Category Archives: birds

The evening’s excitement was blue.

If I had procrastinated just a little longer this evening, I’d have missed a great blessing. As it was, I had just enough minutes to take a walk and make it back before dark. I wished I had given myself time to drive somewhere different, but I did take a slightly different route. What I saw made me thankful in the end about all the timing.

As I set out I was recalling how I wanted to share pictures of the lemon curd I made last week. The color is so gorgeous, not just Lemon Yellow but Lemon and Egg Yellow. I’m not a fan of yellow for decorating my house or my self, but when I had just got my driver’s license as a teenager, I thought I’d like to have a yellow pick-up.

That idea must have been a response to discussion about such things among my friends; I can’t imagine that I was dreaming or scheming  on my own initiative, as I don’t seem to have a (good or bad) ambitious bone in my body. I know I never tried in any way to get a vehicle. This evening, musing on my lack of yellow clothing, I emerged from the redwood grove at a street to see a yellow pick-up. I have to say, the one I “wanted” was older and rounder, but just about that color.

That was fun. I walked and walked and found blue and purple things to take pictures of. Lovely rosemary, and a too-blue house, that was trying to be a flag. Yellow, too, narcissus of a form that always pleases me when I see it at this time of year.

I ended up on the bridge over the creek close to my house, and there a man with a camera spoke to me; he wanted to talk with someone about the kingfishers he has been trying to photograph for six years. I have been walking along this creek for 25 years and I didn’t know we had kingfishers. He said there was an otter in the creek lower down a couple of years ago, too.

I mentioned the bald eagles I’d seen; he had not had that experience. And he said I certainly would have heard the kingfishers, they make such a racket as they fly just above the water, very fast. Would I have forgotten that? Of course it’s possible. I’m still surprised, though not incredulous, at what I have forgotten. The man was kind enough to introduce himself to me and shake hands, and he and I walked in the same direction down the path, talking about good places to see birds, and good hikes to take.

And then, a great commotion, there they were, tearing down the creek channel behind the trees, not stopping to have their picture taken. So noisy! You probably all know their sound already but if not, you can listen here. About three minutes later, back they came just as loud and fast, but this time I glimpsed a flash of blue.

I was so happy to see that Mary Oliver wrote a poem about the kingfisher, because that wild creature may remain a phantom blue noise for me for a while to come, but — there was a sighting!

THE KINGFISHER

The kingfisher rises out of the black wave
like a blue flower, in his beak
he carries a silver leaf. I think this is
the prettiest world — so long as you don’t mind
a little dying, how could there be a day in your whole life
that doesn’t have its splash of happiness?
There are more fish than there are leaves
There are more fish than there are leaves
on a thousand trees, and anyway the kingfisher
wasn’t born to think about it, or anything else.
When the wave snaps shut over his blue head, the water
remains water–hunger is the only story
he has ever heard in his life that he could believe.
I don’t say he’s right. Neither
do I say he’s wrong. Religiously he swallows the silver leaf
with its broken red river, and with a rough and easy cry
I couldn’t rouse out of my thoughtful body
if my life depended on it, he swings back
over the bright sea to do the same thing, to do it
(as I long to do something, anything) perfectly.

-Mary Oliver

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(bird photos from Internet)

Owls bring the night in.

In the late fall I was sitting here at my desktop after dark when I heard an owl in my back yard. I knew it was an owl because he sounded just like the ones in the movies. I don’t think I had encountered one in person ever.

But I didn’t know what species he might be. I spent a good hour listening to various owls on Cornell University’s site All About Birds site, and the owl cooperated by demonstrating his distinctive call many times. He came another night not long afterward. For a while that first night I thought perhaps he was a Barred Owl, but eventually I knew for sure that he was a Great Horned Owl.

In my research I found advice about how to build a platform for this owl to nest on, how high up to attach it, and that it should go up in November so that the owls might find it when they go looking for good nesting sites in February. I did wish that I could start on one more project like that, but it was obviously not the right thing for me this year.

Probably everyone has more familiarity with owls than I do, but if you’d like to hear the calls of five owls this is a helpful Audubon page that limits itself to just that many: Identify Five Owls

You can guess how honored I felt that such a creature had visited me, even if he couldn’t be seen. His voice seemed full of romance, and let me in on the secret drama of the night. Of the five owls on the linked page, his call is surely the most pleasing, low and soft. So many owls are screechy.

Richard Wilbur wrote a poem about an owl’s voice. His own voice is more pleasant to me than that of the Barred Owl that he writes about; maybe that’s why someone came up with the explanation for a child, and why I like his poem so much. You can listen to him reading it: here.

A BARRED OWL

The warping night air having brought the boom
Of an owl’s voice into her darkened room,
We tell the wakened child that all she heard
Was an odd question from a forest bird,
Asking of us, if rightly listened to,
“Who cooks for you?” and then “Who cooks for you?”

Words, which can make our terrors bravely clear,
Can also thus domesticate a fear,
And send a small child back to sleep at night
Not listening for the sound of stealthy flight
Or dreaming of some small thing in a claw
Borne up to some dark branch and eaten raw.

-Richard Wilbur,  from Mayflies: New Poems and Translations. © 2000

A convocation of birds and Glad people.

Meeting my great-grandaughter Lori for the first time was surely a highlight of this Christmas. Her family drove in two days from Washington state, and stayed a week. I had been to her parents’ wedding in 2017, but this was also my first chance to spend much time with her dear mother Izzy, and that too was a highlight.

Truly, it has been ten days of countless overlapping highs and lights such that at this stage the brightness confuses me, and there don’t seem to be points of focus. Also, several of our party were not feeling well in one way or another; I caught one of their bugs that is making me dull. But there are pictures!

Many weeks ago I had told my contractor that if we could just get the “floors and doors” on the new rooms, I would be content to receive my guests. That was barely accomplished by Friday evening the 20th. Primer and/or paint had been applied in some rooms; the painters worked till 11:00 p.m. Then I spent hours moving stuff around to accommodate the thirteen extra sleepers, and made multiple rounds with dust cloths, but the dust was settling for days after the drywallers had left, so that effort was disappointing.

Soldier and family had come from Colorado and were staying with Joy’s parents’ nearby. He and Laddie and Brodie came over on Saturday to put up my tree and decorate it with me. Sunday and Monday the rest of the family arrived.

In addition to Colorado and Washington, family traveled from Washington D.C., Wisconsin, Oregon, and two towns in California. Fourteen of us spread out among six rooms including the living room; 28 total were feasting together and catching up over two days. Two older grandsons didn’t make it down from the north, but a cousin joined us for a few hours. We had four children under two among us, two of whom were just six and seven months old. Several of the children were jet-lagged and a bit distressed by the noisy crowd, but a dozen aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents were on hand to rock and comfort them.

I myself started sleeping better as soon as we crossed from “Before Christmas” into “When the children arrive.” Pearl organized us all into cooking teams, and before that I’d done most of the shopping. Everyone pitched in with everything, including whatever I hadn’t done, and overlooked the dust.

I made the future sewing room into a wrapping room, for all those people who had shipped packages here unwrapped. The crib had been re-assembled Sunday afternoon and it went back and forth from that room into the new guest bedroom, along with a Pack-n-Play. Those rooms had no real window coverings, and there was ample sunshine for more than a week. What a blessing that was. In various groupings people went to the park, on a hike, on a creek walk. The conversations were compelling, and I had to force myself to go to bed while all my favorite people were still talking and laughing, and showing their wonderfulness.

On Christmas Eve Day Pippin made a list for me of all the birds we had seen that day, several of which she had identified for me.

Mourning Dove
Towhee
Scrub Jay
Tufted Titmouse
Anna’s Hummingbird
Townsend’s Warbler
Red-Breasted Nuthatch
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet
Lesser Goldfinch
Pine Siskin
Black-Capped Chickadee
Junco
White-Crowned Sparrow
Field ? Sparrow
Song Sparrow
English Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
House Finch
Bushtit
Nuttall’s Woodpecker

I was thrilled at the abundance of birds! Once I was carrying Raj around in the garden trying to calm him down. It was cool and sunny, and we looked at plants and flowers, and he had become quiet. I was talking in a low voice as we walked on to the patio, and suddenly realized that a song sparrow was busy at the feeder not two feet away. When we got yet closer it moved to the other side of the feeder but didn’t fly away. Close as I was, my picture is blurry, I suppose because I was holding a 30-lb child in my arms while shooting it.

On Christmas Day Kate and I took Raj and Rigo to church. The boys were surprisingly attentive and well-behaved… until they weren’t. So we had to go home a little early. In my neighborhood I scowled into my camera to get this shot, not realizing I was in the picture with the shepherds.

The last seven guests departed today, including three of the littlest ones. As far as my house is concerned, we are mostly now in the “After Christmas” period, when remodeling work is supposed to start up again. But I have a feeling things will be pretty quiet until 2020 arrives, and that’s okay, because I have lots of debriefing to do with myself, and processing of all the love and good deeds and good wishes that flowed into the house and all over the place. And a few more Days of Christmas during which I will make some plates of cookies for the neighbors, and watch the Iceland Poppies bloom.

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

New friends stopping by…

The carpenter who was hanging doors today brought his nine-year-old son August along with him, with my permission, with the idea that he would stay near his father upstairs. The dad didn’t mind that I set August up by the fire instead, to eat his lunch; I really like the dad and I was glad to meet one of his children, and to make him comfortable. He liked to chat.

Lesser Goldfinch in winter

I got a break from that socializing when they had to go briefly to another job, and I ran some errands having to do with the remodeling and the Christmas celebrations upcoming. When I got back August was glad to see me. He asked whether I had pets, and started advising me that I needed a cockatiel to talk to. I explained about my love for watching the wild birds, and as we looked out at the garden I told him that contrary to present appearances, the birds often came by the dozens, most recently goldfinches. He said, “Look, there’s a hummingbird… it’s a small one.” And suddenly, a flock of birds surprised him by arriving all at once at the seed feeder, and we began to study them.

The yellow-headed birds did not look like goldfinches. I stumbled over boxes of Christmas decorations and faucets to pull the Peterson’s Guide off the shelf, and paged through the colored plates with August looking on, and we determined that this bird is a Townsend’s Warbler. How convenient it was, a few minutes later, when a Lesser Goldfinch, one of those birds I’ve been seeing for years, joined a warbler on the feeder so we could compare them side by side. Of course, the warbler is larger, and different in many ways.

Townsend’s Warbler

August really wanted me to take a picture of the birds, but I explained that I never can get good pictures through the window, and if I open the door, they all fly away. So I am posting here two pictures I found online.

I am pretty pleased at the double gift, a boy and a new bird sighting, all in one day. Thank You, Lord! Now I must get back to my cookie-baking…