Archive for the ‘pets’ Category

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?

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?