Thursday, June 21, 2007

Cliff Swallows

We contend with Cliff Swallows every year.  Perhaps you do as well?  They like to return to previous nesting sites.  If the nest was well-constructed and is not heavily infested with parasites they will use it again.  Otherwise, if the nests are gone, they re-build in the same spots.  When they arrive, they fly for hours making repeated swooping flights from mud puddle up to the chosen nest site which is on a vertical surface and frequently under the eaves of a building. 
cliff swallow nests
The nests are constructed of mud pellets which the swallows collect in their beaks.  They start with an outline and add row after row until the shape of the nest is like a gourd with a small opening.  They line the insides of the nests with grass, hair, and feathers.  You can see in this picture where a previous nest had been built.  More about that below.
Cliff Swallows in their nest
As mentioned, we go through this every year.  On one hand it is a fantastic spectacle of nature I enjoy watching, especially when the kids were small.  On the other hand, the nests are infested with fleas and ticks and other yucky parasites, not to mention the white splash of droppings which would accumulate once they began flying in to feed their young.  So - we knock the nests down every year before they lay their eggs.  Usually if we keep knocking away their first rows of mud they give up and find a different place.  They are beautiful birds though, and I enjoy seeing them sitting together like little lovebirds.
Cliff Swallow sweethearts
Here is an additional Cliff Swallows link.
And another which has the call of the Cliff Swallow.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Simple Moments . . .

I walked out to the garden early this evening to dump some garbage in the compost pile. It was such a beautiful evening I was filled with well-being. On the way back I picked three strawberries, the very first ones of the summer from our new plants.


Then I found an asparagus stalk to go with the others I had picked yesterday. I sliced them up and sauteed them for a late supper. I love them this way. Don't they look delicious?


I'm always on the look out for Forget-me-nots. They are not plentiful as some of the flowers are so it is always a treat to find them growing along the trail.



Here is my latest Gerbera Daisy. I love it!

Gerbera Daisy

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Early June Photos

It is always such a delight when we suddenly come upon a deer. They are so beautiful, the female doe so delicate. I am hoping very much to run across a doe with a fawn. We see tiny little hoof prints in the mud on the track so I am hopeful. If you look closely you will see a deer in the center of the photo below.

Here is a closer look.

One day Jack and I came upon a three-legged doe. We don't know how she lost her leg, and it made me very sad to watch her awkwardly navigate her way on one front leg. Though she looks rough, she is very beautiful. We see her from time to time.

There is a chipmunk who lives in an old hollowed out log. He helped me to learn a valuable lesson. When we first got our new camera, he delighted me by sitting on the log, chewing cutely on some bit of food while I click-click-clicked away, beautiful photos with the light just perfect behind him. It wasn't until I got home that I realized the card wasn't in the camera. I was so disappointed! I think I will never let that happen again. So I was even more delighted when he finally showed himself again recently, peeking cutely from his little hiding place.

Sadly I must tell you, he is no more. Owl is all I will say.

I finally got a photo of the ever-elusive and never-one-to-stay-in-one-spot-long kingfisher. He is not a handsome fellow up close.

Sometimes we don't go very far from the house to see beautiful and interesting things. The killdeer will make her nest and lay her eggs in the most perilous (for her young) of places. We have a nest just at the edge of our driveway. The picture below shows her sitting on it.

She hollows out a little area and lays her eggs, sitting on them for days until they hatch. Usually she shares this job with her mate but our current killdeer mama is going solo. More often than not raccoons or prowling cats come in the nighttime and devour her eggs.

The day after we found her nest, the eggs had increased from two to four. I am amazed the eggs are still there.

When something or someone goes too near the nest, she will get up and run and try to draw you away from her nest. She gives piercing screams and will even stick one wing out as if it is broken trying to draw your attention.

The bird below is a Cedar Waxwing, one of my favorites. They love to flit around in the pine trees and they sound a bit like crickets chirping.