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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Okay, keep the noise down.  I know, I haven’t written in a while.  Where have I been, what have I been doing?  Not much that was different from before.  I was just trying to manage my energy.  Sometimes fibromyalgia requires that.  So I have been doing the most urgent things and putting the rest out of sight and out of mind.  But my energy seems to be returning and I hope to be “spouting off” on a more regular basis again.

To begin, let me tell you where I am.  I flew to Florida yesterday to visit a dear friend in Leesburg.  I’ve written about him before though you would not have known it.  But he’s having tough times and needs to be cheered and encouraged.  I flew into the Orlando airport from the airport in Hartford, CT.  This is only the second time I have traveled solo; the prior time was last month when I went to SD for the blessing of my friends’ house on Pine Ridge Reservation.  I will say that was easier, even though I had to cross the entire O’Hare Airport to make my connection.  Both flights were pleasant enough.  The difference is driving.

There are far too many drivers for my liking in Florida — definitely more than in South Dakota.  I’m not a big fan of traffic!  But I made it safely and not too stresses.

The images I’d like to leave you with are the ones that greeted me as I drove from the airport.

The first was the sun.  It was just above the western horizon as I left.  It looked huge, at least three times the side the sun usually appears.  Due to the slight haze in the sky, it appeared as a gigantic orange ball.  However, it did not have the glare that the sun usually has as you drive toward it.  So you could actually look at it and appreciate the beauty.  I wished my camera was not packed.  The sky was amazing shades of blue and what we, as children, had called “sky blue pink” for lack of more accurate color names.  Perhaps you know the colors I mean.

As the sun was dipping in the western sky, the full moon was rising in the eastern sky.  It, too, looked immense.  It seemed to fill the sky.  It was simply beautiful and very bright.

I am a big nature fan and it almost felt as if these beauties were God’s gift to me for daring to take this trip and travel alone again.  I knew I was grateful for the gift.

I think it is so important to accept the gifts we are given, especially when we aren’t expecting them.  When ;you are a giver, it is important to remember how to receive.  It helps you understand the other person, the recipient of your own gifts.

Time to run.  But I promise there will be more to read now.  I’ve missed writing.  That too is a gift.

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A friend of my daughter’s just posted on Facebook about something that I’ve been saying since yesterday as well.

*scrape*  *scrape*  “Sorry for the noise, dragging my soapbox out.”

For many of us in New England, Hurricane Irene did not live up to her billing.  That isn’t to say that there was no damage or that there aren’t many folks who are still being inconvenienced by power outages.  There was damage and many are still in the dark.  But Irene had been billed as the “storm of the century” and hyped by every media outlet and government agency as nature’s version of Armageddon.  It didn’t turn out to be that way for most in the area where I live.

In my yard, for example, there were some very small branches that fell from the trees, leaves and a little bit of water in the basement.  We went for a drive yesterday afternoon and did not see much worse.  Yes, there were trees broken and fallen here and there.  Only one or two had fallen on or even close to a house.  Most of the fallen trees we saw either partially blocked a road, fell on power lines (hence the outages) or simply fell harmlessly in a yard or field.  Clean up work to be sure, but not significant damage.

If you were one of the few people who had a tree fall on your house, you did indeed suffer a catastrophe.  However, if you are out there just raking up leaves, you are in the majority and lucky.  We did not see roofs, shingles or siding blown off houses; we did not see signs blown down; we did not see shattered windows.

The problem is that people are complaining that it wasn’t “bad enough.”  After all, they went out and bought water and bread so they wouldn’t starve for a few days.  They were glued to their TV sets (til the power went out) watching for news of the devastation being wrought by the storm.  Perhaps some were realizing how tied to electronics they are when the power was no longer available.

I think folks should be grateful instead of complaining.  They should be acknowledging that we “dodged a bullet” on this one.  It was a HUGE storm!  We were lucky that it didn’t cause more damage here.  We were fortunate that the storm reduced in fury before it hit much of New England.  Mother Nature is notoriously fickle and change is one of her basic character traits.  She is also a bit of a trickster!  She loves to change a few small things to see how we respond (like taking some steam out of a hurricane or putting a tornado in an area which typically doesn’t have them).  Mother Nature revels in being unpredictable.  Just when we think we have her figured out with our knowledge and our technology, she throws us a curve ball to test us.

She isn’t always kind with the tests – there are plenty of times when things are worse than we had expected.  This time, in our neck of the woods, we got lucky and things were not as bad as expected.

So why are people complaining?!

Why are people blaming the weather folks for Mother Nature’s vagaries?  Why are folks unhappy that their homes were not demolished?  Why are they sad and whining about the fact that they prepared “for nothing?”

It wasn’t nothingeverywhere!  There were places where the predictions were spot-on.  There are places where people have been flooded out of their homes, where trees fell in the wrong places and where the winds tore up homes.

 

Personally, I think our society is in a sad state when people have so lost touch with Mother Nature that they expect to be able to perfectly know, predict and control her.  In the profound words of an old acquaintance,

 

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This is a true story and the names have not been changed to protect the innocent or anyone else.  Yes, it’s probably true that the woodpeckers will be able to maintain their anonymity whether I use their names or not.  Still, it is a first for me to not protect the names and identities of those I write about.

Two days ago I was sitting at this same computer, trying to decide what I wanted to do next, when there was a loud and violent crash into the large bay window about 4 feet away from me.  My very first thought, I will confess, was that my idiot neighbor (who name I will not use) had “missed” badly when throwing his dog’s ball across the street for the dog to chase.  I have been expecting that since the weather got warm enough for him to sit in his lawn chair and launch the ball with whatever launcher he has purchased to let him work even less than he does.

I guess that I will still have to wait for that crash, because when I glanced out, he was not playing ball with the dog.  It’s always good to have something to look forward to.

My second guess was that a bird had hit the window.  That has happened before, though never with such force.  I realized that, if a bird had hit with that much force, it might have been injured.  So being the intrepid investigator that I am, I went to the front door and looked out.

My heart sank.  There, in the flower bed directly below the window, was a female Downy Woodpecker face-planted in the dirt.  I went out and looked more closely – she was breathing!!  But as I approached she did not move.  She looked so small and fragile.  My heart continued its downward plunge.  Thoughts started racing through my brain.  If Ms Downy was hurt, what should I do?  How would I know if she was seriously injured?  What do you do with an injured woodpecker?  I’m pretty good at first aid but usually for humans.  What if she was too seriously injured to be helped?  Would someone (I knew it would not be me) have to “put her out of her misery?”  The idea of this creature being too injured to get food (thus starving to death) or to find safety if the neighborhood outdoor cats came prowling (thus becoming a cat toy) was totally abhorrent to me.

All those thoughts occurred in perhaps 2-3 minutes as I observed Ms Downy.  The next thoughts were how can I reach her and check her out?  How can I be sure to not hurt her more than she already is hurt?  The flower bed is raised and she was at the back of the bed which I could not reach without climbing into it.  Then I remember the bamboo rods I had purchased to stake some sunflowers later in the season.

I hurried to the back porch, retrieved one of the rods and returned to Ms Downy.  She was still breathing.  Good!  The rod was just a little bigger in diameter than a #2 pencil and light.  Very easily maneuverable.  The first thing I did was to see what she would do if I put the tip of the rod near her.  Nothing – not a good sign.  I was not in a position to stabilize her neck, the way they do for athletes who are injured and unconscious.  I very gently touched her back with the rod, stroking her feathers from neck to tail.  Did I see an eye open?  I did it a few more times and yes, she was definitely opening her eyes!!

I spoke to her soothingly as I pondered my next move.  I decided to see if she would tolerate me lifting her face from the dirt.  Gently sliding the rod under her throat, I lifted it a few millimeters.  She opened her eyes and blinked – and kept her head up when I slid the rod out.  We chatted for a time, but there wasn’t much more movement on her part.

I decided to see if raising up her chest a bit would make her think about using her wings.  So I slid the rod carefully under her chest and lifted a bit.  She did not flap or try to fly.  I was slightly discouraged until I realized that, after I’d slid the rod out, she had kept herself up, braced a bit on her wings.  I still had hope for Ms Downy flying away.  She, however, did not seem inclined to move on her own.

I decided that perhaps a sip of water or a bit of food might be a good thing to put near her before I left her for a while.  So I got a plastic cap from my last diet Snapple and filled it with water.  Then using the rod, I pushed it slowly over the earth until it was next to her head.  I got a bit of suet from the feeder she usually uses and placed it next to the water.  Then I went in to make dinner since my husband would be home from work soon.  I checked on her periodically, stroking her back and speaking to her.  She seemed to be getting more lucid.  And eventually she moved her wings some, though definitely not enough to fly.  I hoped it was progress.

When my husband arrived home, I immediately took him out to the front flower bed.  I asked him if he thought he could pick up Ms Downy and bring her to a tree in the back yard.  He decided to try and stepped up into the flower bed.  Ms Downy eyed him warily.  When he lowered his hands to try to cup her in them, she tried to flap her wings and hopped away.  I was very encouraged.  After a few tries, he managed to pick her up and we brought her to the oak tree in the back yard.  I hoped she would be able to get high enough to be out of cat-reach.

My husband placed Ms Downy at the base of the tree and stepped back.  We watched as she seemed to tilt her head to one side and listen to the other birds who were tweeting quite a bit since we were disturbing their dinner.  As we waited and watched, Ms Downy began to hop up the side of the tree.  She took frequent rest breaks but made steady progress.  With high hopes, we went in to eat our dinner.

When I went back out, she was back on the ground.  Oh dear, had she fallen again or simply forgotten that the goal was to go UP and come back down instead.  I walked over to where she was . . . and she began to hop away.  I knew she was still recovering and knew more about potential threats (though I was certainly not a threat to her).  I decided the best route would be to try to get her to move back to the tree on her own.  So I did my best woodpecker herding moves and it worked!

She began to hop back up the tree and after she reached what I thought was a safe height, I went in.  I didn’t want to stress her by my presence.  But of course I kept checking on her — with the binoculars I have in the house.  It was on one of those checks that I realized there was a second woodpecker on the tree, a male.

As I watched, he hopped along side of her, trying to get her to hop further up the tree.  He would hop up a couple of feet, then return to her side and repeat the whole thing again and again.  It was then I realized that Ms Downy was actually Mrs Downy.  Apparently Mr Downy was concerned when she was away from the nest too long and came to look for her.  Now he was trying to help her understand what she needed to do to return to the nest.

After a while Mr Downy began to flutter around her as well as hopping next to her, as if he were trying to remind her to fly.  He fluttered and hopped and hopped and fluttered.  Then he flew off.

Had Mr Downy abandoned Mrs Downy?  Or were there eggs or chicks in the nest that needed attention?  It is that time of year.  He came back several more times, so it was not abandonment.  Perhaps it was simply demonstrating how to fly.  A sort of woodpecker rehab.

Then came the time when I looked and could not see either woodpecker.  So I went outside to check.  The oak is a huge, old tree at least 40 feet high.  Finally, near the very top, I spotted the two woodpeckers.  They were out on the end of the smaller branches at the edge of the canopy.  As I watched, Mr Downy flew off to the north, which was the direction he had been flying to before.  The nest must be in that direction.

Suddenly Mrs Downy left the branch and sailed down, over the house, landing in the front lawn.  I ran around the house and there she was, settled into the grass like a jet that has made a perfect landing.  Had it been too much?  She wasn’t moving.  I walked over to where she was and spoke to her.  She looked at me for a few moments and I would like to think there was some recognition of my voice.  Then she began to hop . . . toward the road!

No, I shouted in my head!  It may be a dead-end that is a quiet road, but it’s also going to make you clear cat-bait if you stop to rest in the middle of the road.  I went around so I was between the road and Mrs Downy.  Mrs Downy was obviously getting a clearer head.  She began to hop toward the dogwood tree in the front yard.  I made sure she was up far enough to not attract cats, then went in.  I could watch her from my computer desk again.

Before too long Mr Downy was back.  He continued his efforts to get her to the top of the tree, then flew away.  I watched her in top of the tree for a while then looked away to work on a project.

When I looked back, Mrs Downy was gone.  I checked out the entire tree, the yard, the street and the neighbor’s yard.  Mrs Downy was nowhere to be found.  I have not seen her since, nor Mr Downy either.

I do not know for certain where Mrs Downy is or whether she made it home to her nest.  So I will make up the ending of the story as I hope it played out.

Mrs Downy finally had recovered enough to really test her wings.  She managed to fly to the trees behind the neighbor’s house.  From there, she flew from tree to tree, with Mr Downy cheering her on the whole time.  She finally arrived at her nest, where she has been spending time recovering from the physical and emotional trauma.  Someday she will return to feed in my yard with her young.

Although I was able to find facts about Downy woodpeckers on various sites and did learn that both the male and female work at hatching the eggs, I could not find any reference to the kind of relationships they forge or the kind of behavior I observed.

If you would like to know more about Downy woodpeckers, here’s a nice site:  http://www.sialis.org/dowobio.htm

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UPDATE:

It’s about 6 hours after I finished writing and there are 2 Downy woodpeckers at the oak tree and suet feeder.  Based on the territory information I read, they are very likely the same birds that I wrote about.  I am so very happy she is well.

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As I stand at my window, I see a Downy Woodpecker make a quick dash to the suet feeder.  Instead of eating, though, he clings to the side and looks around the feeder to the tree from which he had just flown.  Perhaps I am only projecting my own sentiments, but he seemed to be puzzled and sad.

I looked past him to the back yard of my recently deceased neighbor.  My neighbor never had any children, so it is the nieces and nephews who must handle the estate.  They have had realtors checking the house and listing the property.  They have taken out the furnishings they wanted.  I expected all of that – after all, I’m doing it for my parents’ home.

What I didn’t expect was the carnage!

The house is in need of some work – a power washing would improve its appearance dramatically.  The shrubs in front of the house definitely needed trimming.  Instead of trimming, however, they decided to have them torn out, ripped out by the roots.  The rhododendron I had practically coveted for so many years because of its beautiful, deep fuchsia color – gone while I was at the store.  No time for me to even beg for the root ball.

Little did I know that this was just the beginning of the wanton destruction.

A few days ago I saw a septic company drive up to my neighbor’s house.  Now it was the state’s turn to be the catalyst for mayhem.  This wasn’t surprising, since state law now mandates specific guidelines for the septic systems of property being sold.  All the homes on this street are over 50 years old and do not meet the current guidelines without serious upgrades.  I know this because I have had to do this with my own property when the original system was failing.

When I upgraded the system, I lost one tree in our yard.  It was sad, because it was a beautiful, healthy 40′ oak tree.  But the contractor I used worked diligently to save 2 other similar trees.  I was quite grateful for that.

It isn’t that I loved the trees for themselves, though that surely was true.  But the trees are home to the many birds who visit our feeders.  They are a roadway for the pesky but adorable squirrels.  They provide us with a comfortable, shady yard and a lawn that does not burn out in summer.

They were also a link to my past.  The original owners of the house were my grandparents.  The trees have grown, indeed flourished, as they provided a support for the clothesline and for birdhouses.  They shaded my grandparents as they aged.  They shaded my own children as they grew from babies into adults.

I know, you have now pegged me as a bit daft or at the very least “soft”.  I will admit to both.  But it isn’t the sentimentality that is making me sad right now.

I should probably explain that my neighbor’s yard did not have any oak trees.  It did, however, have 7 immense spruce trees – all at least 40′ to 50′ tall!  They were healthy trees.  They provided privacy as well as shade and wildlife habitat.  You have probably noted my use of the past tense.

They are gone.

The tree service company which the septic contractor chose was quick and efficient.  In fact, it was the same company I’d used years earlier.  I thought perhaps they would remove just the 4 trees at the rear of the property.  I was sadly mistaken.  Over the course of two and a half days, all 7 trees were removed to make way for the septic system.

The neighbor’s yard now looks like a cemetery with the stumps as 7 silent tombstones.  The corpses had been hauled away earlier in the day.  My own yard looks naked and feels vulnerable.  It is too open now.  It “feels” wrong.

I know how the woodpecker felt, as he watched the destruction begin.  It is now complete and I will have to cope with it.  I’ve given you some pictures below so you can see what I mean.

Meanwhile, I will mourn the loss of such aged souls and plot my “revenge.”  I think it will definitely include the planting of some trees.

 

Before: One of the majestic spruce trees at right of photo

 

 

Stripped & silent: the same tree at the left of this photo.

 

 

After: The tree is gone.

 

 

The silent witness who will also soon be gone.

 

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