Wildlife Lessons: Welcoming Autumn Visitors

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“These are brand-new birds of   
twelve-months’ growing,  
Which a year ago, or less than twain,   
No finches were, nor nightingales,  
Nor thrushes,     
But only particles of grain,   
And earth and air, and rain.”  

~Thomas Hardy

 

 

In spring, I wait patiently for life to stir in my garden.  For the first native bees to wake and buzz happily finding new nectar and pollen.  To see the first butterflies stretch their wings, and the first frogs and toads hop into the pond.

 

 

And of course I await the return of the song birds who migrate here to find a spot to make a nest and raise a family….the robins, red-winged blackbirds, hummingbirds and orioles….to name a few.

 

 

And once these birds begin to leave, in late August for their winter homes, I am saddened by the silence in the garden.  The butterflies flying south keep me company, but I miss the birds’ gladful chorus.

 

 

This autumn, I was reminded that there is still much to be grateful for as critters find their way to our oasis, and share a few moments.  With the warmer weather lingering longer, we were able to welcome many wonderful creatures.

 

 

 

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The first new visitors were the White-crowned Sparrows you see above and here.  This one is an immature bird, probably born just this year.  The mature bird is at the top of the post.  I love their black and white striped heads.

 

 

These beauties come north to breed every year in summer.  And while they are nearby, I don’t see them until they are migrating back south for the winter.  They stop by for a snack of seeds, which is why I try to leave my seed heads in the garden well into late fall.

 

 

 

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With the warm weather, we saw many robins come down from the north.  They hung around for quite a few weeks, finding berries and fruit to eat.  Our usual robins, who return each spring, left us in August.

 

 

 

birds feeding

And with the exodus of the summer songbirds, comes the reemergence of resident birds in to the garden.  They now take their rightful spot here all fall and winter to enjoy the suet we provide.  The Red-bellied Woodpecker (top left), the Pileated Woodpecker (center), and White-breasted Nuthatch (bottom left) also look for any insects they can find in the trees.  The Black-capped Chickadees (right) will forage for seeds.

 

 

 

birds in distance

The Cardinal (top left) and his mate love to hang about in our front trees once the throngs of other birds have left.  And we are thrilled to see the Red-winged Blackbirds (right) come by for a bite on their way south.  Although this year, there were many more throngs of them for many more weeks than in years past.  Some mature males seemed to be checking out the area for possible nesting sites too.  Perhaps we’ll see more of them in spring.

 

 

And with the cooler air brings the raptors back from Canada.  This Red-tailed Hawk (bottom picture-he was far away) is making our garden and wild area his winter home.  We watch him hunt almost daily.

 

 

 

starlings

The last groups of birds to go, and the first to come in spring, are the European Starlings.  I have never seen so many large groups visiting for days on end.  I adore watching their murmurations around the trees and fields.  Maybe next year I can catch them on video.

 

 

 

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Of course, in our garden, the toads bury themselves in fall, but the frogs (these are Green Frogs) were lingering in the pond well into early November.  They will bury themselves at the bottom of the pond to overwinter once the mercury dips to freezing, and stays there.  Here is our romantic couple still together.

 

We spotted many frogs still in the pond at the end of November.

 

 

 

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One of the biggest surprise visitors was this Northern Leopard Frog.  I have never seen them around the pond in fall, and especially not in late November.  But they will find permanent water, like our pond, and also bury themselves in the mud at the bottom.  This frog will emerge before the others and breed in the pond in early spring.  Then they move to the grassy areas of the garden in summer while the other frogs and toads come to the pond to breed.  I just love the cycle of life, through the seasons, in our pond and garden.

 

If I hadn’t been clearing the pond garden later than I usually do, I would have missed this frog….of course the warmer November weather kept it in the garden longer as the pond never froze until the end of November.

 

 

 

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Our last surprise visitor in late fall was this insect.  No it’s not a strange looking giant ladybug.  It is a Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle, Labidomera clivicollis.  How cool is that!  I will be looking for these beetles next year on my Swamp Milkweed plants, and seeing if they also hang around on the other milkweed I have growing in the garden.  Then I can study them a bit more.

 

 

It is amazing what wildlife still lingers in the garden from September to November, when we think all have left for warmer climates or hibernation.  We just have to pay attention.  And I find it easier to spot the wildlife in the declining garden and leafless trees of fall.  I wonder who will come visiting this winter.  You know I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

 

With this wildlife story, I am joining in the meme Wildlife Wednesday hosted by Tina@My Gardener Says that happens the first Wednesday of every month, and with Saturday’s Critters hosted by Eileen@Viewing nature with Eileen that happens every Saturday.  I am also linking in with with Judith@Lavender Cottage who hosts Mosaic Monday, and Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every week.

 

 

And I am sharing this lesson with Beth@PlantPostings for her wonderful Garden Lessons Learned meme.  I hope you will join her.  Please check out all these great blogs.

 

 

Also as the solstice approaches, please join me at my garden blog, Gardens Eye View,  for my quarterly meme, Seasonal Celebrations. There you can find all the details for linking up to this celebration of the coming of the new seasons around the world.  I hope you can join me with a post.

 

 

 

I leave you with another thought about the lessons I am learning from nature.  Feel free to download the photo and share.

nature

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-15.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

Wildlife Lesson: Bathing’s For The Birds

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“The bath is one of the places I prefer, certainly not a place I leave readily, a place where one can close the door and remove oneself, put oneself in parentheses, as it were, from the rest of humanity. It is a place for reading and thinking, where one’s mind wanders easily, where time seems temporarily suspended.”

― Sheila Kohler

 

 

 

A pond is a garden teeming with plants and wildlife.  One of the wonders of having a pond in the garden is being able to watch wildlife.  Frogs, toads, dragonflies and snakes all come to the pond to live and play regularly.  And if you are lucky you can see birds stepping into the pond for a bath.

 

 

 

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Our pond has too much vegetation along the edge which prevents the birds from bathing.  We need to do a little maintenance to correct this problem.  But the bigger birds have figured out another way to bathe.  They sit in the top of the waterfall and bathe away.  I don’t think he wants us watching him!

 

 

 

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It’s as if they have their own private spa there.  Taking their time with a luxuriating bath or a quick flap of the wings and they’re off.  But mind you, it is not a first come first serve outdoor bath.  No you have to be a robin to get the first chance to use it.  And male robins rule the bath.

 

 

 

lady robin bath

In the picture at the top of the post, our crazy robin momma is none-too-pleased with the catbird who thought she was going to take a bath.  So move over momma catbird, and wait your turn.  This momma robin is spending her second year in our garden so she has special bathing privileges.  I even spied her once covered in mud after she built a nest.  I was standing right next to the waterfall, but she was so desperate to get all that mud off, she hurried and didn’t let my presence stop her.

 

 

 

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I start to see the bathing commence once the robin’s hit town in spring.  Sometimes I feel like a voyeur.  Right up until the tall perennial helianthus puts up screen, in early August, we can keep watching like peeping toms.  By mid-August the robins are almost ready to leave our garden for their winter home.

 

 

 

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Robins and catbirds aren’t the only birds who use the pond for a bath.  We have orioles and an occasional brave cedar waxwing try it out.  But because of the force of the water flowing from the waterfall, only big birds can use it as a bath.

 

 

 

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You can see how this bath is a great source of amusement for us.  Seeing this male robin all wet and poofed up makes me laugh.  And the males seem to be bath hogs.  Most will stay in the bath for long periods, then hop out, shake, stand there for a few minutes and bathe again.  I have seen some hog the bath for upwards of 20 minutes or more keeping the other birds out, even the female robins.  Females are too busy to take a long bath….sounds familiar doesn’t it.

 

 

 

you are all wet

We have a few other smaller bird baths in the garden for other birds, but secretly I think the other birds are jealous of those who use the big bath.  OK, I will admit the robins who live in or nearby our garden are spoiled, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I think even when we fix the pond so birds can wade in and bathe, the robins will still use the waterfall bath.  After all wouldn’t you want a private bath if you could have one.

 

I hope you enjoyed the bathing birds from our spring and summer garden.  It seems bathing is for the birds here in our garden.

 

With this wildlife story, I am joining in the meme Wildlife Wednesday hosted by Tina@My Gardener Says that happens the first Wednesday of every month, and with Saturday’s Critters hosted by Eileen@Viewing nature with Eileen that happens every Saturday.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every week.

 

 

 

I leave you with another thought about bird baths…actually taking a bath in general!  Feel free to download the photo and share.

birdbaths

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-15.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

Wildlife Lesson-Who’s Your Momma?

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“I have a mother,” said the baby bird.

“I know I do.

I will find her.

I will. I WILL!”

~P. D. Eastman, Are You My Mother?

 

 

One day this summer, I was looking out on the garden as I had heard a bit of chattering that told me baby birds were about….or I should say fledglings or newly fledged birds.  As I looked, I spied a new arrival on the patio….a common landing area where we see many new fledglings rest and explore until they get their courage up to take another flight.

 

 

As I watched this babe (you could tell he was newly fledged as he hardly had a tail and hebaby cowbird2 was sporting baby feathers still, here and there), I thought to myself that I had never seen this type of baby bird before.  Certainly too big for a sparrow, and not quite right for a red-winged blackbird.

 

 

The babe was definitely curious taking in his surroundings, wandering on the step of the patio and seeking out seeds.  He hopped about, but always kept one eye on the sky as he cried a bit to be fed.

 

 

baby cowbird4As I was still trying to figure out who this was, another bird swooped down.  It was a smaller song sparrow.  I thought nothing of it until, the sparrow approached the baby bird, and suddenly fed the big baby bird.  Immediately the lightbulb in my brain went on, and I knew immediately who our visitor was; a fledgling Brown-headed Cowbird.

 

 

Now if you don’t know, cowbirds are one of the few birds who do not build a nest.  Instead they lay their eggs in other birds’ nests.  I always found it fascinating that these birds laid eggs, and left the care and upbringing of the egg and baby to other birds much like a foster care program for birds.

 

 

I have read many birds are not amused with this behavior by the cowbirds, and baby cowbirdwill destroy the eggs if they notice them in the nest.  Song sparrow and cowbird eggs are very similar in appearance so it is no wonder they are duped into thinking the egg is theirs.  It must be quite tight in the nest though with the baby cowbird, as they are double the size of baby sparrows.

 

 

The sparrow fed the baby cowbird there on the patio for a while and then they were off to the trees and others areas in the garden more protected and remote.  As they flew off, I marveled at this scene that had played out before me, and how these stories give me pause to reflect about our own human race.  Perhaps we could take a page from nature and try to work more in harmony helping each other without question and prejudice.  It’s a dream!

 

 

 

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Here are some interesting facts about Brown-headed Cowbirds:

  • The female cowbird usually chooses an open cup-nest to lay one egg.
  • The female will wait until the host bird has at least one egg in its nest, many times removing an egg from the nest before laying her own.
  • Female cowbirds will continue to lay one egg at a time for about a month, and can lay up to 40 eggs in host nests.  That’s a lot of cowbirds.
  • The incubation of cowbird eggs is short taking typically 10 to 12 days, thus allowing the young cowbird to get a head start in the nest.
  • Young cowbirds grow quickly, which gives them a competitive edge for food over the other young in the nest.
  • Young cowbirds will also leave the nest quickly usually after 8 to 13 days.
  • It takes the young cowbirds quite a long time to become fully independent from their host parents, about 25 to 39 days.
  • Once they become independent they will form small flocks with other juvenile cowbirds and juvenile birds in general.
  • The care for the cowbird from egg to independent juvenile is usually at the expense of the host bird’s other young, as the cowbird is bigger and grows faster thereby giving it food and attention more than the host bird’s young ones.

 

 

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This summer we have witnessed many fledglings in and around the garden especially baby robins.  No robins nested in the garden this year, preferring the undisturbed abandoned house next door.  And it appears our crazy robin momma had a couple of small broods as we saw her feeding babies weeks apart.

 

This babe flew to the arbor and stayed there for quite a while as it took in its surroundings.  It was quite content to stay put for more than an hour waiting for its parent to come and feed it.

 

 

 

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I spied him, or a sibling, a few weeks later in the garden searching for food and not far from his parents still.

 

 

With this wildlife story, I am joining in the meme Wildlife Wednesday hosted by Tina@My Gardener Says that happens the first Wednesday of every month, and with Saturday’s Critters hosted by Eileen@Viewing nature with Eileen that happens every Saturday.  I am also linking in withMichelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every week.

 

 

And I am sharing this lesson with Beth@PlantPostings for her wonderful Garden Lessons Learned meme.  I hope you will join her.  Please check out all these great blogs.

 

 

Also as the equinox approaches, please join me at my garden blog, Gardens Eye View,  for my quarterly meme, Seasonal Celebrations. There you can find all the details for linking up to this celebration of the coming of the new seasons around the world.

 

 

 

I leave you with another thought about the lessons I am learning from nature.  Feel free to download the photo and share.

baby bird

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-15.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

Wildlife Lessons-Rabbits Return


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“Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were–Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter. ”  ~Beatrix Potter

 

 

Is that not the sweetest little face you have ever seen….for me it is pure joy…and a bit of mayhem.  But I should start at the beginning.  Last summer we discovered baby rabbits in the garden.  One met his demise and the hands of our new young fox, Hunter.  The other grew up in our garden and we fondly named her Beatrix….Bea for short.

 

 

At the end of Bea’s story in late fall, she had left our garden and we thought she went to live under the garden shed next door.  My parting words to Bea were:

 

“Perhaps she will raise a family close by in spring.  Of course, we only admit well-behaved rabbits to our garden as Beatrix can attest to.”

 

Little did I know what was to happen this spring….and as my mother always told me, ‘be careful what you wish for’.  Apparently I have not mastered this wise lesson yet!

 

 

It was a chilly April dawn, cloudy and drizzling….bone chillin’ weather.  As I was looking out DSCN2186over the flooded garden, I spied a bit of activity.  There was a rabbit around the berry bed.  Now a few days before this, I had found a hole in my garlic bed….the perfect size and shape for a rabbit’s nest not yet lined.  Well that could not be allowed so I filled it in, replaced a few moved garlic bulbs, and never thought more about it.

 

 

Not until this rabbit was suspiciously hanging about.  So I decided to go out in the rain and chase it.  As I approached, the rabbit was reluctant to leave, but I was successful in chasing him.  And as I glanced over to the raised bed where he had been, I saw another rabbit laying on top of the bed.  It was a very large rabbit, the color of the leaves, hard to see in the murky gray dawn.

 

 

My first thought was how did it get inside the netting we had over this bed….netting specifically put there to protect the plants from the rabbits!  Huh, well that didn’t work….and as all this was running through my head, I never once thought about the hole in the garlic bed, or why were 2 rabbits hanging about this bed, as there was little to eat here….

 

 

DSCN2703All I could think about was shooing the rabbit out of the bed.  It finally left jumping under the netting loose on one side. Well that must be how she got in.  The rabbits ran off behind the gazebo, not far.  And as I walked over at the bed to secure the netting, I saw why they were there….a nest of newborn baby rabbits were exposed to the elements…actually called kits or kittens.  They were blind, hairless and writhing in the nest….and OH MY GOD, they were not covered and it was cold and raining.  So I quickly moved back to the house in hopes the parents would come back and cover them.  It took 5 minutes, but they returned…the male rabbit, or buck, to stand guard, and the female momma rabbit, or doe, to nurse and cover the nest.

 

 

She entered through a hole in the netting, not discernible to me until I later went over and DSCN3194felt around for it….clever rabbits.  Females will return only once or twice a day to nurse  because their milk is so rich in fat.  They come when it is dark or just about dark near dusk and dawn.  Most of the pictures here are taken at these darker times and hard to see details.

 

 

We didn’t see momma coming into the garden or even around the meadow for days.  So of course the worried godmother, me, was obsessing about these babies.  After about a week, I had to assure myself they were OK.  After all it had been in the 20s at night and barely 40 during the day with pouring rain.  I slipped out to the nest, carefully uncovered the nest (wearing gloves), and saw the furry little balls sleeping.  I gently nudged one to make sure they were alive and was reassured when one moved a little.  I quickly covered them, and worried a bit more until the end of week 2.

 

 

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I read that at around 2 weeks, the kits are supposed to come out of the nest now, and move about getting used to their surroundings and munching on plants found nearby.  I was concerned about them wandering since the nest is in a RAISED BED about 1.5 feet off the ground.  And if in their wandering they were to fall out of the bed, they would not be able to get back in….not to mention they might get tangled in the netting.  Yes we left the netting on as the rabbits chose this protected bed for a reason…birds of prey, cats, fox, etc would not be able to get to the babies.  The only predator who might get inside the bed was a snake, which we did find later caught in the netting dead, at the base of the raised bed.

 

 

DSCN3037So exactly 2 weeks after I spotted the nest, momma came just before dusk…which was good as we finally had a better view.  She took her time getting to the nest so as not to draw attention to herself.  And she stood and looked at the bed from all angles before approaching the opening in the netting.  Once she leapt inside, she quickly uncovered and nursed the kits.  We had spied 4 adorable little bunnies with little wiggly feet and ears (just under momma on the right) just like Thumper (from the Bambi movie)….look carefully below to see all four.

 

 

DSCN3050Then she left them uncovered, so they could wander about the 4′ x 4′  bed, and she left.  SHE LEFT…OH MY GOD….what is going to happen to them…should we go out and cover them.  The voice of reason (my husband) said we can’t do anything its nature, and we have to leave them alone.  So we did.

 

 

The next morning I was going to check that nest though.  And as daylight dawned, I was peeking out the window surveying the garden and the bed from afar.  Just about the same time my neighbor decided to mow his lawn right next to our fence.  As he got close to the corner, I saw something jump….OH MY GOD, it was a baby bunny.  So I raced outside and tried to find it to no avail.  I checked the nest and it was covered.  My worst fears were realized…one of the babes had fallen out of the raised bed, and thankfully found cover in the garden.

 

 

DSCN2712I mentioned it to my husband, and we decided to see if the momma came back at dusk.  Momma did come again, fed the bunnies quickly….and as she was feeding and letting them wander, I spied a little baby bunny head jumping at the side of the raised bed trying to get back in.  Of course it couldn’t…it just kept running around the bed.  The mother left rather quickly, and the baby took after her hoping to get his dinner….can we say heart breaking.

 

 

DSCN3210The next day as we were working in the garden near the beds, I saw the nest looked caved in a bit.  As I looked to the side of the bed, I spied a little baby bunny between the bed and chive plants that grow alongside it.  My husband thought it would be good to put him back in the raised bed so he grabbed his net and easily captured the little cutie pie (also pictured at the top of the post).  The baby wasn’t afraid, rather I think he was confused.  He just looked at us and laid down, and waited until we walked away.  Then he jumped out and ran away.

 

 

DSCN3212We weren’t sure what to expect the next day. So we decided to check the nest and found it empty.  Sadly the bunnies were gone.  They are not old enough to be weaned or to leave the nest, so we think momma moved them for the next several weeks where they could do their wandering and exploring without worrying about anyone falling out of the raised bed.  Fingers crossed, we hope to see them eventually running around the garden or meadow.

 

 

Oh and we do think it was Bea who brought her babes to our garden…the momma rabbit is living under the shed where Bea was, and since Bea was born in the garden we think she came back to give birth in the garden again.  And speaking of returning mothers, our crazy robin returned in April.  We awoke one morning to a familiar banging at our front windows to see the robin sitting there saying, ‘I’m back’……oh no here we go again!

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UPDATE:  We have seen a young bunny in the neighbor’s meadow living under their shed.  And we have seen the parents back in the garden checking it out.  I think they have another nest somewhere…so around the middle of July we may see baby bunnies again roaming the garden.

 

 

And the robin’s built a nest next door, but we just had the babes fledging in our garden….cute as a button.  I named this one Stanley….he was already looking for his own food and flying high into the trees.  I think he is an overachiever already.

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With this wildlife story, I am joining in the meme Wildlife Wednesday hosted by Tina@My Gardener Says that happens the first Wednesday of every month, and with Saturday’s Critters hosted by Eileen@Viewing nature with Eileen that happens every Saturday.  I am also linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every week.

 

 

And I am sharing this lesson with Beth@PlantPostings for her wonderful Garden Lessons Learned meme.  I hope you will join her.  Please check out all these great blogs.

 

 

Also as the solstice approaches, please join me join in at my garden blog, Gardens Eye View,  for my quarterly meme, Seasonal Celebrations, where you can find all the details for linking up to this celebration of the new seasons around the world.

 

 

I leave you with another thought about my garden lesson learned this spring.  Feel free to download the photo and share.

rabbit

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-15.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

Conversations In The Garden- On Awareness

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A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.

~Leonard Nimoy


 

 

My mom is now in the winter of her life.  At 83, her body is shutting down, and she is in need of more assistance in her basic daily living skills.  It has been a traumatic journey for her recently, and given me much on which to pause and reflect.

 

 

DSCN0389I think about all she has given me over the years.  I was a sickly child, with asthma from the time I was born.  I almost died of pneumonia when I was one, and was in and out of hospitals from a very early age.  I had every childhood disease imaginable.  And in all that time, my mom never complained, and never once wasn’t there for me.

 

 

And now in her most vulnerable time, I try to be there with comforting words.  To give her guidance, to talk about her day, every day I can even though I am almost 3000 miles away.

 

 

And I think about my own mortality, now more than ever before.  How much time I have left here on this earth, in this body.  How long will it continue to allow me to do and think about the things I love….even the everyday things like walking, eating, breathing.

 

 

DSCN0384As I think about all this, I am drawn back to the Wabi-Sabi principles I learned about in January, in particular Principle 6:  Accept the inevitable.  Life is evanescent.  Before we know it another day has gone by, and then another month and another year….and then more years than we care to think about.

 

 

 

So if life is so fleeting, what can we do to not let it pass us by?  I think this is why I have been in a ‘noticing’ frame of mind recently.  To experience each moment….be present, be aware of my surroundings.  Really look, and deeply listen.  And especially become aware of myself.  Observing how I feel, what I am doing, how I am reacting to my life.  What choices I am making.  What might I want to change or do with my life right now.

 

 

DSCN0485And I have found great freedom in this noticing.  I find I am free now to do what I want…whatever that might be.  I am still discovering, even now in my life, that new paths are always showing themselves to me if I can be more aware.

 

 

Winter is a great time to reflect on our lives.  This past winter was a brutally cold one.  One that wore on with endless days of piles of snow unrelenting, and a frigid, bone chilling wind that never ceased to howl.  And under all that snow was a garden about to come to life again.  But for a long time though this winter, all I could see were my memories of it as it was held frozen below the landscape of white.

 

 

DSCN0516And if I take any lessons from this winter, it is this season will pass and be replaced by a new season, a new path, a new time, a new memory.  As I sit with the window cracked listening to the last of winter’s winds blow through the barren trees, I smell the change it is bringing.

 

 

And I hear the birds once again singing in a new season….rejoicing for this new time that is at hand.  A time to celebrate the beauty of what was, and what is to come.  A new garden to be born with new memories to be made.  My life, still before me each new day lived to its fullest.  The possibilities are endless when we are aware, in the moment.  

 

 

 

I am sharing this life and garden lesson with Beth@PlantPostings for her wonderful Garden Lessons Learned meme.  I hope you will join her.

 

 

 

 

Note:   All these images, of my garden, were taken this February during our brutal winter.  Even in its bitter cold and snow, there was beauty to be found.  The last photo is of my early spring garden last year.

 

 

The quote, at the beginning of the post, is the last Tweet Leonard Nimoy made a few days before he died.  I found it inspiring, thoughtful, and in his honor as Mr. Spock, “fascinating”.  May we all, “Live long and prosper”.

 

 

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I leave you with another thought about aging, acceptance and life.  Feel free to download this photo and share.

worry

All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2015.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

Life Long Learner In The Garden

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Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence. ~ Robert Frost

 

 

I have always considered myself a lifelong learner especially in the garden.  And I find I learn the best through my experiences good or bad.  Bad sometimes being the over the top, knee-jerk reactions to things.  They have become less and less since retiring, but they still happen.  Case in point was this spring as we awaited the nesting of the birds, especially the robins who usually nest in our front dwarf willows.

 

DSCN5908Every year we look forward to watching the robins make their nest, lay the eggs one a day, nurture the babies and see them fledge.  So we were ecstatic when we saw a pair of robins checking out one of the trees in April just after the last spring snow.  You can see the female robin above.  Little did we know at the time that we would get to know her up close and personal.

 

Soon after the robin pair checked out the tree, I was sure they were set on that tree, and was happy knowing we would have a nest here again.  A few days later though something strange happened.  The bluebirds had chosen a house in the back garden, built a nest and were all set until a lone robin chased them out.  Robins don’t nest in houses so I was perplexed as to why this robin was continuing to bully the bluebirds out of their nest.  You can see her sitting here unrelenting as the bluebirds fought her unsuccessfully.  They went on to another house and built a nest where they had a few babies who fledged.

 

DSCN5987Then one day, soon after the bluebird house fight, we heard an unusual banging on the front windows.  Perched on the front porch bench was a robin pecking at the window.  I thought nothing of it until the pecking moved from window to window all day long.  It seemed the robin was protecting the area around the tree she had chosen, and saw another robin in the window.  I read online to cover the windows with decals or paper to break up the robin’s image.  It went on to say that if the robin didn’t stop she could wear herself out and die.  Not to mention the incessant banging against the window did not stop if we ignored it, and the noise was making us me crazy!

 

So I proceeded to cover every other pane with white paper.  I left it loose on the ends so it would fly up and discourage the bird as she was now flying up and pecking into the windows.  We moved the bench off the porch and she then took to flying from the trees right at the window.  Eventually she eased up on the pecking, and just when we thought we had her calmed down, she went to the back of the house and started pecking relentlessly at our bedroom windows launching herself from the roof below.  It was then that I surmised that the robin was clearing all similar birds from the area, including the bluebirds as they are also part of the thrush family.

 

At one point I had 3 of the windows in the front of the house and our bedroom windows DSCN6164completely covered with wrapping paper and white paper.  Of course our neighbors noticed the paper on the windows and were asking all sorts of questions.  And still the robin pecked at the windows more out of habit than anything by now.  This was beginning to wear thin for us, and my patience was about gone.  She seemed a bit more than quirky and we thought perhaps all the banging had loosened a few screws in her head.

 

So back to the internet, and with more research I bought an owl that we could hang.  I really wanted her to nest here, but I was more concerned for the bird and our sanity.  The owl seemed to work right away.  The robin moved on to the unoccupied house next door.  We had done all we could, and wished her well.

 

DSCN6619We unwrapped the house, and were settling in to the calm again when we heard an occasional peck at the front windows as the robins visited to find food in our garden.  Then I spied the female gathering nesting materials.  I was happy she would be nesting, and was shocked to see she had completed the foundation of nest in the original tree they had checked out in April.  And right under the hanging owl.  Great deterrent that owl!

 

As she built her nest, she would fly by, weave the nesting materials and then peck at the windows.  She took forever to build the nest as she kept getting distracted by the robin she saw still in the window….I think at this point she had developed ADD.  Her mate could be seen flying to the tree and calling to her to get back to the nest-building.  But in three days she finally completed the nest, and three days after that she laid her first egg.  Whew!

 

And after all that has happened, I have been trying to figure out the lesson of this robin DSCN8859adventure.  One thing I have learned throughout my life is that the more distressing the experience, the more profound the lesson.  And each experience will be interpreted differently depending on our view of the world.  But most importantly, try not to judge the situation.  Instead dig into your feelings looking for the wisdom found therein.

 

So what is the wisdom from this experience.  The obvious lesson was; don’t try to change nature.  But when I thought about it a bit more, I realized the bigger lesson was one of resilience and perseverance.  You can hit your head against a wall or window many times before you might find success, but it is important to keep trying if you really want to reach the goal.  And boy was this robin a role model for reaching a goal in the midst of many obstacles or perhaps perceived obstacles.

 

DSCN5803So this fall, as I think about the deer already browsing the garden and the voles digging holes in my veg beds, I also think about the robin.  Her lessons so vital to me….we can only do what we can do in our gardens after all we share the land with the critters.…and of course, don’t beat your head against the wall for too long, but keep working on the problem by getting a new perspective.  Then we can work through the obstacles toward a solution.

 

 

 

Note:  There is much animal symbolism surrounding the Robin.  Their bright yellow beak stands for the sun’s rays.  The white ring around the robin’s eye is symbolic of clarity, and great wisdom. When clear understanding is needed the robin is called upon.

 

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Update in fall:

While this story started in early spring when the robin’s returned it did not end with the first nest in our tree.  After a week of the robins laying the eggs, we arose to find some of the eggs pushed from the nest.  It appears something was wrong with them so the robin’s destroyed them and started over.

This time they moved to my next door neighbor’s tree and within hours had a new nest, and a couple days later they were laying another clutch of eggs.  She did not peck at their windows as they have a dog, but she flew for an occasional peck at our windows to make sure our robin in the window stayed at bay.

We never saw any fledglings, but heard there were some.  And just this fall we saw lots of young robin’s still around our garden.  It seems the robin is more than just a harbinger of spring here in our garden.

 

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I am sharing this lesson with Beth@PlantPostings for her wonderful Garden Lessons Learned meme.  I hope you will join her.  I am also linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every week.  And I am joining Saturday’s Critters hosted by Eileen@Viewing nature with Eileen that happens every Saturday.  Please check them all out.

 

Also as the solstice approaches, please join me join in at my garden blog, Gardens Eye View,  for my quarterly meme, Seasonal Celebrations, where you can find all the details for linking up to this celebration of the new seasons around the world.

 

 

I leave you with another thought about my garden lesson learned this year.  Feel free to download the photo and share.

 

robin

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.