Venting!

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!

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For The Birds: May 19 – 27, 2018

I was down in southern Alberta for the long weekend and basically just sighted a lot of Mourning Doves and heard a lot of Mourning Doves.  For a good part of the weekend, it rained.  It was cozy inside with my auntie.  Walking the dog…early morning and in the quiet of evening, I loved the light and quiet of small town Magrath.

Back here at home, I’ve made visits to Frank’s Flats (the pond) and to the Bow River every day.  I guess I’ve got some questions about some of the birds I’ve spotted.

High School biology students have been down at the edge of the pond, collecting leeches again.  I’ve spoken to one of the Biology teachers…again mentioning that it isn’t the greatest of times for such activities, given that we have four Red Necked Grebe nests and a Black Crowned Heron nest, as well as countless other nests that are active.  She told me that this year they made certain that they told the kids to protect and watch for bird nests.  However, the way in which they were gallumphing about, the Red Winged Black birds were truly freaking.  Damage done.

I’ll post some of my photos…some not very focused, but, keep in mind that I am a bird enthusiast…not so much a photographer.

May 23rd Uploads

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Song Sparrow

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Mr.

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Male and Female Mallard…loved the colours here.

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Watched this chump cool off in shallow water.  Robin

May 25th Uploads

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Female Red Winged Blackbird

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Male Red Winged Blackbird

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Savannah Sparrow

May 26th Uploads

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Yellow Warbler Bow River’s Edge

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Song Sparrow

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Bow River Rising…Many upset Canada Goose couples

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Is this a female Brown-headed Cowbird?

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Dunno?

May 27th Downloads

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Mr. and Mrs. enjoying a Sunday morning over the river.

Nesting

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.

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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.

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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.

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Fiddler’s Green
One, two, three, four, one, two
September seventeen
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
Oh nothing’s changed anyway
Oh nothing’s changed anyway
Oh anytime today
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

Mr. & Mrs. 2018

These two have moved in…activities to watch from my kitchen window.  I’ve followed the activities of this nest for ten years now.

Mr. & Mrs. 2018

A few notable moments at this nest…

Mr. & Mrs. 2012

Mr. & Mrs. 2014

Mr. & Mrs. 2015

I find this particular vent a tad precarious…it’s a bit stressful to watch…Ma and Pa don’t know that the crows and magpies create a clamour at some point and the little guys will toddle out that door, sometimes, before they’re really cooked.  Here’s hoping that it’s a positive outcome this year.  The neighbours seem to be completely unaware of adventures in nature being a stone’s throw from their own kitchen window.

 

 

Little Birds

Thank you, Jenn, for your wonderful class!  They were amazing, respectful and so appreciative of everything I had to share with them.  I enjoyed being in your class.  I’ve collected a few ideas here that I thought other teachers might appreciate.

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These art ideas are colourful and include subjects that grade three students adore, ANIMALS!  I turned on Duke’s LIVE Eagle Cam while the students wrote their journal pages this morning and they were amazed.

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I browsed around as they worked and discovered some wonderful guidance in the word walls, the charts and the resources that are posted for student use throughout the classroom.

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This afternoon, I spoke to the students a little bit about how we can sometimes feel abandoned by God, at times when big things happen, like the news of so many people having to leave their homes in Fort McMurray.  This morning in Health, we had learned about several ways to calm ourselves down when life is stressful and we practiced a five minute meditation together.  It was amazing how calming that time was!

So, we wondered this afternoon,’when something big happens, what are some ways that we can calm down the stressful feelings we are having?’  Well, it is really helpful to know that there are kind and caring people around who are going to be there for us.  I spoke to them about the Footprints prayer and that sometimes when we don’t experience God close to us, “it is then that HE carries us”.  We are not alone.  Look at the lilies of the fields.  Look at the sparrows…the tiny birds…if our Father loves them, how much more does He love us?

I moved from this shared conversation into an art activity where I spoke to the students about observing a sparrow family in a vent across from my kitchen table.  I’ve watched these sparrows for the past six years.  At this point, there were all sorts of stories shared about nests/eggs/sparrows and I tried to listen to every one of them.

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The students are really getting to appreciate that a visual journal is for practice and exploration.  I was really impressed by their studies.

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I handed out small-scale pieces of heavy toothed white paper for their final compositions. While students were drawing, they took turns painting swirling sky colour onto blue construction mural paper, in order to create a sense of spring and atmosphere.  The students added colour with pencil crayon, to their final depictions and after observing several projected images of sparrows.

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Collaborative projects are a way of displaying smaller projects that are skill oriented.  Thanks for your class today, Jenn.

Bird Tails From the Hood #3

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.

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Bird Tails From the Hood #2

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.

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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.

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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.

 

Feeling Bad For Dad

It was just yesterday that I photographed Mr.’s beautiful family…three babes and his lovely Mrs.

P1170607However, last evening held a huge wind storm and a driving rain.  This morning held no cries and demands from the nest.  I noticed as I was pouring my first cup of coffee.  It appeared that Mr. and Mrs. were hanging onto the duct tape searching into the nest, when an angry male (actual Mr.) swooped in with tremendous aggression…the female flying away and the male battling with Mr. and falling to the ground.  Mr. then moved in to his territory…but, alone.  It was such a sad sight.  I’m imagining that some situation was encountered in the night that left Mrs. fighting on behalf her young ones.  For some reason I’m not imagining a positive outcome and I feel a sense of loss.

Dad made himself as large as he could at the entrance to the nest all morning long and still calls out redundantly from the eve’s trough.  Instinctively, his role has disappeared.  I wonder how long before he accepts his loss.

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