Background Switcher (Hidden)

Happy Birthday to Me!

Monday, July 25, 2016

 I usually get a post up on Sundays, but I was working on a new talk and I had to get it done. 
It's only supposed to be 20 minutes, and it'll be delivered at the Saturday banquet for the Sedona Hummingbird Festival (Squee!!). I've figured out that I work something like two hours for each minute of the talk. The amount of time and brainpower I expend on these things is ridiculous. If it comes out right, it sounds extemporaneous. Well, it isn't. Snort.

So I was tied to the desk all day, except for an insanely cool evening walk down Dean's Fork, the subject of its own post. Sunday happened to be my birthday, so I decided if I had to sit all day, I would count the blessings that came my way. Each one would be a present.

My first gift was a handful of protoplasm. A couple of days ago, I looked down at a tire rut at a construction site and saw a puddle of tadpole goo where the day before there'd been rainwater. Because it's late July, the only thing they could be is Cope's gray treefrogs.  I touched them and sure enough a few wriggled in a SAVE ME!! kind of way. Oh no. More than a mile from home, and it's going to be a blistering hot day, and there is no natural water I can reach in shorts for at least another mile, unless...

I glanced around the site and saw a gallon of drinking water on a folding table, with a stack of plastic cups. Eureka!

I scooped up the taddies and a good bit of silt and plopped them in a cup, pouring life-giving water over them. Imagine how good that feels to a tadpole on its dying day. Jogged that mile home carrying the cup of taddies, laughing to myself about how that must've looked to the neighbors. Poured it in a plastic jar and added beaucoup rainwater. I gave them a couple of days to rehydrate before releasing them, and they needed it. When they started acting like tadpoles instead of crumpled bent fetuses, I knew they were ready to go.

This was my first birthday gift.

For future reference, they love koi sticks. Nomnomnom.

On this morning, I took the jar down to our fishpond, fed the comets to repletion, then installed the jar on a shelf in the pond.  One by one, the taddies who had survived their ordeal came up for air, saw the great expanse of water and delicious algae, and swam off into the deep. 

This one swam curlicues, dove, wriggled through the algae; its joy on being in proper habitat that wouldn't dry up was palpable. Honestly, I don't know how tadpoles do it, always watching the water levels, praying for rain, facing the imminent prospect of death by baking. Ugh.

There being no puddles left anywhere in the sweltering July heat, our water garden was my best choice. I had to hope the fish would leave them be. Comets aren't very predatory where small swimmers are concerned. As I was monitoring their exodus from the jar, I saw a tiny comet, the first spawn of my four fish, swim by. If he can make it, they can, too. 

Second present: BUN.

 There's a litter of three young cottontails in the yard who, having grown up in the sanctum sanctorum of Indigo Hill, have no frame of reference for humans as dangerous animals. They barely recognize Chet as a threat, which (let's be frank) he barely is. So these foolish little animals perk their ears attentively but go on chewing clover when I speak to them, kneel down and take iPhone photos of them from barely five feet away. Dumb bunnies. But of course, I adore them. So, Bun. They're all three named Bun.

I have a little family of brown thrashers in the yard! I don't know if any of them are Cletus, Melba or Harper; I think not, because the adults aren't tame at all. But oh, being able to look out and see thrashers doing thrasher things, dust bathing, sunning, hunting bugs or, in the case of one of the parents, grabbing a sunflower seed and pounding the shell off--it's just the best. This is a juvenile. Gift 3.

Seeing the laborious way a thrasher, which doesn't hold seeds in its toes for shelling, has to pound the hull off a seed, I spread sunflower hearts in all their favorite spots. Watching them gobble them down: Gift 4.

Present # 5: Someone dribbled squirrel! He appreciates the sunflower hearts very much. He ooches around on his belly picking them up one by one. I have to say I love my squirrels. They annoy the hell out of me, but they're such fun to watch! So they're paying their way, at least partly.

The sunflower hearts brought in MamaCoon and her three kits! Gift #6: July 24 was first day she's brought them out at noontime.

It's amazing how long those raccoon babies are dependent. The smarter the animal; the more complex and comprehensive its diet, the longer the juvenile dependency period.

It takes a long time to learn to be a raccoon.

Gift 7: the yard robin resents crowding by a ruffian house sparrow, tells him to back off! Just having a robin in the Spa, ahhh. But this combo was too much.


#8: speaking of Back Off, a mourning dove warns a squirrel it's too close.  I am big! I will beat you with my wing! Interestingly, a dove would NEVER let a chipmunk get that close. Chipmunks are far more dangerous than squirrels. They're nastya-s little animals. Chipmunks remind me of the killer rabbit in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. 

 Adult male Cooper's hawk makes two passes through the feeder zone. I manage to capture its bill, leg and foot, enough to identify it, as it fetches up in the Japanese maple. Not a great photo, but still gift #9.

This just in!! July 25: I saw the Coop take a pass at some doves just now and scuttled with camera downstairs to shoot it from the bedroom. This is through two panes of glass, at a terrible angle, but OH MY. Talk about a gift, hurled from the Other Side. Thanks DOD!!

On the first shot, I captured the whole hawk. When it turned toward me, I lost my head and focused on its face. Ah well. Too excited to shoot well.
Please note that this hawk is perched in a retired, or as I love to say, recovering bonsai. DOD, you place your gifts so well. He adored my bonsai. 

You beautiful thing!! Please help yourself to mourning doves, and  take a house sparrow as a chaser, willya? You're also most welcome to squirrels, but please not the one who sccoches around on his belleh.

#10: Seeing a gray squirrel use its tail as a hat and parasol.

At this point it's 98 in the shade,  easily 102 in the sun, and I'm so thankful to be inside mostly (not) working on my talk. 

 # 11: a rubythroat investigates the coneflower, seeming to find a sip of nectar in the disc. Not something I see every day, but these midsummer juveniles try everything.

There has to be nectar in this big fat bud. Just has to. I'll wait for it to open. This photo: Gift 12.

I have a variety of wire supports for my tall cardinalflower and Fuchsias, and the hummingbirds adore them. Hummies appreciate thin perches. They can watch for Cooper's hawks from them. It must be nice to be too small and fast to bother with. But you still have to stay vigilant. 

This photo: Gift 13.

Meanwhile, fall migrants (yes, I said it; fall begins in July for warblers!) are sifting through the yard. A young yellow-throated warbler on its leisurely path southward. Or westward, or eastward...they do a bit of wandering.  This has to be one of my favorite warblers, Gift #14. Get the picture? Everything out there is a gift. I had intended to put all my birthday gifts in one blogpost, but it's evolved into at least three. And that is a gift in itself.

Happy birthday to me! Now you can see why it takes me so dang long to put together a talk. Or a blogpost. A giant set of Venetian blinds for the studio window would probably go a long way toward increasing efficiency, but ignoring the show going on just outside those windows in late July? Unthinkable! All but a couple of these photos were taken through my studio window, through the crop netting screens that cover them. Gift #14: having such a big, comfortable blind for a house!

Blessed, that's all!


It's so apparent you had a fabulous birthday Jules !!! I especially liked gift #5, although you had so many gifts, just outside the window, it's breathtaking!! I do love reading your blog, love the part, most if them are free!!! :-)

I'm jealous that your Mama Coon brings her babies. My Mama Coon so far has only come by herself. Which may have something to do with Bugsy who - while not being much of an actual threat to her - does get out there pretty fast to chase her up the maple tree. He sees me get my camera and zips past me out the dog door - thus ruining both her meal and my chances of a decent photo. Thanks, Bugs!

Happy Birthday!

This is absolutely the best.

@Kimb: And why would you have a dog door that doesn't latch? Hmmmm?? Just sayin'! If Chet had free access to the coons at our feeders, he wouldn't have a face--he's gotten torn up enough as it is. Bugs faces down bears, I know...yeeps! Can't imagine Chet being able to get out any time he wants.

What a great birthday---unbelievable to a December baby. So, did Mrs. Copes Gray Treefrog lay her eggs in a puddle in the road that subsequently dried up? Not high on Mr. Darwin's list, but then again, she had you. And I did enjoy wondering whether those picnic supplies on the nearby table had been left behind "just for a minute or two" by some hapless passers by. Maybe I need to re-read about Gift 1.

This post is one to savor (they all are, come to think of it). Sounds like you had a lovely birthday, and I thank you for sharing it with us.

That's a pretty fantastic set of birthday gifts! Happy Birthday. :) July is a great birthday month.

It is amazing how many gifts we get every day if we just take time to look around... Thank you for sharing this, Julie.

A belated Happy are mightly blessed.

What an awesome birthday! Thanks for sharing :-).

Well Happy Birthday and such a largess of gifts. Thank you so much for sharing them.

You seemed to have forgotten a few gifts that are so much a part of you: your ability to offer great photography, your gift as an artist, your gift as a blogger and a speaker and your great gift of caring. Happy Birthday and keep up the good work.

Posted by Anonymous July 25, 2016 at 12:54 PM

Happy Birthday, Julie! Thanks for sharing your gifts with us. These are the best kind!! Getting close to retirement and really want to move to a rural area so I have more wildlife to look at every day (I have wildlife in my backyard, including some black-coated possums--think they're juveniles--but I want MORE!) Your blogs keep me going. And is that your on cue photo-bomber in the last photo?! ;-)

A wonderful Birthday it was. Just think, presents every day!

These are the best birthday gifts ever! It's like Nature knows how much you do for all its constituents, so it got a bunch of them together to surprise and delight you. Squirrel made me laugh, because we have squirrels that drape themselves over the railing of our deck, arms and legs akimbo, head lolling to the side, snoozing away in the afternoon. We refer to it as doing "hot squirrel." Sometimes they will even drape themselves over a branch at the waist (which looks decidedly uncomfortable) while eating a nut. They look so Dali-esque: The Persistence of Cuteness.

Posted by Anonymous July 25, 2016 at 1:34 PM

Thanks everyone! Had a great birthday! Yep, that's Bacon bombing the last photo. I am laughing because my heart actually races when I see a comment from Anonymous. Have had a nasty troll lately going out of its way to say snide and cruel things, under the nom de plume Anonymous. So I hold my breath when reading those. Go figure. Somebody that miserable can find something to attack in anything I produce. Human am a strange beast.

Happy Birthday, Julie! So glad you were born. Kim in PA

Wishing you a belated Happy Birthday... those gifts look fabulous! And I'll add a question... we have an Eastern Towhee (outside Athens, Ohio) that when he calls, only says... "Drink your"..... never ever "says" the last part. (I've started saying that all he says is "Drink Beer". What's with this bird? I've read your blog for several years but am not much for commenting... but really enjoy it and look forward to your posts.

Happy Birthday Julie, I have been reading your posts for the past 8 years. Hope you have a great year ahead!!

Posted by Anonymous July 25, 2016 at 3:53 PM

Happy belated Birthday! So many wonderful gifts in your life. I enjoyed seeing all the photos, thanks for sharing.

Thanks for sharing that sweetness and especially for conducting amphibious operations.

Thanks for sharing that sweetness and especially for conducting amphibious operations.

Happiest of Birthday, this one! All the best to you in the coming year----

Hi Julie! Happy belated, and you, of course, received the best presents ever, from ma nature--
One of my favorite things about sharing our experiences is seeing the strange/weird/unseen before things that our fellow
nations do to surprise those of us who are alert enough to notice. Your squirrel made me think of one of ours, who lives
in the (literally, my grandfather's) Grandfather Oak Tree. He's a pip! On one occasion, we saw a Great Egret walking under the tree, which is on the banks of Phillippi Creek, in Sarasota. The squirrel lined him up, and dashed toward the bird, then leapt and bounced off of one of those long legs, like a pankour practitioner, and then scurried off! The bird (and we) were left astonished!
Another time, a juvenile Red Shouldered Hawk missed our disabled (one leg) White Ibis, yet again, and sat inconsolably on the grass, trying not to lose face. The other Ibis (Ibises?) knew he was pretty lame, and they all turned their backs to him, and continued to forage as if he wasn't there. The squirrel made a display of coming down onto the lawn, poking around, and then turning his back to the hawk, actually wagging his tail in his face! He did succeed in getting the hawk to chase him,
and, once in the tree, totally humiliated the bird, who had no chance to catch him on HIS turf!
I swear, they just keep us entertained every day-
With Love

Tadpoles! The joy just goes sky high from that much of this blog post, right there -and then keeps on climbing :-) Thank you, Miss Julie - it will be a wonderful year, one day at a time

Thank you for sharing your birthday with us and giving us the gift of your knowledge and insight. The tadpoles are thanking you too - I must admit I don't look in tire ruts too much but I will now. Ruth B.

Posted by Anonymous August 2, 2016 at 3:46 PM
[Back to Top]