Right after I did my last backyard bird posting, wouldn’t you know that Mr. and Mrs. Grosbeak made their return. And they were ultimately joined by some exciting friends. But enough about the friends later – first, let’s get to the Grosbeaks.
First, I saw the female and managed to get some nice shots of her. I never noticed this on females before, so I’m not sure if this gal is unique, but you can see from these pictures that this gal has some lovely orange coloring, analogous to where her hubby has his rose breast – a broad splash, with a narrow taper. There may be another couple, because I believe that I have also seen a female this year without the orangey coloring. I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled. We’ve been having Rosebreasted couples visit us for more than five years. At first, we had only females, then one year males joined in. One year we had two males. We may have more than one couple as it is, but I just haven’t seen all four at the same time.
Anyway, is it me or is this girl giving Yang a smile?
It’s fun to watch the male and female come and feed together. They seem to prefer the single copper-topped feeder. I usually hear one of them singing, then, there they are, having a meal out! I love to hear them sing in the trees as well. I can’t help wondering if they have any nests nearby. I do know that the pair with the gal in the peach-colored breast feathers makes the round with some of my neighbors, as well. According to the Cornell Ornithology site, both parents brood the children, with the Daddy often singing away in the nest. Here’s a link for more information on these wonderful birds. I also love to watch the males fly away, with the flash of black and white on their wings like a special optical effect.
I have also noted that these birds can be pretty aggressive. No Grackles, Starlings, Mourning Doves, or Blue Jays better mess with them when they want to feed. Who you Lookin’ at?
Another fairly aggressive beauty that I found on my feeder this year was the Baltimore Oriole.
Yes! We do have Orioles this year! Usually, one or so will cruise through in May, take a look at our suet and seeds, then turn up his beak and take it on the wing. This year, I got wise and noted how people placed their orange halves for Oriole delectation. It worked! I cut the oranges across the equator, then impaled them on the trellis for our Morning Glories. Now I can’t keep the Orioles away. We have two adult males, one juvenile male (below), and two females, one orange and one yellow (yellow to the right). And woe betide the Oriole who wants to join another Oriole at the juice bar, even if it’s a female with a male or they can sip from different halves. Orioles may have lovely calls to announce their coming, but their aggression chatter is NOT soothing. We even had an Oriole/Grosbeak confrontation – Mr. Grosbeak won. Still, if two Orioles can rarely feed together, the disappointed party will usually go to town on the suet. One time, Yang looked up to see a male Oriole perched on the window ledge and staring in at him!
If all this weren’t exciting enough, on three separate days we had a hummingbird on the hummingbird feeder. I couldn’t tell you if it’s the same one or not, but there have been repeat appearances. Yang was even able to snap some photos, as you can see – well, you can see better if you click on the photo. I normally don’t see these guys until July, but I’d been hearing on FB about all kinds of sightings. So I thought, maybe if there are no flowers around, the hummers would be more interested in my feeder. Bingo! It worked.
Now, for my final extraordinary sighting. I’ve never had a clear look at one of these guys before. I’ve always wanted to see one in all his glory. It seemed as if everyone in Massachusetts was sighting these guys but me! Then, yesterday, while we were watching the episode of Father Brown that I’d dvr’d, Yang said, “Wow! What is this strange bird. I’ve never seen this before.” I hopped up, took a careful peek around the window curtain, and there it was in all his indigo glory! Yes! My first full-color Indigo Bunting! Well, I guess he hasn’t completely changed from his winter to his summer duds, but he is still something!
I don’t know if he’ll be back. He wasn’t crazy about the oranges, he was skeptical of the suet, but the sunflower hearts did seem to grab his attention – though the Grackles kept getting in the way. Let’s hope we see more of him! Wow! What a bird- watching season!
| We’ve been enjoying nature quite a bit this summer, between our own yard and our peregrinations about the Northeast. Several of my friends have been posting images of their luscious vegetable gardens, so I thought I’d show how well our plants are doing this season. We’ve planted one patch with tomatoes, yellow beans, egg plants, and peppers. As you can see they are growing beautifully!
We have tomatoes growing apace and even eggplants developing. The plants are so much taller than in years past, probably because we have had so much rain and sunshine this year. I’m looking forward to harvesting the tomatoes and making salads and sandwiches with them – or just slicing them up and snacking on them with either a little salt or some of my homegrown basil – which also is doing nicely! Some evil insect has been gnawing on my dill, but I have still grown enough to season my cucumber sandwiches and a mackerel pie (It’s like salmon pie, except you accidentally grab a can of mackerel rather than salmon – tastes almost the same.). Fortunately, we also have lots of sprouts of dill that have reseeded themselves from last year.
The soy beans are also coming along splendidly. We actually have two patches. Homegrown ones are a little crunchier that what you get from the store. Yum. The pumpkins are also going great guns now, as well. When the embryos become visible, or even get fertilized, I’ll take some more photos of them. The plants have actually grown thicker and are starting to travel now, since I’ve taken this photo. I have all different sorts: little orange pumpkins (Jack Be Little), little white ones, big orange ones, large white ones, and various types of gourds. Some are commercial seeds and some are saved from the pumpkins that I bought last year. So far, the older home-collected seeds aren’t doing so well, but the newer ones are growing. The commercial ones are doing pretty well for the most part. What’s really interesting is that seeds that didn’t germinate from last year seem to be taking off this year. Odd, isn’t it?
It’s a good thing that we have fencing up around our vegetable garden, because we are not alone.! This is one of the rabbits that we’ve seen in our yard. He’s the smaller one. One night, Natasha saw him and chased him, though Yang’s hold on her leash prevented a disaster. I think he might have come back armed (the rabbit, not Yang), because the next evening, ‘Tasha saw him and went skulking back to the house, whimpering. Of course, I probably shouldn’t embarrass her this way. She might have just seen Monty Python’s The Holy Grail. Scary looking bunny, isn’t he? He was also quite the little stinker. Seconds after we took this picture, he sat up, snipped off the stem of the purple flower in the picture and then spit the whole thing out! Here he is, giving us a Nyah-Nyah look right before he strikes!
Herr Hare isn’t the only visitor to our yard. One afternoon, when I went out to feed the fish in our little pond, I was startled as I came around the house to see this enormous visitor! We’ve had lots of turkey sightings all over the Worcester area (and Boston, Rhode Island, the Cape, New York state), even on our street. However, this is the first guy I found in our yard. I was surprised he wasn’t in a flock, even a small one, as most of the turkeys I’ve sighted have been. He returned for several days, coming out of the woods behind our house at around 8:00 in the morning or 6:00 in the evening, but I haven’t seen him in awhile. We started calling him Raymond Burrd – I’ve been watching reruns of Ironside; what can I say?
Another neighbor’s cat tried to stalk the turkey a couple of times and was ignored at first. Then he made a charge and that bird just did one arched extension of the wings – Clover took off. My cats enjoyed watching that, since Clover was on their turf. Anyway, I haven’t seen him in some days. I guess he found some more fruitful scratching grounds. The birds on my feeders apparently weren’t dropping enough seed for him. We did see three adults and several chicks the other day about a mile or so from our house. Unfortunately, by the time we turned our car around to go back and take a picture, the birds were deep into someone’s yard, and we didn’t want to trespass – even if the turkeys weren’t so particular.
I haven’t seen my friend the Fox, whom I call Mulder, around lately. Maybe it’s fortunate for the rabbit. I think the turkey might be a little much for him. However, on a bicycle trail in Fairhaven, MA. Yang and I got a good look at a beautiful black fox kit! He came out of the woods next to the road, looked us over, ran to the middle of the road, gave a little hopping prance, then ran back the way he’d come and disappeared into the woods. From his size and leanness, he looked much like pictures of black fox kits that I found on line. Apparently, though black foxes are rare in England (see this cool article), they are not so uncommon here in North America. Darn it all! he was gone before I could get out my camera! But here are some shots from the web that perfectly match the neat little guy that we saw. Here’s a Youtube video of a Fox hunting mice, for your edification.
Black Fox photo #1 https://www.pinterest.com/pin/85779567874103887/
Balck Fox Photo #2 Source no longer available
Being a Gothic kind of a gal, I’ve been fascinated by the gargoyles I’ve found on churches in Worcester. There may be more than these three examples, but these churches caught my eye.
The first example is a single, friendly gargoyle that curves along a corner of the St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church on Southbridge Street. He gracefully curls his undercarriage toward you, his wings unfurl smoothly, and he seems to offer a friendly smile. Unlike traditional gargoyles, designed to scare away demons or to embody the sin and monstrosity lurking in the human soul, he almost seems to embody the thought that what we may judge monstrous, out of our own fears and prejudices, may actually be good and loving. An interesting thought, right?
All Saints’ Church has two gargoyle guardians on its tower. These fierce protectors are poised and ready take flight and dive bomb whatever demonic threats to the parish’s spiritual stability may lurk in the environs of Irving Street, Worcester, Ma. The church has played host to the Worcester State Chorale performances, and the acoustics for their exquisite singing was breath taking!
The final church has a veritable feast of gargoyles, although some have disappeared mysteriously since first I sighted them. Did they fly away? Don’t blink, then, Dr. Who fans! Originally, the Union Congregational Church but now the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, this building is magnificent. The church has been likened to a scaled down version of Notre Dame de Paris. Not as many gargoyles, but a respectable showing nonetheless. Apparently, the missing gargoyle did not fly off (no Mr. Norell around), but was removed and sold to clear debts (see WT&G story.) The gargoyles that remain are, indeed, something else. My husband and I took these photos early in January, when streams of frozen ice lent the creatures a special beauty. We see that this poor chap seems to be feeling the cold intensely. Perhaps he’s existing multi-dimensionally: here and on Dante’s ninth level of hell. Looks as if he has the satanic wings with which to create the freezing air. He’s clearly not enjoying himself.
Or maybe he’s just guarding the front entrance to the church against the incursion of demons with his pal here.
These are the only churches with gargoyles that I know of in Worcester. If you know of more, please let me know; I’d love to find them. I find it interesting that though the Protestant Reformation slammed the Catholic Church for superstitious, distracting, and gaudy decorations, none of these gargoyle-inhabited churches are Catholic. They’re all Protestant. Go figure – just don’t blink.