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Posts Tagged ‘Birds’

For those who’ve read Whimsical Words since the beginning, you know I have blueberry bushes. For those readers just stopping by for the first time, I’ve written several times about my blueberry bushes, picking berries, and the birds and other creatures who gobble up much of the fruit.

I’ve thought about draping the bushes with bird netting, but it seems to me it would make picking difficult for the people, too. A huge cage built around the bushes would be a solution, but the expense and the fact that my berry bushes are on a hill make a cage impractical.

A cat would help, butI no longer have the beloved orange and white cat who made sure birds stayed away. And my husband who doesn’t want another cat.

So, what to do?

A few weeks ago, when we were returning home after a walk, we saw a black snake crawl across our driveway and climb up into one of the blueberry bushes. He/she must have stayed close to the blueberries for several days, because the birds kept away. But my snake-disliking husband also stayed away from the berries.

Alas, the feathered berry-raiders are back in full force. I spotted this article on a natural way to scare birds away using dollar store items. Maybe this will work – if it doesn’t scare away friends and family!

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“If I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes.” – Charles Lindbergh

I agree with Lindbergh. Yes, airplanes make long distance traveling easier, but for me, birds make my life richer. And today, the loud and comical antics of the crows made me smile. Then, I read this article about crows which is somewhat disturbing: 6 Terrifying Ways Crows are Way Smarter than You Think.

IMG_2395 The first way they list (actually #6 since they’re listing in reverse order): “The recognize your face.” This is true. When I lug the bread crumbs or seed or suet out to the birds, the watch-crow starts cawing, bobbing his/her head, and ruffling its feathers. Sure enough, within minutes, the rest of the crow family (or “murder” as a group of crows is called), arrive to feast upon whatever I’ve scattered about.

Which brings me to #5, “They conspire with one another.” True! If the watch-crow isn’t enough proof, the crows have shown excellent skill in chasing away squirrels.

#4 is “Memory.” As if facial recognition wasn’t spooky enough, it seems word gets around in the blackbird (I’m changing it from just crows here). Why? Word has gotten out in the red-winged blackbird, starling, crow, and bird communities that I feed birds. Every year, a migrating flock of hundreds (if not thousands) of blackbirds stops at my feeder for a few days each spring and fall before moving on to wherever it is they’re headed.

I witnessed #3 “Tools and problem-solving,” when I was in Anchorage, Alaska. A raven (larger cousin of a crow) was busily prying open a sun roof to get to someone’s groceries. He/she was using not only beak and feet, but also a stick. Clever bird!

#2, “Planning,” includes saving food for lean times and other thoughtful techniques. I’ve not witnessed that behavior (to my knowledge, but crows are tricky), but the whole watch-crow business seems like planning to me.

The #1 way listed in the article was “Adaptive behavior.” Well, knowing to check on sun roofs on cars seems rather adaptive to me, but the best example from my own life occurred years ago when we had a sliding glass door through which I used to exit to feed the birds. If the feeders were empty and I didn’t fill them promptly, a designated crow would come to the door and “knock.” The bird would fly to the porch railing or a nearby tree to caw his/her empty feeder alert. When I opened the door, the rest of the murder would alight in the trees and wait for their food to be served.

My kids say it looks like a scene from “The Birds” sometimes at my house. And it’s not just the crows —  blackbirds, starlings, chickadees, cardinals, jays, morning doves, etc. ALL seem to know my face, and fly close when I bring out the chow.

 

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young robin Wood’s Edge seems to be forever white and icy this year. Just when I thought I saw grass, more ice and snow arrived. The heather beneath the front window made a valiant attempt at blooming last week, but its purplish blossoms were encased in ice, and I fear they’ll not flower again.

Though white themselves, the snowdrops usually make an appearance in late February or early March. Alas, I don’t think they’ll be able to poke their pale heads through the thick layer of ice on top of the inches of snow this year. Still I hope to spot their delicate blooms.

Hundreds of blackbirds descend daily to my birdfeeders and quickly empty its contents. Their loud chirping and astounding numbers chase away the blue jays, cardinals, finch, and woodpeckers who add just a bit of color to the white and brown landscape.

This winter, eight deer regularly wander through the woods and into my yard. As they browse the underbrush, their fur shines a golden brown when the late afternoon sun slants through the tulip poplars.

Still, my world seems colorless as children with their bright jackets, mittens, boots, and hats sled briefly, then go inside on such wet, slippery, cold days. And so, I turn to John Steinbeck for a cheering quote.

“How can one know color in perpetual green, and what good is warmth without cold to give it sweetness?” – John Steinbeck

How right he is! The bitter cold of this winter will make me appreciate the warmth of late spring and summer. And I would hardly notice the small heather blooms, nodding snowdrops, the brilliant patch of red on a woodpecker, the beautiful brown of a deer’s fur, or the brilliant blue of a hooded jacket in the lush green of June.

And for a writer on this bitter day, the arrival of an acceptance letter is all the sweeter because many rejection letters have preceded it.

 

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Cardinal in Holly “Use what talent you possess. The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those who sang best.” — Henry Van Dyke

I think this quote is one of my favorites. Not everyone will write the “Great American Novel,” but there are lots people who enjoy writing and create worthy poems, stories, plays, and books. Not everyone will stitch a blue-ribbon quilt, but there are many quilters whose hours of cutting, piecing, and stitching result in beautiful quilts. Not everyone will paint a “Masterpeice,” but there are countless people who find joy in art. The same can be said of playing the piano, dancing, singing, crafting, carving…the list is endless.

The most important thing is for each of us to use what talent we’ve been given. The beauty of an orchestra or choir isn’t the soloists — it’s the combined sound of different voices and different instruments.

I urge my readers to use your talents, and celebrate the talents of those around you.

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152 Long before recycling became common place, my family was carefully sorting our trash. Cardboard, paper, clear glass, colored glass, aluminum, etc. were separated in our garage, adding to the general disorder one finds in the garage of a family of five. Then, we’d transport the bags of recyclables to the local middle school and place it in the appropriate bins. But we didn’t mind.

We planted trees and native plants. We only cut down trees that had to be removed, even leaving some deadwood so the woodpeckers and other birds and animals could use the hollowed trunks for homes.

We planted a vegetable garden and used natural bug repellants, mulch, and fertilizer. We also planted sunflowers, black-eyed susans, and echinacea to not only enjoy their cheerful blooms, but to allow them to go to seed so the wildlife would have food. Coral bells, bee balm, hyssop, and other hummingbird and butterfly friendly plants were added to our flower beds. And at the end of the season, we left the spent vegetable garden for the wild animals to enjoy.

And with a well as our water source, we’ve always been conservative in our water usage.

Were those “be friendly to the Earth” lessons of long ago worth the effort? I believe they were. My children realize how precious our planet is, and are passing that belief on to their children.

Al Bernstein wrote: “We treat this world of ours as if we had a spare in the trunk.” I know there’s no spare, so I try to leave a small footprint on Mother Earth. This beautiful blue and green planet is a gift, and I celebrate Earth Day every day.

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 My collection of fantasy stories, illustrations, and a few poems, The Greener Forest, is complete. Editor Katie has suggested changes to the fiction (most of which I made) and scanned the manuscript for grammatical no-no’s. This week’s late-night rush to finish an adequate selection of illustrations for layout & design is done. Cold Moon Press must take over the book now. And exhausted, but happy, Sandy the Black-mouthed Cur and I both have bags under our eyes.

Today I woke to a stack of letters to answer piled on my desk and 2 illustrations to complete for a client. I needed to begin work on the cover art for a speculative fiction anthology. This afternoon’s slightly warmer temperatures have stirred up the non-indigenous stinkbug population. At least a dozen of the six-legged invaders have managed to gain access to the house, so I’ve been dutifully grabbing the bugs and flushing them away. Dust and cobwebs are gathering in the corners of several rooms, and there’s a pressing deadline to complete a piece of fiction which I haven’t even started. Yikes!

 But there’s also a recipe I’ve been meaning to try, a novel half-read, and a sewing project calling my name. There’s a movie I’ve been meaning to watch with my husband, and a dog who’d love a walk. I owe several friends phone calls, and my mom wants to read me a letter from long ago she found amongst some of my dad’s papers. The wild birds need to be fed, and Sandy wants to romp in the slowly disappearing snow.

 How should I choose to spend my Saturday? It’s a balancing act. This week, writing & artwork claimed most of my time — so this weekend, I’m going to focus on family, friends, wild birds, and my dog. Will my time-off from working on submissions and promoting The Greener Forest hurt my career? I’m not sure, but I know my soul needs to laugh at a dog eating snow and watch a cheesy romantic comedy with Ernie.

Though relaxing or not, I must still eliminate stinkbugs or they’re sure to take over the house!

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As another ice storm approaches Wood’s Edge, I haul seed out by the bucketful to the wild birds perched on the branches of the trees and shrubs at the forest’s edge. Even with coat, hat, boots, and gloves, I shiver. I glance up at the heavy gray sky before filling the feeders. The chickadees, juncoes, wrens, cardinals, blue jays, red-winged blackbirds, sparrows, nuthatches, and tufted titmice (titmouses?) bravely swoop down and clothespin themselves to the perches of nearby feeders as I fumble with the first suet basket. Crows caw from the fence rail, several woodpeckers hop down the tree trunks, and a solitary hawk watches the goings-on with much interest.

 Meanwhile, Sandy the Black-mouthed Cur is bounding through the drifts, grabbing mouthfuls of snow, and rolling with abandon in the loose, fluffy snow in the corner of the yard. Joyful is the only word to describe her behavior. She looks at me, eyes bright, muzzle whitened by snow, tail wagging so hard the rear half of her body has joined its back & forth motion, and woofs. A playful woof that seems to say: The world is wonderful and isn’t it great to be alive!

Last winter seemed to be a long string of snowstorms. This winter appears to be much the same. I get lots of writing and drawing done it’s true, but I miss morning walks. Ice is not something I choose to tread upon when trying to manage an enthusiastic 60-pound dog. And tonight we expect more ice. 

But even as I cringe at the thought of another month of bad weather (and I suspect we shall get another month’s worth of frozen precipitation whether or not that famous Pennsylvania groundhog sees his shadow) — I think of crocuses and the sound of spring peepers. And since Sandy has only been with me since last June, I secretly wonder what she’ll think of frogs!

 And so, I share a quote from Anne Bradstreet: “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant.” Indeed!  And if we had no winter, Sandy the Black-mouthed Cur would surely miss the snow.

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