LITTLE CREATURES IN AUTUMN – Marilyn Armstrong

We have quite a collection of creatures on our deck. Not only did the little chipmunk get up on the deck today, he managed to get up on the feeder, too. I have no idea how he did it. Good jumper? He can’t climb like the squirrels and he’s less than half their sign, too. Nor has he wings.

Still hungry after all those seeds!
Don’t let me interrupt your dinner
Magic chipmunk
The all year toad
Tufted Titmouse in Autumn
Golden foliage
Still got an appetite
Probably a titmouse
Rose-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Downy Woodpecker
Red-Bellied Woodpecker

But he did it. Sorry, I didn’t get a picture, but I was doing other things and I have learned to finish one thing before I start another. If I don’t finish what I’m doing, it’s entirely possible I won’t even remember what I was doing — much less finish it.

AUTUMN FOLIAGE – Marilyn Armstrong

As good as it gets 

The rain and the wind came and went and surprisingly, we still have a lot of foliage left. I expected to find it all on the ground today. There is a lot of it on the ground, but more of it is still on the trees.

So, from the beautiful wooded Blackstone Valley, here is our Autumn — as good as it gets.

Garry took a lot of these pictures, too. He was out on the road and this time, he took the camera with him!

LINE AND SQUARES AND FALL – Marilyn Armstrong

FROM THE SALT LINE TO THE GOLDEN TREES

Small, cute, and hungry
A titmouse enjoys the bright colorful woods
The great maple in front of the house

BEFORE THE WINDS BLOW THE CREATURES MUST EAT – Marilyn Armstrong

There’s a story to go with these pictures. It’s one of my “Is my mind really going? Should I be taking something or stop taking something?”

I got lucky. I had the camera, I got a nearly perfect focus on the birds, the squirrel and then the chipmunk showed up too. It was the last golden leaves of Autumn. I took more than 100 pictures which I rarely do in the house.

This was a really busy day. I was running up and down to see how the contractor was doing and all three dogs were barking like mad.

And a Downy Woodpecker

Owen was coming in and out, bringing his stuff back. And my stairlift goes down ONE flight. I have to haul ass on the other stairs … and I’m off my pain meds because my body needs a break or at least, it sure feels like a break.

Looking for a few seeds?
Oh, look! I found a few seeds!

In the middle of this, there were all these creatures on the deck and I had a camera. They were incredibly cute and for once, I got the focus just about perfect — most of the time, anyway.

The Tufted Titmouse wants some food, too …
It’s all about the seeds. Really.

I thought about putting this post up later in the week, but it seemed so “now-ish” what with the storm coming and all the leaves coming down tonight.

Here is the story.

I took all these pictures and I did what I do … more to the point, I did what I thought I always do. I took the chip out of the camera and stuck it in the card reader in my computer. Then I watered all the plants (I’ve been intending to do it for a week), moved some money so I could pay the contractor, realized I’d run out of checks, realized I still had checks from when I first opened this account but I had to find them. (I did.)

I swear this squirrel was attached to the feeder from first thing in the morning until after dark. He NEVER stopped eating.

Somewhere in this process, I lost track of the chip with the pictures. I looked through every chip I own. I checked to make sure I really did take the chip out of the big Olympus.

Finally, my last hope, I looked in my mini Leica — which is the one I used to take pictures of the doors and the contractor — and there was the chip. Apparently, I pulled the chip out of the reader and stuck it in the other camera. I have no memory of doing it, but obviously, I did.

I keep saying miracles happen. I consider this to be one of them.

THE GOLDFINCH CAME HOME! – Marilyn Armstrong

It’s not the big flock I had last year, but three Goldfinch showed up today and hung around long enough for me to get their pictures. They were the stars of last winter’s bird portraits. They are so awfully cute.

Welcome home American Goldfinch

We also had a visitor I haven’t seen in years. It was a baby Chipmunk! We used to have hordes of Chipmunks chittering at us as they tried to take over the driveway. Then the bobcat showed up and he ate them. All of them. This is the first Chipmunk I’ve seen in at least five years. He was so little!

What a cute pair!
A Titmouse and his little pal

Hunting, I guess, for seeds left on the deck. For some reason, I didn’t take his pictures. I was so bedazzled just seeing him on the deck. I even had time to call Garry over to see him too, so I certainly could have taken his picture, but I was having so much fun watching her skitter around the deck looking for seeds.

A better version of a flying … wren?

The birds are coming back. Slowly. The Mourning Doves are still missing, but maybe they are just being shy. They are also a bit big for these feeders. They liked picking seeds from the deck. They are flat feeders.

On a positive note, we have lots of joyously singing Carolina Wrens.

Fair Lady Cardinal

Also, I saw, but he was gone before I could get the picture, a full red-headed woodpecker. Not the big one who looks like Woody. This one looks just like the Red-Bellied Woodpecker, but his entire head is completely red. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen one outside a bird book.

Sometimes, it’s good to live in the woods.

THE BIRDS ARE COMING HOME – Marilyn Armstrong

With all the aerial poisoning going on in New England, I was afraid the birds would not come back. Or if they did, there would be far fewer of them. Yesterday, I put up a second seed-feeder — a near duplicate to the one from last year. The flat feeder didn’t work out well last year, but it seems a pity to waste it. I’m still trying to figure out what to do with it.

If there’s someplace I can attach it to — perhaps my deck railing so I can throw peanuts and corns cobs and chunks of corn into it to keep the squirrels happy — that would be a good use of it. Maybe if I wire it to the top rail, that would keep it in place near enough to my door so I could get to it even when we have our deep winter snows — if indeed we get snow this year.

Last night, we dumped all the old, rather stale seeds from last spring and added fresh black sunflower seeds as well as other shell-less seeds that should make less of a mess on the deck when they get eaten.

Birds do make a terrible mess on the deck and I’m pretty sure the squirrels aren’t helping. Basically, we don’t go out on the deck anymore because it scares the creatures that inhabit it. But we do spend an inordinate amount of time watching the birds through the windows. I thought it was just me, but Garry does it too. He goes into the kitchen for something and finds himself an hour later still leaning on the counter in front of the sink (good window there) … just watching.

I’m pretty sure that two years ago, Garry couldn’t have told the difference between a Cardinal and a Titmouse, but he’s become quite the bird watcher since I put up the feeders last year. He worries if we seem to be running low on seeds, too.

Of the many things we are supposed to do to keep our furred and feathered neighbors content is to keep water for them for drinking and bathing, but I don’t. There are river, streams, pools, lakes all over the area. Just on this road, there are two lakes, a piece of some Blackstone tributary (Aldrich Creek maybe?). Way back in our woods, there is another small lake. I have never been able to get to it. I can see it when the leaves are gone, but I’ve never been able to physically get to it. It’s all wetland back there anyway, so you have to be careful. Lots of quick-mud.

There are no people paths. It doesn’t seem to stop deer or bears or, for that matter, raccoons, skunk, or squirrels … and of course, the birds have wings. Lacking wings or the ability to climb trees and boulders, it’s a rough path for people, horses, or cows. Maybe goats could handle it.

I am not talking about stones you can lift and toss. These are boulders that can be the size of a house plus tall red oaks that in our crowded woods will grow to 60 or 70 feet high. With a bit more room, the can grow more than 100 feet tall with a spread of up to 80 feet.

While the leaves are on the trees, it’s not hard to get lost. It’s a bit humiliating to realize you can get lost in the woods on your own property. Our house is higher than our woods (mostly), so when the tepee was up, I could usually spot it and aim for it. But the tepee is gone. Today, it all looks the same.

In the winter, when you can see the lake, the woods are full of drifts and ice. When we moved here, I was 20 years younger. I remember trying to get to the lake. You had to try in early spring when it was warm enough to get there unfrozen, but before the mosquitoes took over. I didn’t make it. There are deep ditches huge boulders, and roots.

Thus we leave the watering of birds and other creatures to the natural elements. If there’s one thing we are not short of, water is probably it. Along with oak trees and really huge rocks.

This morning, I was up early and remembered to put on my glasses. The birds were there. Not only could I see them, but I could hear them again. I had missed their calls. I even saw a big red Cardinal. I still haven’t seen any of our Goldfinch, but I’ve seen a lot of Tufted Titmice, Chickadees, Nuthatches, a Cardinal, a Downy Woodpecker, and a Red-bellied Woodpecker.

I can probably relax. It looks like most of them survived.

We have a lot fewer than we did last year, but I took the feeders down so they could migrate … which, apparently, they did. The Goldfinches are probably nesting in and around Ontario — more fir trees up there (and no poison, either!). They love the pine cones that grow up there and we have few pine cones in this region. Very few.

As to where the little red finches go, they are not natural to this area, so they come and go as they please. Some birds have migrated west or south, too.

We have a lot of Titmice, Chickadees, Cardinals, and woodpeckers, None of these migrate. Meanwhile, the American Goldfinch (we had FLOCKS of them last year) usually migrate northward in late summer because this is when they breed. Late breeders. They have got to be the only birds I know of that migrate NORTH in the late summer. They should start showing up again in November, And we moved the feeders (really, we just took them down for the summer) so as time goes on and food becomes more scarce, they should find their way back. I’d like to hope we didn’t poison them!

We have Cooper’s Hawks in the woods. They are amazing flyers and can glide between even tightly spaced trees. Nearly silent most of the time, their favorite snack are finches and Chickadees, but sometimes they take on larger birds. They do not always win against larger birds (crows, geese, Loons, etc) and avoid the large woodpeckers who fight back.

I have also heard a LOT of hawks cawing and that will scare the birds away, often for days at a time. Last year, they would disappear for as much as a week when they heard the hawks. Some of these hawks love to eat small birds. I know we have some of them because I’ve seen them.

I haven’t seen ANY squirrels at all, but we didn’t see them until late in the winter last year after they had eaten the gigantic bounty of acorns. I think this is going to be a huge year for acorns. Every third or fourth year, we get gigantic acorns. It seems to be cyclical. We had to move the car. They are big and when they fall, they leave big dents on the car!

THE JOY OF MEDICARE – Marilyn Armstrong

I belong to Blue Cross Blue Shield Advantage Value Added PPO group, which is a Medicare plan that offers extras but costs just a tiny bit more than basic Medicare.

Last night, in a moment of mindless stupidity, I decided to register for my medical plan. Usually, I just call them, but it was after hours and I just wanted to look up the price of a  medication. Which I could do online. If I registered.

This is the cutest little Tufted Titmouse I think I’ve ever seen.

No big deal, right? Fill in the form and voila, registered. Medicare was even easier. You could just call them and do it all by phone. I think it took me all of 10 minutes to register for Medicare in the five years I had straight Medicare before I switched to the BCBS Value Advantage plan.

I entered most of the registration information at which point I was told that I had “timed out” and would have to do it again. So I tried to do it again BUT it would not let me because it already had my ID and password — basically everything except my Medicare number.

The gallant Tufted Titmouse – He’s blue and yellow!

I have a week coming up of major medical exams — heart and head and back and more about my eyes.

I was going to die as a result of software glitches. I could cope with being eaten by an alligator or a Gila monster … but SOFTWARE? Seriously?

I tried to call them to fix it but got the “closed for the weekend” message. Starting October 1, they are open 24/7, but this isn’t October. Close, but no cookie. I ultimately discovered that the databank is closed all weekend because they are setting up for the incoming members for 2020, but I didn’t know that until later.

Finally, I finally managed to connect with someone who informed me that my membership had expired.

What?

Expired?

I pay my Medicare/BCBS advantage plan straight out of Social Security. When I was told I belonged to Aetna, not BCBS, I gurgled. I’ve never worked with Aetna AND. I had the BCBS card in my hand. It was blue, blue, and blue. A Blue Cross. A Blue Shield. A blue card. All the ink was blue. \

I had the wrong department and the person I was talking to didn’t have any idea what was going on. I’m not even sure she knew was software is. The right department was closed until Monday and I have a doctor’s appointment early in the day.

By now, after 2 am. I was tired. I knew I’d be even more tired by morning. At this point, all I now wanted was an assurance I was signed up and hadn’t somehow inadvertently or via glitchily cancelled my medical plan.

Forget the price of medications. I was too tired to keep on keeping on, so this morning I got up and called the number that was supposed to work, but it was closed until Monday. Of course.

I also got transferred a lot, but at least not disconnected. Everyone was enormously polite, friendly, and unable to help me. At all.  Of course, no one mentioned that the databank was down, too. That was the guy at Medicare who told me. How come HE knew but the people at BlueCross didn’t know?

One Titmouse and a Chickadee. They will share the feeder … but from opposite sides and they never touch.

I was getting increasingly frustrated. So after I had coffee in hand, I tried calling in a prescription. I figured if I wasn’t signed up, they’d tell me because my card wouldn’t go through. Nope. It went through fine, no problem. Not only did it go through fine, but it went through for a medication that had no refills left. I have to call back and make sure she has the right number. Regardless, it was the first good news of the day.

Having tried every single number for BlueCross and getting nothing but people who didn’t seem able to access my type of BCBS care, I chanced upon the 24/7 number for Medicare. Even though I have an Advantage plan, it’s still a version of Medicare, so one way or the other, I had nothing to lose by trying.

And this is why I love Medicare. Not merely are they REALLY open 24/7 all year long, but they are consistently helpful, polite, and cooperative. If they don’t have the answer, they will find it, no matter how long it takes. And they never put me on hold.

I explained that I had had a software glitch with BlueCross and with an early doctor’s appointment Monday, I didn’t want to find myself dying due to a computer glitch. That would be too pathetic.

The guy at Medicare checked and said, “Don’t worry. There’s no problem. You are paid up and everything works.

So for all you people who are afraid of Medicare? Don’t be. It’s great. It really isn’t one of those messed up government agencies. In fact, I am convinced it is the ONLY government agency where everything actually works just like it is supposed to work.

Now at least I know I would not die from bad software and be buried in an Amazon box.

You all will LOVE Medicare. I promise.

To make things even better? The birds have already begun to return. There was a flock of Tufted Titmouses on the feeder this morning. Where there’s a Titmouse, can the American Goldfinch be far behind?