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Happy Thanksgiving Critter Update

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

I'm not sure what this post is going to be about, except that it's about gratitude. It's about being amazed and grateful every single day at the things I'm able to witness. The house is like a blind and I watch from every window, unseen. And when I see something good I either shoot through the windows (usually) or I ease a door open and slip quietly outside and schneak up on whatever it is I've spotted. 

The meadow is like a great big canvas, and the frost and the plants and the deer are always painting something on it.  

A mother and fawn come walking slowly up the meadow around dawn on a frosty morning. I scurry like a scalded ape into the studio where my big camera lives. Then I ease the sliding glass door open and step outside onto the raised deck, into the breathtaking cold. 

If I do it right, they never know I've come outside. I have to do it slowly and keep a low profile, moving only when they're not looking up.  I love deer photos when they're not looking right at me. Candids are ever the best, whether you're at a wedding or just a walking.

One local I keep tabs on is a rabbit, born in early summer 2018, that Phoebe named Half-ear Smalley. Out of the oodles of rabbits born here this year, this brave little one has survived and now comes to the feeder. I don't know what happened to its ear. Mowed off as a kit? Who could say?

I put corn and seed on this flowerpot, which is now a Smalley feeder.

 These pictures are for Phoebe who named the rabbit and will be happy to know it is still pigging out at its flowerpot feeder. It never took the carrots she kept putting out for it. I think that thing about rabbits liking carrots is maybe a fable. Smalley likes corn!

Speaking of candid shots, this is one I've been after for months. I kept hearing a woodpecker doing something at the corner of my south studio window. I didn't know what it was doing, and I'd never been able to catch it red-handed...or naped...

until one day when I heard it and scuttled into the kitchen with my big rig and captured a male redbelly in the process of gagging up a peanut

which he then wedged into the window sash for easier processing. He didn't seem to be cacheing it (otherwise I'd have a cascade of peanuts when I open the window). He was just using the window frame to hold it for pecking apart.

 Mystery solved, and no damage being done. Thank you, little redbelly. I will now smile when I hear your claws scritching on the window frame, and the ratt-a-tat of your pecking, and try to get more photos of you, instead of wondering whether you're pecking holes in my bank account.

And only a few days later, I found him poking sunflower hearts into Liam's bedroom window. He was perched on the crappy weatherstrip that comes with newer Pella windows, and that invariably peels off and sticks out, no matter how many letters you send to HQ in Iowa.

The "technician" who came here twice told me it was my house's fault that the weatherstrip peeled off the windows. Oh. Really. I see. No, I don't. Seriously???

  One thing good I can say about the weatherstripping on these windows: When it peels off, and it will, it makes a handy redbelly perch. Even if it makes your house look tacky.

 I spend a great deal of time photographing blue jays. It is probably an understatement to say I'm obsessed with them.

I'm obsessed with capturing blue jays in flight. It's more fun than any video game you could dream up, and all you have to do is put corn and sunflower and peanuts out, then wait for them to fly down or up to it.

I get a lot of terrible photos. I get some images that are almost great. Oops!

 And every once in a great while I get something that takes my breath away, and the reward is rare and intermittent enough that I keep pressing that lever, hoping, hoping, hoping. Please click on this one. And if that's not a bird of Paradise then I don't want to go to Paradise. I want to stay right here.

 This is Frost, the silver-browed bird who first showed up December 27, 2017, right after I last saw Jemima. 

Against all expectations, Frost stayed to breed here this past spring, and then disappeared in August when his two kids were on their own. And then he came back in October. He has a pattern of being gone for two to three months at a time. I have no idea where he goes. I'm just ecstatic when he returns. He checks in at the feeder every four or five days lately. I'll take it. I take whatever I can get when it comes to blue jays.

 Jays, a couple of doves, and my beautiful little Japanese Stewartia, showing fabulous fall color, even though it didn't bloom this past summer. That's OK. I can tell it's winding up for a great show in 2019.

On Liam's birthday, November 8, Frost came into the feeder area. He stopped my heart by flying right up to the window, the way Jemima used to do. He bounced lightly off the netting and landed on the tomato cages just outside, the way Jem used to. Oh my gosh. It was like seeing a beautiful ghost.

He gave me a real close look at his silver brows before he went back to gathering corn again.  What Frost displays is not leucism. It's called progressive graying, and it's analogous to mine (and maybe yours). I don't know how old Frost is, but he's pretty silver. That said, there's a hatch year jay in my gang this winter who shows about half that much silver, so I don't think it's necessarily age-related in birds.

To be only a few feet from a jay--it still takes my breath away. I love them so very much. I love them more for understanding them so well. Please look at his sweet little feet, all wrapped around the wire like they're made of modeling clay!! I just want to smooch him right on the frost.

I call Frost "he" now because I watched him coming in alone to the feeder and ferrying loads of peanuts to what I assume was an incubating mate in mid-June. I don't think a female would have done that.

That's it for the animal update from Indigo Hill. More will be coming. There's so much going on here! and I'm so grateful to be able to witness it.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody. Good luck with your turkeys. I'm going to have to haul out my Bittman to make sure I do the stuffing right. I haven't gotten to cook many turkeys in my life, but by gum I'm cooking one tomorrow!


Happy Thanksgiving Julie and fam !!!

Happy Thanksgiving and best wishes for a delicious feast!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your beautiful family. I am thankful for you sharing your knowledge and humor with us.

Happy Thanksgiving Julie. I know your turkey will turn out right because there isn't much to cooking turkey. Easy peasy. So enjoyed the Blue Jay parade.

Happy Thanksgiving to you!!! I’m so very grateful for you!! You’re an inspiration!!

Happy Thanksgiving, Julie. I hope it's a beautiful day for you and your sweet Liam. It's in the 20s here but the sun is shining and snow isn't flying. I could welcome winters if they were like this! I'm so grateful for you and your wonderful writing and sightings. Thank you for sharing your time and talents. God bless you and yours. Kim in PA

Speaking of turkeys, I saw my first ever on the far today! A male, by himself. I don't know if he was scoping coverage around our back pond or had just been scared over onto our farm from a neighbors. Wish he'd stay and some more would join him. Such a beautiful bird.

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