DELAY WITH GUILT – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Friday: DELAY

I have not refilled the bird feeders. The birds think we are just late. Or really, yesterday they thought it must be a brief delay because the food is always there.

Goldfinch

Today, they were back. The squirrels and a wide variety of birds, trying to find a few seeds on the deck they could eat. They were like people who have just discovered the last two decent restaurants have been closed. Some of these birds and baby squirrels have possibly never eaten anywhere else.

A few Brown-headed Cowbirds

It’s pathetic, sad and I feel guilty. Even though I know I have no choice. I have to take them down, guilt or no because we need to fix the deck. I have bought special waterproof paint. My son is readying the powerwasher.

Cardinal

The birds weren’t getting much from the feeders anyway because the cohort of squirrels had taken over the feeders, the railing, and the deck and weren’t letting the birds near the feeders except during the hour or two a day when I managed to chase them away for a little while so the birds would descend and try to get some seeds.

Lady Cardinal on a branch

Apparently, there is no way for a human to balance this relationship between birds and squirrels. I thought the squirrels would like the flat feeder and the birds would prefer the tall mesh feeder. The ground feeders could clean up the pound or so of seeds we always drop while filling the feeders.

Big Red-bellied Woodpecker

Instead, the relentless pressure of squirrels against the birds never stopped. First, there was one squirrel. Then there were two. Eventually, there were squirrels everywhere. Waiting in the trees, hiding under the deck, lurking on the stairs, waiting in rows on the railings.

Mourning Dove on the rail

With each day, they became less afraid of us and I was beginning to think it was going to become of physical confrontation, something I absolutely did not want.

Tufted Titmouse

When they started announcing on the news that the recently-arrived bears were tearing down decks to get to bird feeders and began warning homeowners to take down the feeders now, my choice narrowed from very little to none at all. I can still throw some handsful of seeds onto the back lawn, but really they should remember to be wild.

Chipping Sparrow

Today, there were only a few very small (probably baby) squirrels urgently poking around hoping something edible remained. And besides the two little squirrels, there was a big red Cardinal, a few rather tiny Nuthatches (also probably babies — about half the size of full-grown Nuthatches) and a few forlorn Mourning Doves.

Rosefinch

The delay is not permanent. In the fall, as the air chills down, we’ll put the feeders up again and hopefully by then our furred and feathered friends will have forgotten us and the feeders and will start anew. We’ll have a few months before the battle to control our feeders gets fully underway.

I guess this proves once and for all that sharing is not the way of the wild.

Squirrel just holding on to the feeder cage

It seems we don’t actually have much to say about it. This is a bird and squirrel match. We watched while the flocks of Goldfinches got bullied off the feeders by the Cowbirds and woodpeckers. How the bigger woodpeckers chased away the smaller ones. And how the squirrels chased away everything that wasn’t a squirrel.

Nuthatch

And I don’t want to hang around until a black bear drops by and chases me away, too.

SOME OF THE LAST OF THE BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

They are not the very last. We’ll put the feeder back up in November when the weather begins to get cold. And I have a lot of folders of birds with a fair number of unprocessed photographs. But now, it’s time for our cohort of squirrels to go back to the forest and rediscover the joy of squirreldom.

This morning I went out on the deck and there were half a dozen of them. Two in the feeders, another couple on the railing, and a few on the deck itself. I suppose they were all awaiting their turn. I finally went out onto the deck and physically ejected them. They apparently believe it’s their personal stash of goodies and are protecting it from humans and birds.

If I didn’t think Duke would jump the fence and break all his bones on the way down, I’d put him out there to guard the stash. Sadly, he is a jumper and Gibbs mostly wants lots of time spent napping on the sofa. Chasing squirrels is not high on his agenda.

And, I should add, with considerable determination.

Lady Cardinal in a tree
Rosefinch and Cowbird
Rosefinch on the rail
Possibly pregnant squirrel?

Now that I look at the pictures I realize I have more of them. Possibly a lot more of them. So you’ll see more. I have to process more of them too.

ONE OF A KIND: CEE’S FUN FOTO CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: 1 Item or the Number One
One Squirrel
One Rosefinch
One Cardinal
One Woodpecker
One Goldfinch
One Tulip
One Daffodil
One Cactus flower
One kitten! Photo: Garry Armstrong

SOMETIMES, THE SQUIRRELS LET THE BIRDS EAT SOMETHING – Marilyn Armstrong

It seems that the more I try and discuss the eating all the food situation with the squirrels, the more squirrels show up. It used to be one at a time. Not the same squirrel each time, but it was a definite group. I could tell by the scars in their fur and the shape of their tails.

A cowbird a day keeps the finches away! And we have a lot more than one.

Now, we have two babies — about half the size of the bigger gray ones. I have to assume the big ones are their parents. Or maybe aunts and uncles. hard to tell.

This is young lady Cardinal, sprucing up her feathers because there are a couple of boys down in the bushes.
Still preening!

I’m pretty sure they’ve been told to come here, that this is where the good food is. And it seems that the more I talk to them, the less afraid they are. Maybe because I’m so polite?

Awaiting her beau

On the other hand, The Duke goes completely wacko when he sees two, three, four squirrels on the porch and when he gets to barking frantically, the squirrels tend to get a bit hinky and move elsewhere for a while.

The Mourning Dove just watches, but they are quite romantic these days, too.
Ah, romance …

But people? They just eyeball us. I swear this morning I looked on the deck and in the spot where we used to keep the stone frog (I moved it because the squirrels kept knocking it down), there was a little squirrel. Sun-bathing.

Waiting and watching in her tree …

Another was literally lounging on the deck. Relaxed, just lying there. He looked up when I said: “Good morning, young squirrel. How’s it going? Enjoying the sunshine?”

Wooing Cardinals on the deck!

He looked at me, stretched, yawned, jumped up on the railing, then grabbed the feeder and wrapped himself around it.

Meanwhile, there were a couple of Cardinals looking very lovey-dovey on the deck.

The young Cardinal

Lady Cardinal decided to go flying and right after her, flew a young red boy. Literally, right on her tail. I knew he was young because he didn’t have his full coloration. Immediately behind him flew an apparently eager, bigger, redder male.

All three birds headed into the woods at high speed. I couldn’t see them anymore, but I could hear squawking as the two males attacked each other. When those red males meet, they always fight. Very territorial — and there was a young lady involved.

Boys will be boys, even when they have bright red feathers.

Squirrely!

POINTING WITH BEAK AND PEAK – Marilyn Armstrong

Judy’s “To the Point” Photo Challenge

Upside down pointy
Downy woodpecker – pointy!
Kayak pointed

CLYTEMNESTRA’S LAMENT – GUEST POST By KARIN LAINE MCMILLEN

Introduction

Many of us have the mental image of nature as somehow kinder, sweeter, more gentle than the lives we lead. On a fundamental reality level, I knew that wasn’t true, but as long as all I saw were flying birds and leaping squirrels, I could ignore the rest. Even knowing that the large eat the small, and the strong kill the weak, that nature is fierce.

Nonetheless, the rattlesnake and snapping turtle have as much a right to their dinners as the bright yellow finch or the ladder-backed woodpecker. I didn’t realize how many of the creatures in my own backyard bore significant scars from hawks and foxes and bobcats until I got a distance lens and saw it myself.

A hurt squirrel

With the camera, I see many of the animals I photograph bear significant scars and damage from attacks by other creatures. Some have healed, others have disappeared and probably didn’t survive.

This is a story about love and nature.


Clytemnestra’s Lament: The Story of the Swans – By Karin Laine McMillen

We bought our swans, as all the bourgeois do.

They came in the US mail, in boxes with pointed tops. We had a swan release party. Restricted beauty reigned as pinioned swans flew across our one acre, man-made, engineered and certified pond.

A swan on the lake at the farm

Relocating swans is a precarious commitment. An unexpectedly large rectangular enclosure needs to be built in advance, part of it in the water and the remainder on land. This is so the pair can acclimate to their habitat, lest they try to walk back to Illinois from whence they came.

Named Illich and Odette after the heroine of Swan Lake by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, they acted as guardians of my gentleman’s farm and performed their duties of chasing geese and eating the algae with instinctual vigor.

Every spring our female, distinguished by her slightly diminutive size, built a large, perfectly round nest which always reminded me of Big Bird’s nest from Sesame Street. The first year, she just built it. I don’t know if she had eggs or not, but if she did they didn’t hatch.

Illich, Odette, with cygnets

The second year, my family arrived for the weekend from New York to discover four baby swans on the pond with their parents. We quickly discovered, or more accurately researched, that baby swans are named cygnets. We disseminated that information to anyone who would listen.

The following weekend I was saddened to see only two cygnets. My toddler was fascinated by who might have “eatted” them. I grabbed my camera to be sure to capture the fluffy whiteness and inspiring family unit in action. I unrealistically fantasized about having two sets of swans forever gracefully adorning our pond.

I don’t remember how long the last two babies lived, but at some point in the spring, I heard that one of the cygnets had been dragged out of the pond and eaten by a snapping turtle. I was furious, and have been trying to kill those prehistoric looking creatures ever since.

Swans with cygnets

The following year I became excited in the early spring as Odette started constructing her nest and proceeded to sit on it for weeks on end, for a gestation time I never fully researched.

On May 4th, 2007 the French National Orchestra was touring with Kurt Masur on the podium. The date stuck with me due to my bird-loving grandmothers anniversary of birth. New Yorkers turned out in droves to see their former popular conductor. I was seated in one of the side boxes at Carnegie Hall with a fellow musician. We were beyond excited to hear Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony as the highlight of the program.

Our familiarity with the work was such that we glanced nervously at each other when the horns flubbed their perfect fifths in the first movement. We knew that the difficult horn solo at the beginning of the second movement was extremely exposed, and would dictate the success of the evening.

I went to bed on a high that I am convinced one can only get from music and had an unnerving and unexpectedly feverish dream filled with violence and unrest. Black and white converged; blood, death, and fear prevailed. I woke in a sweat and shortly got the call.

It happened that the previous evening. My darling Odette was ripped to shreds by a bear. She was guarding her eggs.

When haunted by the violent passages of Tchaik 5, I still reflect on my culpability. Did I doom this mother by naming her after a heroine who dances herself to death?

 

Illich survived. He graced our pond for season upon season. I often wonder if he sang in mourning for his bride and offspring, while I sat ninety miles away in a red velvet adorned box at Carnegie Hall.

Years later, on a spring morning, I got a call informing me that the body of Illich was immobile on the land beside the pond. I envisioned him with his beautiful neck resting on the ground. I begged our sensitive caretaker to bury him appropriately on the property.

Last spring a single grey swan grace our pond for a little while. He did not stay. This spring another has been spotted and I am nearly desperate for him to stay. Precariously, I follow the new swan with my camera as I stroll around the pond on Memorial Day.

My nearly white golden retriever and the white swan seem to have come to an equilibrium. My retriever seems to inherently understand the complex relationships before him. My mind weaves restlessly between questions and wishes.

Do I dare name him? Will he find a bride? Will they stay?

Suddenly peace washes over me with the warm breeze and I hear a whisper: “Nature, as is her habit, will forgive.”

COMMONALITY – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Common

“Common” is a work frequently used with birds, even though sometimes the bird for which they are using it aren’t all that common. Maybe back when they got their names, they were common. It’s used for all kind of animals, actually. And plants.

Only people use it to mean “rabble.”

A very commond squirrel!

“Common squirrel,” for example. Which means whatever kind of squirrel is common in the area in which you happen to live. Red in England and some parts of the U.S. (but it isn’t the same red squirrel). Gray around these parts.

Three common pigeons
A common Mourning Dove

Common pigeon (but some pigeons are more common than others). Common grackles, common Blue Jays, common Robins (but the British Robin is a different bird than American ones, but still common). Common herons except a little different, depending on where you live.

Common Goldfinches

I’m always amused when it’s used in some movies to mean “not royal or royal or upper-class.” All it means is “typical or frequently seen.”

A common Great Blue Heron

We are all typical and thus common. We have the same number of arms, legs, eyes, head, and general body type. Strip away the clothing and we are all common. Take away the castle and put that person in a standard suburban sub-division and they are just as common as everyone else except maybe they talk funny.

Common kids by a common river

Last night we were watching “Proven Innocent” and some “upper upper” lady looked at someone else and said, “Your people are common.” What did she think her people were? Did they have three legs and one eye in the middle of their forehead? THAT would be most uncommon.

Everyone and everything else is common.