Posts Tagged ‘wrens’

Somehow, to me the title of this post sounds like a fine title for a children’s book.   It would be a sort of “Goodnight Moon,” only about birds.

A few days ago I was gazing out my bathroom window at the Hosta Dell, as I am wont to do.   It is a view that particularly pleases me.  These shots were taken several years ago, but it looks much like this now, although the hostas have really filled in.

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Note the bird house on the left post of the pergola.   That is a wren house, and there is a pair of wrens that has “owned” it for several years.

Part of the reason I like to look out the bathroom window is I can watch and listen to the goings on without having my presence disturb the tenants.   It is quite amusing. The redbud on the other side of the fence is the vantage point where the male wren proclaims his territory.   The pergola and shrubs nearby are great hunting grounds for all sorts of bugs, as is the Hosta Dell itself.

A few days ago I heard all sorts of commotion going on out there, so I took a peek and discovered that the rock ridge has attracted a resident, an Eastern Chipmunk.   Although I have no idea what the sex of this rodent is, I shall refer to it as “he” for the purposes of this story.

Said chipmunk was over near the fence where there are rail road ties that keep the gravel of the rock garden from migrating under the fence and into the front yard.   The ties are pretty old and decrepit, and have lots of rot in the center, places where maple seeds and other edibles tend to collect.   So he was investigating the possibilities for breakfast and suffering through a proper dressing down from the Papa wren, who was bouncing along the top of the fence and generally making his displeasure known in no uncertain terms.

This intrigued me, as I could not see what danger a chipmunk could possibly pose to the wren family.   My amazement grew as I observed the wren take a couple of dive bomb runs at the chipmunk’s head.   He took cover in a crack in the railroad tie, and I settled in to watch the proceedings.   The wren was not deceived by the disappearance of the chipmunk, and sat on the fence proclaiming “You’re not fooling anyone, you know!”  Eventually the chipmunk stuck his head out and began looking for maple seeds, an activity I heartily endorse.  The more he eats the less there will be sprouting in my garden.  I wish he would eat cherry pits.

The wren was having none of it, however, and once again flew down intrepidly and pecked the hapless chipmunk on the head.   He gave up on breakfast and dashed across the rock garden to his front door, pursued by the wren.

For the life of me, I could not understand what was the big deal about the chipmunk.  It wasn’t a cat, or anything I perceived as predatory.   Curious, I repaired to Google and looked up chipmunks.   Suddenly it all became clear.   The chipmunk, eater of seeds and other vegetarian sorts of things, is not so innocent.   It turns out they are opportunistic predators and will eat bird eggs and fledglings if they are convenient.   They have been observed to climb trees to get to nests of eggs.

Suddenly the wren’s attitude did not seem quite so odd.   The wren is a very small bird, and the fledglings would make a tasty morsel for  a hungry chipmunk.

Wrens ARE very small, and one year I observed a blue jay attempting to eat a freshly fledged wrenlet.   It was only because I intervened and liberated the chick from the jaws of death (literally) that his nefarious plan was foiled.

I suppose this post could be entitled “Wrens do not like much of anybody” as pretty much everyone is a potential predator when you are that small.  I have been keeping my eye on the wrens for a couple of weeks.  I have been listening to the chicks get louder and more demanding as the days go by, and I was hoping to catch the fledging.

Today was the magic day:  They fledged this afternoon.   No wonder it was so loud in that bird box.   The proud wren parents managed to raise up FIVE little wrens.   I discovered them in the snowball bush at the far end of the stroll garden (far from where the chipmunk lives!).   All five of them were grouped in a nice organized troop on one branch.  Of course I did not have my camera, so I ran to get it.

Mama wren is no dummy.   She saw me looking at her kids and knew the jig was up.   By the time I got back to the location with the camera, she had started marshaling them in a different direction.   There were still three in the snowball bush, but they were moving away fast, urgently directed towards safety by their mama.   However, I did manage to get a great shot of one of them in the snowball bush.


One of his siblings had ensconced itself in the clematis.


Another one was in the beach plum bush, but that picture was very blurry due to the fact that the wind was blowing and the little bird was not still enough for a good shot in the shadows.

But another one of the chicks got very excited by the whole thing and flew over the fence into the forsythia by the pond.   Immediately the parents went ballistic, telling it that it was too far away and it should just get it’s little butt back over to the group.   Obediently, he returned from his foray and perched on the fence, where I got a delightful portrait.   “What are you looking at?”  he seems to be saying.  “My mother told me not to associate with strangers, you should go away.”


The mother wren seconded his sentiments, emphatically.   So I left them to it.

In other news, the second round of robin babies have hit the ground.   I had a new heuchera to plant, and I had sat the pot out under the pergola to await my attentions while I gave a couple of massages.   When I returned to my chore, I reached down to grab the pot and discovered that while I was gone it had been graced with an inhabitant.  Again, I ran off for the camera.   Can you see it?


How about now?



That bird child was the noisiest little bugger!   I scooped him up to put him on the spirea bush while I dealt with transplanting the heuchera, and the screeching that the little bird put up was impressive.

“I’m being molested, kidnapped, help! help! help!”  was the burden of his extremely loud complaints.

I expected his parents to come to his aid, but what I did not expect was every male robin in the yard.  They ALL came over and started yelling at me.   There were at least five male robins, a female (probably the baby’s mother).  Even more surprising was that  a gold finch and both wrens gave me what for right along with the robins.  Avian solidarity, I guess.

I put my head down and planted my plant, and then got the heck out of Dodge while my eyes were still in my head.

Life at The Havens is never dull!

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That old saying “Time flies when you’re having fun”  also applies to working hard.

I did indeed go to Alaska.  We cruised for three days up the Inside Passage to Juneau and Skagway.   It was beautiful.



We went whale watching and did see whales, both humpbacks and orcas.  All those amazing photos you see of whales?   Taken by professionals who got 5000 shots just like mine:


Out of focus and not very interesting.   But the experience was fantastic.

We also saw the Mendenhall Glacier.


There was a glacially carved pond along the walk way to the view point.   I loved this.


I was entranced by the moss/lichen forests.


The area right below the view point for the glacier was roped off from visitors.   The arctic terns were nesting there.   I watched a pair in their mating dance; the male flew down to the glacial lake and brought his intended a little tiny salmon.   She accepted it.   Farther down the beach there was a female who was deep in the process of incubation.


We went on a bus tour of the inland part of the state, starting in Canada and crossing into Alaska near Tok.   On to Fairbanks, where I did the tourist things I never did while I lived there:   sailing on the Riverboat Discovery on the Chena to the Tanana River, visiting a gold dredge and learning to pan for gold.   It was fun.

Then we took the Alaska Railroad to Denali National Park.   There were more mountains than it seems possible.   And wildlife.   Mostly moose.  This was taken on our wildlife tour in the park.   This mama had twin babies.   They were less than 24 hours old.


When I got back home, there was a 60th birthday to celebrate, which was done appropriately.   Apparently I am not quite done with my birthday.   Yesterday in the mail I received a beautiful ammonite fossil that someone anonymously ordered off Etsy and had shipped to me.   I feel special and loved.

While we were aboard the ship, we sat for professional portraits.   I believe this is a good way to demonstrate how 60 looks.


Back at home, I had plenty of work waiting for me.   I got my day lily bed north of the stroll garden cleaned out, much to the day lilies’ relief.  They were being swamped by goldenrod, violets, wild iris and sundry other volunteers.   That took a few days.

I also had to catch everyone up on their massages, and I have been very busy with that ever since we got home.

Last night Jim mentioned that he thought we ought to rake the algae out of the pond that has been forming.  I went out there to do some of that this afternoon.  I decided to be circumspect about it, rather than just wholesale rake in clumps of algae.   I am very glad I did.   It is being used by literally dozens of tiny salamander newts.   They were not too happy to be fondled and photographed by the local paparazzi.


You can see his gills and tiny legs.   I believe we may  be leaving the algae alone.

Of course the robins have been very busy too.  This fellow was outside my massage room window the other day, chirping loudly to his parents to induce them to feed him.   They were just as loudly exhorting him to move his butt off the juniper and learn to hunt for himself.   He won the day that afternoon, but I saw him out on the lawn a couple of days later, following his papa around and learning to find bugs for himself.   This is so gosh darned cute.


When I left in mid May, the vegetable garden only had the cool weather crops in, and so since the beginning of June I got the squash, beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and I don’t know what all else planted.   It is doing just fine.

We’ve been feasting on beautiful salads.


This is how the garden looks today.   Notice the wooden boxes rather in the middle.   Those are the potato towers.   I’ll let you know how the crop is.


Just in case I thought that all this belonged to me, the wren was there to set me straight.


Well, that catches you all up a bit, I hope.   It is a long summer still.   Now I believe I shall hang out ANOTHER load of laundry and then take Ruby for a walk.

It won’t be a moment too soon for Mallory, who is trying to take a nap on the chair behind me and wishing I would move my derriere off Her Chair so she can get comfortable.  Cats.   Always willing to put your importance into perspective.


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It has been a very weird year for the garden.   I have had very little success with my tomato plants, which do not appear to have enjoyed the prolonged period of near 100° temperatures coupled with no rain.   Similarly, my bean patch is suffering.   It took a long time to get going, and then when it did no blossoms actually set beans.   Now I have a beautiful trellis full of vines with flowers and all, and still no beans.

While the tomatoes in my garden are not doing well at all, there are tomatoes available in the area from local growers.   So we have purchased tomatoes to put up for the winter.   We roasted and froze about 25 pounds; the freezer is mostly full so we aren’t going to freeze any more.   Usually we make puree from the raw tomatoes, reduce it to about half the volume by putting it on the back burner at a very low heat for several hours, and then can it.

The other day, Jim conceived of a brilliant idea.   He thought it might be easier to put the tomatoes through the strainer if they had been blanched first rather than just cutting them and doing it raw.   As we were not really sure about it, he decided to make a trial run and cut up five or six tomatoes, blanched them until they softened a little, and ran them through the strainer.   Voila!   So much easier, he proclaimed.  This was our first big mistake, because we neglected to take into account the scale of the job, and what was easy with 5 tomatoes turned out to be not that easy with 50 pounds of them.

In blissful ignorance, we all got busy and cut up the rest of the 50 pounds of tomatoes that needed to be processed.   Since we were pre-cooking them partially, we didn’t really deem it necessary to remove the hard stems and cores.   This turned out to be our second really big mistake, because the par-boiling process did not soften those parts of the tomatoes at all, and they wound up being major clogs in the screw area of the strainer.

The third big mistake was assuming that partially cooked tomato pulp would act the same way in the screen part of the strainer that raw pulp does.

What happened was the cooking process released a LOT of juice from the tomatoes.   The screen got all goobered up with tomato pulp, and the screw sustained repeated clogs due to the hard cores that were in the mixture.   When the screen is clogged and the screw is clogged, the juice does not go through the screen and run down into the collection container.  It backs up and then comes out every orifice of the strainer.

There’s always a little spillage, hence the newspaper under the work area.   Our particular set of problems resulted in a river of spilled juice, which is why the towel wound up down there.   Also, juice under pressure was squirting out of the hole the crank goes through, so both the workers in this job also got covered with tomato splatter.  After we wasted a good quart of juice on the floor it came to me that perhaps I should put a big bowl under there to catch it.

Mallory was absolutely fascinated by the magical stuff falling from the mysterious ether.

In an attempt to reduce the amount of liquid that we were trying to put through the strainer, I first tried straining the partially cooked tomatoes in the kitchen strainer, which helped.   But it didn’t help enough, and I finally got out my hand operated colander and partially mashed them through.

After that process, straining the rest of the tomatoes became a lot easier, although this did not help with the hard core problem.  Eventually I wound up cutting those core pieces off the tomatoes before we put them in the strainer.

At the end of the day, I had every large bowl in the place tomatoed, as well as all my versions of straining equipment.   Clean-up was an extended process, because not only did I have to wash all that stuff, I also had to clean the floor in the dining room and kitchen, the walls in the dining room, the backs of the books in the shelf near our work area, myself, and the cat.   Okay, the cat cleaned herself, but still.  A job which normally would take about an hour extended to three hours.

We finally sat down for lunch at 2 p.m.   Mallory had to watch that, too.

While we were eating, I heard a heck of a ruckus going on outside the dining room window, and what I discovered when I looked out into the rain was that the house wren on the porch had fledged ANOTHER batch of kids (this makes three hatchings so far this year, and as far as I can tell she is busy laying more eggs as we speak).

This is one of the fledglings, you can tell it is a youngun because of the short tail.

After lunch, I decided to cook the plums and get them strained so I could start plum butter.   I managed to boil the pot of plums over but at least I did not burn them.   I DID burn the bread, which I put into the oven and then a client came for her massage 20 minutes early and I forgot about the loaf in the oven as I focused on her issues.   Fortunately, Zoey noticed that the bread was done and took it out before it had gotten more than just really really crusty and dark brown.

But really, that was a day which seemed that no project could be completed without some sort of fubar occuring, so I decided not to start any other projects so as not to have a flood, explode the kitchen or burn the house down or some other disaster.

In other news, Mallory discovered the piano yesterday while I was doing a massage.   I heard one tentative bass note come from the instrument, then another.   I wondered who was playing the piano, when the unmistakable pattern of kitten walking on piano keys burst forth, solving the mystery.

“Excuse me,”  I said breathlessly to my massage client.   “Kitten playing the piano…” I explained as I dashed out of the room on a mission to close the lid of the piano.   Apparently, Jim had gotten the same memo, because we pretty much collided in the hall.   I looked around the corner to see Mallory disappearing under the bed.   The piano lid was closed, and the massage concluded in peace and quiet.

What delights does today hold?   Who knows.  I’m sure we’ll find out in due time.

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The family room is strewn with six toys, a scratching post, a kitten and a dog right now.   We’ve all had breakfast, and rather than go out and work in the rapidly increasing heat, I thought I’d stay in the house until my ten o’clock client arrives.   Since this is a new client, I felt that it would be more professional if I greeted the gentleman at the door rather than having someone come collect me from the garden, all sweaty and dirty.   I could be wrong about that. . . but it just seems like I might make a better impression.

A few weeks ago, I bruised my wrist.  (That bruise is fully healed, by the way.)   I find it interesting that I posted a picture of it, and mentioned it in passing, but did not describe the circumstances surrounding that event.   What really happened was that I had a couple of hours between clients and Zoey and I were deeply involved in cleaning the house across the street as the tenants had left.   By this time, we had discovered that in addition to not bothering to clean it up, they had also left it infested with fleas.   So we were vacuuming the entire house daily in an effort to mitigate the flea situation, and braving the starving hordes of insects as we worked on getting the walls clean.   (You really have to clean walls before you do carpets.)

Anyway, I was over there instructing the girl in how to wash walls, thinking that I had at least fifteen minutes before my client, a brand new one, arrived.   I had just whacked the hell out of my wrist and was standing there cussing when Jim popped in the door and said, “Your client is here.  She’s early.”  He had her set up filling out the client intake form, but her first experience of me was my precipitate entry to the house where I grabbed the ice pack out of the freezer, wrapped it in a dish rag and sat, sweating and disheveled, at the table where she was filling out the form.   While I did get all cleaned up before I started the massage, and I also think I gave her a pretty good one, I have not heard a word from her since.   Let me just say I am not really surprised.

So, I am happy to report that my legs and arms are almost completely healed from my encounter with the cercaria in the pond.  Thank heavens.

The ditch is done, and we are enjoying that the new faucet that is nearer to the flower gardens.  And that it does not leak.

That scar will be gone before you know it.  Out in the vegetable garden, the big news is the summer squash.   We already have over a gallon of it roasted and frozen for winter.   Below are a couple of “arty” shots I took, first of the pattypan squash, the second of the yellow zucchini.

While I was deeply involved in trying to capture the squash, I was being buzzed by a dragonfly.   I looked up and caught it posing on the garden fence.

You can see it is an older one by the tattering of its wings.   This is the same species I featured in the last blog post.   I guess it was over in the garden looking for lunch.    I thought I’d go see what was happening by the pond, and discovered another sort of dragonfly species there deeply involved in their mating rituals.

While I was shooting these dragonflies, I was hearing quite a commotion in the nest box that is near the pond.   Apparently the garden wren decided she wanted new quarters for her second brood of chicks, and they have hatched out.  Whenever a parent arrives with a food delivery, the chirping and cheeping is quite loud.   Here is one of the wrens, exiting the box, having made a food delivery.

When I proceeded into the Stroll Garden, I discovered a third dragonfly species hunting in the day lilies.

There is a fourth species on the place that I have not been able to capture yet, brilliant red, and very large.

Last, I have abalone nacre and the sunset light shining through heuchera leaves for you.

Turns out I was laboring under a delusion when I thought my client was scheduled for 10 a.m. today.   He’s not supposed to be here until noon, so I believe I shall take Ruby for her walk before it gets any hotter.   It’s already 82° F and the prediction is for 96° with a heat index of 102°.  So I believe I shall motivate out of here now.

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