Tag Archives: wildlife

A happy/sad

Fledgling robin naps before leaving nest

My babies left the nest today. I’ll miss the little shriekers.

It’s been a busy summer for the songbirds in our area, building nests and raising families. A robin has chosen a cleft in the lilac bush outside our kitchen window for her nest, for the second year in a row. I’ve enjoyed watching the activity as sky-blue eggs appeared, and then tiny, cute-ugly dinos hatched out.

The first week, they’re naked and uncoordinated — little more than gangly legs and giant beaky mouths on tiny, floppy bodies, with spindly, wobbly necks barely strong enough to lift that enormous head.

But on a steady diet of bugs and fruit, the second week they become floofy and grow weird little pins (the start of feathers) on their wings and backs. By now they’re strong enough to snuggle down quiet in the nest and raise a vigorous clamor when a parent brings them a meal, begging for each morsel.

By the third week they begin to actually resemble birds. The pins grow into feathers and the floof covers them completely. They become louder and more adventurous, practicing for the next stage of their lives — fledging. (See photo of sleepy fledgling on the edge of the nest.)

Today was the day. One was bravely scouting the lilac branches. His sibling looked down and, with the bold optimism of youth, took a leap and left the nest. With parents guarding them and shouting angrily at intruders, they will scamper around on the ground until their feathers finish growing, and then they’ll fly. They’ll follow their parents around for a while, learning how to be birds — how to sing, eat, drink, and recognize danger. In fact, any time you see a bird fluttering its wings at another bird, that is a fledgling begging for food.

And next year, if they learn well, they’ll raise chicks of their own. Maybe in my lilac bush.

Squirrel wars

Squirrel eating at bird feeder This little sucker figured out how to get to my bird seed. Trouble is, he eats ten times more than a bird. He leaps acrobatically over any obstacle to snarf down the yummy sunflower seeds.

So this was my entertainment of the week. I tried moving it farther away but it made no difference. I tried putting a baffle at the top. He neatly skipped around it and continued his thieving ways.

I went outside at one point with an old pie tin, intending to make a bigger obstacle to block him. As he was boldly sitting there and refusing to move, I yelled at him. Instead of fleeing, he flew at my face, a bold, ninja-attack of doom! Surprised, I held up the pie tin as a shield and the little sucker bounced off it, yelling at me as he retreated.

We’ll see how he likes the new bird feeder I ordered.

(Update – The mooch has been foiled – the new (expensive) bird feeder is the type with a spring, that closes if there’s too much weight on it. After numerous disappointments, the squirrel has gone back to scavenging what the birds see fit to toss to the ground. Problem resolved!)

Nature comes tapping

New Mexico's vibrant wildlife, the plucky roadrunner pays a visit to the author.

The Plucky Roadrunner visits

I’ve been visiting my family in the beautiful state of New Mexico, and marveling at the different wildlife that flocks around. Hummingbirds chase each other from the feeders, a kestrel dives and soars. Buzzards circle in the hot azure skies. Lizards turn suspicious eyes up at me wherever I walk, darting for cover. Butterflies flutter by the dozens, and dragonflies zip past on a mission. Tarantulas and scorpions and vinegarones wander the night. It’s an active and vital place.

But perhaps my favorite, a plucky roadrunner. Tap, tap… I open the blinds to discover who is making the noise. There he is, perched upon the bird feeder and challenging his own reflection in the wide picture-window. What a beauty he is, with his sharp-curved beak and a vibrant sweep of red, white, and blue behind his eyes. He plucks up a dying beetle and, as he speeds away, I see the iridescent green sheen of his long feathers. “Come again,” I call as he recedes into the distance.