Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Yard Is Now X-rated

I honestly cannot look out the windows of my house, and certainly not with the binoculars these days, unless I want to be red-faced. My neighbors (the feathered ones) are most heavily involved in their romantic activities.  The males are bringing food and putting it so delicately in the mouths of the females as if giving gentle kisses.  It is a most intimate gesture and can take your breath away.

Some of the males are changing clothes into formal wear right before my eyes as they get ready for their courtship dances.  Their pale yellow colors to deep golden sunlight which matches so perfectly with the spring flowers on the small tree in the photo below and this color will continue to coordinate with the tulip tree flowers in a week.

The males and females are dancing high in the air and put any TV show with professional dancers to shame.  Then when landing together, the male will thrust out his chest and present a most provocative stance.  (The female in the photo below is pretending she does not notice as she plays hard-to-get.)

They sing at the top of their little lungs, AND OF COURSE they are doing things that...well...are just a little too uninhibited and makes one wonder if they might not break something or fall off of a branch or hurt themselves in the process.  I did not take pictures of that because I consider this a family blog.

As spring moves on,  they are checking out the bird houses with frequency, peaking in and peaking out while not yet collecting nesting materials.  The drama begins!

Monday, April 25, 2011

They Are Moving On Up!

Seems that my osprey couple found a fancier home on the more luxurious section of the river and that meant a more expensive boat.  This boat belongs to the lottery winners who are also my neighbors and since it is spring break I think my neighbors are on Rome perhaps?  Their loss and their unfortunate gain!  Actually this is like watching a horror film because this hawk couple (while certainly ignorant of civilization) cannot endure another eviction this late in spring.  I am sure that come the beginning of the next week when my neighbors are returning for the start of their girls' school session, all hell is going to break loose.  This is such a delicate situation in that it is against the law to move these guys off if they have laid eggs!  Although I think if you throw enough money at something it is not a problem.

As I walk out across my dock to check the sunset and to see if the baitfish are filtering in each evening, the female osprey throws a warning call in my direction and begins her wing flapping.  Clearly she looks at me as the grizzly of the waters.  It is a nicer boat, guys, but sometimes your reach may exceed your grasp!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

That Nesting Instinct

I live with many different kinds of birds. Some of them like me and some do not.  Every year the osprey couple return, this time with a juvenile, and they try to build a nest on the crane across the river. They have been unsuccessful for the past two years as the nest seems to eventually collapse due to the lack of a good support on the cranes arm even though it has an excellent view.  Last year two couples fought over the crane view.

This year, instead of using our boat cabin roof as a holding area for supplies of sticks and algae muck and grasses, they began to build a nest on the boat cabin roof itself.  We had been away for 5 days, and when we returned, they had added all the big sticks and were starting on the medium sticks in a circle.  One cannot disturb an osprey nest once they are nesting...but this was not that close.

It was with real dismay that hubby threw the sticks off the roof and scrubbed the roof from all the bird doo-doo, and then purchased some crazy thing that looks like an umbrella without the fabric, costs six times what an umbrella would cost, and attached it to the roof.  For at least two more days the osprey couple circled the boat diving down and making cries and dropping the odd stick or two until it appeared they had finally given up.

Each evening they sat on the snags across the river and called out with the sunset and I did not know where the new nest was or if they were even building a nest!   Last night he had a fish in claw and was bringing it to the female.  She flew away.  Maybe she is mad with distress and looking for a new partner?  It is not a happy place by the river these days.

Then within a few days they were back and beginning to drop all kinds of stuff on the roof.  Each day, actually several times a day, I would walk down to the dock and they would fly away and I would lower the boat and begin the process of cleaning the roof.  (We could move the boat, but hubby is away for a long time.)

My guilt got the better of me and I called around and did some research and found an organization that will get a permit and build an osprey nest platform, at NO SMALL cost, I might add.  I guess this is where my state tax refund will go.  Serves me right for loaning the government an interest free sum of money for a year!  I am beginning the process of mailing the nature biologists pictures of my shoreline area.   It is too late for this year as the permit process can only begin in the fall, but hopefully next year we will make amends for our sins and be osprey landlords providing free rent.  ( I will admit that watching an osprey family grow is a big motivation here.)

I slowly am winning the battle as I only have to make a trip once a day and the sticks are so few that perhaps that are actually building somewhere else and just using the boat as a meeting place to discuss building materials and argue over styles, expense and quality.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Go ahead, and give me the red-eye!

Spring is always exhausting for me. There are those who honor the approach of spring by  sitting and listening to birds, or listening to the song of the frogs, or paddling a canoe or taking a nice long drive or a short walk.  I can be found lifting heavy bags of pebble gravel or I am found buried up to my elbows in dirt and mulch in the spring.  I sit surrounded by long and short-handled tools and my garden gloves cast aside so that I can better remove the little seedling from the pot.  I have short, stubby, fingernails and they are most always outlined in brown earth (most always?)  My wardrobe consists of faded jeans and an old torn top and no make-up.  I do manage to run a brush through my hair so that I don't scare the birds.

The other day after planting out four trays of annual seeds...most of which will probably not push their green cotyledons above the surface at all...I pushed up my aching back and decided to go sit on the dock.  It was the first day we had broken 70 F, and since it might be the last day this warm for some time as predicted by weather forcast and since officially spring had not arrived, I decided to take an afternoon break.

I took my camera, which really is now a permanent appendage, and was able to sit calmly before this fellow above and below appeared above the surface of the water.  I sat very still and except for the click of the camera which I held against my face most of the time, it took him a while to realize I was an unnatural entity sitting on the old log at the end of the dock.

He could be an immature horned grebe feeding in the river or maybe a female.  I saw no mate and I am not sure if he is going to stay or fly north in a week or so.  He looked so he was  a college grebe after a night of partying trying to find that green grass that might mediate his headache.  By pressing their feathers against their body they can adjust buoyancy and can be seen sometimes with just their head above water.  Perhaps he was too young to have learned this trick yet.

That red is his eye...although I know it looks like his eye is elsewhere behind that.  They are not the best of fliers but very good divers.  When grooming they preen their feathers and feed them to their young;  ornithologists are not sure why!  Another fascinating tidbit is that they may be related to flamingos.  This one appears to be the Horned Grebe or Salvonian Grebe.  I have tried for a long time to get a photo this good as they are very shy.  Click on the photo for a better look!

As luck would have it, I took this fuzzy photo of the male later in the week.  So they are a pair!

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Return of Zorro?

I was very thrilled to see three of these birds hanging out in a nearby wild cherry tree just above the bird feeders last afternoon. They had not actually visited the feeders, but since they arrived on a counting day and were very close, I counted them.

I couldn't help but wonder if one of them was the bird I had saved several winters ago. It would be so cool if he had come back just to check out the scene of rescue.

The pictures are not the best (and I apologize) as they sat high above me, but I was so happy to see these waxwings, and they rarely stay very long, that I posted these photos anyway.   They look like bandits and they behave like bandits.  They arrive in large groups, wear masks, hang out for a short while and then disappear to somewhere else.  Other than leaving juniper berry poop all over the ground (or ones car), I just love the waxy red and yellow tips on their feathers and their soft silky look and that sexy mysterious black mask.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cha...cha... changes

Tabors' world is changing. The wood market has been raided recently by a young'in.

The apples are beginning to show promise.

Pears are on their way as well.

The sun bathers are out.

Birds have changed into spring uniforms to color-coordinate with the changing woods.

The days are ending later waiting for Tabor to finish her chores.  
(Tabor is now sitting on the deck with a stupid smile on her face.)

Saturday, April 09, 2011

I am THE One! Lookie Me!

Perhaps it has something to do with how I live my life or sing (hum) my songs or clean my house or cook my food or grow my flowers.  Living here sometimes makes me think I am in the Alfred Hitchcock movie, The Birds.  Last year the male cardinal spent a good part of his mornings (early) trying to get into the house.  Tapping at the windows and smearing green caterpillar guts all up and down my windows as a bribe...perhaps you will remember this post on my other blog?  It was as if he was in fighting mode against his reflection but there was some question on my part about why he was bringing me food...?

Well this spring I am getting another regular visitor.  The tapping in the mornings  (and sometimes throughout the day) is gentler but quite regular on my deck windows and around the house at the front windows.  There is no smeary food on the windows thus far, just bird spit!  At first I thought this female bluebird was just a little twitter-pated (a Walt Disney-Bambi term) and had gotten lost behind the flower pot after flying at the window.  I had watched her flitting and flirting like an aerial break-dancer with her mate high in the trees in my back yard for several afternoons prior to this.

"There has got to be an open window here somewhere!"

She was not cowering beneath this dianthus plant as if she had seen a hawk, but was looking around as if she was 'window-shopping' if you will pardon the necessary pun.  I quickly got my camera and even did a video or two which I may find time to post someday.

(I hear you knocking, but you can't come in...)

She was not camera shy but landed on the door handle and then proceded to continue to knock at the window...see the bird spit?  I was a little intimidated by this intense stare I was getting.  But her stare toward me was nothing compared to her mate's slightly panicked look at her odd behavior.  The weather was turning colder and started to rain on this day and he pretended he did not know her as he flew off to shelter in the high trees.

"I will never understand that female!"

"Hey!  Open the door! It's raining out here!"
She hung in there persistently for a while longer tapping at the window as the rain started.  Was she waiting patiently for me to open the door and let her in?  Then why did she fly away when I did?  I guess I will never really understand birds in the spring.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Are You Looking Up? Down?

In the spring on the East Coast everyone goes crazy for cherry blossoms.  We are close to the famous DC Cherry Blossom Festival of 1,000,s of blooming trees which we share with Japan and which this year has much more meaning to us all.  Many neighborhoods are also filled with pink confetti swirling in the trees that line the streets at the end of March and beginning of April.  Yes, it is breathtaking and much like the feeling you get when you see that 14-year-old gal toss her hair as she turns into a lovely young woman.  Her hair has that shine and her eyes twinkle with future mystery.  It is all hold-your-breath gentle beauty.

Photographers are going crazy with the fresh and very temporary loveliness.  It is all clean and delicate, and oh, so ephemeral.  Blink and the season is gone and street sweepers are pushing pink confetti blossoms along the street gutters with abandon at the end of this party as summer taps its impatient foot waiting in the background.  Shrug your shoulders and the wind shows lime green fluttering leaves above instead of pink bouquets.
While I have only wild cherry trees with limited bloom, here are some spring photos from the other trees in 'my' woods.

I call these 'gutter stuffers.'

This looks like there was a lovely party last night.  Sorry I missed it.

Wild persimmon that blooms at the river's edge.  White loveliness.  Remember the snow frosting on top?

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Once Again

Every year my amaryllis never fail to reward me with bright, exotic beauty. This year I took off on travel during the time I was supposed to retrieve them from their dark place in the basement.  When I pulled them out and planted them in fresh potting soil and then tucked them close to the sunny window...this is what they looked like, huge white worms.  They were not going to wait for me and had already begun to stretch their necks in those black bags where they rest in that dark prison each winter.  Since their imprisonment was only temporary, I was careful not to snap their pale necks.

A few weeks later this was my reward.  They always remind me of baleen whales in their shape,  either that or fat opera singers that smile

Maybe in another post I will show them in full bloom, but I actually enjoy this 'pre-pubescent' time just as much.

(In case you cannot tell...blogger is giving me fits with font styles and sizes today!)