Thursday, April 16, 2009

A day like SourPatch Kids, but in reverse

What a good day, with a sour end... like SourPatch Kids candy, but backwards. (They start out sour, then get sweet, if you've never had one)

Filled with birds and bugs and a project.

It started with a Phoebe near the river.
Phoebe 2
I always get phoebes and peewees mixed up visually. I didn't have my field guide with me, but I had my BirdJam. (Hi, Jay!!!)
I played the phoebe call and this sweet little bundle of bravado sang it back to me.
Phoebe singing back to me

At the same place on the river, a pair of wood ducks were checking out the massive old sycamores for a nest site.
Female wood duck in tree

Wood ducks astonish me every time I see one in a tree. I should be used to it by now, being a birder for 7 years...but a duck in a tree. It's weird and wonderful to see. I mean, how do they hang on??? They have...well, DUCK FEET!

I watched the female as she went from tree to tree. She didn't walk along the branches like a raptor would, or any other bird who normally perches up there. If she wanted to move down the branch, she would think about it really hard, bouncing her neck up and down, and then do a half-hop, half-flap to another spot. I laughed out loud quite a few times. The male let her do the house-shopping, and when she got too far away, he would leisurely follow.
Reading up on them at the Cornell All About Birds website, I learned that the babies can jump from heights of 89 m (290 feet!!!) without injury. Wow. I've seen documentaries that show the wee little darlings do their version of base jumping, but 290 feet? Holy Crap!
And the nest is lined with down from the female's breast. Imagine yanking stuff off yourself to care for your baby. I guess breast-feeding comes pretty close.

Later, a towhee visited our feeders.
Towhee sticking his tongue out
They are a rare treat here, smack dab in the middle of our subdivision. No one but us has the necessary cover for them to feel comfortable. It's a shame, too. Lots of our neighbors have bird feeders, but they live on these wide, carpets with no bird cover to speak of.

The visit from the towhee got me thinking of a project I wanted to do. I got the idea from a book I received from Lynne's GIVEAWAY. Click here if you want to read the book. It's right up your alley if you are thinking of becoming a rehabber.

Voila. A Bug Pit:
The Bug Pit
(If you don't know what one is, it's just another way to feed the birds.)
I removed all the grass from the area, filled it in with nice, juicy organic soil (compost) and lots and lots of earthworms, centipedes, slugs, pill bugs....

Lorelei helped.
Lorelei and the Bug Pit

We then covered everything with leaves, to encourage birds to forage and do their kick-scratch thing. The only leaves we could find were dry, so we watered it down.
Watering the Bug Pit
Note the purple purse. Even if she's gardening, accessories are important.
The girls are quite fond of turning over rocks and logs to search for insects, so now whenever they find something, it can go in the Bug Pit.

But. Heavy sigh. My dumb, dumb neighbors....
I went up to the top of the street to wait for Isabelle's bus, and the lawn on the corner was being.....treated.
TruGreen? ChemLawn?
Spray-Everything-With-Poison- so nothing can live there but GRASS- people?
I truly don't understand why people pay for this service. Honestly. I grew up on 14 acres of pure, untreated land and I could still do somersaults in the grass. In the current economy, people are PAYING for POISON? Kill ALL the bugs? Even the GOOD ONES?
Let me get this off my chest. Here's how it goes. You "treat" your lawn to this cocktail of gunk, which kills all the beneficial bugs. And then you need MORE poison to kill what the beneficial bugs would eat for you...for free. Nearly everyone on our street employs at least some kind of poison-service. When our direct neighbors get visited by the Scott's guy, I stand by the window and glare at him. When he gets too close to our fence, I find a reason to go outside, to my car or something, and give him a bit of the Stinky Eye. Keep that crap on your side!

What about fertilizers? WTF? You WANT your grass to grow faster and thicker? So you have to mow it more OFTEN? So you can pay for MORE gasoline and belch out MORE fumes into a rapidly thickening atmosphere?
Well, we have all the bugs. And we are happy about it. And so are our birds.
If Geoff would let me, I would kill ALL of our grass, plant native ground-cover and just grow native shrubs and trees. And wildflowers. And seed-producing plants.
FIFTY NINE bird species and counting, on our little patch (3/4 of an acre!) of Heaven, stuck in the middle of Suburban Hell.

Okay. I went on a rant there.
To leave you with something sweet....tomorrow, GHOW chick banding!


Lynne said...

Know what? I have trouble with Phoebes and Peewees too. I'll have to remember the BirdJam (Hi Jay!)trick.

Glad you liked he book and I love that you built a bug pit!

A pair of Wood Ducks were in our maple last week, looking in the second story window. They check out the same tree EVERY YEAR and every time I see them I flip out.

LauraHinNJ said...

Peewees are tiny, Susan! And look so much lighter gray.

I wonder where you got the bugs to add to your bug pit? Was there a hunting expedition?

(Makes me feel better about the worm bin in my basement at least.)

KGMom said...

So much here to talk about.
Ducks in trees--not something I have seen, but I have read of. Baby ducks jumping--isn't that part of the promo of a new Disney movie?
Pulling down out of yourself--well, yes, that is what we parents do. . .all the time!
One of my vows--when my husband retires--is to convert more of our backyard to native plants. Less grass, more plants.
Finally, accessorizing while gardening--priceless!

Anonymous said...

Okay you know I know jack about birds... but.... dude. That picture of Lorelei? I'm pretty sure somewhere in one of the many ancient photo albums, I have a picture of you in that exact same pose... just... not by a garden. My God, she looks just like you. I love it! LOL


Kyle said...


I just can't stop laughing after reading the comment above (from your sister, I'm guessing?). Even though we've never met, my first thought when I saw that wonderful shot of Miss Lorelei was, "I bet that's a mirror of Susan at the same age." She just looks like she has an abundance of your wonderful spirit of life, with just a touch of sass thrown in. Absolutely adorable! And the purple purse just finishes the picture! What a wonderful family you have -- thanks for sharing them with us.

Susan Gets Native said...

You get wood ducks in your TREE? You lucky duck!

I still get them mixed up.

Convert away! You will be glad you did!

I know JUST the photo you are talking about...the two of us behind your Dad's Cordoba, right? I think you were sticking your tongue out in that one. And Lorelei DOES look like me, and we are a lot alike, but she's sweeter than I could ever hope to be.

Colleen is my oldest friend....we have known each other since before birth.
And yeah, there's a bit of sass. She wouldn't be my kid otherwise.

: )

NatureWoman said...

Ohhh, a nice, juicy bug pit! How cool!!! So how do ducks balance on tree limbs, hmmmm. . . .
I'm still grumping over neighbors that do chemicals. All the birds will have to hang out at your place.

Mary said...

If I didn't have the doggehs, I'd dig up the whole back yard and throw wildflowers seeds by the gallon.

Kelly said...

...our dandylions roam free in our yard too!! I love them and our bees love them (but I don't think our neighbors do....). Love Lorelei's purple purse!

The Early Birder said...

Susan, I should have dropped in long ago. Great blog.
I've also watched Mallard chicks jump from a 6 story building window ledge, then bounce on the ground & walk away (without wings)!
Love the idea of the bug pit.
Best wishes Frank

littleorangeguy said...

Domestic use of pesticides is banned here in Toronto. It was a long, hard fight but we owe big thanks to al those who fought it. Maybe you could take it on down there... you'd probably get it achieved with a couple of well-aimed stink eyes.

Mark said...

What do you REALLY think about Chemlawn, Susan?


Seriously, I just don't understand it either. Stupid.

I'm impressed with your backyard bird list. Mine is much smaller. I do have nesting kestrels, however.

RuthieJ said...

Susan, I agree with everything you said in your rant about the lawn chemicals! At last night's Audubon meeting, Marla Spivak (a bee expert from the U of MN) spoke to our group about the decline of all bees and the biggest problem is the
"-cides" and not just pesticides, but herbicides and fungicides too. It was a sobering and sorrowful presentation. I came home more determined than ever to get some beehives started in my own 5-acre, chemical-free backyard.