Thursday, February 23, 2012

Kerfuffle in Bird World

Yowza! It's mating/nesting season in bird world. What a noisy lot of activity in the backyard on this seventy-five degree February day in Georgia.  Chase games, male bravado, territory claims, and mating connections. One could almost spin around blindfolded and point, to choose what to write about.

Today I choose a sudden loud persistent eruption coming from a big sloppy nest in the high crook of a tree branch in the way-back part of the yard. From a distance, I could see and hear many small birds flying around the nest in a fury of righteous indignation and effusive scolding.  I approached slowly to see what I could see. There were at least a dozen birds and three species circling the nest and flitting in and out of the surrounding bare branches (still too early for leaves). Tufted titmice, white-breasted nuthatches, and chickadees, the highest percentage of these being titmice. Eventually, they quieted and flew away, leaving me wondering what happened. I went back later with a camera for a shot of the nest.

Not sure, but looks like a squirrel's nest to me. Why the attention from so many small birds?
I will never know the reason for the kerfuffle in a nest way too big for any of those tiny species, but one thing I have learned from previous observations. Whenever such outrageous scolding erupts in bird world, it is not without cause. Somebody had invaded somebody else's rights, and the victim had called for help. In the society of the backyard, it appeared to be the equivalent of a military response to a great social injustice, minus a newspaper account to inform us of the details. In the silent and mysterious aftermath I can only hope the little guys won. dkm

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Two Hours Well Spent

The weather forecast warned of freezing temperatures for last Saturday, which meant the daffodils and camellias would all be ruined overnight. It wasn't worth cutting the camellias since they last only a day in a vase, and since the bushes are still covered with buds that will bloom after the freeze. But the daffodils. I couldn't bear losing all the longlasting daffodils in one overnight freeze.

It didn't look like a big job. How long could it take to cut a few daffodils spread around the yard? So I took a couple of pitchers half-filled with water outside and began cutting. Filled the next two, and the next. Went back for more and filled those, too.  Before it was over, I had thirteen pitchers and jars filled with fresh cut daffodils.

Delivered the six fullest jars to my six nearest neighbors before I thought of taking a photo.

Leftovers after the first six deliveries

Gave three more jars to my yayas and still had four left for my own house.

Love the white petaled ones best

And sure enough, it did freeze that night. 
Frozen sugar water in hummingbird feeder
Now, almost a week later, the daffodils are still bright and beautiful indoors. The nine recipients expressed gracious appreciation for the deliveries, and their pleasure multiplied mine by nine.  Still, I wonder how the freeze will affect the remaining spring blooms, especially the cherries and hydrangeas. dkm

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Red Glove Mystery

Fair warning: this post has nothing to do with the supposed topic of this blog—nature—unless there's something I don't know about the mating habits of gloves.

So—how can this happen?

1.  The backstory: Several years ago, my sister,  Sally,  gave me a nice pair of red gloves as a gift.  I wear them every winter, washing them in the machine,  maybe once a year, and they always come out looking brand new.  Granted, we have mild winters in Georgia so they don't get worn more than a few times each winter, but they are warm, and I like wearing them because I think of Sally when I do.  I can't remember how many years I've had them.  Many.

2. Last  fall,  I cleaned out the front hall closet, and noticed there was only one red glove.  I wondered where its mate was but didn't give it much thought, assuming it would turn up somewhere, and left the one glove in the glove box on the top shelf of the closet.

3.  This winter, I went away to South Carolina for the month of January.

4. While I was gone, our longtime good friends from Kansas, Dick and Barb, visited my husband for a few days and stayed at our house.  It happened to be the only cold week we had in January.

5. In South Carolina I received an e-mail from my visiting friend, Barb, saying she had borrowed my red gloves to go for a walk one cold morning, and lost one of them on her walk.  She planned to buy me a replacement pair.

6. I e-mailed back immediately to tell her I had lost the glove, not she, that one odd glove had been floating around in the closet for awhile before she ever got there, and that there was no need to buy a new pair.

7. She sent me a funny e-mail back saying, "Okay, but I thought I started my walk with two." :-)

8. Our friends returned to Kansas, and I returned home to discover that Barb had indeed bought a brand new pair of red gloves and left them in the guestroom for me.  They are very nice gloves with a ruffled cuff.  I thanked her, of course, and went to put the new gloves away in the hat and mitten chest (not the box in the closet).

9.  The plot thickens. In the chest I found three old red gloves, all matching the odd one in the closet.

10. This I do not understand. I originally had only one pair of red gloves. Now I have three pairs.  Two old, and one new.

11.  Now the plot gets thicker yet.  I lay out all four old gloves to discover that three of them are lefties and only one is a righty----and worse----the only righty has an unraveled finger.

12. My gloves reproduced in the hat and mitten chest?  Three lefts and one right? How did Barb start with two, then have only one, if there were four all along?  And how did that finger get unraveled? To my knowledge, there are no mice in the house.

13. And then the plot got thicker yet.  I pulled out all the gloves to take a photo for this blogpost---and you guessed it---I find ANOTHER old one.  Now I have five old red gloves, two new.

14. I called Sally to ask if she remembered the gloves. She didn't. Sally is a practical woman. She suggested maybe she gave me three pairs and that Barb did lose one glove on her walk. My response to that: why would anyone give her sister three pairs of identical red gloves?

15. Sally is satisfied with her explanation. The mystery lives on in my mind. dkm

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

So It's Time

Conk-la-ree! Conk-la-ree! Dtdtdteeeeeeee!  Loud and many.  From the neighbor's tall holly just over the fence. Sounded like red-winged black birds to me—couldn't be—not this early. But yes, on closer inspection, the holly was nearly saturated with blackbirds. So they're already beginning their pass-through on their way to parts further north, soon to be here in huge flocks that cover the ground. Our warm winter has fooled them.

I returned home on Jan 31st, after a month away, to daffodils already in bloom. Earliest I've ever seen them is Valentine's Day, often not till early March.  

daffodils in early Feb, 2012

The winter hellebores have only just bloomed!  Daffodils? Impossible. 

winter helleborus, Feb 8, 2012

helleborus, Feb 8, 2012

I shouldn't have been surprised, because the day I left home, on Jan 2nd, the flowering quince blossoms were just beginning to open—so early I feared they would live to regret it. But they flourished, and I nearly missed them. 

flowering quince, just past peak bloom, Feb 8, 2012

 The camellias that usually show in late Feb &  March are falling all over themselves trying to outbloom each other. 

pink perfection, Feb 8, 2012

pink perfection, Feb 8, 2012

magniflora, Feb 8, 2012

magniflora, Feb 8, 2012

big red, Feb 8, 2012
The cherry buds are swollen and purple, at least four weeks early. I'll be perturbed with Jack Frost if he spoils the backyard cherry blossom show this year.

And just now, as I take my hour of long-sitting in the backyard for the first time since I've been home, who's that I see in hot pursuit of whom? None other than Sir & Madame Bluebird! While I can't be sure it's the same pair I watched through the 2011 nesting season, there can be no mistaking what this pair has in mind today.  Such a teasing and fluttering and darting and chasing and fluffing—in and out of the branches behind the copper roofed bird house. My oh my.

General Beauregard Lee, Georgia's legendary ground hog at Yellow River Game Ranch, who has a 94% accuracy rate, predicted an early spring when he made no shadow on Feb 2, but I don't think even he meant this early.

Wonder what all this says about the kind of summer we're in for, and if the early warming is the certain result of our longterm careless environmental behaviors. dkm

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I Meant You No Harm

Dear Deer,
     I'm sorry I disturbed your suppers. It's just that your eating time was my walking home time. For the record, I tried to tread lightly, silently, on the path, but you always knew I was there. You watched my every move with your enormous brown eyes. You were full of mystery and stillnes in the dim light. Every evening I hoped I could slip past you without notice. Not a chance.


Please forgive me if I frightened you. Do you know you frightened me too? Especially you with the rack of antlers, who stared me down on the path. And you, the mama who stamped at me one morning. Twice. Were you warning me not to come any closer?  In the end, you all ran when I kept walking.  If I had stopped for you every time, it would have been too dark to see my steps by the time I got home. My sincere apologies for whatever you thought of me.


. I learned that you come out to feed at dawn and dusk, that you go into hiding across noon and midnight, never fully sleeping, always aware of your surroundings, that you rarely bed down twice in the same place, so as not to tip off your predators. You're very clever. I admire that.


Do you know you have no predators on the island? Except for the island authority birth control intervention, that is. I'm sorry about that, too, even if I understand why it's necessary. It's for your own good health, you know. I counted twenty-six of you on one evening walk, a distance of one mile. Your white tails floated above the marsh grass when you bounded off. You are fast. I hope you know how beautiful and mysterious I think you are.

     Thank you for letting me pass your way.