The LONG Week of Close Encounters (of the Bird Kind)! A Photo Journal

 

I have my own Bird Encounter rating system…

The FIRST kind is the overwhelming winner in terms of numbers of encounters. I see birds everywhere. I don’t even know I am watching for them but I find them where ever I go.

The SECOND kind of encounter is spotting evidence of birds…nests, feathers, and POOP.

And a Bird Encounter of the THIRD kind is actual contact, in all its forms, including actual “conversations” (out loud or not…).

This week I have had all THREE!

Day One-Bald Eagles

Not really that strange here in the Northwest. We see them often, but usually just on a fly-by, though I have witnessed a Murder of Crows attacking a Bald Eagle and bringing him to all the way to the ground. That’s another post.

This week, on my morning walk, I heard a great commotion among Crows and Eagles. It’s a familiar sound…someone is probably raiding someone else’s nest. But when I looked up I saw FIVE Bald Eagles. There was a pair who seemed to be fighting off the rest. They succeeded in driving off the other three and then landed in a tree a couple of houses away from mine. They chattered and pealed and then were quiet but present long enough for me to walk home and get my camera. But it was an extremely gray day so lousy photos.

Barely a First Encounter.

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Day Two-Bird Suicide

Sitting at my computer…all the cats having their morning naps…and a loud crack/crash sound startles us all. We know what it is and we all head to the window where we know a bird has smashed into. Sure enough, the evidence immediately informs us of the bird’s fate.

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I had to go outside to confirm that there was nothing I could do.

She was so pretty, probably a little House Finch, and to honor her beauty and tragically ended life, I got the camera.

Lucy watched from inside the whole time…

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I put the tiny body in the crook of a tree while deciding what else I could/should do and went into the house. By the time I came back out, a neighbor’s cat was carrying the corpse off. Well, I guess at least her body wasn’t wasted….an encounter of the SECOND KIND.

Day Three-Crows

If you have looked at my blog before, you may have seen or read about my Crows. Much to my neighbors’ dismay, I feed them…regularly. And as if that’s not enough proof of my questionable character (or sanity), I CALL (caw) them to my deck every morning. (You can read more about that here:) https://chosenperspectives.wordpress.com/2016/04/19/dinnertime-well-breakfast-for-wpc/

I LOVE Crows and have a grandiose belief that they love me too. I even fantasize that they follow me. On this morning, I took the boys out to their favorite before school breakfast (Burger King) on the condition that we eat in the car. My secret plan was to have a Close Encounter! I’m always on the lookout for a great teaching moment and sure enough, we were treated to a Crow Show right there in the parking lot.

I call this an Encounter of the SECOND and 1/2 KIND…they did “contact” my car for sure!

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All taken from inside the car!

Day Four-Sick Bird

While hanging up a fresh Hummingbird feeder, I almost stepped on this little guy, or girl. I was thinking at first a baby female Grosbeak but no bandit mask…and besides way too early for babies.

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I put her up on the Hummer feeder to keep her from getting stepped on (or cat-captured).

Definite contact, of the THIRD KIND.

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Day Five-Bird Feeder (squirrel intruders)

Well, I have not upgraded to a Premium blog site yet so I cannot show you the hysterical video I took of thwarting the intrusive squirrels who climb the seed feeder pole and knock it to the ground so they can stuff their silly cheeks with sunflower seeds.

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This is an ongoing problem. I’m not actually bigoted. I hold Squirrels, despite their rodent status, as equal to all the other animals I like to feed. But the squirrels vacuum up the crow food each morning and continuously knock off the bird feeder, often breaking it into pieces, so I feed them in THEIR (yes, segregated) area, under THEIR trees. This does not work. They insist on amalgamating!

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I read somewhere that if you spray WD40 on the pole of a feeder, the squirrels can’t climb it. But I worried about it making them sick, so I sprayed PAM (the non-stick cooking spray). IT WORKED!! That’s the video I wanted to show you. The squirrels leaping at the pole, expecting to be able to climb to the top to pig out, and repeatedly sliding helplessly back down! It only lasts about 6 days (maybe because of our rain) so the pole needs to be re-treated, but hey, I went to Costco and got enough to last until maybe they learn and give up? (right…like they will give up…) But I feel a responsibility to continuing my years-long practice of feeding all my local birds, so I continue the battle with the squirrels, Encounters of the IRRITATING KIND!

SOME of my Yard Birds

 

Day SixReally Sick Bird

I have a favorite chair in my living room. It sits in the sunny nook of a corner window and rotates so I can see outside in comfort. It’s not just where I sit to warm up, or to watch the birds in my yard, but it is a special chair filled with connections and memories. It belonged to my “adopted” sister’s Mom, Ruth (don’t even try to figure that out) and was given to me when Ruth passed away. And it’s BLUE! On this day, sitting in my chair, I spotted a small bird out in the yard, another small Sparrow.

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I watched and saw it hop and flutter and flap some but no real flight. Uh oh. Too early for a fledgling so I went out to see her. She looked a lot like the bird who had flown smack into the window but on this one, up close I could see why. She was full grown but completely blind. Ah geez. I am already the lost and stray animal magnet of the area. I’d never hear the end of it if I adopted a sick bird…especially a blind one. (I was married to a man who was blind and though it didn’t end well, we had some really great years together.)

When I got closer, I put out my hand and she walked right into it…again and again.

I lifted her up to put her on the seed feeder and then could see it was an eye infection. Another video I couldn’t post showed her attempts at flying when I tossed her up in the air. She’d flutter back to the ground, I’m realizing now because she couldn’t see where else to go.

I knew I’d be heading to PAWS (Progressive Animal Welfare Society) that afternoon. (https://www.paws.org/wildlife/center/)

I put her in one of my small bug containers for the ride.

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It was quite a drive to get there and most of the way she was quiet but I cringed when I could hear her flapping around in that confined space.

At PAWS, they were so helpful and even sensitive, I guess knowing that a person who would capture and transport a sick wild animal might also actually have bonded a bit in the process. They ask you if you’d like to be informed by email of the outcome for your patient and then they reassure you the animal will be returned to as close as they can to the location where it was captured. A huge relief to me, the Queen of Anthropomorphism! (What abut her family? What if she had already mated?? etc.)

They also coached me in how to contribute to the prevention and spread of bird conjunctivitis. Apparently it’s quite common amongst the Finch population and it takes some work to stop the spread. (It may be why the first bird crashed into my window and why the 2nd was sick also.) We need to clean (like seriously, with bleach) the bird feeder at least once a week and rake up all the droppings (seed shells, etc.) It’s also a good idea to take down the feeder now and then to let the current population “disperse “. That one will be harder for me as watching the feeder is a treasured part of my daily routine.

This so specifically an Encounter of the THIRD KIND, I came back home wanting to go and get a pet bird. I can still FEEL her little feet on my finger!

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Day Seven-Bald Eagles “They’re Baaack!”

Word is out in our neighborhood that we have had several visits from this pair of Bald Eagles. A few days ago, literally, as I was sending out an email to some dear friends about the Decorah Eagle Cam website, (http://www.ustream.tv/decoraheagles) I heard that unmistakable scream right outside my window!!

I sent a quick email follow up about what happened next:

“As I was sitting here sending you all the link about my beloved Decorah Eagles, I heard eagle-screaming right outside my window!

I ran outside without my camera but witnessed the most amazing thing. There were FIVE BALD EAGLES circling my deck!! It looked like two were fending off or chasing the other three. Or maybe it was some kind of mating ritual.

The twosome flew very close together in large and then smaller circles. Then they landed on the top of the biggest tree in front of my house. The other three flew off into the distance.

This might be the same pair I watched the other day, cruising our neighborhood for prey or a nesting site (although it seems late in the year for that latter). Not sure why they are hanging out here.

I ran in for my camera but just like the other day, it is so gray out it was hard to get much more than a silhouette. Wish they would have stopped by yesterday when that sun was so bright.

In all these years living in my house, as many times as I have been gifted with a low fly-by, no eagle has ever landed right in front of me before! Maybe I was just tapped into Eagle Energy today or something. I do consider them somewhat of a Totem. Better get out the Animal Speak book and read again why I might be needing their input in my life right now….”

My neighbor Mimi knows about my bird obsession (similar to her fruit tree obsession…you rarely see Mimi on the ground, instead of  in a tree top, pruning away.) But she also goes for walks most days. She takes her blind, deaf dog Murphy for a walk, well, Murphy AND her two cats, Moses and Purrcy. They make quite a sight sauntering down the street, in a line; the dog, the woman and these two cats who have trained themselves to traipse after her just about anywhere.

She called me from her walk yesterday and said “Kathie, your Eagles are back” and told me where. I grabbed the camera and walked up the street.

Beautiful sunny day. Some minor trespassing, but finally, even with my little point and shoot Canon, I got these pictures!

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Not sure how to number this Encounter but as strange as it might sound to some, I believe this was of the FOURTH KIND, through some connection bigger than I can explain.

 

PS By the way, the little bug container I used to transport the sick House Finch in, was knocked off my back porch last night and trashed. I wondered if I had slept through another wind storm or something.  But then I saw them. Those dang SQUIRRELS! Foraging around in the broken box for the last of the seeds I had put in there for the little bird.

Would it be wrong for me to invite those Eagles back for some Squirrel Gumbo???

OK, OK, I know. That’s just my impatience talking….

AHH, gotta go. I hear screaming and cawing outside!

 

By the way, if you have read this far, Thank You. It was a long week.

I’d really appreciate comments and also that you pass this on to any bird people you know!

 

Some of today’s ideas were borrowed from one of my favorite movies Close Encounters.

“The title (which is never specifically explained in the movie) is actually derived from Hynek’s own alien close encounter classification system: A close encounter of the first kind is sighting of a UFO; the second kind is physical evidence to prove the existence of an alien; and the third kind is actual contact with alien life forms.” *

*http://mentalfloss.com/article/63198/15-things-you-may-not-know-about-close-encounters-third-kind

PS I just heard from PAWS. They are so wonderful there. They wrote:

We at PAWS Wildlife Center are happy to inform you that this Purple Finch was successfully rehabilitated and released back into his or her natural habitat.

I followed their advice and after taking them down for a week, now clean my feeders regularly. I have not seen any more sick birds and no further Window Deaths have occurred.

I do have a little Narcissistic Junco who every morning primps and talks to himself at my car’s side view mirror. Wih I could include the video. Time to upgrade I guess.

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ATOP for WPC 3/19/17

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Well, I’ve never tried posting a short video before but we’ll see if this works. Be forewarned. To YOU it might be gruesome. From my point of view, it is truly amazing!!!

Let me know what you think and if this is cheating. I know it is supposed to be a photo. I’ll post some of those separately!

PS Bummer. It didn’t include the music. This was videoed with Come Together by The Beatles playing loud in the background. Ths bug is climbing in time with the music!!

Lucy, the Woodpile Kitten

I know we all think that our cat (or dog) is the most amazing, most talented, and  cutest one in the history of its species. What good pet parent doesn’t?

But my Lucy? She might seriously be up there in the top 5, well, OK maybe the top 100 of all time.

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I’ll spare you all the “cute” stories about her childhood. “Cute”, when it comes to kittens is only slightly relative. Hard to find one who doesn’t elicit an “awe” from even the most hardened resisters.

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Lucy meeting her two new siblings-one was happy and the other, not so much

Lucy was born into cuteness. Our whole world was cute the day we found her in our woodpile with her 3 tiny siblings. (You can read more about it here:)

https://chosenperspectives.wordpress.com/2016/01/08/warning-cuteness-overload/

Though I am primarily a dog person, I’ve also had cats my whole life…usually more than one. They have been mostly outdoor cats until the recent influx the of brazen coyotes into my neighborhood. No fault of the coyotes. The builders have run them out of their habitat. But now, any felines I parent are strictly house cats. It only takes one time seeing your favorite cat being carried off in the mouth of a coyote to make you rethink your responsibility to the animals you domesticate.

Lucy will be three years old this summer. I have many good stories about her (again, what good parent doesn’t?) For example, sitting here at my desk each morning, I can see the squirrels arrive on the deck right outside my window to steal the food I have put out for my Crows. If I say “Lucy, your friends are here!” she will come bounding out from anywhere in the house, even if she is sound asleep, and jump on the window sill to cat-chirp at the thieving rodents.

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Here’s another quick tale. If I so much as TOUCH the bag of cat treats, she appears like lightening. Oh, the other cats come also but not nearly as fast. And Phineas and Zorro do not perch on their hind legs at my feet like a begging Meerkat!! Lucy will stand in that position any time I say “UP” and then gently grab the offered treat from between my fingers. If I toss it, she’ll even catch it mid-air, just like a Frisbee dog, right between her two paws, like she is clapping!

And then there is her fascination with containers of any kind. I know, I know. Most cats love boxes and various bags. But Lucy prefers the emptied plastic wraps from Costco.

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All of that is cute, right? But there are two things she does lately that really have my attention. (A reminder here that I have often posted the disclaimer that I am the QUEEN of anthropomorphizing)

1) James is clearly Lucy’s favorite human. She imprinted on him the very first day we found them in that woodpile.

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James has had to travel a lot lately and when he is gone, Lucy misses him…no, seriously. She mopes. She repeatedly sniffs where he has been sitting. And she refuses to sleep on the bed with me. When James is here, she sleeps under the covers, ON his legs, ALL NIGHT!

OK, so maybe that doesn’t prove anything but listen to this. If the phone rings when James is out of town, she is instantly on alert. And if it is James calling me, (we talk on the speaker) she is on my lap instantly, purring like crazy. She rubs her cheeks on the phone, and will not stop until I hang up. Sometimes, our whole conversation is about how she is head-butting the phone or, if I happen to be semi-reclined, how she has settled high up on my chest, under my chin for maximum closeness to the receiver. She does not do this with ANY OTHER caller. James will talk to her and I swear, her purring increases in volume.

And 2) Here’s the Lucy story that really gets to me.

Since she was very little, she has liked watching TV. Not so rare for a cat but it’s WHAT she watches that caught my attention. It started with this…

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That’s Jackson Galaxy, the Cat Whisperer 

And then she branched out but the only other shows she watched were Cat shows

Recently, with Lucy asleep on the bed, I started a National Geographic show on Netflix. I left the room for something before the show got rolling. (Have I mentioned that Lucy is the sweetest, most gentle cat I’ve ever had? Not once has she ever clawed or bitten or even so much as played too roughly. And she is very quiet!) As I headed back to where I left her asleep, I heard the most unusual sound, a faint whimper at first and then a low whining that turned into what could only be described as a slightly muted keening. She was up on the dresser with the TV, gently pawing the screen, and keening. I’m not kidding.

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The show was about the study that certain animals do, in fact, grieve.

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She whimpered and mewled for the whole show and when it was over, came over and, like she sleeps on James all the time, and, as if in empathy fatigue, collapsed onto my chest and fell asleep..

Not sentient, my ass!