Saturday, June 6, 2009

Meanwhile . . . More Surprises

Being on the swing for the bulk of the morning awaiting the miraculous moment of housewren's first fledge affords too many backyard moments to write about in one day. Four on this day from 7:30-noon---one being the fecal sac removal of last entry.

Two being a brief encounter with a mad mama. Moving fast so as to return to observation point ASAP, I carry the copper bucket of yesterday's kitchen scraps to The Wayback for burial, but am stopped at the top of the granite steps by a sudden insistent flurry of rusty brown thrasher, first in my face, then on the bottom step. (There are only 4 steps.) When she sees I am not to be deterred from my path, she reluctantly flies to the fence rail---but scolds and watches. Poor thing must have been in a panic. When I get to the bottom step I understand why. In the leafy path just beyond the landing step, a brand new brown thrasher, quite possibly on first fledge, is struggling to upright after a clumsy landing. But for its fluttering and shuffling, I might have stepped on it. It was the exact dull brown of the leaves, not yet the brilliant rust color of its mother. Feathers still fuzzy, tail still stubby and short. I'm not sure which of us was more startled, but the brief encounter served to halt me and send the youngster into awkward flight to the Wayback fence rail where its mother stood by. My apology did not unruffle their feathers. I buried my scraps and returned to Jim's swing to carry on with the nestwatch and Chapter 11.

Three being a jack-hammer in bird world. Back on the swing my attention was drawn to a violent sort of up and down movement on the ground under the arbor that arches the steps into The Wayback---the same steps where I had encountered the thrashers less than an hour before. An adult thrasher was thrusting its beak again and again directly into the ground. Each thrust involved a comical vertical stretching of the back of its head and neck upward into a sturdy posture that enabled it to force its beak, like a jack-hammer, vertically into the ground at its feet. It looked like it was trying to break something hard. I was astonished at the force of its downward thrust. So engrossed was the thrasher in the effort, I had time to get camera and make a slow approach. Alas, he/she flew away before I could get the shot, reluctantly abandoning her project. She had successfully opened a tiny acorn, leaving the bright orange nutmeat on the ground. I was sorry to have disturbed her, but happy to have the mystery solved. So many of my observations end in wondering.

Four being a raccoon! An arch-backed, tippy-toed, ring-tailed, black-masked, full-sized raccoon ambled across the slate patio between the corner arbors that lead to The Wayback---most likely attracted by the pungent leftover cooked red cabbage I had just buried. The cabbage had gone bad in the refrigerator in my latest eleven day absence. Investigating, I found the compost heap undisturbed, but Makayla's bucket of child-sized garden tools was upset inside the open shed and a number of clay pots lay shattered on the floor, explaining the loud crash I heard earlier and thought to be a falling branch. dkm

I make little progress on WL manuscript waiting for this fledge. Sun beats hot on the swing. Time to go in. Bye Bye Birdies, until tomorrow morning. Hope you can wait for me to cheer your first out-flying.

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