And to go to see real green again
I saw a Bewick’s wren at dusk on the fence, peering into the neighbor’s garden.
This was huge to me. I had had a delightful courting pair, as I do every year–and then they vanished. Seeing a Bewick’s had been a near-daily occurrence for years and they had become my favorites, and then nothing. For two months. I could only assume the neighbor’s cat had gotten them, as so often happens to their kind, but there one was tonight!
And. There is a squirrel who’s been taught to water ski, here, just for fun.
And. When Sam graduated the last three university degrees, illness got in the way: I once had to call Southwest and explain the Crohn’s and the bleeding, and the good woman on their end took my nontransferable ticket and reassigned it to Richard’s name so he could go in my stead.
This is Sam’s third graduate-degree commencement (this was for her previous one, go, Sam!) and I think it’s safe to say this one’s her last. And so tomorrow I arrive, via Southwest of course, in Baltimore: Johns Hopkins here I come! (Don’t forget to water my potted cherry tree while I’m gone, gotta feed those future birds, right?, ‘kay thanks ‘bye.)
Cherry, cherry baby
(Sorry for the earworm.)
Out of milk and orange juice, and there was something else we wanted to look for.
Which they didn’t have. But Richard humored me while I went to go see if the latest batch of ooh look, they’re all ultra-dwarf this time! trees at Costco included, by wild chance, a Stella cherry again.
Found one. Didn’t look great. And then two more that did. I actually got a choice.
I doublechecked with my sweetie….
I asked one of the employees for help getting it into the cart past all the lilies on the forward part of the pallet. He moved those out of the way, made sure which tree I was pointing to, I read the tag again just to be certain that this trunk and that tag went together, and then as he brought it over and set it down he started peppering me with questions, very interested: how much were those? $18.99? When do they produce?
I checked the tag: mid-June here, and I told him they grow to only six to eight feet tall and produce about nine pounds of cherries a year. (Found out after I got home that we should get our first ones next year; it doesn’t take them long.)
You should have seen his eyes! “My mother could grow one of those!” Something that small, that productive but not overwhelmingly so, that enticing–what a cool idea!
And so my delayed Mother’s Day present sounds like it means someone else’s mom may very well get one too. Or maybe the Kieffer pear or one of the peaches or apples or that nectarine over there. But the fact that Costco was out when Richard went to get me mine earlier meant that this conversation happened and now there’s all this other good that can come from that. Picturing that fine young man planting a fruit tree for his mother just totally makes my day.
They take so little effort. They last so long. They flower, they fruit, they give so much.
p.s. Michelle saw what she was very sure was a golden eagle as she was coming out of work yesterday, and today, not far from her office, a local golden eagle intruded on Clara-the-peregrine’s territory near her fledglings and Clara firmly escorted the much-larger bird out of there–one of the very few that can prey on peregrines, but not this time. Eric’s pictures of the encounter, here.
Bowie are you going to love this one
“Stace spation?” he asked, turning and looking at me with perfect comedic timing.
Wait. You’re right, that didn’t come out right.
He lifted an eyebrow. Impishly, “You know that’s got to be the most expensive music video ever recorded.”
“Depends on what you count as an expense.” We were both laughing by now.
The first line out of the captain’s mouth took me by surprise the first time I played it earlier today and I cracked up and had to show it to him. Don’t miss it.
(Meantime, today’s falcon photos from Eric. Comet did finally make it out of there after about six hours.)
Edited to add Wednesday morning: Captain Hadfield is front-page news on the Washington Post this morning, with more details, including some of his space experiments. He’s clearly a born teacher.
Save some for me
Happy Mother’s Day!
This morning Richard and I came home from an errand and there was a Cooper’s hawk at the top of the tree behind our front gate, duly noting our arrival. My territory, your territory, no-wings; welcome!
Didn’t quite catch the best moment, but, an Oregon dark-eyed junco male (the one with the black head) feeding his mate. He takes good care of her and it charms me to no end.
And below, the black squirrel that had a bad case of mange two years ago and went bald in patches and her fur grew back in white, making it look like she’s wearing a tank top and head band. She’s easy to spot. She does look like a very agile small skunk from a distance.
Don and Cliff saved six plastic produce clamshells for me, to my great delight, and now I have that many more plums and apples protected from those little thieves that in the past have stripped my Fuji apples clean in a day, two months pre-ripe. The little stinkers.
I know you’re supposed to thin the fruit out to one per branch but there aren’t a whole lot this year to begin with. I left the first cluster I found at two–safe now–and then went eh and snapped a clamshell around the whole threesome I found next.That tomato package was big so I was going to make the most of the space.
They may come out big they may come out small but we will at long last have our first homegrown apples (and plums!) Twenty-one years after I planted that Fuji. Thank you Don and Cliff!
Cooperii and Falco peregrinus
Thursday May 09th 2013, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Wildlife
Thank you for the kind words yesterday, everybody!
The peregrine that fell and got put back came down from the roof a bit today–not to the nest, whatever his intentions may have been, but off to the side and in front of the mayor’s office. Somehow every year we have one come eye to eye with the man. Pretty cool perch of office, actually.
I parked myself in front of the monitor and was watching the falcon cam while working on a shawl, cheering three birds with one, lone. One of the other two worked up his courage and finally made it to the upper ledge. He was so excited! A whole new view–LOOK at all this stuff down there he’d never known existed! Whole new types of trees, and and and! He ran up and down the length of it, his feet at the outer edge, he jumped over to the nestbox and chased his mom off–the annual make-the-parents-fly-away pre-fledge game. Chased her twice more as the afternoon went on.
After awhile he finally stood still and faced forward and lifted those wings. He had practiced. Mom and Dad were down there encouraging, flying, circling back around.Â He was going to do this.
He pumped hard–
–and found himself swept backwards the width of the ledge. THAT wasn’t supposed to happen! Yow. He abruptly stopped, humbled, and folded those wings in tight. The traitors.
But he wasn’t ready to come down from that mountaintop he’d finally conquered.
Dinner was brought in to the runway. He watched his more timid (probably a day younger) little brother devour while he watched from above. Hunger wasn’t enough to make him give it up.
Still didn’t come down. Still didn’t. Still–oh forget it, and he tried again with this flying thing only this time in the small runway area he knew so well and managed to land where his brother, now full, had just dropped the prey. King of the Ledge quietly finished off the leftovers.
My attention was going back and forth between the somewhat-slippery work in my hands and the screen. But suddenly something here caught my eye and I looked to the left.
I’ve never seen her before! I’d been sure I’d heard Coopernicus calling to his new mate, she had to exist, but…wow! Female raptors are a third larger than the males and this one was huge, with a notably lighter chest than my male Cooper’s.
She swung those wide wings around in a tight S curve around an awning support pole, then the birdfeeder, and swooped up into a tree.Â We regarded each other a moment. She jumped/flew higher to where I couldn’t see her. Not thirty seconds later, there she was again, reversing the S she had just flown in with one last try at flushing something out from the elephant ears as she passed over and away.
I wasn’t the only one impressed by her size and speed: there was not going to be any teasing this one–a squirrel was cowering under the picnic table the whole time, occasionally glancing at me as if to plead Save me!
Hawk, meet my friend. Hawk meat, my friend.
I finally got to meet the new Cooper’sÂ and from maybe a dozen feet away. Wow.
If you haven’t read this piece about creating a little unexpected peace on earth, I highly recommend it.
Meantime, we had a bit of drama in falcon land (link goes to the cam) today. The San Jose eyases are quickly shedding the last of their baby down as their feathers come in, their coloring darkening by the day–but their flight feathers are not in yet. They’ve got about a week to go. Eric’s photos from Saturday here.
They’ve been exercising their wings and gradually picking up on the idea. First you jump up to the lower ledge, then get down from that scary place with a whole big new world way, way down there and go huddle in the corner with your siblings, face to the nice solid wall. Later you slightly lift off (in surprise) as you flapflapflap running down the runway, your talons dragging low, not quite entirely willing to give up concrete places, then as those flight feathers keep coming in and your shoulders get stronger and your feet are tucking up better you take that huge leap of faith and reach the upper ledge your parents so often come and go from–or you miss on the first try, oops, as one of them did once.
And then at last you start keeping the fledge watchers on their toes.
They’re not assembled yet. The babies have only been reaching the lower ledge for a few daysÂ now.
Clara brought in food this afternoon, and one of the young got so excited he raised his wings for joy halfway down the runway, flappercized some more towards that low ledge–and poof, he was gone.
There were some stiff winds going on and one had simply picked him up and flung him off.
The cameras panned everywhere. No sign.
To quote the children’s book, Are You My Mother, “Down down down. It was a long way down.”
About a dozen volunteers immediately jumped in their cars and drove in to look for him.
Every year posters go up around City Hall and San Jose State University and the big library at that corner describing fledge watch and whom to report to and what to do should one see a downed baby peregrine falcon. Regulars around there know the annual drill well, and when I’ve been there, people on the sidewalk were always pointing out the babies standing on the upper ledge and the parents taking off and landing, 18 stories up.
I’m told they’re very loud and command attention, helping that outreach effort. I hope this year to actually hear that for myself with the new hearing aids.
And so 90/P–the annual schoochildren’s naming contest isn’t even over yet, all the little guy has is his band number–was found by a passerby who knew to call but not touch. He’d landed on a parking garage. Wildlife rescue got the word, who told the biologist who’d helped bring the species back from the brink.Â Glenn Stewart jumped in his car and drove up from Santa Cruz.
The little one is too young to release to the roof to flutter down into the box; he does need those flight feathers, and it’s blowing a good one out there. And so Glenn is taking care of him at home till the wind is predicted to calm down in a few days, having everything needed on hand; in the sky kennel, the baby bird won’t know he’s being fed by a human, and Clara will have no problem taking care of him when he gets put back up at the roof.
He took quite a tumble but birditude and sheer good luck won out and he’s fine and he’s safe. And in the best of hands.
Trying out this idea of guarding my tree fruit via the plastic clamshells that produce comes in. First thought: I’ve only got two apples and four plums covered and we only have two months before the latter are fully ripe–we’re going to have to eat a lot more strawberries etc if we’re going to get these all covered in time. Or bum clamshells off everybody we can. We have our first good crop of the Santa Rosas, which is a nice problem to have.
Side note: I asked Dave Wilson growers via their Facebook page last fall if my Santa Rosa plum could work as a pollinator for their new Pluerry plum/cherry/etc hybrid. They answered that they hoped so but they didn’t know yet; it was just too new a plant. Today they surprised me by going back to that question, now that they’ve had another spring with it, and affirming that yes, it does, along with Flavor King and Burgundy plums.
Their Pluerry has won all the taste tests across all fruit types. Guess what I want to plant.
The clamshells, meantime, only snap closed at one end with a branch in the way, but it looks to me like the only thing that could defeat one is a raccoonÂ sitting or swatting hard enough to break it or the branch.
I only kept one fruit among the three baby peaches. If the twig can’t hold up the weight of the plastic, it’s a pretty good sign it’s not strong enough yet to support the fruit either. One, though, held. It got the first clamshell.
Don’t call it white trash. Call it reuseful recycling.
Three male eyases
Wednesday April 24th 2013, 9:35 pm
Filed under: Wildlife
For anybody curious about peregrine banding day at San Jose City Hall yesterday, the videos have been edited (although you might want to skip through the first part of the first one where it’s just a rope dangling) and the photographers have now given their links.
Pictures by Eric Rosenberg from below: here.
Pictures by Nick Dunlop from above, standing on top of the roof as Glenn Stewart rappels down, does the weighing and examining and banding and climbs back up: here. Note that Glenn had a hard hat on but I’m not sure Dunlop did as Fernando came at him.
Videos of banding day, here:
http://youtu.be/xL1ojDxDy28 Part 1
http://youtu.be/bXYMWv_cGsw Part 2
http://youtu.be/fKnSuOeh1Po Part 3
http://youtu.be/BlODTqUANFI Part 4
Can’t hold on tight, either
They’re so good at not looking in the windows as they walk by, not intruding. (I imagine their job depends on it.)
We still have utility workers who come to read the meters once a month.
Mine has to walk past the birdfeeder.
It was a young guy this time, someone I hadn’t seen before, and as he walked studiously forward he couldn’t help but look up–and he cracked up.
Just a small slit in the bottom for the hanging chain to thread through; it’s been working perfectly for awhile now. The squirrels look down, they see the inside, and they know they can’t climb their way out of a paper bag.
(p.s. If you get a chance to see it: at 7:15 am California time, Glenn Stewart will be rappelling down to the nestbox area from the roof of San Jose City Hall and banding the three young peregrine falcons Tuesday, while their parents, who can dive at 241 mph, will be swooping at the guy’s hardhat-covered head. If you want to see it live, the cam feed is here.)
Guy Hawk’s day
Thursday April 18th 2013, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Wildlife
There must be young ones needing feeding. I know the peregrine falcon eyases in San Jose have gotten big enough that their mother no longer has to brood them to keep them warm at night now but rather stands sentinel on the ledge above, as she has every year at this point. Day and night, she does most of the staying with her babies; her mate does most of the hunting and providing for all of them.
Susan sent the link to the bald eagle cam in downtown Washington DC near the Anacostia River. Cool!
Here, it may be that the brief intrusions of a raven the last few days making another try at extending its sphere enters in; I don’t know, but I saw the Cooper’s hawk swoop by yesterday and then again today.
And then again.
And then the tip of what had to be his tail as he disappeared in the time it took me to look up. And the same again.
And a few hours later he did a figure eight around the two poles supporting the awning, trying to flush out anyone in hiding; a blink or two after he was unsuccessful and out of sight, a finch, and then another, burst out of there for the safety of the trees but there suddenly he was again, bearing down fast.
I don’t know who won that round. I was wondering if he’d actually caught anything all day at that point, for all the energy he’d put into it.
I was starting to work on dinner and was coming and going from this room with the glass walls but happened to sit down a moment as finches fed above and two doves pecked away below. Pigeons and doves–those are what a large hawk really wants. Slow on the getaway and a large meal for the effort: you’ve been waiting for this all day, I thought towards Coopernicus, wherever he might be, it’s there now if you want it.
And as if answering my call, within seconds he was screaming in on that patio, down, down. A small burst of short dove-gray feathers, he looped back up around the nearer pole over the amaryllises and was gone as fast as he’d come.
And the Accipiter cooperii species continues its comeback.
Got off easy this time
When the sun got quite low I went outside to trim back some remaining weed-tree branches to give the Fuji apple more sun; the doctor had told me I needed to work on upper-body strength (he wasn’t impressed when I mentioned the pound of baby afghan on my needles) and that was as useful a way to work on that as I could think of.
When I got out there, it was clear that the overall lack of rainfall this year was beginning to show in the plants.
A peach had dropped several leaves. A few of the little beginning plums were small and had turned yellow, unlike the growing green other ones;Â the yellowing clivia leaves clinched it.
I glanced up just in time to see the hawk soaring overhead on his way by, as if he had launched from the top of the redwood across the property and had had enough of my intrusion into his hunting time. And I’d probably just messed with one of his hiding places–my apologies (but it needed to be done). I appreciated that he’d flown right above me where I would get to see him rather than where my view would have been blocked by the roof.
Back to work.
April is awfully early to have to water here, but oh well. With the new trees, it was a bigger space to cover than I used to have to do and they need a watchful eye as they get established. I got started.
I went back outside about every ten minutes to move the hose around.
It was about 8:20 and I was going to let it run for just a few more minutes over thataway when I suddenly leaped out of my chair muttering Ohmygoodness and turned on the porch light and then started across the room the other way.
What’s wrong? asked Richard as I said Ohmygoodness again at myself and went to turn on the bedroom lights, too.
Remember that possum that bared its teeth at me from ten feet away last year? It apparently has company.Â We’ve had a few times in the last two weeks from an apparent distance, but…
Last night at about 11:00 the smell of skunk was sudden and intense. Now, skunk spray is great for opening up the airways for hours for asthmatics, but there are limits.
I actually–kids don’t try this at home–opened the sliding glass door, wondering if they’d been fighting in the shed.Â I shut it fast: wherever the thing was, that spray was right there!
So here it was dark and I was about to go from the bright inside out to the pitch black with a nearly-gone moon to walk near that shed so I could move the hose. Thirsty, possibly pregnant or nursing nocturnal animals also would like hoses in the dark (they have bitten through them before) and would want a Do Not Disturb sign hung on them.
I made as much light as I could and maybe even a little noise and I looked all around as I went out there and shut that thing off. Sorry, plum tree, we are done for the day here, folks.
Besides, I didn’t have any marshmallows for them anyway.
May I come in?
So there was this California towhee. A brown bird about robin size. And it occasionally hops onto the outside of the sliding glass door and peers in the window: the carpet is bluer on the other side, or maybe it’s wishing it could take the house tour again. (That was so cool.)
And then it pecked at a few seeds that had fallen down in the runner.
I found myself staring in disbelief. I know you guys are going to get tired of hearing about all these firsts, but, my stars, all the times I’ve seen it do that and this time it had a sound! A loud sound! Tap. Tap. A hesitation, a hop, and then three more times tap, and it was about what I would have expected it to sound like if I’d had any such expectation. But it was a complete surprise. This after twenty-seven years of wearing hearing aids.
There are memories of sounds still in there. Sometimes over the years I’ve wondered if I heard something just then or if my brain just filled in what I would have heard had I still been able to. Beak on metal, though, that one now I know I know.
Watching over him like a hawk
Walked out of the room while working on dinner, walked back in exactly as the hawk appeared behind the feeder, giving me a beautiful close-up view as a pair of finches freaked and took off.
And… More than the traditional bracelet (there was one, and Parker wanted one on his arm too in solidarity with his brother), the hospital had this monitor on Hudson: that baby wasn’t being taken anywhere by anybody he wasn’t supposed to while he was their patient. Alarms would have sounded.
Sounds quite sensible to me.
I wrote this, saved the draft, and walked outside to do my evening tour of the still-growing number of apple blossoms.
And heard, with the new hearing aids, surely nowhere near all of them, but here, and over there, and way over thataway far across the fence, all the birds with lower-pitched voices, and they weren’t crows…
I’ve heard descriptions for years now of peregrine parents in nesting season e-chupping at each other. I came in and played an online recording to be sure, and there it was–I now know what that sounds like in hawkspeak. I guess I really do have a pair out there, since they’re talking to each other. It had simply never occurred to me that I (or anybody) could know by hearing them. I heard the birds!!! My mind, it is blown.
April all new
I was asked, so to explain: I got put on antibiotics for a sinus infection and they’re clearing that up nicely, but I also had–well, norovirus really should be a yarn-related description, don’t you think? *cough* Mild flaring too. At the one week mark I figure I’m about halfway done with it all.
It rained last night, and this morning, together, both apple trees opened their first blossoms.
This makes me way too happy. There is a very new plum-cherry cross on the market, Dave Wilson’s Pluerry, not lab-induced but done by good old-fashioned years of field work, and it is supposed to be the top taste winner, period, across all their fruits. The catch is that it needs a plum tree for pollination. I of course have one–but in all the various microclimates around here, they don’t yet know which varieties other than Burgundy will work. I have a Santa Rosa. I’ll wait for now–but it tickles me beyond silliness that my apple trees show how it’s done, to the day.
Kathy, I finally snagged a shot of a chickadee with its beak full of your dog’s undercoat; there’s a bunch of it on the table just below that pot and he dove down in there awhile like a knitter at Rhinebeck, individual fibers flying as he searched out the best, then reappeared on top to show off his prize just before taking off.
And if my Plantskydd (when I get it) is successful, I may actually have to thin the plums.
I finally, for the first time in a week, picked up my baby blanket knitting today (it will be scoured in hot water) and at least made a try at getting it done in time. It felt so good to be working on that beautiful thing again in happy anticipation of our coming April baby.
Saturday March 30th 2013, 8:30 pm
Filed under: Life
I washed the windows yesterday while I was overdoing it–or at least the imprints of a few doves fleeing the hawk, which is most of what was needed. They were ghostly, beautiful, the dust and oil in each feather on the chests and on the foremost edges of their wings rendering the perfect film negative with the light shining through. So intricate.Â So detailed.
And having them there was a little too… Poor doves. Their swift moment of suffering had allowed my beloved hawk to live. Time to clean.
I was talking to Michelle this afternoon when she said, “Oh, you missed it.” I turned around and in that time he came back: the hawk had landed on the edge of the box a few feet away and was standing there looking in at us.
Perhaps he had come to study those windows that stood halfway between us, making sure. Yes. The glass was still there. The missing imprints could no longer warn off his prey about the solid surface, like that dove that got away yesterday, and so there shall be feasting.Â Well done.
Meantime, in San Jose, it looks like we will have two Easter chicks (eyases). Clara the peregrine happened to turn the first egg with a pip right to the camera, which promptly zoomed in and started recording as the egg tooth worked away at the beginning of what will be a perfect cut around the circumference. I thought it looked like a second pip on the egg next to it, and it was reported to be clearly working away too this evening.
New life arises. Wishing a Happy Easter to all who celebrate it.