Archive for the ‘pets’ Category

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!!”

A Robin’s Nest – Part 3

August 10, 2014

Sunday, August 3. All three baby robins fledged yesterday. The nest is empty!

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Here is a photo of the east end of our back yard:

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You can see the nest – about 4/5 the way out on the lower limbs of the nearest honey locust tree.
We don’t know where the first robin found refuge, but the second robin hopped into the peony bush next to the bird bath along the left end of the fence and the third bird hopped into the lilies of the valley on the right end (the area behind the hanging pot).

Here’s a bottom view of the nest. You see the knot next to the nest? That’s where the last baby bird got caught before she fell.

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Anyway, maybe feeling a bit of the empty-nest blues after all the excitement of the past week. But I am determined to keep these three baby robins safe! Our back yard is surrounded by three cement block fences so I’m pretty sure the babies are still back there.

First order of the day on Sunday, August 3, is to post a sign on the back door to remind all of us – to watch Rudy with the birds!

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Yeah, well, Little Lord Fauntleroy has a history. I’ll never forget the summer a few years ago when I let him out in the morning to do his business but then he didn’t come back. I called him and finally went out to see what was holding him up. Well, it was a fledgling – in Rudy’s mouth! He was using it as a flip toy, grabbing it in his mouth and then flipping it around. Well, of course the fledging died.

But that’s not going to happen to our little bird family this time!

I hear Rudy barking outside – oh-oh. I run to the back door – oh good! Megan is out there policing him.

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Sunday – the day after the birds have fledged- is hot – 90 degrees again. We see no sign of the babies but we do see busy adults – crisscrossing the trees, sitting on the back fence, hopping in the gardens.

Then on Monday, it started raining. A weather pattern of heavy thunderstorms settled over southeast Idaho. By Tuesday noon there were flash flood warnings. Cruel weather for baby birds who can’t fly! Well, the third bird, the little one, the runt, didn’t survive. It was Megan who discovered his tiny little body – sprawled out dead on the sprinkler cover next to the lily of the valley’s – just feet away from where he had initially found refuge. I wonder if he ever did get a worm from his parents after he fletched or had they already abandoned him even when he was a nestling?

It rained for four days. The young birds had to be strong enough to hop up onto tree limbs to escape the saturation on the ground.

The sun came out again on Friday. We’ve been watching for the babies. Megan and I are pretty sure we saw one with dad yesterday (the fathers take over training the young birds to fly, forage for food, recognize dangers and roost in trees with other robins). Back along the lilac hedge a speckled young one was hopping about two feet behind the dad, imitating his every move, foraging for bugs.

It’s been 8 days since the baby robins fledged. I believe the remaining two have joined the flock now – roosting together in the trees at night and feeding together by day. They will grow stronger over the next few weeks – fill up on fruits and berries to build up their body fat as fuel for migration.

Check out this link from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to learn more about robins.

Also, in my online search about robins I came upon this incredible robin blog – put together by a bird lover in Kentucky who planted cameras by several robins nests, captured fantastic photos and videos and kept a running day-by-day account of events starting with mom building the nest up to the time the birds fletch. Really cool!

Sunday, August 10 – 9AM – present time. I just now had the back door open and heard chirping. I saw two little robins frolicking along the lilac hedge at the back fence. I stepped outside and captured this video.

Methinks the babies are doing fine!

But did you know that up to 80 per cent of young robins die each year? Only the strongest, and the luckiest, survive and go on to raise young themselves.

So, I’m keeping the sign posted on the back door to remind us to watch Rudy, you know, in case he tries to turn one of the precious babies into his latest chew toy.

Rudy and David have resumed their Frisbee fetch game…

It’s just a matter of time before that Frisbee slices the empty nest out of the tree.

A Robin’s Nest – Part 2

August 9, 2014

It’s Saturday, August 2. All day we have been watching the robin’s nest in the honey locust tree in our back yard. Two baby birds have fletched – left the nest today (that’s what Part 1 of this robin blog is about). It wasn’t until the first two birds were out of the nest that the third bird – definitely the runt- stuck his little beak up.

Oh my goodness. I had seen this third tiny little beak earlier in the week, but only once – I thought maybe he had died or fallen out of the nest. Here he is (could be a she):

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It’s already 2:20 in the afternoon. We have not seen the adult robins feed this little bird today. As far as we could tell, the other two birds got all the feedings, and only when they fledged and were out of the nest completely.

So what of this little guy? It would be just hunky-dory for him to stay in the nest for another day or two, get some one-on-one nurturing from mom and dad, don’t you think? Then he’ll be ready!

But where are mom and dad?

Oh, look at him now! 4:25 PM. He’s up on the edge of the nest!

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Oh my. He’s so little! He doesn’t have much day left to work his way through this process. It took the second nestling three hours of exercise to work his way from the edge of the nest to finally jumping off the limb into the grass.

Couldn’t this little guy just check out the scene from the edge of the nest and then drop back into the nest and hunker in for the night? Does he really have to fledge today, like the others. Did the robins just declare, “Fledging Day – everyone out! – all of you!”

We keep checking on the bird.

No change.

At 5:02 Rudy came out with us. By accident. Here he is rolling around in the grass practically underneath the bird.

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“Hey! Get back in the house!” Megan reprimands him.

5:20 now – the bird has been standing on the side of the nest now for at least an hour. Has he inched away from the nest, just a tiny bit? Does he look like he’s mustering up some courage?

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The next step is to jump out onto the limb where he can exercise and practice some important skills, and maybe mom and dad will feed him!

I went back into the house and for some reason, after another 20 minutes – felt compelled to come out and check on the bird. Megan had been standing watch the whole time.

I get under the nest and … oh no! The bird decides it’s time to jump onto the limb. But he stumbles and gets caught between the two limbs that converge under the nest (caught right where that knot is – caught between a knot and a hard spot, you could say). Not pretty. Crap! He flutters his wings and … falls into the grass 8 feet below.

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Geez! What happens now? He’s so tiny. Is he hurt?

I zoomed my camera to capture another photo of him sitting there stunned, where he fell.

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Megan, the bird, and I were all stunned…

Suddenly the little bird perked up, and hot-tailed (more of a ‘hop-tail’) it toward our west fence, mustering every morsel of strength he had in him. I took a 3-min-45-second video of his journey – it took him that long to make it 30 feet across the grass. I clipped the video so I can post it – the video here starts when he was about half way there and had pooped out. Dad or mom had been perched on the back fence – watching – and swooped down to prod him on ….

After that 3:45 minute marathon across the grass he struggled to force his body over the landscape curbing and then flopped into this bed of lily-of-the valleys…

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Whew!

Grow strong, little one!

Do you think he has even a hair’s breadth of a chance for survival?

Maybe?…

A Robin’s Nest

August 8, 2014

Saturday morning, July 26. We’re out relaxing on the back deck with Rudy

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or “Little Lord Fauntleroy” as David affectionately calls him.

We spot a robin’s nest in one of our giant honey locust trees- with a nesting robin!

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The nest is about 8 feet off the ground, maybe 20 feet from where we are sitting.

The next day, Sunday, we discover 2 hatchlings.

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When did they hatch? (Robins eggs incubate for 12-14 days. So that mother built the nest and has been nesting for at least two weeks! How did we miss it?)

When to expect this clutch of robins to ‘fledge’ or fly the nest? I research it online. Nestlings fledge at about 14-16 days old. (Did these babies just hatch out?)

I keep an eye on the nest all the following week. The weather is hot and sunny – in the low 90’s all week, and the mother is nesting, mostly, I believe to keep the babies cool.

In the evening she is off the nest for long periods. The father is always nearby. Here he is guarding the nest from above.

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And preening himself from below

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Rudy got dive-bombed by a robin when he ventured on that side of the back yard. The doggie frisbee fetching game, which David mostly plays with Rudy, I have forbidden until further notice, since both the dog and David get carried away forgetting which direction is unsafe for a Frisbee, sailing through the air at 20-30 mph. …

Although this is the safe end of the yard, the Frisbee could just as likely be sailing through the other end of the yard where the robins are nesting. It’s a miracle the Frisbee hasn’t sliced the nest out of the tree already.

Friday, August 1st, six days after sighting the nest, a big wind swept through our back yard.

Okay, so the wind had kinda waned by the time I captured it on video – but the initial blast of wind shot me out of my chair in the den, where I was watching TV, to check on the birds. The wind didn’t even sway the nest, to my surprise. The wind (and Rudy’s bark!) warned of more dangers that lurk to destroy the chances of survival for young robins.

It’s Saturday again. 7 days from when we first discovered the nest. 11:45 AM. I am relaxing on the deck – have just opened a book, when a black and white gooey blob of bird poop hits the bulls-eye – right on my head – drips down my forehead. “Wha-the?..” Was that on purpose? I look for adult robins straight up into the trees above me, but see no visible perpetrators. Wily! Into the house I march to clean up my hair, face, glasses, shirt, and – finally I’m back out again.

I look over at the nest – one hatchling is perched up on the side of the nest – oh my goodness!

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I took a video:

The outside temperature is already soaring toward 90 degrees.

By 12:10 we’ve noticed the first bird (a fledgling now!) has jumped onto a tree limb

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“They fledge because an instinct tells them they must, ” is how one article put it. At 12-14 days their brains are ripe to learn a lot of important skills – to walk, hop, balance on branches … it’s time to get started! (Okay – so that nest has been there at least 4 weeks!)

The mother (or father) comes with food. Which bird do you think gets the worm?

Awwwwww. That’s motivating! The first fledgling! The bird out of the nest gets the worm! (What can humans learn from this? – “if you want to be fed, you must be out of the nest.” hmmmm …)

The second bird is out and up on the side of the nest now

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We keep watching – It’s 1:15 now. For the past hour, the first fletchling has been balancing, standing, shaking, chirping, pruning her feathers (okay, could be a ‘he’) mustering up the courage to jump! – since the baby birds can’t fly yet.

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I go off to do something in the house. Return at 2:05 – 50 minutes later. The first fledgling has hopped off and is gone! The second fledgling has hopped off the nest and is perched down the limb about six feet away from the nest.

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The second fledgling stood there for the longest time – preening his feathers, exercising his legs, checking out his balance, chirping, stretching his wings, mustering up all his courage – to jump!
I watched him for quite a while – Thought I might catch him jump in a video:

His mom or dad came with another worm, too. “You can do it!” they seemed to be chirping at him from not far away. Megan kept watch while I finally went off to do other things in the house. Finally at 3:18 (75 minutes later!) the bird jumped. Megan saw it and called out to me. I ran out and captured it on video just as it hopped to the end of the back yard into the peonies.

Meanwhile …. a third beak poked up out of the nest. The runt! I had seen a tiny third beak poking up between the other two – just once in the past week. I thought that bird had died. Hadn’t seen it at all amidst all this other activity.

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Oh my goodness. Where has he been all this time? He is so much tinier than the other two – surely mom and dad will let him stay in the nest another day or two till he’s ready? He’s a late bloomer. Probably got bullied in the nest by the other two all along. He just needs a little time to catch up.

What do you think? Does he stay or does he fledge today? ….

Rudy got fat

April 6, 2014

When our two older sons grew up and flew the nest we entered a new stage of life. Even the pets we had when the boys were young grew old and died. So six years ago we got a new puppy. A red miniature poodle. We named him ‘Rudy.” We’ve spoiled him rotten, which is of course, our perogative. After all, he’s just a dog.

But he’s a happy dog living in happy dog heaven. Why? Table scraps. He has trained us to be messy cooks who drop bits of hamburger, cheese, turkey, bacon, cooked brocolli, even ice cream (whilst pretending it’s an ‘accident’, of course). He stands waiting-and-ready by anyone at the kitchen counter, to pluck any wayward bit from mid-air, or to lap up any mess on the floor. He will gladly help with the dishes, too. He’ll hop up on the counter when we aren’t looking, lick the plates clean, you know, so we can just put them in the dishwasher. Lick the counter clean too.

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“You bad dog. Don’t give me that look. You’re not getting up on the counter!”

I remember when we first got Rudy and I was supposedly training him. A book written specifically about poodles stated in bold letters on about page 2: Do not feed poodles table scraps. Nothing should be added to their dog food.” (yes, I can hear you now.)

Lately, for a while now, I’ve realized he’s gotten fat. I’ve started shaming him about it. “You’re fat!” But he’s so adorable and bouncy and cute, and happy, who cares? He’s just a dog.

Signs have been there that he has been, shall I say, ‘expanding’. When we walk him in the park nowadays strangers will say, “Ah, what a cute dog! What kind of dog is he?” To which I’m thinking, Are you daft? Don’t you recognize a poodle? Actually, yes they do. But features like ‘stocky’ and ‘rotund’ or any description reminiscent of a ‘butterball’ do not describe poodles. People do know poodles. They’re just not recognizing that Rudy is one.

So, enter, a fatty tumor on Rudy’s left side. It appeared a couple months ago and has grown bigger. Megan and I took him to the vet last week to have it looked at. We got good news – and bad news. Good news: It’s a confirmed fatty tumor (albeit not a large lump of butter lodged under his skin that he filched from the butter dish). It’s benign. “No – it’s not going to grow tentacles or metastasize.” (Whew!) Bad news: Rudy had gained 1 1/2 LBS since his last visit. (I must stop these visits to the vet!)

“How fat is he?” I ventured to ask. The vet’s assistant hopped right on the question – taking various measurements of Rudy – his neck and head (which, admittedly his head is the only thin part left of him), his upper and lower leg, his torso. Then she disappeared, and returned with this 3-page printout – Rudy’s customized doggie-weight-management program. Page 2 presents the ugly facts along with visuals:

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Can you guess the breed of any of these dogs? I guess it’s your generic ‘tubby-living-a-dog-heaven’s-life’ breed. The news is not good in regards to Rudy. As a male “POO” his ideal weight is 13 1/2 pounds. With his real weight at 20.9 pounds he’s at 48% body fat and “at ‘serious risk’ for arthritis, diabetes, reduced mobility, increased physical injury, Cancer, respiratory disease, kidney disease, Pancreatitis, and shortened life expectancy.”

You expect me to pay for this vet visit?

We left the vet’s office with Rudy on a strict weight reduction plan along with a bounty of doggie heath improvement products, luckily most of them samples: Special Diet dog food, to be precisely measured and rationed throughout the day, reduced to account for additonal supplements, like the sample glucosamine chondroitin chews they sent home with him for joint support. Which begs the question, what about our joints? Give this supplement to our dog and feel it’s not necessary for us? Of course, his incessant leaping off our elevated antique bed would be the equivalent in height to us incessantly leaping off the roof of our front porch. Anyway, don’t think we’re going to spring for the enzymatic powder to sprinkle on his food for dental health – (hey, only 60 bucks for a 4-month supply!). I did buy some enzymatic toothpaste with a doggie toothbrush – both of which have since been sitting on the kitchen counter, unopened.

So my plan is to have Rudy down to 13.49 pounds in 27 weeks. The weight loss graph is all printed out on the third page. I took a ‘before’ picture of him – you know, the ‘before a third of what you see here’ melts away:

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I’m not sure about that look he’s pulling off with his eyes. Maybe a “Are you sure you’re gonna do this to me?” look.

I shared the whole plan with David. “Geez.” he said. “Let him enjoy life. He’s just a dog.”

And then after a long pause, “You’re not going to start on me next are you?”

Duck Spring

June 3, 2013

Spring! It seems that everything bloomed at once here. It warmed up at the beginning of May and everything popped. I’ve missed it some years. This year I buried my face in the lilac blossoms

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to inhale their fragrance.

I took photos of the snowballs in spring.

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and the towers of flowers

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perched on their branches like Christmas trees.

The flowering crab in the center of our back yard

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is maybe not as showy as some of the other trees in town.

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Here is a photo of our front lawn.

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Grows fast this time of year. If you look very closely you can probably see it growing in this picture.

David is having to mow it about every five days. ‘Tis the season, honey!

For the last few summers he’s been hauling the grass clippings to the back yard and dumping them under the spruce tree by our storage shed.

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Spring flies by so quickly. Early on we had ducks flopping out in our front yard. We found it amusing – pairs of ducks waddling around the neighborhood – napping in front yards. Our dog, Rudy couldn’t abide the ducks. He’d bark at them through the front windows and run them off.

A pair of ducks started frolicking in our back yard. We were amused. We’d let Rudy out, and he’d tear after them as if protecting us from an armed invasion.

Then one day I was out planting flowers and noticed him behaving very un-poodle like. Poodles see a squirrel or some other movement in the yard and they tear after it without hesitation, barking like maniacs. They are not your quintessential hunting dog. But this particular day Rudy pointed toward the back spruce tree, froze into a hunting-dog pose, lifted his right front leg, took a step forward, posed, lifted his left front leg, nudged his nose forward, then … CHARGE!! he went after whatever it was under the spruce tree to flush it out.

“FLAP, FLAP, FLAP” out flew a female duck with Rudy on her tail. I thought the duck would collide with the house trying to escape, but she soared up over the roof. We laughed.

I really wasn’t paying much attention, but did notice that that duck was hanging around. One day I noticed her sitting in the yard maybe 10 feet away from me as I was pulling weeds.

Meanwhile, Rudy got into this ‘patrolling the backyard’ mode. It would start in the den, where I was relaxing.

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“Okay! You have my attention, Rudy!”

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He wanted out.

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Scoping out the yard now…

He runs to the east fence and barks at the neighbors, just in case there’s any kids around. I have just called to him to get him to stop barking:

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He’s at the gate now…
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you know, scoping out the action on the street.

Now he turns his attention to the spruce tree, strikes his hunting-dog pose, and …. CHARGE!!!

“FLAP, FLAP, FLAP”…out flies the duck from under the spruce tree.

Huh? Surely, she couldn’t be nesting back there?

OMG!

She is well-camouflaged – hard to see her but …. she’s there

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Here you get a little closer view of her – her cute little tail is curled up out of her “nest” (which is, basically, a hole she scratched out of the middle of a pile of grass clippings).

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I couldn’t get to sleep that night for thinking about the fate of that poor mama duck and her babies. Why did she make a nest on the ground in a suburban fenced yard with a dog? How could she possibly keep that nest safe for her ducklings to hatch – what with the crows, blue jays, robins and squirrels, AND DOG lurking about. If those ducklings do hatch, how are they going to make it safely to water from our back yard?

On Friday I went back out there. The duck was gone.

Oh, look!

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Something got to the nest already! These broken eggs were out in the yard maybe 15 feet from the nest. Oh, how sad. Oh well, thank goodness. It’s a relief, really. The whole scenario was doomed from the start.

Whew! On with our lives. I’m planting flowers. Rudy is patrolling the yard.

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Then he does it again. He charges under the spruce tree.

“FLAP, FLAP, FLAP” Out she flies.

You’re kidding!!! She has more eggs! She is still there, sitting on her nest.

Now it’s Monday. Rudy still patrols the yard, but I watch him and every time he pauses and strikes a pose toward the spruce tree I call him – and award him with a treat for coming. This morning he walked near the nest, peered over at it, I called him and he left it alone. Good dog!

How is this going to play out?

I am going to try and help that nesting mama duck under our spruce tree in the back yard.

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Leave her be as much as possible for the 28 days her eggs will be incubating.

The only predictable outcome is that Rudy will surely grow fatter from all the treats he’s getting for coming when I call him away from the duck. If we do see this thing through and those babies hatch out there’s no telling how Rudy will react to a chirping tiny yellow duck invasion.

Uh, did I also mention our neighbors have cats?