Bright and early on the day before we were to leave Natchez, Mississippi for home, we took the Toyota van in for an oil change and return-road-trip check up. We expected this to be a quick, hour long process as we were booked solid with last minute wedding preparations for my cousin’s nuptials and reception that evening.
After some time waiting they came and told us we needed a new radiator, that this one was shot and that it was leaking coolant everywhere. News to us as we had seen no leaks and had had no problems. They showed us the huge puddle of coolant under the car and the supposed damage to the radiator.
There’s a saying that applies to men, about certain body parts being held in such a way as to trap said man.
I don’t know what the comparable saying is for women…”they had me by the ovaries“???
But anyway, clearly the radiator was NOW hemorrhaging fluid so we had to agree to a new one…which they of course, had in stock, right? So they said anyway. After waiting a few more hours of crucial wedding errand time, they finally informed us that the new radiator had to come from Vicksburg, a mere hour and 25 minutes away. So they gave us a loaner car.
Right up until their closing time, which coincided exactly with the wedding start time, they still had not received the new radiator. This was no small deal. We had to make the trip from Mississippi back home to Washington to arrive on a very specific date. This delay could mean the difference between safe driving each day of our 4 day trip, with a nice sleep over in a motel…or driving straight through, pretending we were in our 20’s when we could actually pull off that sort of thing!
It all worked out but was definitely touch and go, and very stressful.
Even though it felt like we were in a hidden camera episode of 20/20 or 60 minutes, busting unethical mechanics who break your stuff and then make you pay, it was hard to be mad at the place since during the waiting time, the service manager approached me in a panic having just found a tiny feathered intruder that had knocked itself out flying against the huge windows in the waiting room. She asked if I could help her by holding it for a minute. (Did I have a SIGN on my forehead or something? The number one thing on my Bucket list?? “Hold a Hummingbird!”)
When we finally had to go, I put the little guy in a box and set it outside in the sunshine. Sure enough, fortified by rest and homemade nectar, the tiny intruder flew up, up and away! I can still feel those tiny feet in my hand.
I was sitting outside, at the table on my sister’s deck, trying to capture a good photo of one of her many hummingbirds. She has several feeders as well as a ton of flowers all around so the photo opportunities were abundant. I even put a feeder right in the center of the table, inches away from me but still was not that happy with the shots I was getting.
I got this one…
And then this…
But the one that surprised me was THIS!! Look carefully. (I call it “Incoming”!)
And then my favorite.
I almost erased it until I really looked at it!!!
I’m so glad I didn’t delete it. I LOVE this picture!
Who knows what else we miss when we don’t really look closely….
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.
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 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.” *
I have become obsessed this week with Shadow photos but did not think about all the different definitions of the word until this morning.
Here are some of the shots I took inside to show how cool a shadow can be sometimes, cast from the sun on different objects…
My bathroom wall at sunset
Then I went outside to look for interesting shadows. As those who live way up here in the Northwest know, we can go for days and days without shadows of any kind outside.
So I was lucky to come across these…
And then I waited for a long time for these…
It was getting to be late in the day and I remembered playing a shadow game with my grandsons when they were younger…out on the back lawn, so I headed out to see what my shadow looked like.
This is as close as I get to a “selfie”. Don’t I look tall and thin??
But then, as it darkened outside, I began thinking of all the other connotations for the word “shadow”.
I debate with some of my Psychotherapist colleagues who believe we all have this “shadow” part of us…a permanent dark side we can do nothing about. I don’t see it that way. I prefer to think of it as having unfinished work or areas of growth. We can bring “light” onto anything…sometimes simply by changing our perspective.
As I was pondering these various definitions, I remembered a photo I had taken recently, as a follow up to one of my very early posts. This particular story was very “dark”, so much so that I even warned my readers of its disturbing content. I wrote a lot about an incident as an essential part of my own healing. James and I witnessed a horrific car accident, resulting in the very graphic death of a toddler. Here is a photo of the scene just a few days after the collision.
And then on the one year anniversary, I went back to the location and took this shot.
But for this slightly ominous shadow, it’s like nothing bad has ever happened on this corner in Bellevue…like the sweet little girl named Sraddha Pancha Karla never existed.
I do like how the shadow sort of refuses to cover the spot where she died…
Read more about the accident here, but be forewarned…
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.