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.

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.

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!

MORE BIRDS – MR. AND MRS. CARDINAL WITH COWBIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

I thought everyone was going to get tired of birds. Honestly, I thought I would get tired of the birds, but it turns out, I  find them beautiful and love having them around.

I yell at the squirrels, but I don’t mind them having a piece of the buffet. I would just prefer they not eat all of it every single day. I have switched to cheaper feed. I really couldn’t keep up the high-class buffet with such massive eating going on!

The trouble is, our squirrels are becoming less and less afraid of me. Now I have to make loud noises or they just sit there and stare back at me and I swear they are saying, “Oh yeah? And what’re you gonna do about it?”

Truthfully, not much. Make more noise? Wave the broom at them? Or, we could train them to be better trained members of our burgeoning household.

The brightest Cardinal in our garden

Mrs. Cardinal is flirting with me

Peek-a-boo!

Cowbird and Cardinal — sharing the feeder

One more Cardinal and Cowbird. The Cowbirds are not easily frightened. Only the big woodpecker -with that long beak who pecked him in the head — that got his attention

That is a beak and a half and that is also a rather large woodpecker

SPIKY, POKY, POINTY, SQUARE PHOTOGRAPHS OF A CARDINAL IN THE WOODS – Marilyn Armstrong

Square, poky, pointy, spiky Cardinals in the woods

This time of year, the woods are definitely poky, pointy, and spiky. Before the leaves are out, everything has a sharp edge. It isn’t as lush as it will be later in the season, but it’s much easier to take pictures.

Later, the leaves will be soft and lovely… and it will be very hard to get a clear shot of anything except the leaves.

Summer. Good news and not so good news. Kind of like life.

Square, poky, pointy, spiky Cardinal in the woods

Not only spiky squares. Jagged, barbed, bristly, serrated, prickly, spiny, and pointy things and this is one.

THE DAY THE SQUIRRELS DROPPED BY – Marilyn Armstrong

I was looking for birds. Seriously. It’s supposed to snow tonight and maybe tomorrow or Sunday, too and that usually puts them in a feeding frenzy.

Instead, there were not one, but two squirrels, each gripping one of the feeders. And it was the middle of the day, not the time when you normally see squirrels. They tend to be early morning and twilight feeders.

I got some great squirrel shots and there was a Cardinal on a branch back in the woods who wasn’t coming near the feeders until those weird, funny, furry birds left.

See the cardinal in the woods?

Athletic, isn’t he?

Hanging on with rear claws

Squirrel on the rail

A relaunch to the feeder from the rail

The thinking squirrel

And a Cardinal back in the woods.

Cardinal back in the woods

A CARDINAL – RADIANT IN THE WOODS WITH SNOW ON THE WAY – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Radiant

I looked out upon my deck … and it was interesting. Not one, but two squirrels, each hanging in one of the feeders with a Cardinal in the woods, presumably waiting for those big four-footed fluffies to let go of the feeders. Once the squirrels dig in, they stay dug until they are finished.

So I took as many pictures as I could of the rather distant Cardinal, another of the Cardinal and a squirrel, and the remaining shots all about the two squirrels.

For the purpose of radiant, I don’t think you’ll get any better than this Cardinal on a small branch in the woods.

Cardinal in the woods

Another Cardinal back in the woods

PICK YOUR COLOR AND I CHOOSE RED! – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Color of Your Choice

There’s been a lot of red flying around my feeders, not to mention a lot of red on my rose bushes. So we’re going with red. And feathers!

IT’S SOOO COLD AND THE BIRDS WERE HUNGRY! – Marilyn Armstrong

The meteorologists said it was going to get super cold and it got super cold! I woke up early this morning. My back and I were having an unfortunate relationship. There was no point in fighting to sleep anymore.

I wasn’t going to sleep. I couldn’t find any comfortable position, so I gave up and got up.

It wasn’t all bad, though.

Our frozen woods

The early birds were up — the ones I usually miss because I’m asleep when they are around.

A Junco and the Cardinal

I finally got pictures of the Cardinal. I’ve seen him often but hadn’t gotten any recent shots of him. Cardinals seem to be early feeders and they move around a lot. He is easy to see, though — the brightest, reddest bird in New England!

Air battle – two juncos fighting over the feeder. Why when there’s more than enough room for both?

One more little battle. After that, they settled down. I think the boys don’t like each other. They are okay with other birds, not other male Juncos.

There were also a bunch of lady Cardinals lurking around, but they were too shy to come to the feeder and though they settled briefly on the railing, I couldn’t get them in focus fast enough. They are, in their own way, as pretty as the scarlet males. Bright green with a red tail and other markings. Otherwise, they look identical to their more loudly dressed boyfriends.

Cardinals are hard to miss in the winter!

Chickadee coming in for a landing!

Meanwhile, every branch in my woods was covered by a thin, shiny layer of ice. The woods were as shiny as a diamond. If I went outside to shoot it (and I’d probably wind up with frostbite as a result AND all the birds would fly away), the pictures would be better. I had to settle from shots through the glass, but I think you can see the gleaming branches.

Another bright red boy! You’ll never see two red ones together. They are very territorial and if they stray into the other one’s area, they fight in the air, like WW I fighter planes.

Shining like diamonds

Lots of shots of birds today. They were quite feisty about who got the feeder this morning, but they settled down after a while.

BIG GUY AND THE CARDINAL – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP #72 – CAT


This is a favorite story of Big Guy, the best cat ever, with pardon asked of every other best cat in the world. Because there are so many best cats!


Several years before the priest scandal destroyed Cardinal Law’s career, Garry was friends with him. Not close pals, but more than acquaintances. Garry thought I would enjoy Bishop Cardinal Law’s company, so when the opportunity came up, he did a very Garry thing.

He was working weekends for several decades that decade, so if anything happened on Sunday, Garry was on it. This Sunday, the old Catholic cathedral near our condo in Roxbury, was going to host Cardinal Bishop Bernard Law. It was a big deal for the neighborhood’s shrinking Catholic population.

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For a Prince of the Church to say Mass anywhere in Boston is an event, even if you aren’t Catholic. We lived one block from the lovely old cathedral. The neighborhood was buzzing.

The cathedral was a grand dame amongst local churches. You could see her former grandeur, though she was currently in desperate need of restoration and repairs to just about everything. Roxbury was almost entirely Black and the Catholic population was small. It had previously been a Jewish neighborhood, red-lined by greedy real estate brigands. We were among the first two or three middle-class mixed-race couples to move back to Roxbury. We hoped we’d be the start of a positive move for the neighborhood, including how it would be reported by media and perceived by Bostonians — and that turned out to be true, though it took some years for the area to finally turn around.

To be fair, we had chosen it less out of altruism and more because it was a great location — and we could afford it. Convenient to everything with lots of green space, lovely neighbors, and compared to almost any other place in Boston, more or less within our budget. “Affordable” in Boston — any neighborhood, no matter how “bad” — is really expensive. For the price of a condo in one of Boston’s most problematic areas, you could buy a big house with land out past Metrowest. In fact, that’s what we eventually did.

But I digress.

Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, Roxbury was not crime central. You could leave your car unlocked on the street and no one would touch it. I know because my neighbor tried desperately to have his cars stolen, going so far as to leave the keys in the ignition for weeks. Not a chance. People watched out for each other in Roxbury. I never had better neighbors or felt safer.

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The morning when Cardinal Law was due to visit, Garry called.

“I was telling Bernie (Cardinal Law) that you used to live in Israel and are really interested in religion and stuff.”

“Uh huh.”

“So he’ll be dropping by for a visit.”

“When?”

“I think he’s on the front steps. Yup, there he is. Gotta run. Love you. Have a great day.”

BING BONG said the doorbell.

I looked at me. At least I was dressed. The house was almost acceptable. Thanks for all the warning, Gar, I thought. Showtime! And in swept His Grace, His Eminence, wearing his red skull-cap and clothed in a long, black wool cloak. Impressive.

Big Guy stretched. Our Somali cat — the best cat in the world and certainly the smartest, sweetest, and gentlest — was our meeter greeter.

Big Guy
Big Guy

I offered the Cardinal the best seat in the house, the blue velvet wing chair by the bay window. Big Guy promptly joined him. We chatted for almost an hour. Israel, the church, whether there was any hope St. Mary’s would get funds to repair and upgrade before it was too late.

The neighborhood. A bit of church politics. Although Bernard Cardinal Law was ultimately (rightfully and so sadly) blamed for the long-standing policy of the Church in hiding the misdeeds of child-molesting clerics, this was years before that story came to light. The man I met was wonderfully intelligent, friendly, witty, and a pleasure to spend time around. Which was probably why Garry was so fond of him and considered him a friend.

When it was time for the Cardinal to depart, he stood up. Big Guy left his cozy spot on the warm lap of the region’s reigning Catholic cleric. And that was when I saw the Cardinal was coated in cat hair.

Exactly what does one say in this odd circumstance?

“Wait a minute, your Eminence. Let me get the pet hair sticky roller and see if I can get some of that hair off your long black cape?” I was pretty sure the cloak needed more oomph than a lint roller anyway. It was going to need some serious dry-cleaning.

I took the less valorous road and shut up. Wincing with foreknowledge, we parted company. As he and his retinue swept out my door, I pondered how life’s journey takes strange side roads, unexpected twists, and turns. This was one.

“Meow?” questioned Big Guy. Clearly, he liked the Cardinal and it had been mutual. I believe Big Guy came away from the experience with some special, secret understanding of Truth. I, on the other hand, felt obliged to call my husband and warn him that Cardinal Law was dressed in more than he realized.

“Oops,” said Garry, master of understatement.

“Yup,” said I, equally downplaying the difficulties that would arise from the incident. I had wrangled with Big Guy’s fur. I knew how bad it would be.

Some weeks later, when Garry, in the course of work, again encountered the good Cardinal, he called my husband to the side for a private word. The other reporters were stunned! What scoop was Garry Armstrong getting? Rumors ran rampant. Armstrong was getting the goods and they were out in the cold. Mumble, mumble, grouse, complain, grr.

“Armstrong,” murmured the Cardinal.

“Yes, sir?”

“You owe me. That was one gigantic dry cleaning bill!”

“Yes sir, Your Eminence,” Garry agreed. “Been there myself.”

“I bet you have!” said Bernard Cardinal Law. And the two men shook hands.

When the other reporters gathered around and wanted to know what private, inside information Garry had, he just smiled.

“I’ll never tell,” he said. “Never.”

But now, YOU know. Truth revealed.

FAVORITE BIRDS – CEE’S FUN FOTO CHALLENGE

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Birds


Birds are my best pictures and also my Waterloo and not so rarely, my worst pictures. These come out great or awful, depending on pretty much everything from the camera’s lens to my shaky hand, to whether or not the bird has other stuff on his agenda.

When I am lucky, I get great bird shots. If I am a bit less lucky, they are fuzzy nothing pictures. These are the better ones which I went back and reprocessed. The reprocessing took me a lot longer than I imagined.

Having run out of time and it’s a lot later than it should be, I’m showing only two birds — the Cardinal in the snow and the Great Blue Heron by the Mumford River.

GARDEN IN EARLY MAY

It didn’t rain today. It wasn’t sunny, except for a couple of minutes. Here and there, a few moments of sunny. But given that they are predicting even more rain this weekend, I went and took some pictures. Cloudy today, but who knows? Cloud burst tomorrow?

I didn’t know the cardinal was there when I shot the picture and by the time I could take the next one, he was gone. He is a local resident. I’m sure he lives in nearby tree.

These little blue flowers grow all over the garden. I don’t think I planted them, so I’m guessing they are a wildflower. Anyone know what they are?

Violets and hosta

Macro violet

Solomon’s Seal

White Rhododendron

Pink Rhododendrons

Yellow tulip

Lilacs

Little purple flowers that grow everywhere — and I don’t know what they are, either.

There will be more flowers coming soon. May is the month of flowers in this region. In a week, maybe two, the day lilies and spider-wort will be blooming and soon, the roses.

If we are very lucky, we won’t also be crawling with caterpillars.

Flower of the Day – May 4, 2017 – Tulip

RED, WHITE, AND EARLY LIGHT – TEXTURE: A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE

A Photo a Week Challenge: Texture


A flash of red wings and a grab a shot of the fresh snow and a red wing in the forsythia hedge. So many different textures ... and so early in the morning!

A flash of red in the corner of my eye. I grab the snapshot of fresh snow with a scarlet wing in the forsythia hedge. The cardinal is back. There are so many different textures in this little area … and it was barely past dawn.

BIRDS IN THE BUSHES

Through the years, the forsythia bushes that form the boundary between our back lawn and the woods have been the favorite hangout of the songbirds. I used to wonder why, but over time, I’ve more or less deduced that these bushes have a lot of edible material in them. They are dense enough so that the predatory residents of the woods can’t reach them. And maybe, it provides some shelter from the cold.

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Little bird in the thicket

Little bird in the thicket

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All of these were taken in winter from my window in the early hours of the morning when it was cold and usually, snowy. In the summer, I know they are there, but the leaves make them invisible. Which, I think, is the way they prefer it.