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Grackle #115

25 May

grackle115I came home at lunch time today so I could take Rufus for a walk…or at least play with him in the yard. It’s nice living close enough to my workplace to be able to take a break like that now and then. While I was in the backyard with Rufus I heard a bird chirping loudly and insistently. Rufus was totally disinterested in the bird but I felt compelled to investigate.

It wasn’t long till I discovered a bird lying on its back under our holly tree. I went in for a closer look. It didn’t look as if the bird had been attacked by a predator but I was mystified as to how it had been injured. It wasn’t anywhere near the house so it was unlikely it had flown into a window pane. It seemed to be a juvenile but certainly not a fledgling that had fallen from a nest. I brought Rufus inside and began researching what to do for the little critter. I posted some photos and a query on two bird groups I belong to on Facebook. The birders quicky identified it as a Common Grackle. I also called the Maryland Department of Natural Resources who referred me to a wildlife center in nearby Columbia.

Luckily Judy Holzman, who operates the center, picked up on the first ring. She advised me to place the bird into a well-ventilated box lined with towels. She said to cover the box, secure the lid and place it somewhere warm where my pets couldn’t get to it. I did as she instructed but explained I had to return to work and that I’d bring the bird to her center after I got home from work.

When I did return home, I was fearful about what I would find when I opened the lid of the box. The grackle was still very much alive and alert but also still unable to support itself, much less fly. He remained on his back. I secured the lid back on the box and trekked on over to All Creatures Great and Small, Judy’s wildlife center.

Judy agreed that the bird is a young grackle and logged him in as Grackle #115. She seemed as puzzled as I was about how the bird had gotten injured. She weighed him and said he was underweight. She gave him some meds (I think it was amoxycillin) and placed him in a truss to keep him upright inside a cage.

Grackle #115 has plenty of company at the wildlife center—a room inside Judy’s home. The injured animal ward was lined with cages and crates. There was already another grackle there who had a visible injury to its breast. I also saw what looked like a chipping sparrow. Hard to tell because all the bird cages were covered with cloths, I presume to make the birds feel more secure. In a very large crate, not covered with cloth, were several squirrels.

Judy said she’d give my little grackle fluids and keep an eye on him for improvement. If he does recover, she’d like me to pick him up and release him in the same area where I found him. I do hope that comes to pass!

This Year’s Crop of Robins

5 May

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In the past, we had robins nesting under our deck year after year. Sometimes a previous year’s nest would be reused. But since returning from Israel in 2012, the deck has not been adorned with nesting birds. This weekend Brad was trimming the shrubs in the front yard and he discovered a nest of robins in one of our yews. He hopes he didn’t disturb the robin family too greatly as the chicks are just beginning to hatch.

Backyard Shenanigans

12 Jul

Chickadee at the new peanut feeder

Chickadee at the new peanut feeder

We had been filling our bird feeders with a premium seed and nut mixture and enjoyed seeing quite a variety of birds visit. Aside from the usual house sparrows and house finches, we saw titmice, cardinals, nuthatches, wrens, chickadees, blue jays, brownheaded cowbirds, and woodpeckers, to name a few. But then the icterids discovered the premium mix. I didn’t mind the red-winged blackbirds, but the grackles and starlings chased the other birds away and gorged themselves, going through the entire contents of the feeder in less than a day. We then switched to plain safflower seeds, having learned that grackles and starlings don’t much care for those seeds. But we lost many other visitors as well, particularly the woodpeckers.

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Squirrel raiding the peanut feeder

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A Hasty Retreat

So, Brad installed a peanut feeder and sure enough the chickadees, titmice, nuthatches and blue jays returned. We haven’t yet seen any woodpeckers. But the peanuts have been a seemingly irresistible temptation for the squirrels. Over the last few days I’ve watched as they pondered how to get to the feeder. I saw many slips and mishaps of failed attempts. Then yesterday I looked out the window to see one squirrel had succeeded in attaching himself to the feeder, but I don’t think he managed to extract one peanut from it. He was clinging to the feeder upside down. I took one fair shot of him through the kitchen window but I wanted to get an even better closer shot. I tiptoed out onto the deck but as soon as I aimed my camera the little bugger flew from the feeder to the deck, lost his footing and fell to the ground. I’m sure he’s okay…he scampered away very quickly. Haven’t seen a squirrel at the feeder in about a day but it has been raining most of the time. Time will tell if they have learned their lesson.

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Sparrow without tail feathers

In other news, we’ve had a cute little female house sparrow without any tail feathers making frequent visits to our feeders. She seems to get along fine without her tail feathers. I only hope a cat was not involved in her disfigurement. Couldn’t have been Baxter or Lulu as they are kept indoors but some of our neighbors allow their cats to roam outside.

Return of the Gecko

9 Jun

Gotcha! He is not at all happy…but if not for our intervention, Baxter and Lulu would not have been as kind.

A colorful creature…and quite agile. Moments after taking this photo he leapt from Brad’s hand onto the patio with a funny little thudding sound.

Released on the patio. He spent quite a bit of his new-found freedom circling this post.

Last October a little gecko made its way into our living room. Brad was able to scoop him up and put him outside before Baxter or Lulu could cause any damage. Today, while readying the grill for a cookout, we found another gecko on our patio. Baxter and Lulu were eyeing him intently from inside the sliding glass doors. Before we knew it, as we were making our way inside, the little lizard decided to come in with us. Brad scrambled again to capture the critter before Baxter and Lulu could. The gecko was caught and placed back on patio. As I began roasting peppers, I looked for the gecko and he was nowhere to be seen. At least not by human eyes. But a pair of feline eyes knew the gecko was still close at hand. I saw Baxter eyeing a spot just outside the sliding glass doors. I shook my head, thinking the poor cat doesn’t realize the gecko is gone. Wrong! Brad found the gecko back inside the house. Scooped him up again and this time we are pretty sure he is gone for good. Why are we so sure? Baxter and Lulu have given up their post by the sliding glass doors.

A Day in the Life of Baxter and Lulu

1 Apr

Baxter leaves his perch atop the cat tree to check in on Lulu who has been snoozing in a sunbeam.

Baxter's attention is temporarily distracted, perhaps by the bird of paradise blooms in the back yard. Lulu tries to get back to sleep.

Baxter: "Hey, Lulu, wake up!" Lulu: "Ger'off!"

Baxter grooms Lulu.

Baxter grooms Lulu.

Baxter: "Hey, let's play, Lulu!" Lulu tries to ignore the irrepressible Baxter.

Baxter: "Hey, c'mon Lulu" Lulu: "Leave me and my sunbeam alone!"

Backyard Harvest

16 Sep

A pile of passion fruit

The fruits of my labor

Passion Fruit in a Potted Plant

Some of the passion fruit landed in potted plants.

Passion Fruit and Palm Tree

One got wedged in this palm.

Bowl of Passion Fruit

The Cream of the Crop

Every year a large black walnut tree would drop scores of nuts in our backyard at our home in Maryland. It was an ongoing chore through the summer and fall to gather those nuts. We didn’t even eat them. They were bitter and nasty tasting. Sadly that walnut tree was taken out recently by Hurricane Irene.

Here in Israel we have another type of harvest to make. High above one wall of our backyard runs a passion fruit vine. We don’t know who planted it. Considering the mass of tangled vines and branches back there it’s hard to tell if the vine is rooted in our yard or our neighbor’s.

As I was weeding the other day (a chore I had been putting off) I came across a few passion fruit on the ground and gathered them up. Then today I went out to see if there were any more passion fruit. I was astounded at the number of fruit lying in our yard. Not only were they lying on the ground, some had landed inside plant pots. One had even become wedged in a palm tree. It was like going on an Easter Egg hunt.

I gathered the fruit into two plastic grocery bags. In all, I had gathered 8.5 lbs. of passion fruit! This was not counting the ones that had withered and rotted away already. I sorted through the fruit and discarded many that had been gouged or otherwise damaged. Those that passed my quality control inspection weighed a total of 2.5 lbs.

Now I just need to wait for the skin of the fruit to turn wrinkly — that is when they are ripe and ready for eating.