Bird Watching: flights of fancy

One of my favorite things about my home is the abundance of wildlife I get to enjoy without even stepping outside. I love that I can see birds from literally every window in my house. And late spring and early summer are when things get really lively around here.

Several years ago, my dad built a bluebird house for me and to say that it changed my world might be an overstatement, but it has definitely made my little part of the world much more interesting.

Every spring, I look forward to watching the progression. First, the happy couple checks out the house and runs background checks on the neighbors. When the nest is built, the female will begin to lay her eggs.

Mrs. Bluebird will lay one egg each day for 2-5 consecutive days. Once they are laid, the3 eggs incubation process will begin. Mr Bluebird is largely absent from this process, though I have witnessed one pair with a very committed male who made frequents visits to his Mrs, bringing her tidbits to snack on and keep her happy!

I love to watch as the parents feed and care for their young. Together. Mom and Dad are equal partners in this process. Taking turns bringing juicy morsels of bugs and fat wriggly worms.

Did you know that baby bluebirds poop in a diaper? It’s true. Though maybe not scientifically accurate. Their excrement comes out wrapped in what basically appears to be a white sack. This makes it easy for Mom, or in my observations, usually Dad, to carry it off, keeping the nest clean and predators unaware of habitation.

baby blue birdsAnother beautiful thing to observe in the bluebird family is the participation of older siblings in the rearing of new babies. Sometimes, a couple will choose to lay a second clutch of eggs after the first has fledged. The young ones, which at this point are only about a month old will stick around and help care for the new batch. It’s quite remarkable to see.

Checking for eggs and watching babies grow up is both fun and a bit stressful. One year, I had been watching the nest box closely and noticed that the adults had quit making feeding trips to the nest. So, I went to the box to make sure all the babies had fledged. They hadn’t.

When I reached the box, I saw a trail of ants climbing up the post. With a sense of foreboding, I opened the nest box to see what was or wasn’t inside. To my surprise, I found two birds – one recently deceased and the other, terrified but still alive. I removed the dead bird and scattered the ants, withdrawing back to the house to watch from a window.

I was hoping that with the dead bird removed, the parents would return to the nest to care for their remaining young. So, I waited and kept watch. And I waited. And I worried. And then, to my relief, Mama returned. She continued to feed the little guy for about half an hour and then proceeded to give him a series of short and frantic flight demonstrations.

It was a joyous moment for me when I saw the little guy make his leap of faith and take flight into the great big beautiful world. Every time I see a male bluebird, I wonder if it’s him and I smile.

Watching a baby bird take its first flight is truly an uplifting experience. I had a pair of Mockingbirds nest on my front porch one spring and I could see the babies from my kitchen and living room windows.

Three babies hatched and I spent hours watching them get fed and grow. As their little naked bodies plumed, they became more active in the nest, culminating in a charming dance of jumping legs, bobbing heads, and flailing wings. I was certain this activity was the immediate precursor to flight, so I became obsessed with watching the nest – not wanting to miss their moment of glory.

This dance went on for some time. Apparently, it takes a few days for baby birds to build up their little muscles enough for flight. But I stuck with my observation and my persistence paid off. The first one took a daring leap straight from nest into nothingness and was soon gone from sight. Rather anti-climatic.

The remaining siblings continued their bee-bop dance at a frenetic pace. Not as eager to take the leap, they ventured out into the vine instead and eventually found their way up to the roof. They were a delightful pair to watch as they ran and jumped and flapped all while Mom flew back and forth with encouragement.

Eventually, as we all must, they too gathered their courage, relied on the strength they had built, trusted in a power they couldn’t see or understand, and vaulted themselves into the great unknown.



Tall Ships: a seafaring history

One of the things I love about living in the South is that history is so much a part of the present. As I mentioned in a previous blog about Civil War reenactments, I love to be able to experience (and photograph) history in a way that is up close and personal.

A few years ago, the Tall Ships Challenge® had a scheduled stop in Savannah. I missed most of the festivities held along River Street, but managed to see the parade of ships as they left port heading out to the Atlantic. I had a great seat for the parade of ships, perched on a large boulder on the shore of the Savannah River from Fort Pulaski’s Cockspur Island.

I really enjoyed the experience, and have since made a point of visiting some of the tall ships when they visit the port in Savannah; including the Lynx and tandalucia masthe Andalucia. For a small fee, you can get on board, have a look around and even talk to the crew.

The ships are things of graceful beauty. Elegant in design. Carved of bold woods and draped with thick, rough rope. There is symmetry and purpose in every nook and cranny. A work of art, a piece of history, a feat of engineering and workmanship.

The Tall Ship Challenge® will be returning to the Atlantic Coast (and presumably making a stop in Savannah) next summer. If you missed them last time they came through, plan to see them in 2017 – you’ll be glad you did!