Archive for the ‘photography’ Category

Baby Robin on the Premises! – Part 2

June 25, 2019

Part 2 of 2 – To continue where I left off … You might be wondering about the fate of that baby robin in our back yard that fledged about June 1. We discovered him on June 2, on our back compost pile with both parents close by. We woke up every day after that looking for that little guy, so tiny, vulnerable and dependent! He didn’t fly at all. He hopped a bit, behind his parents, begging for food, and hopefully would learn quickly to hop up onto tree branches for safety. My previous blog followed him through his first four days as a fledgling – my last video of him was on the evening of June 6, finding him safe and sound (whew!) after a huge thunderstorm.

But then the next day we didn’t see him at all. And the next day after that. Oh no! Both neighbors to the west of us have cats. Our neighbors to the east have a fenced yard with three big dogs!

Meanwhile, Rudy continued to keep the back yard safe from strangers.

And we kept a close eye on Rudy

Rudy demonstrates how to relax in a patio chair

Other birds were busy making nests – helping themselves to inventory from our hanging pots. Hey, glad to help!

The irises were out in full bloom

Blooming snowball bushes graced the whole town,

The horse chestnut tree blossoms are my absolute favorite. The tree blooms in red or white:

Nice try, Rudy, but you missed the shade. Stop dilly-dallying!

Here’s the blossom up close.

horse chestnut

There’s a giant white horse chestnut tree in nearby Tautphaus Park, blooms in early June. I have missed it some years…

Ancient horse chestnut tree!

“Hey David – stand by that tree and let me take your photo!”
(Ugh. If I must …)

June 4, 2019

There, you get a little perspective on how magnificent that tree is.

Close-up – the blossoms stand over 6″ tall!

Okay, but what about your little robin? you ask. Did you see him again? Why yes we did! On the morning of June 12, 8:49 AM, we could hear him chirping. Then, looking out our upstairs bathroom window, we spotted him!

See him in the lilacs! His light round breast (between the limbs)

“Chirp, chirp, chirp!”

Here. I’ll zoom in …

Yes, that’s him! Between the limbs. He’s hungry!

He disappeared into the corner of our yard behind our giant spruce tree but then was back out that afternoon pecking around for food (but mostly still begging from his parents). At 3PM I captured a video from inside our kitchen through our back door window. You don’t hear chirping on the video. What you hear is Rudy whining to be let out, and Megan’s friend Amber disciplining him to stop whining, which he does. I believe Amber to be some kind of dog-whisperer.

That video was taken Wednesday June 12 at 3PM. Yeah, so our little birdie has survived as a fledgling for at least 10 days! And he’s certainly not a strong flyer. I did see him sort of flit up into the lilac bushes once today. He was back out in the lilacs along our back property line again at 8:40 PM. Chirping away. “Daddy I need my bedtime snack!”

The next afternoon the robin family was back in our backyard. The baby still looks tiny but he can surely hop and run faster! I captured this video about 5 PM. June 13 – the baby fledged at least 12 days ago. He looks so tiny still!

Meanwhile the slugs have devoured the hostas.

Yes, I’m sure it’s slugs. We go through this every year.

This year I didn’t use slug bait (is it really safe for birds and animals just because the package says it is? …) I know for sure now that robins eat slugs – and we are surely laying out a feast for our robin family through the slug orgy taking place in our southwest corner garden.

And, well, our our hanging flower basket is looking a little ratty. My, the birds have been busy!

On the evening of June 13 I glanced out our front dining room window. What? Is it snowing? I stepped through the front door into a magical spring atmosphere of birdsong and drifting down

The poplar trees are shedding all over town.

Black Poplar

Saturday, June 15 – 10 AM. There he is! – hopping in our back yard along our landscape curbing. Two weeks after fledging and surely he’s a pretty strong flyer by now. But I haven’t seen him fly. Robins forage for food on the ground and I suspect he has to do most of his own foraging by now. He still looks so young!

Well, he did fly up into a tree. Several days have passed and we haven’t see him. I guess the little birdie has flown away – has he joined the larger flock of robins? Are his parents raising another clutch by now? Do we have some hidden bird nests up in our giant honey locust trees somewhere? Huh. If we do, the wind did its best this past Wednesday and again Thursday (June 20), to knock them out!

I just read today that 90 percent of baby robins don’t live through their first year. I am happy to report though, that our little robin was busy foraging for food just this morning in our back yard – Monday, June 24, a full three weeks after he fledged. I took a couple of photos of him. He still has that distinctive round light belly.

Monday, June 24, 2019

I watched him forage for bugs, worms, slugs and berries for several minutes. Then he flew off. I’ll keep a lookout for him!

David has resumed his game of frisbee with Rudy in the back yard. They have both perfected their technique to where they’ve got a smooth thing going – David with throwing, and Rudy with catching.

Not bad for a 11-yr-old dog and a 73-yr-old man. Yes, I’m capturing it in photos and video … this magical spring in the autumn of our lives.

Life is good!

Baby Robin on the Premises!

June 9, 2019

This story begins on my husband David’s 73rd birthday, June 1, 2019. We’re relaxing on our back deck, basking in the wonders of spring, the fragrant breezes, the chirping of birds, when our tranquility is interrupted by a crow ‘caw-caw-ing’ through the quiet calm from a high tree limb above us. What?

Yeah, I know about crows, and their close relative, the magpie. They prey on the smaller songbirds, the robins, in particular (they clearly don’t prefer starlings, based on their ballooning populations). We experienced the preying magpies three years ago, the last time we knew of a robins’ nest in our back yard. I was so happy to see the nest, then hear the hungry chirping of hatchlings, for a day, maybe. The discovery that the nest was empty occurred on the same day I chased several magpies off our back deck. I did some research on magpies and blogged about the experience (link here). Yes, magpies and crows are smart, dominant birds, higher up on the food chain than robins and other songbirds, and they eat baby birds for breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, and dessert, pluck them right out of their nests.

So imagine the ruckus caused by that large black crow perched above us in our giant honey locust tree. Actually, you don’t have to imagine it because I captured a video of the moment it was chased off by a flock of robins.

Way to go, robins!

The very next day, June 2, we discover a baby robin perched atop the corner compost pile in our back yard. Whoa! The baby bird hardly moves or startles when we approach. So I capture a pretty good photo of him (I’m calling it a ‘him’ – I just am) .

Baby robin adopts a new nest

His chances of survival? He barely hops, much less fly. Is he injured? Why is he here all by himself? What happened to this little robin family? Did that crow’s presence yesterday have anything to do with the fate of this lonesome little one – where are his siblings? Was he driven from the nest prematurely? He’s lucky to be alive!

Here is a link to robin facts. Most robins die their first year. Robins lay one egg a day for the average of 3-5 eggs in a clutch. They hatch 12-14 days after the last egg was laid. Robins jump from their nest (fledge) when they are about 13 days old and they all fledge within two days.

It takes fledglings about two weeks after they leave the nest to become strong flyers and independent birds. (!!)

In August 2014 (5 years ago already, whew!) I blogged about the last robins’ nest we had – where I captured the three babies on video when they fledged and we watched them hop about the yard for a few days (one of them died the first day). Here’s the link! (There are three parts to the story and when you open the link you scroll to the bottom to read them chronologically.)

Bird banders have found that only about 25% of young robins survive their first year. If they do, most wild robins live to about the age of 5 or 6.

The mother builds the nest and sits on the eggs. She builds a new nest for each brood. Both the mother and father feed the babies. The babies beg for food, even after they fledge.

Speaking of begging baby birds, let’s get back to our baby robin that we discovered in his ‘new nest’ on June 2. I had a good view of him on our compost pile from an inside window, and yes, he basically stood atop that compost pile and begged, and both parents seemingly spent their entire waking hours scavenging for worms, insects and berries to feed him.

He stayed atop that compost pile, begged, and was fed for most of his first day. But then, toward evening, Hey! Where did he go?

Empty nest!

He had mustered up the courage to fly – about three feet where he was now perched on our backyard fence! Here you see him – his tail that is, sticking out the backside of the fence.

See his tail sticking out?

So of course Megan and I sneaked out front and sure enough, there he was, perched on the fence.

See the little guy!

Begging away, calling for his parents, who were scavenging just a few feet away. I captured a video at 7:07 PM:

The parents were always just a few feet away in our front yard as that little guy stayed perched on the fence.

Daddy duty

Finally about 8 pm the little one hopped through the fence back to his ‘nest’:

The end of his first full day and he is learning to hop to safety!

We ended the day happy – he had survived his first day and returned to his nest!

He seemed sated, as well. Good night little birdie! Stay safe!

Monday morning, June 3, Day 2: Megan announces, “Mom, he’s on his nest!” And sure enough, I was able to capture a photo.

Monday, June 3, 8:36 AM

Of course, he was hungry and now hopping after his dad and begging!

Look out little birdie. You’d better take shelter! I am happy to report he made it safely through the whole day, and that evening, there he was back on his ‘nest’, our compost pile.

Whew! Made it safely through another day!


Tuesday morning – June 4 – Day 3! There he is right in plain view on the edge of our neighbor’s driveway:

Beware the cat, little birdie!

Oh boy, he’s getting braver, but still not moving much. Hey little birdie, those neighbors have a cat! But, he makes it through today, and sure enough, he’s back on his nest by bedtime.

Wednesday, day 4 – 11 AM – he’s in the back yard, with his helicopter parents!

Wed, June 5. Yay! See them in the shadows?!

We watched him hop along our back row of lilacs, and peck for food himself. But that night he didn’t return to the nest.

Thursday, Day 5 – We hear thunder through the early morning hours. Why of course, we wake up to a huge thunderstorm. I captured a video of the storm out our back door:

You have to learn to survive little one! Where is he?

The storm has blown over and the sun is out. We hear him, from inside the house, the distinctive hungry chirp from that baby robin … Step outside! There he is!!

Our backyard is so beautiful after a rain!

Storm has blown over – here comes the sun!


Life is good. We took our last video of him that evening at 8:40 pm. – from our upstairs bathroom window:

Good night little birdie! Stay safe! Where was he roosting now? Hopefully up on a tree limb?

It is Sunday now. June 9. We haven’t seen our little birdie since Thursday evening. We’ve been watching out for him though. We keep an eye on our poodle, Rudy, as he did grab a baby bird in his mouth one spring. Rudy, for now, gets his own seat at our patio table.

Little Lord Fauntleroy

And keeps the back yard safe from strangers.

“BARK-BARK-BARK-BARK-BARK-BARK-BARK” Stop it, Rudy. You’re driving the whole neighborhood nuts!

Tho, can’t do much about the hungry raptors hovering above …

Photo taken from our back yard Sunday, June 9

Plus we have issues with squirrels, who are also known predators of baby robins. These rascals are always out frolicking:

The squirrels are certainly happy

But no worries. Rudy keeps them in tow:

I am hopeful that our little birdie is still alive, practicing his flying and other survival skills. A week has passed since we first met that little fledgling – is it seriously going to take him another week to become a strong flyer?

We still spot adult robins in our yard. So that’s a hopeful sign. Although, this little birdie’s mother has likely already built another nest and is possibly sitting on a second clutch of eggs. So it’s daddy who is feeding and watching over him.

The families stay together for at least three weeks after the babies leave the nest. This is such a dangerous time for baby robins as they need time, and nurturing, and safe places to practice flying, away from cats, dogs, predatory birds, snakes, squirrels, cold, storms …

Take care, little birdie. You gotta grow up smart and fast to beat that 25% chance of surviving through your first year.

Horse Chestnuts, Dandelions and Garden Pests

July 31, 2018

I’ve taken gobs of photos this past spring and summer. It seems summer flies and it’s suddenly gone. Here it is now the first of August and leaves are already turning gold and falling. From the heat? Maybe. But the plants already know, summer is nearly over.

I’ve missed spring in years past. I notice the buds, next thing, the trees are out, all bushy and full, their blossoms long gone. How had I missed it? So I try to pay close attention to the blossoming of spring.

It begins with the dandelions – bees’ first feast!

Nice for the bees, not a great look for your front yard

I love to see fields of dandelions, however, by the end of April it’s a declared war, humans vs. dandelions, daily raging battles, humans extracting dandelions from suburban lawns – a war that can overcome the average adult strapping male.

Dandelions are clever imposters, posing as a fill-in for a gorgeous bouquet

So vibrant!

Ha! You think you can get away with this?

Yeah, like we don’t recognize a clump of dandelions

Oh, you think we don’t recognize that you’re not tulips? We’re totally on to you. Your gig is up!.

By early May tulips and daffodils command the show

Rudy finishes his inspection – May 5

Crab and May Trees flower and alight with buzzing bees

Then the lilacs bloom! – and fade so quickly. Don’t miss it! Fill your kitchen with their marvelous fragrance.

Bury your nose in their velvety moist blossoms!

My absolute favorite tree of all blooms in late May. I watch for it. There’s a big ol’ ancient one in town beside the Broadway Bridge on the Snake River.

“Oh Megan, pose in front of it!”

“Okay, mom, if I must.” June 2, 2018

The 6-inch blossoms stand stately on their limbs like lavishly decorated Christmas trees.

There’s a red variety too. I took a photo of one in Tautphaus Park:

I’d love to plant one of these trees in our back yard. Oh wow! Here’s a plaque by the big tree Megan is standing under identifying what it is:

‘Horsechesnut’
Shouldn’t that be two words?

Horse chestnut??? Hmmm. Well, okay.

By the first of June the flowers were all planted in our pots and flowerbeds – marigolds and zinnias, impatiens, petunias, red and blue salvia. Tomatoes and green peppers. Let the battle begin! You know, against slugs, fungus, heat, insects, weeds, crowding, drought, poor soil, under-fertilizing, over-fertilizing, over-watering, not enough dead-heading. And one more pest – our next-door neighbor’s dog, Einstein. Here – I’ve captured this ‘pest’ problem in this video:

Einstein is an escape artist. It’s simply impossible for his owners to keep him in their fenced back yard. They have given up. You will see in the video the ladder we propped up against the fence beside the arborvitae three summers ago to keep Einstein from jumping directly from his back yard into our garden. But, no matter. He simply jumps their fence and once he’s escaped his yard, we obviously can’t keep him out of ours.

This helps explain why I’ve been remiss all summer in writing my blog. I’ve been crazy busy. “Gardening” among other things. Figuring out why some stuff grows okay and a lot of it doesn’t. I’m not posting any closeup photos of our flowers. There’s just too much explaining to do. I keep learning, though.

This year I learned from the local nursery how important it is to apply their special brand of fertilizer on the flowers and vegetables – at least once a week!, to achieve, say, the desired effect for your next dinner party of showing off your happy bushy flower pots. Except if, on your petunia leaves, you start to notice what looks like a serious case of spider mites or maybe lace bugs, and you run a sick leaf down to your local greenhouse for their expert diagnosis, you might learn that applying liquid fertilizer to plants at the beginning of a 90-degree day will likely burn the leaves as if they’re infested with tiny bugs. On the other hand, with the application of liquid fertilizer on a 90-degree day, you could also maybe burn any existing pests off the leaves? I know. It’s hard to tell about these things, other than to admit your giftedness to kill plants.

Alas, by late summer the plants know to stop growing. So you can relax. I practice relaxing at home on the couch by example of our dog, Rudy.

Rudy demonstrates the proper way to flop

I’ll have you know, we think we’ve made some progress in discouraging Einstein’s over-the-fence leaps directly into our garden with the installation of a wind vane whirly thing we bought at my brother Eric’s shop.

Wind vane

With the persistent Idaho winds, it stands out as one very happy thing in our garden, downright exuberant in a high wind:

Oh, and all those blooming trees are now bearing fruit! We happened upon my favorite spring blooming tree this past week. You know, the “horse chestnut.” Sure enough, it has chestnuts all right.

Can’t wait to walk here barefoot when they ripen and drop off

Chestnuts coated in prickly spikes (Huh. that sentence rings like a new verse for ‘White Christmas.’) I picked a developing horse chestnut to show you, but it was too prickly to put in my pocket. David held it long enough for me to take a photo.

Horse Chestnut

Yeah, well maybe we should plant a horse chestnut tree in that corner by the fence as an added deterrent to Einstein. David did some research – found a link (click here) that tells all about the Horse Chestnut tree or ‘Aesculus indica.’It is in flower from June to July, and the seeds ripen in October. It’s common along the Himalayan Lowlands and its leaves are used as cattle fodder in parts of Northern India. “It is used in traditional Indian medicine, for the treatment of some skin diseases, rheumatism, as an astringent, acrid and narcotic, and in the relief of headaches.” Huh. I believe, with all this stress of gardening, it’s just what the doctor ordered.

Except all those horse chestnuts dropping to the ground in October would turn that area of our back yard into a snow-covered no-mans’ land with those horse chestnuts to greet us at next year’s spring thaw…

And I’d likely exhaust myself trying to keep the dumb tree alive, anyway. Maybe just turn our whole back yard over to dandelions.

Dog, Squirrel, Bird Feeder, Chia Head

June 19, 2017

Every well-kept back yard should probably include at least one bird feeder, or so I’ve been thinking. So before the snow melted in late February I visited our local greenhouse and bought a bird feeder and a large bag of bird seed. Hung it on an ancient limb right off our deck.

Our resident squirrel noticed it first. Of course, our dog Rudy is on high squirrel alert!

He’ll take care of squirrel!

There!

It took a couple of weeks for chickadees to discover the bird feeder.

Chickadees are feeding. Yay!

They knocked off enough seed to feed squirrel.

Under Rudy’s watch..

He’s on it!

Squirrel loved to taunt Rudy

Gotcha Squirrel!

Squirrel didn’t seem too intimidated

Here, I took a video

Aah, just a squirrel. (Rudy has a short attention span.)

I moved the bird feeder out there on that crab tree so I could hang a flower pot by the deck.

Chickadees loved the new location. Except they were picky eaters. They would peck and fling the seed off the feeder to get at just the particular seed they wanted.

No problem. I have plenty of seed. Except the feeder would go from full to empty in two days. Sometimes there would be five chickadees feeding at a time. One chickadee could launch himself from the neighbor’s spruce tree and dive bomb the feeder – land on it directly instead of from a nearby branch. How fun to watch!

Uh-oh. I knew it! Squirrel was on the feeder! Devouring the seed like a giant furry tomato worm.

All right. This is getting out of hand. Plus, had I been paying attention to how fast we were going through that 25-lb bag of Nature’s Nuts Wild Bird blend?

Sure to make humans nuts

Judging on the amount left in the bag, I’d say we’ve gone through 23 lbs of it. At this point, 100 chickadees in our vicinity are surely too bloated to fly. Hey but wait a minute, what’s this happening in the succulent garden below the feeder? Does that look like a happy family of hen and chickens to you? What the heck??

That’s supposed to be a bed of hen and chickens?

I went and got my spade and dug into the mess to investigate. OMG! That wild bird seed has sprouted and a large part of our garden has grown a full head of hair. I actually discovered this ‘chia head’ garden situation yesterday and subsequently spent two hours digging up, piece by piece the top four inches of the area under the bird feeder, teasing the hen and chickens loose from the globs of ‘hair’.

Here you get a side view

I’m holding up a tuft of ‘hair’ for you to see

Multiplied by 300

Here you get another close-up with hen and chicken limbs interspersed.

Hen and chicken carcasses


And a super-close up of what I was digging out of there:

“You’re grossing me out!” you say. Yes, it was gross. A gross amount of hair and still-unsprouted seeds, that is.

I did my best to restore the garden back to its pre-bird feeder days. Whew!

There’s still at least ten thousand un-sprouted seeds scattered around. Will have to keep an eye on the situation.

So there sits the empty bird feeder. What to do with it? Smash it against the back cinderblock fence? What about the thousands of bird feeders I’ve seen in people’s yards??? How do they cope with wild bird seed feeders?

Oh, I know. Maybe they’re actually hummingbird feeders.

Hmmm, well, while I’m on the subject of gardening, would you like to hear about my latest trick to combat slugs?

No?

Beating the Winter Blahs

January 9, 2017

Okay, so the Holidays were over before you could say “I forgot to water the poinsettia.”

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It’s a weird time of year, and I have to watch myself. First it’s the issue of getting in the Christmas spirit in the first place. Or not. “Not’ might in the long run be easier, because the higher your spirits during the Holidays, the deeper potential for despair. Whether you’re caught up in the frenzy of it all, shopping, bake-fests, parties, lunches, Christmas pageants, service projects, gift exchanges … or hold yourself apart from it, melancholy looms, ready to swoop in and envelop you at any time. So you have to take care of yourself, deploy strategies that preserve joy and peace of mind.

For example, just hearing the National News of late and listening to the incessant political talking heads can drive you insane. You need a diversion. Enter: Rudy … who is always either on my lap or lying next to me when we watch the news. Here he is, “Little Lord Fauntleroy” playing with his toy, Lamb Chop, while talk of the Russians and ISIS blares from the TV:

Then the insanely heightened security for the New Year’s celebration in Times Square…

Somehow he captures my feelings exactly.

The Museum of Idaho here in town offers a lovely free exhibit all through December to enliven your Christmas spirit.

Museum of Idaho, Idaho Falls

Museum of Idaho, Idaho Falls

It’s called the ‘Olde Fashioned Christmas and Winter Festival” and it’s free. The exhibit is sponsored by a local music store, Chesbro Music. Enjoy live Holiday musical performances by local musicians, while you browse through a huge array of Christmas themed displays, nativities, Santas and Saint Nicks. These displays belong to private local citizens loaning their collections for this exhibit. As you walk in the door, you are greeted with a Charlie Brown Christmas.

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Then some rather hip Santas:

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There are all kinds of nativity sets, from all over the world. This nativity set is knitted. Man, that’s a lot of work. I won’t be knitting a nativity set in my lifetime:

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A separate room housed gingerbread houses, some quite elaborate:

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And miniature rooms, that hail back to the Olde Fashioned Christmases. See the rocking horse? This room transports me back to my childhood Christmases in the fifties. Boy was that a more innocent time!

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I visited the museum with Megan once before Christmas, when an accomplished pianist was playing Christmas carols. We visited again on the last day of the exhibit, New Year’s Eve ( with a case of the blah’s). Music filled the air as we opened the door. A local group, the “Wild Potatoes” were performing. This Celtic jig really perked me up! I took a video. It might just perk you up too!

Oh wait. But Christmas is long gone now isn’t it? It went faster than you can say, “I stripped the tree, wrapped it like a corpse and shoved it out the back sliding door”

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It’s the New Year now. I still need strategies to keep my spirits afloat. I’m not making any more New Year’s resolutions until a cure is found for menopausal belly fat. Turns out, I learned on the internet, women over 45 have fat storage menopausal molecules that are immune against sit-ups and crunches. I’m done with those long joint-wrecking workouts, too. There must be some way you can burn belly fat while you sleep. Sleep longer? I’ll research that on the internet too, till I find the answer. I would also like to find some fat burning breakfast recipes that include pancakes.

Anyway, good thing we have Rudy around. I like to corner and lecture him. It makes me feel better. Like today. “You bad boy. Why can’t you be more of a help around here? Get out there and help shovel! Make yourself useful, you filthy animal!”

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Yes, YOU!!

Well, that about puts a wrap on the Holiday season. Before you could say “Where’s the person I’m supposed to kiss?” we were well into the New Year. The exterior Christmas lights went out in unison along our street that used to be lit up like a star. It’s a death star now, well, except for our end of the street. I’ve not been motivated to go out front and turn off the timers, although David might think its the least I could do, since he’s doing all the shoveling.

6:05 pm - Sunday, January 8, 2017

6:05 pm – Sunday, January 8, 2017

It still looks like Christmas, doesn’t it? The Abominable Snowman just won’t go away. Guess I should start helping David shovel, lest I become the filthy animal.

It just keeps snowing here in southeast Idaho.

Robins – Part 3

July 16, 2016

On Sunday, June 26, I watched a female robin building a nest in the honey locust tree in our back yard. I captured a video of it and blogged about it in Part 1 of this series, meanwhile, of course, getting distracted, and down right obsessed, with the yellow warblers pooping on our front door step (Part 2)…

I kept watching the robins. Sure enough the mother was still brooding through this past Tuesday, July 12. I would usually just get a view of her tail above the nest:

Her tail is hard to see

Her tail is hard to see

Since eggs hatch after 14 days I thought maybe they were hatched by this past Tuesday. A few minutes after I took that last photo, I saw mom fly off the nest, shake herself off, hop around with the dad a bit, and then return to the nest:

Mom takes a break

Mom takes a break

Get the circulation going!

Get the circulation going!

Dad was hopping around just a few feet away from her.

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Back to the nest now!

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We’ve been listening for the ‘chirp-chirp-chirping’ of baby birds. This morning I watched the robins in the back yard, Dad maybe, hopping around. But I didn’t see any activity on the nest. No brooding mother, no adults flying with worms to the nest. No chirping. No activity at all. Oh boy.

I got a ladder and climbed up to the nest – captured this photo. Awwwww.

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Come to think of it, I did run 3 magpies off the deck this morning. They hang around here a bit – fly into the top of our giant spruce and make a racket. Thought I’d do a little research on magpies. Sure enough, they regularly prey upon the eggs and nestlings of other birds, especially song birds. (Of course, magpies are regularly preyed upon in turn, by hawks, owls and ravens.)

Magpies are part of the the Corvid or crow family. They are super common throughout the northwest, however, mostly absent in the eastern US. Here is a link with a photo of a magpie and more interesting information about magpies. They mate for life. They are considered one of the most intelligent animals in the world, the only non-mammal species able to recognize itself in a mirror test. (So those warblers pecking at our reflective front door kick plate thought they were pecking at … another warbler??)

Oh and by the way, according to the article in the above link, the longest-living Black-billed Magpie on record was at least 9 years, 4 months old and lived in Idaho (near our back yard, perhaps?).

Magpies walk with a staggering strut and will band together to mob a raptor. They can also kill small mammals such as squirrels and voles. They are nest predators although eggs and nestlings make up only a small portion of the birds’ overall diet. They eat berries, seeds and nuts, and lots of insects too. They use scent to find food, an unusual trait for birds, which generally have very little sense of smell.

Another interesting trait of magpies is that they have been known to grieve and hold funerals for fallen friends. In this article, animal behavior expert Dr. Bekoff, of the University of Colorado, reports an encounter with four magpies alongside a magpie corpse – individually pecking at it, flying off, returning with some grass and then laying it by the corpse, then standing vigil together for a few seconds, then flying off one by one. This ritual has been seen repeatedly in magpies, ravens and crows.

So did those three magpies mob that robin nest? Hmmm. Seems like a good explanation. Are the robins grieving their loss, too?

So, no baby robins after all. Oh well. Haven’t seen the yellow warblers around lately, either.

Although there’s ample evidence in our flower garden of a thriving slug population.

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There now. Doesn’t that cheer you up?

Robins, Warblers and ‘Herbert’

July 9, 2016

Two summers ago, in 2014, we had robins nesting in a honey locust tree in our back yard. I took lots of video on August 3, 2014, the day the hatchlings fledged, and blogged about it. Here is a link to the blogs.

This summer the robins are back! Nesting in the same place. I was out in the back yard on June 26 and witnessed robins building a nest, in the exact same location, at the intersection of two low hanging limbs. I shot a couple of videos:

The female chooses the site and builds the nest, while the male might help gather nesting materials (depending on his mood?).

Or lead the female to a resting place when he sees she needs a break …

Who's got the beer?

Who’s got the beer?

A new nest is built for each brood, and in northern climes the first clutch is usually placed in an evergreen tree or shrub, while later broods are placed in deciduous trees (this must be this family’s second clutch?). It takes from two to six days to build the nest, with an average of 180 trips per day to find materials.

Building a nest is a lot of work!

Meanwhile, a cutesy chatty pair of yellow birds shows up. I think we just have one pair of these, but they surely have made their presence known. At first we’re like, “Oh, cute!’ when one would flutter up against our back kitchen window. Then flutter up there again, lingering, as if admiring it’s reflection. Then over the course of a day or two the window gets all mucked up – the birds were fluttering, lingering, and then apparently puking on the outside of our kitchen window. It became creepy and Megan started banging on the window to scare them away. I was out there with windex scrubbing off the mess.

Then we were hearing this ‘peck-peck-peck-ing’ on our front door starting first thing early morning. It was creepy too. One of those dumb yellow birds again! I’d quick!, open the front door, but of course, it was gone. Now the birds were fluttering, pecking, puking and pooping – right at our front door.

I went out there with a bucket of soapy water and scrub brush and scrubbed it off. But then within a day or two it was a mess again. Here – I took a photo:

Yuk!

Yuk!

The little yellow birds were standing on our doorstep admiring themselves in the reflective kick plate, pooping and regurgitating on their reflection. Hey, whatever floats your boat, birdies. Noooooo! We had to do something.

I was constantly complaining to David about it – “Look, honey, there goes one of those yellow birds!” as it flits past the front window.

A while later I notice our vegetable scrub brush quarantined in a glass by the sink:

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“What’s this doing here?” I ask David.

“Oh, I used that brush to scrub the bird poop off the front stoop…”

“Ewwww! I scrub potatoes and carrots with that brush!”

“Yeah, well thought I’d help you deal with the bird problem …”

I walk to the front door and open it. Ahhhh! You’re kidding!

Hello

Hello

“The snake just might scare the birds away,” says David.

He had brought that wooden jointed cobra snake we bought in Mexico about 8 years ago, up from the basement.

It startles us every time we open the front door.

Hi again

Hi again

As for those yellow birds, I did finally capture a couple of photos of them. At the back sliding door, since that snake did scare them away from the front door:

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My sister Lisa, an avid bird watcher, identified them. ‘Yellow Warblers‘. I did a Google search on Warbler behaviors and couldn’t come up with anything remotely matching our experience. It’s simply ‘be as annoying as possible to the Caraher’s’ behavior.

As for the robins, David captured a photo of her yesterday – roosting on the nest.

July 8, 2016

July 8, 2016

You guessed it. The female sits on the eggs too. (While the male checks out the local bird baths? I dunno…) The eggs hatch after 14 days, and the chicks leave the nest, fledge, two weeks later. While the chicks are still young, the mother broods them continuously. When they are older, the mother will brood them only at night or during bad weather. (You know, out of sheer exhaustion.)

As for the front door situation with the warblers, ‘Herbert’ seems to have solved the problem. I pulled into the driveway the other day to witness a neighbor backing away from our front door. She had come over with her granddaughter to deliver some cupcakes and I heard her say “Honey, I don’t think it’s alive.” Luckily I was able to explain the situation as to why we have a life-like cobra roosting on our front doorstep.

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I guess I should consider us lucky that we still have mail delivery. Although we haven’t received any UPS packages recently.

Overall, we’re one bigger happier family with the robins, warblers, Herbert and all. Although Herbert still startles me when I open the front door.

I'm your Huckleberry

I’m your Huckleberry

He’s pretty much going to stay there as long as those warblers are around. I’d like to preserve our vegetable brush for scrubbing vegetables.

Hoary Winter, Omega Spring!

April 29, 2016

I took a bunch of photos this past winter, it being so cold, snowy, and, well, hoary. For several weeks through mid-January into February, southeast Idaho experienced a persistent weather phenomenon known in meteorology as a “temperature inversion.” Colder air gets trapped over the valleys under a cap of warmer air, which settles over the higher elevations. For a while, it was warmer in West Yellowstone than here. We’d wake up in a cold fog, which froze like baklava in layers over tree branches.

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Magnificent hoar frost! Also known as ‘rime.’

I’d step outside as if through a wardrobe, into Narnia.

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I had to admit, it was beautiful.

It seemed we were always shoveling. We don’t own a snowblower, but most of our neighbors do.

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I developed a severe case of snowblower envy, watching our neighbor through our dining room window, whizzing through snow drifts, blowing the snow sky high in great arches that settled into huge crusty ridges along his walks and driveway. He’d be backing his truck out at full speed before we could fully contemplate our own laborious snow removal plan.

Who's going to shovel?

Who’s going to shovel?

Simple. David shoveled. Or in our case, scooped.

First the front walks and driveway:

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Then the back deck:

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While I … took photos.

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But then a few hours later we (myself, eventually, out of guilt) would be out there shoveling again. Three inches of fresh snow at a time was about the max either one of us cared to deal with.

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We shoveled paths in the snow for Rudy to navigate so he could take care of business –

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“Rudy, go potty!”

Don't pussy-foot around with David

Don’t pussy-foot around with David

Alas, like the meltdown in Narnia, the inversion lifted, warmer temps settled in and the snow melted away.

March 3. 2016

March 3. 2016

Check out the back yard. Hey – look! Pine cones?

Those aren't pine cones

Those aren’t pine cones

NO! DOG TURDS! EWWWW! You’d think at least some of them would have dissolved in the snow pack. But Noooo. Every single turd dropped over the past 4 months is perfectly intact. I plucked them out of the grass one by one.

Rudy, you messy dog!! You must have left us 600 “twerds” to pick up in the back yard! (‘Turd’ with a French accent since he’s a poodle.)

Making a mess in the house too

Making a mess in the house too

Oh boy, now you’re destuffing Lambchop.

March winter squalls … Not so welcome. We want to put the shovels away!

March 9

March 9

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Several spring storms blow through – bringing hail, snow, and sleet, sometimes simultaneously…

March 14

March 14

But then, bird nest sightings!

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Robins appear. Some are fat with eggs

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My photo is pretty lame, but let me tell you, that was one fat robin I spotted from our kitchen window.

Then, in April, we experienced another extended weather phenomenon known to meteorologists as an “Omega weather pattern.” We were shown a Satellite/radar visual of it about every night on our local news – I finally took a picture of the ‘Omega Pattern.’ Here you can see:

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A giant ‘high’ settled square over Idaho and the west, which locked in a persistent ‘low’ over, uh, the mid west and Texas. The Omega pattern hung over us for 8 days or something, bringing sunny temps 10-15 degrees above normal, while Texas and other areas east of the Omega rim got pelted, soaked, deluged and flooded out. (Sorry, Houston.) I think it is still raining there. The Omega pattern shifted slightly east, then flipped upside down or something, still locking Texas and the lower mid west in a low.

So…spring popped! All of a sudden everything is in bloom. You want to see those same snowy shots of our front yard I took in January? Can you picture my neighbor with his snowblower?

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That’s a giant May tree. Here you see the blossoms up close

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Remember Narnia?

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Our big ‘ol giant Maple is about out

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Flowering crab and plums adorn about every street

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Then there’s the tulips! Bunches of perky yellow tulips bloomed on the west side of the house:

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In our back center garden:

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They just started blooming this week in front of our house, facing north

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Turn on the sprinklers!!

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Oh joy. Never fails. A busted sprinkler head.

David has already mowed once. Dig out the dandelions! Pull weeds! What flowers to plant this year?? …

“Uh, Where’s Rudy?”

WUh?

WUh?

“You stay out of the gardens!!”

Part 2 – Picture Hoarder i-Phone Memory Melt Down

August 20, 2015

… to continue with this dumb saga, whew, of my i-Phone memory being all used up with photos and videos, I declared the problem solved when the piconizer arrived in the mail from my super-techno-savvy brother-in-law, Victor.

"Oooo- What's inside the box?"

“Oooo- What’s inside the box?”

Great! Just upload the piconizer app to i-phone, connect gadget to phone like a thumb drive, transfer photos, delete photos on phone, voila!- I’ve freed up storage on my i-Phone. Right? Wrong. I couldn’t download the piconizer app to begin with because my i-Phone didn’t have enough memory, even though I had already deleted scores of photos and videos. Okay … fine. I deleted several apps. Rebooted my phone. 3 times. Still no memory available (in ‘usage’ under settings).

So then, Victor calls… “Did you get the piconizer? How is it working?”

“Uh, yes I did. It’s beautiful.” (Which is was. The piconizer was custom fit inside purple framed packaging like a crown jewel.)

"Are you sure you want to take it out of the package?"

“Are you sure you want to take it out of the package?”

“Did you get it to work?” he asks.

“I don’t have enough memory to download the piconizer app! That’s just bullshit because I’ve been deleting photos and apps like crazy. I’m ready to smash my phone.” (Hey, that’s how type A’s handle stuff like this, when the Universe is screwing with us.)

“Whoa…okay.”

A few minutes later Victor calls me back. “I’ve sent you an email with a link. Go open it.”

It was the link for the Apple search question: “Cannot free up storage space after deleting all photos.” There’s a pretty interesting discussion here about this problem – how comforting to know I have lots of company. Makes me glad I didn’t buy more memory on icloud.

“Okay, Jody. Get your phone ready. We are going to follow the directions on the link, step by step, to delete your (already deleted!) photos.” (Huh?)

Here are the directions contained in the link, which we followed:

First, check the Recently Deleted album in Photos, which is a new feature after iOS 8.1. If it’s empty you may have run into a strange bug, where deleted photos don’t actually get removed. To check for this follow these rather strange instructions:

•Go to Settings/General/Date & Time
•Disable Set Automatically
•Tap on the current date/time and roll it back about 2 years
•Tap <General in the upper left
•Launch the Photos app and go to the Recently Deleted album (even if it says there are 0 photos)
•Is it full of photos? If so, delete them
•Go back to Settings/General/Date & Time and turn Set Automatically back on

In other words, if you were smart, or dumb, enough not to upgrade your operating system past iOS 8.1, then when you delete your photos, they are deleted and you instantly gain memory. But apparently, if you updated beyond 8.1 then when you delete your photos they go to a ‘deleted photo album’ – they aren’t deleted. They sit there for 30 days, still chewing up your memory, until you go to your deleted photo album and delete them. That is, unless your phone contracted that strange bug where deleted photos don’t get deleted. (Try antibiotics?)

Ah … remember the good ol’ days with i-Phones: When you were low on memory, you just deleted photos, and maybe a video or two, and gained the memory back.

Anyway, Victor and I went through the process over the phone step by step. When we got to the deleted photos album sure enough, it was full of photos. 240 photos and 35 videos. “Delete them.” Victor commanded. Dang! I wanted to go back through them one more time and maybe save ones that had been deleted, you know, under extreme duress.

I did actually download a few albums of photos onto my piconizer (okay, with David’s help). Pretty cool. I can carry it with me in its nifty case and anticipate the day I might want to look at those photo albums from 2011, or just stow it away in our buffet drawer thinking I might someday pull it out, attach it to my phone, and see if I can figure out how to look at those photos again. Or maybe carry it with me the next time I see Victor …

There, now you have all the details involving a technologically disinterested Type-A personality embroiled in a picture hoarder i-Phone memory meltdown. Although I’m pretty sure I’m more smart than dumb by not upgrading my operating system.

Am I sounding more technologically savvy yet?

(Maybe just go back to a portable digital camera and a flip phone?)

i-Phone Photo Hoarder

August 17, 2015

In an effort to keep up with the world of fast advancing technology my hubby and I sprung for i-Phones. Except the new smart phones keep advancing faster than we are and we never have the latest greatest smart phone. One reason is, of course, price. We bought the i-Phone 3 when i-Phone 4 was out (at 1/6 the price or something – 50 bucks). I accidently discovered the camera on the i-Phone 3 and found it so user friendly that I soon amassed 600 photos. I love all my photos. And I learned not to upload my precious photos onto the computer and delete them from my i-Phone, because I never see them again. I just don’t organize or bother finding photos on my computer. So, photos stay on my i-Phone.

When we update our phones I just transfer all my photos and videos to the new phone. So by the time I updated to i-Phone 5 (when 6 came out) – I transferred about 2200 photos and 25 short videos. My phone has a few apps, that I don’t use much. There’s no downloaded music on my i-Phone. 64 GB of phone memory seems way excessive – so I opted for 16 GB.

Soon I had 3200 photos and 65 videos and not enough memory to download the new operating system. Who cares? The current operating system works just fine – ios 8.2 or something. Oh, but I see in my settings that I also have 5 free gigs of memory available on the i-cloud! I can store photos there. Oh, but I have more than 5 gigs of photos and videos so i-cloud wants me to pay a monthly fee for extra storage. No! Okay so I’ll go through and delete my least awesome photos and videos and get some memory back. Which is what I did. Delete, delete, delete, (‘Ouch!) delete…

Meanwhile, my extremely technically savvy brother-in-law, Victor, who knows about my photo hoarding vs. phone memory problems sends me a new i-Phone gadget called a piconizer. It could solve all my problems! It works like a picture thumb drive where you can store photo albums, free up the phone memory, and plug it back in to your phone to view your photos. Great! Except, right off the bat when I plugged it in I got the message: Not enough memory to download piconizer app. What? Okay, fine. I started deleting other apps. Off went dictionary.com, Zillow, i-books and Delta Airlines. I deleted more photos and videos. Then I checked my settings and could not believe how much storage I had gained. Here you can see – I took a photo of the screen showing memory usage:

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Available storage: 0 (Apparently Apple uses up 4 GB storage for their stuff on your phone, because I’m pretty sure it’s a 16 GB phone.)

icloud storage available: 5 GB

What the? How can this be? How did I even take that last photo, then? What about those deleted apps? What am I supposed to do here? I know that the 5 GB available on icloud is not enough. Has Apple Inc. devised some diabolic scheme to persuade old fart technologically disinterested picture hoarders into signing up for an icloud storage plan with montly payments?

Miraculously I still had enough memory to take a selfie.

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Old fart picture hoarder vs. Apple.

This picture reminds me of a previous blog I wrote when I got my first i-Phone. It’s from June 15, 2009. Geesh. 6 years ago. Here’s the link. . Well, if it isn’t the link you can find it easily. It’s the only other blog I wrote under the category ‘technology’ (what a surprise).

There’s a selfie in that one too.

Well, I was younger then, but wiser now. What do you think? How does this get resolved?