Category Archives: birds

Waiting for the Birds

 

 

Return from Yosemite
Journal Entry, June 9, 2017

I’m back in my writing chair, drinking my coffee and waiting for the birds. The feeders weren’t completely empty this morning, but mostly, so I added fresh suet and seed. Now, I wait.

Ah. Here they come.  First, the intrepid blue jay, with his low, insolent whistle. Then a red-bellied woodpecker, Both just stop by to say hello, but not to eat. Then, surprise—the shy brown thrasher, bird of a thousand songs, who lands on a branch with tail cocked high. I step to the window to watch him as he dives to peck at the seeds sprinkled below the feeders, among the grasses.

I watch silently at the window, and Buster, impatient with my ups and downs, hops onto the couch instead of waiting for me to sit back down on my chair.  From there he can keep an eye on me without being disturbed.

Now the jay and the house finch arrive, and their darting movements disturb the absolute stillness surrounding me inside and outside this house. It’s already deep summer here in my Riverside neighborhood, and the heat and the humidity blanket all.  Sunday morning: Not many are out and about.

Ah—my favorite, the downy woodpecker, finds the fresh suet. My wait is rewarded.

What a huge tumbleweed of experiences and images I’ve experienced over the past week!  It’s been difficult to take it all in without my early morning writing time to process it, putting space between the experiences of each day—like trying to read a page in a book without whites space between the lines and in the margins.

But here I am now, in the absolute stillness and quiet, watching the birds return, as do my thoughts, my memories, my experiences of the past week. Each thought a bird, landing silently on the branch to be observed, studied, appreciated, in the silence, as I begin to wonder what to make of it all.

Here.
In the Riverside Garden.

Reflection: It’s like my ears are still ringing from all of the ‘noise’ of this vacation. Gradually, the ringing subsides, and the experiences emerge.

Brown Thrasher (from Animal Totems: Dictionary of Birds)
When Brown Thrasher appears to you it is time to sing a joyous song of life and all of the experiences that surround you. Coincidences and synchronicities will expand your spirituality in a profound way. He teaches ways of communicating by listening and singing your own song in life along with care and tact in how you speak. He is about following your soul purpose and recognizing innate abilities. Communicating by listening and singing your song, being carefree and open with thoughts, ideas and creativity are part of Brown Thrasher’s lessons. Sensitive to surroundings, he shows how to follow through with your impressions and hunches. Brown Thrasher teaches the art of camouflage, timing, action and inaction. He demonstrates alertness, internal peace, and personal reclamation and transformation. Qualities of generosity and gentleness will bring rejuvenation and beauty to your world. Are you bringing joy and harmony to others? Is it time to lighten up? He will aid in focus and clarity to find balance. His medicine will show how to adapt with a renewed sense of joy. Brown Thrasher has a well-rounded diet; are you eating right? The time period for Brown Thrasher is about 9 days. Rapid developments await you. He will help keep you grounded so that you may sing the song in your heart.

 

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Captured Moment on the Journey

IMG_6496.JPGWe were on the boardwalk, looking over the savannah.  We’d just spotted two birds in the tall Florida grasses, just beyond a tree trunk and a clump of bushes. We all paused, trying to identify these two brown, long-tailed birds.

I could not make them out. What were they? Curious, I followed them when they flew away, startled by our movement. The others continued down the boardwalk, but I went in the opposite direction, hoping to get a closer look.

I did!  There they were, one clinging to the grass, the other perched in a bush. I tried to find it in my binoculars, confused at first by the clumps of leaves on the bush, until it’s round breast came clearly into view, proudly flashing in the sun.

White throat.  Slightly flat brown head.  White beak…not real long.  It occurs to me, this might be a migratory bird, since I didn’t know it right away.  Maybe it was a shrike?  But no; too brown.  Maybe an oriole?  No, wrong color scheme.

I puzzled for awhile, and finally, worried the others might get too far ahead, I moved on.  The boardwalk stretched out ahead of me, empty, bare, warmed by the sun.  I quickened my step, wondering how far they had gotten, then calmed myself, hearing their voices.

I slowed down again (at least in my own mind), wanting to hold on to that moment: The open savannah, the warm sun, the light getting a bit stronger as it rose higher in the sky.  I was aware of that in-between state of the present, with the pair of birds  behind me and the small flock in front of me, clutching cameras, binoculars, jackets.  They were in the future, this moment was the present, the unknown birds already in the past.

Such are the combined pleasures—and insights—of hiking on a trail, looking for birds, and slowing my stride to capture a moment of time.

Here.
In the bird-watching garden.

P.S. Bird list from the day: White-eyed vireo, yellow-rumped warbler, two great blue herons , red-wing blackbirds, mud hens, tri-colored heron, kingfisher, flock of ibis, pine warbler, voice of the pileated woodpecker!

(P.P.S. see more pictures and watch a video on our WWf(a)c Facebook page.)IMG_6493.JPG

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East Wind Blowing

IMG_4878The robins are coming to life.  The loose flocks lurking around the neighborhood are now moving in, feasting on the red holly berries that just turned the proper degree of ripeness after January’s crisp nights.

The activity in the backyard this morning caught my eye as the robins darted from pine to holly and then back again, like trapeze artists in a circus performance.

A plump, speckled one suddenly landed on the fence, eyeing me as I came out the back door for a closer look.

Round, red breast.
Beady, black eye.
Fast, firm grip.

She contemplated me, pausing for a moment in the work of her life: to pluck ripe berries before making her way up North for nest-building time.  It’s a natural process that can’t be stopped; a force of nature that can’t avoided.

“You better be ready for a growth stage,” she seemed to say, eyeing me steadily.

I’m a bit surprised to find that I am.

IMG_4383As I look at the photos of the new house I covet—a cute cottage, just the right size, in just the right neighborhood—I realize I’m actually looking forward to change.  I’m not holding on to this place.  The bright red door of possibility is as warm and welcoming as the robin’s breast.

“Change is coming,” the robin told me. “You must learn to tolerate the strain.  Don’t let Change stomp all over you with clumsy work boots and thick soles.  Let Change gently blow you to your new destination, like the East wind that brought Mary Poppins to #17 Cherry Tree Lane.”

It’s true that change is inevitable, like the turn of the seasons, like the robins’ need to eat and  migrate, like the balmy spring that will follow the frozen winter of my heart.

Spring is my favorite season, after all.  Perhaps I can tuck its blooms into my own red breast and get ready to migrate to my new home.

Here.
In the garden.

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Early Morning Fall Mist

photo

photo by @dalbacky on instagram http://instagram.com/dalbacky

I just peeped outside the front door, through the leaded glass panes, and saw a thin bank of mist out there.

Reminds me of the mist on the farm where I grew up, hanging low in the valley around the house and barn early in the morning.

Mist makes the world mysterious, briefly transforming it into something special — and then it’s gone again, a small gift only for early risers.

Through the back door I see a female cardinal at a feeder that’s been empty all summer. The season is changing, and plants and animals are in a different relationship with each other. Perhaps the birds are starting to stock up again on my bird seed, prepping for winter.

Fall mornings these days include me urging Matthew out the door on time for school — which didn’t work out today. It also includes walking the dog, perhaps with a slight coolness in the air, looking about us as we go, searching for signs of the turning season.

Or is it me that’s turning, entering the fall season of MY life?
The thought lingers, like a thin mist, lying low in my garden.
Maybe.
Or maybe not quite yet.

Here.
In the garden.

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Bird By Bird: On A Quest for the Summer Tanager

I decided to go on a quest for a summer tanager today.

I’m having a “staycation” while the kids are out of town, so, outdoor adventures close to home are in order.

Last week's run through the woods...aka, "Walking Under Raccoons," or, "Touched by a Swallowtail," or "Wish I had bug repellant with me."

Last week’s run through the woods…aka, “Walking Under Raccoons,” or, “Touched by a Swallowtail,” or “Sure wish I had bug repellant with me.”

On last week’s adventure, I ran through Guana Reserve, where I spotted “giant garden spiders, an armadillo, two white-tailed deer, a raccoon in the trees I walked under, a hawk nest, a white cloud butterfly, a swallowtail butterfly, an impassable flooded trail, snakes in the grass, ticks, fiddler crabs, leaping frogs, lizards, birds, and that was enough,” as I noted on Instagram.

This week, I hit the Guana Wildlife Preserve, where my new photographer friend Don Christian said I might spot the tanagers.  “Just head for the oaks and keep looking up in the trees!” he said.

I was thrilled to hear that I might be able to see these mysterious creatures!  I am in love with tanagers.  Last summer I happened upon several scarlet tanagers in the mature woods of the Laurel Mountains in Pennsylvania. I was practically euphoric.

My son, Matthew, and I have had summer tanagers on our “watch list” for a few years now, but, I never knew where to find them.

Now I do.

deep in the oak trees at Guana Wildlife Preserve

Deep in the oak trees at Guana Wildlife Preserve

So, I packed a lunch of peanut butter and jelly, scribbled the directions in my journal, stocked up with water, two cameras, natural bug repellant (I HATE that stuff but this was necessary!), my phone, and a song in my heart.

So, this is what “following your bliss” feels like, eh?

But first, the run.  I planned to combine bird-watching AND running the trails.  (p.s. this is not really good for spotting birds).  I figured I would run first, THEN come back with the camera.

Well, it wasn’t great for bird-watching per se, but, I did get to see lots of other things:  beautiful Florida oak groves, many swallowtails, fiddler crabs, and lots and lots and LOTS of flies, mosquitos and horseflies.  But hey — no ticks!  (So far, anyway).

Cool lizard with lunch in his mouth.

Cool lizard with lunch in his mouth.

Once again, as I got to the outer reaches, and took a wrong turn, and ended up further away than I thought, I did say to myself, Hmmm…why DO I have to do everything so hard?  As I turned into a grassy section, the signs said the trails sometimes flood.  Did that stop me?  Oh, no.  I just went deeper and deeper in the woods.

I was on a quest, you see.

Well, eventually, the flooding did stop me, so, I had to turn around.  But that’s when I bumped into the baby armadillo!  Such a cutie!  He was hunched up in the grass, as if he was thinking,  “Hey, if I cover my head, maybe she won’t see me!”  But I sure did, and stopped running long enough to take out my phone and snap a shot — even though the lens was steamed up.  I got super close and he untucked his head and looked up at me, with his cute little pink ears and  sweet face.  I smiled and kept going.

Baby armadillo through my steamed up iPhone lens!

Baby armadillo through my steamed up iPhone lens!

Finally, I reached the parking lot again, and took out my camera for the “bird watch” part.  I thought I had heard an Eastern towhee in the pine section, but I couldn’t tell for sure.  Needed the telescope lens of the camera.

So, very quietly, with a LOT more bug spray on me, I headed down the trails.  I saw a weird lizard with something in it’s mouth, which I now realize was a bug he just ate.  Ewww!  I saw a delightful blue bee, a green dragonfly, wildflowers, a painted lady butterfly, and a lovely brown moth.

I spotted a baby cardinal, sitting shyly behind a branch.  I heard bullfrogs.  And I spotted something high up in the trees…yessss…it was…an Eastern towhee!

Spotted an Eastern Towhee, even though he was not singing the exact same "drink your tea" as they have on my birdsong CD...maybe a Florida version?

Spotted an Eastern Towhee, even though he was not singing the exact same “drink your tea” as recorded on my birdsong CD…maybe a Florida version?

OK, not a tanager.  BUT, this was the first towhee I ever located on my own, and was able to photograph!  So, that was plenty exciting for me.

So now, I guess I just have to go back, and see if I can get the tanager.  I’ll keep listening to Stan Tekiela’s CDs on “Birds Of Florida,” to try to recognize the tanager song.

But I’ve got one more bird to check off my Life List, and I’m plenty happy with that.

Here.
In the Florida garden.

 

Painted lady

Painted lady

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Actually, I DO like spiders and snakes!

After an indoor labyrinth walk yesterday in Ponte Vedra, instead of heading home, I headed toward Guana Beach, called by the promise of remote beach and undisturbed beauty.

I needed a little “wild” time.

Guana River State Park is a mostly pristine coastal scrub ecosystem, according to the signs in the parking lot at the third beach entrance (my favorite because it’s the most remote). As I headed to the beach from almost empty parking lot, I paused and observed the wildness of the brush along the walkway.

That’s when I spotted an enormous black-and-yellow garden spider making its web. I marveled at its giant body nimbly sliding down long threads and then picking its way back up again, completely absorbed in its work.

Black and yellow garden spider at Guana Reserve

Black and yellow garden spider at Guana Reserve

My face was about 18 inches away, and when a breeze blew the web a bit closer, I found myself stepping back — and then noticed an even bigger spider, with an even more fortified web, sitting quietly in the middle of a long zig-zag of threads.  This one was about 4 inches long, the other was about 3 inches. And, there were two more  “smaller” spiders (two inches) hanging nearby (I later learned these were males).

It was  a little bit of wild, right under my nose.

Satisfied by this glimpse of wildness, I continued to the beach, which was sprinkled with just a few folks. I noticed the dappled sand, still imprinted with the many drops of the recent hard rain.  The waves ran up to the roughness, tickled it, and then ran back.  Two plovers walked in the water just ahead, keeping a wary eye on me.

I took a few pictures and thought, I should tag these, “#OhYeah! #ILiveAtTheBeach!”  I felt grateful to be there.

Remote beach at Guana.  A little bit of wild.

Remote beach at Guana. A little bit of wild.

Back in the parking lot, still wanting a bit more wild, I got closer to a cardinal singing its evening song at the top of a dead branch among the salt-curved tree tops.  Then I walked to the edge of the parking lot, looking for more interesting wild stuff.

I found it.

In the most remote corner, I saw another giant spider, this one even bigger, building its web.  Behind it was another, and then another, and then another, and I suddenly realized, Oh my God, there are hundreds of them, covering every few feet of the wild scrub under the oak trees! This is a truly wild and remote corner. THIS is what wild nature looks like!

Maybe spiders horrify you.  (Remember the song, “I Don’t Like Spiders and Snakes?”) They don’t horrify me, though I did not care to get TOO close (except to take pictures).  I was thrilled to see them, actually.  I was thrilled to see what “wild nature” looks like, when it’s forgotten, untouched, and unmolested by human hands.

I drove home a little lighter, relieved to know that there are a few places left in Jax that are pesticide-, litter-, and developer-free.

Here.
In the garden.

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The Perfect Job

ImageI found the perfect job for my 17-year-old son the other day.  It’s at the Wild Birds Unlimited store.  They need someone to unload the seed bags from the truck, move heavy boxes, and attend to the sales floor if needed.
Someone who likes nature.
Who likes birds.
Who likes people.
It’s perfect for him!

Which is why, when I suggested it, he immediately said, “No.”

“Sure, Mom.  I can just hear me telling my friends, ‘I can’t hang out with you because I have to go to work at the Wild Birds store,'” he said, a slight smile curving his lips.  Like, “Aww, Mom.  Aren’t you cute!” and then, “Fuggetaboutit!”

Sigh.  OK. That plan did not work out.  Big surprise. However, I won’t lose hope.  His dad has big plans to get him a job this summer, so I’ll wait to see how that works out.

In the meantime, my 19-year-old daughter is home from college, and, after a stimulating conversation last week about why I will not provide unlimited funds for new clothes, even if she goes to Forever 21, she called up a few restaurants to set up interviews. The next day, she got a job.  Then she applied for an internship at the Women’s Center, and on Monday, she was working there.

So there you go.  And I had absolutely nothing to do with it.  Well, maybe a little to do with it.  But, I’m thrilled. It seems that my children DO have their own ideas and opinions, so, I need to let them try them out.

This morning, I’m sitting here in my garden, watching the juvenile bluebirds hanging around the mealworm dish.  They open their mouths, hoping the parents will feed them.  But it seems that won’t work anymore. The parents ignore them and then fly off back to the nest box to feed the newest clutch. It’s time for these fledglings to fend for themselves.

So, here we are, sharing that experience, me and the bluebirds, as we watch out children grow.  We are doing what we have to do, even if it hurts a little to let them go.

Here.
In the garden.

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