Archive for the ‘Urban’ Category

Iditarod, a Great Alaska Tradition

Monday, March 7th, 2011
Iditarod, a Great Alaska Tradition

DeeDee Jonrowe, one of the more well-known dog mushers in Alaska, not only because she has had many successful runs but is a cancer survivor, said during this weekend’s Iditarod start that the Iditarod is a celebration of Alaskan culture.  Dog mushing is certainly not unique to Alaska, nor is professional dog mushing racing, but there is something special about the Iditarod and its place in the Alaskan worldview.

Before living in Alaska, I spent nine years in Minnesota, where I attended college and graduate school.  In between the two schools, I spent a couple of years up north working as a canoe guide in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  It was there that I began to learn about dog mushing because of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon.  But I never made it down to Duluth (I was living in Grand Marais) to see any part of the race.  I never got the sense that it was the sort of thing that people traveled long distances to see, that it had more of a regional impact.

But the Iditarod is something else entirely.  People come from all over the world to Anchorage just to see the ceremonial start, and stay to see the official start in Willow the next day.  Some even stay long enough to go to Nome – NOME – to see the first finishers come in to town.

There are so many things that make Iditarod not only a great Alaskan tradition, but one of the many things that makes Anchorage a special place to live.  The entire downtown atmosphere during the day of the ceremonial start (always the first Saturday in March) is an extremely festive atmosphere, mixed with the excitement of being in the midst of some of the biggest stars in the wild sport of dog mushing.  Prior to the official start, members of the public are free to interact with the mushers and their dogs, ask questions, pose for pictures, and simply be part of the excitement of getting ready for heading out on the trail.  Once the first team leaves the starting mark, members of the public can still line the streets, holding the Anchorage Daily News Iditarod guide that identifies each musher, allowing people to cheer on each musher by name.

Given the very public nature of the Iditarod, there are always other things going on that take advantage of the publicity.  Usually, someone from the Alaska congressional delegation and/or the governor are there to perform some official function.  In 2008, Governor Sarah Palin was on hand to sign into law a bill that commemorates the first Saturday of March as Susan Butcher Day, named after a four-time winning musher who died of cancer in 2006.  There is always someone waving a protest sign, promoting some issue of local concern.  And frequently some corporation is passing out swag to promote product recognition, like when Target first came to Alaska and had a crew there in force.

But the ceremonial start of the Iditarod is just one part of the festive atmosphere in Anchorage.  The dog teams mush down through town, along the Chester Creek trail, through Far North Bicentennial Park, and over to the Campbell Creek airstrip on BLM land in the heart of the city.  All along the way, fans line up to look for their favorite mushers and to cheer teams as they tour through town.  I can think of no other major sporting event where people of the public have such access to the event participants.  It is an openness and accessibility that is rather fitting for Alaska, and Anchorage, where the land is open and people are free to pursue what they enjoy doing in the outdoors.

To follow the progress of this year’s Iditarod, visit the official Iditarod website.

Bird TLC

Saturday, August 14th, 2010
Bird TLC

When I went to college at the University of Minnesota, I learned about the Minnesota Raptor Center when the organization came and gave a presentation at the dorm where I was working as a resident assistant.  The Raptor Center is operated through the U of MN College of Veterinary Medicine – which makes a lot of sense – and “specializes in the medical care, rehabilitation, conservation, and study of eagles, hawks, owls, and falcons.”  As a hazard of human occupation of the former wild habitat for these birds, human-raptor encounters often result in broken bones, wings, punctured eyes, and all manner of injuries to raptors.  The place where they go to receive care is the Minnesota Raptor Center.  If they can be rehabilitated, they are released to the wild; if not, they remain at the Center and are used in public educational presentations. It was the first time in my life I was exposed to such a place.  I thought it was a wonderful idea, and had no comprehension that it was not a unique facility.

Fast forward many years later, and I am riding a ferry from Whittier to Cordova for my first Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival.  I was on the boat with several members of the Alaska Society of Outdoor and Nature Photographers, including one of our new honorary members, Roy Toft, whom Cathy Hart, a longtime ASONP board member and heavy recruiter, had met at a recent annual conference for the North American Nature Photography Association.  Really – this is how people make connections in the nature photography world!  Anyway, during the seven-hour ride, there were several presentations given by the Bird Treatment and Learning Center, the Anchorage equivalent of the Raptor Center.  However, unlike the Raptor Center, the Bird TLC does not specialize in raptors, but opens its doors to all manner of injured birds as well as abandoned fledged chicks.  (If you recall my post about swallows earlier this summer, the Bird TLC helped a fledgling we found in our own yard.)

Over the years in Minnesota, I went to several public events where the Raptor Center would have education on their birds and also release back into the wild some rehabilitated birds.  When I saw a notice that Bird TLC would be having its autumn event, I insisted that we go.  So, Daniel and Michelle and I went to the Bird TLC facility, which sits on the bluff overlooking Potter Marsh.  If I were a rehabilitated raptor, I could not think of a better place to be released but over a wetlands with lots of juicy ducks and other waterfowl for the taking.

It was a great opportunity to see all of the things that Bird TLC is up to, but also to see the expanse of other organizations, both local and national, that address issues associated with birds and birding.  From falconry to parks to Audubon, several organizations and issue-driven booths were available.  Most intersting for me, and I am sure for Daniel as well, was the opportunity to see the birds up close and to handle various bird parts (like trumpeter swan wings) to get a sense of the texture, size and weight.  Of course, Michelle’s favorite part was the owls, and we had some great opportunities to see a Great Horned Owl and Snowy Owl up close.  When Michelle went to purchase a couple of lattes at the stand, Daniel wandered into the woods to pick raspberries.

We were not able to stay for the bird release later in the afternoon, but it gave me great pleasure to see how many people turned out for the program and to imagine the rehabilitated birds gliding out over the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge upon release and return to freedom.

The Swallow situation

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010
The Swallow situation

After hearing the Violet Green Swallow chicks in the bird house above our side door for the last couple of weeks, and seeing parents fly in and out to feed them, we finally got our first glimpses at the chicks on Friday evening.  They had reached the stage in their growth and boldness to be sticking their fuzzy little heads out into the opening to speed up the feeding process.  On Saturday, I had a bit more of a chance to observe and photograph them as Michelle and I were outside working on the yard and house.

I set up my 500mm manual with my Nikon D300 on a Gitzo tripod with the Wimberly Head for greatest stability.  I simply wanted to frame the shot, then sit back and wait with a cable release.  My cue to start the shutter clicking was when the chicks would open their mouths – that meant a parent was on final approach.  At the stellar burst rate of 8 frames per second I get with my D300 in RAW mode, the entire feeding transaction would typically only last about four frames before the parent was off again.

But it was not until I was able to look at the still images and zoom in on the feeding parent that I realized how much food was being brought each time.  In one count, I saw as many as ten mosquitos in the mouth of the parent before it literally stuck its head inside the mouth of its chick to, presumably, spit out or regurgitate the food quickly and take flight again.  I had to wonder how the parent kept so many bugs in its mouth while still going out and catching more.  Of course, I knew it was one of the reasons why we like having swallows on our property; their propensity for eating mosquitoes.  It is the same reason we installed a bat house as well; no bats yet, but it can take a couple of years.  But when they do move in, they, too will contribute to the mosquito abatement by eating up to 5,000 mosquitoes per bat in a day.

Every once in a while, after the parent fed the chicks, we could hear some furious beating of wings from inside the house.  The chicks were building up strength in their wings, getting eager to fledge.  I knew they would not be ready to go on Saturday, but imagined it would happen sometime in the next week.   Later in the afternoon, I think the parents were starting to get a little tired of the constant hunting.  They started to take turns taking a brake on the peak of the roof top, just a few feet above and out of sight of their chicks.

On Sunday afternoon, we had some friends and family over for a little grilling in the back yard.  Later in the afternoon, one of the kids noticed a fledged swallow chick in the grass.  She wanted to tell the boys – oh, how cool they would think THIS was!  NO!  We advised.  We certainly do not want the boys to know there is a vulnerable animal in the yard, that is, if we want it to survive.  It seemed calm resting in the grass and clover, and we wondered what to do with it.  Soon, it was decided we would try to put it back in the nest.  We simply assumed it had come from the bird house above the door, as we were not aware of any other nests nearby.  Michelle put on gloves to handle the bird and I positioned the ladder and took a look inside the bird house – both chicks were there.  Michelle tried to put the swallow chick in the bird house, but it wouldn’t go – perhaps realizing that it was best not to invade a foreign nest – and flew/glided back down to the ground.

Knowing the number of outdoor cats in the area, we thought it best to take the chick and put it up someplace high.  We chose a corner of the roof over our large storage shed.  Our friend Joe go the idea to try to feed it an ant … no success.  The little chick, which Michelle and I later named “Icky” (short for Icarus), kept a tight beak.  We decided to build him a nest consisting of a small terrarium, a towel and some grass, and covered it with a towel to help keep in warmth.  After our guests left, Michelle and I wondered what we could do to help Icky gain his strength to where he could survive on his own.  Clearly he had been abandoned.  He soon stopped chirping out to his parents, perhaps succumbing to his fate.

We decided we would try to figure out how to feed him, then perhaps investigate whether the Bird Treatment and Learning Center could take him in.  I could not find anything using Google on feeding abandoned swallow chicks (just when you thought you could find anything using the Google), so I found the Bird TLC website and called their number.  As luck would have it, they have a relationship with the PET Emergency Treatment center.  PET takes in all abandoned or injured birds that need care after Bird TLC’s hours.  So, we called PET, learned what we needed to do, and took Icky over there.  They would feed him and keep him warm until Bird TLC could take him in on the next business day.  Eventually, he will be strengthed and cared for until he is strong enough, then released into our neighborhood so he could return to his original habitat.

The last time we had been to PET Emergency was under some very unhappy circumstances, so it was nice to be able to go there for a good reason.  And while we did not aid in natural selection by helping Icky out of his pickle, Michelle and I discussed on the way home how it is our ability for compassion and empathy that truly sets us aside from the other animals.  In the wild, it is unheard of to accept even animals from the same species into your care if they are not from the same family unit.  Yet we as humans have the capability to accept and care for all sorts of animals from various species, and have even spent thousands of years in genetically modifying wild animals to make them more compatible as companions.  Natural selection still has plenty of opportunities to take care of business.  There was no need for it to have success with our little feathered friend.

Architecture as art

Friday, February 26th, 2010
Architecture as art

While on the University of Oregon campus the last few days attending a conference, I had the pleasure of walking by a particularly beautiful building every day.  Opened in January of this year, the John Jaqua Academic Center for Student Athletes stands on the corner of Agate Street and Franklin Boulevard.  As Agate is one of the main entry points into the campus, the Jaqua Center is quite an exclamation of a welcome to a campus filled with stylish, “traditional” college buildings of brick and stone.

The building was named for John E. Jaqua, a war hero, lawyer, football star and, oh yes, founding board member of Nike.  Achievements certainly worthy of recognition on a football campus like UO.  It appears that the building has a two-fold purpose: to exceed minimum NCAA requirements for academic support to student athletes and to serve as a beacon to draw in potential high-caliber athletes to the Ducks’ athletic program.  It’s interesting to compare “traditional” media accounts of the public reception to the building with the comments among students on the campus blogosphere.  As discussed in the mainstream media, the building is opulent to the extreme, with questions surrounding whether the expense is worth it and whether it will accomplish its mission.  (One media source even referred to it as the “Taj Mahal.”)  On the campus blogosphere, it appears that there is some student opposition to the building, claiming that the 40,000 square foot building, by being open to a select few of the student body, discriminates against the general population and places clear, unfair preferences on student academic success.  A group called “UO Students for Equal Access” has formed a Facebook page called “NO to the John Jaqua Center” and has a developed following of 718 members.  On the other hand, students supporting the center have noted that the gorgeous building adds value to the campus aesthetically as well as providing a valuable service of “making life easier” for the student athletes who bring so much revenue and exposure to the school.  Supporters have also formed a Facebook page, but have so far only garnered 264 members.  You would think they would have more supporters just from the athletes alone.

I think that the pro-Jaqua Center crowd is closer to the point on the value of such a building.  We generally as a society do not question the value of art, particularly public art, and what it adds to the aesthetics of our community.  And I also think that architecture can also be an art form in and of itself.  Sure, sometimes building designs have a purely utilitarian quality – like most of the buildings in Alaska.  (I do not think some of these UO students would complain about opulent buildings if they spent a semester on the UAA or UAF campuses, which are replete with drab, practically Soviet-style purely functional buildings.)  But as a visitor to the University of Oregon campus, I was simply “wowed” by this building.  I stopped to admire it several times throghout the day, and took about a half hour out of my time one evening to study it with my camera.  To me, this building says something about the University of Oregon’s priorities.  No, it does not make me believe that the UO shows undue favoritism to its athletes, it shows me that the UO gives great concern to campus aesthetics and quality in its facilities.  When the UO decided it needed to have an expanded facility to provide academic support to its athletes, it could have merely provided a simple facility that still had the same space, room and facilities for academic pursuits.  But the administration decided to instead pursue beauty and quality.  When a university has the luxury of being able to do that, any prospective student or supporter knows that the university has the broad support and vision necessary to be successful, in whatever ventures it may pursue on behalf of its community.  And that is something that any UO student, staff or faculty can take pride in.

Light on the (artificial) land

Monday, February 22nd, 2010
Light on the (artificial) land

As I have mentioned before, the phenomenon of alpenglow is one of the things that makes winters in Alaska simply magical.  It turns entire mountain ranges a bright pink that glows with such a saturated richness of color that you can almost taste it.  It also does wonders to buildings in the late afternoon and early evening.  For Anchorage, a town that has many buildings that are well designed to reflect the sky and light of our environment, that magical light can do wonders.

As part of my ongoing 2010 Project, I have been exploring how light dresses buildings during this magical time.  A while ago, I posted a blog featuring some midtown buildings at that time of day.  In the past few weeks, I have been working more in the downtown area, seeking to capture the many wonders that fall upon buildings in the late afternoon.  It is amazing how much gorgeous light can improve even the most institutional of buildings, like the old Boney Building in downtown Anchorage.  Here are some of my results ….

Hidden treasures

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010
Hidden treasures

One of my goals when starting my 2010 Project was to challenge myself to see more.  As a photographer, I generally tend to look at the world differently.  I see how the light is hitting a subject, I ponder the color and quality of the light, I imagine how a scene would look differently at another time of day or season.  It’s simply part of being a photographer.  But so many times I may engage in that mental process without doing anything.

This evening, I was on my way home from downtown Anchorage when I decided I would take a detour down Northern Lights Boulevard toward Point Woronzof to see what photos may lay there waiting to be captured.  To my surprise, I never made it there.  Instead, a row of lighted trees just before the Turnagain neighborhood caught my attention, so I turned around.  I found a side road where I expected to find access and drove down the street for a ways before finding the trees.  They were situated alongside a series of condos, stacked tightly against eachother in a desperate attempt to maximize space.

As is often the case, I just parked, pulled out the tripod and gear, and started working.  I managed to grab the attention of condo owners on both sides of where I was taking pictures.  One owner wondered if I was photographing a moose.  “No,” I said.  “I’m taking pictures of the trees you guys decorated.”  “‘You guys,'” came the response.  “I’M the one who did that,” she said.  “Nice job,” I said.  That seemed to make her happy, and she went back into her condo from the balcony.  A few minutes later, the owner of the opposite condo came out to her balcony, apparently alerted by the small terrier she was holding in her arms (and clamping its jaws shut).  “You taking pictures of the road?” she asked.  “Nope, just the nice lights on the trees.”  That seemed to placate her concerns about my engaging in some untoward activities, and she went back inside.  I spent a few more minutes capturing these lights, as well as a corresponding row of lighted candy canes, then struck the gear and continued on home.

Anchorage urban landscape

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010
Anchorage urban landscape

For the last week or so, one of the things I have focused on as I continue my 2010 Project is to capture different aspects of the Anchorage urban landscape.  Lacking the size or age of Chicago or New York City, Anchorage still has many wonderful architectural and graphic elements to explore, particularly in the winter.  The color and quality of the light that strikes the buildings in the mornings or evenings is different, the types of lighting used on some buildings is different.

Recognizing our long winters, the Municipality of Anchorage has long supported what it calls the “City of Lights” campaign.  (According to Wikipedia, the nickname for Anchorage is “City of Lights and Flowers.”)  Businesses, and homes, are encouraged to string lights on their property for more than just Christmas, but for the whole winter.  Most who observe the practice use white lights.  While at the UPS Store in midtown one evening, I happened upon a couple of trees that were strung with blue lights.  I knew I had my picture of the day, using the tree to frame the distant BP Building in the background.

There is also a building that had been catching my eye that I wanted to photograph downtown, on 8th Avenue between L and K Street.  The stairwell in the building is encased in windows, making it visible to the outside.  Each floor had a different color of light.  Upon closer examination, I learned that the owner uses a regular fluorescent light, then covers the light on each floor with what looks like colored tissue paper.  I spoke with one of the people who works in the building, and she indicated that it was something the owner does every winter.  I have lived here ten years and this was the first time I had noticed it.

Welcoming a new year

Thursday, December 31st, 2009
Welcoming a new year

In Alaska, the biggest parties seem to happen in the middle of winter.  During the short season we call Construction Season, people are generally frantically working in as much as they can of those things they cannot do the remaining eight months of the year – gardening, hiking, fishing, outdoor maintenance on the home … you get the picture.

And what better way to bring in the new year then to have one of the largest parties in Anchorage, right in the heart of downtown at Town Square Park.  Hosted by the Anchorage Downtown Partnership and sponsored by NECA and IBEW, the annual “Fire and Ice” New Year’s Eve celebration is quite an extravaganza.  Skaters, fire throwers, dancers, live music – everything you would want from a nighttime winter outside party.  Keeping the whole party going through the evening, twin brothers Wayne and Shane Mitchell of TBA Theatre entertained the crowds without fail.  Fortunately, it was quite a bit warmer than the subzero of last year’s party.  It must have been at least ten degrees outside.

This year’s theme celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Statehood for our sister state, Hawai’i.  Replete with hula dancers and a volcano that erupted with fireworks every fifteen minutes, the party had much to offer in celebrating Hawaiian culture.  There was certainly more on display to celebrate Hawaiian culture for this party than there was downtown on January 3, 2009 to celebrate Alaskan culture when we marked our own fifty years as a state.  I am not quite sure how that worked out.  Perhaps hula dancers are more pleasing to look at than dog teams and guys in Carharts.  We certainly see more of the latter than the former.  But some Alaska Native dancers at least would have been in order for our own celebration.

Part of the fun in attending these events is also in seeing the interaction among the VIPs.  Normally, it is the Anchorage mayor who really sends off the party with a big welcome and greeting to the crowd.  While our new Mayor Dan Sullivan filled the letter of that role, his crowd skills were not quite up to the task of the occasion.  Standing behind him, the former mayor now United States Senator Mark Begich waited for his chance to speak to the crowd.  There was a visible distance between the two men, no doubt because of the voracious and constant criticism that Mayor Sullivan has rained down upon Senator Begich about his former job performance as mayor.  But Senator Begich stepped in and spoke to the crowd, showing that he still had the power to truly give this party a proper sendoff.  Joining in, after giving Mayor Sullivan some “rabbit ears” while he was talking, was Congressman Don Young, how acted as if he had not spent nearly two million dollars over the last couple of years in fending off a federal investigation into his various shenanigans.  Later, inside the Performing Arts Center, I enjoyed playing voyeur to a lively chat between local blogger, Huffington Post contributor and frequent MSNBC guest Shannyn Moore and Senator Begich.

All in all, another fine entry to a new year in Anchorage.

Winter Partnership

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009
Winter Partnership

Almost five years ago, I was wandering around Town Square Park late in the winter evening.  I had recently left Cyrano’s Off-Center Playhouse, having taken some production stills of their latest show that was getting ready to premiere.  I saw some of the lit ice sculptures in the park and starting taking pictures of the ice and an ice skater who was working her way around the ice.  Someone approached me and asked, “Are you a professional?”  I said yes and handed the inquiring woman my business card.  As it turned out, the woman, Cheri Spink, worked for the Anchorage Downtown Partnership.  They were looking for someone to photograph the ice sculptures being created as part of the annual “Crystal Gallery of Ice.” 

After the success of that venture, I started photographing the major events the Partnership hosts each year: New Year’s Eve “Fire and Ice,” the “Heart of Anchorage” Awards, summer concerts in the park, and so on.  While the Anchorage Downtown Partnership has events going on all year long, it’s winter presence in the downtown area has really had the strongest impact, I think.  Most locals are pretty good at finding ways to entertain themselves in the summer months.  Winter can be a little more challenging.

There are two highlights of the winter for the Partnership.  The first is the New Year’s Eve “Fire and Ice” celebration, which is organized with help from the IBEW and NECA.  The evening starts at around 5:00 p.m., with organized games for children and families, followed sometimes by ice skating presentations on the main park ice rink.  All around throughout the evening, entertainers (mostly involving flames of some sort), food vendors, and musicians provide extra-curricular activities to what is going on in the main heart of the park, usually with the assistance of an emcee. 

The other event is the “Crystal Gallery of Ice,” an ice sculpture gallery created each year in the park.  Each block of ice is sponsored by a local business, and each year’s gallery follows a theme.  The artists are given about a week to finish their pieces.  Each sculpture is judged by a variety of factors, including creativity, adherence to the theme, ability to be formed from one block of ice, and so on. 

Over the years of photographing these events for the Downtown Partnership, my cameras have been subjected to all kinds of conditions.  One year, the ice started to melt almost as soon as the sculptures were completed because we got one of our forty-degree snaps.  Last year, for New Year’s Eve, it was about ten degrees below zero.  But the advent of, and improvements to, digital photography has made photographing such things such a treat.  The white balance for digital cameras does a great job at capturing the nighttime artificial light, as opposed to film rated for daylight.  I have the creative flexibility of trying different subjects and techniques, and being able to check the results out in the field.

But most of all that happenstance rendezvous almost five years ago has given me the opportunity to capture all sorts of neat moments, wonderful colors, amazing entertainment, and essentially capture the essence of downtown Anchorage in the wintertime.  And through building that relationship and devleloping my skills as a photographer over the years, it also gave me the opportunity to take photos of a Hawai’ian flame artist in preparation for this year’s New Year’s Eve party, where we will be celebrating Hawai’i’s 50th anniversary as a state.  And that photo, comined with another photo I took at the downtown celebration of Alaska’s 50th anniversary earlier this year, will grace the cover of the newest issue of “Good Deal” magazine.  It’s not exactly “Outdoor Photographer,” but with a circulation of 88,000, it will reach a lot of homes.  When you are trying to get your name out there as a photographer, every bit helps. 

In celebration of this winter Partnership, here are some photos from winter downtown events over the years. 

Steller visitor

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009
Steller visitor

Although it is a bit early for us to get our usual avian visitors, we have been getting a few visits lately from Steller’s Jays.  It appears that the meal of choice for these members of the jay family is peanuts in the shell.  And these guys are very particular about the size and shape of shell they are looking for, as they like to place a minimum of two in their mouths at a time.  The first shell has to be small enough to toss to the back of the mouth, leaving room in the beak for at least a second shell.  I have even seen one jay try to fit three.  Once loaded up, the jay will fly off to some nearby location to store the shells, and quickly return for more.

The first time I ever saw a Steller’s Jay was in Mt. Rainier National Park.  I was visiting my friend Ben Hohman, who lives in Aberdeen on the bottom of the Olympic Peninsula, and we were visiting the nearby Cascade Range giant.  It was a clear, sunny day, and we had stopped at a pullout.  The Steller’s Jay was there, hopping around, busily checking out possible food sources on the ground, then up to a rock wall, then over to a branch on a tall pine tree.  The jay froze long enough for me to capture an image of him with Rainier in the background.  For years, it was my only sighting of a Steller’s Jay.  All I had to remember of their vibrant, glistening deep blue feathers was that shot.

Then, many years later, Michelle and I purchased our current home near Jewel Lake in Anchorage.  We had the usual visitors to our bird feeders last winter: black-capped and boreal chickadees, nuthatches, and gross beaks.   The cats came to love this aspect about our new home, a bird feeder ledge just right outsdide the window where the cats could watch, chirp, and sometimes pounce (with no success other than producing a solid “thump” on the glass and scaring the birds away for a time).  Then we started to see the tall, dark blue, inquisitive and very crafty Steller’s Jays.  (Although, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Anchorage is on the outer edge of the  Steller’s Jay range.)  It did not seem to phase the cats that these new visitors were considerably larger than the other birds, and sometimes almost as big as the cats themselves.

Our most recent visitor was particularly busy.  When he nearly exhausted our already-low peanut supply on the ledge, I went out to dump some more on to the ledge.  I was not even back to the window from the inside when he was back again at the feeder, busily picking through the new selection.  After five or six visits, I went and grabbed my camera to snap a few shots.  He came back about three more times before Menshe jumped up to the shelf on the inside of the window, spooking him off.  I expected the jay to return once he realized that Menshe was not a threat, so I stood and waited, hoping to get a shot of Menshe looking out the window at the jay on the feeder.  After about ten minutes, the jay did not return.

I know that winter will soon be upon us, and the myriad of other birds who visit our property will return for their usual frenzy feeding.  In the meantime, I will take comfort in and enjoy our deep blue Steller’s Jay visitors.  I will take comfort in knowing that we are providing them a means of surviving, while they provide us company and great entertainment.  One of these days, I hope to see where it is – and it is not too far away – that they fly to store those peanuts.