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!

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


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.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Do you see what I see?

It is said by those who study such things that we are programmed by nature to see faces in abstract images. I collected some daffodils and brought them inside for a small bouquet on the table. I see a rather impish spring entity in this photo. Do you see him?

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Blue Buttons

A while back I was down in the dirt trying to take photos of a ground cover weed of the speedwell family and I posted those photos here. A few years ago I got a hybridized vagabond speedwell that had taken a ride in some plant that I purchased and I cannot remember what plant, so do not ask. I saw a small bloom on this hitchhiker and decided to plant it in the side of one of my flower beds. He loved it and spread his wings and filled the side of the bed. I dug him up in a couple of years and planted a little bit somewhere else. Each spring they thrust their blue blossoms up to the sun long before anything else, except for a few daffodils and my hellebores. Today was like real spring and after weeding I took my camera down to the earth braving the spiders and ticks and got these photos:

Can you see that the blossoms are slightly larger and certainly more saturated with color than those I posted in the earlier post?

The blossoms do not last long, but after cold gray winters, they are button-faced-joy.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Roaring In.

"March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb." The origin of this saying depends on where you research. Is it an old Welsh saying (but applied to April instead), or perhaps something that came from historic Pennsylvanian settlers? In early spring Leo is the rising star in the skies and that may account for the lion image. March is also the month of the Mars god...or the war god. In another reference someone traced the saying back to 1694 in a English writing by John Fletcher. 

 Where I live, both March and April are sometimes violent and unpredictable and sometimes calm and sweet, and not necessarily in a linear fashion.  This month we have had two tornado warnings, which is a somewhat rare occurrence.  And weather has gone from being 80F in an afternoon and down to the low 40sF the very next afternoon.  It is hard to get one's wardrobe together when heading out.

(It will also be harder in the future as NESDIS is facing a large budget cut and they are the ones that maintain the weather satellites...what a waste of money.)

Latest Global True Color Imagery - The most recent true color daytime imagery from around the world.

Friday, March 03, 2017


Sometimes the lighting is just late-afternoon perfect in the city, the photo subjects are curiously hungry and swim closer than your wild ones on the river, and you can hold a camera steady for those better than everyday shots even after a small wine-soaked lunch.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Dangerous Skies

We got one of those automated calls from the County Emergency Services office the other day that said a tornado warning was in the area and we should head for a basement or shelter. I looked out the window and while it appeared there were stormy gray skies on the horizon, there was no real wind. We waited and eventually we got a few waves of heavy rain, no hail like they got to the north, and no tornado touchdown anywhere, thank goodness. But we did get a magnificent sunset.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Jungle

I was concentrating on a digital course that I purchased about well being and meditation --- trying to take my life more seriously. Meditation is not something I can easily apply to my scattered personality. I had my earphones from my laptop on while listening to some 30-something with a very compact body tell me to breathe from my belly and count to 10 on the inhale and 10 on the exhale. She suggested that I place my hands on my belly which was a distraction as I wondered about how ample that part of my body had become. It was at this moment of mixed concentration that I heard a loud thump coming from the the kitchen. I used to have children at home and loud thumps are something I do not instinctively screen out while trying to meditate. I walked to the kitchen and saw a small cloud of gray and white feathers embedded in the outside window screen.

I hurried outside to see if a bird was lying in the lawn, and instead saw what I guess was a Cooper's hawk (could have been a Sharp-shinned) with something small in its claws flying into the high tulip poplars.  To my right I saw another Cooper's hawk flying to another tree.  By the time I had run inside to get binoculars and back outside again, they were both gone.

Working together they had captured a titmouse that was hanging about my bird feeders.  Titmice are erratic birds that seem to easily fly in distraction with their fellow birds.  An easier prey for this excellent flying hawk.  The Cooper's hawk kills its food by squeezing it to death rather than tearing it with its beak!

Life in the jungle once again reared it's honest head and some baby Cooper's hawks will be fed tonight or perhaps this was a courting of a male to feed his female on this pre-spring week.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Blue Eyes

Below are photos I took in the late afternoon, yesterday, of  corn speedwell or birds eye speedwell (Veronica arvensis).  The blossoms are very small and I had to lie in the cold damp grass to get these.  The seeds germinate in the fall and grow slowly throughout the winter and then really put on a show in the very early spring as they take over the more shady parts of the lawn.  Then they die back in the summer.  Slender speedwell, similar, spreads by stolons.  This blue baby is abundant in our unsuccessful lawn as we do not use weed killer or fertilizer unless it is absolutely necessary!  Our lawn is mostly mowed weeds.  Corn flowers seem to grow almost anywhere in the U.S., so you may have some in your lawn.

For a weed they are really quietly lovely and the early pollinators seem to find them essential.

And below is a photo painting.  While it is a challenge using the mouse to paint light and dark and colors I have fun creating things that can be immediately erased when I make an error.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Peeking and Peaking

Blossoms are peaking everywhere in my yard,  The hellebores have been really gorgeous all week and will be face forward in the week to come.

I have three types.  Some open full faced and others hang like bells.

In just a few more days the daffodils will be blooming.  They already are sunny and upright in my neighbors yard.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Do You Smell That?

Each morning I am now greeted by Meyer lemon blossom smells. The tiny deformed tree is now covered with fragrant hope. I looked for an older photo that I had posted on this plant and could not find it. It was a sad sack for sure.

The tree was about a foot and a half high and is not much higher now.  Back then it had about a dozen leaves on it and 5 or six mostly bare branches. I transplanted it and fertilized it and left it out on the sunny deck keeping it watered. Because our climate gets possible first freezes in November I brought it inside and bought some grow lights and kept it near a sunny window and kept it watered and fertilized. It rewarded me with the hundreds of blossoms above. These will mostly fall and not set even though they might have tiny balls of pretend fruit at the back end of the blossom. The tree is just too small to support much fruit.

The blossoms do start with a lovely exotic fragrance. But as many are fading the smell flagrance can be a bit overwhelming and begins to take on a more fermented odor. It is starting to fill the kitchen air and overpower the lamb chops I am cooking.

Above is my citrus grove in the corner of my kitchen. The tall tree to the back is a kaffir lime. It does not produce much fruit but since I cook with the leaves in Thai food it is just what we want. The middle is the calamondin orange which is really sour like a lime or lemon but with an orange flavor.  It can produce twice a year sometimes.   And while they have lots of seeds and are small, they are fresher than anything we can buy at this time of year.  We pick them off the tree and use them in drinks or squeeze over fish or on salad throughout the winter.  If there are some leftover I make a calamondin cake. The small tree to the front is my Meyer lemon which is full of blossoms now. The grow lights which we purchased this year and that are on a timer made a big difference in the mite disease problem we used to have and the leaf drop due to lack of light.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Being Patient

The storm up north has brought in a bunch of house finches to the feeders as they fled from the heavy snows and colder weather.  We usually have a few, but this morning there were many.  Life has gone here as normal without the nasty winter weather.

This is a photo I took years ago.  (I was too busy to get my camera this morning.)  

The trees are confused as well because our mostly 50 F degree weather has them wondering if they forgot to mark their calendars for the day of spring.  While day length is the primary trigger, this warmer weather does get some sap flowing early and the yellow-bellied sap sucker is busy at the front yard with my sugar maple.

Some trees look like they are ready to bud, but the ends are still hard and dark, so not as ready as they appear upon closer inspection.

Things are still a misty, greenish gray like a Sherlock movie without that potential for danger, just the exotic sense of mystery.  This poor dogwood at the edge of the main road was hit by the mower when it was small and struggles each year to get upright.  The two in the distance are newer and were planted by the landscapers last year.  I am waiting for spring dogwood blossoms to cover the branches.