Apparently, it’s 65 degrees out today. I’m starting to believe that Mother Nature has become bipolar and in serious need of meds. Just a week ago, here in New Jersey, it was 0 degrees. Yes ZERO. Z-E-R-O. Mind you, it’s February 5, only the first week of February. A few days from now we’re supposed to get snow.
For those who don’t already know me, one of my most beloved pastimes is spending time sitting in my garden, especially at dusk to watch the sunset. With the sun shinning and sporting 65 degrees, you can bet your behind it is where I am currently residing. Of course, the garden is mostly barren but being able to chillax and get some much needed, and welcome, sun on my face, makes it still charming to me.
I have barely been outside in weeks. Not only because of the excruciating cold that has settled over the Northeast, but I also am grudgingly trying to recoup from having cortisone shots in both my feet. Doctors’ orders were to stay off my feet as much as possible, which included forfeiting the last 4 weeks left of bird hunting. So, getting a dazzling, sunny and warm day to break out of the house, you bet I was outta there!
I got myself all situated and comfortable in my gravity chair and leaned back to soak in some rays. Practiced my yoga breathing (I totally suck at this, so it takes a LOT of concentration on my part to keep my mind from taking its own little world trip to everywhere and anywhere all at the same time). I’m breathing in, I’m breathing out. I’m breathing in, I’m breathing out. Lather. Rinse. Repeat…SQUIRREL!!!
OK, so it wasn’t a squirrel that caught my attention. It was a bird’s call. This particular bird call I normally would hear at work during the summer. I’m talking about a Kingfisher, a little, big headed bird who fishes for food. There is a decent sized pond at work that the Kingfisher frequently visits on a regular basis looking for meals.
When Mr. Kingfisher visits, he is hard not to notice. Yes, he isn’t a very big bird, but he sure has some serious pipes that make quite a racket every time he flies over the pond. Of course, it could be just me, yeah it probably is just me, but I must look every time I hear him.
So, I’m sitting back in my gravity chair, breathing in, breathing out, when I hear the familiar “chattering”. I instantly recognized the chatter, and inwardly smiled and gave a mental hello. It took me a minute to realize what was wrong with this scenario, why this wasn’t normal. DUH, I wasn’t at work. I’ve lived here over 11 years and have never heard, or seen, a Kingfisher here.
My yard sits on about 2.25 acres of open lawn that slopes gently down to a small trout stream in the back. The last 50 yards or so is speckled with trees. The other side of the stream, directly across from me, is a nice sized patch of woods. To the right of that is a big wide-open lawn that borders fenced pastures on one side, and an area of the stream that opens to a make shift sort of pond area. Having water fowl around here is a common occurrence.
Some Local Waterfowl
We also happen to live fairly close to the Delaware River. It is quite the norm to have flocks of different geese and ducks flying low, just above the tree tops in the evenings looking for a place to spend the night. Since there are also plenty of open fields around, the birds often fly in a few circles scoping out the area for the best spot. Since the ideal location would usually consist of a place that offers water and open land, my neighbor’s “pond” gets a lot of visitors camping out during migration season. Regularly, at least one, or two pairs, of Canadian geese stick around and raise a family each year.
Along with the Canadians, we also get a few ducks and herons. The most common duck to stop in is the Mallards. After that, occasionally I’ll catch a couple of Wood ducks in the stream, but they are very leery and scare off easily. The Great Blue Herons, aka The Big Blues, are unadulterated regulars here. If you don’t see them flying up or down the stream, then you really can’t miss them just above the tree tops with their average 6-foot wingspan. And if you’re still not sure, you will be when you hear their habitual “yack”. And if you’re still not sure, just look for their long legs trailing behind them.
No Solicitors Wanted
There are just not enough adequate words to describe how much I enjoy “my” garden sunsets. The colors are warm and brilliant as they transcend. The flocks of geese form silhouettes against the sky yet are so close you can hear the whisper of their wings just overhead. It’s not just the visual, it’s the “being there”, if that makes sense? It’s the unadulterated feeling of unconditional contentment. It’s Peace. I am Blessed. I am incredibly fortunate. And it’s all mine. To be brutally honest, I really don’t like sharing this with anyone. It’s like they are taking a piece of my soul that I didn’t authorize. Seriously, if a trained eye looked closely, they would realize “my chair” sits by itself facing away from the others. My own secret, internal way of hinting at “No Solicitors Wanted”. I swear I try not to be rude about it, but if you asked the Hubby he would probably insinuate that I might need an attitude adjustment some days. Ok, maybe more…
Wasn’t I talking about birds?
Oh yeah, that Kingfisher I started talking about? That was the first I ever heard one here. I really did have a reason for telling you that. But since I’m on a roll, I’ll tell you about a couple of other birds, my nightlife favs.
While sunset is my favorite time in the garden, by no means does that mean I am ready to go in the house when it’s done. This does cause some problems when the men in my life think I should be in the house making dinner…but we’re not going there at this time.
A Little Nightlife
The little Screech owl. I just love this little fellow. I usually have 3 that call to each other at night. Don’t let the name fool you, I am NOT saying I like to hear 3 owls screeching at each other, I’m not that warped! This little, petite raptor actually has a beautiful trilling type sound that its makes. Since I know there are at least 3 who live within earshot of my backyard, I decided to try and get them closer. I hit up the wood shop for some scrap wood and made myself a Screech owl nest box. It’s been 4 years since I put it up at the back of the property and I still have no tenants. I am not happy about that at all. One of these days I will make some more nest boxes and try putting them up all around to hopefully entice one. They are so close, yet so far! UGH.
On another note, I did at least finally see one out in the wild when I was deer hunting this Fall. One flew up into a small tree that was just below my tree stand. At first, I thought it was a weirdly large tweety bird before my brain kicked in and acknowledged I was finally seeing a Screech owl. I’ve only been hiking the leafless winter woods for a sighting for years.
The Big Gun
Sitting outside in the garden one night, enjoying a nice blaze in the firepit, I heard another familiar call. I was elated and dreaded it at the same time. It was a Great Horned owl. Thankfully it’s winter, and I’m inside more than out these days. But why the dread you ask?
It all started on a Fall afternoon. I was working on the computer for something for school, don’t really remember what or why. Manny wanted to go out, so I opened the door and off he went. We have an inground electric fence, so he can pretty much go out and do whatever he wants. Wasn’t long before he started barking. And barking. And barking more. He was now becoming quite annoying, so I got up to see what the problem was. I looked out the window, didn’t see anything, yelled at him to shut up a couple of times and attempted to get back to work. Not happening. I get back up and look out again, realizing there is something out there with him. I know we had a family of groundhogs that lived down by the stream, but it didn’t look like a groundhog, wrong color. I grab the binoculars to get a better look. Well I’ll be damned!!! It’s a Great Horned owl! Learn more
Be Careful What You Wish For
I’ve been trying to spot one in the woods for what seems like forever, and now I have one right in my own backyard. YAY ME! I was enthused, but Manny was not. The intruder was out of reach, per the electric fence, and was not budging no matter how much he barked and jumped up and down. Just that unblinking stare. Of course, I did the most rational thing, I whipped out my phone and promptly started taking pictures. Poor Manny was livid by now, literally jumping up and down on all four legs at the same time, and I couldn’t help but laugh at him. Every time I think of this, I get laughing because he was just so comical.
Mr. Owl was not enthralled with Manny’s relentless barking, nor with my picture taking enthusiasm, he decided it was time to flee. He didn’t go far, just a few feet away, but higher up and into a tree. That’s when we realized why he wouldn’t move: LUNCH. What we didn’t see, while he was sitting on the ground, was that he was sitting on top of one of the former baby groundhogs.
I’m pretty sure this owl was a recent nest graduate who was told its time to make his own way in the world. Fortunately for him, not the groundhogs, he found a nice location with an agreeable mixture of woods, fields and water. He was off to a great start. And me? I’m thinking this is the coolest thing ever! Little did I know what was to come, I surely would of attempted to chase him far, far away.
The Neighborhood Watch. It’s a very real thing
Since I moved here, I noticed right away this little band of usually four crows. It seemed that they did a neighborhood patrol a couple of times of day. They who declared who can stay and who must go. I would soon learn the lengths the crows would go to in order to reinforce their decision. Because they decided the owl must go. And now. Right now.
The Owl has been spotted while on patrol
And so, the racket began. Crows don’t like Great Horn owls. They really don’t like them in their territory. And boy did they let the owl know it. The squawking and cackling carried on and on. At first, I was mildly amused. I even ran into the house to Google the scenario I was witnessing. The owl never moved, don’t think he blinked either.
The Second Hour
Two hours into this noisy chaos and I’m not really feeling amused anymore. I gave up trying to do my homework and decided to go outside and make some hypertufa pots instead. I’m an idiot. If I wasn’t fond of what I could hear from inside the house, why did I think outside would be better. OK, so occasionally, I clearly don’t really think things through. The novelty of it all has worn off and I’m getting annoyed.
OMG There are more!
So much for the nature fervor, these guys are sooooo getting on my nerves. Then, to my horror, I realized there were more crows. Matter of fact, they just kept coming. From freaking everywhere! And kept coming and coming and coming. Any idea what the noise level was like now??? OMG just shoot me please!
I believe every crow in a 20-mile radius was coming in now. It was starting to resemble “The Birds”. The squawking was becoming deafening by now. And still that damn owl didn’t move! And I’m getting cranky and incredibly irritated. I’m beginning to daydream about getting a shotgun out…
Sense of Humor, what sense humor?
It’s gone, left the building, packed its bags and went to flipping Florida. On the upside, the owl finally moved!!!! But not far, only about 50 yards into a different tree. DAMNIT. And yes, ALL the crows followed. A big whirling black fury of angry squawking. I start mulling over the legalities that could ensue if I were to decide to start shooting at the mind numbing chaos that has infected my normally serene habitat. About now the hubby comes home from work and asks what all the racket is. I tell him my tale of woe and he laughs. LAUGHS. He obviously is not paying much attention to the palpable danger signs that I am unraveling at the seams. I am a volcano about to blow. Hubby finds my righteous indignation hilarious. I warn him, once again, that he sleeps very sound. He reminds me how much time I spent looking for owls in the woods and I now have one in my very own backyard, so what is my problem?
You know that phrase:” be careful what you wish for”? Well, damnit damnit damnit all to hell. Alright, I give myself a little bit of an attitude adjustment. Thankfully, the sun is setting, everybody should quiet down soon, and all will be good with the world again.
Yes, the sun went down, and peace was had for the rest of the evening. But alas, a new day dawned, and the racket continued all over again. All day. Every day for a week. Really. Seriously, just shoot me, rip the ears off my head right now. What did I ever do to deserve this????
Somethings Should Not Be Repeated
Now you understand my dread when I heard the Great Horned owl that particular evening. The very idea of having to relive that nightmare with the crows was just not something I wished to repeat. I imagine I sound like a big whiner now, but I really am not. The whole bit with the owl and crows was quite extraordinary all in all. The crows chased the owl all over the neighborhood and yet he would not leave. He was determined to make this his new home and he succeeded. The crows started leaving a couple at a time, until there were just the Neighborhood Watch Crew. I believe even they were tired of listening to themselves. AHHHHHH, and a hush fell over the land. Peace and quiet once again.
Love The Seasons
Now I remember why I love my garden, my backyard, in all it’s seasons. I can spend hours here, by myself, and be extremely content. The changing seasons bring a diverse variety of visitors passing through. Some stop in, spend a day or two, some just a bite to eat. Others pass over so close I can hear the rhythm of their beating wings. Still there are others who aren’t ready for a break, who fly higher above, and in greater numbers. Sometimes it’s easy to tell what they are by their shape, the way the flap their wings, or by the calls they make to each other as they navigate their way back home.
So maybe my garden isn’t all that dazzling right now, it’s a bit barren and dreary. The trees are mere skeletons of their former glory. The air is nippy and downright frigid some days. But today Mother Nature gave us a magnificent small reprieve. A tease of what’s to come. If we didn’t have the bitter cold days, would we really, fully appreciate these extraordinary warm days when then arrive? Don’t know about you, but I do. I also have a very vivid imagination that lets me see my garden as I want to see it. And I’m an optimist, so it’s always good!
I’m pretty sure Mother Nature and the flower catalog companies are in cahoots too. What’s the odds of getting two catalogs today? Christmas wish list? Bah Humbug! I’m buying flowers! I’m already planning and plotting what I want to do when the weather warms up. Let’s just hope I live up to my own expectations!