Monday, June 25, 2012

Lessons in Flying

Listen up children. Like the bumblebee, mankind is amazed that we can actually fly based on our cumbersome size. But PAY ATTENTION and you, too, can soar over the horizon like the eagles.  Tuck in your neck and bring down your head.

Then bring your wings high.

Next level out as you push with the wind.

Now pump down as you push forward.
That's correct!

Up, level then down.  Good job!

Thursday, June 21, 2012


"Gladys, you are too patient.  You know, she is ALWAYS late, and she always has some stupid excuse. She really could budget her time so much better. We all are considerate of others time, why can't she be the same?"

"OMG!   So sorry I am late again! Remember that good looking guy that I talked about last week?  Well, he showed up this morning and offered to fix the dishwasher and then I made him some cookies...and, you know, one thing led to another and time just got away from me...Did I miss anything?"

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

They Left the Nest!

Last year one of of our many resident cardinal families nested in the cut-leaf maple outside my bay window.  This maple has the exact coloring needed for camouflage against predators and curious humans and has much of the coloring of an adult female cardinal.   Had the tree not been so close to the front door and my regular passage, I would probably have never discovered that nest.  If you are a regular reader of my blog you will remember the successful and dramatic departure of the two little birds a year ago.  This year they nested again.  The female laid two brown spotted eggs the size of the end of my index finger shown in my quick blurry photo below.
Taken on May 21.
As you may be able to see below, they both hatched.  There are two little naked featherless avians in the photo below snuggled in this tiny nest barely aware of their own existence.  Look at the end of that yellow bill as it curls around the tiny head.

Taken June 6.
Below, a few days later, they are now aware not only of their existence but of mine!   As they cower down low and think they are hiding.  I sure must look like some strange monster and not at all like mom or dad.

Taken June 9

The proud and somewhat concerned papa.
Eventually as they grew, their hunger got the better of them and they opened their big maws for anything that might drop inside.  These guys are a little intimidating, I think.

Taken June 10
Below, in just 24 hours, they ballooned larger and were beginning to push each other out  of the nest.  You can also see how this one's bill is beginning to change from a long yellow border with a curl to a bill that looks more like a cardinal's bill.  This one also was beginning to get his/her feathers.

Taken June 11
Then the very next day along comes a big wet thunderstorm, and as I went out I saw that the nest, while still tucked in the notch of the branches, looked very wet.  The little ones were now resting on top of the tree branches and appeared a little drenched and perhaps insulted that they must endure such discomfort!  "Wha happened?"  Welcome to the real world my little ones.

Taken June 12
When I returned a short time later on the same morning, the first had gone and Papa and Mama were chittering away in a nearby holly tree entreating this little one in the photo below to test his/her wings.  I did not see it fly, but it too was gone a short time later.  I am always a little sad and feeling a little restless when the young ones leave the nest.  It is now more quiet in my front yard.

Taken June 12

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Virtually Gliding Along

Do you want to take a canoe ride today?  Your not dressed?  No paddle?  NO excuses!  Put that toddler down for her afternoon nap, set aside the last of the laundry, turn down the burner on the lunch soup, set aside that pile of bills, or turn off the TV.   Now get something cool and refreshing to drink and put your feet up and let me do the paddling for you as I share a canoe trip down the creek north of where I live.  Come on, take a big sigh so that I know you are unwound enough to enjoy this.

This creek is a tidal tributary and was established as a preserve by the Nature Conservancy in 1978.   This tidal basin is near historic Mallows Bay which I wrote about in an earlier post on my other blog

Today is a perfect early summer day for such an adventure.  The morning golden sun is up and shining but a silk shawl of cool air swirls around and around keeping the temperature exactly as needed.  The wind does not push or pull the canoe but races along with us brushing at wisps of our hair and gently caressing our faces.  The sun warms our shoulders.  You can see that those who live back in the woods beyond the edge of the creek are now all hard at work.  Their toys lie idle along the shoreline.  Be thankful you can spend some time with me.

Many birds sing lyrical songs from deep in the emerald shade of the woods.  Once or twice my eye catches a gnat catcher, but they are gray green with hints of yellow gray, and it is hard to be sure I am right when they dress in such advantageous camouflage.  A significant population of red dragonflies sails along with us darting across our bow and showing off.  Smaller blue dragonflies are seen near the shallows and seem to be deeply involved with each other dipping tail's end into the surface of the water as they coast with their mates.

We see an abundance of both osprey and eagles and this means that later this year there will be an abundance of calling and dangerous threatening air battles as they compete for territory and space for their young.  There seem to be more bald eagles, which might mean fewer ospreys next year.  At least for now everyone is eating and/or sitting.

Just ahead the water surface ripples as the air kisses the river.  But then suddenly the surface grows crazy as we are hit by a zephyr that has caught the edge of the trees and is doing a devilish self-twirl.  Its sudden and unexpected power almost tears our caps from our heads and makes it difficult to keep the bow on course. But this only lasts a minute and soon races on its way laughing at our surprise.
There are feathered "fisherbirds" of all shapes and sizes around every corner.  Some are successful and others are being patient.  Even so my camera is having trouble getting a clear shot as we glide past large great blue herons.

Beneath the water's surface we can see gar the size of a sumo wrestler's arm rolling in the shallows and minnows smaller than reeds darting for safety.  We frighten the rare turtle and see several mud slides between the roots of grasses which are most likely evidence of beavers or otters or muskrats at play when we are not here.

These days are rare and worth more than anything money can buy.  Can you smell that honeysuckle vine growing just beyond those trees?  Can you hear the gentle lap of water against the canoe hull?  Do you feel the wisp of air across your brow?  Can you see how perfect this day is with clouds floating like new lambs across a blue quilt?

We have gone quite some distance, but it is just too lovely to head back just yet, and I want to take a photo of that wild rose that grows just beyond the grasses.  Besides I am ready for lunch and I know just the place.

Oh, look over your head! We have startled another bald eagle from his survey perch.

Lets glide down that little finger of the estuary before we head back out.  I bet there is a cool shady place to tie up and have lunch.  

Once in the shade as the water narrows the sun plays on the surface and reflects back from the muddy water.  There is a mirage of an underwater canyon of buttes and pinnacles in the brown liquid as the sun glitters against the soup.  Just ahead I see some movement.  Maybe we can share with this farmer's ducks!  Ooops!  Guess they are a little shy.  We will tie up here on this little point.  Look at how the reflection of the water dances against the trunks of those trees just across the way!   What a light show.

As we pack up. it looks as though the weather is changing late in the afternoon.  I think I see a storm is brewing toward the west so we must turn around and head back to the dock. We make it to our car and are just a few miles from home when the sky breaks into big gray tears seeming sorry to see us leave.  Maybe another trip again soon?

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

In the Pink

“I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.” ― Audrey Hepburn
“You've gotta dance like there's nobody watching, Love like you'll never be hurt, Sing like there's nobody listening, And live like it's heaven on earth.” ― William W. Purkey

Wild Milkweed
 "How the color pink affects us physically and mentally:

  • Stimulates energy 
  • Can increase the blood pressure, respiration, heartbeat, and pulse rate 
  • Encourages action and confidence 
  • Pink has been used in prison holding cells to effectively to reduce erratic behavior" 

Wild Mountain Laurel
"Since the color pink is said to have a tranquilizing effect, sport's teams sometime paint the locker room, to be used by their opposing teams, pink."
Hybrid Day Lily
"In Japan, the color pink has a masculine association. The annual spring blooming of the pink-blossomed cherry trees (the Sakura) is said to represent the young Japanese warriors who fell in battle in the prime of life (the Samurai)."
There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle - Albert Einstein. 
Hope you are feeling "in the pink" today!

Sunday, June 03, 2012


It seems that it might be time for a Fred and Ethel* update.  I must admit that they seem to have settled down as the hot and humid weather has arrived (intermittently) and there is no exciting news on the osprey home front.  At first they were easily startled and spent valuable nest sitting time panicking and chirping as they flew overhead trying to get us to leave our dock.  The original scraggly nest has grown in size and sloppiness and features bird droppings draped like extensive white holiday bunting all around the edges as you can see from the photo below.  The birds look like stick hoarders rather than nest builders as their nest lacks the neatness and symmetry of smaller birds.  Other than these changes, the couple is actually becoming a little boring with a very regular routine of sitting or fishing.  (Click on photos for close-ups---if blogger behaves.)

We, of course, were no longer going to be chased off our dock as summer arrived.  Just this spring before the installation of the osprey nest we spent big bucks on completing the re-planking of this 20-year-old luxury that came with the property.  We also got a permit to add a small extension platform to the side of the dock for some benches and afternoon eating and sitting.  (The sitting benches are another story for my other blog.)  Anyway, as Ellen DeGeneres says with a a sigh, we are now spending more time down on the river once again. 

The other evening, during the long Memorial Day weekend, our osprey (three of them) kept soaring and flying overhead while we sat enjoying the sigh that comes at the end of the day after attending a graduation BBQ.  We were sitting on old upended logs since...well, as I wrote, the benches are another story... and waiting for a late day breeze to pick up.  Up and down the river our neighbors were either taking boats in or out or just sitting on lawn chairs or docks enjoying the weekend.  It was busy but nicely quiet.

Fred and Ethel and one earlier progeny,  we think a young-in from last season, kept sailing back and forth high in the blue sky but without the sharp and annoying cries they have used before.  Ethel would glare at us as she swooped overhead and then dip over the nest and then fly off high over the trees without saying a word.  The osprey flew and soared and seemed to be on holiday.  We began to wonder if she had abandoned the eggs and if they were no longer viable.  When we finally returned to the house we noticed that she returned to her nest and there she continues to sit day after day.   Maybe she no longer fears we will fry her children for breakfast.  Maybe her hormones are calming.  But I am glad that she does not seem to be in that high state of panic she used to show when we sat on our expensive dock and waited for the sun to reach an angle that was cooling and calm.  I do wish she would remain calmly on the nest when we go down there to ease my guilt.

We hope the eggs are still viable and that she is not sitting in vain, but I have not checked the calendar and due dates.  In late consideration, I think I should have named this osprey pair George and Gracie*, because she sometimes seems a little light in the pin-feathers if you get my drift---not an intended pun.

Oh well, we eagerly await the little ones which we should able to see from our high deck if not from the low dock, and I will certainly post enough boring photos like the happy grandparents we might become.

*If you have no idea who these named couples are, they are only of historic significance in the comedy of American television.