Watching Nesting Birds

Osprey nestI like to check the Cornell Labs bird cams every now and then. Right now you can watch three, two-week old Red-tailed Hawk chicks being cared for on a nest in Ithaca, New York. Or if you prefer, another camera in Ithaca, New York will show you a Great Blue Heron sitting on a nest of five eggs. A couple other cams in Montana feature Osprey. The first, with three eggs overlooks the Dunrovin Guest Ranch in Lola, Montana. The other, currently still being built, is in Missoula Montana, overlooking a parking lot. Finally, there’s an American Kestrel nest inside a box in Boise, Idaho. It’s a different view with the camera located in the top of the box, so it’s difficult to tell that there are five eggs in the nest.

The Kestrel is interesting because it has a couple black circles on the back of its head. This is to fool potential predators into thinking they are being watched, even if they are sneaking up behind the bird. So, I was fooled, too, the first time I looked at this nest because I thought the bird was staring up at the camera. It was actually looking down at its nest.

Right now you’re unlikely to find much action in any of the nests, other than the red tailed hawk chicks -Red-tailed Hawk nest because that’s the only one with chicks. It’s interesting to watch a bird sitting on a nest, but usually one picture will tell that story.

I’ve watched the Red-tails eating snakes and the Herons reshape the nest and rearrange their eggs. However, unlike the people taking part in the chat (in the column on the right), after 10 -15 minutes watching, I’ve usually got other things to do, but it’s interesting to check-in and watch a little.

Heron eggs on NestCornell Lab Bird Cams | Virtual Bird Watching at its Best!.


Saliva On Pacifiers Can Ward Off Childhood Allergies

pacifierWhen I was growing up I always thought it was disgusting whenever my mother put a pacifier in her mouth before sliding it into the mouth of one of my baby brother’s or sisters.

If we were at home and the thing was dropped on the floor, one of us would rinse it off under the faucet. However, if we were away from home, that’s when it went into her mouth between the floor and the baby’s mouth.

I remember asking her why she did that and she said, if there was dirt on it, the baby would just spit it back out. I don’t know if that was really the reason, but it made sense to me because I often saw my baby brothers or sisters spit the pacifier back out as soon as it was put in their mouth. Even today if something has dirt or hair or anything on it that shouldn’t be there when I put in my mouth I spit it out (unless, it’s chocolate or ice cream in which case I try to keep it in my mouth while I try to carefully draw the dirt or whatever to some place in my mouth where I can control it).

I believed my little brothers or sisters were spitting their pacifiers out because they weren’t interested in a nipple that wasn’t giving any milk. Makes sense, doesn’t it? I like a nice bottle of beer every now and then, but if the thing’s empty I’m not going to keep trying to get something out of it.

I found this study that indicates saliva on a baby’s pacifier can fight childhood allergies. Only one of my siblings has any problems with allergies. I’m trying to remember if she was the one who was always spitting the pacifier back out. I remember somebody doing that, so it was probably her and I’ll bet if she reads this (which I’ll make sure she does) she’s going to wonder what she didn’t like about those pacifiers.

If you’ve got a baby, if you’re always rinsing the pacifier off before putting it back in your baby’s mouth, maybe you should consider taking a chance on the dirt. Consider what you’re doing as ‘pre-flavoring’ the pacifier.

Why Do Those Little Cheese Crackers Have a Hole in the Middle?

Here’s your bit of trivia for the day.cheese its

I have often contemplated that little hole in the middle of Cheez-Its and their imitators. It seems it’s their so the little cracker can be strung up on a piece of thread or string. Another reason I thought the hole existed was to make it more fun to hold the little cracker. I’ve often spun the things around while holding them between my thumb and forefinger.

It seems there is a far more practical reason for the hole. Without it the cracker would puff up and would be likely to flake off in the box. That’s why you sometimes find the crackers separated in tops and bottoms when you pour them out of the box.

Those crackers weren’t properly docked. Docking is the baking technique of poking little holes in a “short” dough (dough that’s high in fat and has a flaky or crisp texture after cooking like pie crusts, thin cookies or crackers). It helps vent the steam created in the oven during baking.

You can use a fork to poke small holes all over the surface of the dough. By venting the steam, docking keeps the dough from billowing or bubbling as it bakes. The larger the surface area the more docking the dough will need.

Should a Picture Book Emphasize a Message?

Aesop-fables-rare-Book-bookcoverFor some reason many people who know very little about writing picture books think a picture book has to teach something, that it has to be educational, that it has to have a moral.

There is one common truth with all writing whether it’s a novel, short story, poem, news story, Romance, Science Fiction, Picture Book or almost anything that people are expected to buy: It tells a story. Underneath, there is usually something being taught, something educational, a moral. However, whatever that might be is immaterial. Often it’s the reader who finds it. Often the author didn’t know it was there, because it wasn’t something the author was concerned with.

A good Picture Book tells a story first and foremost. Today the better non-fiction Picture Books weave the facts, the details into a story. Even the Picture Books that are referred to as Concept Books (picture books that are often plot-less because their emphasis is on a concept), usually have a story to tell.

A good writer has stories to tell. Good readers want to hear stories. Good writing is as simple as that. There’s no reason to make it more difficult (and it is difficult) by trying to build a story around a moral or something the author feels needs to be taught.

I just finished reading Tara Lazar’s latest Goodreads blog, “What’s Wrong With Writing Message-Driven Picture Books?” It says much the same thing.


Kids hooked on iPads: Technology addiction, or poor parenting?

child using iPadA four year old spending more time with an iPad than playing outside, a three year old playing games on an iPad while riding in the grocery cart, wonderful or not?

It used to be that parents were admonished for turning on the TV and plunking their kids down in front of it. The same goes for using any other form of technology to take the load off of parenting and ‘getting the kid out of your hair. Continue reading

An Unplugged Adventure

cover Doug Unplugged by Dan YaccarinoIf you have not read Dan Yaccarino’s Doug Unplugged yet, you should read it soon, especially if you have children.

Doug is a robot. His parent’s want him to be a smart robot. Every day they plug him in so information can be downloaded into him. One day, Doug unplugs himself, goes out into the word and discovers there is much that can be learned by not being plugged in.

Read Doug Unplugged to your children then suggest a day when they will be unplugged. It will be a day away from the televisions, radios, computers, tablets, cell phones and iPods. Continue reading