Thursday, October 30, 2014

Getting the Rhythm

For the past few months I have been immersed in my home. Buying furniture (best to check it out first when it doesn't hold up), buying accessories and cookware, paying bills, getting a feel for the the rhythm of the bills and when they are paid., and generally settling in. I have been a little open-handed in buying what I need -- or at least what I think I need -- but I'm not going into debt or anything like that.

One of the rhythms I've been getting into is mornings (sometimes afternoons) eating breakfast and looking out the back door at the activity outside. Most of the time there are birds, lots of birds, making a mess throwing the seeds they don't like out of the feeder. There are birds landing and crowded into the feeder, usually 4 white-breasted nuthatches, and 4 or 5 nuthatches swooping, diving, and dog fighting just outside the feeder waiting for their chance to land. Sometimes the birds quarrel, diving at the birds inside the feeder, and quarreling with them to get out so they can get in.  I see the nuthatches the most and there must be quite a few of nests nearby. They are beautiful little birds, about 4-4-1/2 inches long. Don't let their small size fool you. They are scrappers.


I thought I had a pileated woodpecker, but it turns out it was a hairy woodpecker. He started the bird carnival out there when he began excavating holes in the bird wreath I put out there last month. I've not seen his mate, but he must have one somewhere nearby. The male is easy to spot with the little bit of red on his head. He's not shy at all. In fact, though he is about 9 inches long, he clings to the railing on the feeder, sometimes upside down, and will peck up what he wants of the nuts and seeds in the feeder. He can't fit in there. He's too big, but he's also quite tenacious.

There are murders of crows and quite a few ravens that land on the back deck, but they prefer carrion and corn to the little bits of nuts and seeds in the feeder. Besides, they would not fit and the whole thing would come tumbling down. The only other big bird is the gorgeous Steller's Jay that still cannot figure out how he can get at the seeds and nuts in the feeder. He's about 9-10 inches long and not quite as daring as the hairy woodpecker. The Steller's Jay, which I have mistakenly called a Stellar Jay, looks like the blue jay, which is definitely kin, except he is black from the upstanding crest on his head down past his shoulders. The rest of his is a beautiful vibrant blue and he has stark white eyebrows, or at least markings where his eyebrows would be if he had them.

The poor thing flies up to the railing near the window where the feeder is attached, going back and forth figuring out his approach. He hops down to a chair under the feeder and then down to the deck where he pecks up food fallen from the feeder, or usually flung out by the nuthatches, and eats his fill before flying up to the small overhanging eave to look down at the feeder then back down to the railing, the chair, and the deck to peck up more food. He just cannot figure out how to get his big body into the feeder and he doesn't seem to hang down as well as the hairy woodpecker does. I'm going to have to install a larger feeder for him -- and for the larger birds, although I will not stock dead mice and roadkill or catch grasshoppers and insects for the crows. That's is where I draw the line.

No, the white lines that look like eyes are not eyes, but the eyebrows I mentioned. His eye is the dark glittery orb beneath the stark white slash. He's my favorite of all the birds.

I have had some trouble identifying another of my daily visitors, a small brown/dark grey bird that prefers to get his food from the deck. I thought it was a pygmy nuthatch, but he didn't have the white breast. It turns out he is very likely a western wood peewee. Peewee is the sound he makes. There are only two and they are likely mates.

They may look drab in the photo above, but they are not at all drab. A slim, dark arrow of feathers hopping around on the deck inent on gathering food is what I see every day. They are so dark they seem like shadow arrows, a graceful slash of darkness, animated and intent on their task. They are also favorites.

It's always busy around here, and not just with the birds. The next neighbor's black cat is always slinking out in the weeds at the fenceline stalking the birds. She is smart enough to know that a horde of birds that gathers at my feeder is more dangerous to her than they seem, even for their small size. I've no doubt the horde would descend and peck out the cat's greedy eyes. She prowls the deck of a morning before the birds descend, but she doesn't stay long. If she is marking her territory and claiming the space, she doesn't stick around for long as her padding prowl turns to a slow rout when the air fills with the calls of descending nuthatches. She slinks into the weeds to watch, crouched low against the ground, eventually turning tail and heading back to the neighbor's property where she is greeted by the confused black squirrel that is intent on wooing and winning her.
The little tar ball scurries down the tree and leaps to land in front of her. She doesn't give him the time of day and just brushes by him, leaving the bushy-tailed Romeo standing alone. He sometimes scurries after her, leaping onto a tree ahead of her and scampering down to land in front of her again and again. I worry for the little fella. One day she might be just cranky enough to give him a good swipe of her unsheathed claws. I doubt it would deter him. He is determined to get this particular female to give in to his determined advances.

Usually at dusk, the mule deer does appear in the yard, a whole harem of does, young and old, even late season fawns. They particularly enjoy the patch of moss and flowers below the deck where they browse and graze every day. One day just past noon, 9 does caught my attention and I went out on the deck to watch them and snap a few photos with my Kindle Fire. Around the northwest end of the house came two more does and one doe hopped the wire fence between my land and the neighbors as gracefully and as airy as a ballet dancer en pointe. Light as a feather as if the 4-foot fence were no more than a speed bump or fallen log.

The deer are getting ready for rut the end of November and beginning of December and I have seen harems up and down the road when I drive down to get the mail or into town. I saw a small herd of stags among one of the harems near the llamas grazing down on county road 1. They were the first stags I had seen since the 3 stage I saw at the hunting club where two hunters dressed in camouflage gathered their rifles and gear from the back of their trucks to take their prizes. I do have a problem with gathering deer or antelope or even buffalo in a hunt club to kill for sport. It's not the same as hiding in a tree blind or stalking the deer in the wild. That I can understand and even approve, but not captive prey. Doesn't sit well with me.

At any rate, I got a few not great photos of the does. Next time I snap some pictures, I'll use my camera. The Kindle Fire is not made for quality pictures. (Click on the pictures to see them better.)



This last photo is one I shot for a friend who sold me the pyramidal paperweight on the table. I have been trying to decide between the geometric black and white lamp or the red lamp on the floor next to the table. What do you think? Yes, that's my camera on the lower shelf next to the door ready for the does to come back later when I have the time to stop and take some more pictures.


I bought a book about Colorado birds. After all, I enjoy the views from my windows and doors and decks and watching the animals interact and feed. It's all part of what makes my home peaceful and beautiful and . . . well, home. The views and the animals and the peace are what I look forward to in the coming years as my roots plunge deeper into the rocky earth. This every changing world is just what I need to feed my soul. It's all part of getting into a new rhythm.
That is all. Disperse.

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