Friday, May 20, 2011

Lush Florida Landscape

Have just had a wonderful visit with daughter, Hannah, in Gainesville Florida.  Here are some shots from our morning walks:

Foggy morning

No curbs / beautiful environs

Spanish moss is everywhere
Mimosa tree blossom

One house had a whole front yard of whatever this is.


Anybody know this shrub?
It's supposedly fatal to a child who eats only one leaf.
Endangered long leaf pinetree

Nice walk
Entrance to Hannah's house (creeping fig wall)

Who are these guys?  They're all over her porch. 
And this one?

Shrimp plants (?) outside Hannah's window

Where the armadillo was last night. . . 

We saw him through this window

View from another window

Hannah's raw food cuisine

Hannah hard at work
Deb's work station
We had a productive week.  Mine for my fiction writing, hers for her graduate studies. 

Strict schedule:

Rise at 6:30
Coffee till 7
Fast walk till 8
Breakfast and shower till 9
Work Block One /  from 9-12
5 Tibetan Rites & lunch @12-1
Work Block Two /  from 1-4
Yoga & dinner break from 4-6
Work Block Three /  from 6-9
Bedtime with a good book @ 10:30

Rigid rules:
1.  No talking during work blocks
2.  No wine for D or beer for H all week (our respective beverages of choice)
3.  Stick to the schedule
Bye Bye Hannah. Thanks for a wonderful writing retreat! 

Now I'm off to visit daughter #2, Sarah & family, in Fort Lauderdale for another week of daytime writing while Sarah's family is at work and school.  No internet at Sarah's house.  No blogging or e-mailing or googling.  For real! dkm

Thursday, May 19, 2011

This Is Not a Blogpost . . .

At this moment a two-foot long armadillo is outside the window screen of the house in which I'm working.  It is rooting in the leaves for grubs or worms or cockroaches, or whatever bugs he can find here.  My daughter, Hannah, and I stand on this side of the window watching, not two feet away from the creature.  It's dark out, but enough light from the window is cast on his bony plates that we can see him quite nicely.  

Hannah tells me they are called lunch boxes for Florida black bears here, because the bears, which are native to Florida, peel off the armor of the armadillos, which are not, to eat them live.

Despite the ridicule I will certainly endure for this entry, after publicly swearing off blogging for two weeks of more serious writing, I know you are happy to have this bit of information.

Say what you will, oh best beloved taskmasters,  I finished writing chapter 22 today. dkm

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Post-fledge bluebird nest . . .

I removed the nest and swept out the box. It's been ten days since the bluebird nestlings morphed into fledglings, to use my friend Pearl's description of the elevating moment. By now I've seen both Sir and Madame Bluebird a couple of times each in the yard, and surprisingly, at the feeder.  Still keeping my fingers crossed for a second brood, but no sign of nesting activity at the box since fledge day.

Here's a close-up look at what the baby bluebirds left in their nest, for those who like the nitty gritty down and dirty details.  No wonder the Parents Bluebird were kept busy carrying off what the books call fecal sacs.  Not sure I would describe them as sacs.  They look to me more like simple blobs of you-know-what.  Click on photos to enlarge.

Whatever . . . I'm leaving tomorrow for a two-week retreat to work on another writing project without distraction, and may not be blogging during that time.  Unfortunately, I have finely-honed procrastination skills regarding my intentional writing work---so much so that going off to a place of solitude and reflection seems to be the only way to get back into my story and stay there.   

Blogging started out as an exercise to prepare my head for REAL writing.  Little did I know how much I would enjoy reading other blogs and interacting with their authors!  I have to put myself on blogging restriction if I intend to complete the 8th draft of current manuscript by July 31st, as is my goal. Here's hoping if I state it publicly I'll be more responsible. dkm   

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bluebird Follow-up

I've had one and only one glimpse of Sir Bluebird since his family fledged, and have not laid eyes on Madam nor on a single bluebird fledgling, unlike the Housefinch Brothers, which I see and hear many times every day around the gutter from which they fledged and at the feeder.

Bluebirds, while quite conspicuous with their nesting habits, must be more secretive in their ongoing daily affairs than other backyard birds.  They are fruit and insect eaters, so, as expected, they don't come to the feeder like their yardmate chickadees, wrens, cardinals, mourning doves, tufted titmice, house finches, goldfinches, even woodpeckers.  Still, I see other insect and fruit lovers in the yard often, like robins, towhees, bluejays, brown thrashers, mockingbirds---but never bluebirds, unless nesting in the box.

Their mystique only adds to their charm.

In the meantime, I'm enjoying the Housefinch Gutterboys and the other new families all around.  Tis the season for fledglings.  So comical to watch.  dkm

                                                             Housefinch Gutterboys

Housefinch and mourning doves

Goldfinch (through glass) 


Friday, May 6, 2011

The Morning After

We missed the fledge!  I'm heartsick.  Our baby blues took their first flight without us---sometime between 3:00p and 7:30p yesterday.  To pinpoint it more closely, I think it was between 3:00 and 4:00.

They were still in the nest box, reaching and stretching their necks out with regularity when I had to tear myself away from the swing at 3:00 to get ready for a 4:00 meeting.  Though I hoped against hope they would wait till morning, I should have known the stretching and reaching meant they were on the verge of flight---but they had been stretching like that all day, and I was still operating on my morning fledge theory, so I thought it safe to leave.  Live and learn.  

Just before driving away to the meeting (a few minutes before 4:00), I paused in the driveway for a final looksee.  Already then I saw no activity, and chalked it up to the brevity of the observation.  But now I'm sure.  After four days of vigilance, I missed the moment of fledge by a single hour.  It's hard to believe how much anticipation I had built up for seeing my baby blues take their first exhilarating flight, and how much disappointment I now feel that I let them down.

It's another example of the loveliest and most captivating feature of the natural world---that it does what it does regardless of anyone's notice.   Here are a few shots on the morning after.


Have a safe and beautiful life, Baby Blues!

Now, as I look back, I'm hoping the odd pattern I observed earlier of the parents flying together low and slow around the nest and in the bushes nearby, followed by the male's funny quiver and fluff dance---the  activity I thought was a series of flying lessons---now I'm hoping it might have been mating behavior instead,  and that maybe a second brood is on the way.   Hope springs eternal.  dkm 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Bluebird Nestwatch: Day 18

Still, we wait. The bluebird nestlings poked their heads and shoulders out of the nest box on and off all day, keeping me on the edge of my seat for six hours straight.  Amazing how long one can stay focused on one tiny spot when action is expected at any moment.   With binoculars, camera, and the natural eye, I was never bored for a second.   Couldn't tell how many nestlings there are.  At least one larger male with a blue head, and one smaller female with less colorful markings.  They vied for the lookout place in the doorway all day long.
You can do it, Baby Blue!
 The Housefinch Brothers cheered them on.

I hated to leave my post, but I had promises to keep that required a 3:00p departure.  When I left, the nestlings were still in the box with the parents attending regularly.

When I returned at 7:30p, there was no sign of any action around the nest box.  My fear is that they fledged in my absence.  My hope is that they were already bedded down for the night, dreaming of fledge day tomorrow.  You know I'll keep you posted. dkm

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Waiting for Fledge Day

Day 17:  Too cold to fledge, but ready, very ready.
The nestlings wait . . . 
Mama waits . . .
Papa waits . . . 
Pearl waits . . .
. . . and waits 
The photographer waits . . . 
The frogs wait . . . 
Who's that waiting?
Confederate jasmine waits . . . 
. . . and waits
           Until tomorrow . . .                                                      

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bluebird Flying Lessons: Day 16

Exciting day.  Much activity in and around the bluebird nest box.  I can see heads moving around inside, sometimes peeking out momentarily.  Madame and Sir Bluebird bring food to the door every minute or so.  The big mouths in the house reach and grab and cry with gusto.  I can get a photo of Madam and Sir almost anytime I want one now. They practically pose on their doorstep, or on their dogwood branch, or on the confederate jasmine trellis near the nest.  At times like this I wish I were a more highly skilled photographer.  Click on the photos for better detail.

How will we ever pay for their college?


Taking turns
Making baby food

I think Madam and Sir are giving flying lessons.  First they flew together low and slow across the front of the house several times in a row.  Then, almost immediately following that demonstration, Sir began the most beautiful quiver and fluff sort of activity imaginable.  While hovering in the air a few feet from the doorway, Sir Blue flapped and clicked his wings like crazy, flashing blue in the sun.  Through the course of the morning he has done this demonstration several times from different vantage points, but always within view of the nestlings.  Each demo lasts two or three seconds.  I've taken so many pictures, trying to catch him in the act, my freshly charged camera battery has gone dead again.  Yet not a single shot of the fluttering.  I remember observing a similar activity just prior to the housewren fledging day, and wondering if it was a training session.

Now the parents have begun perching on the black iron birdbath, about ten yards away and directly in front of the house, flying between the nest and the birdbath. It looks for all the world like they are coaxing the nestlings to target the frogs on the birdbath as a good landing place for their first outflying.  Sir even offered a version of his quiver and fluff dance from the top of one of the frog heads.

Please, oh please, baby blues, wait until tomorrow to fledge.  My camera is dead and it's supposed to rain soon.  This would not be a good time to come out.  Besides, I've got obligations that call me away from my perch this afternoon and evening.  Here's hoping my guess is correct that the magic hour of fledging is 10:00-11:00 a.m., and that today's opportunity has passed.

 I've invited my good friend Pearl, whose nickname is Bluebird, to come and watch with me tomorrow.  We'll wear clothing that will blend into our surroundings and bring cameras, binoculars, quiet paperwork, and good snacks---to make a morning of it.  Let tomorrow be the big day.  dkm