Thursday, May 16, 2013

Backyard Drama

One nice thing about retirement is the ability to sit at the kitchen counter at lunch time staring out into the back yard.  Yesterday, thus occupied, I noticed a sparrow-sized bird of dull tan coloring checking out each small gap between the patio roof rafters.  She was obviously seeking a nesting site.

Every spring I’ve seen sparrows do the same, but they quickly move on and I’ve never had a bird nest in that area.  The “nesting surface” is only three inches wide, and there’s no way to secure a nest there.  The first strong gust of wind will blow it out onto the concrete patio below.

This gal was an optimist.  She selected her spot, commenced gathering building supplies, and soon had a small pile of grass, trigs and leaves up there.  The breeze promptly blew most of them down.  Undaunted, she continued bringing materials.  Her pile grew, but now she was spending more time weaving them together before venturing off for a new beak-full.  The wind was no longer stealing her collection.

 About that time I also noticed a similar sized bird with a bright red-orange head and throat.  He would perch in a small, potted bougainvillea about 15 feet away from the nesting female and just sing and sing.  I looked him up in our Birds of Texas Handbook and learned that he was a male House Finch.  I took a picture of him.  I had to do so through a window and it’s fuzzy, but this will give you an idea:



THEN I noticed that every time the nest-builder flew off to gather materials, he followed in the same direction.  And every time she returned, he was right back singing on his perch.  I got it!  They were mates, and he was letting her do the building while he just advised her on the selection of materials.  Typical male, right?  At least he was smart enough to get out of the way while she was doing the skilled work.

After about a dozen round trips together my suspicion was confirmed.  She was arranging her materials as the nest was taking shape, and a sparrow flew up to the adjacent spot as if to consider its own nest there.  (See picture below.)


 Well, Mr. Redhead was having none of that!  In a flash he flew up to that sparrow, fluttered and squawked aggressively until the sparrow flew to the ground.  Not satisfied with that, this alpha male followed the sparrow down and confronted him there!  The sparrow, clearly a pacifist, opted to depart the area.  Mr. Redhead strutted a bit, looked all around, flew up to the nesting spot to ensure all was okay, and then resumed his perch in the bougainvillea, singing loudly.

 Late in the afternoon she had just about completed her work.  Whenever I went outside with the camera both birds flew off, so here’s another shot of the nest, with bird in residence, taken through a screened window:


Hopefully she has the nest secured sufficiently that the wind will leave it alone until eggs are produced, hatched, and the little ones can fly.  I’ll let you know.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

You don't see a baby moose every day

This came to me today in a forwarded email, so I can't verify its authenticity.  But hey, the pictures are sure cute!
A baby moose was in distress in a creek.  A man got him out of the creek; tried to find the mother and send him on his way, but eventually the moose stumbled back into the creek and was rescued again.
The baby moose followed the man home.  The man has only a small cabin so he took the moose to another neighbor, who took these photos. They took the moose the next day to a woman who looks after wild animals and she put it in a pen with a rescued fawn.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

The Joys of Medicare

This isn’t a rant, although it’s tempting.  No, this is just a few curiosities about the inner workings of the Medicare system as I attempt to interact with them.

I opted into Medicare part B later than most, after retiring in my 67th year.  But I had been covered by my employer’s plan until then so all was fine.  About 10 months later I was scheduled for a routine physical exam, including a couple of tests.  Medicare promptly declined payment for the exam and the tests.

I phoned the Medicare 800 number, fought through prompts and a lengthy hold before being connected to a very articulate and well-informed representative.  After review he informed me that the problem was all in the coding of the claim.  The doctor had submitted the claim as a “routine physical exam,” but under Medicare I was not eligible for that code until I had been in part B for 12 months.  Then the representative brightly informed me that if the claim were resubmitted as a “welcome to Medicare” visit, it would be covered.

Okay.  How about the tests?

The answer, also delivered brightly, was that those would also be covered if resubmitted under a different code.  I asked which code he would suggest.  He said he was precluded from making suggestions for fraud prevention reasons, but assured me that “any code would do, other than the one that was used.”

Okay.  Gee, that sounded like very effective fraud prevention, wouldn’t you agree?  (Sarcasm font needed.)

Then last Tuesday I went to a dermatologist for a routine screening.  He found a small mole on my back that he wanted to biopsy, telling me it was probably benign but he thought he detected a color change and “better safe than sorry.”  I readily agreed.  (Duh!  That’s why I go see the guy!)

The phone call came yesterday that I had a BCC (“basal cell carcinoma”).  These are fairly innocent little skin cancers that rarely spread (metastasize), and are almost always successfully treated by removal of all the affected tissue.  Especially after early detection.  (Note to reader:  Routine dermatological screenings are a GOOD IDEA!)  The doctor wanted to schedule me for a return appointment to remove surrounding tissue to ensure complete removal of all affected cells.  This is typically done in the office (outpatient) under local anesthesia by freezing or burning around the biopsied area.

I was offered May 14 for an appointment, and of course agreed.  In the interest of getting rid of the cancerous cells as quickly as possible, I mentioned that I would be available all of the week prior to the 14th if there were an opening.  I was told, “Oh, we can’t schedule you any earlier because Medicare requires a waiting period.”

Excuse me?  More fraud prevention?

As I wrote at the beginning, this is not a rant.  But if the diagnosis had been a melanoma or something more serious, it would be!

Maybe there’s a (good?) reason.  But I’m curious, and plan to do a little more research to see if I can find it, and the “logic” behind it.  I’ll let you know.