This is one of the phoebe parents that is raising three babies under our back deck. Swallowed the dragonfly in about two gulps.
Monday afternoon I was delighted to find a great horned owl perched high in the limbs of a pine tree about 200 feet from my back deck. I had followed a very specific sound into the woods, hoping to identify the animal responsible for the intermittent shrieking that has been piercing our sleep for several weeks. I’m not sure I found the culprit, but I did find this amazing owl. I have never seen a great horned owl so I was very excited. I didn’t have a great deal of time to stay and take pictures, and I didn’t want to bother the owl anyhow, so I did my best and the result is the top row of photos.
Tuesday afternoon I went looking for this same owl and found a juvenile great horned owl. The juvenile was perched in a tree that overlooks the abandoned stump that was, I believe, the place where my murder mystery/kayak attack began a few weeks ago. (See I Swear I’m Not Making This Up if you need to come up to speed.) So now I’m wondering if the predator in that crazy showdown was an owl and the prey was in fact a family of raccoons that nested in the top of the stump (which is more of a 12 feet broken tree than a stump, but you get the idea). I think I may be on to something here.
Seeing the owls would have been enough to last me for the entire month. (Though of course I’m greedy and already hoping to see them again, or at least for my husband to see them.) But Mother Nature is really outdoing herself at the moment. This morning I saw a doe and two fawns. No camera on hand. I also saw a little brown rabbit twice, but again I was without a camera. Monday and Tuesday I saw a lone turkey (a female, so a hen) and her baby (a chick). Wondering where the other chicks went. Guess I might know. The first time I saw the mama and baby turkey I scared them when I opened my always-stuckish garage door; the second time I didn’t have my camera.
Did my milfoiling yesterday and today. Loads of fun, that. Thankfully my milfoil sector has been changed from one (nearly free of green stuff growing) across the lake to the sector where I live, which is so full of green stuff growing you can hardly paddle through it. I guess the only reason I’m thankful for the switch (aside from not needing to inconvenience my husband, who would have had to motorboat me to the other sector) is that while I’m paddling around mumbling “whorled, feathered, whorled, feathered” to remind myself of the key features of variable-leaf milfoil, I can also take note of the osprey adult clutching a fish in its talons and flying back to screaming nestlings, the great blue heron poking about for a meal, the swallows swooping low for dragonflies, the loon calls echoing in from further down the lake…
I also have to make time to water the flowers that I insist grow on the front and side of my house. I find myself doing this in the late afternoon most days, after I have given up on rain coming through in the night. Watering these flowers requires a fair amount of watering-can-lugging, and so I make it into an exercise task, this lugging, since I never do seem to exercise as much as I’d like. My lugging route takes me past the back deck, which means I simply turn my head to the left and look for baby phoebe beaks in the nest. Finally – three beaks!
I think these birds are way too hot under the deck. I’ve considered a fan, or a small wading pool, but decided I should leave well enough alone and let their parents handle the care and feeding of hot birds. Observant readers will quickly note that my concern for these hot birds is a minor obsession (see Dog bowl bird bath).
Whenever I peer through the space between the deck boards to check on these babies all I see is heaving sides – birds trying to breath through the July heat.
And July’s heat has arrived. June’s Strawberry Moon has come and gone. The 4th of July is behind us. My neighbor’s garden is going gangbusters, so I’m looking forward to grilling zucchini and summer squash soon. (Okay, my husband will be grilling. I’ll be eating.) Sort of like that phoebe on the left. That gal is always beak open looking for a snack.
The farm stand down the road from us is boasting two cabbages and some garlic. Yes, two cabbages. Cut them some slack – it’s a hobby stand at best and besides, I certainly haven’t grown a cabbage yet. (In fact, I’m not even trying. But I’m sure hoping that the pumpkin seedling I bought last month does amazing things.)
Wildflowers keep changing in the field beyond the farm stand. We’ve gone from a wave of lupines to a wave of Rudbeckia hirta, or black-eyed susan’s. Rasberries are ripening. And old axes have been sunk into deadwood to rest.
Yes, folks – summer in Maine has arrived. Get some while it lasts!
Go, walk in the quiet woods. Hold you lover’s hand, or slip among the trees by yourself. Put on your yoga pants and go with your best friend. Take a child you love, and maybe another who needs to be loved, and teach them to marvel at the wonder of pine scented air and a hush that wraps around tree trunks and tickles their spines.
Wear ripped jeans and old sneakers. Or Under Armor and LL Bean. The trees won’t know the difference. Just get out and go. Tired bones? Busy day? Not an “outdoors person?” Hate the bugs? Got a show to watch? Go anyway. Breathe deeply.
Earlier this week husband and I took our girls to Jamie’s Pond Wildlife Management Area, an 840-acre property that is publicly owned and managed by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. There is no entry fee, and the public is welcome to boat, fish, hike, bird watch and more. We “discovered” this tranquil hideaway at least five years ago and we go there perhaps a dozen times each year. We select hiking locations and times strategically, as we much prefer peace and privacy. We found that there this week, with no company on the trails expect birds singing from above and deer flies darting in from all sides. I dragged my camera along, hoping to spot the owl that I’d heard on our last visit, but no luck.
Today husband and I slipped away from our girls (we told them we had to work and that their best friend would come at noon as usual) and then we zipped to husband’s favorite haunt from the time in our lives when we lived south of the Gardiner toll booth. Bradbury State Park in Pownal, Maine is only an hour from where we live now, though it used to be ten minutes away from a condo that we called home in Freeport. An admission fee of $4 per adult (Maine resident price) gives you access to hiking and biking trails, horseback riding trails, camping and scenic overlooks. Bradbury, one of Maine’s five original state parks, offers over 730-acres to explore. Maine’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry manages the park (and quite nicely, I might say, as the staff has always been friendly and helpful and the park is well-maintained.)
We took the boundary trail and reveled in the silence. Sure, there was occasional bird song, and even still more occasional child-song, but mostly it was just us, and the trees. Tall, tall trees stretching up the side of a 500 foot (smallish) mountain shaped by a glacier in the last ice age. All of the steep cliffs and bluffs on Bradbury face southeast, the direction the glacier moved on its way toward the Gulf of Maine. Today’s cooler temperatures kept most of the biting insects away, and for that we were thankful. I ignore the deer flies for as long as I can but eventually start swatting at my head and the air in a futile effort to kill my tormentors. At best I manage to tangle them into my hair, while my husband dispatches deer flies using a technique that is part ninja, part ballerina, and entirely successful.
Check out Maine’s Bureau of Parks and Lands website for more information on all of the ways that you can get outside and enjoy Maine: http://www.maine.gov/dacf/parks/
Tree swallow at sunset and grackle on a miniature breakwater. Several families of geese – hard to photograph because they remain tucked in with the aquatic plants. They spend the day grazing, paddling, resting. A chirping sparrow having dinner – who doesn’t love an ant? And catbird in the magnolia. An abundance of beauty to capture in digital images.
Today was a day of blue skies and full sun. We are glad to hide from the world on the weekends, although we are often thinking of the family members and friends who we cherish most. Summer is busy and the days go past in a blur of boats on water and children running and dogs forever on the wrong side of the door. But the ones we love – living and dead – walk with us minute by minute, if we hold them in our hearts.
It is late, and I should be sleeping, but really some things must be done to keep one’s soul from getting too ragged. So I’m sitting at my desk with the lights off to keep the bugs out, since they manage to work through the screens so that they can dance on my computer screen. I have opened the window that is closest to the lake side of the house quite intentionally – I want to hear what is happening. Loons are calling to each other intermittently, and once again I promise myself that as soon as I find those extra fifteen minutes in a day I will commit to memory the meaning of each call.
I wonder about the loon I watched this morning. Is she back on her nest? It was while I was watching that loon this morning that I captured the pictures of the osprey feeding its young. Take a close look – you’ll see nestlings with their tongues reaching for more, more more food from the adult who brought home the morning meal. I’ve provided the photos in the order they were taken. The juvenile appear to be listening for the adult to return: note the cocking of the head to the side, and then the open beak, which was in fact the juvenile calling out for the parent (or so I surmise).