Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Bluebirds 2016

This is my fourth spring blogging.  Every year I write about the bluebirds.  Until I moved to Princeton, I had only seen a bluebird a couple times in my life.  The first time I saw one up close was the first year we lived here in 2002.  We heard there were bluebirds around, but we never expected to see them.   A friend gave us our first bluebird house, and we put it up the next spring so we could see it from the kitchen window.  One day I was talking to my mom on the phone.  I used to talk to her every single day and sometimes twice.  That was the hardest adjustment I had to make after her death in 2012.  As we were talking I saw a bluebird check out the house.  I held my breath because I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  Those bluebirds stayed and raised a couple of broods.  I was hooked.  Every year since I watch carefully for them to show up in the spring.  It is usually in March sometime.  We even made another duplicate house and put them back to back.  We have had bluebirds in one side and tree swallows in the other.  It doesn't happen often but we leave it as is.

One of the first photos I took of a pair of bluebirds in Princeton Wisconsin.

We have had our ups and downs with the birds.  The weather and house wrens have been our greatest challenge.  Sometimes we lose eggs to the wrens.  I write about my disdain for them every year.  I won't go into that yet again, but if you search the blog for house wren, you will see what problems they cause.  A few years ago we had the bluebirds arrive, but we didn't have any young ones the entire summer.  I have learned a lot to improve the success rate.

Here are some photos from this year.  For the first time ever, the birds have switched houses.  They are living in the tree swallow house.  For some reason, they got there first and the tree swallows aren't fighting back.  The bluebirds are very fussy about the size of their house and especially the size of the opening.  They like it  1 1/2 inches and no larger.  Last winter either the squirrels or woodpeckers made the hole slightly bigger.  That may have been enough to send the bluebirds elsewhere.  Fortunately we had another house that met their specifications only 15 feet away.  This gray-blue house was also given to us by a conservation club.

Damaged birdhouse opening.

This year the bluebirds showed up right on schedule.  I can usually hear them before I can see them.  At that point, I put a few dried mealworms in a a small dish near the birdhouses.  Once they get a taste of them, they usually stay.  It is probably bribery, but it works.

This is the flat blue tray I use for the mealworms.
Another pair have been trying to become neighbors with our nesting pair, but the male doesn't want any part of it.  I think that is why he tries to scare off his own reflection.  He thinks that the bird he sees in the window is his competition.  If it is bright out, he wakes me up about 5:00am with his tapping on the windows of our house.  He moves around to the garage windows and recently the RV sitting in the driveway.  At some point he will stop.  I don't know if it is when the young ones hatch or when he is comfortable with his surroundings.   All I know is that it happens every year and then he settles in.

This is probably another pair trying to move in, but they are always chased off.

I can see why he thinks there is another bird on the other side of the window.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

University of Wisconsin Varsity Band Concert 2016


 Last night, April 16, 2016, we attended the University of Wisconsin Varsity Band Concert titled "We've Done It Our Way".  It was everything we expected and more.  I had seen the band in other smaller venues without the entire band of over 300 students and without all the fanfare.  For those who aren't familiar with this university band, it is amazing.  It is due to all the outstanding efforts by the students but the main reason for their success is the band director Mike Leckrone.  He has been the band director since 1969 and has continued to make being in the band an honored experience and something for every student involved to be proud of.  How these students can participate in over 150 performances throughout this school year and still attend class and succeed in school requires a lot of dedication and hard work.  It surprised me that 35% of the band members are engineering students and only 4% were music majors.

Mike Leckrone is not only a terrific band director and arranger, he is a true showman and performer.  This year he made his entrance with Bucky Badger in a boat sailing down from the ceiling on a wire and landing on the stage.

The show was almost three hours long and included songs from the Eagles in honor of Glen Frye,  Frank Sinatra who Did It His Way, a Richie Valens hit La Bamba, famous TV themes, songs from Les Miserables plus all the favorites Wisconsin fans know and love.  Another big entrance was made by Mike after intermission.  He flew in on a rocket made of cheese.  Wisconsin and cheese go together.

Then if that wasn't enough, this man who is 79 years old, came flying above the crowd on a wire.  He did somersaults and flips as the band played.  It was an amazing sight to see.

I imagine all universities have bands who play at sporting events and major celebrations but I think the University of Wisconsin Varsity Band is unique.  Thousands and thousands of people attend performances throughout the state every year.  It shows that practice makes perfect and they are as close to perfect as they can get.  It will be a sad day when Mike is no longer able to direct the band.  I think he will be a hard act to follow, but his legacy will continue into the next generation.