OK, so when we are in the mountains, I get up very early every morning so that I can watch the sunrise. I love to hear (sometimes see) the marauding Wild Turkeys AND any other wild life passing through that early (deer, moose, coyote, bull frogs, various seed eating birds, etc.)
I sit on the porch swing under a glass roof so I can be there in any weather. This event starts my days with a smile.
This is what I see from my protected seat.
So, I’m all bundled up yesterday, mug of hot coffee warming my hands and I hear a scuffling sound over the edge, just past the rapidly growing daffodils. I get up to investigate and hear it what I see.
Uh oh. I realize now what the scuffling sound was. A Squirrel, our primary nemesis here (other than the Flickers that are relentlessly eating our HOUSE!) has somehow gotten the lid off the container.
Though we have finally found a system using Slinky’s to keep him off the bird feeders, STILL he finds this way to torment James, who really wants to resort to the BB Gun. So far, I won’t let him.
I chase him off before J. can get his weapon, and bring the seed container up to the porch where we have collected a pile of stuff to take to Goodwill. Now the seed is right next to me, within arm’s reach should our invader dare to approach!
Next, I see the squirrel return to the place where the container had been…and he is completely stumped. He knows it was right there just minutes before. He sniffs around frantically and this next thing, I wish I had thought to video tape. He stops, slowly turns and points his angry beady little eyes directly at ME, up on the porch. We stay frozen, in this stand off for long seconds! That GLARE!! (You will never convince me that rodents can’t THINK.)
The squirrel scampers off, disgusted, and after a quick trip inside for more coffee, I return to sitting on my swing, peaceful morning again, at last.
But no, I come back outside to this!!!
In the short time it took me to go inside, this little guy (and several members of his clan) have shown up and eaten a HOLE in the side of the seed container. It is now leaking birdseed for them to chow down on!!!
The irritation came first but then I could not prevent the huge SMILE!
I’ve been working on both a newsletter to my neighbors and a post lately about how lucky I am to have so much wildlife right here in my neighborhood. I live on a long-ish dead end street right in the middle of one of Washington State’s wealthiest cities. It’s one of the few streets left where you can still see traces of the days when this area was considered “out in the country”. In my time living here (almost 45 years now) my little lane has gone from a small handful of older houses with horse acreage, to 25 homes, many qualifying as McMansions (homes with 5,000 plus square footage, selling for well over $1,000,000).
When I saw Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge for this week,
A letter from your self-appointed S.E. 7th Street Wild Life reporter and Game Warden.
A few months back, I was pretty low, with all the dark hours and gray skies. I didn’t even want to go for one of my short but usually uplifting walks. It was so dismal out, for so many days in a row, I think I was developing some serious empathy for my clients over the years who have suffered from SAD. (Seasonal Affective Disorder!)
But I made myself go out there anyway.
And a few steps into my climb up the hill (yes, for me, it is a climb) I heard them!
Our SE 7th Street Bald Eagles are back!
Last year they graced us with many regular visits, perched up high on branches that seemed way too skinny to hold their heft. On most days, they could be found facing the sunrise, and later the sunset, either in the trees in my front yard, or up the street to the East across from the Mathes house.
As I hiked up the street on this gloomy day, head tilted back at a neck-killing angle, I saw them. They were circling, very low, right above the treetops, probably hunting for breakfast. Then they landed, and stayed for a long time.
I took this sighting very personally…like they had stopped by just to cheer me up.
I was so uplifted I wanted to write to the whole street to share about my encounter.
That made me remember that I actually used to do that a lot…write to the whole SE 7th Street list. It started with simple reporting of Coyote sightings.
Then one day, I witnessed something so amazing, I wrote a whole article about it.
Early one morning, I saw a Murder of Crows take down a Bald Eagle, on the busy road right at the top of our street. I’m sure the Eagle had gone after a crow’s nest or something but the Crow Call went out and a huge crowd of them came. Some Seagulls even stopped by to join in on the attack.
The event stopped traffic. Well, I guess I kind of stopped the traffic, pulling my car sideways across the street to prevent massive bird death. A cop happened along, saw immediately what was happening and helped chase the birds away and get the traffic moving again. I spent hours afterwards watching, and photographing, the escaped but clearly injured Bald Eagle up in a tree across the street from the Burdick house.
Soon after this event, I proclaimed myself the Game Warden and Wild Life Reporter for our street. I sent out a “newsletter” article called Urban Bird Gangs.
I had so much fun writing up the story, it is in part what inspired me to start a Blog. Now, I write about my animal adventures right here in our neighborhood all the time. Please feel free to check it out, although I do write about a lot of other things too. Some inane, and some harsh. Lots of animal stories; beautiful seed feeder birds, marauding deer, our neighborhood cats, the brazen Coyote pack (looking for our cats), and many Hummingbird shots. You may even find photos of beautiful plants, trees and flowers from your own yards.
Back to S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder), I think I’m cured now. Especially in the last couple of weeks. It appears, we are being chosen again, by a beautiful pair of Bald Eagles. Maybe the same ones who roosted last summer, sunrise and sunset, in the biggest tree in front-yard (or as James calls it, “frun-chard”.) They seemed to be hanging out around 10:30 AM some mornings, on the more gray, windy days. Not great photos with only my phone but two mornings ago, that really cold, crisp, clear day, they were posing for the local paparazzi, so I ran for my real camera. So glad I did.
What a beautiful, majestic bird!
Again, please feel free to stop by the Blog and tell me what you think!!
This might be a stretch. But if you happen to be a regular reader, you might be getting the idea that I am kind of a Rule Bender in a quiet-ish way.
This week, first came the Weekly Photo Challenge. I searched and thought and plotted to find or take a great Face-in-the-Crowd shot. I had the same weird internal ethical debates I always have about taking photos of strangers without their permission…even a face in a crowd.
Then my grandsons invited me to watch a movie. We watched Okja, an odd little Korean film. (Trailer down below, but it’s full of spoilers…better to watch unprepared, in my opinion.) By the way, Common Sense Media says 15 years plus, and though my grandsons are 12 and 14, I agree. My oldest one kept saying “one minute you think this is a great kid’s movie and the next it’s really, REALLY not!”
I will tell you that while watching it, I couldn’t help but thinking about the Weekly Photo Challenge Theme….which made me start thinking in a whole new direction.
I love animals and I tell you what, it is getting more and more difficult to eat anything with a face. I have been mostly vegetarian for almost 50 years…no red meat of any kind during that time and only the occasional fish and poultry…including Salmon of course ( I DO live in the Northwest after all) and Turkey on Thanksgiving!
With this movie giving me a new way of thinking of the face in the crowd, I remembered an experience a few years back that left me both in awe for the beauty of it and a kind of disgust and guilt for the fact of it.
On a repeated vacation to San Diego, the place where we stay has this massive Koi Pond. For a quarter, you can feed the spectacularly colorful fish.
They were beautiful and I suppose there is value in sharing that contained beauty with people if it heightens their consciousness about our cohabitants on Mother Earth. (Don’t get me started on the two sides of the whole Zoo Debate.)
But it was also an example of a pitiful and frightening feeding frenzy.
There was this one fish-face that caught my eye. I kept my eye on him so I knew it was the same one over and over. His face kept appearing midst the fevered quest for food.
Maybe it was that he was so huge and that made me wonder if this had been his whole life, battle after crowded battle for tidbits of man-made cereal nuggets.
That thought made me incredibly sad. I mean, Koi can live for up to 200 years! And these guys had already been trapped in this resort pond for 35 years that I know of.
It just felt wrong.
I don’t know any resolution, or if there even needs to be one. I mean, I raise Giant Leaf Bugs and keep them in a terrarium for their entire lives…my rationale being they live almost a year longer in my captivity than in their native wild. My cats are strictly indoor cats for the same reason…longer lives than if they ventured out among the hawks and coyotes in my area.
Anyway, this is my Face in the Crowd post for the week.
I’d love to hear what you think.
5 Interesting Facts About Koi Fish from https://www.sweeneyfeeders.com/5-interesting-facts-koi-fish/
1. Koi fish originate from Japan and represent love and friendship in Japanese culture.
2. Most koi fish outlive their owners, having a lifespan of 200+ years.
3. They come in a variety of colors, not just orange. They may appear orange, yellow, white, red and black.
4. Owners who received their koi fish as a gift are believed to have good luck.
5. In Japan, koi fish are often passed down from generation to generation, as a family heirloom.
Anyway, my last two bugs, having lived way longer than any of their female-only ancestors, passed away last summer and I was way sadder than I would have expected. It was probably much more existential grief than I want to admit…end of an era…passing of time…my own mortality, etc.
Or maybe I had simply bonded to these mild, extravagant creatures. I confess, I LOVED my bugs!!
For the seven or eight years I have raised Giant Spiny Australian Leaf bugs (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extatosoma_tiaratum) I saved every single one of the hundreds of eggs they laid, hoping for later hatchings. (It takes over a year when *parthenogenesis is the method.) I kept the eggs safe and in the medium suggested by my research on Google (warm, moist soil).
With the last batch born (39 of them) I knew I was getting tired…but not of my bugs. They are so easy to care for. Feed them and put fresh paper towels at the bottom of their terrarium every 10 days or so. No big deal. (Well, I am leaving out the part that James does for me…scrounging around for uncontaminated Blackberry bushes, cutting off several branches, and then “dethorning” them for the safety of the bigger bugs who can accidentally impale themselves on these thorns. Poor James comes home bleeding every time!)
It had become quite an extravagant hobby.
After so many generations, I was up to a whole “colony”. With each new generation, I would happily give away as many bugs as I could to good homes (schools, parents, friends, independent Pet Stores… boy, are those hard to find now…) but it was requiring a lot more of the kind of energy I no longer have due to my age or an exhausting autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s? I don’t know which.
Also, at that number of bugs, there were just too many for me to “socialize”…meaning, getting the bugs used to being handled by humans. I wanted the occasional brave guest to be able to have the experience of one of these mild monsters sitting peacefully in the palm of their hand. This last batch had basically no direct human contact.
When I could feel the end nearing for my two oldest Queens, I did not do anything to protect or preserve their hundreds of eggs in the way their gestation requires. That was a much more difficult decision than I would have thought.
When they both died, I gave them what I considered a loving and respectful send off by placing them on blossoms outside in the sun. My keeping them safe in captivity may have given them a much longer life but had prevented their outdoor experience.
I put away the terrariums, and the jars that acted as vases for Blackberry vines. I gathered books and tchotchkes to fill up the empty shelves, dresser tops and counters that used to hold giant Bug Homes for all to see. I had all those interesting-looking eggs in a bowl and just set them off somewhere on a shelf.
I have missed my bugs. I know they are not pets in the way most of us think of a pet…like a companion. I didn’t talk to them or anything, at least not nearly as much as I talk to my cats (wish I had a winking emoji for right here…)
I did try to provide entertainment for them though…exposure to different settings, and playing loud music for them. They love Comfortably Numb and actually sway in time with music, but I guess I needed copyright permission for a video I made with Pink Floyd playing in the background, because WordPress would not include it in that post long ago.
But for all those years they were such a mild, peaceful presence in my life.
Having that amazing bug activity, straight from a David Attenborough-type nature show, happening right in my living room, was a constant and graphic reminder of the miracles in Nature. The molting process alone would blow the most uninterested of minds.
I think I have missed seeing daily the natural flow of the bugs’ stages, the proof that though one life comes to an end, another is always starting…
And those gentle bugs actually made me miss my life’s work a little less. In my practice, I was a regular witness to the amazing cycle of human life……coaching childbirths, end of life counselling, with all of life’s challenges, traumas and gifts in between.
Retirement! Heck, what was I thinking???
Now this will seem like an abrupt change of subject, but we have this cat named Lucy. She was born in the wild (well, in the woodpile in front of our mountain home). She is by far the most mildcat either of us have ever had. We think she is expressing gratitude for allowing her to adopt us as her humans, and rescuing her from a treacherous life in the mountains filled with cougars, coyotes and bears….to say nothing of the below zero temps we sometimes have in the winter. She is gentle and careful and sweet and affectionate (this last, at her own whim of course…she IS a CAT after all).
And she is also amazing in that she learns after just one or two corrections. I post about her a lot. You can read her story here:
Her most vicious trait is that she hunts, chases, kills and eats spiders. I have mixed feelings about that but so far have not prevented her Spider Patrols. What can I say, I’m a hypocrite.
Last week, I had a shocking experience. I lifted a pile of papers off the table I was working on and found a dead (squashed?) BABY BUG!!! Absolutely no idea how it got there. Or from how long ago? And did Sweet Lucy do this or did I crush a new baby bug and not even know it?
I Confess, I actually cried.
And then, I had an even more surprising realization. It seemed unrelated but in my tears I discovered how much I HATE being even semi-retired. (I see maybe 4 clients a month on average.) I miss working so much. I loved my well over 40 years of being a Group Psychotherapist with a booming practice. I never got tired of it. I never experienced “burn out”. I worked hard to live the principals I taught so I never really experienced the conflict and dissonance possible in that line of work. I was really, REALLY happy being able to do the work I was doing.
AND I missed my post-retirement hobby, my BUGS!
I want BUGS and I want to WORK!
You’ve heard the old Chinese proverb “Be careful what you wish for”?
In the last 5 days, SIX live, baby bugs have appeared out of nowhere in my office. I don’t have any eggs stashed in here. No adult bugs were ever loose in this room to drop unknown eggs. I have no idea where these hatch-lings are coming from, but I do know that after the very first one, which Lucy spotted up on the ceiling, I had a talk with her to remind her the difference between spiders and our bugs. Since then, five more have hatched and been unmolested by our Gentle Hunter Lucy. She just sits and watches them until I can capture and contain them. (I cannot however, confirm what she does behind my back of course.)
But anyway, apparently, I am on my way again, with a whole new generation of Extatosoma_tiaratum.
Gosh, maybe my phone will start ringing soon and I’ll have some new clients to work with too!?!