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The Pull-Toy Series No. 11 – White River Willy – Sea Serpent

19″l x 9″w x 8 1/4″t
White Pine, Found Wood, Steel, Leather, Pewter, Found Wood, Brass

$879

Available Here 

 

The Hamilton County (Indiana) historian recently approached me and shared a story that he discovered about a giant serpent discovered a few blocks from my home in 1892. The entire story may be found by visiting my website at 50littlebirds.com.

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I’ve been birding Ritchey Woods, in Fishers, Indiana, every Sunday morning for the last few weeks. It’s a mixed bag. The birding is great, but it’s adjacent to a noisy highway and airport and is frequented by trail runners and dog walkers.

(Trail runners and dog walkers are fine people. They just tend to throw birds into hiding and startle people intently staring into the treetops.)

I’ve heard a great deal of chatter about a great horned owl nest in the woods. Having no luck in finding myself I made a des fete inquiry and was rewarded to directions to the nesting tree.

It turns out (of course) that I’ve walked within 20′ of this tree every Sunday morning for weeks. Kudos to owl behavior and camouflage. This morning my wife and I found the tree, but no owls. Another birder informed us that they had left the nest in the last day, or so. One fledgling (I believe that there are two) was found in a nearby tree, where I had seen a large bird drop earlier (presumably a parent). 

We had a nice long look. Hopefully they’ll return to this nest next spring and we’ll know just where to look.

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photo (16)Since I’ve moved forward with plans to paddle the 740 mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail beginning in June my paddling adventures have become even more purposeful.  

About a month ago I was offered a canoe — exactly the canoe that I had in mind for training.  I desired a cone that is heavy and tough and handles well.  That all came to me in a 15 ft. Smokercraft canoe.  

Other than the Herculean task of simply lifting the monster (I’ve portaged twice with it.  Ouch!)  I couldn’t be more pleased with this brute.  My first and best surprise was when I poled up through some riffles in our local river.  There is a section, near an abandoned dam, that has given me difficulty in the past.  When I planted and paused it was next to impossible to keep my fiberglass 13 foot Navaro pointing its nose upstream.  With the aluminum training canoe I planted and it waited patiently– nose upstream — for me to make the next move.  What I had thought was a skill issue had been a boat issue.  

I desired weight to help build strength and stamina.  

Yesterday I paddled open water for the first time in years.  I spent my childhood summers in small boats on the coast of Maine.  I have open water experience, but it’s been awhile.

When we were very young, my sister and I had a bright orange inflatable dinghy.  We rowed that little boat around our dock gaining rowing and paddling skills.  As our skills  improved we were allowed to roam further from our float.  On one memorable day we rowed all the way to the end of the cove and learned the importance of considering wind conditions on every voyage.

We were having the time of our lives.  Rowing and playing.  We passed, more quickly than usually, one cottage and then another.  We explored the small shell mounds and stone walls in the shallows.  Then photo (17)we turned home — an into the wind.  

We pulled and pulled and nothing happened.  We took turns.  It was clear that getting home would be impossible.

From the rocks above, Max Weildon appeared.  Max was one of a handful of true old salts that lived in our cluster of cottages.  Max gently guided us closer to the shore and into the lee of the high rocky shoreline.  In the wind shadow that followed these rocks we easily made our way home.

Yesterday was breezy.  It wasn’t scary windy, but there was enough wind that it had to be managed.  I chose a launch point at the south end of the lake.  The wind was coming from the northwest. The plan was to work my way to the north along the west shore and enjoy a free ride home.

I head due west across the lake to get into the lee of the trees and houses on that side.  This was my first time in open water so I began with experiments in trim.  I carried little but a lightly loaded pack tossed behind the bow seat.  Heading nearly upwind, I was not surprised to find the best paddling position was on my knees with my thighs braced against the thwart forward of the stern seat.  Once I found this trim the boat tracked well and responded as expected.

I hit almost mirror still water along the windward shore and enjoyed a very peaceful paddle northward — paddling through brief bursts of wind outside coves and inlets.  In the calmer air I switched paddling positions several times and practiced my paddle strokes on the not-so-dominate side.

When it was time to go home I paddled out into the wind and began to ride the wind back to the starting point.  Racing with the waves was a delight.  I passed under a bridge and hit a blast of air.  As often happens, the wind had swung south several points and I found myself fighting a strong crosswind.  I picked a point well upwind of the park landing and worked at keeping a straight course and even stroke.  From my position — aft and on my knees — the wind was having a field day with the bow.  I had to fight hard to keep the bow from dropping off the wind.  I switched my position to dead photocenter, on my knees, and the canoe become mush easier to control.  Looking back at my tracked position (I used the iPhone app MapMyWalk) I’;m pleased to see I did keep my course straight through this section.

I arrived at the slip with the bow upwind and sculled sideways the last 10 feet to the dock.  

It was a great paddle.  I learned a great deal about how this boat trims in these conditions.  I look forward to many more practice sessions.

Goals include becoming more comfortable paddle on both sides and building endurance.

Birds – Buffleheads (8), Ring Billed Gulls (Several), Mallards (dittio), Canada Geese (ditto), Belted Kingfisher, Great Blue Heron, Blue Jay, American Crow

 

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This has been a long time coming. Thanks onto Eric and Ros for getting things rolling. There are a few little birds, many more to come!

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Click here to visit.

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My recent great horned owl project was such a success that I’ve begun to create a similar barn owl. Photos include some study sketches and patterns, gluing up stock to create a carving blank and sawing out the outline. Tomorrow I hope to share the next steps.

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From the current issue of TravelIN.

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When the idea for this project was beginning to gel I wrote my emerging thoughts here and here. It’s been about a month and it’s time to get started in earnest. I would love for you to be part of the project.

Here’s what you can do to help get the ball rolling:

– If you have an experience or story with a bird in urban Indianapolis, contact me and we’ll set up an interview. The interview is painless and should not take a lot of time. We will discuss the project, fill out some simple paperwork, take a few photos and chat about your experiences with Indianapolis birds. Your experiences do not need to be unusual. Simply having a favorite bird may be enough.
– Let folks know about the project. In order for this project to be a success I must reach a variety of folks with a variety of backgrounds and a variety of stories. Post notices on your Facebook. Tweet about it. Talk to birdy (and not so birdy) friends and neighbors.
– Visit this blog often and keep track of progress.
Look for birds in urban Indianapolis. It’s spring migration time and a wide variety of interesting and beautiful birds are passing through.

There are some great ways to become involved with Indianapolis area birding:

IndyParks offers birding walks.
Amos Butler Audubon Society offers trips and monthly educational meetings.
Indiana Audubon Society offers outings and trips.
Hamilton County Parks offers bird walks and educational programs.

I’m sure that there are others, but these are the programs that I know about today. If you know of others, please share them here.

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Where’s Geoff ?

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Last night, my willow bending friend, Greg Adams emailed me to check in. We don’t see each other, much, and he keeps tabs with me via this blog and emails. When I stopped writing, he checked in. I realized that a few others may have wondered where I had gone.

It’s been “one of those weeks”. As I’ve written before, I am a teacher in a failing urban school. My school is on the list. THE list.

I am very tempted to write, pages perhaps, on education politics at every level and their effects on students, teachers and administrators — the folks that need the support most. I won’t. You’ve heard it before, and it will work me up into a tizzy that I don’t need. I’ll just say that I’ve spent a great deal of time in meetings and completing paperwork.

Another delay in writing (which I’m bound and determined to overcome right now) is a change in computer platform. I’ve made a commitment to iOS and plan to do most of my computer work from my iPad and iPhone. Writing this blog on this platform, unexpectedly, has become one of the most difficult transitions. I’m writing today, from Pages, Mac’s iPad word processor, and plan to copy and paste into the blog’s online editor.

I’m thrilled to report that the iPad is a great way to organize and too edit photos fast.

There are some big plans in the works for 50 Little Birds. An exhibition in Ohio, an urban bird project and a summer of field work. Keep reading. Make comments. I’ll keep carving and writing.

(BTW- The problems writing and editing this blog seems to be (mostly) solved.

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Just finished these two pieces before they go out. Commissions cost no more than stock pieces and are usually turned around in under two weeks.

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Last week I was able to squeeze in an couple of hours of birding at Goose Pond near Linton, Indiana.  Goose pond is a huge wetland that was recently established by re-claiming and flooding vast tracts of farmland.  I’ve been making regular visits to the area from two years now and am thrilled at the variety of birds that I am bale to see.

My last trip to Goose Pond, in March, was able to watch a pair of whooping cranes for nearly and hour.  I also observed huge rafts of migrating ducks.  On that trip I didn’t pack my scope.  I was working at an art fair and didn’t expect to have any time on the pond.

I returned last week with my scope, but left my camera behind.  (I left early and didn’t turn the lights on so as to wake my wife.) I could only get a couplle of long shots with my phone.

My target bird for this trip was the American White Pelican.  The spring flocks have been growing steadily at the pond and I wanted to get another look at these amazing and huge birds.  On my first stop I saw little but coots. I took a few minutes to talk to a bird savvy fisherman and he pointed out flock of the pelican reeling in the distance.  I drove in that direction, crested a hill and was thrilled to see between 200-300 pelican flying, swimming and going about their daily business.  The wind was screeming into my face, off the pond, so I didn’t stay too long.  I did not two immature bald eagles within the pelican flocks.  I presume they benefit from the pelicans’ group fishing tactics.

Upon leaving leaving three bobwhite quail crossed the road in front of me.  These birds, now seldom seen, were an important part of my walks in the woods as a kid.  They looked like miniature footballs with wings.  Another bird from earlier days, the eastern meadowlark, was spotted on roadsigns and fence posts.

I circles around the other side of the area–passing the site where we watched the whooping cranes a month before– and parked on a short rise above two ponds filled with ducks.  There I was able to spend some time, protected from the worst of the wind, and observe ducks.  There was waterfowls that I’ve spent time watching before–lesser scaup, mallards, coots, golden-eye and Canada geese — but there were some new to me.

My field guide was back home with my camera so I was limited to using iBird on my iPhone.  I found this very frustrating and am convinced that while I appreciate iBird and its applications in the field it has limitations.  I checked and rechecked all of the “duck” descriptions on iBird and coiuld find no matches to the birds that I was seeing.

The problem, of course, is that not all ducks have “duck” in their name.  A mallard is a mallard, not a mallard duck.  In a print field guide related birds are listed and illustrated together.  It’s a simple matter to flip through the duck section and make visual comparisons.

My two mystery ducks were a gadwall and blue-winged teal–two ducks without duck names.

No pictures, but a great day and a few more birds to add to my “to-carve” list.

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