Santa Ray

December 20, 2018

I decorated the tree and found one of my favorite ornaments.

It’s a Santa Ray.


Birding Without Borders

November 1, 2018

On my trip last weekend I read Birding Without Borders by Noah Strycker, about his epic 2015 trip to spot half the world’s bird species in one year. A Big Year with no national limits. He spotted 6,042 of around 10,000+ bird species.  He worked really, really hard for this. And the record was broken the following year, believe it or not.

(For comparison, my own life list is edging toward 300. Total. I think.)

The book is a fun, fast, kind of jaw-dropping read when you consider how Strycker managed it, basically never stopping, always on the move, and reaching out to local birders at every single stop to help him to his goal.

It was inspiring not in the sense that I now want to go out and do some kind of epic Big Year of my own. On the contrary, I think I would rather find one really nice spot, sit there with a spotting scope, and sip a glass of wine while waiting to see what comes along. But, you know, I should try for a different nice spot every few months or so. I would like to bird in Costa Rica or Ecuador at some point. Strycker spent a lot of time in the tropics, which have the greatest concentration of biodiversity and bird species. Entire families of birds I’ve never encountered. Antpittas? Flowerpeckers? Yeah, I’d need some prep work to get ready for that birding trip.

The book was inspiring in giving me some ideas of how to up my own birding game on a smaller scale. Like, you know, prepping by learning the area’s birds before I get there. Also, using not just to report sightings, but to plan trips. I’m already using eBird to report, but I hadn’t really thought about using it to plan until reading about how the site was essential for Strycker.

I’ve already started on this. I’ve got a couple of trips coming up, and I’m going to bring my travel binoculars and scout out some of the nearby hotspots listed on eBird, which will also give me a good idea of what I’ll find when I get there.

This is cool. I’m excited. I’ll let you know how it goes.



October 15, 2018

The costume is finished, and my niece has it well ahead of schedule.

This year, she wanted to be Crookshanks from Harry Potter. Behold!

This may be the most amazing costume I’ve ever done.

I don’t know that I can ever top it. Therefore, I’m going to try to convince her to be an Ewok next year so she can use the same one.


birding victories

October 8, 2018

Saturday the Cornell Lab of Ornithology held a Big Day, and I managed to get out and get a few checklists to send them. Only about 30 species, but it is firmly, drearily autumn in my part of the world and many birds have migrated away.

But it’s been kind of exciting down at Walden Ponds east of Boulder. I’ve never seen as many birders there as I did on Saturday, with lots of spotting scopes and lots of copies of Sibley’s on hand. So, I’m really only a moderate birder. I don’t follow any forums, I’m not signed up for any alerts when rare birds show up in the area. But I can always, always tell when an alert has gone out because I’ll get to Walden Ponds and there’ll be a dozen birders with scopes all clustered together looking at a Thing.

This time, it was a Vermilion Flycatcher. We’re way north of its usual range so it’s a really cool sighting.

But that also meant I was around a lot of other birders, which always makes me self conscious because I’m pretty sure I’m not a very good birder. I’m either the Best Worst Birder or the Worst Best Birder. I haven’t decided which.  I’m usually the one in the clump of birders asking, “What’s that? What about that?” and being annoying.

So imagine the thrill when I got to school one of these hard-core birders on an ID.

“Oh look, Dowitchers!” he said confidently, gazing over his scope rather than through it.

Me:  “Are you sure those aren’t the flock of Snipes that have been hanging around the last few weeks?”

(Looks through scope.)  “You’re right! Those are Snipes!”

(Confession: I made this exact mistake the last time I was at the ponds a couple of weeks ago. So I was ready for it. I am a learning monkey.)

I tried to do some digiscoping with my scope and iPhone. I’m not sure I’ll ever take really good pictures this way — it’s a wonky set up, with an old scope, an adapter that throws off the scope’s balance, and a breeze that rattles the whole thing and gives the images a kind of hazy filter.  I could also probably learn some photo editing to fix some of these issues.

But for helping me with ID’s? It’s really cool. The scope gives me such a good look at them.

Here’s the Wilson’s Snipe:

And here’s the Long-billed Dowitcher:

It’s really easy to see the ultra-long bill from a distance and think one or the other. But the second look makes it all clear.

They’re all so cute!


This year, Emmy wants to be Crookshanks, Hermione Granger’s cat.

I broke three needles on this. But now I can check “fur suit” off the skills list.

I’m seriously considering trying to talk her into being an Ewok next year. Just a few tweaks…


September 17, 2018

I’m certain that my niece has been picking her Halloween costumes specifically to challenge me on sewing and craft skills I don’t have.

This year, it’s working with faux fur.

And not just faux fur, but the shaggiest faux fur I could find. That’s a 3-inch pile, y’all.

It’s a challenge to work with, but not as much of one as I thought it would be. (Knock on wood.) So far it’s a matter of making sure all the fur is brushed away from the edges before I sew seams. I’m about halfway done. I installed the zipper last night, which was daunting. But I think that’s the hardest bit. Fur this shaggy hides a lot of mistakes.

Mostly, and happily, this stuff is making me laugh. I finish a piece and it looks so silly and ridiculous and wonderful, I can’t stop laughing. I hope she likes it.

Can’t wait to show you pics of the finished thing.



one thing after another

August 29, 2018

I have returned from Bubonicon and am mostly recovered. Mostly. This only means that all my next round of projects are arranged before me and what I think I’d really like to do right now is sleep.

Writing:  I’m revising one of the half-finished novels from the Year of Stalled Projects. I have also started a novella, have a short story to revise, another novella I’d like to start, the stage play I’ve been working on for a year that I want to noodle with, and a proposal for a couple more novels.

Guys, this is pretty much what it’s like in my brain all the time. It’s frankly miraculous I get anything done. I think this is partly why my “write a little bit every day, every single day” strategy works so well for me. If I tried to completely binge-write one specific thing, I’d explode.

Crafting:  Emmy’s Halloween costume is underway. So is a completely frivolous gown I’m making for no reason at all. At least three knitting projects started — I’ve lost count. Oh, and I figured out at least one thing I want to do with that Porg fabric. It’s a surprise.

I should also probably clean the house and weed the yard.

And I am reading three books simultaneously.

A nap actually sounds pretty good right now.