On our walk, the curl-leaf mountain mahogany was in its full glory, getting ready to send its seeds to the winds. On the way home we spied something out of place, a little ball along the path.
It was a tiny nest. I don’t know whose: possibly a bush tit? It wasn’t quite made right for a hummingbird, and as you can see in the image below, it’s too big.
The new nest is on the left of the nicho filled with treasures, some wild and some ancestral. The nest on the right is a hummingbird nest with a mummified bumblebee in it. The two in between I’m not sure: the red bird is a Christmas ornament, and the bluebird is a desiccated portion of a long-ago cat-kill. The skull between them is from Desmond Turtu, as is the scute. Various found feathers, ancestral icons and statuettes, a magic wand, and a favorite photo of my daddy and me more than sixty years ago make up the rest. I’m grateful for little treasures, mystical and natural, found and given, and all the memories and associations they carry.
There are several reasons I wish I would go to bed earlier so that I can wake up earlier. This morning added another one to the list: I heard the phoebes after sunrise, but I dallied and didn’t get outside til 7:30. When I looked up at the nest–it was empty! They were all tucked in last night, and this morning, poof! Gone!
This didn’t happen in past years. They spent a couple of days in flight training from the nest, returning to it overnight. They hopped off the ledge onto various perches right around the deck, before staging into the trees just north of the house, and then later into the west woods. But this crew! They ‘flew the coop’ as a friend said, straight out the nest and… as I discovered a few minutes after my disappointment, right into the garden.
After I recovered from the shock of their disappearance, I turned toward the garden gate to go in and water the raised beds, and saw some fluttering… the chicks! I commend the parents. I can think of no better place for them to teach their chicks to fly and hunt. It’s full of grasshoppers, butterflies, and moths. I stepped back and watched for half an hour as the parents chirped, hunted, dropped down to feed babies; and as they flew together singing over the garden and the woods, demonstrating so many essential phoebe skills.
After awhile they had moved farther into the dog pen section of the garden, so I went in with the hose to water the beds. I continued to watch the parents but couldn’t see the chicks in the sagebrush and junipers in this transition zone between garden and wild forest. As I stood sprinkling the onions, I watched mama drop to the ground to hunt something, and she slipped through a gap under a chicken-wire plant cage stored in there: Suddenly she was frantically fluttering trapped inside the cage. I’m so grateful I happened to see it. I dropped the hose and ran to the cage, which has a flap on top that I opened, and she flew out.
Just as I got there she’d been trying to get out through the wire–which would have killed her if she’d gotten stuck. I immediately opened the other four cages. They’ve been sitting in there for more than a month. It had never occurred to me that a creature might get caught in them. You just never know what hazards you create for others!
It was so hot I stayed inside all day, but when I went out again this evening, I listened carefully, and heard the parents calling still from farther out in the woods. I’m so grateful for a successful fledging, and so glad I got to see some of the excitement from afar, and participate in a rescue so they didn’t lose a parent.
I’m grateful every day for my own growing up, a little more each day, and I’m also grateful for the opportunity and the joy of watching the baby phoebes growing up each day. Every chance I get between other obligations I step outside and shoot a few frames of the action in the phoebe nest. The feeding shot took place at 5:22 this evening, and the adorable ‘first flight’ (that I saw, anyway) took place at 6:55. It won’t be long before they’ve left the nest, but I am grateful that I have a couple of days ahead where I can spend a lot of time with them.
Last night our internet was down so I couldn’t post. I’m making up for it today with a catch-up on the week’s food. I could just say I’m thankful for food, but I am especially grateful for good food: food that has been grown organically, or prepared with care, or is extra tasty or nutritious, or comes from my own garden. This popcorn doesn’t come from the garden, but is organic, and was extra tasty. I craved kettle corn, a delicacy which I was introduced to late in life so haven’t had much of. And where am I gonna get it after dark around here except my own kitchen?
I’ve tried it just a few times, popping as usual on the stovetop, tossing with melted butter, salt and brown sugar, but the salt and sugar always fall to the bottom. A few nights ago, I made it and thought to melt the brown sugar in with the butter in ‘the right tool for the job,’ this beautiful and functional Dansk butter melter. It worked great! I just had to make sure to take it off the heat before it caramelized, and have the popcorn ready shortly after. So simple, so delicious!
The next day, something a little more healthy, red beans without the rice. I used these wonderful heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo, and modified a vegetarian red bean recipe from the same site with a little bit of smoked paprika, maple syrup, and Dijon mustard.
And tonight’s snack, fresh snow peas from the garden, sweet potato noodles, with a Thai peanut sauce from Mike Hultquist at Chili Pepper Madness. Making great use of that last quarter cup of peanut butter in the jar, and cleaning out the jar at the same time. I’m grateful for good food.
I’m not the only one eating well around here! The phoebes continue to spill out of their nest with all the growing they’re doing, from all the bugs that the garden provides. There are still four chicks, as far as I can tell. I’m trying not to pester them too much so only taking a few shots each day. Below, mama delivers a fat grasshopper…
… and then she cleans up! What an amazing system they have: not every time, but often enough after she feeds a chick it turns around and pops out a clean white pellet for her to catch and carry away.
What a joy to see the Phoebe chicks outgrowing their nest! I’m grateful on this Interdependence Day that I got to spend some time outside watching the feeding frenzy and catching a few good pictures. I am also grateful that I got some thoughts on interdependence out on my podcast, Suffer Less with Mindfulness, available wherever you get your podcasts, or on my website here. Wishing everyone a safe and mindful holiday week.
I was so grateful this morning to see feeding activity at the phoebe nest! At least one chick has hatched so far. I look forward to more and more busyness as more eggs crack open to free their tiny birds.
I have a lot of tender, lovely wildflower photos to share, but I can’t get this out of my head. Kilauea is erupting again, and I’m grateful to a friend in Hawaii who sent me this link to the USGS livestream. I’ve been checking in on it every now and then the past two days, and when I do I can hardly tear my eyes away. It’s mesmerizing to watch the volcano burble and sputter and flow, and fascinating to see how the scene changes through the course of the day. The camera zooms in and out at periodically, and this evening someone is having a great time focusing on various features. Here are a few screenshots since I tuned in tonight.
I’m grateful for the awe inspired by witnessing the molten rock heaving at the surface of this amazing living planet, and for the mind-boggling technology that makes it possible to watch a live volcano half a world away. You can scroll along the timeline at the bottom of the video to view a time-lapse of lava flow, cloud shadows, and sunset, or stop anywhere along it to view the past twelve hours, and then click ‘Live’ to jump right back to the present moment.
It’s a bird week. Today I’m grateful for the so-called Lesser Goldfinch pair I heard tweeting in the trees a couple of days ago, and caught on camera today eating seeds from the catmint. Honey Badger has had them in her catmint next door for a few years, but this is the first I’ve been privileged to see them here. Above, I capture her through the window cracking a seed; below, he looks alertly at me trying to sneak up on him outside. What’s lesser about them, I’d like to know.
It was dusk, and I couldn’t get close; he took off a second after spotting me. So they’re fuzzy images, but serve to document the delight, and signify the promise of more happy finches to come.