For the Birds

Once the shoveling was done and Max taken care of, I put on a fresh pot of coffee, filled the bird feeders and sat down to watch the magic.  One of my favourite things to do is to sit and enjoy nature while eating something…anything…like an apple or a piece of cheese or blueberries OR drinking something…like red wine or coffee or water. The taste buds are heightened outdoors and it is magical.

It wasn’t long and the word was out…likely a hundred sparrows landed at the back yard feeder.  Surprisingly, they don’t tolerate my presence as well now that it’s cold, but the little darlings came and went and came and went while I sipped my steaming hot cup of coffee.  At the front, the ‘three pilgrims’ were pecking underneath the feeder.  People have told me to chase pigeons from the feeders…well, this family has been visiting my feeders ever since the spring as the grey fledgling was struggling to find his clumsy way.  When something is struggling so hard to make sense of the world, how can you not appreciate the natural selection of things?  It’s hard to reject any being in nature when so much is against them.

Every now and then when they get greedy, I chase them away, shaking a kitchen towel at them.  Sometimes I wonder where they roost and why a zillion of their friends don’t join them.  So far-so good.

Cold weather brings different friends and enemies to the bird feeders.  Just recently, I’m seeing more chickadees, jays and northern flickers and a few days ago, I saw my first woodpecker of the season.

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Do you remember when I was posting about Duke’s Farm’s eagle cam?  I watch them routinely in the spring.  This past season, I watched intently as there were three eggs that hatched.  The grade ones that I was teaching at the time recorded notes about the three hatchlings each morning after prayer and O’ Canada.

P1160181Eagles April 18 2014 Well, some time shortly after I left that contract, the eagle cam went down.  As a result, I didn’t see the three youngsters fledge, but the monitors of the activities at the nest and the biologists making observations, left notes that assumed that they had fledged successfully after a very positive banding.  Well, sad news to report recently and I’ll copy the notes right from the Duke Farm’s Eagle Cam site.

11/25/2014
The camera is now running. The cam may go down temporarily as we clean up cable splices buried in the ground and prep the lines for winter.

11/25/2014
Today the eagle camera is scheduled to be placed back in the tree and coaxial cable will be reconnected to conduct tests. Along with corrosion issues the camera and cable also appeared to suffer some damage from a surge or loose connection that melted an internal component.

10/20/2014
We have pulled down the eagle camera and found out the main issue currently appears to be a corroded connector. We will be cleaning/replacing the connectors and run tests and hopefully have the camera up soon again.

8/25/14
We are sad to announce news that one of our eaglets from this year’s nest was found dead at Sebago Lake, Maine after a fight with an adult eagle that was guarding a nest; From Conserve Wildlife NJ biologists discussions with biologists and observers in Maine;

“On July 27th the juvenile male, D-98, was found dead by residents of Little Sebago Lake, Maine. He was one of the three Duke Farms chicks banded on May 14, 2014 and assumed fledged in Mid-June.

Residents of the lake which is NW of Portland, reported seeing him near an active eagle nest located on the lake. The nest had chicks which fledged in early July. On July 25th residents reported seeing a juvenile with a green band sitting in a tree near a boat house;
“The youngster had been in a small tree next to our boat house for quite a long time when an adult, carrying a fish, swooped in over the folks sunning on the beach and attacked the young bird. It dropped the fish in the process. The adult flew off leaving the fish and the juvenile behind. Thanks to a cell phone photo, we know that the youngster had the band colors of the later retrieved juvenile”.

While we don’t know for certain we can assume that the juvenile’s death was in some part due to injuries that occurred when it was attacked by the adult. The mortality rate for first year eagles is fairly high as they are still learning to hunt and fly. It is very unusual to receive this much information on the details surrounding an eagles death.”

While it is very sad news, such is the remarkable and frightening circumstance of life itself. I highly recommend that you join me this spring in observing the two majestic parents that will make a home of this same nest, regardless of the loss or successes of previous years.  It is through vulnerability and struggle that we find our way.  We have much to learn from watching birds.  Lately I am feeling, more than ever, that it is essential that we slow down and make observations of the world that surrounds us.  We must listen to the stories that nature is telling us.

Did Mr. Take a Mistress?

I know!  You thought that because Mrs. and her fledglings seemed to be goners, that I would stop watching their nest, right?  Wrong!  Mr. sat and howled redundantly for two days and then disappeared for a day.

He looked like this.

P1170634I will never know if the nestlings fledged…any of them, successfully.  I have no idea if Mrs. was just off with them, doing flight lessons.  He appeared to be widowed by all of his behaviours, but what do I know?  Of course I then went to a variety of sites to read about the widows of the nest.  Interesting stuff.  I learned that even while building a nest and establishing a family unit, Mr. goes off routinely and messes around.  It isn’t unusual for the male sparrows to go off and find a mistress when they have been widowed and visa versa for the female sparrows.  I’m guessing with the huge magpie and grackle populations and with a lot of outdoor cats, the incidents of loss are also huge

I’ve looked at the images and I can’t really tell if Mrs. is Mrs. or if it is in fact, a new partner at the nest, but today…after days of beating around the grief bush, there is another.

This is the last photo I have of Mrs. the day before Mr. was spotted alone.

P1170590 P1170622This is lady-friend (Mrs.?) this morning.

P1170882They all look the same…right?

I’m just happy that Mr. is wearing a smile again.

P1170891P1170892 P1170893He’s doing a bit of performance puffing…she’s doing this jittery thing with her wings.

In following them to the feeder, I DID see a juvenile in high branches and a female feed it and then encourage it higher, into the branches above the house.  I’m wondering, of course, if the female and maybe one, two or three successful fledges weren’t just held up in high branches.  One will never know…but certainly, it makes for a good story!  lol

P1170889 P1170890Above…the lady of the house doing her wing shakes.  The story continues.

 

My Feathered Friends

Bird Business!

Mr. and Mrs. moved in some time in April, but little did they know that two huge and blustery spring storms would move in.  I think something happened that one or both sparrows didn’t survive because I didn’t see them again.  Some time in May a new couple occupied the cozy apartment and have been seriously nesting since the melt and the warm sun has been shining.

Mr. and Mrs. May 25, 2014b Mr. and Mrs. May 25 2014And, yes!  I was the one who supported last year’s vent with duct tape as previous tenants were losing offspring early after hatching, given that the bottom two flaps are missing on the vent. You know the song…

I’ve been surprised at the front yard nest a couple of times this year.

Early in May, I had a visit from a single male Rose Breasted Grosbeak.  I was so excited to see the brilliant red chest of this bird and the stark black and white.

P1160782 P1160781 P1160779

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

I was also surprised by three pairs of American Goldfinches.  Their songs were beautiful and they hovered in front of the picture window, looking at themselves.  I’ve heard them a few times since, in a neighbour’s flowering tree, but don’t have any idea if they are in transit or if they will settle on this area.

American Goldfinch

P1160935 P1160933 P1160929 P1160927 P1160924 P1160922 P1160921 I anticipate many stories surrounding events at the bird feeders and at Frank’s Flats where I routinely watch the water birds and their interactions.  The three eaglets at Duke’s Farms are also very ready to fledge, although they have had something happen, recently, with one of their cameras and will not be able to remedy the situation until after the babes have gone.

It is an awesome thing to have opportunity to watch birds.

Writing

I miss the act of writing, so I open to this crisp white page and begin to write.

Dressed for teaching,  I skidded from the sidewalk across the front yard, in order to top up the bird feeder.  The light is changing these days and the birds are doing more chirping. At minus ten, white crystalline snow blew and bit my skin on the earlier dog walk, so I knew that the birds would be hungry.  Little porkers were puffed and satisfied upon my return and the feeder was empty, but for a few short inches of seed at the bottom.  It had been a great day to be a bird.

Still bound by the cardigan and the fancy socks, I plunked down, hoping to meet Mom and Dad for a visit on Skype.  We meet at five each evening.  I look at my parents’ faces and feel grounded and secure.  At a distance, I ache to feel their hugs, but feel gratitude at the technological wonders that somehow pull our heart strings and tie them in such knots that I forget that we are apart.

My mother has Alzheimer’s disease and our conversations do not stay the same.  I watch my mother grow and change each day at five o’clock.  I also watch my father grow and change as her caregiver.  It is a treat to spend this forty five minutes every day in communion with and loving them.  A conversation with my 74 year old mother comes back to me at this moment; for the sake of writing, I will record it here.

“I am forgetting things.”

“Oh, Mom!  I am forgetting things also.”

“No, I really AM forgetting things.”

It is this writing, shared by a friend today, that has me reflecting on any of this…the cold…caring for the weak, cold, afraid…dignity, discovery and resolve.  There is a story here, for all of us.  Caring on Stolen Time: A Nursing Home Diary

To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart. Phyllis Theroux

This Week In the Garden: First Week of September

Yes, Dad, I DID let the lettuce go to seed!  There is ONLY SO MUCH lettuce that one lady can eat!  It was nice just to relax after Max’s off leash romp in the wind and the rain this afternoon.  I really have enjoyed the peacefulness of my back yard this summer!  The video represents only a segment of the zillion sparrows hanging out in the yard…the others were all sitting in May (the Mayday tree) above my head and behind my back…cautious of the sounds I was making with the camera.

This bee, among others, was clinging to one of the sunflowers…gathering up the last pollens of the season.

Student Painting

Stories Left in Snow

What made these tracks?

All sorts of stories might be captured in the crusty snow of the front yard.  While I have not been witness to much of this activity, I can ‘suppose’ what has been going on.  I DO know for fact that the behaviour at the bird feeder has changed since I have attached a seed capture tray to the tube feeder.  The sparrows are totally annoyed, landing in the same bushes and branches and ranting wildly.  They are just not able to approach for some reason…they try, but the attached plastic wires on four corners seem to have them baffled.  Funny enough, the chickadees are celebrating this stall on the sparrows’ behaviour and are regular feeders now.  I hope that I have not created a problem for the sparrows’ survival this winter (Have I?), but the seed accumulating on the snow was creating great mouse activity every time the temperatures would warm up even slightly.  I added the trays out of necessity and likely should have done this earlier.

A close-up...don't think they are mice because I have had mice at the back.

😦 I've lost another sparrow.

I will spare my readers the photograph I’ve taken of ‘sign’ left by an animal that I don’t recognize.  I asked one of my readers if they thought it would be inappropriate to post that and they adamantly replied, “Yes!  It would be so inappropriate!!” Hmmm…

Lot's of bunnies curling up in the bushes and under the tree at night.

 I think that winter is a ‘magical’ season, for so many reasons!  I am in awe of animal life and how they survive sometimes brutal conditions.  Just today, I read this story.

Sunday Visit to The Wild Bird Store

A Feeder For Any Bird!

YIKES!  I visited such an amazing and magical place, while thinking about the preponderance of sparrows at the backyard feeder.  I have been hearing the chickadees and have made sitings, but they are not approaching the feeder because of the huge numbers of sparrows present in the yard.  I think I might have written about this already and so, I have decided to do something about it!  When I can’t get something out of my head, I have to follow through with some reading and get my questions answered. 

The wooden feeder that you see above is, what I view as, my deluxe model, suitable for all sorts of visitors.  To this one, I will add my seed for nuthatch and chickadees and hopefully steer the sparrows away from that location.  This is a mixture that includes primarily black sunflower seed.

Chickadee/Nuthatch Mix

 The feeder below is my new tube feeder where I will expect my sparrows to continue to forage and beat about.  The sparrows particularly enjoy white millet.  Their beaks are shaped in such a way that they find it difficult to peck away at the small openings, more accessible to finches and longer-beaked birds.

Sparrows

 I will use up the rest of my Wal-Mart mix in this feeder and then begin buying bulk from The Wild Bird Store.  I’m also thinking about locating the tube feeder in my front yard tree.  Still thinking about that one.

Deluxe Sparrow Feed

 Finally, I’m very excited about my inexpensive, but versatile feeder for golden finches and the like.  I’ve read that it’s not uncommon to have visits in the winter from these.

Variety!

 

For this feeder, I will use Nyjer Seed.  I’m enthused about setting up the yard for bird- watching.  My parents have always been so happy when they’ve spotted birds and there has been much laughter shared about bird shenanigans!  I have many fond memories, gathering at the back window on visits with my parents.

Happenings in the Garden: Birds and Tomatoes

It is impossible to capture, with my camera, the cacophony of sounds and the flutter of activity as I step out onto my back deck in the morning.  While I’m still researching the upside and the downside of keeping a bird feeder in my yard, for now I just really enjoy the robust nature and shenanigans of the sparrows that come to my backyard tree  (I’ve always called her, May).  Every branch seems to move with my entrance to the deck.  It’s as though the tree is alive, and I mean ‘alive’ in a different way!

May and Bird Feeder

 

A couple of things I want to learn…how does one attract birds other than sparrows to ones bird feeder?  Second to that, how does one adopt the beautiful black and white spotted feral cat that routinely perches on the top of my fence in order to stalk the huge gaggle of sparrows?  Finally, is it alright to continue to fill my feeder with seed around the seasons, or is it better for the bird population that I discontinue this practice?

While pondering all of this, I so enjoy the harvest of my garden!  I am so blessed!

Tomatoes