Friday, August 31, 2007

A long time coming....

But I'm back!
We're just emerging from a loooong stretch of 100 degree-plus weather. It's been brutal! And there's been no relief from this drought--it's the worst in Alabama history. But it's rained off and on for a few days now, the temps have dropped and it's finally bearable outside. I'm sooo ready for fall.

It's been difficult to keep enough water in the birdbath. I have to check it several times a day to make sure that the water hasn't all been splashed out by overheated doves, cardinals, American goldfinches, blue jays and assorted other feathered creatures. On the days when the temperatures soared to more than 100 degrees, I had to add water several times a day to make up for the evaporation. I couldn't stand the thought of any of the birds going thirsty or being unable to enjoy refreshing baths. They showed their appreciation by gathering at the freshly filled birdbath, drinking deeply, bathing, and sometimes just sitting there with their feet in the water.

The bluebirds abandoned their third (or was it their fourth?) nest. I believe it was just too hot for them. But I did get to see several of the youngsters from the earlier go-rounds and that was wonderful. The male was all for starting a new nest in the house at the end of the porch but the female was having none of that! Can't say that I blame her. It was just too dang hot to sit inside a stuffy birdhouse all the time.

Family News
My grandson Bailey started kindergarten! I can't believe my little blond haired, blue eyed boy is that big. He's so thrilled and excited; he sings his newly learned school songs to me over the telephone and tells me all about what he does at school, right down to what he had for lunch. The animation and happiness in his voice is so sweet to hear. I'm so relieved that he is enjoying school so much. (His mother sure didn't. LOL)

Upcoming News
There'll be some writing news coming up soon so stay tuned! Until then, take good care of yourselves and be well. :)

Friday, May 25, 2007

Notes from the Feathers

Bluebird Updates
Lots have happened with the bluebirds since last I posted! The first bunch of babies did very well and fledged early one Saturday morning. Before a week was up, the parents were at it again. This time, they set up housekeeping in the birdbox mounted on a porch post at the end of our house. I can't express how wonderful it is to have them living so near! It's fun to sit on the porch, a mere 15' or so away, and watch them. Listening to them is fun, too. Their voices are so soothing; they warble to each other and it really sounds like they're having a conversation. I believe the latest clutch of eggs has started hatching; I saw the male bring a small insect to the house a few minutes ago. Awesome.

Chickadee News
The little wooden house we hung in the tree has been a constant source of entertainment (and distraction) for me. I can see it from my desk and spent too much time grabbing my binoculars to sneak a peek at the activities when I was supposed to be writing. But I'm glad I kept an eye on it...the babies fledged two days ago and I got to catch a good bit of the action!

I realized there was a huge amount of activity in and out of the house--parents carrying in food and taking out great big fecal sacs, almost in a frenzy. I couldn't stand not knowing exactly what was going on so I grabbed my binocs (gonna have those things surgically attached one of these days) and headed for the front porch.

This is so cool--I got a good look at little chickadee faces peering out of the house! They were cheeping and fussing and I could even see them preening themselves. I missed the actual leaving of the nest because I had to run back inside to catch the phone. Once I was certain the nest was deserted, I took a flashlight and went out to peek inside the house. The box was filled with moss, puffs of the soft nesting material I had hung outside in a suet cage, and even a small matted tangle of Taffy's hair! (Taffy was my sweet little dog who left us last summer after being my best friend for more than 14 years.) I loved seeing that; it made it even more special to know that Taffy had helped the chickadees build a comfy home.

Around the Garden
The big bluejay that's been hanging around a lot lately came to perch on the edge of the birdbath and then sat leisurely sipping. Big drops of water dribbled down its about a sloppy drinker. And as I sat on the porch observing all the other birdly activity, I noticed a hummingbird buzzing all around one of the hanging pots of petunias. Then it moved to the other end of the porch to check out the English ivy, totally ignoring the freshly filled feeder hanging next to it. I have no idea what the attraction is, but the hummingbirds really love that ivy!

Memorial Day
We're heading up to Chattanooga tomorrow to visit the National Cemetery where my brother is buried. It's such a beautiful, peaceful place. I'm going to take some roses from our garden to put on the grave. Semper Fi, bro. I miss you every day!!


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Bluebird watch/Attack crow

Bluebird watch
The female bluebird is now spending most of her time in the birdhouse, with the male standing guard nearby. He frequently brings her bits of food and sometimes goes inside the box to sit with her for a few minutes. It's getting down to the wire; if all goes well, there'll be little bluebirds soon. Keep your fingers crossed!

Attack crow

As I stood at the front door watching the bluebirds, a huge, glossy black crow swooped down and landed in the yard. It strutted around, poking in the grass from time to time as it leisurely circled the garden. It wandered down alongside the driveway, still searching the grass when suddenly, it hopped straight up into the air. I wondered if it had been startled by an insect. The crow then began stabbing at something on the ground. But the something wasn't an insect--it was a mouse!

Grabbing the binoculars, I stared with a mixture of horror and fascination as the crow continued to attack the mouse. By now, the mouse was on its back, kicking its legs helplessly in the air. After a few seconds of this, the crow grabbed up the mouse in its beak and flew away into the pine thicket where it would, thankfully, devour its dinner out of my sight.

I know this is all part of the circle of life and that Nature isn't always kind. But I also know that sometimes my heart is too tender and my stomach too weak for this!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Remembering Virginia Tech

My heart aches for the families and friends of those killed or wounded during yesterday's horrendous attacks at Virginia Tech, and most especially, for the victims. I can't understand what drives one to do such a thing and I never will. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved.

Friday, April 13, 2007

A Few Words About the Pet Food Recall

By now everyone is (or should be) aware of the recent pet food recalls. First thought to affect only canned or moist diets, now some dry foods are being recalled--even some specialty diets available only through veterinarians! And, sadly, the list continues to grow.

What to look for

Are you worried that some of the pet food on your shelf is contaminated? Here's what to do: Check the brand name of the food, along with the lot number and UPC code. You'll find the numbers and codes stamped on the can lids of wet foods, and on the bag or pouch of moist diets. Compare the information with the FDA's list of recalled foods. If you have any of the foods listed, either return them to the point of purchase for a refund, or follow directions listed on the company websites.

Think your pet may have consumed some of the contaminated foods? Look for symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or any other unusual behavior not previously seen. Don't wait; if you notice any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Helpful Websites
Here are a few resources for information. Check them often to stay on top of any updates.

Menu Foods, Inc.

Nestle Purina PetCare Company

Hill's Pet Nutrition, Inc.

Del Monte Pet Products

Feathery Things
One of the coolest things I've seen is an entire flock of goldfinches zeroing in on the front yard feeder. All that bright yellow and bold black is a feast for the eyes!

The mother bluebird is sitting tight on those eggs. We'll know before too long if the cold snap hurt them.

Gotta fly
The parrots are clamoring for their breakfast and it's time to refill the wild bird feeders. 'Til next time, be well, be safe, and be happy!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Cold snap :(

We had a cold front move in late last week and it took a terrible toll on our gardens. The Japanese magnolia, crape myrtle, fig tree, butterfly bush, elephant ears and assorted flowers like the cannas, all froze! The once beautiful, lush green leaves and shoots are now destroyed, black, sick-looking waste. My heart hurts. But all is not lost: I'd brought the hanging baskets and potted plants in from the porch, so they're all safe.

Chilled eggs?
My biggest fear is that the bluebird eggs may have gotten chilled. The female is still staying inside the box much of the time, but she also flies out whenever something startles her. I hope she didn't leave the nest long enough for the eggs to get too cool.

The little hummingbirds are just active as they were when the temps were high! Night before last, our temperatures dropped into the twenties, but the hummingbird food didn't freeze. I'm guessing that might be because the feeder is hanging in a protected place on the porch (?). At any rate, the hummingbirds buzzed the feeder all day and are out again early this morning. They must be a lot tougher than they look!

Blogger's Choice Award!
My lovely friend Dawno nominated this blog for a Blogger's Choice award--Best Animal Blog! Thank you, Dawno. I'm speechless, and that rarely happens. Be sure to drop by her blog. You'll be glad you did!

Happy Easter!
I hope you all had a wonderful, blessed Easter!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Brown-headed Cowbirds

They're here....
I've recently seen a male and several female Brown-headed Cowbirds on the feeder. The male is really pretty; he has a chocolate-brown head and neck, and a glossy black body. The females, bless their hearts, are a nondescript brownish color and resemble large dark sparrows. There are a lot of cowbirds around here, but this is the first time I've seen so many at the feeder.

Cowbirds are interesting critters. They're parasitic brooders, which means that they don't build their own nests, but lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. Then they blithely fly away, leaving their egg and subsequent baby for another bird to care for. That's just not nice.

Bathing Beauties
I noticed Darby (the beagle) perched on the back of the couch this morning, staring out the window. I went to see what was so fascinating and spotted two Mourning Doves splashing around in the bird bath. They looked so funny with their feathers sticking out every which way and water dripping everywhere. I didn't realize until last year what enthusiastic bathers they are. They used the bird bath more than anybody else.

They do a good job cleaning up around the feeder post, too, picking up all the dropped seeds and corn. I love to listen to them coo to each other. Their voices are very soothing.

Parrot News
My daughter entered pictures of the parrots in an online photo contest and Pancho won! Well, actually my granddaughter won--she got some free entries in another contest because Pancho was technically her entry. Or something. I don't understand these things. But I do know that Pancho's cute little face got lots of votes.

Until next time, take care, y'all!

Sunday, April 01, 2007


The bluebird couple is on eggs. Yay!
We checked the box yesterday and saw two eggs cozily snuggled together inside the nest. And what a nest it is--the female carried in enough materials to build a nest the size of a baseball glove. She's spending a lot of time in the birdhouse now and the male frequently brings her juicy worms and other delicacies. This is so cool.

Hummingbirds are here!
Our first hummingbird arrived March 27, just in time for my birthday last Thursday! That was mightly thoughtful. As I sat typing this, one buzzed the feeder and guzzled a bit of sugar water, but it sped away before I could see whether it was a male or female.

I hope all the hummers are staying warm. We've had a cold snap and the temps dropped quite a bit. But at least the little birds won't go hungry. All the flowering shrubs and fruit trees are in bloom, as well as many flowers.

Gold and black
The male American goldfinches are shedding their drab winter feathers and replacing them with the sunny yellow that is so gorgeous. Right now, the little guys look rather shabby. There are bright yellow patches all over their bodies and black spots where their black caps are coming in; they look sort of like bag-birds. But soon enough, they'll be dressed in their stunning summer outfits of brilliant yellow and shiny black, and will be pigging out at the feeder and on the grasses in the field. I love these birds!

Parrot news
Both parrots are doing great. Rio turns 21 this year! He's in wonderful condition, healthy and happy. And Pancho has been busily learning new sounds. We got a beagle puppy back in October and Pancho picked up some of his vocalizations. *sigh* Actually, I don't mind. I'm always thrilled when one of them displays a new trick.

'Til next time, be well and keep an eye out for the feathered creatures in your area. They put on some of the best shows on Earth!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Nesting in Progress

The bluebird couple is working on their nest!
This morning we sat on the front porch and watched the female carry numerous bundles of dried pine straw into the box. She looked so comical, almost like she had a big handlebar moustache, when she turned to look at us with straw sticking out both sides of her beak. After she completed a few trips, we saw the neatest thing. The male joined her on top of the house and offered her a big, juicy bug. She accepted it graciously (after all, she is the one doing all the work) and they sat side by side for a bit. Such a gorgeous sight; I just love watching them and listening to their warbling conversations.

Hawk Dance
While we were watching all the birdly activity in the yard, we noticed several Red-tailed hawks soaring overhead. We could hear their vocalizations, which were very different from the usual shrill whistling cries; these calls sounded more like screams. Occasionally one would tuck its wings to its body and dive toward the earth; then, just as suddenly, it would pull out of the dive and soar upward again. Their feathers were so beautiful against the blue sky! I noticed that one of the hawks had a gap in its left wing feathers. That'll help me positively identify it if it comes by again, at least until the missing feather grows back.

Chickadee Update
Chickadees are spending lots of time going in and out of the little house in the tree. I can see if from my desk and often grab my ever-present binoculars to sneak a peek at the activity. I haven't seen any nesting material being carted in yet, but then again, I'm supposed to be working and can't watch them every minute. Those fascinating little feathered things make concentrating on my work so difficult!

The trees are in bloom, flowers and shrubs are covered with buds, and there is pollen everywhere! But you know what? I can't stay indoors! No matter how sick my allergies make me, it's worth it to be able to spend time outside. Until next time, stay well, stay safe, and try to watch a bird or two!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Housewarming gifts and red wasps

I made a housewarming gift for all the soon-to-be nesting wild birds! Yesterday I stuffed a handful of unscented dryer lint and a bunch of yarn clippings (none longer than 3" in length; don't want any birdies getting tangled up) into a suet cage and hung it from one of the arms of the garden birdfeeder. I'm dying to see one of them taking some of the offerings, but no luck. They're wiley, those feathered ones; every time I check on the nesting materials, the cage is swinging wildly and whatever bird was there is long gone. Maybe next time!

On an annoying and potentially dangerous note, I saw several red wasps going in and out of the garden birdhouse--the one the bluebird couple is interested in. The female chased away a couple of them yesterday and went about her business of sitting on top of the house and spending time inside doing who-knows-what. But this morning, I saw her stick her head inside and then hop on top of the house. Seconds later a big wasp exited the house. She chased another out, too, but I'm afraid the wasps are going to try to set up housekeeping. If things look the same tomorrow, I'll open up the box and try to do something to repel them. Natural, chemical-free remedies are most welcome, if anyone wants to suggest something.

Got to do a bit of gardening this morning! I trimmed all the dead stuff from the butterfly bush and was pleased to see how full of new growth it is and the fresh leaves sprouting all over it. If all goes well, I'll be mulching and trimming and working much more in the garden soon.

Be well, everyone!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Spring is Springing!

Or it is in Alabama, anyway.

The air was full of birdsong this morning! The music overpowered all other sounds and I stopped just to listen. There were the warbling calls of bluebirds, mockingbirds and brown thrashers competed with each other to see who could come up with the most imitations, Carolina chickadees scolded the dog, and there were so many other voices it was impossible to sort them all out. I can't think of a more gorgeous, absolutely perfect soundtrack for my day.

For the last couple of weeks, the wild birds have been busily scoping out the birdhouses we have scattered around the place. The box used by last year's bluebird couple is being checked out by another pair of bluebirds (or it might be the same pair that used it last year, dunno) and my husband saw a tufted titmouse sitting on top of it with a couple of sprigs of grass in its beak. A wren has poked its head in the door once or twice, too. So we'll see who ends up renting that unit.

A pair of Eastern bluebirds (I'm inclined to think it's the same pair mentioned above) is also constantly going in and out of a birdhouse in the garden. One day I saw the female messing around inside the house with a feather. She would poke her head out the door, feather in beak, look around, and then go back inside. Maybe she was doing a little spring cleaning. The couple has been busy around that house again today and they're also actively chasing other birds away from it.

Last Saturday, we hung a new house in a tree outside my office window. Already tufted titmice and Carolina chickadees are chasing each other away from it. That afternoon I noticed an Eastern bluebird, a cardinal, big sparrow of some sort, numerous chickadees and titmice, and a lone wren checking it out.

Then yesterday I spotted a chickadee going in and out of that house. It climbed beneath it to check out the bottom; next the little guy examined the back of the house. Guess he/she wanted to make sure everything is in good shape. Later, there were two chickadees looking it over. I think one of them was the one who was there earlier, determined the house was okay, and then went after its mate. ("Oh, Honey, you just have to see this house! It's in a good neighborhood, has lots of room for the kids, and access to water and a well stocked grocery store.") We'll see what happens from here.

Garden note: My Japanese magnolia is covered with beautiful purple flowers! These trees look strange with their bare, leafless branches all decked out in flowers, but I love them! They smell nice, too.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

I'm still here!

Wow. I remembered my password. And it still works! Does anybody remember me?

Looks like I have some catching up to do. I'll get busy and try to learn the new stuff and be back soon to update this thing. Hope to see everyone around!