Archive for the ‘summer’ Category

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!

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.