub she was expecting leftover tortellini, apparently.

The best I could do was to scatter for the robins some diced up fruit. It was either that or Kraft miniature marshmallows. These seemed about the right size, but they were a little stale. The one thing these robins didn't need was stale miniature marshmallows stuck on their beaks. Wildlife authorities would have come after me. As it so happened, the fruit was enough. The birds ate it almost as fast as I could dice it, stems, skin, seeds and all. They even ate the little fruit stickers.

Quite a few people I know have been feeding the robins. The idea is to sustain them until the ground finally thaws and they can find worms to eat.

Worms are wishing we'd stay out of it.

A skateboarding bulldog

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Alcohol Always Lied to Me

I Drank for Courage... and woke up night after night horrified.
I Drank for Sophistication... and became crude.
I Drank to find Peace... and ignited a war within myself.
I Drank to be Friendly... and became argumentative and nasty.
I Drank to be Sexy... and turned people off.
I Drank so that I could Relate to Others... and I babbled.
I Drank to put down Loneliness... and found myself retreating more
and more into my shell.
I Drank to Relax... and woke up tense.
I Drank to be Entertaining... and became an obnoxious clown.
I Drank to Live More Fully... and contemplated suicide.
I Drank for Adventure... and discovered disaster.
I Drank to be more Honest... and insulted my friends.
I Drank to Quiet my Nerves... and woke up with hangover jangles.
I Drank to Feel Better... and ended up sick and throwing up.
I Drank to have Fun... and passed out in the middle of the party.
I Drank to Pep Myself Up... and ended up exhausted.
I Drank to feel Successful... a Big Shot... but ended up a failure.
I Drank for Security... and became afraid of my shadow.
I Drank to Feel Better about Myself... and ended up hating me.
I Drank to prove I could handle Alcohol... and ended up knowing it
controlled me.

A Friend asked...

"But surely, now that you've been Sober awhile, it would take a
lot of alcohol to put you back in that condition."

"Just One Drink," I answered!

~Author Unknown~

Woman Fights To Keep Nearly 150 Cats At Home

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. -- A Central Florida woman fined $150 a day for having nearly 150 cats at her home was in court Wednesday fighting to keep the animals in her so-called animal sanctuary.
IMAGES: Cats Fill Central Fla. House

The county fined Grant $6,700 for unlicensed cats and $150 a day since March for having the cats, Local 6 reported.
"It is frustrating, it is nerve-racking," Grant said. "It has been a long two years since I was first cited for having more than four pets on my property."
Wednesday, Grant's attorney said Volusia County is in the dark when it comes to rules for cat hobbyist.
Grant said she has recently installed a fence to keep her neighbors happy.
"I guarantee that the cats can't get out," Grant said.
During a hearing, Volusia County's attorney said rules for keeping cats on property have not been defined, Local 6's Chris Trenkmann said.
Grant said she hopes she is not the target for a new ordinance.
"Yes, that upsets me," Grant said. "I don't want to prevent anyone from doing what I do. If you want to help an animal, you should."
A judge said Wednesday that he will make a ruling on case at a later date.
However, he pointed out to Volusia County that it did not make sense for them to be determining rules about giving permits for cat sanctuaries if they haven't written any rules out, Trenkmann said.
Grant said she has the right to have a permit to keep her cats safe.
Local 6 News reported that Grant knows every one of the cats by name.

Amy Winehouse - "Rehab" Live on David Letterman

Trying to find fairest image on the web is a project to try to find the prettiest image in the world, using voting and some algorithms.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Stress Management

Picture yourself near a stream.
Birds are singing in the crisp, cool mountain air.
Nothing can bother you here.
No one knows this secret place.
You are in total seclusion from that place called the world.
The soothing sound of a gentle waterfall fills the air with a cascade of serenity.
The water is clear.
You can easily make out the face of the person whose head you're holding under the water.
There now, feeling better?

Tribute to the wolf

Hello, Welcome to the Psychiatric Hotline.

Montreal Eliminates Boston, Police Cars Burn.


Underwater Aquarium Tunnel

Ripley’s® Aquarium is a $40 million, state-of-the-art, 87,000 square-foot aquarium experience, located at Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It is South Carolina’s most visited attraction, where guests are entertained by some of the world’s most beautiful, fascinating and dangerous aquatic life.

Sunday, April 13, 2008