I have to admit, I have taken a lot of pictures of birds. i know this because when i look for pictures — any kind of pictures — the page is dominated by photographs of birds. I hadn’t realized I’d become so obsessive about taking birdy pictures, but the evidence is hard to ignore.
That for the past 7 months we have rarely left this property probably has a lot to do with it. The birds — and associated other small wildlife — are the only interesting things to take pictures of.
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.
Photo: Garry Armstrong -The house in summer
Photo: Garry Armstrong -Duke at the gate
Back end of a bird
Photo: Garry Armstrong – Bird feeders from below (see the birds?)
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!
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.”
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.
I took pictures and they didn’t all fly away the minute I took my camera out of the bag. Yay!
Flowers and birds, birds and flowers … and maybe a car or a plow. The Goldfinch, in summer, are brilliant yellow and even in the middle of a drought, we had bushels of pink roses. And of course, we had red skies and pink skies. Not too many in yellow, though.
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.
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.
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.
Our house in the autumn of the year
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.
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.”
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today is the day before Garry and my 30th anniversary. It’s been a long time a’coming. I spent the day taking too many Tylenol and finally going to the hospital to get a COVID test because I’ve been running a low-grade fever for weeks and I feel like my head is going to explode. Today is our 30th anniversary. No one thought we would survive a year, much less thirty of them. But as different as everyone thought we were, we were extremely similar in many ways. Stubborn, born fighters, never-giver-uppers.
Garry is far more given to that male habit of saying “Let’s talk,” then stalking out of the room as soon as you don’t agree with him, but that’s a guy thing. I expect him to understand … but husbands do NOT understand. They suffer listening to us, something Garry didn’t have to do until he got really much better hearing aids. And yet — we agree politically. We both read and write and research. We search for truth — and we find it. We have both worked hard for awful bosses and understand each others’ moans and groans.
Emotionally, we are a man and a woman, the two most incompatible creatures on earth, but intellectually we are exceptionally well-matched. You’d be surprised how far that can go in a relationship. And very attracted to one another too, which doesn’t hurt either.
We can’t go anywhere special for dinner, We can’t buy each other presents, though Garry made a special little video for me. I took some birdy and squirrelly pictures. Because the birds and the squirrels were very busy this morning.
I have recently gotten a new lens, an Olympus 12-200mm (24-400 in SLR terms). It overlaps the 100-300 long lens I have. Although I have always known that each lens and each optical design has its own characteristics, this is the first time I’ve so clearly seen the difference. Both lenses can clearly focus on the birds and on the 12-200 lens, the sweet spot is perfect for the location of the birds on the feeder. But there’s a huge visible difference between the two lenses both in the way they capture the birds and in how bright and sharp the background is compared to the birds.
If you look, I bet you can tell which pictures were taken with which lens. I like the results from both lenses, but I have to make decisions on what “look” I want the pictures to have when I am taking them.
Today’s theme is “your hobby or hobbies.” Do you have a hobby? Do you collect things? Do you work on model airplanes? Do you whittle things from wood? Do you paint, take photographs, make pottery, create homemade greeting cards? Are you a Twitter troll?
In theory, the definition of a hobby is pursuit outside one’s regular occupation for relaxation. But the reality isn’t necessarily like that. For many people whose work is done to earn a living, a hobby is more than relaxation. It’s a chance to do something valuable and meaningful when professionally, your work can seem dull and ordinary. Of course, sometimes in the course of my profession (writing), I used my own photographs. Nothing you learn in life is a waste. Somehow, it will find it’s way into the work you do. No learning is a waste.
I’ve been taking pictures “for fun” since I was 22. I know the year because it’s the year my son was born. A friend gave me a camera and the love affair began. Despite often not having the money for obvious necessities, I managed to get some great cameras and amazing lenses. True a lot of them are and were second-hand, but it’s amazing what great deals you can get on the second-hand market. The lens someone got as a gift or bought for himself and then discovered he never used it. It was too heavy, not fast enough … or duplicated other lenses. Cameras too. All my cameras were supposedly second hand, but effectively all of them were pristine and in their original boxes.
I have had other hobbies. I gave them up because they required space. I couldn’t keep all my pottery. Not unless I got a second house in which to house them … and wealthy people often do exactly that. Not being wealthy, I’m happy enough to still have a house to call my own. Garry and I also collected original art until we ran out of walls, shelves, mantels, and cabinets. We even ran out of friends to whom we could give the overload. I opened a business just so I could sell off all the stuff we had. In the end, I basically traded what I had for much nicer stuff … and made some money in the process. But still, these days when anyone is buying me something, I tell them that the are not allowed to get me anything that requires a piece of wall, a place to stand, or a cabinet for containment. In other words, how about a lovely card? Although I admit, that guitar owen got me was something else!
Hobbies are expensive. Cameras and lenses, even at discount prices, cost money. Art is even more expensive. Antiques can kill you. At one point, I swear i owned a hundred teapots, but to be fair, 99 of them were gifts. I bought one, so everyone leapt on it and figured “She must love teapots! Let’s get her a teapot!” One day, I donated all of them to a shop that sold them to raise money for a children’s hospital.
Enjoy the photographs in this post. I just spent this entire day processing them. We are currently overrun with woodpeckers — Downy, Hairy, and Red-Bellied — as well as house sparrows, House Finches, baby squirrels and now, red squirrels. I think the birds and critters are another hobby. It has taken me awhile to acknowledge that it’s not just because I want to save the environment and take pictures. I love the birds and all the creatures. My palms get sweaty when I begin to run out of food. At least the birds and beasts give me a reason to have the cameras and lenses!
I think a hobby is whatever you do that brings you joy. It might actually be the work you do that earns your daily bread and monthly mortgage. Garry always felt privileged to be doing work he loved and there were times when the work I did filled me with joy. I read for relaxation, but I take pictures and write — and sometimes, make music — because I love it.
He came back today. And this time, I had a camera. I took pictures and it took me hours to process them. All afternoon, actually. I have to spend some time talking about the problems of getting the color in the feathers to display properly when the pictures were taken in bright sunlight. Sunshine changes the color of feathers (and flower petals) and a lot of processing is trying to get that red rose to come out the color red you saw and not what it looked like with full summer sun on it. That is for another post. Meanwhile, here’s my orange Cardinal.
I’ve got more pictures, but I’m going to be a tease about it and play them bit by bit. I really DO have an orange cardinal. It’s very cool.
Making My Home A Haven is important to me. Sharing homemaking skills. Recipes and food. Bible Studies. This is a treasure chest of goodies. So take a seat. Have a glass of tea and enjoy. You will learn all about who I am.