Nov 24 2012

Let’s Get it On

Melissa Crytzer Fry

If there’s one word to describe 2012, it may just be hot. And I don’t mean only here in the scorching desert.

First it was the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy that got a lot of women talking openly about sex. Then there was Magic Mike (Yes – I did see that movie and might or might not have been hooting and hollering in the audience and wiping drool from my face). And, how can I forget … one of my favorite literary (but sexy) books of the year, The Taker, by Alma Katsu.

Even the desert critters got their groove on, it appears:

My cats, Macho and Niña, alerted me to the ‘show’ going on outside the French doors with these checkered whiptail lizards. Click to enlarge.

This looks pretty platonic, yes. But this isn't what they were doing BEFORE I snapped this photo of dragonfly love at Apache Lake. Click to enlarge.

In the spirit of this sexual revolution, I thought I’d share a nature video with you as well (please DO turn on your volume). I just happened to be on the roof of our house when I heard rocks falling. I saw a bunny at the top of the hill and assumed he was the source of the noise. But as he hopped down the the embankment – within NOSE LENGTH of these two rattlesnakes – I realized what I was witnessing. And, of course, I ran to grab the camera.

And for the record … I am not some creepy animal voyeur. I don’t go looking for rattlesnakes, lizards and dragonflies who are getting it on. I just happened to be there. (Feel free to continue humming Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On” if you’d like).

For Readers/Writers: Did you read 50 Shades? (See Annie Neugebauer’s post for a great discussion of the book AND its writing quality. See my comment and you’ll know why I haven’t read it!). Did you see Magic Mike? What did you think? All in good fun? Too much? What amount of raciness do you prefer in your reading and movies?

Nov 18 2012

Going to the Birds (Again)

Melissa Crytzer Fry

I’ve done it again (my badgering at its best).  This time I convinced hubby to build a kestrel nest box. (Remember when I begged him to install hummingbird nests and the hummingbird cam? That was after the first time he built platforms for our nesting roadrunners – all at my insistent whining urging).

Meet Kessie the kestrel, our frequent visitor the past month. This is the first time we’ve ever seen kestrels on our property, so of course I was excited. They’re part of the falcon family. Click to enlarge.

Hubby scrounged for leftover building materials to construct the nest: unused wooden countertop remnants, plywood, house supplies.

All the pieces to the puzzle, waiting for assembly. Note the grooves in the piece to the far right. These are actually “steps” so Kessie can exit the hole with ease. Click to enlarge.

Here’s the constructed box, 25” tall and 10” wide, leaning against Betty’s tire. Click to enlarge.

Everyone’s house deserves a good coat of paint, right? Click to enlarge.

And we all need good bedding – especially for swaddling the little ones. Sawdust is apparently the preferred nesting material. Click to enlarge.

According to The Arizona Game and Fish Heritage Fund, the nest box should be up by March to attract nesting kestrels. Nice to be ahead of the game for once.

Ready for new tenants! Here it is, about 12 feet in the air next to a saguaro, overlooking weedy desert plains – good hunting ground for kestrels (they like to eat insects and rodents). Click to enlarge.

If I were a kestrel, I think I’d fancy this mountain view. Click to enlarge.

The thing we’re learning about birds: if you wish to attract them, you must build the best possible nest, suited to each specific bird. You must have things just right so the bird can step in and out, enter and exit, hunt and protect its young.

For Writers/Readers: Building bird boxes … building fictional worlds … They’re not so different, are they?

Writers: Similar to a bird-box builder, we secure the right materials – voice, engaging characters, setting, unique plot, lively dialogue, conflict – building the best possible novel to attract agents, publishers and – most importantly, readers. I’ve been talking a lot with friends lately about ‘what’ seems to be attracting the attention of publishers these days. What do you think? Shorter books? Longer books? Certain genres? Particular themes? Specific writing styles?

Readers: What kinds of books are you attracted to? What makes you swoop in and investigate a book? Do you think a country’s “mood” dictates the type of fiction people wish to read – i.e. lighter fiction during hard times, darker fiction during up times? Does it matter? What books make you feel at home in your nesting box?

So, now that the careful construction is complete, we wait (again – not unlike writers on submission or those seeking agents, or those waiting for reader feedback). With any luck, we’ll have a pair of kestrels in the spring (be sure to check back!). Note the black dots on the back of the kestrel’s head. To other predatory birds, the obsidian markings look like open eyes and detract from assaults. Click to enlarge.