Wonkey Weaving Gourd Baskets

I’ve taken three Gourd Art classes from a talented artist,  Margaret Sullivan of Rio Verde, Arizona.  In two of the classes we used very large gourds that we stained with leather dyes before we launched into the time consuming technique called ‘Wonkey Weaving’. The bare bones of the weaving is done with reeds soaked in water to make them pliable. The wonkey meant you were supposed to leave lots of odd shaped gaps to fill in later with wool or other pliable materials.

My first gourd had not become very ‘wonkey’ at all by the end of the class. I took it home and completed the rest of the weaving and added purchased feathers and beads.

At the second class, I achieved wonkey.

In the third class, we made a Totem Pole  from small gourds. We stained the gourds, etched them with a dremel, then decorated them with feathers, beads and paint.

Back in Canada, I could add feathers that I had collected from the grounds around our house. (In Alberta, it is legal to pick up feathers off the ground. It is not legal to do that in the United States, according to the American Migratory Bird Treaty Act.)

American Migratory Bird Treaty Act Reform – There is movement towards decriminalizing accidental bird killings. Federal Judge Edith H. Jones observed that the MBTA prohibits all acts or omissions that “directly” kill birds, but she also said that where these bird deaths are “foreseeable,” as is the case for all owners of big windows, communication towers, wind turbines, solar energy farms, cars, cats, and even church steeples, it seems unreasonable that these people or businesses should continue to be found guilty of violating the MBTA.

There are so many criminal and regulatory laws and regulations that no one can count them. It is estimated that the average citizen breaks 3 laws a day without even knowing it! Can you think what any of them might be!?

Crochet Owls and Great Horned Owl Update

We haven’t seen the Great Horned Owl Family very often this past month, but I now have a permanent set of Owlet triplets to remind me of how special it was to watch the Owls.


I crocheted my own owls from a pattern at Jacquie’s Website. Jacquie says “If you are proficient at crochet you will be able to make one of these sweet little owls in no time at all.” Proficient is the operative word. My crochet skills were rusty, and apparently my counting skills were too. ‘No time at all’ took several weeks. There are many fiddly bits to the project.

The hardest part, however, was getting a decent photo of them. Their light weight little bodies didn’t want to sit on the branches of the trees. I finally had to wedge them between branches or skewer them a bit with the poky thorns.

As for real owls, two of the owlets were hunting here on July 19. There were several other owls too, but they didn’t land.

Here are photos of the two Owlets, altered with a Super Sharp filter in Topaz Studio.

Happy August! How is your summer or winter so far? Decent weather? Travel? Visitors? Done anything crafty lately?

American Robins Raise Another Batch of Babies

Adult Robin – Nest building begins, June 13
Female Robin on nest – June 19. The nest is made mostly of grass with one piece of string and one feather.
Robin eggs – June 27
Robins hatch – July 4
Baby Robins – July 6
Baby Robins – July 12
Baby Robins – July 14
Two babies left the nest on July 15. These two left the next day.
July 16 – this baby robin flew (sort of) to the ground below the nest. Then it hopped across the patio, then the driveway and finally into the long grass where the parents were calling.
July 16 – the last robin in the nest. It seemed to be the smallest, so we wondered if it would delay departure a bit longer.

The last nestling watched the previous nestling hop across the ground. Both babies were chirping, as were the two adults who were stationed nearby at the edge of the woods.

After a few minutes of indecision, the last baby was suddenly air born! It flew almost to the edge of the woods – an impressive first flight!

What a privilege it has been to watch two batches of babies grow up and leave the nest – first the Great Horned Owlets, and now the American Robins!

Great Horned Owl – What Do They Eat?

The adult owls and the owlets appeared in our back yard at about 9:45 PM for three nights in a row. The adults hunted and the owlets begged for food.

It didn’t take very long for the adult to serve up dinner on top of the large rock in the field. Two owlets quickly joined the adult. They started to tear the prey apart.

The other adult was calling – hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo – nearby but out of sight, possibly feeding the third owlet. The owl on the rock would respond to the call by turning its head in the direction the sound was coming from.

Richardson’s Ground Squirrel

What do Great Horned Owls eat? From what I’ve read, our Owls might eat Richardson’s Ground Squirrels, Northern Pocket Gophers, mice, skunks, squirrels, crows, birds, Little Brown Bats and large insects. Rabbits would also be on the menu if the Owl was hunting quite a bit further afield.

Owls leave evidence of their meals in the form of pellets that they regurgitate. One or more of our owls thoughtfully leaves these pellets at the base of the spruce tree near our front door.

This ‘Bone Yard’ has yielded a wealth of information, though I don’t have the expertise or desire to try to reconstruct the prey!

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The paper clip in each photo shows the size of the pellets and the bones. (The paper clip is about 4.5 by 1 cm or 1 7/8 by 3/8 in.)

If you have a grandson who wants to dissect an owl pellet, my advice is to wait until nature ‘removes’ most of the hair and stuff like that. Take it from me, baking (sterilizing) a ‘newer’ foil-wrapped pellet in the oven for half an hour is a smelly project.

Great Horned Owls – Apex Predators

An Apex Predator is one that is NOT preyed upon when it is a healthy adult in the wild. I have seen three Apex bird species in the woods and fields that surround our house: Red-tailed hawk, Common Raven and Great Horned Owl. The Coyotes here would be considered apex too because we don’t have wolves or bears.

The Great Horned Owl is the only Apex Predator in our woods lately. Last night, from 9:45  to 10:15 PM, I got to watch one adult Great Horned Owl hunt and three Owlets beg for food. I suppose the owlets are also learning to hunt.

The owls have now moved into our back yard. (Prior to that they were in the woods in the front of our property). There is an open area here with grass, flowers and ornamental trees. Beyond the fence (that protects my flowers from being eaten by deer) is native prairie grass. Beyond that is a grain field.

At dusk (9:45 PM) I spotted a flurry of wings as one owl lifted off from the grass near the playground. Then I saw an owl on the fence. Then another owl.

Four owls were flying from the fence to the playground and back again. Fortunately, I was able to get one photo of all three owlets perched on one of the boards at the top of the swing/slide structure.

I was quickly losing enough light to photograph the birds. My last photo was this one – an owlet and an adult.

After that, the adult owl flew down into the grass between the fence and the erratic (glacier deposited) rocks that you see in the background of this photo. Soon all three owlets flew to the top of the rocks and started to call for food.

A New Yorker visits Vermont and asks, “Where did all these rocks come from?” And the farmer says, “They were brought here by a glacier.”
“Well, what happened to the glacier?”
And the farmer replies, “It went back for more rocks.”
– Blacklock’s Reporter –

The playground, this morning, is the preferred resting spot for one owlet. An adult was there too, but it eventually flew off to a more secluded tree.

I’m going to have to rethink which area of the yard I can garden in today…

These were the owlets on May 28.

Here they are on June 1 when they started flying.

What Apex Predators live near you?

This is a ‘Six on Saturday’ post – thanks to The Propagator.

Great Horned Owlets Take Flight

The owlets ventured out onto a branch on May 27. Within a few days they were exercising their wings.

On June 1, wing flapping was more frenzied and occasionally one of them would even lift off the branch briefly.

One minute all three owlets were on their ‘home’ branch. Ten minutes later I checked on them again, and one owlet (the one on the left) had taken its first short flight.

This seemed to take all of them by surprise. The two owlets that were left behind kept looking down at the third.

The third owlet spent a lot of time bobbing its head/body and looking back up at the other two. (These movements help the owl judge the position and distance to everything around it.)

June 3 – All three owlets have left the ‘home’ tree. When I find one, it is always in the NW quadrant of our woods – about an acre of aspen, willow and a lot of spruce trees.

June 7 – The same owlet as the previous photo?! I don’t know. They all look alike.

June 19 – found all three owlets in the same area. Two were together in one tree.

The third owlet was in a nearby tree.

June 28 – one owlet and one parent were in a new part of the woods. The owlet is flying well, though it lacks some grace when it lands on a wobbly branch.

The adults are usually in the vicinity of the owlets. I often see them on an aspen branch at the edge of the woods. This is one of the adults.

The second adult was in a nearby tree.

The Feather Files
Name: Great Horned Owl
Species: Bubo virginianus
Date Seen: June 2018
Location: North of Airdrie Alberta, Canada

American Robin Welcome Wagon

Two years ago, a pair of American Robins built a nest on top of the electric meter box near our front door. (See this post: The Endless Quest for Food.) Yesterday, a pair of robins were checking out the same location, but almost immediately afterward, a magpie landed on the meter. This seemed to dampen the enthusiasm of the robins. They haven’t returned.

The Car Guy and I remembered, though, that the previous robins had a great deal of difficulty building a nest on the narrow, smooth surface of the box. It seemed to us that it might be a good idea to mount a platform on top of the box that would make it easier for the robins to anchor their nest.

This is what The Car Guy came up with. Just to make it very clear to the magpie that this was for the robins, The Car Guy added the name of the intended occupants.

A wall, an electrical meter box, the robin platform – do you see anything else in this photo? I didn’t until I finished editing it and uploaded it. I’m kind of in the photo too! Can you see me?

Update: The robins started building a nest this morning!

Right Place, Right Time

Every now and then (but not if I’m in a line-up at the store) I’m in the Right Place at the Right Time! Here are three photos to illustrate what I mean.

In 2011, I wrote a post titled Lady’s Slipper Orchids – Surprise in the Ditch. At that time, the orchids were growing in a ditch – about a 5 minute walk from us. Not a great distance, but they were easy to overlook in the tall weeds and their blooming season was short. I only saw them once again after that.

A few days ago, I was very surprised to find the pretty yellow orchids again growing in the ditch –  but this time right at the end of our driveway!

It would have been easy to miss their yellow flowers, surrounded as they were by clumps of yellow dandelions. But, they must have whispered to me… “It’s your lucky day – we’re your  neighbours now!”

I’m a Canadian ‘Snowbird’ who spends part of the winter in the USA. Last winter I went to an Estate Sale at the house next to our Arizona home. One of the items for sale was an old sewing machine in a cabinet. I ignored it – I already had a sewing machine.

The next morning, after the sale had ended, the sewing machine had been moved out to the garage, en route to who knows where. The sales agent appealed to my thriftiness by pointing out that the machine, the cabinet and a box of sewing supplies could be mine for a mere $10. Sold!

Later, when I opened the box of supplies, I found this small Canadian Flag lapel pin nestled in with the bobbins and thread. I’ll never know why the elderly American woman who owned the machine had this lapel pin, but I do know that the pin whispered to me – “This sewing machine was meant for you!”

Here is the link to my story about the Great Horned Owl Family  that has been living in a tree near the front of our house. Though we have often seen the adult owls on our property and last year I briefly glimpsed a pair of owlets, it has been a once in a lifetime event to watch three owlets ‘branch’ and eventually fledge. The owl parents really did pick the right place and the right time for us!

Do you have a ‘Right Place – Right Time’ story to share?