Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Common or Not So Common

When we place the adjective "common" before a noun it reduces that noun to grayness, to the word boring, to something we know too much about. I think that is so unfair to the "Common Grackle." They are certainly adaptable, and that should be their adjective. According to Cornell, their habitat includes "woodland, forest edge, grassland, meadows, swamps, marshes, and palmetto hammocks. They are also very common near agricultural fields and feedlots, suburbs, city parks, cemeteries, pine plantations, and hedgerows". I have even seen them in garbage dumps!

The photo above was taken through a window, so not as crisp as it should be.  In my yard, they come first as ones and twos and then in bunches of 20. It is hard for me to tell them from the Boat-tailed Grackle, but that second bird above seems to have a very large tail like the Boat-Tail. They eat grains, seeds, and insects, a healthy and varied diet. The male is the one with the beautiful blues and purples. The female is the one who can't make up her mind on a place to nest.

They flock with other birds likes crows and cowbirds and I guess that is why they are hard to identify. I don't know who counted them, but there are supposed to be 61 million of them, with about 10% in Canada.  "Familiarity breeds contempt"?  Yes, they are noisy.  These birds can look angry with that bold yellow eye and tiny center pupil, but they are not.

Note the use of the tail on the Grackle above as it totally wraps around the bottom of the feeder for balance. They are ground feeders by nature and find my feeders a stretch in their acrobatic flying. 

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Five Variations on a Theme

Rewarding myself for completing two, 4-page visa applications yesterday! My double amaryllis is blooming, and so I will paint it digitally!  This is so relaxing even though I never save the steps, so cannot repeat it.

Friday, February 22, 2019

And Then There Is Light

Those short dark days of winter release their hold on earth around Valentine's Day. It is just a hint of change as the sun grazes the horizon earlier and kisses the horizon goodbye later each day. The birds are noticeably more valiant in their coloring to get ready for that mating season around the corner. They sing just a bit brighter, even if the day is a bit snowy.

We notice the woodpile is smaller but feel no need to rush outside and split wood for the future as we warm by the glow of the last evening fires.

Tropical bulbs that we tenderly cared for over winter are brought out and warmed and encouraged to get their juices flowing. We tuck them near the window where the sunshine can bathe them with nutrition and they sigh like a sleeping cat stretching into the sun. Soon they will also burst forth with vibrant and delicate color.

But I really know it is close to spring when the rock stars and the head-bangers return to the forest near the house.  They leap acrobatically from dead wood to dead wood tossing chips here and there stopping every so often to listen to those sounds of life that we cannot hear.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

The Cloak of Darkness

Grackles are hated by many as they can arrive in large flocks and caw, caw, caw you to death. The sound is that of a rusty hinge being pushed back and forth in the wind.  I knew a little old lady in Florida who used to bang on a pot to get them out of her mango tree. Her neighbors thought the persistent clanging noise that she made with her kitchen utensils was worse than the birds calling to each other! Grackles are not Crows or Blackbirds but are actually related to members of the Meadowlark and Oriole family. If you do not look closely you will miss the rainbow of blues and purples that make up their dark effervescent cloak.

Yes, they chase away the songbirds, but everyone gets their place on this earth.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Shades of Red on Valentine's Day

Kerrdelune at Beyond the Fields We Know reminded me how striking Cardinals (the bird) are in the grays and whites of winter.  I see them every day, and perhaps, have become jaded to their fiery red presence at my windows.   

They stand out like Christmas ornaments in the holly trees.

Above are at least six cardinals with a few house finch thrown in for good measure.

This female above is missing her tail feathers (to a hawk perhaps).  She seems to be well-balanced in spite of that and will have those feather grow back eventually.

Above is a young male just coming into his own for the mating season.

This female, taken at a great distance, also seems to have had an encounter with a predator.  I hope she makes it through the winter!  Happy Valentine's Day to you all.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Blue Feathers and Faces

When the days are cold and gray, graybeards such as myself tend to hang out at home in our castles with tea, throws, fireplaces and clean windows. I have been watching the Blue Jays (up to six came this morning!) fight over my sunflower and peanut seed mix. They are too big to comfortably hang on my bird feeders, so a platter of seeds is the best I can do. Some come in and stuff their craw with as much as they can.  I think they then return to the trees and store it in crevices, rocks and even bury it in the soil.  They have a good memory.

They do get territorial when more than one shows up and I had fun putting my camera in sports mode and trying to capture the arguments

When I ran out of Blue Jays I retreated to my computer and did some digital paintings.

I like this last one as it seems almost like an American Indian painting. Blue Jays have their place in the lore of the American Indian.

Can you see the face of the Indian in the body?

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Quack, Quack

The magnetic poles are changing and maybe even flipping. That iron core is stretching and tilting. This is already affecting the technologies that humankind has created and is using.  The geologists say the last time the poles flipped was 750,00 years ago and they did not see any effect on life at that time from the review of fossils.  They actually wrote/said that!  750,000 years ago?   The earth is millions of years old.  What life was on the planet 750,000 years ago?  Did algal cells migrate at that time and reveal no change to their homeland?

Is this going to affect the migration of our water birds and skew their biological maps? It seems as if the powers that be are taking an index finger and swirling time and space and creating chaos putting humankind on edge and perhaps swirling all of earth's kind into some tumultuous trip?

Today the geese (visitors to my home) did their regular march down the river in the early morning. They march in lines like good soldiers and usually remain quiet unless they see a fox...or me.  Then there is much arguing about what to do and where to go, swim to the far side or burst into the air?

The Canvasbacks came in later and also stuck to the middle of the river. They seemed more relaxed sometimes pruning themselves as they paddled upstream.

These photos are oversharpened because they were most wary of my presence on the dock and far away.  The Canvasbacks have a shovel of a bill.  They are a diving duck eating algae and crustaceans. 

Then came the Buffleheads paddling in from the opposite direction. They gave no ground.  I was happy to see a male and a female.  The Bufflehead’s breeding range is limited by the distribution of Northern Flickers, which are their main source of nesting cavities.   They eat bugs, crustaceans, plant matter and even clams and snails in winter.

The male almost left the female behind in his bluster to move around the larger Canvasbacks.  The Canvasbacks seemed a bit impressed with his fancy dress which is his mating colors.  I am looking forward to data on their migration patterns in the years ahead.  Of course, it will all become even more complicated as Climate Warming moves or erases their normal breeding areas.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Peeling the Sun

Superbowl Sunday. I did not watch but hubby did. I cooked hamburgers, not on a grill, but on the cast iron skillet. It was a very 1950's evening. I kept my eye to the window as the skillet heated. The sky was softly cloudy toward the opening to the river covering most of the sky and that meant the sun was probably going to disappear without any glory. When I looked up, all I saw was a glint of warmth just over the tops of the trees on the peninsula, a soft cold glow. It was nothing special, but I took a photo anyway, as I am addicted.

I continued to cook. In about ten minutes a bit of color caught my eye and I turned off the stove and took my camera from the table. 

That is the thing about sunsets. You have to watch them because, like strippers, they like to tease.  They just want to see if you are paying attention.

It was cold and I was in stocking feet, but there was no wind.  I dashed back inside and set the table and then rushed back out for one final photo.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

I See Things

This is a very few photos I took from my Hawaii trip last fall and set aside, just for the fun of it. (Of course, we all see faces in nature.)  This phenomenon is called Pareidolia...which covers seeing faces in everything and not just nature.  Some scientists say it is the result of a survival instinct.  Others find it closely linked to religious beliefs.  A ten-year-old cheese sandwich which some saw as having the face of Virgin Mary sold for $28,000 dollars in 2004!  If you want the volcanic rock below, I cannot sell it to you because the volcano goddess Pele was in rare anger mode when I was there and she frowns on people taking stuff from her islands!

The underripe coconut below is winking at me.  He is having impure thoughts.

This is a cheat because it was close to Halloween!

Here's looking at you kid!