Archive

American Robin

I started my walk down the road an hour and 15 minutes after the solstice. An eighth of a mile along the moon was high enough to see. It was as big as I remember seeing a moon (it’s supposed to be 15% bigger). It’s intense glow (it’s supposed to be 30% brighter) made it seem even bigger. A Great horned owl might have spotted it too; unless he was just calling from the tree with the Osprey nest because it was dusk. In fact, lots of birds were calling with their final messages of the day and maybe their bellies full of worms.

This has been a super year for viewing super moons right from my stoop. I reported here on the super moon eclipse in January that took a path that conveniently allowed me to follow it from the mud room landing. I managed only to notice how white the meadow was in February so awash with moon light that I had to go to go outside to make sure it had not snowed. Tonight’s moon followed me up and down the road as it climbed, lost some of it’s yellow and, ironically, both filled out to its fullest and shrank.

My photos will show you that you had to be here to fully experience this and that I don’t know how to take photographs of glowing objects in low light.

Not surprisingly, the National Geographic has better photos than mine — though they aren’t of this Worm moon — and a clear explanation of the moon’s orbit. Two facts about this moon struck me. First, the moon is only 223,309 miles away. I have easily flown that many miles just as an adult. Maybe people are not crazy to think that soon we’ll be invading. Second, the next time a super moon will rise this close to the equinox, 19 years from now, I might not be around to see it just as I hope not to be around for non-astronauts landing on the moon.

The full moon of March apparently is called the Worm moon because the sun has warmed the earth enough for worms to begin moving around, feeding birds including American robins, who dutifully have begun to return. The Farmer’s Almanac says that native Americans called the March full moon the Crow moon. They were on the something: the crows came back about a week ago along with the FOY Red-winged black birds, a New Englander’s real harbinger of spring.

The crocuses and the daffodils also attest to the warming earth and the longer day. These popped out of the ground earlier this month. The skunk cabbage appeared on the 1st. Who needs iCal. Certainly not our orb or the flora and fauna.

 

 

 

 

It’s a busy day today — the second full day of Passover, Easter and April Fool’s Day — to start the first full month of spring. Looking ahead, on the 4th, Martin Luther King will have been dead 50 years. On the 15th, Abe Lincoln will have been dead 153 years. And on the 11th, Edward Wightman will have been dead 406 years. Not one of them died of natural causes. Assassins bullets, I need not say, took the first two. The last burning at the stake in England for heresy took the last, my ancestor.

The cruelest month opened with a brief shower that finished before I could get through the Times. My Easter bonnet for my daily walk down the road was not a rain hood but a grey fleece ear warmer. It may be 50 degrees, however a wind was lowering the feels-like factor quite a bit. The general direction of the wind has shifted, as is appropriate for the season, to originate in the south(west) causing a pattern of cold out, warm home that is the reverse of winter walks — a harbinger of hot out, hot home.

But before leapfrogging to summer, here’s some record keeping of late winter. On 5 March, the Red-winged Blackbirds announced their return with their welcome but harsh gurgle. Two weeks later, migratory American Robins were doing their run-run-run-stop-cock the head-peck the ground routine all over the yard. About the same time I had my first conversation of the year with a White-throated Sparrow:”Oh Sam pee peebody peebody” we took turns saying to each other several times. Down the road at 800 in a stand of spruces with an understory of green briar bramble, an Eastern Towhee scolds me whenever I pass to “drink my tea, tea, tea.” I trust my Towhee will return soon.

The Eastern Phoebes should be back, but I haven’t heard or seen them yet. The male will arrive first. When his mate gets here, they’ll take up residence somewhere in the electricity-producing infrastructure, either between the rafters and the PV panels in the folly or between the meter-that-runs-backwards and the north wall of the guest house. I don’t remove the nest I can reach because they seem willing to reuse it. The House Sparrows are here again. Is that why the Eastern Bluebird has not taken up residence in a nest box? Bluebirds have been reported elsewhere nearby for several weeks so I fear they just don’t find Kennel House homey enough.

Last season I had five pairs of Northern Cardinals but a female died (was eaten maybe but was not burned at the stake) in the fall. I have seen four males together at the feeders but not five. I might be down a pair going into the mating season.

The spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) are chirping from the pond as of Wednesday. (Is crucifer related to crucifixion?) The ground hog seems to have moved house from under the canoe to under the large brush compost pile. The entrance to the new house is easily accessible for a have-a-heart trap. But suppose I caught him, what then (the assassin’s bullet)?

Ground Hog hole

The crocuses and the daffodils in the lee of the house are in bloom. An Italian honey bee was taking pollen from the crocuses as I was trying to take a photo only to realize that my battery had just died. That’s likely a honey bee of mine from a generation that escaped my careless beekeeping. I popped the inner cover off one of my hives (no tool needed); the smell of honey wafted up. Clearly my hives didn’t starve, but no bees emerged to check on what I was doing. Maybe they could not rotate to the honey in the long cold.

For the record, I pruned the blueberry bushes — the cultivars — today before it SNOWS later this evening! Historical records say it can snow here until the 10th.

We abide by the laws of nature around here so come May Day, there will be other deaths, timely and otherwise, more first-of-year (FOY) bird sightings and early season plant awakenings to recount from this first full month of spring. There is the fate of the ground hog to consider as well. But if past years predict, I’ll be counting how many pups were in the litter and survived the first moth of spring.

A flock of birds, likely robins, devoured the winterberries. I missed the feeding frenzy this year. with its loud, chaotic soundtrack. The berries are said to have a higher nutrient value after a hard freeze. We’ve had plenty of those, so I assume the birds got a big boost from the berries. They certainly stripped the bushes clean.

Small-waisted red cedar

Deer have browsed an even smaller waist into the red cedar at the edge of the meadow. The “Deer Out” I sprayed in the fall apparently was not a deterrent or maybe the deer have been especially hungry this season. I am grateful they have left the rhodies along the road intact.

A great horned owl called all night on Valentine’s eve. I heard him while I was snuggled up in my reading nook before bed, the couple of times I awoke during the night and again in the light of early dawn. If he was calling a mate, he got no answer. He’s moved out of hearing distance the past few nights, but I know I’m living in his territory.

I love the rufous hue of little bluestem in winter. Its fuzzy flowers catch the sunlight in a magical way. The tan switchgrass is a blah color, although its inflorescence–the highest in the field now as in summer–is majestic. The broome sedge has more red than switchgrass and less little bluestem, but it’s feathery stalks make up for the fact that its a lousy forage plant. Unlike the winterberries and the cedar, no one’s eating it anyway.

Finally, the days are getting longer. The sun rose today at 6:32 and set at 17:22. The arc it takes through the sky is still low to the horizon making long shadows, even at noon.

The newspaper coverings I taped to the living room windows blew off yesterday. (I drafted this post on 13 May!) The American Robin is again flying at its reflection upsetting the peace of the house and, I have to believe, reducing its chances to be selected as a mate. Maybe this Robin already knows he has been overlooked, and depression at rejection is driving this behavior. If he doesn’t have a headache, I do.

Tree Swallows are nesting for about the 4th year in the box closest to the vegetable garden. The couple successfully defended their home from a third Swallow, who after buzzing the box for an entire afternoon, gave up and went away. Perhaps that third bird was taking out his aggression on the mated pair because his intended lay dead in a box across the meadow. The eyes of the Tree Swallow had been pecked out suggesting the role of a House sparrow in its demise. House Sparrows are building a nest in a neighboring box.

Dead Tree swallow on top of box where it died

Dead Tree Swallow on top of box where it died

In 2010, Gary, the carpenter working on my house, reduced the opening of the box to suit Bluebirds. Bluebirds dutifully came to build a nest only to be chased away by House Sparrows who then chipped away at Gary’s new door until it was large enough for them to enter the box. House Sparrows nested there that year laying round after round of eggs that I kept removing. However, after a generally successful campaign against House Sparrows, none appeared again until this year. The box they have chosen is the box with the altered doorway. There are now 5 eggs in the nest.

Bluebird retrofit with opening enlarged by House sparrows

Bluebird retrofit with opening enlarged by House sparrows

House sparrows nest side view

House sparrows nest side view

A pair of Easter Phoebes hopped around on the eave beside the open porch area. They were measuring, I was pretty sure, for nest building. Then I did not see them again until I went out to the folly where a Phoebe nest was tucked into a narrow space between the roof trusses and the back of a photovoltaic panel. Had they used the porch eave, I might have been able to see inside the nest. In the folly, I can only see the characteristic signs of Phoebe nest — brushy material held together with mud like hair falling from a french twist.

A pair of Wild Turkeys have made themselves at home here of late. First I thought it strange that there was only one Turkey. A couple of days ago, two Turkeys were here together. They are fairly unperturbed by humans. Their feathers have the sheen of armor until they shake making them look like dust mops. See the video, if you’d like.

Turkey Dust

The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are back and so are the Baltimore Orioles. The Hummingbirds drink sugar water and the Orioles eat the oranges I put out in suet cages. The biggest snackers at this time of year are the Grackles. They’d eat 2 patties of suet a day if I’d put it out. But feeding Grackles is not my idea of attracting interesting birds so I leave the suet feeders empty every other day and feel badly about the Woodpeckers, the Cardinals, the Titmice and the Jays who would also like the suet but eat more moderately.

For the record, I have 4 pairs of Northern Cardinals this year. Two males were dive bombing a Blue Jay who must have his eyes on the eggs in a Cardinal nest. I guess that’s a reason to keep the suet feeder stocked.

Finally in the bird update, a solitary Canada Goose seemed to have been left behind by other Geese who fly in lazy formations while squawking across the meadow. After about a week of watching this bird hang out in a tightly circumspect patch of the meadow where the bee yard will go once the bees return, I came to think of this as MY Canada Goose. For one who comes by a strong dislike for the species genetically, this seemed a marked softening of heart. My Canada Goose took no interest in the Geese flying overhead. I thought that showed acceptance of  my bird’s predicament. I developed theories about that predicament: injured, jilted, otherwise defective. It must not have been so injured that it could not fly into a tree to roost at night. It showed admirable good sense not to sleep on the ground in the meadow.

The Canada Goose and I had this routine of what I presumed to be mutual observation down to a science so imagine my surprise when this morning (still 13 May) I saw the Goose with a mate and two ducklings. My camera can’t reach the far side of the meadow so the evidence of the Goose is displayed in its poops on the weed block for the bee yard.

Evidence of Canada goose

One Canada Goose’s poop