Tag Archive | birds

Indoor-Outdoor Winter

On a window patrol, Topaz goes nose to nose with an even larger animal. What is wrong with that buck's antlers?

On a recent window patrol, Topaz goes nose to nose with an even larger animal. What is wrong with those antlers?

In a way, I’m glad the kittens have noticed the birds. They’ve spent their days the past week lurking in various windows, tensed, tails twitching in time with whatever music is on, watching juncos peck around the ground near the house for crumbs leftover from fall: dried rosehips, tiny purple-black foresteria berries, catkins scattered by the nuthatches and finches feeding in the birch tree, lavender; who knows what they’re finding in this deep and steady snow. I took down the bird feeders last summer, when I realized that I would eventually let these cats outside.

I vowed years ago not to have an outdoor cat again. Then Little Doctor Vincent showed up bleeding under a juniper three days after I buried Dia the psycho calico, and a couple of years later Little White Mikey arrived the night after we gave Little Bear his aerial burial. Both were happy to come inside but they knew their birthright, so I compromised by putting bells on them. Mikey vanished after only nine months, and was more like a ghost than a real cat anyway. Vincent lost a five-dollar collar about once a month, so after a year I gave up on that. He didn’t really hunt birds much so I was lucky. After Vinnie died I renewed my vow, tending only to my sweet old orange cat Brat Farrar, who had always been content to live inside, and refusing several offers of lovely indoor-outdoor cats.

Then the little hoes showed up. They both really want to get outside, and though I intended to let them loose after they were neutered in October, for various reasons that hasn’t happened yet. We experimented last summer and fall with a few short forays. Ojo would stick around and even come when I called, but Topaz made steady oblivious progress each time toward the perimeter fence, and the prospect of losing her into the woods unnerved me. So then we tried some leash walks, which went better than you might expect. Though Ojo objected strenuously at first, Topaz got the hang of it pretty quickly and could be led.

Keeping them in whenever anyone else went in or out the door became challenging. The mud room served as an airlock chamber for the front door, but the back door required agility and speed to prevent escape. Then I went away for a month, and when I returned they were out of the habit of trying (imagine here a whole paragraph of speculation as to why). A week later the snow came, and since then they’ve shown no inclination to leave the house. I try to brush each of them at least once a day, and vacuum a few times a week; still, the hair spills out from under furniture, piles into drifts on the stairs, tickles my lips when there’s no kitten near. They’re very skillful at rampaging through the house, from one end to the other and back, around the couch over the piano up the stairs off the wall and back, without knocking much down; occasionally the brass bowl crashes off the piano or an orchid tips over on the stone wall, but for the frequency and velocity of their chases incidents are acceptably rare. Still, they need more space to run.

They've begun climbing to places they shouldn't be, like the top of the refrigerator which has no top; all its guts are up there, open to the air ~ and cat hair, and mischief.

They’ve begun climbing to places they shouldn’t be, like the top of the refrigerator which has no top; all its guts are up there, open to the air ~ and cat hair, and mischief.

So as the snow melts this spring, and before the garden foliage gets so thick I can’t see them, I will let them out. Therefore, I’m not feeding the birds this winter, and though I miss the sound and sight of their flocks at the feeder tree, I’m glad I have one fewer path to shovel in this big snow winter. With no bird feeders-cum-bait station, they seem to be finding plenty of natural food that perhaps they’ve ignored during previous years when they were provided with a bottomless supply of sunflower and thistle seeds.

A foot of fresh snow and counting on top of the foot that barely melted. My dimly visible path to the back gate and compost that I shoveled twice yesterday is ready for another effort. We'd all rather just stay inside.

A foot of fresh snow and counting on top of the foot that barely melted. My dimly visible path to the back gate and compost that I shoveled twice yesterday is ready for another effort. We’d all rather just stay inside.

The snow continues to fall, the cats run from one window to another focused on birds and occasional bunnies. I don’t wish them to catch the birds when they finally taste their freedom, but noticing them is the first step in learning to hunt, and I do want them to hunt mice and chipmunks, and frighten squirrels and bunnies out of the yard come summer. I’m hoping now they know there’s prey around the house they’ll stick close when I release them, and not go running off into the forest. We’ll all compromise: I’ll try bells again and the kittens will take only what their hampered abilities allow them, hopefully not birds; I will break my resolution and have outdoor cats again, but not lure the birds to an easy death with feeders.

Meanwhile, we've discovered the true purpose of the copper sink.

Meanwhile, we’ve discovered the true purpose of the copper sink.

As for Raven, the first sign of true improvement came four days after the poisoning when she lay at my feet waiting for Last Bite.

As for Raven, the first sign of true improvement came four days after the poisoning when she lay at my feet waiting for Last Bite.

The next morning I began to have confidence that she'd be fine when she rolled  on her back for the first time since almost dying. Within a week she was back to her old tricks, eating anything her mouth came across. She remains under strict supervision.

The next morning I began to have confidence that she’d be fine when she rolled on her back for the first time since almost dying. Within a week she was back to her old tricks, eating anything her mouth came across. She remains under strict supervision.

What IS wrong with this buck's antlers? We've observed him in the neighborhood this winter and wondered. He finally came close enough for me to get a good look. A piece of twine tangled into the base of his one remaining antler, which has never shed its velvet, hangs over his right eye. His other antler has been cut off clean. Masses of fur and flesh looking rotten and raw cluster around his pedicels. As he looked through our window at the cat, then at me, I felt he told me his story: he got caught in someone's garden netting or hammock or something, and in extricating himself sliced off one growing antler and tangled the bases of both so hopelessly it stunted the growth of the other and resulted in these fungus-like wounds. Or maybe there is fungus growing around the traumatized tissue. I hope that when it's time to shed he drops the whole mess and can start fresh next season.

And what IS wrong with this buck’s antlers? We’ve observed him in the neighborhood this winter and wondered. He finally came close enough for me to get a good look. A piece of twine tangled into the base of his one remaining antler, which never shed its velvet, hangs over his right eye. His other antler has been sliced off clean. Masses of fur and flesh looking rotten and raw cluster around his pedicels. As he looked through our window at the cat, then at me, I felt his story: he got caught in someone’s garden netting or hammock or something, and in extricating himself sliced off one growing antler and tangled the bases of both so hopelessly it stunted the growth of the other and resulted in these fungus-like wounds. Or maybe there is fungus growing around the traumatized tissue. I hope that when it’s time to shed he drops the whole mess and can start fresh next season.

Out Like a Lamb

Orangetip butterflies were out in numbers today feeding on little purple mustards and the first rockrose to bloom.

Orangetip butterflies were out in numbers today feeding on little purple mustards and the first rockrose to bloom.

IMG_6915

March came in like a lion with cold and snow. All the young bucks were grazing at my place.

March came in like a lion with cold and snow. All the young bucks were grazing at my place.

No sooner had I assembled and hung the bluebird house that Jean sent onto the south fence...

No sooner had I assembled the bluebird house that Jean sent, and hung it onto the south fence…

... than a flock of western bluebirds descended.

… than a flock of western bluebirds descended! Whether a pair chooses to occupy the house remains to be seen.

The valley is filled with smoke; everyone is clearing fields with fire. Plumes rise in all directions, some thin, some billowing. At home I bravely burn the ornamental grasses. After years of cutting through the old stalks, usually too late to avoid nipping new growth, I finally realized I could fold the tops in on themselves and light a match.

The valley is filled with smoke; everyone is clearing fields with fire. Plumes rise in all directions, some thin, some billowing. At home I bravely burn the ornamental grasses. After years of cutting through the old stalks, usually too late to avoid nipping new growth, I finally realized I could fold the tops in on themselves and light a match.

Within days this pillow of cinders began to green up again.

Within days this pillow of cinders began to green up again.

Little purple irises came and went without benefit of bees. It took me all month to realize how depressed I am about the loss of the hive.

Little purple irises came and went without benefit of bees. It took me all month to realize how depressed I am about the loss of the hive.

I rescued the first little lizard of the year from inside a friend's house.

I rescued the first little lizard of the year from inside a friend’s house.

And Gabrielle found the first frog of the year while turning a vegetable bed, a western chorus frog.

And Gabrielle found the first frog of the year while turning a vegetable bed, a western chorus frog.

We moved him to the pond...

We moved him to the pond…

IMG_4237

 

The first tulip opened last week.

The first tulip opened last week.

Then one more, then some more...

Then one more, then some more…

Tiny corner pockets of beauty are emerging as the garden greens this spring, exquisite groupings I couldn’t have planned.

Tiny pockets of beauty are emerging as the garden greens this spring, exquisite groupings I couldn’t have planned.

All the little pockets of pasqueflower growing at different rates, budding blooming expanding.

All the little pockets of pasqueflower growing at different rates, budding blooming expanding.

Honeybees have found the apricot tree, and I look at them differently. They’re not my bees; they’re the bees that preceded and competed with my bees, and they’re the bees that ultimately brought the disease that killed my bees. They’re beautiful, they’re stoic bees, they’re chemically treated bees.

Honeybees have found the apricot tree, and I look at them differently. They’re not my bees; they’re the bees that preceded and competed with my bees, and they’re the bees that ultimately brought the disease that killed my bees. They’re beautiful, they’re stoic bees, they’re chemically treated bees.

I ran into a friend at the grocery store yesterday who told me that the beehives across the canyon have had mites for years. “They’re too close to you,” she said. It was cold comfort, a theory validated that suggested once and for all it wasn’t my fault. It’s been bleak watching flowers open one by one with no honeybees to pollinate them. Until two days ago I’d only seen an occasional bee; finally, a handful in the apricot tree. Then yesterday more, and bumblebees, and tiny wild bees. As they return I feel more and more alive.

I guess I despaired of finding the same joy in photography as I did last year with my bees. And in a strange way, my pleasure is tainted knowing they’re not my bees… still, they’re bees, they’re sturdy hardy bees that are surviving, and that brings with it a more astringent joy than the wallowing I was doing the past three summers, that first inebriated love that lasts a few years before something goes awry and love becomes a choice to share in suffering.

Honeybees back on the sweet smelling almond tree.

Honeybees back on the sweet smelling almond tree.

I remember last year forsythia covered in snow. This spring how it glows brilliant yellow and grows tall in full bloom.

I remember last year forsythia covered in snow. This spring how it glows brilliant yellow and grows tall in full bloom.

The first leaf and flower buds of chokecherries are opening.

The first leaf and flower buds of chokecherries and other trees and shrubs are opening.

Redwing blackbirds sing in symphony around the pond. I sit silent, eyes closed, listening to their beautiful cacophony.

Redwing blackbirds sing in symphony around the pond. I sit silent, eyes closed, losing myself in their beautiful cacophony. 

Each morning for weeks this flicker has greeted me, drumming on the roof cap and shrilling to the sky, calling for a mate, claiming his terrain. Oddly, the first time I heard him drilling on the roof, it put me right to sleep. I'd been tossing and turning, then recognized that startling staccato. It somehow signaled some security, and my body just let go, softened into the sheets, and fell back to sleep.

Each morning for weeks this flicker has greeted me, drumming on the roof cap and shrilling to the sky, calling for a mate, claiming his terrain. Oddly, the first time I heard him drilling on the roof, it put me right to sleep. I’d been tossing and turning, then recognized that startling staccato. It somehow signaled some security, and my body just let go, softened into the sheets, and fell back to sleep.

At Play in Fields of Bees

Beeplant and sunflowers grow with abandon in the hottest, driest part of the garden, a lush late summer banquet for bees and birds.

Beeplant and sunflowers grow with abandon in the hottest, driest part of the garden, a lush late summer banquet for bees and birds.

Rocky Mountain Beeplant, sown twenty years ago around the rustic trailer I used to inhabit, down where the Butterfly Bed is now. This wildflower blooms and seeds prolifically in areas where I let it, and seems content to do so. I pull stray seedlings when they're tiny, so easy they are to recognize, and let them flourish in certain spaces. Knowing what delight they'll bring in late summer, for honeybees, wild bees and hummers.

Rocky Mountain Beeplant, sown twenty years ago around the rustic trailer I used to inhabit, down where the Butterfly Bed is now, blooms and seeds prolifically in areas where I let it, and seems content to do so. I pull stray seedlings when they’re tiny, so easy they are to recognize, and let them flourish in certain spaces. Knowing what delight they’ll bring in late summer, for honeybees, wild bees and hummers.

They start to flower in late July and just keep on going, growing new blooms up and up the stalk, transforming downward into seedpods.

They start to flower in late July and just keep on going, growing new blooms up and up the stalk, transforming downward into seedpods.

IMG_2591 IMG_2368 IMG_2596 IMG_2519

 

These green-eyed, pollen-packed wild bees constantly prowl the sunflowers. Hey! Get off! This one's mine!

These green-eyed, pollen-packed wild bees constantly prowl the sunflowers. Hey! Get off! This one’s mine!

Despite not being in right relationship with the grasshoppers, I can recognize a striking composition when it's given.

Despite not being in right relationship with the grasshoppers, I can recognize a striking composition when it’s given.

And that pesky doe. Caught her in the act again, eating the last half dozen tomatoes this tired bush is likely to ripen. Just look at her! I can't begrudge her.

And that pesky doe. Caught her in the act again, eating the last half dozen tomatoes this tired bush is likely to ripen. Just look at her! I can’t begrudge her, though. She needs them more than I do.

But I can try to salvage a few bites for myself, so I gently spook her away. Next year I'll fence the food gardens, for sure.

But I can try to salvage a few bites for myself, so I gently spook her away. Next year I’ll fence the food gardens, for sure.

 

Thursday, August 2

Monsoonal moisture continues to bring intermittent relief from drought and heat. The cottonwood at the top of the driveway, dead these many years from irrigation water lost from ditch to pipes, remains a sentinel and a perch.

It’s been a week so far of salvage and recovery. Within surprising traumas and sad accomplishments, there remains the thrilling flow of life going on.

Pink honeysuckle, Lonicera korolkowii, fruits abundantly in summer after multiple species of bees pollinated in spring.

Two-year-old pink chintz thyme blooms in flagstone cracks after weeks of summer rain.

Red-blooming thyme also thrives between flagstones. This is the first year they’ve received enough of what they need to blossom.

What peaches haven’t fallen prey to birds and chipmunks are blushing beautifully, fuzzy, though still hard to the touch. Watch and wait, watch and wait, hope to beat the beastly birds to a few ripe fruits.

Epitome of high summer: hummingbird mint and blue mist spirea bloom profusely together in the south border, buzzing with bees and hummingbirds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under the Apricot Tree

Joe finished the raised bed just in time for the apricots to ripen. Stellar lies in new shade. I resolve to join him.

I frame the shot. The bird lands. I shoot. The bird flies. This moment, pure joy.

When I saw all the birds this morning, and chipmunks, too! feasting on the apricots, I knew I’d better get in there with them and harvest whatever they had left untouched. 

Many, like this one, look perfect from one side only. The other side is chewed. A few perfect fruits aren’t ripe yet, and maybe I won’t get them before the birds. Grateful for the abundance this year I’m happy to share.

The fruits of my pleasure in the garden this morning, easily three times the number of apricots that even ripened last year. Easily five times more have gone to the birds. And chipmunks.

The promise of potatoes.

The next to last poppy.