Why Birds?

Backyard and Beyond

Why not mammals, asks Simon Barnes in The Meaning of Birds. He doesn’t use the example of dogs and cats, but these do illustrate our affinity for our fellow warm-blooded, lactating fur-balls. Of course, these are domesticated animals, tamed for precisely their human-philic characteristics. Wild mammals, which we nevertheless try to cute-ify and commodify, know better. They don’t want much to do with homicidal maniacs. Except for a few exceptions (and places), mammals are quite scarce to the eye. Cagey, elusive, nocturnal. (Did you know that the majority of mammal species, by far, are bats?)

Most birds, on the other wing, are diurnal. They’re found everywhere. They’re beautiful, sing marvelously, and fly, all extremely powerful attractions that have pulled us towards them for a very, very long time.

This is, in short, a book for the bird or nature skeptic in your life.

The forces of death —…

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Books of Lichen

Backyard and Beyond

An announcement from my other life:

As some of you may know, I write for JSTOR Daily, a free service of the non-profit database JSTOR. I usually write about historical topics, although I occasionally slip something in about natural history.

The Daily has decided to launch a membership component on Patreon. It’s expensive publishing seven days a week and they don’t want to go the ad route. They’re hoping readers will subscribe on a sliding scale of $3-$10 per month. Reading JSTOR Daily will still be free to all, but the organization is hoping superfans will help defray some of the costs. (Oh, internet!)

Please consider subscribing if that’s your thing. And if not, don’t fret over it.

And for putting up with this plea, here’s a sneak preview of Raptor Wednesday
and Thrusday.

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Raptor Wednesday

Backyard and Beyond

Walking home, the low November sun in my eyes, I was not at first sure that the shape on the corner of my apartment building was. I briefly wondered if there was an architectural flourish I’d never noticed. The silhouette quickly resolved itself. A Red-tailed Hawk.
With prey. And screeching at the other Red-tailed that landed on the parapet nearby. The source of this buteo excitement was a pigeon, probably one of the crew which regularly perch atop this roof.
A very stiff wind was playing havoc with the hawk’s feathers.
Mantling, or spreading wings and tail to shroud the prey, and rending squab, the bird screeched and watched the sky. The other Red-tail, also a juvenile, was still around.

Going to this leave a cliffhanger, or roof-hanger… until tomorrow.

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Raptor Wednesday on Thursday

Backyard and Beyond

Having spotted this Red-tailed Hawk on the roof of my apartment building when I returned home last week, I hurried up the five flights to see what I could see.
The bird was mantling over its prey, spreading out wings and tail feathers.
Classic raptor behavior. We surmise from this that the bird is trying to conceal its prey from others.
Like, um… so it seems a good surmise. This other Red-tail was also a juvenile. I wonder if these were siblings? (Saw four adult Red-tails soaring together over Green-Wood recently; more recently this last weekend, saw three from my window along with a Common Raven, but in the excitement and the cloudy light, I didn’t get any ages.)
Access to our roof is via the stairway bulkhead. The wind was fierce. I didn’t want to go out, which would probably have scared off the hawk. So I held the…

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A Pen, a Sword, and a Great Blue Heron walked into a bar. Which was mightier?

Life on the Lighter Side

I’ve been thinking about killing someone off, and it’s harder than I thought it would be. I am participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which is a campaign to write a novel (at least 50,000 words) in the month of November. I have reached the juncture in my story where someone must die. I knew death was inevitable, but I’ve been writing around it for the last three days. I can’t bring myself to do it.

I am pretty sure that it’s a good thing that this is hard for me. It should be hard. After all, my novel is based on real events and real people whom I closely know, so this is personal. Even though death is a part of life, I wasn’t prepared to do the deed with my own hand on the keyboard.

In 1839, novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton penned the words, “The pen…

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Back Yard Photographer – What is this bird??

Abundantly Distracted

Mid morning I glanced out the window that overlooks my back yard, just to see if there was any bird activity. It was time for a break and I wanted to get some more photos of the birds. I have a few ideas of what I would like to capture, but so far the birds have not been agreeing with me on their poses. 🙂 I grabbed my camera and headed out to my back yard.

I heard the usual cardinal song as well as the morning dove. I’m pretty sure I saw a red headed woodpecker or two fly by. Most of the birds were in the trees and hadn’t come out to the bird feeders yet. My prospects of getting pictures of birds during this break were looking bleak. Then I saw a group of birds fly over head to one of my favorite trees. As I hadn’t…

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Back Yard Photographer – Family of Cardinals

Abundantly Distracted

Happily a family of cardinals has decided to call the trees behind my house their home. I must admit, I wasn’t sure there was a family until just this past week. Over the Summer I had seen the cardinals but wasn’t sure if I was seeing one multiple times or several different cardinals. Finally this week, I saw several of them together. At one point I saw three by one of the bird feeders, but I wasn’t quick enough to get the shot this time.

A few fun facts from allaboutbirds.org :

  • The Northern Cardinal is the state bird for seven states
  • The oldest recorded Northern Cardinal was a female. She was just about 16 years old.
  • If the male Northern Cardinal sees its reflection in a mirror is can spend hours trying to fight off the intruder. The male fiercely protects it’s breeding territory.

Below are a few pictures…

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They call our place HOME

Folsom Mill Studio

Assorted feathered visitors who stay and have their young, in our backyard.


I think this is a  young Coopers Hawk and he swooped in to try to grab a little Juncos or Red Squirrel , what a Naughty Bird,  no I know he was hungry but stayed with me for a long time while I took photo after photo of him, while it was snowing out.

Little Juncos thankful it was not lunch!

They all hung out inside my rose bushes, beside me and my camera.  That naughty hawk scared them bad enough that I made them feel safe!

Male Cardinal munching on Black Oil Sunflower Seeds

I love that all of these birds like our place enough to call it home.  I whistle for these males and in they come for a meal, love being one with nature.

His mate

Who doesn’t like Mallards .   I can hardly wait till they…

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Crazier Than Normal

Folsom Mill Studio

Not sure why I am compelled to step up and give of myself by way of volunteering but it seems I went from so much free time to none are you that way as well.

Volunteering for community based events and the garden club have taken on an a life of its own. The self-watering container in town will be emptied this week and the soil inside them added to closeby garden we do. If we get a warm day where we can use the hose, a bleach solution mixed with dawn that will get them back to bright white and germ free for next springs Pansies. We will leave the leaves for Butterflies as well as all other bugs and maybe they will do their work on making the soil even better and feed a few birds.

I am also a member of our library group that holds books…

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