Sunday, April 29, 2007

"Jee Jee Jee Jee"


Anyone who knows me understands my longing to get close to a Carolina Chickadee. This has been going on for months. Oh, I’ve gotten a few shots of Chickadees before, but I want one crisp and clear without using a zoom. I want one to sit on my hand. Hey, is that asking too much???

These white flowers burst open over the weekend. They’re located a few feet away from the feeders and I leaned on the fence to see them. Native weeds, I’m sure.

My camera was on the kitchen counter. There were no birds at the feeders. I heard “jee jee jee jee”.


This is where she landed. No zoom necessary. I am saying it’s a she because it looked like a mother needing a “Calgon take me away” moment. She poked the suet in the ceramic dish, preened for a bit, and then grabbed a seed from the hopper.

Have you ever been so totally frustrated that it was funny? I stifled a belly laugh for several minutes. Utter disbelief consumed me.


She left the hopper, flew past my face and landed here. No zoom in this photo. A perfect shot would have been had in the setting evening sun and I stood there, motionless, feeling like a sore loser but still stifling a hearty laugh at the irony of it all.


Probably one of my worst Chickadee photos, but I'll keep trying! This shot was taken in the morning hours on the same day. Doesn’t she look tired?


The morning sun on the pond was lovely this weekend. My fear of damaging freezes is gone so we headed out to find something eye pleasing to conceal the pump and filter assembly.


This basket of annuals enticed me! I love verbena. See the Koi in the background?


I like it. I don’t know what it is but it’s part of the basket.



This was a scene that brought back memories of my own childhood on the first day in late spring that I was allowed to wear a swimsuit and the boys could wear their swimming trunks to play with the garden hose or run through a sprinkler. There were four boys in grades 1-3 in charge of washing Mom’s car. See their progress? There is a sponge in the air resembling a peanut in the shell. Click to enlarge and you'll see the soap flying. I laughed out loud.



Camped out on the patio while waiting for hummingbirds to arrive, I looked to my right and enjoyed the beauty and sound of water. It was so soothing…until…



Bostons have a passion for kissing and licking. What is the attraction to the arm of an outdoor chair, B-b-bella?

Chloe attached herself to my lily white knee.

You gotta love these dogs.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Dull? Counting Sheep Helps...


Same face, day after day. The feeders are becoming dull, at best. Until tonight. The red-bellied woodpecker is back and some others. More later.

Maybe it’s my fault for my snitty behavior lately. Yes, in fact, it is my fault. At the office, I throw paper across my desk, curse at the copy machine, and mumble obscenities at the staple remover when it rips the corner of my document. I’ve been yelling at the dogs, too, in a kind way. It’s the little things in life that can either turn me into a monster or make me smile lately. I'm still exhausted and cranky, but I'll give a good effort with this post.

Last night I decided to stay away from the computer. I was in bed by 9:30 p.m. and that’s after I took a one hour nap after dinner. Crash. That’s all it takes. I know how important my sleep is and how much healthier and alive I feel when I get it. A few more nights like that and I’ll be a new person. I’ve been a night owl for too many weeks.

I’ll start an insignificant rant now. Who waters the dying gardenias and hydrangeas every day because of the drought? Who tops the pond and cleans it? ME! This is really a sore subject. I want a hose bib conveniently located in the back of the house. We have two, but they’re a good walking distance away, on the sides of the house.

One of them has less water pressure than a drinking fountain. The other one has great pressure but has a honking, 1,000 foot heavy-duty hose attached to it which means I need to unroll it, hoist it over the fence and drag it a quarter of a mile to the pond. Ok, it’s not that far and not that long... But when I have only a few hours in the evening, dinner in the oven and water boiling on the stove, I need to be fast, “chop chop!”.

For over a year, I’ve been hinting for a convenient garden hose as a gift idea. HA! It['s true. So, he gives me a Dooney & Bourke handbag as one of my Christmas gifts. I've been thinking about this lovely bag today. It’s a very nice handbag and I appreciate it (thanks to Gina, who encouraged him because of her own handbag fetish). Honestly, all I asked for was a black handbag from Belk’s or Target. $16.99-$40.00 will do to carry my life under my armpit. Am I the type of person who needs a Dooney to go along with my sweat pants, tee-shirts and tennis shoes? Do I drive a Mercedes? Do I care if my shoes match my bag? Heck, no! I buy my clothing from the sales racks at department stores and a lot from Target. Twice a year, I change my handbag from spring/summer to fall/winter. How ridiculous is it to see a little blonde lady run to the grocery store with pond sludge on her sneakers and a Dooney over her shoulder?

For my next gift, I’ll insist on the giver sticking a bow on the new hose bib or handing me a gift card from the plumbing company. I’ll take care of the rest, dammit. Whew. I’m done.


There was new male here yesterday. A female has been visiting once in a while. A male Eastern Towhee isn’t a lifer, but this is the best photo I have. I enjoyed his nonchalant behavior in front of the camera.


Camera hog, Robin, in my front yard.

The same Brown Headed Nuthatch has been pecking away at the same tree on campus for a week. Click to enlarge this tiny acrobat. Sweet!


If there was a contest of stopping your car and photographing a lifer in the shortest time, I'd win. In approximately eight seconds or less, I can pull over, throw the gear in park, find the camera, power it up, turn off the radio, exit my vehicle quietly, and grab a shot of a lifer. A Killdeer is unusual. It crouches low as if playing dead, or camouflaging itself. I don't understand its behavior.


This photo is not completely in focus but I saw those large eyes looking at me. Wow.


A pair of lazy Canadian Geese didn’t want to leave the campus this morning. They knew I was spying on them.


For Lynne and Cathy, who share love of bird butts with me. This one is especially robust. My kind of woman! (Is she a woman?)


How close can you get to a Canadian Goose without being assaulted? I took a chance and it proved to be a lucky one.

Here’s lookin at ya, kiddo! Trust me.

Goose: Got any cooked spaghetti - hold the sauce?

I filled one of my hummingbird feeders a week ago and have been noticing the nectar getting low. While standing on my back deck tonight, I saw the sunlight catch the buzz, hovering and darting. It was the beautiful blur I haven’t seen since last summer. Is this a female Ruby Throated? My heart raced as I tried my best to control the camera. This is my first photo of a hummingbird.


JOY!!!! Now, to bed.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Few Words Wednesday

A day of frantic motion. I needed a buffer.


Soft pastels can fool you. They withstand the harsh winter but the summer heat will make them melt. Cal Ripken eyes.


American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) on the asphalt sidewalk. (Yes, I did some research.)


A blast of color rejuvenated my mood tonight. I'll miss the pansies.


Through the kitchen door, I saw a Mockingbird inside the sunroom. He came to visit me. I'm not surprised.


If the kitchen door was open, he would have probably flown inside and perched on the kitchen counter to watch me cook dinner. I would have set a bowl of suet there for him and chatted for a while.


Within three minutes I was holding him very gently. Our eyes met for a few seconds. So soft… I think he knew I’d set him free. His powerful thrust at take-off surprised me. A little ruffled, he sat in the tree for a while to gain his composure. I put some suet out for him. Unharmed and good to go.


Late afternoon sun. See the bird?
I feel calm and relaxed now.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Wet and Wild Night

First, a nest update.


Yesterday there was one egg splattered under the nest. Today there are two. I don’t know what to think about this.


When the alarm rang this morning at 5:15 a.m., I didn’t budge. I almost decided to get up, send an e-mail to work stating I am sick today, and head back to bed but my conscience wouldn’t allow me to do it. Everyone feels that way at times but I’ve been feeling that way a lot lately. There is just so much to do! It's Spring! Being away from home for nine hours, then coming home to caring for dogs, fish, birds, home, and a husband is sapping me. Add a blog to the list, too, and my obsession with the camera outdoors!

Whenever I think I’m too busy, I often think about Beth at Look What Love Has Done. She’s a loving mother of five, athlete, church minister, and musician, who slowed down lately to photograph some flowers and bees, and, “by George, I think she liked it!” Her faith and strength is amazing. I should never complain about being "too busy and tired" when I think of her.

The ice maker in the frig acted up last night (which resulted in a minor flood a few months ago). I used my lunch hour today to drive home to check on it. Thankfully, I found it’s working like it should so I decided to sit in the sunroom for my allotted ten minutes while I leafed through a hummingbird pamphlet. I only needed ten minutes of peace and quiet, but this is what distracted me:


Bella loves me (and all of her hula hoops).

She sneezed on my camera lens. That's Chloe, for ya. Do I need to lock myself behind closed doors to have ten minutes of quiet?

Why am I tired? I am tired because I lack self discipline. When you are stuck in a windowless office all day, the urges build and your goals and expectations get out of control. I need to get some sleep.

My target bedtime is 10:30 p.m. Where was I at 11:00 p.m. last night? Wearing a nightshirt, jacket, and my R (right) and L (left) slippers at the pond. The frogs were mating louder than ever. We've needed to turn up the volume on the TV recently… I was grateful that my neighbors had their windows closed and with their air conditioners running; otherwise, I would have expected a knock on the door or a phone call. But what could I do? Tell the frogs to “shut up”?

Camera in right hand and flashlight in left hand, slippers on the correct feet:

Oh, my! I scooped three from the skimmer. Here’s one of about twenty.

Let's see what's going on here... None of them cared about my flashlight. He was hot for the ladies.

It was a sex night, wild with humping and jumping all over each other. And there was curious me, wearing my bedtime clothes and lurking. Hey, I’m not a pervert – they are exhibitionists!

Need a cigarette, dude?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Numbers, Numbers, Numbing Numbers

There is "eye candy" at the end of this post. Thank goodness for the natural beauty we need to see every day.

Hurray! It’s budget prep time for the State of NC! There’s some fooling here…I can’t stand numbers. Funds have been frozen on State accounts since March 30 and it’s a killer process. I have five large budgets to monitor and I’ve encumbered funds down to the least cents before the State sweeps it away. It’s not my money and I don’t really care about it. It’s just another job-related function I need to perform, another headache, and another pain in my a...

Budget prep for 2007-2008 began today in a 2-1/2 meeting at one of our campuses located very close to the Charlotte-Douglas airport. This is the type of meeting that causes my eyes to glaze over. I yawn. Oh, yes, I participate in the number crunching while I’m dreaming of those US Airways and Southwest planes flying by so close that you could count the number of windows on them. I arrived at the meeting twenty minutes early, with camera around my neck, and explored a beautiful campus. No birds. No flowers. What a waste. But they do have aircraft. After the first hour of the meeting, I wanted to call a break to put my camera to the window to see something in flight!

When we lived near the Dover Air Force Base a few years ago, I had the best view of the largest aircraft in the country – those C-5’s and C-19’s that were large enough to carry 15 eighteen-wheelers. When they flew low over our community, the sound was deafening but you could wave to the pilots (rookies in training…scary, yes!). My next door neighbor was a squadron commander and we waved the American flag to him when he trained pilots. That was cool.

I’m off course here. Perhaps my mind is blown away due to those dang numbers. Allocated budget, deficit, revenue, blah, blah, blah. I arrived home much later than usual. Chloe threw up outside because she knows by the time Oprah Winfrey is over, the local news starts at 5pm and I wasn’t home yet. Yes, I leave the TV on for them during the day. They see Good Morning America, Kelly and Regis, Dr. Phil, and various soap operas before Oprah. I should really switch to a radio instead.

Dorothy from PA calls my photos “eye candy”. I like that adjective. She’s been commenting frequently and she just started a blog of her own while battling the beginning Blogger woes.


When I arrived home after a ten-hour day, I found some eye candy. (Lizards? Eye candy? YES!) With my handbag still on my shoulder, I first noticed a new lizard to add to the other two species I have found at my house. So far we have Five Line Skinks and Eastern Fence Lizards. When I’m not so tired, I’ll try to identify this skittish, tiny creature.


Click to enlarge. It was very curious. See it peeking and holding on to the brick?


REAL eye candy. A butterfly. Something else I need to ID. Later…


I want to be a little closer. Please don’t move… The honey bees rule this patch of blue and purple.


Ahhhh. Just what I needed. I'm delirious and you are medicine for a tired soul.


Directly below the nesting place of the Barn Swallows, I found this. It matches a description of her egg. Did she come by to annoy me? Or, will she arrive again to build a new nest? Time will tell. My heart still aches.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Barn Swallow Drama

The baby house finches left the nest three days ago, just as Julie predicted. I didn’t think they looked mature enough with their little scrubby punk rock hairstyles, but they did flee.

Springtime has finally arrived to stay. This weekend has been glorious! I filled the hummingbird feeders in hopes to see their return but I haven’t planted the flowers they crave yet. The recent freeze still haunts me, so I’ll wait another week or two.

Now the drama begins.

We spent lots of time outside yesterday and I asked Michael to bring the step ladder around to the front porch so I could examine and clean the nest the finches recently fled. This is a nest that a pair of barn swallows built last summer. It needed a good scraping and cleaning, but the only way to get to it was to remove the nest from where it was planted, on a rock, high and close to the porch ceiling. Michael pulled the rock and nest away from the aluminum and handed it to me. He continued to scrub the area clean while I examined it closely.


One pale blue finch egg was left…

While we worked, the hot western sun was beginning to set on us at 6pm and caused us to squint. While I held the nest in my hands, I saw something magical and surreal beyond the porch rail. There was no mistake about it. The swoop, the sleek, long deep blue wings illuminated in the sun, the pale belly…oh, so familiar. A sight I haven’t seen since last summer. She dove and spiraled around close to the porch for about a minute and I muttered to Michael, “She’s back!” I could hardly say the words through happiness and grief. My heart was instantly broken. Why did I feel this way? She returned to see a step ladder in her corner. I held her nest in my hands. My chest was heaving and I could barely see her through tears. Frankly, I lost it, and turned into a weeping ninny. What are the chances of the return of the Barn Swallows at the precise time we removed their nest? Wanting to regain my composure, I told myself, “Oh, come on, Mary. Get a grip. It’s just a bird…What's wrong with me?”

Was this the same lovely bird I knew so well last summer? If so, was she so outraged that she might never return?

Our porch sits high above the ground and being on that step ladder near the rails frightened me. I tried feverishly to get that nest back into place after I removed loads of debris and scraped it clean. During my last attempt to place it firmly, the nest broke away from the rock. I was desperate in my attempt but I failed.


I left a firm, wide base for a new nest.

This bird business is getting to me enough that I am ready to quit. Can you quit caring, though? I never imagined I’d be so emotional over such a beautiful pair of swallows that trusted me. Now I may never see them again.


The weekend wasn’t a complete loss, I guess.

No flowers or pond plants yet, but I’ll be busy soon. The pond is in good shape and the pump and filters are doing their job. More work is needed.


Some cleaning in the skimmer basket produced all sorts of things.


Feeding Frenzy at the Ferracci house. How’s this for a vibrant splash of color and life! The frogs were crooning again last night!


Chloe wants me to put some cheese in it. A bit of cheese in the crevice of a rawhide goes a long way!


Big dog? Little dog? No difference. Mr. Biggins and Bella rock the house..


If I can’t have Barn Swallows, I’ll settle for the Mocker, “Old Faithful”. Sigh…


If you are longing for house finches, you are welcome to the Ferracci Finch House of Fun!

Meanwhile, I’ll be looking for the dashing swoop and spiral. Sigh...