Two Wing Stories
Took my grandsons for a fast food breakfast last year as a treat before school. I knew if I put out tidbits, birds would come but I was expecting seagulls and look who we got! It did feel a little like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” but it was also very cool.
Some of the photos are better than others but each shows something particular about Crows, my favorite bird!
And then at our mountain retreat one time on a walk, I came upon this scene.
Something had spooked this rafter of turkeys and they were very anxious to get on the other side of this fence!
So one by one, with what seemed like it should have been monumental effort, they gracefully flew to safety.
Well, one guy was a little distracted I think…
I thought they had all made it over but then spotted a very distressed youngster, running up and down the fence line, frantically gobbling. He was the last one left and I swear he was saying “Hey, wait for me! I’m not sure I can get over! Help!!”
He did finally make it but it was close and clumsy! Whew!
I have waited for so many years to catch turkey flight on camera. This day I hit the jackpot!
I have my own Bird Encounter rating system…
The FIRST kind is the overwhelming winner in terms of numbers of encounters. I see birds everywhere. I don’t even know I am watching for them but I find them where ever I go.
The SECOND kind of encounter is spotting evidence of birds…nests, feathers, and POOP.
And a Bird Encounter of the THIRD kind is actual contact, in all its forms, including actual “conversations” (out loud or not…).
This week I have had all THREE!
Day One-Bald Eagles
Not really that strange here in the Northwest. We see them often, but usually just on a fly-by, though I have witnessed a Murder of Crows attacking a Bald Eagle and bringing him to all the way to the ground. That’s another post.
This week, on my morning walk, I heard a great commotion among Crows and Eagles. It’s a familiar sound…someone is probably raiding someone else’s nest. But when I looked up I saw FIVE Bald Eagles. There was a pair who seemed to be fighting off the rest. They succeeded in driving off the other three and then landed in a tree a couple of houses away from mine. They chattered and pealed and then were quiet but present long enough for me to walk home and get my camera. But it was an extremely gray day so lousy photos.
Barely a First Encounter.
Day Two-Bird Suicide
Sitting at my computer…all the cats having their morning naps…and a loud crack/crash sound startles us all. We know what it is and we all head to the window where we know a bird has smashed into. Sure enough, the evidence immediately informs us of the bird’s fate.
I had to go outside to confirm that there was nothing I could do.
She was so pretty, probably a little House Finch, and to honor her beauty and tragically ended life, I got the camera.
Lucy watched from inside the whole time…
I put the tiny body in the crook of a tree while deciding what else I could/should do and went into the house. By the time I came back out, a neighbor’s cat was carrying the corpse off. Well, I guess at least her body wasn’t wasted….an encounter of the SECOND KIND.
If you have looked at my blog before, you may have seen or read about my Crows. Much to my neighbors’ dismay, I feed them…regularly. And as if that’s not enough proof of my questionable character (or sanity), I CALL (caw) them to my deck every morning. (You can read more about that here:) https://chosenperspectives.wordpress.com/2016/04/19/dinnertime-well-breakfast-for-wpc/
I LOVE Crows and have a grandiose belief that they love me too. I even fantasize that they follow me. On this morning, I took the boys out to their favorite before school breakfast (Burger King) on the condition that we eat in the car. My secret plan was to have a Close Encounter! I’m always on the lookout for a great teaching moment and sure enough, we were treated to a Crow Show right there in the parking lot.
I call this an Encounter of the SECOND and 1/2 KIND…they did “contact” my car for sure!
Day Four-Sick Bird
While hanging up a fresh Hummingbird feeder, I almost stepped on this little guy, or girl. I was thinking at first a baby female Grosbeak but no bandit mask…and besides way too early for babies.
I put her up on the Hummer feeder to keep her from getting stepped on (or cat-captured).
Definite contact, of the THIRD KIND.
Day Five-Bird Feeder (squirrel intruders)
Well, I have not upgraded to a Premium blog site yet so I cannot show you the hysterical video I took of thwarting the intrusive squirrels who climb the seed feeder pole and knock it to the ground so they can stuff their silly cheeks with sunflower seeds.
This is an ongoing problem. I’m not actually bigoted. I hold Squirrels, despite their rodent status, as equal to all the other animals I like to feed. But the squirrels vacuum up the crow food each morning and continuously knock off the bird feeder, often breaking it into pieces, so I feed them in THEIR (yes, segregated) area, under THEIR trees. This does not work. They insist on amalgamating!
I read somewhere that if you spray WD40 on the pole of a feeder, the squirrels can’t climb it. But I worried about it making them sick, so I sprayed PAM (the non-stick cooking spray). IT WORKED!! That’s the video I wanted to show you. The squirrels leaping at the pole, expecting to be able to climb to the top to pig out, and repeatedly sliding helplessly back down! It only lasts about 6 days (maybe because of our rain) so the pole needs to be re-treated, but hey, I went to Costco and got enough to last until maybe they learn and give up? (right…like they will give up…) But I feel a responsibility to continuing my years-long practice of feeding all my local birds, so I continue the battle with the squirrels, Encounters of the IRRITATING KIND!
SOME of my Yard Birds
Day Six–Really Sick Bird
I have a favorite chair in my living room. It sits in the sunny nook of a corner window and rotates so I can see outside in comfort. It’s not just where I sit to warm up, or to watch the birds in my yard, but it is a special chair filled with connections and memories. It belonged to my “adopted” sister’s Mom, Ruth (don’t even try to figure that out) and was given to me when Ruth passed away. And it’s BLUE! On this day, sitting in my chair, I spotted a small bird out in the yard, another small Sparrow.
I watched and saw it hop and flutter and flap some but no real flight. Uh oh. Too early for a fledgling so I went out to see her. She looked a lot like the bird who had flown smack into the window but on this one, up close I could see why. She was full grown but completely blind. Ah geez. I am already the lost and stray animal magnet of the area. I’d never hear the end of it if I adopted a sick bird…especially a blind one. (I was married to a man who was blind and though it didn’t end well, we had some really great years together.)
When I got closer, I put out my hand and she walked right into it…again and again.
I lifted her up to put her on the seed feeder and then could see it was an eye infection. Another video I couldn’t post showed her attempts at flying when I tossed her up in the air. She’d flutter back to the ground, I’m realizing now because she couldn’t see where else to go.
I knew I’d be heading to PAWS (Progressive Animal Welfare Society) that afternoon. (https://www.paws.org/wildlife/center/)
I put her in one of my small bug containers for the ride.
It was quite a drive to get there and most of the way she was quiet but I cringed when I could hear her flapping around in that confined space.
At PAWS, they were so helpful and even sensitive, I guess knowing that a person who would capture and transport a sick wild animal might also actually have bonded a bit in the process. They ask you if you’d like to be informed by email of the outcome for your patient and then they reassure you the animal will be returned to as close as they can to the location where it was captured. A huge relief to me, the Queen of Anthropomorphism! (What abut her family? What if she had already mated?? etc.)
They also coached me in how to contribute to the prevention and spread of bird conjunctivitis. Apparently it’s quite common amongst the Finch population and it takes some work to stop the spread. (It may be why the first bird crashed into my window and why the 2nd was sick also.) We need to clean (like seriously, with bleach) the bird feeder at least once a week and rake up all the droppings (seed shells, etc.) It’s also a good idea to take down the feeder now and then to let the current population “disperse “. That one will be harder for me as watching the feeder is a treasured part of my daily routine.
This so specifically an Encounter of the THIRD KIND, I came back home wanting to go and get a pet bird. I can still FEEL her little feet on my finger!
Day Seven-Bald Eagles “They’re Baaack!”
Word is out in our neighborhood that we have had several visits from this pair of Bald Eagles. A few days ago, literally, as I was sending out an email to some dear friends about the Decorah Eagle Cam website, (http://www.ustream.tv/decoraheagles) I heard that unmistakable scream right outside my window!!
I sent a quick email follow up about what happened next:
“As I was sitting here sending you all the link about my beloved Decorah Eagles, I heard eagle-screaming right outside my window!
I ran outside without my camera but witnessed the most amazing thing. There were FIVE BALD EAGLES circling my deck!! It looked like two were fending off or chasing the other three. Or maybe it was some kind of mating ritual.
The twosome flew very close together in large and then smaller circles. Then they landed on the top of the biggest tree in front of my house. The other three flew off into the distance.
This might be the same pair I watched the other day, cruising our neighborhood for prey or a nesting site (although it seems late in the year for that latter). Not sure why they are hanging out here.
I ran in for my camera but just like the other day, it is so gray out it was hard to get much more than a silhouette. Wish they would have stopped by yesterday when that sun was so bright.
In all these years living in my house, as many times as I have been gifted with a low fly-by, no eagle has ever landed right in front of me before! Maybe I was just tapped into Eagle Energy today or something. I do consider them somewhat of a Totem. Better get out the Animal Speak book and read again why I might be needing their input in my life right now….”
My neighbor Mimi knows about my bird obsession (similar to her fruit tree obsession…you rarely see Mimi on the ground, instead of in a tree top, pruning away.) But she also goes for walks most days. She takes her blind, deaf dog Murphy for a walk, well, Murphy AND her two cats, Moses and Purrcy. They make quite a sight sauntering down the street, in a line; the dog, the woman and these two cats who have trained themselves to traipse after her just about anywhere.
She called me from her walk yesterday and said “Kathie, your Eagles are back” and told me where. I grabbed the camera and walked up the street.
Beautiful sunny day. Some minor trespassing, but finally, even with my little point and shoot Canon, I got these pictures!
Not sure how to number this Encounter but as strange as it might sound to some, I believe this was of the FOURTH KIND, through some connection bigger than I can explain.
PS By the way, the little bug container I used to transport the sick House Finch in, was knocked off my back porch last night and trashed. I wondered if I had slept through another wind storm or something. But then I saw them. Those dang SQUIRRELS! Foraging around in the broken box for the last of the seeds I had put in there for the little bird.
Would it be wrong for me to invite those Eagles back for some Squirrel Gumbo???
OK, OK, I know. That’s just my impatience talking….
AHH, gotta go. I hear screaming and cawing outside!
By the way, if you have read this far, Thank You. It was a long week.
I’d really appreciate comments and also that you pass this on to any bird people you know!
Some of today’s ideas were borrowed from one of my favorite movies Close Encounters.
“The title (which is never specifically explained in the movie) is actually derived from Hynek’s own alien close encounter classification system: A close encounter of the first kind is sighting of a UFO; the second kind is physical evidence to prove the existence of an alien; and the third kind is actual contact with alien life forms.” *
PS I just heard from PAWS. They are so wonderful there. They wrote:
We at PAWS Wildlife Center are happy to inform you that this Purple Finch was successfully rehabilitated and released back into his or her natural habitat.
I followed their advice and after taking them down for a week, now clean my feeders regularly. I have not seen any more sick birds and no further Window Deaths have occurred.
I do have a little Narcissistic Junco who every morning primps and talks to himself at my car’s side view mirror. Wish I could include the video. Time to upgrade I guess.
And out in the yard also…
And out the front window…
The Hummer feeder was frozen 5 nights in a row. I always put out a warm one at first light but one of the mornings there was a tiny bird glued to the feeder rail. I gently touched his back and he didn’t move. I thought in horror he had frozen there in the night. But my second touch sent him falling into a downward spiral. Luckily, he “woke up” and shot off into the sky. That semi-hibernation thing Hummingbirds do in the cold is amazing!
This is the Head Interloper on my morning Crow Feeding time. I think he waits here until he hears me CAW! Then intrudes like crazy on my 30 year long Crow-feeding routine!! He’s a real bully!
I’d be madder at him if I didn’t think his knobby knees were so cute!!
In the meantime, instead of assuming their usual Guard Duty Posts,
…the three cats have decided even inside the house is too cold for them.
They all found toasty places to weather this below freezing weather.
I love trees. They have played such an important role in my life, starting at 5 years old when my new Dad bought a tree that was exactly same height as me so I could watch it grow all through my childhood.
I loved that tree…a Star Pine…and as it grew, I played in its shade, building miniature forts out of natural debris. When it quintupled its size, I climbed up in it to check out the view of the ocean over the top of our house or to just read a book where it was quiet. That tree was my secret hiding place during many childhood dramas (and traumas).
I seriously bond with trees. I was lucky enough to have made several trips to the Redwood Forest as a kid, where I met and still remember this one particular tree that I visited several more times in my life. It was not one of the tourist trees…this one was mine.
Not that you can actually own a tree……..
A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting at my desk (where I am writing this right now) on a perfectly calm, sunny day. No wind, no rain storm, no earthquakes. Nothing. Perfectly peaceful.
I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. Then, came the sound. Sickeningly familiar. I’ve heard it before, but thank god, only a few times in my life…like when the snow load on a tree is just too heavy. Craaack. From my desk I can see my two favorite trees, very mature Ornamental Flowering Plum trees, and I watched helplessly as a huge limb on one of them slowly cracked and slowly split apart. It slowly fell onto the “Baby Bird”. (That’s what we call the 57 T-Bird that lives at our house while her owner is abroad. We are trying to sell her.)
What I can see from the window by my desk (board put there in a desperate attempt to hold the branch off the car)
I jumped up, ran out the back door, down the deck steps, and stopped short in the driveway as it hit me. What the hell was I going to do? Try to stop the several hundred pound limb from falling further???
Can’t see it in this photo but there is another car buried under there, nose to nose with the T-Bird
As I stood there, visually assessing, that awful cracking sound continued…quieter, but in short staccato bursts. I didn’t know if the whole tree was about to collapse or what! I could see that heavy limb was miraculously being held very slightly up off the Thunderbird by all the smaller branches that already reached the ground surrounding the car…like a purple cage of twigs and leaves.
But the continued cracking was a warning. If that branch came the rest of the way down, the Baby Bird might well be crushed.
Now, I panicked.
I’m always complaining (mostly playfully) about having to live with six men, but today, I was wishing for even one of them to be available. This felt like a Guy Emergency! I broke two cardinal rules. I interrupted my son Michael at work and James, at band practice!!
I just texted them each the above photo. They both came. I don’t know what I thought they could do though. Super James is getting older (finally) and younger, muscle-man Michael was hampered by some newly broken ribs. They were not going to be able to lift that limb either.
I also sent out an SOS on our neighborhood group email asking for all available youth and muscle to come to my house ASAP. Several of them came immediately. I love my neighbors!! Still not enough to lift it and besides it was getting really unsafe by now.
The most urgent dilemma was getting the Baby Bird out from under that limb in case it finished giving way. The obvious thing to do was to back the car out from under the potentially crushing tree…impossible to open the driver’s door but the passenger door not impossible. Here’s the thing though. James stores the car with its battery disconnected. There was absolutely NO getting that hood up to reconnect the battery. Below you can see him buried in the tree trying to lift it.
And even if we got it out, how much more of the tree would fall onto the Taurus, the car hidden nose to nose with the T-Bird??
OK, so tow it out of there, right? And hope the huge limb doesn’t scratch the Baby Bird or crush the Taurus when the Baby stops holding up its weight.
Well, towing a 1957 Thunderbird is not easy. Those suckers are heavy!! But James got it out with his 4Runner and miraculously, the smaller branches continued to hold the heavy limb up off the Taurus, gently resting on the ground.
The crisis with the cars was mostly averted, only purple streaks across their hoods and roofs. No scratches deep enough really to even damage the paint jobs. Amazing.
Then a potentially more serious problem showed up…
Look closely at the above photo and you can see a wire pulled down by the limb….uh oh….
I have been after the power company, the cable company and the phone company for years about the placement of their connections to my home, and a few years back the power company did finally come out. Not to change the location of their power pole, but to trim my trees just a bit…to keep their wire safe.
But now, to the left of this whole T-Bird vs Tree argument, there is a wire laying on the ground…and it goes all the way across the street to the main power pole for the whole neighborhood. My street is a long dead-end lane and there is rarely traffic on it except, of course, at this exact time of evening. Everyone is arriving home from work.
We are all standing around, no one 100% confident they know which kind of wire this is.
So I call the power company. I call the cable company. I even call the phone company although our landline is now through the cable. No one comes. They all say they will be there within 45 minutes. NO ONE SHOWS UP!! (Not for 36 hours!!!)
Finally, one knowledgeable (or just brave) neighbor pulls on the wire hard enough to lift up the slack that had lain on the street. Second crisis temporarily averted.
Except for the day and a half of no TV (only hard on the grandsons) and no internet for those adults in our house who work online, we (cars and all) survived the event just fine.
Now, the real trauma….
If you happen to follow the wonderful Marilyn Armstrong at Serendipity ( https://teepee12.com/ ), you know that she and her family had a horrific ‘nature tragedy” earlier this year, that terrorized her and nearly destroyed their trees. If you are not suseptable to nightmares, you can read about it here.
What I am about to tell you in no way compares to what they went through but I bring up Marilyn because I think she might understand my recent loss better than most.
Though it is a long and complicated story about why, basically here’s what happened next.
My beautiful trees are killed…
I can’t write any more right now. All I can think of is the countless birds associated with those gorgeous trees. Hummer nests. Blue Jays. Flickers. Woodpeckers. Nuthatches. Chickadees. And whole flocks of beautiful House Finches whose colors matched the tree! It’s where the Crows waited each morning for me to feed them. Sometimes the crows would talk to the hummingbirds there. And even the cute but irritating squirrels would steal the crow food and leap off the corner of the deck into the safety of those plum trees.
Here’s a slideshow in Memoriam…………
I’m almost glad I don’t have any pictures of them blanketed in their full Spring Pink Glory….just that partial one at the very top…
This is my Therapy Room. If you had come to see me, you might have sat on this brown couch, positioned so you could look out that window…at my beautiful Flowering Plum Trees.
I guess I will be rearranging furniture soon.
I feed my local crows every morning….for 35 years. My neighbors think I am nuts, and compare it to feeding the local RATS!! In their defense, I suppose their diagnosis of me comes from the fact that I stand on my deck “cawing” at the top of my lungs every morning at 7 until my birds show up….and they do! If I am not out there on time, they let me know…loudly!
From my desk, I look right out onto the deck and am just a few feet from them so I take a ton of pictures…not fancy photographs, just “extended animal-family” snapshots.
Crows are amazing birds, unbelievably smart. I keep a pan of water on the deck for them and if the day’s fare is too crunchy, or maybe too salty, these clever birds dip each bite into the water for softening or rinsing, before devouring.
Sometimes there is competition for their daily meal and there is a minor scuffle.
I had read about this one thing crows do that I always wanted to witness and finally, they complied. Like several other species I won’t mention, Teenage Crows act very entitled! They demand to still be fed, sometimes even after they have outgrown their parents.
I found this information on the Cornell bird site:
Most young birds leave their parents soon after leaving the nest, often being chased away, and never see the parents again. In contrast, American crows never chase away their offspring, and the young may remain at home for years….While they wait for a breeding opportunity, most crows help their parents raise young. They help feed the incubating female, feed the nestlings and fledglings, defend the territory and the nest, and stand guard over other family members while they forage. Such cooperative breeding behavior is rare in birds. Only a handful of species in North America exhibit it, and none are as widespread as the American crow. http://www.birds.cornell.edu/crows/planta.htm
Check out this series of snapshots. Can you tell who is the Entitled Teenager?
Now, I just want to see a fluffy black baby and my crow dreams will be complete.