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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

HOW TO GET TO DECORAH, IOWA

My last posting was the day after Valentine's Day so thought we'd tell you exactly where we got lost to. You won't believe it coming from a cat's world but what I'm about to confess is the absolute truth. You see a friend forwarded this website to my cohort a couple weeks ago and while she didn't take much interest in it the first couple visits...well, truth be known, now we can't drag her away from it.

The website is called 'Ustream' and what we've been watching is a live 24/7 video webcam of two bald eagles in Decorah, Iowa. Now I have no clue as to why they are called bald eagles because their heads are most certainly covered in feathers. The first few visits to this website we saw a huge empty nest high up in a cottonwood tree. Not exactly spellbinding. Then one day we visited it again just in time to see one eagle in the nest and the other one come soaring in demonstrating a beautiful landing as it perched next to it's mate. It was amazing and to think we're watching it live makes it even more so. Soon we began reading all of the information displayed below the video and now that we know a whole lot more about eagles we wanted to share it.

Sure I suppose as a member of the feline race I'm naturally an avid bird watcher but let me tell you this really kicks it up several notches. Our back yard birds are pretty well fed and half the reason they're fed is the kitty entertainment factor. Being strictly indoor felines, we do enjoy watching the feathered critters eat out in our back yard through the big patio door, but to see these eagles live on our computer is just phenomenal. I might add that those are some big-a** birds that could easily carry us off one in each claw.

This is wildlife education at it's finest and it's provided by a group called the Raptor Resource Project. These folks are truly ingenious. If you just go to www.Ustream.com and click on The Decorah Eagles it will take you to something better than anything on television. I don't even know where to begin describing what's happening. I'll try and be brief but we're so excited at this we want everyone to know about it.

As of this posting we have two eagles about to be a Mama and a Papa to 3 offspring. Not their first rodeo either so don't panic when you check on them and they're being snowed on or rained on or even looking like the wind is about to blow the whole tree down. I've learned from reading the 'Social Stream' to the right of the screen that these birds choose to live here. If they didn't like the weather they'd migrate elsewhere. Since today the temperature is very cold with drizzling rain and/or sleet off and on we decided it was a good time to break away awhile and post. I have to admit it is a little bit upsetting to see this regal pair getting soaked as they sit perched on their 3 eggs so good time to peck at this.

When we started watching these eagles on a regular basis we quickly learned that the first egg had been laid on February 17th. We also learned that on an average there are 2 or 3 eggs laid at most when they mate. Did you know eagle couples stick together like they were married and that they can mate until death do they part? In addition, the male does just as much as the female taking turns sitting on their offspring.

Soon after egg #1 was laid they mated again meaning egg #2 would be laid 3 days later. I was able to stay tuned in that evening and sure enough on February 20th we witnessed Mama lay egg #2. Yep, we were right there in labor and delivery with mama bird.

Now, are you ready for this? The next morning as soon as we got up we headed to the computer to check on the birds. Talk about great timing....Mama was on the nest taking her turn at egg sitting when in flies Papa. Next thing you know the two of them are perched over on the y-shaped branch on the other side of the nest. Papa's on the left branch and Mama's on the right one. I suppose they're just exchanging chit chat while the eggs cool down a bit. The body temperature of these birds is about 106 degrees and every so often they'll stay off the eggs a few minutes so as to not overcook them. They also frequently roll them over.

So next thing you know Papa has joined mama on the other branch and then right there on live video cam they did the deed. C'mon, we all know what we're talking about here, right? I was almost embarrassed feeling a bit like a peeping tomcat, but it's just nature being nature so as a fledgling eagle watcher I merely checked my calendar for three days later in case we have one more egg. Sure enough I was there once again in L&D on February 24th for the arrival of egg#3.

Next exciting event will be the anticipated hatch date for egg #1 on March 23rd. Meantime, a few interesting facts...this nest is 80 feet high in the tree, it's about 6 feet around and four feet deep. Again...big-a** birds! The video cam was installed a few years ago and the birds are completely unaware anyone is watching them. Even in the dark there's an infrared light so we can still watch and the birds have no clue. One night I'd been watching, left the room for a half hour, when I returned the bird and nest were completely covered in a blanket of snow. If a cat could cry....

We find all of this to be really fascinating. There's a tutorial on how to tell the difference between the male and the female...they do look alike but there are distinct differences...for one thing Mama looks meaner! You can also watch a slide show on how these brave souls installed the equipment while the eagles were elsewhere during the fall. Having it live you also enjoy listening to the sounds of nature like other birds or geese flying by, the rain as it falls, an occasional horn honking from the highway down below. The camera operator occasionally pans around showing us the farm below, the horses, the snow accumulated on the ground, etc. This is near a fish hatchery so the eagles never hurt for chow. The days Mama was due to lay her egg Papa would fly her dinner in...true love with room service.

I am very thankful our friend turned us on to this website and we hope others who were unaware of it will check it out. Let's face it...not much else worth seeing on the boob tube. Even worse they just announced the upcoming contestants on season 14 of DWTS. I don't even want to talk about it. I had so much hoped for real stars this year after last season's huge disappointment....but, nooooooooooo, once again we're stuck with nobody we ever heard of or watched before. Boring...I'm off to fly with the eagles...my new feathered friends.

Stay tuned for more updates in eagle world!



Wednesday, February 15, 2012

THE NEW VALENTINE'S DAY?

Hope you humans all enjoyed a nice Valentine's Day, maybe scored some yummy chocolates. Let me tell you a little secret. Your best bet is to celebrate the day after. Beautiful bouquets of flowers, roses, orchids, etc. now half price. Lovely boxes of gourmet chocolates marked down 75%! Stores have to get rid of all of it so you might as well fore go the day a mere 24 hours.

Taking today's economic situation into consideration it's no wonder everyone must monitor their spending a lot closer. A sale is a sale, all the flowers are still fresh, the candy is still yummy, what's a day's difference when it comes to saving money?

Did you hear Cupid was even in dire straits this year? Couldn't meet all his valentine requests due to his hours being cut back. Poor dude already works without benefits and then they cut his hours. Makes no difference to the higher ups that he doesn't have enough hours in a shift to complete his deliveries. They just bark at him to do it faster. Nor does it seem to matter that he's been a long time faithful employee, always willing to work a flexible schedule, be on call, but no, too bad, too sad. Even Cupid knows he's replaceable. Is job security a thing of the past?

What's the world coming to? Whatever happened to employee appreciation anyway? These days one is expected to show up on time, do the work as instructed and carry on as though you are grateful just to have a job. The employer lords it over you, that you either accept shorter hours, less pay, no bennies or the next one in line gladly (temporarily) takes your place. That simple. And insurance? What? Another thing of the past. You're on your own with that because you're not full time remember? Such a vicious cycle.

Wasn't it said that life's like a box of chocolates? My advice is go buy yourself a box of leftover Valentine candy and live it up for once. Remember when life doesn't seem fair, there's always chocolate and the day after it's always on sale. That much you can count on!

Monday, February 6, 2012

POST PUPPY BOWL

From a feline's perspective I have to admit that Puppy Bowl VIII was an exciting game to watch. The stands were packed with enthusiastic fans making this year's bowl a huge success. The starting line-up was loaded with high energy all stars ready to bounce onto the playing field. About the end of the first quarter Fumble scored the first touchdown of the game. Baskin was soon edging in but seemed to have trouble handling the ball. No challenge to Fumble. 2nd quarter brought in Leroy Brown who came on strong in spite of rumors that he actually preferred baseball. Calvin seemed very excited about the plays and York was more than ready to throw his weight around. Suddenly Fumble tackles Prancer, showing off his speeding abilities as he heads across the stretch. Next he gets tackled by Oscar who seemed to come out of nowhere. A personal foul was then called on account of a dog tag tackle by Fumble. Fumble quickly distracts his opponents and scores another touchdown. Then Shiloh scores, a rookie with great footwork shown as she heads to the end zone. In comes tiny but mighty Fumble to score another touchdown. At this stage of the game Fumble looked like a definite contender for MVP of the year...well, up until he needed a short nap at the end of the first half.

Halftime entertainment was outstanding as the kitty kapers displayed genuine gymnastics abilities. Even Madonna couldn't compete with these athletically skilled kitties. It was a non-stop fluffy finale. Not a single mishap, misstep or wardrobe malfunction to be seen.

Into the 2nd half we see Augusta coming out full force, taking the ball, heading to the end zone, stopping, reversing direction, running to the other end zone and scoring a touchdown. In fact, it was history in the making as two touchdowns were made simultaneously.

The Piggy Pep Squad went nuts, the crowd roared with delight. You know, even the 'Kiss Cams' were adorable...and when do we ever use that word talking about football?

There were no doubt too many great plays to list them all but I really have to say I don't think I've ever seen that many touchdowns in a game. In the 2nd half we witnessed Aberdeen come out ready to go. At one point he had the ball, was all ready to score when Hollie scooped it away, losing her footing long enough for Aberdeen to regain the ball and score.

Referee Dan Schachner had to call a time-out for too many puppies on the playing field and then he discovered his flag and whistle were missing. Think he may have blamed a feline party but not sure.

For a short time the tailgaters were annoyed when it appeared as though the players just wanted to dance around when suddenly Aberdeen scored again. Unbelievable footwork by that puppy. Hunter challenged him for the ball. Following an intense face-off, Hunter blinked first and Aberdeen with his sights on the end zone scored again. Aberdeen took over as high scorer but did have a foul called on him for excessive toy hogging. It was indeed a new puppy record for most touchdowns in one quarter.

Then the inevitable happened...and people, remember we are talking puppies here! A personal puppy foul was called on Montana for soiling the field resulting in a five yard penalty at the end of the 3rd quarter.

Okay, 4th quarter, Abilene breaks for the end zone, Aberdeen intercepts, Anthony steps in, Abilene continues racing to the goal, another interception, Abilene reverses direction and on to the end zone for a touchdown. Unfortunately, Abilene went too far and earned a personal foul for illegal nipping. Anthony steps up again heading to the end zone when Brandie cuts him off, takes the ball and scores. Aberdeen's got the ball again, Anthony goes for it and succeeds in a touchdown finally. In a great finish to the 4th quarter Sweetie Pie scores a touchdown and does a celebratory dance at the end zone.

All in all it was a great game with super doggie defense. offensive fire power and lots of touchdowns. Fumble did come away with that MVP (most valuable pup) award, Aberdeen scored the most touchdowns and Sweetie Pie had the best end zone dance.

On behalf of us Puppy Bowl-watching cats we do offer our deepest condolences to those of you who missed such a wonderful display of sportsmanship, perhaps in favor watching that spandex set in the Super Bowl. Like some cats the only interest in that game is for the commercials breaks. Thanks to the internet those can be seen without having to endure the game.

I vote Jerry Seinfeld's commercial the best overall. No clue what car he was plugging but he was funny regardless. The Budweiser Flash Fans was really clever and I think even the hockey players agreed. Pepsi and Elton John was pretty good, but being a coca-cola fan I really loved the Polar Bears. Now the dog working out to beat the VW was great as well but gotta tell you....the Chevy Silverado, even with a plug for Twinkies, was pretty farfetched. Then that Fiat - Abarth ad...huh? The Samsung ad...utterly ridiculous. Met Life...get a life! Can't even justify Oikos Yogurt with a comment. The Avengers, eh? Whatever!

My Totally Stupid Dishonorable Mentions go to Century 21 & The Donald, Chevy Volt and/or Chevy Sonic, even dumber, Cadillac ATS...at least it was brief. Add in Career Builders and monkeys for completely silly, Hyundai...ridiculous right along with the Camaro, the Toyota, the Camry and the Lexus. What is this anyway....a car-buying brainwash conspiracy? Do the producers of this fiasco actually think beer drinking fans will cure the day afters hangover by purchasing a new car?

Super Bowl ads for the most part can certainly be humorous but at times they push that sexuality envelope a little too much. So, just how many tattoos does David Beckham have anyway? And who, by the way, wants to necessarily see that during a football game? All you guys were just thrilled with that ad, right? However, on a more serious level, Chrysler sponsored a great message with Clint Eastwood...a very well spoken message for hope and I do hope people got the point.

Final thought....Puppy Bowl Scores!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

THE REAL SUPER BOWL!

Happy National Freedom Day on February 1st and bets on that few knew about this holiday. I personally think it should have more recognition but then what do I know being feline and all?! Just so you know President Harry Truman signed a bill proclaiming February 1st as National Freedom Day on June 30, 1948. The purpose of this holiday was to promote good feelings, harmony, and equal opportunity among all citizens and to remember that the United States is a nation dedicated to the ideal of freedom. Reason enough to honor the day, wouldn't you say?

February 2nd we have Groundhog Day...uh-huh, bets are that everyone knew about that day. Seems kind of sad there's always headlines about this rodent known as Punxsutawney Phil but not so much about National Freedom Day. Anyway the critter saw his chubby little shadow this year and consequently people believe there will be six more weeks of winter rather than an early spring. According to one website old PP has seen his shadow 99 times and only failed to see it 16 times. There's also 9 years of missing records but at any rate it seems to me this is one really freaking old rodent.

So that brings us to the 3rd and 4th of the month and nothing to denote for those two days...unless you want to count the 4th as Super Bowl Eve this year. Sports fans everywhere anxious to watch the game of the year with the New York Giants battling the New England Patriots for the trophy. Well, that is not the game we're watching. We'll be tuning in to the real Super Bowl game known as The Puppy Bowl VIII.

Puppy Bowl VIII has a fantastic starting line-up, the kitty halftime show can't be beat and this year features the Piglet Pep Squad. Better yet, no wardrobe malfunctions or aging rock stars squawking at the airwaves. It's a win-win bowl!

So rather than discuss the spandex set or latex or whatever it is those guys are poured into and puffed out of, let's talk about the Puppy Bowl VIII. I've learned some interesting facts on this game. The average age of the players is 10 weeks so there's never really any unnecessary roughness, just cuteness...even if we are talking puppies and not kitties. As long as the chew toy is successfully dragged into the end zone it is a puppy touchdown. The referee will keep a close look out for illegal use of paws or premature watering of the turf, otherwise known as fouls in football lingo.

I recently read that the very first Puppy Bowl drew 150,000 viewers. Last year's bowl drew 9.2 million! Now that's a touchdown people. Seriously, what's to ooh & aw over beefy dudes piled up in a heap, fighting over a silly ball when there's puppies on the field?

The Puppy Bowl is actually taped in the fall and the puppies come from various animal shelters around the country. Following the show they are all hopefully adopted. They have 58 different pups playing at different times throughout the game, allowing each one about 20 to 30 minutes to play. The stage lights get very hot and care is taken to not wear out the little paws. Not only are the puppies up for adoption, the little piglets are sold as companion piggies.

So we're all set here to watch the Puppy Bowl VIII and see Baskin, Brandy, Abilene, Hunter, Eurika, Joni, Augusta, Delilah, Lucie, Anthony, Gracie, Friday, Malie, Calvin, Leroy Brown and the rest of the line-up...just to name a few.

A big thank you goes out to Animal Planet for providing such a wonderful alternative to Super Bowl Sunday. Kick-off is 3:00 PM ET so grab your Friskies Treats and tune in!