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June, 2004 | Scuff Productions

Hamlet Wildlife Observations –

Bloged in birding,garden,General Home Life by mark Tuesday June 22, 2004

Dear Friends,

Here on Tuesday, June 22, 2004, it’s time for a diary entry up here in the fabled old northwest.

Summer began today.

I am understanding our own conflicts with nature more than ever as we begin our dry season here watching the garden begin to grow, and help songbirds multiply. We’d like to “believe” we are in balance with nature. Aaahh ! Peace ! Oh Really? Not so. Maybe I’m as corrupt as all the people clearing the forests and destroying habitat but just on a tiny scale. We grow “organic” food, we feed beautiful birds and squirrels. We also try to destroy parasite cowbirds, moles, remove raccoons, kill mice and rats, and decide exactly which plants will live or die on this property. Hm. Am I still at peace with nature? At least, we’re having fun.

The Birds living around us are living life at its peak. Many have finished first broods and began second ones. Feeder activity is fun to watch EVERY evening, and pest predation is also enjoying the same bounties.

We even have a favorite back to nest that we haven’t seen for two years. Mark’s observed a male Western Tanager feeding and bathing several times, but just today saw a female also come in to have a little bath. So we seem to have a pair, yeah! They are gorgeous birds. Here’s a pic of the Male:

The goldfinches always come after thistle, several pair are here and now beginning second families. They’re on the deck all day long.

The Blackheaded Grosbeak Male – – we now have many breeding pair with young on the deck all day long too…this guy makes a musical call unmatched here. A long flowing whistling call….. mornings and evenings at dusk.

Mark was greeted by a new happening last week while mowing the lawn. Coming back from one end, he saw a swarm of bees landing in one of the Cherry Trees:

They’re a little hard to spot …but they’re in the middle of the red-leafed branch here, all wrapped up around the Queen……at evening when things were pretty cool. We’d found a beekeeper who came up just before dusk and collected them….a cool Canadian Guy who’d done this as a hobby for years. Next day he returned with a quart of his unprocessed raw honey and it’s fabulous stuff. The raw honey is just the stuff Mark remembers getting from the neighbor as a kid in the 50’s. So this turned out to be pretty cool.

Tucker is managing to hang on sort of, and today’s pic makes him look in the peak of health:

What’s great is: As long as he’s not in pain, and is motoring around enjoying himself, we’re happy. He is showing some problems though like getting cranky in the evenings however as his joints stiffen up, and he’s panting all the time which may be just old age. We fear he may just be a little too far along with his arthritis to welcome a new puppy into the house. BUT the two ladies we met at a Portland Dog Show two years ago have just announced the birth of what will become one of our new Chesapeake pups (we hope) in about 8-9 weeks. The puppy, along with 7 siblings, is doing very well we hear. Marj & Janice are fabulous people and love this breed of dog a lot. Marj runs the Chessie rescue group up there, so you know she cares about dogs period.

So July and August are going to come and go very fast. Rodger’s Dad turns 75 in August, and we’re hoping we can save enough to make it down there for celebration of that fact.

I suppose a little mention of Raccoon is in order. If we ever trapped one, we had, in the past, moved them to a secret location in the forest……but we got soft and felt guilty about doing that. So in this one prowlers case, I am more convinced than ever that this is the same raccoon I trapped a year ago and held hostage for two hours while maybe yelling at him occasionally, and trying to make myself look as large as possible (the Hulk thing you know….) to strike fear in his heart. I also let Tucker bark at him, and finally let him go thinking we’d never see him again. Why do I think it’s the same one? Now we think it’s just one raccoon coming to the feeder because it only happens once or twice a week….he will not go NEAR the trap and if he sees us inside the house move just a little, he’s off that tree and gone down the hill. Methinks he has a memory of something from last year here. So. That’s my reward for being kind a year ago and not moving him somewhere else. Oh well. We’re now electrified! We borrowed Baird’s animal control battery-charged electric “Behavior Modification” device, heh heh, and it’s been on at night for three nights awaiting his arrival. We’re very anxious that we get to see the moment happen. It’s a very controlled wired situation. The animal will ONLY get the mild “educational surprise” IF he touches both the wire running along the branch adjacent to the feeder (that the raccoon always sits on while feeding) and then reaches out with paw and also touched the screen or wire that runs along the edge of the feeder. This way, NO other animals, no squirrels or birds, can possibly experience the remedial experience….only the raccoon is even BIG enough to touch both these wires.

**We have not solved the predation problem in the garden. I have trapped two moles and think there’s probably two more. In years past, we’ve only had one in there at a time but I think they’re evolving. They now have holes stretching uphill toward the house so seem to use those for sleeping. The “loose” tilled soil in the garden itself is like swimming in water to them. A trap just doesn’t work there, they walk around them. The only traps that worked so far this year and last are those where I can concentrate at garden’s edge where they go into the more solid clay soil since the tilled soil ALSO gets hotter than they like. So they only seem to come into the space itself at night…. I still have six traps set….all around the gardens edge where holes are at. Whew. Every time we water this garden, mole holes must be collapsed and roots settled once again….I often wonder what pioneers thought as they first encountered these animals….they had no information on them so I suppose it was a guessing game….they didn’t have the jaw traps we have today either. But the garden continues, and last writing showed a little black dirt with “Cozy Coats” around every plant, but today, there IS progress even though no corn is yet up…..still:

The deer fence shows as do the tomato cages that surround the tomatoes, tomatillos as well as the cucumbers and peppers…..looks all more metallic so far, but no question about progress. The tomatoes were about 10” inches tall one month ago.

The moles destroyed the corn starts (first time that’s happened) when they were about an inch high. Discovering that event took me a moment to really absorb what had happened. The plants were still standing up, but the mole had eaten everything below ground. As I watered what I thought were corn plants, they would just fall over and I’d see there was no root system or seed remnant. That was a first. If I hadn’t followed the mole holes with my hand after the discovery, I wouldn’t have believed moles would have done this. I have since tracked some websites that do claim they eat seeds in gardens too. Whew. So, here we are, near July time and I have new seedlings that are ¼ inch high in little pots…….hopefully they’ll mature before it’s too late.

The deer showed up last month and ate lettuce, two tomatoes (that had tomatoes still on them from the greenhouse grower), and baby carrot plants so the deer fence went up that very day. Now, one month later, just last night sometime a deer was at the house to eat three roses far enough down that I don’t think they’ll bloom again this year. So up goes the Deer Sprayer (motion sensor) tonight and it will probably stay up the rest of the summer.

I cannot BELIEVE it’s almost July…. I haven’t accomplished one project beyond simple maintenance…..There is a LONG list of things to get done while the summer lasts……. Have to see how it goes.

HOW are you all doing during this fabulous sunny time? We hope life is as good as the days are long…………

Mark & Rodger.

bird babies & migrations

Bloged in birding by mark Friday June 4, 2004

June 4, 2004

Summer seems to have begun and once again, I’m both amazed and back in the pupil chair watching everything that’s going on.

I’ll just have to enter my thoughts at random, so much has been happening………..but will end with the catalyst for the diary update at the end.

About two weeks ago, I was just watching the deck for bird activity. A big Robin worked her way through the tree to the birdbath but didn’t hop in….kept looking up so I see a more pale version of her sitting on the limb above with head cocked to one side. She called, and got into the water. The baby hopped on down, missed the side rim of the bath, but fluttered back to sit by and watch his Mom take a bath……She really bathed….he drank some….and as soon as she flew off, in he went for a baby’s first bath. He drank and bounced around a little….and I’m sure will be back to do a better wash job after a few days in the yards picking up the bugs in the yard. I now know Spring really HAS sprung early. Baby Robins in MAY!!!!

Just yesterday, Rodger watched as a baby Robin (punk hairdo) landed very close to him and didn’t know enough to be afraid. Within seconds Momma landed further out…..and called. He went to her….then to the berm. Rodger also watched a baby hummer at the feeder for a couple of seconds until the momma arrived and was really sounding alarms….so the baby learned to be afraid of humans, and I hope he remembers that lesson.

So we began to pay attention. Within a week, goldfinches are bringing chicks to the thistle feeders….little pale yellow birds with a punk ‘do’ on the top of the head….watching everything going on but eating on their own. An Amazing thing happens with the Momma Goldfinches. As SOON as she has successfully fed this first brood, the females have immediately and aggressively been into the nesting sack hauling out cotton batting and dog hair. Obviously, this early warm spring means there will be two broods of chicks for almost all the birds here.

Last week we began to see baby Hummingbirds coming to the feeders. How can we tell they’re babies? By sight they’re just a tiny smaller, the beak may not be quite as long yet as the parents, and the colors are paler…..but the real mark is that they may be shown the feeders but not know WHERE the beak goes. They may poke as the glass for a while before getting the connection as to “how” Mom is getting that food out of the blasted flower. The females have also began taking dog hair from the nesting sack to begin the second batch of chicks. And, as always, the beautiful Male birds are beginning to thin out……………….We’re seeing very few.

Just last night I watched a female take off from a feeder under a tree and fly straight up into the neighbor’s fir at about 40-50 feet! WHEW! What an elevation to raise young.

We KNEW we’d peaked out on hummingbird activity simply by measuring how much sugar-water we’re making. In April when this began, we used about a pint or two a week……The last week of May we we’re averaging 3.6 quarts per day. That will begin to drop sadly enough….it seems they’re here so short a time but considering the huge migration they make, it’s no wonder. They’re never still for long. From warm Mexico in February, the Males will begin to move up the coastal areas and begin to pick out territory for mating that ranges from Oregon’s Forests all the way to Alaska. The first birds we see “may” only be seen once since they’re simply migrating. Females will follow within a couple of weeks. They settle in for that quick and short parenting season and males leave in June via Inland routes ….SE Oregon’s Steens all the way to the Rockies where peak flowering will be happening in July/August….the Females will leave here in July after young are raised, and babies will leave in August…all alone on a long migration path they’ve never been shown. An Amazing story.

Hairy Woodpeckers are feeding young at the suet feeders….Mothers will fly down and make an unusual calling sound until the baby flies down as well. He’ll hang there watching, get fed 3-4 times, and quickly begin to figure out what/how to do that. Once he’s feeding, the Mom often takes off…..temporarily. She seems to do this for the young about 3-4 days until they’re really oriented well. The young don’t always begin this gracefully of course, and have to flutter a while to settle onto the feeder.

Black Headed Grosbeaks are all over the place….we have several pair feeding and nesting here….seems more than ever. Friend Eran experienced a truly RARE thing t in Vancouver….while out on his deck, a female Grosbeak hit the window of the house and passed out on the deck. He thought she may have broken her wing. He picked her up, she woke up and hopped on his finger….probably dazed. He petted her chest, she stayed on the finger…..he got Roushdi to come out and take picture, she stayed and stayed until the Dog came out barking….and she flew off. What an experience, and here’s the proof it happened:

Our Chickadees have all but disappeared…………… we know they’re nesting and will be bringing in the whole brood soon.

Evening birdwatching here right now is truly quite exciting……………………beautiful birds with kids, songbird calls until dark, and flying squirrels by 10:00 pm.

Of course, let’s not forget the “other” side of nature, the “balance”………….Some animals have evolved by successfully being parasites. THESE birds are here too.
We’ve seen cowbird pairs at the feeder….we yell at them immediately. They’re only here to mate. The female will then lay the egg in one of our songbirds nest and likely kick out one of the “true” eggs then fly back to the lowlands without one ounce of responsibility. Crows are back……..and will look around for nests to rob eggs or young from and of course, the Stellar Jays can do that as well at times. Starlings are here…….looking for opportunities to kill or rob. A Raccoon that’s been shot at once is back…..we know he recognizes us because if we barely “move” inside the house, he’s gone. We’ve had a trap set for a couple days without success…so tonight we’ll have to use bait that’s a little more inviting, i.e., old food or dog food……………… We do not begrudge these animals existence, they’re only doing what they know to do to survive. But we “DO” try to secure a safe place for the songbirds that are so fun.

Yardwork is taking time……..everything is growing, spreading and it seems I’m barely able to control weeds let alone make any progress. But our 4 month dry spell is just around the corner……… am not worried about that.

The Garden is exploding with growth…………..Here’s how it looked about two weeks ago with the Kozy Coats to protect sensitive stuff until we dried out and warmed up:

You can’t see them all, but in this pic, there are 16 “Kozy-Coats” around tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers…the plants that “need” either “warmer” soil (tomatoes), or drier environments for a bit (cukes). Peppers need both. These little greenhouses usually stay around the plants about a month………….Once we see the tops of the plants completely climbing vigorously up out of the top of these coats, they come 0ff and the Tomato Cages go up both on Tomatoes and Cucumbers. The tomato cages really help give support when cukes are ripening….keeps them out of damp dirt that may give it some fungus or something worse.

We’ve been eating lettuce for about 3 weeks…………….and the potato plants you can partially see in the lower right……..were just leftover potatoes from last year’s crop that wintered in the garage. They’re a delicious little new import: Fingerling Potatoes……small boilers that really do have a great taste and texture.

UPDATE: 6/1/04:
Kozy Coats have come off the tomatoes since they are blooming, have a few tomatoes on the plants and have stretched well beyond the heighth of the walls themselves. We have NEVER had this kind of growth this early (or a tomato on the vine this early). Outside temps the next two days are to be near 80 and nighttime lows above 50 so that should help out a lot. We’d never been able to keep basil alive this early either but our favorite Millenium Farms Grower told us to keep them in a pot in a sheltered place for a while and we should do okay. That’s exactly what’s happened….the basil is growing in the outside entryway by the front door….getting a little more warmth than out in the garden and NO dampness to cause mold.

ARGH! There’s one more tiny bit of garden information at the end of this note. Just happened Wednesday night, June 3….a few weeks before it’s every happened before.

WE enjoyed a great visit from Rodger’s Aunt Paula and ‘favorite’ cousin Karen …….Almost as soon as they’d arrived we took off for Cannon Beach where the Smith’s had kindly allowed us and Tucker one more visit. We had lame Tucker in tow, once again, thinking his “last” trip to the “water”…….(he’s outlived 2 of those now). Weather was fall like—dry and little breeze. So we walked, shopped, ate, and watched things in great style. A great time. When we left Wednesday for Tillamook’s Cheese Curds, the rain had returned and while coming back over the Coast Summits, it was pouring. By the time we got back here it was dry but grey.

Back at the House – We kept moving………..Karen is “born to Shop” so we even went out to the Pendleton Washougal Factory Outlet where we all found one item each at a REAL steal. The outlet gets surplus items from other Pendleton locations….starts them at probably just a 20% discount…but each week they remain there they are discounted another 25%. So WE all found great things. Mark found brand new Pendleton (version of Levi’s) Denims for $10 !! Then we were off to the “Corner Cupboard” a tiny intimate little café for sandwiches on great homemade bread………etc.

Their visit ended with a lively 6 hour duel over the lively game of Hearts…………….That wasn’t finished until the next morning where two more rounds were required to put tings to rest. A great time. We’ll miss them……………..

SO what was the painful event to end this post with? Rodger and I had both came down with a bad head cold at the end of the family’s visit….but by yesterday morning, I “KNEW” I truly had to water the garden. That’s all I’d planned for the day feeling plenty muggy still from the enduring blahh’s of the cold. While watering ….I finally focused and became aware that there was MORE than MOLE holes going on out there. DEER had entered this forbidden space and eaten half the lettuce, two tomato plants (the one with the biggest tomatoes) and some carrot tops. Well. I guess I knew that the sun could NOT go down yesterday without protection for these babied plants. So out comes the tractor, wagon, pulling out fence posts, steel fencing………..and the next 2-3 hours spent building the annual deer fence.

And JUST when you think you Know something!!!!!! We’d been called 2 weeks ago by Richard telling us to get that fence up….his neighbors had lost their lettuce to the deer THEN. Karen told us deer were already in the gardens in Venonia….(out in the foothills)……….but “NO”, I said, not here……we’d always thought we were safe until about July 1………because neighbor Ed has the huge pasture between us and him. Deer had never really come into the yard until everything had dried up. Well. I guess I learned once again……….

That’s all the notes I can think of for now and want to post our DEER WARNING to all Oregon READERS!!!!!!!!!!! (at least all Oregon Readers who have a garden).

Mark & Rodger
June 4, 2004

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