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Archive for April, 2010

Yesterday morning after I dropped my oldest girl off at ballet and made a quick run to the LDS Humanitarian Center, I noticed some birds in a little marshy spot right next to a very busy freeway.

On the way back from the Center, we decided to check it out.  We parked at a gas station across the street and walked down the road a bit.  There was a stream on our side of the road and the dried reeds lining the stream were higher than our heads!

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Apparently they also make good swords—the kids felt the need to bring some home and try it out.

We finally got up the nerve to cross the busy street and climbed carefully up the hill, making sure to stay far enough away from the equally-busy frontage road/freeway area.  I was so surprised that birds wanted to live in such a noisy area.

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Little wetland area next to Highway 201 and 3200 West

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Another view, before we crossed the road

This little wetland is absolutely loaded with a gorgeous type of bird—bright golden-orange head, black body, and white stripes on the wings—that I guessed was a yellow-headed blackbird.  (This guess was made on my less-than-a-week-old information from looking at various birds on websites.  Turns out, I was right!  Was I ever shocked. :))

Isn’t he a beauty? From Allaboutbirds.org

We couldn’t begin to count how many of these blackbirds are living in this area—we saw at least 8-10 at various times.  We also caught a glimpse of the female, who is much less noticeable but still very pretty.

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You can’t tell in this picture taken with my cell phone, but that black smudge in the middle of the picture is a yellow-headed blackbird. 

The kids usually humor me on my interests (some would say “obsessions” :)) and often get really interested themselves, but the birdwatching was one where they were rather skeptical.  They couldn’t see how sitting quietly looking at birds would be that fun or cool.

However, yesterday Bran and Nia were absolutely glued to my binoculars that I luckily had with me.  I barely got a chance to use them because they were so fascinated by the birds.  We also saw Canada geese, mallard ducks, and an odd black duck-looking waterbird with a white bill that we later found out was an American Coot:

 

We also saw a couple of other birds, including one brown and white bird that decided it would be fun to take a nap on the side of the road.  I haven’t been able to identify it yet, even with the help of websites and the various bird guides I got from the library last week—I guess we didn’t get a good enough look at it.

The kids screamed with laughter (due to the roar of traffic, we didn’t have to be quiet during the birdwatching) over the bottoms-up antics of the mallard ducks looking for food in the water.  They also couldn’t believe the beauty of the blackbirds.  I think I’ve got some new birdwatching converts-in-the-making!  We can’t wait to go out again, just as soon as this awful weather clears up.

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Ciara and Bran, trying out the new binoculars we got from Recreation Outlet a couple of weeks ago

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For years I’ve been interested in birds, but never got around to doing much about it. 

I grew up in northern Wisconsin, waking up each morning to the sounds of robins, chickadees, jays, and many others.  Living out in the country surrounded by forest was a bird paradise. 

Here in Utah, even though we live in the city, our back yard is a high-traffic area for a large amount of birds—and we don’t even have bird feeders up!  Every day our yard is visited by house sparrows, robins, magpies, starlings, mourning doves, and others that I don’t know the names of (yet).  We even get the occasional mallard duck. 

There’s a problem, though: the back of our house has this slanting patio roof that is irresistible to house sparrows. 

The house sparrow…they look so cute and harmless, don’t they?

They build their grass-and-twig nests in every crack of the underside of that roof.  It’s SO annoying.  Not only do they leave messes all over the concrete and swingset and everything else, but far worse—the nests are too precarious and their babies fall out and die.  We see at least 3-4 dead baby birds every summer…very sad.

Clearing out the nests doesn’t work.  Those birds are so industrious that there are new ones by the next morning.  John finally found something that worked last year, though, for several months: he put some natural powder stuff up inside the eaves that’s supposed to be so potent with herbal smells that it keeps cats and dogs off your lawn.  The birds left after a couple of weeks and though they still hung around the yard, the nests didn’t come back until this month. 

However, last week we discovered a whole new annoyance.  When John went to open his grill in preparation for a family party last Saturday, he found it filled with a massive nest!

He was angry, cleaned it all out, and scrubbed everything.  This was on a Friday.

The next morning he opened his grill and it was filled AGAIN with a nest!

The whole cleaning process began again.  This time, after the family party ended, he cut some cardboard and put them over the vent holes.  We thought this was the end of the sparrow grill problem.

Last night (only one week later) we wanted to grill some stuff for dinner.  When John opened his grill, this is what he found:

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ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!  This was definitely a pull-out-your-hair moment. 

Something’s got to be done, but I don’t know what.  We need to make the sparrows leave, once and for all.  They are so cute but so annoying!  (I wonder when people will ever learn…it seems that most “introduced",” non-native species cause problems.  House sparrows are no exception.)

Tomorrow I’ll write more about birds, but for now, if you have an idea on how to get rid of pesky sparrows, leave me a comment and I will be grateful.

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Just a quick post to squash a couple of stupid, silly rumors that I’m really sick of. 

I’ve seen this rumor everywhere the past few months and this post probably won’t do any good because the kind of people that spread this garbage don’t believe me, anyway—but here goes:

No, I am not writing a book.  Not about Susan, or anything or anyone else.

How do rumors get started?  Lots of reasons, I suppose…malicious people who have nothing better to do with their lives…or someone who sees or reads something, says “I wonder if” or “I bet this person thinks” or “Maybe this happened” and then someone else reads it and takes it as fact without ever bothering to check the truth out.

People see that I have an English degree and that I’m interested in writing children’s novels.  So for some reason they assume this means I want to write about Susan.

I think the people that obsess about this kind of thing need to find something productive to do.  Go outside, take a walk, enjoy some fresh air, fill your mind with good literature, do something kind for others.  Or—if you’re so concerned with every minute detail of Susan’s friends’ private lives—do something to help Susan such as printing and passing out fliers in your local area.  Volunteer at a homeless shelter or donate items to women’s shelters. 

I love these posters…a picture is worth a thousand words.

I spend 99.9% of my time trying to find Susan in every way I can, and the tiny bit of time left over all goes to my family.  I homeschool my children and try to give them a strong foundation for their lives and a sense of security…not an easy thing when their mother’s friend suddenly disappears from their lives and they’ve got to be wondering, if it could happen to her, could it happen to anyone?  I don’t have time to write anything more than I’m already doing with blogs, e-mails, Facebook messages, Twitter accounts, and all the other online things to keep Susan in the news and in people’s minds and hearts.

I hope that some people who like to spread and perpetuate rumors of this type and others will stop and consider what they’re doing, who they could be damaging, and what lives they could be destroying.  Find out the truth before spreading lies.  Gossip is never good, whether in person or online. 

Instead, why not go out and do something real with your day and go to bed feeling that you’ve contributed something good to the world.

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I haven’t updated this blog very much lately because I’ve been busy with the other blog for Susan’s case, plus all the regular efforts to find her.  Also, I’ve found myself in a sad and strange situation. 

When Susan disappeared nearly 4 months ago, mine and my family’s life got put on hold.  Every thought, word, effort, and breath was all about Susan.  I spent all my time doing everything I could to keep her in the news, help the police in any way possible, and do all I could to find my friend.

My family suffered, of course, both my husband and kids and my extended family.  I kept them fed and clothed but everything else was a bare minimum. 

On Tuesday it will be exactly 4 months since Susan disappeared.  Nothing has changed for me—I still think of her with every thought and am still doing all I can to find her.  But I’ve had to return to “normal” life in some ways, for the sake of my children, who need me, and my husband and other family members. 

I’ve hesitated to post anything on my blog since Susan disappeared that wasn’t about her.  But the whole reason I started a blog was so our relatives and friends who live farther away and can’t be with our family as often as they’d like to could be a little more in touch with our lives.  So I guess now the blog will need to also struggle to find a balance between Susan-postings and bits from our lives, much as I am now struggling to do myself every day. 

It’s very hard to cook a nice dinner for my family and fold laundry when my mind and heart are so grief-stricken that my friend is still gone.  As much as I love my kids, it’s hard to give them undivided attention for hours when all I can think about is Susan.

But the last thing she would want is for my family or anyone else to suffer on her behalf, so we do what we can to continue our efforts to find her and still take care of our responsibilities and priorities. 

I update the Service for Susan blog regularly on the latest news and activities surrounding Susan’s case and disappearance, so check there often if you’re not on the Friends and Family of Susan Powell Facebook group

I hope everyone has enjoyed a sweet and peaceful Easter, surrounded by loved ones, and remembering the Savior…He who makes it possible for all of us to live again.

Art by the ultra-talented Simon Dewey; picture from Bev’s Country Cottage, a great charity website full of knitting and crochet patterns and other cool stuff.

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