Category Archives: birds

Morning Melange

As I was getting dressed and forgetting to make my bed this morning, I listened to Fr. Michael Gillis of Praying in the Rain blog, on his podcast of the same name, an episode in which he “deconstructs the notion that choice translates into freedom.” I really liked him, and the message. His recent blog post about fleeing to the desert (a little bit), is really helpful, too. How can we flee to the desert when many of us aren’t leaving our houses? It’s a provoking meditation, in the best way.

Before sunrise, I had trekked downstairs in my slippers to check on the greenhouse heater that I finally installed last week. The thermostat was set so that it should have come on, going by my phone, where I read that the outdoor temperature was 32 degrees. Yes! Success!

Last night I had defrosted a container of the tiny snow peas I toiled over preserving last spring. They were incredibly labor intensive at every stage, and I vowed never to buy from that seed company again, and only to use seeds that were likely to produce large pea pods.

But this morning the peas I’d saved were a welcome addition to the pan to which I added eggs, and this seasoning mix from Trader Joe’s that I seem to be sprinkling on everything lately.

I ate a giant pink grapefruit, too, which made me think about my childhood when I didn’t like that fruit, and about the funny name of it, which was easy to learn in Turkish because they call it greypfrut. Who named it first? I couldn’t remember, so I looked it up in this wonderful book that was my grandfather’s. He was a citrus farmer, too, and when he was visiting our family, there was no chance of any child getting out of eating grapefruit for breakfast. We were allowed to put honey on it, but in my case that didn’t help much.

That book, The World in Your Garden, is the source of the pretty picture at top. It says that the name originated in Jamaica!

Grapefruit is one thing I wouldn’t try to eat while sitting at the computer, so I watched the birds. All the larger species were visiting, doves, and the blue jay, and even the flickers. I’m pretty sure I saw the Cooper’s Hawk, too, spying out his breakfast.

I’ve been trying to find the right food to scatter on the patio for the doves and other ground-feeders. So many blends I have tried in the past have some ingredients that are ignored, and go to waste. My latest offering is something designed for pigeons, and many of the birds have been eating most of that mix. There are still some split peas, they look like, that go untouched so far. When this bag is gone, I will just buy some plain millet; that’s what I have been looking for for a year, but haven’t found it yet.

I’m leaving soon to drive to the beach — again! I have been doing it a lot, and plan to start a sort of Beach Diary page here on my blog. But being on the beach is taking time away from writing… By the time I get there, morning will have turned to afternoon, and I hope the sun will be shining.

Blessings to all from my corner of the cosmos.

One Song

ONE SONG
After Rumi

A cardinal, the very essence of red, stabs
the hedgerow with his piercing notes;
a chickadee adds three short beats,
part of the percussion section, and a white-
throated sparrow moves the melody along.
Last night, at a concert, crashing waves
of Prokofiev; later, the soft rain falling
steadily and a train whistle off in the distance.
And today, the sun, waiting for its cue,
comes out from the clouds for a short sweet
solo, then sits back down, rests between turns.
On the other side of the world, night’s black
bass fiddle rosins its bow, draws it over
the strings, resonates with the breath
of sleepers, animal, vegetable, human.
All the world breathes in, breathes out.
It hums, it throbs, it improvises.  So many voices.
Only one song.

-Barbara Crooker

Here’s a video from Britain that provides a lovely audiovisual accompaniment:

Bird Sounds

Flora, fauna and future of the garden.

“From December to March,
there are for many of us three gardens –
the garden outdoors,
the garden of pots and bowls in the house,
and the garden of the mind’s eye.”

-Katherine S. White

I received a Christmas gift of flower seeds, which made me realize that I really do need to get busy and finish the upgrading of my greenhouse that was begun by my neighbor Bob in October. He supplied it with electricity and installed grow lights, but it remains for me to set up the heater, thermostat, fan and timer.

Then I can get seeds started a little earlier than would be otherwise possible during this season when the greenhouse sits in the shade of my two-story house. In the meantime, neighbor Terri and I can talk about our gardens past and future. Yesterday she gave me this heavy Pink Banana squash she grew last summer, evidently a good keeper!

I can eat one thing from the garden currently: collards — and I found a wonderful, vegan recipe for collards in coconut milk that I will try to post here. Fruit from the arbutus or Strawberry Tree got spoiled by the rain this year, but before that, at least it didn’t have anything like the mysterious pests or diseases of last year, which was a big relief.

Not my photo!

I received New Year’s gifts in my garden, not plants flowering or fruiting but birds visiting. Their energy and personality are even more welcome when the landscape is dark. On New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day a pair of Northern Flickers came by; they got my attention fast, such big birds acting like woodpeckers on the pine tree, but nothing like any woodpecker I’d ever encountered before. They hopped around the garden for hours, pecking in the bark mulch, so I had plenty of time to leaf through all the pages of Peterson’s guide until I found them. This was the most exciting Bird Event (repeated this morning!) since my first sighting of Hooded Orioles at the hummingbird feeder some years ago.

A different sort of event was when a bird flew into my slider and sat stunned on the mat for such a long time that I was able to take its picture. I had been thinking that these were some kind of sparrow, but once I got such a clear image, it was hard to fit the little creature into that family.

Attached to a suggested blog post in my WordPress feed that very evening, I glimpsed a photo that looked very much like mine. It was a blog post about Pine Siskins — what do you know! It’s Pine Siskins that I have been enjoying here for a couple of years at least.

They feed alongside sparrows, finches, and warblers, while chickadees and bushtits enjoy the suet feeder nearby. Juncos and titmice, jays and doves fly in and away. Occasionally a towhee visits… then the Cooper’s Hawk swoops down for the kill and adds drama, only three feet away from me across the glass. If I don’t take a break from watching these busy birds, I won’t get any seeds planted. Yes, that could happen….

…because the world is full of delights.

Drinking up this last one.

Some days the birds are so joyful in my garden that they appear to be beside themselves with exuberance. The finches and warblers gather at the chapel feeder, and then a few fly off into the trees to peck around, I assume for insects. A sparrow swoops toward the fountain, and then pauses, and twists midflight into a hairpin turn back the way it came. I have watched this fancy wing-work many times, as this morning from my spot by the table, which is now a sort of icon corner also. If the birds can have so much fun, maybe I should not worry about the way I flit about in my own little realm.

On a morning like today, when the sun is shining, it can be quite lively with titmice, chickadees and towhees, too. I’m afraid the hawks notice this activity; several times there have been brief encounters when they dive silently onto the playground of little birds, and the sound and size of their wings catches my attention — then they are gone.

But twice this month it happened. Once after the attack the raptor sat on the fence, backlit by the morning sun; I could see the shape and size of it, and the color of its breast. The next time I saw its dark gray back just before it disappeared. I think it was a Cooper’s Hawk. When I read about them, their habit of eating smaller birds was mentioned.

The last day of October is quieting my heart. I know, in the coming months it will be a struggle, to get myself outdoors as much as I know is sublime and profitable, but today was easy. Even the honeybees were enjoying my warm corner with the salvia that has many new little flowers on the ends of mostly dried-up stems. When I first sat down there, the bees were a little slow, but as the temperature rose so did their speed.

So many days of the month have been dreary and discouraging. I think at the beginning of it the plants were suffering from heat and smoke. Now they like the clean and cooler air. I forgot to water the succulents under the manzanita, and one poor specimen is showing just how it feels to be hanging on with one’s roots, conserving water, letting go of leaf after leaf while waiting for the gardener to bring refreshment.

But the majority are enjoying what might be their favorite, blooming time of year:

These last few hours of October are full to bursting with the beauty of the season. I know tomorrow will not be much different from today, in reality. But in our minds…. we remember that it’s time to turn the page of the calendar.

A jasmine flower just opened.