Friday, April 28, 2017

The Part II of the Osprey Platform Saga

It had been quiet for a while after the parent Canadian Geese and their six offspring fell into the water and then swam to shore and tucked into the grasses. For two days the platform nest that was covered in sticks sat empty and somewhat forlorn looking. We had been used to watching osprey activities in and around the nest through most of the summer. Now it was almost as if there was an ornithological home with a vacant sign and looking for renters. 

On the third day an osprey arrived and perched on a branch just a short way from the nest. He/she sat and watched the nest and the river for the better part of an hour. I got busy and when I looked again, the osprey was on the nest. He/she sat there and looked around. He/she stayed there in reverie for most of the rest of the afternoon, but by dusk was gone.  Was this one of the prior occupants thinking about last year?

One the fourth day I got up early and saw that the nest was still empty in the quiet spring morning. But by 10:00 or so not one, but two, osprey were on the nest. They looked like renters reviewing a space for the summer. They did not remove any of the remaining goose shells or rearrange any of the sticks.  They just sat there in thought.  It was certainly too late in the spring for them to start a family, so I was not optimistic. By dusk both were gone. 

A few more days passed with the nest unoccupied. We had weather that was freakishly wild as springs can be. Heavy rains, cold winds, followed by hot afternoons. Then one morning I heard a goose honking loudly. No one was on the nest, but the goose continued to honk for almost an hour down near the river. That afternoon a Canadian goose flew up from the nest to the platform and called heartily for some time. I refused to let my mind go to that dark place. This was NOT a grieving goose, but just a lost fellow who was tired of being alone. Days went by and I did not see the parent geese or goslings anywhere along the river. I did see two Canadian geese swimming on the far side of the river, but without baby geese.

The next day a Canadian goose flew again up to the platform.  He/she rearranged the furniture for a bit, checked out the view and then settled in for a while almost as if nesting.  But it was for naught.  By the next day she was gone.

It has been several days and the nest now sits very empty, even more so than before and has been that way for days.  An empty rental for the summer months for our feathered friends.  When the naturalist comes to tag the young osprey in late summer he will find no one to bracelet.  Too bad.  Maybe next year.

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!