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Posts Tagged ‘birds’

Imagination Itself

In memory of the pretty tree in full bloom around the corner, which our neighbor just cut down.

Also, it’s Tuesday.

(This is the part where I like to bring it back to a cheerful ending. Right. Hmm.)

Ah yes! I’m making excellent progress on the bird front, lots of goldfinches, robins, cardinals, chickadees, juncos and sparrows. Nature finds a way, even if it sometimes needs a little help:)

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“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.”

― William Blake
Photo by bantersnaps on Unsplash

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I may have mentioned my unspoken, one-sided, possibly small-minded battle with the neighbors for “Favorite Neighborhood Bird Oasis.” For years, our backyard was the place to be, featuring sustainably under-managed undergrowth, a giant tube feeder full of black oil sunflower seeds, a bird bath with water three times a day in summer, and a heated bath in winter. What more could a bird want?

What the neighbors now have, apparently. Feeders that are easier for squirrels and larger birds to break into, a bird bath with a powered fountain, and oh yes, even more feeders (I think they have about a dozen).

So I’m out numbered and outgunned, but not giving up. I’m plotting next steps, including a new feeder with nyjer seed for the finches and more bird-friendly spring plantings.

The bad news is that I’ll probably still lose because I also don’t want to be out there twice a day refilling feeders decimated by all of squirreldom.

The good news? This all spells a net gain for the local wildlife, no matter what.

So, win win. That’s the kind of fight I like. 

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Photo by Miikka Luotio on Unsplash

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This is a lovely piece about a ship, a bird, and making the most of even trying circumstances. It’s a message I think we could all use right about now:)

What a Songbird Lost at Sea Taught Me About Survival | Audubon

She has reminded me that all of us can find ourselves lost. Winds don’t only carry songbirds to sea.

And here, floating atop this undulating unknown, Homeslice reminds me I am still on Earth. There is air and water, light and dark, and there is life in all forms, including restless humans, migrating birds, and the symbiotic methane-fueled fan worms discovered on our trip. Including even the sort-of-living viruses that plague us. We travel the wind, walk on land, float in currents, or remain anchored in sediment. We’re all surviving on this spinning island in the cosmos. And there’s more than one way to survive, even at the bottom of a sea of Mondays.

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Female Scarlet Tanager, Ottawa, ON
Matt Osborne, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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(Being me, I couldn’t resist a Hobbit reference, but this post is about migratory birds in general. No Goblins allowed!)

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We’ve still got two feet of snow on the lawn but the signs of Spring are everywhere. Melting ice, the smell of skunk in the night, and Canadian teenagers in shorts and T-shirts (it is above freezing, after all). And soon, the birds will be back. Last evening I heard a flock of Canada geese heading for the river, and they aren’t the only avian adventurers heading our way.

If you are interested in the when and where of bird migrations, you’re in luck. From now through the end of May you can track migration forecasts, get location-based alerts, and learn more about what’s happening in Birdlandia. 

BirdCast – Bird migration forecasts in real-time

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And as for those eagles, and other birds of prey? Check out this story about a suffragist and bird lover who established Pennsylvania’s Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in 1934. It’s an incredible place, and is why I am lucky enough to know what it’s like to watch from the edge of a stone outcropping while hawks ride the thermals mere feet away.

Breathtaking.

How Mrs. Edge Saved the Birds | Smithsonian Magazine

The abundance of raptors at North Lookout owes a great deal to topography and wind currents, both of which funnel birds toward the ridgeline. But it owes even more to an extraordinary activist named Rosalie Edge, a wealthy Manhattan suffragist who founded Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in 1934. Hawk Mountain, believed to be the world’s first refuge for birds of prey, is a testament to Edge’s passion for birds—and to her enthusiasm for challenging the conservation establishment. Bold and impossible to ignore, she was described by a close colleague as “the only honest, unselfish, indomitable hellcat in the history of conservation.”

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A story from that trip, with recipe:

Mrs. Shaw’s Chakchouka

(adapted from The New York Times Large Type Cookbook)

Notes from my father: Here’s the best story I have about this recipe; this happened at Hawk Mountain. We were there to see the raptor migrations in October. We were camping at a nearby state park and it was freezing, in fact it snowed. We were cooking chakchouka for 4 in a big pan over a Coleman stove. Right near the end of the cooking we picked up the pan to serve everyone and it tipped and spilled a large part of dinner into the dirt. You two were off running around in the woods somewhere, so we both looked at each other and then at dinner in the dirt, looked back at each other, then brushed the dirt off and put it all back in the pan. It was actually still pretty good. You know in statistics “robustness” means that you can violate the rules a lot and the results still hold, so you could say that this is a very robust recipe.

  • 3 links Italian sweet sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 2 potatoes, diced
  • 1 cup water
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  1. Sauté sausage pieces in a large skillet until browned.
  2. Add olive oil, onions and garlic and cook 3 minutes.
  3. Add green pepper, tomato and potatoes and cook 2 minutes longer.
  4. Add water and allow mixture to simmer, uncovered until potato is tender. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Stir in eggs and continue to cook, stirring, until eggs are done, about 2 minutes. Garnish as desired.

Serves 4.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

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Yesterday’s post was a long one and right now, the federal tax institutions of two countries are calling my name. Also my wallet.

So today we have a technique using Affinity Photo to make a picture look more like a painting. Compare the original vs. modified versions below and you’ll see that the method isn’t exact, but it’s a quick and easy way to take the edges off reality.

(And the way taxes usually go, that will probably come in handy;)

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Original Photo by David Clode on Unsplash
Original Photo by zhengtao tang on Unsplash

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Also, I like birds and fish. Enjoy your weekend!

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I’ve got a bit of a magpie mind. This is a magpie:

Magpies are known for collecting things.* Little things, shiny things, things that don’t belong to them, things that don’t always seem terribly useful (although it turns out they are only birds that recognize themselves in a mirror). But maybe they’re just curious and like the way these items stimulate their brains?

That’s how it works for me. I collect the things that I like, and my shelves are full of maps, pressed pennies, metal animal figurines, little mechanical toys, outdated cameras, paper, stamps, books of course, secret decoder rings, Star Wars stuff, wood stuff, stuff to make other stuff. Lots of things in that last category, actually. Here’s a sample.

I subscribe to the McGyver school of creation, so pretty much anything has the potential to be, well, anything.** 

And from it all I get… ideas! That’s the kind of approach that works for me, but there are a lot of ways to be creative. No matter how you do it, the best advice is to do it. 

A lot of it. That’s the lesson I need.

“quality is a probabilistic function of quantity… the prolific strategy is the most consistent method to cultivate your imagination and creativity. Try it out, keep the portions that work for you, and throw out what doesn’t. After all, there’s no right way to approach creativity —there is simply your way…. Discipline will get your routine started, but happiness and excitement keep it going.”

— Herbert Lui, Creativity strategies for more breakthrough ideas

Do that. Make that. Be that. And go magpies!

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* It turns out this reputation is undeserved, but I’m going with it because the idea is widely-held and because it fits today’s theme, dang it! Magpies are also a controversial species. They are loud, territorial, predatory and not above a bit of casual thievery (I claim none of these traits for myself), but while some people hate them, they can also be both useful and delightful

** Except duct tape. That’s stuff’s irreplaceable.

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In general, I like being home but these days I’ll admit, at times my thoughts stray to travel. As in, “Oh yes, once upon a time we used to go places and see things” and “There was a whole world out there, remember?”

And then I ran across scans of an old travel journal and had the fun of paging through the journey. Visiting the Swedish royal palace, discovering my brother’s previously hidden talent as a navigator, outrunning a swarm of mosquitoes, champagne in Stockholm, eating fish cheeks, taking tea in a converted windmill.

It was all lovely, even the insecty bits. And I’m pretty sure I’m not just saying that because travel has become one of those mythical ideas, like unicorns and shaking hands with strangers.

At the very back of the journal I rediscovered my father’s bird list. I think it was made after the trip, and there’s something precious about our layered handwriting, anchoring our shared memories to the page.

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Female European Marsh Harrier
Female European Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus), Paco Gómez, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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>> Today’s Lesson, or, tl;dr: If a bird strikes your window, it’s probably* in trouble. Help if you can. <<

A bird hit my window today. The thunk echoed through the house and into my office, and of course I went to investigate. Two juncos scattered as I approached the back door, but a third wasn’t going anywhere. It lay on its side on top of a big plastic storage bin that holds bird seed and miscellaneous gardening equipment. It’s not the kind of place a bird normally hangs out. Too exposed. Smells too much like cat. But there it was, tilted over on one side and twitching.

I waited, because this has happened before. Sometimes they fly away.

Ten minutes later, the bird was still there, but it had rolled over to perch on a coil of garden hose tucked behind the bin. I propped one half of a shoe box on the bin to keep it from looking too much like dinner to some passing hawk, hoped the cat stayed asleep, and did some research.

We have some wonderful bird organizations in Ottawa.** The Wild Bird Care Centre rescues all kinds of birds and also has a lot of useful information online. Pick it up, they said. Put it in a bag or a box and bring it in, it probably needs help. Won’t cost you a thing, we’re just that awesome (and they are!)

Bonus: birds can be adorable!

We’ve had bird strikes before and while a couple picked themselves up and went on their way, one most decidedly did not. It was a mourning dove, a beautiful grey bird that decided the yard looked like a fine spot to lie down in, and that was that. We picked it up and took it to the Wild Bird Centre. Later, they reported that it had a broken wing and pelvis so, yeah, not walking away from that one any time soon. (It took months, but the Bird Centre rehabbed it and released it back into the wild with a flock of its fellow doves. How great is that?)

Remembering that dove and flush with new information, I called Safe Wings Ottawa.

“The Centre’s closed for the night but bring the bird to me and I’ll care for it,” said the nice woman at the other end of the line. “It probably needs help. But be quick, flying away doesn’t mean it’s ok.”

I thanked her, grabbed the other half of the shoe box and headed back outside.

The bird flew away.

I called the nice lady back. She was polite but perhaps just a wee bit exasperated when I said, “You know how I called about that little junco? Yeah, it woke up and flew away.” She must hear that a lot.

But next time, she won’t hear it from me.

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Looking for information and/or window stickers to prevent bird strikes? Here, I’ll save you the trouble:
Prevent birds from hitting windows with these products — BirdWatching

I got some of the UV reflective stickers and they seem ok but not great. We still had a strike after I put those up. After that I went old school, and also use gold star stickers that I picked up from a craft or dollar store. They aren’t great for outdoors but will last the season if in a relatively protected place.

Figure out which windows are problematic (do they reflect the great outdoors? the answer may change depending on the season; does interior light make it look like there’s a passage through the house?) and stick away!

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* I’m just guessing here, but if it knocks itself out I’d say definitely in trouble.
** Most relevant today: the Ottawa Valley Wild Bird Care Centre, a charitable organization whose mission is to “assess, treat, and rehabilitate injured, ill, or orphaned wild birds,” and Safe Wings Ottawa, a “program of the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club to reduce bird mortality from window collisions.” If you aren’t in this neck of the woods but need help with a bird, OVWBCC recommends you visit www.wildliferehabber.com or call your local vet.

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