How I Discovered the Pileated Woodpecker

It all started this past week when I discovered damage to the mirror on the passenger side of my car. It looked like someone had either come along and punched it or shot at it with a BB gun. We have a couple of kids in my neighborhood that I suspected of causing the damage, but I never said anything to their parents.  As much as it irked me, I let it go.

I am glad that I didn’t say anything because a few days later, I discovered that no one was responsible for the damage to my mirror. At least not a human being. The culprit was actually surprising.

This is the damage to my mirror. It’s cracked pretty good and even missing pieces. What was more impressive is that the mirror itself was pushed in and down and I had to readjust it back it its original position.

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I am a member of an app called Next Door. Next door is a social networking tool that connects you with people from your own neighborhood. There are several categories or topics to chose from.  Of these many topics, one of them is “Crime”.

I saw a post made by a neighbor about vandalism to his vehicle. He posted a photograph of his own side mirror that had been damaged and he wanted to know if anyone else had their vehicles vandalized.  The damage to his mirror looked very similar to mine.

Someone else piped up and said that they had witnessed a Pileated Woodpecker attacking its own image in the side mirror of their truck. They went outside and chased it away but it was too late, they too had damage.  They explained that the birds were aggressive towards other males during mating season, which was now. The bird believed it was fighting another male.

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The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker that lives in our area of northern Indiana. They measure roughly 16  inches from head to tail and have a wingspan of almost 29 inches. They are usually recognized by the flaming red crest on their head. The Pileated Woodpecker is the second largest woodpecker in North America, second to the Ivory Billed Woodpecker, which is nearly extinct.

The Ivory Billed Woodpecker species is listed as critically endangered and possibly extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The American Birding Association lists the Ivory Billed Woodpecker as a class 6 species, a category it defines as “definitely or probably extinct”

I’m an optimist.

As the day went on more and more neighbors were popping in with their own experience. They had either seen the bird or had damage to their own vehicle too.  Neighbors in the know suggested putting grocery bags over the mirrors or fold them in to avoid attacks.

Later in the week, the St. Joseph County Parks had posted a photo to their Facebook of a tree that had been pecked pretty good by a Pileated Woodpecker. They explained that they will excavate deep into the wood of dead trees to eat nests of carpenter ants.

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Photo courtesy of Audubon.com

Quite honestly, as much as I love nature, animals and the outdoors, I had never paid much attention to the woodpeckers and the  different varieties. What an interesting way for me to discover them.

While I haven’t been lucky enough to actually see the one that’s terrorizing local vehicle owners, I have heard him. He’s been hanging out somewhere nearby as I’ve heard him several times in the mornings.

They really are beautiful. To learn more about the Pileated Woodpecker, visit Adubon.com

 

7 Day Black & White Photo Challenge

A lot of my friends were tagging each other on Facebook to encourage them to participate in the “7 Day Black & White Photo Challenge”.  The idea was to post a random black and white photo to their Facebook timeline every day for seven days. The catch was that it couldn’t include people or an explanation as to what the photo was about.

Quite a few people were annoyed by it and ignored the challenge. When a friend finally included me, I was delighted and couldn’t wait to get started. My inner photography nerd was beating its chest and rearing to go.

I’m a big liar. I took my seven photographs but they were hardly random. I already knew what I wanted to capture and share to my Facebook. Then I spent probably fifteen minutes on each photo carefully crafting the right shades of black and white in Photoshop Express on my iPhone.

I blame it on that inner photography nerd that was beating its chest. It was a total out of body experience and I have no control over that guy or gal. Whatever that inner photography nerd identifies with. Believe me, I just rolled my eyes as hard as you did.

The challenge is still active on social media. If you get tagged to participate, I hope that you’ll embrace the idea and take part. I thought it was a lot of fun.  If you’re friends are lame and won’t tag you or are ignoring the challenge, then I challenge you.

My submissions are below. They are set to appear in random order so they are not in order.  I didn’t add any explanations but I will gladly explain if anyone has a question in the comments.

I’m considering having prints made.  *looks away*

 

 

 

 

 

First And Final Camping Trip 2017

This year was incredibly busy and it seemed like my days never matched up to give me an opportunity to get out and camp and hike as often as I would like. Last year, by July, I had already gone camping 6 times. I hiked more often than that.

Sometimes in life, you have to take what you can get.

I completely understand the bumper sticker that reads “A bad day fishing beats a good day at work”.

A bad weekend camping also pretty much beats a good day anywhere else. Even if it’s cold and raining half the time and you have to will yourself to be there because it beats anything else that you have going on.

We tried. That’s all I can say.

I’ve known my friend, Chalisa since childhood. We are both equine enthusiasts, her a little bit more than me these days. We started planning about three weeks in advance to go camping for the weekend and to take the horses with us.

 

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Chalisa and I

 

Who plans a camping trip on Friday the 13th? We do. I was in charge of picking up the groceries for our dinners. I couldn’t resist buying a large package of chicken that retailed at $6.66. I dubbed this “The Devil’s Chicken” and claimed to everyone that I was using reverse psychology on the universe to avoid our pending murders at the state park.

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I’m known for my weirdness.

As only Murphy’s Law would have it, it was gorgeous all week up to the day of the trip and then the rain was to move in. Not just a little rain, but thunder and lightning on top of heavy downpours. And wind. We can’t forget the wind.

We weren’t going to let that stop us though!

I was finally able to make it to the campsite in the horseman’s campground at Potato Creek State Park. Chalisa was already there getting the horses settled in and our campsite squared away. She likes to stay in her trailer while I prefer the confines of my Kelty Trail Ridge 3 tent. It’s glorious.

Since we knew that the rain was coming, we set up a canopy over the picnic table.  We enjoyed some drinks and laughs while we caught up with our lives and gossip. There’s always plenty to talk about.

We were both exhausted from our day and turned in. We were blessed with a pack of coyotes calling very close to the campground. It was eerie and fantastic all at the same time.

We were up early and enjoyed a breakfast made up of coffee,  bacon, sausage, eggs and fried Honey Crisp apples.  The rain seemed to hold off a little while to allow the sun to peek through the clouds.  It was short lived.

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We didn’t waste a lot of time getting our horses saddled up so we could head out.   We got about 4 hours of riding in before the thunder and lightning arrived and we had to get off of the trail. It was even nice to just hang out in my tent and read a book.

It was about suppertime and we were contemplating if we were going to let the weather win or if we were going to stick it out all night in hopes that the morning might deliver some better news.

The radar told us that cold, wind and rain would be what we would have to look forward to. Other campers were already loading up and heading home.  I joked that they were quitters knowing that we would likely also be quitters before the night was over.

We decided to at least make our Devil’s Chicken for dinner before making the call to go or stay.  I wrapped our chicken quarters in the aluminum foil along with the other ingredients and placed them into the Dutch Oven.I had never used a Dutch Oven before and I was impressed by it. I didn’t think it would heat up as quickly or as hot as it did.

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We enjoyed our dinner and the conversation.  At about 7 o’clock when the rain and wind was picking up we decided to go ahead and call it and head home. The majority of the people that had managed to last the day were now starting to pack up and head out.

We were disappointed but at least we got to go out for a bit and enjoy our time together and with the horses. Just that one night and the day spent out on the trail was enough to recharge the batteries a little bit.

I’d do it again.

In other news. I hung my Kelty Trail Ridge 3 tent up to dry with a fan blowing on it.  It took almost 3 hours to completely dry. That’s how soaked everything was.  I also managed to drop my wifi hotspot on the ground at the campsite. I went back the next morning and found it buried under some leaves.  I was amazed when I discovered that it still worked. I dried it out and I am using it as my primary internet connection as I type this post.

Good times. Ain’t we lucky we got em?

 

Life and A Half Assed Product Review-  Challenger K1 Inflatable Kayak by Intex

It has been a busy summer. It’s now looking to be a busy autumn season also.  I’m happy to report that. My absence from my blogging projects were due to being too darn busy and not having the time to dedicate to sitting down and typing out thoughtful or even informative blog posts. I’d offer an apology but I can’t be sorry because things were pretty good.

I confess that I am superstitious in a way that I hate talking about things going well or even being happy for fear that I might somehow jinx myself and have the opposite happen. This might sound silly but others may understand completely. Talking about the weather seems to change the weather.

In the Spring, I wrote about how I was going to start shopping for a new kayak.  I am still shopping for a new kayak. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to dedicate to research and thenpurchase exactly what I wanted. I decided that since I didn’t have the time to go on multiple paddle trips, that I might as well not even buy one.  So I didn’t.

This summer went by really fast! Before I knew it Dom was back to school!

Up until recently, I hadn’t been on a paddle trip since Memorial Day Weekend when I went camping and did a run on the Pigeon River. One time all summer. Not exactly great. With that said, I did hike and camp a lot.

I still dream of owning my own kayak.

As fate would have it, I came across a posting to a yard sale page I follow on Facebook,  where a local gentleman was selling an inflatable kayak at a reasonable price. I went ahead and bought it. I’ve been able to take it out twice in the week that I’ve owned it and I wish I was out in it right now.

This proved my theory that I would go more often if I owned my own kayak.  It also proved to me that it wasn’t a passing obsession and I’ve wanted to get my own since last year. At least I know I really want one. With that said, I am going to wait until spring to make that purchase. Maybe. It may still come sooner.

What did I get?

I got the Challenger K1 by Intex.


This is a basic inflatable kayak that should only be used on calm lakes ( no Lake Michigan for me ) rivers and channels. It came with an inflatable seat,inflatable foot brace, oar, bow/stern lines, skeg (fin) and a foot pump. It has two Boston valves and it  is easy to inflate and deflate. Once I figured out what I was doing the whole thing took me about ten minutes to get together from box to water.

The seat can be buckled in and is also held in place by plastic buckles on both sides of the interior. I don’t know how I feel about the seat. You can take it or leave it. I sort of felt awkward with it and I felt sort of up high versus with the kayak. I suppose that’s a matter of personal preference.

The skeg slides on to the hull of the kayak. I tried taking it out with and without the skeg. I would recommend using the skeg as it seems to really improve tracking and steering. It is really easy to attach and unattach the skeg. It slides on and locks into place.

It weighs approximately 20 pounds. The oar snaps together.  I want to remind everyone also that this is not a high dollar outfit. The oar is basic and cheaply made. With that said, I have been using them just fine. You can’t strong arm them or you may break them.  Also, the oar coul stand to be approximately 4 inches longer. However, with that said, the oar was usable and I got along just fine.

Since I have no interested in white water rafting or actually going out onto Lake Michgan, this is the perfect product for me. I mostly enjoy floating and paddling around at a leisurely pace and on my own time. There is nothing in a hurry about me when I am out on the water.

The Challenger K1 retails from $70-$100 online. It’s a good starter for someone who is looking for something affordable that doesn’t have real high expectations. I think it’s also good for someone who isn’t sure if they are going to continue with their interest in kayaking. Or hey, if you’re like me and just want something to tide you over until you get exactly what you want, it’s perfect.

This kayak has decent reviews. I want to add to that. The only thing I don’t like about it has nothing to do with the kayak itself and everything to do with the storage bag it came with. Shoddy. I am currently only using the bag to store the oar, seat, foot brace and the pump. When the kayak actually comes out of the back of my car,  I am going to place it in a plastic storage tub with a lid to store it.

I also want to point out that Intex is known for its pools, spas, inflatable mattresses and even other sporting goods. I have owned two versions of the Intex Easy Set pool and was very happy with them.  I also own Intex brand mattresses for camping and am pleased with them also.

You can check out their website and products on their website by clicking HERE

It is what it is. I think that as long as I take care of it, it will last while.  Since I enjoy paddling around on Worster Lake, which is a man made lake, I have to really watch out for branches under the water from where the area was flooded to create the lake. The material that the kayak is made from is durable however, I am sure that if a branch, rock or even a fishing hook could cause a tear.
My plan is still to get my “real” kayak and keep this one as a spare in the event that someone wants to come with me.  So far so good with it. It’s currently folded up in the back of my SUV.  I see no point in taking it in and storing it until I am done with it for the season. If I don’t get my other kayak before the end of fall, I probably won’t bother putting it away until it starts getting cold.

I hope everyone is having a good season!! I will write again when I have more time!

The box the kayak came in.

Everything always fits perfectly in the bag before you take it out.

The contents will never go back in this way. Ha!

The kayak has two Boston valves.

The state of Indiana requires you to have a watercraft permit. The permit was $5.00 and is good for one calendar year.

Maiden voyage of the SS Inflatable on Worster Lake, Potato Creek State Park Indiana

A Walk In the Woods- Snowfall Means Snowshoes

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We had a significant amount of snow fall in my area over the past two days. I made a last minute decision to go out to the park for a short hike before work.  I grabbed the bag that contained my snow shoes, loaded Lu in the car and off we went.

It was the first time this year that I was able to hike with my snowshoes. They definitely came in handy as the snow was just about to my knees. Snowshoes really do make a difference when you’re making your way through deep and heavy snow.

I was the first person to trek through the freshly fallen snow in the park. It was still snowing lightly when I arrived, but then the sun came out and the sky was the most beautiful shade of blue that I have seen in awhile.

I almost couldn’t stop staring at it.

Blue skies.. Nothing but blue skies..

Blue skies.. Nothing but blue skies..

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It was so beautiful!

 

I didn’t get to hike for very long before I had to get in the car and head back home. I had to work and the decision to go out to the park was last minute. Even though I didn’t have a lot of time, I still enjoyed it.

As usual. I had the entire place to myself. Lu and I had a really good time.  I took some photographs. I hope you’ll check out the gallery below.  It was a gorgeous morning. The sky was amazing.