Posts Tagged 'birds'

Birding from Home

The tree cover here is a bit thick to see actual nestlings, but the Schoolhouse Farmhouse provides the opportunity to watch barn swallows build a nest and feed nestlings. Here is video from the nest cam:

Like an Agatha Christie movie set

Photo of pink and white azalea shrubs under a white dogwood.
Spring is sprung

One neighborhood I take my walks in is filled with azaleas, blooming dogwoods, and green grass in front of Tudor row homes, or 1930s modern twins.

I chat with neighbors (they from their safety of their front stoops, and me on the broken sidewalk), comparing where their gardens are compared to last year. We’ve all agreed that it is too cold to put in tomato or pepper plants. Mostly, one gardener has said he’s waiting on the plants, but it’s too cold to plant them so he isn’t worried about the delay. Since I lack gardening knowledge, I agree because it’s easier.

On the other side of the street, wisteria blooms on an arbor, and the tulips bob on their stems, looking like colorful lollipops. I’ve seen white throated sparrows, downy woodpeckers, cardinals, blue jays, and cowbirds. Squirrels race along fence posts. And everywhere, I have this uneasy feeling I just missed Hercule Point and Captain Hastings walking up a path and into one of the houses.

I’ve spent a little time wondering why I have so many Agatha Christie references on this blog. Perhaps it’s because I first read the books in my late teens? My favorite Agathas are any of the Tommy and Tuppence stories and Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? Any favorites on your shelf? I’m dipping my toe into eBooks, and considering what’s available and comforting.

A moment of calm

Tulips and daffodils agains the south side wall.

The garden is beautiful this time of year. We’re trying not to look at everything as though it’s a glass half empty, but the past 7 days have felt increasingly strange.

I’m glad I did get to see family up north before March. I have other family members I would normally see for big birthday dinners, and those aren’t happening. I have cousins in town – and they feel as far away as Pluto. Things feel pretty awful when I look at the news, read social media, or visit the grocery store. And yet…

The crabapple and quince are blooming. Daffodils are nearly done, and tulips and grape hyacinths are taking their place. It feels important to notice spring doing her best to celebrate rebirth and the return of the light. The nearby church’s gardens are blooming: apple and peach blooms, purple mossy phlox, and purple hyacinths. We’ve seen small butterflies, as well as groups of cardinals, cowbirds, robins, grackles, starlings, finches, and crows. I’m hopeful there will be small joys for you, like the delight of butterflies, in-between the sadness.

Birdsong and flowers

Magnolias in bloom

People have pointed out we can’t cancel spring. As someone for whom March is a depressing anniversary, it can feel relentlessly cheerful. But cheer is what’s needed when everyone is self-isolating, isn’t it? Every day I’ve been pausing away from work (and the relentless drip of news), to walk around the yard.

I look at the sky, marvel at the buds on the Shadblow Serviceberry, follow the stupid rabbit (too bold for a yard where neighbor cats roam), and watch the bluejays bicker over the berries on the privet (at least I think it’s a privet… my plant knowledge is incredibly suspect). The Gardener is delighted that a row of flowers she had planned has come up. Our garden’s first spring tulip is going to open tomorrow, possibly.

Because so few people are coming to the movie theater, the restaurants, and the bars, we are treated to the sounds of twittering birds (and the shussssh of cars in the distance). At night, our neighborhood retreats like Brigadoon back to the countryside flower nursery before is became part of the city. The fog of springtime rolls in, shrouding the relentless city lights. Only foxes travel on the side street, after darkness settles.

Here are some links to birdsong, because I’ve got the opportunity to improve my listening, and maybe you do too:

As seasonal allergies lessen and it gets warmer outside, I’m hoping for some days with windows open during early morning coffee. Let me know if you’ve heard something wonderful in your neighborhood.

Reading: Martins from Mary Priestley’s Book of Birds

… walked round the place, and up and down the towpath, along which spread a faint mist from the river, and still saw nothing of my birds. Then from the barn came a single swallow, and flew steeply up into the sky. I followed its flight with my eyes, and suddenly saw why I had failed to find the martins. They were all up there in the blue, circling round in company with some barn-swallows and chimney-swifts, from which I could just distinguish them at the height they were flying. The sun had not yet risen where I stood on the solid earth; but he already reached the birds high above my head. And as the earth spun and the sun’s rays approached its surface, the birds sank with them, twittering all the time….” — Reprinted in Book of Birds  — extract from Bird-Watching and Bird Behavior by Julian Huxley.

This reminds me of the summer cottage in Lake Webster. We used to watch the purple martins swirl around their martin house, out near the dock, coming back in the evenings. As we get ready for some more winter weather, it’s lovely to think of summers of the past.

Reading: Owls in winter — from Mary Priestley’s A Book of Birds

While cold and sharp and shining sheer Orion’s dagger pricks my ear, Under an old fir’s grizzled cowl,

Big with his drowsy wide surprise

Wakens the hunched and pawky owl

And blinks his big moon-marvellous eyes…

Excerpt from the lovely poem “Too-Hoo” by James Mackereth. A Book of Birds is filled with notes about bird behavior, snippets of poems, extracts from people’s diaries, and lovely wood engravings by C.F. Tunnicliffe. Some of the diary entries quoted, about hunting, or eating pickled auks, aren’t my cup of tea. But the poetry is charming, the illustrations are lovely, and my copy has a little penciled note for my Uncle from his little sister “A very happy birthday — lots of love…” The perfect thing to read while anticipating spring, especially now that the robins have come back to the backyard, and we can hear small birds in the bramble bushes.

Reading: Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

I’ve returned Bellman & Black to the library, but it hasn’t unhooked itself from my memory. I think this suits the story that Diane Setterfield set out to tell. After you see the effects of a character purposely forgetting everything, from his basic thoughtlessness to his ability to take work and make it swallow every living moment … you might want to step heavily in moments so you don’t forget.

The main character, Will, is likeable. His life is well drawn, and you follow him through moments you might recognize — moments we all would like to forget (the pain of losing a loved one, shame at how one behaved in childhood) — until the reader finds resolution of a mystery. There are rooks (cousins of our ravens), there is a shadowy figure, there’s gentle suspense. And, I can’t tell more without ruining it. Worth a read at the library. Worth putting in someone’s Christmas stocking (unless they have a bird phobia). If you’ve read it, put a not in the comments. What did you think? Have you read any other of Diane Setterfield’s books?

Sighting wildlife along the Chesapeake

Sometimes, even when you are in busy cities, you can watch amazing wildlife along the waterways. Cities, historically, seemed to punish their waterways. I’m still saddened by the Jones Falls Expressway, which was built over most of the Jones Falls and its streams. When you visit Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and New York, there are places where you can still see the old waterways glinting in the sun (and other places where the Chesapeake, the Allegheny, or New York harbor are being brought back to life).

The other day we took a walk after a road trip to a Baltimore architectural salvage place. While crossing the rusty bridge on the bike path across from a power plant, we saw something in the distance. The Gardener thought it was a buzzard, and I said, “no, it has a white tail and a white head”. And so we stopped and watched as a bald eagle swept across the sky and overhead to go south toward D.C. The last time I saw one in the wild, it was on the Upper Peninsula, while visiting family. Links to other sitings in the Maryland area here. And factoids about the Bald Eagle from the National Park Conservation Association here.

Glitter birds

As usual, click on the underlined words to see what I’m blathering about.

  1. I can’t decide whether glitter bird magnets are awesome or not my style.
  2. Bead artist Jan Huling has fantastic birds and a composition called “Forgiven” made out of found art and beads. The kewpie beadwork is amazing, but a wee bit creepy.
  3. The daily painters daubed a bunch of cardinals. The Daily Painters gallery bills itself as the first and largest gallery of daily painting artists. The ravens selection is lovely — especially the one of 3 ravens.
  4. Birdchick’s blog always has the best pictures of birds. This one is of a nuthatch.
  5. One of the most evocative names for a philanthropic wine brand? Burning Hawk. eep.
  6. Eskimimi Knits has a bluetit intarsia pattern and a good story. The pattern almost makes me want to figure out how to do intarsia. Almost. Since I probably don’t have time to spend learning intarsia, I’m beginning to think I could try duplicate stitch instead. Or maybe see if I could do a little bit of cross-stitch for Christmas ornaments.

My brain is lately for the birds. Hope you’ve enjoyed the meander inspired by glitter birds.

Fog and the Flock

Sometimes, if you’re driving in the early evening and it’s foggy, you will see birds or deer in the gloaming, and the effect is almost grainy, like a bit of old film.

One night, while heading south on 83 into northern Baltimore, I stopped at Northern Parkway and waited at the light. The fog was lit up by 83 below the other side of the bridge. And in the dusky sky, lit from below by yellow and white car lights speeding like search beams, were a hundred or so sharp winged swifts darting to catch bugs in the evening. The ones backlit and closest to my intersection were in sharp relief, but the ones in the background were almost like stop reel animation.

I’m looking for inspiration for the new cycle in Project Spectrum, which is yellow, air, East, and wood and Spring. This visual event was magically brief, but I’m not sure how to translate it into the project (beyond getting out my woodcutting tools and doing a printer’s block of the scene).