Thursday, May 29, 2014

Bird Thief

Well, the Good News is that out of 4 eggs, Lucy the Dove managed to hatch two on Saturday.  I learned two things from this experience:

1.  The parents take turns sitting on the nest, with the male taking the night shift.  
2.  While the adults are softly colorful, baby Mourning Doves are black and fuzzy.  Even by baby bird standards, they're odd looking. It made me laugh, recalling my childhood when I thought adults were calling them "Morning Doves".  Made sense to me because they cooed in the morning. These little black birds looked as if they were wearing mourning attire.

How do I know what they look like?  A couple of days after they were born,  I "forgot" and opened the front door, making Lucy spread her wings and scurry away. I casually walked by, so she wouldn't freak out but she did pace back and forth in the yard until I went back inside.  One of the eggs was gone and even though a 4th egg was present, Lucy had been pushing it further and further away.  

I half expected the little Carolina Wren who has been darting around the porch lately to have a go at my head, but she was nowhere in sight.  You see, SHE is usually the first one on the porch, building a nest in my first potted plant of Spring.  I'd seen her flitting across the porch, glaring at Lucy for having dared take the spot she'd previously used to raise a brood. In fact a couple of weeks ago as I watered the plants on the front porch while Lucy was taking a break, Carolina the Wren kept fussing at me from the tree next to the porch.  I stopped watering and began checking for a nest in the plants I'd just put out, yet found nothing.  But she was angry!

Last week I found out why.  We have a gas grill on the front porch, which we hadn't used for a couple of weeks because the tank needed refilling...and neither of us could remember to do so before the weekend, when the local hardware store closed.  Hubby asked me to come look out the porch window because he said if I didn't see it, I wouldn't believe it.  On the rack in front of the grill was a bag of wood chips for the smoker.  And darting in and out of the bag, bugs in beak, was Carolina. I had no idea when I was watering that I was standing literally 18 inches from her home.  We laughed that her kids had a room with a view, as the bag had a clear plastic pane in the front.  She had finally chosen a spot so clever that we didn't know she was there until we watched one of her babies sit on the porch rail on wobbly legs as he blinked and took in his surroundings. He looked like a tiny drunk, unsure what to do next as he bobbed and weaved before figuring out that wings were for flying.

As had become habit, I glanced out the window yesterday morning to check on Lucy.  I could never see the chicks from that vantage point, but she tolerated me and we'd stare at each other, almost eyeball to eyeball.  But Lucy wasn't there.  And neither were the kids.  I rushed out on the porch only to discover both birdies and bad egg had disappeared.  Hubby and I never heard a sound, and the nest is right outside our bedroom window.  So whatever is feasting on eggs and birds is either extremely stealthy and/or quick.  Hubby thinks a Rat Snake, I suspect the Owls.  Either way, Daddy Bird got blamed as whatever happened, occurred on his shift. The chicks were too young to fly...I even checked to see if they'd somehow managed to fall out of the nest.  Nothing. Lucy now paces in the yard, cooing.  The term "mourning dove" is very appropriate.

So to date,  the Mockingbird nest was raided for 4 eggs, Lucy lost a total of 4, yet our ever so sly Carolina Wren actually hatched a bird or two.

I'm thinking next year, I'll leave one flower pot empty...or use a fake plant until nesting season is over.  I love the birds, but I do hate watching a plant die because I can't water it.  Maybe I'll tuck a couple of paper bags in out of the way spots for our nesting crews.  

At least Walter the Mockingbird is happy.  He finally has the front porch back all to himself for those morning song concerts.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Graduating to Adulthood

Yesterday marked 27 years with my Employer, a fact they'd only be aware of if I brought it up.  I didn't bother.  They would've nodded, then asked why I brought it up. This would've been followed by the "no money for even cost of living raises" speech.  At my salary level, 2% of next to nothing isn't worth much these days.

Yesterday was one of those days where instead of celebrating surviving the same job for so many years, I found myself contemplating a career change. The mood of my senior citizens was varying degrees of annoyance, which they happily passed on to me, their Mother Confessor/Public Servant Punching Bag. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when one of them asked, "So, how long until you retire?"

Sigh.

After the seniors had gone for the day, I took a break to read the news online.  I found an article encouraging people to "Google" him/herself, not for vanity sake, but to see if your name was attached to something you were unaware of and might want to fix.  They even provided a site called Duck Duck Go  which doesn't track you.  The theory was using Google or Bing, who might "recognize" you as a daily friend, would only provide answers which either offered glowing praise or an opportunity to purchase something "especially for you", based on past purchases.  Sounded interesting...a chance for comic relief from my weird day.

Most of what I found was expected: either references to my job, our charity or articles I'd written for the local newspaper over the years. There was a genealogical site or two I recall visiting years ago, then one I'd never heard of caught my eye. I clicked on the link and discovered my name and status listed.

Deceased.

Really?

Any other day I would've let it go, but not yesterday.  People who work on family trees want facts, so corrections are expected to keep errors from passing on as fact.  To correct this I had to join the "free" portion of the site, which has been purchased by a site I already use and trust.  I felt somewhat  better when I discovered the individual handling that tree had listed EVERYONE in my family as dead.  I'd also been elevated to only child status. I sent an e-mail proclaiming my still breathing state (plus or minus the pollen situation) and wondered if she'd like some help with that branch of the tree.

On the drive home I needed a distraction from my less than jovial mood, which had grown with the discovery I was Dead and no one had bothered to tell me. I flipped on the radio, where NPR had a story on Graduation Commencement Speeches.  They fell into 2 categories: YOU can do anything!  vs.  YOU are NOT special.  Sure, it's been a while since high school graduation (I skipped the college zoo version),  but of all the things I recall about it, the speech wasn't a part of it.  There were 720 Seniors in my graduating class, the largest ever...and that didn't include the 25 or so who didn't graduate.  There we sat, in folding chairs on the football field, having been fed a dozen rules of conduct and the fact that we WOULD sing the Alma Mater song before leaving the field under penalty of having our diplomas revoked.  I kid you not.

What I recall about graduation is:

We called our Principal "Mumbles" because he sounded like a cross between a  bad drive through restaurant speaker and Charlie Brown's teacher.  To this day I believe that's why they sat us in alphabetical order.  And still, everyone discreetly checked their diploma once seated to make sure they had the right one.

We sat under the blackest thunderstorm clouds known to exist, thunder beginning to rumble as the 50th student crossed the stage.  Some pray to graduate, I prayed to live through graduation as it began to lightning in the distance.

I anxiously waited for my childhood friend's turn...all of us did.  His last name was Zilch. He broke the rules by sailing his cap across the stage, into the middle of us as we wildly cheered, while Mumbles gave us a stern dressing down.  I think.  The mumble sounded angry and authoritative.

And then, as family and friends crowded the edge of the field, ready to rush to congratulate their little pride and joy as soon as Mumbles said we were done, they were stunned into silence.  We looked at each other, sighed, stood and sang that damned song we'd had to practice every morning for a month.  The crowd was... speechless.  No one had sung that song in more than 15 years. 

And as we walked off the field, the bottom fell out.  Luckily it was just rain, minus the lightning. 

If I had to give a speech to a graduating class, what would I say?  My parents had already ingrained the "work hard and you can be anything" into my DNA.  The only meaningful piece of advice I got that year was from a teacher, tired of hearing a student whine about a grade.  The teacher turned to look at all of us and calmly declared, "Life isn't fair.  The day you realize that, you have become an adult."

Not the cool adulthood I'd envisioned, but at least it was the truth.

I would probably leave a graduating class with this simple message from the best doctor ever: 

Dr. Seuss.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Sweet!

I've read about this recipe more than once, so we decided to try it this weekend.   I know Chef, it's technically cheating, but it's nice to have a few simple tricks up your sleeve. 

Cinnamon Rolls..baked in a Belgian Waffle maker.

All you need is:
One tube of cinnamon rolls (we used a store brand and it worked great!) 

Lightly coat the waffle maker with non-stick spray, put in 4 rolls and cook for 3 minutes.  Let rolls cool slightly before icing.  In 6 minutes cooking time you have 8 cinnamon rolls with an interesting mix of crispy outside and soft inside.  And if you have very tiny Chefs in your kitchen, it's a great way to introduce them to cooking in a no-fail, delicious way.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Cold Realities of Life

While the Mockingbird, dubbed Ethel (Lucille Ball's neighbor in T.V. Land), made a superior nest, someone took it for a breakfast buffet platter...all 4 of her eggs disappeared overnight.

Lucy, on the other hand, moved off her nest this morning while I watered the plants on the porch...and I discovered she was up to 4 eggs.  

Meanwhile, I'm still trying to kick the tail end of my head cold.  So while I wait for the pollen to take it down a notch, I plan which plants shall be added to the yard.

Here's wishing y'all a good weekend!


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Now what?!

Well our front porch Dove, who I dubbed Lucy (for her Lucille Ball-like quality of nest building), has added one more egg.  I get the feeling this is her first attempt at motherhood, because she wasn't real good about staying on the nest for more than an hour at a time to begin with.  But since she's settled down, we decided to utilize the backdoor until her children hatch out and leave the nest.  Besides, doves don't just move away, they take off like they've exploded, wings whistling as they bob and weave so nothing can get a straight shot at them. Having that occur unexpectedly is not good on the hearts of either dove or intruder...even if it's just a human trying to get in the front door after a long day at work.  It's not that much of a sacrifice on our part but Bou the Dog is looking at me a little funny when I ask him if he wants to go out and I head for the kitchen while he heads for the front door.  We have come to the agreement that if he goes out the back door, he can come in the front because at night, Bou and Lucy get along just fine.

This worked well until yesterday.  Hubby said he thought he'd seen a Mockingbird building a nest in the rose bush. Sure enough, there was a beauty of a nest there, but it was empty.  And it isn't the first time a Mockingbird chose that spot.  The rose, a climbing Don Juan, is literally against the house.  The nest is protected from rain by the roof overhang above and sheltered from the wind.  I fought the urge to call Lucy around back so she could see what a proper Nursery Nest looks like.  I didn't think anything about it again until a moment ago....when a Mockingbird almost flew up my nose when I opened the door.

Did I mention the rose bush is just outside the back door?

And this morning,  it looks like this.

Although you can't tell from the camera angle...and trust me, that's as good as a short person teetering on tiptoes on the edge of the top step while still dizzy from a head cold could handle...there are 3 eggs there.  I hope this year we find 3 birds, like the first year.  The 2nd year, a Cowbird dumped her egg in the middle and kindly Mama Mockingbird fed it too, even though it was about 3 times the size of her kids.  Last time, another evil bird raided the nest as soon as the chicks hatched.

So now the conundrum: which door can we enter/exit which creates the least disturbance?  Most of you are laughing right now, as you probably should be I suppose.  But I like country living and all the interesting moments you don't get living in a city neighborhood.  I'm thinking Mama Mockingbird, one of Walter the Watch Mockingbird's harem,  just considers us one of her pets and we should be good.  Besides, I just filled up the bird feeder, meaning all the other birds will be much more interested in it than the rose bush.

You know, I was out sick 2 days last week.  Wonder if I should tell them I need to be under quarantine....just until the kids hatch?   :)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Temporarily Out of Service

Who gets a head cold from hell the first day of May?

I do, that's who.  
Sigh.
I shall return when I can type without sneezing.