Sunday, November 30, 2008

Back to the Backyard Birds


Water. It’s the only sound I’ve heard in my backyard for two months.

Enough is enough.


Off to Wild Birds Unlimited I went yesterday, Christmas caroling all the way, giddy as a schoolgirl in love. Bought a few new feeders and lots of food. Maybe I’ll order meal worms and cook some Zick Dough this week.


Soaked and cleaned the old feeders that were piled on the garage floor for so long, collecting dust and dried leaves the wind blew in.

So happy to do it!

For those who don’t know me, I’ll explain. There was harmony here among the backyard birds for a long time until last spring when things went awry. Perhaps urban sprawl and its associated construction is the cause for movement and change, but there arrived flocks of non-native European Starlings and their children who squealed and screamed from sunrise to sunset for weeks. And pigeons. I had to consider my wallet and my sanity, as well as the sanity of the families who live near me. I stopped feeding for a month and considered allowing my police officer friend to take me to the firing range to become a BB gun expert.

The number of non-native House Sparrows grew over the summer months and to say they eventually had the upper hand is an understatement. Sadly, by the end of summer, the House Finches moved on as did all other native songbirds. HOSP coated the yard, along with pigeons and their poop, and I had just enough. After work one day, I threw my hands in the air, dumped the food from the feeders and removed them, feeling a combination of relief, sadness, and frustration. If there is research done on dysfunctional birds, call me.

Last week during subfreezing nights, I threw some seed in the feeding area and was delighted to see



two Northern Cardinals. I had twelve pairs last winter.

Juncos, White-Throated Sparrows, and Song Sparrows stopped by...





Aren’t Song Sparrows breathtakingly CUTE?

I’ve missed them all – Cardinals, woodpeckers, nuthatches, finches, Chickadees, Mourning Doves, and Titmice. I’d love to see the Coopers again.

The feeders are clean and full! Funny, while working on this project I forgot how about my miserable cold. I had pep in my step and smiled often.


After I filled all nine feeders, the resident Mockingbirds nearly stroked out. I laughed out loud watching their territorial frenzy, scrapping with all other birds who bravely dared to snag a seed, nut, or grape.

But, I will say this. I fought the HOSP and the HOSP won.



There are still a few trashing my neighbors’ attics. That’s OK. There’s a gizmo I can order on-line, you see.

This week will be interesting, I think :o)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Funny

For Nina.

We have lettuce, mayo, fresh bread, and cranberries on stand-by for those wonderful leftover roasted turkey sandwiches. Hot turkey sandwiches and gravy are always on the menu, too. The kids’ mouths were watering yesterday and they had no idea what surprise awaited them on their arrival for dinner. They were looking forward to the few pounds of light and dark turkey we foil up and send home with them.


Michael bought a large Perdue Turkey Breast a few days ago and as we unloaded lots of things from Sam’s Club into the house, I quickly tucked away that thawed breast into the back of the frig without as much as a glance.

On Thanksgiving morning I softened real butter, lined up the spices, and pre-heated the oven to 325. I placed the breast on the kitchen counter and that’s when the horror set in.

Oh no. What is this? No roasting instructions?

I read, “Perdue Slicing Turkey”, and in a tiny font at the bottom of the non-bird, “fully cooked”.

Oh, no.

Eyes wide, peeling back the plastic casing, I found a ball of something that remotely looked liked the shape of a turkey. What if I poked it with a fork? Would it spew its contents and slowly deflate, or would it burst? If it had accidentally rolled off the counter it would have bounced waist-high twice and skid across the kitchen floor.

“Michael! You need to see this!”

The pain on his face reminded me of the Bumpus’ dogs stealing the turkey in A Christmas Story.

“It’s rubbery and there’s no skin. A freakin’ ball of processed turkey meat! Aaaack! cluck cluck Aaaaack! cluck cluck cluck.”

Horrified by his mistake, he offered to go out and purchase a real turkey but I thought hard about that. How could I throw it away when so many families can’t afford a turkey this year? In the oven it went.

Two hours later, it sliced like some sort of shrimp dip mold. A butter knife would have done the job.

We did not even offer the dogs a bite.

Fortunately, turkey is a side at our house. We fill up on the main course of homemade cheese ravioli and sauce with all the Italian meat that goes with it. At the end of our feast we enjoy a Greek salad and pour homemade sauce that we call “gravy” over the turkey. Yum. In a few weeks, we’ll do it all over again with the real thing. No one ate turkey yesterday or today.

Gina and I are still shocked about our misfortune and laughing silly about how we will dispose of 10 lbs. of leftovers…
Hope you had a wonderful day.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Drugs and Juncos


Winter has arrived in southern North Carolina two months early.
(The Grinch is feeling a little holiday spirit.)


A few blooms still catch my eye.


Yes, I’m back already.

Other than the occasional seasonal allergy bother every year, I don’t get scary sick but once or twice a decade. That’s not good because I’m an inexperienced over-the-counter drug shopper. Hundreds of cure-alls beckon me as I browse the medicine aisles, sniffling, wheezing and stifling a cough, and I wonder, how can an expectorant that loosens mucus for a productive cough and a cough suppressant in one bottle work together? I bought it. I’m an idiot.

The pharmaceutical companies are very clever. They manufacture OTC drugs with side effects that make you feel crappy enough to send you back the drug store several times to find another drug to make you feel crappier. Zicam, Robitussin, Coricidin, Ibuprofen. Except for Zicam, I didn’t mix any of these drugs. I safely switched from one to the other, but early Saturday morning at around 2:30 a.m., I gathered clothes to wear to the emergency room…just in case I might need them. Head and chest congested, coughing, sneezing, short of breath, wide awake, and completely, deliriously exhausted, I realized I should never take a “non-drowsy” drug at night. Duh. I slept fitfully, maybe for an hour the whole night, and relieved my bladder about ten times. Honestly, I thought I might die leaning on furniture to breath easier. It was fear-induced asthma.

So, I have made my personal decision about OTC drugs: they don’t work. I’ll drink water, lots of it, and flush the toilet thirty times a day if necessary, call in sick, cough my brains out when I need to, and rest when I can. Mentholyptus cough drops are great. Chloraseptic is good for sore, scratchy throats. I’m much better now and sorry I wasted thirty bucks.

On Sunday I ventured out for sunshine and enjoyed a cute sparrow I’ve often ignored.


Soft pishing…


Move out of my shadow, please?




Dark-eyed Junco. Beautiful little bird. Always welcome to spend the winter with me.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Title? Can't think of one.

From 3-4:30 a.m. today, I was playing Free Cell and Super Collapse 2 on the computer while trying to breathe through a head packed with snot. Beware. I have a low fever and dizzy mind right now but haven’t resorted to narcotics yet - just lots of water and a bottle of Robitussin. With every cough, I am reminded to purchase some Depends.

Arctic air blew in after a warm weekend and I’m talking about a record-setting low on Tuesday night of 21 Fahrenheit. That’s cold but not as cold as my previous region farther north. My blood has thinned since moving south. And I shiver.

Now I'm wondering, what is the point of this post? The photos are ready but I don't know what to say. I’ll wing it.


I’ve accepted the changing seasons and embrace the silhouettes.


Let’s have it. We all need a rest.


There certainly is a striking photo to be had, if you look for it. It's always there. This one is not striking but what the hell.


These are dark days, indeed. All around the world. I want to be hopeful and look forward to some light. Badly.


Hearing Feliz Navidad on the radio is annoying so early (and anytime), but I am, at last, enjoying the sunlight’s sparkles on my Thanksgiving arrangement.
The menu is set.

In the back yard, I’m smiling.


Juncos are here.


And shy sparrows of the lovely variety – White Throated Sparrows and Song Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows. The unpopular ones might be gone, for now...



During the frigid nights and days this week, I spread good seed on the ground near the feeder area for them


and a bowl of grapes and a few nuts for you-know-who, the resident bully.

I’m ready to open my bird buffet again! Next sunny weekend, I’ll clean the feeders and keep the camera charged for some close-up action.

Dear readers,
For a few weeks, I’ve been slipping away from the blog thing. Being overloaded with stuff, I sit here with the worst cold I’ve had in years. I want to thank my new readers and my dear old ones for stopping by. I’ll be lurking occasionally until I feel refreshed again.

One of the best benefits of full-time employment at a community college is the two-week paid break over the holidays. The perk keeps me going all year. On the last day of work beginning the break, I’ll pull into the garage, walk into the kitchen, collapse on the floor, and yell heyall yeah!

This evening, I aimed to finish some light chores and get some rest. At 6pm, I came here to write the text for this post and this is what I found.


Someone was into the Puffs. All over the house.

The stuff never ends, I tell you.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Disturbing the Peace


It was the kind of morning to enjoy an early nap in a hammock wrapped in a light blanket. The rising sun was warm. The only sounds were a Red-winged Blackbird's "oka-reeee" and the rustling of dried leaves as the winds were just beginning to gust.


Peaceful Mallards paddled without a care


and dried themselves on the deck.

I could have sat in the sun all day and enjoyed the scenery.

Well, look who the wind blew in.
Canada Geese and their ear-piercing honk.


The first fleet arrived, announcing their landing.

I’m convinced I need to sit on a bench for an entire day and wait for birds in flight to practice photographing them. I always jump the gun and press the shutter before I allow the camera to auto-focus and I also confuse myself with manual in/out zoom during those times. You see, it’s difficult for me to stay calm when I rarely see birds fly overhead. It's also challenging when I’m standing on a bank and fear losing balance and rolling toward an algae bath.


I’m fond of this photo, even as a silhouette. It’s purely accidental that I allowed the camera to focus before taking the shot.

Flapping wings and thrust were heard overhead; seemingly close enough to lift my bangs.


The second fleet arrived but not without opposition from the first. Hiss.


The kack acking began and filled the atmosphere with ack.


The first fleet acked back, too.


Fifty ackers


and one hundred hairy eyeballs.

So much for peace.

The confrontation ended within a minute or two


and the Mallards knew it was time to give up the deck.

The day progressed from warm, light wind gusts to whipping cold winds.

Oak leaf silhouettes suspended in air. Wow.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Through Chloe's Eyes

She ran into the back of my legs the other day. I was taken aback. It was rather dark outside and she didn’t see me on the sidewalk. Not once has she slammed into anything - walls, screens, or glass doors, even as a puppy, because she’s sharp as a tack in every way. She’s still sharp. Lightweight, bouncy, agile, quick. Her eyesight intimidates. No cataracts, just Lenticular Sclerosis.


I had to lead her away from the pond waterfall this week.

Lately, she’ll skip by me and sit in the middle of the floor looking for her mother. “Here I am, Chlo. Mommy’s here!”

Red, green, and blue squeaky balls are easier to chase on beige carpet. She is embarrassed to lose the whites and yellows.


Gina and I laugh and grimace at Chloe often and when we discussed possible lens implants or doggie spectacles on the phone the other day, we cackled. You see, Chloe is odd in a funny way…


Her ears are abnormally large and her eyes are penetrating and googly. We wondered how she’d look wearing doggie spectacles and hooted! On Friday night I was tired and silly enough to bring out my paints and brushes. Michael heard me giggling in the kitchen…


He takes things too seriously sometimes. “Mare, awww…you’re making fun of her while she sits behind you. She’s getting old and you’re making fun of her!”

“Oh, lighten up, Michael. We’ve been laughing at her for twelve and a half years. Why stop now?”

The little vixen still streaks through the house with my undergarments or potholders dangling from her mouth. And we laugh.

He sleeps lighter than I and caters to every sound she makes overnight from under our covers. At her first yawn, stretch, or whine, he rolls out of bed and invites her for a drink of water. At 3am, I feel the bed bounce and hear, “Come on, Chloe, wanna go pee-pee? OK, girly girls, let’s go.” Lights on. Bella wants to join the party, too. Truth is, neither of them needs attention. Hearing his invitation, I open one eye, pull the covers over my ear, and mumble, “Oh, it’s 3am, let’s have a party. Leave me out of it. Let me sleep.”

When I’m waiting for them to return to bed, I feel compassionate.

When she’s unable to find her way, I’ll lead her.

When she’s unable to walk, I’ll carry her.

When she’s ill, I’ll sleep cozily on the floor with her.

When she weeps, I’ll weep. And I’ll hold her.

Until then, my little vision-challenged vixen still likes to wiggle and giggle. Me, too.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mockingbird Magnet


So I begin with an American Crow. Without backyard bird feeding action, I find myself raising the camera at anything, anywhere.


Rushed to the edge of the deck. A HAWK? Pffffft.

It’s quiet in the yard but there is one bird who hasn’t left. Not for an hour. Not for a day. I must be a Mocker magnet.


I’ve posted numerous Mockingbird photos in the past, some of them quite good, and have rambled on about them several times here. Why? Because wherever I go, they’re always with me, eyeing me up and posing for a photo. They’re dramatic, flashy, and aggressive but sing the sweetest melodies most of the year. Now is their quiet time.


Don’t think I don’t see you, weird lady.


Here’s a Mocker,


there’s a Mocker,


everywhere, another Mocker.

Last spring, there was one territorial guy who bullied the rest of the birds away from all food. This went on for several weeks while no one ate except him, and during that time I found a pile of gray feathers in the grass after a Cooper attack. Before I examined the feathers closely and discovered there was one less Mourning Dove on earth, I remember feeling overjoyed about the possible death of that one Mockingbird. To this day, I regret wishing the worst for him… How could I ?


Could this be the same bird I see every day? I don’t know as there are so many. It’s on a constant vigil, perched on a feederless feeder post. Perhaps it’s protecting the berries nearby.



It’s a banner year for berries here. Last year there were none and now we have quite an assortment.


Got any grapes? I pose for grapes. Or toss me some Skippers I can grab in midair. I'm up for it.


How about some peanut suet or those little worms I like? Huh?


Wait! Don’t take my picture just yet.

This is post #401 since October 2006, for what it's worth. In my usual haste, I breezed through #400, forgetting to mention this tidbit of info. It's been a very long and challenging week at the office. I nearly fell asleep putting this post together but there's only one day to bear before the weekend ;-) Enjoy!