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Sunday, May 31, 2020

Baby Mourning Dove

It's baby bird season again.

A few days ago, the 'Kek-kek-kek' of the grackle family was in high gear, while the parent grackles picked out choice insects from the grass, feeding it to a little fledgling that was yet to fend totally for itself. They often do this fairly close to the flower bed under the fringetree near our deck.

I peered out at the deck, and noticed a smallish bird carefully hopping along the lower railing of the deck's fence. It was brown black with a darker beak, and looked like a baby bird of some kind. It reached the end of the railing it was on, peered at the perilous four inch hop to the deck, summoned up its courage, and made the jump.

Whew, it landed correctly, on its feet!

A few seconds later, Papa arrived, a mourning dove with pinkish red feathers on the breast, landing about a foot away from Baby. He kept a slight distance from the fledgling, not going up close, or attempting to feed it. He walked away, leading toward the flower bed on the other side.

The baby mourning dove slowly followed him, and made a second perilous(not) leap to the flower bed from the deck. They spent some time pecking for insects.

A little while later, as the baby continued its attempts to find food, it passed too close to a Northern flicker in the same grass patch. I watched in horror through the glass as the flicker tried to peck at the fledgling, opening the sliding door to the deck with its loud squeak in an attempt to rush out.

By the time I stepped out, all the birds had flown off. The fledgling was nowhere to be seen. I hoped that it had not been injured, but couldn't be sure until an hour later when I saw it again, this time on a tree stump further away.
Unflighted dove fledglings are made to leave the nest by the parents after around 13 days past hatching.  They must stay groundbound for a few days, with nothing but general instruction from their parents (not food, which they must learn to find for themselves).

In the meantime, they must also evade predators which include other birds, some rodents, and wandering cats, in order to make it to the next stage of juvenile mourning dove.

A peril fraught existence indeed!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Sunrises and Flowers

It’s been a while since I posted, no particular inspiration to do so. But there have been lots of beautiful sunrises and flowers. So here are the photos that I took over the last few days.







Wednesday, May 13, 2020

A Diversity of Birds

Maybe not a truly large number of species, but here is the list of birds observed this spring so far in my little suburban home garde and neighborhood. I have linked some of them to the descriptions and paintings of the bird by John Jame Audubon at the audubon.org website.

Cooper's hawk (juvenile), sitting out in a thunderstorm on the deck.

A family of grackles (5) which swoop and fly around the backyard, feeding on bugs in the grass, and drinking at the bird bath.

Numerous robins, living in assorted oak and maple trees in my yard and other yards nearby.

Chipping sparrow, with red (rufous) markings on their crowns, observed 2 this morning, hopping on the deck, feasting in synchrony on oak blossoms.

House finches, with their red heads, dive bombing the bird bath for a few drinks.

Gold finches (1-2 females), 4 smallish males the other day, perched on the syringa tree, again near the bird bath.

Mourning doves, a pair, seem to come back year after year.

White crowned sparrow, with noticeable white and black markings on the crown of its head, described by the bird book (Sibley) as being uncommon (Yay, a rare avian visitor!), seen rooting around in the square pot for seeds.

Blue jays- not commonly seen this year, though less shy in previous years, but heard screaming this year from neighboring yards.

Red cardinals, 5-6 assorted juvenile males and the occasional female.

Tufted titmouse- seen more frequently in previous years, only once this year. Update: It looks like I just needed to invoke it for it to show up. It came yesterday to the bird bath, just after I had refilled it with fresh water and cleaned out the old gunk. It took multiple dips over a 10 minute period, flew away when we stepped out onto the deck, and later came back for more ablutions.

Great horned owls, heard but not seen in the early spring mornings.

Crow, seen 1, heard a few more.

Redwinged blackbirds- seen last year as a rare visitor to the bird bath. Not yet seen this year. They are more common near the Boyce Mayview recreation center and trail, where I haven't yet gone this year.

Pileated woodpecker, with red marking on crown, black and white feathers, seen a few juveniles attempting to make holes in somebody's roof, then flying back to a tree in disgust.

Downy woodpecker Northern Flicker (a type of woodpecker) with brownish feathers, small red marking on crown, digging industriously in the front lawn, as it was flanked by a chipmunk and a robin on either side.

Chickadee: Seen hopping down to the birdbath.

Turkeys: Heard them gobble in the woods behind the Post office, which lie behind some of the houses in the Clairmont section. I haven't seen them coming up to the roads yet, maybe they are waiting for the warmer weather to kick in, and new broods of young ones.

Gray catbird- A smallish, completely gray all over bird, with a small black stripe on the head, and some black on the tail. I have seen a couple of these in different locations on my morning walks. They are a little more skittish and fly away quickly, though the one I saw this morning seemed a little more inclined to walk toward me and eye me with some curiosity.





Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Vanity and Virtue

No, I'm not trying for a Jane Austen effect...well, I suppose I was being rather too Mr.Collins-ish in trying to compose a clever sounding title for this blog post.

Hubby asked me the other day, "There's a group of ladies at the local BV group that are forming a mask making team for the VA hospital. V asked if you might be interested in joining."

"I'm interested."

So, it started. My phone number got added to the Mask making Whatsapp group, all due welcomes and then the messages started piling up. 'See this mask video." I tried sewing something similar to that as a test. "No, not that one. We're doing this one!" with links to more masks and stringent instructions. "Will we get fabric and elastic?"
"Yes, we will supply that.""Wait, some of you will have to sew ties, not enough elastic for all."

So much back and forth.  While waiting for the fabric, I made another sample mask of the preferred pattern, and kept posting vanity messages showing off the masks I made, to keep up with the Joneses on the group, who had been posting photographs of their samples. At the risk of sounding boastful, I must say that my sample photos were quite well received.
Or maybe not,  that's just the nature of these groups. We post something, and the main arbiters of fashion have to mandatorily Ooh and aah over it, to encourage people to keep posting, or the group  goes into the oblivion of unrefreshed chats.
D-Day arrived, all materials had been cut and were getting ready to be dropped off. "I can make 30", offered one lady, "I can make 20", said another. "I will make 10." chimed in yet another. I offered to make 10, figuring that since there were about 20 ladies in the group, 250 masks seemed like a reasonable target for the overall group.
I spent some time placing out the mask paper pattern on some fabric that I had, trying to estimate what might be the optimum layouts and the maximum number of masks we could extract from each yard of fabric.  I didn't hesitate to post the gory details of estimated yardage and masks in messages to the group, along with reminders to factor in seam allowances that were missing from the pattern, pre-wash and shrinkage. It might have been useful for the newbie sewistas, but I'm sure that at least a couple of seasoned clothesmakers must have rolled their eyes in annoyance at my impertinence.
I had thought that I would get a couple of yards, enough for 7-8 masks, but opened my mailbox to find a heavy bundle of fabric. Me and my loudmouth, I thought- it had gotten me a bunch of 6 individually cut yards.
The actual cutting and sewing of the masks was, to me, fun. The only tedious part of it was making ties, but even those settled into a Zen-like activity, once I had all issues with having to constantly refill bobbins of thread worked out. My mini-one-woman assembly line was operational and churning out masks by the dozen ( or at least, a couple of dozen.)
Meanwhile, the messaging group kept posting more messages. "Finished 6 masks, need more fabric", someone pleaded. " Finished 15 masks, have 2 yards, what sizes do you want", came from an experienced sewing maven.
Yikes, I must up my game, haven't finished more than 10 masks yet, I thought. But then, what of the mechanics of these groups that triggers the inherent competitiveness of human nature? I slowed down and thought about it. No, it's not time to set off a mask race, just to focus on finishing one's allotted quota of material in a reasonably timely and well-stitched fashion. I ended up making a grand total of 25 masks.
Was this a vanity project that I had undertaken? Something to showcase the skills acquired but not frequently on display, now converted to a 'Let's help first responders and the frontline of the battle against the virus' with our undervalued home crafts? No, that's not a vanity project which does nothing but promote the vanity of the person who does it, since this did produce something useful for healthcare providers who need the masks.
 So, is it a virtue to help? To be clear, what I saw and participated in the group seemed to be more about virtue signalling. Yes, we are helping, but we are also, in the process of partaking in these group dynamics, proclaiming to others that we are the virtuous, putting our sewing skills to good use and providing for people in dire need of the protection in this upside down world.
It's motherhood at its all-embracing and vanity-satisfying best.
(Sorry, fathers are uninterested in this mode of virtue signalling!)