My last post about spring was two weeks ago when I was Looking for Signs of Spring.
The tree with the swollen buds outside my kitchen door, is in full bloom. Last year this little tree only had one solitary flower. It’s interesting to note that I photographed and posted about that single bud on March 19th last year. We are nearly a month behind on spring this year. That’s the last time I pay attention to Punxsutawney Phil.
Last year on March 19th, I took a photo of the magical green veil as the leaves in woods begin to unfurl. I called it “an elusive green mist where fairies play.” I’ve been waiting and waiting to see it this year, and the mist has finally arrived. It is rushing forward into full-blown leaves. The trees are trying to make up for lost time.
Here’s a sad part of the story. Last year from my window view as I sat at my desk, this little tree was blooming brightly across the lane on our stretch of property there.
About a month ago, I was sitting here typing as I often am in the morning, and I heard and then saw about 5 or 6 township workers with chain saws working across the lane clearing things out. This wasn’t completely unexpected because the manager had stopped here last fall to talk to us about cutting down a big dead ash tree up on the hill. We own the majority of the hillside, but the township owns the top where there is a small pioneer cemetery that is overgrown for the most part. But as I sat and watched the workers, I saw a man come up to the little tree that was not yet in bloom but beginning to bud. “I hope he’s not going to cut that down,” I said to myself. And no sooner were the words out of my mouth than the deed was done. Some things just don’t have do-overs.
Mark was not a happy camper. He loves his trees.
As you may be able to see from the above photo, there was a LOT of honeysuckle over there.
The workers managed to decimate about half the dense growth over there before Mark and another neighbor put a halt to it, resulting in a half thick, half bare view across the way. We had them finish the removal of the honeysuckle from our property.
But Mark had them mark the small trees they were to leave standing. They had been removing the smaller diameter trees as well as chopping down the honeysuckle. The yellow tags around the trees indicate they are to be removed, the pink means they are to be left alone. Our neighbor had them completely block off his property with yellow tape. Now it looks like some kind of marriage of a crime scene with a used car lot across the lane.
After much to-do, several emails, and a township trustee meeting over there, the township will be replacing our blooming tree that they leveled with a comparable one. Mark marked the place for it so they could check on underground utilities.
Being something of opportunists, with the removal of all the undergrowth, Mark and I went out yesterday and bought then planted a peach tree shown above
and a cherry tree. They are both self-pollinating, which is an interesting idea if you stop and think about it. I’m thrilled about the cherry tree because we grew up with two cherry trees in our back yard. My mom made cherry jelly.
“You won’t be making cherry jelly with these,” Mark said. “We had trees like this at our last house and we never reaped a harvest.”
“I’m going to make cherry pie,” I said, undeterred.
“The birds got all the cherries,” Mark said. “You won’t get any.”
I can taste that cherry pie already.
Meanwhile, a robin kept watch.
“And peach pie too,” I added, “I can’t wait.”
|Deluxe chalet with garden view||Cozy cottage at wood’s edge||Fun and funky outhouse motif||Nature lovers’ retreat|
We have four apartments for rent in or near the St. Francis Garden. Yesterday a little chickadee was taking advantage of the nice weather and was out doing some apartment hunting.
I think we’re going to have a new tenant soon.
Although March heralds spring, technically it is still winter until March 20 at 7:02 a.m. according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. And today Mother Nature gave us a very clear reminder.
Isn’t it beautiful?
We need to keep the bird feeders filled for our little friends.
But I don’t mind the snow.
Daffodils aren’t up yet to have their backs bent by the weight. And the trellis is empty still.
This wet, heavy snowfall colored my world bright, white, peaceful and calm. From my view out of the kitchen window to the office where I sit as I type.
Like so many other things in life, the trips we take, the people we love, the snow will be gone soon. I’m soaking this one up as if it is the last one, like a last hug, a last smile, a last word. For lasts do come, most often without an announcement.
This is a beautiful snowfall, and it is the last.
Or maybe not.
I was excited when Mark surprised me with an Audubon BirdCam for Christmas. Now I could see what was going on outside when I wasn’t watching.
As you may know, beginning December 2, the months of December and January were difficult months for me as I tried to help manage our parents’ illnesses and moves to other living facilities. I was gone a lot, stopping home for brief pit stops, a change of clothes, a good night’s sleep. Under normal circumstances, given an exciting gift like the BirdCam, I would have immediately rushed outside and set it up. But these weren’t normal circumstances, so you’ll understand that I didn’t get my BirdCam set up outside until January 3rd.
Under normal circumstances, I would have been checking the BirdCam for new photos daily. As it was, I left it up outside and didn’t give it a second thought until February 11th, when I went out to retrieve the stunning photos of birds that I was sure my new BirdCam had recorded in my absence.
I thought I’d share my first results using the BirdCam with you in the slide show below.
One thing you will notice right away is that the BirdCam did an excellent job of recording Mark, in various states of dress, filling the bird feeders throughout the weeks. You might also notice he was accompanied by Arthur at times who kept watch. You can see other wildlife, even an occasional bird or two, the best shots being of the squirrel that attempted to sneak its way up the pole. And you undoubtedly noticed the fine up close shot the BirdCam got of my red purse when I retrieved the photos.
Here is a cropped and enlarged photo of what may be a hawk in flight—the pride and joy of my first attempt with the BirdCam.
Clearly, the BirdCam is not idiot-proof and I suspect I could profit from taking a close look at the instruction manual.
However, if I ever need to see what Mark is up to outside, I have the equipment to do it.
I thought I had probably seen all the varieties of interesting birds that I would see here in our woods. After all, in addition to the smaller more common species, I had seen a red-tailed hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Great Horned Owl, Wood Ducks, and a Great Blue Heron. What more could I hope to see?
And then there was a flash of red in the trees and a “Tat, tat, tat, tat.” Woody Woodpecker, a pileated woodpecker, was paying us visits.
Unfortunately, unlike the owl, hawks, ducks, and heron, the pileated woodpecker was not content to calmly perch or stand for his photograph. He was too busy moving from tree to tree, climbing up trees, and looking around. His jackhammer head was in constant motion.
I determined to try to get a photo anyway. I really wanted one for my “Birds” page. So I grabbed my Nikon with its 300mm lens and went out on the deck in my pjs, robe, and slippers and shot away trying to catch a photograph from a distance, through tree branches.
I thought that this might be the best I could do.
Here’s where my patience paid off. After five or ten minutes of this, perhaps even longer, Woody flew closer.
I got lucky.
And I see now that Woody may actually be Wanda.
As you know if you’ve read many of my blogs, I enjoy watching nature, especially the little birds that frequent our feeders. Surrounded by this small woods, we get the opportunity to observe nature up close and personal.
Sometimes it feels more up close than I might prefer.
Last week I wrote about the hawk haunting our feeders. On Saturday, while I was sipping a cup of tea at the breakfast table, a movement caught my eye out of the window and I saw what I believe was a large hawk take off from the ground beside our deck and fly low away through the woods with something in its grasp.
I told Mark, who was oblivious to the whole small drama. “Where did it go?” he asked.
“Just went a short way in that direction. It’s probably stopped to eat whatever it had,” I answered. “Do hawks leave behind the bones? I’ve never seen that here anywhere.”
“Owls eat everything,” Mark said.
I know. I have seen an owl pellet here.
“There’s a lot of chipmunks out there,” Mark said.
That didn’t make me feel a lot better, because I actually like the chipmunks.
“If we had mice, the hawks would be helpful,” I said. And even though I actually think mice are cute too, I don’t care for them so much if they get in the house.
Then Mark stepped out on the deck and looked down. “Oh no,” he said. “There’s a bunch of feathers out here.”
When our senses get involved, everything has more impact. Knowing that hawks eat small critters is one thing. Seeing the carnage is another.
This is true for everything. Reading or being told about something affects our intellect. But seeing, hearing, or smelling, a traumatic or tragic event or its aftermath affects our emotions. That’s why authors are encouraged to provide sensory information to make a scene as real as possible.
I think the link between our intellect and emotion is an interesting one to explore. I think the opposite of what writers attempt to do, and using our intellect to distance ourselves from the emotional overload of sensory information, may also be possible and helpful in some circumstances.
Is that something you are able to do?
Since we put our bird feeders back up a few weeks ago, we have had a constant parade of small birds like finches, chickadees, sparrows, and wrens, and larger birds like red-bellied wood-peckers, cardinals, red-winged blackbirds, and blue jays enjoying our hospitality.
But sometimes the absence of birds is notable and I look to the trees for a predator.
I know the hawks need to eat too. I just find it horrifying to contemplate one darting down, capturing me with its sharp claws, and flying off with me in its grasp, if I were, say, a small bird, or a chipmunk that frequents the ground below our feeder. How horrifying to end your short life as a predator’s meal.
I saw this happen a week or two ago.
It happens everywhere all the time.
Survival of the fittest.
We first noticed this hawk at 12:46 p.m. I don’t know what time it had arrived.
Nearly two hours later at 2:38, the hawk has slightly changed his position in the tree, but still waits. And watches.
It’s a beautiful bird.
And it needs to eat too.
Posts and photos about other hawks I’ve seen:
The Red-Tailed Hawk or Arthur’s narrow escape – January 2012
Hunting in the daytime – The Great Horned Owl – January 2012
The Cooper’s Hawk shines golden – March 2012
The big birds were out today – Birds of prey at the VOA – September 2012
Read more about the Cooper’s Hawk at Cornell Lab’s All About Birds.
About a week ago, I read a post called “They’re back” by a blogging photographer that I follow, Maralee at Through my Lens. Maralee lives in central Oregon and had posted over the summer about a lame fawn that was staying in her yard. It was a beautiful tale of nature. Maralee watched the doe and sibling come and go as they checked on the little lame fawn. Eventually the fawn was able to walk well enough to go with them.
I commiserated with Maralee because I had been posting about “our” lame doe here. I haven’t seen her since early August when she froze beside the drive, her two fawns curled on the grass and a buck nearby as our son and his family from St. Louis arrived late at night, their headlights illuminating the deer family.
For the three years we’ve lived here, “our” doe has come through our yard on a regular basis with her fawns in tow—until this August.
This spring we noticed that she was walking with a limp and had a visible lump on the bottom of her foreleg. (You can see it in the photo above.) I worried about her health and safety. Then when she virtually disappeared from our yard for nearly three months, I feared the worst. “I think she’s dead,” I told Mark.
But she was back today.
Where are the fawns? I wondered.
I stepped outside to release a flying insect that I caught in our kitchen, and I heard a loud rustling in the fallen leaves in our woods. You might be surprised by how loud little squirrels can sound as they scurry along, but this was exponentially louder than that. Then I saw a yearling fawn burst out of the trees and run along the creek.
In the late spring we took our bird feeders down once mother earth took over providing abundant food for our feathered friends. This week we put the feeders back up. Within 24 hours the birds were back.
After spending the summer, chasing birds down, peering through tree leaves, taking random, hopeful shots that I might catch a bird, photographing these birds at the feeders feels like shooting fish in a barrel.
The first day the feeder was up I saw titmice, chickadees, goldfinches, house finches, nuthatches, and a downy woodpecker.
I didn’t have a lot of time to spend, so most of them got away.
I tried to get a good photo of this shy little guy who did not tarry at the feeder. I think it might be a red-breasted nuthatch. Usually we see white-breasted nuthatches around here. They are easy to spot because of their inclination to climb around on trees upside down.
This year I’m going to make a concerted effort to identify the small wrens, sparrows, and finches that I can never tell apart. I think my 300mm lens is really going to help me with this project. I will be able to capture photos, enlarge them on my computer screen, and then identify the birds at my leisure, in theory, anyway.
Of course the mourning doves are easy to photograph with their placid nature. This one looks like I just woke her up.
We still need to clean out our birdhouses from the spring nesting season. I hope to get that done before the end of the month. I don’t know if birds will roost here in the winter or not, but I want to be a good and welcoming innkeeper just in case.
If you’ve lived in Cincinnati for any amount of time, the name Fernald likely evokes a knee-jerk negative reaction as someplace you’d rather stay far away from. From 1951 to 1989 Fernald, a short drive outside the city of Cincinnati, produced high quality uranium metal for the U.S. weapons program.
The general public paid little attention to what was going on at the 1050 acre site inside a secured fence line until 1984 when the Department of Energy (DOE) “reported that nearly 300 pounds of enriched uranium oxide had been released to the environment. . .That same year, DOE also reported that in 1981, three off-property wells south of the site were contaminated with uranium. The impact of nearly four decades of uranium metal production suddenly became the center of public controversy.” (Fernald Secrecy)
Negative news about Fernald was in the local paper headlines during the 1980s and early 1990s. In 1984 local residents filed a class action lawsuit for emotional distress and decreased property values. In 1989 the DOE paid $78 million dollars in settlement fees to individuals and industries within a five-mile radius of the Fernald site.
Fernald gained national and international publicity in 1986 because of the venting of two waste storage silos and a crack in the pilot plant vessel.
“In 1988, two nearby camps for children closed, citing concerns about Fernald and attributing reduced attendance to the negative publicity.” (Fernald Secrecy)
A local joke sprang up in Cincinnati about being able to see a “green glow” if you were driving near Fernald at night.
“Approximately 136 acres in the center of the site were used in the actual production process; the remaining acreage included administration facilities, laboratories, waste storage areas, and buffer land. The production area contained 10 primary plants, each with a specific mission to support the uranium metal production process.” (Fernald Secrecy)
“In 1989, after 37 years of operations to support the U.S. weapons program, site management shut down uranium metal production to concentrate on environmental compliance, waste management and remediation.” (About Fernald)
In 1992 the cleanup of Fernald was begun.
The cleanup included the following projects (the links take you to the Fernald website where you can see photos and project information):
Silos 1 and 2 – 8,900 cubic yards of low-level radioactive, radium bearing waste
Silo 3 – 5,100 cubic yards of low-level radioactive waste
Waste Pits – 790,000 tons of low-level radioactive waste
Soil and Disposal Facility – 2.2 million cubic yards of contaminated soil
Building Decontamination and Demolition – 223 buildings and structures
Aquifer Restoration – 170 acres of the Great Miami Aquifer
Waste Management –2.5 billion pounds of waste
Nuclear Material Disposition Project – 31 million net pounds of uranium product
You can see a slide-over photo of the Fernald production facility and the Fernald nature preserve plan here.
The good news is that today Fernald is a uranium-free nature preserve with unique sustainable site solutions that you can read about here. “The ecological restoration is transforming the site into a haven for wildlife. Over 170 varieties of birds including waterfowl, shorebirds, and songbirds have been observed.” (Fernald)
Hopefully with enough time, I will think of Fernald only as the beautiful serene healed prairie land that it is now and it will evoke only memories of swaying golden fields, flittering monarch butterlies, and a great blue heron on the wing.