When I arrived at the Bow River this morning, late, Dad was low in the nest bowl, obviously on duty. Mama had all of the ducks and gulls freaking out and from one place to the next, there arose a tremendous cacophony. At one point, unbeknownst to me, she flew directly over my head and then I lost sight of her. As I made my way along the river’s edge, I was able to witness the exchange of duties and Mama settled down to take over for Dad. She’s much younger and not as experienced as he is…and so it delights me to see her intuitively taking part in the work.
So…earlier posts in the season demonstrated an all-out war between House Sparrows and Northern Flickers, as they fought for dibs on a vent across from my kitchen window. In the end, the vent remained abandoned for the first round of nesting and egg-laying. Well, not to be discouraged, look what’s happened. Strange thing is, this morning two separate males were helping this young lady out. I recognize the one male as the ‘old guy’ who was widowed earlier this year and the other as being the Casanova (thin, young and with a smoothed back feather style) that I observed when the male Northern Flicker showed up. This is a new female to this location. Don’t know what’s to come of all of it, but I plan on reading about the potential of such scenarios in nature.
Enjoy the slide show…this is a brief collection…two days out of four and a trip every 30 seconds or so, unloading grasses and nesting materials! Such industry!
I give up on trying to understand who has or is going to claim territory where the vent is concerned. It truly seemed that the Northern Flicker had dominated the space for a few days, anyway.
On April 29, 2018 I made my first sighting of a female, but have never seen her from the kitchen window. If she’s hanging about, she’s being very secretive.
On April 30, 2018 this goofus was observed hammering away at the interior of the vent. He seemed just a little frustrated and a video of the event would be most entertaining, but this is what we have, folks.
I was out to the pharmacy to pick up some Buckley’s, on my father’s recommendation, and when I got home, light was fading and I saw a protrusion from the vent. THIS! I think we’d all agree that would not, in any way, represent a House Sparrow nest, so I was left thinking that perhaps Mr. and Mrs. Flicker had decided to settle down, maybe have some babies…it looks that way to me.
It was a tough night of coughing and spewing, sleeping and waking and half sleeping and half waking. I found myself reading several chapters and drinking a full glass of orange juice at 3 a.m. At some point, I passed out again. I got up by 8 this morning. My son had already made a pot of coffee, so there was that comforting aroma in the air. I looked out the kitchen window to find the nesting material gone, but not on the ground below. Must be pushed in, right? hmmmm
I’ve seen our buddy only once today…and he hung for what seemed an eternity, simply looking into the black chasm of this piece of prime real estate.
In the meantime, crazy shenanigans involving the House Sparrows carried on throughout my random observatuons…in and out, in and out, seeming to test fate at every entrance into the prized abode.
I think that Mr. Handsome, here, is the young fellow little Missy would like to settle down with. Remember the slicked back hairdo?
But, this is the guy who wishes to win favour…looking a little pushy, me thinks.
This little girl has been on the defense whenever I’ve observed her today, being threatened and chased by several males. It seems so violent to me. And all at the same time, it is unclear who dominates this location. It still seems there is no real winner.
I know this for certain, however…this is Mr. Widow Sparrow…evicted some time ago. He remains depleted on my fence, observing as I do, all of the goings-on in the very place he had once chosen for his home. You’ll hear from me again, on this subject, when we have youngsters…not a minute before.
I introduced you to Mr. & Mrs. of 2018 a few short weeks ago. That was before the snow and the storms that seemed to go on and on in April. While House Sparrows aren’t my favourite (is anyone crazy about them?) because they are such sloppy eaters and are actually pretty violent with one another, I’ve been, for years, fond of the nesters because I’ve learned so much about bird nesting behaviour and a couple’s determination. Conveniently located across from my kitchen window, my neighbour’s vent has been home to several mating couples, most unsuccessful with fledglings…except for last year, the first successful year in a while.
The past two mornings, pouring my first cup of coffee, I’ve seen this guy pop out…
While I love a Northern Flicker down at the river’s edge, moving into the core of dead elms…I don’t like seeing this! For one, what of my nesters? Well, Mr. was inside the vent at the same time, because shortly after this photo was taken, Mr. appeared from within, barking at the world and quite upset.
On April 17, when I first noticed the Northern Flicker demanding entrance into the vent, I also saw Mrs. after the entrance and departure. I have no idea the state of the nest or if there are any viable eggs at this point. On the 17th, early in the morning, I told my son, “We must have a hatch over at the nest because Dad is acting very cocky and agitated.”
But…as soon as the Flicker fiasco was behind them, Mr. began to do this…bopping in and out, removing nesting materials and dropping them outside of the nest.
Our neighbourhood, once spring is in full bloom, is a favourite hang out for Magpies and Crows. I’ve seen Magpies clinging to the edges of this vent, with beak fully immersed, on the attack. Northern Flickers are known for being destructive as they peck away for insects and spiders that tuck themselves under the edging of house siding. I don’t think it would be a wonderful thing to see a couple nesting anywhere near here. If they are scavenging and feeding here, also not a good thing.
I have no choice but to watch and learn. I suppose my readers would have reported all of this to their neighbours by now. I’ve wondered that myself.
The past three days, we have been pulled out of the deep freeze and into a melt. I can not walk through the tall woods at the river, without hearing the constant mating thrums of Northern Flickers and without seeing the wild flurry as males, out of urge and instinct, chase the females, dodging in and out of branches. I can hear the echoing drum of the Pileated Woodpecker on the opposite side of the river and thrill to see my Alberta Birders’ archives of the splendid colour, later, on my computer at home. It is as though everything has come to life, suddenly. For so long, the world slept.
It all began with the Magpies. My neighbourhood, even as snow mounted on our quiet circle, was abuzz with the squawking gathering of dead branches that were tightly woven into the growing bulb of nests, peppering the remaining Elms.
Evenings, I stood in contemplation while the adult Bald Eagles, flew west and east and west and east, gathering up lining materials and tall grasses, returning again and again to the nest that was clearly visible all winter long. The juveniles have mostly disappeared, leaving the two regal raptors to forge out a life for the new. It has been an intimate and powerful encounter to watch these families throughout such a harsh winter.
While these aren’t the best of shots, I have a wee archive of the interesting approach to gathering. I can only imagine living in one of the ‘big’ houses along the ridge and having access, every day, to such wonder, just outside my windows.
I celebrate, every day, the access I have to such wonder. I really can only equate it all to an experience of grace. My friend, Michael, is someone who knows and understands what I mean by that. A person just wants to sing, at the top of their lungs…”HOLY! HOLY!”
Whether one enjoys the nesting behaviours of an eagle, or the simplicity of sparrows that nest in a stove vent…it is all so amazing.
Mr. & Mrs. 2018
As my children have become adults, I have experienced a sense of loss. Some days my heart feels empty. But, then I step out into nature and I observe what surrounds and once again, my heart sings. I am reminded that God made all of this for me. I am reminded that I need to take responsibility for such astounding beauty. Sometimes it can all be very brutal, but at other times, it is pure fragility and tenderness.
For a girl I know it’s Mother’s Day
Her son has gone alee
And that’s where he will stay
Wind on the weathervane
Tearing blue eyes sailor-mean
As Falstaff sings a sorrowful refrain
For a boy in Fiddler’s Green
His tiny knotted heart
Well, I guess it never worked too good
The timber tore apart
And the water gorged the wood
You can hear her whispered prayer
For men at masts that always lean
The same wind that moves her hair
Moves a boy through Fiddler’s Green
He doesn’t know a soul
There’s nowhere that he’s really been
But he won’t travel long alone
No, not in Fiddler’s Green
Balloons all filled with rain
As children’s eyes turn sleepy-mean
And Falstaff sings a sorrowful refrain
For a boy in Fiddler’s Green
I should be out gardening. I am typically well ahead of the neighbours, but with owwies in the elbow this year, I’m lagging. That doesn’t stop me from feeling fired up, however, as I listen to the sound of the neighbouring trimmers, lawnmowers and the stchhhh stchhhh of their sprinklers.
It’s pretty nice getting outside for long hikes, without the lawn work, I’ve got to say.
Here are today’s birds…all at Frank’s Flats. I continue to hope that the pond on the other side of the chain link fence isn’t drained until the fledge happens. We’ve a lot of nesting water birds at the moment. We have one widowed Goose (female, I think), as well as a widowed Mallard (male). They were hanging out together for quite a bit today. However, as I snapped a photograph, the Mallard flew out of frame.
No smiling at the pond these days! If I smiled, I would eat my weight in bugs. Must be the reason for the excitement on the water. The gulls, laughing in a wild frenzy, are annoying the other birds. The Yellow-headed Blackbirds seem to be pecking away in the huge batch of blooming dandelions.
Giving me the Stare Down!
Black Headed Gull
More than a few…and Noisy!
One of the Male Grebes Having a Float
Overseeing his possibilities.
Female Blackbirds checking out the Men. So many visible, while for weeks, the men were out there doing the soft shoe on the cat tails on their own.
Widowed Two Weeks Ago
This must be my O’ Canada Photograph
Chain Link Fence and Wigeon
Gadwells and Gull
Male Red-Winged Blackbird Giving a Shout
One Photograph was edited today. Guess which one? (Not this one)
I didn’t capture any images of the two wee sparrows that feasted well as a result of Mrs. and her dedicated care and concern. I watched them from the kitchen window, though, and knew that they would fledge soon. Sure enough, just two days ago, in late afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. seemed to be having a huge squabble inside the nest. Wings were flying everywhere. When the dust settled, I didn’t hear the little guys at all. I don’t know if the two youngsters had come to some sad demise (a crow has been hanging about lately) or if they had successfully left the nest. I prefer to choose the latter.
Instinctively, the very next morning, yesterday morning, Mr. dominated the nest again, calling out repetitively for the next brood to be started. Sparrows can manage two or three different broods in a summer season. It was/is apparent that he had no time to be messing about.
Yesterday afternoon I watched him clean out the previous nest or nest lining, one piece of grass at a time…sometimes yanking an entire chunk of nest out and onto the ground. This was something I had not observed before.
Originally, Mr. was widowed. I had seen the female and male sparrows very early in the spring, but after one of two brutal snow storms, the female disappeared. He remained at the nest, lamenting and frustrated, crying out for days and then weeks, trying to attract a new lady friend. Finally, the courting began and I started to see the new little Mrs. coming and going.
Well, it now appears as though she is managing the nest on her own. This, I think, leaves her vulnerable as she races in the heat, back and forth from the feeder, tending her little ones who now make their presence known redundantly through the day and into the evening. Mother sometimes appears to be panting at the nest opening. I haven’t seen Mr. around for over a week.
But, I HAVE seen the aunties…a whole string of females on my eves trough, that every time Mrs. leaves the nest untended, take turns flying in to look at the youngsters. I’m wondering if this, in nature, is a malicious thing or if they are curious on-lookers. I just feel very sad for how busy Mrs. is and wonder how she will manage to see her way through this time.
Just this morning, my daughter and I had our first siting of one of the young birds. I would love to place a trampoline under the vent location because in the past, we’ve always lost one or two to their fall onto the hard ground below.
I visit the same place, Frank’s Flats, daily…it doesn’t matter the weather. It’s been five years now and I like the intimacy that comes with knowing this single place well. For some, traveling the world is satisfying. I feel as though I ride on the seasons as others might ride on an airplane and I gain such perspective and understanding because I look closely. If one tends a small piece of the land, with gratitude, it is possible that one becomes more keenly aware through all of the senses. This is just what I’m thinking.
Along with my written archive, I’ve posted a collection of images over the years that partners with the words, however, with no room in the budget for a camera these last two years, I’ve been using my phone. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to get up close enough to some of my subjects because they (the coyotes, magpies, red winged black birds, osprey, muskrats and all types of water fowl) have been doing the most amazing things and doing them quickly and everywhere.
So…today, I got myself a camera. And this was my first photo.
Within minutes of picking up my Canon PowerShot SX60 HS, I sorted out some of the technical aspects of the camera. While doing my research I knew that I wanted something with greater zoom than my former Lumix point-and-shoot. While I’d had two Panasonics, in time, the same component had failed on both. In both instances I was told that replacement value would be equal to a new product. This was disheartening and I really didn’t intend on buying another camera. Once I had decided that a good camera would make my experiences more enjoyable, I decided I still wished to have the convenience of Auto settings and that I didn’t wish to invest very much time learning the science of photography, given that I have pledged to get back to the easel consistently over this decade. (Praying for continued good health.)
This afternoon, the female osprey was surrounded by a wall of nesting material, her head peeking again and again over the edge.
The male was enjoying the sunshine on his back…hanging with his buddy, the magpie. This was taken from quite a distance away and I know that the image is fuzzy edged, but I so enjoyed capturing these two buds hanging in the thick brush. It wasn’t long after this shot that he lifted off, delivered another large branch to the nest and then settled in to watch over Mama.
I really enjoyed the fact that the sky was seamless. The waves on the water were actually pounding, it was so windy. There was a smell on the air of life.
I will have to pour through the photos to find ones that have the better compositions, but these few demonstrate the difference between using my phone…
Can you see her?
…and using this beautiful gift to myself. What joy! This one legged stand was my surprising capture. It makes me smile. I am blessed by this beautiful location and discover something new every day.
It was so cold and windy this morning, that I didn’t capture photos so much as I observed and sat with and enjoyed nature and her glory.
Spotted carrying sticks…osprey, heron, crow and hawk.
Birds are nesting and it is wondrous. Nothing gives me more peace then seeing their instinctual determination. I’m going to post a couple of my phone photos (YUCK! I take them just to maintain an archive) and a few that I snapple from the web. I saw a new couple today.
I watched the osprey nesting for a good hour early this morning. I remained in the car as it seems this is a very important time in the nesting schedule. Max sat quietly the whole time. The male kept leaving and coming back with more small twigs and tucking them in around the female. It was so beautiful. This was the period of time when I saw the heron gathering, as well as the hawk and crow. It was so beautiful.
My sad little photo archive.
As I rolled away very slowly, five vehicles pulled up some distance away…the tripods and cameras came out and Calgary’s finest, the bird watchers and photographers were lined up and at it. They seemed to be focusing on the huge gaggle of gulls that had arrived, as well as the variety of water ducks and geese. I will watch the Birds Calgary blog site closely over the next while and hope to see some wonderful photographs.
In the meantime, my grade threes continue to watch, daily, the activities at Duke Farm’s Live Eagle cam, recently noticing that the dark feathers are coming into replace the white baby fuzz on our two eaglets. The student drawings are scientific observations and so darned sweet!
Today, the pond and Frank’s Flats were overwhelmed with bird sounds and activities. Max was on leash for much of the time because things are ‘happening’ and I don’t want him to create havoc. The red winged blackbirds are busy courting; the crows are hanging closely around the nests and feeding areas of other like-minded hunters. I saw one crow incessantly pick away at the osprey, perched on a telephone pole, tearing apart a ground squirrel. What an amazing world we live in!