LOOKING OUT OUR BACK (OR FRONT) DOOR — IN BLACK & WHITE

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Outside Your Home or View

The autumn leaves are getting pale, though probably down by the river they are still bright. Here, though, they are pale. It’s definitely a result of the prolonged drought. I hope the drought is ending. We got a inch and a half of rain earlier in the week and we are supposed to get more over the weekend. We have a big water deficit to make up: about 9 inches in Boston and about 7 or 8 inches locally. I hope we are (finally) on our way!

These were taken by Garry and me between August and October 2020.

Cee's Black-White

KIND OF A BIRDY DAY

Imagination Kindled: A Very Birdy Day

It finally rained! Not just a little drizzle, but the real deal. It rained pretty heavily for several hours and more lightly the rest of the day. I was thrilled to see it. We are supposed to get more rain on the weekend. Maybe our trees won’t die!

A very typical Nuthatch

The birds seemed to enjoy the rain too. There certainly were a lot of them although not as many as we had a month ago. The Goldfinch have gone north to breed. Gone north to breed? Do birds do that? Well, the Goldfinches do. They go to Canada to breed and come back here in December or January. They breed in the winter. I’m sure someone understands this, but i don’t. So today, we had “the regulars.”

Orange Cardinal and incoming Chickadee (I thinK, but It’s hard to tell when they are in flight)

A lot of orange Cardinals. We don’t seem to have red ones anymore. Only orange and they all look terribly angry. Lots — bunches and bunches — of Nuthatches, Tufted Titmouses, Chickadees and Mourning Doves.

You can still see that he’s not yet full grown

I took pictures and they didn’t all fly away the minute I took my camera out of the bag. Yay!

KINDA FULL OF GOLDFINCHES

Kinda full of Goldfinches

From late in December, they show up in flocks. They are gone now, off to Ontario where in November, they breed. When they come back, they won’t be the same bright yellow they were all summer. They won’t be in breeding colors. But they will still be a pleasure to have around.

A small flock of Goldfinches on the feeder

 

ORANGE CARDINALS ARE NOT ONE OF A KIND …

One of a Kind Or Maybe Not …


When I first saw my bright orange Cardinal, I was sure I had seen something absolutely unique. Cardinals are red. That’s their thing. Their redness is their thing. Then  I discovered that other clusters of orange cardinals have been found, a bunch down in North Carolina. Now they are tracking them to see if this is change is an actual genetic change. I can tell them it is and it’s inherited. These orange Cardinals have had at least two sets of babies. One set of them are almost grey with shafts of orange in their tails and huge orange beaks. The next set is orange, but has a variety of other colors mixed in. This photo picked up the variety of colors very well. But I’m going to add a few other pictures so you can see the differences.

Some of these differences may be because these birds all have the same father. Cardinals are very possessive. They like to collect lady Cardinals and will fight any other male who flies into their territory. I suspect that most Cardinals are probably inbred, given the possessiveness of the males.

One of the first fledglings. Don’t you love that beak?
Mother and very big fledgling
I think this is mom.
Growing up – one of the early orange Cardinal babies

There may have been three nestings this season. It’s hard to tell. I think the mother of the most recent fledglings was part of the first batch of baby orange Cardinals. But we definitely have a cluster!

KIND OF SQUARE IN A RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER WAY

A RED BELLIED WOODPECKER TAKING A SEED BREAK

Kind of square with feathers. A red-bellied woodpecker taking a break from debugging a tree for a yummy seed snack. The bugs must have had a really serious “go” at the trees this year because they have been very busy stripping the bark off various trees.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

KIND OF FEATHERY: A SQUARE HAIRY WOODPECKER DOING THE WORK HE WAS BORN TO DO

THE SQUARE COMMUNITY

It’s kind of feathery in our backyard. This is a very busy Hairy Woodpecker whacking the hell out of an insect-infested tree in our woods. It’s not just this woodpecker. There are a slew of them. Half the tree has no bark because the woodpeckers have torn it off while hunting for beetles. When they get tired of beating up the tree, they fly 50-feet and eat some fresh seeds, get some water from the water dish I keep on the deck for the birds and the squirrels and chipmunks. I think it’s the only water in the area.

There are also also a mountain of acorns everywhere. Huge acorns. Even in a regular year, there’d be plenty to eat out there, but there’s no water. We got a dribble of rain today and maybe will get another dribble tomorrow. But we need serious rain and we need it soon.

PARENTAL ORANGE CARDINALS AND A BIG TEENAGE FLEDGLING

The things that go on in my backyard. My word. The birds have relationships! And babies! My wounded three-legged squirrel is beginning to look healthier, albeit one of his rear legs is not working. He does seem to be managing, though. He climbs all the way up to the deck where he gets good eats, usually twice a day (early in the morning, just before dark in the evening) and water to drink. His tail is regrowing. I’m sorry his rear leg is not healing better, but it does not seem to be infected. There was also a patch on his coat that had been torn out, but that’s growing back too. It’s the bad foot that worries me, but I’m glad to see that he is able to climb all the way up to the deck for a couple of meals a day. That may mean he will survive the winter. And maybe the winter won’t be too bad.

Mama Orange Cardinal – From the feather-color point of view, she looks like a boy, but she is much smaller than the boys. And she hangs out with the fledglings and does motherly bird things.

When the wounded squirrel took off and the tiny chipmunk left, the Orange Cardinal family came for a visit. I’m not actually sure which of the adults is male and female. I’m assuming the one I saw today was Mama because her baby was almost as big as she was and she was doing motherly things to her I’m sorry to say this, but ugly gawky baby. Of all the baby anythings, baby birds are the least adorable. They grow up to be lovely, but my oh my, what plug ugly fledgling. I can only hope this is a “baby swan” thing and one day, this baby will plume into a gorgeous adult.

This may be the second set of fledglings because there were some other very young babies about four or five weeks ago. My current thought is that the current mom of this set of fledglings is daughter of the original big male Orange Cardinal and she bred back to him to produce these eggs. This isn’t unusual with Cardinals since big males collect the ladies and try to keep them to himself. They are highly territorial and one of the interesting things to see are two male cardinals who have accidentally or intentionally flown into the others’ territory. They fight in the air like the airplanes of World War I. It’s quite amazing to see.

I didn’t see Orange dad today, but this is the first day I haven’t seen him. He comes and goes every day. He has a knack for vanishing as soon as I find my camera, but one of these mornings I’ll get him. Time is on my side. Dad has become more red than orange, but his offspring — and I think the current new mom is one of his offspring from earlier in the season. Birds interbreed these days. Maybe it’s lack of a larger flock. I got some interesting pictures and in a few of them, you can see the development of color in the feathers. The Mama Orange Cardinal doesn’t look like a normal Cardinal female. She is a much more solid color than the ladies usually are.

A GOLDEN DAY IN AUTUMN

Autumn came weeks early because of the long summer drought that is not over yet. We had a normal spring, but then the rain stopped falling. We’ve had a bit of rain and too much wind and autumn flew away. Very early. At least we almost had autumn this year, which beats out last year when we pretty much nearly missed it completely.

Our house is not normally an area that gets a lot of color, but we did this year. But we did get outside a bit. I was hoping to get one more trip down to the river … maybe down to the river in Rhode Island.

I have reached the outer edges of my political process. It’s not that I’ve changed my mind. I think Trump is the worst president America has ever had and god forbid we should give him another four years at the helm. I do not believe we would have a country anyone would want to live in.

 

A NUTHATCH BEFORE THE WIND AND RAIN

Today it was beautiful outside. The trees were golden and orange and red. But tonight, it’s going to rain and the wind shall blow up quite a storm, so there’s a very good chance that by tomorrow night, the leaves will mostly be gone. That is the peril of autumn. Rain and wind or early snow often ruins the display. But we got some good days and I got some lovely new pictures of a nuthatch. Because the autumn is about to pass, all my posts today are visual.

We simply could not watch the debate. We watched maybe five minutes and it was pretty much what we expected. I like the birds much better.

AND THEN CAME SOME RAIN

Does this mean that our drought might really be ending? We will need a lot of rain to make up for the 10 inches of non-rainfall over the past couple of months.

Rain is lucky. It is seminal. It makes things grow. Dormant seeds and new seeds take power from falling rain. We have been without rain for nearly two months, the longest drought I can remember in the 37 years I have lived in New England. The year Kaity graduated high school, we had no rain for the entire month of May, but after that, the skies opened and, as the song says, “The wind blew and the rain fell.”

A nuthatch and a tufted titmouse

Yesterday, with no rain expected at all — the weather forecasts being essentially “best guesses” by even our best and most accurate meteorologists — it began raining lightly in the afternoon. That little rain came and went quickly, but as I was putting myself to bed last night, suddenly, I heard that rushing in the leaves. I jostled Garry. “It’s raining,” I told him. I’m not sure he was able to track from whatever Western he was watching to a rainfall during a drought, but when I woke this morning, the woods were gleaming with wet leaves. The frenzied attack of the birds on the feeders had slowed to something resembling normal.

My  mother used to sing this song which I am sure she learned in grade school. I think the original concept might have come from the verse Matthew 7:25, but it was a popular song for school children. Written in 1899, I managed to find a used copy of the book (presumably including music) and with luck, someday it will be delivered. This is the section which has always stuck in my memory:

A small piece of a child’s song to an oak tree circa 1899.

Maybe this song is why my mother so treasured oak trees. She adored the trees and would never let one die. She would take each of the babies born from acorns and carefully move it to a safe part of our woods. Or maybe it was growing up in lower Manhattan and never seeing trees or grass, but one way or the other, she loved them dearly.

Isn’t it strange how little pieces of songs remain in our memory forever it seems? The last time I heard this sung was probably more than 60 years ago. I ordered the only hardcover copy of it I could find — at any price — from ABE, the major seller of almost forgotten books from way back when. I have no idea what condition it is in. It’s listed as “good” which can mean anything from tattered to nearly new.

Nuthatch and Tufted Titmouse

There is also a reproduced version available from Amazon done with photographs reproducing each page. Unlike the actual book, it is listed as “anonymous,” but it wasn’t anonymous and the book I’m getting has both an author/songwriter and illustrator’s title on it. Certainly if I could uncover this information in a 15-minute Google search, Amazon should have been able to do the same. However, they are to be applauded for salvaging the book at all. It is considered a book with historic meaning. I’m just happy to be able to get a copy of it. Of course no one but me will be the least bit interested in it.

Owen and I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what will happen to our collections when we pass. Our kids have zero interest in them. They might develop some interest as they get older, but I don’t know when or if that will happen … so I hope someone will take charge of our “stuff” and make sure it doesn’t get tossed in a dumpster somewhere.

THE BIRDS ARE EATING LIKE CRAZY

I’ve been feeding birds for a few years now and I’m pretty used to their feeding habits. Generally, they come in groups. Flocks of Goldfinches, a couple of Cardinals — orange or red and some orange babies, too. Lots of Nuthatches. The odd Blue Jay. Catbirds. Bluebirds. The other kind of Nuthatch. A few wandering Warblers of the green variety. Some miscellaneous birds I don’t always recognize and of course, a fair number of woodpeckers. Sparrows. Carolina Wrens. These days, a few Robins have come back. They were hit by a virus and went missing for a while. As did the Blue Jays.

Big Woodpecker

This year, we haven’t had the huge number Brown-Headed Cowbirds we had last year. We had a few at the beginning of the season, but none since. We also haven’t had as many squirrels — regular Gray Eastern Squirrels — but we’ve had quite a few Red Squirrels and a few Least Chipmunks. No full-size chipmunks.

Putting water out on the deck has helped too. With all the small wet areas dried up during this drought, the birds and the squirrels all come a drink from the bowl. I fill it every other day, washing it out in between fillings. And now, every morning when I look out the window, I see dozens of birds. All different kinds. Instead of the flocks and sets, they come dashing in, hitting the feeders as if they’ve never seen food before. Many of them have gotten quite fat, so roly-poly that you wonder how they can sit on the edge of the feeder and actually get their beaks in there for the food. They look like brightly feathered tennis balls. Especially the Cardinals are hefty eaters!

I know the Goldfinches are eating a lot because in October they will fly to Toronto (or nearby) to breed, then, in December, come back here again. I sometimes think we are the last safe patch for the birds, saving this last little bit of greenery. It makes me sad because I know when I am not here to feed them, no one will feed them and they will die as so many others have already done. That’s why I urge as many of you as I can to feed them. Feed the birds and feed the squirrels. If we are lucky enough to restore this world, it would be very nice to have some living things in it from these times.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I was reading a book called “A Boy And His Dog At the End of the World,” by C. A. Fletcher who is also the narrator. I couldn’t finish it. It was beautifully written and very well read, but it was painful to hear. I am already brooding over the destruction of our planet and there’s only so much sadness I can deal with. Twenty-twenty has not been a good year.

HAVING ASCERTAINED I DON’T HAVE COVID 19 … WHAT’S NEXT?

Yesterday, I got sent to the COVID drive through. It was actually no big deal. Although I was unable to spit (I have dry mouth from all the Blood Pressure medicine I take), they stuck those big q-tips up my nose which was, despite rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, mostly made me want to sneeze. Today they called to tell me the test was negative. Which I figured it would be — except for about one hour yesterday evening when I was convinced i was going to die. Lucky me, I pulled through. Phew.


Today we concluded I have a really bad toothache and probably a sinus infection. Being as all this is getting done via zoom, it’s more conjecture than diagnosis, though I did physically see the dentist. The problem is the fever. Every day, it pops up around four in the afternoon. I take some Excedrin and it first knocks me out, then I wake up and don’t feel like my head is going to explode. It feels like a sinus infection. It hurts in all the right places and with the pain in my jaw to add to it, I feel like I’ve gone 10 rounds with Mohammed Ali and I did not win the belt.  The worrying part is why I have a fever. Oral infections have a nasty way of invading other parts of your body, especially your heart and frankly, my heart has had more than enough issues.

Meanwhile, today is our 30th anniversary (and they said it wouldn’t last … Hah!) and not only to I feel crappy, but even if I felt better, there’s nowhere to go and nothing to do — and no money to do it with which is just the icing on this decade’s cake. Garry made me a sweet little video about our marriage where he claimed to be to blame for absolutely everything that has gone wrong — and I know for 100% sure he doesn’t mean a word of it. But it’s sweet of him to take one day out of the year and make a 30-year apology for being such a stubborn SOB.

Owen is picking up Italian sub sandwiches and we picked up (among other things) a cheesecake, which is the only cake we like. I wanted the one with the strawberries on top, but is was three dollars more which was a lot of money for some strawberries. Besides, the boys like it plain anyway.

This is not the first unhealthy anniversary I’ve had. My second one was spent in the hospital having my spine repaired. I’ve also spent three birthdays in hospital. But one year, I got Gibbs on my birthday and that made up for a lot.

So it goes. The weather went from unbearably sultry hot, to chilly. Suddenly, we are dressed in sweatpants and sweatshirts and I’m deep in socks. it did this weather flip in less than four hours in a single evening. It still hasn’t rained, so despite the cold snap, we have no bright foliage. The dark green of summer is just fading out Hunks of green leaves are falling from trees. If we don’t get rain — serious rain — soon, many trees won’t survive the winter. Ellen said for the first time ever, in their woods trees just snapped in half. Other times, the ground had been soaked and they couldn’t hold their ground. This time, the wind came up and they broke in half. Not a good sign. Lucky we haven’t had any fires. New England is very treed — more than 70% trees — and a bad fire could wipe us all out.

I’m going t go find my warmer sweat pants. I consider it a badge of honor to not turn the heat on until the end of October, but this may turn out to be a cold one.

I’m taking the next few days off to try and let my fever break, my headache go away, and that pain in my jaw fade to a less jarring feeling of having recently been punched, I’m having trouble focusing. All this Tylenol and aspirin and the gunk I have to spread on the dry socket of my tooth aren’t making me feel at my best.

Meanwhile, just a note that I am not going to continue paying WordPress for the privilege of “doing my writing their way” whether I like it or not. I don’t know if I’m going to change platforms or finally, after 8 years, let it go. It has been a great eight years and I’ve enjoyed the writing, photography, and most of all your friendships very much. I am paid up through early February of 2021, but after that? I will be happy to send my email address to anyone who wants it so we can actually keep in touch, but I’m not enjoying blogging WordPress anymore.

For those of you who are content with the status quo, I’m content with your contentment. It does not work for me. I have noticed, that most of you who are comfortable with it don’t write the kind of complicated text amd graphics I use. If I were using predominantly text, it wouldn’t be a problem for me either — unless I was trying to do it all on a cell phone. I am in admiration of those who can write on such a tiny surface!

I do not know what piece of the market WordPress is aiming to get, but I don’t think they are going to get the young enthusiasts when they make the kind of writing young enthusiasts enjoy so hard to manage. Anyway, I have five months to make a decision, so I won’t be just vanishing. One way or the other, we’ll be in touch.