RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER – Marilyn Armstrong

I don’t usually get to take a lot of pictures of favorite birds, but this guy really settled into the feeder today and he didn’t flutter off the moment I had the camera up and ready. That’s not entirely true. He flew off a few times into the tree, cracked open some seeds, then came back to the feeder. Sometimes, it just takes patience. And waiting!

The following four pictures were taken from wildlife groups.

Before everyone points out that this bird has a red head and not a red belly, I know that. But there already is a Red-headed Woodpecker who looks a lot like this guy, but his entire head is solid red, not to mention the Pileated Woodpecker who has a red topknot and is about the size of a medium-gauge hawk and a beak you wouldn’t want to mess with. I’m pretty sure he’s the bird the creators of Woody Woodpecker had in mind.

The following are pictures I took this morning. Even though this bird looks (to me) as if he has an orange rather than a red head, I have been assured that he is a Red-bellied Woodpecker and not a Gold-fronted Woodpecker.

The only difference between the two is the color of their head. Worse, they live in the same parts of the country.

However, this is quite a thin bird and I’m pretty sure he’s recently fledged so possibly has not fully developed his colors yet.

NARCISSUS BY THE WOODS – Marilyn Armstrong

Narcissus – FOTD – 05/21/19

These flowers used to grow on the other side of the driveway. In the garden, in a grouping with the daffodils. I don’t know how they wound up on the opposite side of the tarmac.

Wind? Birds? Bees? The driveway is too wide for any kind of natural spreading, so something moved them.

I was really surprised to see them. I thought they had died. I thought a lot of things had died. Some things did.

The old Rhododendrons died, but new ones popped up and are blooming. We have to cut down the dead ones and are planning to on Wednesday. We also need to cut down the Holly which isn’t a bush and has become more of a  tree. A big, bushy tree.

We have about a thousand baby-sized maple trees trying to grow. And we have too many signs that the Gypsy moth caterpillars have come back.

NOW we need rain and a lot of it.  Maybe a solid week of rain would kill them before they get their tiny fangs into our trees.

It’s the only thing that will stop them. I get totally depressed even thinking about them. The last time they showed up, I hid in the house for weeks while they killed off all our trees. I’m trying to not see it, pretending it isn’t happening, but I’m terribly afraid that it is. And this time, I simply can’t afford to bring in the spraying people.

No money.

The irony of this is that these caterpillars BLEW HERE FROM A CITY MORE THAN 50  MILES AWAY. All that windy weather? It brought the monstrous bugs back. Again.

I’m not thinking about it because maybe it won’t happen. Talk about positive thinking, I actually think I’m more afraid of the caterpillars than Trump. That’s serious fear.

THE CRASHING SQUIRREL – Marilyn Armstrong

I’ve been going eyeball to eyeball with our local squirrels. First, I thought we had just a few squirrels, but lately, I realize we have all of them. The entire woods full of squirrels are part of our world.

Our fearless deck squirrel

They all come, hang around, decide they need to wrap themselves around the feeder and suck the seeds out of it. Garry fills the feeder in the evening and by the following morning, more than half of it — about 3 pounds of seeds — are gone.

Another snack

They used to get spooked when I tapped on the window. Then they only got twitchy if I opened a window and yelled at them. Eventually, that didn’t work either. Now, I have to actually go out on the deck and they sit there, on the rail, staring me in the eye. I’m pretty sure that eventually, I’m going to have to physically remove them. By hand. I’m not looking forward to that. I have a feeling these little guys bite.

It isn’t that I mind them having a meal. I mind them eating everything and never stopping. How can such small furry creatures eat so much and so often? It seems to me that their appetites are never satiated. There’s no such thing as enough … or if there is, there’s another one waiting on the rail to take over.

I have come to recognize some of them by their scars, by the colors of their tails, by their size.

This morning, our midday squirrel was back. I know they are supposed to be crepuscular — feeding early in the morning and just before the sun sets. But this one likes noon. Just about as I’m setting up the coffee, he’s hanging on the feeder.

Squirrel on the rail

So I opened the top of the Dutch door and said: “We’ve had this discussion before. It’s time for you to go home to your trees. Eat acorns. Find plants to chew.” He looked at me. I’m pretty sure he smirked at me, too.

I reminded him that I was getting weary of this conversation. I could see him thinking. “Shall I buzz off or shall I jump into that flat feeder? Hmm.”

Taking that fatal leap!

Finally, he decided I was NOT a force to be reckoned with and he launched himself into the flat feeder. But this once, the flat feeder fought back and tipped sideways.

Tail end of the crashing squirrel

All the seeds spilled down to the ground below along with the squirrel. I nearly caught the shot on his way down, but all I got was the fuzzy tip of his tail as he fell to the ground. Which wasn’t so bad because he landed in the forsythia bush, then on the ground where there were pounds of seeds he was now free to eat.

You’d think that would be enough, wouldn’t you? Surely humiliation would stop him from further depredations.

You would be wrong. In fewer than five minutes, he was back on the rail.

I had to go out and forcefully explain that it was past feeding time and he was going to let the birds have a go at the feeder. They sit in the nearby tree limbs, waiting for the squirrels to move on and for some reason, they seem to know I’m yelling at the squirrel — not them. How they knew this, I have no idea.

The young Cardinal

I ultimately convinced him to go travel amongst the trees and give the birds time at the feeder. The first arrivals were a couple of Cowbirds, a few Goldfinches, and a big Red-Bellied Woodpecker plus a young Cardinal. I actually got some pictures.

Cowbirds

I’m sure he was back as soon as we left to go to my son’s birthday party because when we came home, the hanging feeder was nearly empty. We are running out of seeds and have run out of money, so everyone is just going to have to survive on their own for a while.

FEATHERS – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Feathers

Since last November, the bird feeders on the deck have been supplying me with more than ample amounts of feathers. Usually, birds go with the features, though I do have some feathery things that are not birds.


I think the small Goldfinch in the gallery is a recent fledgling. I guess he’s learning “the ropes.” Don’t you love the patterns on their wings? So elegant!


One of our many cowbirds. I have seen as many as a dozen of them in the feeders, waiting on the rail, and in nearby trees. This is one of the boys. Although they are considered one of many blackbirds found all over the world, in the right light, they are almost deep blue or green and they have a matching beak.
Lady Brown-headed Cowbird showing off her dark tail.
Mrs. Brown-headed Cowbird

The weather has been awful since last February. Cold, constant rain. I’m sure the birds are getting depressed, too.

Chipping Sparrow
Another Chipping Sparrow. These are surprisingly friendly little garden birds.

I found a Chipping Sparrow sound asleep on one of the feeders this morning. I finally got worried that maybe he was not sleeping, but dead. However, when I opened the window, he woke up and flew away.

What a relief!

Our feeder has attracted much more attention than I imagined possible. I have learned a lot about the birds and so has Garry who previously showed little interest in birds. But having them so close — and finally being able to hear them sing — changed his mind.

Black-capped Chickadee – our Massachusetts official state bird

We seem to have become the home base for a crew of Brown-headed Cowbirds while the Goldfinches arrive in flocks. That’s normal for finches of all kinds.


Yo, bro, how’s it hanging?
Every Dove needs a bit of conversation and Frog looks so friendly.
The conversation — Dove and Frog — continues.
Thanks for the chat!

Birds are normally so well groomed, but this Dove had obviously just washed her hair. This was a very cute picture that I saw coming. I was just waiting for the dove to actually walk right up to the frog and have a little chat. I did not (for once!) wait in vain.


They have nearly taken over both feeders — except for the squirrels that, if allowed, will eat every seed we put out there. I don’t mind them eating, but there are a lot of them and they seem to be the smallest, cutest, fuzziest and most hungry critters in our woods. They eat nonstop and as soon as one departs, another one or more show up.

Two Tufted Titmouses – with one departing.

Squirrels and bird feeders are one of those things. I just would prefer they leave a little something for the birds!

Mrs. Cowbird and Mr. Chickadee, sharing a light snack

And so it goes. These are our most recent visitors, minus the Pileated Woodpecker who disappeared before I could press the shutter — and the Red-Bellied Woodpecker who like to eat on the opposite side of the feeder where I can’t see him, though I know he is there. What a flirt!

RAINDROPS KEEP FALLING ON MY HEAD, GARDEN, CAR, BIRDS, SQUIRRELS … Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: Raindrops

It has been raining more in the past few months than in any other months in the history of weather records, which is more than 200 years. April was the rainiest month ever recorded. Surprisingly, I don’t have a lot of rain pictures because I got pretty sulky about the rain and refused to go out unless it was a doctor’s appointment or grocery shopping. But I have a lot of pictures of birds and squirrels in the rain.

They don’t seem to mind. Or maybe having no choice in the matter, rain is just there, like the wind and the trees. It’s life in the big woods. Like snow and heat. When outside is home, the weather is life.

This squirrel is actually shaking off the raindrops.
Rain on Election day. Probably should have known it wasn’t going our way.
Rain on the window
Rain on the feeder’s roof
Rain on the Cowbirds

FLOWERS AND GETTING LOST – Marilyn Armstrong

Flowers, but lost – FOTD – May 9, 2019

It was a gorgeous, perfect spring day today. Warm and full of bright sunshine. As we left the house this morning (it’s a 2-hour drive into Boston), I noticed that we had squirrels glued to both feeders in the back.

I would normally have gone back to the deck and chatted with the furry feeders, but I was wearing my good clothing.

And there was no time for one of those me versus squirrel conversations.

Pink tulips

I should mention these are pretty much one-way conversation. I talk. The squirrels give me the squirrel eyeball, so I talk some more, and they go back to eating. Eventually, I will open the door, step onto the deck, and stare at them. They then move a little bit — from the feeders to the railing. And stare back at me.

I can hear them thinking “And what are you gonna do about it, huh?”

Magnolias and new leaves along the Mumford River

I quite like squirrels, but I feel that by the time we are approaching midday, they should go back to being tree squirrels and stop being deck squirrels. Is that too much to ask?

We had to leave. It was going to be a long drive and traffic in and out of Boston is heavy. We were 100% sure to get lost, even though the directions appeared to be simple. There’s construction on 146, too. Of course, there has been construction on 146 for the past 19 years, but there’s more now that it has warmed up.

Snowballs along with the steps in the park

It took us almost 2 hours to get there — and we got totally lost in Boston. So did everyone else. As a result, the memorial began an hour late and ended even later. So it was a really long day.

Since we bought our GPS (maybe 2 years ago?), they’ve redesigned almost all the major roads in Boston and completely rebuilt the seaport area. The last time I was there, it was mostly vacant lots and empty warehouses and a few party cruise ships. So our GPS can’t find anything. Moreover, the directions which we got from the hotel (via Google) said to get off Route 93 at Exit 20, then follow the signs to the Seaport Cruise Terminal.

Snowballs and a wooden bench

Except there were NO signs. We wound up at the airport. We did a couple of loops at Logan, including a round trip through the “Return your rental car here,” except we were in our own car and we couldn’t find anyone who knew how to find the Seaport Hotel.

Massachusetts is infamous for NOT putting up signs. I don’t know whether we are just too cheap to pay for signs, or we assume if you don’t know where you are, you shouldn’t be there.

The park at the Mumford Dam

It turned out that not only did we get lost, everyone got lost. Since this is a big expensive hotel — and NOT brand new, either — the complete lack of signs was infuriating. We almost gave up and went home and might have, but we didn’t know how to get home, either.

Finally, we were stopped by a police detective. He had a gold badge but was in street clothing, so we assumed he was a detective. He pulled us over. Garry rolled down his window. Were we going to get a ticket too? Are the fates so against us?

“Are you guys lost?” he asked. Were we that obvious?

“YES,” we cried in unison. “We are SO lost.”

Flowers and the falls

He led us to the hotel and he recognized Garry — and knew we were going to the “Tom Ellis Memorial.” I was never more grateful to see a police officer.

We knew we had to be near it. We were at the docks, so how far could we be from the Seaport Hotel? It turned out to be about a mile. Make a right, take the Ted Williams Tunnel and when you can’t go any further, make another right.

Azaleas along the path

It was good to be there, though. Many people, including Garry, shared memories and since we are all — how shall I put this — an older group of folk?

We got to do a little crying, shared some laughter about stuff no one else remembers. We saw people we rarely see except at reunions and funerals. Remember when we used to meet at weddings? It was good to hug friends, notice that although everyone looks older, I look even older than they do.

We left Boston exactly at rush hour. Three and a half hours for the homeward journey. I spent a lot of time admiring trees.

Please enjoy the photographs. They are from Tuesday which was every bit as beautiful as today, but we were outside with cameras.

WEDNESDAY’S BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

We’ve got funeral in Boston today and Garry needs to speak. This was not only one of his colleagues but a friend to both of us. I will miss Tom Ellis. We will both miss him very much.

This also means that we have to be there early and probably won’t be back until late. And considering Boston traffic, it might be even later than I think. It’s one of the reasons we so rarely go into Boston … but this is one we cannot miss.

So enjoy the birds. They are beautiful and they remind us of peace.

A pair of doves
Two Tufted Titmouses
Two Tufted Titmouses
A pair of Chipping Sparrows
Looking down Dove
Two finches and a chickadee
One little Goldfinch
Titmouse in the air and Chickadee on the feeder
One more Goldfinch
Diving Chickadee
A couple of Cowbirds