Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday 20

I have a couple of bird houses and feeders, and while the squirrels help themselves to most of the seed I put out, we still get quite a few feathered visitors. The feeders are on poles in the yard, and the birdhouses are under our roof eaves. At the moment we have a male and female cardinal nesting in the oak tree (apparently the females are not red; they're shaped just like the male, but are brown and yellow and grayish in color.)

The cardinals and all the other birds who visit have been snubbing my birdhouses. Sometimes other things move in, but mostly they stay empty. We clean them out every couple of months to get rid of mud dauber nests and lizard droppings, but I was thinking about taking them down this summer and putting up squirrel-proof feeders instead.

After three weeks of road trips and my friend's funeral, I came home and went out to sit on my porch and enjoy Nature as usual. I also brought the camera out with me in hopes of getting a shot of Red and his lady. Almost as soon as I sat down, I heard very faint, high-pitched cheeping coming from someplace close. I looked around for the cardinals or another nest-jumper, and then jumped as a small, beautiful blue bird with an orange breast flew right past my face. I'd never seen a bird like it before, so I grabbed the camera and took this rather blurry shot:

Eastern Blue Bird

The green thing in her beak was a worm. The cheeping sound I'd been hearing suddenly got very loud, and then Mama Blue went inside the birdhouse. While we were gone, she'd moved in and hatched her eggs. From the cheeps, I figured at least two or three chicks.

We've stayed a safe distance and not bothered them, but I've kept the camera handy in hopes of another shot. Mama is wise to me now and won't perch outside for long, but this past weekend one of the chicks decided to have a look outside:

Baby Blue

So why am I so excited about some blue birds? See, I used to have this blue glass bird paperweight on my desk. It was a daily reminder to find happiness in the little things. A few years ago I decided to give the paperweight to another writer who had lost everything. Sometimes you have to open your heart as well as the wallet. And I thought about that, too, when I saw Mama Blue had moved in. Maybe I needed the reminder. Or maybe she was desperate and the frog had moved out. Either way.

That's all from my corner of the world this week. Anyone have some questions for me?*

*Added: would help if the comments were turned on, yes? Sorry about that.

51 comments:

  1. Aren't those little blue things eyecatching? Intensely territorial, though. I used to have a bluebird box near my bedroom window. When the happy little fellow came out in the morning to greet the day, he would see his reflection in the glass and attack with extreme prejudice. Nothing like waking up to thunk-thunk-thunk-conniption every morning at dawn... I finally put a trash bag over the window (which really enhances the look of a property, BTW) to keep him from killing himself and driving me insane, and relocated the box when nesting season was over.

    I'm just glad you turned the comments on! I thought you'd decided to go with #4 after all!

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  2. That's great. I'm kind of a bird freak, much to my wife's dismay. I try to keep the feeders full but, alas, there are too many birds and only one of me!

    Lately, I've been seeing the painted buntings coming round again. Beautiful birds.

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  3. We now have a resident barred owl. Not only is it really cool to see him swooping between the lawn and the power lines (particularly since I'm a few blocks from downtown, not out in the country anymore), but if there are enough pests in the yard to keep him around, I really want him around!

    (Okay, shutting up about birds now.)

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  4. kerry, I had a danio that behaved much the same way...his life was spent displaying at his refection in the tank.

    Sqrl-proof feeders? But...but...don't you LIKE sqrls?

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  5. Anonymous8:57 AM

    I think that's lovely. When I was little we had a possum nest opposite the dining room window and used to stand there and look out to try and see it sleeping. Beautiful, huh?

    Ace
    Literareality

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  6. refection? reflection, sigh. Sqrls were obviously disturbed at the thought of no food.

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  7. That's beautiful, Lynn. Thank you for the pictures. I'm a bird-watcher, too. (But I also feed the squirrels.) Last week we had some lazuli buntings on our feeder. That was the high point of my week.

    BTW, anyone who's interested can log their bird sightings at ebird.com - which puts them into a database at Cornell.

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  8. Robin B10:58 AM

    I love to bird watch. We have a numbers of different kinds of bird feeders on our property that draw all different kind of birds. We get cardinals, woodpeckers, bluejays, and hummingbirds just to name a few, but the best one we saw did not come for the feeders. It was a bald eagle that hung out, for about an hour, in a pine tree at the edge of our property. It was the most majestic bird I have ever seen. Even the California condors I saw at the Grand Canyon could not compare.

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  9. Kerry wrote: Aren't those little blue things eyecatching? Intensely territorial, though.

    Oh, yeah. We have a lot of big blue jays who come to raid the feeders every day, and Mama bird will fly right at them twittering her head off if they so much as look at the birdhouse. She stands her ground and drives them away, too, even though the jays are like twice her size and make a lot more noise.

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  10. Scott wrote: That's great. I'm kind of a bird freak, much to my wife's dismay.

    I really got into birds only after we relocated here, but I never walked out into the yard of my old house in south Florida and found myself standing toe-to-toe with a pair of four-foot-tall Sandhill cranes. Here, it's every other week.

    Lately, I've been seeing the painted buntings coming round again. Beautiful birds.

    Wow, they definitely are. They almost look like those exotic-colored parrots from south America, don't they?

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  11. Kerry wrote: We now have a resident barred owl. Not only is it really cool to see him swooping between the lawn and the power lines (particularly since I'm a few blocks from downtown, not out in the country anymore), but if there are enough pests in the yard to keep him around, I really want him around!

    The barn owls (my kids call them Harry Potter owls) that live around here keep the rat and mouse population under control, which can be a problem with all the stables and farms in the area. A city near us that has undergone a lot of development can't figure out why they had a huge mouse epidemic last year/ I think it's because they've destroyed all the woods where the owls used to live.

    (Okay, shutting up about birds now.)

    Don't do that on my account. :)

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  12. Where I grew up we had a flock of parrots that would come and have lunch in our seagrape tree (evidently when some touristy place closed shop-they just released the birds and the birds did just fine- go figure), we also had bluejays that would dive bomb the cats and pluck tufts of fur out of them.
    P.S. Have a Happy Weekend, everyone!

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  13. Buffysquirrel wrote: kerry, I had a danio that behaved much the same way...his life was spent displaying at his refection in the tank.

    One of my cats always hisses at his own reflection. I've always wondered if it's because he thinks it's another cat, or he's just having a bad hair day.

    Sqrl-proof feeders? But...but...don't you LIKE sqrls?

    I love squirrels. I have to; ten thousand of them live in my yard. :) I just wish they'd leave some seed for the birds, but they're hoarders by nature, and if I don't put some out of their reach, they'd carry it all off in a day and let the birds starve.

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  14. Ace wrote: I think that's lovely. When I was little we had a possum nest opposite the dining room window and used to stand there and look out to try and see it sleeping. Beautiful, huh?

    Awwwww. Possums can be so cute (but never try to handle one, folks, because they have very sharp teeth and claws, and do not always play possum.)

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  15. Most male birds have the colorful plumage. The females are dull to hide with the chicks.

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  16. I like birds too. :) But being in the UK am unfamiliar with the bird that is nesting in your box. Have you identified it? LOL - or am I just missing that, as I've just got in from work and my brain has powered down.

    I did have a question from a while ago when you got rid of the last of the bookmarks. It seems silly, but hey. You mentioned that you now make your own. As someone who isn't really that creative (in a papercraft way). I was wondering how you did it. Is it just a case of finding an image, printing it off and laminating.

    Just in case it's a skill I ever need to develop for future promotional purposes when I finally finish the **** story.

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  17. B.E. wrote: BTW, anyone who's interested can log their bird sightings at ebird.com - which puts them into a database at Cornell.

    Oh, excellent -- I've seen so many cool birds since we moved here, and I'd love to share the info. Thanks for the link, B.

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  18. Robin wrote: We get cardinals, woodpeckers, bluejays, and hummingbirds just to name a few, but the best one we saw did not come for the feeders. It was a bald eagle that hung out, for about an hour, in a pine tree at the edge of our property.

    My daughter claimed she saw a bald eagle nesting atop a power pole, but I've yet to see one here. In the predator bird department, we get mostly hawks and the occasional peregrine. There's one type of hawk that comes around sometimes (I've yet to identify it) that shrieks just like a little girl screaming. More than once I've run out of the house thinking my daughter was hurt because of that blasted bird screeching.

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  19. Ann wrote: Where I grew up we had a flock of parrots that would come and have lunch in our seagrape tree (evidently when some touristy place closed shop-they just released the birds and the birds did just fine- go figure)

    After Hurricane Andrew destroyed Metro Zoo's aviary (Lord, fourteen years ago now) there were sighting reports of all sorts of exotics that had survived the storm for about a year afterward in South Florida. It's amazing what birds can survive.

    ...we also had bluejays that would dive bomb the cats and pluck tufts of fur out of them.

    Have had that happen to the pup here. I know some birds do that for nesting materials, but with jays, it just seems like they enjoy scaring the hell out of the poor four-legged animal.

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  20. Dave wrote: Most male birds have the colorful plumage. The females are dull to hide with the chicks.

    It works, too. I sure can't see that female cardinal unless I first spot the male with her.

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  21. Lesley wrote: I did have a question from a while ago when you got rid of the last of the bookmarks. It seems silly, but hey. You mentioned that you now make your own. As someone who isn't really that creative (in a papercraft way). I was wondering how you did it. Is it just a case of finding an image, printing it off and laminating.

    I've been experimenting with a couple different methods (my daughter's fault; she does a lot of paper craft and asked me if she could make some bookmarks to send to my contest and giveaway winners. We started collaborating from there.)

    I never laminate. It's just too expensive.

    The simplest custom bookmark is one you can run off an inkjet or color printer on white or light-colored cardstock or a heavyweight paper. I set up a landscape page in my photoshop program*, then cut and paste four scaled images of the cover art equally spaced across the top of the page, and insert four duplicate texts (whatever I want to say on the bookmark) below each image. If you have extra stuff, you can flip the printed page and print the other side, too. Chop into four on a paper cutter (you generally have to trim the end bookmarks a little on one side because of print area margins) and you're done.

    My daughter likes to use double-sided scrapbooking page papers (I think the brand name of the paper is My Big Idea) and cut them into bookmarks, then decorate them with stickers (some of the folks who won the Raintree: Inferno giveaway got her latest batch.) I punch holes in the end, run a ribbon or a piece of interesting yarn through, and tie it off with a knot or a knot around a bead or interesting shell.

    If you want, Lesley, e-mail me at LynnViehl@aol.com and I'll send you the .jpg of the prototype bookmark I'm designing for Evermore. It's not perfect yet, but you can see what I'm talking about.

    I want to make some quilting bookmarks, because that would be like bookmark-making heaven for me, but I haven't found a batting that works. Even that crappy low-loft polyester stuff makes them a little too puffy to really work as bookmarks. Not batting them makes them too flimsy. I'm going to experiment with some different grades of cardboard and see what I can come up with.

    *Microsoft Digital Imaging Suite, which I bought because it's almost exactly like the old Photo-It program I used to use back in the early days of my self-promoting. It's not the world's most elaborate or technical program, but it's simple to use and produces some nice results.

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  22. Lesley also wrote: But being in the UK am unfamiliar with the bird that is nesting in your box. Have you identified it? LOL - or am I just missing that, as I've just got in from work and my brain has powered down.

    Hey, I missed that part of your comment. We're even. :) I'm almost 100% sure that Mama bird is an Eastern bluebird.

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  23. Kaelle12:50 PM

    Sheila, there's a product called Lacey's Stiff Stuff that beaders use that you might find works for your quilting bookmarks.

    Sorry I don't have a link to it. But you should have a Michael's craft store near you, or some other craft store, right?

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  24. No questions today, just a thank you for the bluebird reminder. I have a little blue glass bird paperweight too, but mine got packed in storage when I uprooted last fall.

    Thanks again for all you do!

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  25. My husband was convinced he'd seen an eagle owl while driving past the sewage works. An eagle owl? I said. Yeah, right. So he took me past there one day, and there, sure enough, was the eagle owl.

    A plastic eagle owl.

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  26. Anmada1:53 PM

    Along the lines of kaelle's response; some sort of fusible fabric lining might work for the bookmarks (I use it for the novelty cummerbuns and bow ties I make for my brother-in-law). I get the stuff at my local fabric store.

    Your bluebird-paperweight reminder of simple pleasures is prompting me to share my favorite way of reminding myself: at the end of the day I list "5 good things" even on a totally crappy day.

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  27. anmada1:57 PM

    BTW the "Readerisms" post and comments made my 5-good-things the other day. They are wonderful!

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  28. A few springs ago, we had a juvenile red-tailed hawk in our yard. This is a pic of another one hubby saw around the neighborhood last april.

    Very cool beasties. Youngest kidlet says there's a nesting pair of owls on his elementary school's playground.

    And we have a cardinal pair in the hedge by our back porch.

    I enjoy these reminders that we are not the only or most important inhabitants of this world.

    Thanks for sharing your bluebirds!

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  29. Zolah2:55 PM

    It looks like a male chaffinch to me (not mama, but papa). We see alot of them flittering about here in later summer and autumn when it's warm. Perhaps they winter in Florida?

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  30. Robin B5:56 PM

    Bluejays are fearless and very protective. We have one that nests in the popcorn tree next to the horse pasture fence. I have watched it dive bomb the horses when they get to close to that part of the fence. (LOL) Occassionaly the horses will spook and take off running. It is pretty funny to watch.

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  31. Hooray - comments are on now :)

    But I'm not one for repeating myself - I put my two-bits in the Odds, Ends post because I wake up way too early for you folks.

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  32. Anonymous9:52 PM

    Hi,

    I thought I posted this earlier, but it's not here -- I must have typed the code wrong. I don't know much about quilting, but I wondered if you could find a thin felt for the batting?

    JulieB

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  33. Help, help, help. Any advice on coming up with titles for a novel? I'm stuck trying to find one for my current novel that's about ready to submit. I'm going crazy!

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  34. It's pretty amazing how nature works.

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  35. Folks, I'm whipped, so I'm going to bed. I'll be back in the morning to wrap things up.

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  36. Small magics - like bluebirds - are all we have sometimes.
    A cardinal's spring call is one of the few bird songs I can immitate.

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  37. Kaelle wrote: Sheila, there's a product called Lacey's Stiff Stuff that beaders use that you might find works for your quilting bookmarks.

    I will give it a whirl, thanks for the rec.

    Sorry I don't have a link to it. But you should have a Michael's craft store near you, or some other craft store, right?

    I live in a little town of about 900 people, so there are no craft stores out here. No stores at all, in fact. But we can hitch up the horses and drive to the Michael's in the city, which is about 30 minutes away if the horses trot real fast. :)

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  38. Nicole wrote: No questions today, just a thank you for the bluebird reminder. I have a little blue glass bird paperweight too, but mine got packed in storage when I uprooted last fall.

    His powers of happiness still work, I bet, even in storage. :)

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  39. Buffysquirrel: My husband was convinced he'd seen an eagle owl while driving past the sewage works. An eagle owl? I said. Yeah, right. So he took me past there one day, and there, sure enough, was the eagle owl.

    A plastic eagle owl.


    Lol. We have them here, too; the shop keepers will install plastic owls above the doors to keep other birds from nesting in the eaves and 3-D letters of their store signs.

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  40. Anmada wrote: Along the lines of kaelle's response; some sort of fusible fabric lining might work for the bookmarks (I use it for the novelty cummerbuns and bow ties I make for my brother-in-law). I get the stuff at my local fabric store.

    Hmmmm. The problem with fusibles is the adhesive; it's hard to quilt through that stuff. But I could do the quilting first (like a summer quilt, with no batting) and then fuse lining material to the back. Wouldn't be puffy at all. Thank you for the suggestion, ma'am.

    Your bluebird-paperweight reminder of simple pleasures is prompting me to share my favorite way of reminding myself: at the end of the day I list "5 good things" even on a totally crappy day.

    I get so caught up in the problems that I forget to remember the blessings. I like your approach; maybe I should start a 5 good things daily journal for myself.

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  41. LJ wrote: A few springs ago, we had a juvenile red-tailed hawk in our yard. This is a pic of another one hubby saw around the neighborhood last april.

    I love it -- what a great shot (everybody, click on LJ's link and go see.) Makes you wonder if hawks can read. :)

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  42. Zolah wrote: It looks like a male chaffinch to me (not mama, but papa). We see alot of them flittering about here in later summer and autumn when it's warm. Perhaps they winter in Florida?

    I'm pretty sure it's an Eastern blue bird (the photo is, admittedly, terrible.) I'm using colors and calls for the ID, but I'll see if my neighbor (a veteran bird watcher) can confirm it.

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  43. Robin wrote: Bluejays are fearless and very protective. We have one that nests in the popcorn tree next to the horse pasture fence. I have watched it dive bomb the horses when they get to close to that part of the fence. (LOL) Occassionaly the horses will spook and take off running. It is pretty funny to watch.

    That would make a hilarious video. :) Every once in a while I'll be out walking the pup and feel like someone is watching me. I'll look over and three of the neighbor's horses are lined up at the fence staring at me like an Olympic scoring committee. The pup, who must protect me from such horrible threats as staring horses and floating dandelion fluff, barks at them. They try not to yawn.

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  44. Lyvvie wrote: Hooray - comments are on now :)

    Sorry about that -- I still can't figure out how I turned them off (the default is supposed to be on, and I didn't mess with it.) The cats look innocent, but I'm betting Rushan walked across the keyboard again while I was downstairs making tea.

    But I'm not one for repeating myself - I put my two-bits in the Odds, Ends post because I wake up way too early for you folks.

    I'll go over there and read it, then. :)

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  45. JulieB wrote: I thought I posted this earlier, but it's not here -- I must have typed the code wrong. I don't know much about quilting, but I wondered if you could find a thin felt for the batting?

    I have some on hand -- I'll give that a try, too, Julie, thanks.

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  46. Rob wrote: Help, help, help. Any advice on coming up with titles for a novel? I'm stuck trying to find one for my current novel that's about ready to submit. I'm going crazy!

    Ah, titles, the bane of our writerly existence. I went through almost the same thing trying to rename one of mine. Some ideas:

    1. Make a list of keywords and concepts that relate to your story. See if any of them have title potential, and play word association with the ones that do.

    2. Run keywords or idea words through an online thesaurus and generate some synonyms. Sometimes you may not be able to think of a title using a word like "war" but one of its synonyms -- battle, conflict, etc. -- might spark a new title idea.

    3. Mine poetry for ideas. All of my Darkyn titles came from fragments of old poetry or were inspired by old poems. You can do a keyword search through classic verse over at Bartleby.com.

    4. Write some ten or fifteen-word hook lines or premises for your novel. I think great titles often lurk our subconscious, and will come out as we write something else like pitches.

    5. Ask writer friends or a critique partner to help. Getting ideas from someone who isn't as close to the work as you are can be terrific.

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  47. Rox wrote: It's pretty amazing how nature works.

    Amen. Mama bird certainly works hard feeding these chicks -- she's here before dawn and guards the nest all day.

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  48. Bernita wrote: Small magics - like bluebirds - are all we have sometimes.

    Very true. And the only magic I believe in. :)

    A cardinal's spring call is one of the few bird songs I can immitate.

    How cool. I can pick out the cardinals now by their song, which helps with stalking them for a photo op. :)

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  49. Anonymous9:53 PM

    In the Puget Sound region, we have all the usual suspects at the birdfeeder...blue Jays, goldfinches, woodpeckers, ect. The more rural areas have hawks owls, and occasionally cranes. Apparently hawks also like skyscrapers, and cubicle dwellers love their hawks (popular lunch room viewing). -dl

    We also have LOTS of Bald Eagles, it's very common to find them nesting near roads and parks here. In fact, it's getting difficult to visit any significant green space in our region without encountering a Bald Eagle...it's very cool. -dl

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  50. Zolah4:56 PM

    I googled some pictures of chaffinches and they don't look as brightly blue and pink as I remembered from seeing them bobbing about in my garden, so I concede defeat. Eastern Bluebirds are really far more exciting anyway.

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  51. His powers of happiness still work, I bet, even in storage. :)

    They do. :)

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