Sunday, March 26, 2023

Spring is Still a Tease

Spring has arrived in the Mid-Atlantic. All the news can talk about is our non-native cherry trees in full bloom and soon-to-be pink confetti all along the roadways and lawns. It does look like the osprey 'may' nest on the newly cleaned platform.  I would track my binoculars to the nest that has been built and used for a few years as it sits in a high tree across the water and I saw no activity. I kept my fingers crossed. On March 9, weeks before the osprey was due to arrive a lonely female mallard spent a day on the platform, perhaps waiting for her mate.
A week later, while walking down our road, I found she was part of the two mallards that swim in our slightly hidden vernal pond each spring and probably nest somewhere nearby. I hope it is a safer site than our daylilies. She nested deep in their leaves and a fox or raccoon came in during the night and ate her eggs a few years ago.  I am amazed that there are any mallards at all!
Then on St. Patrick's Day, exactly on time, the osprey arrived. Studies have shown that they travel 95-380 kilometers (59-236mi) per day, so when they arrive they are exhausted. I could not tell whether it was a male or female because the size was not large or small but seemed medium to me, but the females are supposed to be the ones that arrive early. She was just sitting and waiting, but not sitting on the platform all the time. Sometimes she was off fishing and others resting on a nearby tree branch. Then a few days later the male arrived bearing gifts. Sticks.
She did not seem too excited.
Later in the day, or perhaps it was the next day, I noticed another osprey sitting in a tree close to the platform. I am guessing it might be a juvenile from last year or a male looking for a mate. It caught a fish and had a nice meal while observing the river and the platform below.
When that osprey had finished eating it flew down to the nest platform but the female chased it away immediately. Now things seem back to normal although moving slowly. They have mated although he almost knocked her off the nest in the process! Birds are such clumsy lovers! The nest is growing ever so slowly, so I still am cautious. They are behind many other ospreys that have arrived. The sticks are a bit more than in the photo below, but still quite sparse.
Our deck sits high enough that we can look down on the platform instead of trying to look from below and that makes it much easier to see when they have eggs or little ones. They are amazing creatures. They mate for life, travel both down and back separately and yet still manage to meet within days after flying thousands of miles, have sex for a second or two, and then begin a hardworking summer of nest building, nest repair, and feeding and training the young.  You may remember that I call them Fred and Ethel.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Spring Has Arrived But Late Due to a Nasty Wind

These last few days were cold and very windy.  Everything that was not attached flew across the yard as it was chased or thrown by the howl of the wind.  The windy front behaved like an angry teenager that had been grounded for the week.  I have lots of small branches to start my fires and create coals to burn the large logs. I walk around and fill my arms.  I never have to search far for kindling in this urban woodland.  Spring is here, so our nighttime fires are becoming fewer and fewer, yet a broken heater motor made the use of fires our salvation last week.  The motor on the new HVAC system, which was less than a year old, was replaced without cost to us.

The same wind that pummeled our naked trees dropped so many feet of snow to the north of us, that I felt guilty feeling sad for having to stay inside in our milder winter weeks.

But today it left us and pushed the clouds north leaving behind our first sunny and almost warm day.  

I realized that 50 mile-per-hour winds would delay the flying of our osprey.  They are amazing and return within three days of St. Patrick's Day here in the USA.  Today is St. Patrick's Day.  Pinch me...I am married to an Irishman.  They should return any day now.  First the one and then the other.

Each morning and at lunch and in the evening, I pass the kitchen window and look out carefully across the river to see if they have arrived.  I see that their well-engineered nest which they built in the trees across the river a few years ago has survived the winds.  They could not move the geese off the platform we built.  

The osprey that built a nest on the utility pole at the art museum a few miles away has returned. I heard their call while weeding our children's garden there and my heart jumped a beat.  

Our osprey must be on its way.  I will have to wait and see if they put sticks on the platform or move back into that awkward collection of sticks in the trees.

It will all depend on how much they want to redecorate, I guess.

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

It Is not a Drum Circle

As many years as I have been on this blue jewel of a planet, each season fills me with increased awe.  After the quiet of winter, spring starts with its percussion section.

As I sip my coffee in the early morning, I can hear the sound of a deep African drum out in the woods.  At least its hollow and penetrating beating sounds like an African drum and carries far from the tree into my living room.  

The pileated woodpecker's territorial call is loud and hollow and sounds like a war drum somewhere in the jungles of Africa.  It is actually called "drumming" by ornithologists. The bird is native to North America and can weigh almost one pound on the large end of their size.  They chip out rather large rectangular holes in search of insects or colonies of ants.  The male's drumming is to declare territory and/or call to a mate.  Since it is now spring, I hear his drumming every morning.  It is a simple rhythm and is very short.

Their excavation can actually destroy a healthy branch of a healthy tree.  This is what is happening to a huge oak near my neighbor's house.

The healthy branch in the photo above will fall in the coming months or next year if we get a big storm.  One year I actually had a pileated come to my house and look into my patio door as the snow covered the patio.  I couldn't find any bugs to offer and I do not know how to speak pileated.  Some days I wish I was a witch.  I have searched for that photo but it is on some other stored drive.  I think I only have 10,000 photos of birds!  I do have them organized by season and type, but still, it is a challenge.