It’s been a weird downside to this pandamnit time that my house–usually set up well for feeding and observing birds–had seen a huge drop off of bird visitors for no reason I was totally sure of. Could have been the ladder leaning up against the side of the house, leading to more squirrel activity (I could watch squirrels climb ladders all day). Could have been a nearby predator. Could have been that my feeders were ganky. Or maybe it was more neighbors being home and setting up their own feeders. Who knows? But this winter there just wasn’t a lot of bird activity here, though definitely lots elsewhere. So little that I didn’t even participate in Feederwatch this year because it was too depressing. But as the buds on the trees have turned into leaves, and I got some new feeders and cleaned the old ones, there’s been a little bit more feathered activity going on outside. I counted seven species one day–red breasted nuthatch (pictured), white breasted nuthatch, hairy woodpecker, downy woodpecker, chickadee, tufted titmouse, mourning doves–a high water mark for 2021. I’m fortunate to live above the bears, so I can keep the feeders out even as they come out of the woods and terrorize the local garbage cans.
Jim and I are both counting down the days til we’re fully vaccinated, they’re in the single digits. I don’t expect my life will change terribly much when I’ve hit that date except my life will have a lot more Jim in it. And I’ll start there.
I have a lot of birdfeeders, maybe too many. We all know that the cat to person ratio you are allowed is N+1 (you can have one more cat than person in your house otherwise you risk veering into Crazy Cat Person territory; not judging, this is just math). I’m not sure what the birdfeeder ratio is but I think I’ve passed it. I have a few hanging “squirrel proof” feeders, a suet feeder, and two window feeders. All of these are visible from my office. There is another feeder hanging off my porch and a finch feeder that no one seems to like. All of these are full of prime sunflower seeds because I am a lady with a job and the birds all seem to hate millet anyhow.
In fact I was concerned that they might hate ME because they were scarce a lot of last year. I did the feederwatch so I could see my numbers dwindling. I chalk this up to some ancient birdseed Ronni gave me, an owl that was lurking, and hey it was pretty cold out. The leaves suddenly came out on to the trees this week. Which means birdwatching has taken a few sudden turns as well.
1. I can’t see all the birds all the time, and they can sort of sneak up on the birdfeeders, and lurk. So I see more birds because there are more around, but I also can hear birds I haven’t even seen yet. The trees are ripe with bird possibilities.
2. Everyone is starving, you’d think. This momma red squirrel is going after my feeders like it’s an Olympic sport. She sits in the windowsill and chitters at me. I think I’ve found the right weird set of noises to respond with because I can make her growl when she’s in a nearby tree. I think we have a relationship. She probably thinks I am coming to take her babies.
3. All new birds have shown up this week that I haven’t seen all winter. Aside from the usual suspects–chickadees, nuthatches (both kinds), goldfinches, juncos, titmice, woodpeckers and and cardinals–this week has also delivered rose-breasted grosbeaks, blue jays, purple finches, house finches, and starlings. And they’re all sort of chummy with each other, spending more time hanging out rather than just grabbing seeds and heading back into the trees.
Watching the birds for me is calming. Even the squirrel’s frantic machinations are calming. They don’t know who is president. They have some fairly simple concerns. They make nice noises and are pretty. They’re a reminder that the natural world is still somewhat functional.
I’m still sort of experimenting on what works here and what doesn’t. Uploading photos–such as the one above, of the ORCA Media studios–took about twelve tries to get right and I’m still not totally sure I like what I had to do to fix it [chmodding 777 for those of you who are curious, please ignore this for those who are not]. But anyhow, here’s a photo of what the space looked like when I was on public access television last week. A fellow teacher, Mike Abadi, does a public access show about blogs. Which is a smart idea around here because we’re still in digital divide-land. So I got to talk about my book and the digital divide and corporate ownership of the internet and all those things I like so much. You can see the full video on YouTube in case you’re not in the teeny public access coverage area (and I wouldn’t be able to tell you if you were honestly, being one of those no-tv-having goobers) of the station. Interestingly, I got to see a coverage map for the entire state and Topsham, where I used to live, has NO public access channel. I’m surprised that’s allowed but I guess they have no cable. Surprising. I am thinking it might be fun to have a public access show.
This weekend was a big weekend of cooking and walking around in the winter-but-not-snowy-winter. Jim and I finally checked out the bowling alley in town and it’s pretty nice. After a mercifully boring trip to the dentist (I have finally found the perfect non-chatty non-radio-listening dentist of my dreams) I am hunkering down, trying to get some sun and getting ready for the Christmas Bird Count which is this weekend. If you want to count birds in your area and help the National Audubon Society track bird populations, check out how to get involved.
This coming Saturday is the Christmas Bird Count which, yes, is not actually happening on Christmas. I’ll be participating somewhere in-between working at the library and heading to friends’ to have some dinner. I’ve been fighting with my internet connection here somewhat. It always goes kablooey when the weather starts getting cold and wet. There’s a little bit of snow on the ground which is good because if there isn’t, the Solstice Bonfire can’t go on as scheduled. I’ve destroyed my kitchen making some little holidaytime snack type things and destroyed my printer making some holiday postcards. I’ve been getting those “hey you have too much mail to fit in your box” notes at the post office even though I’ve been going there every day. It’s that time of year.
Unlike other years, I am not travelling for work, writing a book, or balancing a ton of other people’s holidaytime obligations. I got to go to a nose doctor on Monday and see the inside of my nose on a television screen and see the thing that is getting in the way of my nose-breathing (I wrote down the name, I have forgotten it). The thing is not growing, not a symptom of a worse problem, and not cancer. I can get it taken out sometime if I want to. I had some looming dread about this that I had been ignoring; it’s been bothering me since May. The absence of dread, dread that I wasn’t even aware of, has created a pleasant atmosphere for casual birdwatching.
Wikipedia has an entry on cocooning. While I’m pretty “whatever” on Faith Popcorn and her pronouncements about society, I think this staying home and doing a little more navelgazing than usual is part of the December day-shortening and air-coldening. I’m pleased to report that my apartment stays decent temperatures and relatively draft-free in Wintertime which makes it the first place I’ve lived in Vermont that does that. I finally bought a shovel which means I’ve accepted that there will be several more months of snow. Even though I’m indoors more, I’ve been trying to make it count by doing that pesty crap that is really only possible when you’ve got several hours of indoor time and only low to medium cognitive functioning (I’ve had a bit of a cold).
So, this weekend after some nice dinners and movies and blah blah time with friends, I hunkered down to
- make hard drive backups
- read some books – my booklist is at an eight year low this year which concerns me
- send out holiday cards to my card exchange list
- do nearly 500MB of system updates
- learn to use bittorent so I could watch Canadian television
- finally move all my MP3s from my standalone ancient iMac.
I had done this MP3 project once before but then never moved the files from my laptop which later dropped dead. The iMac isn’t on the network so there was a good deal of sneakernet activity in all of this, but it’s now done.
I had the strange sort of upbringing that causes me to feel actually virtuous when I decrease the disorder of a system. This is reflected in my professional choices, certainly, but it also makes Winter much less of a slog because there’s always something around here that could be better organized, and adding the digital realm to the To Do list makes this an absolute certainty. I’ve got a lot of social time coming up — a Solstice bonfire, a New Year’s Eve party, family time, boyfriend time — so watching the birds and squirrels from the treehouse for a few days doesn’t seem anti-social at all.
red – cardinal
orange – mystery orange thing, also baltimore oriole
yellow – goldfinch, evening grosbeak
green – ruby throated hummingbird
blue – indigo bunting
brown – finches
tan – chickadee
black – grackle
white – nuthatch
black and white and red all over – rose-breasted grosbeak
It’s a good and bad week for birds. The grosbeaks have come back this week and I saw a Baltimore oriole way up high in the trees which never happens. My neighbor Chris was over so he was able to help me identify the bird and share in the little “yay orioles!” party. It was a bad week for the hermit thrush who flew into the window, first one of the season.
It was a good and bad week for Ubuntu+Jessamyn. I got briefly internet-famous which as you all know does not translate into beer or anything useful most of the time. Then I spent too much of yesterday trying to get Ubuntu to do all the great stuff it does on my own laptop. I installed what seemed like several hundred package upgrades. I got Flash working. I was online… and then something happened and I wasn’t anymore. Then I looked out the window and was like “what the HELL am I doing inside today?” and left.
It was a good and bad week for the lawn. I actually got off my ass and raked up last year’s leaves and gave everything the once over. The good news is that tulips and daffodils are up and looking great. The bad news is that I have no idea what the hell I am doing and that’s going to be clear in about four days as the lawn gets overgrown and I don’t even know how to start the lawnmower. I’d consider investing in seven cats just so it’s obvious that I plan to hole up here for the next 40 years (j/k, j/k) but my neighbor has those. Maybe he’ll let me borrow them.
My Summer travel plans include Burlington (VLA), Puerto Rico (ACURIL), Ann Arbor, New York (wedding), Portland (MeFi Anniversary) and Seattle (wedding). I think I am taking August off.