Archive for the ‘Robins’ Category

Finding Spring

May 9, 2022

I’ve always lived in northern climes, experiencing the distinct changes in light and weather over the four seasons. Here in southeast Idaho winters are long, and much of spring can feel just like winter.

This past winter was colder and drier than normal. We were walloped with snow in late December, with a couple more storms in January and February, and it pretty much stayed on the ground till March. Here’s a photo I took on March 5.

March roars in and intermittently melts and refurbishes the winter snowpack. It’s a strange experience to stop in traffic on a main thoroughfare in town and find yourself alongside a large snowcapped mountain peak of shoveled snow. How did all that snow turn so black? Surely the parking lots are not that filthy! How much of that soot and grime was deposited by the wind over the last three months?

Mount Filthydomarro

But we’re thawing out and hopeful for signs of spring. By March 12 a local canal thaws into a puddle big enough to accommodate two ducks! But you have to look carefully to see them.

By March 15 our Christmas lights come down.

But on March 16 it feels like Christmas again

And by March 20 we’re back to December.

Do you see the squirrel? He’s back there somewhere

Idaho Falls, March 20

By April 4 the tulips are up and crocuses are blooming!

Things haven’t changed much by April 12. Except we’ve hung a couple bird feeders.

Rudy keeps an eye on things. In between naps.

Can we make you more comfortable, Rudy?

Yeah, well, time to wake up from our long winter’s naps and search for more signs of spring!

What say you Squirrel? No, you’re not getting on the bird feeder.

Oh wow! It’s May 1st and we have a daffodil blooming out front. Yes, one daffodil. Can you see it?

Here’s a better view.

Awesome. A daffodil!

Yeah, find the other hundred daffodiIs I planted last fall. They’re poking up, but hey, what’s the rush? As I said, sometimes in southeast Idaho you have to look carefully for signs of spring.

Can you find the tulip sprouting up in our rock bed? Why of course, I planned it that way.

It’s May now and all the lawns in the neighborhood are greening up. The chickadees keep us busy refilling the bird feeder.

Two ducks have become regular workhorses in our backyard cleaning up the birdseed the chickadees keep flipping out of the bird feeder.

They could almost be disguised as yard art. Notice the proliferation of three daffodils now blooming in our back yard.

The ducks have others joining the team to clean up the mess from the chickadees. Enter, squirrel and mourning dove:

Eurasian doves are helping too. But they all have to be on constant high alert for predators, specifically, raptors circling above. A couple of weeks ago we were passively gazing out our kitchen window at a Eurasian dove in our back lawn, when a hawk swooped in and snatched it up in front of our eyes, leaving only a scattering cloud of feathers. Now you see the Eurasian dove, and ‘poof’, now you don’t. Yikes.

The hawks are circling overhead alright!

Thank God they don’t prey on humans. They could sure ruin a good outdoor picnic, never mind the weather.

Yeah well try having a picnic on a windy day in April or May. Hold onto your sandwich and let the chips blow where they may.

Just last week I was out in the yard in a 20mph wind when I spotted squirrel. Hold on there, buddy!

Morph yourself to a tree limb to keep your bearings!

Can you spot the chickadee in this next photo?

Hint: It’s nearly dead-center (no, not dead) in the arborvitae. Safe from hawk and wind! That’s a May tree by the way, above the arborvitae, so named because they usually bloom by the first of May. Yeah, well it’s May 9th, and it hasn’t bloomed yet. Haven’t seen even one May tree in bloom in town.

Well I guess I should put a wrap on this. Not too motivated today to take a walk and look for spring. Here, I just took a screenshot of our weather app today. High of 44 and cloudy with a wind advisory.

I stepped out and took a photo of our back yard this morning.

More than 3 daffodils blooming in our center garden there! (ya, I knew I planted them last fall). Hopeful signs. The tall lilacs along the fence are shooting out leaves and I swear that flowering crab in the center garden has flower buds. One warm spell and everything will pop!

Oh, and did I mention the robins? We have one tough dude hanging around who thinks he’s a hawk.

A Spring Tail

April 5, 2022

How wonderful the blossoming of spring after a long cold winter! The sweet month of April has arrived, the crocus are blooming, and the summer birds are back to establish their breeding grounds. I spotted our first robin high in a May tree on March 13.

… chirping away as I retrieved the morning paper. I came back out and took a video so you can hear it too.

We have gray squirrels scampering across our back yard all winter long, see all those nests up there in those ancient trees behind our house?

A veritable scurry of squirrels. Okay, so I know squirrels are rodents, part of the scientific order Rodentia. https://www.westernexterminator.com/blog/are-squirrels-rodents/

And they are certainly considered by many humans to be pests and a bit of a nuisance. They chew on things like telephone wires, electrocute themselves on transformers and knock out power lines. They scurry on your roof when you’re trying to sleep and might chew their way into your attic, but hey, they’re just looking for tree nuts and acorns and maybe a place to nest. You have inevitably flattened a squirrel while driving because they are a bit OCD about crossing the road, dang it, make up your mind which direction you’re going there, Mr. Squirrel! Darned if you’re going to slam on your automobile brakes to avoid running over a squirrel.

But I love watching the squirrels in our back yard. It’s a pretty sweet spot for them on account of we have an ever bearing flowering crab apple tree planted right in a center garden. The tree should bloom in the next few weeks, beautiful dark pink blossoms, the fruit comes late summer and hangs on the tree all winter. To feed the squirrels and birds. I love to watch them!

I captured a video of the squirrel from inside the house when our dog decided he was thirsty. A weird soundtrack. Don’t worry. The dog is not sloshing water from the dog dish onto your shoe and you really don’t have to let him out to chase the squirrel.

By mid March the bird feeders come out. What species will we attract? Small woodpeckers perhaps? The chickadees. Yellow warblers?

Squirrels. Let the bird feeder wars begin!

He’s on!

Yes, but I’ve got a solution. Watch this video for the big reveal:

Rabid squirrel-chaser dog. Okay, but I have to step up my game here. Feeder situation not tenable.

I head to my friend Rene’s house. She’s way ahead of me in all areas garden related. She has birds on her feeders. An Audubon book to identify them. Huge trees in her back yard, and at least three gray squirrels foraging around all the time. She thought she had outsmarted them hanging her bird feeder 12 feet down from a tree limb. We were standing at her back door enjoying her utopian garden landscape when suddenly a squirrel leaped from a limb onto the hook 3 feet above the feeder and dropped right down on the feeder. Easy peasy.

Stealthy little bugger!

A few days later Rene looked out her back door and there lying on the ground near the feeder was a tail. Just a tail.

Oh no! A tail without a squirrel attached to it? How did that happen? Is the squirrel dead and eaten? By a …. raccoon? No. Surely they are too slow for squirrels. A hawk? Did a large raptor swoop down and snatch the squirrel? No, would the tail be sitting here right by the back door, then? A cat? A wily quick snatch of its claws, torture and kill, the body eaten, save for the tail. (And a kidney. Is there a squirrel kidney splayed out on a neighbor’s back stoop dropped there as a trophy from the kill, compliments of the cat?)

I just can’t stop thinking about that tail. As it turns out, it isn’t that uncommon for squirrels to lose their tails. Not like lizards lose their tails, where they drop off and bounce on their own to confuse a predator and then the lizard just grows it back. Squirrels can get their tails caught in fences. A predator can rip it off, but once the tail is gone, it’s gone. But I just can’t imagine being a lowly rodent squirrel going forward in life without that bushy tail. A squirrel without a tail? Lowlier than a vole!

A disturbing spring tale.

Here’s a Google link with interesting facts about squirrels losing their tails, not surprising, on a “squirrels at the feeder’ site (you can find anything on the Internet)

Squirrels can live without their thick, bushy tails, albeit, at a higher risk for early death. Their fluffy appendage helps with balance, regulates body temperature, breaks their falls, and serves as a parachute in the air (yeah, we know). A squirrel’s tail is an important thermoregulatory device. Did you think about the tail providing a source of shade for the squirrel in warm weather? The squirrel can wrap its tail around itself in the winter to keep warm and use the tail to protect itself from rain. A squirrel can control blood flow to the tail – rushing blood to the tail to disperse body heat or reducing blood flow to the tail to conserve heat. During a fall, the hairs on the tail separate in order to catch as much air as possible. This slows the squirrel’s fall and provides time for the squirrel to orient its body to land safely. You know, verses falling to its death with a splat from a high tree limb with no tail or a rat tail.

I dunno. This is a dumb squirrel story. I did feel pretty sad thinking about that squirrel tail, obviously belonging to a squirrel, likely a dead squirrel. Rene has been watching out in her back yard for a tail-less squirrel. She hasn’t seen it yet. If alive, it’s likely hiding out somewhere, utterly devasted and depressed over losing its fine bushy appendage. Rene certainly won’t see it on the bird feeder.

Yeah, that thick bushy tail is a pretty dang fancy appendage, for any living thing to lose. Even if the living thing happens to be a medium-sized rodent foraging for tree nuts and acorns, and otherwise, a bit of a pest and, on most accounts, a general nuisance.

Picture taken of our flowering crab, May 7, 2017

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

October 4, 2020

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

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

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

July 13, 11:25 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look at me! So brave

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 27, Montana robin sighting!

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

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

‘Gun-totin’ Montana Robin

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

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

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

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


Robin Territory: Part 3- Fledging!

July 12, 2020

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

 

Can you see the nest?

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

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

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

Hey, I’m gonna go for it!

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

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

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

Yes!

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

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

Which one looks the most comfortable?

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

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

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

Saturday, July 11, 3:40 pm

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

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

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

Yes! You can do it!

But then mom came to him. Fed him

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is my last photo of him:

Sunday, July 12, 11:30 am

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

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

Robin Territory! – Part 2

July 5, 2020

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 1

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

To the nest! The eggs have hatched!

Here I captured a video.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

here’s a video from beginning to end:

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

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

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

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

Robin Territory!

June 28, 2020

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

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

First robin sighting! March 17

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

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

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

Discovered it May 21 – Yippee!

The female was roosting faithfully.

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

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

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

Our back yard, Saturday May 23

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

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

Good thing lilac limbs are flexible

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

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

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

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

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

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

New nest! June 9

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

I checked on the nest yesterday – lookin’ good …

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

Daddy takes charge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

IMG_2323

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.

IMG_2328

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:

IMG_2177

“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.

IMG_2252

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.