This blog's mission is simple--to encourage moms who are married to non-Catholics and raising their children in the Faith. If you know a mom who needs a little encouragement in continuing her efforts, I would be delighted if you would share Kathleen's Catholic with her. Thank you!

Bird & Nature Journal

How lovely your dwelling, O Lord of hosts! My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the Lord. My heart and flesh cry out for the living God. As the sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest to settle her young, my home is by your altars, Lord of hosts, my king and my God! Happy are those who dwell in your house! They never cease to praise you!    Psalm 84

A Brief Introduction

What magnificent creatures birds are, from the tiny Chipping Sparrow to the Great Blue Heron! Just a couple close encounters with these aviators made me a fan.

A few years ago, a hummingbird was apparently trapped in our old mill, and my husband came upon it. It laid dead on the floor. He brought it into the house and put it in my hands. I was amazed at its beauty, but one thing struck me most; this remarkable creature laid in my hands and yet I couldn't feel it. Even a tiny puff of air lifted it off my palm. Yet for all its frailty, it was a master hoverer and flier, a real acrobat--colorful, quick and bold. All bundled in a tiny form.

Last year, as I was painting a window while balanced on a ladder, I saw a reflection in the glass. I turned just in time to see a Great Blue Heron banking to the right. If I had  stretched out my arm, I would have touched him. Yet, his flight was so stealth I was completely surprised by his presence. I had no idea he was so close. Perhaps he was the same big bird who visits our pond every winter, as shown below.

(photo copyrighted by Roger L. Blease)

And should I tell you about the house wren who insists on making her nests in our attic window? What a dictator she is. Her poor mate was sent about on errand after errand. And with each return, he was met with more chatters from the boss.

After all these yeas of bird watching, I thought it would be nice to share my observations with you. In my mind, the instincts of these little creatures are just another argument of God's existence. The Creator truly gave even the tiniest creature all it needs to survive.

From the rolling hills of Eastern Pennsylvania, a short distance from the banks of the Delaware River, I'm bringing you a journal of all the birds and their nesting activities. Please feel free to share your comments about birds and bird watching by emailing me at Be sure to include Kathleen's Catholic in the subject, so your email is not deleted should it land in the junk box. I'd love to hear from you.

Below is my Active Bird List, Bird Watching Journal, and Bird Watching Tips.

God bless.

Active Bird List

A list of birds that are active and/or nesting on our land:

red-breasted grosbeak
mourning dove
tufted titmouse
indigo bunting
purple finch
house finch
house wren
blue jay
cat bird
American goldfinch
mallard ducks (pair)
Canadian geese (pair)
black and white warbler
brown-headed cowbird
eastern bluebird
red wing blackbird
tri-color blackbird
chipping sparrow
great blue heron
green heron
Baltimore oriole
red tail hawk
turkey vulture
downy woodpecker
red bellied woodpecker
least flycatcher
bank swallow
ruby-throated hummingbird
common merganser (duck)

Journal Entries...Observations

Oops. Pardon Me. Hop, hop.
August 29, 2011

Photo source: PA Herp Identification.
Cleaning away the debris from the storm today. (Unlike our neighbors, we have lost no trees or even branches. If you take a look at the picture of the cresting pond, below, you will see a majestic maple that's about 100 feet tall. Praise God it lost nothing! A few years ago, we had several trees heavily pruned to lighten the canopies.) A small pile of leaves and twigs were gathered around our statue of the Queen of Peace. I scooped it away with the broom, and....boing! Hop, hop. A huge frog jumped out. He must have been forced into the dry spot by Irene's swirling winds. I wish I could record his memories of the storm! Poor guy didn't have his land legs and hopped about sharp to the left. He navigated the entire perimeter of the porch's stone wall before he finally regained his composer and headed for the pakisandra. I identified him by visiting PA Herp Identification: Online Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of PA. He was a green frog, about 5 inches long. It was a delight to watch him use those long legs!

She's Here!
August 28, 2011

Our serene pond has turned into a raging river.
Here she comes, just walkin' down the street, singing.... Irene's winds are hallowing up a storm outside our windows, and right now I'm glad I took the time to tape them up. The boys spent the night in the library, since a large and ancient maple trees resides just outside their room. I don't trust those branches to hold on.We are watching Fox 29 Philadelphia and Channel 69 Lehigh Valley (our local channel) for up to date coverage, and we're grateful for all the information. Our pond, as you can see from the picture, has become a raging river. Water from the hill behind us is pouring into our basement, even bubbling up through the base of the stone foundation. Believe it or not, our 100+ year-old foundation was built to do this--water in, water out. The sump pump was installed years ago to help the process. I'm sure not a few farmers have had to bail out the basement before the days of these mechanical helpers; we just might be the newest addition to the club, if the power fails.

The storm is eery. It comes in wails. Then there is silence for about half an hour. I can hear only the crickets. The birds are silent. Then the storm returns, and Mother Nature directs a new symphony of wind and rain.

By early morning, Irene is going full strength, without those half-hour breaks. High winds. The trees are bending, and I can't believe nothing is breaking. The rain is heavy, but not as heavy as I've expected. However, it's certainly enough to cause serious flooding.

Thankfully, we have not lost power, but we've learned that we are one of few who have been blessed! Our neighbors just to the North and just to the South have been left without. However, the damage caused by floods and the wind and rain are minimal. We are so very grateful!

Getting Ready for Irene's Visit
August 24, 2011

Some of the flowers I picked before Irene flattens them for good. I tried to leave some behind, so the birds will have seed pods to enjoy during the winter. Usually, they have plenty to gleen from during the frosty months, but this year I'll need to make special note to buy extra bird seed.

I picked all the ripe tomatoes, as many herbs as I could cram into jars, vases, and pitchers, and all the flowers. I'm sure they will be flattened by the wind and rain.

Preparing for Hurricane Irene, a huge storm. We usually don't worry about hurricanes in this neck of the woods, but we are hearing that Irene will reach over New Jersey's borders with ease. That would be us. We have brought in all the yard items, secured all the outbuildings, bought food, water, batteries, collected our flashlights, set up buckets in the basement (in case we need to bail manually), taped picture frame windows, and set to praying. In the meantime, we just heard that Albany, NY, has experienced another earthquake, at 3.0. The east coast is having a great week. What a time to be a meteorologist! This is their week to make observations and put their hard-earned degrees to work!

Shaking It Up!
August 23, 2011

An earthquake in Eastern Pennsylvania? With its epicenter in Virginia, the little quake registered a 5.3.

Did my cats sense it coming? Hardly. I was sitting on the bed reading, with two of our cats lying next to me. The bed began to shake back and forth. Our felines just looked at me as if to say, "Say, just what are you doing, anyway?"

Well, Hello There!
August 21, 2011

I went outside to check the mail and heard the steady peep of a chick calling out to mama. It was coming from the ground. I looked about and found among the cleomes and tickseed a little beak and eyes surrounded by downy feathers. He was precious. I reached it to pick him up and he zipped away in the air. Yet to grow tail feathers, he was flying without direction and trying to land...somewhere, anywhere but in the pond. I didn't like that he was left out in the open, so I tried to direct him back to the cleomes and tickseed. But he didn't want to go, so I decided to pick him up and transport him. To my surprise, he hopped onto my finger. And he had no plans of going anywhere. He was perfectly content. After admiring him, I took him over to shrub. He hopped onto a branch and hopped about like he as king! This was an afternoon I thoroughly enjoyed. (I will have pics soon.)

All Grown Up
August 2, 2011
These mallards were hatched here. The trap in the background
was set by our neighbor, who is trying to catch the  family of
muskrats, to no avail
It's fun to observe the brood of mallards that were hatched on our pond this year. They are now fully grown, but for a long while they still exhibited the habits of chicks. They insisted on flocking together when they swam--shoulder to shoulder-- and scooped into the water to eat. They were just too big for all that togetherness.
Over time, I noticed that they gave each other more room little by little. It was a gradual transition. They also exhibited more courage and were less likely to run to the safety of the water when cars drove by and when a bicyclist came along. They were conditioned as to what was safe and what wasn't. Curious people who wanted to take pictures were still not on that list.

July 4, 2011
Several Wonderful Summertime Observations

During the last several days, I've had the pleasure of making terrific observations, most of them during my morning cup of tea on my porch.

One day, I spotted a turtle, its shell about the size of a large dinner plate, making his way to the pond. He was moving quite quickly, and by the time I went into the mud room to slip on my boots and headed back to the pond, he was already at the edge of the water. His legs were hefty, but they moved fast, and when he slipped into the water he seemed content. He didn't look like a snapping turtle, as I had a good view of his head and I didn't see a beak type of mouth. It was a pleasure to watch him swim about for a while.

In other pond news, a pair of mallards has nested here, and mama has brought her brood of 8 ducklings into the main part of the pond, just often enough for us to get a good look at them. But in her natural and wild ways, when she saw people around she retreated her gang into the honey suckle and wild rose brambles that line the creek that feeds the pond. I've been tempted to search for her nest but I don't want to disturb them. I hope that they felt safe here and welcome to nest again next year.

Several yards from the pond, I spotted a large Eastern Cottontail, and she was about the size of a groundhog. Could she have been feasting on our bean plants? My husband and I agree that while groundhogs--who desimate our garden--should be eliminated (and by the sounds of things this morning, our neighbor agrees), the cottontails will be left alone. We'll simply make more efforts to stear them away from the garden. In an effort to keep some food safe and for ourselves, we grow all our lettuces and herbs close to the house in a high-traffic area. Still, the chipmunks have made this their turf and they scurry across the sidewalks and the porch in the early mornings and evenings. Our younger cats watch them from the window, while our elderly feline spots them from her favorite chair in the shade outside. Besides the little tunnels they produce, their activity seems to be harmless.

I mentioned the wild rose and honeysuckle. In the early mornings, when the sun is drying away the dew, the perfume of the two wild plants is intense and lovely. I rememer when I was a teenager, I bought honeysuckle perfume from Avon, and I remember just wanting to bathe in it! It still smells so lovely to me.

This year, I'm sorry to say, my giant zinnias are not doing well. After putting seeds down three times, I have merely a few plants that germinated, and that's disappointing. Last year, the zinnia bed was lush and bright, and it attracted Eastern Swallowtails (see photos below), as well as plenty of hummingbirds. I will miss them this year and treasure the few that have managed to pop up.

June 20, 2001
Oops. Sorry, Buddy, I almost stepped on you!

My kids find it amazing (and weird) that I will talk even to the snakes I see. It's bad enough that I talk to the cats, but to snakes? One day, I was collecting sticks after a storm, bending down and picking up several at a time. Oops. That one wasn't a stick! Then today, I was in one of our flowerbeds when I almost stepped right on another snake. Both of them were about a yard long. Thankfully, they are just garter snakes, which are harmless. Coming across them is not that unusual around here, and we're happy to see them since they consume large amounts of rodents. I can't help it, but when I spot one just next to my hand or foot, I blurt out, "Oops. Sorry, Buddy!" Then I stand there and watch it slither away. I'm always captivated by how they move and how their muscles work. So cool.

June 15, 2011
Common Mergansers: Excellent divers
Two mergansers (see more about them below) were visiting again today. I sat by the pond to watch them swim. While the were warry of me, they didn't shy away, and I sat quietly. I was surprised to see that they are excellent divers. Compared to the mallard, who simply flips his backside up to scoop up foods from under the water, the mergansers actually dive and swim under water for about four or five feet.

May 28, 2011
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Meets Maybelline

Photo copyright: Roger L. Blease
Our Maybelline as a kitten. She is now about three years old,
but her expression of wonderment is the same when she
is faced with something new.  The hummingbird, on the other
hand,  seemed undaunted by her presence.

A female ruby-throated hummingbird has been visiting us every morning. At wee-hours this morning, she came right up to the kitchen picture window where our cat, Maybelline, was sitting. They regarded each other nose-to-nose, and May seemed a little stunned by the encounter. Her eyes were as big as pies.

The hummingbird then spent some time skimming over the hew shrub outside the window. It seemed to me that she was touchig each evergreen needle with her beak. Then it occured to me that at such an early hour, the shrub must have been a ready supply of dew, a perfect refreshment for the little bird.

Every day, I see her return to the majestic maple that hunkers over the pond, so I'm assuming that she has placed her nest there. I can't wait for the day when one of those little hummers builds a nest close to the house, someplace where we can enjoy watching her tend to her brood.

Just one more note about the hummers: Last year, as I was wrestling with knee-high weeds in the garden, I heard a loud and low buzzing right next to my ear. It scared the dickens out of me, and in my wimpy way I froze, afraid I might be in jeopardy of being stung by those nasty and agressive hornets. I straightened up ever so slowly to find a female hummer observing me, hovering then moving up and down. It must have been my orange T-shirt that attracted her. It was a great joy to come eye-to-eye with the little darling. However, it also gave me an appreciation for just how long and sharp those little beaks are!

May 25, 2011
Exotic Bird Call
I went for a Rosary Walk early this morning and heard a very unusual bird call. It was composed of trills and clicks. Trill, click, click. Trill. Trill. They were deep and strong. How exotic! But an exotic bird in PA? The maestro was close, so I walked ever so slowly to see him for myself. And what did I find? A crow! Obviously, he had become bored and was just entertaining himself.

May 23, 2011
Common Mergansers: New Visitors

photo source:
the female Common Merganser

Spotted two Common Mergansers (both females) on the pond. I was able to identify them using my favorite bird guide. Scroll down to the end of this page to learn about All The Birds of North America. I love using this guide! It sits on my kitchen windowsill along with the binoculars.

You might also be interested in learning how to observe and identify birds. A basic instruction can also be found at the end of this page.

May 20, 2011
Disappointed in the Mourning Dove: A Lousy Mother
Yesterday, I used the push mower to mow the grass around the shrubs, and I noticed a mourning dove sitting in her nest, frozen. I knew she was there, and I was proud of her for covering her brood and watching over them. Usually, these birds are skiddish about everything, so I was impressed that she stood strong.

Alas, I was deadly wrong. The next day, I went to check her nest, and I saw two chicks with downy feathers. Just a few more days and they would be out of the nest, fledglings. But something didn't seem right. Upon my intrusion, they didn't make a move. Were they immitating their mother, frozen like a fawn hiding in the brambles, the best defence against intruders? I shook the branch a little bit, then a little harder. No movement. They were dead. Mother had abandoned them.

We have several birds nesting in our shrubs, and they have never abandoned their broods under any circumstance, even when they have been shimmied by the mower. But the typical mourning dove is not a good mother. Her nest is barely strong enough to hold the eggs, and she loses many. No bother! She has five or six broods every summer, so she can afford to lose some. Apparently, her devil-may-care attitude applies to her chicks as well. I didn't know that yesterday, and now I know better. Next time, the grass will wait an extra day or two.

May 4, 2011
Bank Swallows

photo source:

Over the pond, a small swarm of bank swallows were enjoying a feast of little bugs while fluttering about in the steady rain. It took a while for me to identify them, but then I finally found their description in my bird guide which said that they fly like bats (see Bird Watching Tips, at end of this page to purchase the guide). And that's exactly what I thought when I first saw them: "Are those bats? In broad daylight?" They stayed for a couple of hours, and they never seemed to tire. I didn't see any of them perching, not even for a moment. I am wondering where this flock lives, as they usually reside in holes dug into cliffs. Since we are on the Slate Belt, with plenty of quarries around, it shouldn't be too hard to imagine them making their home here. They are fun to watch, like acrobats in the air.

April 27, 2011
Green Heron

photo source:
I just spotted this cutie yesterday morning. As I was drinking my cup of coffee, I saw a strange bird that dive-bombed from the oak tree by the pond. "What was that?" He stood upright with his long neck sticking straight up; his body is about a little bigger than a robin's.  I grabbed the binoculars and watched him observe his surroundings--mostly the male mallards eating breakfast on the pond. Then he finally started walking about, but with his neck still extended, and I could see his heron-like feet. That gave me a clue, and so I looked it up on my bird journal, and --voila!--I found the green heron. Yes, I remembered then that I saw him last year, but at that time I didn't see him with his neck extended, and he looks quite different when it's not. I'm so glad he's back! He has a very unusual call of "Kowp!" And he's loud, although not often heard. I'm so looking forward to watching his antics again this year.

April 26, 2011
The Dam Throughout The Year

dam in the winter
It's definitely a source of entertainment and wonder for me. The picture window in our kitchen overlooks this dam that forms the pond, which is actually an un-named creek. The dam was built by the previous homeowner many, many years ago. I wouldn't be surprised if he built it by hand when he was a young man. Of course, today building a dam of this type would result in hefty fines, as the state owns the waterways, and it would never allow a private homeowner to interrupt the water path. Nevertheless, we are fortunate to be blessed with all the little experiences that come from having a dam just at the edge of our property.
dam in the deluge of spring rain

Here is where birds of all kinds find refuge and refreshment. Just last week, I spotted a crow enjoying a wonderful, splashy bath. Even during the drought, it calls to the little creatures. Last summer, the muddy terrain and the tiny puddle as the center was home to an adorable sand piper who spent the afternoons plucking up snacks.

And the dam has a life cycle of its own, as the photos show its various moods throughout the year.

dam during the summer drought
During the drought last summer, it was easy to see all the holes the muskrats made throughout the spring. They were a little put off by the lack of water, but they seemed to do just fine. To be honest, my husband and I were hoping they would move to elsewhere, as their tunnelling couldn't possibly be beneficial to this aging dam. We haven't spotted them yet this year, so we're curious as to their whereabouts and what they have planned for this summer.

A Great Egret

photo by max blease
Isn't this bird beautiful? He spent all of last summer with us, visiting every day. It was a pleasure to watch him fish and hunt for small frogs.

He is not a snowy egret, which has black legs and yellow feet, crest feathers, and stands at only two feet tall. This Great Egret has black legs and feet, no crest feathers, and is 3'3" tall.  He still-hunts. It's fun to watch him spy a meal, stand as still as a statue with his neck extended all the way, then (swoop!) go in for the goodies! He is peaceful looking and moves smoothly and gracefully.

I just now found the picture to post it! I hope he returns this summer.

P.S. Can you tell I love living here? After 22 years in the city, I think I'm finally home!

April 19, 2011
A Nifty Experiment

suet feeder filled with snips of yarn and string
We have lots of nest builders on our property--robins, finches, chipping sparrows, crows, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, you name it! So I decided to try this little experiment. After the birds were finished with the last of the suet, I filled the feeder with all types of yarns and strings. Thick. Thin. Short. Long. Some soft. Some coarse.

I can't wait to see if some of these pieces will end up in nests around our house. Since the colors are bright, they will be easy to spot. I'll keep you posted on what I find. If you try this yourself, please let us know what happens!

April 18, 2011
Pink Daffodils

The pink daffodils are coming among the seed pods of the black eyed susans. During the late fall, I found several American Goldfinches enjoying the seeds off the little black globes. I love leaving the seed pods of all our plants behind, so we can provide a natural supply of food for the birds throughout the snowy season. But now that the winter is truly over, it's time for me to cultivate those seeds and put them to work for a new crop.

I love how the daffodils pop up regardless of their surroundings. Even among dingy seed pods and piles of dry brown leaves, they spring forward hopeful and lovely. They become my gentle reminder that it will soon be time to clean out all my flower beds and begin my spring time cleaning and planting, something I truly look forward to!

April 15, 2011
Lent Flowers
I usually don't bring flowers into the house during Lent. Typically, this vase is filled with a Lenten bouquet of empty twigs/branches and is then wrapped with this purple cloth. But this year, particularly since Easter is so late, the daffodils came into bloom during the season of waiting. As I walked around our land, I found so many blooms that were flattened by the rain and forced to lie face down on the wet ground. How could I let them go to rot? I thought I would snip just a few, but by the time I was done collecting all the waifs I had a huge handful. The blooms pictured here are my third bundle brought into the house! My thought is that while I usually leave the house plain in reverence to Lent, I can't help but think that Our Dear Lord wouldn't enjoy letting these precious creations go to waste. Aren't they lovely? They will share our time of waiting with us!

blooms are an unusual sight in our house during Lent

 July 30, 2010
Eastern Tiger Swallowtails
The swallowtails this year are enormous. During the drought earlier this month, scum developed on the pond, which proved to be a happy buffet for these winged beauties. It was a pleasure to watch a group feast all at once, something that made the hot drought more pleasurable. (The Good Lord provides with feasts for the eyes everywhere!) The rain has now been plentiful, and I've found they love our small patch of zinnias growing in the bright sun. They are attracted to the pink, orange, and yellow flowers, and they visit all day long--well into the evening. Males are bright yellow, while the females are either dark black with blue accents or yellow like the males. Both look majestic and their colors sparkle in the sunshine.. By the way, the monarchs are making their appearance as well.

I'm happy to say that it's not unusual for one of these winged masters to bump into me while I'm in the garden or yard, a little encounter that takes my breath away and makes me feel like a little kid who's discovering these gems for the first time.

female eastern tiger swallowtail
(photo source:

male eastern tiger swallowtail
(photo source:

Here's a terrific site to visit to help you identify butterflies in your area, Gardens With Wings. Click here to visit now.

July 29, 2010
Deluge At Dawn
The sun was pushing its way over the horizon and the birds began their symphony. Gorgeous sounds! But in the distance thunder was booming in soft and muddled tones. In no time at all, the thunder was just above us and the rain began. The birds became louder than ever. I could hear a cardinal and a cat bird getting in their last reveille. The rain poured and became a deluge. Now the birds were silent. When it stopped raining, it was the cicadas who filled the silent void with their chimmying. I padded down to the kitchen, and who did I see outside the picture window? The great blue heron, clinging to the pond's banks, which was full and a little revived from the hot days. He was poking about the weeds with his spear-like beak. Then he took to flight. He didn't need a runway. Graceful and strong, this silent flier lifted right up into the sky, his long legs trailing behind. Only once have I ever heard him make a noise. A "gawk" while in flight. I am becoming quite fond of this big bird! Their is a picture of him enjoying our frozen pond above in the Brief Introduction.

July 28, 2010
Meemo in Moonlight
The full moon is magnificent and shines right into our bedroom window. At three in the morning, I couldn't sleep and looked out the window to see our cat, Meemo, basking in the moonlight, exploring the mock orange bush leaf by leaf. His bright orange coat looked like a painted spot against the muted tones of the night time greens. Then I realized how the beacon above made him a target for a predator, and I said a quick prayer that our family pet would be safe until sunrise. First thing in the morning, he was at the back door as usual.

Here's our Meemo, but enjoying safety in Christmas candlelight.
(photo copyrighted by Roger L. Blease)

July 27, 2010
Great Blue Heron
Early this morning, the great blue heron was standing on the bridge that crosses over the pond. He must be four feet tall. He stood perfectly still and straight as an arrow. He then carefully plucked his feet across the planks and onto the pond's bank and began hunting for frogs. He didn't seem to be very successful.

July 10, 2010
I thought you might enjoy this photo my husband took. It is of a snake skin I found. One day in late spring,  I was trimming a shrub when I came across this garter's skin. It was wrapped around the trunk of the shrub, with its head reaching high for the sky, protruding out the very top of the plant. A nice surprise to find.

I think it makes a beautiful picture. Nature's patterns and designs are remarkable.

(photo copyrighted by Roger L. Blease)

July 9, 2010 
Heat wave!
The temperatures have been in the triple digits, but the humidity has only been 13 percent. This is very rare for Eastern Pennsylvania. When we do experience a heat wave, the temps are in the mid 90s with humidity in the 80s--hot and very hazy. Nevertheless, even in this dry spa-like temperatures, the heat has taken its toll. Our garden and trees are feeling the effects, and I noticed that the bird activity has been very little. Two nights ago, I heard some bird calls and various songs at midnight--rare indeed. What do they do during the day when the heat is too much? I am hoping they perch in our various evergreens and shrubs. Bug eaters, berry lovers, and sap suckers alike would all find refuge there.

At the same time, however, this has been a plentiful time for butterflies and moths, which have been feeding off the scum developing in the shrinking pond. The milkweed growing at the edge of our woods has matured, so I'm sure this is also encouraging the butterfly activity. Butterflies navigate according to the availability of this native plant. And while the milk weed coats our raspberry and red berry bushes, making it hard to harvest the gems, I can see how the sticky plant plays a role in the food chain.
June 23, 2010
A birch beer mist and fawns in the brambles
It's been quite a while since my last entry, so here are a few observations I thought you would enjoy. 
1. Last week was very cool for this time of year. Weeded the garden wearing a sweatshirt and slept with two comforters. The garden enjoyed the relief from the heat, and the rain in the nights where just right for all that root growth that would surely lead to a bountiful crop. After a heavy rain, I went out into the orchard and stood next to the wood line. The smell of birch was overwhelming. With the cool mist all around and the aroma heavy in the air, it was like swimming in a vat of birch beer. Wonderful! It was a perfect time for some prayer and contemplation. I didn't want to leave.

2. Last week the fledglings were every where! And very noisy. I heard a commotion close to the orchard, and walked in that direction expecting to find chicks in a nest. Instead, two fledglings were hopping about the ground. When I approached, they swiftly flew to the nearest branch. We now have about 25 types of birds actively enjoying our property--from tiny chirping sparrows to a great blue heron. See my bird list above.
3. After a few years of disappointment, we are thrilled to see apple and pear trees and grape vines heavy with fruit. Getting my canning gear ready!
4. The boys found a snake skin near the septic tank located at the rear of our property. The skin measured 40 inches long and almost two inches thick. A large garter. I wonder: how many mice has he eaten?
5. Finally, I went into the brambles today to pick raspberries, and I stumbled upon two fawns, still young and heavily coated in their white spots. I had been chasing their mother, a large doe, out of the orchard for weeks now. She thinks she owns the place, and retreats with several loud grunts. The fawns lain in the high grass and overgrowth, as still as statues. They didn't budge until I was almost right next to them, then they swiftly made their escape. They were gorgeous! 

May 27, 2010
Robins nest now empty
Only seven days after first spotting the robin chicks, the new fledglings have left the nest. I'm hoping the mother bird uses it again to hatch another brood. (See May 25 and May 20 entries for pictures of the chicks.)

May 25, 2010 
 Update on Robins 
A few days old and already these robins are almost ready to try their wings! This is the same brood that occupies the nest pictured in May 20th entry.

May 21, 2010
Baltimore Orioles

(photo source:
I'd like to share with you two events: one took place a few days ago, the other last year at this same time. Both show the harshness of the natural world; yet it reminds me that we must not interfere, as this is how it is meant to be.
As for last year: We were thrilled to see Baltimore orioles nesting in the top of an oak tree. My husband watched closely as the busy parents tended to their chicks. Their flashy orange made it easy to spot them and keep tabs on their activities. One day, he came into the kitchen to tell me that he just witnessed a remarkable event. A red tail hawk must have had his eye on the nest--one shortcoming of the orioles' color and their habit of nesting so high. Right in plain view, the hawk swooped down and attacked the nest. He landed close to our garden, where my husband was working, and tore a chick to pieces, perhaps a tasty snack.

Now the other day: I was sitting in our living room when something banged into the picture window. An oriole was chasing another. The younger of the two, with first-year plumage, crashed into the window and landed on the shrub just below. His elder saw his opportunity, and he jumped on junior and pecked at his chest--perhaps a reminder to keep to his own space.
I'm sure it was not the pecking that was most damaging, but the crash. The youngster certainly lost his wits. Big guy flew into a nearby tree while junior fell to his side, his head slumped over. One wing came out. He started breathing heavily. Then the other wing came out and the tail went straight into the sky. He put his head deep into the shrub. I noticed little downy feathers from his head were plastered to the window. I thought I was witnessing his death, and it was so amazing to me I couldn't get up to retrieve the camera...I didn't want to miss it.
And I'm so glad I stayed put!! After several minutes, the bird slowly but surely revived. First his wings came in, then his head slowly became erect. Carefully and surely, he raised his body to a perched position. He stood like a statue, then he turned his head left then right, and he stretched to regain his composure. The coast seemed clear, and the little guy hopped to another shrub then took off into a tree. His recovery was a very slow process, but it was a special joy to watch.
Well, now, here were two close encounters to remind us that nature does indeed have a "pecking order!"

May 20, 2010

Outside our living room window, in the rhodies, robins built their nest. Mother turned herself  into an umbrella the other day during heavy rains. Father brought food for all. Now the nestlings are a few days old, and when mama is away, the chicks hunker down into the nest. Their down blends into the nest; perfect camouflage. When they raise their heads and open their beaks, the red lining inside their mouths look like red flags signaling to mama. This little guy has two siblings.

Bird Watching Tips: How to Identify a Bird
Here's the easiest way to identify birds, regardless of location and situation: PAY ATTENTION. Never mind the bird book and camera right now. It is best to sit quietly and watch your subject. There will be plenty of opportunities to take photos later; if the bird has been here once, chances are it's been here many times. You will see him again very soon.

Make the following notes, mentally:

1)bird's color and pattern
2)feeding habits--Does he eat off the ground? If he eats at the feeder, does he take a seed, eat it elsewhere, then come back for more? Or does he eat right at the feeder, happy to share his space with others? (A titmouse, for example, does not like sharing space with others; he takes his seed elsewhere.)
3)length and shape of tail--It is long or short? Round or square at the end?
4)overall size of the bird--Can you guess how long he is?
5)shape and size of beak--Is it short and round? Or long and thin? This will help you determine if he is a bug catcher (long/thin) or seed gatherer (short/round).
6)walking habits--does it have strides or does it hop?
After you have made note of these items, use your bird guide.My all-time favorite is All Birds of North America (the American Bird Conservancy's Field Guide) published by HarperPerennial. This guide organizes the birds in categories, such as water birds, conical bills, raptors, shorebirds, and so on, making it very easy to use. And every bird listed includes a color photograph.

If you are patient, quiet, and studious, you will learn a great deal...just by doing what I call "training the eye." It only takes a few minutes a day. You need to do little more to enjoy these little wonders
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