Thursday, March 16, 2023

Spring Has Arrived But Late Due to a Nasty Wind

These last few days were cold and very windy.  Everything that was not attached flew across the yard as it was chased or thrown by the howl of the wind.  The windy front behaved like an angry teenager that had been grounded for the week.  I have lots of small branches to start my fires and create coals to burn the large logs. I walk around and fill my arms.  I never have to search far for kindling in this urban woodland.  Spring is here, so our nighttime fires are becoming fewer and fewer, yet a broken heater motor made the use of fires our salvation last week.  The motor on the new HVAC system, which was less than a year old, was replaced without cost to us.

The same wind that pummeled our naked trees dropped so many feet of snow to the north of us, that I felt guilty feeling sad for having to stay inside in our milder winter weeks.

But today it left us and pushed the clouds north leaving behind our first sunny and almost warm day.  

I realized that 50 mile-per-hour winds would delay the flying of our osprey.  They are amazing and return within three days of St. Patrick's Day here in the USA.  Today is St. Patrick's Day.  Pinch me...I am married to an Irishman.  They should return any day now.  First the one and then the other.

Each morning and at lunch and in the evening, I pass the kitchen window and look out carefully across the river to see if they have arrived.  I see that their well-engineered nest which they built in the trees across the river a few years ago has survived the winds.  They could not move the geese off the platform we built.  

The osprey that built a nest on the utility pole at the art museum a few miles away has returned. I heard their call while weeding our children's garden there and my heart jumped a beat.  

Our osprey must be on its way.  I will have to wait and see if they put sticks on the platform or move back into that awkward collection of sticks in the trees.

It will all depend on how much they want to redecorate, I guess.

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

It Is not a Drum Circle

As many years as I have been on this blue jewel of a planet, each season fills me with increased awe.  After the quiet of winter, spring starts with its percussion section.

As I sip my coffee in the early morning, I can hear the sound of a deep African drum out in the woods.  At least its hollow and penetrating beating sounds like an African drum and carries far from the tree into my living room.  

The pileated woodpecker's territorial call is loud and hollow and sounds like a war drum somewhere in the jungles of Africa.  It is actually called "drumming" by ornithologists. The bird is native to North America and can weigh almost one pound on the large end of their size.  They chip out rather large rectangular holes in search of insects or colonies of ants.  The male's drumming is to declare territory and/or call to a mate.  Since it is now spring, I hear his drumming every morning.  It is a simple rhythm and is very short.

Their excavation can actually destroy a healthy branch of a healthy tree.  This is what is happening to a huge oak near my neighbor's house.

The healthy branch in the photo above will fall in the coming months or next year if we get a big storm.  One year I actually had a pileated come to my house and look into my patio door as the snow covered the patio.  I couldn't find any bugs to offer and I do not know how to speak pileated.  Some days I wish I was a witch.  I have searched for that photo but it is on some other stored drive.  I think I only have 10,000 photos of birds!  I do have them organized by season and type, but still, it is a challenge.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Nature Evolves and Man Interferes

Perhaps my regular readers know the saga of the Osprey on our river.  Nevertheless, here is a short review.  When we built this house over a decade ago, the Osprey in the area wanted to use the cabin roof of my husband's boat to build a nest.  They dropped sticks and algae and I removed sticks and algae.  Hubby was on travel.  I continued to do so, but they persisted.  Finally, we admitted that we needed to build them a platform and we did.  They nested there for years raising one or two baby osprey.

Then one year the Canadian geese established a spring nest there.  They arrive about two weeks earlier.  When the Osprey flew in, they tried, without success, to remove the sitting Canadian geese.  You can go to the link here for that event. 

This spring we hired a helper to clean off the platform which was six inches thick (after a decade or more) with fish skeletons, crab shells, mud, and grasses.  There was so much detritus that grasses bloomed up there each spring.

This is not a job for the faint of heart, as you can see.  This gentleman has experience working high electric lines, so is most capable at a job that requires height.  After a short while the platform was clean.

The geese reappeared the week before to survey their domain.  When they arrived again, two days later, they were loud in their protest to find their place had been "redecorated."  The female explored every corner.

We are now in a holding pattern wondering if they will try to re-nest.  That would be a lot of grasses and straw for them to bring in.  Thus far they show up each morning and stand looking out over the platform, but make no effort to nest.  We shall see....the plot thickens.  Osprey arrive around St. Patricks Day which is March 17.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Helping Take Flight

It was either Audubon or Cornell Feeder Watch that recently sent me an email survey asking what there is about bird watching that compels me to do it and to collect data for them. It was one of those surveys that end with a request for a donation, which means to me they don't really care what I think or what motivates their supporters.  They just need money, honey!

I imagine the survey data may be collected and then stored on a server somewhere, perhaps never to be reviewed or only pulled out when they feel the data is compelling enough that it should be shared.  Birds are easy to watch whether you are looking in your backyard, taking a walk in the park, or even walking along a shoreline.  They are the easy reward for us elders.  The only real gear is walking shoes, binoculars, and if needed, a notebook and a bird guide.

There are 56 datasets on birds that are of considerable importance and publically available. Go here: to spend a few hours falling down the white rabbit (bluebird) hole if you are addicted to birds and if you do not mind signing in to establish an account.   Or an even easier site to peruse is Cornell Lab of Ornithology with its global data.

Marvelous stuff! Thinking about this group I will mention that the largest bird is the ostrich and the smallest is the hummingbird. Birds can live from one to one hundred years. While they are becoming threatened there are still 10,000 species worldwide.  But 49% of bird species are in decline!  They are forced to live next to or in our artificial environments.

How can you save these descendants of the dinosaurs?  Use reusable containers and paper...not plastic.  Recycle instead of throwing stuff out.  Reduce the lighting around your home during migrating season.  Protect birds from hitting your windows by using decals or strips of foil on the glass to break the reflection of the sky.  Do not use pesticides in your yard.  If you are serious you can plant natives in your yard and provide water and safe places (no cats) for birds to rest during their migration or to nest during spring seasons.

Plant oak trees to increase the Lepidoptera population.  According to Doug Tallamey (a famous author that native gardeners love), the oak trees support 534 species of insects that will feed your birds in the spring.

AND try to reduce your use of fossil fuels for the long-term slowing of climate change that impacts bird (and other wild animals) habitats greatly.  And of course, you can donate to any of the numerous bird conservation societies or groups in your area.

Saturday, December 03, 2022

An Early Morning as Fall Moves On

I was up at 5:30 this morning. A good seven hours of uninterrupted sleep is my best and average time. The plant lights were on in the corner of the kitchen as I opened the bedroom door.  I have saved a few geraniums, a large pot of parsley,  and my two citrus trees.  

It is still very dark outside and will prove to be a cloudy and rainy day. I can see beyond the deck that the holiday lights are still on at most of the docks. This is a new tradition only a few years old and it gives a pretend city festivity to our country environment. I do not feel so isolated. 

An intermittent loneliness sometimes descends on me and I am sure it has to do with aging and knowing my years are limited in this space and the loss of friends and acquaintances this past month. Yes, more than one! 

I see a large oak leaf falling outside the window as the heavier rain begins.  It does not twirl as the others did in early fall but dive bombs down the two stories to the lawn.  

Then a rush of air pushes another dried leaf against the front door making it sound as if a small bird is tapping to get inside...quickly!  

The colder weather keeps me inside and it is not even all that cold! The water in the bird bath is frozen but many plants are still hanging on. I have put out the heated bird bath and the birds come to that in the early dawn, sometimes to even bathe!! 

Oh, if you are still Christmas shopping here is an ad that you might consider.  I somehow or other think Brent is lying about his shape.

Our sunsets have been extraordinary these fall months! The most brilliant was taken with my pixel cell phone. It does such a good job, wonder why I have a camera!

Hubby, who has been fighting a cold for two days, is now up and needing breakfast.  Also, I hear my phone pinging with several text messages, probably from my son and my daughter checking on their dad, or sending another precious photo of that new special baby.  AND the soccer game is about to start!  I am blessed and have no reason to feel sad.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

A Digital Autumn

Those of us who have fun with cameras find catching all the color and light difficult in the autumn since it only lasts a few weeks and we are busy with various holidays. Below is the view from my deck to our neighbor's weekend house across the way. The first has just some clarity and lighting. The second photo was dodging and burning and a filter or two. The third is an abstract filter, heavier saturation, even more dodging, and a vignette and the last is a sketch filter and some contrast to make it look more sketchy.
There is not a lot of difference in each although multiple layers were involved.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

In the MIddle of November

November, which oddly means nine because the Roman calendar had only ten months, is also the blood month, the time of slaughter of the animals to prepare for food for winter.  The days are shorter and colder and we feel the need to store away grain and meat. Even the sunsets seem colder and shorter.

We are in the middle of November and the blood-red colors are just leaving us.  They can be so intense that they make us gasp as if indeed we had just slaughtered some mammal.  

My persimmon puts on its show of gold and peach and wine to compete with the taller red maples that are dancing deeper in the forest.  It even hides its fruit as a challenge.

It is the time of year when man and dog get to put on their show of talent and discipline.  The hunting season is already upon us.

If you are lucky enough to live on the water you can see the sunlight with its low autumnal angle as it bounces off the river and lights up the trees with a bit of pretend warmth.  Well, indeed, now, it is time for me to collect the broken wood scattered across the yard to be used in a fire this evening.