Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Rest of the Story--San Diego and Mage

I had visited San Diego a few times over the decades of my illustrious life. Each time the place was a little like an oasis town in the desert.  Once it was cold enough that I woke to ice on the windshield of my rental car...with no ice scraper.  Another time is was hot and dry.  Both times the surrounding hillsides were brown with brown scrub, clearly representing the drought of California in all its caution. 

This time it was very different. The mornings were pleasantly chill (60's F) and the day was in the low 70's F. The hillsides were full of small sunflowers, tiny hummingbirds and other unusual plants that had captured the morning dew.

Taken from the car window.

We stayed at a hotel in the business area of town, rather than the tourist area.  Mage and George generously drove over to pick us up.  This was going out of their way because they were loading a truck with materials for a conference and had to set up the booth that very afternoon!  

They took us up to Balboa Park, a place rich with museums, gardens and statues.  We had just a short time for our visit and for the time in Balboa Park which is certainly a place on my list for a return and a loooong weekend exploring it all.  

They selected The Prado for lunch and it was a perfect place. The House of Hospitality Courtyard has a statue of the Woman of Tehuantepec who eternally pours life-giving water from her jug. She represents the Native Americans and was sculpted in 1935 by Donal Hord who used Indiana limestone.

The restaurant was busy, but not so busy that we could not get a table outside under the umbrellas and beside the shady bottle-brush trees enjoying a lovely Southern California spring day.  We even got to hear the huge organ play a small bit.  The sound carries sweetly across the park.  The food was what I would call "California Pub Cuisine" which means "tastes good without all that extra fat".  We I talked so much that I forgot to just sit and look around.  Mage and George and hubby and I had met up in D.C. a few years ago and seemed to slip in that old comfortable shoe mode right away.

After lunch we got a personalized tour of the Automotive Museum in Balboa Park.  George volunteers there and knew everything about the exhibits, which means we got all the good stuff.  I am not an automobile person by nature, but the history on these various vehicles was fascinating, including a car that had a washing machine, grill, toilet installed and the ability to change a tire while on the road!  

One of the few original Harley Davidson's in existence.

I learned from George that "the Fonz" never learned how to drive his famous motorcycle and was on it only long enough to look like he could.

Soon we had to say goodbye to Mage and George and they gave us tickets to the Maritime Museum and dropped us off at the exact spot.  Jim liked the Star of India as he is a big Master and Commander fan.  While the movie did not do justice to the books, it was interesting to walk around the ship where it was filmed. We also toured several other historic ships and a submarine.

We were in San Diego only overnight, but managed to see a bunch of stuff.  The kids headed off to Coronado Island and shopped while we did our thing.  We let them sleep in the next day while we waited in line to pick up "the best dough-nuts" in the world (?) for breakfast at the San Diego doughnut bar.

While these round pastries were fresh and had excellent dough, they were a little over the top in frosting in some areas!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Family - Part I

Those brave interlopers,the Canadian geese, were kind enough to remain on the osprey nest platform when we returned from our trip.  I was really glad to see that delay in their departure, being the observer of plants and animals that I am and wanting to follow their challenge.

Two days after our return I was quietly folding laundry and my husband came into the house calling to me that the geese were trying to get their young ones to leave the nest.  He said they were creating quite a ruckus.  I grabbed my camera and ran down to the dock. (The photos are poor because I had no tripod and some of the time I was on the bow of our boat which I had lowered to the water and which moved every time I moved! But I will post and hope you enjoy this miracle as much as I did, and you can click on the photos to enlarge on your screen.)

By the time I reached the platform the mother had returned to the nest.  I could hear the cries of the osprey down the river and two bald eagles flew from their perches across the river.

The eagles circled ominously ( or perhaps joyously on the spring day?). 

Dad flew back up but it was clear that the little ones would not stay hidden.  They had seen fresh air and sunlight and claimed it.

The drake was very focused on all the activity across the river and finally eagle and osprey calls died away.  I waited a few hours and then the afternoon got very warm and I headed back to the house for some cold water.  After another hour I heard the geese honking loudly again.  When I hurried back down the male was back in the water honking to the nest.

His honking forced all the little ones (6) to push out from under their mother and look around.

In  a short time mom left the nest.  The little ones were eager to join their parents.  The honking continued as they poked their little fuzzy heads over the edge.

While I was well poised with the camera the little ones went to the back side of the nest and I missed their jumping.  Plop.  Plop.  The fell like tennis balls.  All I captured was the splash.

Even though I was on sports mode I could only catch the blur of this third fledgling as he fell to the water.  You can almost hear him cry "Wheee!"

I no time all six were swimming like pros and following the mother bird closely as they headed for shore.

They were just a few dozen feet from shore and soon reached the rock ledge and the small beach on the other side.  They disappeared into the grasses so fast.  I am sure that they would cruise up and down the edge the rest of the early evening while mom and pop taught them how to eat.  Part II  next.

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 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!