In late November, while walking at dusk with the moon rising, my husband and I witnessed thousands of geese migrating over us….we lost count at 30 groups, moving higher and higher as they sang their glorious song of farewell. This poem was created on that walk. I will be taking a hiatus from blogging for a few weeks to devote time to enjoying the season without the rush. I’ll see you after the New Year.
I am joining in with Poets Unitedfor their weekly poetry link up for poets who blog.
I leave you with a few additional words about the Kiss the Sky. I welcome you to download the photo and share it.
All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2018. Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.
“The bird is powered by its own life and by its motivation.”
~A. P. J. Abdul Kalam
You can tell by looking at this picture, these are not the mice you were probably thinking of when you read the title of this post. Those mice are free to roam the garden and wild areas. We rarely see them, except when they come in the house in winter. We did find their access and have so far put a stop to that. Sorry, those mice have to stay outside.
But this little mouse, pictured here, is a Tufted Titmouse or Baeolophus bicolor. These birds are common to the eastern US, and can be seen acrobatically flitting around gardens and feeders all year. They are considered a small bird, 5 inches, but seem larger than other small birds like finches.
Since they tend to hang with chickadees, nuthatches, and woodpeckers, I was not surprised to see them in the garden in early December when these other birds were hanging from the suet feeder.
They heralded their appearance by noisily chasing off a Downy Woodpecker who was happily feeding on suet. The Titmice had been at my neighbor’s feeders two doors down. But their curiosity got to them, and they had to see what was all the rage at our house….that rage would be suet as it keeps the woodpeckers and chickadees happy all day.
I usually see these cute birds in spring just before the songbirds make a reappearance from their warmer winter homes. They come to the feeders, like in winter, and leave the feeders behind once the insects are out and plentiful. They especially like caterpillars, beetles, ants, spiders and wasps. Of course they won’t turn down seeds, berries and nuts.
The one other encounter I have had with Tufted Titmice was a few springs ago when one ran right into our glass French Door….which had grids in the glass. I had heard the ruckus of two Titmice squabbling and flying around fighting. Then suddenly that loud bang on glass….you know when you hear it, it’s a bird strike. It was apparent this bird had not been watching where he was going as he was fighting.
I jumped up and looked for the bird. I saw it laying upright on the patio. But as you can see from the picture, its neck was bent. I was sure it had broken its neck as it was dazed…unmoving. I was reluctant to go out and see if it was alive. I didn’t want to scare it any further. I tend to give birds some time to recover if they strike the house, and if they don’t I know the inevitable conclusion.
He took a long time to straighten, probably a good 15- 20 minutes. And then more time to get over the concussion he probably had. After all he was flying full force in that bird fight. His mate was calling to him for most of the time. She did move on eventually as it may have appeared he was dead to her. When he finally flew off, I wished him well and silently told him to please be more careful.
We don’t see a Titmouse nest as they use tree cavities, especially old woodpecker holes or nests (we don’t have any in our trees yet)….which explains why they hang around woodpeckers. They can pick up a good, used home quickly.
I expect to see these cute birds out and about soon as spring starts to show itself soon. After all we are supposed to get an early spring, aren’t we?
Here are some interesting facts and folklore about the Tufted Titmouse:
The common name Titmouse comes from the Old Icelandic word ‘titr’, meaning something small, and from the Old English ‘mase’ meaning small bird.
Tufted Titmice seem to always choose the largest seeds they can when foraging. In fall and winter they often hoard these seeds in bark crevices.
Tufted Titmouse pairs do not gather into larger flocks once breeding is done like many other birds. Sometimes a juvenile will remain with the parents for a time even to help them raise young fledglings.
Tufted Titmice often line their inner nest with hair, sometimes taken right from living animals. They have found hair from raccoons, opossums, mice, woodchucks, squirrels, rabbits, livestock, pets, and even humans in their nests.
In Cherokee Indian legend, the Titmouse is regarded as a messenger; and has the reputation of a liar.
What wonderful critter surprises are you seeing these days?
So a couple of months ago, I started a new series, called Beyond Words. I wanted to showcase different spots I find, in pictures, with as few words as possible. For my first post, I traveled the short 10 minute walk to the lake across the street to see it in late summer.
And here we were again, at the lake in mid-Autumn, to see how the views had changed. It was unseasonably warm in November, so there was lots of color and activity at the lake. And little did I know when I wrote this, that December weather would also be warm and still looking like fall with no snow.
So let’s go to the lake…….
Children were playing on the beach and playground as it was 75 degrees, and a perfectly clear day.
Beyond the children were hundreds of geese spread out from shore. A few ducks and seagulls were mixed into the group, but the ducks are few and far between as it is duck season. Many mornings, at sunrise, we can hear the loud gunshots. Poor ducks.
And the fisherman were out on the lake still. There were about 6 fishing boats I could see, and this lone fisherman who had waded into the shallow water. In my last post, there was a fisherman who had waded in. I wonder if it is the same fisherman? This time the water was cooler so he was wearing his waders.
One of the first things we noticed, besides the trees, was the sandy shore. It was now covered in grass as the beach grooming stopped in August.
And with the lack of beach grooming, there was lots of grassy debris along with seaweed and leaves stretching at least three feet up the beach from the edge of the water.
The grassy jetty that had reached out into the water in late summer was now gone, along with the plants along the shoreline.
Continuing to scan toward shore, you can see the grasses declining and the barren woods giving you a view of the water on the other side of the jetty.
And if we come ashore we can see this lovely path ending at a bench to take in the views from either side…..let’s get in closer.
I love this peaceful view. A spot I must remember to visit more often.
As I turned from the water, I saw this magnificent sight of leaves in their full splendor….still hanging on. There is a mix of American Tilden, White Ash (already leafless) and Maple trees here. The woods are so dense in summer and early fall…..a wonderful shady spot now partially barren, and blazing with the early afternoon light this November day.
This is our first view as we get close to the lake, and it is also our last as we turn to walk back. If you look at the summer post from Oneida Lake, you can see some of the dramatic changes that have taken place during autumn at the lake.
If you enjoy reading this blog, I welcome you to share it with others. I enjoy spreading the blog love, and I appreciate all who come and read my blogs.
Special Note: Oneida Lake is the largest lake entirely within New York State. It has a surface area of 79.8 square miles, and is located northeast of Syracuse and near the Great Lakes. There are several parks, marinas and beaches along this lake that spans several counties.
The chilly, yet refreshing, rain has stopped. Gray clouds linger keeping a nip in the air. Migrating red-winged blackbirds still arrive, and mix with resident chickadees and goldfinches. Woodpeckers strike at the dying ash tree while robins, who have remained, look for berries. So many birds come in waves, so late this autumn. Is this a portent for the coming of a mild winter?
And the juncos are here now too. These ‘snow birds’ arrive with the close of fall and the first snow. Their feathers match the dark winter sky, as they flit from place to place clearing the garden of seeds. These feathered visitors are all here for their early morning feeding before going about their day, flying south or finding a warm spot to linger.
No matter, all are welcome here bringing pleasure to this gardener even as winter gets closer, and the garden sleeps. Nature never does, thankfully!
The visitor’s to my garden were many this fall. Some were late in visiting, and a few new surprise critters stopped by. These observations led me to write this Haibun. You can read more about the specific garden visitors in my Wildlife Lesson post from last week. It continues to be unseasonably warm here as I await winter’s coming.
December 1st started my Seasonal Celebrations meme for the change of seasons. Check out my post at Gardens Eye View, and join in the celebration of the change of seasons, no matter where you are on earth. You can also read an excerpt of my Winter story in the latest issue of RURAL magazine.
I am joining in with Poets Unitedfor their weekly poetry link up for poets who blog. Visit them to read some more wonderful verse.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And I am sharing this lesson with Beth@PlantPostingsfor 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.
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.
“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” ~Cynthia Occelli
It seems appropriate in late autumn to look back on the garden. As I assess my garden, weed and clear a bit of debris, I look for the changes my garden has been going through. How it has grown, and what future paths it may take.
And with this time in my garden, I also look inward. To reflect on where I have grown and how far I have come this past year. Autumn spells the time of moving from the full moon of summer to the waning moon….a great time of introspection…of restoration and preparing for the dreaming time of winter.
So what do I see in my garden as it declines and goes back to the soil…to the roots? I see seeds forming everywhere. Nuggets of wisdom that are forming on the plants, falling to the ground or flying on the breeze to land and grow again. Perhaps morphing a bit, growing bigger and stronger plants.
Seeds are amazing. To me the giver of life. They hold everything that is needed to grow a complete plant that bears fruit or flower. They symbolize the cycle of life. And when I hold seeds in my hand, I am grateful for their work.
In order to grow, we do have to crack our hard outer shells, much like a seed. We draw in nutrients to help us set down deep roots. Then we grow from those core roots finally producing fruit. But it doesn’t end there. As that fruit holds the seeds to continue the cycle of life. During autumn, I look for the seeds that are being formed inside of me. Which will I give nourishment to so the fruit of my dreams is realized.
My garden is the perfect spot to reflect on life. And my life seems to follow nature….follow the seasons and the cycles of the moon. And while the seed represents my life, I think it also represents my soul. So I come to sit with my soul now in the waning garden, under a waning moon. To meditate in silence, clear the debris and make room for new growth to come.
We are growing constantly even if we don’t immediately see it. Nothing in nature remains the same, and so it is with us. And as the changes I have gone through this year reach the nourishing light of day, I am grateful for them all. These changes represent times of learning and growth.
So now I take seeds into my hands in autumn, and cast them upon the barren soil wishing them gratitude with water and light….planning and dreaming in winter to see them sprout in spring. There is no fear as I wait and dream….just pure joy and anticipation for changes yet to come.
So how is the garden of your life? What dreams have you been casting onto the soil?
Special Note:The pictures here are of Autumn grasses from my garden this year, as nature prepares to cast the seeds produced. Letting them rest as she turns her energies inward to replenish herself.
“Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons.”
The morning of the full moon in September, the sun promised to rise in a glorious fashion. The last bright star still glowed as the sun peeked over the horizon. So I went out into the garden to see the sunrise from different vantage points.
It was such a magnificent experience to bask in the first rays of light…..
…..with the colors expanding across the sky!
Yes the inset is a later close-up.
I spent quite a bit of time near the back fence watching the sunrise over the meadow.
I shifted to capture the pergola in the sunrise. I thought it would be a great backdrop.
As would the grasses waving to greet the day.
Then watching the sun setting later in the day, I saw the glory of the fall foliage on fire in the golden light of the setting sun.