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Posts Tagged ‘birds’

And I have not raised my hand once to type out the tales of my days.

There were birds. Dozens of birds. The Bewick’s Wrens built their nest in the garage and fled as soon as the babies fledged. The Spotted Towhees taught their fledgling to bathe in one of our three bird baths. The Dark-eyed Juncos fooled us with fledglings that looked more sparrow than junco. The Bushtits took communal baths. Black-capped Chickadee, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Band-tailed Pigeons, Sharp-shinned Hawk,. Rufous Hummingbird challenged all other hummingbirds and sometimes the bigger birds. Anna’s Hummingbirds came and chirped in our faces.No dogs to chase them. No resident cat. The birds moved in and became our pets for a season.

I dug in the earth, turning over earthworms and pulling out ribbons of grass roots to make room for more flower beds. The flower beds bloomed and fed the birds, bees, and wasps. The flowers faded and turned to seed, continuing to feed the birds. Soon, the milkweed pods will burst open and the yard will be littered with fluff. I’ll save it for the nesting birds next Spring.

I spent time sitting with my husband, shushing his political rants and encouraging his dreams. We drank too much beer. We made new friends. We had a couple hellacious rows. We rekindled our love, the love that covers a multitude of sins – and, as it were, disagreements of political nature.

We mourned the loss of our youngest daughter as she chose to remove herself from our lives. It may – or may not be – permanent. She wasn’t ready to commit to either possibility, only that for now, for herself, she must separate herself from her past, which includes all of her blood family. We wish her well, but we will always mourn her.

In August, I had an epiphany: I could do this retirement thing at the age of 62. I am finally at an age where money will come in – slight, but enough to subsidize my dream of writing and painting. I applied for my Social Security Benefits, told my boss, and contacted Human Resources. Now, I am counting the days. December 28th, 2018.

The coldness is creeping in. The days are still bright with sunshine, but the edge of winter will come with clouds and rain, rain and clouds. My prayer book is brimming with the heartbreak and needs of my friends. My dreams are restless and thematic, always returning to sharing a bedroom with my messy little sister and trying to decide what items to pack to move. Often, there is a dog in the dream, or a loving cat. Once, I screamed in my dream, venting my frustration at all things emotional: it wasn’t a real scream, not the kind that wakes you up. It was all inside my head, exploding.

I have stared at the screen of my computer, wanting to write. I have stared at the blank page, wanting to draw. Nothing came. I rolled with the punch, not wanting to fight the cosmos. Who has the energy? I asked.

Tonight, I am standing up and punching the cosmos in the eye. I can do this thing!

 

 

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My days – when I am at home, and not at work – have been spent bird watching in my own backyard. Birds are God’s gift to me, and the little haven we have built on our 100×100′ lot has been our gift to the birds. We are surrounded by sterile yards – I try not to judge my neighbors who have different values than I do, but hey have yards without flowers, without water, and without insect life: heavily sprayed and poisoned against the influx of weeds or creeping things, they are lifeless habitats while our yard is a virtual Eden.

My computer presently holds over 400 photos shot with my DLSR (set on “sports”) that I need to meticulously go through and delete, edit, choose, and watermark. I am spending more time with my husband than on the computer, so it may be a while before I get to these photos (think cold winter months).

Tomorrow, I will haul artwork down to the yard: things that need to be sanded down before I can repaint, and things that need the use of my Dremel tool. But my DSLR will be at hand to take more photos of the birds that inhabit our yard – and which are becoming more comfortable with the presence of two human beings who pose no threat to them.

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The Spotted Towhee – I like this photo because while it lacks focus and quality, it shows the speed ith which a wild bird can escape the camera’s lens. We have a nesting pair and their one fledgling in the yard. hey take no less than three baths a day!

There are the juncos, the Bewick’s wrens, the house finches, and the song sparrows. The Anna’s hummingbirds are at odds with the Rufous hummingbird over the five feeders hanging in the yard.

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That’s not counting the black-capped chickadees that have decided the hummingbird feeders are also a good place to catch small insects!

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There are three black-capped chickadee siblings. They’re idiots. I have a series of phots (as yet unedited) that show one sibling losing its grip on a hummingbird feeder, and ending up hanging upside down, like the fellow above.

I mentioned to my husband that all I was seeing were the siblings, and no chestnut-backed chickadees.

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I have a series of photos of this little guy deciding to take a bath by hanging onto the pocked piece of granite. He’s much smaller than his black-capped cousins.

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Then there’s the bushtits… I’ve seen them play in the sprinklers before, but this summer they decided to entertain us by taking a communal bath in the concrete birdbath. This is not one of the better photos – as I said, I have a lot to edit! Bushtits are tiny little grey fluff balls so non-descript that most people don’t even notice them. They are one of my favorite birds.

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I call them the Three Stooges. There’s only two in the photo (obviously), but there are three of them – siblings from the crow’s nest in the Doug fir across the street from us.

It’s a good summer. A bird summer. I’ll be shooting photos and setting them aside to deal with when the weather turns cool enough to sit upstairs and edit. I haven’t started on the insects and blooms. The birds are enough.

Shalom. I’m still here.

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This is the time of year when I most love our backyard. Sixteen years of labor comes to fruition, and the flowers bloom, the beds are temporarily whipped into almost-weedless state, birds have their nests, and the bees are warming up to all the blossoms. This year, we have no dogs or cats, and while that is strange to contemplate it has been a boon for backyard bird watching.

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Bewick’s wren decided to move into our shabby single car 1940’s garage. The fledglings left the nest about a week ago, as evidenced by the bird guano on the garage floor (and everything else). They abruptly left on Wednesday, when no one was watching. The nest remains tucked in behind the radio and some other dusty shelf ornaments, but the birds are gone.

Spotted towhee has at least one fledgling in the yard (I included that crazy captured from the newel post – Towhee is hard to photograph!). Towhee loves the multiple bird baths in the back yard.

Song sparrow loves the options, too, but has been highly elusive of late. One year, when Murphy was a pup, Song sparrow had a nest in the Camellia. Murphy killed the fledglings as soon as they hit the ground. I cried. My husband reminded me it is the circle of things, and I hated him. Murphy is gone now, but Song sparrow remembers and no longer nests in our yard.

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The juncos have been silent. They’re all paired up right now, and tending to nests. We catch a glimpse here and there. I saw two bushtits today, but no more, which means they are also sitting on nests and waiting for the fledglings to be able to join together in their joyful little mobs.

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Crow found the bird bath in the back yard. I washed a robin’s leg and claw out of it yesterday, and today I washed something murky brown out of it. I don’t hate crow, I just wish he knew he wasn’t a raccoon, and doesn’t have to wash his food… in the bird bath.

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The band-tailed pigeons are flocking now. There’s always a sentinel in the now-dead lodge pole pine out front, keeping an eye out while the rest clamber over the bird feeder, jockeying for position. I love their colors in the Spring: the subtle changes of rosy breast feathers against the gray.

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We had a shy black-headed grosbeak come by this week. They aren’t really bird feeder birds, but they will pause while they move north along their migration route, and before the elm trees go to seed.

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Anna’s hummingbird is also a permanent resident. She’s happy to have real flowers, but won’t hesitate to tell me what she thinks of slothfulness if the hummingbird feeder runs dry. We had two fledglings come through the backyard this weekend: skinny little birds still figuring out how to balance on the feeder, and completely unafraid of us.

I sat in the lawn chair this evening and looked out over my several flower beds and the vast expanse of ‘lawn’ that is really just mowed wild grass, wild geraniums, tiny yellow flowers, and clovers. Green played upon green, shadows danced. The birds came and went, intent on their business, but always with an eye cocked toward me. There are no dogs or cats here, now, and the birds seem to know this.

It’s the trade-off for not having a pet: my garden is full of avian life that is increasingly unafraid of me. My heart is at peace with the birds.

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Aside from the terrible hot, flushed, allergy face – this weekend was very nice. I’m allergic to cottonwood, but it wasn’t terribly overbearing and the grass pollens are only just beginning, so I was able to stay outside for some length of time, pulling up weeds, rearranging fences, and moving things around.

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I love this trio of scrub jay photos. He just hopped from one side to the other and I caught him mid-air. I set my camera on the “sports” setting which shoots at f 5.6 1/1600 ISO 2500. I use this for shooting birds or insect because it invariably captures movement I would not have noticed when aiming the camera.

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Bees, for instance, are constantly on the move. You’re lucky to capture them holding still. The “sports” setting on my D-SLR allows for that.

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Check out this series of goldfinch vs. dandelion fuzz photos.

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The House finches wanted to know what was so interesting about the dandelion.

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At one point, the male and female house finch converged on the goldfinch (below and out of sight in the photo).

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There was this capture, of the male house finch coming in for a landing.

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And this – my favorite – the goldfinch took off, the house finch in mid-air with wings folded back – wow.

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Another house finch vs. goldfinch capture. The house finch is so much larger than the goldfinches.

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This was another drama. The black-headed grosbeak had just settled into the feeder. See the wings on the left?

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A starling comes to rest and chases the grosbeak off.

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“Hey? Where did everyone go?” Starlings always assume they are popular, but everyone hates them.

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Too bad I cut the top starling off. They are striking birds, just they are not native American birds. Highly invasive and a birder’s bane in North America.

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Not sure if this is a starling or Brewer’s Blackbird (they flock together). Probably a starling. But a great capture.

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Bumblebee on the ceanothus.

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Honeybee on the Spanish Lavender.

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Unknown bee on the ceanothus.

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This trio of photos are of the black-headed grosbeaks. The female is less colorful, but not less pretty. The males can be mistaken for orioles. And in the last photo – a female grosbeak in the feeder with a band-tailed pigeon.

I never left home and still had an adventure. I love Oregon.

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Because I tweaked my back doing housework yesterday, I stayed in all day today. I’d like to say I didn’t do any housework, but the darned old laundry and dishes wait for noone’s sore back. Grumble Grumble Grouse Grumble.

Mostly I bird-watched. Of course Project Feeder Watch is over and all the birds took today to come to our yard and the feeders. Stupid birds: where are they when I want to count them? At least the majority of today’s birds were photogenic and I got some decent shots with my little 50mm lens.

I’ve seen these little birds around for about a week now, checking out the thistle feeder. I haven’t gotten a good look at them but I think they are Pine Siskins. So far, it appears we only have females hanging out and females are always hard to identify.

The English House Sparrows have made themselves at home in Don’s over-grown Hawthorne. But do you think they’d hold still when I appear with a camera? I caught this one on one of my tree peonies just about to take flight.

I had to “boost” this photo in photoshop to get the true-to-life color of the Band-tailed Pigeon’s feathers. He was looking real sharp this morning. Only one – sometimes the whole feeder is covered in these large pigeons but it is mating season and we only get an occasional single bird. They are such striking birds and I never get tired of their antics.

Speaking of antics… The robins have discovered the bird bath. That European Starling was trying to take his turn, but the robins weren’t sharing. I can’t say I feel sorry for the starling, either: if there is a bird I dislike, it is the invasive, raucous-sounding Starling. But I will give it this: it can be a pretty bird and I missed an excellent shot of one close up. My camera was in another room. Darn!

The Starling gave up.

“Ah. Bath time all to myself! Nice little spa here. Full view of any approaching cats, warm water. Think I’ll recommend this spot to my Robin friends!”

There were a couple “missed” shots, too. If my camera was really smart, it would know when to shoot a photo at a speed of over 125ASA. I’m pretty certain both of these shots would have looked a lot different at even 400ASA. 1,000ASA and – well, they’re only as good as the little 50mm lens I have,

The Starling in retreat.

A Chestnut-backed Chickadee making a quick escape. All you can see is his mask & top-notch.

And those were just the birds that made it into my camera! I also saw Western Scrub Jays, Fox Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos and Spotted Towhees. It was just a busy bird day.

Now if that hummingbird would find the feeder…

ttfn!

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