Sunday, April 09, 2017

Wake Up!

I am on travel for this week. But I had painted a "listening" picture a few years ago about an early morning in the spring that was filled with wake-up calls. Maybe you would like to revisit? Go here.

Monday, April 03, 2017

That Certain Something

Imprinting is as powerful as falling in love or looking for food when you are hungry. Trying to break the pattern and look the other way is almost impossible as the force is strong. 

 "The most famous psychological demonstrations of this is the work of Konrad Lorenz (1907-1989) who discovered that incubator-hatched graylag gueeses would “imprint” on the first moving thing they saw, very specifically in the first 36 hours of life. He called the process “stamping in” .This specific time period has become known as the critical period. The goslings imprinted on his black walking boots, and would follow him about as others would their mother. He also found that Jackdaws who imprinted on him presented him with juicy worms (often in his ear-holes). He later showed that these ducklings would even imprint on inanimate objects like a red balloon and even a cardboard box." This from an article from Psychology Today. 

Just as babies imprint on their mother's voices in the womb, birds imprint on their parents songs of warning, presenting food, and joy after they hatch. There is a critical period where imprinting is the strongest. In ducks and geese it is 24-48 hours after hatching. In cats it is 2-7 weeks, dogs 2-10 weeks (which is why it is important to visit the litter as early as possible and breathe into the mouth of the puppy you select before it is released) and in primates it takes 6-12 months.  Remember that perfume smell  or that  song that suddenly stops you in your tracks with a memory...an imprinting?

Here is a fun link to an interesting humming bird imprinting escapade.


It seems that geese imprint on their nesting site and will return year after year.  I also have found in my research that geese nesting on an osprey site is not that rare.  They lay their eggs a week or more earlier than osprey and do take osprey nests and in most cases hold them.

I have been thinking about this imprinting also because my dear osprey do not want to move on. They have imprinted on this part of the river. They cannot use their nest because of the damn goose. They decided to return to my husband's boat which was an earlier nesting site before we put up the osprey platform in defense.  They were dropping sticks over the afternoon.  Hubby chased them away and removed the sticks.  They returned!


In my husband's defense he is not an engineer and he also wanted to use some stuff he already had:  PVC pipe and bird netting.  Anyway, this Rube Goldberg seems to be working!!

Now they have turned to our neighbor's boat.  He has no concern and while they have dropped sticks, they do not seem to be building a nest.  They just do the "honey" dance on the boat now and again.


Hubby thinks they are waiting for the geese to hatch and leave.  Maybe he is right.  They perch on a tree branch over the platform each day and watch.


These osprey are very fearful of me as they seem to remember years ago when I chased them off our boat.  It is hard for me to get close enough to take a photo before they fly.  

Unreasonably, I am mad at the geese and will certainly find a way to dissuade them next spring until when the osprey return.  I could never have predicted that living in the woods could be so demanding!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Morning After

After the dramatic wake-up call, I did fall back asleep  for a few hours and awoke later to a morning that was a surprising contrast of calm and beauty unlike the goose cacophony. It was certainly spring in all its elegance!  It was so peaceful.



I picked up the binoculars and went to the window to see the osprey platform, wondering if nothing would be there. My husband had explained that a swipe from a goose neck can be quite painful, so maybe the mistress of the manor had held her ground.  It was so quiet except for some distant gentle bird song.

There she sat in royal elegance clearly keeping some eggs warm in the cool morning air. She seemed placid as any new mother awaiting the arrival of her goslings.  I scanned the skies for osprey and high across the river was one osprey looking for food or a new nesting site?


I assumed the battle had been decided.  I assumed wrong as by mid-morning the sound of geese honking loudly started again.  I went outside on the deck to see what caused this new battle.  I saw 5 or six geese in the river about 100 feet from the platform.  I also saw the noise maker closer to the platform.  It was daddy fighting for territory!



I did not have the tripod, so this distant shot is not sharp!



The male goose, the gander, was very determined that the other geese did not cross some invisible line in the water.  He would start squawking and take after them like a speed boat if they got too close.  This went on for about ten or fifteen minutes until the interlopers decided to move quickly to a safer area on the river.  The female goose just sat on her nest impervious to all that was happening around her.

The rest of the day was somewhat calmer, but while geese had won both battles, the humans were now involved in another.  The osprey had started to land on the top of the boat!  Hubby chased them off.  The next day they returned with sticks!!  Hubby chased them off.  He then went to the store to purchase an osprey device.  $50.00 for a sound machine that you put on the boat that makes a noise like an osprey distress call (I know).  It arrives today.  Next year we will know to go out and make Canadian geese distress calls in the early weeks before all this can start again.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

A Cry in the Night

It is 3:30 in this quiet and very dark morning. There is no moon above the dark skeletal  arms of the trees,  but the cozy temperature of 50 degrees F makes up for the darkness outside. Unusual weather for  late March.  I had been in a light sleep, as it seems a deep sleep is never something I can count on. When nights are warming into spring, I turn off the heated bathroom floor and push down the quilt and know that my sleep will be even more easily broken. I like a cold bedroom.

I had been dreaming about something, something to do  with  Cardinals and Bishops, perhaps from the murder mystery that I had  been  reading just before falling  asleep at 10:00.  What  brought me wide awake?

I sit up in bed and the dramatic sounds of a  goose break the silence.  The honks are loud and sound  like  panicked cries  rather than the usual party banter that  we hear when the winter geese are visiting  here.   Those geese have all flown north now  and the only ones  I  see in the daytime are the two that are nesting on the former osprey platform.  For the last two days the goose has definitely been brooding and  I see her  gentle  shifting as she places her breast so carefully on  the  nest  now  and  again.  She  sits  there all  day.  There are  eggs.  The gander is not seen  as  often.

Yesterday the  female osprey arrived and the pair swooped high above the river and over  the nest in  survey.   There was a  little bit of  arguing with the  interloping  geese, but not as much  as  I would have expected.  Maybe they have another nesting area  as  a back-up plan.  I was surprised there  was not a greater war.  I was surprised at the mixed emotions I felt in  all this spring drama.

But maybe these noises tonight mean there are night-time maneuvers?  

The honking begins again and it is compelling.  I throw back  the covers and  get out of bed and head out to my deck.  I open the door quietly and  in my stocking  feet cross to the far left side of the deck where there is a view of the nest.  The air is perfect and calm.   There is now silence except for when I reach the edge of the railing  and the clumsy crashing of a frightened deer to my left can be heard flailing his/her way to the far side of the ravine through the thin woodline.  He  can  see me, but I can  only hear him.

 I wait and once again the loud honking of at  least two geese in two different areas on the water rises up to me.   I cannot really see clearly  to the river but I hear the geese in dramatic cry.  I also  hear the slapping of wings on the water.  The noise continues for a few more minutes and  then all is very  quiet. I had grabbed the binoculars but can only see a ghostly outline  of the nesting platform and no motion.  I see the lights  across the way on the  water but no swimmers.

I know  that osprey are not  night birds.  Could this be that great horned owl  I saw  last summer?  Would he be strong  enough and brave enough to drive a goose from her nest?  Would her eggs be his  reward?

I sigh  and return  to the inside.  I will not go back to bed,  but will  write this post and then wait for  dawn, maybe to see the  answers to my questions or maybe even more questions.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Spring Battles

If you are a reader of my blog for some time you know about Fred and Ethel. They return every year to their spot on the river around St. Patrick's Day...usually 2 to 3 days after.  We built their home about 8 years ago because they wanted to make home on the top of my husband's boat and that could not be allowed.  One of the earlier posts on their nest building event that year is here.  

Fred and Ethel are our resident osprey, if you have not guessed.  Our nesting site cost about $300 to build, so we were quite serious in getting them to nest somewhere else.  They have visited for at least ten years now.  

The male has arrived today and is waiting for his mate.  They vacation in separate areas which probably contributes to their longstanding relationship.   But upon his arrival he found this:




   I was wondering what on earth these Canada geese were thinking!  But they came, rearranged some sticks and then the female started to rest there during the day.



Sometimes one would fly down for a swim while the other waited in the nest spot.  Then at other times one would sit and one would watch.



Today Fred arrived and perched on the mast overlooking his former home.



The geese were certainly concerned and began to hunker down.  Soon Fred made his presence known.



He is smaller but has talons and a sharp bill.



This went on for some time with him calling in his sharp voice and then sweeping over the tops of the cowering geese.  Fred does not like my presence from past altercations so he finally left to the far side of the river.  





I am pretty sure this is not the end of the battle and that he will be back.  His mate should arrive in a few days, and maybe, he is just waiting for reinforcements.  Such drama on my spot in the river!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

One of My Favorite Gardens

Our trip to the city a few days ago gave us an opportunity to visit the Enid Haupt Garden behind the Smithsonian castle in Washington DC.  We were there as the most recent snow was melting away.




The recent hard freeze had turned the magnolia blossoms to dirty tissues as so often happens at this latitude.

This is a four acre public garden that also includes a permanent Zen garden and some temporary outdoor art/sculpture. 



Many people do not know that it is a roof garden that it is over the National Museum of African Art, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, and the S. Dillon Ripley Center.  If you look closely you can see some of the skylights in the plantings. 

Enid Haupt was an Annenburg and came from the family that published a racing form, the TV Guide and Seventeen magazine among other things. But rather than fame for publishing, she is considered the foremost horticultural philanthropist in America by some people. And this garden is one of my favorites. She provided an endowment of over 3 million dollars which thus allowed a legacy for years. You would never know you were in the heart of a city.

Unfortunately, this garden is under a plan of removal and replacement by something with more sweeping grass and less "garden" as entrances to the museums below are recreated. The new design is very contemporary and a bit teeth cringing in my opinion when placed next to the red brick Smithsonian Castle. You can go here for more information. The museums do need repair and remodel and the roofs in some areas are leaking, which means the garden would have to be torn up to fix that.  I am not in favor removing the tradition feel of this escape.  I am glad I visited and will continue to do so. The new work on the museums and gardens is costing over 3 billion dollars in expense, taken mostly from private donations.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Woody

I had this rare visitor a few days before this nasty storm. He lives somewhere in the acreage of the woods around the houses in the neighborhood, but keeps well hidden except for his woodpecker call and very loud and hollow tapping. This one seems to have particularly magnificent breeding colors. Taken through my kitchen window as they are very timid and would have never let me get close if I was outside, so the photos are a bit blurry.