Friday, July 6, 2012


Perhaps it is the result of a mild winter but the chipmunk population in my back yard has grown exponentially. Of course with plenty of fallen bird seed from my feeders they have an abundant food source.

Last year I only saw a couple of them scurrying about. Now all I have to do is look out a window or go outside for a moment and I am sure to see one of the spry little stripped squirrels darting about.

Determined to capture an image of one, I took my camera and sat out near my Brome bird feeders. As expected I didn’t need to wait very long before a fine chipmunk appeared.

After feeding for a while on the discarded seeds from my backyard birds the little chipmunk did something I haven’t seen; it sat around and rested as it observed the activity around my habitat providing me with ample photo opportunities.

Eventually, the chipmunk scurried off and I went back indoors satisfied that I successfully added chipmunk photos to my “backyard portfolio”.

The Chipmunk Just "Hanging Out"

Scratching an Itch

Munching on Some Bird Seed

Alert and Preparing to Leave

Posing for the Camera
I Have No Idea What It Has

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Sunday Morning Hooligans

July 1, 2012

Late last night, my Ducati club buddy Ramiro sent me a couple of text messages asking if I wanted to meet him, Mike, and Erin, for an early morning meet and ride.
I was planning to go anyway and leaped at the opportunity for some company.

My close friend Eric was here until very late and as soon as he left I got right into bed and quickly fell asleep in anticipation of today's ride.

I got up with the sun and filled the bird feeders as my coffee maker brewed some freshly ground beans. Next I went to the garage to prepare Anatra for the event.
Freshly showered and wide awake, I put on my AlpineStars mesh gear, Dainese boots, and Arai helmet, fired Anatra up and headed out to meet my friends.

To my dismay, I didn't know that Route 3 was being repaved and I had to carefully negotiate my way on the torn up grooved pavement until I crossed Route 99. With a twist of my wrist, Anatra growled and sprang to life as I sprinted to my destination.

Ramiro and Mike were waiting for me in the Glastonbury parking lot where a lot of Ferrari and Ducati owners meet Sunday mornings. Erin couldn't make it but we all walked around and looked at cars and bikes for a while. Anatra sat proudly showing off her new pearl yellow paint job and received a lot of attention.

Almost on queue, everyone finalized their plans and the Ferrari and Lotus cars left in one direction while the Ducatis went their way.
My group's destination was Route 151 along the Connecticut River. It's a spirited road with lots of twisties and some great scenery.

Somehow, along the way, a large bug found its way into my helmet. Fortunately for the both of us it was not of the stinging variety and wanted out of my helmet as much as I wanted it out. A long straight gave me the opportunity to pop open my visor and set the stow-away free to its new home.
Soon after,we pulled into the Goodspeed Opera House parking lot to regroup. After a brief discussion we decided to stop at the nearby Dunkin Donuts for cool drinks.

We pulled in and I immediately stuck up a conversation with a nice guy with a full dress Harley. I asked him if he wanted to join us but he had to go. Still, I enjoyed the brief camaraderie and connection with a "fellow biker" as we wished each other well and for safe voyages today.
I went in and had a vanilla bean Coolatta which was great but gave me two brain freezes as I sipped it. Ramiro, Mike, and I relaxed and chatted then planned our return and "departure points".

Saddled up again Mike led us on a really spirited run back along 151 to Route 66. Mike is a serious racer and I watched and learned as I rode in rear of the formation, grinning from ear-to-ear as I flicked Anatra onto Mike's entry and exit points on the curves.

Finally, we all turned onto Route 9 (highway), cracked open our throttles and screamed along until I flashed my high beams as I broke formation to take the exit for my town.

Soon after I received text messages confirming that we all had a blast and lets do this again soon.
Next weekend we're trying to plan a "Meet in the Middle" to Troy NY to hook up with the NY State members of our little club for riding and BBQ. I can hardly wait!

Mike and I Discussing What Route to Take Before Heading Out

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


I have to say that chicks are totally cute. That said, it doesn't last long and they turn into old hens too soon but at least then they lay eggs.

Last week I had to get my brother over to help. A predator of some sort has been getting in the barn and has dispatched and eaten 3 chickens. We made a new hatch and repaired any loose boards in the barn. My brother then set out traps so we can have wildlife control relocate the culprit if we catch it. Of course once identified we will search the woods behind the barn for any young.

Last week I was at Anderson Farm Supply and Mr Anderson told me that many people are having issues with predators this summer. Perhaps it is due to the really mild winter we just had.

So today Mr. Anderson called. A package arrived and I had to go pick it up. Yep, we have some new chicks here!

The Package
Here Are the New Chicks!
The 16 new chicks in a bigger box.
When they are big enough they will meet the older chickens in the barn.
I think Keiko is annoyed that the chicks are in a closed room...

Monday, June 18, 2012

To the Monkey Farm!

After so many rainy days we finally had a gorgeous day here. So last night I finalized plans for today's ride. Ramiro (Rams), Mike, and Erin couldn't make it but my buddy Steve was up for a ride.

He was at my house mid morning and we took a scenic route south along the Connecticut river to our destination in Old Saybrook, The Monkey Farm bar.
We were there early and I was surprised at some of the regulars that filed in and bellied up the bar at 11AM. Steve and I sat at a table on the patio and the staff made a fresh pot of coffee for us.

Lunchtime arrived and I already knew what I wanted: a hot lobster roll. Steve ordered up a huge cheeseburger. The Monkey Farm prides itself on cooking to order so it was a bit of a wait but well worth it. Lobster rolls are a summertime tradition for me and I savored every bite.

After lunch I bought my very first tie-dye tee shirt (I'm such a hippie) with a cute Monkey Farm logo on it, loaded it under Anatra's tail (my Ducati) and we were off again.
We rode the loop around the beaches crossing over the causeway and hugging the shoreline before turning north for home.

My new Arai helmet flows a lot of air and it felt like I had air conditioning om my head. As always my summertime mesh gear felt great too.

Once at my house, I adjusted the new chain on Steve's bike and secured the clips with safety wire. I recently bought a nice set of safety wire pliers and it's my favorite new toy. I just am looking for any opportunity to add safety wire to bike parts.

Steve left a little while ago as he didn't want his wife to worry about him. He asked if he could bring her along next time and of course my attitude is "the more the merrier." Hopefully next time Rams, Mike & Erin, and the rest of our group can make it. They really missed out on a great ride today!

Our bikes outside The Monkey Farm (Anatra's the yellow one) 
My First Lobster Roll of the Season... Yum!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Swift Rescue

Yesterday evening I went to my basement workshop to finish fabricating a part for my motorcycle.
As I sat at my work bench I heard scratching. I just assumed it was one of my cats at the litter box so I ignored it and proceeded to work.

This morning after pouring water into my coffee machine and feeding the cats, I went back to the basement to check on my part when I heard the scratching once again. With the domestic felines all accounted for in the kitchen I realized I had a "guest".

I grabbed my large flashlight and started to investigate when I spotted a bird wing sticking out of the hatch in my chimney where I empty any ashes. Upon opening the hatch a poor little chimney swift emerged and began to run across the floor terrified and exhausted from his/her ordeal.

My cats heard the commotion and their curiosity brought them to investigate but having never seen a real bird other than out the windows they became afraid and ran upstairs to the bedrooms.

No longer concerned with the feline predators I gently scooped up the chimney swift and brought him/her outside, then fetched some water, bird seed, and a piece of bread I soaked in the water. I knew that they eat insects as they fly but the poor swift had to be dehydrated.

The swift was afraid of me but I talked softly to it and it seemed to calm down. Soon it tried to fly but couldn't get very far and clung to the outside of the house. I moved the water and things one more time to be near to the swift then sat a bit away guarding against predators as my little swift regained his/her strength.

To my delight I did not need to wait long as the little swift, now rested after his/her ordeal took flight and quickly disappeared.

Returning to the house I was greeted by my cat Keiko who seemed curious as to the most recent domestic adventure. Fortunately Keiko and his buddies had no idea what to do with a live bird in the house, for which I am grateful.

I hope my little swift is doing well tonight and look forward to him/her eating the mosquitoes that are certain to arrive with the warmer weather we are expecting in the next few days.

My Little Chimney Swift Recovering Outside
It's OK Keiko, the Human Got Rid of the Strange Creature from the Basement

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Birds of Cromwell

One of the ways I relax is to sit in a lawn chair near my backyard habitat. I love listening to the birds singing around me and feeling the warmth of the sun on me.

I recently moved my chair closer to my bird feeders and have been bringing my camera out with me. While this may have upset some of my regular habitat visitors, I am sure they will soon grow accustom to the new proximity of the large binocular-visioned potential predator. I simply sit very still and the more courageous birds demonstrate there is nothing to fear providing me with ample photo opportunities. 

It’s raining today so I had a little time to process some of photos I’ve been taking. Hope you enjoy them!

Perhaps a Descendant of Kahless?
A Female Cardinal in the Pear Tree
An Opportunistic Blue Jay Looking for a Peanut
The Goldfinches are Regulars Now
A Red-bellied Woodpecker Checking Me Out
A Tufted Titmouse Getting Some Lunch
Here's One of the Downy Woodpeckers
A Purple Finch Couple at a Feeder
White-Breasted Nuthatches Feed Inverted
Satisfied, a White-Breasted Nuthatch Prepares to Fly Off
Mourning Doves are Very Shy
A Purple Finch and a House Sparrow Sharing a Feeder
A Gray Catbird On the Garage Roof
Here's Another Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Rabbits Seem to Like My Yard
The Squirrels are Always Looking for a Peanut

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Getting Ready to Ride

My Ducati should be back from the shop soon and I'll be back to riding with my friends.
I wrote the following last October/November (2011) but forgot to post it.

The days growing shorter signal that my motorcycle riding season will soon end. Therefore each day and ride becomes more significant and I am much less likely to pass up an opportunity to ride.

I have made many new friends since I bought my brother-in-law’s Ducati and rekindling my passion for riding. One of these new friends is a man that lives in my town that goes by the Ducati forum user name “MrGompers”.

I get together with my new fiends for group rides that follow the same format: pick a great scenic route with an interesting place to eat as the midway point.
A couple of weeks ago MrGompers saw an episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” hosted by Guy Fieri on the Food Network, featuring a “local” hamburger place called “Corey’s Catsup & Mustard” located in Manchester CT:
Corey's Catsup &  Mustard
He decided he wanted to go there and called me to see if I wanted to ride with him. Of course I leaped at the opportunity.

The Sunday we went was an absolutely perfect fall day. We took a long winding indirect route to get there and stopped on top of an old orchard in Glastonbury that now has mansions overlooking Hartford and surrounding area before continuing:

Once parked in Manchester we removed our helmets and gloves then went into Corey’s and sat down. I had a "Traditional" burger with Swiss and a side of fries while MrGompers had the "Auntie Laurie’s" burger and onion rings. I have to say that this was the best burger I’ve ever had, not that I am a big carnivore but still…

We were both very impressed and our only regret was that we couldn’t finish the fries or rings. These burgers are huge and ground fresh each day. Even the coleslaw was fresh and made with a vinaigrette rather than mayonnaise.

We sort of waddled out of Corey’s and I felt like an anaconda that just ate a large goat and in need of a month long nap. As we warmed up our bikes and put on our gear a young boy came up to me and asked if I could do a wheelie. Being a law abiding citizen (yea right) I told him that it was against the law to do that on a public street – not to mention that they have a satellite police station about 200 feet from where I was parked ;) I apologized to the boy for my sudden reluctance to be a hooligan then swung my leg over Anatra and off we went, meandering our way home.

Last weekend MrGompers and I returned to Corey’s for more and this time I had the Auntie Laurie’s and he had the “PS I luv Pastrami” burger. I ate a very light breakfast that morning but we still couldn’t finish the fries and rings which upset me because they are so delicious. The sun didn’t come out while we were riding so it was a bit chilly but the leaves have turned and this is one of my favorite times of year.
Picture of the Auntie Laurie’s Burger

We finally returned to our town and came to the stop sign where we would go our separate ways to our houses. A quick nod and a thumbs-up and we happily roared away in different directions.
When I got home I settled in to watch the MotoGP race that I set the DVR to record at 4AM from Sepang Malyasia. Two laps into the race disaster struck as a horrific accident unfolded that would take the life of a young 24 year old Italian rider named Marco Simoncelli. I stared at the screen in disbelief. I never met him but many of the people I ride with have. I am still trying to comprehend and process that Marco is gone. What I can understand is that life is precious and oh so fragile. It can end suddenly when we least expect it.

This weekend another of our Ducati buddies, “Ramscab”, and his wife are hosting an Oktoberfest party that MrGompers, his wife, and I will attend along with many of our forum and riding friends. At some point we will bow our heads in a moment of silence for Marco then raise a toast to celebrate his life. We will exchange stories, routes, and great places to eat as we sample the German beers and food. We will laugh, plan things, and exchange contact information with those we haven’t met before.

Hopefully Sunday will bring fair weather so we can all go riding. It doesn’t matter where we go or where we stop to eat. All I hope is that it is warm enough so that the smell of autumn permeates my helmet with the sun shining through nature’s colorful good bye to the riding season, warming my leather jacket as I take my place in formation with my friends.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

If You Buy It, They Will Come...

When I was a young boy I had four goldfinches. This was a time when you could easily buy them. I would save up my paper route money then go to the Woolworths store that sold pets.
I named my first two "Fatso" and "Skinny". When I was able to buy a bigger cage "Lemon" and "Lime" joined the charm (flock). They lived long lives and provided me with the beauty of their songs though I sensed they longed to be free amongst their own.

Last summer I was at my brother-in-law's aunt and uncle's house in a rural area of Lyme CT. In their back yard they had many bird feeders and to my amazement, quite a large population of goldfinches.
I walked outside toward them as all the humans remained in the comfort of the air conditioning. My young niece asked "Does Uncle Ceij really think he can catch one?"
My motivation was not to capture one but to simply get closer to them to take a picture with my phone. On my approach the charm suddenly flew away en masse once I reached what seemed to be a predetermined distance.

Now I've had bird feeders in my back yard and though I pride myself in setting out the finest aviary cuisine I never was graced by the presence of the brilliant yellow American goldfinch.
I had assumed that they simply were not in my area but seeing so many of them at Pat and Kim's ignited a spark of hope. I researched the territory and habits of the elusive golden virtuoso.

To my surprise, they are quite numerous in Connecticut and can be lured simply by providing thistle (Nyjer) seed which they seem to find irresistible.
Therefore, on my next trip to Agway I spent some extra time browsing the bird feeders. An employee asked if I needed help and I began asking about their knowledge of goldfinches and if they thought any were in the area. He assured me that that if I purchased the feeder and the corresponding seed then the goldfinches would come to my backyard wildlife sanctuary.
I then decided to purchase a thistle feeder and 20-pounds of seed though I remained skeptical.

Once home, I set the new feeder in a fine small tree located close to many other trees and bushes in hopes that the cover would provide enough security to attract the finches to my Nyjer banquet.
Three days passed and I became skeptical that there were goldfinches near me when suddenly a small female goldfinch descended onto the new feeder. I knew that there would be more soon and I was right. In the next few days I began to hear a nearly forgotten song sung by a choir of the tiny yellow vocalists.
Spring is here and the male goldfinches are beginning to don their unmistakable bright yellow plumes. I’ve set up a lawn chair near the feeders and sit very still with my Nikon at the ready. I find it peaceful to hear the different bird songs and calls and to watch them dance and land on the feeders. They have become accustom to my presence and to the large lens seemingly attached to my face.

Now I have never seen any bluebirds around here but have heard that if you put out a house, made to the exact dimensions and mounted to the height they demand, they will come. I wonder if Agway sells bluebird houses...