Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Carolina Wren family

We have a family of Carolina Wren's in our yard. They are one of my favorite birds because they are so bold and not at all afraid to be around people.

I read that the male will build 4-5 nests and the female will pick the one she wants from these nests. This must be true, because they seem to build a lot of nests, and in the most unusual places.

Last spring the nest was built in a silk plant we had hanging on our front porch. One day the weather was getting bad, so I had to take some rope and tie the basket up so that it wouldn't get blown around by the wind. The pink ribbon I used isn't the prettiest, but it kept the babies from being blown out of the nest.

The next nest that the Carolina Wren built was in a rolled up piece of carpet in our barn. There were 3 babies and I was lucky enough to be there when they left the nest. They were so cute, hopping around in the barn. The mother then rounded them up and brought them to our feeding area under a large oak tree by our front porch. The first night they left the nest the mother (I call her Nancy) found little beds for each of the 3 babies to spend the night. Two of them spent the night in a hanging plant under the oak tree and the other one went in a large Pampass Grass. Soon the 2 babies discovered the hanging silk baskets on the front porch and every night, right before dark they both fly into the basket and go to bed. It's the exact same ritual every night.The first one flies in and is very quiet and about five minutes later the second one flies in, scurries around (you can hear it) cheeps a lot, then settles down. It reminds me of 2 kids fighting over the covers in the same bed. We have named them "Nancy." All of the Carolina Wrens we have are now called "Nancy."

Monday, October 29, 2007

Mockingbird Takes Over Our Yard

One lonely Mockingbird almost drove all of our other birds from the yard. We work hard to attract as many birds to our yard as possible. We keep them supplied with food and fresh water, and do our best to keep predators away. We feel them the "good stuff" and not the cheap mix you get at the home improvement stores. We discovered a type of birdseed that they really love. It is called "Nut and Berry" and is made by a company called 3-D. We find it at Walmart. It smells like nuts and cherries. The birds love it, and there is no mess. The squirrels love it as well, but that is another story.

Anyway, back to the Mockingbird story. We have attracted a lot of birds to our property and really enjoy sitting on the front porch watching our birds.

Sometime last winter, a Mockingbird showed up. We were glad to have a new bird. The ones we had in our yard in Florida were great wonderful songbirds and weren't mean. We were happy to have this bird here until he started getting mean and chasing all the other birds away from our yard. One time I actually saw him collide with a tree while chasing a Tufted Titmouse. The Mockingbird constantly chased our other birds. He was so mean that I named him "Ivan the Terrible." He kept this up for months, until he met a girl bird and fell in love. He became much nicer and was too busy with his girlfriend to chase the other birds. We named her "Ivana." She was a good bird, except when she ate ALL of the strawberries I had been growing on my back porch.

Ivan the Terrible and his wife Ivana eventually became parents to two little baby "Terribles." They kept mom and dad very busy begging to be fed. I was so impressed about what good parents they were and soon I decided I actually kind of liked Ivan. The babies kept him so busy, he no longer had time to chase the other birds. They eventually had another nest with 2 more babies but continued to feed the first two and kept extremely busy tending to 4 demanding babies. Ivan was much too busy to chase anyone unless he thought it might hurt his young. He would constantly chase the Red Shouldered, and Red Winged Hawks that live on our property. It was quite amazing watching this little bird go after the much larger hawks. He was also known to chase crows and squirrels. He was such a good daddy.

One day Ivan was not able to discourage a crow and the crow got one of the babies. My husband Al heard a lot of commotion, ran outside and was able to chase the crow away. the baby was injured so we rushed it to the Vet, who referred it to a wildlife rehab organization. The baby had some injuries but they felt it would recover.

Ivan and Ivana continued to feed the 3 remaining babies most of the summer. One day, Al happened to see 2 Mockingbirds flying away and we haven't seen Ivan and Ivana since. We still had the 3 babies and they seemed to do fine on their own. They would hang out together and never fought with each other or chase the other birds. Eventually one of the babies started showing signs of dominance. He started chasing his siblings once in a while and we think he finally drove them away from the yard. We are back to just one Mockingbird, which we have aptly named "Ivan Junior." He has been a pretty good bird, but recently has been showing some of the characteristics of his father and occasionally he will chase the other birds. We don't know where Ivan and Ivana went but I did find an article about Mockingbirds which said they have summer and winter grounds. We're anxious to see if they return and if they do, will they chase Ivan Junior away? We have wondered about this behavior and have decided that having the parents leave the territory it is natures way of keeping them from inbreeding. That is my guess anyway. If one has any other ideas, we'd love to hear them.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

City Girl Moves to the Country

My husband Al and I moved from the big city of Tampa, Florida to a small town in southwest Georgia with a population of less than 10,000. Our life changed overnight! I was 55, and Al was 57.
In Tampa we had been beach people and very avid scuba divers. We had spent many, many hours in our boat and underwater, scuba diving in the Gulf of Mexico. I was an avid underwater photographer and spent a ton of money on underwater cameras and accessories. We had lived in Florida for over 30 years and hadn't really discovered the beauty of the woods and the fall foliage until we took a short trip up to see the Georgia mountains. We were amazed by the beautiful fall foliage. This lead to several more trips to Georgia, and North Carolina during the fall. We soon learned that staying in a motel was not great, so we bought a pop-up camper. We fell in love with camping, nature and nature photography. We did a lot of camping through out the state of Florida. We did a lot of hiking, biking, and kayaking and always came back from "vacation" completely worn out. We have traveled to most of the state parks in Florida. At a later date I will post some photgraphs I have taken in our various trips to florida. I still love Florida. It is a beautiful state with lots to do. During this time we discovered how enjoying birdwatching was and I started taking photographs of the birds and all the other wildlife.

As we got more and more into nature and the woods, we decided we didn't like Tampa as much as before. It was discouraging seeing all the beautiful natural areas being torn down to put in yet another new subdivision. There was an area in Tampa that actually used to have a group of wild Flamingos. Of course they moved out when they built houses there. It was an incredible place that was ruined in the name of progress.
One day in March of 2006, we took off work for a 4 day weekend and drove north from Tampa looking for property to buy. We had been thinking of the north Florida area. I had kind of been thinking of taking an early retirement from the insurance company I had been working at. We wanted to move out of the big city, away from the traffic and into a more rural area. We had no idea where we wanted to go or exactly what we wanted. We just knew we wanted more nature and less concrete and cars. We had no clear idea of what size of of property we wanted but felt we'd know if if we saw it. We initially though of moving to north Florida, but somehow ended up in southwest Georgia. We found piece of property with a house on 11 acres and ended up buying the property that same weekend. We have always been impulsive people! There is a 4-5 acre fenced pasture area, and the entire place is surrounded by woods. I have always wanted a horse but as of yet do not have one. They are expensive, I hear. Our property is a nature lovers paradise. We ended up buying the property that same weekend and haven't looked back. We have a ton of birds which we feed well. They have fresh food and water every day and we try to protect them as best we can. We do have several families of Red Shouldered and Red Winged Hawks.

They prey on small mammals and rodents. We have cats but they stay inside and can't get to the birds and the Hawks can't get to them. A lot of people lose their small dogs and cats to these Hawks. They are super predators. I have a friend that almost her Yorkie to a hawk. She was walking it on a leash when the hawk swooped down and tried to grab her dog. She jerked the leash and dog away just in time. We also have a healthy squirrel population and Al has had his hands full keeping them from eating all the bird food. We have rabbits, Armadillos, foxes, deer, and a neighbors cat that comes to visit on occasion. We have Hummingbirds, Blue Birds, Cardinals, Tufted Titmice, Carolina Wren's, Mockingbirds, Carolina Chickadees, House Finches, various woodpeckers and many other types of birds. It is now the fall migration time and have been seeing different kinds of birds. The hummingbirds are heading back south but we still have a few. I will miss these guys when they go.

We moved to the property last December and have been thru 3 different seasons. We have memories of our Bluebirds and their babies, our resident Mockingbird who was so mean we named him Ivan the Terrible. He fell in love, married Ivana, ate my strawberries and eventually had children. He was mellowed out by fatherhood and we ended up being very fond of him. We have seen several nests of Carolina Wrens hatch and grow up. We have 2 Carolina Wrens that spend every night in a silk flower basket we have hanging on our front porch. Every night like clockwork, they get into their beds first one then 5 minutes later the second one comes. We cannot move around on the porch at their bedtime or make any noise after they get into bed. That is a story for another day.

This is a story of a couple who met on the Island of Guam. I was 15, Al was 18. We were there with our Air Force Fathers during the height of the Vietnam war. We then moved back from Guam to Nebraska, started dating when I was 21, and married the next year. We decided to move, picked out Tampa on a map and packed up an moved to a state neither one of had ever been to. I told you, we were impulsive.