Archive for the ‘Spring’ Category

Baby Robin on the Premises! – Part 2

June 25, 2019

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

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

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

And we kept a close eye on Rudy

Rudy demonstrates how to relax in a patio chair

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

The irises were out in full bloom

Blooming snowball bushes graced the whole town,

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

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

Here’s the blossom up close.

horse chestnut

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

Ancient horse chestnut tree!

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

June 4, 2019

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

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

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

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

“Chirp, chirp, chirp!”

Here. I’ll zoom in …

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile the slugs have devoured the hostas.

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

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

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

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

The poplar trees are shedding all over town.

Black Poplar

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

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

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

Monday, June 24, 2019

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

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

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

Life is good!

Baby Robin on the Premises!

June 9, 2019

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

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

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

Way to go, robins!

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

Baby robin adopts a new nest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Empty nest!

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

See his tail sticking out?

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

See the little guy!

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

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

Daddy duty

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 3, 8:36 AM

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

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

Whew! Made it safely through another day!


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

Beware the cat, little birdie!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our backyard is so beautiful after a rain!

Storm has blown over – here comes the sun!


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

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

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

Little Lord Fauntleroy

And keeps the back yard safe from strangers.

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

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

Photo taken from our back yard Sunday, June 9

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

The squirrels are certainly happy

But no worries. Rudy keeps them in tow:

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

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

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

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

Horse Chestnuts, Dandelions and Garden Pests

July 31, 2018

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

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

It begins with the dandelions – bees’ first feast!

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

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

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

So vibrant!

Ha! You think you can get away with this?

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

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

By early May tulips and daffodils command the show

Rudy finishes his inspection – May 5

Crab and May Trees flower and alight with buzzing bees

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

Bury your nose in their velvety moist blossoms!

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

“Oh Megan, pose in front of it!”

“Okay, mom, if I must.” June 2, 2018

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

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

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

‘Horsechesnut’
Shouldn’t that be two words?

Horse chestnut??? Hmmm. Well, okay.

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

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

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

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

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

Rudy demonstrates the proper way to flop

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

Wind vane

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

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

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

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

Horse Chestnut

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

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

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

Hoary Winter, Omega Spring!

April 29, 2016

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

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Magnificent hoar frost! Also known as ‘rime.’

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

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I had to admit, it was beautiful.

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

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

Who's going to shovel?

Who’s going to shovel?

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

First the front walks and driveway:

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Then the back deck:

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While I … took photos.

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

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

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“Rudy, go potty!”

Don't pussy-foot around with David

Don’t pussy-foot around with David

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

March 3. 2016

March 3. 2016

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

Those aren't pine cones

Those aren’t pine cones

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

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

Making a mess in the house too

Making a mess in the house too

Oh boy, now you’re destuffing Lambchop.

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

March 9

March 9

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

March 14

March 14

But then, bird nest sightings!

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Robins appear. Some are fat with eggs

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

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

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

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

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

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Remember Narnia?

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Our big ‘ol giant Maple is about out

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Flowering crab and plums adorn about every street

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

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In our back center garden:

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

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Turn on the sprinklers!!

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Oh joy. Never fails. A busted sprinkler head.

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

“Uh, Where’s Rudy?”

WUh?

WUh?

“You stay out of the gardens!!”

A Huntin’ for Morels

May 25, 2014

Every spring in southeast Idaho, around Mother’s Day, if the conditions are favorable, and you know where to look, you can find morel mushrooms. My brother Eric knows about everything there is to know about morels – he’s been picking them for years. If he collects a bumper crop then he sells them on the internet and can make some pretty good money. However, there were hardly any to be found the past two years; it was too warm, or dry, or too cool, or too wet. The conditions have to be just right.

David and I have never hunted for morels, I’m not even sure I’ve tasted morels. All I knew is that in the wild they look like tiny brains that popped out of the earth. They are a prized delicacy, often used in sauces, with a rich complex flavor that compliments many foods.

One morning at the beginning of May, I was talking to Eric on the phone, and he was all fired up on the subject of morels. So far the weather conditions this year looked favorable – and we might find morels this year. So we set a date to go morel hunting – Eric, David and I, on Wednesday, May 14. Luckliy, the weekend before we went, Mother’s Day, it was cool, cloudy and slightly rainy. Prospects looked good!

Now, Eric wouldn’t be too pleased with me if I told you exactly where we went morel hunting, but I can say that the best place to look for them around here is on bottomland (low lying land along a watercourse) near cottonwood trees. We are there now. Hunting.

David hunting for morels

David hunting for morels

Eric gave us strict instructions: You must bring a sharp knife to cut the mushroom and leave the stump (never pull the mushrooms out), and clean the mushroom of any grass or dirt before dropping it in a mesh laundry bag (so they will drop spores as you hunt).

The pickins seemed a little thin, to be honest. Of course, a young lady was coming out of the area with her loot just as we were going in. Early bird gets the worm! I was so anxious to find a mushroom. I got pretty discouraged in my hunt when not finding a one after the first fifteen minutes … Ah! but then …

I did find one! Yes. One.

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Impressive, eh? They look like tiny brains all right.

Then I hear Eric holler from about 50 feet away. He had found some.

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A small colony! You can see they are already beginning to dry out.

Then I found a colony. I learned that when you see one mushroom, look closely at the area all around it – they tend to grow in clusters.

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What a thrill! – makes your heart pound right out of your chest!

We gathered them up.

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Okay. Walk with me in this video – we’ll go a huntin’ for morels!

Did your heart just jump out of your chest, or what? Later, when I played the video back I realized there were TWO morels there (a smaller one was nestled in the underbrush to the left).

Time to stop now, park your hiney on a stump, and dig the stick-tites out of your mesh bag.

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My bag had gotten all knarled up with about a hundred stick-tites, and as I viciously tore at every single one to get it off, I realized how velcro was invented.

We ended up in an open field of ancient sagebrush. Amidst a buzzing of bees. You can stand there with me in this video and listen (as David continues his hunt). Turn your sound way up –

A little later we passed the hives

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We also collected some fresh asparagus. We only found maybe 3/4 pound between the three of us, which David and I took home. Mmmmmm … Steamed fresh asparagus! Another prized delicacy! We graciously offered it to Megan and Glen (Megan’s boyfirend) for dinner. The conversation went like this:

Me: “Have some fresh asparagus!”

Glen: “Never heard of it.”

David: “Wha…? How could you not have heard of asparagus? It grows wild along the canal banks here in Idaho!”

Glen: “Nope. Never heard of it.”

I shared this conversation with our older son, Aaron. He replied, “I don’t blame him. I didn’t willingly eat asparagus for close to 20 years after you guys forced it on me when I was about 7.”

Sheezh! What’s so intimidating about fresh asparagus?

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This is the only live colony we happened upon. Anywhere it wasn’t sheltered, the delicate, tender stalks were killed off by the light freeze we experienced two nights before.

Well, the light is waning now and it’s time to head toward the car.

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Oh thrill! “POUND! Boom-boom…” Someone actually dropped a precious morel, adding to our spoils!

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Which look like this:

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Eric was going to dry the mushrooms.

8:45 PM. Driving into a beautiful sunset toward home now.

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With images of succulent morel colonies prancing in my head.

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Now we can hone our French cooking skills.

Oh, and try to convince Aaron that that bit about us forcing fresh asparagus on him at age 7 to where he wouldn’t willingly eat asparagus for the next 20 years, is a false memory.

The Grooviness of Spring

May 18, 2014

Southeast Idaho has a fifth season, called “Sprinter” – between winter and spring, which is basically … uh, winter, interspersed with a few hopeful signs of spring. Sprinter starts about when you think spring is supposed to – say, March 21, and it hangs on, and on …

This sprinter was made a little more spectacular by the extraordinary “Blood Moon” lunar eclipse that occurred on the crystal clear night of April 15. I snapped a photo of the moon over our back deck somewhere around 1 AM, at the beginning of the eclipse.

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Okay, so you can’t take clear photographs of eclipses using your smart phone. Dang-it! But it was fun to watch the moon disappear … uh, well, then hop into bed, because it was very late.

In early April we resumed our after-dinner walks. The light was coming back! – what a marvelous thing to greet each new day knowing daylight will last a few minutes longer today than yesterday, and each new day will grow longer for weeks to come.

The trees stand hopeful and strong against the evening sky

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Even in dormancy.

The face of an old ravaged man (winter?) is peering

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through these tree tops, as if to issue a warning: winter lurks!

Ah, but look! A robin. They’re coming back!

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This robin was perched on our honey locust tree in our back yard, albeit, looking as if he had second thoughts about his timing of migrating back.

Easter Sunday brings warmth, and blossoms!

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A flowering crab, maybe? These are the first trees to bloom.

Leaves unfolding on deciduous tree limbs drape the spruce trees in the background

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with Christmasy garlands.

Now, on every block spindly trees and gangly bushes are bursting open –

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even the tiniest branches are coated with blossoms.

Signs of spring abound!

Tulips (of course!)

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Daffodils and iris

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Dandelions! Oh sweet first appearance, oh harking of spring!

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Oh velvety perkiness and yellow brilliance!

Oh vast nectar for bees!

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Oh robust proliferation across lawns and green meadows!

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Uh, wait a minute. That’s right. Dandelion blooms curl over, then morph and pop back up as white fluffy-heads stuffed with countless downy-tethered seeds that parachute off and repopulate impeccably manicured lawns, rendering fruitless all good citizens’ previous efforts to eradicate the noxious weed.

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Which is not so great, when this yard belongs to you, or, as in this case, one of your neighbors. What’s spring without at least one yard in every neighborhood smothered in dandelions.

May trees line streets and driveways throughout the town. Right on the button, the first week of May, they bloomed. We have a gigantic ancient May tree right in our front yard

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I took a close-up of the tree through our upstairs bedroom window

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May trees are stunning, even on a cloudy day.

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Not to overlook another sure sign of spring – this one right in the comfort of your living room, let the winter weather rage! Sitting on your couch in front of the TV – you can enjoy the heightened excitement surrounding network series and shows as they build and climax to their season finales, whether you’ve actually been following them or not. David was cruising the channels and we happened onto ‘American Idol’ where they were down to the top four contestants and whittling it to three. But this night they had something really special in store for the viewer, something new and different, never before offered on the show. This week, each of the four remaining contestants would pose beside a cardboard shadow head or something (where YOU put YOUR head) so the viewer could snap a ‘selfie’ with them.

Groovy! I tried to do it, but couldn’t manage it – fiddled with my phone, fumbled around, which, of course, totally motivated David to rise to the occasion. He paused the screen with the first contestant, and proceeded to get himself into position. I snapped a photo of David setting himself up for his ‘selfie.”

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David successfully took the ‘selfie,’ possibly his first-ever. Here it is:

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(Don’t ask me who the contestant is. We both have no idea. This is the first episode of American Idol we have paid any attention to this whole season.)

Groovy, eh? David is such a radical dude, man. We are so hip!

Yesterday Megan piped up from the living room, “What’s it doing out there?” (the quintessential question of the day in Idaho). To which, of course, I flew out of the kitchen, raced to the dining room window, flew up the sash, just sure it was snowing. Which, it kinda was. Enough so to where you had to do a double take. I stepped out on the front porch and took this photo:

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It is snowing! Blossoms!

A high wind had kicked up. Basically stripped the May trees of their blossoms.

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Oh well, spring in Idaho. There. I said it! “Spring!”

The last clear signs of spring reside on our back deck – stacks of bags of ‘soil enhancers’ for the gardens. I bought them yesterday.

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Took a close-up of a corner of one of our gardens.

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So great to see the perennials back! Uh, well, those are tulips. Wind whipped.

Hey, wait a minute. That’s not all flowers. There’s a couple of imposters.

Dandelions!

Spring has sprung. Summer is just around the corner. Well, maybe not the next corner. I’ll surely recognize summer when it gets here. A sure sign of summer will be when David shaves that massive winter growth of hair off his face.

March White Lamb Madness

March 30, 2014

In southeast Idaho, March came in like a lion, with howling winds, snows, temperatures hovering in the 20s and 30’s. And it was good. You know, because “In like a lion, out like a lamb,” right? Looking forward to that!

Yeah, fast-forward to this morning, Sunday, March 30. Just as daylight was worming its way through the cracks in my eyelids I heard David mutter, “Snowing out there.” Huh? I raised myself up in a slant toward the bedroom window and squinted at the sky exploding in white.

Down to the kitchen now – I let the dog out, and back in, wiped him down with a towel. Turned on the coffee. Hey, it is gorgeous out there! I snapped a couple photos of the back yard.

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Spring snow clings to even the tiniest of branches, painting the lines of the landscape with white-out.

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Out front now to grab the newspaper. Oh my goodness! Here’s the view looking west out our front door.

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Back in the kitchen now. Standing at the kitchen sink looking through the window. What the heck – I’ll snap a photo of our knarly old flowering plum tree here, a rather ‘long-in-tooth’ tree that’s not long for this world.

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Zoom in a bit – for a different shot.

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It’s Christmas!! ( No? ) It’s amusing (no it’s slothful). Our Christmas lights are still on the plum tree. I should just turn them back on! The clumps of snow accumulating on the web of tiny plum branches block out the solidness of the pine tree in the background. So the pine tree looks like a wreath perched in the middle of the plum tree. A wreath pleading for bulbous shiny ornaments and a red bow.

(And if you look carefully again you will see what looks like an upside-down human skull hanging from a limb above the wreath. Uh … not sure what that means – the ‘Hallow’s Eve’ Christmas or something.)

I need groceries. I should zip myself into a one-piece snow suit with a massive fur-trimmed hood, put on my sheepskin boots, scarf, and thick woolen mittens, hop on a reindeer and slosh on into Albertson’s. Look for hot apple cider. Track up their aisles.

The snow gets bigger and bigger.

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Soon whirring sounds penetrate the air from all directions like armies of raging bees. Neighbors with snow blowers. Dang! So we will have to shovel! It’s March 30th. Why can’t we just expect this snowstorm to blow over us and melt away all in the same day?

It did stop snowing by early afternoon.

Yeah, well, I’m blogging.

David is the one shoveling.

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One of these days I’ll run out of my ‘cuz it’s winter in Idaho’ excuses and get out there and get those Christmas lights off the plum tree. You know, maybe before it flowers.

Through the Tetons to Dubois, Wyoming

July 15, 2013

I can’t help it. I’ve about a hundred or two new photos on my i-Phone from this road trip we took in June.  And I can’t wait to share them with you.  HUH? You don’t want to see ALL the photos?  Awwwwww. Okay.  That’s fair.

So where do I begin?  At the beginning, of course! 10 A.M – Thursday, June 13. Today’s destination: Casper, Wyoming, about an 8-hour drive from Idaho Falls. We’re driving west now – on Highway 26 – out of Idaho Falls toward Jackson, Wyoming.

Approaching Swan Valley.

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It’s going to be a beautiful drive!

Every so often you see the peaks of the Tetons poking up on the horizon.

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We turn left at Swan Valley onto Highway 31 toward Victor, Idaho and the Teton pass.

We have just passed over the Teton pass summit. Here we are, overlooking Jackson ‘Hole’

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Making the descent toward Jackson now

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Except, we turn left after Wilson, to bypass Jackson, onto Moose Wilson Road.

The Tetons come into full view.

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There is nothing quite so magnificient as the Tetons painted across the sky on a vibrant June day.

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The view changes every few seconds. Don’t want to miss the show!

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It’s amazing how close we get to them by car (with maybe a little help from a zoom lens…)

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The Grand is the tallest Peak, at 13,770 feet. The two peaks to the right are Mount Owen and Teewinot. To the left are the Middle and South Tetons. This link:

http://faculty.deanza.edu/donahuemary/stories/storyReader$2802

gives you the names and elevations of all the peaks:

 

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“Pull over at the scenic overview for tourists, honey, so I can snap a photo of all the peaks!”

“Naw. You’ve seen the Tetons a hundred times. We still have a 6-hour drive ahead.”

But …. “We’ll never see the Tetons again as they look today!” (I wanted to call out, but I suppose he’s right. Also, he’s the one driving, while I’m the one, uh, snapping photos.)

I snap a photo of the Teton’s as we whiz past the scenic overview on the Wyoming Centennial Scenic Byway.

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I have to admit. The photo looks remarkably similar to the June photo I took of the Tetons several years back, now framed and hanging on a wall at home.

We have passed the Tetons now, headed for Moran junction, where we turn south. Wait a minute! They’re in my rear view mirror!

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Visible as ever. They are just behind us now.

“Are we coming back this way?” I ask the driver (David).

“No.”

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“What are you doing?” He asks.

“The Tetons are in the rearview mirror! And out the back window! We are missing the view you get when you approach Jackson from this direction!”

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Here’s my last shot of the Tetons as we approach Moran Junction and head south.

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We’re headed into the the Absaroka mountains now.

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This view of the Absaroka peaks opens up and and disappears very quickly

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after you round that curve.

Well, that’s my photo tour, that gets us as far as Dubois, Wyoming, where we stop for lunch – on the first day of our six-day road trip (uh, minor detail there).

I did take one photo in Dubois. At the place we pulled into for lunch with the sign out front that said “Cafe.”

This precious little notice was posted inside the restaurant on their bulletin board:

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I guess life is pretty much the same every where you go.

Make Way For … Duck Blog2!

June 12, 2013

Of course I would write it. You were wondering, weren’t you, about how things would play out with that wild duck nesting in our back yard … Well,

At first I ran the back sprinklers a lot. It got hot here and I thought any nesting duck would appreciate a cool mist.

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But then I read online that mother ducks have to wet their feathers – to maintain a certain level of humidity for the developing eggs.

So I went out and bought a kiddie pool.

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Slid it in only a few feet away from the nest and filled it up with water.

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If you look really closely you will see her gray round head (looks like a smooth, gray rock) poking out about half way between the short and long swatches of sunlight on the left side of the picture.

There you see the pool, under the spruce tree, from a distance.

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Now the mama duck could step off her nest, take a few hops for a quick dip and then hop back to her nest. It’s a tough job, sitting on those eggs, and I could help her here.

I then called the local animal shelter because I had heard they had a bird expert on staff. I talked to the receptionist.

“We have this wild duck nesting in our back yard under our spruce tree. Don’t you have an expert there who can tell me how I can help her?’

“No. He’s not in right now, but I can help you.”

“Yeah? What should I do?”

“Leave her alone.”

“Oh.”

(I really didn’t have too many heads working on this duck problem since David was out of town for several days – uh, now you know about the pool, honey.)

So, as not to look completely stupid (to the duck if no-one else) and not create a breeding ground for mosquitos, I got rid of the pool … as quietly as I could – (by rigourously splashing the water out of it with my hand and thrashing the pool around to where it was finally empty enough to drag it out of there.) I gave the pool to a friend with small children.

I checked on the duck every evening.

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She is very well camouflaged, but if you look carefully under the lower extending limb you can see her.

Along about 7 PM the sun was far enough west that she could bask in it.

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I’d see her head, poking out of the nest, illuminated with sunshine. But I couldn’t capture it in a photo.

I planted flowers.

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Rudy was invariably out in the yard with me. I’d keep an eye on him. He’d be this normal flopped-out-hanging-with-the-pack dog, then suddenly morph into a bird-dog

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Pointing right at the duck.

“NO, RUDY!!” “COME!!” “TREAT!!”

I had bought him special new ‘Stay away from the duck” treats.

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Crunchy with Real Pomegranate! YUM!

“EAT IT, RUDY. No, you’re not getting Bacon Cheese Beggin’ Strips!”

Well, Rudy flushed the duck out one morning last week. Right in front of my nose. She flew up over the house and I corralled him into the house, scolding him profusely. The duck landed right back in our yard, looked in all directions, then hop, hop, hopped (she ran, really) back to her nest. Whew!

I’ve spent a lot of time in discussions with Rudy as to why he doesn’t need to go out.

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We’ve been eating dinner on the back deck with the duck nesting in the background.

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David, Glen, Megan, me, and Rudy.

I told my neighbors across the street, Marion and Armand, about the duck and how I expected the eggs to hatch around June 26.

I checked on the duck last night. Ran the back sprinklers just for her, because the temperature topped 90 degrees yesterday.

I was out deadheading flowers this morning. Left with Megan about noon to run some errands. Pulled back into the driveway a little after 2PM. We weren’t in the house 1 minute when my cell phone rang. It was Marion from across the street.

“Jody, quick!” Your duck was just in our yard with her ducklings!”

WHAT??

“Armand is following her and taking pictures!”

I dashed out the front door. The duck and her 5 ducklings had already reached the house on the corner of our street – I snapped a photo quick as I could –

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Not the best photo you’ve ever seen of a mother duck and her ducklings, but before I took another photo I thought, “Megan can’t miss this!” and ran home and got Megan. We ran back to where I had left the ducks maybe 90 seconds before and now there was no sign of them. We ran further – looked all around. No sign of her and her ducklings. Armand had gone home. WHAT? Was that it? Was that really OUR duck?

I ran back to the nest.

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Sure enough. The babies had hatched all right. And to think when they hatched I was going to be sure and open our gate to let them through!

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Well, that mama duck and her babies were at least headed in the right direction – toward a canal just two blocks west of us. Of course, they have to cross a busy street. (Make Way ….!!!)

I feel a little sad that she’s gone. But at least I can freely let the dog out now. I don’t mind a bit his chasing the squirrels.

.

Duck Spring

June 3, 2013

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

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to inhale their fragrance.

I took photos of the snowballs in spring.

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and the towers of flowers

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perched on their branches like Christmas trees.

The flowering crab in the center of our back yard

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

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Here is a photo of our front lawn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Okay! You have my attention, Rudy!”

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He wanted out.

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Scoping out the yard now…

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

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

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

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

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

OMG!

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

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

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

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

Oh, look!

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

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

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

“FLAP, FLAP, FLAP” Out she flies.

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

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

How is this going to play out?

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

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

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

Uh, did I also mention our neighbors have cats?