Saturday, September 02, 2006

Levy unleashes Big Cats

Down below, the big cats are on the prowl, waiting for a meal while curious zoo-goers stare into the animals' home at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Up above, diners watch the lions and tigers from the comfort of Big Cats restaurant, Levy Restaurants newest food outlet at the zoo.

"Our target for Big Cats is an adult crowd," explained Carol Daniel, regional director of operations for Levy at the zoo. "Our other areas are more family-oriented, and we wanted to offer something for adults to get away for a while."

The 250-seat open-air restaurant, which is topped by a beige awning, is open from 8 a.m.--"we have a lot of joggers who go through the zoo because it's [admission] free," Daniel noted -- to 7 p.m. It serves a variety of upscale sandwiches, some on focaccia or flat breads; salads; desserts; and beverages.

The small kitchen includes a wood-burning oven, and live music is heard at various times during the week.

"We have a walk-up area, faced in red brick, to counters where diners can order their meals and wrought-iron tables and chairs for dining," she added. "The restaurant overlooks both the big cats and the birds of prey exhibits, so there's a lot to see. The birth of lion cubs recently makes for an added attraction."

Daniel said that, in addition to giving adults their own space for dining, the creation of Big Cats increases overall seating in the zoo, which encourages visitors to spend more time at the park.

Levy also operates Park Place Cafe, a food court in the former reptile house, the Landmark and Cafe Brower.

Celestial visions - fairy tern bird

On some tropical islands, the fairy tern is known as the Holy Ghost bird

The fairy tern is a celestial vision: Its silky plumage pure white, its slender wings translucent, its large, black-rimmed eyes the deepest midnight blue. When one hovers above you, all innocent curiosity, you can easily understand why on some tropical islands it is called the Holy Ghost bird.

Fairy terns are small, robin-sized birds with long wings. They have no natural enemies, and generally they are gentle, tame and trusting. They live on remote tropical islands in the Pacific, Indian and South Atlantic Oceans, out-of-the-way spots some people equate with paradise. With their ethereal beauty, the dainty birds fit right in.

I watched them on Bird Island, northernmost of the Seychelle Islands in the Indian Ocean. This 62-acre coral-and-sand outpost set in a turquoise sea is aptly named: Upon it nest in serried ranks nearly a million sooty terns, as well as brown and lesser noddies and about a hundred pairs of fairy terns.

Eccentric breeders, fairy terns are also called love terns. Unlike sooty terns that lay their eggs with synchronous precision during two weeks in early June, they breed at any time of year, at least in the Seychelles. One pair near my cabin was gently amorous in May: The mates sat close together on a branch and alternately preened the fine feathers on each other's faces, the preenee uttering soft, buzzing chirps of pleasure.

The female does not build a nest. Instead she balances her single cream-colored, brown-speckled, slightly spherical egg any place that pleases her at that moment: on a bare branch, swaying palm frond, the jagged tip of a broken palm tree stump, the lintel of a shed, rocks or stones near shore, a piece of driftwood or between the parallel branches of a bush near the sea.

This reproductive high-wire act requires utmost skill and caution when the parents spell each other during the 35-day incubation period. I watched this with worried fascination on Bird Island. One female had laid her egg into a tiny depression on a sloping branch slightly more than thumb-thick. The mate arrived and announced with low croaks and clucks that it was his turn (or hers--the sexes look alike) to incubate the egg. The brooding bird raised itself carefully from the precariously balanced egg and slowly backed down the nest branch. That done, its mate alighted and advanced, step by step, wings held high for balance. Gently, ever so gently, it eased its fluffed breast plumage over the egg, enveloped it with its feathers and settled down to brood.

Such high-risk hatching is like being born on a swinging trapeze, but the chick arrives prepared for danger. It is a little ball of fluffy down with oversized, long-toed feet and an innate and imperative urge to clamp itself instantly to its natal branch. So strong is its grip that should a gust of wind topple the chick, it will hang upside down, then right itself with frantic cheeping and wild flutterings of tiny wings.

A fall means death because the parents do not recognize their chick by sight or call unless it sits precisely where they left it. On one of my early morning rounds on Bird Island, I came upon a fallen chick cheeping piteously on the sand. On a branch above it sat a parent with a beak full of fish, looking puzzled and disconsolate but utterly ignoring its starving offspring. I picked up the famished chick and returned it to its proper spot. It clasped its home branch, and moments later the parent bird began to feed it.

Chicks are voracious, and the parents busy. While noisy sooty terns roam the far seas, fairy terns hunt close to home in offshore waters, usually in late evening or early morning. It is probable that in the soft-gray light of dawn and dusk, a bird's pure- white plumage and translucent wings and tail render it virtually invisible against the softly shining sky.

A hunting fairy tern hovers on rapidly vibrating wings above the sea, dives suddenly and snatches a small fish or squid from the surface without ever getting wet. That is an important precaution because, unlike gulls and other seabirds, its delicate plumage is not waterproof.

Like Atlantic puffins, fairy terns know the neat trick of catching and holding many fish at once without dropping any of them. An adult often returns to its chick with a dozen or more fish, some nearly as long as the chick itself, neatly lined up crosswise in its bill. Maw agape, the youngster swallows the fish headfirst, leaving half out. It digests a part, sits squat--its eyes closed--and swallows convulsively. More fish glides down. Each day, the growing chick can eat about half its weight in food.

For all that, a young fairy tern grows surprisingly slowly. From a roundish ball of brown-gray down, it becomes longer and slimmer and gradually sheds its baby down to reveal the brown-white speckled plumage of a juvenile. After about two months, the chick is fully fledged and ready to fly and hunt on its own.

Fairy terns were once safe on their remote, uninhabited islands scattered throughout the tropical seas. This often changed when ships arrived, for humans, unfortunately, are notoriously careless in paradise. The French claimed the Seychelles in 1742. From their ships came humans and rats, and both prospered and multiplied.

Cat Association of Topeka

It's hard to believe that Felissa was once a forgotten and scared little soul. Safe at last, today Felissa is a friendly, fun, and beautiful girl. She loves kind people and rewards them with purrs and snuggles.

She is friendly with other cats as well. Felissa is equally content to sit on your lap, play with interesting toys, or sit motionless in front of a window and chatter to the birds and squirrels. This is a very special girl who deserves no less than a very special home.

Helping Hands Humane Society

This is Wiggles. She is a five month old Heeler. Wiggles has just returned from Kansas State University where she was spayed. Wiggles is now ready for adoption. She is quite the spunky gal. She has an outgoing, carefree personality and the energy to match. Wiggles would make a wonderful pet for a family with older children.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Aggressive Cats to host Atchison

The Capital-Journal

Hayden boys basketball coach Chris Hansen wants his team to play an aggressive, in-your-face type of defense this season.

That style was evident in Tuesday night's 68-57 season-opening victory over Sabetha, with the Bluejays turning the ball over 24 times while shooting just 36 percent from the field.

Hansen will be looking for a similar performance tonight in a 7:15 non-league game against Atchison at the Bueltel Activities Center. But the Hayden coach could do without the foul trouble that his Wildcats had to fight their way through Tuesday night.

In the first half of that game, Hayden put the Bluejays in the double bonus before the first quarter had ended, with Sabetha parading to the free throw line en route to a 32-28 lead. In the second half, Hayden was able to cut down on its personals, rallying for the non-league victory.

John Hoytal was the only Wildcat to foul out of the game, although three other Wildcats finished with four fouls.

"The mentality that we want is to go out and get after people, and I thought most of the game we did that," Hansen said. "We're going to get some fouls with the kind of defense we play, but they have to be the right kind.

"It's a fine line and we were a little better in the second half, but we've got to improve on that."

Offensively, Hayden turned the ball over just nine times and got 21 points from junior guard Jerad Head and 10 apiece off the bench from Michael Everett and Taylor Hill. Joe Hennes contributed nine rebounds for the Wildcats.

"We responded well to some adversity in the first half, all the foul trouble, and we counted at halftime 15 misses from six feet and in," Hansen said. "We were getting exactly the shots that we wanted and we made a lot more of them the second half."

Hayden will be facing an Atchison team that is 1-1 after a 58-53 loss to Maur Hill on Saturday night. The Redmen opened the year with a 60-31 rout of Effingham last Thursday.

Hayden will also be in action Saturday, traveling to Concordia for a girls-boys doubleheader.

Other city games


Washburn Rural will be trying to bounce back from a 72-36 season- opening loss to Lawrence-Free State, the Junior Blues' first game under new head coach Jim Dinkel. Gabe Wiechman led Rural with 11 points. The Junior Blues will be facing a Blue Valley North team that returned two starters and two other lettermen from a 10-11 team. Blue Valley North dropped its opener to Olathe East but bounced back to beat KC-Harmon on Tuesday. Game time: 7:15 p.m.


Santa Fe Trail was 10-11 a year ago but is off to a 2-0 start this season, including a 76-48 win over Holton on Tuesday night. Trail had four players score in double figures, led by Luke Fulton with 17 points. Jeremiah Rice added 13 points, Craig Bourne 11 and Brian Mott 10 points for the Chargers. Heights was off Tuesday after opening with a 52-48 win over Topeka High last Friday. Junior Jesse Schmidt paced the T-Birds with 16 points, while Gary Woodland added 10 points. Shawnee Heights also will be in action Saturday, traveling to Marysville. Game time: 7:15 p.m.

SM NORTHWEST (1-0) at SEAMAN (1-1)

Seaman is coming off a big 64-42 non-league victory at Topeka West, with four Vikings scoring in double figures. Tanner Shaw led the way with 16 points, backed by Dustin Bates with 14 points, Matt Tinsley with 12 and Jeff Martens with 11 points. SM Northwest made a big turnaround last season under former Hayden coach Ben Meseke, posting a 13-9 record. Meseke returns four players with starting experience, including 6-7 Matt Riechl, who missed last season while battling leukemia. Northwest opened the season with a 56-36 win over KC-Washington. Game time: 7:15 p.m.


Topeka High is coming off a 57-42 loss to Lawrence-Free State Saturday night after a 52-48 loss to Shawnee Heights on Friday. Tyrone Robinson had a big game in a losing cause for the Trojans against Free State, scoring 14 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Manhattan went 2-1 under new coach Ray Kujawa in last weekend's Hays Shootout, taking third place with a 63-49 win over Kearney, Neb., on Saturday. Josh Barth scored 13 points and Gilbert Riddick added 11 for the Indians in Saturday's win. Game time: 7:45 p.m.

GIRLS: Manhattan went 3-0 and captured the championship in the Hays Shootout last weekend. The Indians captured the title with a 55- 27 rout of Hays on Saturday. Ineke Ingram scored 14 points and Molly Lindquist and Erin Kennedy added 12 points apiece in the Indians' win over Hays. Topeka High has been off since dropping a 56-38 decision to Shawnee Heights in its opener last Thursday. Anjanae Wilson paced the Trojans with 10 points against the T-Birds. Game time: 6 p.m.


Salina South is top-ranked in Class 5A after knocking off defending 5A champion McPherson in its season opener. The Cougars improved to 2-0 with a 59-45 win over Wichita North on Tuesday. South is led by 6-7 senior Ryan Shriver, who signed early with Western Illinois, and 6-2 junior D'Andre McGrew. Topeka West is 0-2 after a 64-42 loss to Seaman on Tuesday. Huston Estell led the Chargers with 14 points, while Luke Dwyer, the leading scorer in the city of Topeka last season, added 10 points. Game time: 7:30 p.m.

Hummingbirds truly fascinating to watch

Dear Readers: Hummingbirds are absolutely the most fascinating little birds. Some are among the smallest of all species of birds. If you have ever heard a "hummer," you'll understand why they are called hummingbirds. Their wings move at such a rapid rate that they make a humming sound.

Did you know that hummingbirds are the only birds that can hover and fly sideways, backward, up, down and even . . . upside down? Because of their maneuvering ability, they are unafraid of larger predator birds. They will actually dive-bomb attackers to ward them off. Hummingbirds do not fly in flocks. Their breeding season is usually the only time males and females get together.

I would like to thank the San Diego Zoo for this information. For those who would like to learn more, visit its Web site: When you get to the page, read the left column and click on Animal Bytes, then click on Bird. You'll find a list of all types of birds, including hummingbirds, and all sorts of interesting animal facts. You will be amazed! -- Heloise

P.S.: Our hummers in Rockport, Texas, are amazing to watch when they migrate through.

Dear Readers: Avalon Ingram of Grapeland, Texas, has a very unusual pet, a rooster named Early Bird, and his best friend, a black cat named Midnight. The photo Avalon sent shows the two of them together waiting on the back porch for their morning handout of bread crumbs and a saucer of milk. -- Heloise

Dear Heloise: Years ago, we almost had a tragic experience with our first cat. My mother had been sewing, and a needle with thread fell unnoticed to the floor. We first noticed Tootsie was not eating and had started drooling. She wouldn't let us open her mouth.

We rushed her to the vet, and under anesthesia, he removed a needle with a 15-inch thread that had been lodged across her mouth. She required careful care and monitoring for several days, but it all turned out well. She lived to be more than 16 years old. -- A.S., Harrisburg, Pa.

Ouch! Sure glad everything turned out well. Thank you for passing along the warning. -- Heloise

Dear Heloise: One of my puppies got hold of a jug of liquid laundry detergent, making a hole in it, and carried it around for a while. You can imagine the mess! Luckily, we have wooden floors.

We could not mop up the mess -- it just created more bubbles, and paper would not soak it up. What to do? I dumped a lot of cat litter on the floor and gently brushed it up. The end result was a pile of clumps, and the mess was all cleaned up. -- Michael, Statesville, N.C.

Dear Heloise: I have a dry-erase calendar that I use to keep track of things like medication administration and weights for my four cats. At the end of the month, before erasing it and starting a new month, I take a picture. This way, there is a permanent record of key pet information.

So which IS the earliest bird of all?

THE EARLY bird, as everyone knows, gets the worm. But does anyone know HOW early the early bird is? And which birds are earlier than others?

The answers to all these questions can now be revealed, thanks to a survey which shows which birds are the real early risers, which stay up all night and which prefer to have a lie-in.

Robins are the quickest out of their nest in London, up for breakfast less than a quarter of an hour after first light, according to the survey by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

They are followed soon after by blackbirds (although in the countryside the positions are reversed), and then blue tits and crows.

In contrast, the real lie-a-beds are goldfinches, greenfinches, starlings and wood pigeons.

The BTO carried out the survey to find out about how birds judge the right moment to get their first feed of the day - in particular, how to balance the need to avoid starving to death with the need to avoid being eaten by the neighbourhood cat.

In the first national survey of its kind, carried out in conjunction with Radio 4's Today programme, they asked bird lovers on the shortest day of the year - 21 December - to record the first 10 species they saw feeding after dawn.

Mike Toms, the organiser for Garden Birdwatch, said: "Because you're sitting around at night in the cold for so many hours you're burningup a lot of energy trying to keep warm. Small birds lose heat more quickly than big birds, and they don't carry as much in the way of fat reserves. You would expect them to get up early and go to the feeders early to replace the up to 10 per cent of their body weight they have lost overnight.

"But there are other things going on, such as predation. A lot of small birds are taken by cats and sparrow hawks. Some smaller birds will also time their visits to avoid competitors. Late risers like greenfinches come in mob-handed to bird tables."

Robins and blackbirds headed the list because they are sometimes up all night, said Mr Toms.

"In areas where there is street lighting we have had reports of people hearing blackbirds singing through the night. It's almost like a 24-hour feeding opportunity. If there is street lighting they can sing and advertise themselves and look for food."

One of the surprises was how early the dunnock was up. "Dunnocks feed beneath bushes and shrubs. We think that they are arriving early to avoid greenfinches and starlings which dominate through the rest of the day."

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Robin is named as the earliest bird of London

THE early bird, as everyone knows, gets the worm. But does anyone know HOW early the early bird is? And which birds are earlier than others?

The answers to these questions can now be revealed, thanks to a survey which shows which birds are the real early risers, which stay up all night and which prefer to have a lie-in.

Robins are the quickest out of their nest in London, turning up for breakfast less than a quarter of an hour after first light, according to the survey by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

They are followed soon after by blackbirds, and then blue tits and crows.

In contrast, the real lie-a-beds are goldfinches, greenfinches, starlings and wood pigeons.

The BTO carried out the survey to find out how birds judge the right moment to get their first feed of the day - in particular, how to balance the need to avoid starving to death with the need to avoid being eaten by the neighbourhood cat.

In the first national survey of its kind, carried out in conjunction with Radio 4's Today programme, they asked bird lovers on the shortest day of the year - 21 December - to record the first 10 species they saw feeding after dawn.

Mike Toms, the organiser of Garden Birdwatch, said: "Because you're sitting around at night in the cold for so many hours you're burning up a lot of energy trying to keep warm. Small birds lose heat more quickly than big birds, and they don't carry as much in the way of fat reserves. You would expect them to get up early and go to the feeders early to replace the up to 10 per cent of body weight they have lost overnight.

"But there are other things going on, such as predation. A lot of small birds are taken by cats and sparrowhawks. Some of the smaller birds will also time their visits to avoid other competitors.

"Late risers like greenfinches tend to come in mob-handed to bird tables.

Some of the smaller and shyer birds have to come in early to avoid mixing with them."

Robins and blackbirds headed the list because they are sometimes up all night, said Mr Toms.

"In areas where there is street lighting we have had reports of people hearing blackbirds singing through the night. It's almost like a 24-hour feeding opportunity. If there is street lighting they can sing and advertise themselves and look for food."

Cats will try to use balance against Blues

Hayden coach Chris Hansen doesn't mind his team shooting 3- pointers. In fact, he encourages several Wildcats to take the open trey.

Hansen's goal has been to develop an effective inside attack to compliment the Wildcats' outside game.

"We've got some people who can shoot the ball from the 3-point line," Hansen said. "I think what we're trying to do is to make sure that we don't rely on that to win.

"We don't want to have to depend on the ball going in from the 3- point line for us to have a chance to win."

The Wildcats, who play a a 7:30 Centennial League game at Washburn Rural tonight, found the balance they were looking for Friday night, snapping a two-game losing streak with a 68-64 overtime victory over Shawnee Heights.

Senior Taylor Hill keyed the Wildcats' attack, scoring a career- high 28 points, including four 3-pointers and a variety of inside shots, while also grabbing 12 rebounds.

"He shoots it very well from the perimeter obviously, but he's 6- foot-4 and can score inside some, too," Hansen said of Hill.

Senior John Hoytal also had a big game inside for the Wildcats, scoring 18 points, including the final four points of the game. Junior Joe Hennes helped Hayden's cause as well, coming up with some big rebounds and defensive plays down the stretch.

"We talked at halftime about playing defense every possession like it meant something, and I think we did that, particularly the last seven minutes of regulation (after losing guard Jerad Head to fouls), and I thought we were really good defensively in overtime, too."

Friday's win improved Hayden's record to 4-3 overall and 1-1 in the Centennial League heading into tonight's game against a Washburn Rural team that is still looking for its first victory.

The young Junior Blues are 0-6 overall and 0-2 in the league after a 64-42 loss to Seaman on Friday night.

Gabe Wiechman paced Rural with 11 points against the Vikings.

Tonight's boys game will follow a girls game at 6 between Rural (4- 2, 2-0) and Hayden (2-5, 0-2).

Washburn Rural has won four straight games, including a 67-46 win over Seaman on Friday. Senior All-State guard Jeneka Joyce has scored 38 points in her two games since returning from a knee injury, including 21 points against Seaman. She has six 3-pointers.

Hayden is fighting a three-game losing streak, including a 40-31 loss to Shawnee Heights Friday. The Wildcats have been solid defensively, but have not scored more than 32 points in their last three games.

Other city games

SEAMAN (5-2, 2-1) at

EMPORIA (7-1, 3-0)

Emporia continues to roll, posting back-to-back wins over Highland Park and Lincoln (Neb.) Northeast on Friday and Saturday. Idaho signee Bret Wise scored 23 points in the Spartans' 68-50 victory over Highland Park and scored 35 in a 74-67 win over Lincoln-Northeast. Seaman also is playing well, winning three in a row and five of six. The Vikings routed Washburn Rural 64-42 Friday night, with Tanner Shaw scoring 16 points, Matt Tinsley 13 and Dustin Bates 10 points. GAME TIME: 7:45 p.m.

GIRLS: Seaman (4-3, 2-1) dropped a 67-46 decision to Washburn Rural on Friday, snapping a three-game Viking winning streak. Whitney McDaniel led Seaman with 12 points against the Junior Blues. Emporia (6-1, 2-1) blasted Highland Park 62-14 Friday, led by Ashley Ohlman with 14 points, Katie Harper with 12 and Aralee Patton with 10. GAME TIME: 6 p.m.

MANHATTAN (3-4) at


The T-Birds will be trying to bounce back from a heartbreaking 68- 64 overtime loss at Hayden. Although Jesse Schmidt scored 22 points and C.T. Bryant 20 for the T-Birds, Heights still succumbed to the Wildcats down the stretch. Manhattan is coming off a 66-61 loss to Junction City. The Indians lost despite getting 18 points from Darrell Smith, 16 from Gilbert Riddick and 12 from Andy Knopp. GAME TIME: 7:45 p.m.

GIRLS: Shawnee Heights (5-1) has won three in a row, including a 40-31 win at Hayden on Friday night. Maggie Diehl, who has cracked double figures in five of six games, led the T-Birds with 17 points against Hayden, while Dani McHenry added 10 points, including an 8- of-10 performance at the free throw line. Manhattan (3-4) is coming off a 50-48 loss to Junction City. Erin Kennedy led the way against Junction with 14 points. GAME TIME: 6 p.m.

When It Comes to "Cats & Dogs," It's Canines Who Rule, Say People Of PETsMART; But Feline Fanciers Vow "Fur Will Fly" Over Survey Results

Even before the much-anticipated movie "Cats & Dogs" opens on Wednesday, July 4, there's no doubt about who's really top dog.

In the perennial battle between dogs and cats for their owners' affection, man's best friend is leading the pack, according to a recent survey of PETsMART associates.

Seventy percent said "dogs rule," while only 30 percent put felines in "furrst" place. Even a majority of associates with fish, birds, rabbits, horses and other pets said the world was going to the dogs.

But PETsMART cat lovers say the survey was far from "purrfect" and vowed to fight the results with tooth and claw. "When it comes to intelligence, it's time for dogs to get smart," says Marcia Meyer, senior vice president of marketing. "Every cat owner knows who really runs the family."

PETsMART is a promotional partner with Warner Bros. Pictures in the "Cats & Dogs" comedy, in which Mr. Tinkles, a power-mad Persian cat unleashes a worldwide attack on dogs. The movie stars Jeff Goldblum and Elizabeth Perkins with numerous celebrity animated voices.

In conjunction with the movie, PETsMART is sponsoring a "Cats & Dogs" themed sweepstakes with store display opportunities. The campaign involves the PETsMART charity program, United for the Paws, which raises funds and awareness for the plight of homeless animals.

The informal "Cats & Dogs" survey of PETsMART associates also showed:

-- About 60 percent of PETsMART associates are pet enthusiasts, (affectionately
known as Pet Parents) compared with about 22 percent of people nationwide.

-- Nearly 60 percent of PETsMART associates purchase birthday gifts for their
pets, compared with 19 percent of pet owners nationwide.

-- About 65 percent of PETsMART associates say their pet sleeps in their bed,
compared to 43 percent nationwide.

PETsMART, Inc. (NASDAQ: PETM) is the largest specialty retailer of services and solutions for the lifetime needs of pets. The company operates more than 560 pet stores in the United States and Canada, as well as a large pet supply catalog business, and is the major, controlling investor in the Internet's leading online provider of pet products and information ( PETsMART provides a broad range of competitively priced pet food and supplies, and offers complete pet training, grooming, and adoption services. Since 1994, PETsMART Charities has donated more than $15 million to animal welfare programs and, through its in-store adoption programs, has saved the lives of more than a million pets.

Chargers edge Cats on first day Kemp's free throws lift Trojans

Hayden early Monday night, it might have a hard time getting the Wildcats at all.

That proved to be the case, with the No. 2-seeded Chargers struggling much of the game against the No. 7-seeded Wildcats before finally subduing Hayden down the stretch for a 50-42 victory in the opening round of the Girls Capital Classic at Seaman.

West advances to a 6 o'clock semifinal tonight against Topeka High, which upset No. 3 seed Shawnee Heights, 49-45. Washburn Rural, a 57-46 winner over Seaman, will take on Santa Fe Trail, a 71-38 winner over Highland Park, in tonight's second semifinal at 7:45.

"As well as Strecker (Hayden coach Rick Strecker) has those guys prepared to play every time, if you don't get them early and put them away, they're going to be with you," West's Goehring said after his team's victory.

"I've never seen a Hayden team ever quit, and that was evident out there tonight. They took us out of a lot of things we normally do."

n the end, Hayden dropped its sixth straight game to fall to 2- 8, but the Wildcats were still within two with five and a half minutes remaining before West was able to build its advantage to 11 down the stretch.

"We had some good spurts, but we were inconsistent tonight," said Goehring, whose team improved to 8-1.

Sophomore Ariana Scales led Topeka West with 14 points, while senior Melissa Bahner added 13 points, including a 9-of-12 performance at the line.

Lacie Manns, a 6-foot-1 junior, pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds for the Chargers while also scoring 8 points.

Hayden's loss overshadowed an outstanding night from junior guard Emily Eagan, who led all scorers with 20 points, including four 3- pointers. Jennifer Butler added 11 points for the Wildcats.

Hayden 8 10 7 17 --- 42Topeka West 10 10 9 21 --- 50Hayden (2-8) --- Eagan 6 4-4 20, Scheckel 1 1-2 3, Gartner 2 2-4 6, McGinnis 1 0-2 2, Butler 4 3-7 11, Huston 0 0- 0 0, Wright 0 0-0 0, Wempe 0 0-0 0, Nimz 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 10-19 42.

Topeka West (8-1) --- Huggins 4 1-6 9, Bahner 2 9-12 13, Scales 3 4-10 11, Manns 3 2-5 8, Molander 2 5-6 9, Malmstrom 0 0-0 0, Swanson 0 0-0 0, Davis 0 0-0 0, Gleason 0 0-2 0. Totals 14 21-41 50.

3-point goals --- Hayden 4 (Eagan 4), Topeka West 1 (Scales). Total fouls --- Hayden 26, Topeka West 15. Fouled out --- McGinnis.

Topeka High 49, Shawnee Heights 45

Topeka High held on to pull off the upset over Shawnee Heights, with sophomore Crystal Kemp clinching the win with two free throws with seven seconds remaining.

The game was tight throughout, with the Trojans, who improved to 4- 6, leading 9-8 after one quarter, 18-17 at halftime and 32-28 at the start of the fourth quarter.

Shawnee Heights, now 7-2, had an opportunity to tie the game at 47 with 10 seconds remaining, but Bryanne Albert missed the front end of a one and one. Kemp rebounded, was fouled and hit both charities to give the Trojans their final margin.

Senior Bre Huff led Topeka High with 18 points (three 3- pointers), backed by senior Anjanae Wilson with 14 points and Kemp with 12.

"Offensively we struggled at times, but we executed what we wanted," High coach Brenda Soldani said. "On the defensive end, everything I asked them to do, they did. We managed to do exactly what we wanted."

Shawnee Heights got a game-high 27 points from junior Dani McHenry, including three 3-pointers, but the T-Birds only had one other player with more than four points, Maggie Diehl with 9.

Topeka High 9 9 14 17 --- 49Shawnee Heights 8 9 11 17 --- 45Topeka High (4-6) --- Johnson 0 0-4 0, Huff 4 7-9 18, Gibbs 1 1-2 3, Wilson 4 6-9 14, Kemp 4 4-6 12, Ferrero 0 0-0 0, Gregory 1 0-0 2. Totals 14 18-30 49.

Shawnee Heights (7-2) --- Albert 1 1-3 3, Meissner 1 2-3 4, Smith 0 2-2 2, McHenry 11 2-4 27, Diehl 3 3-3 9, Edmonds 0 0-0 0, Bacon 0 0- 0 0, Wessel 0 0-2 0, Biery 0 0-0 0, Martin 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 10-17 45.

3-point goals --- Topeka High 3 (Huff 3), Shawnee Heights 3 (McHenry 3). Total fouls --- Topeka High 19, Shawnee Heights 25. Fouled out --- none.

Washburn Rural 57, Seaman 46

Seaman's chances of pulling off an upset ended with a six-and-a- half-minute dry spell in the third quarter.

The Vikings led virtually the entire first half and trailed just 25-23 at the half before going cold. Washburn Rural responded with a 13-0 run to build a 38-23 lead before Kelly Hainline hit two free throws with 1:35 left in the third quarter to end the drought.

Seaman, now 4-6, fought back to within six points with less than two minutes remaining but could not keep the 7-2 Junior Blues from stretching their winning streak to seven games.

Senior star Jeneka Joyce led all scorers with 20 points (three 3- pointers), while Rural junior Jayme Gergen added 12 points.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A mouse's nightmare: 300-year-old Woburn cat rises from the grave

AFTER THREE centuries buried in an airtight brick container, the Duke of Bedford's beloved cat is to take centre stage at an exhibition of mummified animals next week.

While he is undoubtedly showing his age, experts believe the cat, discovered in the foundations of Woburn Abbey, is by far the best preserved example they have seen.

Tradition once decreed that good rat catchers were buried in foundations to protect the house after their death and across the capital similar mummies remain interred beneath houses.

"It is very likely that the cat was one of the estate mousers, and was probably a very good one. It was buried in the foundations to protect the building against rodents and infestation," explained Richard Sabin, curator of mammals at the Natural History Museum.

The museum found one cat under its own entrance and another was discovered during renovations on a Georgian house in Knightsbridge. "The owner was pretty shocked when he was told about it, and brought the mummy in to us,"

But, true to aristocratic form, the duke's moggy was so well preserved in an airtight brick container beneath the Bedfordshire abbey - free from humidity, predators and bacteria - that even his whiskers are still intact. "It's by far the best preserved cat we have ever found in Britain," the curator said. Originally discovered in 1915 by workers demolishing an outhouse, the duke's cat will go on show for the first time next week in an exhibition at the National History Museum's Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum in Tring, Hertfordshire.

It is one of many mummified creatures including a baboon, a crocodile and birds of prey which will go on display from Monday. A tawny owl which was found behind a panelled wall at Hampton Court and a grey squirrel discovered in a cottage loft are two other examples of animals mummified in the United Kingdom which will be on show.

The museum will also display an array of Egyptian mummified animals and explore the reasons why the ancient civilisation practised such an art.

Cats, monkeys and even gazelles have been found buried alongside their owners and pet cats sometimes received their own elaborate burials, complete with cat-shaped coffins.

Mr Sabin added: "We've discovered some bizarre things about ancient Egyptian culture. Through X-ray examination of some of our wrapped cat mummies we've discovered that many appear to have had their necks deliberately broken.

"This suggests that cats may have been killed to meet the demand for them as high-status ritual tomb deposits."

Through studying animal mummies, scientists and archaeologists have been able to learn more about their role in ancient Egyptian society and their identification with particular gods, as well as the process of domestication, primarily in cats and cattle.

Give a bird a home … or a laugh - birdhouses

LIKE WEATHER VANES AND sundials, birdhouses can be as much garden art as garden accessory. Consider: galleries and museums display birdhouses as folk art, architects and artists design them, nature lovers build or buy them.

Why the interest? Birdhouses are simple, small enough to display up close, and easy to make, and you can sharply increase the number of birds in your garden by putting birdhouses in the right places. They even make good fund-raisers: in Washington, the Bainbridge Island Arts Council recently raised $6,000 selling birdhouses made by local artists.


The contemporary birdhouses on these two pages sample a range of materials and artistic fantasy. Such houses, from gaily painted wood to metal, are often flashy, whimsical, and on the pricey side ($75 and up), and may or may not work as living spaces for birds.

Antique birdhouses, often elaborately constructed, are now prized by collectors and very difficult to find. Look and hope, or write to American Primitive Gallery (596 Broadway, Room 205, New York 10012), which collects and sells old ones.

Most functional birdhouses are made to handle all weather; they're usually unpainted (bright colors discourage birds) and cost around $30.


Only cavity-nesting birds (ones that nest in hollows in trees) use birdhouses. Though this group includes nongarden birds like ducks, owls, kestrels, and woodpeckers, it also includes bluebirds, chickadees, nuthatches, swallows, and wrens.

The kind of house you install determines the kinds of birds you'll attract. But this is a most inexact science: though a birdhouse may be designed for a wren, chickadee, or bluebird, it will be fair game for a variety of birds. Hole size and shape limit which kinds of birds can get in.

Small birds like chickadees, nut hatches, and most wrens can fit in a hole that's 1 1/8 inches in diameter, 1 1/4 inches for white-breasted nuthatches. (If you use a hole larger than 1 1/8 inches, house sparrows can get in and boot the other birds out.) These birds are common around gardens that have lots of trees.

Medium-size birds like bluebirds and swallows need a nest box with a hole of 1 1/2 inches, 1 9/16 inches for mountain bluebirds. (A larger hole admits starlings, which evict or kill bluebirds and swallows.) Bluebirds are most common in semiopen country like oak savannas, orchards, Christmas tree farms, and open woodlands.

Tree and violet-green swallows accept a wider variety of habitats, often stealing houses from bluebirds. Every year, tree swallows and house wrens take over almost two-thirds of the 400 bluebird houses in Fort Lewis, Washington. Bluebird houses work best atop adjacent posts; if you mount two houses on adjacent fence posts, swallows will take one, then fight off swallows that try to take the other, leaving it open for bluebirds.

If you want swallows but live where house sparrows are a problem, make a house with a hole that's 7/8 inch tall, 2 inches wide. Swallows can squeeze through; house sparrows can,t.

If you live along the Southern California coast or in West Texas, your chances of getting medium-size birds besides starlings and house sparrows are almost nil. Stick with houses for smaller birds.

Larger birds like purple martins and flickers take boxes with 2 1/4- and 2 1/2-inch entry holes, respectively, which opens them up to aggression from house sparrows and starlings.

Purple martins nest in groups, so you can use apartments like the one pictured above. Paint the inside white; starlings don,t seem to like that. Purple martins are rare in the West but worth a try if you live near open country in Arizona, northern California, New Mexico, Texas, or western Colorado, or near open water (like Puget Sound or San Francisco Bay).

Northern flickers usually like to dig out their own nests, but sometimes yoU can attract them with a large nest box. Fill it with wood chips; they'll clean it out to make the nest.


To keep most kinds of birdhouses safe from raccoons and cats, mount them atop metal poles. If you want to put a birdhouse in a tree, hang it from a branch; don't nail it to the trunk. Keep houses away from feeders (the activity makes nesting birds nervous).

Face the entrance away from prevailing weather, and remove any perch your birdhouse came with (it's unnecessary, and house sparrows use it to heckle birds inside).

Birdhouses should be made from materials that insulate well, like 3/4 inch wood (plastic bottles and milk cartons are too thin and have poor ventilation; heat can bake chicks inside or make them fledge too early). Nest boxes need an openable side or top for easy cleaning, drain holes on the bottom, and, in hot-summer areas, ventilation holes high in the sides.

If you put up more than one, keep houses well separated and out of sight of one another. Houses must go up early, since migrant birds start returning in late February and look for nest sites soon after they arrive.

New cat collar could save lives of 30 million birds

THE AGE-OLD battle between Sylvester and Tweetypie - or for younger readers, the hungry cat and the defenceless bird - may be about to change in its fundamentals.

According to the British Trust for Ornithology, millions of birds may be savedthanks to a cat collar that bleeps a warning of the wearer's presence. The battery-powered CatAlert collar emits a bleep every seven seconds and so frustrates the principal hunting stratagem of many moggies - the sudden ambush from concealment.

The trust, Britain's leading bird research organisation, has conducted trials on CatAlert, invented by Dr Liam Martin, a senior research fellow at Manchester Metropolitan University - and says it works.

"On average, cats in the trials caught a bird every week when the CatAlert was not in use," the trust said in a statement. "When the same cats wore the CatAlert bleeping collar, they only caught a bird every 2.5 weeks." The trust adds: "This might seem a small difference. However, there are an estimated eight million cats in the UK. If only one million of our cats kill a bird a week, fitting bleepers to them might reduce the birds killed by these cats from about 50 million to about 20 million, possibly saving as many as 30 million birds every year!"

The trial, conducted with 50 pet cats across the country, showed little effect on the number of rats, mice and other mammals taken.

Dr Martin, an instrumentation expert, dreamt up the collar after reading a newspaper correspondence about feline predation of garden songbirds. "Bells didn't seem to be effective because cats hold their heads stationary when stalking, so they don't ring," he said. The owner of two cats, neither of which is a great hunter, Dr Martin was awarded a grant by the Department of Trade and Industry to develop the device, and has had money from the EU to improve it further.

One cat owner who swears by the CatAlert is farmer's wife Annette Beynon, who lives near Swansea. "Our tortoiseshell cat Tegwyn kills all sorts of songbirds, blackbirds, thrushes, blue tits and wrens, as well as mice and voles and baby rabbits. She's even killed a half- grown stoat.

"We love our birds, so we cut her claws and made her wear an enormous bear bell, which people use in Canada to let bears know they are coming. She still caught the birds, because she managed not to make a noise with the bell. But now when she's hiding in the bushes, the collar gives it away. She still catches mice, but she doesn't get birds any more. We think it's really good."

"A bird in the hand," Dr Martin sums up, "is worth two in the cat."

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Cat-hunt plan has promoter in cross hairs; Friends of felines are

Cat lovers outraged over a proposal to hunt stray cats in the state have left death threats for a University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher and the La Crosse man who came up with the idea.

A cat fight figuratively broke out following the announcement that people will decide at next month's Conservation Congress spring meetings whether hunters should be allowed to shoot stray felines in Wisconsin.

"You cat-murdering bastard," said one caller to Professor Stanley Temple, whose 1996 study estimated cats kill millions of birds each year. "What goes around, comes around. I declare Stanley Temple season open."

At issue is whether stray and feral cats are cold-blooded killers or purring bundles of fur.

Mark Smith, a 48-year-old firefighter in La Crosse, thinks they're assassins with tails.

"I get up in the morning, and if there's new snow, there's cat tracks under my bird feeder . . . I look at them as an invasive species, plain and simple," Smith told the Wisconsin State Journal.

When Smith organized the Conservation Congress ballot question, he cited Temple's research that estimated outdoor cats in Wisconsin kill 7.8 million to 219 million birds each year. Smith, who couldn't be reached for comment Thursday, wants the state to reclassify stray and feral cats as an unprotected species, arguing that they're no different than invasive species.

Under the proposal Question No. 62 on the Conservation Congress agenda the state should define free-roaming feral domestic cats as any domestic type cat that isn't under the owner's direct control or doesn't have a collar.

Smith's proposal was approved last year by the La Crosse County branch of the Conservation Congress, and the group decided to put the issue on the ballot at the April 11 spring meetings in all 72 counties.

That set off a flurry of activity by folks who love cats and don't want them shot. And it prompted some to send nasty e-mails and leave catty messages for Temple.

Smith has gotten telephone calls at home and at work and at least two death threats. In fact, another Mark Smith who lives in La Crosse has changed his answering machine message to clue in callers that he's not "the Mark Smith who is a cat killer."

"It's quite amazing. I had no idea there were that many irrational, hysterical people out there," Temple said Thursday. "Some of them, I can't think of another word, but they're hateful."

Temple is not taking sides in the debate over whether cats should be hunted in Wisconsin.

And even if a majority of those who turn out for the annual spring Conservation Congress hearings vote yes, it's only an advisory referendum. The Legislature would have to pass a measure allowing cats to be hunted, and animal abuse laws might have to be changed. The Conservation Congress is a five-person group that advises the Department of Natural Resources.

Still, the proposal has raised the dander of people such as Ted O'Donnell, who created and is trying to organize groups in each county to attend the Conservation Congress meetings and vote against the proposal.

"What drives me crazy is that somehow these birds are sacred. If the cat doesn't get it, the fox would," said O'Donnell, co-owner of Mad Cat Pet Supplies in Madison. He has two cats, Putty Cat and Karl Manx. "This is nature, circle of life. Get over it."

O'Donnell wonders what happens if indoor cats somehow get outside would they be fair game? And he criticizes owners who can't take care of their cats and abandon them in the country where they procreate and proliferate.

"Nobody likes feral cats," he said. "I'm not trying to romanticize feral cats. I just don't want them to be demonized."

Wisconsin may allow cat hunting

Despite passionate opposition from cat lovers, Wisconsin residents supported a plan that would allow hunters to take out wild felines that kill birds and other small mammals.

Residents who attended Wisconsin Conservation Congress meetings Monday night voted to allow hunters to kill cats at will, just like skunks or gophers -- something the Humane Society of the United States called cruel and archaic.

The idea still faces several hurdles before it could become law. The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board at its May meeting will decide whether to order the Department of Natural Resources to ask the Legislature to support the change. Lawmakers would have to then pass a bill and get Gov. Jim Doyle to sign it.

A total of 6,830 people voted yes while 5,201 voted no. Fifty- one counties approved the plan, 20 rejected it, and one had a tie, according to results released Tuesday evening by the DNR.

Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, co-chairman of the Legislature's powerful Joint Finance Committee, said he will "work against any proposed legislation to legalize the shooting of feral cats."

The congress, a citizens group that advises the Wisconsin DNR, is considered a strong lobby on behalf of the state's hunters, but members were met by a coalition of cat lovers outraged by the plan proposed by Mark Smith, a La Crosse firefighter. Smith had faced death threats -- and the clout of several national animal rights groups strongly denouncing his idea.

No collar, no protection

Smith proposed that the state should classify wild cats as an unprotected species. The proposal defined such cats as those not under the owner's direct control or wandering by themselves without a collar.

Ted O'Donnell, a Madison cat lover who created a Web site against the hunt, said: "I can assure you that the campaign is undeterred and we will still be working tirelessly to defeat this in whatever form it takes next."

"I don't think it will eventually get passed, but it just means we're going to have to fight a little harder to make sure of that."

Big-cat hunters are given smaller target in Wisconsin

Most of America's hunting enthusiasts can only dream of the day when they bag a big cat and mount its head on their living room walls. There is a possibility, however, that soon they will have the chance to track tabbies and toms. And in Wisconsin rather than Africa.

The Midwestern state, better known for its beer and cheese, is in the throes of an impassioned debate about a proposal to authorise hunters, farmers and anyone else who owns a gun to take to the countryside and begin discharging their cartridges in the direction of unsuspecting cats.

The feline controversy erupted earlier this week after meetings across the state of a citizens' advisory group called the Wisconsin Conservation Congress. Its members voted by 6,830 votes to 5,201 on Monday to endorse a proposal tabled by a fireman from La Crosse County to legalise the shooting of feral cats.

Wisconsin has a genuine problem. According to some estimates there are no fewer than two million undomesticated cats roaming its lands and their favourite dish is songbirds. Indeed, state officials suggest that the wild cats are merciless hunters, killing between 47 million and 139 million birds a year.

This is enough to have persuaded the fireman, Mark Smith, that the time has come to strike back at the furry predators. His proposal states that Wisconsinites should be able to shoot feral cats just as they can gophers and skunks. The animals at risk would be cats not wearing collars and not under the direct control of an owner.

The Congress is expected formally to approve the vote result in May and then forward its proposal to the state government for consideration. Normally speaking, that would result in a Bill going before the state legislature for signing thereafter by the Governor.

But so far as the Governor, Jim Doyle, is concerned the idea is one for the birds. If a Bill comes his way, he asserted this week, he will refuse to put his pen to it. 'I don't think Wisconsin should become known as a state where we shoot cats,' he said. 'What it does is sort of hold us up as the state that everybody is laughing at right now.'

The legions of cat-lovers in Wisconsin are distinctly unamused. The packed meetings of the Conservation Congress, in all 72 counties of the state, were attended by twice the usual number of people. Opponents of the anti- cat plan arrived wearing whiskers and carrying stuffed toy cats and pictures of friendly pussies. Many voiced the fear that hunters would not always differentiate between pet and feral cats.

Their alarm can hardly have been eased by Mr Smith, who insists that he is not prejudiced against cats. But he more or less implied that any cat not permanently snuggled on his owner's lap " with collar always attached " will be considered fair prey.

'If you open the door and kick your cat out at night you've changed its status,' he said.

Opponents of the proposal will take heart from the position of America's biggest bird-advocacy group, the Audubon Society. Its representative in Wisconsin, Karen Hale, acknowledged that cats have been responsible for culling song-birds in the state but still voted against the plan on Monday.

'The whole issue of possibly hunting them is so controversial and there has been so much misinformation that we really need a lot more discussion on this issue,' Ms Hale said.

She and other groups suggest trapping and spaying feral cats before releasing them again.

Ted O'Donnell, the owner of a pet shop in Madison, Wisconsin, gathered more than 17,000 signatures ahead of the vote from those appalled by the cat-hunt plan. And, he says, the fight to defeat it has only begun.

'I can assure you that the campaign is undeterred and we will still be working tirelessly to defeat this in whatever form it takes,' he said.

'They have won the day, but they haven't won the final fight. We will keep fighting it at every step of the way.'

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