Friday, October 30, 2009

Birds of Prey in Wrentham

This is a Broad-winged Hawk named Rufus, and his extraordinary keeper, Marla Isaac. Marla rescues and rehabilitates animals with New England Reptile and Raptor. Last weekend the Open Space Committee of the town of Wrentham hosted Marla and six of her magnificent birds in an educational and riveting demonstration of native New England birds of prey.

Even knowing ahead of time that the presentation would include owls, it took my breath away to see an actual owl sitting on a human hand. This is a Barn Owl, whose name I didn't catch.

As Marla presented each bird, she walked around so that everyone could get astonishingly up close and personal. We had the best seat in the house: a picnic blanket right up front. Chris stood against a tree and snapped photos the whole show while I minded Gabe. I had to take my little munchkin aside to keep him busy during the first half of the presentation, which was all talk; but once the birds were brought out of their boxes, I scurried back to our seat.

This is "Merlin", a Great Horned Owl. I think he could see straight into my soul with those eyes.

Marla seemed to be not just an old pro with handling birds, but also with audiences of children. She didn't miss a beat when someone (else's) toddler scampered out to her feet.

Each time she walked a bird past our blanket, I could swear the birds stared down at my son with a look that said "tasty!"

There is something very cat-like about owls. They have such haughty dignity. . . but also seem to appreciate a good head-rub.

Merlin's egg was rescued from a tree that had been cut down. Because Marla was the first thing he saw on hatching, he is imprinted on her - which means she's a big mama owl to him.

. . .and only Mama could get away with this! Here, Marla demonstrates exactly how long an owl's neck is under all of those feathers.

This is a photo worthy of icanhascheezeburger!

This is "Sargent", the fastest animal on Earth: a Peregrine Falcon. It surprised me how small he was. These birds are as flawless-looking as airplanes.

This gigantic bird is a Red-Tailed Hawk. You can see his red tail feathers more clearly in the next photo:

. . .and this eerie beauty is "Uncle Fester" the Turkey Vulture.

And now for some flying! Rufus, the little Broad-winged Hawk in the first photo, was turned loose for some aerial fun. Here, he is diving after his favorite toy. If cats had wings, they would play in this manner.

Marla understands what motivates her birds. It's unsentimental: they use her for food.

Here, Rufus gets some quail. He gulped an entire leg-bone like a carnie swallowing a sword. These birds require the equivalent of entire quail each and every day.

Before filling the raptor's belly with raw meat, bones, and feathers, Marla sent Rufus flying back and forth to perches strategically placed throughout the audience - including one almost directly behind me. I had the amazing experience of watching a hawk fly almost straight towards my face. It took a concerted effort not to duck. Rufus passed so close that I was buffeted by the wind he stirred.

Rufus did some guffaw-worthy hops about the area, including comical slippery landings on the smooth tops of the bird boxes.

Here, he flutters unexpectedly to a playground structure.

This boy had an encounter that he'll undoubtedly be talking about for the rest of his life.

This is Rufus striking a pose on Marla's head. . .

. . .and being removed from Marla's head.

Thank you Marla for the amazing presentation!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Rural New England

Most of my area looks like standard suburbia. But around the fringes, old rural New England is still peeking through.

Pollution in China

Not a heartwarming read. Photos of pollution in China.

Birds of Prey Show in Wrentham

The falconry demo that was cancelled due to rain is back on for this weekend! Wildlife expert and rehabilitator Marla Isaac will be showing a number of live raptors such as hawks, vultures, and owls.

The event takes place Sunday, Oct. 25 at 2 PM at the Picnic Pavillion at the Wrentham Developmental Center's softball fields.

Gabe's Garden on Ecosystem Gardening

Woot! Gabe's Garden has been featured at

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

October Review

I'm going to pretend for a moment that the snow and killing frost have not yet turned our tender plants into mush. This is what the garden looked like at the beginning of October.


Nasturtiums, rosemary, lavender, creeping thyme. . . I'm looking forward to having more native plants in here. Only the violets are native.

I think this is Monarda citriodora, lemon horsemint.

Gabe wanted to play in the scummy birdbath, so I had to move it elsewhere. I stuck some leftover plants where it used to be. And a dinosaur.

When I found out the cable company had to lay new lines through our yard, I ripped out the native plants that I thought were in their way, moving them to other locations. They didn't dig up my bed after all. It's a mess, thanks to me.

This is a Western native called pussytoes that I grew from seed which I started indoors two years ago. The Latin name is Atennaria parvifolia. It thrives in the hot, dry conditions of my front yard. This patch slept beneath a pile of leaves last winter, and came creeping out in the Spring with oversized, gluttonous leaves.

Here between rocks, it grew much smaller leaves. The wet June caused it to get some sort of mealy buggy ick on the leaves (as did the pussytoes up at Garden in the Woods), but some proper sun straightened it out. I love this plant!

The raspberry and strawberry bed.

Chris' beautiful garden.

What What?

What what what?

Again? It already snowed once this October.

This was the earliest nor'easter I've ever seen. A few degrees colder and this snow would have been up to our knees.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Aggressive Natives in Gabe's Garden

The violets planted between the rocks grew like gangbusters this year. They did so well, that even though they were a regular salad-bar for the bunnies, they grew back, and grew back again, and grew back again. This is exactly the aggressive native plant I needed to withstand animals and toddlers.

Have I mentioned that violets are edible? I haven't tasted them yet, but violet salad may be on the menu next year.

That, underneath the blueberry and grass, is common cinquefoil. I couldn't have asked for a better ground cover. It grew from a couple of small sprigs to this in just one season. Perhaps I should fear for the safety of my yard, but what's the worst it could do? It hugs the ground, so it isn't going to deprive anything of light. I don't care if it gets in our weedy mess of a lawn. The worst thing that it does is send runners onto the play-area mulch, just like its cousin the strawberry.

The roots are very long, so I may hate it if I ever want to eradicate it entirely, but that's true of many plants.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary

Words aren't needed sometimes.

Highbrush blueberry:

I don't know what this is:

Solomon's plume:

This is the same unidentified fern that grows in my yard:

My partners in crime.