Archive for the ‘photography’ Category

Covid Doggie Blues

January 28, 2021

We have a miniature poodle, Rudy, whom we love dearly. But, during the past 12 months, sheltering at home with him during Covid-19, we have become even more attached to our “whoo-de-woo’ our ‘buddy boy’, ‘buddy wud’, ‘sweet cheeks’, and in particular instances “Little Lord Fauntleroy”. We’re all part of his ‘pack,’ and he’s crushed when we get in the car without him, or Lord forbid, not take him out on a daily walk. He sleeps between David and me at night, and anxiously awaits in the kitchen every morning to greet each member of the pack, as we emerge from slumber, with his tail wagging, low howls, stepping from side to side, as if to announce “Hey, it’s a new day!”

We got Rudy when he was eight weeks old. Oh my goodness, what an adorable puppy! We’ve had him for … 13 years. He’s been a great dog. But he’s becoming an old dog now, and he’s not bounding up the stairs like he used to. He’s lost his bottom front teeth. He suffers from stiff joints and arthritis in his back, likely due to his antics as a ‘stunt doggie’ in his younger years, leaping up onto and back off our high kitchen stools, and our high bed. Several years ago we installed doggie steps up to our beds. He used to skip up those steps, now he gingerly negotiates each step when climbing up or down. It’s become more difficult for him to jump up on the couch, so I bought him a cushy doggie bed. Oh, did I mention that ‘sweet cheeks’ is quite particular? He tried lying in his bed, but apparently the feel of it didn’t quite suit him, however, it might make a decent head rest:

Or butt support

You’re witnessing one of his ‘Little Lord Fauntleroy’ moments. I’m guessing the bed itself is perhaps too “poofy’ for his liking?

During the past couple of weeks Rudy got sick. He started throwing up and drinking his water bowl dry. He would settle on the far end of the couch away from us, rather than on our laps. I started to worry that we were going to lose him. What if he has cancer? This past Monday we took him to the vet where he was diagnosed with pancreatitis and high blood sugar. We’ve been nursing him back to old doggie health this whole week, restricting him to a bland diet and giving him insulin shots twice a day. We take him back to the vet for a followup next week.

But we’ve had to face the reality: Rudy is fast approaching the end of his life. It’s so sad to think of him growing old and losing his faculties. Our last beloved dog, Baxter, was blind and deaf by the age of 14 – oh how I remember the heartbreak of watching him deteriorate and then putting him down; it just seems untenable to endure that same heartbreak and trauma with our fearless, loving and faithful dog, Rudy, in the middle of Covid, no less.

I know! We should get a puppy! Bring all that young adorable energy back into our house! How else to soften the grief of Rudy’s decline? It’s depressing enough all this isolation during Covid with a dog, can’t cope with even the thought of living it without a dog.

“David, I know! Let’s get a puppy!”

“Absolutely not.”

Wha? I admit to being the dog lover of the family. David, not so much. He doesn’t like a dog in the house, the dog crap in the yard, the dog prints and other mess throughout the house, the barf … or a dog sleeping in our bed. Unless it’s Rudy.

Well, I could pull a coup here, like I did with Rudy, if I bring home just the right dog. First of all, let’s see … it can’t shed. That’s why we like poodles or poodle mixes. But barking is tough to deal with and Rudy is the biggest, shrillest barker around. You can’t have a biting dog either and it has to be gentle with kids. It also has to stick around if it gets loose.

You don’t buy a dog breed because it was cute in a movie, like the Jack Russell terrier, made famously adorable in the movie “The Mask”. Jack Russell’s have no homing sense whatsoever. You open the front door to get the paper, they jet out the door and you never see them again (I know two people this has happened to). Dalmatians are a terrible choice for kids because of their aggressiveness, even though they star in the most adorable kid’s movie ever. Husky’s are gorgeous and have cute faces but they shed enough hair to stuff two large pillows for your couch every year, plus they too will break loose and end up across town. Certain dog breeds are nearly impossible to house train. Like, lots of dog breeds. This link: ‘dogs that are hard AF to potty train’ is worth checking out: listing twelve hard-to-house-train breeds (including the Jack Russell and Dalmatians). Sure, you love your dog, you’re completely attached to it, but hey, it’s peeing all over the house?

Are you a big dog person or a little dog person? I like medium-sized dogs. I like the idea of a rescue dog, except, boy you just don’t know what you’re getting. Currently there are lots of pit bull mixes and cattle dogs available for adoption locally, all who potentially shed, bite, run away or pee in the house. You can end up with a dog accidentally if, say, a close relative or friend asks you to take in their dog ‘temporarily’ while they resettle, which can turn into ‘you’ve adopted a new dog’ which is what happened to my brother, who is a cat lover to begin with. The way he tells it, his relative’s dog was a cross between a Rottweiler and a Bassett Hound, which he declared the dumbest animal on the planet, a hybrid he labeled a ‘Rotten Bastard” which he got stuck with. I don’t recall the details of how he got rid of it …

Well anyway, that’s where I’m at. We have an old dog. And you always get to this point if you adopt a puppy or a young dog; if you have the happiest, most cared-for dog on the planet, they still will only live about 15 years max, the bigger the dog the shorter the life span. And you’re totally broken hearted at the end. But a dog lover facing the possibility of not having a dog? That just seems impossible. Especially during Covid.

Robin Territory – Part 4 – Montana Robins (??)

October 4, 2020

Robin Territory – Part 4. It’s been almost three months since the two baby robins fledged. Summer is over and I just can’t stop thinking about the robin family that nested in our back yard this past summer. Because of Covid-19 we spent a great deal of time on our back deck watching the robins. I got so attached to the family – it seems we had two families living at our house, the Caraher family (David, Megan and I) and the robin family.

My last blog (Part 3 of the robin story) left off on July 12. One of the babies fledged on July 11, and the second one still hadn’t fledged by early evening on July 12. But on the morning of July 13, the nest was empty. The second robin had fledged sometime after 7 pm on the 12th! Where was he? (BTW – to keep things simple I’m calling all the robins “hims” – please, no offense ladies.)

I heard him first – in a bush up against our east fence. Here, I captured a photo of him:

July 13, 11:25 am

He stayed perched in that bush for over six hours, his parents flying to him to feed him. The other baby showed up on the west side of our yard. Boy those parents were busy. I fear this may be the last I saw of this little bird, as the next day and all the days going forward we saw only one baby robin.

It was such a thrill to watch this robin family. The fledglings chase after their parents and beg for food – the parents continue feeding them for one to three weeks! (Largely depending on how busy the parents are, I imagine.)

Here is a video I took of our little baby – begging for food and stalking his daddy (ha) – on July 20, 8 days after he fledged:

The family hung together. Whenever I’d see one robin in the back yard I’d look for the rest of them, because the parents were never far away from their little one.

Most baby robins die their first year. It was such a thrill to spot our little baby, knowing he made it through another day, as if he pulled a coup! You could spot him from a distance because of his breast – not orange but a distinctive speckled, almost glowing, brown breast.

There he is! Perched on our birdbath on August 2.

Look at me! So brave

And one of his parents was right above him, coaching him, you can do it! Take a dip!

I got to where the first thing I would do every morning was look for the robins, clean out and refill the birdbath. The robins sure knew how to take a bath, flipping their wings and tail feathers. It was wonderful to clean and fill the bath, and then watch them hop in and indulge themselves thoroughly. Robins know how to live. Work hard, play hard. Work as a team. Take good care of each other, nurture, feed, and mentor the young.

Into September we started seeing six or more robins in our back yard at one time. We’d run the sprinklers and a large group would be out there scavenging, cleaning up the ‘debris’ that had been washed up out of the lawn. A robin landed on the bird bath and was chased off! Our family was protecting their territory.

But then one morning, Monday, September 22, no robins. What? Where were they? Perhaps scavenging in a neighbor’s lawn three doors down? Surely they’ll return. David, Megan and I took a long walk through our neighborhood, into Rose Hill Cemetery where we always see gobs of robins. We didn’t see a one.

By Tuesday it was clear. The robins were gone. Without fanfare. No gathering in a huge flock, flying in V formation, announcing their departure in song across the sky. That’s just not their style. They just disappear. I was devastated. Which seems a bit stupid. What’s the problem? We’ve had robins every summer at this house for the past twenty years. Every year they’ve disappeared. But I’ve never really noticed, have I? Until this year. I had grown so attached to our robin family that I just wasn’t prepared to say good-bye.

A couple of days later, I met and chatted with a woman who was a Master Naturalist. I mentioned that the robins were gone. She said, yes. Our area here in southeast Idaho served as their breeding grounds and now they had migrated. But soon we should see some robins migrating here from Montana. Huh.

Sure enough, within a few days a few robins began to appear again. They looked slightly different from our robins, a little larger, darker faces perhaps, and maybe a bit more white around their tails. We spotted one in our back yard. Here – I took a photo:

September 27, Montana robin sighting!

I honestly just couldn’t get too excited about it. But I did go and clean the birdbath. And sure enough, he discovered it. Every time we looked out and saw the robin we’d say, “Oh, look – there’s the Montana robin!”

I snapped a photo of the robin on the bird bath this past Tuesday:

‘Gun-totin’ Montana Robin

I swear he looks like he’s sporting a holster and gun.

(Okay, I know. She could be a gun-totin’ female.)

I’ve been warming up to him since then. He’s adopted our back yard as his place to hang and scavenge for worms, bugs, and berries. He’s turned out to be a rather cool dude. Here you see a video I took of him yesterday in the bird bath:

Yeah, well, not getting too attached. I don’t think he’ll be sticking around long. We all know what kind of weather is coming down the pike.


Robin Territory: Part 3- Fledging!

July 12, 2020

Part 3 – Here I’ll give you a shot of the knarly old tree where the robins built their nest. Follow that lower limb out and you see the nest lit up by the sun where the limb forks.

 

Can you see the nest?

This past Thursday I captured this photo of the two nestlings.

Thursday, July 9, 6PM – nestlings waiting for their evening snack!

Yesterday about 11:30 am one of them decided to hop up out of the nest. Maybe the other nestling was as surprised as we were.

Hey, I’m gonna go for it!

The fledgling stood there a long while, mustering up the courage to venture further, while the parents, uh, flew up and fed the one still in the nest.

I’m sure they wanted both of them to gain enough strength to leave the nest.

Maybe if the one out of the nest flew further away, his parents would feed him too!

Yes!

Our daughter Megan, her friend Olivia, and I spent the better part of yesterday watching the robins. I didn’t go grocery shopping, clean the house, do laundry, or help with dinner. I had other important business – to make sure the robin fledglings made it to a safe place! I was so worried about our little fledgling that I visited our next door neighbor. “Hey, there’s a robin fledgling in your east hedge!” making him promise me, “I’ll keep the cat inside tonight.”

Here’s the two baby robins at 2:30 pm. Who are the parents going to feed first?

Which one looks the most comfortable?

Maybe the baby in the nest assessed the situation and decided to stay comfortable, because as the day went on, he sure didn’t seem particularly motived to go anywhere. (Okay, maybe the first fledgling is a ‘she’ and this one is a ‘he’ – or vice versa – or maybe they are both of the same sex, in any case I’m calling them both “he’s’)

By late afternoon into evening our little fledgling had found a roosting spot in our back lilac hedge by the bird bath.
His parents took good care of him!

Here I took a photo of him. Look carefully and you will see him in the air space at the center of the photo just above the wall. He roosted there for several hours.

Saturday, July 11, 3:40 pm

Can you see him in this photo I took four hours later? He’s still there, at 7:40 pm, after one of his parents enjoyed their evening bath.

There’s the baby, in the light in the center, just above the wall

At 5:30 pm it looked like the other fledgling might go for it. Do it now little one, while there’s some daylight left!

Yes! You can do it!

But then mom came to him. Fed him

and seemingly told him a bedtime story, and tucked him in for the night, because after she left he hunkered back down into the nest. One does have to wonder, who’s the smarter bird here? Cuz’ he’s got mom and dad and the nest (which now offers a kingsized bed) all to himself now.

Good night little birdies! Be safe and sleep tight! The little fledgling had now disappeared from his perch in the lilacs. Where had he gone?

Along about midnight I heard the back sprinklers going. “You turned on the sprinklers?” I turned and said to David in bed. “Yes, each section for an hour, you know, to keep the grass alive…” Geez! Well, surely they won’t saturate or drown that little fledgling. Oh the thought of it! Although the sprinklers might just keep the cats and other stalking predators away …

This morning Megan and I checked on the nest, first thing. The baby robin in the nest was awake and mom and dad were feeding him!

Oh look! The fledgling made it too! There he is! At 10:30 this morning we heard him first, then spotted him perched on our old cedar fence, where he blends in quite nicely. I took a video:

After he ate he flew up into the bushes a few feet away.

Here is my last photo of him:

Sunday, July 12, 11:30 am

As for the other robin, he’s still in the nest. And he’s hungry. Here’s my last video of him:

Where are mom and dad? I dunno. They may have changed their strategy with him. You starve, son, until you are OUT of the nest! Surely it will happen today. His parents can only hope!

Robin Territory! – Part 2

July 5, 2020

To pick up from where I left off, a week ago, we haven’t seen the fledgling since!

I hear what I think are young robin chirps, and hope that’s our little fledgling, that he’s survived the various neighborhood threats – cats, dogs, raccoons, cars, fireworks (ha).

Meanwhile this past Wednesday, July 1, David and I were sitting on the patio, and spotted a robin with a worm dangling from its beak.

Wednesday, July 1

Where are you headed with that worm, Mr. Robin?

To the nest! The eggs have hatched!

Here I captured a video.

Hungry little buggers!  Now both parents are running themselves ragged, feeding their brood.

A robin flew down I thought, to scavenge for food, hey, see how hard they work!

Showing you how to bathe after a hard day’s work.

I’m guessing that the eggs hatched out on Tuesday, June 30, and (with some luck) they will fledge on July 12-14. They have to survive in the nest 7-9 more days. I check on them several times a day. There is danger lurking in the trees around us. You hear them first, the magpies. They are no songbird!  A cousin of the crow, they hover over you from high up in the trees making a loud distinctive ‘wock, wock, wock-a-wock’ noise. They are smart though, and it’s hard to capture a photo of them – they hear the front door open and off they fly … Here’s one in the yard across the street:

Magpie! I heard the ‘wock, wock, wock-a-wock’ first.

We also have a large murder of crows in our neighborhood. Murder? Yes, did you know a  group of crows is called a murder?

Met this murder of crows in a neighbor’s yard, July 3

As in, they murder hatchlings, or eat the eggs in the nest even before they hatch. Crows, ravens, magpies and blue jays are all members of the Corvidae family of birds – loud, rambunctious and very intelligent. Crows are among the smartest animals on the planet. Here is an interesting link about crows. They live all over the world, except for Antarctica. They will eat practically anything – road kill, frogs, snakes, mice, corn, human fast food – yeah, keep a strong grip on your next take-out order. According to the article they are actually very social and caring creatures.

U-huh. Tell that to a robin. We had a nest with fledglings last year – as the fledglings grew bigger they also chirped louder and disappeared from the nest, about the time I spotted three magpies on our deck. You tell me …

Yesterday was the 4th of July. Our local fireworks, parade, and other large group festivities were canceled due to Covid-19. So of course people all around us were shooting off their own illegal fireworks, sky high. Our neighborhood felt like a war zone. I worried about the robins, with the loud BOOMS!, screeches and flashes all around them, over several hours. We came inside, closed all our windows and were able to drift off to sleep. But what about the robins?

I checked on them this morning, and all is well. Whew! Mom and dad are busy as ever. I refreshed the water in the bird bath.

I suppose it being  Sunday, July 5, still the weekend of our Independence Day, our neighborhood will turn into a war zone again tonight. Okay, I’ll admit that we bought fireworks too. For sensitive ears, mind you. I wasn’t thinking of our back yard robins when I bought them, but I’m pretty sure, the robins didn’t mind them much. This one was our personal favorite, and, well, if you ever find yourself at a fireworks stand contemplating the ‘Sir dumps a lot’  firework and wondering what it does

here’s a video from beginning to end:

‘He’s like our dog. He just keeps pooping and pooping …’

Look carefully again, you will see a robin flying across the yard in the background. Those parents were keeping a close watch on things.

Although watching those pooping doggies in action may have made the robins wonder what size brains humans have to compel them to create such a ridiculous thing. I’m sure there’s a lot of things humans do that confuse and confound the robins.

All I know is, this human is channeling the robin’s spirit and energy the next time I take a bath.

Robin Territory!

June 28, 2020

I have a thing for the American robin. Sure, it’s a common bird of North America and who hasn’t seen a robin’s nest, a robin’s egg – a fledgling? Do you ever have a summer pass where you haven’t had robins foraging for food in your front yard? Discovered a nest?

They disappear in the fall and as winter passes into spring I start watching for the first sign of robins.They are a migratory bird, but some do stay through the winter, high up in the trees, hidden out of sight. I never see robins here in the winter months. It’s such a thrill when you first hear one in early spring and to experience that first sighting – which, this year, happened for us on March 17. The robin was high up in our May tree and I captured a photo of it from an upstairs window.

First robin sighting! March 17

We enjoyed sitting on our patio watching for the robins. One robin would perch on a high limb in our honey locust tree and break out into a sharp lilting song – as if announcing the official arrival of spring, yet a new season of hope and rebirth!

Or maybe to lay claim to his (or her) territory – to announce to the world that this robin has found a place to nest and raise a family, possibly two or three broods – in our back yard. (We are careful not to use any lawn chemicals or pesticides – I literally claw the pigweed out between the cracks in our brick walk, to avoid using Roundup.)

Well, sure enough, on May 21 we discovered a nest with at least 3 eggs. Yay!!

Discovered it May 21 – Yippee!

The female was roosting faithfully.

Look carefully and you will see her tail. Female robins build the nest and sit on the eggs.

Robins can produce 3 successful broods in one year, but only 40 per cent of nests successfully produce young. We were hopeful for this nest.

Then on Saturday, May 23, Memorial Day weekend hit. Literally. We woke up to snow on Saturday. And it kept snowing through the morning.

Our back yard, Saturday May 23

We felt like we were living a live scene from the Twilight Zone. I took a video of our back yard. (Notice on the patio table the bubbles we had been playing with the day before with our grandkids):

Nature delivered a cruel blow. Several branches of our blooming lilacs snapped from the weight of the snow

Good thing lilac limbs are flexible

and our front magnificent maple tree lost two large limbs. (Aren’t we used to this? Why don’t we own a chain saw?)

I checked on the robin’s nest. Can you see her tail?

She was faithfully roosting, and, yes, covered in snow. Poor thing.

By days end, though, the skies had cleared and the snow was melting away. And sadly, the nest was empty. Had the mother robin just given up? It was a vicious storm.

I read that 40% of robins’ nests successfully produce young. Tough odds! Would they try again?

Sure enough, on June 9 we discovered a new nest. The female was just finishing it when we discovered it.

New nest! June 9

We kept an eye on the nest for several days, but so far no roosting. Then this past Monday June 22, there she was – sitting on it. Dang! These robins are sneaky. The incubation period for eggs is about 14 days. Will we be hearing the peeps of hatchlings by … July 4th? Maybe. One can hope.

I checked on the nest yesterday – lookin’ good …

I was sitting on our patio when I started hearing what was surely the cries of a hungry robin fledgling, coming from the direction of the large spruce by the shed in our back yard. I wandered closer and, there it was perched on an outer branch about 5 feet off the ground, peeping away. I watched that little bird for a long while and captured some photos and videos. Here’s the first one:

Daddy takes charge

After the robins leave the nest, it’s the dad who takes over their care, feeds them for about two weeks, while they learn how to fly, groom, hunt for earthworms and ripe fruits, how to signal a cry of distress. It’s an extremely vulnerable time! Only 25% of fledged young survive until November. And from that point on, only about half the robins alive in any year will make it to the next year.

A lucky robin can live to be 14 years old, but robins live on average only 2 years in the wild.

Getting back to our little fledgling, he stood quietly for a good while, waiting for daddy to return. Magpies, cousins of the crows, were squawking nearby, and I’m sure this little one knows to keep quiet …

Well, until he got really hungry. Here comes daddy to the rescue.

Our daughter Megan and her friend Olivia were out on the patio with me now, witnessing this little fledgling. It turns out – it could fly – a bit – which I caught in the next video seconds after I took the last one.

I wasn’t sure exactly where it landed, but it was obviously in those tall bushes.

You can see the weather had turned blustery. Yeah, well that wind ushered in a 25-degree drop in temperature and pouring rain overnight, with much cooler weather forecasted to persist through today and tomorrow.

Haven’t even tried to find our little fledgling or checked on the robin’s nest today. I’m all bundled up in layers inside our house made of brick, with the heat blasting. Just glad I’m not a little fledgling, to be honest.

Rudy vs. the Foxtail, uh, and other stuff

February 29, 2020

Our miniature poodle, Rudy, is turning 12 in April. His age is starting to show in his slowed movements, his hesitancy to jump around and play like he used to, and his increasing ‘yelps!’ as he jumps down from the couch, or performs what used to be his usual tasks. We are making more frequent trips to the vet with him, too, for starters, he’s had ten teeth removed in the past two years.

He’s always fancied himself a stunt doggie, joyously leaping on and back off high beds and bar stools. He hurt his back with his stunts by the time he was three years old and so we installed pet stairs by each of our beds to avoid further injury. Now he races up the steps onto the bed but climbs back down rather gingerly.

Although, recently, how many weeks ago (?) his yelps got louder, and more frequent; you would just walk in his direction, reach down to pet him and he would let loose with a screaming yelp. “Hey, I didn’t even touch you! I didn’t do anything! What a baby!” Something was seriously wrong with him. Serious arthritis in his shoulder? Hip? A back issue?

The thought of Rudy growing old was sad and depressing. “Honey, we should consider getting a new puppy! It will make it so much easier to deal with our sadness as Rudy deteriorates. Then after Rudy dies, we will still have a young playful doggie to assuage our loss.”

After Rudy dies?” Is he that bad off? Yes, it seemed so. Something was seriously wrong with him. Does he have cancer?

I made an appointment with the vet. “Something is really bothering Rudy, a bad tooth, maybe? Hip, back or shoulder?” The vet checked his neck, pushed his back legs around, checked his shoulders, “How old did you say Rudy is? He’s in pretty darned good shape for a 12-yr old dog! Okay, yes, he needs his teeth cleaned.”

“Let me check his ears.” she said. Grabbed a long swab, raised up Rudy’s floppy ear, shoved it in, “YAAELLLP!” Huh. Is he just being a big baby over someone checking his ears? “I have to put him under to clean his teeth, and at the same time I’ll check his ears, trim the excess hair out.” Okay.

Rudy spent the whole day at the vet, getting his teeth cleaned. I arrived to pick him up and was told that the vet wanted to talk to me about Rudy. Okay. Meanwhile I paid the bill – $225.00. Two-hundred and twenty-five dollars?? “Yes, for the anesthesia, the cleaning, the antibiotics and the foxtail.” Foxtail? You’ll have to ask the vet, she said. Wait in this exam room …

The vet came in, explained that she had cleaned Rudy’s teeth and luckily didn’t have to pull any teeth. Then she opened her hand, unfolded a chunk of gauze and revealed the specimen she had extracted from deep within Rudy’s ear – A foxtail that was embedded right up against his eardrum.

Ouch!

She handed me the foxtail wrapped in gauze and I shoved it in my pocket. It was a bit mutilated by the time I got home with it, but here, I took a photo of it:

I’d rather have an earwig in my ear

Foxtails are a grass-like weed mostly found in the western half of the U.S. ‘Wild barley’- they have bushy spikes running along the tops of the plants that make them look like foxtails. This link contains a nice photo of foxtails plus numerous dire warnings about how dangerous they are to your pet. The barbed seed head of the foxtail plant can work their way into any part of your dog or cat – inside the nose, ear, eyes, and mouth, embed between their toes. Because the tough seeds don’t break down inside the body, the embedded foxtail can lead to serious infection. They can lodge in your dog’s eye, or migrate from inside your dog’s nose to its brain. They can be inhaled into- and then perforate – a lung! In other words, keep your pet away from foxtails! I guess we were lucky.

Meanwhile back at the vet’s office, I had admitted to the vet how worried I had been about Rudy, how he is growing old and it makes me sad. She said, “He could gain two years of life by losing a couple pounds. Think of all the stress that extra weight puts on his joints…”
OOOOh – Ouch again.

A couple of pounds? I refrained from explaining to her that Rudy has been on a diet to lose weight for at least six years. All the money we’ve heaped on their clinic purchasing their $85.00 bags of metabolic dog food! That, yes, we measure out 3/4 cup of their scientifically metabolically formulated dog food each day. Although I was honestly surprised he had only gained an ounce on this visit given that over the Christmas Holidays he was the primary playmate of our two precious grandchildren.

A total team player

“I bet I could hold that for you”

Mighty Protector – keeping a close eye should something go awry…

alert and ready to pounce …

He popped right up to the counter to eat ice cream

Rudy conferring with Megan and Franklin, “Is the ice cream soft enough yet?”

Captured this video of the ‘Sharing Game” Rudy loved to play with Franklin and Bailey.

Way to wait your turn!

Rudy works his magic on the rest of us as well. Here he is on standby to assist Megan

You know, in case she is confused about which mouth to put that bite in.

Rudy is also expert at hypnotizing your food, see if he can make it levitate into his mouth when you’re not looking.

He transforms into ‘stunt dog’ when dishes call to him.

The ‘soup bowl licked clean’ trick

I do remember when we got Rudy as a puppy and I studied the ‘Poodle for Dummies’ or some such instructional dog book (that one sounds right). On about page 3 it declared in large bold letters, NEVER GIVE YOUR POODLE TABLE FOOD. FEED YOUR POODLE DOG FOOD ONLY. Well that’s fine, but Rudy is quite convinced he’s not a dog. He’s a human. Here he is, hanging out with us, on the far end of the couch, insulted by the image on the TV. You can see it in his seething eyes …

“I am not in any way related to that species on the TV”

Suffice it to say, I’m not real confident about Rudy losing weight, much less two pounds. I gave David and Megan a giant pep talk about it when we got home from the vet’s office: “Hey, the vet says if Rudy lost his extra weight then it could extend his life by 2 years!” To which David replied, “Put up with Rudy an additional two years? Why would we want that?”

Okay, that settles it. We’re getting a puppy for David’s birthday.

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?