Baby Bird Distractions

Pandemic fatigue. Winter doldrums. Whatever it was, I don’t know, but I decided a little over a month ago to let down my guard against new inhabitants just once, quit being the Grim Reaper during every week’s cleaning, and see what happened. What happened was inevitable, although I wasn’t too sure how it was going to go. I don’t think the birds knew either, but they quickly remembered how to take care of their offspring.

I was reflecting one morning last month after cleaning the night before that there were no cries of anguish which normally followed the typical Grim Reaper inspections: “I don’t know if it’s worth having a veritable second flock of baby birds just as a goodwill gesture, but for the moment, in the scheme of this incredibly senseless life we all seem to be participating in, knowingly or not, I don’t see any grave harm in it. I live here alone with these birds. I am fully aware of the consequences of adding to the flock, but I was also making a conscious decision that I didn’t want all the finches to just die away in a few years and leave me alone with the girl doves, not that I don’t love part of that idea – less work, less noise, less everything. But maybe it is in response to the idea that there would be less to do – which is inevitable anyway, the older I get – that I decided to let the Zebra Finches have one last fling with immortality. I can live forever too, vicariously, through their efforts.”

It started with one fledgling youngster around the end of January, and maybe almost a week later, there was another, and two became three, then four, then five – and now there are eight. I will resume Grim Reaper duties this weekend so anyone who hasn’t hatched, sadly, gets tossed, but I am happy to have these youngsters to watch grow up and glad they have each other’s company. They are a lot smarter as a group. They are not all from the same clutch but I’m not sure if the clutch number was 2 or 3. Indeed the first bird might have been a “solo finch” were it not for the fledglings that followed later.

I managed to capture a fledgling being fed in the video below.

It turns out the first bird is a male and he is already starting to break out into adult plumage. I was able to record a teentsy bit of his subsong activity yesterday morning (see video below). Please pardon our mess. We are almost done tearing up what is left of two-year-old newspaper.

Below is a little gallery of images from the cell phone.

Outside, the snow persists. Below, a few images with the cell phone, starting with my back steps one morning and ending with ever-persistent Common Milkweed seeds.

Shoveling snow off my car…

And below the way the walk between my house and my neighbor’s before and after shoveling.

When I go into work once or twice a week and get off the train, there’s ice in the river.

One morning on my way to the train I could not resist taking a picture of the sunrise, even obscured by all the houses.

Back indoors with a few more bird scenes…

The Diamond Doves like to sit in the sprouting “soak” seed on top of the microwave.
The Society Finches love trapping a corn kernel under one foot to extract the insides.
The irrepressible Mr. Green.

We have yet more snow in the forecast, but we are starting to warm up so maybe it’s only another week or two before it disappears. I have heard birds singing outdoors: Northern Cardinal, House Finch, Black-capped Chickadee. Spring is coming. The angle of light intensifies and the days are getting longer. My birds told me sunrise was at 6:25 this morning. They were only two minutes early.

Fleeting Greetings of 2017

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Millennium Park Cardinal 12-30-16

This year is off to a slow start. I very much wanted to do a blog post honoring my indoor crowd which has been getting along fine, or so I thought. At least they seemed to be doing fine for a while.

Below is a short video I was able to capture in the gloom of the afternoon’s diminishing light just so I could isolate my Zebra Finch Arturo Toscanini singing his song, which starts with an arpeggio and goes from there. Below that you can hear him again before I start playing the Adagio to the Ravel Piano Concerto in G which may put you to sleep if you listen to the whole thing but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I went back to the Portage on New Year’s Day. It was much colder and sunnier than the week before and the birds were harder to find, but I counted as many species with a couple variations from last week’s list. All I have to show for it is ice and a distant Downy Woodpecker.

The birds in the backyard have returned to the feeders. I’m convinced the numbers of House Sparrows have fallen drastically, but they tend to fall off anyway in the winter. It was nice to see a couple Goldfinches and my own Downy Woodpeckers.

Before I went out birding, I chased Emerald Greenwald away from Dudlee’s latest nesting attempt (I gave in to Dudlee’s badgering me weeks ago and let her have the mug back but didn’t make it comfy for her) – not sitting down with myself long enough to figure things out, like the fact that Greenwald herself had approached reproductive age – and hoped for the best.

I came back to a bloody mess. Nobody had hatched but the eggs were broken open and bloody, nesting material the doves had accumulated themselves was everywhere, and Dudlee and Drew were looking the worse for wear.

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Emerald Greenwald, covered with evidence

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Drew and Dudlee, still in shock  – “How could you do this to us??!”

This has created a terrible silence. I don’t know when if ever Drew will start singing again. I had grown quite fond of his chiming in with any pretty music he heard on the radio all weekend. I like to imagine he might get over it but I don’t know if Dudlee will. To make matters worse, she seems to have a damaged right wing – it’s droopy. She was hiding in the kitchen last night, I’m sure she doesn’t feel safe anymore, even though without a nest I don’t think Greenwald is interested in bothering her. I may try to catch Dudlee and put her up in an infirmary cage for a few days, since she can’t fly very well anyway.

On a happier note, it’s always fun to watch a Society Finch tackle a piece of corn.

And there’s always time for a good bath in the pie plate.

I hope to be back soon on a happier note. Best wishes to everyone for a healthy new year. Whoever thought we’d make it to 2017? Stay tuned!

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Life Goes On

dove-family-11-24-16-0694Life goes on in the Diamond Dove Department, at least. Barely a week and a half ago, on Tuesday the 15th, I became aware of Dudlee and Drew’s new babies – two lovely little Diamond Dovelings. I came home from work and both parents were off the nest Dudlee had built in a mug, with my help. I assumed they had abandoned the nest yet again, as they had two or three times before, because the eggs were not hatching. But this time, instead of abandoned eggs, I saw two good-sized nestlings in their pin feathers. They must have been a week old. One was noticeably larger than the other. I read online that there is a lag of five to seven days between eggs hatching, so that explained the size difference. The pictures directly below are from the 20th, so they kids already had some feathers happening.

By Sunday, the oldest one had fledged! No wonder Dudlee kept craving small nests. She knew she wouldn’t need a lot of room to raise two chicks.

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First Fledged Dove Child

I am not used to this at all, having observed finches and budgies procreating for years, never seeing the fledglings until they were nearly as big as their parents, so I am learning a lot from these creatures. It’s a wonderful distraction from the political malaise, a gift of life in the midst of dystopia. It also makes staying at home more attractive. I wonder if the timing of the presidential election — November, with the inauguration postponed until January — was intended to make an uprising less likely, as in when it’s below freezing outside.

dove-kids-11-26-16-0707Anyway, fatherhood has been good to Drew, who had a twisted and overgrown bill that I kept trimming from time to time when I was able to catch him. His bill seems to be normal now as he is feeding his offspring. Not that I detect an awful lot of feeding going on. It seems to be much more sporadic than with the finches, who clamor for food every waking moment. Instead the Diamond Dovelings tend to sit around all day, waiting patiently for a parent to bestow some food on them. I’m not getting into this, it’s totally up to Dudlee and Drew. They must know what they’re doing because the kids are growing exponentially every day, in spite of my perception that they are being somewhat ignored.

Dudlee and Drew seem to be hell-bent on having more children, unfortunately, and I think their timing is off. Not to mention that I think I have enough doves now. But success has gone to their heads and they spend a lot of time flirting. Dudlee has asked me for her mug back several times. I keep telling her she has a family to raise already. Likely wasted effort on my part, but it’s at least nice to see them all waking up together as they were this morning all perched on the microphone cable.

dove-family-11-26-16-0708The four-day weekend had already gone to my head by Thursday, and I could envision retirement being worthwhile if only it was attainable. The relaxation of a long weekend is persuasive. I’ve done all my major cleaning, I made my first loaf of bread in almost a year, playing piano and trying to get back to writing songs with the guitar… But I’m not ready to share that yet, so below are a couple short videos of the Diamond Doves. Drew’s singing to his chicks in the second one.

Yesterday’s weather was better than today’s which was supposed to start out rather pleasant but it’s been chilly and gloomy all day. Nevertheless I went out to the Chicago Portage this morning to see lots of American Tree Sparrows (a couple pictured below) and a few other species. There was evidence of a lot of new fencing, I assume to protect plants. Save for one cyclist, I was the only human present.

House Finches hang out at the Chicago Portage too.

There were perhaps five Downy Woodpeckers. Here’s one.

I always hear more Black-Capped Chickadees than I see but this one wasn’t too skittish.

The duck weed is all gone, so there actually was water underneath it, and there were Mallards in the water.

There were almost as many Dark-Eyed Juncos as Tree Sparrows but they weren’t posing. The overcast contributed to the lack of focus.

deju-11-27-16-4821Two views of the ever-changing but somehow always familiar Chicago Portage.

The statue of Joliet and Marquette wasn’t looking too cheery either.

statue-joliet-marquette-11-27-16-5014I’ll be back. Looking forward to my remaining cataract surgery on Wednesday, hoping to finally start fixing things up sight-wise. Then I’ll have no excuse for not being focused!

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